Monthly Archives: September 2008

Rosh Hashana Ambiguity

Most bloggers have already mentioned Rosh Hashana in one way or another. Me, I don’t know what to say. I can’t inspire, I need inspiration. I can’t mock, because I don’t think it’s appropriate.


I’m average.


Part of me is going “What, it’s Rosh Hashana already?!!!” the other half is terrified of its implications.


Part of me knows I’m going to be counting pages, sniggering at some people in shul’s choice of attire. I’m going to lose my concentration. I’m going to have a bad shemone esrei or two. I’m going to wonder what the heck half the things I’m saying.


But then there’s a part of me that really is trying, that really wants, that is really crying. Crying because I really feel and understand, or crying over the fact that I just don’t get it.


Everyone has those moments every once in a while, where everything is crystallized, and makes sense. Rosh Hashana presents itself with ample opportunity for that to happen. Those seconds where you understand, where you care, where you want, where you try, and sincerely mean everything you say.


I’m hoping that this Rosh Hashana and this year will be one of the better ones.


Posted by on September 26, 2008 in Yom Tov


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THE JEWISH NOVEL: a story of intrigue and interstate


            Welcome to the Jewish novel. This is where all the girls are perfect aidel Bais Yaakov girls, heaven forbid they forget to make a bracha (and it’s not explicitly written in the book every time they eat something, because how else would you know if they made a bracha.) All the boys shteig, and if they don’t, they’re working, only because they HAVE to, but are really Tzaddikim Nistarim, learning into the wee hours of the night, saving the world from greasy hair. All others (there are others?) are unmentionable, forbidden, taboo.

            The Jewish novel takes place in Paris, London Johannesburg, India, Pakistan, dark side of the moon, and any other place where you are unlikely to find a Jewish person. Never New York, which is only the largest Jewish community in America.

            In the Jewish novel, the intrigue is the letter on the counter, which appears to frame the Rav of the town as a counterfeiter, only to find out later it was an overdue bill (the irresponsibility, a shanda, how could he be a Rav?!) The interstate is between Montana and North Dakota. New Jersey and New York? Unheard of.

            This is the Jewish Novel, where you know what will happen on the next page because this happened in the last Jewish novel and the one before, and the one before that (or from a much better secular version)…They all live happily ever after.

            This is the Jewish novel. If you’re reading it, you need a better hobby, like davening harder for moshiach. Be’meharah, beymainu, amen.


Posted by on September 25, 2008 in Uncategorized


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The Perfect Post


I was flipping through some old stuff on Shabbos and found something that I wrote in 10th grade while I was bored in class. I liked it, so I’m going to share it with you.


The Perfect Day


When asked to describe a perfect day, I answer everyday. Everyday is perfect, because that’s how it was meant to be and wouldn’t have worked out any other way. I’m not saying this on a spiritual level(oh everything is beautiful, I love the world blah blah blah), but on a logical one. If I were to have a “lousy” day, that doesn’t make it not perfect, I just didn’t enjoy it.


Say there is an artist who draws a masterpiece of perfection. It’s beautiful they say, but when I look at it, it’s ugly, and stupid. But my thinking it’s ugly doesn’t take away from it’s beauty and perfection. It’s just lost to me, let someone else find the beauty in it.


Perfection is not subjective, if it was than it defeats the entire purpose of the word. Therefore, my own biases cannot be subjected to and hold when declaring something perfect. That being said, then nothing is perfect because everything is subjected to human opinion and bias. However I believe that if there is a general consensus on something then the label perfect can be applied, but only do things that are not man made, like a day, or nature (I basically just refuted my previous example of the artist, but never mind).


So getting back to the original question, the question itself is faulty, a better way to phrase it would be to ask, what is an ideal day. Ideal allows for subjectivity, so here is the answer you were looking for in the first place.


An ideal day for me would start out normal, clear skies, sun shining, nothing special. The day can be dead boring, me sleeping through every class, maybe even being told off. On the way home I can even miss the bus. Supper can be hop plop, like eggs and mashed potatoes or something. I can fight with my sister, kick my brother, get frustrated at my non-functioning computer, complain about school…but then something good happens. I can get a phone call from a camp friend, a cousin gets engaged, I win an auction for a Grundig radio on ebay, I go out for ice-cream. Anything, but something good happens. As long as the day ends on a happy note, it was ideal.


