Saturday, December 31, 2005

Upset that Father is home from his trip...

I got angry at my dad last night. He asked me if I wanted to have dinner with him, and I said, "yes," and then the minute I turned around, he called his best friend from downstairs to join us. Pissed off, I told him that he could have checked with me to see whether it would be okay with me. I live here too.

That's the thing. I don't want to live with him anymore. Other than his inconsiderate behavior, I find him to be unmotivating and unsettling. There is nothing that he does that has a positive effect on me. All he does is sleep, fart, walk around naked, watch television, and waste time. I find that almost zero percent of his time is dedicated to goal-oriented activities. For me, a person who does not work on their goals is a loser and is not worth the breath they breathe. I am so sad to have been given such a loser to be my father. I do not look up to him at all. I never have; not since I was a child. I do understand the need to relax if one IS working -- I often relax after a hard day's work, or after I've expended a significant amount of energy on a project or a goal.

Tonight after Havdala, I yelled to him "you're so unmotivating" when he hung up the phone after saying to his friend that he doesn't feel like going out tonight for New Year's Eve. What gets me upset is that I CERTAINLY DO NOT WANT TO SPEND TONIGHT WITH HIM. I want to be alone for the sole reason that I want to be independent and not watched or monitored or controlled by anyone. I have a lot of work to do and when I am seething with anger, I am unable to focus.

I am so angry right now with my new "friend" for the evening that I want to go out -- anywhere -- as long as it is away from him. I hate being in the same house as him because I get drained of my energy and I feel that from my anger, my life force drips away when he's home. I want nothing to do with him, and he does not know how to give me space and to leave me alone. I enjoy nothing more than an empty house. These past few weeks while he was away were the best weeks I've had in months. I am so upset that he is home from his trip.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dependent on Father Dependent on Me.

Tonight there was an incident between me and my father. Well, there would have been had I said something. He came home from a trip yesterday, and I am 8 days into my intensive bar review classes.

We live together in his house, and whenever I want to invite a friend over or whenever I want to do something, I extend the courtesy of checking with him to see if he is alright with it. He doesn't extend the same courtesy.

Tonight he decided to invite his friend over for dinner. This would normally be okay, but I really needed to study. I wish he had checked with me because if he did, I would have asked him not to have guests over today while I am studying.

They were so loud talking in Hebrew that I couldn't study at all. I took a two hour nap because I got overwhelmed with anger, and when I woke up they were still going at it chatting away. I wish he would have had the courtesy to ask me if I needed quiet.

I wish I lived alone away from my father. I wish I lived in my own apartment, and I wish I had the job to sustain myself. Being in law school has taken such a toll on my humanity because it has forced me to be dependent on him, however each time I have tried to move out on my own, he has started getting VERY sad wondering why I am leaving him. I often wonder who is dependent on whom.

I wish I can get up and leave but because of my financial situation and my inability to change it, I am held prisoner in my father's home until I pass the bar and get a job. Graduating and passing the bar is not only my way to success and happiness, it is also my get out of jail card, unless I can find a way to leave sooner. I often think that my sanity depends on it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New Matisyahu Video; My feelings about it.

There is a new video which I found to be inspiring. The video can be found here. It features Matisyahu as a moving character billboard on the wall. I enjoyed the words posted in the background because I often find Reggae songs hard to follow, but here, the words were beautiful.

I felt that with the black hat and the white shirt, I was inspired to return to dressing because while I think Matisyahu captured the essence of what it means to be today, his message wasn't one about limitations and conformity, but unity between souls and helping another person in need.

I haven't worn my white shirt and black hat combination in some time because I've been embarrassed the way I look wearing it. People see me as channeling someone I am not, and it felt weird being asked all these questions about Torah and Judaism when I as of late have been pretty secular myself.

I guess the message here is that it is never too late to return to being outwardly Chassidic and it is probably wrong of me to hide it by dressing secularly. The affect the garb has on people is stunning, and I shouldn't take away from others that religious inspiration which the clothing inspires in others because of my own insecurities of not being myself.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Rub-a-dub-dub, Studying in the Tub

I'm really happy with the way studying went today. Studying in the tub surprisingly kept my focus and my attention on the materials I needed to study. The trick was to have a drink handy just in case I got dehydrated. I brought a bottle of Crystal Lite and a cup of coffee. (I know, coffee is dehydrating, but the energy kick is worth the extra toll on the body.)

I feel prepared for my exam tomorrow. I will need help from G-d to do well on my exam the following morning. This will be one of those events where I look back and wonder, "how in the world did I accomplish that?!?"

I should probably at this point turn to G-d and say, "I know I've neglected You the Almighty Creator, but now I'm turning back to you and asking you for help. Please G-d help me do well on my Patent Law exam. ...and while I have Your attention, can you also give me that extra push of support with my Secured Transactions final too?" I should probably also pray, but I likely won't. I haven't been into it in a few days. I will start up again as soon as my finals are over. Bad boy.

Work PLUS Play

The choices were doughnuts or working out at the gym. Are you curious which one I chose? Neither. I didn't want to get fat from the doughnuts, and I didn't have the energy or the hours to spend at the gym.

So I decided that if I took a past exam and my notes into the bathtub with me and I answered the questions using my outline, that way, I'll be able to both study in a fun environment, and get some work done too. I used to do this also when I would do phone sales from home -- I'd hop in the bathtub or sauna and make my calls from a list and a headset phone. It was a wonderful way to combine work with relaxation.

In fact, I'm about to go back in to continue... See you later!

I must persevere.

