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Running on Jewish Time

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Time to be Silent....

I've learnt much of my own ignorance in the past year.

Ignorance of the world around me, of the laws of the physical, the psychological, the spiritual.

How man himself is so ponderous and important that whole world rotates about him.
How gravity makes the Earth fall and fall and fall again, falling just past the Sun.
How G-d suspends the Earth in the void.

or whether perhaps it's all one and the same.
But, again, how can both the touch and taste and senses, the fierce empiricism of science,
The Infinite One for whom the whole length of Time and the boundless regions of Space are all so finite, who is Reality.
Are these both the same world?

Perhaps the laws are beyond my comprehension, as painful as such an admission might be.

There is a cacophony of words in the world, of thoughts, of conclusions forgone, and questions perennially re-cast.

I have much to learn and more to think about.

There is nothing new under the sun. But what lies beyond the it?

This is not a goodbye, fare thee well, and take good care and wrap up warm, dearies, it does get a bit chilly in the evening. I write and write often, I think, but I would like what I have to say to be better worth saying.

It is a silence, waiting, listening to the voices for the theme and fugue and the key before I raise my own voice again to join the harmony.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

For the Love of.........

For the Love of...

He stopped a stranger from killing one of his brothers.

For the Love of...

He stepped into an arguement among his own people.

For the Love of ...

He stuck himself in between total strangers to protect the weak.

For the Love of ...

He searched hills and wadis, back and forth until he found the little lamb

For his love that he was chosen.

For who would you trust with the most stubborn, stiff-necked precious people, whom G-d counts and recounts, savoring each one like a glowing pearl, then a shepard willing to walk the hills as long as it takes to find every last one.

Such is Moshe, Our Teacher.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

Sign here!
Scrawling my name, across the postman's clipboard. The room a tornado of colors, as people rushed in and out. Answering phones, questions, giving directions and making spot decisions as the hissing sound of the spinning rat race in my ears.

The flashing colors fade white around the edges, the hissing grows louder.
NO! I have to finish this.
By sheer force of will bringing the room back into focus. The hissing receding, thrust my mind. Shaking my head, concentrating on the world around me. The demands that all need to be dealt with. Deep breath.

Blast! The room is fading, the noise drowning out everything else. Need to get more sleep. will tonight. maybe.

The bright colors blur in and out of focus, and fade into white sunwashed ceiling of my room. The silence echoes in my ears until:
Masmida! Hey don't you have class today?

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Better Part of Silence

[I think I've been due one of these for quite a while now]

Idlly playing with my fork, as I listened to the rabbi's daughter describe her little red-haired son.
"Such a sharp boy."
Smiling and wondering why everyone else at the table is wearing a black suit.
Had I accidentally wandered over to the men's side?
Did someone die and no one told me?
Or is this whole wedding entirely too black for me?
"I hear your brother is coming home Pesach-time. How long is he staying?" says the girl on the far side of me.
"Until he gets married." answers the rabbi's daughter.
"That would be what? December?"
"Something like that. I'm not taking any calls until February."
"Better call the first then" she laughs
So this is the difference between boys and girls.

Sitting between the two, I decided that valor is the better part of silence and sent a silent prayer to G-d to lend me some emunah for a while, for I fear what I have is not nearly enough.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Leah - The Woman Who Didn't Marry Her Basheret

[a piece of mussar for myself]

Rivka has two sons. Lavan has two daughters.
The elder for the elder. The younger for the younger.

Rachel was beautiful and Leah had eyes tired and weak from crying.
You'd be upset too if your bashert committed murder, idol worship and adultery on his thirteenth birthday.

This is the will of G-d. This is bashert. This is what is meant to be.
and Leah's answer to this looming destiny was..... So, what?

So what if there have been signs, they're just signs.

So what if Ya'akov and Rachel have made histadlut, it's just histadlut.

You, G-d, are the One I'm asking, and You decide.

