Friday, October 30, 2015


This isn't a new story, but I just came across it now: Ten Stylish, Orthodox Women Talk Balancing Modesty & Fashion

Sally Mizrahi

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Girls' Night

Being a dinner hostess doesn't only involve cooking, it also involves seating. After careful analysis, Ma and I have concluded that to ensure a good time for all, men have to sit together with the men while women cluster with the women.
Men and women have different interests. Men like to jab a grubbeh finger about some lomdus, or pontificate about those Mets; women like to swap information about recipes, shoes, book selections, etc.

When there's gender segregation, conversation just flows so much better. When they are alternately seated, it limits the range of topics. How many subjects, after all, appeal to both females and males? 

Prior to the release of her book, Primates of Park Avenue, Wednesday Martin's "Poor Little Rich Women" was featured an Op-Ed. Most of the readership, like me, was unaware that she was plugging her product, and that she intentionally composed the article with potentially offensive judgements. 

In the posh neighborhoods of the Upper East Side host families with distinct traditional roles, Martin disapprovingly observed. Men brought home the bacon; women spent the bacon. Not only that, these glamazon STAHMs spent a lot of time with each other, hubbies excluded. 
But as my inner anthropologist quickly realized, there was the undeniable fact of their cloistering from men. . .
“It’s easier and more fun,” the women insisted when I asked about the sex segregation that defined their lives.
“We prefer it,” the men told me at a dinner party where husbands and wives sat at entirely different tables in entirely different rooms. . . 
The worldwide ethnographic data is clear: The more stratified and hierarchical the society, and the more sex segregated, the lower the status of women.
As a Jewish woman, I was offended by that last statement. Enough comments have been made about the separation of the Jewish sexes that I know the outer world finds us sexist. Gender apartheid, if you will. 

I, personally, enjoy it when I attend a large social gathering and I am safely parked with other females. Recently I attended a mixed-seating simcha and I was miserable. The table was silent, except for the occasional lame attempt at wit that made our mutual misery even more obvious. Girls together, alone, would ask about the others' gorgeous shades of lipstick; guys would chat about . . . well, I'm not really sure what they chat about. All I usually see is a lot of back slapping.

As for shul, I happen to feel very self-conscious in an insitution where the mechitza is on the skimpy side and prayer is all on the same level. How can I throw myself into davening if I am frantically wondering if the back of my tights are visible when I bow during Shmoneh Esrei?
The Art of Will Deutsch
If that whole Venus-Mars thing is somewhat legit, why shouldn't fellow Venusians and Martians catch up while at a party? They're going home with their spouses anyway; they're still each other's primary relationship.      

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Battle of the Bulge: Cold is Good

Mrs. Brown (1997)
Queen Victoria is meeting with her advisers, as well as her son, Prince Albert, at Balmoral. 

QV: Why are you dressed for outdoors?

PA: It's so infernally cold in here.

QV: Cold is good. Is that not so, Dr. Jenner?

DJ (who was spacing out): Uh, I'm sorry, ma'am?

QV: Cold is good!

DJ: Excellent, ma'am, excellent. 

I always thought I was imagining it. While many bemoaned the inevitable addition of winter poundage, I never noticed an association between winter and weight gain. 

I went online to research it, which said there was no correlation between the cold and uppity pounds, rather the cozy, comforting foods indulged during that time of year.

During Michael Phelps’s 2008 Olympic gold-medal streak in swimming, Ray Cronise, a former materials scientist at NASA, heard the widely circulated claim that Phelps was eating 12,000 calories a day. Phelps’s intake was many thousands of calories more than what most elite athletes need. Running a marathon burns only about 2,500 calories. Phelps would have to have been aggressively swimming during every waking hour to keep from gaining weight. But then Cronise figured it out: Phelps must have been burning extra calories simply by being immersed in cool water.
Every day, Michael Phelps swims for four hours, runs for two, and on top of that he lifts weights. I found an interview in which he says that he must have recalibrated his metabolism, because he eats three times what most people do. 

