Monday, December 12, 2011


It's a scene I've witnessed many times in my life. Only this time it took a painful twist.

I'm talking to a coworker, playing Jewish Geography. "Do you know Raizy Finkel? I think she lives right near you?"

I nod. "Sure I know her! And I also know her granddaughter, Suri-"

She cuts me off before I get to finish, to explain how I know said granddaughter. "Oy, Suri. Nebach she needs a shidduch already."

The end of my sentence dies in my throat. "-she was a classmate of mine in high school."

Ouch. Just ouch.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shidduch Priorities

They're moving around all the people in my department soon, and I kind of hope that I wind up very, very far from the lady who currently sits next to me.

It's not her abrasive nature that makes me want to distance myself from her. And while I heartily dislike it when she leans over me to loudly talk to the guy sitting opposite me (even when I'm on the phone!), that's not enough of a reason for me to want to move away from her.

And really, it's not her ultra loud voice either. It's what she talks about, namely, shidduchim. I have, in the past, heard of people who spend about 90 percent of their time devoted to shidduchim, but I had always assumed people like that were basically like Santa Clause or sensitive males: merely urban legends.

Until I met Mrs. Fried (not her real name.) Mrs Fried manages to discuss shidduchim more in a single day than the average human does in a lifetime. Her children are all married, so I'm not sure exactly who she's matching up (trading?), but she obviously never runs out of hapless singles to negotiate on behalf of.

And it's not just her shidduch talk that bothers me. Mrs. Fried represents everything I hate about the shidduch system. I routinely hear her matching problems over people: "Well he was divorced and she was (nebach) sick so they can go out." If that doesn't sound bad, here's a classic gem from Mrs. Fried. I file this under "things I can't believe even though I heard them with my own ears."

She said, on the phone, on one of her many, MANY, shidduch calls, (I quote. I promise.):

"Yeah so they're looking for someone with a lot of money...also for good middos."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today, I sat in my classroom, learning about Rosh Hashana. Chaya came in late that day, her brother's bris had been that morning.

If Chaya looked nervous or anxious when she came in, I didn't notice. She was always a "goody-goody," not the kind of girl who would disrupt the class. Not even to relate news of this magnitude. So Chaya took out her notebook and began to take notes.

And for that one blissful hour, myself, my classmates and my teacher where unaware of the way our lives had turned upside down.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. The principal stood there, asked the teacher to come outside for a minute. Miss Gold looked unalarmed as she headed to the door. Just as she stepped outside, Chaya saw fit to finally stand up and make her announcement. I'll never forget her face, the look of alarm, mixed with the look of I-don't-really-know-what-is-going-on.

"Two planes hit the twin towers and they fell down. Another plane hit the Pentagon in Washington and it's still on fire."

I scanned her face for a glimmer of a smile, a hint of a joke, but there was nothing. I was hoping desperately hoping for a way out, a way to not believe that something like this could have happened. "Maybe," I thought to myself, "maybe they were accidents."

Even in my mind it sounded ridiculous.

Miss Gold walked back into the room, shaking. Clearly a year in seminary and a week or so of teaching experience isn't adequate to prepare you for a moment like that. We all looked to her for some kind of affirmation. Finally, Miss Gold found her voice, and said, "ta-take out your Tehillims."

The rest of the day is a jumbled mess of disconnected memories. I wish I could say that I remember the moment I learned that a heinous act of terror had been perpetrated against my country, that innocent lives had been taken, simply for the crime of going to work in our capitalist country.

But I don't. I remember sitting huddled around the radio with my family that night, listening in horror to news reports. I remember thinking that we looked like those pictures from World War Two, where families did exactly the same. "But this is different," I thought to myself, "they were in the middle of a war."

I wish I remembered the moment I realized I was wrong, the moment I realized that we were in a war too. But I don't.

I remember desperately listening to news reports, rabbis, teachers, parents, anyone who might be able to give some answers. But none came.

I wasn't old enough to really split my memories into the pre-9|11 and post-9|11 events. I don't remember flying in an era where every passenger was not a potential monster who would use the plane to carry out the most devastating and horrific act. My flying memories involve serious security: removing my shoes, throwing out my drinks, and all kinds of other restrictions placed on us by people so desperately depraved that they've been able to turn innocent items into potential bombs.

But in the back of my mind, I do have the memories of a time when New York's skyline didn't have a glaringly gaping hole. I can remember a time when "war" was something that happened in the "olden days."

