Sunday, August 27, 2006

I guess this has been on my mind recently, and so here I am again thinking about men, women, torah, men & women & torah.. I think about the life i lead today, I think about the ife I see around me, I think of young girls, I think of myself as a young girl, I think of the sons and daughters I hope to one day I have.. and I cant help but feel that I am so fortunate for being where I am and for seeing the way things I do. I see friends who cant understand the laws of tzniut, of shomer negya... they argue with me. I know others who know its the right thing, but struggle with it continually. I know others who have given up struggling, but continue to feel the guilt.. and the pain..
It’s such a difficult struggle, and for me the key is to remind myself of the alternative.

Sometimes I feel like a terribly judgemental and close-minded person when i say these things, that I am so thankful, so grateful, so blessed to have torah in my life, but this isn’t meant to put anyone down, or to criticize or to judge. It’s just an expression of my gratitude at having found where I belong, and wanting to share it with others I come across who are struggling with issues I feel I’ve started to make peace with.

I see the guy who is giving in to his animalistic needs, unable to control the pain he causes, I see the girl who is giving in her to her emotional needs, unable to control the pain she is feeling and I just want to shake them and let them know there is an alternative..

He's a good boy, he has a pure heart, a good conscience, a loving soul, but he spends the night with her and then ..with her and then ..her.. not unlike the rest of his peers.. and he doesnt see the harm it causes, but his soul feels it, and hes tormented, but he cant verbalize it or understand it.

She's a caring girl, a sensitive girl, she lets herself get taken advantage of, objectified. She sells herself short, she doesnt know her worth and will pay whatever price for the affection and intimacy she can get, regardless of its sincerity. deep down she feels like a commodity, but she cant accept and internalize that feeling, it goes against eveything shes been told, she manages to convince herself this is the way it needs to be, this is the way it should be.

I'm alone. i go to sleep alone. i wake up alone. i face my loneliness day in and day out. its excrutiating at times, feeling so lost and not having caring arms to throw yourself into, but i make a conscious decision, today - one day at a time - to fix the damage, to learn to appreciate my value, to take care of myself, to protect myself.

They want me to be afraid of the mysogeny of my chosen path?
They have no idea what mysogeny is. parading your body as a trophy, afraid the real you wont ever be desired. denying your protective feelings, in the hopes of finding a protector. losing your inhibitions, while craving intimacy. ending up alone, in the arms of a stranger and wondering how its possible to be so close to someone and feel so empty and alone.
you lament the fact that all the women you find are damaged goods.. who do you think damaged them?
this is the mysogeny i'm afraid of. this is the mysogeny ive left behind.

i have a treasure inside of me and i dont want it to be glanced at and poked at and manipulated and toyed with. not until my worth can be fully appreciated. this is my feminism. my body is a shield to protect my soul.

im so greatful i have torah, torah that guides me when my instincts arent able to, when my brain cant understand, when my nature refuses to. im so thankful that even when i get lost in that dark abyss of overwhelming urges, i always have access to a way out.

im so greatful for the permission to be protective of myself, the permission to desire purity, the permission to accept my deeper needs.

Not too long ago, i defiantly dragged G-d into a
game of chicken. I told Him,'You fix this situation, or i wont be held accountable for my actions!'

Hashem, it's Elul again, and we meet again..
and this is my official backing down.
You called my bluff, and I swerved before we collided.
I can only thank You for giving me the strength to find the truth in me before any more harm was done.
I can only beg you to keep strengthening me and to keep reminding me that what I have worth protecting will only be that much more valuable and beautiful when the time comes.

( favorite song of the day.. and for some reason it just seems fitting... enjoy)

Monday, August 21, 2006

women in judaism (worlds longest post!)

I recently had an email discussion with orthoprax regarding women in Judaism. The emails were very lengthy (especially on my part – what a surprise!) but I wanted to paste part of the discussion here.

questions from orthoprax:

Can you please explain to me why girls aren't taught Gemara like boys are? Why is the subject matter deemed too much for the small minds of girls?

Why is there no such thing as a female rabbi or halachic decider? Are women incapable of being community leaders or understanding halacha well enough to be a poseket? Is a woman incapable of giving a d'var torah worth listening to?

How do you feel about the fact that a woman cannot be a witness in any sort of Halachic observance? What does that mean on a theoretical level? Women cannot be trusted to accurately recall events when called upon to do so?

You don't see it at all degrading to women when they have to walk through separate entrances to go into these super frum places? How about when these stores have certain hours for men and hours for women? How do you feel about the fact that in most frum shuls, the mechitzah is so positioned that women are way in the back - sometimes with as much as an entire physical wall blocking the view with only little windows to peak into the men's arena? What does that all say about women? That their bodies are such powerful sexual objects that men cannot think properly 'pure' thoughts when they are around?

Don't you see it as at all ironic how virtually every religious duty or activity (with a couple of exceptions) is lead by a man? And even those that can be done by women, if men are around, a man is assumed the responsibility of taking care of it. When's the last time you saw a woman lead a havdalah ceremony, for example? Have you ever seen a woman recite megillat esther for men? Women are stripped of the ability to be leaders. They even count less than a man as nine men and a thousand women still don't make a minyan. They are basically treated like children by Halacha. Now, there are certain benefits to being a 'child' - less responsibility is one of them, but it comes at the deep cost of not being considered a full adult.

my reply to his email:

The bulk of my answer revolves around two main ideas.
1- men and women are created with a different physical, mental, emotional and spiritual make up.
2- If you want to understand the way a system works, you need to analyze it according to the rules of that system. Applying rules, generalizations and thought processes of the secular world to understand the frum world (or vice versa) isn’t intellectually honest.

