Friday, February 19, 2010

Git Shabbos!

Today's pre-Shabbos singing was led by Avram Mlotek, an heir to quite the Yiddishist legacy. In addition to the numerous beautiful niggunim, Avram taught two Yiddish songs.

Shnirele Perele:

Zol Shoyn Kumen di Geule:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New York Times on Redefining Manhood

A really interesting NY Times article that touches on some of the issues raised during our Snow-Day Sicha. In the article, which I mentally filed under “Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too,” Dana Jennings discusses dealing with the sexual side effects of his treatment for prostate cancer. He discusses what it’s like to live in a society that promotes a certain sexualized ideal, while dealing with the physical inability to engage in sexual activity. During the course of the sicha, Rebecca Ennen made the point that we live in a culture that assumes everyone is sexually available all the time and that she found the concept meaningful that there are certain times when that assumption cannot be the reality, and couples have to find other ways to relate to each other. It was a comment I kept in mind as I read the article, as he describes the ways in which he has redefined intimacy in his relationship with his wife.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of reading my entire bat mitzvah parsha, Parshat Bo, in celebration of my second bat mitzvah. Reminiscing about the festivities the first time around, it was always nice when I was practicing and actually layning, to come across 10:8-11, which I wrote about for my bat mitzvah d’var torah. In what perhaps was, in retrospect, a sign of my budding egalitarianism, I was drawn to the negotiations between Pharoah and Moshe, when Pharoah finally begins to give way. Yet while Pharoah is ready to let Moshe go with the men on a “3-day jaunt” into the dessert, Moshe emphasizes that he expects to be able to take everyone: men, women, children, and cattle. This is unacceptable to Pharoah, and the deal is off the table. Ever since fifth grade, when I first saw these psukim and decided to write my bat mitzvah speech about them, I’ve found the philosophy of those psukim to be extremely compelling; none of us are free, until all of us are.

An organization that I’ve recently become involved with in an effort to put this ideology into practice is ATZUM. ATZUM is an organization that, among other things, aims to end human trafficking and sex slavery in Israel, an issue that is not often discussed, but is a major issue there. What these trafficked woman experience is nothing short of horrific, and by educating ourselves and taking action, we can make real progress on this front. With Pesach coming up, we are about to commemorate the utterance of those words that I chanted, and to celebrate the society that was able to be created because of Moshe’s insistence that it was everyone or no one. It is worth thinking about the slavery that currently exists in the world, and working to create a world (Jewish or otherwise) where we are all truly liberated.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Remember That Time We Went to Yeshiva During the Blizzard and it Was Awesome?

Some highlights from the day:

1. Sitting with a cup of hot cocoa in front of a Talmud knowing that I had an entire day of independent study to work on it (the hot cocoa and the Talmud).

2. The lunchtime sicha about creating an egalitarian taharat hamishpacha ethic. While I can’t exactly bring myself to shout for joy about the idea of mikvah, it was interesting to hear the various thoughts being floated around. And starting conversations is generally more interesting than sitting and stewing.

3. Rav Elie’s book, Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities, has just been published! We received the first shipment of shiny new books today (UPS, I will never doubt you again), and had a proper celebration. Songs were sung, cake was eaten, speeches were made; it was a moment for us to show our appreciation for Rav Elie and this major accomplishment of his. Snowballs may or may not have been thrown in celebration.

As they say at the YU Sforim Sale, "snow does not stop Torah."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Learn More, Love More

As the year has progressed, we are at the point when, as individuals and as a group, we’ve pretty much settled into a routine. We have our learning projects, and know what we need to do for our classes. This past weekend, our comfortable yeshiva habits were upended, to make way for the sudden influx of over sixty other fellows from past summers. Those of us involved with the yeshiva will sometimes joke about the “Hadar Bubble,” and how isolated we sometimes feel from the wider world. This weekend I sat in a roomful of people who converged on Manhattan from across the US and beyond, each of whom had dedicated one summer to Torah study, and spread their experiences throughout the world. We shared Torah, compared our different versions of the same private jokes, and debated which summer had it rougher. If I may be so alliterative, it was a weekend of reverence and of revelry.

In his closing remarks, Rav Shai reminded us that the biggest form of heresy is to see the world as it is, and in response shrug your shoulders and say “well, that’s just how things are.” Hadarniks came together this weekend to remind each other that together we are working to create something big. The bubble popped.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Davening Thoughts

Tomorrow’s shiur klali will be related to one of Rav Elie’s favorite topics: “How Can I Pray What I Don’t Believe,” specifically how to handle prayer when you disagree with the content of the liturgy. Davening has never been particularly easy for me, but I confess that I’ve recently had a more difficult time with it. In truth, now that I’m davening in an adult and egalitarian environment, and no longer have the externals (mechitza, the transformation of the davening area into a battleground between students and faculty) to concern myself with, I’m surprised to discover how contentious I still find prayer. Without the distractions, I can actually look at the words on the page in front of me, and think about what I’m saying.

The results have been unexpected. In a less controversial episode, after years of saying “Az Yashir” during Shacharis, I suddenly noticed, and thought to ask about, a completely random Aramaic phrase that popped up. But actually reading the words has rendered prayer more personal. These may not be my words, but I suddenly expect them to express my feelings—or at least the feelings that are floating around my community. Right now, I’m having a particularly difficult time praising God, or asking God for things with any honest expectation of receiving a response (particularly a positive one). I’m discovering daily the ways in which I can communicate (or not) with God; what I am willing to say, what I am willing to say and believe, and what I can’t bring my lips to say because my heart resists.