Tuesday, January 31, 2006
1. Each one of us, regardless of income, feels crunched for money at times.
2. Each one of us is asked to pony up cash to support our synagogue / temple / Jewish day school / other Jewish organization, and has to make choices between what to keep for ourselves and what to give.
Tzedakah is often poorly translated as "charity" but more accurately means "justice" or "righteousness." We give money not out of the kindness of our own hearts, but because this is how one maintains a just and righteous world. The assets of this world -- land and money -- are not equally divided. And never will be, I presume. So we redistribute those assets by writing checks to help the hungry, the homeless, the needy and... the synagogue building fund.
It's so natural to give when you hear about hurricane Katrina. You want to help someone whose home has been destroyed. But to give another pledge to the synagogue, another check to the building fund, one more to this school or that. Oy, how much is enough? When do you give? When do you not give?
I'm not questioning paying temple or synagogue dues, of course we should, but we're also asked to give over and above that. How do you decide how much is enough? When you make your household budget, what is allocated to tzedakah, and to which worthy causes do you give? Do you give only to Jewish causes or to all kinds of charities?
I have to admit I haven't until now thought these questions through. It's always worked like this: Requests for money arrive at the door or call on the phone, and I or my husband do some quick but vague calculations and offer a dollar amount that we figure will help the organization, give us a little glow, but not leave us cursing later when we can't pay the emergency room bill for child 1 or 2 who fell out of a tree.
But I have a feeling... that we're not giving enough. Tzedakah is not a minor thing in Judaism. It is one of the pillars of our religion. I was putting my pennies in the pushka when I was barely tall enough to reach the kitchen counter. We teach it to our children and proclaim it in all our communities. But between the recognition of tzedakah's importance and the writing of the check... there falls doubt. Does [organization x] really need this money? What about the kids' college education - can I ever save enough?
So, tell me, how do you and your family deal with giving tzedakah? Let's talk about money.
(Tecnical note: To comment, click on the little number next to the title of this post. It's ZERO now. How sad. Please help. Comment generously.)
Thursday, January 26, 2006
It's a shame cause it's so super easy to use. Meanwhile I'm keeping that blog around, to manually (when I have time) tag each post with a category and author. I was reading that there are edit templates for WordPress in Beta, so maybe eventually we will get the best of both worlds.
In the meantime I added a great search field on the side, and played with the code so it works nicely for this blog and fits well. If someone wants to find a topic, just type it into that's search field. I also designed a button image if anyone wants to add it to their blog. You don't have to, it's just in case someone wants to.
Here it is: If you need the code e-mail me.
Have a great day/night and I'll update next when something else changes.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Keep on posting, try not to notice the construction guys :-)
Every morning when I wake up I try my hardest to remember to say Modeh Ani. It's something that I do forget to do quite often. I try to remember, but sometimes I forget. It's one of the things I work on. It might seem like a small thing and in some ways it is. But I really think it means a lot. Sometimes in being frum we are reminded that we are obligated to do the mitzvos. It becomes something that we are supposed to do. That we have to do. Something that we must do, and not something that we want to do. The lessons in these smaller things are sometimes the greatest lessons in life that we can learn.
Modeh Ani is in it's simplest form, thanking Hashem for returning our neshoma to us each morning. We thank Hashem for waking up. How simplistic no? Just for waking up. Our day didnt even start. Nothing has happened yet. We are in essence thanking him for a day that has yet to unfold. In fact it's possible that we could have a bad day. (I had a bad day again ... She said I would not understand .... sorry .. got lost in a good song ...) So yes, it's possible that we may have a bad day. So it seems odd that we are thanking Hashem for a day that hasnt unfoled yet.
Of course it's entirely possible that I'm reading into this wrong and we are thanking him for the overall picture. For the time we've had so far. Either way, the lesson thats eaisly learnt here is that no matter the time of refeence. It's important to be thankful in general. I would like to think we are thanking Him for a day that has yet to unfold because in that way the lesson I take from saying Modeh Ani is that much stronger.
Like I said before, i think that in the smaller mitzvos that we do, lay the biggest lessons for us. Lessons that are not always deep devar torahs or answers to deep rooted questions of chasidic phlisophy or jewish life. Sometimes it's the simple lessons of life and daily conduct that we learn from these "small" gems.
