Sunday, June 29, 2008

Addendum: Korach's Wife

Over Shabbos lunch, while we were discussing the parshah, I made a comment that caused my husband to exclaim: Put that on your blog!!! In the name of Shalom Bayis, here it is ;=)

Korach painted himself as unsuitable to be Kohain Gadol with his very words. As I have previously mentioned in other posts, kohanim are the very embodiment of peace, and propagate peace above all else. It is precisely due to this trait that they can serve in the Beit HaMigdash, since the underlying purpose of this service is to procure favour/forgiveness for the klal. The same goes for being the conduit for bestowing blessings.

How then could Korach, who incited a rebellion, and whose arguments were predicated on accentuating the divisions amongst the klal, i.e., the transferring of the service of the first-born to the Kohanim, be of adequate character to act as Kohain Gadol?

That's the scoop...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Korach's Wife

Our landlord recently mentioned to me (prior to the incident noted in "Two Israelis") that men always say they are looking for an asheyt chayil, but he reminds them that they must first be an "ish" chayil for their woman to be an asheyt chayil. Definitely a good sound bite, I thought.

Applicable to this week's parsha too. It is certainly a mitzvah, as we are all painfully aware, to propagate shalom bayis. And, to that end, one should support and respect one's spouse. When we look at Parshah Korach, we see that Korach's wife is characterized as a woman who built up her husband constantly in her speech. However, she also erred in doing so: she bolstered his self-confidence and displayed respect for him by cutting down Moshe and Aharon. Now, Hashem detests Lashon Hara. Indeed, as much as one should go to all lengths to preserve shalom bayis, one must similarly refrain from Lashon Hara. In Korach's wife then, we see the epitome of the wife who builds up her home at the expense of others.

Contrast Korach's wife with Onn's. The latter persuaded her husband to quit the rebellion by highlighting that whether Aharon or Korach was Kohen Gadol in the end made no difference to Onn's existence. Such phrasing, like that of Korach's wife, stresses the benefit to one's husband. However, unlike Korach's wife, Onn's wife chose to persuade her husband to side with Moshe and Aharon, and in turn with Hashem. Korach's wife, on the other hand, chose words that created a home environment that was ripe for rebellion.

In the end, we see that is important to choose a spouse whose words are both productive and l'shaym shamayim. Only then can a peaceful home, one that epitomizes the symbol of the family as a microcosm of the Beit HaMigdash possible. Korach and his wife, as rashoyim, rebelled against Hashem and consequently created a home equivalent to a house of idol worship: one wherein Lashon Hara instilled hatred, and in turn a denial of Hashem. We should all merit to refrain from their example and instead bolster each other into becoming an ish and ashet chayil.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Budget cuts. Reorg. Pre-IPO. End result? Today turned out to be my last day at work, along with a bunch of other co-workers.

Surprisingly, I really did not feel any negative feelings about the turn of events, except to ponder why, in Corporate America, contractors are given notice when there is no budget to keep them on, but permanent employees are notified on the given day and escorted out 1-2-3. I mean, I understand about protecting business assets, etc., but it does not seem like the most moral way to end someone's stint at a company.

Anyway, I am very happy to report that I inspired the others in my office with my attitude. My boss was practically in tears, the office was in shock, and there I was nonchalantly cracking jokes and pleasantly organizing my files to my boss's satisfaction. But I figured this is what Hashem wanted, and what Hashem wants is always for the best. As I said to one co-worker, one door closes and another opens. So why on earth would I complain? My husband phrased it differently: I acted exactly like a very religious person should. What a cutie.

I was a bit disappointed though that HR acted, well, cowardly. I sent an email and followed up with a phone call because I had a number of questions about severance pay, COBRA, comp time pay, and so forth. But the HR rep responded by having the office representative in the California office contact me with the answers. Again, I understand, but a bit lacking in fortitude. After all, what is the worst that could have happened? That I would have yelled or cried. Neither of which happened, of course.

The whole experience taught me a valuable lesson though. I may work hard because I am a yekki. And I may enjoy the work that I do. But it is of utmost importance going forward that I always remember that no matter how loyal I am to my given employer, their loyalty is limited in return. Such is America. B'H' that I am a frum yid, because my priorities are always, firmly:
  1. Hashem
  2. My marriage
  3. My family
  4. Work
I wouldn't want it any other way!