My children however, will not have those memories. They will be born into a world where airplanes are scary, potential bombs. They will be born into a world where extremists have managed to instill fear in the hearts of travelers. They will be born into a world that has seen horror and terror in ways we wouldn't have imagined 11 years ago.

And so it's not just a memory. 9|11 isn't just an event that occurred ten years ago. It's the mark of the time that our lives all changed. We can't ever go back to where we were ten years ago. Not us, nor future generations.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Repost: The Mourner's Chair- a Tisha B'av Poem

Looking around the world,
We forget what it's about,
Yes there are some troubles,
But we are comfortable, no doubt.

We look around at life,
At the good times that we see,
We look at all the wealth we have,
Every luxury that could be.

So we become complacent,
Our Galus-cast away.
Minor problems crop up,
And only then we pray.

We ask Hashem for this and that,
But do we know what we need?
If we'd only Daven properly,
Then surely He would heed.

We ask for a good shidduch,
A job and a bit of wealth,
We ask for children who make us proud,
We ask Hashem for health.

But what we really need,
Yet always seem to forget,
Is to see the light of Moshiach,
A light we haven't seen yet.

Sometimes it's a shake-up,
That makes us stand back and say,
How can we have let ourselves
Slip up along the way?

How can we have let ourselves,
Forget why we are here?
Why are we not working,
To bring Mashiach near?

I walk into the shiva house,
And sit down among loud wails;
And I listen in silence as those chairs
Tell us their terrible tales.

Yes the chairs, they tell of pain,
That I can not comprehend.
The pain these chairs see constantly,
They know we need an end.

I may not see much suffering,
When we look at only me,
But think about those mourner's chairs-
That witness suffering collectively.

While we've become complacent,
In a Galus that we can bare,
We must strain to listen to the tales
That come from the mourner's chair.

How many tears has this chair seen?
How many families torn apart?
How many newly orphaned kids,
Crying from the depths of their heart?

Look at these low chairs,
They hold mourners every day.
They never see the easy side,
Of our Galus cast away.

They see the pain of loss,
Of a loved one torn away,
They see the pain of a widow,
Whose world has now turned grey.

How much pain have we all faced,
When we join it all together,
Oh how bad this storm seems now!
How much longer can we weather?

We know we can't continue,
We can't go on this way.
We need Moshiach here,
We need him here today.

This Tisha B'av we'll cry along,
We'll join the mourners in their tears,
We'll ask for an end to this Galus,
That has plagued us for all these years.

We won't become complacent,
We won't forget the chairs,
We won't let ourselves forget,
The mourners and their tears.

We must Daven, we must beg,
We must try to change our ways,
We must look within us and try to see,
A yearning for better days.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Some Talk About Pictures

Let’s talk about pictures.

And by that, I don’t mean taking pictures. There are numerous places online to find a wide variety of photography advice; this isn’t one of them.

I refer, naturally, to the infamous shidduch picture. One might consider this picture a mere part of the larger scale self depreciating device commonly known as the shidduch resume, but I beg to differ. After all, the two don’t have to go hand in hand.

Or do they?

I will attempt to be impartial in the following discussion, despite my strong feelings about the issue.

Let’s talk first about people who insist upon a picture. As one single male put it: “When I travel far for a date, I insist on seeing a picture first, that way I know she won’t be DOA.” Now, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m sure plenty will,) but that seems to be serious objectification of women. If she’s pretty, but incredibly stupid, the date won’t be DOA?

On the other hand, it’s hard to know in advance if your date will be a blithering idiot. Sure, you can ask people, but your information will only be as accurate as the honesty level of the people you speak with. A picture, however, never lies. Or does it?

Let’s leave aside Photoshop for a minute, and discuss the picture itself. Almost anyone, no matter how fat, ugly, pimply or otherwise blemished they may be, can get themselves made up, find a decent photographer, get the coloring all right, and manage to get an unedited (technically, anyway) photo of themselves. Let’s talk this scenario through. A young man and his ever scrupulous mother receive the picture of a lovely looking young woman. All of the other information seems to check out, and the date is arranged.

The day arrives and the young man gets his first glance of the woman he thought he’d seen a picture of. The full talents of the photographer sink in, as the man spends the rest of the date trying to figure out how the girl in front of him managed to look the way she did in the picture. You might say that this case sounds extreme, even blown out of proportion, but the issue is the same. How many non-photogenic, yet beautiful girls get passed over from the pictures?