Like many mitzvos that we do, even the "bigger" ones, I feel that even though we are obligated to do them. They are sometimes practicly speaking - good for us. Like thanking Hashem. It's good to remember to be thankful. To take stock in our lives. To be happy with our lot and have a positive outlook on our day. Sometimes our "obligation" to do these mitzvos force us to do something so simple that we really should be doing it anyway.
PostScript: I really like this song. It's from this album.
Monday, January 23, 2006
King Without A CrownChorus:
What's this feeling?
My love will rip a hole in the ceiling
Givin' myself to you from the essence of my being
Sing to my G-d all these songs of love and healing
Want Moshiach now so it's time we start revealing
You're all that I have and you're all that I need
Each and every day I pray to get to know you please
I want to be close to you, yes I'm so hungry
You're like water for my soul when it gets thirsty
Without you there's no me
You're the air that I breathe
Sometimes the world is dark and I just can't see
With these, demons surround all around to bring me down to negativity
But I believe, yes I believe, I said I believe
I'll stand on my own two feet
Won't be brought down on one knee
Fight with all of my might and get these demons to flee
Hashem's rays fire blaze burn bright and I believe
Out of darkness comes light, twilight unto the heights
Crown Heights burnin' up all through till midnight
Said, thank you to my G-d, now I finally got it right
And I'll fight with all of my heart, and all a' my soul, and all a' my might
Me no want no sinsemilla.
That would only bring me down
Burn away my brain no way my brain is to compound
Torah food for my brain let it rain till I drown
Let the blessings come down
Strip away the layers and reveal your soul
Got to give yourself up and then you become whole
You're a slave to yourself and you don't even know
You want to live the fast life but your brain moves slow
If you're trying to stay high then you're bound to stay low
You want G-d but you can't deflate your ego
If you're already there then there's nowhere to go
If you're cup's already full then its bound to overflow
If you're drowning in the water's and you can't stay afloat
Ask Hashem for mercy and he'll throw you a rope
You're looking for help from G-d you say he couldn't be found
Looking up to the sky and searchin' beneath the ground
Like a King without his Crown
Yes, you keep fallin' down
You really want to live but can't get rid of your frown
Tried to reach unto the heights and wound bound down on the ground
Given up your pride and the you heard a sound
Out of night comes day and out of day comes light
Nullified to the One like sunlight in a ray,
Makin' room for his love and a fire gone blaze
Reelin' him in
Where ya been
Where ya been
Where ya been for so long
It's hard to stay strong been livin' in galus (exile) for 2000 years strong
Where ya been for so long
Been livin in this exhile for too long"
Matisyahu- King Without A Crown
So often it feels to me like I am grabbing at smoke. I am clutching a handful of water and the harder I try to hold onto it the faster I lose it. That connection, that feeling, that sense of being in harmony, that feeling that there is a higher purpose and being. I struggle and I struggle and I fight to maintain that feeling.
I am torn between worlds. I live in one and look across the sea at another. I am not what many would call a Torah observant Jew. I do not keep Kosher, am not Shomer Shabbos but there is a calling. There is a voice that calls to me and I do not know how to identify it.
I have had ample opportunity to find the derech and to walk a different path than I do, but in truth I am comfortable. I have gathered those who have less than I and brought some of them further down the path, closer to the derech, but kiruv is not what I want or am trying to engage in.
I don't believe in radical change. I don't have enough to make me take the next steps and frankly I am not sure that I ever will or that I need to. It is not that I cannot see myself becoming Shomer Mitzvot. There is a reason why some people think have suggested that I am primed to go to seminary. But there are reasons why I yelled at G-d and reasons why I am not sure that this would be a good idea.
I don't buy into answers that go along the lines of "you just don't understand the plan." They are too pat, too easy and too irritating to just accept. That is not to say that there are not moments when the connection is strong, of course there are and I am thankful for them.
What am I really saying? I suppose that I am like so many others. I am looking for my place. Where do I want to be? At whose table do I want to sit? What is going to bring the most meaning to me and how can I make that happen?
When I ask what my purpose is I am not really asking. I have an understanding of that and it works for me. I suppose that what I am saying is that sometimes I want to skip the journey and see the finish. Tell me the who, what, where, why and how and I'll be forever grateful or maybe I won't. Maybe the most important part is the journey and that which is yet to come.
Thanks for listening to me babble, I appreciate it.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
She shakes out the crisp, cream linen,
placing it on the cherrywood tabletop.