Glory, Glory

This week's parsha makes me think that any reference to us as a stiff-necked people is euphemistic at best. Here we go again, I thought: Hashem redeems us from slavery, provides our every physical need (shade/light/shelter/dry cleaning/water/food) but how do we repay Him? With loyalty? Oh, no that would be the correct thing to do. Instead, we question His judgment in bringing us to Eretz Yisroel and ask to send in spies to scout out the land. It would seem we were more loyal to our human masters than our spiritual one.

There is a widely-held view that the spies brought back their evil report because they knew that once in Eretz Yisroel, the people would no longer be in constant contact with Hashem. Rather, the people would become concerned with mitzvot of day-to-day life. The spies, according to this view, had noble intentions: they wanted to prolong their current experience of being constantly in Hashem's presence, as exemplified by the clouds of glory, etc.

Yet Midrash points to a different impetus for the report: the spies were all anashim, but turned corrupt in the name of self-glory. Not wanting to relinquish their current and honour amongst their brethren, they decided to present a negative report to the people. For me, this Midrash pinpoints the issue that runs throughout Sefer Bamidbar, namely that the very generation who should have ran to do Hashem's bidding remained rooted in a materialistic ideological framework. The same generation who last week displayed loyalty to their Egyptian Masters were unable to transfer they loyalty to their physical/spiritual Master. Very odd indeed.

Yet, to be fair, learning how to use freedom wisely is an iterative process. True, Hashem did redeem us from enforced physical/emotional slavery in Mitzraim in order to enter us into freely chosen slavery to Him. But then, as now, we did not remain focussed on that purpose. Rather, our focus was/is on the physical/material, not the spiritual.

I suppose that until Mosiach comes, it is understandable that we knowingly turn away from the path down which we should be heading. Now, as bamidbar, we need to increasingly focus our attention on mitzvot and away from the material (for those of us in Brooklyn, that means away from diamonds, fancy cars, and designer Shabbos suits). Only then will we gradually increase the spiritual level of this world until we reach the point where Mosiach can come.

Perhaps this year, Parshah Shelach will act as the wake-up call we all need to get ourselves in spiritual order. I know that for myself, I would very much like this year to be the one in which I am in a perpetual state of focussing only on the spiritual health of myself, my family, my community, and the world in general. A tall order, but not unattainable. After all, like Hoshua ben Nun, with a little help (in his case Moshe Rabbeinu, in ours the Ultimate Master), we can achieve anything.

Good Shabbos.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


You know, almost as soon as we got married, I mentioned to my husband that we should move to LA. I hear the community there is fantastic, and of course, it's Hollywood Central, which suits us both. If you knew my husband, you would be less than shocked to hear that my occasional mentions that the move would be good for us fell on deaf ears. As far as my D.H. is concerned, the only move we should be making is "back" to Eretz Yisroel (which FYI is a generous use of the "royal we", since I have never even visited there). Forget about reminding him that LA is full of Israelis...

Imagine my shock the day before yesterday, when he informed me that he was applying to a position in the Metro LA area. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that despite his not having interviewed yet, I've already bookmarked a bunch of frummie LA sites, and am reading up on all the goings on. In short, I find just the thought of the whole thing sublime. Having lived in Ontario and Quebec, as well as out in BC, I always considered myself more of an Easterner. Living in Vancouver, I just didn't get the whole vibe, although there was much that I appreciated about life out there: year-round outdoor activities in a comfortable climate, the topography, the wide variety of organic food, etc. In other words, it appealed to the granola head in me!

So even I am rather amused by my inappropriately enthusiastic reaction to his jockeying for an interview. As they say though, "Change your place, change your mazel".To which I respond with a most hearty Amen. I will of course keep charting our progress in what I have now dubbed "Project LA".

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tic Tac Toe

This Erev Shabbos the bundle of nerves that I have kept shoving deep down erupted in the form of a fervent, uncontrollable tic: about 5 cm southeast of my mouth, the muscle began to visibly twitch. And continued to do so well into Shabbos. Indeed, the twitch appears to be posed to return at any moment...

