Friday, April 22, 2011

Just a tip

I recently saw an ex-date. He didn't acknowledge me, but I still think he's a fine person and will make a good husband. I said this to my friend, and she was a bit surprised that I could speak positively about somebody who hurt me. So, that reaction is what triggered this post. Do we allow our emotions to control us?

Don't speak lashon hara about someone you've dated just because he hurt your ego. If he is, otherwise, a solid person who will make a good husband for somebody else -- then don't get in the way of the shidduch.
This seems like common sense, and like, DUH sefardi gal. But the thing is: it's not. Even in dating, one has the obligation of the beautiful mitzvah "v'ahavta l'reeacha kamocha." Don't let grudges and bitterness get in the way of someone else's opportunity for happiness and greatness.
Also, treat people you previously dated with respect -- don't bad mouthe them, don't ignore them and treat them as if they don't exist, don't bash their looks by saying how unattractive they are.

The key is to take yourself out of the picture and view every Jew as an individual who has similar goals as you do. You're not the only one who is struggling with shidduchim and hoping to get married. They are the future parents of your childrens' classmates/generation.
Daven for your ex-dates, try to suggest people for them, etc.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Journey To Sweetness :)

Well, I'm sure everyone is busy preparing for Pesach. I went to three (that's right - three!!) kosher supermarkets on Sunday, and baruch HaShem, they were all PACKED with all kinds of Jews. I'm always excited to shop for Pesach because I like food, and it fascinates me to see what all the new Passover recipes/food ideas that companies come up with.
This year, one of the supermarkets brought in special stuffad0o0o from Israel for the Sefardim who eat kitniyot. So, Sefardi Gal's household contains techina and humus this year...and chocolate covered nuts. Sweeeeet! (For all the Ashkenazim - don't worry. I saw a lot of tasty cakes, too :D)

I looked around and even though I had to wait on the long line, I was smiling. I was (and am) so happy and proud to be Jewish. Pesach is one of the holidays that many not-yet-observant Jews celebrate. Klal Yisrael is putting in hishtadlut to keep Pesach! We're willing to wait on long lines, pay a lot of money, empty out our fridges and freezers, clean, cook, search our homes, burn the chametz, tovel our dishes/buy new dishes, have a seder, invite guests, eat matzah, etc.

I heard a beautiful and moving shiur by Rabbi Wallerstein about Pesach. (If anyone has 48-50 minutes, like while you're cleaning, cooking, or setting the table, I highly recommend the shiur. Even 10 minutes of it will inspire you!)

Chazal teach us that there are a few types of "new years" throughout the year. Tu b'shvat is the new year for the trees, Rosh Hashana (Tishrei) is the new year, and Pesach (Nissan) is the new year for the months.
On both Rosh Hashana and Pesach, we have special foods and blessings that we make. The foods are often put on a special plate, and IDK about y'all, but sometimes I get confused and need to be reminded about which foods are used for which holiday.
These foods are called "simanim" - signs.

So, what's the point of simanim (the various foods we eat on Rosh Hashana and Pesach)??

Suppose there's a Jew who did tons of averot all year long: he broke Shabbat, ate non-kosher, often gossiped, lied, spoke LH, cheated, etc.
And then comes Rosh Hashana...and he takes the apple, dips it in honey, and says "l'shana tova u'metukah!" -- so ummm...just because he dipped the apple in the honey, he's going to have a sweet new year?? If he doesn't do teshuva and continues with his sinful ways, is his year automatically going to be sweet just because of the apple and honey? What difference does an apple dipped in honey make in his life?! It's just food!

A man wanted to buy something beautiful for his wife. He heard about a bird called the mynah bird. The mynah bird was known to be quite expensive, and the rich and important people all bought the mynah bird. The man looked at the bird - pretty, small, delicate. He decided to save up enough money and surprise his dear wife with this extravagant gift. He went up to the seller and asked "tell me, sir, how much does this bird cost?"
"$5,000" responded the seller.
$5,000 was quite a high price, but the man resolved that he would buy it because his wife is worthy of such a gift.
So, he saved up the $ and bought the bird. He happily walked home with it and came home with a huge smile. "Honey, I bought you a wonderful gift!"
His wife saw the bird, and her husband proudly told her "cut and clean this bird up, stick it in the oven with your delicious sauce and lemons and potatoes!"
He set up a beautiful candle-lit table with their finest china and silverware, and there was a rich aroma in the house. He was so excited for his wife to taste the bird that he saved up so much for. All for her enjoyment.
She put the dish on the table, and it was evident that there wouldn't be any second portions because without the feathers, and especially after being cooked, the bird was tiny.
Her husband anxiously cuts the bird in half, gives the bigger half to his wife, puts some for himself and waits for her to take the first delicious bite. She places a piece into her mouth, and within a second, spits it out. "Ugh! Blech! This bird tastes awful! It's sweet and gooey!"
Her husband couldn't believe what he was hearing! How can the $5,000 bird, that is enjoyed by so many emperors, kings, and important people, taste so horrendous?? He takes a bite and also spits it out. He was shocked!

