Saturday, August 30, 2008

Virtual Trip

Back in the day, I had a nice list of trips I wanted to take- Australia/New Zealand, France/Spain, Turkey/Morocco, Arizona/New Mexico, Bike Trip through Central/South America, Perimeter of North America- you get the idea. I was not, like a few of my classmates at university, planning on taking a year off to travel around the world. I was always too practical for that. But, I did have a bunch of places I hoped to hit sometime in my youth. Needless to say, I have not taken any of those trips, but have instead found myself unexpectedly in other places. While there is always something to learn from any place you travel to, the fact that my list of To Do destinations was taking a backseat to places I had to travel to was always in the back of my mind.

As the years have passed, I have come to accept that I will probably never make even one of the trips I once dreamed of making. The ability to just take off to some far-flung dot on the map dissipates as you get older, if for no other reason than you are trying to create a home for yourself; why spend money going to Europe when you need furniture, clothing, etc.? Moreover, as you age, the need to travel dulls. You have already encountered people from different countries, had life experiences that you would have had by travelling simply by living your life.

Then tonight, it occurred to me that advancements in technology further negate in person travel. I went to a clothing website where they had a set of films showing young, hip women in their local city showing you the sites. I consequently visited London, Rome, and Australia. Guess I can cross those places off my list! But, all joking aside, in this day and age you can, with the click of a mouse, take virtual tours of different countries, watch movies set in places across the globe, hear music from different cultures, read articles by cultural theorists and sociologists. You can even visit the 7 wonders of the world in less than 5 minutes- unless your internet connection is faster than mine or you want to spend longer at each, that is.

While certainly a virtual world does not equal going to a country and taking in the culture, the sights and smells, the people, the world has indeed gotten smaller. And, concurrently, my world has gotten bigger as I have gotten older. The more life experience I have garnered, the more I have learned, the more my personal refinement has grown, has directly impact the growth of my world. So now, when I take a virtual visit to Peru, for example, my experience of that visit is different than it would have been when I was 17. Yes, I would have learned some of the same information as I would have back then, but the overall lessons learned now would be palpably different than if I was still 17.

All that said, I do still hope to take at least one of my dream trips someday. Until then, I am most thankful to live in this modern age when I can travel virtually to any part of the globe I choose. There is so much beauty in Hashem's world, and sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives, we tend to miss it. A trip, even a virtual one, is a way to appreciate that beauty, not only while we are away, but once we come home. While coming home is sometimes anti-climatic, the sweetness of home is appreciated more by absence therefrom. So, until I am up to scratching off one of those trips on my To Do list, I may just take an hour trip to Venice or Bogota in order to revel in the amazing splendour available there- and right under my nose.

Good Voch!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dorothy Shoes

Yesterday I decided to hit Kings Highway in search of some shoes. Admittedly, I have quite a few pairs that I currently own but don't wear for various reasons: too open = sunburned toes, too tight= blister-forming, etc. etc. In short, the gamut of reasons why one should not purchase cheap shoes are exemplified by my shoe collection. My goal was consequently to find a pair that were comfortable but also feminine. A tall order, given the younger generations love of sneakers and not much else. Can't a girl find a decent pump with a few pretty details anymore without breaking the bank?

I was thrilled when the Fabco netted a perfect pair: beige canvas/suede with just a touch of sparkles. I am a SUCKER for all things sparkly, as demonstrated by my purchasing one "Holiday" season a set of three shimmery metallic lip glosses at The Body Shop (bronze, gold, and silver). I rationed my use of them so that they lasted me the entire new year. Anyhow, when I found them, I turned to one of the salesgirls, who was no older than 19, and I asked her if I was deluding myself into thinking that the shoes were cute. To my glee, her cynical face cracked a smile when she saw the sparkles, and she agreed that they were cute. If she hadn't been so deadpan a moment before, I would've attributed her smile to simple sales protocol...I proceeded to the front and walked home blissfully happy.

I waited until this morning to unpack them from their crisp little box, but when I cut off the tag, I noticed that something was wrong. The tag listed the wrong size. I grabbed one of the shoes and looked inside. Sure enough, I had been seduced by the sparkles and had picked up the wrong size. DRAT. I figured Ah well, I'll just have to exchange them for the right size this afternoon after I finish the Shabbos shopping.

