Monday, April 30, 2007

Why are we not close with rabbanim?

I don't really know if there's a solution to this one.

First of all, there's the idea which many Bais Yaakovs perpetuate: Judaism is a bunch of restrictions. This leads people to believe that everything's wrong. They start to adopt the "ignorance is bliss" attitude, wrongly assuming that if we "didn't know better, G-d will understand" So if one doesn't ask the rabbi whether it's okay to do something, they can do it. The scary part is, it's really our responsibility to find out what we should and should not be doing.

In addition, Rabbis always seem so busy. Sociologically, women are simply more timid. With the exception of Rosie O'Donnell, and some others. We see that they're always running, they're always on the phone, they're all doing something that must be "more important than me."

Then there's the whole "he's a man" thing. Seriously. For girls who are taught that any man but her father is poisonous, girls grow up seeing Rabbis as some man in the shul that everyone talks to. I won't go into the tiny percentage of "Rabbis" who end up giving women a little more than they bargained for. Don't try the whole "think of him as your father," theory. He doesn't know you since the day you were born. He doesn't live day-to-day life with you. He barely knows you.

That's another thing. He barely knows you. Well, I guess that's BECAUSE of all these factors.

Also, they're generally distant. Perhaps due the whole "man-woman" tension. They don't have to be "one of the guys," or hang out. But they just seem so distant-not approachable. I'm sure that balance could be struck.

Also, it's really a big commitment to find a Rav you want to follow. That means that you have to follow whatever he says, in all areas. For example, Rabbi Abadi has views on Kashrus that aren't widely accepted among Chareidi Rabbis. Not relying on Hechsheirim-sounds good. But once I heard that he doesn't allow women to wear short skirts and short socks, I said I'm not willing to give that up.

We're always taught to have this angelic image of Rabbis, like I discussed in a previous post. Once you see them up-close, understandably, you'll notice human flaws. In this perfectionist society, this leads to big problems. The Rabbis ruin the image you once had of them, and you feel like you lost respect for him. That's not good either.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nice Guys Finish Last?

Many of you might be familiar with a scene from Seinfeld that I thoroughly enjoyed. I believe it was Babu, an immigrant from G-d-knows-where, who tried to open a restaurant, and Jerry decided to help him out. He sat in the deserted place, offered Babu advice, and even tolerated his overzealous service. As Jerry sat, he thought, "Look at me! Look what a nice guy I am. Nobody else goes to this cafe. I am helping this guy, trying to make him succeed. I'm a good person..." was the voice-over.

I think many of us feel that way. Especially when the person you're helping thanks you profusely. I was in Boro Park on Friday, and a woman on the corner of 13th avenue asked me if she could borrow my cell phone. Her son was on the bus home from school, and he was 20 minutes late. She wanted to call the school and see what was going on. The school put her on hold, and never got back to her. She thanked me, and handed me my phone. "I'm going to my grandmother now, but if you're still here when I come out, you can use it again," I offered. Sure enough, about 20 minutes later, she was still there, and I gladly lent her my phone. She thanked me profusely, and I almost felt good about myself.

Then I remembered the words of wisdom my teacher in HS told me, "If you feel pleasure in doing chesed, it's a lower level." I mean, obviously, there's Chesed Shel Emes, which deals with the dead, since you know they can't return the favor. Well, where does this fall? I pictured myself in this woman's place, her little boy is 20 minutes late, the Yeshiva said he's on the bus, and he's the second stop. I'd be pretty nervous. So what was the big deal? Now, what if I had been over my minutes, and I knew it. Would I have done it? Or would I have handed her a quarter for the payphone on that very corner?

Then the question is, would I get more of a mitzvah if I gave her my phone if I was out of minutes? But then if she took as long as she did, I might be upset, which would negate the mitzvah, would it not?

I remember this teacher telling us that if we feel satisfaction from the chesed "down here," it essentially takes away from "up there." Is that a good thing to tell high school kids? I mean, there are various chesed projects I'm involved in, and I think, by nature, chesed is fulfilling. When you help people, and you see their faces light up, or you hear them breathe a sigh of relief, what are you supposed to do? Isn't Judaism about being happy? Shouldn't be happy-happy with myself, too-that I helped someone?