I believe that the secular world operates according to standards which are advantageous to males, and discriminate against women. Success is measured in terms of external power, and public recognition is highly rewarded and valued in secular society. Politicians, movie stars, famous athletes gain their fame and power through their ability to stand above the crowd and their public exposure. The torah, on the other hand teaches a different kind of power. In Judaism, strength is measured in terms of being able to shape and control one’s negative qualities. Honor is bestowed upon those who behave ethically, virtuously and have developed their character traits.
This is important because it shapes the way we value and acknowledge achievement.

According to the Torah perspective, women and men are created differently and therefore possess different strengths and weaknesses. Judaism is a system that teaches a spiritual path for each individual and because men and women are perceived differently, they are provided with different tools to achieve their spiritual goals and fulfilment.

The result of that perspective is that, having a public role is not viewed as a necessary means to achieving power or admiration. It is accepted that there are different channels that can lead to greatness and respect and that both men and women have the ability and potential to be valued for their respective achievements.

Everyone agrees that men and women are considerably different, in their physical, emotional and cognitive makeup. Applying the same rules and the same standards to both leads to discrimination to one of the two.

The sexism found in the secular society can be very subtle and that’s why people (and especially men) often get deceived into believing that it doesn’t exist. Women can “do” anything, they can be prime minister, they can be doctors, lawyers, wrestlers.. whatever they want. In an externally focused society women have achieved equality, they can be as publicly and externally powerful as any man (and if theyre lucky they may even get the same wages as a man). What this really means, however, is that women have been granted the opportunity to compete against men in their court, to be judged according to male standards, and to develop masculine strengths.

How is that equality?

Using the same standards on different populations is considered discriminatory. Men and women don’t compete against each other in sports for that exact reason. Men and women have a different physical makeup and we realize that it would be incredibly unfair to women to compete against men. A child who is mentally challenged can only thrive in an environment that respects and accommodates his strengths and weaknesses, and a child who displays greater intelligence can only thrive and reach his potential in an environment that promotes his abilities. Sticking either child in a regular class is cruel.

The torah promotes this understanding and encourages both men and women to develop their respective strengths and work on their own weaknesses. In the secular world, the default system operates according to masculine strengths and weaknesses.

Granting women real equality necessitates respecting and validating the strengths and weaknesses of women, it requires allowing women to develop and grow within their abilities and talents.

So what are women’s strengths?

Women tend to be more naturally skilled in their ability to be nurturers, to be intuitive, to view situations in a more holistic way. These are all strengths which are internal. Women are considered more insightful (binah). They have a stronger ability to understand matters from the inside, the capacity to see a person and understand their needs, to relate to people according to their needs.

Raising children and running a household are responsibilities and achievements which are in no way looked down upon in the Torah world (as they are in the secular world). On the contrary, the husband gets up and sings the praises of his wife on Friday night. He acknowledges her worth and her beauty. Being a full time mom is not seen as a second class occupation, its value in the Jewish community is respected and appreciated.

In a community-minded value system, raising and forming and shaping the future generation is regarded as much more commendable than pursuing selfish self actualization.

A woman’s power comes in her ability to create the minds and affect the values and ethics of people. It may not lead to public recognition or to financial gain but in a system where these achievements are not highly valued, it becomes irrelevant. Women are responsible for the internal development of their family members. They create their society by raising and facilitating the development of the members of their society.

The strength of women is also to actualize pure potential. Of course the most obvious manifestation of this is in the physical relationship between a man and woman where the male is responsible for providing the raw material and the woman is responsible for the development of that seed. A baby cannot be created without the active participation of both parties.

In the story of creation we see that woman is created from the rib of man – from an inner bone – that is also representative of the woman’s strength, her inner strength. Being more low key, more private, more internally focused is a strength of the woman (which can obviously not be valued in an externally focused society).

Women, by nature, are not as competitive and aggressive as men tend to be. They are less focused on external achievement and stature. This isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions, but naturally a woman’s tendency is much less geared towards public approval and public exposure. She is much more relationship-oriented, and it is in that setting that her worth and achievements can be appreciated.

Women are also known to have better social skills, to be more cooperative and to do better on verbal tasks. All these qualities create a gender which is more communicative and more relationship focused. As opposed to leading the masses, the strengths of women emerge in their one-on-one connections

Women also have a greater ability at being receptive and responsive. Women usually show more empathy and mercy and are more prone towards conflict resolution and consensus. This comes from their more holistic perception of the world. Whereas men think in a more compartmentalized manner, women are more skilled at seeing the bigger picture. This ability also allows women to multitask and this of course is incredibly valuable in raising children and running a household.

Comparing the role of women in a torah based society to that of a secular society is nonsensical as the measuring tools are completely different. In a world where power is not necessarily tied to a public role, not having women in those positions in no way diminishes their worth, it simply is not relevant to the development and appreciation of women. Unfortunately, having grown up in a society that focuses on externals and values externally directed achievements, we sometimes lose track of the fact that jewish women are living by a different set of rules and standards. In the secular, externally focused society, the achievements of jewish women cannot be measured or recognized.

Both men and women have equal needs, desires and capabilities in connecting to G-d, but each gender requires a different system that best suits their strengths and weaknesses. Because the torah teaches a spiritual path, the mitzvot and the roles of each gender are custom made to facilitate spiritual growth.

The majority of the commandments apply equally to both genders, but there is a small percentage of laws and customs which is geared specifically to one gender or the other. This is where people have trouble accepting that the torah promotes equality of the sexes. As soon as people see a difference in treatment they consider it a weakness in the system, when in fact it is affording each group to develop its respective skills and reach self actualization.

