Friday, February 26, 2010

How Not To Stop Intermarriage

How Not To Stop Intermarriage

Another Aish article on marriage (interesting... a theme!) with an amazing quotation from Professor Alan Dershowitz on his debate with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love, Then What?

Sarah Yocheved Rigler does it again. Another inspiring, humorous, relatable, intellectually satisfying article.

I highly recommend the read, especially to anyone in a relationship.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I have a strange history with some southern ladies I've never met.

Don't worry, I intend to clarify.

In high school, I was very involved (understatement) in forensics. "What?" you ask, wondering what high schooler occupies herself with the examination of crime scenes.

Ohhh... not that kind of forensics. Forensics is the inexplicable moniker that's replaced "speech and debate" since "speech and debate" became "speech (3 or 4 different forms), debate (at least two forms), mock congress, and--get this, artistes--Competitive Acting." Speech and Debate just doesn't suffice.

Anyway, I did the Competitive Acting bit. Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous(ly bad) Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Prose and Poetry. In each, the student would take a book, play or screenplay and cut and paste it into a (hopefully) coherent and (when lucky) interesting 10 minute performance. My speech coach stumbled onto a dusty book called Sidetracked Home Executives. Prone to a dangerous mix of irony and nostalgia, our coach thought we should put together a mildly satirical, ultimately heartfelt DUO based on the authors: classic old-school housewives and their systems and processes to run their homes in a time when a new bundt pan could really rock your socks.

Now, at the time, I had no idea how brainwashed I was being by "progressive feminism and democracy." ...hold on, lemme just pull out the soapbox. Ok, got it....

I was raised believing that women and men were equal. That women could (and should) have the same careers and, basically, lives as men. We should approach relationships the same way (ick), work the same way (ouch), have the same interests and hold marriage and family at the same very low level as (most) men. It didn't occur to me until midway through college that this isn't actually practical. And, more upsetting, many women who were caught up in the early feminism craze have come forward stating that they feel robbed of the opportunity to have a real family.

What did feminism--the way most people understood it--do? It took all the glory out of being a woman. To say that women should work like men is to say that the way women have worked throughout history isn't noble or downright incredible. Well, it is. And now, thank Gd, most feminists are catching on that the whole POINT is to give women the CHOICE.* No, you don't HAVE to be just like a man to be fulfilled. In fact, it's pretty awesome to be a woman. And it's nice to live in a time where jobs are open and women are more respected in the workplace, but really, are men respected in the house? Have we perhaps stumbled upon a bit of a double standard here?

Househusbands of the world unite!

Ok, back to my southern friends....

So, a few years after I am performing Sidetracked Home Executives to teeny tiny audiences on the Forensics circuit, I've landed at NYU's Tisch school and I'm in on a monologue workshop with the amazing Karen Kohlhaas. She's giving her schpiel on Why Actors Need Flylady (definitely worth a read if you haven't heard this!) and so I decide to check out this website. She explains it's a home/life management "system" (sort of) mainly geared towards stay-at-home-moms but particularly crucial for the working actor. So I sign up for her emails and I've been getting them for years now.

It wasn't until a few years in that I realized (you've probably guessed by now) that Flylady IS THE SIDETRACKED HOME EXECUTIVE!!! I've become a devotee of the very woman whose entire life view I thought had gone out with avocado refrigerators! Go figure!

So, hats off to you, Flylady. The "hotspots" are getting cleaned, my "DH" is happy to be no-shirt-for-work-panic free in the mornings, and I introduced the timer to my fifth grade class.

Cheers (you know, Purim's coming!),

* My teacher, Devorah Kigel, gives an amazing series of classes for married and engaged women in which she pointed out the relatively recent story of a female politician who stepped down from her role to spend more time with her family. She was slammed by the feminists, totally denying her her privilege to choose how to prioritize her time!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 4 TV-free

Plans changed quite suddenly and I was really down last night.

Normally, this would have meant curling up to TV or a movie, which we consider "treats."

Instead, we busted out the wine glasses, poured in ginger ale (our poor-man's Moscato), and learned how to make egg rolls.

We could use more practice (namely, we spent the first 7 not realizing we hadn't torn off the sheets fully and were wrapping each roll doubly thick) and Omri valiantly tried to turn beer chicken into a Thai-style stir fry...

But one day, they'll look like this:

Most importantly, we laughed, talked, bonded, and had a much more meaningful experience than 45 minutes to 2 hours of the tube could possibly have provided.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Monday was Day 1 of our Netflix-and-Hulu-free home.
We'd already made the decision when we moved here not to have TV or cable, but we thought Netflix would be a great way to still get a movie in here or there.

But Netflix is much more clever than that. My experience was that Netflix induces this crazy-movie-watching-industriousness. There's ALWAYS a movie there. One you want to watch. And once you watch it, there's another one coming. And you have this LIST to get through, so you better start watching! So we were watching at least one, sometimes two movies a week. That's three hours a week down the drain. Not our initial intention.

So, on Sunday, we nixed Netflix and decided, for good measure, to ban Hulu from our home as well.

The results?

The whole house...

Is clean.

