8.28.2006

Daily dose of cuteness

If you missed yours today, try these links from Cat (who has her own humanoid cutie).

If that's not enough for you, check out Cute Overload. (That might be too much, though.)

8.24.2006

Sad

Read this.

There were many reasons to be sad about the situation in Israel and Lebanon in July and August, but this post really hit home for me in a way that news stories and stories about multitudes of people dying on both sides did not. I will have to read some of David Grossman's published work at some point.

Subway Challenge: Trying to shed more light on the matter

They beat the record by more than hour! This Fox 5 phone interview with one of the guys during the day yesterday is kind of funny, especially at the beginning, when the anchor on the left is obviously trying very hard not to burst out in laughter. More information about the subway challenge and links to media coverage can be found here, at their blog.

As to motive, see the comments section on my last post. Also, Tuesday's New York Times article (from my beloved Science section) might shed some light on the matter.

Speaking of fame...this blog was quoted in yesterday's AM New York, in the "Blog Beat" feature. Unfortunately, it's not available online. You'll just have to take my word for it.

8.22.2006

"Subway Challenge"

For some not necessarily comprehensible reason, two young New Yorkers are going to try to beat the current record of 25+ hours to ride the entire New York City subway system tomorrow. That's right--they're going to pass through every single station in the system, subsisting only on beef jerky. Read all about it here. [Via Esther.]

Part of me actually understands how tempting such an endeavor would be, although I personally would never do it: it's a way to do something sort of foolish and get a lot of attention, with relatively few risks to one's health.

Another part of me idly wonders why it's almost always men between the ages of, say, 16 and 30, who try to do this sort of thing. Is this the equivalent of older rituals that prove one's manhood, like walking on hot coals or circumcision in early adolescence? Is it that older people don't have time do try to ride the entire subway system? Is it that the part of one's brain that kicks in and prevents one from doing this hasn't yet matured in such men? And why don't women do this? Do they engage in equivalent feats of endurance designed to prove their womanhood? Do 3 inch heels accomplish the same goal?

This curious mind seeks to know. But I'm not seeking that hard. I have to get back to, you know, my paying job.

Childhood television and books

I would strongly consider raising my (future, hypothetical) children without television. I think that there are lots better ways to spend one's time, and they're going to spend enough time staring nearly-passively at a [computer] screen as it is. (I wouldn't be averse to having a small-to-mid-sized monitor and NetFlix, though.)

However, I must say that reading these blog posts about Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street, and other things that parents remember from their childhood that they want to share with their children was very nice. Heck, I don't even have kids, and I've already blogged about Sesame Street, so I can't blame these folks who actually have kids. If you're a Fred Rogers fan, you might especially enjoy reading this, although the photo there is a bit creepy. I think he was, um, younger when I watched. (Also regarding the photo on this post, I don't think he wore running shoes when I watched him. I think he changed into and out of canvas sneakers.)

On a related note, I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance about books that were read to me as a child. The topic came up because he was looking for things to read to his five year old daughter. We came up with the following, as appropriate to be read to a five year old. What did we miss?
  1. A Cricket in Time Square
  2. Alice in Wonderland
  3. All of a Kind Family
  4. Betsy, Tacy, and Tib series (probably more fun to read herself)
  5. Charlotte's Web
  6. Dr. Doolittle (note that there is the original racist version and a cleaned-up version)
  7. Freddy the pig books
  8. James and the Giant Peach
  9. My Father's Dragon
  10. Pippi Longstocking
  11. Stuart Little
  12. The Borrowers
  13. The Ramona books (probably more fun to read herself)
  14. Through the Looking Glass
  15. Winnie the Pooh

8.13.2006

"What are the odds that I will regret having children?" and weighty matters that a (post-)modern 20-something ponders

So, here is another one of those interesting posts that has been simmering, written and rewritten and rewritten again, since, um, March. I don't like to post this kind of thing too soon after I have written it, because it's more important for me to say what I mean. I'm also probably a little bit more hesitant to have people I actually know read these more-personal-than-some posts. Anyway, here goes nothing...


