Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just the Way You Are

There’s a song which I admit I only know because it was at the end of the movie Shrek, (back from when I watched movies) that goes, “Don't go changing, to try and please me, You never let me down before…I love you just the way you are.” The song was composed by Billy Joel, and yes, I had to look that up cause I had no clue, so I apologize if any of you are Billy Joel fans and you can now shake your heads at me disapprovingly. Anyway, I was thinking about the words to this song when I was thinking about how a number of my friends and people who I know go on diets and start to lose weight before they started dating. Some of the friends were very overweight, but other friends were not really overweight, they just were not skinny. They never tried to lose weight, but just as they entered shidduchim they decided it was time to start.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, most people find overweight people to be less attractive, and guys will pick girls who are skinnier over those who are heavier. So why not do what you can to increase your chances of getting a shidduch? On the other hand, isn’t it supposed to be like the song says- “I love you just the way you are”? Should a person change themselves for someone else? This side of the argument has two aspects. Firstly, isn’t it wrong to change yourself for someone else and shouldn’t they love you just the way you are? Beauty is the eye of the beholder, and some people are attracted to those who are a little heavy- I can name plenty of overweight people who are married and were overweight their entire lives, even on their wedding day- both guys and girls.

Secondly, the bottom line is that many people who lose weight often gain it back. So I feel like that’s almost “tricking” the guy in some sense. Now they are skinny so the guy falls in love with them, but after the wedding they’ll probably go back to being overweight, and it's too late, the guy already married them, so he's "stuck" with them. I guess the thought process is that after you know a person and love them for who they are, then if they change physically you see past that and still remember how beautiful they were when you met them, so if they are overweight now you’ll still be attracted to them, because your love is so strong. But when you first meet you need that attraction in order to develop the relationship, so looks matter more.

I think the general view of people who lose weight before they start dating is that it’s a good thing. But what about other changes for the sake of getting married? Where is the line between what’s Ok to change for getting married and what changes need to come from you and be about your personal decision to change regardless of whether it will help you get married or not?

For example: Let’s say a guy decides to start going to minyan every day or starts learning every day so that when people ask him if he is Kovea Itim or if he goes to Minyan he can say yes? Let’s say a girl decides to start dressing more Tzniusdic to attract a certain type of guy? Let’s say a guy is completely not shomer negiah but decides to become shomer for dating? I know I would not want to date a guy like that! Let’s say someone quits smoking or stops watching TV?

I think that if any of those things have been a goal on your list of things that you’d like to accomplish, then perhaps using dating as a chance to be the person you want to be or as an incentive to improve yourself in the areas you wanted to change before, then that might be acceptable. If you always wanted to lose weight, and trying to look good for dates is the extra push you needed, then great! But if you never wanted to give up those things, if you’re only doing it to impress people, then it’s not real, and you’re just going to go back to your real self later, so don’t be fake. Because in the end you’ll be resentful that you have to maintain a certain lifestyle that you never really wanted.

Another thing to think about is the line “I love you just the way you are.” When I first heard the line, although it sounded beautiful, I was also thinking that if a guy ever said that to me I would say, “But what if I change? Does that mean you won’t love me anymore?” Does “I love you just the way you are” mean I love you only the way you are? People change. I look back at who I was a few years ago and I was such a different person then. There is always a part of you that stays the same, but how couples have to realize the fact that who they are when they get married is not going to be the same in 50 years, or maybe even in 5 years. In some ways it’s more beautiful to say, “I love you just the way you are, but my love is unconditional and I’ll love you even if you change.”

I remember when it was towards the end of my year in Israel, and I had changed as a person in ways that I never even considered. I had expected to grow religiously, and I did, but my personality changed, too, and I wasn’t expecting that. I remember a phone conversation with my parents where I expressed my worry that maybe they wouldn’t like the new me. I still remember them telling me that they love to watch me change and they are always happy with each new person I become.

So: What do you think? What changes are OK to make solely for the sake of dating and which things are not? When is it OK to change for someone else? How do you reconcile the idea of loving someone for who they are with the idea of loving someone no matter who they become?

Monday, July 26, 2010

About the Statement

I was recently made aware of a statement that was put out last Thursday by a large number of Orthodox Rabbis entitled, “A Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community.”