There was a girl in seminary who was from overseas, and had no family here. She had gone back and came to NY a few months later to prepare for her wedding. A few girls threw her a bridal shower, which I attended, and drove her home (to a basement where someone allowed her to stay rent-free for a few weeks) despite the late night, the distance, and my schoolwork that I hadn't done. On the way, I was feeling pretty good. "All these other girls with cars, and I drove the extra distance, helped her bring her gifts down, chatted with her a few minutes..." I thought.
As I drove home, I suddenly felt horrible. "Why am I so full of myself? Am I letting this kid live in my basement, hosting her, rent-free? Have I helped her do anything else?" I was overcome with guilt.

I told this to my brother, and he battled me with logic. "So you're saying what you've done is worthless?" That's how I felt. Possibly due to what this teacher said. Every time I feel fulfilled from doing chesed, I remember this teacher. I did something wrong by feeling good. I feel like I have just made my mitzvah into a smaller one, by feeding my ego.

Something tells me this teacher was mistaken. I hope she was, anyway.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I Need My Music!!

I stand proud of my piece from May 2005 entitled "A Capella -Load of..."
I think listening to A Capella music is simply a cop-out. Once doing that, just listen to the real thing already. It's like buying a burger in Wendy's. Not a cheeseburger, just a burger.

Well, it isn't "just like it" since there are Rabbanim that say it's okay to listen to music that isn't live during Sefira. Nobody says it's okay to eat beef in Wendy's. My point is, though, if you feel that it's assur to listen to music, then it's assur. If you feel it's okay, then by all means- listen to the real thing.

I haven't done substantial research, but before relying on the heter to listening to music, I'd like to know what these Rabbis' other shittos are. If they say, for example, women must daven three times daily, and I am not ready to commit to davening Maariv, I'd feel it was wrong to rely on his heter. However, one wise man pointed out, "Lack of inconsistency does not consistency make." Interesting.

Of course, since there is a heter, perhaps I'm being foolish. But then I think about the Bais Yaakov teachers saying, "LeFum Tzaara Agrah," the harder it is for you to do something, the more reward you'll get. But does this "minhag" even count?

In seminary, my rebbe told us that it was okay to listen to music if you need it while you exercise. I'd feel funny doing that. If I want to go on the treadmill during Sefira, if it's that important to me, I'd do it without music. What would these people do if their iPods were broken? The speakers in the room were shot? They'd either not go on at all, or forgo the music. Besides, who do I think I'd be fooling if I didn't say going on the treadmill now during Sefira was just as much for the music (if not more) as it is for the exercise? G-d knows exactly what our intentions are.

I asked the rebbe, in all seriousness, but I doubt he took it that way, "What if I rely on my music emotionally? I'm not myself if I can't listen to music." I confessed. He looked at me as if I was trying to stump him, and he thought what I said is stupid. Obviously, I won't go endanger myself or others if I don't have my music. I'm not jumping off any bridges, or slitting my wrists by any means. I just don't consider myself very pleasant company as Lag B'Omer approaches, and I'm wearing thin emotionally.

So why is it okay for these exercise-obsessed women, (many of whom do it out of sheer vanity) but not me??

Music for me is a drug. Sefira to me is one very long fast day. I'm starving for some music right now. I'd even listen to John Mayer--- That, my friend, is starving.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Dr. Yael in the JP

I don't mean disrespect. Well, not too much, anyway. She looks pretty nice and sincere in that headshot.

I won't bother discussing her idea about Chassidim and Litvish people intermarrying to solve the Shidduch Crisis. Nuff said.

Did you notice, by the way, how she tells everyone to go see a shrink?

Anyway, this week's JP features a creepy letter from a young man married less than a year, and he has found that his wife has serious anger issues. He doesn't know when she'll explode or what will set her off. Only after they were married was he exposed to this manner of behavior, and the same behavior from her family. He had no idea before. He was begging Dr. Yael to help him.

She gave the usual formulaic "see a shrink, it's not your fault, it's hers..." response, and I'm sure wished him Hatzlacha at the end.

But I think she neglected something very important in her response. What can those who are still dating learn from this experience? Is there something we should watch out for? Are there signs that perhaps this young man unfortunately missed?

People are good liars and good actors. And the scary thing is, the ones who act best are the ones who need to. Those are the ones with the most to hide.