I went to Moishas and what a mob scene. I got bashed so many times while waiting in line by the takeout section, it was INCREDIBLE. To be fair, that shop is tiny, and I did go at the busiest time of the entire week. What was so sociologically interesting about it though was the fact that such a mix of yiddin of differing levels of observance all converged to buy their kosher products. I was so busy people-watching that when an older woman cut ahead of me in line, I thought nothing of it. She obviously shouldn't stand for any period of time, so by all means, go ahead Lady. She started chatting up a woman who came and politely asked if I was the last in line. Someone who asks! I was thrilled! Much to my amusement, the older woman asked Ms. Polite where she was from, and Ms. Polite responded: I'm from Brooklyn, but I live in ____. Apolegetically, as if she had jumped ship and wanted to not make those left behind feel bad. I couldn't keep my grin to myself.

After exiting Moishas, I set out to return the shoes. And Hashem decided to throw me a bone. As I was walking up the street, who was coming down but one of our friends, who I have previously only socialized with one Shabbos, the stray phone call and email aside. It turns out she was fleeing her children for a bit of sanity, and we headed over to exchange the shoes together. Now how's that for kismet? And it was a good thing that I had good company with me when I arrived at the shop, because they did not have the same style in my size (sniff). Anyhow, it was a nice turn of events, and I commented on the way home that You see? I had to buy the wrong size shoes so that we could wind up taking a walk together.

It's so important to have girl time every once and a while. So B'H'. Also, it helped tremendously that my impromptu walking partner is someone who similarly feels "fish out of water"-ish here in Flatbush. Flatbush IS such an interesting place; it really seems to incite mixed emotions in many people you meet. Given that the store was kind enough to refund my money, I suppose we might just have to go shopping together and commiserate some more. Works for me!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


My friends were kind enough last night to treat me to a bit of nostalgia. They had told me a few weeks ago that upon their return from their summer trip to Canada, they were planning to try to create a cholov yisroel version of poutine. Well, last night was the lucky night, and the husband popped over with a nice bowl of it for me.

Their phone call to notify me that they were going to stop over with the said bowl served as the catalyst for my going downstairs to collect the mail; I had not yet exited the house, despite yesterday being an unseasonably beautiful day weather-wise. Anyhoo, down I went to deposit the trash in the receptacle and scoop up the mail. And what was waiting for me? A letter from UI. UGH.

Turns out, I have a mandatory appointment next week, to which I have to bring a copy of my CV and the completed application that came with the mail. The application is, of course, nothing more than a duplicate of the information found in my resume and my claim application. It always frazzles me when, in this e-age, I am required to duplicate information that has already been provided. Case in point: you call customer service, enter all your information, and then have to reiterate the same data to the representative once your call is connected. WHY? If anyone knows the reason for this inefficiency, please let me know, because it runs counter to my yekki Virgo nature.

A clue about the nature of the appointment was on the form itself: "If you do not have a resume or fail to bring one with you, you will be scheduled to attend a Resume Writing Workshop.". Just what someone who is in the middle of a job search but left their resume at home needs- to have yet more of their time wasted with appointments, when they could be using that time to contact companies and hmmm, actually procure a job. Having attended one such appointment in the past while on UI in the South, I have an idea of what is store for me. In brief, a small room crammed full of other suckers, where one UI representative ostensibly informs us of our rights and duties under UI, when really the purpose of the appointment is to keep tabs on claimants. I mean, it's basically like detention. Not that I know anything about detention, of course. ;=)

The one good thing about the appointment is that at least it didn't fall on my birthday. B'H'. And, the timing of the letter couldn't have been better. Because, after opening the letter and fuming for a bit, I had a still-hot bowl of poutine to salve my sorrows. You just can't beat that! It really is good to have friends...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


My 100th post. How crazy is that? I didn't realize I had so much to blither on about...or that so many people would tune into my blabber sessions. In that vein, I figured it would be appropriate to devote this post to giving credit where credit is due.

First, thanks to everyone who has stopped by to read a bit. It's been nice the last several months knowing that people cared to tune in to my little world for a while. Secondly, thanks to those of you who have chosen to leave your comments. I love hearing what your opinions are about what I've written, especially when you disagree with me- I find I learn the most that way. So please, keep it coming. And finally, thanks to all of you who have recently contacted me offering assistance with my job search. I find such offers incredibly sweet, and your kindness is much appreciated.

Above all else, I owe everything, everything to Hashem, The Ultimate Father, who is responsible for the entire world, and my speck of an existence in it. Hopefully in the merit of our spiritual convergence here on this blog, He will deem it suitable to bring the redemption now.

And now, with inspiration from none other than Buzz Lightyear: To Post 101 and Beyond! ;=)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Three Fathers in Av

I had difficulty reaching my Mom the past few weeks, and felt most fortunate that I was able to connect with her a couple of times this week. I was particularly anxious to speak to her because I knew she was having some important appointments related to her care, and I was worried that having those appointments in the same week as the yartzheits of both her father and my father could be demoralizing. Anyhow, I was happy to learn Erev Shabbos that not only did she manage to co-sponsor the kiddush in her facility in honour of all the yartzheits (more on that in a moment), but my brother managed to arrange a Siyum for this Shabbos. I was most proud and thrilled, albeit saddened that due to current circumstances, the three of us have to observe the yartzheits separately.

