Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Technical Difficulties

Sorry guys but due to some technical difficulties I haven't had ready access to the internet for a while. I hope the problem is resolved soon - I'm thinking about you!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

To My Dear Friend

To my dearest friend. One year ago today the world turned upside down. I have no words to express my emotions and I cannot possibly write here how I really feel. Just remember, that though I can never take away your pain, I hurt when you hurt and I am always here for you. I admire you in so many ways, keep strong and keep smiling, your father is proud of you today.

This is probably the most beautiful amateur work I have seen or heard in a long while.

There are nicer voices in the world but the emotion and background that came together with this song cannot be compared to that of even the greatest singer.


L'iluy Nishmas HaRav Chaim Shneur Zalman ben HaRav Meir Zichrono Livracha

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Story

I promised details and I'm going to give them, but I'm not sure what details to give...

Before I got engaged, before I even went out with this boy I never liked hearing these stories, I always thought, well yeah that's NOT gonna happen to me. Let me explain.

My chosson's name (I gotta think of a blog name for him - I'm not into the 'my chosson' 'my chosson' 'my chosson' he has a name for goodness sakes) anyway his name came up for me a while back, before the summer actually and I adamantly refused to go out with him. In fact, I was upset and offended that people were pushing it. His upbringing was different than mine, his education was different, his family minhagim were different, and to top it all off he comes from a broken home. One of the things that bothered me greatly was the broken home part - his parents divorced when he was very very young and he basically grew up in a single parent home, not much of a father figure around ever. That really bothered me, I mean who wants to go out with a boy who grew up without a father figure??

Anyway his name came up again right after the yomim tovim but this time it was different. This time he was given my references, and he was looked into for me (and btw I still despise the shidduch system even though I'm past it) without my knowledge. One Friday afternoon I was told so and so is ready to go out with you we just have to call in dor yesharim and you have to give and answer before shabbos. There I put my foot down, I refused to give an answer before shabbos insisting that I be given time to think.

Let me back track a bit. The first time the name came up it was through a shadchan who didn't necessarily know either of us. The second time it came up was interesting. Husbands of three different friends of mine suggested it at three separate times. Anyway, that Shabbos I sat with a very close friend and her husband and talked for about three hours until they finally convinced me to go out at least once. "If he's repulsive you can forget it ever happened but we promise you he's not repulsive" was the end of that conversation.

More later!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

MAZEL TOV!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, yes I am a kallah. It's crazy, it's really crazy. I have so much to tell you guys, hopefully I'll have a minute after shabbos to give you the whole scoop!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Busier than I have Time to Comprehend

Haven't posted here in a while but don't worry I didn't forget about you guys! I'll keep you posted sometime really soon :).

Sunday, November 4, 2007


I don't even know how to put in words. I just wish that people knew, realized, and understood the ill effects of outside pressure when dating. I wish people realized that life is NOT a romance novel; that starry eyed infatuation is not going to come after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or even 10 dates. I wish people took a step back and let the dating couple make their own, clear headed, thought out, decisions. I wish coming back from each date wasn't met with people smiling expectantly. I wish people realized that when the decision is no - it's MY life, MY dissapointment, and most importantly - if he said no, than he wasn't for me.

The pressure that outsiders (or insiders) put on young men and women in the dating scene can be so heavy it is often unbearable. Is it not enough that a girl has to think four hundred times before she walks out of the house lest she ruin the next prospective match? Is it not enough that the pressure of 'being in the parsha' lays heavy on our shoulders every single day of our lives? Don't people realize how important a clear headed decision is when dating? Don't people realize that this isn't about making someone else (other than the boy and girl themselves) happy, nor is it about planning one night? Do people not realize that making a life decision has to be RATIONAL - not "If you can't overlook some chesronos then you'll never get married." What if he is simply NOT for me??

Sigh. So many disasters can be prevented if people would only think before they start putting pressure on an emotionally stressed, nervous, busy, dating girl.

A wise man once told me:
When you are looking into a boy think of him as if he's the ONLY person who is willing to date you. Do NOT compare him to anyone, when calling around about him look for his highest qualities. Once you agree to go out, however, you should enter each date with this thought: "There are 500 hundered boys chasing me down the street, is this the one I am going to choose."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Worth Reading

This was written and shown to the public a few months ago. There are some good points here, however please note that although I agree with much of what is written here, I am not the author, nor do I know who the auther is.

Dear Brother, Sister, Parent, and Shadchan,

It seems these days, that finding a Shidduch is a lot harder than it was in the past. There are lots of young boys and girls out there that are getting older, and are still single. Parents are making calls, Shadchanim are making calls, but it just doesn't seem to move. Aside from time it takes to make the calls and reach references, it takes lots of effort to properly evaluate prospectives and get 2 names in the same plate. When someone makes a call to a reference, they hear something they don't like and the suggestion is closed. It is my firm belief that people don't know how to evaluate other people properly and might mention some “major” aspect of a single that really only represents 5% of their total character and personality, but since that is all what the other side hears, they give it heavy consideration in their decision. How many good matches were prevented from going forward for this simple and foolish reason? Shidduchim should be investigated with the accuracy of a crime lab! We should not take some mindless-by-the-way remark someone said about another and consider as evidence good enough for a court. I plead and beg from whoever is involved in the shidduch making process to please take this heart. A brilliant cut diamond has 58 facets, how many does a person have?

References: Always ask yourself when describing someone else, “Is what I'm saying representative of them at least 50%?” If it's not, tell people what you think the quality of your answer is. Remember that people who call you may have no prior information about this person and what you say add pieces to their puzzle. Some callers might have a small number of peices to fill so what you say will fill a large area of their total picture. Also, if somone calls you at a time that interrupts whatever you're doing, inform them to call back at a different time when your head will think straighter and you can give clearer answers. It is not fair to the the subject person if your mind is fuzzy. This is a major responsibility on your part and if the match works out because of you, your reward will be great.

