Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Wandering Arbitrator

Just a head's up to Arbitribe readers: Aliza's got a new blog (an offshoot from this one, thus the title. Read it here: http://wanderingarbitrator.blogspot.com/

Thanks, guys! And yes, all the artwork in this particular post is my previous Arbitribe work. But don't worry, I give credit where it's due.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jewish Stars: Madeline Kahn

So here's my announcement. Due to Tzvi and my having to take on double duty, and due to my insanely busy schedule nowadays, I'm going to have to cut back on the long, detailed, full-cartoon blog posts. I know, I know. Half of you are clicking the "x" button on this blog already. But bear with me. 

Instead, I will be alternating between my full-length, drawings-included articles, and shorter pieces I have decided to title Jewish Stars. Quite simply, this is where I talk a little bit about someone, be it an author, an artist, an actor, a scientist, who I think is awesome for one reason or another, who also happens to be Jewish. The person can be contemporary or historical. One thing I will guarantee is that it will not be someone every single reader knows about already. No Rambam, Golda Meir, Woody Allen, or Albert Einstein. Hey, they might be super famous. But if I think I've read tons about them in every book or website known to man, I won't be covering them here. So let's get started with one of my very favorite actresses (yes, I'm starting with an actress and not an author or artist. Atypical for me, but whatev). 

Madeline Kahn (1942-1999)

If you've ever seen a Mel Brooks movie, you've probably seen Madeline Kahn. Super (multi)talented and gorgeous to boot, Ms. Kahn managed to steal every scene she appeared in as Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles and Elizabeth in Young Frankenstein. 

The source of my personal admiration for Ms. Kahn is twofold. First, this was a woman who shattered two insulting stereotypes. The first, that Jews aren't good-looking or pretty, and the second, that women can't be funny. Please. Have you seen this woman act? (Heads up, some foul language/crude humor in this vid. Don't watch it with your kids.)

I'm sure most of you have seen Blazing Saddles and are therefore already familiar with that clip. But if you weren't, let me just let you know that this performance not only landed Ms. Kahn an Oscar nomination, but also hid one of her most incredible talents. You'd never know it from "I'm Tired," but she was an operatic singer. 

And that brings me to the second source of my admiration for Madeline Kahn: I grew up singing along with her. She once guest-starred on Sesame Street, where she sang an adorable number with my all-time favorite monster in the world, Grover. It was and remains one of my favorite Sesame Street songs ever. Let me tell you. The woman had pipes. 

So yeah, she was pretty, funny, super-talented, and Jewish. I'd recommend giving her movies a look. And just because it's hysterical, allow me to present one more example of Madeline Kahn being awesome, with fellow awesome Jewish comedienne Gilda Radner. 

My Top Five Madeline Kahn Performances (in no particular order):

1) Young Frankenstein (1974)
2) Blazing Saddles (1974)
3) What's Up, Doc? (1972)
4) Clue (1985)
5) The Muppet Movie (1979) (yes, it was a cameo. But it was an awesome cameo!)

and a bonus from my childhood:

6) A Bug's Life (1998)

* Let me know what you think of this column as an idea. If you don't like it as much as the cartoons, I'm sorry. Until we get another writer or my schedule frees up, I've got to space them out a bit. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Call to Arms

That awkward moment when it's post day and you have no post... but there is something else.

Time to make that announcement I hinted toward at the end of last month's post, and I'll keep it short and sweet. People, Aliza and I are having a hard time keeping up with the posting schedule as it stands now. After the departure of Daniel almost a year ago and the recent stepping down of Arbitribe co-founder Joanna, it's down to just the two of us. The bi-monthly rotation we're currently running on is extremely difficult to keep up with given the time demands of work and school, and it will not get any easier just because the semester ends in three weeks. I'm working and going to school in the summer and Aliza will be working full time. In the fall, she'll be starting her Master's at NYU (YAY!!) and I'll be finishing up my Bachelor's and preparing for/taking the GREs. The way things are now, we'll have to choose between keeping up with the regular schedule, and writing posts that are up to our usual par (music choices and cartoons take time and thought, you know). However, we do take pride in what we do and we would like to continue running this in a professional...ish manner.

So, general announcement: we're looking for some regular contributors. Two would help us get back to our original numbers, which would be preferable, but even getting one more would be awesome. To that end, we have devised a process to help us do that. We've sectioned every third week off as Guest Post Week, and anyone who is interested in writing something can send it in. If it is deemed relevant and appropriate, we will put it up on Guest Post Week.

In addition, we've created a sort of audition process for anyone who is interested in becoming a full-time contributor. The long and short of it is that you'll be featured on Guest Post Week several times and, given a positive response, consistently good product, and timeliness, you could be the newest member of Arbitribe, which will lead to happiness, appreciation, and maybe some actual perks once we get on that expansion we've been working toward for so long.

Seriously though, if you want an open forum to express ideas and engage in thoughtful discussion, get in touch with either one of us personally (if you know our contact info) or via our email, arbitribe@yahoo.com.

Write for us. It's fuuuuuuuuuuun :)

And, because I can, Song of the Day: Move Through Me - In Flames

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Crisis of Connection

Heaven help us, I have a theme.

Normally I have no idea of what I’m going to write until the week I’m going to write it, and even when there are exceptions it’s usually only a week or two in advance. However, I was introduced to a piece of literature over the weekend that has given me ammo for at least the next year of posting. The story goes as follows:

Last weekend I was made aware of an online journal that launched its maiden issue last fall called Klal Perspectives. There have thus far been three issues, the third of which came out a week ago, ranging from 76 to 150 pages apiece. The journal’s mission statement, as stated on its website and in its first issue, is to provide a forum for discussion by both rabbinic and non-rabbinic leaders to address the greatest problems deemed to be plaguing the modern Torah community. The twist is that the contributors are asked not only to discuss the problems but also to provide possible solutions.

The procedure is simple: the editorial staff of the magazine comes up with three or four questions on a specific topic and sends them to the contributors along with a brief introduction. The contributors then write articles answering the questions to the best of their ability and then the responses are published one after the other. The introduction and questions that were sent to the contributors precede the articles, and a forward written by the editor briefly outlining the issue and introducing its contributors precedes that. The whole thing is capped off by a cover page sporting the title, the names of the contributors and their articles, and the tagline, “A Forum for Discussion of Challenges Facing the Torah Community.”

