Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Great Song

I really love this song, words from Tehillim 130, composed and sung by Israeli artist Udi Davidi.

Tehillim 130 is ne of the most famous chapters of Tehillim, which is often said during times of crisis and for sick people. Not only are the words beautiful, with themes of calling out to Hashem, asking for forgiveness, and expressing hope in waiting for Hashem’s kindess, but many recent artists have put beautiful tunes to different verses. I can name tons of songs whose words come from this mizmor. There are two other songs called “Mimaamakim” that I enjoy, one by Idan Raichel, which is quite famous, and the other by Aryeh Kuntsler. The Aryeh Kunstler song seems to have inspired the name of his entire first album as well, “From the Depths.”

The Chevra 3 has two songs from this perek: a stunning rendition of Verse 3 and 4 called “Im Avonos,” (featuring a boy from Yeshiva Boys’ Choir who hits the highest note I’ve ever heard a kid reach) and “Yacheil” which is also pretty good. Another song from this perek, psukim 5-6, that I have always loved is the song “Kivisi” from the first Shalsheles CD, and Shalsheles put another song to verses 1-2 called, “Shir Hamalos,” on their fourth CD. I am sure you can probably think of at least one song that I am missing.

So when I heard there was yet another song called “Mimaamakim,” I admit I was slightly skeptical. Not again! Can’t Jewish artists put words to other less well known words? But apparently there is just no way to go wrong with this mizmor. When I first heard this song by Udi David, I fell in love. The tune fits the words so well, as it sounds like he is singing from the very bottom, the very depths, of his soul. What makes this song beautiful is when I listened to it when I was sad because it expressed how I felt. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!

Tehillim - Psalms - Chapter 130

1. A song of ascents. From the depths I have called You, O Lord.
2. O Lord, hearken to my voice; may Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3. O God, if You keep [a record of] iniquities, O Lord, who will stand?
4. For forgiveness is with You, in order that You be feared.
5. I hoped, O Lord; yea, my soul hoped, and I wait for His word.
6. My soul is to the Lord among those who await the morning, those who await the morning.
7. Israel, hope to the Lord, for kindness is with the Lord and much redemption is with Him.
8. And He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

Monday, January 24, 2011


One after another
Every minute
One hundred voices
Ask me why
I messed up.

I am not perfect
I make mistakes
And I am sorry
That you cannot
Forgive me for that.

Harsh tones
As though I’m dirt
Not worth being nice to.

I can’t fight
One hundred

But worst of all
Is that
I let these words
Get to me.

Setting off
An unbreakable chain
Of negative vibes.
I despise the person who
I allow myself to become

Where is my humility?
Why do I allow one small prick
To poke such a large hole
In my ego.
I know
That I am better than that.
Even if no one else knows.

Being that person who is not me
My negative mentality
To swallow me like
Invisible prison walls
Unable to break free.
Walls Ceiling Floor Walls
Search for door, windows.

Can’t breathe
The air around me is stifling
Escape outside.
Cold air
Fresh air
Breathing, gasping, sighing.


Courage rises
Strength increases
Tension relaxes
Relief exploding
Guilt fades
Determination grows

Until the one hundred voices
Asking me why I messed up
Receive their answer
I am human and imperfect
But I will not stop striving
All of those voices
Are silent and disappear.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Video: Why we have too few women leaders

I recently saw this video, which was originally posted on TED:

To sum up the key points of the video:
• We women are lucky; we don’t live in the world of grandmothers where career choices were limited.
• We have a problem: Women are not making it to the top of a profession anywhere in the world.
• Women face a choice: Professional Success vs. Personal Fulfillment (in the home)
• How do we change the numbers at the top how do we make this different? Here are some messages to tell women who choose to work:
1. Sit at the table
Women underestimate their own abilities.
Women do not negotiate for themselves in the workplace.
Men attribute success to themselves, and women to the external factors. The attitude of “I’m awesome” vs. “ Well, someone helped me.”
No one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side.
2. Make your partner a real partner
If a woman and a man both work outside the home and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of house work and three times the amount of child raising.
We put more pressure on men to succeed than women.
We have to make it important job to stay home.
Couples who have equal responsibility in work and home have a lower divorce rate.
3. Don’t leave before you leave.
Don’t plan extra time for yourself that you think you’re going to need for a family before you’re at that stage yet.