But science says (for now, at least) that exercise has no effect on metabolism. Additionally, many others exercise just as much as he does, but don't consume the same caloric load. 

Cronise discovered that it's the four hours in the chilly pool that makes all the difference. He himself sleeps sans blankie, goes out without a jacket if the weather is above 50 degrees, and takes cold showers. He lost 26 pounds in two months.
Keeping the bedroom temp between 66 and 75 degrees leads to brown fat, as opposed to white; the former helps get rid of excess weight. Cronise himself is experimenting if, along with a low-calorie diet, he can chill himself to a healthy weight without the gym.

Instead of freaking out whenever entering an unheated area in the winter, consider the frosty climate delightful. You'll shiver any excess off.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Know What You Think, Say, and Do

Much to my siblings' irritation, I take a rather authoritative roll with the kinfauna. I make them clean their plates when they requested a specific dish. I put them to bed early (note, not "on time," but "early"). If they talk back? Oh, they going down. 

I flatter myself that I possess keener memories of childhood than many adults, and know about kiddie wants vs. needs. They like being read a book. They like knowing someone else is in charge, and it's not on them. And they are really, really happy when they are well-rested.
Sleep. It's a beautiful thing.
Plus, they aren't going to be adorable munchkins forever, and they have to know what acceptable behavior is. Most of us grow out of cute. It won't be a pass. 

So while some may view my tack as being "cruel and unusual," the loving feedback I get from my charges belie that judgement. 

Ergo, I had to root for 's "What Black Moms Know." 
I feel sorry for the others. You know those mothers: the highly informed, professionally accomplished — usually white — women who, judging by the mommy blog fodder, daytime TV, and new parenting guides lining store shelves, are apparently panicking all day, every day, over modern child rearing and everything that comes with it. They feel compelled to praise their kids, but fret the dosage. They worry about pesticides; this year’s best birthday-party theme; enrichment summer camps; preparing Johnnie for college admissions in 2025 (it’s never too early); and, of course, the biggie — keeping their kids happy.
Most adults know that happiness, unlike, say, integrity or self-reliance, is elusive and often fleeting. Still, so-called experts have convinced these mothers that their job is to plant joy into their children’s small bodies. Not surprisingly, this overabundance of advice has turned mothering into a hot mess of guilt, confusion and hard labor.
Thankfully, I am a black mom. Like many of my fellow sisters, I don’t have time for all that foolishness. Our charge is to raise — notice I did not say “parent” — our children in a way that prepares them for a world that, at best, may well overlook their awesomeness and, at worst, may seek to destroy it.
The Superparents don't seem to realize that obsessing over toddlers' academic futures and their happiness simultaneously is an oxymoron. B'H, I was the youngest, meaning I had a broken-in mommy. My middling elementary school report cards left her unfazed, since she figured I would blossom in high school, like Luke did. I did ace those math Regents on my own steam.

Frank Bruni observes this contradiction in "Push, Don't Crush, the Students":
In addition to whatever overt pressure students feel to succeed, that culture is intensified by something more insidious: a kind of doublespeak from parents and administrators. They often use all the right language about wanting students to be happy, healthy and resilient — a veritable “script,” said Madeline Levine, a Bay Area psychologist who treats depressed, anxious and suicidal tech-industry executives, workers and their children.
“They say, ‘All I care about is that you’re happy,’ and then the kid walks in the door and the first question is, ‘How did you do on the math test?’ ” Ms. Levine said. “The giveaways are so unbelievably clear.”
Denise Pope, an education expert at Stanford, calls this gulf between what people say and what they mean “the hidden message of parenting.”
Doublespeak is not a unique phenomenon. As frum Jews, we know it lies beneath. Singles get clobbered with it a lot. "Marriages are bashert," but "you're doing something wrong." It can't be both.

I try to be careful with the kinfauna that I don't ever sound hypocritical. They tune you out when you need them to listen, then they pay a disturbing amount of attention when you would prefer they didn't hear that. 

Being religious, in belief, word, and action, requires a lot of self-awareness.      

