Friday, February 27, 2009
Sforno comments on the phrase "So that I may dwell among them..." by noting that the zenith of the tabernacle was the ark and its cover. Specifically, he suggests that the reason the cherubim faces were turned downards toward the ark was to remind us that the klal's focus is always on the contents of the ark, namely Torah and by extension, Hashem.
To that end, I found it fitting that the discussion of the tabernacle emphasizes that the design thereof was not extravagant, simply suitably ornate for its contents. I would suggest, in turn, that this degree of ornamentation is similar in its meaning to the difference in the garb of the regular kohanim versus the kohen gadol. Regular kohanim, as we know, wore simple linen garments; these garments were clean and attractive. However the kohen gadol's additional splendour was not for his glory, but rather a reflection of his role as the party who entered the Holy of Holies, i.e., this splendour was fitting because he was the one kohen who stood before the shechina. Moreover, it was due to this role that the additional garments and ornamentation had a practical role spiritually- they served as the conduit for Hashem to answer the kohen's questions, for example, in the case of the choshen mishpat.
And so we learn that just as a commoner will dress "down" every day as opposed to the day on which he is presented to the King, so too the regular kohanim dressed. As the representative of the nation who bore the responsibility of presenting himself to the shechinah, the kohen gadol was dressed suitably for one who stood before the King. By extension, we learn that as we grow in Torah, we must dress accordingly, in a manner that demonstrates the fact that, in galus, we stand before Hashem always.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
What with the windstorms last week, it was pretty quiet on the outside cat front (see here for some background). I will admit, I was hoping the kitty-cats wouldn't get smooshed under the flying debris / breaking tree branches, but I figured that hey, cats are resourceful.
Anyhow, I peered out my kitchen window today, which overlooks my other neighbour's backyard, and caught a marvelous sight. It would seem that a Black and White Cat has joined the motley crew, and was perched up on the roof portion of the property's sukkah. In fact, Black and White was busy sunbathing and preening himself like all get out- that is, when he wasn't busy admiring his shadow. All I can say is it suddenly made sense why Tabby Cat has been quiet; Grey Cat has been ousted by Black and White Cat! So let's take a moment, and give what's due to the new sheriff...
I guess that's why they're called queens...Hilarious...
Monday, February 23, 2009
His lecture, aside from making me bawl like a baby, got me thinking about a common concept in yiddishkeit, namely that we each have our individual mission to fulfill. As of late I've been wondering: how do you live your life if you haven't yet figured out what your primary mission is? I've been in this world going on 4 decades, and I'm still trying to figure out why I'm here in this particular incarnation.
But then it occurred to me. Maybe that's the point. As we age, most of us tend to find that more and more time in our day is devoted to responsibilities, stuff that needs to get done and falls on our shoulders. The question then, is not "How should I use X gift to serve Hashem?" or "What is my unique mission in life?"- although these are components of the question. Rather, the question is, how do we choose to serve Hashem? Do we find a way to make our day joyous? Do we find a way to serve Hashem in a way that works with our personality?
I think a lot of the problem of people going off the derech is feeling that there is only one proper way to serve Hashem. While we certainly are required to fulfill the mitzvot, and there is no room to negotiate with regards to that, I truly believe that we are all supposed to serve Hashem in our own way. Part of my "problem" with Flatbush, if you will, is that there is an undercurrent of a single way of serving Hashem being the only correct way to be frum.
Yet Hashem made us all unique. We all have a unique personality, unique set of tastes and interests, and it is by find a way to serve Hashem that uses personal strengths, while enabling us to overcoming our weaknesses, that seems to be the ultimate goal. At least, so it seems to me.
