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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Finding my inner MO

Have you ever seen one of those awful movies about a sweet sensitive guy who is a sharp dresser, has a beautiful girl for a best friend, is a fantastic interior decorator/gourmet chef/hair stylist, has a massive poster of Patrick Swayze in his bedroom, and everyone knows he’s gay except him?

Well, that’s me and Modern Orthodoxy.

Since I’ve been blogging (or commenting really) people have been asking me where I stand on the Orthodox spectrum and it’s really been making me think about where I see myself. I’ve never liked labels, and to me the word “modern” (having first heard it used in an exclusively in negative sense in a UO environment) always had a bad ring to it.
To me it sounded like an apology or an excuse. I’ll do what I like and still call myself frum because I’m “Modern Orthodox.” So for these many years, although I’ve gone to college, I’ve married a totally MO guy, I have a TV which I’ll admit to watching, I read everything and anything, and have my own little blog, I’ve never really been able to embrace my Modern Orthodoxy. I’ve always considered myself a “Rebellious UO.” “I’m still yeshivish,” I say as I look in the mirror “look at my sleeves, see how they cover my elbows..basically… and my hair it’s covered, um….mostly… I’m just cooler, you know different, smarter…” Ugh.

OK, so I’m not yeshivish, at all. Now that I’ve come to terms with being MO and feeling less and less like a hypocrite the friends who I share this new revelation with just crack up. “What did you THINK you were?!” they ask me. Frankly I’m too embarrassed to answer.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Snippy Rabbis

Mirty pulls my blog out of a coma with this question:

Is it OK for a shul rabbi to be really snippy with his congregants? What if he makes someone cry? Berates the Bar Mitzvah boy's cousin? At what point do you say, I know he's a talmud chachom, but someone has to tell him to stop! And how do you get him to change?

Oooh this is a tough one. I'm guessing this is no hypothetical question either...
Some congregations think their Rabbis walks on water (excuse the expression) but most keep an eye out for things that need to be kept in check.

In every shul the Rabbi should have someone to answer to (be it the board or directors, or the congregation itself) and those are the people that should be letting the Rabbi know his behavior is out of line. It's very difficult to get a person to change their nature. Perhaps the Rabbi is going through a hard time personally or is frustrated is his position. The best you can hope for is for him to change specific behaviors that are upsetting the kehilla.

Has the Rabbi always been this way?
Do the people around you seem to accept it as normal or want to change it?

If you have support it should be much easier to affect change. While I know that community leaders are only human (of course) it still saddens me to hear about Jewish leadership alienating their fellow Jews.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mixed Marriages

From Mirty:
Actually, I have a question for you as advice lady. So if I'm somewhat right-wingish and my husband is a self-described "knee jerk liberal," is it wrong of me to blog about political stuff? It does irk him. But then again, this morning when I went to take the trash out for pick-up, he locked the housedoor and [accidentally]locked me out, so he deserves what he gets, right?

Well from what we've heard about your hubby (on this blog at least) he does seem to be rather absent minded so I can believe the part about his locking you out being an "accident."

Why does your blogging on political issues irk him? You'd think he'd be more upset with all the ex-boyfriend blogging you've done (don't stop though, I love that stuff!) My husband and I have politically similar views but in the areas in which we differ he'd rather have me blog about it (and not read it) than have me keep him up at night ranting about whatever is that's troubling me.

As for locking you out, I think it's now officially HIS job to take out the trash.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

J-Blogworld Grinds to Screeching Halt

No story here folks.
No story at all.....

Stupid, stupid day.

I'm having a bad day.
My phone won't stop ringing, my daughter puked at camp, my car is making funny noises (not ha-ha funny, $900 funny) and I think I just insulted the godol hador.
My hair got stuck in the clip of my sheitel and I almost had to give myself a GI Jane haircut to get it out (I was finally able to untangle (detangle?)it with out the help of a scissors, VERY painful!) My mother is having a nervous breakdown because my brother is "ruining his life" and my boss was transferred to another department without assigning me to a new manager.

I need a vacation, preferably somewhere not so hot.

Thank you for listening.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Opposite of Matza

What is the opposite of matza?

Challah you say? Well, not quite.

