Monday, June 27, 2011

Sane in the Woods

You know when you have those days when everyone is getting on your nerves?
Yeah, well, I'm having one of those days.

It's as if I'm alone in my principles.

It's times like these that I wish I:
a) had a guitar
b) knew how to play the guitar
c) had song writing skills

to write that song. You know, "Alone in My Principles."

La la la la la.
(Now I'm waiting impatiently for somebody to tell me that's kol isha).

Stay tuned for a rant.

Or not.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Modern Day Korach

I saw a great quote (on a magnet!) about Shabbat. It read: Shabbos (Shabbat) is a day ON; not a day OFF.

So, Parashat Korach.
I think many people read this Parasha and wonder "what was Korach thinking? Didn't he clearly see that Moshe was the chosen prophet? That G-d's Word was so clear? How could he have had the chutzpah to rebel and so clearly trangress?"
It seems perplexing at first, but if one really delves into the psychology, it's very understandable. When a person thinks he's right, he'll find a way to
rationalize his actions. Not only rationalize them, but he'll even claim (and find proof!) for why it's a MITZVAH to act in the manner that he's acting.

Korach was so certain that he was right and holy. In fact, he made sure that all 250 men were "holy" according to his standards. He rejected On ben Pelet because his wife uncovered her hair! Chas v'shalom that he would have a man in his "holy group" whose wife was NOT MODEST!

He was blinded by his own ego and perceptions. And that is exactly what led to his scary punishment -- being swallowed by the earth!

From this incident, we learn how terrible Machloket (strife) can be. It can lead to a person's complete demise. Strife destroys a person; it blurs his vision. It dehumanizes him.
Peace, on the other hand, is integral. We continuously pray for peace (in Birkat Kohanim, in the Amida, in Birkat Hamazon, etc.) A person MUST have peace in order to thrive and be happy.

How much effort does one need to make to pursue peace?
Should one ever give up and say "I can't make Shalom with this person! I'm never going to have peace with him!"??
What if the person is "beneath" him? Be it religiously, socially, financially, etc.? What if the other person is his own STUDENT? What if the other person is clearly the one who WRONGED him?

Let's see what Moshe Rabbeinu did in this week's Parasha...
Korach rebels against Moshe. He blatantly goes against Moshe and HaShem's commandments. Korach was so sure that he was right and that Moshe was wrong.
And guess what?
Moshe Rabbeinu, the holiest Navi, the Gadol of that time, the chief Rabbi, the only person to speak with G-d "panim el panim" went to pursue peace with Datan v'Aviram (who were part of Korach's group.)
If Moshe was willing to seek peace with his fellow Jews, how much more so should we be willing to seek peace with anyone and everyone.
If someone wronged you, you should ALWAYS be the one to rekindle the friendship. You should ALWAYS be the one to forgive.
Never let pride get in the way.

Aharon HaCohen was "ohev shalom v'rodef shalom" -- he loved peace AND pursued it.
Chazal teach us an amazing story about Aharon HaCohen. He heard about a husband and wife who were fighting. The husband told his wife "I will never forgive you unless you spit in the eye of the Cohen HaGadol!" (he probably didn't intend the for the literal meaning. That phrase was probably used as an expression of "I'm never going to forgive you" -- kind of like how we say "the day when pigs fly...) Aharon heard about this and went up the wife and told her "I have a rare eye condition, and I need somebody to spit in my eye to cure it. Can you please do so?"
If Aharon, the COHEN HAGADOL, one of the holiest men, a prophet, Moshe Rabbenu's brother, was willing to "give up" his honor just to restore peace and respect between two fellow Jews, how much more so should we be willing to humble ourselves? To sacrafice our honor? Our egos? Our prejudices? Our pride?
It's a lot easier said than done. But B"H we learn from our great role models that it is possible and attainable.

May we always emulate the ways of Moshe and Aharon and never the ways of Korach v'adato!
Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011


So, I was trying to reach a particular shadchan, who was suggested to me by a friend. I don't like calling, but hey, gotta do hishtadlut, right?
The phone would ring and ring. She wouldn't answer. Okay, so I basically decide to forget about the meeting with her. At least temporarily.

A different shadchan called me up and suggested a guy.
A really great, solid guy. Really.
Nice guy.
So we went out a 2nd time.
Still nice but not for me.
So I called her up to let her know.

"who's this, again?" She asked
I was a little bit taken aback. I mean, I know that she's busy and all, but c'mon lady, you just set me up with this guy!

I calmly responded "this is Sefardi Gal. You set me up with Mr. Likes Sushi."

"I set you up with Mr. Likes Sushi? When?"
She sounded shocked.

