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Ask Shifra

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

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Monday, August 29, 2005

A note from Mar Gavriel

Dear Shifra:

I have posted a piece on my blog (
http://margavriel.blogspot.com) concerning the Seven Weeks of Nehama (http://margavriel.blogspot.com/2005/08/seven-weeks-of-consolation.html). I would like to eventually publish it in a venue more prestigious than a blog. Therefore, I would like to receive as much feedback from bloggers as possible, while it is still in the blog stage (i.e. first draft). Would you kindly do me the favor of giving it some publicity on your blog? Thank you.

Mar Gavriel

No problem Mar Gavriel, anything I can do to keep up the appearance of readership... I mean help out a friend... is my pleasure.

Sorry it took so long to get this up.

Advice or Confirmation for the Lovelorn

On the internet, and more often in real life, I get asked for advice by people who already know exactly what they think about a given situation or what they plan to do about it. I call this a "request for validation."
I think that the woman who sent me this email already knows what the situation is here but let's take a look anyway shall we?

The original text of the question is in bold, my comments are in stylin' italics...

Dear Shifra,

I posted this question on my blog, jewishLUVLIFE.blogspot.com.
However, since I currently have only two members (both men) and only one has answered, and suggested I ask you, here I am! Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.
What Do You Think About This Guy....

OK, there's this guy who's almost driving me nuts but I've got it under control, mostly.
I'll explain...see, I was taking a course and he was one of the teachers. And I was getting definate vibes and looks, but then I found out he had a girlfriend and I was very disappointed because it seemed like something was happening.

#1 Never get involved with a guy who is still in another relationship
#2 Vibes can be wrong
#3 If "This Guy" is seeing someone else and is actually giving you vibes and looks that should alert you to something as well...
#4 Students and teachers are a big no-no.

So I told a friend of mine--another guy--who happens to work there too. And he talked to that guy about it, and probably told him that it was unethical behavior. The guy who likes me (let's call him Teacher-guy) came up to me and said that he only likes me as a student and that he "can't" feel any other way about me because I'm a student, and that the only way he could ever get involved with a student is if the student had stopped being a student, and for a very long time.

#5 OOoooh mixed signals! Nice. The guy is sounding more and more like a winner already.

So, I dropped the whole thing. And then a whole thing happened where I took a different course that he doesn't teach, but didn't take it with his friend who teaches it (I took it with a different teacher) because I don't like her. Then the next time I saw him, he was very cold to me. So forget him, right?

#6 Cold? As opposed to what? He already made it clear that he can't have a relationship with you because he is a teacher and you are a student... I have "Don't stand so close to me" by the Police in my head now.

Right. Well then after that I started to ignore him, and then one day I'm in the hallway talking to a couple of other male faculty members, and suddenly I realize through peripheral vision that Teacher-guy is standing behind me watching and listening the whole time. And then when I'm done talking to them, as I turn around, I see through my peripheral vision that he's darted into a classroom before he thinks I could see him.
Forget him, right?

#7 That's a fabulous combination of creepy and wimpy... Why are we still even *talking* about this guy?! This letter is getting LONG...

THEN. I'm in the classroom a few days later, working with other teachers and students at different times, and I just ignore him. I never look at him, even when I see him glance my way. And before I know it, a teacher announces to me--while Teacher-guy standing right there, grinning at me--that there is going to be a "switch" and that the teacher who is currently working with me is going to leave and Teacher-guy is going to work with me.
He spent a lot of time working with me and going out of his way to joke and make me laugh.

#8 Very suspicious.

Is this one of those "He's just not that into me?" Does he not want me, but he really wants me to want him? Just curious.


Ok JLL, I think I've deliniated all the reasons this guy is sketchy at best: He's seeing someone, he runs hot and cold, he's off limits etc....