Leah lived in the world of Avraham's laughter, there is nothing beyond G-d. A world separate from the bounds of destiny and fate and beshert. A world that is separate.

And so G-d listened.

Leah, looking at her first child, born without the long years of barrenness that all the other Foremothers were haunted with, realizes
Hashem has seen my pain[29:31]
Now Ya'akov will realize that this was meant to be as well, but with the second child comes the knowledge
Hashem has heard that I am hated.[29:32]
But with the next child something changes....
This time, my husband will accompany me[29:33]
and the fourth child comes the praise, the unabashed acknowledgement, the quiet certainty born of struggle, born of all that she had endured.
This time, I will praise G-d.[29:34]
What is praise but the heartfelt knowledge that everything is as it meant to be.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Link, the Cog and the Repair Man

Everyone in this world has a purpose.

Oh Thank G-d! Despair has been thwarted, meaningless rendered empty, and all is good and productive and with purpose.

Purpose of grand palace of mammoth proportions adorned with an excess of statuary and urns may be to shade a single tzadik for an hour or two. So.... I'm not a tzadik so does that mean I built the palace?

What if... What if we're simply a link, a intermediary, another living breathing body to get from one generation to the next. Some name in the list of generations from Great Person who Saved the world to the next Great One. Well, hey, even Gedolim have to have parents and grandparents and even great-aunts for that matter.

Or maybe we're a cog as the world ticks toward its final end game, turning neatly in our place to keep the whole machinery going. All chugging nicely along toward the end of the world together. Doing our little part in this Universe.

Or maybe our part is not some cog, but to mop up after the ones who've gone before. Seriously, Adam almost got it right. Yosef nearly brought the geulah. Hezekiyahu faltered in last stage of the game, and I shudder to think how close Bar Kochva must have gotten before he failed. So we tinker with this huge edifice of law and history left to us and try to finally get it working and get this world into some semblance of order... Right, anyone have the schematics for this thing?

Or maybe we're none of the above.

Maybe we're just children, who are still learning the rules with a sort of eager earnestness, trying to become better, trying to understand what we did wrong. Confused and searching, we wander through trying to achieve an end we don't entirely understand. Hashem walking with us all the while, gently or sometimes not so gently molding our world
Ya'air Hashem panav v'yechu'necha.
to enlighten us and educate us, to prepare us for that which we were created.
but of all the choices the Torah says....
Banim atem L'Hashem Elokeicha
You are children to Hashem your G-d.
So much for links and cogs and repair men.

That there was no Man

"That there was no Man....[shm. 2:12]"

There was not Man who would in the future emerge from him, that would convert.
So..... Moshe was a Prince of Egypt. Very few people are going to object to what the favorite son of an absolute ruler decides to do. Given that Pharoah did in fact object, why didn't Moshe simply send the Egyptian away. What need to kill him?

Since we don't go around summarily executing people, there are a few reasons why the Egyptain was due the death penalty. Firstly, adultery with Shlomit bat Diviri [Rashi] and secondly attempting to beat the husband to death. Both in violation of Noachide laws and punished by the death penalty.

But why does it matter that there was no Man, no descendent of this particulary contempible specimen who would convert in the future?
If there was, would Moshe have let the Egyptian live?

How is it that someone can be spared the punishment for their own sin on their descendents' behalf?

The angels would have condemned Yishamael for his descendents had not G-d chosen to judge him
Asher hu Sham....
As he is now [bre. 21:17].
On Yishamel's current sins and merits, despite his children's murderous tendancies.

Korach believed he had some measure of protection and motivation from his own future descendents, one of whom, Shumel, would be compared to Moshe[Rashi shm. 15:7]. However he is zapped and his sons hang one above the swollowing mouth of earth by virtue of their fingertips and teshuva.

So as it stands I do not understand was a possible righteous descendent should shunt aside a sin.
So for those who like answers to their questions.............

