Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Burden, part I

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I have a sister a few years below me. She's my only sibling, so in the natural course of things, we'd be very close. The thing is that we're different. Not in the normal sense of having temperaments that naturally cause fights, but in a real way. She has a genetic disorder, leaving her unable to walk, talk, or even see very well.

I know everyone always talks about the amazing things they learn from being the sibling of a special-needs child, and I do feel what they are talking about, but there are times when I wish she could be normal. That I could have fights with her about closet space. That I could help her with her homework. That I could just be a normal girl with a normal family. That I could have known for even one second the simple joy and lack of responsibility of childhood.

But if that can't happen, and at this point in time there is no natural cure (outside the realm of nissim gluyim), I wish that I could always feel the way others say they feel. That I could always feel the inspiration of living with a special neshoma. That it won't bother me when people reject me because of her.

I went through a stage in high school when, while I wasn't actually ashamed of her, nor did I resent her place in my life, I felt ... I don't know how to express it. Like her existence was a burden on me. I thought I was over it, but every so often it rears its ugly head. And I have to deal with it again. And again. And again. And I'll have to keep dealing with it forever (she should live ad meiah v'esrim). I just daven that Hashem will give me the strength to be able to love her as she needs and deserves to be loved and treat her like the very special person she is.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Belated Dvar Torah

I know I didn't post anything dvar torah-dik before yomtov, so I'd like to make up for it here. I went to a shiur on shavuos night by a Rabbi Greenberg that was mostly about some points we can take from Megillas Rus. Here are some of the things he said:

1- אלימלך was the גדול הדור; it was his job to try to be מפרנס the כלל. Why did running away from that make him חיב מיתה? It wasn't like he was running away from the עול of תורה- he was just running away from his responsibility to the כלל.

The answer to this is a very scary thought. Every person has a תכלית in this world. We are only here to achieve our תכלית. If a person runs away from it, why does he still need to be here? Elimelech's תכלית was to try to be מפרנס the כלל. When he ran away to מואב, he wasn't just running away from his responsibility; he was running away from the very purpose of his existence. And if he wasn't going to be striving toward that goal, there was no need for him to be in this world. So he died. Not as a punishment for the sin of being overwhelmed by the multitudes of people who needed his help during the famine, but as a consequence of running away from his תכלית.

Related to this is the concept expressed in the mishna in avos - לא עליך המלאכה לגמר ולא אתה בן חורין להבטל ממנה Although we have to constantly be working on whatever we are doing, we can't measure success by the achievement of the task. We just do what we have to do, and if it's supposed to happen, Hashem will make it happen.

2- מסורה is an important theme of the Megillah. The day after רות stayed with בועז in the גורן, the בית דין paskined that it was OK to marry a מואבי-ה. When בועז asked טוב, the rightful גואל, if he wanted to redeem רות, he said he didn't want to. He decided to be מחמיר and not marry her. In this case, however, we see that it wasn't right to do so. He was also from the זרע of נחשון, and so could have been the great-grandfather of דוד instead of בועז. Instead, he chose to ignore the decision of the בית דין.

We see that this wasn't really a place that he could be מחמיר. The בית דין made a decision, and everyone had to hold by it. To ignore their decision is to be like a זקן ממרה, a תלמיד חכם who rejects the ruling of the בית דין and is חיב מיתה for it. Why is the punishment so harsh? When someone respected takes a stance against what the כלל is expected to follow, it not only sets a bad example, but ruins the path of מסורה. The מסורה was that it was OK to marry a מואבי-ה but not a מואבי. Ignoring that פסק would have destroyed the whole fabric upon which the תורה שבעל פה is founded upon.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Erev Shavuos

Well, it's been hectic around here as usual. My family has this nasty habit of not cooking until the last minute - for shabbos, yomtov, supper .... So let's just say that this is the first second I've had to post. I didn't have time to think of something special and inspiring today to post, but I did read something beautiful on SD's blog here. Hope you enjoy! Have a good yomtov.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Hallway

You're walking down a hallway
You know just what's to come
Yards and yards ahead of you
That you'll take at a run

But as you're happily strolling
You come to a sudden bend
You think, "wait, this cannot be
My hallway can't just end"

Then you realize it hasn't stopped
But undergone a subtle shift
What you thought was a nuisance
In reality was a gift

There may be days, years and months
Fraught with pain and strife
Remember they're just detours on
The hallway of your life

A Traffic Light for Life?