"What are the odds that I will regret having children?" is a question that was posted on Google Answers in October 2004. [Via the gameiam. Not surprisingly, there is no answer at this time, but there are 18 comments. I hereby admit that I don't really "get" Google Answers, or why anyone would ask a question on it.]

I must say that I have never seriously considered this question.1 However, I am glad that people who are afraid they might regret having children take those feelings seriously. It would suck for their future kids if they didn't. I was a bit disturbed that one of the reasons given for remaining "child-free" was that it was too much work for the woman because, of course, her husband wouldn't help with the child-rearing at all. Clearly, if I thought I would be married and still have to raise my children alone, I would think (at least) twice before becoming pregnant (or before getting married to a man who planned to be a non-involved father). I never intend to be in that situation (married yet acting as a single mom), though.

Anyway, regarding the "yes/no" question about parenting at all, I was never one of those people who declared, "All I've ever wanted to be is a mother," as some of my high school classmates did,2 but it was always clear to me that I wanted to be a mother along with whatever else I might end up being.

But being an unmarried woman, desirous of children, I have considered some of the questions raised in this New York Times Magazine article from March 19, titled "Wanted: A Few Good Sperm." I didn't think of these issues when I was 17 and first considered the issue of progeny, when it was abundantly clear to me that I would meet my future husband in college and get married at some point soon after graduation, by age 25 at the latest.3 Well, that didn't happen, which, by the time college ended, was fine with me. I learned a lot in college. One of the more useful things that I learned in college was that I was not ready to get married or even date seriously when I was 23 (my age when I graduated from college). I wanted some of the freedom, adventure, and carefree lack of responsibility for others that are described as reasons never to have kids here.

Between then and now, I've given some thought to the issues described in that New York Times Magazine article. I have also discussed it with a few single women friends who are around my age. Did single women in their 20s talk about this thirty years ago? Twenty? Ten? I suspect not.

The essential question is: What do you do if you know that you absolutely want to have children one day, but you're not partnered and don't know if or when you will be? In conversations with other women, these four main questions have come up:
  1. Do I have the social/familial support necessary to do this?
  2. Do I have the financial resources to take care of someone besides myself?
  3. How would I go about having a child?
  4. How do I time this? When in my life should I do this? How long should I wait for marriage?
I think that the answer to the first question is sort of a "yes" or "no" thing, although it's something that you can work on if you don't currently have it.

The answer to the second question might be more complicated, such as "not right now but if I decided I wanted to have kid(s) and that marriage wasn't in the cards then I would get my tail over to grad school pronto." (Note: I'm not saying that if I was married I wouldn't also need to go to graduate school or earn a decent living before procreating, only that bringing children into this world while living on one non-profit salary is untenable given the modest but comfortable standard of living that I want and expect, assuming I'd be paying for Jewish day school tuition and living in a city with a sizeable Jewish community. Two non-profit salaries, it's tenable, or one for-profit or otherwise decent salary. Or no Jewish day school and living far away from friends, family, and multiple synagogues to choose from.) I think being able to answer this question in the affirmative is a prerequisite to getting to the third question.

For the third question, there are more and more expensive, high-tech options for getting pregnant, but they're no walk in the park, certainly once you get past a certain age. (There are also low-tech options, which aren't options if you aren't having pre-marital sex or sex outside of a committed relationship, which, if you had, you wouldn't be planning on having children alone. Presumably.) Regardless, pregnancy and childbirth look pretty hard even for people who have supportive partners and don't need to be artificially inseminated. Adoption is another obvious (and good, in my opinion) possibility.

There is a fourth question, which is the issue of timing, and the one most directly addressed by the NYT Magazine article, which claimed that more and more women are going ahead and having children while they still have a shot at biological children, rather than waiting for marriage. That is, they're having kids first and worrying about the spouse later, since there are practical limits to the time during which you can have or raise children, and no such clear time limits on finding a life partner.