Parents and Shadchanim: When someone mentions a certain quality or chisaron, you should probe further, and try to clarify; does this accurately represent the subject person? Try to come up with specific and logical questions that will help you narrow down and get a higher quality answer. Do not ask people “How do you think xyz would react if you saw him/her in the following situation?...” There may be no definitive answer to this, and external factors such as who is present, and what the atmosphere is like, could influence their reaction to be different from time to time. The right questions will get the right answers.

Another issue which comes as a result of the lack of accurate information and research is bad rumors. How many times have good matches been turned down based on some left field rumor that may not even be true! “Oh, I heard that he is such and such...” and we consider this rumor to be true without us at least giving it a second thought and at most giving the family a chance to defend themselves. Aside from being Lashon Hara, this is really ruining what could be alot of good Shidduchim!

I do not want this to be construed as an advertisement, hence my anonymity, however I am a regular bochur that has gone to Lubavitch schools and Yeshivos, I have Smicha, and of the working class (i.e. non-shlichus). There is nothing wrong with me, just due to something unique about me, people view me in wildly different ways. This has led to some interesting rumors about me, some of which were positive, some of which were unflattering. I am still a bochur. I do not want to be sugar coated, but I don't want to be defamed either. I just want to be viewed as my real me.Whoever is successful in making a Shidduch, you should be blessed, you have created a new home for the Jewish people.

Gmar Chasima Tova,
HaBochur HaTomim

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm Tired

My entire family descended on this town for Shabbos and we had a great time together. The vort was beautiful, everyone enjoyed themselves and the chosson and kallah were beaming from ear to ear (as can be expected). Being that I'm local, throughout this weekend while my family members have been vacationing away I have had to work every day, so in between staying up late and spending time with my family I was preparing for school and teaching everyday.

The morning of the vort I went to school, taught, then raced home. I got all dressed up and off I went to Monsey. As far as the wedding, I got back from Monsey very late I pretty much convinced myself that I wasn't going to the wedding. On my way back I spoke to someone who had left the wedding 20 minutes before I spoke to her and she told me that when she left it seemed like the music would be ending soon. I was a little upset because somewhere in the back of my mind I had decided that maybe I'd make it to the wedding after all. Anyway, I decided that even though the wedding was probably over, I would stop by the hall (which is 3 blocks from my house - not such a big deal) and see if the chosson and kallah were at least still there so I could say mazal tov to her while she was wearing her wedding gown. Basically, when I walked up to the wedding hall, there were people milling around and no one gave me a backward glance that I can so late, and as I walked in, lo and behold, the music was still blasting! I walked into the wedding at midnight and I stayed there until one thirty in the morning!!! The kallah was SHOCKED to see me when I walked in (and so was everyone else, because I told everyone that I wouldn't be at the wedding lest they think that I would miss the wedding for some other reasons... ahem...).

Bottom line is mir ken nisht tantzen oif tsvay chasunos aber vu a chossid vill tantzen er vet tantzen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Animal School

I have been thinking about the fact that my blog is called Teach Your Heart Out and I seldom write about anything that is related to teaching. It's not that I don't have what to write on the topic, but it's difficult to write about my personal teaching experiences without breaching the privacy of my students and they're parents, and of course the interesting stories are the ones that have to remain private...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mir Ken Nisht Tanzten Oif Tzvay Chasunos...

What can I do... My brother's vort is scheduled for the same night as a close (one of the very last) friend's wedding. Uh Oh.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why Can't This Be A Little Simpler?

It's always interesting when an inter-blog conversation takes place. In this case, a comment on this post (on halfshared's blog) prompted me to write a post about the 'red light' concept. When I sat down at my computer this afternoon I was surprised to see that halfshared had done a post on the same topic - giving the point of view of the older sister.

I had originally meant for that post to be an objective question, however I quickly realized that it is impossible to be objective in such a situation. Either you are the older sister or the younger sister. If you are neither - have no one stopping you and aren't stopping anyone, then you can't even relate, so how can you give a proper opinion?

I guess it is pretty obvious in my previous post that I am leaning more towards the position of the younger sister. I had not originally planned on giving any kind of personal information about this topic on this blog but to clarify my point I will.

I understand the pain an older sister must go through knowing that her younger sister is being held back by her, however just like I cannot know the extent of older sister's feelings on the topic, she cannot know mine. The last thing I would want is for my sister to get the feeling that I resent her in any way. In fact, I care so much about her that in the past 4 years since finishing seminary I have never ever even mentioned the idea of my getting married to her. She's the older sister, that right belongs to her until she reaches that point right? She's the oldest, she's the one everyone dreamed about being first, we have planned her wedding together hundreds of times.

However, it's time to share my side of the story. My sister is not 22 and I am not 19 or 20. If being 22 is old enough to allow a younger sister to skip, then why, if the younger sister herself is already 22 is she still sitting and waiting! My sister is more than five years older than I am. She entered shidduchim when I entered high school. I have spent the past four years dancing at more weddings I can keep count of. There are those who may say that they enjoy these years of being single without the stress of being on the market, but let me ask you - how long is that so much fun? How many years can a single girl sit around? I am no longer dancing at weddings because now I am busy attending brissin and visiting friends while the baby naps.

My sister knows good and well that I have watched every single one of my friends get married, she knows good and well that I am reaching the point where I am starting to be considered 'older' in the shidduch world. Still, the idea of me, her little sister, getting married before her seems unthinkable. I want to stress and stress over and over again - I do not resent my sister at all. The fact that she isn't married is due to circumstances beyond her control. She is a normal,bright, healthy, pretty, thin woman and she deserves the very best.