I've lost it. The desire to be the best I can be, the desire to master my exams. I feel like I cannot go on, and I feel like I cannot master these exams. My exams have gotten the better of me and I feel powerless to intervene. From the work I have already done, I know a significant amount; but I lack the focus and the mind power to move forward with the studying. My brain is a fog. I am done for.

As destructive as this is to the precious hours I have left before my exams, I need to take a break and to get out of the house for a drive. I have been here too long, and I feel like I am no longer productive. I feel like I have over-studied, and yet I have not yet even covered half the amount of material that I need to cover by tomorrow.

I don't know whether to go the healthy route and to go to the gym, or to go the unhealthy route and to get a doughnut. Right now the doughnut seems more attractive to me. I will get into my gym clothes and then I will put my shoes on and get in the car. Where it drives me, we will know the answer.

I am not a hero. I am an ordinary guy trying to get by so that I can get a descent job when I graduate law school. I want to find a wife; I want to have enough of an income to be affluent. I want to be self directed, and I want to pay my own bills out of my own money and not federal government school loan money. I want friends, and a culture that will give me activities to participate in, people to see, and meaningful events to fill my time.

These exams and the upcoming bar exam classes which will lead to taking and passing the bar exam, coupled with the patent bar exam seem like unclearable hurdles which separate me between my present and my future. However, I have done feats as difficult as this before and I have succeeded. This is not the hardest time of my life. This is me making this trying time the hardest time of my life. I must persevere.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pre-Exam Insomnia

I've been laying in my bed for over an hour with the hopes that I'll be able to wake with full energy at 4:30am just like I suprisingly did this morning. No luck. I can't fall asleep because I'm restless.

I don't know whether I'm nervous about the exams, or if I am worried about not having the energy or the power to focus in the next day so that I can study and properly prepare for the exams.

I do know that I spent all day today studying Patent Law, and I cannot study more yet I am still awake. What is bothering me is that my eyes are tired, which is a sign that I am not functioning normally. Normally when your eyes are tired, you should be able to get to sleep.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Understanding the movie "Bee Season"

I just saw a movie called "Bee Season," with Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche. It was probably the smartest movie I've seen in some time. Below I have an interpretation of this movie, but you're better off seeing the movie before you read this because if you read my understanding of the movie, it might just ruin it for you. In fact, maybe I'll write the interpretation assuming that you've already seen the movie.

First of all, let's look at the characters. The father (Richard Gere), a conservative Jew who is a college professor on Kabbalah and Mysticism. His son, looking for G-d and truth just as his father is. His daughter, a regular elementary school girl who has a gift for nevuah (prophecy); her gift manifests itself in her being able to close her eyes and "see the words" when participating in spelling bees.

The mother, a convert, also has this gift, but she was never a vessel for it. In other words, she was never able to understand or harness the power of her gift. In her childhood, she never knew how to understand the things she saw and it manifested itself into an OCD-like kleptomania where she stole things thinking they belonged to her.

When she met her husband (Richard Gere), he explained the deep secrets of the universe, including the story of how G-d made a vessel to hold His light, and the vessel couldn't handle the power of G-d's light and so it broke into many pieces, and the purpose of the universe in our world (tikkun olam) is to recover those "shards of glass" as a metaphor for the broken pieces of the vessel that couldn't handle G-dly light. I'm highly simplifying the story; people spend their whole lives immersing themselves in the Torah to get even a glimpse of an understanding of this story and the meanings of it all.

Needless to say, the mother took the whole concept of tikkun olam -- literally, fixing the world by restoring the vessel so that it can hold the G-dly light -- and she understood it literally. So she started breaking into people's houses and stealing little pieces of glass and jewelry -- the "shards of glass" so that it can hold "the light" as being literally light instead of the metaphor regarding G-dly light that Richard Gere was talking about when he told her the story. You could say that she herself was the broken vessel, given the gift of prophesy, but she couldn't handle the gift and so it broke her and fragmented her life into many pieces.

The interesting thing that happened in the movie is that the mother, tormented with this gift, saw that her daughter also saw things, and she had this gift also. It made her cry as we saw on multiple occasions in the movie where she put her daughter to sleep each night.

The more the daughter got better at using the visions to win each spelling bee, the worse the mother became with her kleptomania. You could say one inspired the other. Once the mother went to the hospital when she was caught collecting all the stolen pieces of jewelry and glass, the daughter made the connection that her mothers disease had to do with her spelling bee, although the daughter didn't quite understand the connection. Once she learned that her mother was sick, she thought all the way until the end of the movie before she threw the spelling bee that she had to win the spelling bee to make her mother better and to bring her family back together again.

As a side plot, her father noticed that she had the gift, and so being the Kabbalah and mysticism teacher, he started to teach her the Abulafia method for permutating letters, a method of spiritual awakening where the person as a result achieves a deep connection with G-d akin to prophesy, causing their whole body to shake and tremble from their experience. Before the final spelling bee, after the mother was already hospitalized, the daughter practiced the Abulafia method and achieved the level of prophecy. When she awoke from the experience, she experienced visual distortions.

All through the movie, her father would tell her to "speak the words of G-d and let G-d run through you when you stand there on the stage and you do what you do at the spelling bees." At the final moment in the national championship spelling bee competition, after the girl reached the level of prophecy from her Abulafia experience the night before, she realized that just because she was given an ability and a spiritual gift does not mean that it was G-d's will for her to use it. Had she used the gift which was tempting her to win the competition, she realized that her mother would have continued to be sick, and her family would have broken apart. However, abstaining from using the gift and throwing the spelling competition brought her family back together.

