Thursday, October 27, 2005

Doting on "The Donald"

I found some Jewish rag on my kitchen table. As I waited for the dinner to cook, I flipped through the pages and was appalled by what I found. Some dorky eyeglass store was using Donald Trump to promote its product. I don't remember what that "Gotta have it" quote was, but it was demonstrating, "If you wanna be like Donald Trump, wear these glasses." I highly doubt it's a legal endorsement deal, and the picture of him wearing those glasses was probably fabricated in some Brooklyn guy's den. I don't think I have seen him wear that style of glasses, but then again I am so not looking. Does he even WEAR glasses?

Listen, I understand that nowadays you need celebrity to promote things. Skechers had Christina Aguilera. Chanel has Nicole Kidman. The milk ads try to get anyone who's anyone to be in their ads. Covergirl and Revlon have Beyonce, Julianne Moore, Molly get the picture. Fine.

I know, I am not expecting a Gadol Hador's (L'Havdil) face to sell anything, unfortunately, but it would be nice if people wished more to emulate them than Donald Trump.

Yesterday, my nieghbor, coincidentally the one who recently got rid of their modest Mazda for an Acura MDX, brought over the board game "Trump." That made me nausheous. Play freakin Monopoly. He said his father bought the game. This fascination with Donald Trump further proves my point of some Jews being obsessed with money. Why are they fascinated with him? His MONEY. His POWER. His FAME.

Funny how they say that it's, "Jealousy, Desire, and Honor that take people out of this world."

I know it's hard and unrealistic to truly and fully admire Gedolim over these glamorous, glitzy "exciting" characters, but not obsessing about Donald Trump is a start. I know I am not above this. I love Gwen Stefani. Lauren Graham. Linda Stasi. Why do I secretly wish to be like them or look like them when they are Rebbetzins to admire and emulate??

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sukkot Spirituality

My parents must not have had enough of my bungalow colony in the summer, so we went for the first day of Sukkot, and we had to come home last night because I had a midterm today. (Don't mind the fact that the professor accused me of trying to skip it, little did she know I made my family come home because of her insane test...GRR)

So they have this thing where they rent a communal Sukkah and tables and chairs, and have someone cater the meals, so that they don't have to cook. The meals cost about $30 per person, per meal...(maybe 25, maybe 35--everyone says different). Fine. Then they bring their maids to the place, but not to the sukkah. What they need them for, I don't know. They're not cooking, they're not serving, and they're not eating in the house. No pots or plates to wash, no meals to clean up after...just kids. Ah, yes, they're there for the kids. Now remember this important rule--The only time you are allowed to be seen with your kids is after shul, when they're dressed in their Burberry dresses and they're competing with their buddy's Sonya Rykiel. Got that? It's very important that you do NOT go to the playground with them. Ever.

When we got together with some other families, a woman mentioned that they paid the caretaker extra to put up the sukkah. This is after they built him a house for free, and pay an annual salary some would envy. When they came up Sunday night, it's not done! Why? Because he was being paid separately to put up other people's private sukkahs. (I guess for between meals and what not). If someone's handicapped Chas V'Shalom, or old, go right ahead. But my question is, WHERE IS THE SPIRIT OF SUKKOT?! Contrary to popular belief, this is not about money. Thank G-d, my dad could have probably paid the guy-what? 50 bucks? 100? to put up the sukkah. But it's our job! Now, I don't know if part of the Mitzvah of Sukkot is the building, but even if isn't, doesn't it feel special? You're putting out effort for the Yom Tov. You're showing that this matters to you. The people who don't leave their houses unless they look perfect, they know how to put effort into something that matters to them. What were they doing while this guy put up the sukkah, and the maid changed the linen and cleaned, and the kids were watching a video???

I mean, I would want to do it for Chinuch. The family next door to me there has 4 boys between the ages of 6-12, and I was so touched when I saw them all building the sukkah together, helping their father. Actually, on my own deck, my father and brother built the sukkah while I was in the kitchen cooking alongside my mother.

I think it would be so different, and so much more spiritual if they'd make it something exciting. It's a Mitzvah! Yom Tov is in the air! We're making something to serve Hashem! Which decoration should we put here, [insert child's name]? Get them involved.

Children need to be excited about doing Mitzvot, but if the parents couldn't care less...look what they're depriving their children of!! This is the generation. Mitzvot are considered burdens. You do them the at least inconvenience to you possible, and just wait till it's over.

As silly as it sounds, as I hung the decorations, I felt excited. Sukkot is really here! Hiddur Mitzvah! I don't think I could have done anything better with my time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Aseret Yemei Teshuva

We only have 10 days...(now even less!) to try to make ourselves into deserving people! If you think about it, these days are kinda scary. All the things we take upon ourselves are how we are really supposed to be all year. So, if I try to stop myself from saying Lashon Hora during this time, (which is a totally stereotypical example, but so common.) I feel, "Why am I not doing this all the time? Why is it even okay for me to vent then? Why do I allow myself to do that?" Or if I won't listen to some music, I wonder why it's okay all year around. And maybe it isn't. And why do I let myself be such a slave to my desires? And we all think about how bad we are the rest of the year.