I thought this video made some very good points. The funniest part is that the story she told about the man who didn’t know where the women’s bathroom was, actually happened to me a few days after I watched the video! I was in my office and a man from a different office in the building- who had moved in less than a year ago, but more than 6 months ago- came knocking on our door and asked where the women’s bathroom was. I had just seen this video, so of course the first thing that came into my head was, “Are you telling me that you have never had a woman in your office before?”

One point that I had never thought about before but I think is very upsettingly true: “Success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.” In my previous post about feminism, I wrote about some of the problems that feminism caused. This is one of them. The character traits that a person needs to be successful in their career- confidence, aggression, outspoken- are not necessarily qualities that people like in women. Women should not have to choose between being liked and being successful in their career.

Another thing that jumped out at me was the point she made about women having low self-esteem/not being confident enough, while men develop big egos if they do something right. While this is obviously not true of all women and all men, I also think that there are pros and cons to everything. The attitude of "I'm awesome" has the potential to lead to arrogance or looking down on others. Confidence is a positive trait, but arrogance is a negative one. Having a low self-image is bad, but recognizing and appreciating others who helped you is great. Her point was that women need to change in order to be successful, but I’m not sure that I would draw the same conclusion.

Both these two points- that women have to choose between being liked and being successful, and that women lack confidence in the work place- come down to the fact that characteristics that are natural to women do not work well in the work place. Instead of trying to change women, perhaps we need to change the nature of the work place. Both of those seem equally difficult. Perhaps we need to tailor the workplace so that the women’s characteristics are used in a positive way. Men and women each have qualities that come naturally to them, and those have the potential to be used in a positive or a negative way. Instead of women trying to be men to be successful, women need to figure out how to be successful using the traits that they have.

Anyway those were some of my thoughts on the video- what did you think?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Views on Feminism

I have been thinking about writing a post about my views on feminism for some time now, and I recently saw a video that related to women/feminism that I wanted to share and write about, so I figured now would be a good time to express my views before sharing that post.

How do you define “feminist”? If “feminist” could simply be defined simply as a person who believes that men and women are equal, then all people in the world should really be feminists. However, the word “feminist” often has different connotations to different people, which leads to different approaches and associations with the word. To some, “feminist” refers to a person who believes that women should try to be like men.

Outline of my views on feminism:

Men and women are equal. The word “equal” seems to confuse people. This does NOT mean that they are the same. When I say men and women are equal, I mean that they are equal in their value as human beings and deserve to be treated equally and fairly. Again, equal does not mean the same. Sometimes in fact, it is more equal to treat people differently than to treat them the same.

Men and women are different- physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally etc. Men are better than women in some areas, and women are better than men in some areas. If you take a group of men and a group of women, you will find differences. This does not mean that they are not equal, and it also does not mean that you won’t find exceptions.

Why Feminism was needed to begin with:

Two hundred years ago:
1. Women could not vote
2. Women could not be hired for many jobs, were confined to the home, and therefore financially independent on men.
3. Women were abused, and were viewed and treated as sexual objects, a possession to men.

The good news is that Feminism solved some of these issues. The bad news is that not only did it fail to solve some things, it also created new issues.

What Feminism got right:

• Women today have the right to vote. While this may not seem like a huge deal, it really is because in a democracy every person should have a say about who is in charge and making the laws.
• Feminism opened up career opportunities for women. It is a problem for women to be financially dependent on men and not be able to earn a living because all people should be free to make their own choices and be independent. Let’s say a woman is being abused by her husband. If she has no money, then she cannot leave because she will have no way to pay for anything.
• Women today also have more educational opportunities- they can now go to college etc.

What Feminism got wrong:

• In my opinion, the main thing that feminism got wrong is that it kind of messed things up for women in that we took on too much. There are two areas: The work place and the home. It used to be that men were in the work place and women were in the home and everything was evenly split. Then feminists decided to take on women being in the work force, but the problem is that men never took on being in the home more. This creates two problems. The first is women doing twice the amount of work as men, since we have to work and then take care of things at home, where as men just work. And those who “help out” in the home are doing just that- helping out. If work is part of the woman’s domain, then housework should be part of the man’s domain. Secondly, in our society, most homes now need two salaries to pay for things. Feminism got rid of the option for most women of being a housewife. One salary is often not enough. Some women don’t want to work, they prefer being home, but now they need to work because of societal pressure.