When I spoke to her yesterday, she mentioned Three Fathers in Av. Since my father's passing two years ago, my mother has started receiving the reminder notices for my father's parents from the shul. So it was really only the last two years that I began to know exactly what days to observe for my paternal grandparents. Anyhow, when she mentioned that phrase, it struck me yet again how my paternal grandfather, paternal grandfather and father passed away within the same week of Av. Quite mind-boggling, especially when one contemplates how the past two generations on both sides of our family have all been born in April- with my aunt and myself as the only exceptions. It is devastating for my mother to mourn her father and then the next day her husband, and that adds to my own pain. I know that I find it exceptionally difficult to mourn the two male role models I had in my life one day after the next, and when I stop to think about what my mother must be going through on those days, well, it doesn't make things any easier.

I didn't know what to expect for this yartzheit; I recalled how last year I felt kind of numb, and since this year was going to be on Shabbos, I was wondering what, if anything, would be different. The main difference I noticed is that the day didn't seem quite like Shabbos or quite like a yartzheit. Maybe that just means I was numb again, but I felt like the yartzheit seemed less meaningful, if you will, because of Shabbos. I suppose I wanted to feel free rein to cry or otherwise reflect- which is what I have done even to excess on chagim when lighting yartzheit candles or attending yizkor- but I found that Shabbos seemed to "get in the way". The end result is that the day passed by and was rather uneventful. So I feel like I missed out on making the most of the day- my failing, obviously.

My most bizarre moment came after Shabbos. Until today, the yartzheit candles I lit for my father, have demonstrated a miraculous phenomenon: on every occasion, the candle has burned for more than 10+ hours after it should have extinguished. Yet tonight the candle went out only 3 hours later. I felt terrible, like I had not merited the comfort that the previous long-burning episodes had afforded. But then I realized that perhaps the candle burned for a much shorter period because it wasn't necessary; I was not overwhelmed by mourning, and so I did not require the additional comfort. Interestingly enough though, my Shabbos candles burned longer, until I returned home last night. I suppose it's possible that some of the longevity passed from the yartzheit candle to the Shabbos candles...

In any event, I did feel a tremendous pang when the yartzheit candle extinguished, and I hope it was not due to some defect in my memorializing my father. (If it is Daddy, I'm sorry!) Anyhow, I hope that I can continue to remember the best parts of my father, of which there are so very many, and to appreciate his continued influence in my life despite his absence in the physical world. And maybe, just maybe, the next yartzheit candle I light will once again burn for an abnormally long time. Because, in only the second year after his passing, I still feel his absence from this world remarkably sharply, and need any additional comfort I can get.

Shavua tov!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


You know, my apartment was really great when I first moved in: lots of light, nicely painted, pleasant landlord. Sure, the neighbours in the next apartment changed every few months, and the local kids are, uhm, very gregarious, but overall I was very happy here.

The past year or so though, all kinds of problems have been cropping up. First, there's the roof in the computer room, which leaks copiously whenever there's a heavy rain. Next, there's the stairwell and hallway, which have not been cleaned since at least late last year. The piece de resistance though has been the plumbing.

The penultimate neighbours were two young ladies who were students. Suddenly the pipes started gurgling and getting clogged constantly. Once they moved out though, and the apartment then became occupied by some friends of theirs, the problem ceased- until tonight. Around 9:30, I heard a banging like someone was trying to open the front door, and went to put the safety guard on. I noticed a smell too, but couldn't place it. Then about a half hour later I entered the washroom to brush my teeth before bed and saw the tub was clogged had black gook halfway up it. As I looked in horror, it backed up even further. I immediately called the landlord, who called the plumber.

This team was thankfully in the area, and arrived around midnight. They were more courteous than the last team, who were beyond rude. The one guy was a bit of a pain, because he didn't want to wait for me to clear my kitchen work table, and was insisting that he had to run the snake to the kitchen plug above the table. So things got a tad testy but the Head Honcho was quite good and keep Honcho Jr. in line. B'H', in the end Honcho Jr. discovered that the outlet in the washroom is live and hooked up the snake in there. After about 15 minutes they were done, and I got changed to start cleaning up the expected mess.