If you have not read the statement, I recommend reading it, because it was very interesting. My thoughts on it are that it was clearly very well thought out and it says exactly what needed to be said. I think a statement about homosexuals in the Orthodox community needed to emphasize two things: 1. Halacha, that acting on homosexual attraction is wrong, and 2. Acceptance- that we need to accept individuals who have a same-sex orientation who are not openly violating Halacha. I think the statement emphasized both of those points very well.

What surprised me the most about the statement was actually the 5th point, which stated straight out that often therapy is not affective in changing a person’s sexual orientation and that therapy should not necessarily be encouraged. I thought that was a brave statement, considering that in the past most Orthodox authorities have followed the view that homosexuality is a Yetzer Harah and one can fight it and change it. I actually thought that myself, until I watched the eye-opening movie Trembling Before G-d, a documentary about homosexuality in the Orthodox community. The documentary really changed how I viewed the issue, and I realized that most frum gay people do not want to be gay, and would try to change it if they could, and many have tried.

The point that I liked/agreed with the most was point #10, which stated that Judaism is not “all or nothing” and that everyone has different challenges. No one is perfect, everyone has a Yetzer Harah, and even if someone does something wrong, that doesn’t mean to give up Torah entirely. This is also the reason I like the blog Another Frum Gay Jew, because the blogger who writes the blog accepts the fact that he is gay, while at the same time keeping his commitment to Halacha. It was interesting to read his view on the statement that came out, since my first thought when I read the statement was, “I wonder what frum gay Jews think of this statement.” I was glad to see that he supported it, since some people thought that it wasn’t sufficient. I would be curious to hear opinions of people against it, since I haven’t heard any yet, and I’m sure there is bound to be someone who objects to some part of it.

I think that all we can ask of gay Jews is the same thing we ask of all Jews, to keep Mitzvot as best as they can and to not violate Halacha, even if it’s a struggle and really hard. I believe that Hashem gives everyone their own set of Nisyonot/tests as part of their mission and purpose in this world, and that Hashem doesn't give anyone a challenge that they are incapable of dealing with. The video Trembling Before G-d, which I watched at a class in Stern College, really awakened me to the pain and struggles of those frum Jews with a same-sex attraction. I think when we see older singles who haven’t been able to find their spouse, we are sad for them because they haven’t found true love, someone to have a romantic relationship with, which is the ultimate of relationships. Just imagine being told from the beginning that all chances of having that relationship are gone. That’s what being gay and frum means. Your sexual orientation means that you will never have a romantic relationship with the opposite gender, and Halacha tells you that you are forbidden to have a complete romantic relationship with someone from the same gender. So you’re stuck. That is the most painful thing in my mind, and that is what I felt ever since I saw that video.

The reason this new statement is so necessary and so great is that frum gay Jews have enough of a struggle as it is. We need to do everything we can to support them and at least allow them to be a part of our community. They have three choices: 1. Go off the Derech and forget Torah Judaism, 2. Fight being gay and try therapy to change something that in most cases (not all, but most) cannot be changed or 3. To accept themselves and still keep Halacha, to struggle every single day with feelings that contradict everything they believe, while holding on to their faith. To those who choose that last option, I say, Wow. That is not an easy path. It requires so much strength and courage. We need to support such individuals, and that’s what this statement says.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Things I wish I knew, Part 2

I’d like to add a fourth rule to my three rules of shidduch dating that I wish I knew before I started dating. Rule #4 is luckily not something that is necessarily so difficult for me, but I find myself reiterating it to friends over and over. The list is more of a general “things people should be told before they start dating” that even if we know them, for some reason aren’t laid out.

To review the three previous rules:
1. Don’t get your hopes up.
2. Don’t take rejection personally.
3. Remember that Hashem is the only shadchan.

Rule #4: Don’t compare yourself or your situation to anyone else or their situation. This is true in general in life, but often we need to be particularly reminded of this in dating. On the list of “no one ever told me” is the fact that every single person’s dating experience is different. Everyone has their own struggles, so don’t go wishing you were in someone else’s shoes. Here are a bunch of real life examples. In each case the problem and the opposite problem are just as bad:

There are the daters who always get dumped and always feel that they are the ones being rejected. Then there are the daters who everyone seems to fall in love with and are always the ones doing the dumping. Each time they have to break another heart it pains them; they are kind and despise always hurting people.

