יום רביעי, מאי 31, 2006

How old should I be?

At some point I got older. Now I just have to grow up.

How big is the gap between how old you are and how old you see yourself as?

Are you "acting your age"? Doing the things you should do at your age?

The upside of acting younger than you are is you get to be called "youthful". The downside is that people might tell you to "lose the illusion that you are still ______". Damn them; but they are right. I realize I need to deal with some of my age-appropriate issues. Blech.

I'm 22 damnit!! Why not??!!

יום רביעי, מאי 17, 2006

Staying the course

Another Frum Blog's comment on To be or Not To Be... Frum prompted my interpetation of the thought.

Why do older singles often drift away from staying the course religiously?

I've noticed the thing about single people getting less frum. A large part of Jewish life (especially the religious world) centers around home, family, and marriage. The backlash to not being married is that you start to feel excluded from aspects of the Jewish world. Including things like how you dress. Her hair is covered. As opposed to mine which is not. He's wearing a talit (or saying bircat cohanim) and I'm not. They invite people to shabbat meals. I'm the random stray at other people's tables.

After a few years of being the random stray at someone else's table, you might dread Shabbat. "Maybe I'll just eat by myself this weekend." Or the question of "Why am I bothering with this?" rears it head as well. It gets depressing. It gets lonely. You look for things to bitch about in the world that so much of it is not the life you are leading. For many folks being single means excluding yourself from a big part of Judiasm.

Once I see myself as outside the Jewish world, it also means that I'm more likely to make friends with my non-religious or non-jewish co-workers. They don't give me a sense of being outside their world. As time goes on, I drift farther away from traditions. This is only made easier by that fact that some mitzvot a really hard to keep rigorously and when we falter, it's easier to justify our actions by lowering the importance of the law.

{We might be better off by embracing hipocracy and saying "This is the law. I know I should not be doing this. I'll try harder in the future but for now I'm not." But that is a whole 'nother post.}

As usual - any thoughts?

יום רביעי, מאי 10, 2006

Have you ever?

יום שלישי, מאי 09, 2006

The Torah of Martial Arts

Most people have a friend or two who has studies Martial Arts. Some form or another. Taikwando, Karate, Muy-Thai, or something else. With no disrespect meant towards those who study these arts, there are two things that any person studying them will confide in you, his friend: One, his teacher is the (pick one: best, most, highest) ranked ______ in his style. This will often be born out by a story or two of the teachers actions on a street corner or in some competition. Two, the particular style your friend is currently studying is the best. Why is it the best? Because it is a blend of (pick three: Japanese, Thai, Korean, Northern, Southern, or Brazilian) styles and is inclusive of all of the other styles that are out there. Interesting, no? Every one of your martial-arts studying friends will tell you the same thing. Hmmm.....

As I learn Torah I encounter many different ideas. What's amazing is that each of the idea have fervent adherents, each one claiming that his "set of Torah ideas" are the best ones out there. There may be an acknowledgment of other "styles" but "they're not the best way". "My Rebbi" is better than all the others. "My Style" of Torah can whup the ass of your Torah. This is how the world of Torah can look.

A different approach towards Torah can be as follows: Each idea you learn is a puzzle piece.

You hear a new approach to learning Medrash. It becomes like learning a new word - all of the sudden you start hearing it everywhere. The new concept you just gained begins to appear in every corner of your life. You attend a lecture and acquire a new understanding of free will and divine fore-knowledge. You ask yourself "How could I have been a religious Jew before I knew this?!" Again and again you watch as it all ties into your "Torah-world".

As the Martial Arts student progresses and learns more from more styles, he will usually stop denigrating the other styles. He understands that he can learn from Ju-Jitsu even though he only studies Nin-Jitsu. What the student is seeing, is that these are all parts of a huge puzzle. Each style fills in gaps in another one. To learn Muy-Thai and then to learn Tai-Kwan-Do can only help the good student become a more rounded fighter. Also with Torah cosmology - each idea you pick up can be fitted into a puzzle and added to the range of theological motion you have available.