As much as I really don't want to move, despite my husband's constant pressure to do exactly that, I will admit to being a bit at wits end about the situation. Whenever I enter the building, its filthiness discourages me. And the plumbing situation is just something I find very difficult to tolerate. I just keep telling myself "Hey, that's Brooklyn"; no matter where you're going to live here, there are going to be problems galore. But every once and a while, I find myself praying that our current neighbours will go the way of their predecessors. Considering that they have been here for about 3 months or so, it should only be a couple of months until we get a replacement set. And it wouldn't be too soon, as far as I'm concerned...

You'll excuse me as I go clean up so that I can finally get to sleep.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nothing Yet

I devoted quite a bit of time the last few days preparing for my interview tomorrow, all the while hoping that the job that I have been interviewing for the last 2 months would come through this afternoon. I was a tad disappointed when I discovered at 4 PM that they decided to go with the other candidate but figured, No worries. Wouldn't you know though, I had just hung up the phone when my representative for the job I was interviewing for tomorrow rang to inform me that the client instated a budget freeze. Translation- no job to interview for tomorrow. Sigh. Look, obviously that's what Hashem wants for me, so I can't complain. Evidently I'm just supposed to have more time to devote to things outside of work. As we all know though, life offers a constant conundrum: when you're working, you have money but no free time, and when you're not working, you have free time, but no income (albeit not oodles of time if you are seriously embroiled in a job search). What I really need is a new job where I could have income but also have enough time to myself that I feel like a human being. A tall order, I know. I don't think I need to find my dream job though in order to obtain that balance, just the right job. With Hashem's Infinite Compassion, hopefully He will select to bestow such a job upon me in the near future, bli ayin hara!

I spent the last few hours attending to my latest project, which is a wardrobe update. After the deposition last week, I decided it was high time that I accept that the surgery resulted in permanent changes to my mid-section and I will not be returning to my pre-accident shape. To that end, I decided to not only get rid of the outfit my husband bought for the trip home from hospital (they had cut off all my clothes in the ambulance, leaving me clothing-less), but also any clothes that no longer fit me or are showing the effects of too much wear. I have subsequently been paring down my closet piece by piece, and am happy to see that slowly my closet is beginning to contain only items that coordinate with each other and that I look good wearing.

Still, as I was mentally reviewing new items to add to the "donate" garbage bag, I began to get a bit nervous. After all, perhaps now isn't the best time to devote a few hundred dollars to new clothing/shoes; I have a gazillion bills coming in for myriad expenses, so maybe my current project is misguided. But then I took a good Yekki evaluation of the situation, and decided that while shopping was a tad extravagant in that I do have clothes to wear, the positive effects on my mood and overall image would probably make the experience worthwhile. Given all that has been going on lately, I figured that an overhaul of what I see in the mirror could provide a solid base for my new, "post-accident" self.

To put it differently, while it's great to focus on my internal self, I shouldn't neglect how my external self is doing. Sure, I've been exercising, although not at my pre-accident levels, and sure I always devote thought to my appearance so that I can make a decent impression. But maybe my internal self could get a bit of encouragement from some pampering of my external self. I admit that as a Yekki, I often talk myself out of doing anything that is even remotely indulgent. Yet the occasional indulgence is quite healthy, and in fact respectful of one's needs. In light of the fact that I have put myself on the back burner the last couple of years to attend to my husband and his family's needs, I decided that I could start attending to myself more often- like I did back when we were dating. Hmmm.

In short, bring on those Back-to-School sales! I may not be a kid, but I certainly remember how sweet it was when I got an outfit for the first day of classes. And nobody should be deprived of that beautiful feeling...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Two Views

Since the deposition last week, I have been fighting a nice wave of negativity. Baking didn't help. Ice cream didn't help. Chocolate helped a bit, but certainly not like usual. I have even had problems sleeping, despite being incredibly exhausted. What can I say? I suppose my repository of sunny cheerfulness has finally been depleted.

But then this morning, while I was davening, I was reminded of something. I remembered that I could choose to see the accident one of two ways:
  • As an event that was warranted due to some aveirah that was done by either myself or someone else in the world, or
  • As an event that demonstrated that I merited being saved
To put it differently, I could focus on the fact that I was rectifying some deficiency/negativity or on the fact that Hashem deemed that I should live.

When I started thinking about the accident from this new angle, the rain cloud that had been hovering over me the last few days lifted. Instead of thinking about this event that has affected my life in every way for the last year and a half as just "something that Hashem decided should happen to me", end of story, I began to really appreciate how Hashem had determined that I merited to live. When you're faced with that type of realization, you start seeing things clearly.