And there you have it. By watching something on the internet (horror!), I've had a point of Torah clarified for me. That may run counter to the party line around here- but it sure works for me. :)
Sunday, February 22, 2009
In case anyone was busy thinking that Americans are oh so warm and friendly, just read the following article:
World's Friendliest Countries
Maybe a large amount of my ongoing, daily culture shock is precisely for this reason. Hey, it's a theory!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I mentioned that maybe I would go with Modern Yeshivish. Definitely modern, but the yekkish Virgo tendancies caused me to swing more to the Yeshivish side. His response: I refer to myself as Modern Orthodox, but machmir. :)
Anyway, I just took the Orthodoxy Test, which breaks down by percentages your scoring under the different subcategories. My score was overwhelmingly (79%!) in favour of Left Wing Yeshivish:
The Orthodoxy Test
says that I'm Left Wing Yeshivish
What does it mean?
So you're frum, but "with it." You know the lingo and walk the walk, but maybe you catch a movie on Motzei Shabbos. Never on Saturday Night though. Sometimes you wonder why all frum Jews can't be normal like you.
To which I must respond: DUH! But BB will be pleased nonetheless. :) My favourite question? "The Internet is". 'Cause if you're taking this test, LOL...
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
You wouldn't want to have heard his opinion on the kollel system. A man balances learning and supporting his family. End of story. Or, to use a recent example from the Shabbos table:
My friend's mother, The Bubbe, looked at her grandson-in-law across the table. The Bubbe is one sharp lady, and worked up until last year, when she was but a tender 80-something. The given young man is a father of three children under the age of 5 who has never done anything in terms of parnassah except learn. When the discussion turned to the economy and its effects on the kollel system, The Bubbe turned her kind eye to the grandson-in-law and quipped "Him? What would he do? He's never done anything except learn!". The consensus was that he may soon have to turn to learning a trade/earning a buck, chasve shalom!
The fuel for this post? A moment of clarity summed up in a post by MikeinMidwood:
Lazy Way Out. Mike, you made my father proud!
And yet, the library managed to pull a fast one on me. I have never, I repeat, never, had a late library book. Until today. I was so sure that my books were due today that I didn't even bother looking at my slip. Besides, I had taken them out on a Wednesday, so why wouldn't they be due on a Wednesday. You get them for 3 weeks.
But no, I was quite mistaken. When I logged into my account to renew my checked out items, there was the prompt in red for each book- FINE TO DATE. As a Yekki, it is quite traumatic. Seriously. So traumatic, in fact, that I called up my husband, who proceeded to do his best to understand what the heck the fuss was about. "I've had books overdue by months", he said. Try as he might though, it wasn't any help.
So I'm going to put on my Wellies and head out in the rain to pay the outstanding fines. Sniff. Not fees, mind you- fines. It's definitely the end of the world as I know it...
Update: I arrived at the library 15 minutes before closing and diligently waited in line. When it was my turn, I passed the lady my card and told her I had fines I wanted to pay. She looked at me and said "Oh, you pay it at the machine" and pointed across the building. I'm just too old to understand that automatically though, since I'm still used to paying a person. So she saw my blank look and inspected my card. "You use your card to pay", she said. So I asked if the machine gave change. The answer, of course, was no, but it does stay on your card. In other words, like the MTA and all other local government authorities in NYC, you need to throw away money to pay for things, because you inevitably don't have exact change on you and put more on your card than you need for the transaction at hand. Case in point- I've been transferring the same 35 cents from Metrocard to Metrocard for over a year. Sure it's only 35 cents, but you get my point. She then noted that I needed a new card and asked if I wanted to do so now. I didn't bother asking *why* I need a new card, since I only got my present one last year. Instead, I politely declined, informing her that my top priority this evening was to simply pay my fines. She seemed a little peeved, but what can you do? I then proceed to go around asking the remaining patrons if they had change. B'H', one Boro Parker did!
I suppose Hashem decided I needed a long lesson in humility today. ;)
Just now I had a brilliant metaphor for my day present itself. Due to the generally crocodile-ish quality of my hands in the winter, I decided yesterday to place a small tube of hand creme on my desk. This way, I figured, I could be smart (no jokes please) and apply the creme throughout the day, versus my general pattern of waiting until I get up from my chair/take a break- an event that occurs infrequently if the day is a work day.