The story goes that when the Israelities left Egypt after the final plague namely, the killing of the first born, they had to get out of the land of Egypt in a hurry. They had to pack it in so fast, in fact, that they did not have time to allow the dough they were preparing for the journey to rise and had to bake it immediately. This resulted in producing the flat, unleavened bread we call matza.

So imagine you were preparing dough Thursday evening, allowing it to rise once as directed, punching it down and shaping it and setting it aside to rise a second time before baking. Now imagine that as the dough was rising for a second time you started to feel kinda sick and needed to lay down for a an hour or so. Perhaps you were feeling worse than you realised because when you woke up the sun was shining and it up it was a full 8 hours later! Your nicely shaped dough would have gone from fluffy to flat, technically this is called "overproofed." So you'd be left with a flat bubbly dough all over a baking sheet. Now if you were me, you'd bake it anyway which is what I did. It was alright, better than matza, not as good as challah. A flour based victim of circumstance.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Kefirah or Kosher

Here are the lyrics to a song that have been troubling me for sometime. Is this song kefirah or it is kosher? Heresy or Holy? The lyrics are in bold- the rest are my rambling thoughts.

One of Us – Joan Osborne

If God had a name, what would it be
and would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him in all his Glory,
what would you ask if you had just one question?

This is interesting, since the Bible itself refers to God by many names, as do the many nations of the world. Is Ms. Osborne oblivious of this? Perhaps she means a first name like Fred, or Jamie, you know, something his friends call him when they hang out…
Would you call it to his face? Well it’s a sin to take the Lord’s name in vain so maybe not, however if you were talking to God perhaps using his name would be OK…
It’s a good question.

And speaking of questions: What WOULD I ask if I had just one question?
Where are my car keys?
What’s the meaning of life the universe and everything? (Sorry GH, I stole your bit, not that you own HHGTHG)
What do YOU want from me?

Something to think about…. Sounds alright so far, but wait here comes the lame-o chorus:

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

A few interpretations:

1) Irony: This meant to make fun of people who praise God. Like my father-in-law says (jokingly) before he eats “Rub-a-dub-dub thanks for the Grub, Yay God, Yay God!”
If this is her intention, then that’s heresy, because are we not supposed to praise God?

2) Seriousness: Joan Osborn really thinks God is great, yeah, yeah, yeah.

3) Joan Osborn writes sucky lyrics and needed to fill in the chorus with something…
(View from Joan’s brain) Ok I need a chorus…something about God.. now what can I say about God, he’s cool, he’s powerful, he created the world….OH, I KNOW! He’s good and great, I’ll just fill in the rest with yeah yeahs! Brilliant!
Moving right along:

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin to make His way home

Ok this is a little stupid too. At first I thought this was heresy for SURE. God as a SLOB on the BUS? I should think not!
But she does say “what if?”
Well Joanie, if God was a slob on the bus like one of us he wouldn’t be God now would he.
This paragraph cancels itself out. Not heretical, not even possible.

Lookout here’s an interesting bit:

If God had a face, what would it look like
and would you wanna see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
in things like Heaven and Jesus and the Saints
and all the Prophets and...

Well that is the question isn’t it? Do people really want God to prove himself?
Once he does we lose our free will. We HAVE to believe, and if we believe then there is no rational way to defy His authority.
On the flip side it could turn out like the scenario in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” an excellent book in which somewhere in the middle the author makes himself known to one of the characters who proceeds to deny his very existence despite the fact that he is a creation of the author.
It’s interesting to note that she mentions all the other things she thinks you’d have to believe in if God presented himself, but I guess that would only be true if the God who presented Himself to you was the Christian God. In which case I’d be in big trouble. No matter how you believe it’s an interesting question.

Then she returns to the lame refrain… Do with it as you will….

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah

Ok so to sum up, the woman has some good points. It’s a simple but somewhat thought provoking song. If it makes you think about your relationship with God then maybe it’s a good thing. If it feels like it’s mocking God to you then maybe it isn’t, but it doesn’t feel like heresy to me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Coffee, I love you.

Dear Coffee,

As I imbibe yet another cupful of your creamy brown deliciousness I realize that I have never taken the time out to tell you just how much you mean to me.

