Blog: For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Jews... Or, Much A-Blog About Nothing...

Monday, February 26, 2007

On being grateful...reflections on life...

I had an interesting conversation with my friend, Elya, yesterday. He called me on the phone to chat because we hadn't talked in quite some time, and we ended up talking for well over 3 hours! No, no, don't get the wedding invitations ready just yet! Elya is a dear friend, and someone I look up to for guidance when I am studying Torah.

Elya is also someone I can confide in without fear of judgment; he knows things about me that most people will never know. He is a baal tshuva (is that right? my terminology is horrendous, my apologies!), born to Jewish parents but raised with no Jewish identity. I'll save you all my story, you can read it here.

Anyway, the other evening we were on the phone with one another, studying the Book of Daniel in depth and I was asking him some questions because my History of Judaism class had recently discussed this book of the Bible and I wanted to get some further insight and clarification from him.

Before that, however, we had to catch up on one another's lives over the past couple of weeks, as we had both been busy and unable to be in touch. He asked me how my conversion was going, how school was going, etc. I told him how I have been feeling lately, how I seem to be at somewhat of a standstill (with the conversion process) even though I am studying on my own and learning as much as possible. Elya being the great friend and kind soul that he is, picked up on the fact that I was feeling down and a bit discouraged. I confided to him that yes, I was feeling low, because lately I have been feeling as though I don't exactly "fit in" with my more religious friends. Don't get me wrong, I love them dearly and I am grateful to have them in my life, but there are certain things that I don't think they'd ever quite understand about me. Maybe that's not fair, maybe they would, but the truth is that I'm too scared to tell them because I am afraid they will judge me. They are all FFB's, and while I know that doesn't mean that they are perfect by any means, it does color their view on the world and the experiences they've had within it. Elya knows my past, knows what I've been through--my struggles and my pain--and he embraces me for it and doesn't tell me that I am ever wrong, he simply guides me to something that will help me when I ask him to, or listens when all I want is to vent. He's not perfect, either. He's had a rough life, and yet, he is one of the most compassionate and warm people you will ever meet.

Anyway, after confiding to him how I felt, he decided to tell me a bit of wisdom that the Lubavitcher Rebbe (may he rest in peace) once said in regards to those doing tshuva. He told me that the Rebbe said (now don't quote me on this, I'm taking it from what Elya told me so I could be a bit off here) that someone doing tshuva is like an oil lamp. The flame is what's burning, what the person's soul is, that is becoming ever brighter with the study of Judaism and the devotion to G-d and His Torah. The oxygen that helps keep the flame from going out is G-d and the embracing of Torah, the ever-increasing knowledge and happiness from learning. But what keeps the flame burning from beneath? The oil surrounding the wick, which represents the person's past, their life experiences, what they bring with them as they enter their journey towards Torah observance.

So, Elya said, do not be ashamed of where you have been and what you have done, because that is the fuel that keeps your fire burning. You have a gift that others do not have; you know what life is like without Torah, and can in turn appreciate it that much more as you come to know it.

I cannot express in words how much hearing this lifted my spirits. I am so grateful to have a friend like Elya in my life, who can help me learn and grow in my Judaism, and keep me motivated when I feel like I'm faltering. All thanks and praise to G-d, for all of the gifts he has bestowed upon me. I am so blessed.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I'm a liberal, but still...this pushes my buttons...

This is from an e-mail that my father sent me. I have debated about whether I should post it but I decided that what the heck, I can say what I want and no one else has to agree with me. Normally, I am pretty liberal. I'm a compassionate person, I do what I can to help people--in fact I've been told all my life that I'm "too nice." But this irks me.
I suppose it's because I grew up the daughter of an immigrant parent, one who came to this country LEGALLY, learned the language, and eventually became a citizen.

The e-mail is in italics, my comments are in regular font.

This certainly puts it in perspective!
Let's say I break into your house

A lady wrote the best letter in the Editorials in ages!!!
It explains things better than all the baloney you hear on TV.

Her point:

Recently large demonstrations have taken place across the country,
protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of
illegal immigration (actually, they aren't illegal immigrants; the word immigrant implies that you came here legally and they didn't ; the correct term is illegal alien).

Certain people are angry that the US might protect its own borders, might
make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, to stay

Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests.

Let's say I break into your house.
Let's say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave.

But I say, "I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors. I've done all the things you don't like to do. I'm hard working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).

According to the protesters:
· You are Required to let me stay in your house
· You are Required to add me to your family's insurance plan
· You are Required to Educate my kids
· You are Required to Provide other benefits to me and to my family
(my husband will do all of your yard work because he is also hard-working
and honest, except for that breaking in part).

If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who
will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my RIGHT to be there.

It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and
I'm just trying to better myself.

I'm a hard-working and honest, person, except for well, you know, I did
break into your house.

And what a deal it is for me!!!
I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep,
and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of cold,
uncaring, selfish, prejudiced, and bigoted behavior.

Oh yeah, and I DEMAND that you to learn MY LANGUAGE!!! So you can
communicate with me.

Why can't people see how ridiculous this is?! Only in America...

Feel free to comment and put your 2 cents in!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Please pray...

I took this information from a Facebook group that my former roommate (and dear friend) started. It is for her cousin, Luke Kinsella.

I don't know all of the details, just what was on the site. They are asking for prayers, and I figured that if I put the word out maybe God would get our message just a little bit louder. It can't hurt.

Hello Everyone. As some of you may know, my cousin Luke was admitted to Children's Hospital on 1/30/07. On 1/31/07, he underwent a bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap and received his first chemotherapy treatments. From these tests, the doctors determined Luke has pre-B cell acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).