The first issue, titled "Challenges Facing Modern Orthodoxy: A Symposium,” is pretty brilliant in that the questions asked to the contributors all boil down into the basic query, “What do you think are the major challenges facing the modern Torah community?” The editors don’t presume to know what the problems are, and that modesty is endearing. It is far too often that people assume that they know why the Jewish community as a whole is going through a crisis of faith, and usually their suggestions are based on their personal biases. Rabbis that blame everything on the legalization of gay marriage, the internet, and secular education, I’m looking at you. However, as much as I despise that kind of behavior, those guys are at least a step ahead of those that refuse to acknowledge that we as a community have a problem to begin with. On that note, I give major credit to managing editor Rabbi Dovid Goldman and Co. for going right out there and basing this entire endeavor on such a controversial thought. The idea of Jews actually confronting their demons is such a novel idea as to make the concept of this publication exciting, which, come to think of it, is a pretty sad commentary on the state of Jewish introspection. However, all things considered, I'm thrilled that this thing even exists.

The second issue came out sometime during the winter (they organize these by season, so I have no idea when they actually came out) and is titled “The 21st-century Orthodox Jewish Family: The Role of Breadwinner.” Its overall theme is the changing role of women in the Orthodox Jewish family now that they want to work full-time jobs and are often required to due to financial problems, a situation totally unheard of as recently as the 1950s. That’s an extremely sensitive subject and I’m not going anywhere within 100 miles of it. I’m not even going to offer an opinion; you’ll just have to guess what I think.

With approximately 200 pages of rich, well thought out dialogue on interesting and oft ignored topics, I highly recommend you go look up issues #1 and #2 on the Klal Perspectives website, which I have linked to again for your convenience. I have not done so yet, but I plan to as soon as I have the time. However, first I want to tackle issue #3, the issue I discovered last week and the focus of the not-so-miniseries that this post serves as an introduction to. There are two reasons I’m skipping straight to #3. The first is pretty simple: it’s the issue that introduced me to the journal and I’m already halfway done reading it. Understanding the second reason takes an understanding of what those 150 pages are about. The title of issue #3 is a short and powerful “A Crisis of Connection?” and the issue explores the idea of whether we Jews are, as a global community, experiencing a crisis in the degree of our religious fulfillment and, if so, why that is and how to fix it. Anyone who knows me personally or reads this blog regularly knows that this is a subject very close to my heart and one that I’m very passionate about. Until as recently as 2 years ago, I lived in a crisis of connection, so it makes sense that of the three existing issues of Klal Perspectives, this would be the one I would first want to explore in detail.

I propose this: There are 20 “chapters” in the Spring 2012 Klal Perspectives issue if you include the foreword and the introduction, and I’m going to take Arbitribe through all of them; each time I post from now until I'm done, I’m going to opine on one of those chapters. Now, since that some articles are 15 pages and some are 5, I might not be able to work every single one into its own post, and I am leaving open the possibility that something could come up that I'll feel I’d rather post about in a given week, so I aim to have completed this series somewhere close to the end of the year. I think it would be a good running topic and it definitely could create some interesting conversations. Speaking of which, the way this is going to run means that it will be much more impactful and meaningful if there’s a back and forth generated. I see great potential for some amazing discussions in the comments, so if you have something constructive to say, say it. On that note, I’m off. In three weeks, I begin to tackle A Crisis of Connection by taking a look at the editor’s forward and introduction and some seriously loaded statements contained within. Till next time folks, GET EXCITED!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

20 Awesome Things About Shabbat

Ahh, Shabbat. My favorite day of the week. And so underappreciated sometimes. I don’t know about you, but I’m certain I’d be an insane wreck by now if not for my weekly respite from technology and work-related worries. And when I hear people complain about two more hours without a computer, or see a texting teenager stake their claim on a “half-shabbos” (don’t get me started), then all I want to do is counter with every great thing about keeping Shabbat.

So, I thought, why not?

While these are certainly not the only great things about Shabbat, they are pretty awesome. And anyway, who’s going to read a countdown list with more than 20 entries? This is the internet, after all.

1. A daylong rest from technology in such a machine-driven world is good for us. In some cases (after really crazy weeks in front of a computer, say) it can make us human again. At least, temporarily.

2. Shabbat gives us an excuse to visit or host friends and their friends, thus offering an opportunity to meet new people in a NON-awkward setting. Also, a Shabbat meal is a much better tool for keeping in touch than Facebook ever was.

3. When was the last time you sat down with your whole family and talked about your week? If you can remember at all, I’m betting it was Shabbat. It’s certainly the only time I can think of when the whole Mishpacha sits down together. It’s the closest I'll get to starring in a 1950’s board game commercial.

4. It not only gets us AWAY from our screens (see #1), but it gets us to do other things we push aside in favor of the almighty computer during the week. Things like reading a book, chatting with roommates and siblings, taking a walk and discovering your own neighborhood.

You know that’s happened to you.

5. I don’t care what you say, this rule holds fast. You DON’T GAIN WEIGHT ON SHABBAT. Shabbat is a time for dessert, wine, good food made with heavy cream or red meat (not together, of course, Kosher keepers!). Ask any girl, and they’ll tell you.

Shabbat makes you impervious to pounds.

6. This one’s courtesy of my sis, who is so right about this. On Shabbat, NO ONE FROM WORK CAN BOTHER YOU. No phone calls, no “send me that last report,” no “maybe I’ll just take care of this memo.” Stressed about typing up something due on Monday? Whoops! Too bad, you’ll just have to worry about it later and calm the heck down for now. Seriously. When you work, or you go to school, or commute all day, it’s a literal Godsend to have a day where not only can you NOT WORK, but you can’t even get phone calls or emails about work. According to many, you can’t even DISCUSS work. God, I love Shabbat.

7. SLEEP. SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP. Oh, Blessed unconsciousness, how I heart thee. 

SLEEP :-) I love it so much it compels me to use emoticons in a blog with hand-drawn cartoons.

8. When you can’t turn the lights on in your bedroom at the end of the day,  you are sometimes forced to stumble around in the dark. Yes, it’s annoying, but have you ever considered what it can do for your senses? It can make you more aware! Train you! Heighten every instinct and turn you into an unparalleled sensory MACHINE!

Did I mention some of these entries are less serious than others?

9. Totally serious now: it puts us back in touch with our spirituality. Personally, I sometimes mourn our disconnect with spirituality in our modern, ultra-tech, constant entertainment world. Don’t get me wrong, I like to watch a movie and listen to some stupid music (SOME stupid music), but at the end of the day, I like to crawl into my private cocoon of spirituality, and think about my relationship with God, and talk about things like my soul, and sing some repetitive Carlebach. And no time is better for getting reacquainted with our own sense of spirit than Friday night, when Lecha Dodi gets us to listen to the songs, sing along, and not just acknowledge our spiritual side, but even revel in it.