Monday, October 26, 2015

Too Cool For You

It happens when I, an overgrown woman, will get questioned as to my "friends," in a manner that my kinfauna would be (example: "Do you have friends?" just because I moved years ago. Hello, meet phones and internet, today's options for connection). Indubitably, if I was married, I would not be fielding inquiries as to my social life; but these are trials older singles must navigate. 

Besides for my introverted nature which finds light chit-chat incomprehensible, and for the fact that most females my age are paired up, the difficulty in acquiring new friends lies in this Modern Love piece by Emma Court
Mass media has a fascination with hookup culture among people around my age (21) meriting in-depth investigations and contentious opining about what it all means. But they often miss a simple fact: There’s nothing particularly new about trying to avoid getting hurt.
It’s just that my generation has turned this avoidance into a science, perfecting the separation of the physical from the emotional. We truncate whenever possible: texting over calling, meeting over apps rather than in person. We leave in the early morning without saying goodbye. Being casual is cooler than intimacy and vulnerability. Or so we think.
Having the last word was once a sign of one’s wit and smarts. It meant that your comment had gravitas and staying power. But today, having the last word is the ultimate in weakness: It means being the person who doesn’t merit an answer. Better to leave them hanging than risk the same happening to you. Keep it shallow so your heart isn’t on the line.
Being aware of all this does not grant immunity from its effects. . . 
This sounds awfully like when I attempt to cultivate an acquaintance into a friend. It is a delicate dance, prancing between supposed non-desperation and blatant interest. Was she laughing at my joke only to be polite? That would explain why she took a week to answer my text. Never mind, I don't have the energy for this anymore, I'll watch some TV instead.

Low self-esteem, I think, is today's dragon that requires slaying. But George needs a nap after playing message tag, overanalyzing "lol"s with a potential new pal.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Before I begin: All hail October 21, 2015! Warning: Two curse words. 
"She's such a sweetie," she said, gazing fondly at her quietly playing daughter. "But she's getting picked on. I don't want her to lose that softness because she's being bullied." 

"She won't," I reassured her. "Her softness is part of her nature, and even bullying can't change that. I was bullied, and I'm still the same softie." 

"You?" she laughed. "You're a softie?" 

"Yes," I said firmly. "I'm a softie. But bullying made me resilient. It made me tougher. I stand up more for my opinions and my dignity. But I'm still a softie." 

I did try, when I was younger, to say and do whatever everyone else was saying and doing in order to "fit in." But that didn't gain me any more acceptance. I decided, that if I wouldn't be welcomed either way, that I might as well say and do that what was truly me. 

High school is long gone; I can now choose the type of people I wish to be around. But in recent years, my spine has been reinforced further. Thank you, dating. A lot of bullying there. 

"Why won't you go out with him again?" she demands. 

"Why won't you go to that singles event?" she imposes. 

"What do you mean, 'Judging from his information it's not shayach'?" she exhorts. 

But I'm also trying to work on my anger. I take a few breaths, logging out of e-mail and putting down the phone. I attempt to gather my thoughts. I then, calmly yet firmly, politely yet implacably, repeat: Thank you, but no.

Resilience shall, for now, rule the day (I'm reading Eric Greitens book next).  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Schwartz Ain't Cool

"They're trying to keep up with the Schwartzes," he explained, "and they are drowning financially in the process." 

"People are still trying keep up with the Schwartzes?" I replied incredulously.
It wasn't until I became familiar with the British class system (thank you, My Fair Lady) that I understood the concept of upward mobility. But the funny thing about class in England is that it is a separate entity from finances (because estates tended to be entailed, and the nobility began to run out of money around the time of industrialization . . . but that's a whole other post). 

In the U.S., however, being classy is also a separate entity from money, simply because money is the only thing that matters (as a Jones-Schwartz). Yet I was surprised to hear that there are those who go into hock for a second luxury vehicle, especially since no one really cares. 