It was a very difficult decision for me to make, to get up the courage and ask my sister for permission to date, and probably even harder on her part to give me that permission. She gave it reluctantly and she still has reservations about it. I don't think that she will ever be the same if I get married before her and the thought terrifies me, but how much longer can I wait? How many times do I have to bite back tears when, once again, it isn't me?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Road Test

What do you think of the "red light" concept? Do you think it's fair to a girl of 22 to say no to an offer because her sister of 24 is still around? I can understand why a girl of 19 or 20 would wait for a sister who's 20, 21, 22, but I have a hard time agreeing with the concept of waiting around for an older sister until you become that 'older' girl...

I know a girl, very nice girl, excellent middos, etc. who waited for her sister. Older sister finally got married at 26 and younger sister was by then almost 24. That was 2 years ago, now younger sister is almost 26. It's hard enough for those of us that enter the shidduch parsha at 19, imagine first entering at 24?

What do you guys think?

Not that I'm so close-minded as to think that life is over at 24 if you're not married, but the fact remains that if you're trying to swim in the shidduch world you have to play by certain rules. Unless there is some major drastic change in the system, we're all in the same boat, and as much as we may dislike it that's the way it is...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thanks Mates!

Thanks for the advice - knew I could count on you! I ended up shlepping a BY friend to my house to approve the outfit before heading out. I wore a black skirt (the only one I own but I didn't want to stick out like a sore thumb) and a nice sweater that was NOT black, ran an iron through my hair (something I rarely do - I usually wear my hair wavy/curly), put on a full face of makeup, and off I went hoping all was fine. Turns out my attire was perfect, except (gasp) for the fact that I did not wear heels. Oh well, can't win em all right?

As far as the vort - is a nice Shabbos suit okay or do I have to be more weddingy? (Based on the lechaim which was in her house I'm assuming the vort is going to be quite a fancy affair). My sister, who lives out of town and never has to dress up to the 'New York standards' wanted to know if she should go shopping for some new clothes.

I guess I shouldn't be so focused on what I'm gonna wear but what can I do, everyone's gonna be looking at me! (Just wait till they hear I'm Lubavitch, I can almost hear the sighs - "Too bad, I had such a nice boy in mind for her"). Can I dare to ask how you can have such a nice boy in mind for me when you have no idea what I'm like and you don't know my name? Maybe I should hand out business cards or something.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Mazel Tov! My brother became a chosson!

Now, fellow bloggers, I am in dire need of some advice - something I know people are always willing to give.

My brother (who lives in Flatbush) is engaged to a Monsey girl. I have a severe aversion to labeling fellow Jews but for the sake of clarity here I will. I grew up Lubavitch - (sad as it sounds, I sincerely hope that stating this outright doesn't attach a negative feeling toward my name or my blog...), and she is from a very Yeshivish family. The chosson and kallah, both wonderful people, are pretty modern - leaning toward the Yeshivish rather than Chassidish way of life. In short, this simcha is a gathering a Jews from all walks and talks of life.

Now for the question. What should I wear to the 1) Lechaim and 2) Vort?? Do I have to dress up? How dressy? Do I have to look like I'm going to a wedding? In Lubavitch the 'vort' is actually called a lechaim and many times an official 'lechaim' separate from the vort does not take place. When it does it is usually only for family and very close friends and no one dresses up or anything like that. As far as the vort, I have been told that Yeshivish vorts are more elaborate and people get more dressed up than Lubavitch vorts but that is just plain old generalizing and there's no way to prove that as fact.

Basically what should I wear? Any advice?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ksiva Vachasima Tova

A gut gebentched yar to all. May the new year bring us a peace, joy, and an end to our sorrow with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu speedily in our days.

ויהי רצון שתהיה שנה זו שנת סימן חיים חן וחסד
ובעיקר סימן חירותנו בגאולה האמיתית והשלמה

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Everyone Must've Been Staring

I broke a rule. Not just any rule - a cardinal rule.

My apartment took a direct hit from the construction that has been going on in this house, leaving us without hot water for a full week. By the time I finally got used to taking freezing cold showers the water stopped working all together. So, in good cheer I set about searching for a shower. I called a friend of mine who I knew had a family simcha, and wouldn't be home for a few hours, and I asked her if I could please use her shower. She was happy to help and off I went to enjoy a nice, hot shower for the first time in a week.

On the way back home I broke a rule. The rule that says "If thou is 'of age' thou shall not dare ever be seen in public looking anything but perfect. Thou must always be immaculately dressed with perfect hair and flawless makeup, regardless of the time of day or year (especially if it's the third day of a three day yom tov). Disregard to the strict adherence of this rule may result in the ruination of thy next shidduch, and possible all shidduchim thereafter."

It was 10:00 pm, and I had just taken a shower. I wasn't about to pull out the blow dryer and hair iron and proceed to spend 45 minutes on my hair, and then walk home all smiles because every shadchan would see me and whisper to her neighbor "now that looks like a good catch - 10 at night and she looks like she's dressed for a wedding... oh good point, maybe she is going to a wedding. Who's getting married tonight? But she's walking in the wrong direction, the wedding hall is that way... well maybe she's going somewhere else, a lechaim maybe? Did anyone get engaged recently? Yes, yes, so and so's daughter to so and so's son. It's a wonder that girl managed to find a shidduch, I mean look at her parents, which proper bochur would want to marry into a family like that..."

Anyway, I broke the rule. I pulled my long, wet hair into a ponytail, put on a long skirt, and a zip up sweatshirt and proceeded to walk the five blocks back home. Sue me.

I found this funny. My friend's nieces and nephews were being babysat in her apartment during the time I was there. When my friend came home she told me the following "When I got home the house was a bit upside down, shoes everywhere, dirty dishes, papers, etc. and I saw a tichel on the kitchen floor. I figured they must have found my tichel and were playing with it. I asked the kids if anyone came over to use the shower, and they told me yes, and she left something here. I asked them what she left and they pointed to the tichel and told me that she left her tichel here!" We all got a good laugh. And no, I'm not leaving tichels anywhere just yet.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My Whole Body Is Aching

This person got married. Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I went to school today for a general teachers' meeting and to complete some final things in preparation for the first day of school - tomorrow. Unfortunately, I came home nervous and aggravated instead of excited for the year to begin.