Last night, in a classic "aha!" moment, it dawned on me that my living in Brooklyn has been exacerbating the constant "blue" feeling I have been fighting lately. To be specific, I realized that I chosen to stifle some of my previous outlets for self-expression in an effort to be tznius. Case in point- when I moved to Brooklyn, I had cultivated a wardrobe full of many beautiful pastels and somewhat muted colours (green, yellow, orange, purple, etc.). Yet after an initial period, I found myself selecting to wear only brown, black, white and on occasion beige, because these are the colors that everyone else wears. I mean, even when I attend weddings or other simchas, I trot out my one black suit, because people only wear black to simchas, even in the summer. More to the point, whereas previously I would wear clothing that was en vogue, and was a couple of inches below the knee in length, I now assist Kings County by wearing only skirts that clean the sidewalks. Not I am laying sole blame on Brooklyn per se; it has been my choice to wear what I wear...

The thing is though, this past chag we encountered the quintessential Lakewood couple: 20-something, one young child, both working. So I started thinking about Lakewood, and the type of existence of it offers. After all, there all things stem only from frumkeit; if you are a man, you work and learn, and if you are a woman, you work and take care of your children. No television, no Internet...nothing that in any way opens up your life to outside influences. Maybe I should change my attitude about such an existence; maybe it is a reflection on my being on a lower spiritual level that I cannot see myself living there, and indicates somehow that I should improve myself to the point that I could embrace such a lifestyle.

Yet I find also myself pondering whether such an existence is ultimately necessary. Can we not rely upon our yetzer tov to counterbalance our yetzer hara when it comes to Internet, for example? Can I not wear clothing beyond the classic Midwood pairing of all-black accented with an acceptable "colour"(pale pink, brown, beige, or navy) and remain tznius? In brief, if my parents did their job and instilled a true love of yiddishkeit in me, can I not go about my daily life navigating a balance between frumkeit and non-frumkeit and have frumkeit prevail?

As someone who grew up modern, and learned to navigate the secular world while remaining frum, I do not personally feel any urgency to limit myself to a no-TV, no-Internet existence. In fact, I believe that if I had not been exposed to the secular world, I would have been ill-equipped to pursue higher education or even to work in a non-frum environment. Instead, I find myself capable of being the only Jew at my place of work without in any way compromising my Yeshivish morals. I believe I can similarly attend an art gallery if I plan my visit ahead of time so that I can avoid any non-tznius pieces. Or watch TV if I feel the need to watch a nature show, etc.

When I got engaged, a dear friend said to me: "But, he is really frum!" To which I responded, "But so am I". My point then, as now, is that while perhaps I at the time wore pastels and skirts with low slits, I was as frum as my then-fiance. The issue was not that our haskafahs were mismatched but rather that I had not yet surrendered to the external signifiers of Yeshivish Brooklyn. Needless to say, I subsequently caved and began conforming to the de rigeur dress code and mode of speech.

That twilight hour is over however. Having found my level of contentment deteriorating under the requirement to appear Yeshivish, to conform to my neighbours' external displays of frumkeit while being simultaneously assaulted by their equally prevalent display of materialism, I have decided to say "NO MORE". In short, I have decided to return to being who I am so that I can serve Hashem properly, whole-heartedly, i.e., without being distracted by external pressures to "fit in". I accept that I am most probably a round peg in a square hole. But who knows? Maybe by wearing a little colour every once in a while, it will get to the point that nobody will even notice. Or care.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chocolate Rain Man

I was a lucky girl: my husband picked me up from work in Manhattan today and then treated me to a trip to my favourite Dollar Store plus ice cream. At said Dollar Store, I did a "Rain Man" imitation according to my husband, as I pointed out all of the lovely kosher chocolate delights available. Me: Chocolate (point), Chocolate (point), Chocolate (point), Chocolate (point), etc. My husband ended up buying me snack size Dark Snickers just to calm me down already.

