Tuesday, August 29, 2006

and again and again and again....

so, reflection on a previous post....I currently find myself in a similar situation with regards to the kidnapped soldiers. I asked, in said post, should I have really been praying for the end of the war? and I ask now - should I be praying for the return of the soldiers?
if it means one thousand terrorists will be freed, that x many more Jewish soldiers, children, tourists, journalists will be captured and held hostage again, that x more ppl will die in suicide bombings, be evicorated in random Arab cars, or even stabbed within the gates of the Old City at night, that x mothers, y father, q friends, z girlfrieds, and w related people who weren't even that close but knew the victims from just around the community will be affected....
what are the cost-benefits here? what am I asking for? what should I be asking for? the lives of a few vs the potential lives of many? is that even what they want from us? and from G-d?
but it hurts that they're not home. I don't even know them, but it hurts all of us, and the ache grows a little worse with each day that passes without our knowing what their fate will be.
It's arrogant to think that whatever I ask for in my prayers will be answerd just bc I asked. I know G-d's not going to change the course of history bc I asked Him too, foolishly and without knowing or understanding the consequences.
but they pray five times a day, and we only pray three, which means they've got a head start on us to begin with, and I need to do something to help bring up the team average a bit, whatever I can. that's what being a part of the Jewish community is really about, right?
so I ask again, what in the world am I supposed to be asking for?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

and again....

I had a few extra minutes, so I thought I should post. but now I have to say something.
I'd like to pose a challenge to my fellow bloggers; during a discussion with friends recently, the topic of comparative humor was bandied about, and it's been on my mind. (I didn't get to the challenge part yet. be patient.)we were discussing German humor vs American, vs British, vs Jewish; and I was wondering what exactly it is that makes Jewish humor what it is.
I heard Rav Asher Wade say that all Jewish humor is about either the Jew and his G-d or the Jew and...something else. the Jew and his environment maybe? that seems to make sense...Darn, this would be a lot more effective if I could remember how the entire phrase went. anyway, I think I disagreed with him, bc Jewish humor is more a style of humor than a running punchline. the style has been shaped by our experiences, history, and the effects of these on the Jewish condition,; bitiing, sarcastic,slightly paranoid and very often political, but it's not always the same.
also, bc I think he was mainly talking about Jewish jokes and then I found a few that didn't conform to the formula or something.
in the context of a cultural humor though....bc think about it. what is funny? that which catches us by surprise via contrast of what you expected to happen with what actually happened. which makes us happy bc it's a reflection of truth, which insight makes us more complete...but that's my own personal philosophy. for another time.
so then the difference in cultural humor would be bc different cultures have different expectations? different paradigms for what ought to happen and what ought not to happen, or what does and what doesn't usually?
thus my challenge to you: what is it that seperates Jewish humor from other types of humor, and what is it that marks the differences in the humor of various cultures?

(my challenges aren't usually met with much enthusiasm so as incentive, I offer to the winner...a cookie. but if you live in a different country, you have to buy it yourself.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006


so apparently, the war went somewhere.
over Shabbat, walking to shul with a former teacher, I was surprised to hear her refer to the war as over. in explanation to the pile of Israli flags on her lawn, she told us of her daughter and daughter's friend who'd gone to the Tzomet to sell flags for ppl in the North. when asked were they successful she said "they might have been more succesful a week ago. you know, before the war was over." It was the first time I 'd heard the war was officially through, and it came as a shock to my system. you kow how it is when you've been praying so hard for so long for something and then you get it? and you're suddenly not sure at all if it was the right thing?
I mean, we didn't exactly win this war. we don't have the soldiers back. nobody's even pretending to disarm Hizbullah. nothing of substance was much acomplished. Tobie says "we failed to lose," which she explained by saying "you know if you lose; we'd all be dead. that's the good thing abt Israeli wars, you always know if you lost."
which leaves me with what to say to G-d now? "I'm glad there aren't any bombings, thanks for that, but....." what?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

drive-by post

just bc tobie said I should.
quick update, for anyone who cares.
Ulpan: much work
Being in college at last: very cool
the war: still there
the media:still there
Me: still here.
that abt sums it up.
oh, and the monkey flies at half-past noon.
just because he can.