School begins tomorrow. I have not yet received a class list. I asked for a list today and I was told "we can't release the lists until the day before classes begin." A little confused, I asked if that was not today, don't classes begin tomorrow? The answer I got was: So many students are not yet registered for school that they don't know if they are going to be able to start on time. I fail to understand. Tuition crisis aside, that's not what I'm discussing here, I'd like to ask every single parent of an unregistered child - Why isn't your child registered for school??? Last week I had a conversation with a mother who has a child in the school I teach. She was complaining that she's trying to register her child but she can't afford tuition and it's impossible to get through to anyone who can discuss and negotiate with her. I asked her when she called for the first time and how long she has been waiting to hear back from the school. She answered me in all seriousness "I called yesterday and I'm still waiting." I was in shock. This was one week before the first day of school and she's blaming that school for the fact that she didn't bother registering her child early enough to discuss tuition options!

So that's that for now. I don't have a list and I'm waiting for a phone call from the school to let me know if we are or aren't starting school tomorrow.

While in school today I was standing in the office going over some last minute curriculum details with the vice principal and I overheard the following conversation between a teacher (of an older grade) and the principal of my department.

Teacher: Mrs. Principal, did you put my daughter in xxx's class?

Principal: Yes. She's in that class.

Teacher: And who's the morning teacher for that class?

Principal: Morah xxx

Teacher: lower's her voice a drop Is she married?

Principal: No, she's single

Teacher: dissapointed look on her face oooh.

Principal: But she's teaching for a few years already and she's very good.

Teacher: Oh, she's teaching for a few years already...

I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. The truth is I don't know why I was surprised. Isn't it obvious that a girl who walked out of seminary three days ago and got married yesterday is more suitable of a teacher for anyone's daughter than a mere girl who has been teaching since before Mrs. Glittery Diamond Ring was even in high school? I mean, hello, it's not experience that makes you a good teacher, it's a sheitel, a ring, and someone else's last name. What was I thinking?

Monday, September 3, 2007

In Colors?

I went what I call 'frum store shopping' for sheva brachos outfts with a friend. As soon as we walked in a very pleasant young woman came over to us and asked if we needed any help. My friend gave the store a quick once over and answered that she was looking for sheva brachos outfits - "but I don't want anything black or gray." Well. You should have seen the horrified look she was given. First came "well I think you're in the wrong store." Then, "Don't you know that black and gray are the 'in colors' this fall?? Needless to say we walked right out.

In colors? Who are you basing your idea of 'in colors' on? If you want to say that you sell the 'in colors' then sell the in colors! If you want to say that you have no interest in succumbing to the worldly desire to dress to the taste of some lonely male designer in Paris, then say so! Don't claim to have the latest styles and trends when you don't and you won't.

Just for the record: black and gray are not the in colors this fall anywhere besides for the frum stores. I found them on one color pallatte for the winter but they were surrounded by about 20 other beautiful, vibrant colors.

Just one question - why do frum girls insist on wearing black all the time? Why is it that if a frum girl wears a vibrant color she gets looks? I'm not talking about loud or other obviously not aidel colors - I'm talking about vibrant, alive. What's wrong with wearing something that compliments your natural coloring, that's flattering on you, and that makes you look alive?

When I started teaching I made a decision that I would never wear black in my classroom. While I can't say that I never ever wear a black skirt, I can say that I have other skirts in my closet that are not black that I wear on a regular basis. I am a strong believer in the fact that a young child absorbs everything that surrounds him/her in the classroom, and it's no secret that color has an affect on someone's mood and attitude. Well, if they're staring at me all day I don't want them staring at a black glob, I want them staring at something vibrant and alive!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Will It Ever End???

I don't even know how to write this. This is painful. So very painful. May the family find nechama.

TRAGEDY: Bochur Struck and Killed by a Train

Boruch Dayan HoEmes - HaBochur Yisroel Noach Tzfasman OBM


Hashem! Your children are in golus too long! Our anguish is too great! Bring us an end to sadness and tears!

Veshinantam Levanecha

I found this picture on this blog. To me, this is a moment of beauty. Not the photograph itself, but the life behind the captured image. To the readers of the above mentioned blog this is yet another 'picture of the day,' there are other photos posted there that artistically supersede this particular shot, but to me there is nothing more beautiful.

Monday, August 27, 2007

You Don't Say...

I was talking to a friend (married) of mine late last night and I was laughing about the fact that now that she has a baby her life doesn't run on "newlywed hours." She got home late from a simcha, her baby was kvetchy so she was up and she wanted to talk to someone - who better than a single friend! Anyway, this dear friend of mine tells me "Miss Teacher, I just realized that you have a lot of married friends." Umm... yep. ALL of my good friends are married, but thanks for the reminder, I almost forgot.

Newlywed hours meaning: "We totally have to get together, I mean it's crazy I never see you! Let's see.. my husband comes home for lunch around 2:30, that means I need to be home to prepare lunch by 2:00, and he doesn't go back until 3:30 and by 4:30-5:00 I have to start preparing supper because my husband comes home from Kollel at 7:30 and from then until shachris tomorrow morning I'm officially unavailable. I will not answer the phone, I will only attend shiurim that are geared for married women, and only if my husband has a shiur at the same time that night, simchas are limited to those of very close friends and even those are timed because my husband is waiting for me in the hallway... um so do you want to come over at from 3:45-4:15? Oh, you teach until 4:30? That's a shame, well I guess I'll see you in shul this shabbos!" Yeah and our 'get together' will consist of bowing to barchu at the same time.

BTW - Does "my husband" ever get a name? I mean at what point do newlyweds start referring to their husbands by a name as opposed to 'my husband?'

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Higher Consciousness

A letter written recently to a friend.