Usually when I drive home from school there are a few other people in the car, but today I got out early and no one else was ready to go. I don’t know about everyone else, but when I drive alone I tend to think a lot. Tonight was no exception. My mind was wandering from topic to topic as I sat at a red light somewhere on Kings Highway. Since I was focused inwardly, when I saw a green light, I got ready to go. I almost had to slam on the brakes because the car in front of me wasn’t moving. That’s when I realized that the green light I had seen was the left turn signal, not the regular light to go straight. For a moment I debated switching lanes and going left, just to avoid waiting for the light to change. But what’s the point of going if the road I would be traveling would just take me further and further from my destination?

The same holds true in our lives. So many times, especially with shidduchim, we are forced to choose – should we take the first available option or hold out for a different, and possibly better, one. I’ve heard so many stories of girls who married the first boy they went out with just to make sure they wouldn’t turn into one of the “older” girls. How many of them came to regret that decision? How many would have led happier lives had they waited for the light to turn green?

Life is full of crossroads, intersections with our own traffic lights. When we’re stopped at a personal red light, what do we do? Go wherever’s easier, whichever light changes first? Or wait and head in the direction we want to go in?

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Working" on an Essay

So, I'm "working" on an essay for English (yes, it's due tomorrow and I didn't start yet), and I came across something that I had to share. The essay is focused on death (a topic that is really macabre). One of the pieces is "The Appointment in Samarra" (as retold by W. S Maugham), and it is actually quite interesting. I've copied the text here for your perusal:

The speaker is Death

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

When I read this, I was thinking in terms of fate, Yonah running away from Hashem, and other things like that. Because I have absolutely no idea what to write about in this essay, I decided to do a little research on the piece. This is an excerpt from something I found in a totally non-Jewish source:

A common interpretation of the story, of course, is that humans cannot escape their ultimate destiny. But there is a more profound, nuanced question, one illustrated by the two Iraqis who told the Marines where to find the prisoners: who if anyone bears moral responsibility for initiating a chain of events, especially a chain that is potentially fatal?

In Maugham's tale, the chain of events begins with the servant's interpretation (or misinterpretation) of Death's stare. He sees it as threatening rather than as surprise, and concludes that to escape Death he must escape Baghdad. What he does not know is that his decision, for which he is entirely responsible and which will prove both fateful and fatal, is taking him to the very place where he will meet, not accidentally encounter, Death.

Like the servant, every individual interprets the world and makes decisions, one or more of which are fateful - that is, of such momentous import that it opens entirely new and possibly unexpected (as well as completely unintended) consequences. And because decisions are always made by the individual (just as Death comes individually even when many die at the same time and place), no competent person can escape responsibility for the ramifications of his or her decisions.

When I read this, I thought something along the lines of "wow, how was a goy able to explain the concept of bechira so well?" Bechira is so hard to explain, but here it is so clear. We make decisions all the time, affecting the future. But even our attempts to get away from what is preordained have already been foreseen. It explains further how we can be held accountable for our actions and why we can't use the excuse of Hashem's omniscience to get out of the onesh. Yes, the end is foreseen, but it is our choices that get us there.

I hope that I didn't just waste your time and that this actually made some sense. I just wanted to share the beautiful thought I had while (not) working on my english assignment.


Welcome to my blog. As this is my first post, and I don't really know what I'm doing yet, please bear with me.

I'm trying to set down exactly why I'm starting this blog. For one thing, I like to write. Since my favorite types of writing are poetry and creative memoirs, I don't get much of an outlet for that in college. I guess I've decided that I want the chance to be heard. Of course, that places an enormous responsibility on me. As a famous Rav (I forgot who) once said, "Not everything thought should be said, not everything said should be written, not everything written should be sent, and not everything sent should be published." In this case, "not everything written should be posted."

I've learned this lesson, and let me tell you, it was a hard one to learn. It came only with lots of T'filos and tears. For a while, I couldn't bear to write; thoughts of the pain I inflicted on other Yidden, however unintentional, haunted me. But over time, I realized that I have a gift, and when Hashem gives you a gift, He means you to use it. So here I am, trying in my small way to use my gift. Properly, with the right kavanos - to share a little bit of inspiration with others.
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