If you are okay with adopting and possibly never having biological children, then timing is not as important. If you want biological children, then you would need to make an actual plan that fit the status of your eggs, or be prepared for the expense, time, and hormonal/emotional roller coaster of infertility treatment. I have no idea what the status of my eggs is (presumably young and plentiful at 27, although studies such as this one, which says that fertility for women peaks in the mid-20s and begins to decline at 27, do not make me happy). The final cut-off for most women seems to be sometime between 35 and 40, though. Assuming that you need close to five years to "get yourself together" enough to make having and supporting a child possible, it would make sense to get serious about this stuff at some point between the ages of 30 and 35. Whew! I have at least 3-8 years before I have to think about this at all (at least not seriously--these kinds of ponderings don't count).4

Some of these feelings have changed as I have gotten older and gotten to see parenting from the perspective of parent-friends rather than from the perspective of the babysitter (i.e., myself). I'm not sure how I missed this all those years of being parented, but right now, parenting looks like a long, hard, selfless slog of sleep deprivation, worry, and always being responsible for someone else,5 punctuated by moments of great joy, happiness, and wonder about the miraculous ways of the universe. Supporting myself by working full-time has also changed my perspective in that I see how little time I have for other things.

Some people think that women considering having and raising children alone has increased the number of single women, since women now have other options for having babies. That is, women are rejecting marriage since that isn't a prerequisite for what they really want, which is children.

My answer: If you're only getting married because you want to have kids, that's a problem. That is, marriage as an institution is in trouble if women get married less because they can have children sans marriage. Obviously, marriage and children are related--some couples live together for years and only get married before starting a family--but sometimes I think that it's not a bad idea to separate the two. There are people who desire a life partner without desiring children, and there are people who desire children with or without a life partner. Obviously, it's easier to have children with a life partner, assuming the life partner is helpful and supportive and also wants to be heavily involved in his/her children's lives. But pursuing marriage with the sole or primary aim of having a co-parent doesn't seem fair to the person who ends up with that job.

One last question (or three): Is there any man alive who knows or strongly suspects that he wants to have children, regardless of whether he has a life partner or not? If not, why not? Wouldn't it make sense, evolutionarily, for men to like children as much as women do? I mean, propagation of the species and all of that?

One final note: As much as I know that I want kids, I sometimes feel that I am not cut out for parenting at all, and I am certainly not convinced that I am cut out for doing it single-handedly. Hopefully, I won't have to.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1. At least since I was 17, when I decided that I absolutely must become a mother one day.

I don't remember ever not liking kids (caveat: not a big fan of loud kids or seat-kicking kids on airplanes, or rude or wild kids anywhere--I used to be more tolerant of such behavior), and I've been a regular babysitter since I was thirteen, even long past the age when most people would baby-sit. (This is at least partly because of my current profession and resulting lack of cash, but it's also because I enjoy being around kids. Well-behaved kids.)

But the strong feeling that I got when I was 17 and babysitting for a sweet little two year old was a bit startling. It was a strong, sudden desire to raise little people into big people one day. The little girl was fighting off sleep and so I had been holding her on my lap and reading to her, until at last, thank God, she fell asleep in my arms.
And she was so sweet and warm and soft, and all I wanted to do was to take care of her. As I sat there holding her, I wondered if I had been co-opted, unawares, by the biological determinists who thought that, as a woman, the urge to bear children should take precendence over anything else in my life. Did I want this so much because society wanted me to want this or because of some deeper biological urge to raise children? (It was more of a general procreative urge than any other kind of urge. And it was more of an urge to raise children than to birth them, meaning that adoption has never seemed strange or undesirable to me.) What did it mean, I wondered, to have an urge to have children totally independent from whatever desires I might have for a life-partner, a long-term relationship, or even for sex? I thought it was weird. I was only 17, for God's sake! (I know, in some places, 17 years old regularly bear children, but not in my world, then or now.) I knew that this wasn't something I wanted at the moment, but that it was something that I wanted at some point in the future. I decided that it was okay to want to be a mother, though. Even the feminists among us would support that, regardless of whether the particular urge that I had when I was 17 was biological or sociological in nature.

