Tuesday, January 23, 2007

vignettes with Tobie

Me: I think I'm gonna write a novel.
Tobie: Is it gonna be all you?
M: Well...yes.
T: Can't you do something else with it as well? All you gets to be so boring!
M: There'll be other people in it, of course I'm not going to be the only character.
T: Yes but you know; memoirs get so angsty. I like a little fiction in my fiction, you know? Can't you stick a little fiction in there?
M: Ok, I'll put in a dragon.
T: A real one?
M: In the book it'll be real. It can be one of my wacky adventures.
T: No, I mean real fiction, you know, like stuff you don't see every day.
M: You mean like a..like a...
T: Like a fish.
M: Right, like a fish....
T: Well, have you ever seen one?
M: Yes.
T: Miri...you're not helping here...
M: The fish can be the dragon's sidekick.
T: In a jumpsuit?
M: In a jumpsuit.
T: An orange polyester one?
M: An orange polyester one.
T: Jumpsuits are the wave of the future you know.
M: I know, Tobie. I know.

Me: You guys watching the movie tonight?
Chava: No, not in the end.
M: Oh, that's sad.
Tobie: You know what's sad? What's sad is your face!
M: Hey, I don't need your lip! I have my own.
T: Yes but the sad thing about your lip is where you keep it.
M: I keep it on my face.
T: Exactly!
C: Don't you want to know where Tobie keeps her lip?
T: I keep my lip somewhere very safe, thank you.
M: Switzerland?
T: No.
M: A fish?
T: No, not a fish.
M: A squash?
T: No. hey, how do you turn a pumpkin into another vegetable?
(Everyone present rolls their eyes.)
All: How, Tobie, how?
T: You throw it up in the air and it comes down SPLAT!
C: You mean squash?
T: The other answer is that it comes down carrot.
M: Of course it does.
T: It does!
M: I know, Tobie. I know.

Miri: If I had a million dollars
Chava: I'd buy you a green dress
M: But not a real green dress, that's cruel
Tobie: Haven't you always wanted a monkey?
M: Who wouldn't want a monkey?
T: But they're mischeivous and they smell.
M: And they steal spare change for you. Come on, who doesn't want stolen spare monkey change?
T: I want a stolen spare monkey.
M: I just want a normal monkey.
C: I just want a real green dress.
T and M: That's cruel!!
C: With a capital C that rhymes with P that stands for pool!
T and M: Stands for pool!
T: Hey we rhymed. We're poets without knowing its.
M: Well, actually we knew it.
T: You did?
Chava and Miri nod.
T: But I didn't know it.
C and M: We know, Tobie. We know.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Faith says she's sorry
she was up all night
knocking on gates for you
but they had all been locked up tight
against everything you'd been told you knew

Faith says she's failed you
she says "just give me
one more chance to prove;
I'll enlist my daughters Hope and Love and
somehow we three may get through."

and with every passing hour
the walls grow taller round the towers
and when their wings failed them
they threw stones but
rocks were turned to sand and dust
and scoffed the trio's mighty powers

Faith says she's sorry
all twelve gates of Heaven
closed their doors on you
they must have changed the password while she was
looking the other way and now
there's nothing she can do

Monday, January 15, 2007

More Feminist Stuff

I am temporrily exhaustified of the philisophical ramblings of the blogosphere. for the moment no paticularly new ideas are being produced and meanwhile I miss the random silliness of my early postings; so in the near future, to those two or three of you who actually read my blog, don't expect anything too heavy. this will be my last vaguely serious post for awhile.

so I've been doing some reading, for this paper that I'm writing, and I have to say something. Jewish women are freakin awesome. I'm sorry but historically? we just rocked the house. to anyone out there looking for educated, intellectual, and independent Jewish female role models, there are quite a few of them. I was particulalrly impressed with what I read of the women in Enlightenment era Germany; supposedly assimilated (a good number of them converted,) almost completely secular, they formed their own little society of the intellectual and cultural elite in a setting where they were still largely unaccepted by the rest of society. These women express beautifully the anguish of a search for identity in a world that either didn't accept them because they were Jewish, because they weren't Jewish, or because they were women. Despite these restrictions, they wrote, published, spoke publicly, and in some cases organized educational programs for women of similar backgrounds and difficulties. in so many ways, I relate to what they were saying - the alienation and the need for liberty to be able to choose for themselves what to do with their intellectual prowess; the railing helplessly against constraints of a society that refused to recognize them for who they were. It seems that somehow the feminist message never changes. The history and language (translated of course) of Rachel Levin Varnhagen touched me particularly. Somehow there's something passionately universal in her words.

Then of course there are the words of Emma Lazarus ( for those of you that don't know, that poem on the green statue from France? written by a little Jewish girl, that's right. well, except she wasn't so little at the time.) she wrote something perfectly fitting to the continual intellectual upheaval of the J-sphere, but I have for the moment lost it, so that will get put on hold.

Of course, there are many notable women throughout the entire history of Judaism, and many of them learned in Torah to the extent where the Rabbeim of the time recognized their halachik decisions, and who might be better role models morally; but I guess it'll always be the anguish of the lost soul that touches me most.

oh, right. I'm a feminist now. I've resisted it long enough, but there comes a point where one has to stop pretending. it came kind of in tandem with the whole wishing I could get smicha thing.