The next day, he angrily storms into the store where he bought the mynah bird. He begins to yell at the seller "what kind of defected bird did you sell me?! I demand my money back!"
The seller looked surprised. "Sir, are you not enjoying the mynah bird's singing? It should be singing beautifully!"
"SINGING?!?! What are you talking about?! We cooked it and ate it!"
Suddenly, the man had a rush of realization. The mynah bird was admired for its' singing. It is not a bird that is meant to be eaten.
He left the store feeling embarrassed; he knew that he completely missed the point of the bird's true value.

At the Seder, what do some people do?
They eat the matzah and then comment "awww man! The shmura that you bought last year was so much tastier."
They eat the charoset and say "mmmm how sweet." or "Eh. I like the apple charoset better."
They eat the marror and say "ugh! I hate romaine lettuce!" or comment on the texture/crunchiness.
While a Dvar Torah is going on, they might tune out and just think "hey, when can we eat already?"

Much like the man who ate the mynah bird, instead of listening to it sing, they are MISSING THE POINT.
The point of the simanim is to awaken ourselves spiritually. Food has a certain unique strength -- it has the ability to change our taste. It's able to somewhat shift an individual's mood. Food can bring a certain dosage of simcha to a person's life (think about how cranky some people can be if they don't have their morning coffee, or if they skip 1 or 2 meals). Researchers have shown that chocolate, for example, triggers feel-good chemicals in the body. (Post-break up chocolate brownie fudge ice-cream, anyone?)
Food enters our body through our mouthes/taste buds, our throats, and then enters our stomachs. We can literally feel it, and therefore, the connection is very tangible.
So, Chazal instructed us to eat. But we eat in order to FEEL it. What is "it"? "It" = the proper thoughts we're supposed to be thinking when eating the simanim. The right kavanot (intentions). Simanim are a tool for us to feel and think about the proper emotions and thoughts pertaining to the holiday.

When we eat matzah, we should close our eyes as we're chewing and think about the Jews rushing to leave Egypt and not having enough time for the bread to rise. Matzah's purpose is to remind us of that! The Jews were being redeemed and leaving Egypt. Egypt was THEIR galut -- but what is our galut? Our galut is whatever problems we it financial, marital, spiritual, physical, etc.
We need to think about our own issues and think -- just like G-d helped the Jews leave Egypt, G-d can help ME leave my own personal Egypt! He can help me get through this difficult time!"

When we eat the marror, we're supposed to think about their pain and bitterness. The Jews were enslaved, their babies were murdered...
can you imagine their tefillot? Their tears? Did they ever think they would get through it? Did they ever think they'd be free?
How about ourselves -- do we pray? Do we cry? Do we believe that if HaShem brought us to it - He can bring us through it?

When we eat the egg, we should remember the Korban that we're not able to bring because WE DON'T HAVE A BEIT HAMIKDASH! HaShem does not have a home. We should close our eyes and for at least a few moments, think about HaShem's pain. We should think about how awesome it would be to have a Beit see the Kohanim dressed in their beautiful clothing, to hear the Leviim singing and using their angelic voices to praise HaShem, to see the open miracles, the avoda, to see all of Klal Yisrael united...

(There are many, many literal and mystical reasons for each siman. The above concepts are just a few of many incredible explanations. I recommend reading the commentary of a Hagaddah -- if you still have time, purchase one with commentary! It can really completely change your Passover for the better.)

Bottom-line: It's not just food. Simanim are tools for us to grow closer to HaShem. The main point is NOT just to eat them. They're there to serve as facilitators for our spirituality and closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. The simanim should make somewhat of a change in our lives and make us more aware. It's upto YOU - how much of a difference to you want the simanim to make in your life? If there's a will, there's a way!

May HaShem redeem all of us from our personal galuyot, and of course, from our national galut. May He please send us Mashiach Ben-David and Ben-Yosef speedily in our times in a peaceful way!
Wishing you all a Chag Kasher v'Sameach!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Little Boys Love Me

I love kids. I do. Really.