There are the daters who constantly find that they are stuck in "droughts", who rarely get set up. Then there are the daters who are overwhelmed with suggestions and would love to have a break every now and then. There are also daters who constantly get set up, but each time it’s completely not shayach and goes nowhere.

There are the daters who are constantly rejected because of their physical appearance, who complain that the more attractive people have it the best, and then there are the super attractive people who are frustrated that the only reason people agree to go out with them is because of their attractiveness. They wonder how many would say yes if they had a different appearance.

There are the daters who watch their younger siblings get married and have children, and there are the daters who watch their younger siblings follow in the same path of difficulties with dating.

There are the daters who date for a very long time before finding the right one, and there are people (who I won’t even call ‘daters’) who happen to meet the right person before they are ready to get married and suffer because they have found the right one and want to get married, but for whatever reason cannot. There are those who marry the first person they date, only to feel like an outcast from their friends and though they’ve gained a spouse, they lose their friends.

The bottom line is that everyone has a different dating experience, and we shouldn’t look at other people’s experience and say, “Hey, why can’t my situation be like that person’s?” That’s not how life goes. That’s not how it goes in any other area of life either. Some people have it easier than others, or at least they appear to. I have yet to meet someone who says, “Dating? Piece of cake! All smooth sailing! Not complicated at all.” People go through different things and deal with it in different ways. And that is perfectly OK.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't Give Up!

Every stop on the Jewish calendar is a chance for reflection. Now that Tisha B’Av is over, I was thinking about how we go from one extreme to the next. We just spent 3 weeks mourning and now we’re on our way to Shabbos Nachamu, and the 7 weeks of reading Haftorahs of comfort, of Hashem telling us that it’s all going to be OK in the end. Interestingly, psukim of comfort can be found within Eicha itself.

Last year on the night of Tisha B’Av, as I was following along closely as Eicha was being read, a passage of Eicha jumped out at me that really surprised me because in the middle of describing the suffering, there are a few psukim of comfort that touched me. If you look at Eicha Perek 3, Psukim 17- 26, you’ll find beautiful psukim that inspired me so much that I was able to turn to those psukum all year ‘round no matter what difficult situation I was in. Here’s the Artscroll English translation of a bunch of the psukim (I highly recommend reading the Hebrew as well):

“My soul despaired of having peace, I have forgotten goodness. And I said, “Gone is my strength and expectation from Hashem.” …Yet, this I bear in mind, therefore I still hope. Hashem’s kindness surely has not ended, nor are His mercies exhausted. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness! Hashem is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him. Hashem is good to those who trust in Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good to hope submissively for Hashem’s salvation, for He has laid it upon him.”

It’s just stunning. It’s almost closer to something I would expect to find in Yeshayahu, although I think the style is more Eicha. It’s a great message. Do you know those times when you just want to give up? Eicha is saying, I give up! I despaired! I’m done! I don’t expect anything from Hashem anymore, there is no hope for me. It’s hopeless! I give up. I give up!

And then Eicha shares with us the secret of how to move past that feeling. What do you do when you want to give up? When you just don’t see how things are ever going to be good ever again? When it’s so bad that you have “forgotten goodness,” even if it’s just in one particular area of life? How do you move past that difficulty and trouble? Then there comes 3:11-13. THIS is what I tell my soul. What do I remind myself? That Hashem is not done giving to me yet. I am alive. Every single day is a new day, and with every single day there is a new chance for Hashem to shower His kindnesses and love upon me. “They are new every morning!” Don’t give up hoping for Hashem to save you from that difficult situation that you’re in. Don’t give up, says Eicha, because Hashem isn’t giving up on you.

And this is just after a few psukim earlier in the very same Perek Eicha cries out, “I am the man who has seen affliction….He has driven me on and on into unrelieved darkness…He has walled me in so that I cannot escape…though I would cry and plead, He shut out my prayer.” He literally feels like there is nowhere to turn, no where to escape, there is no way out. Everything is darkness, he is physically broken. And that’s when He gives up. He despairs. But he is able to turn it around and respond to his soul’s desperation.