It's a beautiful thing, this TV free life.

We might even take up Scrabble again.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Happy Snow Day! (Good to be a teacher!)

So it's been a while since I've written anything. I was so excited to go in and teach and blog about this exciting challenge. And I'm still interested in doing so. But I'm caught over whether I'm comfortable blogging about that HERE, where, since this blog has history, I'm pretty easily identifiable. Not that I'd ever consider blogging anything to identify my students or anything like that... it's just one of those Haredi grey areas that makes me nervous.

Which pretty much points to exactly what I am trying to learn from my husband. We moved to our town with the express plan to surround ourselves with people one step--or, in most cases, many many steps--ahead of us. The thinking being, if we become complacent in our avodas Hashem we will at worst fall into peer pressure to--what? For him, to make it to minyan. For me, to up my level tzniut. It could be worse. I'd rather be uncomfortable that people would know I keep up to date on some unforgivably bad TV shows than be embarrassed not to be up on the latest fashion trends.

And I think our logic is good. But he seems to have been able to integrate that logic. Yes, he's surrounded by people who are futher ahead, but that's just the end goal. And for now, our avoda is to slowly, steadily progress towards that goal. Not to don the black hat and fool everyone, but to grow to make Hashem proud. Not the neighbors.

Ok, so that's that. Why I haven't blogged, and why this blog still doesn't have a particular slant. Maybe that will keep it boring enough that nobody will bother to stumble upon it and I have nothing to worry about :)

So. The real reason I wanted to write is that I'm finding so many parallels these days between my acting training and Judaism that I wanted to get them down on--well, not paper. To get them down. Or out.

I am, BH, very fortunate to have an amazing phone chevrusa with my old chevrusa from seminary. We are learning Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller and Sarah Yocheved Rigler's book, Battle Plans. I highly reccomend it--and I highly reccommend it in the context of chevrusa learning. Just dont' take mine.

And we reached Battle Plans #45 and 46 which both deal with the issue of "forbidden thoughts." As the authors write, "the Torah prohibits thoughts such as anger, lust, jealousy, hatred, and judgemental reflections."* So, one may ask, now we're supposed to run our thoughts with constant intention? Impossible! Here: don't think about the pink elephant. See? Their explanation of the classical responce evoked many many classes from the Atlantic Theater Company (see if any yogis are out there). In short, the battle plan is to notice you are having a "forbidden thought" and gently and nonjudgementally turn your mind to something else. Suddenly I got another of my Former-Life-Meets-Present-Life lightbulb moments: this is why I had hours and hours of this drilled in my head while in downward dog or deep breathing exercises. Notice your thoughts have strayed, don't judge, and gently turn them back to ____ (your breath, your line, your intention, etc.).

And I let my yetzer hara tell me that I can't stop thinking about the shopping list during davening? Please. I gotta use what skills I have.

Ok, so the Atlantic Theater Company revisited again today. Morning blessings. After various blessings over mitzvot and some mini-Torah study, we start into a string of brachot.

NOTE: This is in no way meant to be an explanation or scholarly understanding of the brachot. Just my thoughts to myself, and to you if they are of any assistance in real kavanah.

"Blessed are You Hashem our Gd, King of the universe, Who...." (and all sorts of things He does). I read once that Jews used to say these brachot as they got up. "Releases the bound," they start to get up, "straightens the bent," they stand up, etc. Here's what I got today...

"...Who straightens the bent."
(This is the hundred times my teachers have encouraged to take up all 5 feet 6 inches of height.)

"...Who spreads out the earth upon the waters."
(This is that crazy movement class where he could see from how I lay on the hardwood floor that I was uncomfortable taking up space--spread out, take up space he kept telling me.)

"...Who has provided me with my needs."
(Ok for some reason this evoked my most powerful AP Psych class--Maslow's hierarchy of needs. For some reason, after some rough years feeling a like I'd been out all night tossed on a wild ocean (or Manhattan, maybe worse) I take great comfort in this: Hashem is reminding me there is a steady roof over my head and food in the refrigerator. I thank Him and acknowledge this is not a given, knowing I have my foundation needs met. I can move up.)

"...Who establishes the footsteps of man."
(Here I see my mom's gentle example. Find your path. Find what you are here to be.***)

"...Who girds Israel with strength."
(Because once you know your path, you need His help to be bold enough to pursue it, no?)

"...Who crowns Israel with splendor."
(This evoked the image of those true do-gooders who hold their heads high, with such grace, already crowned. Our friend Noelle is a powerful example of this to my husband and I. Another way I see this is: once we find our path, we thank Hashem for being there to help us achieve it. And this can be for the individual or collectively as Am Yisrael.)

"...Who gives strength to the weary."
(So we can continue to change the world.)

Ok, y'all. Go get 'em! :)

*Side note: It makes me very happy to see the old MLA comma rules, with the comma before the "and." Anyone know if we're officially back to that?

**Basically the Artscroll translation.

***Another side note: My favorite explanation of the concept of Gehenom is that Hashem shows you the portrait that was drawn of you: of all the things you would do and who you would be in the world. The discrepancy between that vision and reality is our true "punishment."


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