10. It exposes us to the cultures of other Jews and allows us to show our non-Jewish or non-observant friends a bit of our traditions. A friend of mine likes to invite her friends, Jew and non-Jew alike to her Shabbat meals, to show what it is we do and include those who haven’t seen it before. One of her non-Jewish friends likes it so much he comes back repeatedly for more. It’s nice. It’s interesting. Going to Shabbat meals is how I learn about the traditions of my Sephardic, Dutch, Israeli, Russian, Syrian friends.  If not for Shabbat, I would never know that one of my best friend’s family likes to make their guests stand on a chair at the end of the meal and bless everyone present. Seeing people’s personal traditions is super cool.

And I love learning this stuff, and sharing my own Hungarian Shabbat with them.

11. Shabbat gets longer in the summer, shorter in the winter. It makes us more aware than anything else of the changing of the seasons, and the changing of nature and the world. I’m sensing a pattern growing here, don’t you? Shabbat makes us AWARE.

12. Once a week, it totally kills the “Jews and money” stereotype. No business talk. No buying things. It’s a wonderful way to stick it to stereotypes. Now if only we could transfer than invalidity of the Jew-greed thing to the rest of the week, the world would be a different place. We might not be so despised on Wall Street. Comedians would suddenly find themselves short on material.

Yes, especially the Jewish ones.

13. It gives us an excuse to shower and in all other ways clean up. Or, if you prefer, it FORCES us to shower and in all other ways clean up. And if you agree with the latter, to you I say, thank GOD something is forcing you! I mean, really. Ew! Who knows? If not for Shabbat, some of us might be bigger slobs than we already are.

14. It allows us major food snobs to show off our cooking skills to a crowd eager for food. 

Or… it forces friends of us food snobs to sit there while we show off our food snobbery. And to you friends of mine I say, if you’re gonna eat it, you’re gonna have to hear its story first. (Evil food snob smile)

15. STEP AWAY FROM THE TV. You can get just as much drama around the Shabbat table. Sometimes even more drama.

And if you have as little stomach for fighting as I do, that drama will be “Real” enough to put you off the gross manufactured drama of reality shows for the rest of the week, thus saving you a couple hundred brain cells.

16. It not only gives us an excuse/ forces us to be clean once a week, it also gives us a reason to buy nice clothes, and maybe put more of an effort into our appearance in general. If you didn’t have a reason to wear nice shoes or a nice suit, you may not buy those things at all. And then you wouldn’t be compelled to wear them any other time.  And so you might only ever buy nice things to wear to weddings. Which might lower your self esteem the rest of the time. And YES I know I took this way out of the bounds of realism into the realm of the slippery slope, but WHO CARES!? I like my nice Shabbat clothes!

17.  Did I mention the food? I did? Okay, the WINE? The fact that we are encouraged to drink, maybe try some new wines, PLUS we’re given the gift of not having to go to work the day after? 

(I’m not encouraging drunkenness here, but if you’re gonna get plastered, I’m so glad not to have to sit next to you on the train the next morning.)

18.  If you go to Shul, it makes you join a community. It makes you have a SENSE of community. Which may sometimes be more of an irritant than a happy pill, but in our disconnected age this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

19. Without a cell phone, you can’t call ahead to say you’ll be stopping by. Erego, Shabbat makes life more like a sitcom by reintroducing us to the lost art of showing up unannounced. 

Now if only we could work on getting that laugh track…

20. It makes us, and everything we associate with this day, SPECIAL.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Are You on the List?

Administrative Note: Below is a post written by someone very close to my heart, my sister Yael. Aliza and I have a lot on our plates on a daily basis, not to mention posting twice a month, which is more work than it sounds like, so Yael graciously volunteered to guest post this week so that Aliza and I can use our vacation to to actually, you know, relax. Muchas gracias amica. Hope you enjoy -Tzvi

Note: I don’t have any solid or definitive sources for what I’m going to discuss. Most of this is based on my own opinions and the opinions of others and what we already know of how Judaism generally works. If anyone knows more or has any other ideas, by all means, please share.

I’ll get right to the point. A very good friend of mine was telling me the other day about how she was really starting to fall for this guy from college. He’s sweet, adorable, charming, they connect with each other in every possible way, they clicked instantly, and he’s everything she ever could’ve hoped to find in a man. But wait, there’s more!

He’s also not Jewish.


There are certain aspects of Judaism that, for whatever reason, are considered more flexible than others and aren’t looked at as harshly in most communities; Shomer Negiah, Tzniut, etc. And then there are those that more or less draw the line in terms of whether or not a person is viewed as a religious Orthodox Jew, such as Shabbat and Kashrut. For the most part, these are the things that don’t require as much effort or inner turmoil or decision making. I don’t often see someone who was raised in a religious home tearing their hair out about whether or not he or she is going to use their phone this weekend. And from what I’ve seen, dating and especially marrying a non-Jew is included on that list. It’s a no-brainer. I do know a few people here and there who have gone out and done this, but at the same time they’ve also removed Judaism entirely from their lives in every other way as well. Unless you’re at a point where none of it matter to you anymore, you want nothing to do with it, and you don’t care to be associated with it, marrying someone “not of The Tribe” is usually out of the question no matter what you feel about that person.

And then my friend asked a question that I didn’t know how to answer and had never even occurred to me before: Do you think God would ever make your Bashert (your soulmate, so to speak) someone who isn’t Jewish?

Well, gee, I have no idea what God would or wouldn’t do. But is that even possible? Would that fit in at all with what the Torah says about this concept? The idea that it could even happen made me angry, because why would God do that to you? And we’re not talking about marrying someone right after they converted because generally those people at least had their foot out the door towards Judaism before said relationship. I’m talking straight-up not Jewish with no intention of ever changing that. Could this happen? And this is what started me on my quest for what the actual definition of a Bashert is. Here’s what Dictionary.com came up with: “a person’s soulmate, considered as predestined or ideal,” the literal translation of the Yiddish word being “destiny” or “fate.” I’ve always seen this idea as having two options: a) its referring to your soulmate, meaning the person who is perfect for you and compliments your personality in every way, or b) simply the person that God picked out for you to end up with. Because with that in mind it would seem then that your “soulmate” and the person that God picked out for you could potentially be entirely mutually exclusive.