I think that’s also an important point. That the way his faith is restored is through himself. Not by others telling him, “It’s going to be OK,” but by him coming to the realization himself. We have that power within us to overcome all of our negative feelings. As much as we want to give up, as much as sometimes things seem hopeless, we have the inner strength inside us to hold on and turn it around.

This was a bit of personal post, but I wanted to share it because it’s been one year since those words inspired me for the first time, and each time I read them, I feel it all over again, because the message is so powerful. No matter what you’re struggling with, don’t give up. Hashem’s kindnesses are new every day. There is always hope.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Great Tisha B'Av Video

Aish.com is one of my favorite websites, and they posted this short video about Tisha B'Av that I highly recommend. I'm a big fan of Charlie Harary (if you've never heard any of his shiurim, definitely check them out) and I never thought about Tisha B'Av this way before.

I hope you all have an easy and meaningful fast and may we all be zoche to the Geula Shleimah with the coming of Mashiach B'Miheira B'Yameinu. Amen.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pressure

When I was in seminary one of my teachers was discussing something, I’m assuming it was Tefillah, and he was trying to give an example of someone whose Tefillot are said with desperation. “Take, for instance,” he said, “the tefillot of a girl who is unmarried at the age of 23.” I was shocked. I had been sure that he was going to complete that sentence with a number more like, say, 29. Or at the very least 25. I remember thinking that while of course I hoped to be married at 23, and so did most girls, I don’t think that 23 is an age old enough to be considered old or desperate when it comes to marriage. Maybe that is old in more Yeshivish communities than mine, but in my social circles getting married at 19 or 20 is considered very young.

In Stern College, for example, the joke is that girls hope to graduate with M.R.S. degrees, but the truth is that the vast majority of students are not married when they graduate. If we say the average age of girls graduating is 21/22, then 23 is not significantly older than that. I would guess about 10% of Stern girls get married before graduation. I think anyone who gets married before the age of 21 is very young to be getting married, not that anyone older than that age is old.

Anyway, I was reminded of this comment made by this teacher in seminary when I was talking to a girl who is having a hard time with shidduchim. At some point in the middle of this conversation she sighed and said, “I guess I should start to accept the fact that I might never get married.” This girl is 23 years old. I was appalled! I was so upset that I might have even been too harsh when I responded. I let her have it. “You’re only 23!” I cried, “And you think you might never get married?? You’re not even old at all! If you’re 35 and you start saying that, Ok, maybe I hear where you’re coming from, but you’re nowhere near that age!” I wanted to shout, "Don't give up! Don't give up!"

This conversation brought me to the conclusion that I think the societal pressure to get married by a certain age has reached a point where it is way out of hand. I mean, what caused her to jump from the fact that she’s dated for a few years and is still single to the idea that she might never get married? She’s 23, but in her mind she might as well be 30. Why? Because others view her situation as sad, the same way they view someone who is 30. Oh, nebuch. Yes, I thought societal pressure to get married was ridiculous before this conversation, but it’s just not fair. Why should a girl feel so hopeless and worthless because she is not married at the age of 23? The pressure comes from all sides, from parents, teachers, and even peers. This attitude of expecting girls to get married before 23 or even earlier, can be destructive, especially if the girl doesn’t start dating until 19 or 20 which is a normal time to start dating. Quick! You have 1 year to find your bashert! Go!

So how do we change this attitude? I think there should be more emphasis on finding the person at the right time and not ASAP. When citing an age of a girl who is desperate for a shidduch, please say an age that is older than 23. Is it sad if a person never marries? Yes, that is sad. Is it sad if a person marries at the age of 25? No! That is not sad. It’s sad that they suffered so many years before that time when they were searching for the right person and were unmarried, but the reason they suffered is because everyone told them they should be married at the age of 21. It should not be looked upon as sad if someone doesn’t get married before they are 23.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Droughts"