I am not someone, you see, who normally dwells on my merits. Rather, I focus on what I need to fix in order to improve. That's not to say that I feel I am without merit, but I find it generally more productive to focus on what will incite me to grow further as a person. Recognizing therefore that while Hashem has indeed brought me suffering for my own benefit/the benefit of the world, He has also saved me because there is specific benefit to my being in this world, is a major realization. And with that realization, I can now devote some mental energy into figuring out ways that I can best fulfill whatever the specific purpose for my having being saved is.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shabbos Nachamu

I wish I could say that I have formulated even a short Divar Torah for this week, but I have not. However, I am quite glad that all my legal high jinks fell this week; I am always uplifted by the Haftorah, and was indeed consoled by reading it the last few days.

For any singles out there who are looking, you know how important this Shabbos is, so make the most of it! Hashem should in turn reward you with finding your zivug. And for anyone who is currently coupled off, take time out tomorrow to thank Hashem for sending you your partner...and to appreciate your partner in at least one way that they would in turn appreciate.

Good Shabbos!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


To say that the deposition was horrible would be generous. Of course the opposing counsel was late by over an hour and a half (I somehow knew there would be delays), and then once they arrived, they began firing away their questions like cross-fire. While the attorney for the other driver was nasty and deliberately vague as could be expected, our insurance company wound up being no picnic either. She had me restate information, delved into my personal life from 10 years ago, and even inquired about any mental health counselling I had undergone- in short, she tried to paint me as a lunatic. The kicker? My law firm now has to deliberate how and if it can proceed with the case, because the other driver had so little insurance.

I left feeling impossibly drained, humiliated, and dejected; I had spoken with our lawyers after the deposition, and had tried to avoid the tears from welling over. I even wandered around downtown for a bit after I left in order to clear my head, looking at kiosks and contemplating whether I should cheer myself up with some retail therapy. But I was so out of it, I didn't even find anything I liked. I really want to believe that in the end something positive will come out of this whole lawsuit, but it really has felt like being kicked a third time: first the accident, then struggling to regain my health, and now a lawsuit that is just all-around brutal. It makes me wonder how much more Hashem really thinks I can take before I go bonkers. In which event I would need a mental health professional. Hmmm.

I suppose I will just have keep soldering on and hoping for the best. After all, what else can you do in this life?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Briefing

I had expected that the deposition would be a couple of hours, as our paralegal mentioned last week. Unfortunately, it would seem that calculation was a couple of hours for each of us, which means I have just dragged myself home after a 4 1/2 hour grueling pow-wow. If that was the briefing, what the heck is tomorrow going to be like? I've already been forewarned that the session tomorrow will run all day. Unbelievable. If I wasn't so exhausted, I would say I'm going to have problems sleeping tonight. Thankfully, in that department, my only concern is that the deposition is called for first thing in the morning, so I'm going to have wake up crazy early in order to get there on time.

Right at the end of everything today, our lawyer realized that the defendant has minimal insurance coverage. In plain English, that means that he was carrying less than you or I carry on our vehicles, unless you are one of the gazillion people in this country who drive without insurance. So my thought is, why are we even bothering? I mean, here I am, being asked all kinds of really graphic, embarrassing questions, and for what? For the crazy low amount of insurance this Livery Driver was carrying - I didn't even know you were allowed by law to carry such a low cap- even if I am awarded the full amount under his policy, once the lawyers take their 33 1/3, I may have enough for a week in Hawaii.

For me, what this whole lawsuit has been about is ensuring that I can meet any future bills that I may incur due to the accident (chasve shalom!). More to the point, and it has taken me a while to realize this, but the lawsuit is also about the fact that halachically speaking, this man must pay damages to rectify what he did. In effect, the lawsuit is about a Torahdik type of justice. But when I consider that he was inconsiderate in the amount of insurance he was carrying, I must admit that it gets me upset. I am a yekki, and to think that someone who drives a livery van for a living, which could potentially do much damage to other vehicles and drivers, chose to carry such a paltry amount of insurance seems selfish. In the end though, I suppose that's my problem, and I'm just going to have to suck it up.

Anyhow, since it all is for the best regardless of the outcome, Hashem should just help me get through tomorrow intact. I will of course keep you all posted as to what happens next.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quick Wishes

First, a most happy, happy birthday to my dear friend Alice, who is back in Canada. I love you to bits, Alice, and I hope this year is SPECTACULAR. Just you know what a great sense of humour she has, when I wrote her to take time out for herself today, even if it is just drinking tea in her backyard as she watches the birds (she lives right by a beautiful park), she responded "I think my birds have migrated". She cracks me up!

This afternoon is my final interview with that permanent job I mentioned a few posts again. So, please keep davening for me, because I would so love it if Hashem would decide that the job is right for me; it seems like I could really enjoy being there. So, it should all turn out in my favour, bli ayin hara.