Speaking of dairy, I always find it amusing how much dairy products yiddin consume on Shavuos. My hosts this chag were very into the minhag: sliced cheese, stuffed shells, blintzes, cheesecake. All at one meal. While I admire anyone who fulfills the mitzvah so fully, what amuses me is that fact that the vast majority of Jews are lactose intolerant. We just are not made for dairy. I giggle at the thought of all the pharmacies in the Tri-State area running out of Lactaid last week...

On the topic of fulfilling a mitzvah to the fullest, i.e. with complete enthusiasm, I must award my husband a round of applause. He hates cheese with a passion, but there he was at each dairy meal, shovelling it down with abandon. All I can say is, what to go!

An epilogue to my last post: things did improve for me once the chag started, and as I predicted, they did so because of my grandmother's yartzheit. I had a little crisis with her candle, but once it was securely lit after briefly going out, it burned until early this morning. Oddly enough, this year I really felt her presence for the first time. I mean, instead of the usual feeling I have had in the past on her yartzheit ("I am honouring my grandmother whose name I share but who I never personally met") , I had the persistent feeling that she was really "with me" in a tangible way. So the chag definitely had an extra "plus" note- I met my grandmother, so to speak.

I think the floors are dry, so I had better go finish setting the table for Shabbos. Shabbat Shalom/Good Shabbos, everyone!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Two Israelis...

Well, tempers flared today between my landlord and my husband. Surprisingly, for two Israelis, the sound of their "discussion" only fell just short of Mars. The root of the various beefs on both sides, was of course gelt, or rather, the handling thereof. The short version of the story is that my husband is royally peeved, and wants us to move.

You know, there was a time in my life when I moved so often that my friends tore through the page in their address books (yes, I am dating myself) because they had to continually erase my entry. When I was 23 (ah, youth!), I set a personal record: 8 times in 12 months. Basically I had zero mazel finding an even remotely sane roommate, although to be fair, I was living on the West Coast. Those days of streamlined living, when I could through my entire life's contents into the back of a Honda Civic Hatchback, are long gone. More to the point, the sense of elation I often felt upon opening the door to my fresh, new digs has evaporated. Instead, when my husband voiced his vehement opinion that we should get a "better" place, and I was able to detect that he actually meant it (versus attributing it to his Israeli temper), I cringed.

Thankfully, my landlord et al will be away for Shavuos. Perhaps some dairy and a whole lot of Torah will assuage my husband by the time the landlord returns. If not, at least the dairy will lull him into a good mood. As for me, I have not been particularly looking forward to the chag, oddly enough. I think that is simply a case of utter exhaustion on my part. Hopefully some R&R tonight after my husband and father-in-law go to all-night learning will put me in the proper frame of mind. Then again, I did historically go with my father, olev hashalom, to all-night learning. And it is his mother's yartzheit tonight, aka my namesake's. So maybe it has something to do with that. All I can say is, I am beginning to feel grateful for yizkor; it gives me the outlet on each chag that I need to ball my eyes out. In honour of his memory, that is.

I suppose ultimately that is the purpose of the vanilla ice cream in my freezer: to celebrate the chag, while simultaneously tipping my emotional hat to those who came before.

Chag Sameach!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


After my recent visit to the ER, I was feed up with not being able to receive the follow up care I require post-accident through no-fault. I mean, why do we have to maintain insurance on our vehicles if that insurance is not honoured post-accident? Having previously requested my lawyers to find a no-fault provider for me, since my attempts for past 18 months have proved futile. (For some background , read "De temps en temps", Ginger Ale", and "Changes".)

On Monday morning, after receiving the effusive apologies of the Physician Referral Line worker, I decided it was time I got my lawyers to do my job. After all, if they will be claiming 331/3 of the final settlement, shouldn't they at least be able to handle my bills/find me a provider? Now, I go on record as stating that I have much esteem for the friend who referred me to this firm; I believe her to be an exceptional lawyer, and am sure, on the one hand, that she has not attempted to lead me astray in terms of the lawsuit. However, the simple fact is that the lawyers have failed to resolve my bills in a timely manner (I was still receiving bills for the ER visit the night of the accident this past March, despite my having called the ER multiple times and had them consult with our legal assistant) or to find me a provider, i.e. I have basically been left to find a provider myself to date. So, I have to ask the question: What have you done for me lately? What am I paying you, in short, 331/3 for if you cannot even find me a provider after I have retained you? Something is up, in my humble opinion.