• Not all feminists are the same and believe in the same things. Some believe women are superior to men. One thing that some feminists got wrong is that they basically said, “Men have it better. We want to be just like men, and not be women.” That is awful. Hashem created both men and women for a reason and both should be proud to be the gender that they are. There are great things about being a man, and there are great things about being a woman. There are also difficulties that come along with each gender role. Many people today dislike the Feminist movement because it was saying that being a woman is bad and we should just be like men. This type of feminism got it wrong.

• Feminism unfortunately did not completely change the fact that women are viewed as sexual objects. Just take a look at the media, and you’ll see what I mean. I still hope this will change, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going in that direction.


Feminism made it OK for women to do many things or act in ways that were normally things that men did or ways that men acted. However, I would argue that what the world now needs is a Masculinism movement to even things out. Firstly, it should bring men into the home more, since many men do like to cook and take care of their kids, but socially a man being a “housewife” is not accepted while a woman being a career woman is. The second thing that a potential Masculinist movement could do is demonstrated by the following: If a 3 year old girl starts playing with trucks, everyone thinks that’s fine. If a 3 year old boy started playing with dolls, his parents would be immediately concerned and take the doll away. It needs to be OK for the little boy to play with a doll- no, it doesn’t mean he’s gay. It also needs to be OK for men to be able to express their emotions. Socially it is unacceptable for a man to cry in public. That is a problem.

Feminism did a lot for women, but now things are unevenly split. Women have to be superwomen and do everything, while all that is expected of men is to make income.

Feminism and Judaism

I could talk about this one for a very long time, and write pages and pages, but for now I will just mention some interesting points.

The main idea is that Judaism/Torah views women and men as equal, but recognizes that they are different and therefore gives them different roles.

The Torah is respectful towards women and Tznius is a great example of this. While Feminism did not solve the problem of women being treated like sexual objects, the mitzvah of Tznius works to correct this issue. The less a woman is wearing, the more those who view her focus on her body and not on her soul. The more modestly that a woman is dressed, the more she is able to be viewed for who she is. The obvious proof of this is: take a look at women who are lawyers or politicians. They are all dressed modestly. Women who want to be taken seriously, who respect themselves dress modestly. Hashem believes each woman is a princess, and each woman should dress like one and behave like one. Just as a note, each man is a prince and should dress and behave like one too.

Torah Judaism and Feminism don’t quite see eye to eye. Feminism is American in that it is about rights- rights for women, women being able to do everything that a man can- whereas Judaism is about obligations. A modern feminist woman who hears that women do not count for a minyan might say, “Why doesn’t a woman count? Women are just as important as men?” If we examine this from the Torah perspective, we discover that women not counting as a minyan is really the Torah being compassionate towards women. Hashem knows that women have to take care of kids and it’s unfair to require women daven with a minyan. This is not a social reality, it is a physical one. A pregnant woman, or a woman who just gave birth cannot go to shul to daven with a minyan, and it would be unfair to command that she must. When a person is not required to do a mitzvah, we can’t always just opt in when we want. The ten men in a minyan are is ten people with the obligation. Women do not have the same status in terms of their obligation, and therefore cannot be a part of.

Another interesting thought is one that my teacher in seminary pointed out. She noted that it is ironic that many of the frum Jews who oppose feminism are the same ones whose households consist of the man learning in Kollel full time and the woman working. This entire model would not be possible without feminism, which is why women are able to be in the work place to begin with. Just an interesting affect of feminism on Jewish life, which I had never thought about.