Tomorrow is the briefing for the deposition involved in my lawsuit. It's turning out to be quite the busy week. While I'm asking, let's hope that all goes well too (bli ayin hara). You know, considering how often I say it, I should probably start using an abbreviation for bli ayin hara. Hmmmm. How does bah sound everyone? After all, considering my frequent utterings thereof, I'm sure I sound like a sheep, LOL.

Talk to you all later!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Quick Takes

It's almost chatzot, which means my day can now go into overdrive with all of the laundry, etc. that I was waiting the last week to do. As I'm sure most of you have too.

Just a few things to note before the onslaught of chores:
  • A most heartfelt Mazel Tov to my dear friends who just became grandparents for the first time! Their granddaughter was born this past Thursday in Canada to their son Shmueli and daughter-in-law Shir. Just in time for their one year anniversary! It makes my ears tear up, I tell you. Especially since there's now a new Canadian in the world. ;=)
  • Shabbos night, I found my new calling. While discussing over dinner how my friends might pack up 10 lbs of chocolate in their carry-on to deliver to their children in Eretz Yisroel, I discovered that some Yeshivish types on eat chocolate if a chocolate run has been made on the machine prior to production.
  • Shabbos day, I met a new family over lunch at some friends of ours. While discussing the shul that our husbands go to, we found out that we three wives shared the same reasons for reacting adversely to the given shul. The men suggested that we start our own little group, and you know, given that we seem to be kindred spirits, they may just be onto something.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Too Little, Too Late

All too often in life, once we wake up from our self-imposed stupor and realise what is truly important in our lives, it is too late.

For three weeks, we have been in a state of mourning, which culminates this Sunday with Tisha B'Av. Here we had a three-week historic period when in the time of the Beit HaMigdash, Hashem in His Mercy gave the yiddin three weeks in which to do teshuvah before the fall of Yerushalayim was complete. All we had to do was repent for our sins, and Hashem would have overturned the siege and conquer. But instead, in our perpetual hard-headedness, we refrained from doing so, resulting in our spiritual downfall, and physical torment.

To be frank, have the generations since done any better? What is it about us as human beings that causes this fog that covers our heads and hearts, which destroys both our relationship with Hashem and each other? Why do we have this callous barrier that potentially impedes our happiness and success?

Most relationships are typified by an imbalance in giving: friends, families, shuls all demonstrate that there are always those who give more and those who receive more. So, while we all give and receive in our various social structures, often this imbalance is replicated in those social structures. Once this imbalance is in place, a perceptible lack can take over.

In the case of Tisha B'Av, we see that Hashem reached the point of no return; He is Our Father, and we, His ungrateful children, refused to give him the respect He deserves for so long, Our Father abandoned our gateway to Him. Similarly, in our human relationships, often when there is an imbalance in giving, critical needs in those relationships disintegrate under the pressure of giving or receiving too much. When we put our needs aside by giving too much, we fail to receive enough, and cannot continue to give endlessly. Conversely, if we receive too much, we fail to adequately give, which results in stunted ability to give, i.e. selfishness, a trait that no relationship can experience long-term and endure.

If we focus for even a few moments on how Hashem gives endlessly to us, and asks so little of us in return, and if we consider how truncated our lives are by the absence of the Beit HaMigdash, perhaps this year could truly be the Year of Mosiach. By contemplating how stifled our spiritual lives are by the lack of the Beit HaMigdash, and how little more giving would be required of us in order to effect its reconstruction, we should all merit that this year should be the last year that Tisha B'Av is marked as a day of mourning.

Good Shabbos, and may everyone have an easy, productive fast.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Back when my husband and I were dating, we often wound up in Borough Park late at night. I would wait in the sometimes double-parked car or else browse the open shops for goodies while he ducked into Shomer Shabbos for Maariv.

During those nights, we invariably came upon people collecting tzedakah. I used to always have dollar bills ready to shell out to those who were requesting assistance, and on occasion, if I was waiting by myself and had time to spare, would strike up a conversation with them. After all, we all have our stories to tell, and many times by telling those stories, we wind up feeling better. I am of course biased- why else would I have a blog???

I was new to Brooklyn though, and after a few months was suprised to learn that not everyone who asks for tzedakah is in fact Jewish and/or truly in need. I consequently began to become more discriminating in my dispersion of tzedakah, and now channel most of it through my local Rav. At first, I found myself feeling quite guilty about denying anyone tzedakah, having heard so many stories of people who "would give the shirt off their backs" and so forth. I certainly wouldn't want to prove a candidate for the opposite, since we are required to be generous; generosity is at the root of recognizing that everything is from Hashem.