Anyhow, I decided to write a relatively diplomatic email to both the legal assistant and my lawyer. Within hours, I surprisingly got a phone call at work: did I have a few minutes to discuss?

You can imagine my chagrin when the lawyer decided to hold a conference call with me and the legal assistant? My first thought was quite cynically, why is this the first time I have heard from you since the day you took my case? Why have you left everything to your overworked assistant? This is a man who was awarded a "Super Lawyer" award in 2007; perhaps that award does not take into account "customer service"? The conversation basically went as follows: Why is my private insurance refusing to cover visits as a result of the accident? They could be breaking the law! Give me your information with them so that I can get them to cover you for visits due to the accident. And, did I try to get an appointment with the gastro who was on the call the night I went to the ER? Maybe he would see me under no-fault at the hospital...

I was really quite shocked by the tremendous chutzpah of the suggestion. Not to mention the condescending tone. I was quick to inform them that I had already attempted to procure an appointment at the hospital, to no avail. Moreover, I reminded them, when I tried with different private insurance to obtain coverage, I ended up with more stress than it was worth. Instead, I suggested, perhaps they should focus on finding me a no-fault provider, as difficult as that seems to be. If and when that avenue is exhausted, then we can revisit my private insurance.

The lawyer appeared to be shocked. I do not think he was used to people "out-talking" him. Then again, I am a Yekki. More to the point, I think he may even have been vaguely embarrassed when he saw that I had been left to taking care of my post-accident care myself. We left things that if I was willing to travel far-afield in order to see a gastro under no-fault, he would see what he could do. I said I would travel as far as necessary...Surprisingly, it is now Sunday an d I still have not heard back...

The moral of the story? I suppose in America, you need not just a great lawyer, but one who is really going to be your advocate. Plenty of lawsuits fail to garner settlements on your behalf. In the end, what really counts is that you have someone helping you along the way...regardless of the outcome.

With Hashem's help, these lawyers should get the act together. I would like to one day truly be on the road to a full recovery. Until then, I suppose I just have to patient. And wait.

Monday, June 2, 2008


This past motzei Shabbos, I decided to try to obtain some gastro care by visiting the local ER. The staff was certainly pleasant, and for a Saturday night, I was done pretty quickly: I completed the paperwork around 11:45 PM, and was discharged at 3:45 AM.

The problem was, after running blood work and sending me for 4 x-rays (2 chest?), they told me to come back if I had any of the symptoms on the back of the discharge paperwork, and to follow up the next day with my gastro. The irony is that when I was discharged, I had all but one of the symptoms listed on the back of that form. But hey, at least the doctor offered me some Nexium right? You do not want hear my opinion of that medication, believe you me...

Now, they took at my say-so that perhaps my ulcer had come back; only an endoscopy would actually confirm whether or not I have a recurrence. As for anything bowel-related, a CAT scan would be the only way to determine whether I have a partial obstruction en route to becoming a full obstruction. They even told me as such. However, the extent of the tests run where the ones above. So it dawned on me: in America, the ER is only for critical care. In other words, if I have a full obstruction, they would have run the gamut of available tests. However, since I was still able to move about on my own, basically tough luck Charlie. No preventative measures for me.

When I tried to explain to the nurse that because I have no-fault, I have been unable to maintain a regular gastro, and so could I please see the gastro who was on call, I was referred to the hospital's physician referral line. Having previously called the said referral line, and being unable to find a physician who takes no-fault, I was not hopeful that the situation had improved when I called the number Monday morning. I spoke to perhaps the sweetest person I have ever encountered who works for such a referral service. He even called the physicians listed as taking no-fault, and then followed up with his supervisor when his phone calls of course resulted in the response that the physicians no longer accept that insurance.

The supervisor said that since I have lawyers who are working a case involving my injuries, I should consult with them to obtain a physician. In short, back to square one. More on that another time...

Anyhow, the moral of the story? Get some decent insurance, avoid being in car accidents, and for heaven's sake, maintain a GP. Because in America, it seems, without those three factors, you are confined to getting only the most basic of care.