Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Don't CY.

I've been wondering recently why the self-discipline that allows me to keep kosher throughout the year and avoid anything leavened like the plague during Pesach doesn't carry over into resisting the sweets that I have such a weakness for. I even caught myself wishing that there could be some kind of rabbinical ban that would help a girl out--and then I realized that there sort of already is: Cholov Yisrael.

As I was converted by one of the primary students of R Moshe Feinstein, z"tl, and I have heard many wonderful stories about him, he is someone whom I attempt to emulate (emphasis on attempt). If such a tzaddik trusted in the USDA, who am I to doubt them? Still, I can't help but think of all of the corruption within federal agencies that has been revealed via the media, which I'm quite sure is only the tip of the iceberg. And to add to my confusion, I cannot deny that I'm not exactly coming to the CY table with admirable motives. I'm not striving to further my bond with my fellow Jews, or to erect a fence around the Torah; I'm really just trying to put an obstacle course between Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and my mouth, for purely superficial reasons. Is this an acceptable rationale to take on a stringency?

I'm interested in hearing different perspectives on this issue, and why anyone has or has not taken on Cholov Yisrael. Until I can make up my mind-slash-be convinced, I'll be hanging with my boys Ben & Jerry (Mmmmm).


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ignoring Valentine's Day.

For my non-Jewish friends and family, it makes sense that I don't celebrate Xmas or Easter. But when it comes to holidays such as Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, or the one with hearts and flowers just around the corner, they get confused. "It's just _____," I hear a lot.

Forget for a moment that all of these have Catholic origins, because it's not what most people are thinking of when they dress up, drink green beer, or hand out valentines. Before Judaism, I went along with it all like everyone else. I pretty much lived for Halloween. But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a Jew. As I began taking on holidays that were rich with tradition and meaning, the ones that have become so secularized and commercialized suddenly seemed less appealing. I don't refuse to acknowledge non-Jewish holidays out of stubbornness; I just don't care to anymore.

Still, there's no denying that V-Day is all about love, and, as my loved ones love to point out, isn't that Jewish? Well, yes and no. Judaism has nothing against love and romance, and neither do I, for that matter. In fact, just to quell any cynics, there is indeed someone special in my life right now, and it reinforces my stance more than ever. I don't want to go through any cliched motions with him—who made these rules? And I certainly don't want any of my single friends to feel for one minute like less than the beautiful, kind, and wonderful people that they are. So let's stop trying to cram love into a single day, or to relegate it to specific colors or gestures. The love that I know, the kind that Judaism espouses, is an ongoing celebration expressed in a multitude of ways. Just take a cue from G-d:

"I love you with an everlasting love, therefore I continue my lovingkindness to you." - Jeremiah 31:2

Happy Thursday,

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I Watch Movies & TV.

Choosing to become a Jew is sort of like deciding to be a doctor, based on what I've seen in friends' experiences and on Grey's Anatomy. Getting through the arduous process and taking a serious oath is only half of it; there is also the difficult task of narrowing down what kind of Jew/doctor you'll be. Within medicine, choosing a label may make things pretty black and white, e.g. neurosurgeon=operating on brains. And that also holds true for some Jewish movements, which come with clear community norms on what to do and what not to do, even if it goes beyond basic halacha. Since I was determined to take on observance while still living a modern life, however, I had to examine my choices within the context of my new perspective without having a knee-jerk reaction from either side. Meaning, I wasn't going to give up TV and movies solely because some Rabbis were strongly opposed to them, but I also wanted to consider any valid reasons to keep them in my life rather than just continuing to do what I'd always done.

I came to the conclusion that just as with all areas of my life, I couldn't operate in extremes. I wanted my Judaism to be strong enough to withstand any challenges to it, in real life or otherwise. I've definitely become much more choosy in what I watch, but I find that my favorite shows and films have stayed the same; who knew they were resonating with me on a spiritual level? With that in mind, I'd like to present a few Jewish lessons derived from the screen.

The Gift of Time: Groundhog Day. So many of us take for granted this mechanism which allows us to measure progress, achievement, a life. Bill Murray in his brilliance reminds us that each new day is a gift, and to be careful when stepping off the curb. It's a doozy!

Jewish Hospitality: What About Bob? Another Murray gem. Every one of us will be faced with a less-than-desirable houseguest at least once, but as this movie teaches, we can't only be kind to the people we actually like being around. We always have the opportunity to make a difference in someone else's life.

Beshert: Serendipity. I for one would rather be single than have a tool of a fiance who plays some weird flute for a living. But neither I nor Kate B. have to despair, because our soulmates are out there. Timing is everything.

The Damage of Lashon Hora: "Gossip Girl." Let's all pour out a little Manischewitz for the loss of our homie, GG. Actually, let's not, because it was DAN HUMPHREY. But I digress...everyone on the UES would have had much better lives if they all would have just stopped trashing each other on a gossip site. A bubble of superficial values is conducive to such behavior, but we Jews have the responsibility to use the Internet as a tool for unity. Let's not forget it.

You know you love me (because I'm a fellow Jew).