A simple day, for a well, not so simple me.


I’m happy.


Posted by on September 23, 2008 in Uncategorized


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Blasphemous Bikurim

On Shabbos my younger brother gave over a short d’var torah in typical question answer format.


Q: When people brought bikurim, the rich brought it in gold baskets, the poor straw. The Kohanim would give back the gold baskets and keep the straw. Why?


I came up with several reasons, some serious, some not


-         -Show the rich people that they’re not so hoity toidy and “we don’t need your gold baskets”, appreciating the value of the simple straw style


-         It was the Bais Hamidash, there was no shortage of gold, but something simple like straw people overlooked and therefore the Kohanim took the straw they needed and returned the gold they didn’t


-         Or plain old, to let us ask this boring questions, to pontificate at length, come up with boring long-winded answers when it’s really something simple and obvious.


The answer actually is,

When the rich presented their bikurim, the Kohanim would take it out of the basket and show off the beautiful tithes. They didn’t want to embarrass the poor people with their puny offerings, so they just relieved them of the bikurim, basket and all.


We’re supposed to be impressed by this display of sensitivity.


I wasn’t

And I argued back



-         It’s not sensitivity, in fact it’s worse. It’s labeling the poor man. Why not just NOT display the rich man’s and keep his stupid gold basket


-         They’re assuming that because someone is poor he can’t have a good crop. Poor people can have a nice crop, just smaller. Like wise, the rich man doesn’t necessarily have a good crop, like juicy grapes, he just has a lot of them and sells them to the raisin makers.


-         Also if the guy has gold baskets, he can afford to lose one a year. If the guy’s poor and has – heaven forbid- straw baskets, he probably needs them. Straw doesn’t grow on trees (they grow on the ground ;) )


-         Additionally they are minimizing the contribution of the poor man, and lauding the one of the rich man, when really their money, or lack of, has nothing to do with them, but the lot Hashem gave them. Why point that out, and make it a factor of appreciation, when it has nothing to do with the individuals accomplishments.


-         We are always being sensitive to inanimate objects, the challah by kiddush, Moshe, to the earth and water. Why are they not sensitive to straw versus gold? They are making an obvious preference and placing a value over one to the other. Isn’t that a little insulting, embarrassing, belittling, and insensitive to the straw?



I went on and on.


I think I make a lot of sense. But the thing is, it wasn’t like the way I think it should be and the reason my brother gave still stands as their intention.


It’s one thing for me to challenge current opinion or something theoretical, but I’m going after the very paradigm I seek to recreate. So therefore I’m feeling a little sacrilegious, and blasphemous. I’m sure if I asked someone to clarify it, it will be, but right now I’m lazy and a little dissent feels good.






Posted by on September 21, 2008 in Food


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Ahoy Fellow Scallywags

Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day.

I’ve lost my touch.



Posted by on September 19, 2008 in Uncategorized



It’s Black and White

I didn’t know I had an opinion on garbage bags, but apparently I do.


We always had black garbage bags in my house. Pretty standard, I think. You dump the garbage in the dark black hole and you never see it again. That’s the way it goes, it’s garbage, you don’t want to see it anymore, and you don’t. The system works.


They were having a sale on garbage bags.

White ones.

My mother bought them.

I’ve dropped a size.


Do you know how disturbing it is to see yesterday’s lunch mashed together with today’s breakfast, and all the leftover’s I finally had the courage to throw out together.


Can I get an “EEEEwwwWWWW!!!!”


Posted by on September 19, 2008 in Food


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Indignant Idiocies

I’m confused.


When it comes to kiddashim in shuls, sheva brachos, vorts, most simchas, the women get the best stuff.


The women get the Zeigleman cakes, Daskal’s cheese stuff, Portegal’s miniatures, chocolates by Edible Delights, the monogrammed cookies, the flower centerpieces. The everything.


While the men get the booze and sponge cake.


I’m ok with this arrangement, just as long I get my Viennese Crunch. 


I’m just confused by the vort arrangements in terms of where the women are situated. Based on the fact that the effort is given to show off to women, one would assume that you would put woman in a place that best displays your goodies. But it’s not so, we’re shtupt into undersized 2 x 4’s.