For a woman raised in the secular world, this appreciation of her intuitive abilities is liberating. To finally be respected and appreciated for what comes naturally to her. To stop trying to compete in a man’s world, according to their terms, it is invaluable in developing a woman’s self esteem. The Torah gives women the permission to be women – and not to feel guilty, or less valued, or less appreciated – for their strengths and their weaknesses.

The torah teaches us a spiritual path to fulfillment, both on a personal level and on a cosmic level. Once we internalize that, is it easy to see that G-d created a different system for men and women to work in, one which takes into consideration their respective roles, capacities and weaknesses, one where each gender has a valuable contribution to make.

Can you please explain to me why girls aren't taught Gemara like boys are? Why is the subject matter deemed too much for the small minds of girls?

First of all its not forbidden for women to study gemara, but once you accept that women do not have a torah obligation to study torah, and once you appreciate the way a woman’s mind works, than learning gemara is not the best way for her to develop her relationship with hashem, its not the most conducive way to actualize herself.

Throughout history there have been women who have studied it, and who continue to, But, this is done in a more discreet way because it is accepted that this type of behaviour is not viewed as one that cultivate a woman’s natural skills.

I’ve also heard that another reason why women aren’t encouraged to study gemara is that that the study of it can be very combative and aggressive and this is not a quality that we want women to focus on and develop considering their strength in consensus seeking and community building. Men on the other hand have a more natural tendency towards aggressively and competition and this is a positive growth oriented outlet for them.

Why is there no such thing as a female rabbi or halachic decider? Are women incapable of being community leaders or understanding halacha well enough to be a poseket? Is a woman incapable of giving a d'var torah worth listening to?

If women don’t spend as much time and as much of their energy on studying torah, (primarily because they have other obligations), then how many poseks do you expect will emerge? Even among men, not every rabbi is a posek, it requires a higher level of learning and most women focus their energies elsewhere. As for being community leaders, that question becomes moot when you step out of the westernized – male focused- system where public exposure and external achievement are more valued than internal power and private achievement.
Here again there are exceptions, and there are women who desire more public exposure to develop but they prefer to find ways which are more compatible with their more feminine and more private nature (in women’s groups, or in smaller settings) (there are of course important exceptions, today Rebbetzin Jungreis speaks to thousands of people, runs a huge organization and is highly respected and valued in orthodox circles)

How do you feel about the fact that a woman cannot be a witness in any sort of Halachic observance? What does that mean on a theoretical level? Women cannot be trusted to accurately recall events when called upon to do so?

I don’t think anyone believes that women are so simple minded that they cant recall events, but the fact is that due to their ability to think holistically, and to think more empathetically, than yes their ability to recall facts can be affected. In a court of law, facts are what are required, not an understanding of the greater picture.
As for being a witness to halachic observance, I think women do that on a daily basis whether it’s in matters of kashrut, or taharat hamishpacha or any other observance that is related to the home. The most strictest rabbi will trust his wife 100% when it comes to those things – so obviously the issue is not with her trustworthiness, but simply with the role and recognition we, as westerners would like her to have.

You don't see it at all degrading to women when they have to walk through separate entrances to go into these super frum places? How about when these stores have certain hours for men and hours for women? How do you feel about the fact that in most frum shuls, the mechitzah is so positioned that women are way in the back - sometimes with as much as an entire physical wall blocking the view with only little windows to peak into the men's arena? What does that all say about women? That their bodies are such powerful sexual objects that men cannot think properly 'pure' thoughts when they are around?

You see it as women having to walk through separate entrances; but why not see it as men walking through separate entrances? Or better yet, why not take our western male focused bias out of it and see it as men and women walking through separate entrances? Stores that have separate hours do it to separate the genders, but not as a sign of sexism. In the torah perspective men and women are much more sensitive to their differences – and compatibilities- and so the system promotes a separation of the genders so as to avoid certain behaviours that can lead to de-sensitization.

As for the mechitzas, once again it brings us back to what the focus is. If you go to shul to connect to g-d, to develop your relationship with hashem, than, if youre a woman, it really makes no difference where you are situated, your avodat hashem is much more private. If youre a man it is much more dependent on the communal setting and communal activities. A womans service to g-d is different than that of a man and so it makes perfect sense that men have a more central, public and communal position in the synagogue – after all these are the abilities they need to develop.

You say – what does it say about a woman that her body is such a powerful sexual object that men cant think properly around her and I ask you, why is that such a difficult situation for you to accept? Once again, in a male focused frame of mind, its more advantageous to a man to take away a woman’s sexual power, to subjugate this ability, to take away her edge. But women know. Women know the power they have, so the torah simply acknowledges and validates what we intuitively know. A woman is an extremely sexual being, and this is not a negative thing. What it means however is that for men, who are externally focused, it is much easier for them to get blinded by a woman’s sexual exterior and not take the time or put the energy to dig deeper and appreciate and value a woman for her real (internal) worth. The fact that men cant think properly around women is a reflection of a male characteristic (to be externally focused), not a reflection of a woman’s worth.

Don't you see it as at all ironic how virtually every religious duty or activity (with a couple of exceptions) is lead by a man? And even those that can be done by women, if men are around, a man is assumed the responsibility of taking care of it. When's the last time you saw a woman lead a havdalah ceremony, for example? Have you ever seen a woman recite megillat esther for men? Women are stripped of the ability to be leaders. They even count less than a man as nine men and a thousand women still don't make a minyan. They are basically treated like children by Halacha. Now, there are certain benefits to being a 'child' - less responsibility is one of them, but it comes at the deep cost of not being considered a full adult.