We singles love to complain about bad dates. To share crazy stories of what outrageous, weird, inappropriate, or just plain odd thing our date did or said. Dating is awful, we whine, can’t I just get married already? It’s a challenging situation, no doubt. But equally or possibly even more difficult are what I have nicknamed “droughts,” the short or sometimes long periods of times- weeks or even months- when we don’t go on any dates at all. To go along with the “when it rains it pours” metaphor which describes the times when one person suggests a shidduch for you and then suddenly you have numerous other suggestions, a “drought” is when your dating life begins to resemble a dessert comparable to the one mentioned in Tehillim 63, “Eretz Tziah V’Ayef Bli Mayim.” If you go with the mashal of being “in the parsha,” then it kind of feels like you’re stuck in the parsha which contains Az Yashir, where there are huge empty spaces/breaks between each phrase. In my experience this happens more frequently to girls than it does to guys, perhaps because some guys have lists, but either way it is one of the tough aspects of dating.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of experiencing a “drought,” and are wondering why it’s such a challenge, let me explain what it feels like. Every time a friend bombards you with another bad date story in your head you are rolling your eyes and thinking, “Well, at least you went out on a date.” But then you hear how bad the date was and although you wish you had a date, part of you is thankful that at least you didn’t have to spend a couple of hours in agony suffering through a bad date. But if all your friends who are dating are having positive experiences, then it’s tough. This difficult time might even lead you to declare dramatically, “I’m never going to go on another date again! I’m never going to get married!” Even though you know it’s not true, you just want someone to jump in and comfort you and tell you that you have nothing to worry about. (Ok, maybe that’s just a girl thing :)) But then of course there’s eventually some “rain fall” and maybe all the sudden out of the blue two or three or four people have suggestions for you and you wish they could have spaced it out so you’re not bombarded all at once.

There are two main challenges with “droughts.” The first is that for some reason the more dates you or go on, the more it feels like you’re closer to getting married. This comes from a big misconception, but for some reason most people feel this way. It’s kind of like the lottery. People assume that the more tickets they buy, the greater their chances are of winning the lottery. So the more people you date, the more likely one of them is bound to be the right person, right? Statistically and mathematically it is true that your chances are greater of winning the lottery are greater if you have purchased more tickets. However, many people say that if Hashem wants you to win the lottery then you will, so you should only buy one ticket, and if He doesn’t want you to win the lottery then it doesn’t matter how many tickets you bought, you won’t win the lottery.

Whether you subscribe to that notion or not, the same logic applies to shidduchim. You are only looking for ONE person. It doesn’t matter how many dates you have. You could go out with 3 people in 5 years or you could go out with 100 in one year. If Hashem doesn’t think the time is right for you to find your shidduch, then you won’t get married, no matter how many dates you go on. But for some reason if I haven’t gone on a date in a long time, it feels like my chances of getting married are much lower. I feel like I should be buying more lottery tickets to up my chances. This is completely illogical and once you realize that this is a misconception, it changes your perspective completely.

The second reason that “droughts” are tough is that it’s easy to feel that there’s something wrong with you. Why are others going on so many dates, while you have no dates? Is there something wrong with you that no one wants to set you up?

So, how does someone deal with not dating, with “droughts”?

Well, I can only say what works for me, and there are three ways. The first one is summed up best in the phrase, “Yeshuat Hashem KiHeref Ayin.” This is a phrase that I love for many reasons, but applied to this situation it means that at any second your state of not having any dates could change. “Droughts” are related to Az Yashir in more than just the layout of the text, but the content of the story as well. B’nei Yisrael looked in all directions and there was nothing, there was no way out. They were stuck. They thought they’d never get out of this. But Moshe says, “Hityatzivu U’Riu et Yeshuat Hashem.” Just wait! You’ll see Hashem is going to save you. That’s true for B’nei Yisrael then, and it’s a message that’s true for us now.

Maybe it looks like there’s no more dates in sight. As Shades of Grey wrote in this post, have some patience. You’ll get there. Maybe it has been a while since you’ve gone out on a date, but you’ll go out on one again, eventually, even if it’s not for a while. This is all assuming that you’ve put in your proper effort. You can’t just sit there and expect a miracle- even Hashem waited for someone to jump into the Yam Suf before splitting the sea. Once you’ve done what you can do, then is the time for patience.

