Wednesday, November 30, 2005

On concerts, football and prayer

Have you ever had that feeling of chills down your spine, atingling feeling on the back of your neck while at a concert or at a football game? Your band is coming on to play your favorite song and 75,000 people are joining in all the words. Vinateri is kicking the Super-bowl winning field goal with 0.03 left on the clock.

You sense that feeling of unity, the togetherness, the common purpose. Berov Am Hadras Melech. Voices as one, a harmony of song, mass exultation. That feeling of being part of a momentous moment, a life changing event. Tomorrow will not be the same as yesterday, all because of today.

You are a part of something great, something huge, something that stretches across boundaries, crushing borders in its wake. Forging relationships across nations, worlds that could never normally meet. Standing as one, before G-d, together.

Have you ever?


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Can I be a Orthofem?

An orthowhatee? Not a new contraceptive drug, but an orthodox feminist. Let's temporarily ignore my beer-swilling, ball-scratching, football-watching tendencies (how will I cope when it's not football season? take up sewing?) I'd like to put forward the argument, ask the question, raise the issue and get it out in the open.

I believe that women should be as Halachically involved as they want to be. Not because men and women are equal (come on, we all know we're not - one of us is far superior and you know who it is) but because as aspiring inspired Jews we want to be able to use the full gamut of religious experience available to us. Because when I put myself in women's shoes (not just prancing around the bedroom in high heels and make-up pretending to be Madonna) I catch a glimpse of how frustrating the communal experience can be. Guys, imagine going regularly to shul knowing you weren't allowed to get an aliyah, pesichah, have hagbaah competitions, show off your davening abilities from the amud, and even in some places say kaddish for a loved one. Simchas Torah often becomes a dull spectacle, you can't always run for office on many shuls, you are dhimmi, a second-class citizen in Jewish communal life.

I dream of a time when women can be halachically as involved as they would want to be. We have made many great strides in this area and I believe we will continue to do so. My motive is not a strictly feminazi one, not because we've abolished gender boundaries and identity, rather because I want G-d seeking Jews to be able to experience as much as possible to bring them closer to the aibishter.

Lets get one thing absolutely clear before you take me down like The Fridge on a wet chicago evening with the score tied at 17-17, first and goal with overtime looming. I am an avid fan of Halachah, going to all the home and away games. I believe in it, it is The Derech, it guides my Path and forges my Way. I wouldn't advocate a policy that doesn't have what I consider sufficient halachic authority behind it.

Which is why I ask myself - can I be an Orthofem? I fully accept Orthodoxy and Halachic process, so is my version of feminism acceptable? Or is that existential dissonance between what I dream and hope for, and what is not yet HC (Halachically Correct) too much to handle?

Chag Sameach


Monday, November 14, 2005

The guide for the indolent

1. Get up. Move.
2. Pray. Open yourself to Gd. Buy yourself a siddur, a special one, one that you use to pour your heart out to Him.
3. Read something you enjoy, that inspires you, that makes a difference in your life.
4. Go out somewhere, get away, go hiking, spend a weekend away, invite some friends over for ice cream and a movie.
5. Set yourself attainable goals and tasty incentives. Then work towards those goals and eat those incentives.
6. Take pride in who you are, consider yourself lucky you have working limbs and brain, and use them well.
7. Surround yourself with friends who can support you, who care about you, who will tell you the truth however painful it might be yet who will be there for you when you need them.
8. Remember, life is to be lived one day at a time.


Monday, November 07, 2005

The dangers of mussar

Many of us will remember those days in Yeshiva, the long hours into the night, reading mesilas yesharim, shaaray teshuva etc., trying to work on ourselves. Work on our middot. Work on our bittul zman. Remeber every minute of every day Shivisi Hashem LeNegdi Tomid, even in the bathroom, in bed, everywhere, He is there, watching, waiting, recording our every action and thought for posterity. Elevated goals, worthy aims for Bney Torah, future potential Talmidey Chachamim and Gedoley Hador.

With the first step outside the four ells of the Beis Medrash walls, reality bites. It smacks you like the freezing winter wind, burning your face and wrapping its icy tentacles round your soul. Where have all the bochurim gone? Why is everyone obsessed with Bennifer, with Bradenifergelina, with everything but spiritual improvement? College students looking to engorge themselves on alcoholic beverages, worshipping "Frank the Tank" and not the Chazon Ish. I'm not going to achieve Ruach Hakodesh in this atmosphere!

All the learning, davening, good deeds, smiling and being a mensch I do is not good enough. I'm still mevatel zeman, not finishing off masechtas like they were orcs and I am Aragorn, cutting my way through them, discarding them on my quest through Shas. My thoughts are not as tahor as they once was, I am subjected to a barrage of flesh, an avalanche of decadence, everywhere I turn my nemesis attacks me. What am I? A failure! I've let my Rebbes down, my family, the Ramch"al, and most of all the Aibishter. They had such high hopes of me getting ruach hakodesh and I can't even concentrate during long tachanun! But there was no way they could shelter me from this, certainly not for more than a year or two. Why didn't they prepare me for this?

Never mind that I swim against the crowd, I get up for davening (almost) every morning, I have daily chavrutot, I help other people out with their learning, I invite people over, I keep shabbos and yomim tovim, I try and sanctify G-d's name by being a good person. Never mind that Hashem treasures those few hours of learning I manage to do during the week, despite the pressures of work, study, etc. Forget the fact that being a good honest mensch in today's world is so crucial, so important, so fundamental to Hashem's plans for us.

The GUILT of not fulfilling that impossible dream, the unrealistic hope that was drummed into me, the unfulfilled dreams of Rebbes who didn't make it, all weighing down on my shoulders, whispering into my ear "you failed, you are a bad Jew, you let Am Yisroel down".

To be continued .....