Whether you are a homemade cup out of can that my husband bought on sale at Shoprite or an overpriced latte at Starbucks, baby you are the only one for me. Mix yourself with milk, cream, vanilla, sugar, or all manner of artificial flavorings, I'll know you as soon as I pick up your steaming scent.

I know we come from different worlds. You are so exotic from Columbia, Ethiopia, Brazil, and I'm so ordinary, but it doesn't matter, we were meant to be together.

Coffee to me you are great cureall, my solution to nearly every problem:
Tired? Coffee
hangover? Coffee
Sinus Headache? Coffee
Scratchy Throat? Coffee
Depressed? Coffee

Don't even get me started on all the times you've saved my hide at work, allowing me to work faster, get things done, and stay awake during long droning meetings. Coffee you're all I need.

True, I know you are not always good for me. Remember the time my doctor put me on heartrate monitor for 48 hours because my pulse was racing? He told me to abandon you, and I did, for a time, but I always knew in my palpatating heart I'd be back. Now that we've been apart I know how miserable life is without you. I work hard to keep the balance between enjoying your caffeinated goodness and a trip to the emergency room.

From your bumpy ride in the satchel of Juan Valdez's donkey to my paper cup with the plastic top your journey has been well worth while.
Coffee, I love you.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Squeaky (single) Wheel

Following a very insightful, clever and apt post by airtime regarding the real meaning of marriage a commenter calling him/herself StillSearching said...

"What about the singles waiting to be married collect $$$$$$ for hachnasas kala but do nothing for singles."

I noticed the same comment (apropos of nothing) on DovBear's blog under his post on Aidel Maidle and her belief in lifesaving powers of birthdays.

"What about the singles waiting to be married. People collect $$$$$$ for hachnasas kala but do nothing for singles Invey Hagefen Homepage 07.10.05 - 11:35 pm # "

Either this man or woman (I'm guessing it's a man) accidentally posted his comment in two places under two different names or he's really desperate to get the message out about the mistreatment of Jewish singles. As always I'm happy to give my take on the situation and open it up to the chevrah for comments.

First off I'm not really sure what exactly is being compared here:
Is this person outraged that people are donating this "$$$$$$$" (which I can only assume means big bucks) for weddings and not giving the same amount to help singles to find their mate? Should we set up a gemach, or a free loan society, so singles can borrow clothes, cars or whatever they need to impress a date?

Clearly the financially insolvent are making it to the point of engagement (perhaps by going on dates that consist of sitting in their parents' living rooms, airports, or hotel lobbies and not eating or drinking) hence the need for all this wedding related charity.

So what is the issue here exactly?

The work "waiting" in the phrase "waiting to be married" jumps out to me immediately. Marriage does not come to a person who waits around for his one true love to drop out of the sky neatly labeled "YOUR WIFE, HANDLE WITH CARE" Dating anyway you choose to do it requires effort, thought and hard work. Although I myself was married young I have many friends who suffered through miserable periods or dating (or not dating) before they found their husband or wife. When they did find their mate it was not something that happened magically, it was something they sought actively.

I assume though, that there is more to invey/stillwaiting's comment, perhaps I am not sensitized to the plight of the single yid since I've been married for so long. I'd like to hear more.
What can we do for you Stillwaiting?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Dating Game

I’m not a matchmaker but I play one on the web.
My matchmaking parody went off so well that I’ve been asked to continue it as a feature in an effort to help some of our single J-Blogging friends find true happiness (or whatever lie we are supposed to tell single folks to get them down the aisle.)

With no further ado I give you:

The Bochar of the Month

July’s eligible bachelor is known to the web as halfnutcase, he’s 20 but assures me he will be turning 21 in early Cheshvan. His mental age has been put anywhere between five and twenty-five. Yoni, as he is know to his friends, doesn’t drink, and lives in the eastern US but is willing to travel the country to meet Miss Right if necessary.

Here are some highlights from his internet interview with yours truly:

Shifra: Do you consider yourself ready for marriage?
Yoni: Ready to be a parent? Sure. Ready to work my tail off...yes. completely. [Am I] sure I can manage actually earning enough now? i hope so!

Shifra: What are you doing with your life these days?
Yoni …. [I’m] in collage so that i can get a secular teaching degree... to go back to the yeshiva system with and start doing something productive!

