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Jun 27, 2011

An Act of Kindness

I've heard (and can at least partially corroborate through personal experience) that if you ask any number of women whether they'd rather have a dozen roses all at once or a single rose twelve times that they would all reply they would rather be gifted a single rose twelve separate times. The idea being that in a woman's eyes each act of kindness is important, and having twelve separate gifts is thus more desirable than a single act of kindness with great magnitude (Credit: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus).

It made me wonder... 

Then I happened upon the following story:
They asked the Baal Shem Tov, "The Talmud tells us that for everything G-d forbade, He provided us something permissible of the same sort. If so, what did He permit that corresponds to the sin of heresy?" The Baal Shem Tov replied, "Acts of kindness." Because when you see a person suffering, you don't say, "G-d runs the universe. G-d will take care. God knows what is best." You do everything in your power to relieve that suffering as though there is no God. You become a heretic in God's name.

 Something clicked in my mind. Do you see it?

Jun 22, 2011

It's Not You

I didn't reject you
I didn't say
That you are simply
Not enough for me
Or that you are ugly

I learned the hard way
That sometimes
We just cannot be
What the other person needs

I said, once
To a woman
I thought was everything
That I would be
Whatever she needs

And I failed
I fell short
Fell indeed

It hurt her
But it hurt me more
I felt inadequate
Like nothing I did
Could be enough
And for me
There is nothing worse
Than not being enough

So when I said
That I don't find you attractive
I meant to say:
"You are beautiful
But I can't appreciate it
No matter how hard I try"
That same inadequacy
You feel
Is in my own heart

I learned the hard way
That sometimes
We just cannot be
What the other person needs

I think sometimes
Maybe I should be
Less blunt
And more gentle
Gentle tore out my heart
Under the guise
Of protection

And I failed
I fell short
Fell indeed

Blunt is painful
But honest
The worlds left out
Are often
The ones we need
To say
And to hear
The most

When I say
That you cannot
Fulfill my needs
I mean to say
"I cannot become
What is necessary
To get
What I need
From you"

And I failed
I fell short
Fell indeed

I learned the hard way
That sometimes
We just cannot be
What the other person needs

(Hat tip to SternGrad for her poem, which inspired this one.)

Jun 21, 2011

My Number One

I have a life mission. I'm ambitious. I know in my bones that I'm going to do great things, and I'm working on that with every ounce of my strength and every fiber in my body. Also, I'm a tad arrogant (sometimes). I know, it happens.

One of the things I look for when I'm dating a woman is how she responds to me talking about my life mission. Because, in the long run, if she's not going to be my number one fan... if she's uninterested or shoots down every inspiration I have, I will hold back on sharing this part of me with a woman. In a relationship, that's going to create a divide instead of a point of connection.

I love being challenged, I love it when a person makes me think or questions my ideas. I already tend to think them through with careful consideration that borders on methodical meticulousness, and so I find myself impressed and appreciating when someone has me pondering possibilities. But that has to come from a place of "Oh, what a great concept or idea, let's take a look at it from multiple angles" rather than "oh, well that's ridiculous and here are a bunch of reasons why." It's the difference between scaffolding or poking holes -and both may be a challenge, but the approach really matters.

One way communicates loving care and support, while the other communicates a critical -perhaps even venomous -and less respectful connection, colder with its lack of care in communicating concerns (perhaps this is what PNN meant about prisms, in which case I tip my hat to his genius). The idea or inspiration may not be all that great to begin with -and trust me, I've got more than my fair share of ridiculous ideas -but communicating with respect and care should trump my lack of fully thinking through an idea before wanting a sounding board (or inspirational muse) to consider my thoughts aloud; a great life partner should trust that I'll realize if it's not a great idea without having to smack me over the face with it. 

A very important note here is that a woman doesn't have to immediately be my number one fan. If she expresses any interest or admiration, she's got major points to start with. But if she's apathetic or uninterested (or worse yet, argumentative and critical), she's already turning me away.

Jun 19, 2011

What is Love...

The modern world sees love as a goal; an end unto itself. Love is the goal of a relationship. But more than that, love is often cited as the basis for action; a reason to get married or to do things for another person. When love dissipates, the relationship dissolves. It is a goal and the glue that keeps relationships together.

I heartily disagree, though, and I think such a perspective is highly damaging.

Love is an outcome. Let me be more specific: love as an emotion is an outcome. As is happiness. They come from a perspective and from hard work. To look for or chase after those things is like chasing after a million dollar lotto jackpot, or trying to gamble into wealth. The true way to get there -to earn and appreciate it -is to work hard, to focus on that work and giving, especially in the ways that the other person needs and responds to. 

Jun 14, 2011

Amoraim Discuss Weather and Fringes

Disclaimer: None of this is actually taken from Mishnaic, Amoraic or Halachic sources. It is written by myself for the exercise and humor. Enjoy!

MISHNAH: In hot weather, one is not required to wear four-cornered woolen garments with fringes. However, in cold weather it is required. Rabbi Zeirah said, when is this true? When wearing the garment may cause harm.