That is why men are obligated to provide not only financially but emotionally and spiritually for their wives and children, and why women attend to the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of their children. However, just as we are not required to be a schmatta in marriage, we are similarly cautioned from giving tzedakah indiscriminately. In this week's parshah, Parshah Devarim, one of the actions that Bnai Yisroel is chastised for is of course the aigel zahav. In Midrash, it is explained that the reason Bnai Yisrael is taken to task is because despite having subsequently donated lavishly to the construction of the mishkan, their equally lavish donations previously to the aigel call into question the veracity of their intentions where the mishkan was concerned. To give indiscriminately then, is not viewed favourably. Rather, the prerequisite for giving is that the receiving party is both "needy and important".

By only giving after discerning that both prerequisites are met, we can avoid diminishing the value of giving. If we give endlessly to everyone who requests it, we make a mockery of what it means to give. For perhaps the most important aspect of giving is that we grant due respect to what Hashem has so kindly granted us by sharing it with others appropriately. Squandering Hashem's gifts is an aveirah, and we should in turn ensure that, when giving to others, we do not negate the value of what we have been most fortunate to have received ourselves.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Woof Woof

The last time I had a hearing test, they told me that I had hearing like a dog. Of course, I was only 23, and had not yet moved to America (American cities are noisier for some reason, despite the population being the same). So I was a bit concerned today when I had my follow up visit with the ENT , and before I saw the doctor I had a hearing test. Who knew what the results of the test would be?

During the years between my last test and this one, technology has changed. Previously they only required you to don headphones, go into a sound-proof chamber and raise your hand to indicate when you heard something. Today though, not only have the headphones gone high-tech and a button is pressed to indicate that you hear something, but they run pressure tests on your eardrums as well. Truth be told, the pressure tests were unpleasant, and exacerbated my tinnitus, which was already painful and quite deafeningly loud. Upon exiting the office onto a very busy street, I was wishing that I had brought earplugs for the walk home.

The funny part of the ordeal, which is what prompted this post, is that the technician was so thrilled to test me. Because she found my hearing to be exceptional and my listening skills sophisticated, she wound up running additional tests on me in order to calibrate the machine. So it turns out that I could make a living as the medical equivalent of a piano tuner, travelling around the country in order to calibrate hearing test equipment. I couldn't stop laughing. Anyway, I called up my Mom once I got home to thank her, because I'm sure that if she hadn't started me in music before the age of 4, I wouldn't have tickled the technician's fancy so much today.

If any of you have children of a tender age, maybe you should shell out the extra money for those music lessons, after all. ;=)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Prayer for the 9 Days

It being the 9 days, I have been thinking about aveirahs, specifically why we fall so easily into performing them. So I began thinking about perception, since if we really focussed incessantly and emotionally on the fact that everything in our life is from Hashem and is for the best, we would probably always be able to refrain from sinning.

To put it differently, often we perceive events or our lives as "difficult" because we feel that something, somehow, is lacking. The spiritual reality is that in fact nothing is lacking, but due to our wavering bitachon, we get side-tracked thinking about what "should" be versus what is. We consequently talk ourselves into acting/speaking in ways that we shouldn't.

I find myself trying very hard to remain focussed on the fact that it is the 9 days, and that we are in a period of mourning. In other words, I am trying to keep in the forefront of my mind why we have the 9 days, what caused all the death and destruction we are mourning, and find productive ways to improve myself so that perhaps those positive changes can help change our lot as a people. Here is a prayer that I have concocted, which hopefully will help achieve that objective:

Hashem, please let me always keep you in the foreground of my heart and mind. Let me always speak appropriately and act as you see fit. Let me refrain from evil and strengthen me so that I can always steer clearly down your path of righteousness. Let me only think, say, and do what you expect of me, for you are my most Holy Creator, Father, and Redeemer. As I am rooted in this world, I can sometimes lose you from my sight. Hashem, forgive me for doing so, and let me instead act as a conduit for your bidding, now, always, forever. Selah.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Rebbetzin That Could

First, the best ever Happy Birthday wishes to my friend Silky. Silky, you rock and I hope your year does too! :=)

I had yet another doctor appointment this afternoon, and when I first arrived at the appropriate address, I was a bit confused: the place looked just like a regular house, with two doors at the front. I walked up the walkway and noticed a tiny sign that informed me that the doctor's office was on the side. Fine.

I walked in, and it was a nice enough place, albeit packed for a Sunday morning. The place was totally frummied out: sheiteled receptionist, seminary-looking teenage girls, beracha on the walls. You get the picture. I was just thankful that the tiny Sunbeam air conditioner unit in the outside wall was keeping the place nicely cool, and then was even more grateful when I sank into a waiting room seat; I must remember to ask her where she bought those chairs, because they were sublimely comfortable.