The torah is a system of laws and rules that helps get above their nature and change themselves for the better. What this means is that the mitzvoth are tools which help us develop our strengths while diminishing our weaknesses. We have a natural tendency to be selfish and therefore the torah obligates us to give tzedaka, be kind, be generous. What this means is that depending on a gender’s characteristics, the mitzvoth that apply will be based on what ‘work’ needs to be done.

Women, by nature, are more internally focused, pray better and build a connection to g-d thru personal prayer. I grew up around women (secular) who were constantly speaking to g-d. This is how families are raised by the mothers I know. Women are relationship-focused and have much better skills at developing and maintaining relationships and so their communication with g-d is much less regimented than that of men. Women intuitively understand how to communicate with g-d (as well as with those around them). Men on the other hand are team players, men need more guidance in building that relationship, in developing the communicative part of their connection to hashem and so it is more strictly controlled and they are required to pray in a minyan, three times a day, following a siddur. Men get together when they have a reason, women are more communicative, more communal and will congregate naturally. So women can go to shul, but praying in a minyan isnt particularly advantageous to women’s spiritual growth. Men on the other hand do need a reason and an obligation to pray in a minyan in order to help them develop that skill.

You compare women to children because of their reduced involvement and leadership roles in public communal activities, but by now I think its clear to see how the appeal and the value that these roles/ activities carry with them are based on a set of values that is foreign to the torah. The standards you consider as “adult like ” and “child like” don’t apply in a torah based system, they are based on a male oriented, hierarchical, externally focused system. If the whole point of the torah and the goal of a torah jew is to grow spiritually – on a personal and universal level- than these activities are just not necessary for a woman’s development. Those aren’t the strengths she needs or desires to develop. A woman is exempt from time bound mitzcvahs because her approach is one of constant readiness or adaptability to being able to continually respond to changing realities. Women have a more innate ability to create structures and so have less of a requirement for externally based frameworks.

Now one last thing, most of the questions you asked are not based on activities that are forbidden from women (they can read the megila, do havdala, study gemara…) but that they are not obligated to. In the torah perspective, where one’s focus is based on spiritual development, the torah is used as a priority setting guide. It is understood that if women don’t have an obligation to perform certain mitzvot, than there’s a good chance that they are not required for her development. Nonetheless because we are each created as individuals with individual strengths and weaknesses, there are members or each gender that will require or desire more participation in the other gender’s activities. This is acceptable as long as the frame of mind is correct. That means that if a person can say that they have exhausted their ability to fulfil the commandments and the path that have been set out for that gender and they now seek more, to tap other strengths or weaknesses, than that is more often than not acceptable. If however a woman is tempted by what is prescribed for men, purely to make a statement, to prove that she can do what men do, than that is not acceptable, and is deemed sexist Its sexist to place more emphasis on the abilities and the spiritual path of one gender over the other. Instead of appreciating and respecting her own role, her own spiritual path, she views man’s role as more valuable, and ends up devaluating her own prescribed path.All that being said, I will say one more thing. I will not deny that there are sexist people, communities, rabbis… im not naïve and im not blind. However, the torah in itself, as a system of beliefs and values is not sexist. It is, in my eyes, the opposite of sexist; it provides each gender with a spiritual path that is best suited for it. It respects the contribution of both genders, and it values the natural abilities and tendencies of both genders.

His reply to my email, with my reply to his.

First, I think you far overestimate the differences between men and women and how each's strengths can best be cultivated. Women would not benefit from participating in ordered and regular worship services because of their inherent intuitive personal relationship with God? Come on. Do you really accept that?

i dont think anyone has yet been able to quantify the differences, not even scientifically, its still very much under study. so yes in my opinion, and according to my experiences.. as a woman, this is how i see the differences.

also i never said women have an inherent intuitive personal relationship with g-d - i think thats the typical answer ive heard in the past and no i dont buy that.
what i did say is that women have a greater facility at developing relationships and women have better social and comunication skills and this plays a big part in how they connect to g-d. i dont think that by default they have a better r/s with g-d, but i think they have a greater ability to develop one and therefore less of a need of regulating how to go about it.

I would also like to point out that a far better system for realizing each individual's spiritual and general qualities would be done simply on an individual level.

so says orthoprax
i follow the torah that i beleive was handed over to us by g-d and i prefer to follow the spiritual path that i beleive g-d gave us. i respect your choice in not beleiving in that system and i respect your choice in not beleive it is divine, and therefore your choice to create your own path .. but thats not my beleif.

i beleive that the tiniest detail in the torah is there to help us develop our r/s with g-d. and i do beleive that THIS is a better system.. but thats just my beleif - not much to discuss here..
unless you want to get into the veracity of the torah and the authenticity of the transmission..
and no.. i dont want to get into that :)

Some women, I am sure, would greatly appreciate being involved in many of the things that they are now excluded from (either by Halacha, society, or convention). And conversely, I'd bet that some men find their numerous obligations to hamper their best spiritual efforts. Why divide by gender when there are so many natural exceptions?

i think the exceptions are way fewer than we think. and i think we think there are more exceptions than there are because of the androgenous perspective we have in secular society.

Wouldn't it be far better to have a system that allows people to be engaged in whatever they feel most fulfilling as far as they are willing to go?

thats called reform judaism..

This would allow for individually-planned religious lives that would best serve each person on an individual basis.

A 'Torah society' that focuses on internal development rather than external power is a beautiful thing, but creating this gender divide to force 'proper' gender development is backwards. You shouldn't be arguing for a "women's sector" of religious life that allows women to develop their own powers outside of a male-focused society, but a non-judgemental society that allows each individual to develop themselves to the best of their abilities with no attention paid towards the person's 'proper' gender role.

when the secular world will achieve that, then we can rediscuss judaisms view, but as of now, secular soceity has failed in my eyes and this is the best system i have found in creating a non judgemental society that allows individuals to develop to the best of their abilities.

