Saturday, June 28, 2008


I realize that much of this is not new, but it's pretty new to me. My experience, my blog, you know.

Usually, when I visit TC in New York over Shabbat, we go to his regular minyan for Shacharit. In that minyan, most of the people are old enough to be my (or TC's) parents. I also happen to know a few of these parentally-aged types. They are pleased that TC and I are together, but it's pretty low-key. I enjoy meeting TC's co-minyanites, just as I hope, when he is in town, he likes to make the acquaintance of my friends.

Last Shabbat, though, the regular minyan was having a special service that we (or at least I) didn't want to go to. So we went to Hadar (a post-denominational but essentially Conservative minyan founded by young people who are now in their mid-30's, although there are younger folks there, too). I had gone to Hadar when I lived in NYC right out of college, and I had never found it particularly friendly. I knew a few people from college and around the Upper West Side, but I never felt like I had an "in" there. I ended up going to another minyan (or two) regularly.

This time, when TC and I went to Hadar, the place had a totally feel. I felt like people were finally treating me like a whole person, now that I was part of a couple. I had several long conversations with people (people I already knew, but I still felt like I belonged). I knew more people there than I had before (people from where I live now who had moved to NYC, mostly), and of course I was more confident, with boyfriend in tow. I realize there are a number of variables here. But I still think that people closer to my age treat me differently now that I am "coupled." I told this to one of my Charedi/yeshivish friends, who is also old enough to be my mom. She was surprised, because she thought that since Hadar is all egalitarian and everything, people wouldn't be hung up on that. Ha! We're still Jewish, right? But it does raise of the question: if we're so egalitarian and progressive, why do we think women are missing something if they don't have a man?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shavuot Musings, or Lack Thereof

Shavuot is coming up on Sunday night. This is the holiday on which we celebrate the Revelation and giving of the Torah at Sinai (I believe in the Revelation; in terms of exactly what was given, I am not touching that on this blog with a ten-foot pole).

Anyway, I have noticed from reading blogs and seeing people's Facebook status updates--hey, I'm a grad student, so I don't always go outside--that some people are talking about readying themselves for Shavuot, preparing to bring their neshamot (souls) up as high as possible for the time when they will receive the Torah again. Even though I am a (religious) rationalist who would rather think of mitzvot than her neshamah, not that the two are mutually exclusive, I find all this talk of musings and preparations for the holiday quite nice.

I also find that it makes me feel guilty. When I think of Shavuot, I think of: 1. where I will eat meals, and how many dishes I have to prepare beforehand for me and/or potlocks; 2. how disgusting my hair is going to be on the second day; 3. how bored and or/hot (temperature-wise)I will probably be by Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes I also think about and get kind of excited for my community's Tikkun Leil Shavuot (staying up all night to study Torah) and a few of the shiurim (lessons) that I have seen on the tentative schedule, so that's good. But then my mind wanders to logistics: Should I go for mincha (afternoon prayers), or wait to go over until dinner and then stay for some shiurim? How late will I be able to stay up? I should really make a donation to the sponsoring group, etc. Not exactly elevated thinking.

I talked about this with my BFF this morning, and she said that it is only natural to feel this way, since that is how our ancestors thought about the holiday, too. Even though we now have modern technology, money, and butcher shops, only really special, high energy people who are not writing dissertations can do both. That reminded me of a d'var Torah I once heard from a woman who used to be yeshivish and married to a yeshivah bochur (full-time Talmud student) and now is not religious like that anymore. She talked about slaving over holiday meals for her husband and his fellow yeshivah bochurim and then having one of them say at her table, "I really enjoy yontif (holidays) because they're so relaxing." She thought, "Yeah, right, for those who have food served to them."

My mom told me that this was an anti-feminist statement when I said something similar in a slightly different context, but I think that the traditional division of labor is not particularly conducive to women having deep thoughts about yontif in the days before. Now that many men in my community help with food preparation and so forth, one possibility is that both parties feel like they have a little more time to reflect. The other possibility is that, now, everyone's head is full of blintzes and logistics (mmmm . . . logistics), and only those who are teaching at the Tikkun are thinking about texts, and it is largely because they are forced to. (Although I realize that some people volunteer for the Tikkun in order to motivate themselves to study texts and think about the holiday, which I think is very admirable).

So, does anyone else feel this way? What do you do about it? (Please don't tell me that I CAN, in fact, wash my hair on yontif. I'm not doing that right now, and it's not the point, anyway).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Enough already, Hillary!

I don't usually blog about political issues, because everyone else is doing it, but I am getting to be crazed (I hope not literally) by Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama has won the nomination. He has the requisite number of delegates. What is Hillary doing? She's "considering her options." What options are those? I hope she's busy writing a speech in which she says something like, "I encourage all of my supporters to support Senator Obama in the fall, since we have to take back the White House, AND ANYWAY OUR POLICY POSITIONS ARE NEARLY IDENTICAL!!!!" I just watched the beginning of the Today show, and one of her staffers was on. Matt Lauer showed him the headline from the Washington Post today. It said something like, "Obama Wins Nomination," and asked, "Is this headline accurate or inaccurate?" The staffer couldn't give him a direct answer, even when Matt asked him again.

A few weeks ago in the New Yorker, Hendrik Herzberg wrote that the Clinton campaign had reached an almost mystical phase, in which her decision to drop out no longer had anything to do with the change she had to win. And that was before Obama had actually clinched the nomination! And they still won't concede. Incredible! AND, I think this vice-presidential thing is just a distraction by her people to get more attention.

Hillary Clinton, please concede gracefully and urge your supporters to support Obama before you do even more damage to his campaign. McCain was already starting to recruit your supporters last night!

ON AN UNRELATED NOTE: Since I'm in the realm of politics, I would like to wish Ted Kennedy a refuah shleimah (full recovery). He did something horrible a long time ago, and, it's true, if he were not a Kennedy, he might have gone to jail, although he would not have done that much time. I believe in teshuvah (it's a complicated term, but let's go, in one word, with "repentance"), and I think that his tireless work in the Senate over the past four decades has demonstrated a commitment to be an upright, contributing citizen who advocates on behalf of the poor, disenfranchised, and usually ignored. As I heard on TV, it's hard to imagine the Senate without him.

On his surgery: The cable news networks have been tying themselves into pretzels trying to explain his surgery, and the fact that he was awake. Maybe I remember too much old TV, but it seems simplest to me to compare it to the surgery that Dr. Mark Greene had on the TV show ER 5-7 seasons ago. He, too, had a tumor in Broca's area, which controls speech, and he had experimental surgery in which he was awake the whole time. I think that a good number of TV viewers remember that episode. That would have been my idea for a news segment, anyway.