And, yes, I thought too much, even when I was 17. Thinking is a very pleasurable activity for me, even though I can sometimes drive myself crazy doing it. I do not want her life, although I don't think there's anything wrong with anyone who does.

2. Ten years out of high school, now a mother of two or three, and has a part-time job on the side. Also, as one might expect, a husband in finance, a house in the suburbs, and a mini-van.

3. Based on a survey conducted by our 11th grade English teacher, it seemed that most of my high school classmates expected to find their spouses in college--more boys than girls outwardly professed this desire, interestingly enough.

4. This would all be easier if I wasn't sure that I wanted children, and I could just say, "Well, if I meet the right person in time or ever then I will have children, and if not, not."

5. Some people have told me that all of this is much easier with one's own child than with someone else's child. I've heard that you actually want to get up to take care of your child in the middle of the night or at 6 am, wipe up vomit, chase your child around the playground on Shabbat afternoon, change diapers, and generally not mind all of the personal sacrifice so much. I wouldn't know, but hearing this gives me some hope.

8.10.2006

Empowerment of women (and men?) in the Orthodox community

For those who are following this story, an e-mail that I got from Laura Freiman last Friday.
To All Safe Space Participants:

[snip]

As a result of the discussions, many wonderful ideas were generated. We do not intend for all of these ideas to remain as only ideas; but rather, to find ways to implement at least some of them. Though we cannot guarantee that all of these ideas will come to fruition, we plan to take the following list to various shuls and support organizations on the Upper West Side and discuss ways to empower the synagogues and the community to implement them.

[snip]

Ideas Generated from the SAFE SPACES Program:
  1. Monthly Safe Spaces Discussion Groups on Various Mental Health Topics
  2. Regular Guest Speakers on Various Mental Health Topics
  3. Mental Health Referral Lists Available at All Shuls and Shul Websites (This is already being implemented!)
  4. Regular Orientation to Jewish New York Seminars for Newcomers to the West Side
  5. Weekly Host Families/Singles for Shabbat Meals
  6. Dating Support Groups and/or Hotline
  7. Women Group Activities/Empowerment Seminars
  8. Male Group Activities
  9. Upper West Side Mental Health Professionals Meetings/Collaboration
Have a Good Shabbos!

Laura Freiman, LCSW
Clinical Director
Social and Organizational Leadership Training
Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future
212-960-5400 Ext. 6170
Ideas 1, 2, and 3 seem the most crucial and are of the greatest interest to me, as someone who wants to raise awareness of mental health issues everywhere, including within the Orthodox Jewish community. I support them wholeheartedly and would be happy to contribute time and energy to helping make them happen.

Ideas 4, 5, and 6 seem like fine ideas, but they don't particularly speak to me. I don't think I would have, or would, utilize them. I am very uncomfortable accepting these sort of hospitality invitations, even if the alternative is eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home alone for one or both Shabbat meals. (It doesn't happen too often these days, but these was a time when it happened a lot. And maybe peanut butter and jelly is a bit of an exageration. I often bought fancy feta cheese sandwiches or got some sort of chickeny take-out thing.)

Idea 9, I'm not sure about. What would they meet about? What would they talk about? What would they collaborate on? Would confidentiality be assured? I wouldn't want people to be afraid of, for example, their therapist talking to their boyfriend's therapist behind their back. I would we wary of anything that has the potential to make people afraid of therapy. The Orthodox Upper West Side community is already incestuous enough as it is, with people dating their friends' exes and worse.

Ideas 7 and 8: I am very interested in why people want sex-segregated activities in an Orthodox Jewish community. I'm not being facetious--I really am interested. Is it because with all of the pressure to wed (at least according to the New York Sun), there is no more room for women-only and men-only activities? Do women not do things with their women friends, and men not do things with their men friends, because they see that as a lost opportunity to date and "meet someone"? What's morning minyan at OZ if not a male group activity? Is the fact that the women's group activities are combined with empowerment seminars, but the men's are not, because men already feel empowered? (There was a time when I would have thought it insane to question the empowerment of men, but lately, I've realized that it's probably pretty damn confusing to be a man these days, much as it can be to be a woman.) What would we be empowering women to do?