Man, the language Ish, refers to specifically a tzaddik, a righteous person. Moshe looked around at silence that surrounded this would be murder and decided....
In the place where there is no Man, try to be a Man. [Pirkei Avot]
and so Moshe was.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cleaning Invisible Dirt

"Scrub the counter, please."
"But Immmmmaaa, it's not dirty."
"Yes it is and it'll get dirtier if you don't scrub it."
"If I can't see it, why do I have to clean it?!"
"Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there."
Then I got my own apartment.
Lesson: Clean invisible dirt of all sorts, because otherwise it becomes visible all by its little self.

besides it gives paitence a good polish also.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Salvage Mission

Given we're all stuck somewhere for some reason.

There must be some level of spiritual growth that is accessible to me here in college.

Not learning to say
Thank you G-d, I am a Jew!
because college has taught to be supremely grateful that I am exempt from all the expectations and callous cruelties and narrow definitions. That I inhabit a world with very different laws.

Not Kiddush Hashem of various sorts because, well, while that's my schar, it's other people's growth.

Not merely surviving because that sure isn't living.

Real concrete spiritual growth, coming closer to G-d, the source of truth, good, love etc.

The question is.... How?

Min Ha'Maytzar Karati......

The problem truely is that this particular narrow bridge has seemed all too broad of late.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

10 Tevet : The First Mistake

[Note: For questions on the timing of this post, please consult the title of the blog. - Management]

The tenth of Tevet, Nevuchadnezzer's troops closed around the city of Jerusalem and sealed it off from the rest of the world1,2

There is no fast marking the day the Romans besieged Jerusalem. The fast of Tevet is uniquely about the first Beit Ha'Mikdash and all the mistakes of the period that still haunt us.

So assuming that no one reading this has commited murder, adultery or idolotry3, what have we done?

Failed to make Birchat Ha'Torah? [Yoma]

But what's a bracha? An acknowledgement, a statement of the value, a expression of respect.

What's the cost of disrespect?

David Ha'Melech rips a tear out of Shaul's cloak and years latter clothes can't keep him warm. That which one disparges or mocks or treats with utilitarian indifference, will return the favor and become the useless tool we treated it as.

Torah without a bracha is............... well, scripture.4

1 It occurs me this is an excellent mashal for dealing with depression or most sorts of negitive charecteristics. The first thing the Yetzer Ha'ra tries to convince you of is that you're all alone and it's just you against the whole world, you, tiny single individual, alone, without anyone else, against one of the most powerful of G-d's agents in the world, that's taken out entire cities and beat Adam within hours of his creation. Ready to give up yet?

2 Consider the implications in terms of G-d's majesty if His city is removed from contact with the rest of the world. Heichal Hashem, Heichal Hashem, Heichal Hashem Hema...... [yirimyah]

3 If this statement is not correct, please contact your nearest law enforcement officer, marriage couselor or Orthodox rabbi as appropriate.

4 There but for the Grace of G-d go I.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Time to Go Monster Hunting

There is a green-eyed monster camped out in the sub -basement of my soul.

It lives off of the dark misma of emotions that boils off the edges of control. It survives on the scraps of darkness and the dusty forgotten corners.

There are dozens of the little creeps. Waiting for moments of weakness, exhaustion, rage. Whispering, mummering....
Well, they were asking for it?
What's the harm, its just once?
Why should I care?
I have so little and I want so much.
The little ones are easy. Listen to the voice, follow where it is and then promptly defenestrate the little twerp.

Thank you, don't come again.

But this one is not so easy. He's not afraid of the light, smirking as I talk on the phone, strolling right into my words, camping out in the middle of my head. Mocking my decisions, my motivations.