In the words of some high authorities in Torah, your soulmate and your predestined spouse could be the same person, but they could also not.

It’s confusing, I know, but please just bear with me. I did a lot of questioning, teeth grinding, and producing of frustrated growls to get to the point where I could actually discuss this and I still have so much more to ask.

According to a certain medrash my Rabbi told me about (I’m sorry, I don’t know which one or where to find it), forty days before conception the name of a baby’s soulmate is called out in the heavens. This is the name of the person who could slip into your life and fit with you as naturally as breathing. HOWEVER, this does not necessarily mean that you will absolutely without a doubt end up with said person. It is still our job to find them and we still have free choice. All of the actions we take and the decisions we make and the paths we choose could either bring us towards or drive us away from that future, and it wouldn’t mean that we were never meant to find that person, just that we didn’t. But the source goes on to say that there are several other layers of Bashert. This matches up with the opinion of a different friend of mine who believes that a great factor in someone being your Bashert is about time and place. She says that for every stage of your life there is a different person who could match up with you perfectly, and if you or that person changes in some way then suddenly there is someone else who could fit better. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that idea somewhere before and to an extent I believe it. I’ve heard tens of stories about couples who break up for very good reasons and then somehow find themselves in each other’s lives again years later and, voila!, everything is going swimmingly now. And they always say about their first try, “It just wasn’t our time to be together.”

The medrash mentioned above says that there are indeed other people out there on different levels depending on your stage in life or your ever-shifting personality that, if you were to marry any of them, would still be considered Bashert. But there is still only one true soulmate that was literally created for you. And on top of all of that, it’s considered extremely rare to ever find that person, let alone end up with them, and the chances of it are depressingly infinitesimally small.

So, technically, you could marry your “Bashert” while your real soulmate is still floating around in the world somewhere without you. Probably the biggest struggle for me right now is coming to terms with that and not letting it affect or get in the way of any relationship or potential happiness that I could have in my future.

Ah, but what’s this? Don’t we learn all the time that everything happens for a reason and it’s all part of the Master Plan? Isn’t that how we comfort ourselves when we make mistakes, find ourselves lost in situations we wish we could escape from, deal with pain, deal with loss, and convince ourselves that no matter what this was MEANT TO BE? I know I have. Way more times than I am particularly proud of, but hey, it’s gotten me through some pretty tough times.

This sort of thinking allows for the belief that ANYONE we may choose to be with is our Bashert because it wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t meant to be, right? (But please, I beg of you, don’t make me start getting into the intricacies of free choice and how it coincides with this concept, I’m really only focusing on this one area and how it applies here). This seemingly outright contradiction has been infuriating me for days, but there is a Hebrew saying in the Gemara that finally eased my suffering a bit: “Ha’ba l’tahmay potchin lo, ha’ba l’taheir misayim lo,” meaning that one who comes towards sin will be opened to, and one who comes towards goodness will be accompanied. This refers to the metaphorical idea that for every action there is a door with angels guarding it. If it is a door of sin the angles will block it, but if you knock hard enough they will simply open the door for you and allow you to pass. And if it is a door of goodness then not only will the angels let you through, but they will also guide you onto that path and help you accomplish whatever it is.

In terms of what we’re talking about here, mainly marriage and relationships, there are people that exist outside of your “Bashert at Stage X of My Life” list that you should never ever be with in any scenario. The idea mentioned above applies here in the sense that if you begin to take that direction with someone not on that list, you are more likely to encounter obstacles and complications throughout your relationship, as opposed to when you take that direction with someone God intended for you and (normal relationship issues aside) things run fairly smoothly.

So here is where I will finally tie all of this back to what I originally started with. Considering how difficult it would be to build a relationship consisting of similar ideals with, live with, and raise a family with someone who isn’t Jewish if you are in fact still religious, I have to believe that God would never create the soulmate designed perfectly for you as someone it is pretty much impossible to ever be with. I honestly don’t know what kind of comfort this would be to my friend or anyone else who has fallen in love with someone they can never have under any sort of circumstances if they plan on maintaining their lifestyle. But at the very least, if it was me, I would be happy to know that this is simply a result of certain decisions and actions that I and this other person took that led us to meet each other, and that God is not in fact setting out to torture me.

At the end of the day, all we can do is hope to find someone incredible with whom we can grow and share a life in the best way possible, and pray that they’re on the list.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bursting Bubbles

It seems that for once I can be satisfied with my post day. Although the last few weeks have left me dissatisfied in terms of the relationship between when I was to post and when the thing that I was going to write about actually occurred, this time, the week-long separation between then and now actually serves as an enhancement for the post; it gave me time to think about what happened and really changed my perspective on the whole thing. I had an experience on Wednesday of last week that in truth wasn't so unique and is one that I've experienced many times before, but the way I was affected by it is the impetus behind this post.

I'm sure this happens everywhere in the world, but for me the most common place is the service road off the Van Wyck. You hit a red light and stop, and then one or two disheveled looking people carrying signs made of cardboard step off the sidewalk and into the street. For the 45 second duration of the red light, they go from car window to car window asking for money, and then the light turns green and you leave and forget about them.

When this happens to me, I generally keep my windows closed and wave them off. I do believe in charity, but I have specific places and people to whom I give my money and, quite frankly, I'm a broke college student with no job and living at home with his parents, so I can't exactly just give money to whoever randomly walks by my car on my commute to school. What made last week different though was that this happened while I was stopped at a red light on Main Street in the middle of Queens, and for some reason, when the sixtysomething woman in the beanie and the poofy jacket came over and knocked on my window, I lowered it to hear what she had to say. I guess I figured that the location lent this woman more credibility than the people on the rundown backroad corner. Whatever, not important.

Getting straight to the point, she told me that she was Jewish and a kidney patient and that she couldn't walk to Jamaica Medical Center for her dialysis and asked me if I could give her a lift. She then pulled out some papers that I assume were her proof though I didn't get a good look at them, but I immediately thought of those door-to-door tzedakah guys who interrupt your dinner asking for money and then try to bury you in paperwork that "proves" that their cause is the most important use of your life savings. Whatever they were, I respectfully replied that I would not be able to help her out because I was wary of letting strangers into my car. She replied "But I'm Jewish!!" and I said I'm sorry and started to close my window. Right before it closed fully, I heard her shout my way "You bastard, you shouldn't even wear a kippah!" Then the light turned green and I went along on my way, but I didn't forget about that lady like when it happens on the service road.