Women shouldn't have to 'escape' the male-world and those so-called "male standards" that rule it, but should find their own standards equally represented on the public stage.

isnt that what i said? :)
i think you just dont like our standards.. you see them through male eyes and denigrate them. THIS is my point. i happen to be incredibly proud of my feminine abilities and powers and strengths, you just dont see them as equal to yours..

The only reason I can see then for encouraging the gender divide, is not for protecting individual spiritual development, but for keeping the social status quo and all that entails. This then leads me to my second point.

theres really no way to argue out of this. i can keep saying your system is biased to women and you are convincing ureselves its not and you can keep saying my system is biased against women and we are covincing ourselves its not..
thats argument goes both ways..

If you look back on history, or even any modern society where discrimination exists, there are always endless apologetics posited to justify that discrimination. In fact, taking your basic thesis that women have a different approach to spirituality than men, you can then justify _any_ restriction on women. You can fit virtually any offense towards women and make it seem that it's for their own good.

Whether it's burkahs on women or keeping women from driving cars or keeping them from voting or keeping them from entering the business world, all of these can be justified by an argument ensuring women that it's for their own good.

"I don’t think anyone believes that women are so simple minded that they cant recall events, but the fact is that due to their ability to think holistically, and to think more empathetically, than yes their ability to recall facts can be affected."

I really can't believe you said this. You really believe that men are better suited to recalling factual events than women?

without a doubt
maybe im just not a factual type of person and maybe i pride myself on my more holisitc perception and assume all women are like me
or maybe youre a very factual thinker and assume everyone is like you. without a doubt i beleive there is a difference in this between men and women and i clearly see how this would impact the ability to being a credible witness.
is it fair? not necessarily? but there are lots of things that arent fair. im not a cohen, and ill never be cohen gadol.. look at how many mitzvahs ill never get to perform.. totally unfair! will you ever give birth? so unfair.. thats the way the system goes. i have no problem accepting that. i dont need to do the same and be the same to be equal

Seriously. How can I trust women with such an important power as the VOTE when their power to recall events are so much poorer than men? Would you ever accept such an argument to restrict your power to testify in secular court? I think not!

"If women don’t spend as much time and as much of their energy on studying torah, (primarily because they have other obligations), then how many poseks do you expect will emerge?"

That's really not the point. The point is that even if a women held the requisite skills to be a poseket, I contend that she would never be able to exercise those skills within the contemporary community standards.

ive heard of some in some commuities. and i think it will become more popular and more accepted,. don forget that poele are poeple and eventho the torah may have allowed soemthing, but if it wasnt accepted in general society theres a good chance it would affect torah society too.
women werent judges until very recently
yet in the torah...there were exceptions

No one would see her opinion as authoritative and very few people would feel comfortable saying they act a certain way because they follow the ruling of Poseket XYZ.

"You see it as women having to walk through separate entrances; but why not see it as men walking through seprate entrances" Because it was men who made these separate entrances in the first place. This kind of thing is rarely, if ever, initiated by women. In the 1950s when there were 'White' and 'Colored' drinking fountains, nobody looked at the whites as being the victims of discrimination.

youre right but thats not the way its percieved in the torah world.
you come in with your secular mindthink and you see seperate entrances and you assume - stronger group has decided for weaker group.
i come to seperate entrances and i think - two equal groups have been sperated to prevent the desensitization of eachother.
our perspectives are different
and therefore our realities are different.
and youre right, men did set these up..but just because a man decides something regarding a woman (or vice versa) deoesnt necessarily imply that its discrimnatory,

To finish off, I'd like you to recognize how in human society it is basically a universal maxim that those in power like to stay in power. Men have ruled Jewish society for nearly as long as Judaism has existed. Do you believe it was by some coincidence that the male Rabbinate gave us a society with such male superiority?

we're back to the original point, if you beleive n the divine oral law than your question is moot. if you dont than ure point is 100% valid.

The point about women's liberation was that women had the choice to do what they willed without being held back because of their gender. They could fulfill their 'female development' to the best of their abilities or they could enter the wider world and engage in pursuits formerly restricted only to men. The point is the choice.

and thats amazing - in an ideal setting- when we start from scratch and there is no default system.
that isnt the case
and fulfilling female development in a mans world is not an option
and if you beleive it is
youre probably not a woman.

Do you believe that the very existence of this option harms women? Women who are moved to do so, can now engage the world entire without being restricted just to the women's sphere. That you personally find deep spiritual fulfillment by living a traditional woman's life in the kitchen (while barefoot and pregnant, I might add) is your own business and I wish you good fortune, but you shouldn't be using such fulfillment as reasons to hold other women back.

i can use the same argument back, if you personally find deep spiritual fulfillment in being a rabbi or a posek or watever other "man" task and dont understand why i wouldnt want the same, thats your business, but you shouldnt pressure me to want the same.
just LOOk at the tone you use when you describe a typical female role, and you expect me to feel accepted and valued and appreciated??

i say - a woman in the torah world is valued and appreciated for being a woman in the traditional sense you say - oh you can be that barefoot and pregnant woman if THATS ALL you aspire to, but if you want to be really valued, come compete against me according to my standards of success

and you expect this argument to convince me that the society u speak of is not sexist???