I can't begin to conjecture about what is going in that man's mind... The bottom line is that it really *doesn't matter* if he's into you or not into you it's just not happening, as I HOPE you already know. I wouldn't waste my time thinking about it, he's clearly a headtrip waiting to happen (or perhaps already happening!)

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Usual Suspects

In nearly every place I've worked there seem to be a few everpresent "types" of employees on the payroll.

In the style of a National Geographic Special I have tracked down a couple of them in their natural habitats for a closer look.

Perhaps you will recognize them in the wilds of your workplace or can describe some of your own favorites I look forward to hearing about them!

Employee #1
The Fratboy turned Salesguy
Often seen in a homogeneous herd of immature white males, these creatures laugh too loud and too often. Working mostly on commission, these men will do whatever it takes to make the sale especially if it involves drinking, golf, dirty jokes or a trip to Hooters. These men often are quite successful, although there intelligence is often merely average or lower thus frustrating more intellectually minded co-workers. While not generally considered predatory the FTS have been known to whack the unsuspecting co-worker on the back without warning.

Employee #2:
The Office Lady
Ranging in age anywhere from 35-60 in a middle to low ranking position (office manager, secretary, bookkeeper), this woman feels she "runs the office" and will do anything within her power to assert that control. Despite her plump and pleasant appearance in holiday themed sweaters this woman will stab you in the back if she feels you are getting to close to anyone in management she feels is "hers" or if she smells success in the air.
This woman is very up to date on all office gossip, yet blissfully unaware of what is being said about her behind her own back. Cross her and you will never ever get that stapler you requested.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Word From The Boss

I was going to write a post about blogger's guilt but here's as good a launch point for that topic as any...
I know a few bloggers (like myself) who feel rather guilty about blogging on company time even if they are still accomplishing the work expected of them.
I'm sure some (like me as well) have even let blogging cut in to the quality of their work here and there. On the other side some bloggers seem to feel no guilt whatsoever about their blogging habit perhaps because they still manage to get their work done, they are underpaid or bored, or they just don't care...
For a little perspective on the boss's side of things here is a post from "Brutus" a self-described
boss/business owner on the subject of blogging at work:

"Once we're on the subject of work: I'm willing to bet that all the big bloggers from godol to dovbear and others are all employees with too much free time on their hands. (Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy their posts and the ensuing discussions.)As a small business owner I have no time to post and very little time to read and comment.I'd like to know how much guilt the bloggers carry or have they been moreh heter (justified) their actions.As their boss I would be quite pissed off."

So bloggers, now that you know how at least ONE boss feels- do you feel differently about blogging at work?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Restroom Rules

Since I have a fairly long commute to work (and I’m addicted to coffee) my first stop when I get to the office is usually the ladies room. Since many of the people I work with seem to have no clue about office bathroom etiquette I decided to take this opportunity to educate the public and vent about my office restroom pet peeves.

Cell Phones:
Upon entering the restroom PLEASE turn your cell phone off.
What goes on in the restroom is NOT for public broadcast. I’ve seen (ok heard) people actually continue a telephone conversation or answer a call while using the toilet – how rude is that! It’s not as if the person on the other end of the line doesn’t know where you are calling from either, what with all the flushing in the background…
If someone called me and I suddenly heard a flush I’d be pretty sickened but maybe that’s just me. (See also: Toilet Conversationalists)

Dish Washing/Tooth Brushing:
So you have some dishes or plastic containers from lunch and you want to wash them out in the bathroom sink. Ok, I understand that. Who wants to drive home with dirty dishes?
Now, how about you do the REST of your coworkers a favor, and clean out the SINK when you are done. No one wants to look at the remains of your lumpy oatmeal or fried rice at the bottom of the sink all day. The same goes for the toothpaste remnants you’ve spit into the sink. Just get a paper towel and wipe out the sink when you are done. Try giving half as much thought to public property as you do to your own private property/personal hygiene and you’ll be on the right track.