There's a green-eyed monster camped in the sub-basement of my soul and he's got to go.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On the Existence of Genocide

[Its the 10th of Tevet and I just finished The Sunflower by Simon Wisenthal. This needs to be said]

Murder is a complicated sin. On the surface level it is morally equivelent to maiming, the two follow each other in Mishpatim. In each the damage is irrevocable, the language of the Torah the same:
Eyin tahat Eyin, Shein tahat Shein..... Nefesh tahat Nefesh. [shmot 21:23-24 ]
but we learn the that eye is not an eye but the price of one, the tooth not a tooth but the monetary compesation.

But a soul is still soul and we execute men who commit murder.

Murder is a complicated sin, because there is more than the harm done to the man murdered,
there is a harm done to every other person*.

Every drop of blood that seeps from that dead man's body cheapenes the blood that still flows
in living veins.

The death penalty is no deterrent in the conventional sense, is no vengence for the sake of the family, but a cold terrifyingly profound acknowlegdement of the preciousness of life.

Every murder is personal, every death as every life, unique.

I do not know if I believe in crimes against humanity. I've never met this humanity, I've only met people.

This concept of genocide seems to speak of forces of socio-economics and philsophical movements. In a single wave of the hand absolving all those who were complicit as trapped in forces beyond their control.

Perhaps my vision is too narrow and my mind too direct, but in the whole blaze of atrocities, I see only one moment in time.

One gun, One bullet, One finger on the trigger. One choice.

One death.

That is murder. and I do not understand the greater degree of horror for 'genocide' than six million such moments.

*Rav Hirsch

Monday, January 09, 2006

Like Efrayim and Minasheh

Efrayim and Minasheh, the first children of exile, the only generation not to fall lower than the last one; they are also Shevatim.

We bless all our sons, that they should survive and flourish as well as Efrayim and Minasheh did, that our own children should at least equal us, if not surprass us*.

So why does Yisreal bless them
And the Messenger who has always been with me** should bless the boys, and they will be called in my name and the name of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, and multiply like the fish in the heart of the land.
Is G-d so busy, we should need angels with us?

* As for our daughters, consider where Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah grew up. Without a father like Yosef. We should survive half as well as they did.
**Rashi's explanation: the pasuk says Malach Ha'goel, which is even more dubious.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Lonely Man of No Faith

[Number 4 of the Jew and the University: A series of vingettes from my college life, don't worry there will be a point to these in the end.]
I used to be Jewish.

But then one day my parents asked me if I wanted to go to temple. I said no and then went out and had a ham and cheese sandwhich.

That day was Yom Kippur.
Straddling a chair, he leans forward to make sure he's heard. Emphaszing each statement with the blade of his hand marking the table between us, as if it were drawing the space in which he must live.
I can't ignore religon, because I have no faith.
Because, you have faith. You have meaning in this world.
I don't.
There is no reason for me to get up in the morning. I just get up. There is no purpose. There is no meaning.
He is intense; gaze fixed on his hand, fixed on the space he's drawn out. Softly, slightly bewildered at this pronoucement that emerged from nowhere, I answer
Then why are we even having this disscussion?
Why was it this boy, who had walked away, deliberately, willfully, needed to explain himself.

This conversation still troubles me. I wrote a private rebutal, but never reopened the discussion. My job at college is not to be mekarev all my lost brethern, I would dare to pretend to such strength.

How did it come to this? That a boy could reject 3500 years of Judaism with a $3.50 sandwich. That a boy would think that he could.

And yet he still can't walk away from it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Well, Why not?

[Installment the Third of the Jew and the University: cross-faith dialouge is inherently fraught with far too many awkard questions]

A hypothetical....

A set of curious bright eyes look at me with inquiring innoncence. The question still hanging in the slightly musty air of the classroom.

Its quiet, too quiet, too many ears, too many people.

I could hardly give her a quick and bloody history lesson on the exact nature of her god and church.

I don't think the top ten reason why the messaih hasn't come yet would go down too well, either.

I can't even use any my favorite lines about my uncle, the Jewish carpenter.
This is not good.