These questions are the exact intersection of so many things that interest me--gender issues, mental health issues, and the wild and wacky world of Orthodox Jewry. (The last interests me the least, although the intersection of all three interests me greatly.)

More questions: What does it mean to be an accomplished, professional woman in your 20s or 30s, living in a community where the popular wisdom is that men are looking for women who excel at cooking and cleaning? I have been told that women are inherently more suited to housework (sweeping, laundry, dish-doing) than men, that women naturally enjoy cooking more than men, and all manner of related poppycock. What does it mean to be reaping the benefits of the feminist movement(s) but to live in a community where being known as a "feminist" can quash your dating life before it takes off? (There are apparently still people around who think that feminist means lesbian. Go figure.) Nevermind the way that Orthodox Judaism can drive you, as a woman, right into the ground in other ways if you aren't vigilant, what with rabbinic assumptions about women and a halachic system created by men, from an exclusively male perspective. (Once in awhile they stopped to consider the point of view of women, but that seems to have been the exception, not the norm.)

I think that's it. Any answers you have would be appreciated. I think it would be great to meet to discuss these issues, so that's my Idea 10 for the list--discuss gender issues in the Orthodox community on the Upper West Side. (Not sure it would go anywhere or do anything, but it would definitely interest me.)

8.09.2006

Happy Tu B'Av!

Happy Tu B'Av! Tu B'Av is literally the 15th of the Hebrew month of Av. If you read the Talmudic passage below, you'll see why I wished you a happy one.

The translation of the Talmudic excerpt was taken verbatim from Michael L. Rodkinson's 1918 translation, with which some have taken issue. It can be found here. The Hebrew (and Aramaic) is from Snunit.

I remember learning this for the first time when I was 18 or 19, and wondering why no one had ever told me about this before. It's true, they don't teach you most of the good stuff in high school.

Tractate Ta'anit

26b, MISHNA: ...Rabbon Simeon ben Gamaliel said: Never were there any more joyous festivals in Israel than the 15th of Abh and the Day of Atonement, for on them the maidens of Jerusalem used to go out dressed in white garments-borrowed ones, however, in order not to cause shame to those who had none of their own. These clothes were also to be previously immersed, and thus the maidens went out and danced in the vineyards, saying: Young men, look and observe well whom you are about to choose (as a spouse); regard not beauty alone, but rather look to a virtuous family, for "false is grace, and vain is beauty: a woman only that feareth the Lord shall indeed be praised" [Proverbs, xxxi. 30]; and it is also said [ibid. 31]: "Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in her gates." Thus also is it written (alluding to that custom): "Go forth and look, O ye daughters of Zion, on King Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother bath crowned him on the day of his espousals, and on the day of the joy of his heart" [Solomon's Song, iii. 11]. "The day of the espousals" refers to the day on which the Law was given, and "the day of the joy of his heart" was that when the building of the Temple was completed. May it soon be rebuilt in our days!

30b, GEMARA: It is right that the Day of Atonement should be a day of rejoicing, because that is a day of forgiveness, and on that day the second tables of the Law were given to Moses; but why should the 15th of Abh be a day of rejoicing? Said R. Jehudah in the name of Samuel: "On that day it was permitted to the members of the different tribes to intermarry." Whence is this deduced? Because it is written [Numb. xxxvi. 6]: "This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded concerning the daughters of Zelophehad," etc., they claim that "this is the thing" implies that only for that generation was it decreed, but for later generations the decree does not apply.

R. Joseph in the name of R. Na'hman said: On that day the members of the tribe of Benjamin were permitted to intermarry with the other tribes, as it is written [Judges, xxi. 1]: "Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying: Not any one of us shall give his daughter unto Benjamin for wife." Whence was it deduced that subsequently permission might be given to intermarry with the tribe of Benjamin? Because the quoted passage says "Any one of us," and Rabh said that their descendants were not included in the vow.