The twisted lesson of the movie is that sometimes we are given gifts and powers that we may or may not be vessels for. If we are not a proper vessel for this energy (G-dly light), then it will manifest itself in ways that can fragment and destroy us. However, even if we are "a vessel for the light," a.k.a., even if we are able to harness and take hold of the power / the light / the gift / the energy -- I'm referring to the same gift -- that does not mean that it is G-d will for us to use it. Sometimes it is better to live in the real world, rather than indulge in the spiritual candy we are given. In other words, just because we can do something special doesn't mean that we necessarily should do it. Just because we are given a gift doesn't mean we are supposed to use it. This is the lesson from the movie as I understand it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

One Exam Down, Three To Go

Last night was my Attorney Practice final, a monster of an exam. Part one was 65 hypothetical questions with paragraphs of data to take in before the question at the end of the hypo asking for a short answer or a yes or no or some date. Part two was short essay, and part three was a long fact pattern with nine essay questions.

I was glued to the clock making sure I didn't fall behind schedule, or else I would never finish the exam. Half way through the first half of part one, I didn't think I would make it -- somehow, through an adrenaline rush, I finished right on time.

I feel that without the massive amount of studying I did, I would have never passed that test. The test required specific knowledge of the issues in each question, and if you didn't know what was being tested, there was no way to properly answer the questions or the essays.

My next final is Constitutional Law, which is in just a few hours. They were originally back-to-back (6:30pm last night Attorney Practice, 9am this morning Conlaw), but there is a school policy against back-to-back exams, so it was postponed until 11am for those of us that had an exam last night.

Although all of my time this past week and a half has been devoted to the Attorney Practice exam, I've studied for weeks for my Constitutional Law exam prior to studying for Attorney Practice. It is certainly a risk not touching the subject in such a long time, and I am hours away and I have still not memorized the rules, but I believe it will all come to me in the next few hours.

I will spend my time memorizing the outline I wrote, and listening to CDs on the subject matter being tested. My goal is to pass this exam, because it was Attorney Practice that took precedence when studying because that was a monster of an exam.

After this, I have a week off to study for Patent Law and Secured Transactions. I am not so worried about these. It is yesterday and today's exams that I wanted to get out of the way.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Jaded on Shidduchim

I know that everything happens in it's own time, but. I remember the last few months I was in yeshiva after letting the rabbis know I was going to law school, I waited every day hoping to hear from one of the rabbis that they found someone that they thought would be good for me. Usually, when a bochur (a rabbinical student) prepares to leave yeshiva, the rabbis set him up with a woman to marry so that he will not go out into the world of sex, drugs, and negative influences alone. I was saddened when the rabbis never set me up with anybody. Then, after my rabbi from home and his wife told me they have started the search, again for months and years while I was in law school, I waited every day, calling them every day hoping to hear good news that something (someone) has come up, but those times were few and far between.

Each time I was introduced to someone, there was something seriously wrong with them. Either they had a terminal disease, or they had emotional problems which would cause problems in the marriage. If they were somewhat normal, then they had expectations of me which I did not meet because I was either too religious or not religious enough. These were the issues.

Lately, I have been jaded by 1) the lack of women I've been meeting, and 2) the lack of quality of the women I have been introduced to when once every six or seven months they call me up to tell me that they have found the perfect girl for me.

I would say that most of all, I am lonely, and I am no longer buying the pitch that "if you are religious and you are a good person, G-d will set up a shidduch for you." I don't know if I believe that there are good quality women here in the religious world, and if so, I don't believe that I will be introduced to them. Therefore, I have lost my desire to date and to continue on this shidduch path. I am no longer expecting anything grand to come from these shidduchim, and if I am to find a wife, I fear that I will have to step on my rabbi and his wife who have been trying tirelessly to find a wife for me and I will have to find one on my own.

I do not plan on doing this until after I pass my bar, however. I feel that giving them five or six years of my youth is a significant amount of time, and as of now, I am no longer twenty-three years old, but now I am twenty-eight and nothing has happened when it comes to shidduchim. This is funny because the main reason I committed to becoming religious was because I believed that through being religious, I would be able to find a good wife.

I am feeling jaded, and I no longer believe this is true.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Father as the Child in the Family

I don't know who is the adult in my family -- me, or my father. I find myself telling him to turn down the volume of the television because the walls of my room are shaking. I find myself telling him to clean up after himself when he eats. I find myself telling him to put his things away so as not to mess up the house, but he continues to leave everything a mess.

I don't want this blog to be another father-bashing blog entry, but this is how I am feeling. Because of nights like tonight I ask myself whether I would prefer to live the unrestricted immature selfish and meaningless life my father lives, or the meaningful, yet depravitive live that a chassidic person devoid of fun and secular activities seemingly lives. I know these aren't the only choices and my facts aren't entirely correct, but I have a tendency to see truth as black and white rather than shades of grey.

Truth IS black and white, not greys. However, living fully in black and white is simply not practable and I simply will not survive in that world. My secular temptations and drives are far to strong to even contemplate that holy and purity of an existence. I am anything but a puritan. Plus, G-d DID create greys, did he not?

I took a bath tonight, and while I was sitting in the tub, I contemplated what kind of woman I'd want to marry. I've decided again on a modern-chassidic one. This is nothing new, but I am at the point where I want to stop kidding myself as to wanting a fully chassidish, religious girl. In my heart, I do want this, but the girls I have been introduced to so far have lacked the attributes that would make her compatible with me, namely they lack a spark of life, and the truly religious ones don't and can't relate to the temptings of even a kosher secular life. I am beginning to think that this kind of girl I am looking for -- a girl with a spark -- does not exist in the religious world, and that I don't belong fully frum in appearance either.