No one notices conspicuous consumption anymore. Not only that, as Steven Quartz and Anette Asp reports in "Unequal, Yet Happy," those who cannot chuck away their money so heedlessly (or unwilling to sign their names in blood to do so) can simply spin their smaller incomes as being "cool." 

Wearing an expensive suit and tie was once the only way to reflect success, and the blue-collar worker would feel that discrepancy keenly. Now, young techies, lolling about in tees and jeans, can smirk at those fast-paced Wall Street stooges.

Today, all of us are the masters of PR. Anything can be cool, and anything can be the boring, barf flip-side. Take makeup. I like it, but others find it false and tedious, thereby turning their cosmetic-less image into something anti-establishment and "natural."

Because individuals can own their outlook, people are happier than ever, even with the hiccuping economy and the shrinking middle class. We can make anything cool.

Why would any of us bother to keep up with the Schwartzes? Anytime Mr. Schwartz upgraded an expensive toy, all the neighbor would have to do is shrug and say, "I'm more about preserving the environment, you know? Less waste. Leaving a cleaner planet for my children."   

Monday, October 19, 2015

Salisbury Steak

"Is it okay if I have another piece?" he tentatively asked, eyes longingly glued to the platter. 

"Sure, tattelah," Ma reassured him. 

From all the offerings on display that Shabbos lunch, he was yearning for the Salisbury Steak. Despite its title, it's more like a meatloaf (main ingredient: ground meat).

The joy of it is that there is no exact science; a little bit more, a little bit less of this or that does not alter the outcome. Added perk: Freezes and defrosts like a dream.

Salisbury Steak (a.k.a. Meatloaf)
I wasn't so artful with the glaze distribution.
1-ish pound ground veal
1-ish pound ground turkey
1 large onion, diced or sliced into thin half-moons
1 apple (unpeeled), chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 eggs 
1 cup breadcrumbs/oat bran or two slices soaked leftover bread/challah
parsley (fresh or dried)
dijon mustard, a healthy squirt or two 
hot/sriracha sauce, one squirt 
black pepper 
*nutritional yeast, a few shakes (optional)

brown sugar
*hot/sriracha sauce (optional)
*apple cider vinegar (optional)
*tomato paste (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. 

Sauté onions, apple, and celery for a few minutes to soften. Add garlic for the last 30 seconds.

Place meat in bowl, along with bread, parsley, mustard, hot sauce, and optional yeast. In separate bowl, whisk eggs and few shakes black pepper. Add onion, apple, and celery mess, as well as eggs, to meat mixture. Mix gently, until just combined (hands are great). Do not overwork the meat. 

In pan or pans of choice, gently form two loaves. Optional: drizzle a little olive oil on top. Pop in oven, uncovered. 

For the glaze: The glaze can be ketchup alone, or ketchup+brown sugar, or ketchup + brown sugar + shot of hot sauce. Can also add a splash of vinegar and/or spoonful or two of paste.
After 20 minutes or so, remove loaves and spread glaze on top. Return to oven. Baking times vary; some recipes call for an hour total, some hour and twenty minutes. Use intuition.   

Friday, October 16, 2015


I once bought an active wear top because it was a pretty shade of blue, but returned it.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Battle of the Bulge: Kitchen as the Gym

I love my Santoku knife. We've been through so much together. Once you've gone Santoku, there's no going back to a paring knife. Santokus attack their prey like a cleaver—which, I must say, is quite satisfying. Whack! Whack! Hiiiii-ya!
Choose your weapon.
Dicing and mincing can be quite soothing, especially with the right cutting board, wide, roomy, and thick. Even though some recipes encourage digging out the food processor, I prefer to do my own fine chopping. (Plus clean-up is a lot easier.) 

Rocco DiSpirito recommends cooking as a workout. Rocco, once too heavy, is now healthily slender, and has a new cookbook that turns the kitchen into a gym.  
The Santoku and I are an official couple because my diet contains very little processed foods. Cereal, once the breath of my life, is now a rare treat—and I'm talking about the Trader Joe's High Fiber Cereal and Barbara's Morning Oat Crunch. 