Toilet Conversationalists:
If you entered the bathroom with a friend or a coworker (as women often do) the time to end the conversation is when you enter the stalls. The toilet is a place for quiet reflection, maybe reading magazines (if you are at home) but definitely not chatting. It kills me to hear two people prattling on – nearly yelling to continue their stall-to-stall conversation as they do their business. Don’t talk to me either. I’m not up for that kind of multi-tasking.

The 30 Minute Makeover:
The mirror in front of the sink is a great place to give yourself the once over. Maybe run a brush through your hair, fix your lipstick etc… This is not the place to perform your entire beauty regime from moisturizing, to makeup application, to the use of a curling iron. Some of us would like to wash our hands. And speaking of which….


Enough said.


Please do all your buttoning/buckling/zipping inside the men’s room. While we are all familiar with what goes on inside a rest room I don’t need to see you closing up your pants in the hall. If you are in such a rush to get back to work that you can’t take the time to readjust your clothing inside the men’s room I shudder to think about what other steps you may have skipped.

Thank You

Work Ethic

Hey y'all....

You might have noticed that my posting (and even my commenting on other blogs) has become increasingly light these days.
In May, I was trying to get out a post daily, in June three times a week, and in July about once a week- even resorting to the use of child labor.

So what gives!?

Am I tired of blogging already?
Have I run out of what to say?

Heck no! It's my job that's been getting in the way (ok, ok, and the constant reading about the disengagement situation, and a few games of online scrabble, and a little back to school shopping, but that's it- I swear!)
Having spent the last month or so a little more focused on my actual paying job I've had a lot of time to consider the lighter (and darker) side what this working life/culture is all about.

I am dedicating this week to office/work related issues and commentary.
I have several posts percolating already but if you have any work related questions/comments send them along (via email) and I'll get to "work" on them right away!


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Day School Dilemma

Dear Shifra,
For a non observant family, what are the pros and cons of sending your children to a Jewish Day School, a great public school system, or a religious program through a synagogue such as afterschool Hebrew School/ Sunday School?


Readers: Before I respond I should note that “Jamie” sent along a pretty comprehensive background detailing her family’s religious status, background and point of view on this issue. Although I will not post it here I will refer to it as needed.

Dear Jamie,
Your question is a tough one but I will try to address as well as I can. I’m sure my readers will also have plenty of good advice to share based on their own experiences…
After reading your email several times it seems to me that you are craving a sense of (Jewish) community both for yourself and for your children. Since your husband seems open to the idea of joining a synagogue, I think that it is a very important step. This will give you and your children an opportunity to meet other Jewish people participate in Jewish activities and maybe even get a few Friday night dinner invitations.

While after-school or Synagogue “Sunday school” type programs seem like the ideal compromise the truth is that they will never give your child the depth or breadth of knowledge and feeling that a day school education will. I say this as a Sunday school teacher myself, and the daughter of two (former) day school teachers. When your Judiac studies are merely extracurricular, shoved in between a full day of school and soccer practice they will never be viewed with the same priority as a full (or half day) of devoted school hours would be. In addition it is a simple matter of time: there is just no way to cover Hebrew language, Tanach, Jewish history, philosophy etc… and impart a loving connection to all of it in just 2+ hours a week.

So what can you expect from a day school education?

That’s a hard question because every school is different. I’m not sure if you live in area where you have many choices or just one but clearly just because a school is “orthodox” doesn’t mean it’s a good school or a bad one.
Ideally in a modern orthodox day school, your child will learn to read, write, and speak Hebrew, learn about Jewish history and the State of Israel, learn Tanach, and maybe some Talmud, to the point where they will be able to start to figure things out on their own and have a good understanding of basic Jewish laws and customs and how they are derived. In addition hopefully there will be some character development as well- teaching children to respect one another and treat each others as they would like to be treated.
In addition, of course, they would also have a secular education comparable to (or better than) a public school education only more compressed due to time restraints. Clearly this is not the case for all MO day schools but it’s usually their goal.