You may not know him personally or me either but all that we are asking is that you pray for him. Luke is a 3 year old boy who lives in Minooka, IL and was diagnosed the day after his birthday. Please keep him in your prayers Thank You.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!...Or, why I *strongly dislike* my University

So most of you folkies out there have probably already shlepped your kiddies off to school and have heard the weather reports for those of us who live where the weather is, how shall I say, not so kind in the winter. Where I live we have winds blowing North at upwards of 25 m.p.h. and have already seen 5 inches of snowfall since last night. The temperature (without windchill factor) is 20 degrees Farenheit. There is a Winter Storm Warning in effect (um, DUH). And that's just what the Weather Channel says. Now let me give you the weather report as seen from my dorm room window:

Icicles have formed on my window---how does that happen? My window is a FLAT PLANE OF GLASS and I don't have any awning of any, mates?

Snow appears to be very icy and is blowing in an almost horizontal fashion. Wind gusts swirling up snow repeatedly look as though a tornado is about to start. Snow falling is indistinguishable from snow blowing on account of aforementioned gale force winds. Winter Storm conditions have been confirmed and all personnel are advised to seek shelter. Do not engage the enemy weather demons at any cost.

Moving on...

Have I mentioned lately that I love my Mom? Because I do. If it were not for her, I would have bundled myself off and shlepped off to class--only to find out that today's classes are canceled and my frozen appendages suffered for nothing.

You see, I arose at 8 this morning (an amazing feat for a college student when he/she doesn't have class for an HOUR AND A HALF--15 minutes prior to class is considered plenty of time where I go to school)

I checked my e-mail, hoping against all hope that my professor would have written to say that he was canceling class, but no such luck.

I turned on the local news channel to see if my college had been listed as closed, but alas, my hopes were dashed yet again.

I then decided to mute the t.v. and give up hope of having any miracles occur--I didn't have much hope to cling to in the first place, as my university has only canceled classes once in twenty---yes, twenty---years. But thanks be to God, a miracle indeed has occurred. And at precisely 8:56 am, the Chancellor of my beloved university proclaimed, via email, that classes for today are, in fact, canceled.

Which is great, but now it negates my awesome rant that I was going to post around 8:30 when I emailed my poor father to rant and rave about, among other things, the fact that I would have to go to school today while my lil' brudder
wouldn't have to.

But maybe I'll post it anyway, just because it was so nice and rant-y...We'll see. For now, it's time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that I don't have to go outside.

Sending you warm thoughts from the Midwest,


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Jews in the Media

Ok folkies, I'll admit that this post is probably not going to rate high on the "interesting" scale, but what can ya do? It's from one of those diary entry thingies that I've been doing for my Religious Studies classes--so there you go. Inspiration for this post came from this site

Emblems and symbols of Judaism seem to be more and more apparent in American television and pop-culture these days. It has been talked about for quite some time that Jews are over-represented in the performing arts--there are only about 6 million Jews in the United States. The new trend, however, is people who are not Jewish playing with dreidels, using Yiddish words as slang, and otherwise displaying bits of Jewish culture without actually identifying as Jewish. The television show, "The Knights of Prosperity" features the cast members in a Judaica shop in Queens--they are Black, Indian, Latina, Italian, and Irish. On "Grey's Anatomy" Sandra Oh plays Dr. Cristina Yang, who identifies as Jewish when helping her castmates through the ritual known as shiva even though she only sees her Jewish stepfather on Yom Kippur and openly admits that she is not religious. Celebrities such as Madonna and Demi Moore sport Kabbalah bracelets and have gotten into Jewish mysticism. Yet there seem to be few characters who are fully Jewish who are able to embrace their heritage and faith in the media. Sure, there are those comedians and actors such as Fran Drescher and Adam Sandler--but even they are portrayed in such a kitschy, over-the-top manner that they are not allowed to be viewed as "normal". What does this say about our culture? Are we just trying to be inclusive--or are we compensating for the overwhelming amount of anti-Semitism all around us?


Friday, February 02, 2007

School is Poopy...and other fun things!

Hey there, peoples! Many apologies for the lack of posting this week. I have been super busy with school...*sigh*...Why doesn't anyone understand that I'm a COLLEGE student? Don't they know I'm too busy to do any work? :-P Jk jk, of course!

Not much new here...I have been invited to be a guest of the Rabbi & Rebbetzin Elana for Shabbat this week, so that is exciting. This will be the first time that I will have spent Shabbat with someone's family, in their home, so I am so thrilled. Up until now, I have just gone to our campus Jewish centers (we do have two), which are perfectly wonderful and I enjoy them, but I know that it is nothing like actually having Shabbat at home.

Let's see...What else is new? Classes are frustrating---I just wanna graduate already! Dang it! And of course the real kicker is that, while I'll be pretty much done (save for 3 hours for a Senior Capstone Course) with everything for my degree and my general education requirements after this semester, I technically don't have enough "hours" to graduate. Stupid university just wants to suck more money out of me. Harumph! Oh and wouldn't you know that the Senior Capstone Course is only offered in the spring, and it conflicted with the rest of my schedule this semester so I couldn't take it, so instead of being able to take a couple of summer classes and next semester, I will be at this place another year. Pffft to that!

Ok, I promise to stop being bitter now. I just want my freaking DEGREE already! Grrr...

At least it's only -7 with the windchill today. Hooray for the little things ;-)

Shabbat Shalom, everyone!