Contemporary Orthodoxy does not let women control their own destiny or the direction of the Jewish people on a communal level.

i very much disagree
i believe its in the small details that the real changes happen
women form human beings
human brings form communities

The issue is power. It's great and all to say that you don't care about power but about personal development, but why should you be holding back those women who have different interests than you or who feel more personally developed by going outside of traditional gender roles?

that question doesnt make sense. any woman who wants to live a torah life and who beleives that the ultimate reason for existence is to follow a spiritual path to build a relationship with G-d will care abvout that and not about power.
if someone prefers "power" they can follow any other branch of judaism or leave judaism behind..
we have free choice..

and in case this post wasnt enough to read - here is interesting news (thanks to the few of you who sent this to me)
An Orthodox Jewish Woman and Spiritual Leader.
Im not sure if this article was sent to me to support or disagree with my post. I have no doubts women are as capable as men, I just think its a matter of where one wants to direct her energy, and how she chooses to connect to G-d. I have complete confidence in diversity within a Torah framework, and as long as the halacha is being upheld, I see no contradiction between this article and my point of view. it isnt a matter of what a woman can do, its a matter of what she wants to do, and i beleive this is an exception. im glad there is room for it in my understanding of torah, but im even more glad that it isnt the norm and that women, and their daughters, dont need to feel pressured by it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Once a week, G-d throws a party.. and you're invited.....

People always ask me if i don’t feel cheated that i keep shabbat every week..
if I don’t get bored sitting at home..
if I don’t feel stifled..

shabbat?? boring?? stifling?? I wouldn’t survive without it...

It’s one of the greatest gifts I have in my life.
One of the few sureties in my life.
No matter how my week goes, no matter how difficult it gets, no matter how long it seems, no matter how exhausting.. shabbat comes at the end and all those mundane insecurities, just fade away.
The minute I light those Shabbat candles, I leave behind the illusion and step into reality.

I feel my heart, my mind and my soul get released from the shackles of routine and pettiness.
I feel the connection to my history, to my people and most importantly to my creator.

Our everyday lives revolve around our sustenance, around working, making a living, supporting ourselves and our families, running around that interminable ratrace , but we all know deep down inside that this cant possibly be the purpose of our existence. There has to be more.
On Shabbat we step back from that constant pursuit for physical sustenance and we reframe and refocus on the real meaning, on our spiritual sustenance. We take a step back and
re-evaluate life, where its going, where we want it to go, who we want to be.

On Shabbat we aren’t allowed to do any melacha – that’s often translated as “work”, but in fact 'work' is ‘avoda’ in Hebrew.
melacha comes from the root of ‘melech’, a king, whereas avoda comes from the root of ‘eved’, a slave.
Those activities which require our creative abilities, our planning, and domination are activities which demonstrate our ability to control our surroundings, to dominate nature - that's what we give up on Shabbat.

All week long we live under the impression that we are masters of our lives, under the impression that we are ruling the system, that we are in control.
On Shabbat, we remember that our supremacy over nature is purely an illusion,. We step back, and we hand the throne back to G-d. We give up the impression that our apparent dominance over nature is our greatest asset and we return to the purity of being a creation of G-d. We stop creating and we start being.
We sit back an enjoy the fruits of G-ds generosity, we enjoy our families, and friends, we take the time to think, to meditate, to enjoy the delicacies; we refocus and rejewvinate!

I’m sure that anyone who has lived through a beautiful Shabbat will agree with me, and I can guarantee that anyone who has never experienced it will not understand.

It’s a multisensory experience that needs to be lived. No words can do it justice.

I wish you all
a beautiful, peaceful and rejewvinating shabbos koidesh!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


El Tango de Roxanne

Jason Mraz - The Remedy - live

if you get an error, just click on it again

Shotey Hanevua - ein ani

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Last night I came home feeling pretty good but when I read about 15 soldiers who died, my mood plummeted, throwing me into a terribly sad and lonely mood.

Feeling good sometimes has the same effect as feeling sad or down - it leads to loneliness. Not having someone to share either of them with is so difficult. No matter how much I want to be self sufficient, its times like these that I realize why I need someone in my life.

So I read the news, and I searched on line for more information and the numbness I had built up to handle the situation in Israel started crumbling down.
And then I felt guilty.

The nerve I have. Im here, in my north American safe haven. Im not in a shelter, I don’t have a son fighting the war, im not facing enemies that want to annihilate me, I didn’t lose my home or my business, I don’t have children who wake up screaming from nightmares, I don’t have a loved one waiting at the border to enter combat.

I'm home, by my computer, drowning in self pity.

The gall I have of feeling sorry for myself, of feeling sad and scared and lonely.

And so I go back to reading the news.
I tell myself I need to focus on the issue at hand.. this isnt about me.

15 soldiers died.
I just repeat those words - and it doesn’t feel like anything
I read 15 books last summer
I have 15 pairs of shoes
The flight took 15 hours
I ate 15 cookies!
Its just words
How can the same words express something of that magnitude and something as mundane?
And so I feel guilty...

15 soldiers died!!
Feel IT dammit
This isnt about you
This is about them.
Its 15 widows,
15 fatherless families,
15 broken hearted girlfriends,
15 mothers who’s lives have ended,
15 sets of dreams and aspirations and hopes and potential cut short.
its countless people falling into despair, soldiers injured, lives ruined, people hurting.
..and it starts to really hurt.
But its not enough.
The guilt I feel is so much stronger.
So i look at picures.
I read stories, I listen to sad songs, I watch these on line montages and I start to feel my heart ripping out.

Oh no, what did I do? why did I open that pandoras box?
I cant handle it
Now I remember why the numbness was there to begin with.
My heart or my brain or my soul cant handle the magnitude of it, I dont know what to do with this pain, this fear.