Rabba bar bar Hana said in the name of R. Johanan: On that day the last of those who were destined to die in the desert died, and the destiny was thus fulfilled; for the Master said that so long as the destiny was still unfulfilled, the Lord did not speak to Moses for his particular sake, as it is written [Deut. ii. 16 and 17]: "So it came to pass, when all the men of war were spent by dying from the midst of the people, that the Lord spoke unto me, saying"; and "unto me" signifies that the Lord spoke unto Moses in particular.

Ula said: "On that day the guards appointed by Jeroboam to prevent the Israelites from coming to Jerusalem were abolished by Hoshea the son of Elah, and he said:
31a, GEMARA, continued:
'Let them go wherever they choose.'"

R. Mathnah said: "On that day permission was given to bury the dead who were killed in battle at the city of Bethar." And R. Mathnah said again: "On that day, when it was permitted to bury those killed at Bethar, the assembly at Yamnia [ed.: what kind of transliteration of Yavneh is this?] ordained the benediction reading: 'Blessed art thou, God the good, that doth good.' What is meant thereby? By 'good' is meant that the bodies were not left to putrefy, and by 'doth good' that burial was permitted."

Rabba and R., Joseph both said: On that day they ceased to cut wood for the altar, as we have learned in a Boraitha: R. Eliezer the Great said: "From the fifteenth day of Abh the heat of the sun was lessened and the timber was no longer dry, so they ceased to cut wood for the altar." [Said R. Menasseh: "That day was called the day on which the saws were broken"], and from that day on, he who adds the night to his time for study may have years and days added to his life.

"In white garments--borrowed ones," etc. The rabbis taught: The king's daughter borrowed from the daughter of the high-priest; the daughter of the latter would borrow from the daughter of the Segan (assistant); the Segan's daughter would borrow from the daughter of the priest who was anointed for the war [see Deut. xx. 2]; and she in turn would borrow from the daughter of an ordinary priest. The daughters of the ordinary Israelites would borrow one from the other, in order not to put to shame those who had none of their own.

"These clothes were also to be immersed. '' Said R. Eliezer: "Even if the clothes were folded and laid in a chest, they must also be immersed."

"The maidens went out and danced," etc. We have learned in a Boraitha: Those that had no wives would go there to procure a spouse.

"Saying: 'Young men, look and observe,'" etc. The rabbis taught: The pretty ones among the maidens would say: "Regard but beauty alone, because a woman is made only for beauty." Those among them who were of good family would say: "Rather look to a good family," for women are but made to bear children (and those of good family produce good children). The ill-favored ones among them would say: "Make your selections only for the glory of Heaven, but provide liberally for us."

Said Ula Biraah in the name of R. Elazar: "In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will make a ring of the righteous, and He will sit among them in the garden of Eden, and they everyone will point to Him with their fingers, as it is written [Isaiah, xxv. 9]: 'And men will say on that day, Lo, this is our God, for whom we have waited that He would help us: this is the Lord, for whom we have waited; we will be glad and we will rejoice in His salvation.'"

דף כו,ב משנה ...אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמשה עשר באב וכיוה"כ שבהן בנות ירושלים יוצאות בכלי לבן שאולין שלא לבייש את מי שאין לו כל הכלים טעונין טבילה ובנות ירושלים יוצאות וחולות בכרמים ומה היו אומרות בחור שא נא עיניך וראה מה אתה בורר לך אל תתן עיניך בנוי תן עיניך במשפחה (משלי לא) "שקר החן והבל היופי אשה יראת ה' היא תתהלל" ואומר (משלי לא) "תנו לה מפרי ידיה ויהללוה בשערים מעשיה" וכן הוא אומר (שיר השירים ג) "צאינה וראינה בנות ציון במלך שלמה בעטרה שעטרה לו אמו ביום חתונתו וביום שמחת לבו." ביום חתונתו זה מתן תורה וביום שמחת לבו זה בנין בית המקדש שיבנה במהרה בימינו