Being non-orthodox in an orthodox school is an issue. But again it depends on the school. The Jewish elementary school I attended was split about 50/50 orthodox vs non-orthodox so everyone really felt at ease. Today things are more polarized (in most east coast day schools at least) so I can’t say that it will not be an issue. Belonging to a synagogue that you identify with though can help here too allowing your child (and the rest of your family) access to Jewish life that is in your comfort zone.
The bigger issue for me would be sending my child to a school that I could not identify with ideologically. Part of a day school education (in an Orthodox school) is also a religious indoctrination. An orthodox school is really compelled to teach that the word of the Torah is law, as this is a major pillar of Orthodox belief. Judiac culture and religious practice will not viewed as two separate matters. It’s more than likely that eventually your child will feel a bit torn between to worlds – hearing one thing at school and another at home.
This leaves you two options: either to find a school that appeals to your ideologically or to be open to the possibility that your child may eventually be interested in taking on some additional observances at home as well as at school. No one wants to feel that they are putting their child into a situation where they feel conflicted so it’s something to consider for down the road…Lastly there is the issue of tution. Yes, I know it’s a killer. Frankly I don’t know how we manage it ourselves but somehow we do. It’s our priority. We don’t drive a new car, or go on vacation, or eat out much and somehow we get by. I’m very happy with how my children are doing in school and how much they enrich our home-life with what they have learned. All I can say is to me it’s worth it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Money well spent

For those of you who were wondering after reading the guest post...
Yes, my daughter attends a Modern Orthodox, Ivrit b'ivrit style, yeshiva day school.
Thanks to all of you (and especially Bas Shifra herself) for making me feel like my tution dollars have not gone completely to waste...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Guest post! The No Band, Band

My oldest daughter, who I rarely allow on the internet (and never unsupervised), has asked to guest post on my blog, which she often hears about over dinner at our house.

Here's her first attempt- not too bad for a nine year old who's never read a blog in her life....

No band, band

I play guitar “in a band.”
We started the band at the beginning of last year, and so far we’ve made a week’s progress, it’s SO embarrassing.

My band has five problems:

1) Organizing
The problem is no ones bothering to set up meetings. I’ve tried to set up meetings but everyone’s been so busy with stuff we haven’t been able to schedule anything. Too bad I don’t know what the “stuff” is because they all seem to be doing it together. I feel rejected.

2) Location
I want to have a band, and I want it to be at my house because my parents are very musical and they can help. My mom says I should put it in the basement but I really don’t like our basement because it is crawling with everything. There was a giant spider down there and once there was a mouse and it FLOODS! I can’t put it in my room, so where am I supposed to put it? I don’t think we’ll fit in the linen closet!

3) Who’s in who’s out
I’m not sure at the moment who is even in the band. Everybody’s inviting people to come and join. I don’t want to let just anybody in because maybe we’ll end up with twenty people with no musical ability at all! Even though everyone’s inviting people I don’t think I invited anyone since I was invited.

4) The Name
See it’s very hard to have a band that can’t even decide its own name. I know what I want to name the band but I haven’t got a second to talk to the band about it, because everyone is always busy “doing stuff” as I’ve already told you.

5) Instruments
So far I think we have a guitarist, that’s me, 2 accordion people (one that I don’t like) I frankly don’t even like accordion but there some are that do, a piano player, and I suppose everyone is singing. Also some people don’t even have their instruments yet they say that are “getting them” for their birthdays. Yeah right.
So, I have lots of friends, if I didn’t have any friends I wouldn’t have been invited into this band in the first place. I’m writing songs while I wait for the band to get its act together. So I wait and wait and wait. Maybe when school starts again things will come together and we’ll give a hurrah for our second year of band that’s only made one week’s progress.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Oven, heal thyself!