Dear xxxx, Shetichye

I was thinking about the conversation that we had today and I decided to show you something that I recently wrote.
By way of introduction let me give a little background information. I am not in the habit of expressing my true feelings, hardship or pain, to the general public. I felt that I sounded decidedly bitter, and I know that you and others may excuse and accept such feelings on my part, but I came to the conclusion a long time ago that acrimony is not something I wish to have on my resume.

When a child takes its first unsteady steps, it is one of the very first signs of that child turning into an independent human being. Independency meaning unique in his own way; those first steps are the first ones taken on a path designed for only him to walk upon.

Each of us has been allotted a path. A course designed to accommodate our strengths and weaknesses, our fears, worries, joys, and pleasures. As we trudge along, we are at times met with branches that must be pushed aside, rivers of water that require swimming skills, fields of tall grass that need to be crossed, and of course at times we are met with a smooth and steady trail, that path that we can only hope and pray will dominate our way.

As we travel through life we are often met with challenge. Challenge is not ever something to be compared. For one, a branch may be as much of a stumbling block as a monstrous mountain for another. Some are given a smooth trip for much of the way, and then met suddenly with a mountain to climb; others are given potholes to dodge and rivers to swim on a regular basis.

I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such a complicated life, but this is what was given to me and I’ve learned that along with the tall grass, the oceans to cross, and the mountains to climb, I was given sheers with which to cut, a life jacket with which to swim, and climbing gear for that looming mountain. I was given these tools, that when not used properly, can be quite a heavy burden, and at the same time have become a key to survival. I was given a strong mind, an iron will, and an unyielding personality. I have been driven with the desire to fight, not to fall. These things have been my wings with which to fly, they are what have kept me going more than anything else in the world.

I have also learned that with hardship and survival comes strength. Why am I telling you all this? Because I don’t think that anyone’s path is free of obstacles. And I feel that maybe, just maybe, if I share some of my thoughts and feelings, others can learn and gain. I know firsthand that it is easier to be objective to someone else than to one’s own self. Therefore I wanted to share with you the following essay.

Higher Consciousness

"The first step to higher consciousness is to be conscious of a consciousness higher than your own.
And to be conscious of how that consciousness is conscious of you."

From the teachings of the
Rebbe; rendered by Tzvi Freeman

It has been quite a while since I’ve felt compelled to write. I don’t know what triggered it, but the urge to put feelings on paper has overcome me in way that cannot be ignored.

I often let my mind take advantage of being alone. Something about solitude tends to send my mind a message, simply saying “wander,” and wander it does. Sometimes it travels to the unknown, to wonder what will be “if” - to envision non existent situations, potential joys, or in some cases the opposite.

There are times, though, that my mind looks at me squarely in the face and says “face reality.” Such occurrences generate different reactions: Most often, I look reality right back in the face and say “I can create my own reality, don’t bother me right now.” And I go about my business doing just that- creating my own utopian reality.

There are times where an inner strength, a driving force, takes hold and says “Your life may be nuts, but you aren’t.” This is when I tell myself that although life may be tough, somehow I pulled through until now and can still socialize and communicate with mainstream America. No one has it easy, who can possibly know what goes on behind the closed doors of a home or a heart? Then, somehow with that mysterious strength I accept reality. I remind myself that reality is not something to run from, but something to run with. Nothing that I say or do can change reality, so therefore, I tell myself, it is best to accept and move on.

Sometimes I completely break down emotionally, I feel the tears build up in my heart and travel upward, my mouth quivers and then they begin to silently run down my face. These are moments of total surrender. They are moments when the brunt of hardship and pain sear through my very existence and I, like a helpless child, simply cry.

A thought crossed my mind the other day and I was so fascinated with the discovery that I stopped what I was doing for a minute.

Human nature is to understand. Can one possibly count the times that the word “why” has crossed their lips or entered their minds? Inquisitiveness can lead to great discovery and appreciation. However, with the pleasure of understanding comes the displeasure when the questioning “why” is met with silence. This is a gentle, or maybe not so gentle, reminder to the grand and egotistic intellect. We humans tend to think ourselves superior; not without basis, as Judaism clearly defines Man as a “medaber” on the highest of created levels. The very fact that we can analyze and understand is what gives us our superiority, but it is that same ability that nudges us in the ribs at times, for it is the One who gives us the gift of the mind, that at times takes the power away from us. Therefore, we humans are periodically, for some more often than others, met with challenge. The challenge being to go against our very nature and say “This is something that I just cannot understand.” This was precisely my discovery; the same One who created us with the ability and the urge to understand, created within us the power to rise above, to tell our intellect this is not your territory, and to accept without understanding.
So, when I reach the point of total surrender, I pull myself together and I tell G-d, thank you. Thank you for reminding me that though I may be a human, one who seeks and understands, I am only a human. And hard as it may be, I give up the pleasure of letting myself understand.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Where's the Justice of Grief?

As I am about to begin a new school year, I cannot help but think and reflect on the events of the past year. A year mixed with so much simcha, so much laughter, and so much pain, suffering, sadness and tears.

In a letter, written right after Chanukah to a friend, I remember describing two intensely emotional weeks, the week before Chanukah and Chanukah itself:

"I have relived those two weeks over and over again in my head. How I laughed, how much simcha was intertwined in those two weeks; and how I cried, how much pain and sadness wove their way into my life."

I will never forget how, not two weeks into the school year, my students were thrown into the confusion of substitutes and the absence of their teacher. The reason? Her 21 year old daughter was sitting shiva for her husband of three months. That tragedy shook us to the core. It made our hands and hearts tremble and resulted in unstoppable tears.

It's no secret that our community has been stabbed in the heart over and over again this past year. I will not list details here, for those of you from within my community are well aware of these details, and those of you who are not - kol yisrael areivim ze laze. Unfortunately no Jewish community is pain-free, and every Jew feels the pain of another.