The last issue I would like to bring up with regards to Judaism and feminism is that I believe unfortunately we sometimes end up being sexist because we confuse feminism with new changes which is against Torah Judaism because it is all about holding on to tradition. Almost all of the teachers who taught me that feminism is evil, are male. When males say things like “Feminism is a bunch of garbage. Why can’t women just be happy with how things are? Why are you trying to change things?” it is very insensitive. It’s almost like a white person telling a black person (and I say black and not “African American” because almost all of the black people I know are not from Africa!) that racism is all in their mind and what is the problem. The Jewish world today is still learning how to deal with the fact that the roles of women have changed in our society. We must hold on to Halacha and never compromise on what is right and wrong because the most important thing is doing what Hashem wants us to do. That being said, we also have to make sure not to confuse something that is Halacha with something that falls into the category of “this is how they did things hundreds of years ago because it reflected the reality for women of that time.” Halacha does not change, but our minhagim adapt to the times we are in.

So to sum up: Feminism brought about a lot of positive changes for women; it also brought about some negative ones.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why I Won't Settle

So, is it just me or is it impossible to date for more than a year or two and avoid being called picky? Maybe it’s just females who have this issue? Maybe it’s just me? Does everyone who doesn’t find the right person right away get called picky? Maybe I am picky. I don’t think so, though.

There have been times when something someone has said to me implied that perhaps I was being too selective and declining suggestions without a valid reason- sometimes before even going out on a date ("How do you know- you didn't even go out with him!"), or sometimes after only a short number of dates ("How can you know after only __ date(s)!"). I have certain qualifications that are super important to me (around five, in case you were wondering) and if a guy fits those, then I will give them a chance. In pretty much all of those cases I caved in and went on the date or on another date, against my better judgment, and as you can see by the fact that I’m still single, I was right.

Alright, alright, I’m coming off my high horse. Let me quickly get rid of the image you probably have in your head right now, in case I’m painting a picture that makes it sound like there’s tons of guys who are dying to go out with me and I sit in a castle with my nose held high dismissing them one by one. Do not think that is the case at all, as that is quite far from the reality. However, this is not a post about the guys who don't want to date me. No one is blaming me for that. I will say that in terms of the guys I have dated, I would say that about one third of the time the guy was the one to end it, about one third of the time I was the one to do so, and one third of the time it was mutual. What irks people, I suppose, is that sometimes everything seems right and should work, but for some reason it does not. Perhaps that makes me picky. Perhaps I am picky. But if I am, let me at least explain why.

My goal is not to just get married; it is to build a home of Torah with a person with who I love, and who loves me. I would rather not get married at all then end up in a bad marriage, a difficult marriage, or divorced, Chas v’shalom. If it is not the right person, then it’s not worth getting married. If this means I have to wait a very long time, then I will wait.

Trust me; I want to get married very, very, very much. So much that it is painful to be single sometimes. But that doesn’t mean that I will ever give up on my dream of finding true love, or finding someone who I can build a life with because we complete each other and can create so much together. Marriage is about creating, building, growing. “May you BUILD a Bayit Neeman B’Yisrael” we wish to those who are engaged.

Tovim Hashnayim Min HaEchad, writes Shlomo Hamelech in Mishlei. The immense potential that exists when two people come together is much greater than one person all by herself. Two people working together accomplish more than just one. I don’t want to be just me; I want a partner in life.

But not a partner who doesn’t share my goals, my values. Not a partner who I don’t respect. Not a partner who isn’t kind, who isn’t committed to Torah and Hashem and the Jewish people. I am looking for someone who I want to be with, who wants to be with me. Someone I can give to, who I can give happiness to.

I’m not looking for Mr. Perfect. I know that whoever I marry, he will have faults. In fact he better have faults, because I certainly have faults and I would feel too imperfect to be with someone perfect. I also know that he probably won’t be exactly like I expect, and that life will surprise me. I know whenever I find him, we will get into arguments and fights, because life is never smooth sailing. We won’t be one hundred percent happy one hundred percent of the time.

I have faith in Hashem that I will find the right person one day. I try to be as open as I can, but at the end of the day, if there is an obstacle stopping our ability to build a home together, we are not right. Perhaps that makes me picky.

To end off, here is an interesting email that has been making the rounds. Luckily I have never encountered this type of attitude personally, though I have heard of people who are like this, obviously on a less exaggerated scale:

Revelations of a Burnt- Out Shadchan .....

It's so hard to please anyone these days!!!
Here is a partial list of my clients .... I couldn't even get them one date, and that is why I am finally quitting and going into the pickle business.