The Gemara now discusses the weather:
GEMARA: What is hot weather? The Gemara quotes a Braita to answer the question: It was taught: What is hot weather? Beit Shamai say, when the cattle seek shade inside the barn rather than graze in the field. Beit Hillel say, when people search for shade at the park. Rabbi Akiva said it is all based on how it feels to a person, for there can be a winter cold that feels warm enough to visit the beach and a summer heat that seems cool enough to play outside. How is this the case? A winter with wind is bitter cold, while a winter without wind is fit for the beach. A summer with humidity causes frizziness of the hair, whereas a summer without humidity is fit for making sand-castles at the beach instead of running indoors for air-conditioning.

Having established the parameters of weather, the Gemara moves onto the next topic:
Rav Pappa asked, if one is not required to wear four cornered woolen garments with fringes in hot weather, does this permit wearing four-cornered woolen garments without fringes in hot weather? They kicked him out of the Beit Midrash for implying that ever wearing a four cornered garment without fringes is allowed during the day at any temperature.

The Gemara now defines the concept of “harm” regarding fringed garments:
What is harm? The gemara quotes another Braita: It was taught: Rabbi Zeirah expounded: harm is categorized as great discomfort, excessive sweating that may lead to dehydration or reduced mobility. Rav Pappa asked on Rabbi Zeirah: But don’t all four-cornered garments lead to reduced mobility regardless of the weather? Only when they are tucked in, but when they are un-tucked, it has no effect on mobility. Rav Pappa further questioned: but then what is the difference between wool and other materials? I.e. what is unique about wool over other fabrics? Rabbi Zeirah answered: The companies of the four-cornered garment industry do not make mesh four-cornered garments with wool. They are always made with cotton and other breathable materials; thus, since they do not make more breathable garments out of wool, in hot weather all woolen garments would cause great discomfort and excessive sweating.
The Gemara analyzes the conclusions of the Braita:
This makes sense according to those who say the issue is one of excessive sweating, since woolen garments will cause excessive sweating but for those who say the issue is reduced mobility, what is there to say? Rabbi Tarfon answered: "Mesh garments allow for more mobility than non-mesh garments." But is this true? Do mesh garments truly allow for more mobility than non-mesh garments? It is a difficulty. Since nobody in the Beit Midrash actually owned or would wear mesh garments with fringes, they had no idea.

The Gemara cites a source for its permissiveness regarding the matter:
How do we know this is true? For the Torah wrote: “And thou shalt live by them” –to live and not to die or suffer so much that one wishes to die or expects to die (Tosafot). Alternatively, not to die means causing harm that may potentially lead to death, and dehydration may cause death (Rashi).

The Gemara cites one final concern:
But what about frum communities that have a minhag to tuck in their shirts for Shabbat and Yom Tov as well as all other occasions?* B’nei Torah sit inside learning, and have no need for the mobility. What about Shabbat walks that men take with their wives? In the summer, it is hot so they are not required to wear fringes, and the winter is short, i.e. Shabbat and Yom Tov are “short days” and there is practically no time to take a walk with their wives anyways. Alternatively, in the summer they stay inside to spend time together thus having no need for mobility.  What about single men? It is a great difficulty. The Gemara could not answer every situation that single men would need the mobility, so they gave up here. Alternatively, the entire question of singlehood –not just that of men -is such a great difficulty the Gemara dare not open the topic, for the ensuing issues and questions would spill out and each would have to be considered, explored and discussed fully. Given the greater task of expounding the Torah, the Gemara chose to leave this issue untouched.  

*The issue of sports, while important, does not enter here due to the nature of the discussion on weather and fringes. Commentators address the issue, as Rabbi Akiva's interpretation may lead indoor or outdoor sports to fall under the definitions of harm depending on the environment within the arena and the intensity of sport-playing. Others examine the issue of mobility specifically regarding sports, though such opinions tend to fall out of the mainstream Yeshivish circles.

Jun 13, 2011

The Easygoing/Flexible Persona

For me -i.e. as a man, hearing that about a woman -it sounds great. It can mean all kinds of things, like her being low-maintenance, not stubborn or picky about most things, and she may follow strong leadership with ease.

Of course that all sounds fantastic, since that fits with my traditional leanings, my perspective on how relationships work (a la requiring great flexibility from both partners) and my penchant in naturally embracing the mantle of leadership (it's in my blood and part of my heritage, but that's a story about my Grandfather for another time) but how the trait manifests will be different from person to person.

I have, however, noticed that sometimes when a person says they are the easygoing/flexible type, it may mean they are just indecisive, which has me wondering: What happens when the person becomes less indecisive as they grow? While they learn to make concrete choices more readily and develop personal tastes/preferences for themselves, do they become more difficult to deal with? Will they be inflexible?

Figures that I'd be concerned about the long-term for something like this. But a slice of the present doesn't always translate into the future, and while I trust character, some parts of a person develop into character over time.

I'd like to hear your opinions, and I'll be searching for some experience and wisdom on the matter. I'll keep y'all posted.