If a vort is in a house, the woman always are relegated to the side door and kitchen. If it’s in a hall, the woman’s entrance is on the side down some dark alley. We breathe our sugar laden breathe in each other’s face (this is a good reason to be tall). We squeeze by, and reappropriate some hefty woman’s padding. We jab elbow, and exchange dark looks. (you call this a simcha, it brings out the worst in us!)


I’m sure someone with throw the tznius argument at me, but is it tznius what they’re doing inside. (things actually looking nice, such gashmeis, it’s scandalous)


I don’t care if you think as a woman I’m a second-class citizen and am therefore deserving of the puny allotments you make for me. But as a society, be consistent, if I’m so insignificant, why show off to me, why shower me with all the good noshies, and artistic displays (unless you’re trying to lull us into a false sense of security, which is another story)?


Posted by on September 17, 2008 in Food, Weddings


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Roll of the Vice

Unlit filtered cigarettes

Image via Wikipedia


 “Ouch!!! I burned my palette again!” She put her tuna melt down and wiped her face with a bleached disposable napkin.

It was hot outside, and I was starting to stick to the plastic chair. I tried shifting my weight, all I accomplished was a squeak.

“That’s what happens when you eat foods that are too hot.” I answered dryly. She smirked.


“It tastes good, and it’s totally worth it.” She took another enthusiastic bite.


I poked at my limp French fries and glanced around at the other patrons of the greasy, run-down, but well loved college diner. There were two obvious microbiology nerds who were taking samples of their tomato soup and milk shake. In the corner was  the clichéd loner with slick ruffled bangs and a perfectly mismatched ensemble, too cool to talk to anyone, but in reality truly desperate. The jocks were in the front having a food-tossing contest. They obviously were not a division I team, given their terrible lack of accurate aim. The waitress looked irritated, probably wishes lunch was over so she could finish up her class work, and the quick fry “chef” in the back was probably spitting in sporadic plates just to spite that he never got a college education.


“So, why are we having lunch again?” she abrupted.


I sighed, chest heaving, knowing that the sooner end of “sooner than later”, was now.


“It’s about your father.” Long pause.


“Ok” She said.


So far so good.


“He has lung cancer.” The words came out rushed and labored. I paused for a reaction, shock, dismay, hysteria, leaky eyes? She gave me none. “Stage four” I finished.


There was a momentary pause, and her foot kicked the table with more force than necassary. She looked down at her plate and shifted the French fries from one side of the plate to the other. A light breeze fanned her hair. Deliberately, she looked up at me. Eyes a glossy sheen, she said in forced apathy,


“I have to go.” Quickly, she gathered her spiral notebooks and leather clutch and left me sitting at the unstable diner table. I wasn’t sure if going after her was the right thing. I sat there awkwardly for a moment.


“I’ll call you tomorrow.” I called after her in slight redeeming desperation. I looked around to see if anyone had watched her fleeing the scene and me sitting there in dignified desperation searching for something to occupy my hands and mind with. The wilting salad beckoned me and I replied by stabbing at it.


I waited for my bannanas to ripen before calling her.


“How are you doing?” I asked cautiously, my fingers fondling the phone wire.




“At who?”


“My dad.”


“He’s sick.”


“Why does one contradict the other?”


I was confused.


“Shouldn’t you be mad at G-d, the doctors, the injustice in the world, why your dad?”


“No” she said firmly. “I’m mad at him, he did this to himself.”


I saw where this was heading. Long breathing pause, she finally burst and let the floodgates of mental and physical emotion to break through.


“I’m supposed to be happy that my father is dying. I’m not supposed to be mad, and if I’m mad, I should be mad at everyone, but the cause. HE DID THIS TO HIMSELF!!!”


She shouted the last part. I knew it was best to keep quiet, because right now no answer would appease her, it would just provoke her more. I heard intense pacing and she continued.


“For years he’s scoffed at the surgeon’s general warning. Laughed at people who tried quitting. For years, he’s been smelling up the car, his clothes, staining his fingers, coughing up mucus. He said it’s worth it. Cigarettes are just that good!”


There was a harsh, dull thud, like palm meeting plaster. She inhaled deeply. And ploughed on


“He’s a weak man who made excuses. Any person with any vice they can’t break is weak. They are stubborn, blind, and foolish. That goes for druggies, alcoholics, chain smokers nail biters, anyone. You want me to come to be there for him? Sympathize? Understand him? Understand that he’s an idiot that can’t control himself, who won’t take care of himself. That makes the same bad decision over and over again on a daily basis.”