Somehow, shortly after Yom Kippur most of us end up where we were before. Hopefully some Kaballot stick, but the days aren't as calculating anymore. At this time of year, I shudder to think of how many days went by that I didn't work on myself. I didn't expect more from myself. I didn't progress. If things were how they are described in High School and Seminary, I'd be a Tzadeket by now! We always learn that every day is a chance to grow. More than a chance. An obligation.

When people say to live every day like your last, if we all did, it would probably be a perfect world! I wouldn't be glued to, "My Fair Brady," people wouldn't be trading in last year's Lexus, and everyone would be davening and serving Hashem all day. I know that's a dream world. It's unrealistic. It's too scary to try to imagine on a practical level, because that will really expose massive ills of society. And of course, ME.

As this will probably be my last post before Yom Kippur, I'd like to wish ALL my readers a Gemar Chatima Tova, (remember not to wish anyone a "Gemar Tov" unless you want them to leave this world soon C"V) and ask forgiveness from anyone I have offended, although I don't doubt it will happen again. Sorry, it's the truth.

Technically, I'd go around my neighborhood and ask forgiveness from all the Luxury vehicles (past 2002-why that's the cutoff date? I don't know. Don't argue, it's stupid. You can make your own) drivers, but I'd be 21 by the time I got around the corner.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

My Teachers/Mothers/Sisters

Well, it took me a while, but I finally thought of something positive. Nah, I'm kidding, but after spending an hour on the phone with a teacher from high school, I remembered the thought that often occupies my mind, "My teachers are awesome, special people."

I guess I was always that eager-to-please dork in the class who did whatever the teacher said, and was therefore often favored. In third grade, my Hebrew teacher called me aside one day and told me that if I try hard in Chumash, she'd get me a gift at the end of the year. That year, I had an ID crisis-I hated my name, and decided to go by my middle name. The end of June came around, and she handed me my gift as promised. I opened the wrapping to reveal a keychain with my middle name on it. I still have it. Throughout the year, she often borrowed my Journal from English, and noticed a picture I had drawn for her when she had a baby, but was too shy to give to her. She praised it and asked if she could have it.

In fourth grade, my English teacher used to call me out during D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything and Read) to see how everything was going, and fostered a connection with me. Every year after that, I had similar connections, but that would take all day. I'll just skip to the more recent ones.

In eighth grade, when I went through my "rebellious stage," one teacher provided me and my friends with an open invitation to her house, which only I chose to take advantage of, and that invitation still stands. (Last I checked, anyway...) I don't talk to her every day, but when I do, it's as if I have. Anytime I need advice, I don't hesitate to call her. She always makes time for me. If it's not when I call, it's a half-hour later. With a large family Bli Ayen Hora, she is sure to give me the attention I need. I have watched her children grow (on and off) and the older ones sure remember me.

In high school, I was trying to get out of going on some dumb trips. (Always hated trips. Always will.) It was the end of the day, and there was another teacher in the office who heard the conversation. It was the beginning of 11th grade. I left the principal's office, and swiftly made my escape with tears welling up in my eyes. "Don't run!" My new teacher yelled after me, and she caught up with me and consoled me. We exchanged e-mail addresses, and built a close relationship. We always talked about how I am the younger version of her, and I kind of think of her as the older sister I always wish I had. Every Shabbaton, we'd have a scheduled walk and talk. She drove me home from a Layl Iyun once or twice because we were talking the whole time anyway, and when she left, why should I have bothered to stay? Now, don't start this whole favoritism garbage, she wasn't "yeshivish" enough for the other to kids to "like" her. All the more for me then. She's just so cool and down to earth. She treats her students like people, like equals, with proper respect, not like subhuman beings only there to learn her subject and do her work.

The other teacher, the one I was on the phone with for an hour tonight, is extraordinary. She was really not feeling well tonight, but when I texted her that I needed to talk, she said, "For you? Sure." She has done so much for me. Whatever I have gone though in high school, and after high school, she was always there for me. Also, if she can't talk when I call, we speak later that day. She's also married with a family, and she still gives me time. And energy. And great advice. She's open, she's honest, and she sincerely cares about me. She always listens with a full ear, and remembers things I forgot about. She gives me the encouragement I need without an ego. She has faith in me and my abilities like a parent does a child. Despite the fact that she is in touch with many of her students, she always manages to make me feel special, like I'm the only one.

The important aspect about these relationships is the openness and honesty that we share. They tell me anecdotes about their lives for me to learn from, and they always react so non-chalantly no matter what I choose to discuss. I really feel like I can open up to them about anything and everything I think about. They never judge me by what I tell them, but remind me when I am judgemental. They respect me for who I am inside, because that's what they know.

Truth be told, there are more teachers to discuss. I honestly have no idea where I would be without them, considering what I have endured in life thus far. I run to them about everything important. I depend on them. I love them like a parent or a sister. Every relationship is different. But my point is that I do know there are some selfless, loving, giving people out there. They just all happen to teach at my school.