Anyway, my mood has changed in the last two days. I have gone from depression to anger. It is not a good thing to feel baseless anger, of course, but any change away from depression is a positive one. I called my father a "child" to his face this evening when he, walking around in his tidy whities, complained that 70 degrees in the house was too cold when it is around 30 degrees outside. He wanted to raise the heat, and when I told him instead to put something on and when he refused, I called him a child. This is after me telling him not to blast the television twice in a row. I'd also tell him that sitting twelve inches in front of the television is unhealthy, but I am not his father. I wish I had a father figure and not a fifty-seven year old child running practically naked around the house.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kashrut in a Non-Kosher Home

My father has been kicking up the level of non-kosher food in the house to the point that I am beginning to get nervous about him using my utensils for his non-kosher foods and not telling me about it.

First it was the old non-kosher plates that began showing up in the house. Then the non-kosher food started showing up in the refrigerator. Then he started cooking non-cholov yisroel but kosher popcorn in the cholov-yisroel milchig microwave. Then he bought a steak with my brother and wanted to cook it in the kosher stove; I stopped him after an argument. Then he bought his own microwave and more non-kosher food has poured into the house to the point that I need to be checking hechures (kosher certification symbols) each time I pick something out of the refrigerator. Then my coffee cups began showing up in my sink without me using them. He promises me that only soy milk was used in them and not the milk he has in the refrigerator which I won't drink.

Most recently, tonight he wanted to use my can opener to open his cans of pork and beans. "What can be non-kosher about them?" he asked. When I told him that a can opener costs seventy-five cents and he could buy one at any store, he got his keys and just walked out of the house into the rain. I think he is going to buy a can opener.

Men's Chassidic Clothing

To the person who inspired this post, I thank you. While answering your questions, I also reminded myself of why it is important to dress in the ways that I was myself questioning. If you will forgive me for posting my answer to you on this blog -- I feel that it is important to share this with others like me and you who have questions about what Chassidic dress is required, what is not, what components are important, and what attention needs to be paid to the details when dressing, and why each piece of dress is important.

The karpota and belt are worn by a married guy, and I'm not yet married, so all I wear is the beard, the tzitzis, and the black suit with a white shirt -- this is on the days that I'm not wearing a colored shirt which chassidic people also wear, or jogging pants and a tee-shirt which you'll almost never find chassidic people wearing.

...There is no need for a black hat; a double head covering (i.e. yalmukah plus any covering, even a baseball cap) when you pray will suffice according to Kabbalah which is where the hat custom came from.

As for the gartel (the belt), some people just use a stretchy string to tie around their waste to hold down the tzitzis. According to kabbalah, this also serves to separate the bottom half of the body and its desires from the heart and the top half of the body. I don't do this, but when I am married, I will wear a gartel when I pray, which is the custom.

The karpota (long coat) serves no purpose except fashion as far as I know. There is a kabbalistic concept of wearing a silk robe, [and I don't know the reason for this], but karpotas are usually not silk, and some people wear a silk karpota under their regular karpota.

So as you see, the type of hat does not matter. The jacket is just a jacket as far as I'm aware and it serves no purpose except to look nice. The suit is just a regular suit, as one would find in any suit store -- no particular style for any of these things is halachically necessary, and as for kabbalistic reasons, which is what I think you are asking about, the important thing with a hat is to have the double head covering when you pray, even if you use a tissue under the yalmukah (don't let people see because it looks dumb) or a baseball cap over it.

If you want to get fancy, there is a concept in Chassidic thought of Chesed (kindness) and Gevurah (strength / stringency), where the right hand side is a manifestation of Chesed and the left hand side is a manifestation of Gevurah, therefore the right side should preempt the left side in almost whatever you do (i.e. put on shirts or jackets with the right arm first, and you put on pants, socks, and shoes with the right leg first. [You tie the left shoe first, but that is because the tefillin which one should put on every day during prayer is tied on the left side). Other than the tefillin exception, many people are careful to always eat with the right hand and to even look at people focusing through the right eye. This is extreme, but I am answering your question. In line with this, some people sew an extra button on the inside of their jacket so that they can close it with the right side over the left side, which is opposite from the way jackets are typically closed. There's a bit of extremist Chassidic philosophy for you -- but in some respects, for example putting on clothing with the right hand first, this is halacha (Jewish law) and so it should be followed. However, buttoning the right side over the left, looking through the right eye, holding things with the right hand are not requirements and are far beyond any requirement, custom, or law.

But more fundamentally, it is important to always wear the yalmukah (according to kabbalah, even in bed) before you start thinking about all the extra head coverings. It is most important (if you are not already doing so) to wear the tzitzis (according to kabbalah, to wear them all the time even at night, but don't designate the a pair of tzitzis a night garment or else they won't be kosher even during the day; just wear them into the night) before you start concerning yourself about the gartel (belt). It is more important to dress modestly in black and white (although there is NO jewish law requirement for this, it is purely kabbalistic and modest) before you start looking into karpotas or jackets. Any dark blue or black pants will suffice, and any button down white (or colored shirt) will suffice. Men typically wear a jacket (even any blazer or sweater will suffice) when praying. I hope I have answered your question.

Interestingly enough, by answering your question, I was reminded why we wear black and white. It is for kabbalistic reasons. I forgot this over the past few months while I've been ranting and raving about this dogma, I forgot that there is actually a good purpose for this. Being that in my world of law filled with attorneys and fashion-conscious people, I will continue to wear colored shirts from time to time, and I will continue to wear a tie from time to time (which kabbalistically one should not do because it separates the heart from the brain). However, now that I have remembered why chassidic people dress in black and white, I will feel more spiritual when I too dress in black in white, because I will be reminded of why people do so in the first place.