דף ל,ב גמרא א"ר שמעון ב"ג לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמשה עשר באב וכיוה"כ: בשלמא יום הכפורים משום דאית ביה סליחה ומחילה יום שניתנו בו לוחות האחרונות אלא ט"ו באב מאי היא אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל יום שהותרו שבטים לבוא זה בזה מאי דרוש (במדבר לו) זה הדבר אשר צוה ה' לבנות צלפחד וגו' דבר זה לא יהא נוהג אלא בדור זה אמר רב יוסף אמר רב נחמן יום שהותר שבט בנימין לבוא בקהל שנאמר (שופטים כא) ואיש ישראל נשבע במצפה לאמר איש ממנו לא יתן בתו לבנימן לאשה מאי דרוש אמר רב ממנו ולא מבנינו <אמר> רבה בר בר חנה א"ר יוחנן יום שכלו בו מתי מדבר דאמר מר עד שלא כלו מתי מדבר לא היה דבור עם משה שנאמר (דברים ב) ויהי כאשר תמו כל אנשי המלחמה למות וידבר ה' אלי אלי היה הדבור עולא אמר יום שביטל הושע בן אלה פרוסדיות שהושיב ירבעם בן נבט על הדרכים שלא יעלו ישראל לרגל ואמר

דף לא,א גמרא לאיזה שירצו יעלו רב מתנה אמר יום שנתנו הרוגי ביתר לקבורה ואמר רב מתנה אותו יום שנתנו הרוגי ביתר לקבורה תקנו ביבנה הטוב והמטיב הטוב שלא הסריחו והמטיב שנתנו לקבורה רבה ורב יוסף דאמרי תרוייהו יום שפסקו מלכרות עצים למערכה <תניא> [דתניא] רבי אליעזר הגדול אומר מחמשה עשר באב ואילך תשש כחה של חמה ולא היו כורתין עצים למערכה לפי שאינן יבשין אמר רב מנשיא וקרו ליה יום תבר מגל מכאן ואילך דמוסיף יוסיף ודלא מוסיף <יאסף> [יסיף] <תני רב יוסף> מאי יאסף אמר רב יוסף תקבריה אימיה: שבהן בנות ירושלים כו': ת"ר בת מלך שואלת מבת כהן גדול בת כהן גדול מבת סגן ובת סגן מבת משוח מלחמה ובת משוח מלחמה מבת כהן הדיוט וכל ישראל שואלין זה מזה כדי שלא יתבייש את מי שאין לו: כל הכלים טעונין טבילה: אמר רבי אלעזר אפילו מקופלין ומונחין בקופסא: בנות ישראל יוצאות וחולות בכרמים: תנא מי שאין לו אשה נפנה לשם: מיוחסות שבהן היו אומרות בחור וכו': תנו רבנן יפיפיות שבהן מה היו אומרות תנו עיניכם ליופי שאין האשה אלא ליופי מיוחסות שבהן מה היו אומרות תנו עיניכם למשפחה לפי שאין האשה אלא לבנים מכוערות שבהם מה היו אומרות קחו מקחכם לשום שמים ובלבד שתעטרונו בזהובים אמר עולא ביראה אמר רבי אלעזר עתיד הקדוש ברוך הוא לעשות מחול לצדיקים והוא יושב ביניהם בגן עדן וכל אחד ואחד מראה באצבעו שנאמ' (ישעיהו כה) ואמר ביום ההוא הנה אלהינו זה קוינו לו ויושיענו זה ה' קוינו לו נגילה ונשמחה בישועתו

8.08.2006

A trait to emulate

Read this post from NotANewYorker. I left a longish comment there, so feel no need to repeat it.

I thought it was just my lovely grandparents who continually went out of their way to do acts of chessed (kindness) for friends and strangers, Jews and non-Jews, until I visited Omaha and found out that there are whole communities who act this way. Palo Alto, CA, where I have also spent time, is also a warmer, friendlier, go-out-of-your-way-to-make-others'-lives-easier kind of place. There is something to be said for living in a place where you have the time, energy, and space to think about someone other than yourself. I think it can be very hard in a large city where everyone is so programmed, so scheduled, so terrified of losing themselves to the sheer chaos of it all. The energy that (some) people love about New York may also be one of its great failings.