Because my car is made of awesome, it's got this cool Bluetooth thing with voice activation and hands-free dialing and everything, and while I'm driving, all of my calls get routed through the car and over the car speakers. It's super convenient for having a phone call while driving without either being illegal or having to use one of those irritating headsets. In this instance, while the lady didn't know it because there was no obvious way to tell, I had been on the phone with my mom when I pulled up at the light and she overheard the entire conversation between me and this woman. Afterwards, because the woman's parting shot kind of shook me up, I asked my mom, "Did I just do the wrong thing? Was that a mistake? Should I have helped her?" to which she replied, "I think that nine people out of ten would have handled that situation in the same way that you did, myself included. It's just a shame that we live in a world where we can't trust anybody anymore."

I knew the instant that this happened that it would make an appearance in, if not be at the center of today's post because it's just too juicy a story to not tear it to pieces and analyze it. However, the way I was going to attack it was entirely different from how I'm about to. I was going to take a look at this woman's final comment and the undoubtedly obvious resentment that came along with it, which is not something you have without a ton of Jewish baggage. Unpacking Jewish baggage is pretty much my specialty and, in addition to having gone through the process myself, it's something that I've actually been trained to do. The bad thing about that angle is that when it comes down to it, no matter where it came from and why, a woman that I never met before personally attacked me and, on top of that, insinuated that I was not good enough to be a Jew because I wouldn't let a random stranger into my car in a world where people make that mistake and end up paying for it with their lives. With all that in mind, not only would that discussion have turned into a rant that you've all heard from me before, I would have ended up writing myself into a rage and, given my state of mind last week, that's not an emotion I want to go near with a ten-foot pole right now. In my first moments of brainstorming for this post, I didn't see how that decision could end so poorly, so I guess it's good that a week went by and I changed my mind.

What turned this whole thing on its head was the quote from my mom that I wrote above. I did a lot of thinking about that and sadly, it's very true, especially when you're Jewish. As far as I can tell, there's a large majority of us, including yours truly, who have been brought up to distrust and stay away from anyone that's not Jewish, and even, in some extreme cases, less religious Jews. This is heading into familiar territory despite all my efforts to the contrary, so I'm going to veer hard left and take this into a less confrontational direction, for once.

I've lived in a bubble all my life. My three main places of residence over my 23 years of existence have been Israel, YU, and my parents' house in the Five Towns aka Jew Bubble, USA. As sad as this may sound, it wasn't until recently that I realized that there are places in the world where Jews live 30 minutes from the nearest kosher restaurant and there's only one shul within walking distance. Pathetic, right? But I'm a product of my environment and that's all I ever knew. I'm positive that a large majority of you guys reading this recognize that you grew up in the same exact way, and the rest of you just haven't realized it yet. This is the nature of the Jewish community, at least in New York and it's biggest suburb, New Jersey (BAM!). We're so insular and isolated and I know that I unleash arbitribe after arbitribe (you do know what "arbitribe" means, don't you?) about how we need to be closer as a global community but this is not what I'm talking about. Being sheltered is the exact opposite of what I'm always trying to get across. Yes, I think that as Jews we should love one another and have each other's backs against outside threats but does that mean that we can't love, or at least like, the outsiders as well? Accepting someone even though he's not Jewish is basically the next step up from accepting someone even though he's less/more religious than you.

Listen, before you rain the haterade on me, I'm not one of those crazy liberals that says we should love everyone unconditionally no matter what they do. I very much dislike the Arab terrorist that blows himself up in the streets of Jerusalem and takes 12 people with him. I'm not too fond of the fanatical chareidi who tosses a bucket of bleach on a poor unsuspecting girl because she's wearing a color other than black white, or grey. I take issue with the white, middle-class American man who steals from his company to pay off his gambling debts. My point in all of this is that I decide how I feel about a person based on how they behave, not what they look like or what ethnicity or religion they belong to. At least I make a sincere effort to live that way. Every now and then I get caught up in appearances, but I'm only human. At least I try.

I think that tolerance is something the world needs to be educated on. Not blind, naive acceptance of anyone and everyone; you need to use common sense and maybe stay away from the neighborhood drug lord, but only because he's a drug lord, not because of his race or beliefs. Really to sum this all up, I just think that it's important to make judgments on a person based on who they are as a person, not what they look like or what they believe in.

And now, to shift gears without using the clutch, we have some big changes coming up here at Arbitribe, so keep on the lookout for an announcement post sometime soon. You'll know it's the one because it won't be posted on a Wednesday. GASP!!

Song of the Day: Build an Army - Fightstar

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All The Pretty Girls

Warning: prepare for a rant.It's a big one.
Last week, Facebook was seemingly set aflame with posts and discussions relating to a certain Jewish Press article, wherein a frum mother of a single son expressed her sympathy for girls who are having a hard time with the Shidduch system, and who are losing hope that they’ll ever find a husband. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of the article (that’s what the link is for... yes, I linked it twice), but tell you instead that somewhere in the meat of the text, the point stops being the unfair treatment of women in the Shidduch system and instead becomes… how women aren’t pretty enough.
The author expresses her knowledge that her opinion will anger readers, but goes on to state how the girls at a “meet your future mother-in-law” event (again: what?) were “shlumpy.” Little or no makeup, not the nicest clothes… she expresses her view that maybe the girls would actually find husbands if they put more work into their appearance.
I already have a problem with this, but not enough to rant about it (I could even possibly see her point). THIS is where the spit hits the proverbial fan for me: the author’s recommendation that girls put more effort into their appearance…by getting nose jobs, investing in liposuction, artificially straightening their hair, and losing massive amounts of weight. And worse, using Megillat Esther to further “prove” that this is what women should do. After all, it’s a wife’s “job” to look good for her husband, isn’t it? Didn’t the women who were brought to King Achashveirosh in hopes of becoming queen prepare, perfume, and pamper for a full year before ever meeting him?
Oh, God, the agony. Seriously. I don’t tend to get enraged at articles, especially opinion pieces. But this one just struck a nerve. My problems with it are so numerous, I barely know where to start. Which flaw do I bring forth as the worst of the worst? How exactly do I prioritize here?
I guess I’ll start by pointing out that this woman has entirely missed the lesson of that portion of Megillat Esther. The text makes a point of stating that while all these women focused on their beauty in all that preparation, Esther did not accept any of the products and perfumes offered her. She instead “found favor in the eyes of all who beheld her”… but it doesn’t claim that this is because of her appearance. In the end, it is Esther, the one who didn’t accept all those beauty aids, who was chosen Queen. Lesson? Change your appearance, and you’ll become… a concubine. Can we please not take Tanach out of context and change its point to further our own?
But that's a mere nitpick compared to my main problem with the article, which has got to be... really? Nose jobs? Liposuction? Whatever happened to inner beauty? What kind of bedtime stories do women who believe this read their kids?