I thank you for this.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fear of failure after failure after...

A bad mood suddenly came over me to the point that I had to write it down or just let it pass. It is 10pm, and I am starting to get tired, but what I wanted to communicate is the feeling that sometimes as a person nears the later years of his or her twenties, one looks back and sighs from the important accomplishments one has achieved in the last ten years. My story is not that supreme.

I feel that most of my life, I have been recovering from one shipwreck or another, whereas I would take on a task, work hard at it, and then through external factors, the task would fall apart and I would be left with a disaster on my hands.

In college, I spend four years working hard to get admitted to medical school to become a doctor. One day after years of effort, upon sending out my resume to all of the medical schools I applied to, I noticed that the school sent my transcript out to all the schools with an error so destructive that I had to withdraw all of my applications.

Then I worked a number of home-based businesses and multi-level marketing programs and I lost money on every one, even though I gave each one my best effort. On some, I even was successful in reaching the objectives set out for me by the company, and then the president of the company would run away with all of the money and not pay the commissions due, or he would dissolve the company and everyone involved would lose everything they invested into the business.

Then years later when I went back to school to become a doctor again after working for a few years, my plans were destroyed by external factors because it was at that time that I was beginning to become religious, and I learned that a Cohen (a descendant of the Jewish High Priests, sorry for the crude description) cannot be a doctor. No exceptions. I decided to stay in yeshiva instead and I became religious.

Additionally, there were many other factors in play at the same time, I was dating a girl who was religious, and I had no compunctions to drive over to visit her on Shabbos (Sabbath), because it meant nothing to me at the time because I did not yet know that I was obligated to be religious -- I thought it was just something nice to do and to be. For me, eating kosher was choosing to eat a dairy meal at a non-kosher restaurant. Before I became religious, the girl used to tell me that she couldn't consider a serious relationship with me because I wasn't religious. As I became religious, she broke up with me because according to her I became too religious.

Then I was hired by a mortgage bank who promised a high-five figure salary, but when I did exactly as they instructed and over a period of months I brought in the mortgages and built the mortgage business, the bank (my employer) decided to stop paying the salaries and started having "accounting errors" which deprived people -- myself included -- on their commissions, which amounted to thousands of dollars of salary that I needed to spend almost two years suing to recover only part of it. I continued to work despite the diminished commission status and the disputed amounts owed to me, and then September 11th, 2001 wiped out my business, which ultimately led me to go back to yeshiva for a few good years of my life.

There were many other occurrences, but I suppose the point is that I feel that most of my life has been spent trying to make something of myself, and most of my life has been a whole cholent (slew) of disasters and failures. I have not mentioned most of these stories because I fear that the stories I have already disclosed will certainly tell at least some of the readers from my circles who I am and my true identity, something I wish to keep secret so that I can continue to express myself candidly without fear of hurting people's feelings or needing to conform to someone else's idea of how things should be.

I often wonder if I had known that I would fail in so many areas of my life, would I have worked so hard to invest thousands of dollars in many businesses, would I have given thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of my life to various causes and to various employers, and would I have devoted my life to various ideologies that have failed me over the years?

My whole life has been one big search trying to find Truth, some comfort, and a little bit of peace. This journey has landed me today in my last year of law school, frum, single, and almost into my thirties. I wonder when these failings will stop, and when I will come home to a real life and home that I have built together with someone else, and when I can be able to say good bye to the fragmented painful existence of grinning and bearing one failure after another while I still give my all.

The question is whether I would have done everything I have done had I known that I would have failed over and over again. Then again, at least I can have pride that at least I went for something and I gave it everything I had and even though it failed me, I have the satisfaction that I never failed it, whatever endeavor "it" might have been during my past.

My only fear is that the cycle of failure will not stop and that I will never find a wife and that I will not find a job after law school and I will be a poor, sad, and lonely forty or fifty year old who didn't even live the broken life that his parents lived. At least they lived a family life by the time they were my age, whereas all that I've done is manage one failure after another, and all I do each day is fill it with subjects such as Patent Law, Secured Transactions, Constitutional Law, and bar review.

Finding a Modern Chassidic Girl

I had an intense conversation with my rabbi this Shabbos over the concept of being Modern Chassidic, although we didn't use those words, per se. I told him that it bothers me that some women might look down on me by the fact that I like to listen to secular music, or by the fact that I enjoy watching DVDs if I ever have the time to do so with my now ultra-busy schedule. Then to spark the conversation, I asked the rabbi if he himself would ever go to a smoky jazz club to listen to music and have drinks.

When he said he wouldn't personally go to such a place because he is more interested in other activities, he made sure to clarify that there are a lot of things that would not be violative of Jewish law, but nevertheless it would not proper for a Jew to partake in those activities. For example, it is not proper for a Jew to partake in activities where other people are getting drunk, hooking up, sweating and dancing on the dance floor, because there is a concept called modesty (tznius) where dancing in public would not be modest and thus it would violate Jewish law. On the other hand, going out to a jazz club where one would sit and listen to a performance would not violate Jewish law; however, he said it all depends on where I am holding.

Then when it comes to movies, he wanted to clarify to me that seeing a movie is an addiction -- a taiva, as they call it in Chassidic circles. However, there are Chassidic guys who both of us know and respect who enjoy a good movie. However, in truth, while it probably doesn't violate any Jewish laws to see a movie [depending on its content], seeing a movie is not something that a typical religious guy or girl will do.