Since I was waiting a long while, part of the sandwich on the couch that othewise consisted of the two sem girls who IMed each other while seated from 2 inches away, I wound up requiring the facilites. That's when the splendour of the doctor's setup began to unfold. The receptionist informed me "Downstairs is a shul", opened up a door in the thin wall, and motioned to a flight of stairs. I went two flights down to the washroom, noting the lack of soap that is the hallmark of most Brooklyn shuls. The receptionist was exceptionally nice when I returned upstairs and asked if they had any hand sanitizer (it was a doctor's office, after all, and B'H', they did).

But it wasn't until the doctor herself ushered me in when the full reality of the situation dawned on me. After silently opening the door and motioning for me to enter, she called through the wall down an unseen hallway to her children: What's burning? I smell something. And then we all plainly heard the response that they were burning the challah. I suppose Sunday is baking day.

The woman had such a kind, quiet, docile nature to her that I just had to ask during our medical pow-wow: is your husband the Rav of the shul? She smiled and nodded. All I can say is, she was such a pleasure to deal with, such a Rebbetzin, that I was thrilled she was my doctor. She evidently got into medecine because she genuinely cares about people. Even when she had to lift up my shirt, she did so gently, with such modesty in order to retain my own dignity and modesty. She was simply a marvel.

She listened attentively when I gave her the background and made many notes. She then asked whatever questions she needed to and made more notes. And then, she read back her summary to ensure that she had left nothing out. Finally, after a few moments of working things out in her mind, she smiled and quietly told me what course of action I should take. Upon finishing, she opened the door, and with a "Be Well", sent me on my way. After I paid my co-pay, of course. ;=)

She just warmed my heart, because she was exactly what I had expected of Brooklyn when I first arrived. That was the behaviour I expected to find in a frummie community! I guess you could say that meeting her buoyed up my faith about the type of behaviour we can all choose to cultivate. I know she certainly inspired me to improve my middos. So, not that I hope to ever require a repeat visit, but at least I know that if I do, she would treat me with the respect, kindness, and dignity that we all, as befitting us as Betzelem Elokim.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Until the Death of the Kohain Gadol

I have two favourite "intellectual" mitzvahs, i.e., ones that we cannot currently follow. One of them is ariyeh miklot, and the other is the unsolved murder. Interestingly enough, this year while I was reading Parsha Masei, a connection occurred to me.

If you think about it, there are positives and negatives to being a Kohain, Levi, or Yisroel:
  • A Kohain is closest of the three groups to the shechina, but must consequently follow many limitations in his life outside the Beit HaMigdash (avoid exposure to corpses, marry only a virgin or widow, protect his wife at all costs, etc.).
  • A Levi has no actual claim to the land per se, but rather lives in one of the designated Levite cities. Moreover, the Levi performs the "grunt" work in the Beit HaMigdash, so while closer to the shechina than a Yisroel, the Levi is carries a rather "in limbo" status.
  • A Yisroel is farthest in his daily life from the shechina, but is consequently freer than the other groups to live his life, albeit al pi halacha.
In short, all three groups have their given purpose in serving Hashem, and all three groups support each other in their designated tasks. Hence the purpose of the ariyeh miklot: the murder is confined to the given city in order to be inspired by the holiness of the Leviim and do teshuvah. But why should the Leviim be responsible for this "kiruv"? Why does Hashem designate it to be the Levi's "problem"?

Because at the end of the day, we are all responsible for one another. The two "holiest" groups must make restitution, so to speak, for the fact that their spiritual negligence brought about a murder. If the Kohain Gadol had been perfect in his duties, then murder would be eradicated from the land, which is why the murderers must remain in the ariyeh miklot until his death. Similarly the Leviim act as a "gateway" to the Kohainim; they are the "filling" in the status sandwich of Bnai Yisroel. Therefore, as the more accessible branch of shevet Levi, they are responsible for rectifying the spiritual impurity that is upon the land due to their tribemates shortcomings.

The common denominator between ariyeh miklot and the unsolved murder is the recognition that we are all interconnected, that one person's wrongdoing affects the entire klal. The elders of the city must measure from the boundary of their city to the corpse to establish that their city was further from the corpse, thereby absolving them of guilt. But what is the guilt being referenced here? That they were insufficient hosts to the deceased, which resulted in lack of protection, and in turn his death.

To put it differently, both mitzvahs bring home the fact that each one of us must always remember that we are all responsible for the welfare of our brethren, and that when our brother fails, his shortcoming impacts us all in some way: spiritually, economically, emotionally, physically. It is of the utmost importance then, that we try to help each other stay on the correct path, to make the right choices- to live as proper yiddin. Since each group has their specified purpose, we must ensure that each group acts in accordance with the mitzvahs associated with that purpose if we as a people are to enjoy continued spiritual success.

Good Shabbos.