Unfurling and spreading its edges
and smoothing out
its fine wrinkles,
she steps back to admire
A set of silver salt-and-pepper shakers
come next --a wedding gift from years ago.
Silver, yet tarnished,
it’s difficult to make out
the filigreed S and P.
Perhaps this Shabbos, like an earlier one,
a little pepper will mistakenly do a dance with a little salt –
the Lambada, the “forbidden dance” -- atop our challah slices.
The olivewood challah board
with its jagged-ridged knife
have their place in the right-hand cornerof this table --
two sesame-seed-sprinkled challah buns
warm from the oven
soon to take their place
atop the board.
The bottle of grape juice
holds center court,
surrounded by little silver soldiers all lined up.
And nearby, on a smooth melamine-wooded surface,
sits an elongated tray,
a modern piece of art that doubles as a wedding gift.
Atop that tray, standing tall and proud,
are Shabbos candlesticks: the parents and the children.
The parents, a wedding gift from the man of the house,
bought in New York’s Brooklyn,
where the silver is grand.
The children, a smaller set,
identical twins to the parents,
bought in Toronto,
where the silver is elegant sterling.
The smaller set, a gift from the man of the house,
upon the birth of a second child.
These four candlesticks and another lone candlestick
warm to the sights and sounds of Shabbos,
each one glowing happily.
Reflected in their flames is the holiness --
the transformation of everyday to special day.
The Shabbos Queen sits back, admires the scene and smiles.
Her blessings are bountiful.
Monday, January 16, 2006
I’ve been itching to write a post on this for a while, but never got around to it. Then today I read an excellent post on Jack’s site talking about Moshiach. It inspired me to write a post of my own.
What is Moshiach? Moshiach is the era that we will experience when the Jewish people will be redeemed from the exile we are in. Like any tragic thing that happens in this world. As time goes on we are sadly removed from the pure pain of it. We were run out of our own home, for the second time, and are now living in a time where there is no
We have been so far removed from anything even like that, we can’t comprehend our lives today fitting into a world where we attend services and sacrificial ceremonies at a temple in
Is this scaring you? Does this all sound wacky. Is this sound like something you want? But it’s something as a Jew that we are obligated to believe in everyday. We say every day, I believe with PERFECT faith, in the coming of Moshiach, and even if he may tarry I will still believe every day.
Today my biggest question is, do we really even want Moshiach? As a kid I grew up in a very poor family. My father used to always say, “oy we need Moshiach” he wanted Moshiach, because he didn’t know where his next paycheck was coming from, or how he was going to pay the phone or electric bill. He believed his life was filled with hardship and that when Moshiach comes that this will all be over.
I always felt that was wrong. That isn’t why you should want Moshiach to come. In fact, I always wondered how rich people felt about this. Will they be able to drive their Lexus BMW’s to the Beis Hamikdash? Will they want to give up their fancy suits and designers clothing? Will they have to live in a smaller home in
Today thank G-d, I am not in the same financial situation my parents raised me in. I work very hard, and fought tooth and nail to get to a point where I am able to provide for my family and live a happy, comfortable life. I am not rich by any means. But I can pay the bills just fine and I don’t have to worry about those types of things.
Here I am, happy. So why do I want Moshiach? Even writing something like that sends off alerts and sirens in my frum head. How that is even something I can think out loud? I don’t know, but it is. I know that there are big issues in the world. There are many nations, countries and people that have it really bad. There are horrible tragedies happening every where including sickness, disease, war, famine, death, people who have no homes, no money, no happiness.
I can understand that when Moshiach comes all these things will be dealt with. Peace will come to the world, and that is something in itself to pray for. Then I come back to my father, and I wonder, maybe there isn’t any better reason to want Moshiach. Your own suffering only magnifies the want.
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I often wonder how badly I really want Moshiach, I can say that it may come down to an issue of selfishness. Maybe I don’t know if I want Moshiach because I **think** I’m happy. I’m only truly happy superficially. When I really think about it, I know that we all need Moshiach, because we weren’t created to be content with just having money, or having a nice home or being successful in business.
We all really crave to feel more spirituality. I may sometimes find it hard to imagine a world of Moshiach. I may not understand how it will work. But I still feel underneath all the confusion and questions that I do want it. I’m not sure why always, but I know I want it.