However, again, he said it depends on where I am holding. There are many guys who while on an airplane will see a movie that is playing -- there are many Chassidic guys who both of us know who will see three or four movies on an airplane and their wives won't say anything. The rabbi explained that this is why it is important to marry a woman who is flexible and who understands that her husband just enjoys movies, or secular music, or dancing. He said the dancing, however, should preferably be done in private and not on a ballroom floor with other people around or in a sweaty club. However, again, it is all a question as to where I am holding.

Lastly, we came to the conclusion that it is probably a smarter idea for me to date a girl who is also relatively new to religion -- a baal teshuva -- so that she will be able to relate to my desire to see movies and to do secular things and not to judge me for my desire to do them. This was an interesting conclusion to our conversation. So, in order for me to be modern chassidic, I'll need a baal teshuva girl, because a "frum from birth" (religious from birth) girl might not be able to relate to my desire to see movies and this might cause miscommunications between us. This applies to many of the other topics I have been speaking about over the past few months.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Contemplating Being Modern-Chassidic.

It takes strength to find out who you are, and then it takes even more strength to fight everyone around you who wants you to be someone else, even if their intentions are good.

It's so strange for me that there are such strong forces in my circle of influence.

I've come to some kind of conclusion that I need to be more real about the kind of person I want to marry. I am feeling that it is difficult if not impossible to eliminate something that has been with someone their whole life. Three things that have always been with me are 1) movies, 2) music, and 3) mixed dancing. I am not necessarily attached to these things, but nevertheless, they are in my life and always have been. I am not sure I can enter into a world in which they are non-existent. I am open and enthusiastic about not having them in my house, but I am not so open to not having them in my life.

I must think about this deeper. I will contemplate my words over the coming weeks. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Faithful Night

Tonight was a somber night where many things that were unresolved were handled and taken care of. For one thing, I ended the shidduch. This was a very tough decision, but when there were so many issues that arose, I felt that it was better to carefully evaluate the situation and to make the decision as if I was making it for someone else. By doing this, the emotions that would normally have interfered with the choices at hand were taken out of the picture, and an objective decision was carefully made. I feel terrible for the girl, however there were more issues than I let on.

You'll notice that I also erased the blog entries about what happened on the shidduch dates because I felt that it revealed too much about the woman so that if she would stumble onto the blog, that she would certainly realize that she was reading about herself. I didn't want that. It wouldn't have been wise.

As for everything else, I hope you'll pardon me for not writing and not responding to some of your kind letters. This, along with the school work and the bar review is leaving me without energy and without much strength of mind to even think about what to talk about. I wish things turned out differently. I wish things could have worked out, but it just wasn't the right match. I wish I were the person I am meant to be, and it bothers me that I am not yet that person. I have been having problems keeping to my study schedule and this is bothering me, especially because my schedule between now and February requires much dedication and discipline. Religiously, I am also a mess. I've been keeping away from sin as much as I can, but I have been slacking on the positive commandments, namely prayer and Torah study. I am thankful that the Sabbath is coming right around the corner and it will be here tomorrow, so perhaps that will give me a chance to straighten my path and refocus my mindset, as I am going over to my rabbi for Shabbos.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Is there a dark side to religious life?

I often ask myself whether I really know what I am getting myself into by being in the religious world as a Lubavicher. Everything is all nice and dandy when I am practicing religion on my own because I follow the laws and I do what I am supposed to do and I abstain from things I am not supposed to do.

I also look to my rabbi and my friends who I believe live religious lives. Like me, they keep Shabbos (the Sabbath), they keep kosher, they pray when they're supposed to, they learn the Torah, they give charity, and everything else a Jew is supposed to do.

However, I've only learned Judaism from my Rabbi's point of view and the point of view of my Yeshiva (Rabbinical College). What if there is a deeper, but darker form of Judaism that lurks behind the scenes that I am not aware of?

For example, on a Shidduch date (a date between a guy and a girl made by a matchmaker), when speaking to my Rabbi's wife on what to do and not to do, she was VERY serious about not calling the girl by her name because it is not modest. She also had all these rules that I had to follow, such as picking her up at a location that is not filled with Jews so that people will not see her getting into a car with a man (even though it is permitted for the purpose of dating). It is sometimes also frowned upon for the man to hold the door for a woman, or for a man to do any of those things that a man customarily would do on a date. Plus, in some extreme cases, the girl will show ABSOLUTELY NO EMOTION on the date for the purpose of not opening up until she and the guy got more serious about each other.

So while I find these details and customs fascinating, I am also worried by them because I often ask myself what is there that I don't know? There are wacky religious people who get angry when you talk about something that is not G-d related. There are people who have very strict stringencies on various laws. There are people who don't dress like me, even though my dressing is professional and modest. Most of all, there are people who are so serious about G-d that it takes over their lives and that is all they do. I love G-d, but He has His place in the laws and in the prayers.

Then there are the Jewish laws, some which are so restricting that people customarily don't follow them. For example, one washes his or her hands in the morning after a night's sleep (neggelvasser) to remove the impurity of the night that according to Jewish law rests on a person when he sleeps. When he wakes up, the impurity leaves his body but rests in his extremities (hands, feet). That is why we wash our hands (and some customarily also wash their feet) in the morning with a pouring cup and a basin that is near the bed. In fact, we are not allowed to even walk a certain distance while we have this impurity on our hands. This is all fascinating. Yet some people take this to an extreme and actually wash their feet by the basin although most people today don't do so. Other people cover the water in the pouring glass with a small towel so that the spirit of impurity doesn't enter the water during the night and make it impure.

These are such things that I know about and I practice because I know about them. But I often wonder, "What DON'T I know? What am I missing?" I am happy to spend my life learning the intricacies of what to do and what not to do in life, but I fear more than anything that my wife [when I meet and marry her] will be more strict than me (even though a woman is supposed to follow the man's observances and customs) and that she will look down on me for being the simple Jew that I am.