I feel that this perspective is especially important in our current day and age of divisiveness. Assuming certain red lines, is the Torah of one rabbi less valid that that of another? No, they are all different pieces of one huge puzzle. The more we learn, the more we see it all fits together. The more it fits together, the more we see the greater picture. The more we realize that there IS a greater picture that we are trying to build from all the tiny little pieces, the less we will denigrate the other persons Torah. We see that each one of the different and even the contradictory pieces are all important. Each one in it's place and time helps us fulfill the will of God that is Torah.

יום חמישי, מאי 04, 2006

Mishmar Ayalon to Jerusalem

Biblical holidays are different than the modern ones. The way they are described in scripture is agrarian. We tend to relate to them as "other worldly", spiritual, and somewhat disconnected.

Like all good adjudicators I feel both views are correct. We see with many concepts that different people or places bring forth different aspects of that concept. The holidays can been viewed purely in their spiritual light and that's fine. I feel Israel brings out the biblical, agricultural, physical side of the Jewish holidays.

{Our bus is struggling up the hill towards the capital. We're not moving more than 10 km/h. The hills are green from all the rain I missed while out of the country. Before we hit the Jerusalem hills we drove past the wheat fields around Latrun. Those fields are soaked in blood and history, but that's a whole 'nother past for a different time.}

The wheat has turned brown and gold. Soon it will be sitting in stacks, drying in the sun. It helps me understand the references to the agrarian aspect of Pesach. Shavuot is the time to gather the wheat and you can look around and see it happening here. The time in between the two (Pesach to Shavuot) is clearly connected to the harvest of the wheat and therefore the offerings of the matza and the bread (Omer and Two Breads).

With all this so clear to me, how should I connect to these holidays when I celebrate them in the South African fall? Or Succot when we are supposed to live outside and it's snowing in Cleveland? Either something is wrong with the holiday or something is wrong with the place.

Pesach in NYC did have the perk of seeing family. And a Nets vs. Celtics game.

יום שלישי, מאי 02, 2006

Yom Ha'Zicaron (Remembrance Day)

There is a difference in Israel's Yom Ha'Zicaron (Remembrance Day) from Memorial Day in the United States or ANZAC Day in Australia.

The wars of Israel were not just wars to hold onto our land or our sovereignty in the land. That is was the first Gulf War - Iraq invaded Kuwait for it's oil. That was WWII - Hitler invaded Poland for the land. The Japanese took the Philippines so they could be a colonial power. The Japanese did not invade the Philippines in order to kill every Philippinenian. The Allied forces did not land at Normandy with the aim of killing Germans, they landed there for a political goal. The fact that German soldiers would die was true, but it was not the reason they attacked.

Here in the holy land, the wars declared against the state and the people of Israel had the stated purpose of driving us into the sea. It was not a case of resources that Egypt wanted or oil reserves that Syria felt it had a God-given right to. It was not that Jordan really wanted political control of the area. No, the wars were declared with the stated purpose of getting rid of every Jew in the land. Get them all out, dead or alive.

As such our memorial day looks a little different that those of other countries. No parades, no furniture sales. We have a national day of mourning for our dear brothers and sisters who died saving us from death. What was on the line was not "Who would be in power?" but "Who would live?"
People who told me about their feelings leading up to '67 and '73 remembered thinking that the Egyptians would be at their doors in two days and would kill them all. If it sounds harsh to judge our enemies like this, please remember that these were the stated goals of the wars - "To remove the state of Israel from the map and to kill all the Jews in it."

The soldiers who died in these wars were not fighting on a foreign battlefield for the social rights and freedoms of some other country. They were not ridding themselves of an unjust political oppressor. Those are both noble causes who's warriors deserve every word of praise heaped upon them. But the dead of Israel are different. They fought to keep themselves and their countrymen alive.

The other difference that shapes this day is how personal it all is. The Torah tells us that in Egypt there was no house with out a dead son. In Israel today, everyone knows someone who was killed or someone who's family member was killed. When I am sitting in morning over my dead son I can't appreciate a parade celebrating the liberty and justice he fought for. At best I can reflect on my life that he fought for and saved.