But let's forget the complete encouragement of shallow book-by-its-cover reading here. I get it, some people really are less attractive than others. Some girls genuinely don't put an effort into their appearance when perhaps they should. Some girl really are shlumpy. But I have a very hard time believing that so many girls who knew they were going to be scrutinized, who want more than anything to find a husband, would really not care about how they look. And you know this is true if you know any females at all.
So allow me for a moment to point out the difference between "shlumpy" and "simply dressed," which is perhaps what the author was going for.

As you can see, one of these girls has not brushed her hair, is wearing a stained shirt, wrinkled sweatshirt, and sneakers with her tights. Most importantly, she bears a very sour expression. THIS is shlumpy.  The girl next to her, while perhaps not the most gorgeous cartoon alive, is neatly dressed, with brushed hair, a simple (but clean) dress, and best of all, a warm, if nervous, smile. Maybe she’s not wearing makeup. Maybe she isn’t into fashion or maybe she’s a little awkward once she opens her mouth. But there’s an effort there. And she may be plain, or she may be pretty, but she is by no means shlumpy, and should not be judged as such just because others have set their standards a little high. Maybe I wouldn’t dress like her if I knew I was going to a first-impressions-based event, but I would never judge someone who did. 
But this leads me further into the bowels of the problem, that is how girls are judged, in all of modern society but especially in the Shidduch system. It is well known that self-esteem is a problem for many girls. The emphasis placed on appearances is so great, so overwhelming at times, that it does the dual job of convincing girls that they are ugly and guys that they are entitled to wedding and bedding supermodels. And in many places (but especially the Shidduch system), I see much less pressure of the same sort put on men. The way the author talked about her own son, coupled with her account of how every guy receives all of these résumés of single girls while the women sit nervously by the phone waiting for them to call back, makes me wonder… what are they telling their sons about women? Do the men also believe that only the most beautiful woman is worth getting to know?  

Meanwhile, girls are so pressured into looking their best , better than their best, all the time that (while there ARE those who don’t care about their looks when they certainly should) the much bigger problem is those girls who care WAY too much. The girls who wear clothes so tight they leave nothing to the imagination (while also receiving the mixed message about the importance of modesty) and enough makeup to make a clown self-conscious, the “Hot Chani” phenomenon I discussed in this post. The girls who look down on other girls and judge their peers by appearances only. And who can blame them, when this is what they hear:

An exaggeration, of course… oh, God, how I hope I’m exaggerating.
But as always, what do I know? Who am I to judge? I’m not in “the system” perhaps. Maybe I’m not quite as right-wing on the frum scale as the author of this article. But I am a young, Orthodox, single woman. I go on dates. I keep Halachot. And I may not be the most gorgeous woman alive, either. I may be average, I may be ugly, heck, I may even be pretty. But that’s a pretty subjective statement. It depends, of course, on your view. But I don’t think anyone could claim I don’t care about my appearance. I, like every girl, look in the mirror and sometimes needlessly think about what I must be doing wrong.

But I wear clean clothes every day. I do my best to dress neatly, modestly, and attractively. When I want to look nicer, I wear makeup. I blow-dry my hair. I try to eat right. I look for ways to (modestly) emphasize my good parts and minimize my flaws. Just like almost every other girl I know. But I have a bumpy nose. I have freckles. I have a plethora of other “flaws” that, if I wanted, I could “correct” with surgery. But I never, ever would. And there are many reasons for that.
First, and most importantly, because I shouldn’t have to. I am, thank God, blessed with a wonderful and supportive family that has always accepted me the way I am, and has always told me that I am at my best the way God made me. My self-esteem when it comes to my appearance is far from great, as anyone who knows me can tell you, but I have never truly thought I was hideous. But even if I was, who are you to tell me the way God made me wasn’t good enough? Why should I have to pay thousands of dollars and take needless health risks just to please some guy, his mother, and society’s sky-high expectations?  And why should you? I was always told to love myself before I expected others to do the same, and that confidence would be the key to finding happiness. Maybe that’s what these people should be teaching their kids.
Second, because surgery, even cosmetic surgery, carries some pretty heavy risks.  If you want to get a nose job, or already got one, go ahead. You’re welcome to. That’s your choice, and if it gives you the confidence you need, kol ha’kavod, great for you. But why do some girls think that they need one, and put themselves in unnecessary danger? And the danger is there. One of my best friends knew a beautiful teenage girl who was thrilled to receive a nose job, and who died on the operating table from complications with the anesthesia. A “better” (and I say “better” because I’ve seen some obviously “fixed” noses that I can’t imagine choosing willingly) nose isn’t worth your life.
 Why make girls think they need this to be pretty? Why teach this to kids? I have nine-year-old students who, coming from a community where nose jobs are common practice, have told me:

Like I said, I have no wish to look down on women (or men) who have gotten nose jobs or any other form of plastic surgery. If it makes them feel good about themselves, that’s amazing. But who is this mother to put down on paper that this is what should be expected of women in order to please their husbands? To this I roll my eyes and think, thanks for enforcing the Jewish stereotype. Thanks for giving further gravity to…of all things…Glee (groan) in its claim that “getting a nose job is a rite of passage for Jewish girls.” (Although I do have to admit that I loved Glee’s take on the “getting surgery to be pretty” situation). But really, doesn’t anyone see how this article encourages both the JAP AND Jewish Mother stereotype? Heck, even I read this article and immediately thought of The Big Bang Theory.