As we progress into the month on Elul and we find ourselves soon approaching Rosh Hashana, I keep in mind these wonderful, beautiful neshamos that were taken from us. No doubt they are pleading on our behalf to the Aibeshter Himself, begging for our redemption, demanding an end to the suffering of this galus.

The following article was written soon after a close family friend and a well known community figure was killed in a tragic accident. I will never forget my initial reaction after reading it. "Ashreinu ma tov chelkeinu!" How fortunate are we that amid suffering and tears we can find comfort in the ultimate truth of Torah.

When I Wanted You Did Not

By Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Today I attended a tragic funeral. All funerals are tragic, but some appear worse than others. Especially when a beautiful man, 61 years old, is killed by a drunken driver, leaving a grieving wife, ten children and countless relatives and friends traumatized.

Every tragic death reminds us (or should remind us) of all other senseless losses – and unbearable pain – beknownst or unbeknownst to us. How many broken hearts are crying around the world at this very moment? How do we respond to the millions of tears shed and the piercing screams echoing through the corridors of history?

The timeless question – why? why do terrible things happen to good people? – resurfaces its naked head in these timely moments of agony.

The death of an individual evokes the memory of all deaths from the beginning of time.
In difficult times like these, we have no where to turn but to the eternal strength we glean from those that faced the abyss before us.

None other than the great Moses confronts G-d with this greatest of challenges in this week’s Torah portion. Actually, the story begins earlier when Moses first “meets” G-d at the burning bush.

In perhaps the most dramatic episode in the entire Torah, this week’s portion recounts the intimate dialogue between Moses and G-d, as Moses implores the Almighty to forgive the Jewish people for their terrible sin of building and worshipping the Golden Calf. (See The Face of G-d for a more elaborate discussion on the topic).
As Moses attempts to elicit the Divine compassion, he asks G-d “I beg you, please show me Your Glory.” G-d rejects Moses with the memorable words: “You cannot see My face, for no man shall see Me and live” (Exodus 33:18;20).

A strange Talmud explains that G-d rejected Moses’ request because of an earlier event. When G-d appeared to Moses at the burning bush, Moses refused to look, as it says, “And Moses hid his face, for he feared to look upon G-d” (Exodus 3:6). “Now that you want to see My Face,” G-d said, “I am not willing to show it to you.” “When I wanted you didn’t want; now when you want, I don’t want.” (Berachot 7a).

The Midrash elaborates: “Moses did not act accordingly by hiding his face. Had he not hidden his face G-d would have revealed to Moses what is above and what is below, what was and what will be in the future. Finally, when Moses did request to see the Divine face, G-d informed him that ‘no man shall see Me and live.’ When I wanted, you didn't want, and now that you want, I don't want” (Shemot Rabba 3:1. 45:5).

What is the meaning behind G-d’s bizarre reaction? It’s impossible to say that G-d was being “petty” and angrily getting even with Moses?! Either Moses deserved to see the Divine face or he didn’t deserve to see it? Why would it be dependent on Moses’ not wanting to see G-d’s face at the burning bush?

Indeed, a second opinion in the Talmud and Midrash holds that Moses was honoring G-d by not looking at His face, and he was subsequently rewarded for his respect.

Additionally, the verse de facto suggests that Moses could not see G-d’s face because of an objective reason – “no man can see the Divine face and live.” The Talmud is implying that had Moses chosen to look at G-d’s face in the burning bush he now would be able to see the Divine Face and live.

And finally, why indeed did Moses not want to look at G-d’s face in the burning bush? And now he suddenly developed a craving to do so?

Clearly, the burning bush and G-d’s face in the bush is a major event, which requires deeper examination.

Let’s read the verse closely: “G-d's angel appeared to [Moses] in the heart of a fire, in the middle of a thorn-bush. As he looked, [Moses] realized that the bush was burning, but was not being consumed. Moses said [to himself], 'I must go over there and investigate this great phenomenon. Why doesn't the bush burn?' When G-d saw that [Moses] was going to investigate, He called to him from the middle of the bush. 'Moses, Moses!' He said. 'Yes,' replied [Moses]. 'Do not come any closer,' said [G-d]. 'Take your shoes off your feet. The place upon which you are standing is holy ground'… Moses hid his face, since he was afraid to look at the Divine. G-d said, 'I have indeed seen the suffering of My people in Egypt. I have heard how they cry out because of what their slave-drivers [do], and I am aware of their pain. I have come down to rescue them from Egypt's power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:2-8).
G-d’s words from within the burning bush – “I have indeed seen the suffering of My people…I have heard how they cry out” – explains why G-d appeared, of all places, in a burning thorn-bush. Had G-d appeared in, say, a handsome fruit tree, Moses would have challenged G-d and asked: “It’s very nice that you appear in beauty, but do you also feel our human pain?! You want me to challenge the depraved Pharaoh and insist that he stop the genocide and release the enslaved Jews. But everyone will ask ‘where is G-d in all our suffering. Maybe G-d exists only in good times but not in bad ones. Perhaps you don’t have the power to confront evil’.”

To pre-empt these fundamental questions, G-d appeared in the lowly thorn-bush in order to demonstrate that “I am with you in your pain and suffering” (see Rashi. Tanchuma 14), and that there is no place devoid of the Divine (Mechilta. Shemot Rabba 1:9. Torat Shlomo on the verse).
And now, G-d wanted to show Moses the deeper mystery of good and evil, life and death – “what is above and what is below, what was and what will be.”

But Moses did not want to see G-d’s face in the Holocaust. He did not want to “understand” G-d’s “reasoning” for allowing the death of millions of innocent children. He wasn’t willing to face the ultimate paradox and “hear” Divine explanations for human suffering. “He feared to look upon G-d” when he saw the lives being consumed by the burning bush, even as the bush itself was not being consumed. Moses “hid his face” and just wanted to cry.

But then time passed and things changed. G-d lived up to His promise and delivered the Jews from the clutches of their Egyptian tormentors. G-d demonstrated that He indeed was together with the people in their suffering, and finally redeemed them through His chosen leader, Moses.