Jun 12, 2011

Thought of the Day (#4)

Every so often, I work out a little phrase or thought. Often it seems like I've heard it before, but I'll admit I don't read libraries of literature and I'm not well versed in the world's quotes. In any case, here's one from the other day: 

"Being a great catch requires basically two things -owning who you are, and giving what the other person really needs. Half the battle is knowing the difference between the two."

As always, thoughts or feedback are appreciated.

Jun 7, 2011

Accepting What We Already Have

The holiday of Shavuot is a fascinating one; while others reenact aspects of our past -specifically events that occurred to us -this particular holiday is about what we did. Specifically, our choice to accept, embrace, learn and uphold the words of the Torah.

While we recieved the Torah ages ago, there is -on a yearly basis -a renewal of that acceptance. One that goes above and beyond the choices we make daily to learn and uphold our Biblical inheritance. 

But how do we accept what we already have? Is it just a renewal, a symbolic gesture or a recommitting? Do we acknowledge our going astray to return once more?

Many know of the Midrash that speaks of Hashem holding Har Sinai (Mt Sinai) over our heads as a wedding canopy at the time the Torah was given to us; while some of that may connote fear and coercion, it also hints at a special, intimate, marriage-like relationship with The Almighty and the Torah. And over the past few Parshiyot, the Torah describes an unbreakable relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. Whether that is for good or for worse, this unique relationship impacts the Jewish nation.

Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and specialist on intimacy (I know, she sounds so frum!) and author of the book "Mating in Captivity," said at a roundtable discussion that long-term relationships should be viewed from a perspective of "short term with the option to renew." The point of this idea, of course, is twofold: first, that relationships change and evolve as individuals do, and second that one cannot take for granted any relationship, otherwise they will cease to work for it. To expect that a relationship is simply going to last forever means that I may get lazy or do whatever I please, but it will still go on the way I'd like it to.

But I believe the holiday of Shavuot carries with it the message that Ester Perel put forth. We cannot and should not take for granted a relationship with God and a connection with the Torah. By having "an option to renew" every year, we recognize and say "Na'aseh V'Nishmah," that "we will do and we will listen."

In that same vein, we stay up all night delving into Torah, a symbol -not only of this commitment but also -in renewing our relationship with The Almighty. We have the "option to renew" and we vigorously say YES with our actions and our words in learning Torah through the night.

I do believe this idea is both beautiful and applies not only to Torah, but to marriage as well.

Thought of the Day (#3)

"Before one may lead others, they must champion themselves."

Jun 6, 2011

Thought of the Day (#2)

Every so often, I work out a little phrase or thought. Often it seems like I've heard it before, but I'll admit I don't read libraries of literature and I'm not well versed in the world's quotes. In any case, here's one from the other day: 

"While women appreciate a sensitive man, they are often attracted to men who take leadership. A man who can master both is rarer than a unicorn."

As always, comments or feedback are welcome

Jun 5, 2011

Thought of the Day (#1)

Every so often, I work out a little phrase or thought. Often it seems like I've heard it before, but I'll admit I don't read libraries of literature and I'm not well versed in the world's quotes. In any case, here's one from the other day:

"Maybe there are no atheists in a foxhole, but if you put a religious man down there for long enough, he may begin to question God."

As always, thoughts are welcome.

Jun 2, 2011

Weddings: Racing to the Finish-line

The way people talk about shidduchim, the "crisis" and the need to get married can sound like an obsession.

The incessant ranting about it like some holy relic, rite of passage, or penultimate goal feeds me this image of a marathon, where all the runners with their ages pinned to their shirts are dashing headlong down a path, some for miles and miles, exhausted, panting, gasping for air and a moment's respite from the race while hammering the track with their pounding feet, led by all manners of motivation from touch to companionship, social status to family, sexual contact to child-raising, religious obligation to communal acceptance, fear and existential angst in loneliness. Or just to stop everyone from nagging and asking every 3.7 seconds: "So, nuuuu, when are you getting married?"

And of course, every so often, the person I'm running next to suddenly disappears, having finished their race. At which point I'm left sprinting and perspiring and flabbergasted -while being happy for them of course, since their race is finished -wondering what on earth just happened and when I'll be the one to suddenly trip and stumble across my own finish line. Since I've got no idea where it is, I'm practically running blind, which can give this experience the treadmill-esque "going nowhere fast" sensation.  

Of course, this particular marathon ends under the chuppah. But what then? From many perspectives, life opens up. Relationship, togetherness/unity, intimacy, family, acceptance, community, religious fulfillment... all reach a very different place at this "finish line."

It makes me wonder if we're picking the wrong race sometimes. If perhaps the finish line is really a beginning, why are we spending so much effort just to get there, instead of preparing for when we do? If people expend all their energy trying so hard just to get to the wedding, what do we have when we finally reach marriage? What is the purpose in running a marathon towards my wedding when that point is the beginning of marriage?

The voice echoing loudly in my head is adamant: "because you have to get there first!"

Allow me to conjecture for a moment, perhaps what is really necessary to reach the chuppah is a certain preparedness for marriage rather than racing towards a wedding.

Though I must admit that dating and relationships/marriage are completely different skill-sets. and my own focus from much younger has been the latter. More on that later.