Besides, as I mentioned in my first Tzniut-themed post, I just couldn’t see guys putting that much emphasis on their outer appearance. I know plenty of guys that care a great deal about how they look, and others who don’t care but still manage to look great. And I know guys who are shlumpy. I have also been on dates where I’m almost sure the guy’s entire preparation consisted of:

And any girl I’ve spoken to has been on a date with a guy like that. But I'm well aware that most men aren't like that. My reason for mentioning it at all is to point out that if girls are shlumpy, so are guys. And if girls need to put effort into their appearance, so should guys. Let’s be equal-opportunity here, shall we?
Perhaps the worst part of this imbalance/double-standard in the dating world is that no one will fix it, since even women (as evidenced by this article) seem to buy into this archaic way of thinking, that a woman must be more goddess than person. And what effect does this have on girls, other than to lower their self-esteem and make them change themselves on the outside? It makes them shallow. It makes them more judgmental of each other than of the guys they date. And it makes them competitive, sometimes viciously. As a friend of mine pointed out after witnessing the social dynamics at (a modern Orthodox) shul:

It’s sad, but it’s an unfortunate reality of our community, one that I’ve recently been forced to face. I hate to look at it this way, but sometimes it seems that the dating game has become a fearsome competition. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m certain this objectification of women, by women, isn’t helping matters.
But no matter how many answers and diatribes I can muster against this article, none will come close to one I read in the comment section underneath that article. It was a mature, well-written response by a woman who wished the author luck on eventually walking her child down the aisle at his wedding, something she herself could no longer look forward to, since her daughter died of anorexia. It had been the words of a well-meaning shadchen that had driven her to her illness, a suggestion that she lose some weight in order to make herself more “marketable” to men. She was a size 6 at the time.
For those of you who don’t know women’s sizes, a 6 is a healthy size, even on the thin side depending on your height. But that’s kind of irrelevant now. When I read this woman’s story, I cried. For her, for her daughter, and for all the nice, single girls who would read this article, look at themselves, and wonder whether it was aimed at them. What more can I say? I’m deeply saddened by this whole thing. But there’s only so many times you can tell someone they’re beautiful the way they are before someone undoes it all with one thoughtless word.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Diary of a Music Nerd: The Energy

Warning: I go to a pretty dark place in this one, so read at your own risk. Also, do not think I'm deranged because of this post. I am a normal, happy, psychologically balanced person. I swear.

I'm in one of those moments when I wish my post time was
some other time. Three weeks ago I had such a tough week that all I wanted was to never post again, and this time, all I want is to have been able to post last week. While we did get a solid post from Aliza (one that apparently everyone liked because it's racked up almost 100 views in the week it's been up), I feel like what I'm about to write about would have been more potent last Wednesday while it was actually happening instead of now as I write about it in retrospect. However, the impact was still strong enough to warrant a post about it.
I'll get into it in a moment, but first, a little about the title.

Diary of a Music Nerd was started as a bit of an experiment that never panned out in the way we at Arbitribe thought it would. In early October, a few months shy of our first birthday, we decided that new features needed to be added to spice the blog up a little, and while one never came to be, Diary of a Music Nerd drew its inspiration from my passion for music and a post I had written earlier that year with the same title. It was meant to be a weekly or bi-weekly short running column where I could just shoot out an observation about music whenever the whim struck me, drop a recommendation about a band I was digging at the time, review/discuss new releases, and just generally get into the subject from a "Jewish Metal Musician" perspective. It was a way that I could write about what I love but without disrupting the continuity of Arbitribe as a whole; it was supposed to be a way to keep the theme of the blog but still have that option on there for those who might find it interesting.

Now, obviously that's not what happened. Due to constraints within the Blogger interface, a serious demand on my time from school and other obligations, and our regular posting staff dropping like flies, among other things, it didn't quite work out. Almost a year since the original post was written, there have been only two more posts bearing that moniker and one was an absolutely impenetrable mass of music philosophy which I'm pretty sure is my least viewed post to date. At this point, DoaMN has been pretty much shelved.

That being said, I will still tack that header onto something if I feel that music played a central role in an experience that I think is necessary to share or at least is worth writing about. So just because you see that header, don't just skip the post because you're afraid that I'm going spend the whole time nerding out; it's only there to highlight the important role that music played in the story, or more likely, that the story wouldn't have taken place without music. With all of that long preamble now out of the way, I bring you the story of last week, which would certainly not have happened without music.

I had a bad day on Tuesday last week, but it was like a sneaky bad day because I didn't realize I was having it until it was almost over. It was just long, draining, and packed to the brim, and I walked into my room to wind down for the night in a very foul mood. Not foul like testy and irritable, just I was kind of emotionally drained. Something like that. Anyways, similar to waking up still drunk after a night of partying hard, my mood spilled over into the next day, and I woke up in a serious funk. However, aside from the lack of motivation to do anything, I couldn't and still can't quite pinpoint what exactly I was feeling. It was just that something was off. It was in this emotionally whacked out state that I began to go through my customary morning internet perusal.

Aside from Facebook and email and all that other stuff, there's a metal blog I read that posts from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday to Friday every half hour (ONE DAY ARBITRIBE, ONE DAY!!). Normally, the 10 AM post is something funny or ridiculous to get the day started, but that day, what greeted me was a post about an early 2000's noise-rock band, a favorite of the blogger, that had broken up earlier that day. I had never heard of the band, but someone suggested a few songs in the comments as an introduction to their music. I followed up on his tip and looked up one of the songs on Youtube, and so 20 minutes after I woke up I was faced with one of the most powerful musical experiences I have ever had.

You may have noticed that I didn't put up the name of the band, the song, or even the blog (though some of you may know which blog it is). There's a reason for that: I'm trying to spare you from psychological damage. What followed when I pressed 'Play' was close to six minutes of raw, primal, unbridled rage. The lyrics made no sense, the music consisted of a dissonant chord pattern, and the vocal melody was deliberately atonal, to the point that it's debatable whether or not this thing can actually be classified as a song. The effect of that absence of all musical merit was that there was a void that was left in the "song" and what spilled into that vacuum was emotion at its most primitive, pure level. As it turns out, the emotion evoked was vitriolic, psychotic fury, which proved to be detrimental to my already fragile emotional state that morning. Long story short, I had that song on repeat for an hour for no reason that I could even begin to try to understand, and as I stewed while it slowly filled me with anger, I became aware of a growing desire to completely destroy my room. Eventually though, I shut it off and got on with my day, and after a little while, my mood regulated and everything was normal.

Um...does anyone want to try and explain what the FREAKING HELL happened to me back there? I'm a deliberately nonviolent, happy person who loves everything because he's a hippie and can't remember any time that he actually wanted to physically hurt anything, and yet I was fantasizing about tearing my room apart in a violent fury. And lets not even get into the fact that I will cry like a baby when my parents eventually sell the house because I grew up in this room and the child in me never wants to live anywhere else. What the heck? Thinking about the whole experience afterwards tripped me out a little harder than the actual experience itself. What can make a person feel the opposite of everything they think?