Avraham Avinu: How can you recommend him to my daughter? Wasn't he involved in a family feud with his father over some idols? Then he left home without a GPS or a viable business plan!

Yitzchak Avinu: His brother is an Arab terrorist!!!

Rivka Imeinu: Sorry, she seems nice but did you hear about her mishpuche??? Her father's a murderer and her brother's a ponzi scam artist... .

Yaakov Avinu: Okay, he sits and learns all day... but his brother is a no-goodnik. And anyway, we heard he has a limp..... .

Leah Imeinu: Her father's a con artist, and she has ophtalmological problems. Maybe it's genetic?

Moshe Rabbeinu: Are you kidding? His parents are divorced! And worse.. they remarried! And we hear he's in speech therapy....

King David: How dare you suggest him to our yichusdike family? Our neighbor Yenti told us that his great-grandmother was a giyoret!!!

Chava: Do you know anything about her family? We never heard of them. No one knows where she came from and she can't come up with any referrals!

Please chevra, judge the person for him/herself - you're going to marry the person, not the family. You're getting married to build your home, not to please your neighbors. And finally, remember that if you are in this world, you are not perfect and neither is your spouse.
(Translated loosely from Arutz Sheva)


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why I love Parshat B'Shalach

All parshiot are great, though perhaps some are difficult to relate to, but every year Parshat B’Shalach really gets to me. An inspirational story with a practical lesson as well. Talk about drama and the suspense. Hashem finally took out B’nei Yisrael from Mitzrayim, they are free to go, only they find themselves facing the biggest challenge yet. I mean, don’t we find that is true in life as well? Just when think we finally got through a tough situation/time and we finally made it out, we find ourselves bombarded with the next challenge, which just seems even more impossible.

We are all so used to the story of Kriat Yam Suf, but can you just imagine what it must have felt like to be there? They are completely and utterly trapped. There is a large body of water in front of them and the Egyptians are chasing them. There is absolutely no where for them to go. For us we’re like, “Well, if you can’t go around it, go through it- go through the water. Just ask Hashem to create a path of dry land for you.” They did not have boats and it must have seemed like there was no way out. Scary thought: Wait a minute. We thought the best thing that could happen to us is to be free from slavery. Now we’re free. What if the freedom that we’ve longed for is actually worse?

New situations can be scary. Sometimes we’re afraid to leave bad situations because knowledge and familiarity is comforting, and jumping into a situation where you don’t know what’s flying can be terrifying, even if you know intellectually that it is better. There is always that fear that perhaps even though it is supposed to be better, it won’t be. So B’nei Yisrael panic for a second. Moshe urges them to hang in there and wait and see the amazing way Hashem is going to save them.

And then, just as they think it is over, that there is nowhere to turn, the naturally impossible happens. Hashem performs a miracle and they walk on dry land through the water. Though Hashem doesn’t perform miracles that defy nature today, we can still learn the lesson that even situations that seem impossible to overcome have a solution. We can always hope and always turn to Hashem.

Another reason I love this week’s parsha is because of the amazing faith of the Jewish people, particularly the Jewish women who prepared musical instruments for the time of redemption. When you’re in a bad situation, you are often stuck in a bad mindset that doesn’t allow you to think about a time when things will be better. Thinking that, “Things will get better, and to prove it, I better get ready for it,” is a great lesson as well.

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories, the origin of which I unfortunately I do not know. The story is told of a town that was suffering a lack of rainfall and the drought was so serious that it was threatening their survival. The community gathered together and prayed, they fasted, and prayed some more. Nothing seemed to be working. Finally, someone from the town approached the Rabbi and begged him to do something. The Rabbi thought for a while and told the entire community to gather together in the field to pray together for rain. Every single person, all men, women, children, gathered together outside at the appointed time. When the Rabbi shows up he looked out at the entire community and asked, “Do you believe that it is going to rain?” “Yes!” they shouted in unison. But the Rabbi asked again, “Do you really, truly, believe that it is going to rain?” Again, they all replied that they did. The Rabbi then asked a simple question, “So, nu, where are all of your umbrellas?!”

Parshat B’Shalach teaches us that Hashem can save us at any moment, no matter how desperate a situation may seem. If we really have faith that Hashem will save us, then we have to show that we are ready for it.