The second way to deal with “droughts” is to realize that there is an end in sight. This coping strategy can be explained if you look at how to deal with pain in general. One method of dealing with pain involves focusing on the fact that the pain is temporary and will go away. Pain is unbearable if you think that it is never going to end or go away. If someone says, “This is going to hurt,” you wonder for how long. If someone says, “This is going to hurt for 10 seconds,” then it’s much easier to deal with because you can focus on what life will be like after those 10 seconds are up. Dealing with pain involves realizing that you will heal and that the pain will go away one day. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you focus on that light instead of on your current situation, then it’s a lot easier. A runner who is running a race thinks, “Almost there, almost there, just keep going.”

The third method of dealing with the challenge of “droughts” is to realize that you have been given the gift of time to reflect. If you’re going on date after date after date without a break, then you don’t have time to think things through. “Droughts” are a great time to step back and reevaluate. Is what I said I’m looking for really what I’m looking for? What have I learned from previous dates about myself and what I’m looking for that can help me in the future? These are important questions, and it’s good to have time to see what you can learn. I don’t mean that you should over analyze every detail of every date you’ve ever been on, because that is not healthy. But using the break to gain some perspective can be more productive towards finding a shidduch then going on a lot of dates that go nowhere.

Another positive side of “droughts” is that they help you appreciate going out on a date. Kind of like the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” idea, or like the feeling you get when you’ve been on a diet for a long time and then you bite into that first piece of cake.

To sum up, dating is tough, but not dating is even harder. Know that Hashem can save you at any second and also that this difficult time is only temporary; it has an end to it. Take the time to re-evaluate who you are and what you’re looking for. And when it finally rains, you’ll appreciate it and enjoy it that much more.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ahavat Chinam

As Rosh Chodesh Av and the 9 days approach, it’s time to step back to focus on why the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed and what we can do to bring Mashiach. We all know that the reason we’re still in Galut is because of Sinat Chinam, of Jews hating other Jews for absolutely no reason at all. Because of how they dress, because “they’re just not my type,” just to name two. To fight this we have to love all Jews, even if we believe they are completely wrong or if we don’t approve of their approach.

So with that, I’m reposting a revised version of my suggestions from this post when I wrote about Ahavat Chinam, the opposite of Sinat Chinam, back during Sefira. These suggestions are about working with Jews we have a personal interaction with. I am definitely not claiming to have mastered any of these, and I wish I was on the high level of keeping all of these. But it’s something to think about and work on. May we all fill our hearts with love for our fellow Jews and may this be the last Tisha B’Av that we have to fast, and may we be zoche to the final redemption, Bimiheira Biyamenu Amen!


10 suggestions for Kavod HaBriyot and Ahavat Chinam:

1. Always judge people favorably. The famous source for this is in Pirkei Avot. This doesn’t mean that you should always assume that a person is doing something good. Sometimes people make mistakes or don’t make the right choice. No one is perfect, we still we are good even when we mess up. Judging favorably means judging a person to be a good person, even if they do bad things. If you see your friend doing something wrong, you assume they messed up. Just because you see someone doing something wrong once, doesn’t mean they are a bad person.

2. Accept them for who they are. Don’t try to change who they are. We can’t change people, as much as sometimes we might want to. Maybe they have an irritating laugh or an annoying habit that bothers us. Hating them for a small reason like that is Sinat Chinam. Hashem created everyone with a unique purpose and He created them that way for a reason. Move past it and accept that is who they are.

3. Treat everyone with honor and respect. Think of how we treat great people or famous people. We would never be rude or say something hurtful to a great Rabbi or a distinguished politician. Try to incorporate that attitude towards everyone.

4. Care about them. V’Ahavta L’Rayacha Kamocha. Love your fellow Jew as you love yourself. I once learned that this means that you should want what’s best for them. If you really care about another person you are happy for them when good things happen to them, and are upset when bad things happen to them.

5. Give to them. Different people need different things from us. For one person it might be listening to them when they want someone to talk to, and for another person it might be giving charity. While it’s obviously impossible to give to everyone in the world, when opportunities to give to others arise, our immediate reaction should be, “Sure!” or “I wish I could,” instead of “They aren’t part of my social circle” or “They aren’t as frum as/ they are more frum than I am, so why should I give to them, if they don’t give to me?”