I’ve conceded partially on the resume issue. I will, however skeptically and unhappily, send a list of references and other basic facts about myself (and by facts, I don’t mean opinions) to any interested parties. But I draw the line at opinions…and pictures. My mother might sneak one to people on occasion, but I haven’t knowingly sent one. I don’t think I am that ugly that nobody would look in my direction, but I just don’t think that me and everything I am and represent can be properly conveyed by a bunch of pixels patched together on a piece of paper. I’m not married yet, or even engaged, so perhaps my strategy is faulty, but I won’t budge. Not on this.

And if you can’t deal with it, don’t date me.

Many don't. I can handle it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top Ten Banned Foods

Today's post started, innocently enough, with a tweet. As usual, I was complaining about something. In this case, it was a nasty smell coming from a coworker's desk.

I noted that certain foods should be illegal in a closed office setting. Immediately, people started to agree. And what I discovered is that certain items are universally disliked by anyone who sits at a desk all day.

Here's what I came up with, with the help of my twitter followers. Notably, JustStam had a number of additions.

Here goes:

10) Anything with Tabasco sauce in/on it.

9) Goat cheese, or, for that matter, any stinky cheese. (If you don't know what I mean, ask a french friend.)

8) Burnt popcorn.

7) Egg salad.

6) Anything flavored with vinegar (even chips!) Specifically, balsamic vinegar.

5) Indian food. Definitely the worst of the ethnic cuisines, though a special mention should be made for chinese food before a certain hour, say, 11:30 am.

4) Raw onions.

3) Tuna.

2) Sardines.

1) Herring. No joke, people in my office eat this. I have considered filing a sexual harassment complaint, because obviously no woman in the world can stand the sight, smell or taste of it.

What foods make you cringe when a coworker pulls it out?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top Ten Words to Live By

Presented by Stam here. Go read her pearls of wisdom!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Still One

I'm driving along the Garden State Parkway, trying to get to my sister's house for yom tov. As I drive, I'm trying to think of something to write about shavuos.

And suddenly, a beautiful idea lands in my lap in the form of a strange driver in a red pickup truck motioning violently in my direction. Eventually I get the hint and pull over, not a moment to soon. The front driver's side tire is flat.

And when I say flat, I don't mean a little low on air. My tire is shredded. My first thought is "it's a good thing I don't leave just enough time to get there before yom tov!" My second thought is "ohmygosh I'm alone on the garden state parkway with a flat tire. What the heck do I do now."

I wasn't even finished dialing my father in a panic when a car suddenly pulled over to the shoulder. A frum couple got out to help. Just as my father picked up the phone, another car pulled up. A frum man got out and offered help.

Thankfully, flat tires aren't exactly my area of expertise, so they helped me through it. The man found a service to come within the half an hour and change my tire. The woman from the other car smiled and encouraged me that it would be ok.

Eventually, the roadside assistance was scheduled to come, and the couple got ready to leave, after ensuring that the other man would stay with me.

Before they left, they asked me if I had any cash to pay the tow truck. With a sinking heart, I dug through my wallet to confirm what I already knew: I had five dollars to my name.

With a big smile and no hesitation, he pulled out his wallet and handed me a fifty dollar bill. I'd never met them before, and suddenly they're lending me a wad of cash.

I settled in to wait, a nice frum, albeit strange man with me. He encouraged me, called the towing company for updates, and waited to make sure I'd be ok.

About twenty minutes into my wait, a New Jersey state trooper pulls over to see if we need help. "It's a tendency within your community," he noted, "to stop and help each other out."

I was blown away. The cop, not feeling like the big strong hero he wanted to be, said it with resentment. But inside, I feel nothing but pride. "Mi Ka'amcha Yisroel," I think to myself. How many times has this cop seen a scene such as this one unfold on the side of the highway? How clearly he knows that people won't drive by and assume things are ok! He wasn't there the whole time, but I'm sure he wouldn't be surprised that (so far) four different cars have stopped to offer help.

On erev shavuos, I find it particularly touching. "Vayichan sham yisroel neged Hahar...k'ish echad b'lev echad." Like one man, with one heart, the Jews accepted the Torah. And like one man, with one heart, the Jewish people continue to fulfill the commandments, doing Chesed, making a kidush Hashem...the list goes on.