I was a bit shocked that she was shocked.

"Yes...last week. And we went on our second date last night..."

"I'm sorry. If you say I set you up, then I must have. Let me think. Hmmm...let me try and remember. Last week...Last week...hmmmm."

The background music began to play in my head.

Annoyed, I looked at my caller I.D.
My eyes widened, and I nearly gasped.

Oh man.

I unintentionally called Mrs. Shadchan-who-would-never-answer-when-I-call. She davka decided to pick up on the day that I did NOT intend to call her.

Let's add this incident to the list of Sefardi Gal's fadichot.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sheer Joy

Recently, I was thinking about an extremely moving night of my life.

It wasn't some big party. Or some huge moment that involved a confession.

It was a particular motzei Shabbat.

I stayed by a really beautiful, holy family for Shabbat.

I didn't grow up in a frum household, and since I became religious, one of the aspects I long for the most is my own kosher kadosh, religious household. Torah, tzniut, simcha, etc.
This family embodied that ideal. Sheer holiness.

I entered the house on Erev Shabbat; their home smelled of freshly baked challah and Shabbat food.
There was no television; the pride and joy was the huge sefarim shelf. The wife saw me admiring it and looking through the books. She smiled and told me "I tell my husband that sefarim are more valuable to me than jewelry. If he wants to buy me a gift, I tell him that I'd much rather he buy a sefer rather than a jewelry!"
I fell in love with their whole family, but particularly, their son.

He was 5 years old and very well-mannered and funny. He's the one who wanted to marry me.
On Motzei Shabbat, he was already in pjamas, but he clearly wanted to stay awake. He agreed to go to bed if I would put him to sleep.

So, I walked into his room, expecting it to take the usual 2 minutes. I told him we'll say "shema" together.
"okay, but we're saying the long version!" he replied enthusiastically.
Being that he was 5 years old, I expected him to know the first line or two. The first paragraph being the MAX.

He knew the ENTIRE shema. After the shema, he procceeded to perfectly recite several perakim of Tehillim. Perakim that took me quite some time to recite by heart.
I watched with astonishment. I was amazed. I was so inspired by this 5 year old.

I felt like I was looking at the most beautiful neshama.

And I hoped (hope) that I will raise such holy children, too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

He Knows.

There's a story about Eliyahu HaNavi. He appeared to one of the Rabbis, who spent the day with Eliyahu HaNavi. However, there was 1 condition: the Rabbi was not allowed to ask Eliyahu HaNavi any questions.
So, Eliyahu HaNavi knocked on the door of a very shabby house of an extremely poor family. An elderly couple with no children opened the door. They loved guests, and even though they had very little, their hospitality emulated Avraham and Sara’s hospitality.
They gave Eliyahu HaNavi and the Rabbi food, drink, and even their own beds. The old couple gladly slept on the floor – just so that their two guests could sleep comfortably!

In the middle of the night, the Rabbi heard Eliyahu HaNavi praying intently for this poor couple’s only cow to die.
WHAT?!! The Rabbi was shocked! This cow was the sole source of parnassah for this family. If the cow would die, they would barely have anything.
But…the Rabbi wasn’t allowed to ask questions. He kept his thoughts to himself, but this tefillah really perturbed him.

That morning, as Eliyahu HaNavi and the Rabbi were leaving, they heard a loud scream from the elderly couple’s house. The poor old lady ran outside crying and she screamed “our cow! Our only has cow died. What will we do, what will be??”

Eliyahu HaNavi saw that the Rabbi looked confused. “Do you know why I prayed for the cow to die?”
Because the Rabbi was a Tzaddik, Eliyahu HaNavi shared the reason with him.
“That old woman was supposed to die today. So I prayed for HaShem to take the cow’s life instead of her life. As a kapara.”
And suddenly, it became clear. It was a chessed.

If this woman knew that she was supposed to die, and the cow was taken instead, would she have been crying, worrying, and complaining? Of course not! She would be thanking HaShem all day long. She would be so happy that the cow died!

But she didn’t know.

And so too…we don’t always know the reason for “tragedies” or difficulties in our lives. Everything really is a chessed from HaShem, but we don’t always merit to know the reasons.
That’s where bitachon comes in the picture. Bitachon is that we have to KNOW that everything that happens to us is ultimately for our benefit. Every problem has a finish line. It’s happening to us for a reason, and somehow, it’s truly for our benefit.

Our challenges don’t always have to be so earth-shattering. Challenges also include daily life frustrations.
An example from my personal life…

I was really infatuated with this guy.
Mainly because he seemed so frum and wholesome.

Truly solid.