Monday, August 07, 2006

9 Av

Fast Days, especially the serious ones, are such odd entities of time. Well, 9 Av in particular, it's serious enough that you're not supposed to focus anything non-Fast related until at least midday, but it's not a chag, like Yom Kippur when we spend all day in shul. so you end up in this odd half-zone where you sleep as late as you can (without missing morning prayers of course) and spend the rest of the morning on the floor reading Holocaust literature. After that the day is usually made up of naps, shopping for food for after the fast, and cooking food for after the fast. Plus it's always hot, so we try to move as little as possible, especially outside the house, to conserve water resources and avoid dehydration.
If you're a really good jew and can concentrate, you'll go to all sorts of lectures and shiurim and videos about/related to the fast. I personally lack the concentation and patience to listen to a shiur, especially one about death and destruction, with no food and no caffeine in my system.
After hearing Aicha in Yemin Moshe, my friends and I walked, theoretically in the vague direction of this other Aicha reading in the Old City (can I just say here, that there's something odd about treating Tisha Bi'Av like Simchat Torah- a day to wander from place to place to check out "what's going on" everywhere?) but as we got closer we were clearly drawn only toward the Kotel. The social scene, when we got there, was ridiculous. But it's always like that, especially on days that are supposed to be holy, meaningful, or important in some way; everyone goes to the Kotel. As my friend said to me, it's the center. It draws us.
One of my teachers used to tell us that the best time to be at the Kotel was three in the morning: no one there, no one pushing or crowding. You can concentrate on your thoughts and the importance of the place, spiritually, historically, religously. That that's the best time and place for real introspection, and it'll be your best bet for a meaningful experience at our nation's holiest site. which I've kind of always agreed with, since people have a tendency to annoy me anyway.
So my first thought, that night on the ninth of Av, was that I definitely wanted to be in this place on this day - ground zero on it's personal anniversary. But not with all the shoving obnoxous crowds who knock you off your feet as you're trying to pray, making it impossible to concentrate, with the whole social scene going on in the background. So I thought I'd simply hang around until late, wait till everyone else had gone, and do my praying then.
But as I sat, first on the ground on the worn and slippery stones, then later in the dust, above, with a view, watching the turmoil of my people moving, pushing, glorying on a day when they had been defeated once again, in the middle of yet another war, and still shouting; it occured to me that maybe this was not the day for introspection. It is not the day for the pain of the individual. It is a day when we suffer together as a klal, to commemorate all the other days and times whe we have suffered together as a klal. Today is not a day about me, not a day about alone time. Today the best time and place to daven would davka be in the middle of my people as they shoved and shouted and prayed and cried altogether, fighting to be in the exct same place at the exact same time. We are all drawn here for a reason, and so we come, inadvertently or not, altogether for the same reason. G-d is part communist, I think; He likes us to be in it for each other, to be thinking about the Everyone. So.
So I too shoved and insinuated and struggled my way up to the wall - which, if you think about it as a metaphor for, almost anything really, is how it really should be done - and I got knocked over and off balance as I prayed, shockeling and swaying to the rythem of the surging crowd, and yelling in my head You see this, G-d? You see us? This is the point! Not only are we still here, we're still HERE. In this place, Your place, our place, on the anniversary of its destruction, because no matter how mny times You beat us up and beat us back, we sill keep coming. We will always keep coming. No amount of blood or battery can ever keep the Jew away, not for good. This is our struggle, and this is our glory.
That counts for something, right? It should count for a lot. And yet, how much can instinct and nature really take credit for, that doesn't choose but only drives?
It is not for me to know or decide such things, but only to see them. I only know that we are tired, so tired, but getting our 150,000th wind and getting back in the ring. After awhile you learn you don't actually need energy. just a little more adrenaline, a little more caffeine, and you keep going without any. Just because you have to. Just because that's what we are.