I don't keep to a standard called "pas yisroel," because there is no bread where I live that has that standard of being kosher. I don't daven (pray) every day with a minyan (the required ten men). I don't always have time to learn Torah. And I do things that a fully religious person would never consider doing. For example, I've gone out to a dance club, or I've gone to operas and musicals (in violation of kol isha, not hearing a woman's voice sing), I read and enjoy secular books sometimes to the exclusion of religious books, and I feel no compunction when I go out to a jazz bar to listen to music. I am often in places a religious person wouldn't find himself, and I wonder whether my wife will look down on me for this.

So these are my thoughts.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How to Vivify the Resume and Catch Someone's Attention

This is my first name in Chinese letters:

The problem is that it is listed as a female name. Any idea if the Chinese letters indicate that it's a female name?

My idea is to put my Chinese name on my resume that I send out to law firms, so that they can see that I have a connection to China. My goal is to specialize within the patent attorney field with regard to Chinese IP; specifically, to patent Chinese products here in the United States. I believe this will be my selling point over all the other dull resumes that will be my competition.

However, I don't yet have a Chinese name and for all I know, these chinese letters can mean "stupid American." So I must be careful what I put on there. I'd like to choose a name and have it done professionally. This one looks cheap.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"A Mood Apart," an artful description of manic depression.

In "A Mood Apart," by Peter Whybrow, M.D., the author describes what it is like when the mood goes awry. I'm quoting it below because I was moved by his words which were familiar to my experiences during the bad times.
We find ourselves stumbling in the management of a familiar existence. Nothing works as it should. Insomnia drains the day's supply of energy. Routine habits become a burden, future planning is neglected, thinking is slowed, and concentration scattered by intrusive memories. Through the looking glass of grief, one is reintroduced to oneself as a disorganized stranger, a person apart from the accustomed self...

The housekeeping functions of the brain -- the cycle of sleeping and waking, sexual behavior, eating and elimination -- are also disturbed, as chemical messengers lose their daily rhythm...

As emotional judgment fails, increasing commitments are made, often beyond resources and reality, but the cautioning concern of friends and family is swept aside or met with anger. The engaging, infectious humor is replaced by irritability and suspicion as mania enters full flower.

I'm tired from a long day of productive studying. I woke at 5am, and I'll be asleep by 10pm. It will be a long day tomorrow.

Light Sleeper

One more reason I don't like living with my father. He's a VERY light sleeper and anything I do wakes him up and messes with his sleep schedule. He gets very annoyed when I wake him up, so on days like today where I actually wake up early [this is a wonderful thing], I have to tiptoe around the house.

The problem is that I purchased a DVD player for the sole purpose of doing Tai Chi and yoga early in the mornings. I purchased the DVDs also and the yoga mat. I really want to start my routine in the morning with this, but it is not possible because my father will wake up. I can do this in my small cramped room, except that there is no space. Plus, I re-arranged our living room and moved the coffee table next to the couch and out of the way so that there would be space in front of the television to put a mat down to do yoga. Unfortunately, my dad will still wake up.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Close Teacher of Mine Died This Weekend

Someone close to me died; a professor I was very fond of. She always asked me to come visit her so that she can help me out with my studies. I helped her say the prayers on the Lulav and Esrog last year over Sukkos. This year nobody bought a Lulav and mine got injured because it got swung against a wall when I was helping someone say the beracha (blessing) over it, so with most of the holidays coinciding with Shabbos (the Sabbath), I didn't get a chance to stand in the Succah and help her bentch lulav (say the blessing over the lulav and esrog) like I did last year. I was thinking about it this year and it saddened me that I didn't get a chance to help her say the beracha because I remembered that she really enjoyed it and she spoke to me about it all year how much she was looking forward to it.

But this year she wasn't around and neither was I. I didn't think much of it, except that I noticed that someone had moved into her office. When I asked her about it, she said that it was just someone that works for her.

This past week, I heard that she was ill and that she was in the hospital; that she had been sick for the past few months and didn't want anyone to know about it. She even kept it a secret from her students, and the fact that she was in pain never showed on her face.

A friend of mine, the president of the Jewish organization on campus wrote an e-mail saying that she was sick, and that she "was" a good professor. I wrote back an e-mail joking with him and correcting his use of the word "was," pointing out his premature prediction. It was then -- this morning -- that I received the e-mail back from him telling me that he used "was" because she passed away.

I am very sad about this, but I am not crying because I know that she's in a good place. She was one of those people who you can tell just by being in their presence that they are truly good people. I actually don't know how to handle this -- usually when someone dies, it is someone I don't know and don't care about. When it has been someone closer to me, it has always been someone I knew and I spoke to, but never someone I felt a connection with. This time is different; I liked this person as a person, and I felt close with her when I would see her on campus. She was a very kind person and she had a warmth that anyone around her could feel.

As a prayer, I ask that G-d take good care of her. I know that she will be in my thoughts for some time.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Musical D'inspiration and Technical Mastery

Lastly in this three-part blog entry, I wanted to mention that I have been practicing the piano for some time now almost on a daily basis. For the first time, I picked up a real music score, and I was able to look at the chords and the notes on the page and I was able to play them correctly, albeit terribly slow. But the SUPER EXCITING thing is that I was able to play it measure by measure! This is a gigantic step for me because I am beginning to understand how chords work, especially when it comes to playing a piece of music with a melody!

