Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Misheberach Issue

In case you are wondering what happened to TC and me at his parents' this weekend, you can see the post here.

Now, onto something else I have been thinking about on and off lately:

I try to add the names of people needing misheberachs (prayers for the sick) to my prayers (I pray once a day on weekdays and 2-3 times a day on Shabbat). I sometimes get these names from e-mail lists I am on, Facebook groups, or newspaper articles about Israeli terror victims. The problem is that, since I don't know many of these people or their relatives personally, I don't know when they no longer need the misheberachs, either because they (God forbid) died, or because they are well. (For example, does Nadav Eliahu ben Hadassah, the victim of the Mercaz HaRav yeshivah attack, still need the misheberach that was requested 2-and-a-half months ago?). The truth is, even when the misheberach is for the grandparent of someone with whom I am friendly, I can hardly go up to the person and say, So, is your grandfather still alive? Obviously, I could ask how the relative is doing, but I am afraid of upsetting the person.

Do other people have this problem? And, if so, what do you do about it? Should there be a six-month cut-off point or something? I am of the opinion that even if someone has a chronic illness, I will not say a misheberach for him or her indefinitely--only if he or she is in the hospital or otherwise gets worse. But that is more information than I usually have.

I will open this up to responses and suggestions from the gallery (and please, nothing cheeky about how the majority of people on synagogue misheberach lists are dead--that's not helpful).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Omer: What is a Conservadox Woman to Do?

Every year, I struggle with the Omer. The two questions I have are: 1. For How Long? 2. What do I do (other than counting the Omer)?

Question 1 was answered convincingly for me by the husband of a friend a few years ago. He said that it makes no sense to observe the Omer, a mourning or partial mourning period, in Nissan, the month of Passover, traditionally associated with the Redemption. (Observing the Omer on Chol HaMoed Pesach in particular seems dumb to him). If there is no tachanun (a prayer of supplication that is omitted on happy occasions) in Nissan, why should there be Omer observance? Furthermore, there is no tachanun on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, so he starts to observe the Omer on the third of Iyar (the Hebrew month after Nissan). He continues to observe it for about three more weeks, until Lag Ba'Omer (the thirty-fifth day of the Omer), and then he stops. His reasoning is that the official reason for observing a mourning or semi-mourning period during the Omer is that, according to the Gemara, Rabbi Akiva's students started dying during the Omer, and they stopped dying on Lag Ba'Omer. He thinks that the custom arose to observe the Omer as a mourning period from the thirty-sixth day of the Omer until Shavuot only for the maintenance of symmetry between the first and last halves of the Omer. In true Conservadox style, I follow this minhag (custom), since it makes sense to me, although I feel kind of guilty about not observing the Omer (other than counting it) after Lag Ba'Omer, since everyone else is doing it.

The question of how I observe the Omer is a much harder one. My friend's husband is (wait for it) a guy, which means that he can observe the Omer very visibly by not shaving. Since he is hirsute, his observance is quite visible. But what should women do? There is no historical connection between mourning and not shaving legs, and I have to be seen in public, so that's out. In the past, I have not listened to recorded music, but this year is a bit of a challenge, since with the exception of one train ride in the near future, I wouldn't normally listen to music anyway. I'm also not convinced that listening to recorded music during the Omer is not allowed. Listening to LIVE music is not allowed, and going to weddings is not allowed, but I don't do those things at this time of year anyway. That is my question, I suppose: Does it "count" (no pun intended, but it's still funny) if I don't do what is forbidden if I wasn't going to do it anyway? Is the idea only to avoid the forbidden--assuming I even know what that is--or do I also have to make a separation between Omer and not-Omer?

I have considered giving up TV, or some TV, but it's hard to convince myself that that is necessary. Even the reason about Rabbi Akiva's students dying seems insufficient to me as a reason why all Jews shouldn't be allowed to have any fun (a gloss from an old acquaintance) for three or six or seven weeks. Is this a situation where the mourning custom, which had developed but whose origin had been forgotten, had to be explained retroactively by the rabbis?

What do you guys do? I am open to suggestions.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Well, I'm Still Conservadox . . .

. . . but as for the single thing, not so much. I'm back with the Ex.

Now, before everyone goes crazy, I haven't told you guys that I had been thinking about the Ex and me a lot lately. I decided that the primary obstacle to our relationship previously was the difference in our positions on the religious spectrum, and, after dating some and trying to date some over the last six months, that was not insurmountable, since we are compatible in so many other areas. (There are lots of guys out there with whom I am SO not compatible). We have decided on some minimim religion-in-the-home prerequisites in case the relationship progresses, and I am satisfied with them. I also realized that I was way too hard on him in our past relationship. That was due largely to my inexperience, which led to the belief that if we were right for each other, everything would be perfect from the beginning. Ha! I am trying patience, patience, patience.

He has also changed, in the sense of having matured, knowing what he wants (including me!) and going for it. I have been missing him lately, and he was missing me, too.

We will still have to be long-distance for a while, but in the summer I will have more flexibility in terms of my location.

I am pretty happy. It feels as though very little time has passed. I'm nervous, too, because relationships are hard, but so is everything rewarding.