Add this to my reasons to leave New York City:
  1. "My Daddy owns more buildings than your Daddy!" (Abacaxi Mamao, 12/19/05 )
  2. mongrammed spit-up cloths (Abacaxi Mamao, 2/9/06)
  3. higher incidence of depression and general mental distress (New York Times, 4/10/06)

  4. and now...

  5. staying makes you less likely to go out of your way to help other people (NotANewYorker, 8/8/06)

8.07.2006

How you found me, part 1

If I was more poetic, this post would be written as an ode to the wonders of statcounter. Alas, I am not. At least not at this time of night.

Some searches that have led people to this blog are below. (And, yes, this is what people like me do in the middle of the night instead of sleeping.) I'm calling this "part 1" in case I ever feel the need to continue the series.
  • "To wear a sheitel or not" led to this. The same search led to this, which is much more interesting.
  • More on sheitlach... Someone in St. Paul, MN was searching for "how much does it cost to dye a sheitel" twice (!) in the middle of the night, using Google, and came up with this. These kinds of searches illustrate how inefficient many Google searches are, because of extraneous words used in the search. For example, my posts from March 2005 would not have told this Minnesotan how much it costs to die a sheitel. The same search would lead you to the equally useless (for this purpose) Tzivos Hashem's Official Jewish Songbook with a song about the "callah [sic] lady" who declares that baking challah is a mitzvah1 (really? I'd like to "see that inside," as they say) and sings:

    "...But my sheitel needs setting I know.
    So I’ll just dye my wig a shade,
    And I’ll give it a new braid,
    Like the braid I give to my challah dough."

and this...


---------------------------------------------
1.
There is a wealthy lady
Who lives in my neighborhood,
She has a cook to stock every shelf.
But Wednesday night she yells “Hooray”
And she shoots her cooks away,
Because she wants to bake the challah herself.
You can tell that baking challah is her pride and joy,
It’s a mitzvah she won’t ever shirk.

8.03.2006

More on suicide and the Orthodox Jewish community

I felt that this was an appropriate topic for Tisha B'Av.

I was glad to see this get some coverage in the Jewish Week, and generally happy with the points covered in the article. (I liked it much more than this, as already noted.)

Other bloggers who discuss the suicide and reactions to it include:
I am curious to see what comes of this. If YU's Safe Spaces program continues on the Upper West Side (I'd link to it if there was a website), if other people get funding (as they hope to) to try to make a difference (destigmatize mental health issues in the Orthodox community, support people who are struggling, etc.).

If you want to make a contribution in Sarah Adelman's memory (to support events like this), that information and the obituary are here. If you want to leave a note for her family, I know from my own extended family's tragic experiences that your note will be very important to her family. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

The closing quote in the Jewish Week article was right on--this so-called "teachable moment" shouldn't just be a moment. I recently found out that another young Orthodox woman committed suicide on the Upper West Side about ten years ago. I don't think that suicide created lasting, positive change on the Upper West Side (possibly because of the transience of the community) or in the frum world in general. I hope that this one does.

I'll keep ya' posted.

8.02.2006

Reading for Tisha B'Av

Lord knows that there is plenty to talk and think about this Tisha B'Av. Here are two good places to start.

Josh writes about corruption masked in goodness and what the prophets tell us that God really wants. He points out that fasting for one day is much easier than getting up and doing something about all of the poor, needy people of the world. Right on! (And early wishes for a happy birthday, Josh.)

Elie writes
about morning for personal, rather than communal, reasons. It resonated with me. I don't think it's possible to engage in communal mourning unless you've engaged in personal mourning at some point in your life. Loss on that magnitude starts with the loss of one human life.

I thought I would have more to link to, but I don't. If you have other Tisha B'Av things that you think merit linkage, feel free to put them in the comments.