I can't let it seem as if I don't have a good reason. As if my Judaism is simply a matter of 'just born that way and never thought about it'

But its not even a question.....

I couldn't. I can't. I can no more stop being Jewish than I can stop breathing.

It defines and delinates the actions of my life, shapes the place for all my thoughts; it is the language of my soul.

Time is passing and the curiousity in her eyes is shifting into something else.
It's not like becoming Christian is a big deal or anything?

[Note on comments: How do you explain to a regular non-missionary christian why conversion is simply not an option, or even to a standard secular non-affliated American]

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Story of....

[to blatantly rip off one of my favorite authors]

All stories start....
And Now Read On.
You could say this is the story of a fairly wealthy country.
Okay. a fabulously wealthy country.
So freaking wealthy they practically own all the food on the planet.

You could say this is the story of massive crop failure across the entire region
the story of the Immigration of 2238.
the story of the government suspression of the overburgoning non-indigenous mulltitude through population control and mandetory drafts.
the story of how the whole the most powerful country in the world collasped overnight
the Great Slave Escape of 2448

or the story of the how G-d took a single family and transformed them into a holy nation.

It depends on who writes the history books.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Sometimes I wish I was stupid enough to fall for my own lies.

but the price of knowing the right thing to do,
is having to do it.

back to work.....................

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Not So Giving Boy

This book makes me cry and want to scream at the same time.

The selfless tree, the selfish man. (this better not be a parable for something else)

The tree just gives her fruit, her leaves, her branches, her trunk, giving and giving, all because she loves the boy/man. Until the day comes where all that is left of her is a mutilated trunk and then he plunks down his behind and sits on her.

The only way to redeem the whole farce is that the boy's dead body is buried beneath her roots and rots into fertilizer and actually returns some small part of what she given. That's how angry this book makes me.

The tree understands what love is. Love is when you give, openly, without thought of return, simply because the one you love needs it. So, she gives.

But it seems the boy doesn't. Because when someone loves you, all they want to do is give to you. And if you love them, you'll take because you know how much pleasure it gives them. And the taking becomes a gift.

The selflessness makes me cry because its being given to....

The boy who takes, because he needs and he wants and doesn't come back until he needs something again.

The ingratitude makes me want to scream.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Every where I look, I see light.

Posted by Picasa

On Teachers, Real and Otherwise

I realized that I could sum the entire last post into one line:
Women who are still learning and live that which they learn.
And we need a lot more of them .

The way you test a system and evaluate it worth is by its results.

The system is obvious, it is Torah in its entirity. To see the results of this system, you have to locate someone who is so deep into it that he is in actually a 'living torah', a honor that we are perhaps entirely too forthcoming with.

This does not include teachers who are afraid of rashi like the one in ch41, v45 because how do you explain that! to a bunch of thirteen year olds. It just doesn't bear thinking. What would thier parents say?!

But to a person who is entirely Torah, inside and out, then that rashi is just as much Torah as any other and needs to be taught. It takes knowing the pasukim throughly, having more questions on any given pasuk than your students do. Having the anwers to those questions and then having questions on those answers. and will do that.

It takes someone who is determined to learn and to understand no matter who it might be teaching them or finding their mistakes. Whose thirst for truth is unslakeble.

The terrible irony of the system of Jewish education we live in, is that these people naturally want to be around more people like that and we end up with the problem in all tzoni schools where they have no rabbis because all their good ones made aliya.

What remains are those who are not yet driven enough to make that self-sacrefice and thus all their preaching concerning miserat nefesh falls very very flat.

This is not universally true, there remain in America, those teachers who are brilliant and growing and powerful teachers, who strive to become closer to G-d with every day. Whose actions are ever increasingly a mirror of those ideals they aspire to and hold up for their students to see.

Chanuakah is a time where everyone stopped talking, stopped bemoaning their fate and crying out to G-d to save them from their own sins, and did what they had been taught and learnt and had taught others.

May we all do the same.

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