I don’t understand how the people in Israel do it..
How are they living, how are they waking up and going to work and eating lunch and going for coffee and smoking a cigarette and going to movies and falling in love and playing guitar and baking cookies and hating and forgiving and living.
How do they do it??
How do they get past the pain and fear and the despair?

And so I went to bed last night feeling hopeless and helpless, lonely and afraid.

But this morning, when i woke up I said my morning blessings.. and I meant them.

Blessed are You Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe who gives strength to the weary.

I woke up this morning with renewed strength. a few hours of sleep, of near unconsciousness, and I woke up a completely different person with a completely different perspective and a completely renewed faith.
I woke up with energy to face the world, to face this war, to face the guilt of not being there and to face this chaotic existence.

Did you ever fall asleep completely exhausted or sad or lonely or drained or weak or hopeless, and then wake up the next morning with a fresh mind and soul ready to deal with life?
Isn’t it amazing?
I pray that we can, one day very soon, open our eyes to a bright morning where the pain and the fear and the loneliness feels like a distant memory of a difficult night.

Monday, August 07, 2006


thanks the to the king of awesome videos, limey2001, for finding this m00kielicious video!

....and in other news.. i finally got myself a pair of
and its TrueLove4-ever!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

our own 9/11

Its Tisha bav afternoon and I’m sitting here at my computer reading about this tragic day, its history and its meaning and I’m wondering.. why don’t I feel it the way I should?
I don’t think this post will get read by many, most of you wont be at your computer today, and by the time you log on, after the fast, you wont want to read about tisha bav..
So I’m writing this for myself, to make sense of this day, to help clear my mind and understand what I should be feeling.

It’s midday and I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. I ate an egg dipped in ashes last night, I sat on the floor, I’m not wearing freshly cleaned clothes, I’m not showered, I’m not eating or drinking, I’m not listening to music, I’m not entertaining myself with frivolous activities.. I’m spending this long day, thinking and reading.. and yet I don’t feel the sadness I should.

I read about the destruction of the temples, I think of the massacres of the time, I think of the Spanish inquisition which was also started today, I think of the Holocaust, I think of all kinds of tragedies that have befallen my people, and it makes me sad.. but I don’t feel ... Tisha Bav.
What am I looking for? What am I trying to feel?

I’ve been thinking that maybe I just don’t understand what the loss of the beit hamikdash is because I don’t understand what having it was like. It can’t be the beauty of it, no one would spend 2000 years crying over stones and gold and silver, it must be the deeper reality of its existence.

One way of empathizing is to try and find a similar situation that you've experienced that helps you understand the feeling and then to project that onto another situation so it can be internalized. So, I tried that, and I thought of 9/11 - the destruction of 2 massive buildings that tragically altered the face of our reality.

Sounds comparable.. kind of..

So I started thinking.. true thousands of people died on September 11th, true the 2 world trade center towers were savagely demolished..
But… millions of people have been massacred across the globe, countless edifices have been destroyed, what is it about the thought of 9/11 that gives me goose bumps, that sends a tremor of fear up my spine?

When we think of 9/11, when we mourn that fateful day, few of us are thinking of the loss of the two buildings. Aside from those who have lost close ones, most of us don’t even think of the loss of life. In fact when 9/11 comes up, most of us react with a feeling, not a thought. We feel the effects of its loss, we feel the aftershocks. And the truth is, we feel them every day since then. 9/11 has completely distorted our understanding of what life is supposed to be like.

I cant believe that it’s only a few years ago that we didn’t have security checks in the airports, that we didn’t have a Homeland Security Advisory System, where terrorist attacks were not expected occurrences, where the news of American and Canadian soldiers dying in current battles was appalling. I cant believe that its only a few years ago that fundamentalist Islam was a distant threat that none of us seriously considered and that we lived our lives without the constant menace of terror attacks. Personally, I know that every time I sit on a subway train in New York, for a split second, I wonder if there isn’t a terrorist riding along with me and for a fleeting moment i feel a stab of fear, of insecurity. I know that every single time I’ve been in a tunnel or a bridge I’ve considered the option that the van next to me may be carrying explosives. I know that I’ve worried about wearing my magen david in my university, I’ve worried about expressing my opinions, I’ve worried about possible travel destinations, I’ve worried about suspicious individuals I come across, I’ve worried about a war, I’ve worried about chaos and destruction.

Recommended Activities
All Americans should continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicions items or activities to local authoritiesimmediately.

Everybody should establish an emergency preparedness kit as well as a communications plan for themselves and their family, and stay informed about what to do during an emergency situation.”

None of these thoughts were part of my thinking before 9/11.

So when I think of September 11th, the thoughts that come to my mind are most often related to the effects of that attack. I feel the fear and the insecurity, the disconnection from the more peaceful reality I once lived.

And that got me to thinking about our own 9th day of the 11th month, the day our two temples were destroyed. Maybe I’m not feeling it because I’m trying to mourn a physical loss which is so far from my reality that I cant appreciate it, instead of mourning the effects of it which I currently experience.

True, not having a bet himkdash means I cant experience the beauty of it, I cant pray there, I cant see or hear the kohanim.. but that’s not what hurts the most. With the loss of the temple, came the distancing of G-d, and that’s where the real tragedy is.

Having lost the temples has led to our disconnecting from Truth and Reality. The illusion of materialism blinds us - we don’t have the temple anymore where the joining of the physical and the material was experienced daily. We’ve lost the clarity; we no longer have prophets who can guide us. On Shavuot we celebrated our marriage to G-d, and on Tisha bav we’ve been repudiated by our Beloved, forsaken and left alone. We have been left to fend for ourselves, broken and scattered.