Have a good shabbos!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why You (& I) are Still Single

Why are you and I still single? Let me tell you the one and only reason why. We are single because Hashem decided that it should be that way. If Hashem decides the time is right for you to get married, then you will, and if He decides that it is not the right time, then you won’t. It is as simple as that, and no one can ever know for sure more than that. That is the only reason why someone who wants to get married is not married.

“But,” you might protest, “That is not true. I know why certain people are not married.” All “reasons” that people give for why a person is not married are not valid. And they are all wrong for the same reason: I can find a case to counter that suggestion. Here are some reasons that people give, which I have heard people say.

“He/she is still single because:”

• Not attractive/overweight
• Lacking social skills
• Too picky/ looking for someone perfect that is not realistic
• Too short/too tall/other reason relating to appearance
• Not putting in enough effort
• Not davening hard enough/not enough Tefillot
• Not really ready to get married
• Don’t have a good family/divorced parents etc.
• Too smart/ lacking intellect

If you think about it, none of these really make any sense. Not attractive? I can name plenty of people who are not particularly attractive, who are too short, too tall, overweight, you name it, who are married. Hashem created a soul mate for everyone, and it doesn’t matter how obese a person is, that is not the reason they are not married. I know people who are socially awkward, who are weird, others who are nerds, geeks, those who are so smart that no one understand them, and people from all of those categories have managed to find their partner in life. Those are the easy reasons to refute.

What about someone who is too picky? What about someone who is not ready to get married? That doesn’t seem to stop Hashem. Picky is relative, but picky people get married. Not ready to get married? Not enough effort? What about those people who meet their future spouses in high school? Or even younger than that? They didn’t put in any effort, and they might not be ready to get married, but they have already met the right person. I’m not saying that a person shouldn’t put in effort, of course Hishtadlus is crucial, but there are people who haven’t put in any effort and they find the right person. Additionally, there are those who have put in every ounce of effort that can possibly be expected, who have gone above and beyond what a normal person does, and they still haven’t found the right one.

People with divorced parents get married. People who are divorced, remarry. Those who spend years davening and crying and pouring their hearts out to Hashem, still aren’t married, and those who have barely spoken to G-d find the right one. No one knows why someone is not married, and no one can tell you why you are not married. Only Hashem knows. “Because Hashem said so,” is the only reason. That conclusion might be hard to accept. Why?

I think the reason we like to find reasons why people are not married is that if we can pinpoint it on something, and we don’t have that characteristic, then *phew!* We’re safe. So if she is not married because she is overweight, and we are skinny, then we don’t have to worry that we’ll end up like that. And if she is still single because she is too picky, and we accept every guy we’re suggested, then there is nothing to worry about. If he is not married because he’s socially awkward, then if we’re the coolest person on the planet, we’re safe. If he is still single because he’s doesn’t go to minyan every day or set time to learn, then if we do those things, we are different. There is something separating us from that fate. The feeling of, “Wait, that person is just like me…I could be that person who is still single in x amount of years,” is scary. So we try to avoid it by identifying reasons why that is not true.

Additionally, not knowing why is really difficult. If the problem is unidentified, then there is no way to solve it. If I am not married because I am overweight, then I need to lose weight, and then I’ll get married. If I am still single because I’m not frum enough, then I just need to be more frum, and I’ll be set. That is a dangerous attitude because what if you lose weight or gain social skills or whatever it is, and then you still don’t find the right person? We long so desperately to be in control, but the bottom line is that we’re not. Let me repeat. We long so desperately to be in control, but the bottom line is that we’re not. Ultimately, only Hashem is in control.

However, that does not mean that we have NO control, and that does NOT mean things are hopeless and that there is nothing at all that we can do. We still need to try our best. We need to identify our faults and work on them, and try to grow. We need to put in the effort, and do as much as we can. Why bother if ultimately our actions are not what causes the results? This relates to Hishtadlus in general and not just with shidduchim. A person can try to make money and try to make money, and still never be rich. It is in Hashem’s hands. Why try if it is all up to Hashem.

The answer to this is a quote I once heard: “Without G-d I can’t, but without me G-d won’t.”