Well it's Thursday night again and I thought you all might be wondering how things turned out for me and my oven. Well, I took it apart and spent 45 minutes on the phone with Oven-tech-support to determine what I already knew, namely that the pilot was out and no gas was running to the oven. "Don't mess with the gas line," the tech-support person said, "call a repairman." And so I did.

The repairman came when I was not home, he tested the oven, told my husband it was working just fine mentioning some business about a power outtage and the oven resetting (my husband seemed very unclear on this) and charged us $45 for coming out (the one mile he drove to get to us.)

Anyway, my miraculous self-healing oven is back to work tonight.
Final Score: Oven II Shifra 0

You pray for me, I'll pray for you

Have you ever had someone tell you they'd pray for you?
It's a little creepy to me, especially if the person is not of the same faith as I am.
How will they pray for me?
Will they light a candle, talk it over with Jesus maybe?
Freaks me out just to think about it. Still, here is someone who is willing to take it upon themselves to speak to God on my behalf and all I can think about is how uneasy it makes me feel.

Conversely I am becoming increasingly disconcerted by the amount of prayer requests I've been receiving. Being a fairly active Jewess-about-town, and general web-head I am emailed regularly by several Jewish mail services.
I receive several emails a day that ask for my prayers- for example:

Please daven for _________ bas _______ a young mother of three who was in a car accident late yesterday.

Your tehillim are needed right now for _________bas _________ a grandmother in surgery!

__________ ben ___________ had a stroke this morning and only a miracle can save him, he needs all our teffilot!

Of course I know they are all tragic, serious, deserving of my attention, and I wish all these people a complete and speedy recovery, but guess what?

I'm a terrible davener.
I'm terrible about davening (I'm a woman, it's OK) and I'm no good at it either.

I wish I could dive right into tehillim every time I got an email like that but I can't.
The best I could probably offer is lip service and don't you think God would see right through that? Unless I'm feeling particularly spiritual or I'm close to the situation at hand there is no way I can pray meaningfully about it. I don't know these people, God is WAY up there, and who am I? I'm nobody, a sinner, who doesn't pray unless she wants something and now you expect me to bring your mother, cousin, neighbor, friend and sister a MIRACLE?! I can't do it.

I've actually started deleting these emails because the guilt was killing me. How can I let I let all these suffering people down because I'm a lazy, selfish, kavanaless, person? It's easier for me not to know.

OK maybe I'm not a terrible person, we all have our strengths, but praying is not mine. I'm more action oriented. If there was something to DO I'd DO it. Does someone need a babysitter, a meal, a friend, a visitor, a ride somewhere? I'm your woman! But PLEASE don't ask me to pray for you. I can't take the pressure.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned From GuestBlogging On DovBear

Now that our week of guestblogging for DovBear is over, and we each go off to our respective places in the obscurity of the jblogosphere, we wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you and let everyone know what we learned over the past week:

1. Spell Check is your friend.

2. MO vs UO is always a good comment generator.

3. DovBear has at least six arms.

4. Don't leave your blog running with the keys in the ignition if it will out of your line of sight for more than a minute.

5. People love Amishinover even if they hate what he has to say.

6. You may catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but who needs flies?

7. Guest blogging for Dovbear does not turn you into a Chareidi/Cross-Currents/TobyKatz bashing, NY liberal (unless you are one already)

8. Posts about deleting posts are more popular than posts about anything else

9. DB is actually Amshi - he took a "vacation" to let his Mr. Hyde side come out to play

10. Dovbear's dashboard could use a cleaning

Thanks DovBear!

With Love,

Shanna, Krum, and Little Wolf and Me, Shifra

Back from Guest Posting

Well I'm back from my rollercoaster ride of posting at DovBear. I really enjoyed it, and I made some new friends to boot!
Sometimes I think I work harder when the pressure's on and I hope I can come up with some good stuff now that I'm back home at my own blog-ette.

I've got more than enough work to catch up today but I'll be back later in the week with some good stuff I hope (or maybe sooner, who knows!)