Where has this disconnection and lack of clarity led us to? It has led us to wars, to abuse, to cruelty. No man would cheat on his wife, no parent would strike his child, no teenager would commit suicide, no single mom would go to bed crying night after night.. if we had the clarity and the tangible knowledge that G-d was with us. No holocaust could have happened, no Cossacks, no inquisitors, no hizbulla, no katuyshas could exist if G-d was allowed a real presence in our midst. No loneliness, no fear, no confusion would plague our minds and our souls if we could connect to G-d in a sincere way. Like a child comforted by his mother when she hugs him, we'd have a Home to go to and be reassured and comforted.

When we had a temple, we had a place to witness the Shechina in a tangible way. We had a place to ask for forgiveness, and be forgiven, we witnessed miracles, we had a home with our Beloved. How many times do you hear people say "If G-d spoke to me, if I witnessed a miracle, I’d believe?" How many times have you thought, "please Hashem, just give me a sign?" How many times have I felt alone, overwhelmed, scared, desperate and begged Hashem to take care of me?
We could have had that, but we lost it.

How many of us find ourselves straying from the path we want to be on, how often do we get weak and give in to temptation, how many times do we feel so removed and distant from G-d that we decide we have take matters into our own hands. How much of that distance has translated itself into fear, into bitterness, and eventually to harming ourselves and others.

I can’t cry for the temple because I barely understand what it was. I can barely cry for the Holocaust because I have been so desensitized to it. But, I can cry for all the pain and suffering I witness around me. I can cry for the soldiers, I can cry for their moms. I can cry for those who are so far from a meaningful existence, and for those searching and being led astray by imposters. I can cry for those of us who have been deceived, lied to, abused by our leaders. I can cry for the selfishness, the hate, the malice we endure on a daily basis. I can cry for all of the effects of this original destruction, for the painful and chaotic existence we now live.

Tisha bav will be over in a few hours, I’ll eat, I’ll play some music, I’ll feel the anxiety lift off and and I’m afraid I’ll resume my life just as it was a few weeks ago.

But that will simply lead me back here, a year from now, G-d forbid.

I cant cry for the loss of the temple all year long. I don’t have it in me. But, unfortunately, I will keep crying for the effects of it because the impact is ongoing. The suffering will continue, long after the fast, long after the commemoration, long after the mandatory tears. The effects of this loss, close to 2000 years old, will keep me suffering every day, and if I cant mourn over the temple, I hope that I can at least carry with me the clarity to understand that the reason I suffer, the reason there is suffering around me, is a direct result of this day, a direct result of being expelled from home, and far away from my G-d.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I read this amazing post today about self esteem and specialness and how a person can view themselves as relatively superior/special or as intrinsically special and what the difference is between the two. I don’t want to repeat the whole post here and I definitely recommend reading it before reading this one, but the main point was that real self esteem is based on intrinsic value, the kind that is spiritual and tied to our godliness. This got me thinking about how that applies to women and their self esteem.

We know that self esteem is based on the perception a person has of their own self worth and by women it often revolves around physical beauty. In the non-Torah world, feminism preaches the freedom for a woman to dress and act as she pleases, without concern for the needs or desires of men. Feminism is supposed to accord women the freedom that men have always had, the freedom to behave according to self-serving motivations.
Judaism, on the other hand, is often perceived as restrictive and denigrating towards women.

Well women, I disagree.. and here comes my little rant.

Don’t tell me Judaism is sexist, while you parade barely dressed and allow others to objectify you. Real worth comes from qualities that have depth, infinite depth. It comes from a spiritual source, from working and developing one’s character, one’s godliness.

You complain that men don’t treat you like equals, you complain about eating disorders, you complain about the dating process, but why don’t you complain about a society that objectifies you, that requires of you to flaunt your body to please men, a society that expects you to harm yourself to be pleasing to the eyes.. of men, a society that expects you to satisfy men's basic instincts. Why don’t you build a society where people are viewed according to their intrinsic worth, where people are valued according to their hard work and character development, where people don’t objectify other human beings, where women are not considered toys, tools.

I agree that women want attention from men and that's natural, but why do we feel the need to give them the basest of reasons to be attracted to us. Who decided that the standards of men need to be so low? Why do we accept that decision? Let them be attracted to the real you, the one you’ve worked on and developed, the one centred on your godliness, the one expressing your true essence.

Skin can be blinding, and it’s a real shame when we let it blind the world, and ourselves, from seeing our soul.
We are so afraid of real intimacy, of a real connection, that we try to blind those around us to our true selves. We want to take easy way out, we want to be noticed without the hard work, without the spiritual development.

We bare our skin to hide our soul.

So women, next time you feel like your self esteem is lacking, you feel like you’re not worthy, ask yourself what you’re basing your worth on? Are you looking at yourself through the eyes of others, others who are seeing you as a worthless, physical object existing to please their senses. Ask yourself whether your desire to bare your skin isnt simply a cop out because you’re afraid you don’t have the intrinsic beauty to attract others with?
Stop and realize your
real worth.
Your real self esteem is based on something much more spiritual. Don’t blind others from seeing it too. Let your soul shine to those who want to take the time to see it. Instead of instantly gratifying the gawkers, reward those who take the time and have the desire to see the real you.

Next time someone tells you Judaism is sexist, tell them that the day women of the world see themselves as more than hips that don’t lie, sparkly bellybuttons and bootilicious, then they will have earned the right to tell you about a woman's worth. In the meantime they can go preach to those nice juicy steaks at the butchershop.

(and to the men out there..i know you probably think all this is pretty obvious, but until youve stepped in our shoes (which i dont recommend :) then you have no idea how difficult it is to internalize these ideas and to live by them.)

(another amazing post related to this topic of inherent worth)

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