6. Overlook people’s faults. This is really hard (at least for me) because often we are critical and certain people’s faults seem to be staring us in the face even when we try to look away. Remember that it’s not our job to correct other people’s flaws; it is only our responsibility to fix our own flaws. If this seems impossible, remember that we often do this for friends and family. Although we are perfectly aware of their flaws, because they are family or because they are our friends, we ignore that and maintain a relationship with them anyway.

7. Focus on their positive aspects. Although this might seem remarkably similar to the previous item on the list, the truth is that even if you overlook someone’s faults, you might still not realize what an amazing person they are. Everyone has positive qualities, and there is something to be learned from everyone.

8. Realize that they have difficulties in life. This item on the list is probably the first original one. I find that I see people in a completely different light once I think about this point. Sometimes we forget that people are struggling with their own issues, and perhaps that is the cause of their negative behavior. We jump to the conclusion that because they act a certain way it is because they are a certain type of person. We never know a person’s struggles or what their life is really like.

9. Believe in them, in their strength and their ability/potential to be great. Hashem created every human being for a reason. Each person has a unique person and each person has the potential to achieve greatness. The way you approach people and the way you treat people will be different if you realize that they could become a Tzadik/Tzadeket one day. Even if right now they are not on the highest spiritual level, even if right now they don’t keep Torah or Mitzvot, they can always do Teshuva and become great.

10. Be forgiving and let things go.
Sometimes people insult or offend us and we are hurt and out of stubbornness insist on holding on to it and constantly bring it up. “Why should I trust you to be on time this time? Last time you were 45 minutes late!” It’s really tough to try to start a clean slate with someone if they haven’t had the best track record in the past. Even if they haven’t apologized, let things go.


How do you try to work on loving all Jews? I would love to hear more suggestions.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dating Dilemmas

No matter what your shidduch dilemma is, there seems to be someone who can come up with a story to prove why it’s possible that you and your date will end up married. We have all heard these types of stories with happy endings. Here are some examples:

“I know a couple who went out and he/she was not attracted to her/him at all. The shadchan somehow convinced him/her to continue dating her/him, and now they are married.”

“I know a couple who went out and then broke up. Then later on he/she realized that they missed the other person and they got back together. Now they are married.”

“I know a couple who had a terrible first date. Their personalities did not go well at all and neither wanted to continue. There was a miscommunication with a shadchan and they ended up going out again. Now they are married.”

There are many more examples that you could probably think of. In all cases, the person telling you the story will assure you because this happened to someone, it could happen to you. These types of stories also make shadchanim feel that it is Ok to push you to continue dating. Because clearly you don’t really know what you really want or what you’re really looking for.

But the bottom line is that these are just examples, and the number of times that they happen is probably a similar number to the amount of times that they don’t. How many times does a terrible first date actually predict the fact that the relationship is going nowhere? And no one wants to be the victim of a “pity second date,” even if you try your best to hide it and are successful at doing so.

What’s my point? Don’t let anyone guilt you into doing something you don’t want to do. It’s important to have mentors and people to discuss dating with and get advice from, but those people should be experienced and have your best interest at heart. They should be the ones you listen to. Don’t let others pressure you- to say yes or no. Ask for advice when you need it, but for the most part, trust yourself. Know yourself and trust yourself. And don’t let people push you around with these stories.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lesson Learned

A while ago I wrote about issues keeping kosher in my office. Well, I learned my lesson and figured out how to deal with this issue. Last week I had another lunch meeting, which I found out about two weeks ago via email. As soon as I got the email I immediately replied back asking politely that they let me know where they plan to get the food from as soon as they know. I figured this way I wasn’t asking them to do anything differently than they normally did just for me, but this way I could look up the restaurant before hand to see if it is kosher (which was part of the problem last time- I had never heard of the place they got food from).

A few seconds after I sent the email my phone rang and it was the woman who had sent out the email. “Why do you need to know where we’re getting food from?” she demanded. She is not usually the harsh type so I was surprised by her harsh tone, but I calmly responded, “Well, I would just like to make sure it’s kosher.”
“But we always get kosher!” she insisted. She sounded very confused. Oh boy. Here we go. Time to try to explain.