Monday, January 01, 2007

you say you want a revolution....

ok, I lied. I'm not going to stop. it just makes me giggle. I am sorry.

I've been contemplating revolution. a full-scale, no-holds barred, blood and guts revolution. I think it's about time. I think we need it now, and I think it's coming. it's on its slow way in, but like all good revolutions, one day it ill burst forth over the general population like a tsunami and change orthodox Judaism forever.

that, at least, is the dream.

ok, so...this is a long rant coming. I warn you in advance.

in response to the insanity with the chareidi educational bans, plus a little personal bitterness based on a very recent experience, I'd like to say something about the education of Jewish females which has always been kind of a pet cause of mine. (see prior post, re: rebellion.) I recently heard of an on-line program through which one could get smicha. the natural prankster in me immediately went "Hey, what if...." which things of course usually work out better if you're willing to stoop to a little subterfuge and dishonesty. damn my personal integrity. or rather my friend's. in any case I did, after some amount of stewing, venture this idea to a close friend and chavruta of mine - what if we could get smicha? or, since we know that Orthodox people don't actually give smicha to females, at least learn whatever the smicha bound people were learning, without getting tested or doing anything official, and thus have an intensive chavruta through which we would simply know a lot of stuff?

which idea got us both very excited, bc we like Torah and we really like halacha, and we thought this would just make us cooler people who would henceforth be two Jews better equipped to serve our Creator by actually knowing some stuff about how to serve Him. etc. the only site we found equipped with this supposed on-line smicha program specifically stated that its smicha program was only for men. there was however a different track for the not-necessarily-smicha-bound ones which did not specify gender. in an attempt to find out more details about the course, my friend filled out the information neccessary to bring us to the next page; in so doing, accidentally submitting her name and contact info to said orginization, which told her they'd get back to her. and get back to her they did. they don't allow females in this program either - which fact didn't really surprise us - but we were advised to check out the kosher kitchen program, which "might be more suited to" us. link included.


I am not going to say that Orthodox Judaism is ready for female rabbis, of the pulpitting or any other kind, necessarily. nor that it needs them. however, I would like to say something about the current definition of OJ's "smicha", and about OJs standards of education in general. it ain't just the secular stuff anymore people. way back when, in the old countries, when one had to know 200 blat gemarrah by heart to get into a yeshiva, let alone begin to start studying for some sort of a certificational smicha process, to say at that point in time that it was not appropriate for women to be learning for smicha made sense. bc not all men studied for smicha. most people, in fact, did not. time, resources, whatever you want to say was the reason.

but if our standards of smicha have sunk so low that you can get it through an online course? why exactly are we prohibitting women from learning what can be learned through an online course?

If what we expected of our youth to know when they came out of high-school and yeshiva/seminaries even vaguely approached what one ought to know after passing one of those computer generated bechinas, then I might say that of course, smicha is not necessary or appropriate for women. when you at least have a vague idea of what it says in a good portion of the shulchan aruch, it's ok to move on to the whole marriage and babies thing. oh, and the earning a living thing. I forget that one sometimes, bc you know, out of sight out of mind, right?

but in the meantime. why aren't we allowed to take this course? bc this knowledge is only for men? bc women aren't supposed to know as much?why exactly are we supposed to keep ourselves stupid bc the guys are being lazy?

I'd like to for a moment go back to the whole Devorah as national Jewish leader thing. I know, I know - the commentaries say it was a negative thing that a woman had to be a leader. but not bc she did the wrong thing. if the level of male learning is so low that the women had to step up, doesn't that indicate that the men were doing something wrong? doesn't it indicate that the men should get cracking? why is something that is their fault considered a negative reflection on the females?

now, I'm not saying that this fine online program, or those who run it, are necessarily bad. I'm saying it's indicative of the way Orthodox Judaism has let its educational standards slip, how their institutions are crumbling around their ears, and this latest educational ban is just one example of how that whole community is going to tumble into chaos come the next generation.

I used to be worried about the slow take-over of chareidism. I used to be worried that all orthodox Jews would soon be brainwashed into thinking that pure emunas chachamim, in its finest idolatrous form, was the only viable option through which one could move or think. but I see now that I shouldn't have worried. G-d isn't going to let Jews smother His religion; His religion of knowledge and search, and truth, the truth that ever evolves around us and under us as we move and create it. the Chareidim are slowly strangling their communities to death and sooner or later they're going to have to deal with the fallout. they are the ones who will inadvertently cause the revolutions they so hope to stifle. I'm not sure how much longer their own people can bear it, and after all, we are a stiff-necked nation.

the question is, how much responsibility do we have as individuals to make this revolution take place? what is our duty to the next generation? how much can we expect of ourselves, and how much should we?
I want my children to grow up in a world of Orthodox Judaism where skepticims is nurtured, where deviant thought processes are respected, where introspection and logic are engrained, where it is assumed that people are honest with themselves when they think. what would such a world look like? would the acceptance of free thought send everyone away? I rather think that orthodox practice would be strengthened and enriched. what must it be like to live in a society that isn't paranoid at the thought of losing souls to individuality? what must it be like to take for granted that questions don't need answers to have inherent value?

as my friend says, we will never know everything. we may someday know something. one thing's for sure; with the help of my good friends in the online-learning community, I may someday know that which is more suitable to me, like keeping my kitchen kosher.