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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