My thoughts would sing "omgosh he’s sooo holy." He was (supposedly) a great learner and seemed so passionate and enthusiastic about Torah and mitzvot.
So, of course, I was interested.
You know, in the unhealthy obsessed type of way. (I seriously told my friend, with 82.7% certainty, "we're getting married. He doesn't know it yet. But we are.")

But just oneeee tiny drawback: he wasn't interested in me.
It kind of (read: extremely) hurt.

HaShem, how can this be for my benefit? Everything seems so wonderful about him. I don't get it.
I don't get it.
I. Don't. Get. It.

That is, I didn't get it.

And turns out...
he's not on the right derech right now.
While I hope he does teshuva and sees the right Jewish path (for his own sake), I'm so grateful.

HaShem knows what He's doing.

Just remember: what seems horrible today can end up being the biggest blessing later on.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Scrumptious Cheesecake

I really, really like cheesecake.

Unfortunately, as of lately, there's been a tragedy: certain bakeries have been making it waaaay too sweet. You barely even taste the cheese! There's an excessive amount of cream, sugar, crumbs, and fruits. What's up with that?!

Oreo double fudge cheesecake.
Pumpkin pecan cheesecake.
Chocolate marble fudge crumb cheesecake.
Coffee mocha cheesecake.
Lemon cream cheesecake.


Truly a cheesecake corruption.

I can make way better cheesecake on my own but see, thing is...

I don't bake much. The reason is kind of pathetic. I'm waiting to get married, so that my husband can appreciate my cookies and cakes. If I bake them, I'm usually the only one who ends up eating them. EATING A BATCH OF 40 COOKIES = PROBLEM.
Kal Vachomer, a 5,000 calorie cheesecake.
So, no homemade cheesecake this year.
Too bad. My zivug is really missing out on some potentially-yummy-moderately sweetened-life-changing cake. TELL HIM TO HURRY UP!!
(yes, I know I'm a bit nutty. But who likes normal people, anyway?)

TEFILLAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. We love tefillah! Know what the proof is? Know that feeling of the yetzer hara trying to convince you to keep sleeping and not wake up to pray, but then you DON'T LISTEN TO HIM. You wake up on time and pray and then you feel sooo charged! So accomplished and spiritual. You feel like you can do anything and everything. Bring on the day! Right?? Right!

Baruch HaShem, I have really amazing tzadikot as friends. My amazing friends have taught me some super duper Tefillah concepts:

1. Sing your tefillot to HaShem (like to the tune of your favorite song)
2. Pray for healthy self-esteem and self-image
3. Pray to know how to pray well
4. Pray to be close to HaShem
5. Pray for your fellow Jews that you "don't like" to be healthy, have a good parnassah, find a shidduch, etc. -- it will encourage ahavat yisrael in your heart
6. Every morning, recite the tefilla composed by the Chafetz Chaim to help you keep shmirat halashon. (Found in the "lesson a day - shmirat halashon" books and many siddurim.)
7. Before you say shema & go to sleep at night, thank HaShem for 2 acts of chessed that He performed for you. (Ex: "HaShem, thank You so much for helping me make my train on time this morning!"

Quick & nice dvar Torah regarding the holy chag of Shavuot:
Many of us may be familiar with the following teaching from Chazal: Bnei Yisrael stood under the mountain, and G-d gave them a choice: either accept the mitzvot or the mountain will be over your heads.
So basically – mitzvot or immediate death. What kind of choice is that??? Wouldn’t most people choose mitzvoth, simply because they don’t want to die? How is that bechira?
A Holy Rav who wrote a mussar book explains that Torah isn’t just a lifestyle. Torah is life! A Jew can’t really live without Torah. Sure, he’s breathing, but where’s the sustenance? The only way a neshama can truly be alive and happy is if it is connected to HaShem. How can one connect to HaShem? Through keeping the Torah and mitzvot!
During matan Torah, it was so clear to Bnei Yisrael that Torah was the right way to go. Chazal isn’t telling us that they didn’t have bechira, rather – it was that the choice was SIMPLE. Life with meaning? Or death?
That form of bechira can be compared to a person choosing to come up for air while swimming. Of course you’re going to come up for air! Is there bechira in that scenario? Sure. But it’s just so clear and obvious to a person, and so, he doesn’t even think twice to do so. awesome clarity is. How difficult it is when a person can't make decisions. A Jew must never give up!! Keep praying to HaShem to find your answers and meaning. To find your connection to Him. And b"H you will receive all of the answers -- simply because you sought them. Clarity is the biggest bracha.

May we all be zochim to receive such clarity in Torah/life this Shavuot!

Chag sameach! :)