The point of this all is that music is powerful. REALLY powerful. When I first got into metal everyone always told me that the music you listen to changes you, and this is the first time that I can say with absolute certainty that they're right. It was kind of scary. There's stuff out there that, like this song, is pure energy, and if you open yourself up to it, it can take over you. Oblivious of that, I sat in my room for an hour, systematically devolving while the vocalist spit acid into my ears. It was a powerful experience that really freaked me out, and I'm pretty sure it's obvious now why I didn't name names. I know that not everyone is as plugged in, and therefore as vulnerable to the effects of music as I am, but it never hurts to be a little more careful with your emotions, psyche, and soul.

I guess if you had to classify this it would be a cautionary tale: you are what you eat...sorta. You get the point. I guess maybe I just wanted to write about it also; it's a pretty cool concept if you can dissociate yourself from the emotional context of it and look at it "scientifically." Think about it, just listening to music can have a profound effect on a person on a deep psychological and emotional level. That in and of itself is a pretty awesome, powerful thing to consider.

I feel the need to end this on a less heavy note, so here's this: SHBOINGGGGGG!!!

Song(s) of the Day: The Energy - Audiovent

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Agony and the Apathy

First off, today is March 14th. Happy Pi(e) day to all!

We live in what I’ve heard referred to as the age of instant-gratification. I like to call it the Age of the Unimpressed, or even simpler: the Age of ‘Meh.’

I don’t know why we’ve become so jaded, but it seems to me that nothing impresses us anymore. We see stunts on YouTube and high speed chases in movies. We see people singing in their underwear on the subway, and it hardly shocks us. We can't see the coming spring for the traffic. Truly, this saddens me, because I believe that getting excited over nothing can help us lead fulfilling lives. But lately, I’ve been noticing that those around me simply can’t be bothered by some of the more, well, life-involved occurrences, like their fellow people. 
Last week, we celebrated Purim. Or at least, some of us did. I spent weeks before the day planning out my costume (Charlie Chaplin) and Seudah with my friends, and the days leading up to Chag putting together themed Mishloach Manot. But I’m dorky that way. I don’t expect everyone to put so much effort into their holiday preparations.

Who was that? That wasn’t me. I don’t make up cheesy holiday songs or poems…(casual whistling)
I even got invited to a Megilla reading/Purim party by someone I didn’t know well, to be attended by lots of nice young Jews I'd never met. Score! An opportunity to make new friends and meet new people! And a costume party to boot! I immediately invited along one of my friends (who dressed for the occasion as Audrey Hepburn) and off we rode on the crowded New York subway, looking to all the world like a pair of very confused Annie Hall impersonators.
We were pleasantly hopeful, but not too over-excited, at the prospect of the party ahead. We arrived to a room filled with people our age or a little older, who all basically knew each other, but not us. I did manage to pick out one or two people I knew, and so we settled in for a few hours of socializing.
But then an hour passed.

In the time we spent there, I had had conversations with a grand total of two people, both of whom I already knew and one of which was only there because he’d been dragged. Not one of the strangers, despite us having been forcibly introduced, batted an eye our way. They stayed in their cliques, costumed as the likes of Catwoman and Epic Mealtime, but wearing expressions as bored as a bunch of fourth graders watching My Dinner with Andre. We left early, bitterly disappointed and wondering, if people couldn’t properly celebrate and socialize on Purim, one of the most joyful and uninhibited days of the Jewish calendar, did this mean people were no longer excited about, well… people?
You can imagine how we felt on the subway ride back. Here we were dressed like some very convincing drag queens, and all to be ignored on what was supposed to be one of the most fun days of the year. Luckily, the next day, we had a far more exciting Seudah with our own friends, and THAT one, at least, was filled with laughter and some good-natured fun-poking.
But the experience at the party got me thinking. It brought to mind another conversation I’d had with a friend of mine, who I’d always assumed was much “frummer” than me. He expressed to me a lack of connection with his Judaism. It’s not that he didn’t believe. He had a lot of faith and was deeply religious. It’s just that, well, what was there to get excited about? It’s all this obligation. All this stress that comes with performing rituals day in and day out.
“But what about Shabbat?” I asked him (Shabbat is probably my favorite thing about being an Orthodox Jew. Personally, I think it keeps me sane). “Doesn’t Shabbat get you excited?”
“Oh yeah,” he answered, “I love Shabbat. I look forward to it every week. But every week it’s there. Why should I get all riled up about it?”
My answer now is the same answer I had then. Um… Why NOT?
If we can get all excited about the new iPad or the return (THANK YOU!) of a certain TV Show after months of long, cold hiatus (evil eyes at those responsible), why not about new people at a party? About dressing up like idiots? About having a glorious day during which no one can bother us via cell phone, when our lack of work means we just MUST spend the afternoon walking in the park in some of the most gorgeous weather I’ve ever seen mid-March?
Isn’t that what we’re always saying life is about? Especially in Judaism? “Hinei Ma Tov uMa Naim, Shevet Achim Gam Yachad”: What is more good or more pleasant than when friends get together??? Isn’t that why we sing in the Shabbat every Friday night, as much to get ourselves into it as to pray? Isn’t that why we spend money we don’t have on opera tickets and road trips? Aren’t we meant to be impressed?

I’m aware that I’ve totally just devolved this post from thought to full-fledged rant, and I'm not saying we should go through every minute of the day like the Double-Rainbow guy, but this apathy I see constantly is starting to bug me. I even see it more than anywhere else in my nine-year-old students, who must be some of the most impossible to impress people I know. These are kids who bring iPhones to school. Kids who have all of the latest toys and video games. Try getting them excited about a trip to the museum, or a classic book, or a beautiful day to play outside.

You might just get a little bugged too. It seems to me that so many people want to appear as if they've seen it all, that people are fooled into mistaking pretentious standoffishness for some sort of maturity (Just like Jeff Winger... HA!)
And as I type this, something else comes to mind. A memory of my high school dean standing in the center of a Rosh-Chodesh Kumzits, trying (and marvelously succeeding) to get even the most bored and jaded teenager to sing along and dance in the middle of the circle. He told us that just like we ought to have Kavanah (concentration) when we pray, we should have it when we live, too. We should always be AWARE of where we are, and live in the moment. Carpe Diem and all that cliché movie montage. And cliché it is, but more and more, I’m discovering the truth in it.
So here’s my Spring-is-Coming (that’s an occasion, right?) resolution for the remaining half of the Jewish calendar year: I’m going to live with Kavanah, and celebrate every coming holiday and special occurrence with all the joy and excitement I feel, no matter how dorky I may look.
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