“Well, um, there are different standards/levels of Kosher and I just wanted to be sure since last time I didn’t know.” I answered. “Is that a problem?”

“No,” she said, “that’s fine. I’m not sure where we’re ordering from yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.”

“Thanks!” I replied, “I would really appreciate that.”

She was true to her word and got back to me a few days before the meeting. Luckily it was a kosher place that I had heard of and I really like their food. I thanked her again and breathed a sigh of relief. I attended the meeting and enjoyed the food along with my coworkers. I don’t know what I would have done if she had told me the name of a place that did not have reliable hashgacha, but I probably just would have said OK, and not eaten anything and brought my own lunch like I usually do. But then I would have been bombarded with questions during the meeting as to why I wasn’t eating. So it’s a good thing it all worked out OK! Lesson learned.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I'm just going to *know*

Solely In Black and White posed the question in this post, “How do you know if you’ve found the right one?” Maybe I'm crazy, but I have this idea stuck in my head that when I meet the right person, I'm just going to *know.* I'll have some sort of feeling of "Yup! This is him!" A feeling of “There is something right about this. This is meant to be. This is the person I am supposed to spend the rest of my life with.” I might not have this feeling on the first date or the second date or even the third date, but fairly early on. Perhaps it's because I am spiritual-minded, but I think if two souls are meant to be together, shouldn't they sense it in some way, on some level?

People have told me that doesn't happen like that and I shouldn't expect to feel that way. They say you don't just *know* and it's a decision you have to make. You’ll never be 100% sure and at some point you just have to take the plunge. But for some reason I have this crazy idea in my head, I suppose because I am quick to develop strong gut feelings about people. I’ve met couples from both camps- those who claim that they “just knew” and those who weren’t 100% sure. I don't think this happens to everyone, but I think it will happen to me. Some people don’t know right away, and that’s OK, just for some reason I have this idea in my head that I will know.

A teacher of mine once said that some people know they’ve met the right person faster than others, and it depends on what type of person you are. She compared it to going clothes shopping. Some girls (and guys for that matter!) are the type to walk into a store and take forever to pick out an item to try on. Once they get to the dressing room they spend forever looking at themselves in the mirror trying to decide, "Do I like it? Maybe I do. Actually, no I don't. Should I get it? I don't know. What should I do? I kind of like it, but I kind of don't. Uch, I'll just get it! No, wait, maybe not!" Those types of girls should not expect making decisions to be any different when it comes to dating. It may take them some time to figure out if it's right or not. I, however, am part of the other category of girls. I walk into a store and within 2 seconds and a quick glance I can tell you if there is any possibility of whether I'll find something I like or not. When I try on an item, it usually takes me one glance in the mirror to know if I want to buy it or not. That's just how I am. I'm a fast shopper.

Let me just clarify that this does not mean I intend to get engaged after a week or only a few dates. Just because I think I *know* pretty fast, doesn't mean that I want to necessarily want to jump into marriage that fast. Even if I *know* it's the right person, I'll still want to spend time getting to know the person before I agree to spend the whole rest of my life with them. The "I *know*" feeling isn't enough to base a big decision on, and it could be wrong. I definitely think I could have that “I *know*” feeling with someone who turns out not to be the right person. Going back to my puzzle piece theory, (that everyone has a limited number of people out there who they could marry. That number is greater than 1, but less than, say, 10) it could happen with one of those people who has the potential to be marriage material, but the circumstances aren’t right. But I still think it will happen with the right person.

Ironically, I’m posting this because I’m very open to being proven wrong. I think it would be completely OK if when I meet the right person I completely don’t know at all. I’m ready to stand up and say “Remember back when I was young and na├»ve and had this crazy romantic idealistic idea? Well, real life isn’t like that.” I’m ready to jump aboard the ship of those who claim such a feeling is unreal and is just a crazy dream. I’m ready to be proven wrong- I’ll be equally happy if I can proclaim, “See?! I told you I would just *know*!” or if I proclaim, “Silly me! Look how wrong I was!”

Yet, it’s one of those ideas that I have in my head. That I’m just gonna *know,* I’m just going to know.

Food for thought: How do you think you’ll know when you met the right person?