Shazam: Even foods that we think are healthy, aren't. The food companies are swift on the uptake, and are quick to adapt. They know how to market anything

Processed is processed—pretty much anything possessing a long and complicated ingredients list. Especially since they can winkle sugars and quasi-sugars into anything, which does a number on you (as a recovering sugarholic, it pains me to say so). 

Damon Gameau turned himself into a fattened and sickly guinea pig for his movie, That Sugar Film, by eating so-called "healthy" processed and ready-made foods.
Note that whatever sugar is used in the discretion of one's own kitchen differs greatly than how it is chucked into products while trundling down the assembly line. It's not that one cannot ever eat sugar. But you should be the one to decide how much goes into you, not the food companies.   

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Makeup Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

And I thought I was imagining it.

I didn't always like makeup; to be forthright, I thought it was evil. I nourished this misguided, naive belief that if I tried really, really hard I could be a tomboy—one of those cool, athletic, independent, sassy gals—even though I possessed none of the qualifications for such a status.

What do I mean by "tried"? Well, that means having no interest in fashion. Fashion is a no-no. Tomboys live in comfy boys' tees (Luke's castoffs) and denim. Since jeans were not an option, my selection was a shapeless Biz skirt. Once fashion is flagellated, so is makeup.

I spat on mascara. I snapped eye pencils in two. I vilified lipstick. 

But I was merely attempting to play a role that was not me. As my shield wall began to weakly drop, bit by bit fashion coaxed its way into my life. Garment by garment, my wardrobe morphed into something more palatable and reflective of me. Product by product, my bathroom counters became delightfully cluttered. 

I don't wear makeup because I'm trying to get a man, or because that's how I get respect, or because I have an unhealthy body-image based on magazines and Barbies. It's a call from deep within, a bowel-entrenched desire to buff pink powder onto my cheeks.

I don't understand why others gleefully run marathons, joyously tackle day-long cassoulet recipes, or voluntarily watch horror movies. But I don't think they do because they are metaphorically fleeing unhappy memories, are roiling in an unhealthy relationship with food, or are flirting with the idea of being sucked into hell by a demon released from a doll, respectively.

I'm not going to apologize for this.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Goosebumps are a good indicator of awe. I'm often surprised at the stimulant—a good shiur, a touching scene in a book or movie, when the kehillah somehow manages to harmonize juuuuust right with the baal tefillah—then there is a chill shivering down my spine.
Awe is good for you, maybe even better than happiness, according to studies. The researcher, Dr. Dacher Keltner, who ran the study recommends seeking out the sensation, and it's not so difficult to find. 

In "Why Do We Experience Awe?," Dr. Keltner and Paul Piff provide the reasons for awe. Awe, by their definition, is the "often-positive feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world." 

A side effect of that experience is "it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good." A "communal emotion," if you will, awe "helps bind us to others, motivating us to act in collaborative ways that enable strong groups and cohesive communities." 

When I read the article, I thought of the Revelation on Mt. Sinai. Sights and wonders to strike awe in all those that beheld it; then, the people are given the Aseres HaDibros, at which point they proclaim, "As one man, as one heart."
They could have accepted God's law as individuals, but they took it upon themselves as a conjoined entity. For that is what, apparently, awe is supposed to do: Remind the individual that there is more to life than him alone, and that we are all playing for the same team. 

But awe cannot do its work if snark, cynicism, and scoffery is the go-to. My FB feed is often cluttered with supposed awe-inspiring clips and videos, and yes, I am not necessarily wowed by them all (if I watch them to begin with). Yet I am taken aback by the nasty comments left by others: "Big deal," "staged," and "I'd be more impressed if  _____."
The snarky, cynical scoffer doesn't like community, I've noticed. He's cool, he's smart, and "you people" are just a bunch of idiots. If someone else found something to be meaningful, what's it to you?

The misanthrope spits on awe and his health suffers. The spiritually-attuned seeks it, and has others to help and lean on.   

Monday, October 12, 2015

Shidduch Run

"My son will be coming home now from Israel," she said, shaking in fear, "and he'll start dating." She bit her lip. 