Things seemed to be going very well. Following the Exodus, Moses led the Jewish nation to Sinai, where they experienced the greatest revelation in history: The giving of the Divine mandate to the human race. But then the tide turned again. While Moses was relishing in the Divine delights atop Sinai, the people below built and worshipped the Golden Calf. This time the catastrophe did not come at the hands of the Egyptians, but by fault of the Jews themselves.

Moses, descending from the mountain, realized the high stakes: How can he elicit G-d’s compassion in the face of such a grave crime? How can he offer the flawed human being hope after a great fall? Moses knew that now he needed to return to the “burning bush,” the place where good and evil meet, where joy and suffering converge – the place where the Divine can be found in the darkest corners of existence. He understood that only this impenetrable place contained the answer to solve the ultimate paradox: How to repent from sin; how to heal from wounds – how the “bush can burn and not be consumed” – the power of Teshuvah. [By breaking the tablets Moses also demonstrated how the break itself becomes part of the Divine healing process – see The Roots of Trauma].

Moses marched back up the mountain to confront G-d. Moses had matured to a point where he was now ready to see G-d’s face. He now appreciated the need to enter into the inner sanctum, into the Divine mystery of human suffering, and wanted to “see” the Divine face in order to elicit the strength necessary to endure distress for generations to come.

Moses’ new level of awareness was made possible also by the fact that in the interim Moses had another experience on Sinai that empowered him with the ability to face death – an episode related to an additional, special chapter we read this Shabbat Parah. The Midrash explains that when G-d was teaching Moses the methods of purification from all forms of defilement, Moses was shocked “How can one be purified from the impurity of death?” “At that moment, Moses’ face turned pale.” When they reached the section of the red heifer (read this week), G-d said to Moses: “Now I will give you the answer,” and proceeded with the mitzvah of purification from the impurity of death. What Moses exactly learned was elaborated upon in a previous column, but we know from this that Moses had achieved a heightened state of awareness about the mysteries of life and death.

So at this point, recognizing the need to heal from the “death” brought upon by the Golden Calf, Moses implored of G-d “I beg you, show me Your face.” As the Talmud explains that Moses was plagued by the timeless question why the good suffer and the wicked prosper (Berachot ibid).

And here G-d revealed to Moses one of the most profound secrets of all: “I show you My face not in pleasure, but in the burning bush – in pain and suffering. I show you My face not when you want to see it, but when I want you to see it.”

“When I wanted you didn’t want; now when you want, I don’t want.” G-d was not “getting even” with Moses; He was baring His Essence and telling Moses “I want a partner. I cannot show you my face if you do not partner with me. Had you looked at me when I wanted to show you My face, even though it was in pain, then you would have joined Me in the mysterious journey of grief and joy, and you would be able to see My face and gather strength. You cannot come and expect to see My face on your terms – when you like it. You have to respect the moment when I want to show it to you.”

But the story doesn’t end here. After all is said and done, G-d did indeed reveal to Moses the secrets of His inner personality, and the hidden thirteen attributes of Divine compassion. “I will make all My good pass before you, and reveal the Divine Name in your presence… [Though] you cannot see my face, because no man can see me and live, [but] I have a special place where you can stand on the rocky mountain. When My Glory passes by, I will place you in a crevice in the mountain, placing My hand over you until I pass by. I will then remove My hand and you will see My ‘back,’ and My face you will not see” (Exodus 33:19-23).

Moreover, commentaries explain that G-d finally showed Moses His face as well. The verse is to be read as follows: “You will see My ‘back’ and My face [but My face will be revealed to you only when] you will not see,” you will see my face only by not looking (see Panim Yafot on the verse). Not when you want to see it on your terms, but when I want you to see it…

... pause …

When we face unfathomable suffering, we are not expected to be better than Moses. We too close our eyes and just weep.

Maybe it takes a G-d to witness so much pain and be able to take it. We just want to be human… We don’t want to look at G-d’s face in such moments. It’s too terrifying.

Yet, whether we like it or not, G-d wants us to partner with Him. “Okay,” we say, “but it doesn’t come easy.” And from time to time, perhaps more often than not, we cry out in our own vulnerable moments – something G-d can surely forgive – that we just want some peace and quiet.

Today we were touched by the mystery of tragedy.

How many more bushes have to be burned before the Divine presence is revealed?

© 2007 The Meaningful Life Center. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission from http://www.meaningfullife.com/

Vehachai yiten el libo - with the coming year, I will increase my efforts to hasten the coming of Geula.

Le'iluy nishmas:

Hatomim Dovid Yonah z"l ben yl"t Menachem Mendel Hakohen
Sarah Faiga bas Yosef z"l
Yosef ben Yisroel z"l
Hatinokes Chaya Tzirel z"l bas yl"t Yechiel
Harav Hachossid Chaim Shneur Zalman z"l ben yl"t Harav Hachossid Meir
Hatomim Levi z"l ben yl"t Harav Hachossid Yisroel Yosef Hakohen
Hachossid R' Shimshon ben Efraim Hakohen z"l
Hachossid R' Gedalia Yerachmiel z"l ben Michel
Matel bas Harav Hachossid Bentzion z"l
Toiba z"l bas yl"t Zalman Dovid

Harav Hachossid Avraham ben Yitzchak Isaac Halevi z"l

And for all those that I do not know the names of.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Oh, The Unfairness Of It All...

I was standing in shul this morning minding my own business, thoughts on my personal prayers, when a sudden, piercing and heartwrenching sound caused me to stop. I looked up to see the few other women present, as surprised as I was, slowly inching forward to see who we were hearing.

A young boy, a child, around 7 years old, saying kaddish.

A child should not be saying kaddish. It broke my heart.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Welcome Home, Homeless

7 weeks of traveling around. 3 weeks of working, and 4 works of vacation, boredome, talking to myself just so I don't forget how to do it, surfing the net, pretending to get stuff done. I finally made my way back to NY only to find out that I'm kicked out of my apartment for the month. Lovely. Exactly where am I supposed to go? The park bench?