A few moments ago I reached for the said tube and gave a little squeeze. A beautiful, perfect arc of creme, which if it had been an Olympic diver would have scored a perfect 10, ejected yet squarely missed my hand completely. Instead it fell, with a surprisingly audible "ploop" given the amount, into the crevices of my keyboard. Not on the top of my keyboard- between the keys.
Is it 5 PM yet?
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
But I'm glad I took a second to note the beauty of this delicate little fruit. And it got me thinking about- you'll excuse the pun- the nature of things, specifically the hierarchy in our world. Here you have this fruit, which grows on its tree in an orchard. The orchard is part of its ecosphere, just like the penguins in the Antarctic are part of their ecosphere, and so on. In other words, it occurred to me how Hashem's world is divided first into biospheres (from continents into separate topographies into countries, provinces, etc.), which then subdivide into smaller components, all of which remain interconnected.
Now of that's true of something as fabulous yet B'H' commonplace as a piece of fruit, then how much more so are we humans all interconnected. In turn, the condition of one person affects us all. Given that reality, how can we become numb to the plight of another? Because in essence, their problems truly become our problems, and vice versa.
I guess you could say then, that by having dessert this evening, I got a proper reminder that if something as "minor" as a pear is dependent on a gazillion interrelated factors, how much even more so does that apply to our relationship to each other in the klal. Hmm. Maybe I should have dessert more often!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Recently a hidden "perk" arrived courtesy of my husband's workplace; his co-worker runs a clothing gemach. I saw a sample of the clothing, and it's really nice stuff. So I asked him to put me in touch with his co-worker's wife, who runs the women's/children's part of the gemach. She wound up being a very nice woman, very committed to the cause of not wasting anything as precious as clothing. She even has a next-day return policy for all items, because she doesn't want to compromise the quality of thereof. I really appreciated her devotion, as someone who grew up in a family where waste is a major aveirah.
However, given that I have recently been hearing way too much about bed bugs, lice, and other creepy-crawlies, I enquired as to whether the gemach launders the items before dispersing them to their new home. Turned out the answer, which was to be expected, was "No". So I found myself wondering whether simply washing the items in cold water would sufficiently rule out the possibility of any "problems". I began to do a bit of research on thrift-store shopping, and the rise of bug problems in North America. And surprise, surprise- nowadays, if you can't wash the items in hot water, forget about them being suitable for wear.
I consequently let my fingers do the walking and found a convenient way to "sanitize" clothes without washing them in hot water. It seems that the main problem with shrinkage and other destructive aspects of laundering on fabrics happens when fabric is wet. Therefore, if you throw the items while bone-dry into a dryer on high (or whatever setting translates into 50 degrees celsius) for 30 minutes, presto! The stuff is ready to enter your abode, and you can wash it using whatever method you want. :) That said, if you are like me and without a washer/dryer in your building, it is suggested that you keep any clothing your purchase/receive in a tied plastic bag until you can get it into the dryer.
So there you have it. Hopefully this information can help you all participate in the joy of second-hand clothing while avoiding any associated headaches. I know I'm totally psyched about wearing my new blazer this Shabbos!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Infection, I thought. How could I have gotten an infection? I barely leave my house, and the past two weeks I've had my windows open. What gives? But sure enough, once Shabbos was over, I checked my symptoms, and BINGO! Looks like I actually have a sinus infection.
Those of you who have read my previous rants on my medical care are already familiar with the fact that, prior to my immigrating to the US, I didn't have a problem with going to doctors. But for the last decade, I have avoided going at all costs- literally. I just find the entire system way too fast, focussed on pills versus prevention, and the billing headaches are just the icing on the cake.
But an infection is an infection. So I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and make an appointment to see my GP this week. Sigh. At least by going I'll become familiar with whatever snafus exist with my current health care plan, chasve shalom. What can I say? Life isn't supposed to be easy, right?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
It turns out that BB is feeling under the weather, and not up to travelling. The trip to NYC this weekend is consequently postponed until around Purim.