If you want to know more about Moshiach, here are some sites that have a great resource of information.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
It occurs to me that one of the more difficult situations a person can be placed in is to experience paradise and then to lose it.
So I wonder about our forefather/foremother. How bitter was the exile from Gan Eden? What did it do to them and how did they handle it. In theory people who have never had to worry about anything would have limited coping skills.
And there you have five minutes of my musings. What do you think?
(Crossposted on Jack's Shack)
Monday, January 09, 2006
Read the post nominated HERE and again thanks Mirty for being a part of this group.
While your there, please remember The Jewish Connection when voting for best designed blog and later for best group blog.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Up until 10 years ago or so, I practiced my form of MO, which basically was keep kosher, shabbat/chagim, learn a little here and there, go to shul on shabbat and chagim, with little thought about what my religion asked of me. Basically I was on autopilot, with the autopilot being a combination of what practices I grew up with, had seen around me, and the prevailing practice of the community around me. Gradually, I came to the realization that this may not be enough. That there was an entire shulchan aruch(code of Jewish law) full of laws and practices, some of which I performed, some of which I didnt. It occured to me that while the practices handed down to me by my parents certainly were important, that body of knowledge and deed may not be the entirety of what God expected of me as an observant Jew. This did not mean that I had to immediately adopt every specific law and practice that I came across, but it did mean that I had to examine what I did, look at the sources as best as possible, and try to figure out exactly what God expected of me, and to try, as best as I could, to do it.
Take the example of showering on Shabbat(I do not intend to make this a halacha shiur, and please dont take my word for any of this, ask a competent authority). It seems clear to me that washing on Shabbat is allowed(many used to go to a mikva on Shabbat morning, some still do), but there may be a problem with hot water and certainly with wringing out the towel or hair. So, there is probably a way to stay within the bounds of halacha and still shower, but the way I was doing it didn't, by any stretch of orthodox imagination. Showering on Shabbat was never viewed in my family as a problem. However, I could not find any viable halachic way to make it a valid practice for me. So I stopped. It didn't change my life, and no one in shul has complained about excessive body odour.
I believe in God. The God of the Bible, Tanach, on down. I believe some of the concepts of Oral Torah(Mishna/Gemara) were given at Sinai, and a lot of it was put together by the Rabbis. I accept that the Rabbis who wrote the Gemara may have made mistakes, especially in science and in society. However, I feel bound by what has been handed down over the generations and accepted as practice. As a caveat, if something has become accepted but was based on wrong information or beliefs, it doesn't neccessarily have binding authority and has to be examined carefully. In other words, rabbinic decisions(including the gemara, to some extent) have to be seen in their context, historical, social, and psychological.
What does this mean for present day practice and what I do? Lets take some examples:
Its clear to me from the sources that we are required to make a bracha before and after eating. Its not neccesarily a big deal, but it is a requirement. I sometimes forget, and if I do, and then realize it, I resolve to try to remember. No one external makes me feel bad. I feel bad because in a very small way, I haven't done what God asked me to do. The guilt doesn't ruin my day, I figure God understands. But it would have been better if I had done it, thats all.
But this examination doesn't end with minutae of practice. It also holds for broad concepts and attitudes. I dont think that my Judaism ends with practices. Unfortunately, many MO have the idea that Judaism can be Jewish practice, and secular values and culture. Concepts such as moderation of luxury, charity, education, modesty are tremendously important, and I find that they sometimes get glossed over by those of us who engage society fully. I dont want my kids watching Shakira shake her belly button, even though I think that TV can be useful and we certainly have a few in my house. I dont want my kids thinking that a 20,000 square foot home is neccessary for living. I try to live in moderation, no matter what resources are available, and if more is available, then that is more for tzeddakka. To answer the question about plunging neck lines, my guess is that the wearer of that article of clothing did not ask him/herself, "is this really what God thinks is appropriate?", and simply is following popular culture, with no thought as to what Judaism has to say about it.