Shifra: What do you wish you were doing with your life?
Yoni: Teaching, raising and taking care of kids, and all the other good stuff. Is now a good time to mention that I can cook, clean house, do dishes, do laundry (including the ironing.) Also, I'm fairly good with children, (as well as babysitting/taking care of them.) I want to be able to make enough money to keep my wife happy but since I want to be a teacher she’ll have to have reasonable expectations.

Shifra: What is your level of observance?
Yoni: Chassidic. I was m'karev to the Chassidim through Chabad. But I’m not connected to a particular branch of Chassidus nor do I sit on the sidelines when people say "this is enough anyone who does more is crazy!" I try to grow in my observance constantly.

Shifra: What is your general haskafa?
Yoni: I don't know what to put for that. My "hero" growing up was probably Reb Baruch who is the center of the Friedeker Lubavitcher Rebbe’s memoirs? I really never bothered putting it in to words. I guess it's just to grow, learn and do what ever we can. Isn't that what we are supposed to do?

Shifra: Where do you stand on the political spectrum?
Yoni: I rather dislike both sides. They are way to polarized. I'd rather see what is best for everyone happen. Not one particular party line.

Shifra: What does marriage mean to you?
Yoni: Someone to do things for, to help, and to raise children with together in torah.

Shifra: What are you looking for in a wife?
Yoni: Someone who wont play games with people’s feelings, who will not sit by the wayside while someone suffers. Someone who cares, someone who just doesn't like doing things just because that's how everyone else does it, even if it isn't really the right or the best thing to do. Someone who will defend friends and family. Someone intelligent. Someone with respect for those different than herself. This one is kinda odd but the kind of person who knows when to tell her husband when he's getting to the point of working himself to death. I guess more than anything it's "genuineness" that I am looking for.

Next I asked our bachelor bochur to rate his priorities on a scale from one to ten.
Priorities- Rate of a scale of one to ten how important are the following issues to you in a potential mate:
Sense of Humor 8
Physical Attractiveness 3
Torah learning 7
Torah observance 9 (very)
Relationship with Family 9
Intelligence 9
Being a Maverick: 10 (Yoni added that one!)
Not being a fanatic: 10 (Yoni’s too)
Personality: 9

In terms of his own PERSONAL priorities Yoni answered as follows:
Intelligence 9
Earning potential 4
Relationship with family 6-7
Education 8
Social Status 2
Religious Observance 9
Personality 10
Sense of humor 8
Talents or hobbies 4-6
Political leanings 4

Does this fine young fellow sound like a dream come true? Or would you like to be the next Bachur(or Bas Yisroel) of the Month?
Write me at Shifraq@gmail.com and we’ll set things up!

Disclaimer: I don’t actually KNOW this fellow in real life so if you choose to date him yer on yer own.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

No blogging is bad blogging

I can't believe it's Wednesday.... I know I've been a little quiet lately.
I've been trying to catch up at work and guess what!? If you don't blog you can actually get a lot done!

Last night I tried to get in a little blogging when my husband (finally!) got off the computer. Unfortunately, he had set the computer to download some stupid TV shows for about eight hours and the computer ran so slowly I quit trying after about ten minutes. Still in spite of the the stupid downloading I'm happy he's back and I'm finally getting back into some normal sleeping habits.

Coming soon: The Bochur of the Month

Monday, July 04, 2005

Matchmaking- Part Two

Well it would seem that "Lisa" has some competition when it comes to the pursuit of everyone's favorite misogynist "Heshy of Brooklyn."
Here is a quote from the comments section of DovBear from "Out of Towner" who's feelings on men who hate women I have elaborated on here.

"Seems like the position of "Mrs. Heshy" is quite a prize."

Oddly though she's not being sarcastic and she's actually met the man.

OOT, I invite you to read my answer to your quote on misogyny (link above) and respond for yourself.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Hey la, hey la, my boyfriend's back!

OK so he's not my boyfriend he's my husband, but he decided to have mercy on me and cut his business trip short and come home for Shabbos.

I'm going to pick him up from the airport so I'm going to miss out on the usual Friday afternoon party that is the comment section at DovBear. I will, however, be working on the 4th of July for the Shylocks who pay my bills, so we'll see if I can't sneak in a little blogging when no one's looking.

Have a good Shabbos and a great weekend.