The consolation is that he promises (bli neder) that when he does come he'll stay with me. So at least now I have plenty of advance notice, which is good.
Still, I'm sooooooo disappointed. :( But I guess the anticipation will make it that much better once he does come to town.
Good thing I bought extra Kleenex last night at Moishas...
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The current case in question that brought this middah to mind: the fact that BB has yet to inform me whether or not he will be staying with me as of tomorrow night.
Now, I don't really mind that he didn't let me know as I had originally asked by Monday, because I understand that he's waiting to hear back from his friends. And when last night came and went, which was the deadline he had himself set for informing me one way or another, I assumed he was of course, still waiting. Since his friends are in Williamsburg, I understand that they operate on a Chassidishe concept and approach to time.
The snafu comes in with the fact that I'm Yekki, not Chassidishe. As such, I have my usual weekday list of What to Do Each Night in preparation for Shabbos, etc. Add to the mix that yesterday I received a staggering amount of work, all due Friday. In short, I'm totally stressed out, because I'm beginning to recognize that my list of What to Do will probably not get done. For a Yekki to have to start thinking about doing things quickly instead of leisurely, or to not do them at all- well, suffice it to say that such a situation is perhaps the most frustrating of all.
So about an hour ago I found my patience really waning due to the pressure cooker factor. I decided, in an attempt to let patience and restraint prevail, to default the increasing pressure by phoning my brother. Seven Ricola candies, and one even more sore throat than I thought humanly possible later, and still no word from the Chassidshe friend. But promises to know by tomorrow morning.
Having deflated the unbearable pressure though, that's okay. And hey, if I don't end up cleaning my floors or the washroom before Shabbos, the world won't end.
Well, okay, maybe for me it will. But at least I was okay there for a few seconds, right?
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Lately the gentlemen have only be offering me the Breslov Calendar. I could have had quite the collection thereof by this point for 5769. Which begs the question: how do they know which pamphlets to offer? Because one of the astonishing things about these guys is that they inevitably offer reading material that is precisely what one needs at the given moment.
Now granted, most of the Breslov pamphlets are, shall we say, slightly generic in tone. So one could suggest that the offered pamphlets will always find a suitable home with whomever purchases them. But my experience has been that there is variation between the different titles. Which leads me to believe that either the troops are schooled in reading people exceptionally well, to the end that they can discern one's unspoken needs, or they are in fact all tzaddikim and consequently recruited.
All I can say is that I'm blown away ever time by how appropriate the pamphlets given are to the recipient's life at that given juncture. That said, what the heck does it mean that they're only offering me the calendar??? (Be kind in your responding post, please. :p )
Monday, February 9, 2009
So basically, while my co-workers are suffering (because it's much harder to explain complicated tasks in emails versus on the phone), my husband has been rejoicing. In fact, I could go on record as saying that his favourite time is any time I'm quiet. :p But seriously folks, while this no talking thing inconvenient, it teaches a few lessons in the area of restraint. One fine example is that I'm still waiting for BB's update as to whether or not he'll be staying with me later in the week, and I would love to just pick up the phone and call him. Instead, I sit here and patiently waiting for him to do so.
So, when forced to not speak, you start thinking about all the words you typically say in a day. Moreover, when you don't speak, you start recognizing that you really can think before speaking- if you refrain from talking for medical reasons, you can definitely pause and mull over what choice words you want to emit before doing so. In short, I find that these allergies of mine prove instructive, aka good reminders of "best practices" when it comes to speech. Or, frankly, words that are best left out.