I once learned that Hashem designed the world so that we need to put in effort in order to see the results. Ultimately Hashem is the one behind the results, and the test is for us to recognize that things come from Hashem and not because of our own effort. It’s easiest to see Hashem when we put in the most amount of effort, but we don’t get the results we were looking for. If we did everything we could, then it is up to Hashem. When we do get the results, the reason is the same as it was when we don’t get the desired outcome: Hashem.

We have to do our best, but ultimately it is up to Hashem. We cannot judge why one person is married and one person is single, even if it makes us feel better to have a reason because we can separate ourselves from those who in our minds are doomed to be single forever, or even if it makes us feel that we are in control of our life. Knowing that it is all in Hashem’s hands is actually much more comforting, because Hashem loves us and knows what is best for us better than we know ourselves. Hashem’s mercy on us is greater than any human being, and He wants to give to us more than anyone. The fact that Hashem is the reason you and I are still single might be harder to accept because basically that means we don’t know the answer why. But the bottom line is that we don’t know why.

Feel free to disagree, I’m curious to hear other perspectives on this topic.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Writing, Thinking, Happiness

You know, I thought about starting a blog for a long time before I actually started one, and the biggest obstacle standing in my way of staring one was that I kept thinking, “but what in the world will I write about?” Ironically, I never had any problems writing and I was the kid who almost always had to shorten papers for school because they were always over the limit. Sometimes I feel I could write forever and never stop because I have so much to say. The underlying issue was really “what in the world could I write about that I could share with the entire world on the internet?” That is a somewhat harder question. So I figured I would write about things that I’ve been thinking about, situations that have arisen in my life. Once I’d come up with a few good ideas for topics, I figured it was time to jump in.

Except for the fact that the past week I kept thinking, “What are my thoughts? What am I thinking about?” and nothing seemed to come to me. After a couple months with tons of ideas to write about, I seemed to run out of ideas. Everyone hits writers block at some point, and it was hard for me to even write about why it so frustrating to be able not to write. Writing is just an extension of thinking. Which is say that you need to think in order to write. But I often find that I need to write in order to think. Sometimes my thoughts are completely disorganized and I need to put them on paper to organize them and figure out what I’m really thinking. Writing is expressing, and when I attempt to express a thought and it comes out wrong, it pushes me to dig deeper. I kept trying to write to get the juices going, but nothing was coming to me, until I starting thinking again.

Recently I’ve been thinking about happiness and what makes a person happy. Actually, I should delete the word “recently” since happiness is actually something I think about a lot. I was listening to one of the many songs on my iPod to the words: מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד, that it is a mitzvah to be B’simcha always. (As a side note, I once saw an alternate version of this saying that I really liked: שמחה גדולה להיות במצוה תמיד- Being constantly involved in a Mitzvah brings great happiness. What an interesting twist and a great perspective). Anyway, I usually translate the phrase מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד to mean that it is a great Mitzvah to be happy, always, but I realized that linguistically, if that was the correct translation, then it would have said: מצוה גדולה להיות שמח תמיד. Using the term “B’Simcha” instead of “Sameach” denotes not that it is a mitzvah to always be happy, but rather that it is a mitzvah to always be, as I would stay, in a state of happiness.

Being happy versus being in a state of happiness are not the same thing. I don’t think (and I think most people would agree) that it is not good to always be happy. There are times when happiness is not appropriate, such as at funerals, on somber days such as Tisha B’Av, and when others are in pain. However, constantly striving for happiness, trying to always recognize the good in the world, and trying to stay positive, is a goal that should be constant, Tamid. B’Simcha literally means “with simcha” or “in the midst of simcha.” To be always happy is not only a goal that is not desired, but it is also impossible. There will always times when you will feel upset, and being told that you shouldn’t be sad, that you should always be happy, can cause a person to feel guilty for not being happy, and perhaps cause them to try to push the negative emotions out of the way instead of trying to deal with them and work them through.

The point of מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד is that everyone is entitled to feel negative emotions, and at times they are even required. However, it is important to place those feelings in the context of an overall picture and life of happiness. A state of happiness is a general way of life. Some have argued that it is not an ending point, but rather a journey. Maybe we can’t always be happy, but we can always strive to live a happy life.