I understand her terror, considering the weirdly high amount of young, cute newlyweds who have sheepishly returned to their parents' doorsteps following a few months of the wedded state. 

"I've got three friends who are getting divorced," he said, "and they all have different stories. But it starts from parental pressure to get married."

Our divorce rate, I am sure, is still much lower than the national average. Nor do I believe that every situation is the same. Blame the disposable society? Mayhap. Yet I prefer how Rosie Einhorn and Sherry Zimmerman put it in their article for Mishpacha: These two people shouldn't have married in the first place. 

What happens when you call something a "crisis"? The population tends to panic. Like bank runs—"Hey, the bank may be in trouble! Let's get our money out!" Well, there won't be enough cash available for everyone, and the bank will definitely go under, taking the remaining accounts with it.
I have made the stupidest shopping mistakes while frantic. Another thing I have learned that when it comes to business, stay away from desperate individuals. They are simply in survival mode, grasping whatever they can without considering the multitude of other factors. 

Goldie Steinberg (née Gurfinkel) made headlines when she passed away at the age of 115. She was born in 1900. She survived a pogrom at the age of 3. At 23, she emigrated to the U.S. with her sisters and lived with her uncle. In 1932, she wed a fellow Kishinev native.!/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/display_600/image.JPG
Do some math. That means she was 32 when she got married. 

As an adorer of historical fiction, I can assure my audience that once upon a time, unless if one of the couple were royalty, two people liking each other did not automatically mean getting hitched. He would have a job, but didn't have yet sufficient income to support a wife. She would have a nice secretarial position, but that would not be enough to pay the rent. So the two would live at home, and on weekends would meet up and exchange recent news, until he finally got the promotion or saved up enough to buy into the business. Years could have passed in the interim. 

What makes something a "crisis"? Merely our perception. It's like with little kids. If you are okay with it, they are okay with it. They trust the adults' reactions.

No one should marry from fright or desperation. Those two factors guarantee a bad choice. Don't buy shoes when nervously attempting to match up an outfit, they will definitely be overpriced and will certainly hurt. Don't invest with someone sweating bullets, the deal will flop. 

How much more so . . .   

Friday, October 9, 2015

"Out, Damned Spot!"

"And what do we have here?" 

Lurking about my brother's kitchen one Friday night, I discovered a forgotten pot on the back of the cold stove. Within was a wedge of divine, oily potato kugel, my great love and nemesis. 

Wishing to avoid inquisitive questions from my tablemates—and worse, the polite requirement to share—I tore off an edge and nibbled it where I stood. 

I watched, in horror, as a glob of grease dropped . . . right onto my skirt. My bright-hued, cotton, long-enough-without-being-yachnish skirt. D'OH!
Come os, damage control! First, I sprinkled some D.E. on the stain, and let it sit overnight. I think it sucked out a good amount of grease, lessening my work. 

There are a number of stain removers in my laundry room; I selected Spray & Wash ("with Resolve power!") as my first champion. I followed the directions diligently, then rinsed off the spot (the skirt is officially dry-clean). 

The stain was fainter, but still obviously there. Next knight? 

OxiClean! Again, a diligent following of instructions, then a messy rinse of the area.
When I came back a few hours later, expecting to have to do another treatment, I couldn't find the stain. I looked for it, up and down. There wasn't even any discoloration of the fabric. I couldn't believe it. It was gone, like the potato kugel never happened.

On the skirt, that is. The calories is something else.    