Some gals are very mushy gushy when it comes to babies and kids and MUST speak in baby talk language to them.
I don't baby talk.

Okay. Fine. Maybe sometimes. But for the most part, I don't.

One thing I've learned from babysitting/being around kiddos at my friends' homes or by a family for Shabbat is that little boys (mainly between the ages of 3 to 9) have strong feelings towards me. I have no clue why...

It all started in Shul when I was 15. A mischevious little 8 year old boy became obsessed with me. He started off saying insulting remarks to all the girls, throwing things at them, etc. and then one day, he started holding my hand and telling me how wonderful I am.
A look of panic crossed my face. I turned to my friend in desperate need of help -- GET HIM AWAY!!!
But no.
He had plans.
He wanted to marry me.
His most prized posession was the candy that he collected at Shul. Perhaps he would sell the candy to buy me a $5 ring. Real plastic and all.

I tried to run away and avoid him. But it worked to no avail.
I think his infatuation with me finally ended when he grew up & I switched Shuls.

Another boy was a cute little 5 year old of a family I went to for Shabbat. He kept following me around the house and asking if he can stay in the same room as me. No, you may not.
He wrapped his arms around my waist and said "I want to marry you."

The most recent one was an 8 year old who was obsessed with saying that everything is "not tznius!"
Apparently, everything was immodest. Except me.
He handed me a paper flower he made.
He asked me if he can sit by me.
Then, as I was reaching for something on the table, he took my hand and kissed it.

My friend was laughing and getting a good kick out of it, but I have yet to learn how to respond to all of these prepubescent affections.

Maybe these boys should give some tips to the "real men" who have commitment-phobia. :D

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How Sweet It Is

This past Tuesday, my not-yet-religious relative went to do some quick grocery shopping. She saw a religious man, with nice, kind eyes, small white peyot, a long white beard.
They were both picking out some grapes from the produce section.
"How are the grapes? Are they good?" The religious man asked my relative.
"I think so. Why don't you taste one and find out?"
"No, I can't. It wouldn't be right."
"But you're tasting in order to buy them! Why not?"
"No. I can't. If I'd like to taste it, I have to first ask permission from the seller."

My relative was sure that the seller would refuse.

The man came back a minute later and said "yes, the seller permitted me to try the grape." He tried one, liked it, and bought the bunch of grapes.

Shocked, this relative told me "you know, it never even occurred to me...that a person has to ask. I was so proud of him for conducting himself in such an honest way. Kol Hakavod."

In the Shacharit tefillah of "Ahavat Olam", we ask HaShem to help us "lilmod u'lelamed" - to learn and to teach.
Our actions are the best teachers. Always attempt to act in a straight, rightful way because your actions are examples. HaShem is always watching us, but there are also people watching and learning from even your simplest decision.

A friend of mine recently shared a fantastic concept with me. Simply put: "every time you say no to something, you're saying yes to something else. Every time you say yes to something, you're saying no to something else."

I wonder if any of them made grape kabobs. That picture is making me hungry.

Shabbat Shalom u'Mevurach!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Unexpected Teacher

I was on the subway & feeling drained. 'Twas a long day. Sometimes an individual can forget why (s)he is here. That the whole purpose of our existence is to do good. To fulfill Torah and mitzvot.
I'm embarrassed to admit that at that moment, I wasn't focusing on my mission. I was just tired. I was fed up.

An African American man arrived on my subway car and was about to make a speech.
Oh great. Another speech about jesus or money. I silently dreaded.

But to my pleasant surprise, this speech was different. And was a huge wake up call for me.
I don't remember the beginning of the speech, but the middle to end went something like the following:

"I'd like to tell y'all that I wasn't always a good guy. I used to do bad things. But then I realized that I can change. I want y'all to know that - you can always change! You can be in the dark, but you're not trapped. Just step into the light. Just like that.
G-d is waiting for you. He will accept you regardless of where you've been.
And I want y'all to know...that G-d is great not SOME of the time, but ALL of the time. He is great."

I felt like he was sent to speak directly to me. Kinda selfish, I know. But hey - each person should feel like the world was created for himself/herself, right?
What was the message I got? Do teshuva. Know that everything is l'tova. Gam zu l'tova - BECAUSE G-d is always great and right. Not only sometimes. But at all times.

Chodesh tov. May this chodesh Nissan be full of personal redemptions for each one of you and all of Klal Yisrael.