No longer are we standing at the foot of har sinai. No, today we sit at the edge of the highway. But the message, thousands of years later, is the same. We are indeed, K'ish echad b'lev echad.

Good yom tov!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dating Secrets or Secrets in Dating

We've discussed the Sibling Angle of Shidduchim in a previous post, but there's loads more to discuss. Let's start with a reminder of the gravity of a phenomenon I like to call The First First Date, or FFD.

As I've previously mentioned, this is the first date for a family, not an individual. This is, thankfully, a one time experience. If you are unlucky enough to be the eldest in your family, you will be most hard hit by the FFD. For a sibling, it's not as bad. Especially if they don't know about it.

Which leads me directly into my story. This didn't happen in my family, but it might have. It might have happened in yours. And that will lead us directly into an important lesson for all parents of shidduch aged children. But first, back to my story.

The Silver family (*name has been changed) was eagerly anticipating an engagement in their near future. They did, after all, have a daughter/sister who had recently come home from a year in seminary.

Gila Silver did everything right. She went to the right schools, she dressed in all of the right clothing. She never stepped out of her house, or even her bedroom for that matter, without her hair done and her makeup immaculate. She went to meet all of the right shadchanim, and got just the right job.

It was, therefore, no surprise when after a number of rejected matches, Gila had her first date scheduled. Gila and her parents were well aware of the teachings of our sages that brachos rest in things that are hidden from the eye. Besides, it would be SO embarrassing if it didn't work out and everyone would know.

And so Gila and her family made the fatal decision to keep her date a secret, even from her caboodle of younger brothers.

The plan seemed, to them, very simple. They were going away for shabbos. On Motzei shabbos the parents would invent an excuse to leave, encouraging their kids to stay until the next day, when a neighbor would take them home. "At the last second," Gila "decided" that she was tired and wanted to go home early too.

Everything worked as planned. The Silvers and their daughter Gila drove home triumphantly. The boys stayed at the shabbos hosts, with plans to stay until late Sunday, when, unbeknownst to them, their sister would be a couple of hours into her First Ever Date.

The next morning ushered in a frenzy of activity for Gila and her parents. Mrs. Silver polished every piece of furniture, even those in her basement playroom. "You can't be too careful," she thought to herself.

Gila did her hair carefully, pinning it back into the most tzniusdik style she could think of. She tried on every article of clothing in her closet before finally deciding on the same outfit she had decided on three weeks ago when the shadchan first called. She took out her tehillim and sat down to wait.

Mr. Silver hummed as he selected a tie to suit the occasion. "Tonight," he thought to himself, "I may meet my future son-in-law."

At 7:02 pm the doorbell rang. Mr. and Mrs. Silver gave eachother a nervous glance before hastening to open the door. The young man looked at them, and they looked at him. For a really long second, they stood and watched each other.

Finally, the young man sat at the table. They made small talk. In the next room, Gila said her last few feverish words of tehillim, then put it down and shyly made her way into the next room.

Just as Gila stepped into the room, there was a loud bang. The Silvers exchanged frantic looks as they turned to the door and the source of the noise.

It was with no small measure of horror that they watched their five younger sons pile exuberantly into the house. For those of you familiar with the ways of the yeshiva bochur, a picture is probably starting to form in your mind. For those of you not familiar, let me try to explain.

This wasn't a matter of five young men walking into a house. It was a matter of five exuberant teenage boys juggling monumental quantity of pekelach, staggering into the house. They dumped an odd assortment of hat boxes, suitcases, garment bags, tefillin bags and other miscellaneous junk on the floor, right in the entrance to the dining room.

At this point, they were still focused on their packages, and didn't have a chance to look up. It was only after they all cried out, very loudly, it would seem to Gila, "Suprise!! We got an earlier ride home!! Three hours early!" that they looked up and noticed the green shades of their parent's skin. Their sister at that point was pure white. The young man was, of course, bright red.

They finally realized what was in the middle of happening, and tried to step unobtrusively out of the room. It was a pretty hard task though, when you remember the mountain of dumped luggage in the doorway.

Suffice it to say that the young man and young woman did get married in the end, but not to each other.

And that, my friends, is the end.

The lesson should be self explanatory. My personal experience to follow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Top Ten Pictures

As you may have read yesterday, I'm kinda sick. But I wanted to do a Top Ten Tuesday (for a change...) so here goes.

Some of these pictures might look familiar, especially to those who follow me on twitter, but for the rest of you, enjoy.