I am not claiming that we all should walk around constantly thinking, "does God want me to turn here? take the elevetor to the 3rd floor?" But our thoughts and actions should be informed(always wanted to use the word that way, this is the first time) by a sense that we are God's creatures, and are here to obey His word. The exact contours of the Word is different for most of us, but we at least should try to have an acknowledgment or a thought of Him as we go through our day. That is what I am trying to achieve. It is what I think He wants.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
This is supposed to be a joke. (No, I did not write it - I found it. It can be found in several places on the net. Not sure where it originated.) I went through it and found defining/explanatory links for certain terms for the curious:
1. An average Jew doesn't bother to read the sign but will stop if the car in front of him does.
2. A fundamentalist stops at the sign and waits for it to tell him to go.
3. An Orthodox Jew does one of two things: a) Stops at the sign, says, "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us your commandment to stop," waits 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceeds.
b) Takes another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the halachah.
4. A Haredi does the same thing as the Orthodox Jew, except that he waits 10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces his brake lights with 1000-watt searchlights and connects his horn so that it is activated whenever he touches the brake pedal.
5. An Orthodox woman concludes that she is not allowed to observe the mitzvah of stopping because she is niddah. This is a dilemma, because the stop sign is located on her way to the mikveh.
6. A Talmudic scholar consults his holy books and finds these comments on the stop sign:
R. Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long.
R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding.
R. Shimon ben Yehudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
R. ben Yitzhak says: Becase of the three patriarchs.
R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says, "Be still, and know that I am God."
R. Yehezkel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites, the Holy One, blessed be He, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and overtake his daughter; but Jephthah did not stop at the stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out. For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus was he judged for his transgression at the stop sign.
R. Gamaliel says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out, "Stop, father!" In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same time. Thus it is written, "Out of the mouths of babes."
R. ben Natan says: When were stop signs created? On the fourth day, as it is written, "Let them serve as signs."
But R. Yehoshua says...."[continues for three more pages]
7. A Breslover Chasid sees the sign and prays, saying "Ribono shel Olam, [Master of the world]here I am, traveling on the road in Your service, and I am about to face who knows what danger at this intersection in my life. So please watch over me and help me to get through this stop sign safely." Then, "looking neither to left nor right" as Rebbe Nachman advises, he joyfully accepts the challenge, remains focused on his goal, even as the car rolls backward for a moment, then hits the accelerator and forges bravely forward, overcoming all obstacles which the yetzer hara might put in his path.
8. A Lubavitcher Chasid stops at the sign and reads it very carefully in the light of the Rebbe's teachings. Next, he gets out of the car and sets up a roadside mitzvah-mobile, taking this opportunity to ask other Jewish drivers who stop at the stop sign whether they have put on tefillin today or whether they light Shabbat candles. Having now settled there, he steadfastly refuses to give up a single inch of the land he occupies until Mashiach comes.
9. A Conservative Jew calls his rabbi and asks whether stopping at this sign is required by unanimous ruling of the Commission on Jewish Law or if there is a minority position. While waiting for the rabbi's answer, he is ticketed by a policeman for obstructing traffic.
10. A secular Jew rejects the sign as a vestige of an archaic and outmoded value system with no relevance to the modern world, and ignores it completely.
11. a Reform Jew coasts up to the sign while contemplating the question, "Do I personally feel commanded to stop?" During his deliberation he edges into the intersections and is hit from behind by the secular Jew.
12. A Reconstructionist Jew reasons: First, this sign is a legacy of our historic civilization and therefore I must honor it. On the other hand, since "the past has a vote and not a veto" I must study the issue and decide whether the argument in favor of stopping is spiritually, intellectually, and culturally compelling enough to be worth perpetuating. If so, I will vote with the past; if not, I will veto it. Finally, is there any way that I can revalue the stop sign's message so as to remain valid for our own time?
13. A Renewal Movement Jew meditates on whether the stop sign applies in all of the kabbalistic Four Worlds [body-emotion-mind-spirit] or only in some of them, and if so, which ones? Must he stop feeling? Thinking? Being? Driving? Since he has stopped to breathe and meditate on these questions, he is quite safe while he does so, baruch HaShem.
14. A bibilical scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second halves of the passage "STOP."
For Example, "ST" contains no enclosed areas and five line endings, whereas "OP" contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the first and second parts are the work of different authors who probably lived several centuries apart.
Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylisitic differences between the "O" and "P".
15. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another biblical scholar amends the text, changing "T" to "H." "SHOP" is much easier to understand in this context than "STOP" because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because "SHOP" is so similar to "STOP" on the sign several streets back that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a commercial district.
16. Yet another biblical scholar notes that the stop sign would fit better into another intersection three streets back. Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus interprets the present intersection as though the stop sign were not there.