And hopefully that's how Hashem meant it. :)
Sunday, February 8, 2009
My immediate thought was "Wow, for babies, they sure look mean!". My second thought was "Hey, those tortoises must have been involved in the plagues!". What can I say? The pic just gave me an eerie feeling.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
In his commentary summing up the opinion of the commentators, R'Bachya cites that the four areas of the mountain correspond to the four areas of the Beit HaMigdash:
- The region behind the boundary behind where the klal stood = The gate of the courtyard
- The mountain itself = The interior of the courtyard
- The cloud upon which Moshe stood = The interior of the sanctuary
- The thickness of the cloud = The Holy of Holies
But if we are in galus, how can we operate by this blueprint? How can we move through these areas towards Hashem in our day and age? The reality is that Hashem is wherever a yid is. However, this is magnified, such as when one davens with a minyan. Yet perhaps the most crucial opportunity for getting close to Hashem is not in the Beit HaMedresh, but in fact in the four walls of the married home.
While we all intellectually understand that there are three partners in any marital union- the human couple and Hashem's presence- we often fall short in operating with this awareness in our day-to-day lives. Yet it is precisely in one's home that Hashem's presence rests, and where He remains available to us. Thus, by ensuring that our marriage is internally Torahdik, we can render our homes a suitable dwelling place for the shechinah, and maintain a closer relationship with Him than would otherwise be possible.
B'H' they caught it in time, and she's now in hospital on IV as they try and rid the virus from her system. So if everyone could please daven for:
Shoshana Miriam bat Chana
And if any of you hear of a child complaining of pain in their leg, don't disregard it immediately as "just growing pains". It could be something else!
Since my brother's basic nature since birth is Mr. Social to the nine-millionth degree, I know full well that if he does not stay with me, I will not see him except for the hour or so he'll pencil me in for- during which time a very conservative 45 minutes will be devoted to receiving phone calls from his never-ending stream of friends. As fitting to his crown (Mr. Popular), he knows half of New York, and is currently sussing out his options in the lodging department. Upon hearing that staying with me was basically his "safety" option, we entered comedy routine territory, in which I basically played the role of Cheerleader in what I will title "Stay with Me!".
- Me: Listen, just stay with me...
- Big Brother: Wow, that's so nice. (Long pause to be polite before getting down into the nitty-gritty) Well, how far are you from Boro Park?
- Me (thinking YAY, one point for stay with me!): Oh, very close. You can walk in. I'm right on the border.
- Big Brother: How far a walk is it?
- Me (palms beginning to sweat): Well, uhm, it depends of course how far in you're going...
- Big Brother: What? Like half an hour?
- Me: Oh, if you're walking leisurely, yeah.
- Big Brother: I guess I could take a car service. (Pause) What about Manhattan?
- Me (wondering if I should tell him the truth or quote the exceptionally optimistic times listed by the MTA- I'm Yekki and so is BB- better go with the truth): Well, I'm about 25 stops away, so you've got to go all the way through Brooklyn. But you can get to Midtown in about an hour, depending on the time of day. (OK, so maybe I shaved off a few minutes people. What's a few minutes, right?)
- Big Brother: Listen, I'm talking to my friends in Williamsburg later, so...
- Me: Well, where else are you planning on going?
- Big Brother: Queens.
- Me: Oh. (DRAT) Well, you have to go the full length of the line, but that's the train that's near me, so...
- Big Brother: Look, I'll let you know.
- Me: Okay sure. You do what's most convenient for you.
But I would feel like a meanie if I did that. And he really should just stay where it's best for him.
Seriously though, he has me so well-trained: as soon as I got off the phone with him, I stopped what I was doing (it was after all, erev Shabbos) and made a list of items to check the house for in case he does wind up staying here. Like non-girly soap, ROFL. And I even decided what to bake: cookies, since I can make two types in the same batch. Big Brother likes variety.
Anyhow, let's say it all together: STAY WITH ME. Until Monday though, when I'm supposed to get the "official" word, I suppose I'll have to just wait and see. Is Walgreens still open? I'm running out of Kleenex.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
But seriously, is it hard to transfer toxic gas caused by, hmmm, fire and lava, to the boiling water of the mabul? I can draw parallels, and it's been more than 2 decades since my last pure science course. And you'll note that the scientists attest to only a fraction (10%) of life having remained after the stated mass extinction. If you factor in all the ocean life, makes sense to me.