Thank G-D for nice people. I mean really nice. I mean like "My husband and I are going on vacation for 10 days, why don't you just move into our apartment while we're gone?" kind of nice.
Thanks to people like that I did not have to sleep on a park bench, instead I slept in a cute little one bedroom apartment, on a big comfy bed.

I went to school today to give in some papers that I need photocopied in time for the first day of school. The first day of school... that is frighteningly soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


"Telephone" conversation between two six year olds:

Girl 1: Rochel Sarah died!
Girls 2: Oh. Do you want to come to my house?

Girl 1 hangs up.

Next time around:

Girl 1: Rochel Sarah is in jail!
Girl 2: Do you want to go shopping?
Girl 1: Come over to my house.
Girl 2: No, you come over to my house!
Girl 1: Okay, let's go shopping.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Summer Is Upon Us

Now that the school year is over I can officially say that summer is here. I had the most adorable class this year, I love them to pieces (even the toughies of which there were a few). Today as I was leaving every single one of them followed me out of the classroom and absolutely refused to let me leave. The end of the year is hard for children that young, they are so nervous for next year... during these past few days I heard from more than one student "I don't want the year to end..." I will miss these kids. I know I will.

On a different note, sometimes I feel like my life is so upside down and unsettled that it makes me want to cry for a reason that I can't exactly put my finger on. Really really really dislike that feeling.

Isn't it interesting how you can live with three other people in a tiny apartment where everytime you move you're on top of someone else, and still feel totally and completely alone?

Sidepoint (random thoughts being thrown out today)- My friend's father died suddenly from a heart attack in December. Four days before her wedding. The wedding was the most bittersweet event I have ever attended and the most beautiful wedding I have ever been to. We danced as if we would never have the oppurtunity to dance again in our lives. Just saw her the other day, she was in town for a few days, and we watched her wedding video. I cried and cried.
What a crazy world. Four days before her wedding!!!! Instead of walking to her chuppah she was sitting shiva! Unthinkable. Unbelievable.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ups and Downs

These last few days of school are crunch time in a major way. The day after my friend got engaged her father told me about a boy he thought might be a good idea for me. Without going into much detail as to why I didn't want to go out with this boy, let's just say that the reasons I gave were not significant enough reasons to dismiss the idea. I ended spending the entire day crying. I was so upset and I felt like I was being treated like a client instead of like a person. It really really hurt. Especially considering my feelings from the day before about not having a supportive family etc.

Anyway, between teaching full time (FULL time, as in 9-4, homeroom teacher for TWO different classes) and the mountains of paperwork I have to complete, as well as wrapping up the year inside the classroom, life's been pretty hectic. My curriculum co-ordinator has now asked me to put together my first month's worth of teaching materials for SEPTEMBER!!! Yep. September. "Please hand it in before the last day of school." Boy oh boy. So I spent 30 hours (my entire weekend) putting together my september curriculum and what do you know - Monday morning the principal comes into my classroom and says,

"Miss Teacher, report cards were due in the office last Thursday, when can I expect to have them from you?"

"Last Thursday?" blink, blink

"Yes, the last day of school is next Wednesday, when can I expect to see your marks and comments?"

Ummm, I didn't even start- "I can have them ready by this Thursday."

"Ok, you understand that if you hand them in on Thursday, they will be reviewed and returned to you by Friday. Your report cards will then need to be filled in and completed by Monday."

"I realize, I'm sorry for not having them on time." There goes another weekend

Then on top of that Tuesday morning I woke up with a stiff neck, by Tuesday night it was no longer just stiff, I was in agonzing pain, didn't sleep all night... I went through three days of pain before I called the chiropractor who only had an appointment available in a week...

Hectic, hectic, hectic.

I'm not in the mood of finding myself a place to eat on Shabbos so I'm planning on making my own home meal. Hate doing that. Makes you feel like a real loner, but so does calling four hundred families in search of some challah and chicken soup.

What a week. Whew. Time for a deep breath.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

And... Another One!

Yep. Another one. Another friend became a kallah today. Okay, granted, I had time to swallow this one. I was the first one who suggested the match, and I knew they were dating. It's always weird when you know both sides, it gets you thinking, trying to imagine how in the world your friend is going to fit into your other friend's family. Strange. The whole thing. Just strange.

Let me tell you a little about this family. When I first moved here I met them through their daughter (the kallah) and slowly became close with the whole family. They took me on as one of their own, calling me to come for supper, shabbosim, etc. They are my family and my support system, I really love them.

The father has taken on the responsibility of marrying me off. Every so often something comes up and it always gets directed to him. Today his daughter got engaged. Obviously I'm thrilled to pieces, I feel like my sister became a kallah. I'm beyond excited but there is just a tinge of jealousy over here in my little heart. I'm not jealous of her because she's engaged, I'm jealous because sometimes I wish, I just wish that I had a family like that. That when I get engaged my family all gathers and is beyond happy like hers was. It's nice to be accepted into someone else's family, in fact, it's a lifesaver, but when a simcha like this happens it's a not-so-gentle reminder of what I don't have. Not easy.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Didn't you invite me?

I got two invitations for shabbos meals this week, both by newlywed friends to their parents house. My married friends know that I don't enjoy sharing shabbos meals with them and they consistently try to convince me to change, so this shabbos I accepted both invitations. Big mistake. Friday night the newlyweds showed up after the soup, and on Shabbos day they showed up after the cholent. And they wonder why I don't like eating with them. Well maybe if they actually showed up to the meal I'd enjoy more. They just don't get it.

Getting Started

It's not my style to venture into something new, but it is my style to put my thoughts into writing, so here I am venturing into something new. For anyone that stumbles onto this blog for any reason, welcome to my little world of teaching, singlehood, frustrations, and every so often insights and inspiration.