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Keep the Sabbath Day

Oliver Sacks wrote "Sabbath," discussing his frum childhood and the basic ritual we observant are all familiar with. What I found to be illuminating was this
During the 1990s, I came to know a cousin and contemporary of mine, Robert John Aumann, a man of remarkable appearance with his robust, athletic build and long white beard that made him, even at 60, look like an ancient sage. He is a man of great intellectual power but also of great human warmth and tenderness, and deep religious commitment — “commitment,” indeed, is one of his favorite words. Although, in his work, he stands for rationality in economics and human affairs, there is no conflict for him between reason and faith.
He insisted I have a mezuza on my door, and brought me one from Israel. “I know you don’t believe,” he said, “but you should have one anyhow.” I didn’t argue.
In a remarkable 2004 interview, Robert John spoke of his lifelong work in mathematics and game theory, but also of his family — how he would go skiing and mountaineering with some of his nearly 30 children and grandchildren (a kosher cook, carrying saucepans, would accompany them), and the importance of the Sabbath to him.
The observance of the Sabbath is extremely beautiful,” he said, “and is impossible without being religious. It is not even a question of improving society — it is about improving one’s own quality of life.”
In December of 2005, Robert John received a Nobel Prize for his 50 years of fundamental work in economics. He was not entirely an easy guest for the Nobel Committee, for he went to Stockholm with his family, including many of those children and grandchildren, and all had to have special kosher plates, utensils and food, and special formal clothes, with no biblically forbidden admixture of wool and linen.
When I read articles about the joys of a peaceful "digital sabbath," or how great Shabbos is for the family unit, or how the Sabbath enriches personal relationships, I think that is missing the point. 

One side of the luchos bears the laws betwixt man and God; the laws on the other side are those between man and man. "Guard the Sabbath day" is bein adam l'Makom, not bein adam l'chaveiro.  

Shabbos was the day that Hashem ceased to create, and so we cease to create. I'm not fussing with the light timers and pre-tearing paper towel because I'm trying to remove unnecessary distractions from my life and be mellow for 25 hours. I'm doing that prep because Shabbos is the day that we announce: "Hey, the Eibishter formed us all. Word." 
Shabbos isn't about replicating the "togetherness" of Thanksgiving on a weekly basis, tables groaning with food and friends. It's a day to give a shout-out to the Above. Although the tables groaning with food and friends is a fun side benefit.

Friday, October 2, 2015

For the Scoffer

From my perch in the women's section, I can observe quite a lot, gentlemen; that lacy curtain is like a one-way mirror.
There is one fellow who spends davening browsing the room for another chatty soul, bouncing from tallis to tallis. This time, his eyes brighten as he thinks he has found a willing conversant, close to his age, too! He scurries up to him, and begins to yammer, a smirk distorting his face. 

However, it is in middle of Kaddish. He knows better, I'm sure, but hasn't managed to overcome that challenge just yet. 

But his mark has. Nodding politely while remaining mute, he fiercely answers the "Amein"s and "Brich hu"s. After last "Amein," he pointedly turns to the now somewhat-deflated interloper with "Now I am available" body language. The talker slinks away.

Years ago I had heard Rabbi Mordechai Becher speaking on the topic of kiruv. According to Rabbi Moshe Shapiro: "Just don't get in Hashem's way." 

After the Yomim Noraim, there are many around us who try to do better. But as Rabbi Wein once pointed out, their peers often don't let them. If they come to shul on time, on come the sneers. "Oh, your wife kicked you out of bed?" For many, that sort of mocking feedback cannot be carelessly ignored, and, disheartened, they slip back into their old bad habits.   

"Repression of the Sublime," as seen by Rabbi Weinreb. We know we can do better, but we deny it, with the help of the scoffer—the external scoffer and the internal scoffer.

Keep coming to shul on time; keep silent during Kaddish. The idiots will shut up soon enough, and may even copy your example, quicker then you think. For they will have been reminded they are capable of the sublime, and that no amount of scoffing can shift it.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Irreverant or Serious?

Hey, God! I hope you're there. 
I want you to hear my prayer. 
That graven image on my shelf:
Is it really You or just myself?
Well, anyway here it goes:
Please keep me on my toes.
Help me past my worst mistakes, 
Doing it for both our sakes, 
For an example of perfection
To the Proctors in my section;
Or merely for the Heaven of it,
Like bread, for the leaven of it. 
For whatever reason may incline, 
Please act for Yours and mine. 

      — Chapterhouse: Dune, Frank Herbert