Maybe I should call up Discovery Channel and tell them a pass along to the researchers a short chapter they should read sometime. Sure would save them a whole lot of time and effort. In these economic times though, one shouldn't cause entire projects to go away.
I had seen 3-in-1 products before, and have even tried a few. However, I personally found the products to be lacking in at least of the 3 purported areas covered, and have since foregone trying out similar items.
That said, I couldn't help but imagine the marketing/PR guys figuring out how to market this "manly" product. What makes it so manly anyway? The scent? Or is it the fact that any of us who have brothers or husbands already know- that a a non-metro man is the most likely candidate to streamline his "beauty" regime. Can't you just picture it? How many guys have, before the introduction of this Pert product, already tried out swapping their shampoo for soap or vice versa? I'm sure quite a few, and more importantly, I'm sure they found nothing wrong in doing that. And if you're a man, whose skin/hair isn't generally as delicate as a woman's, there is nothing wrong with that.
Still, that was definitely one product that made me twirl around and do a double-take. The potential for SNL routines is unending...
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Then I looked a bit closer. The tree was full of birds, and held not one, but several species: Sparrow, pigeon, robin, and more. All were hanging out in peaceful coexistence with nary a peep, waiting out the storm together. Multiple species even occupied the same branch.
So listen, people, if the birdies can do it, why or why can't we???
Monday, February 2, 2009
There are certain aspects of the Yekkish mind you just need to accept. We go from point a to point b. We examine, in an orderly fashion, all the minute details. Two recent moments in the past few days have been hysterically funny to me, for precisely their un-Yekkish nature.
First, I went to the mall motzei Shabbos and while there, stopped at the MAC counter to peruse the concealer (one of my two makeup essentials, the other being lip gloss). The associate was most enthusiastic, and although I really just wanted to find out about the different products in their line, she insisted on the royal treatment. I wound up with her test-driving not only concealer, but powder and blush on me. While I looked nice and all, the reality is that I think only one product should be necessary, and I did look quite pale, despite the blush. So my mind has since fixated on why she chose the colour of concealer that she did, since she wound up needing two additional products to return me to how I normally look. Thus far I've determined that she a) wanted to do something nice for me, because I waited almost 30 minutes, b) was bored (it was almost closing time), and c) wanted to sell as many products as possible. The funniest part of the whole ordeal was that I had an allergic reaction to one of the products and had to race home to remove the mask, LOL.
And then, I woke up yesterday and got the rent cheque ready, thinking that it was January 31. Being a Yekki though, I like dropping it off before evening on the 1st, so I figured that as I was going out to run my errands anyway, why not drop off the cheque on my way out? You can imagine my surprise then when I realized later in the afternoon that it was, in fact, already February 1. What had happened to my internal Yekki clock/calendar? I'm the girl my friends say you can set your watch by!!!
What can I tell you? We Yekkis are a breed unto ourselves...
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Anyhow, we were once conversing, and he uttered a wonderful phrase: A word spoken can never be taken back. Now, we've all heard something similar, but that instance was the first time I heard it, and while I was certainly aware of the halachas of lashon hara, etc., it resonated with me. Not only does it cover the area of be careful in how you speak to others, it also expands to encompass how your thoughts are shaped by the words you say.
This evening, I was discussing my life, as one generally does when catching up with friends and family. Yet as I was talking, I remembered this instance with my West Coast friend, and it really struck me how the words we speak shape our reality. While we certainly all recognize this fundamental truth, it bears repeating: How we think about our lives is how we perceive our lives. And our choice of words simply feeds into that perception, and relays that perception to others. In short, the words we speak affect not only ourselves, but those who hear them, because it is through words that we fundamentally form relationships and connect with people. The words we speak consequently shape ourselves, our reality, and the reality of those nearest and dearest to us.
I think I'll try and keep that in the forefront of my mind for the time being. :)