I stayed quiet, because she was right, in a way. He did do it to himself; her presentation was a little harsh though. I waited for her to start again.


“Ouch!!” crackled though the wire.


“What’s wrong?” I asked quickly.


“I burned my palate again, coffee.” 


I sighed in quasi disgust.


“Hot things, will do that.” I said apathetically.


“It’s worth it, hot food, it’s just that good.” She restated her argument of four days ago. I could hear a self satisfied smile on the other end.


And I finally had something to tell her.


“You know the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”


“What?” she sputtered.

And I hung up.


Posted by on September 14, 2008 in Food


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A Crying Shame

I cried twice today. A grand total of 7 tears. But my eyes welled up and leaked on two separate occasions, but the source was the same.


September 11th.


I was listening to the radio in the car.


They were reading the names.

A Hispanic woman spoke about her father who was a pastry chef in Windows of the World. His best dessert was marble cake and they used sit around the kitchen table talking about their lives, eating marble cake. It’s been seven years, and the life she spoke of is happening; she got married, gave birth to a child, is back in school…Every time she left her father would tell her in spanish, “I love you and go with God”. Today she wants to tell that to her father…and I cried.


Later, again I was listening in the car.


They were playing a montage of audio clips, news, peoples reactions, on 9/11. There was a slow mournful song playing in the background. And I cried again.


I slept through Tisha Ba’av.


Posted by on September 11, 2008 in Uncategorized


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Critique Please


I plan on teaching my students to write memoirs. I try to do everything I assign my students. I wrote a memoir, it’s a bit rough, let me know what you think.

Facing Myself


I knew she was going to call on me. I knew because everyone told me she was going to. They knew because yesterday when I was absent she had called on me to read the posuk. When she realized I wasn’t there, she had said she would call on me the next day. 


I sat there in my seat; it was the second to last seat in the last row closest to the windows. I was holding my breath with a sick queasy feeling in my stomach; I sat there, and waited for her to call my name. The air-conditioner protruded slightly into my desk space. I tried to focus on the knobs and switches, but I knew she was going to call on me; everything just blurred.

            I didn’t get along with her. I had a big mouth, and she, a turned up nose. She didn’t have the best complexion, so she tried to cover it up with make-up. She would put on too much foundation, and wouldn’t blend it in properly. I would snigger and point at the dark unnatural patches along her jaw line. I don’t think she liked that. She was a permanent substitute. Miss Weiss got married and moved to Israel, and we got stuck with her, Miss Fried.

            I was never good at reading Hebrew. I was never good at memorization. So when it came to memorizing the translation of the Chumish in Yiddish (another language foreign to me) I was a lost case. She knew that, so she’d threaten me with it. If I wasn’t good she’d threaten to make me read a posuk. Today she wasn’t just threatening; today it was happening. I’d be made a fool of in front of my entire class.

In truth, I wasn’t really scared of my class, but more of myself. I knew I didn’t know the material, but the teacher couldn’t be sure of that unless she tested me. I wouldn’t be proven stupid to myself until she tested me. Once I couldn’t answer her demands I’d know I was stupid, it would be confirmed. There were no more maybes, no more pretending once she called on me. I’d be stupid, and that’s what I was afraid of.

            None of my classmates thought of me as stupid. I was tops in English studies. They didn’t know how scared I was. They couldn’t feel the bile rising in my throat. I was cool. I acted like I didn’t care. The problem was, I cared too much, and this was the only way to defend myself. I tried to pull myself together. Tried to focus on the open Chumish in front of me, but she was going to call on me, and there was nothing I could do about it.

“Naomi Zeigler”

            My body contracted instantly. Like it was trying to shrink and hide, make me disappear. I looked up at her, and in opposition to everything I felt, I responded very cockily.

“Yes.” I answered, more as a statement than a question. She matched my gaze and said,

“Read posuk zayin for us, please.”

She called on me, just like they said she would. Just like I knew she would eventually. She knew what she was doing to me. She knew, and enjoyed it.

I never forgave her.



Posted by on September 9, 2008 in Teaching


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