In the past, I would taitch out the notes (meaning, note by note, I would write down what letter it would correspond to) and I would memorize the notes by playing them over and over again. What I was memorizing were the positions of my fingers, rather than what notes were on the page. Memorizing the note positions by playing them badly over and over until my unconscious mind caught on and learned [the song, the blues progression, or the latest technique] was how I got to be the blues player I am today. However, this sight playing is quite different, as are learning the actual chords and knowing whether I am playing a diminished or an augmented chord, or a seventh; in fact, I am noticing that while my blues playing is getting worse (meaning, I am losing the natural talent and creativity of my playing which is what made my playing so special), my sensitivity to the notes is getting heightened, which means that I will be learning new ways of playing which will make the playing sound that much better.

I am not worried about losing the natural creativity, because that will be there always and it will surface once my technical playing becomes unconscious.

Monday, October 31, 2005

I was going to write about how I noticed today that my piano playing has gotten better and how now that I've been practicing with chords, my fingers are starting to feel differently, but rather, I got a mistaken e-mail from an old friend today -- someone whom I wouldn't have expected to hear from ever again based on our previous interactions. I would say with humility that this was one of those situations that got messed up on its own without my help -- do you ever have those experiences where you did everything right but everything turned out wrong? I am of the opinion that specifically with this scenario, G-d personally did it -- He intervened, He entered into this person's head, he twisted things around and influenced this person's thoughts, and with His mighty hand, He compelled the result of our interactions to be the way they were. How can that be anything other than good?

Anyway, my first reaction was that it hurt knowing that I was on the mind of this person. It actually made me feel lonely knowing that I was probably actually NOT on this person's mind and that I received this e-mail purely by mistake -- not even because of the person we are talking about, but because I missed the idea of being on someone's mind / being thought about. After what happened and the surprising turn of events, I wished to be erased from this person's memory as if we never met. I wanted to undo everything we said to each other and every feeling I trusted with this person. I feel that I opened up under false pretenses and I was misled into sharing my feelings with this person.

Yet it is true that every person has an affect on every person one comes into contact with -- you can't deny this, even if it is just a face, a voice, or a memory that stays with you.

So this is it. I'm surprised that I am actually learning the Jazz style, and how my fingers are actually picking up the shapes of the notes. It is astounding to me to see how my brain is unconsciously learning to play each time I walk away from the piano in frustration. It seems that every time I play, I have learned to be a bit better.

On second thought, if I believe that everything that happens is from Divine Providence -- which I do -- then getting this e-mail was an act by G-d or one of His angels urging me to do or think something. Then again, it could be an interference from the dark side -- oooooh, aaaaaah, boo! Happy Halloween, by the way. Either way, you cannot paskin (make a determination regarding) the future based on messages from the universe without the help of hindsight. Being aware of strange occurrences is one concept. However, acting upon them as if they were prophecies (looking for the hidden meanings in messages) is stupid.

I believe strongly that the quality of my life is based on the value decisions I make which determine what kind of person I will become. What deeds I fill my time doing also will affect the person I become. If my actions are meritorious, then good things will happen, and vice versa. Bottom line -- I received this e-mail, which was followed by a generalized apology letter to everyone else who received this same message from this person.

I acknowledge that something could be going on regarding this person below the surface of what we perceive to be reality that will affect me and my existence. I have taken notice of this e-mail, and I am not messing around with fate by writing back or by reacting or responding. This is a piece of my past I would just rather be left alone. "Just be still and see what your Creator has planned for you."

Friday, October 28, 2005

I need to pray. I missed davening with a minyan this morning because I was up late last night, and my tefillin are in my car. I have so much to do today, but I know that if I start my day without praying, it will not happen. I'm going to force myself to do it now.

Benefits of Working Hard

I've been spending considerable time lately in front of the Casio Privia piano that I bought during last month's self-improvement spending spree. I have a book on Jazz that I've been learning from, and I wanted to comment on how difficult it has been to learn the new style (II-V-I) of chords and inverted chords from scratch.

I've been playing blues and the New Orleans style of piano by ear since I was inspired in high school by a close friend of mine who up to and including today is by far the best piano player I have ever seen. However, my playing was purely by ear. This new style is literally, by the book. I have never seen something so difficult.

I find that I'll walk away from the piano with a headache, but when I return to the piano some time (hours / days) later, my mind is clear and I unconsciously learned the material that was previously frustrating to me. I must also comment that this sometimes takes many tries before it happens, but when it does, the feeling of accomplishment is very empowering. What I do with that newfound power is I channel it into the next level of learning which causes the frustration response all over again, albeit now at a higher level with more complex playing.

I wonder whether in a few months or years I will look back and say, "wow, I did it." I am starting to experience that now [that I am studying for the Bar Exam] with regard to the years of hard work to get through law school. I suppose this feeling is common for me when I accomplish something that I worked really hard on. Another area that I've felt this is with regard to my religious pursuits and in my Torah learning.

I once decided to every day go to sleep knowing more and being a better person than I was when I woke up that morning. Anthony Robbins calls this model of living "C.A.N.I." which stands for constant and neverending improvement. I believe this is the goal of life. The trick is to channel it into a skill set or set of knowledge that will reap both spiritual and physical rewards, and not merely momentary pleasures. Of course I am still thinking about last night where I faced a challenge and somehow succeeded in pulling myself away from a temptation that I didn't think that I had the strength to overcome.

I still see myself as weak in this area, but as of last night, something inside me changed and I made some kind of resolve, although I am not yet sure what it is.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Pleasure Calls To Me as the Full Moon Calls to the Werewolf and yet I don't answer...

Its 3am and I've turned into an insomniac again. I'm not exactly sure why. In preparation for my Patent Law class, I spent considerable time reading the Casebook Summaries. For those of you who aren't familiar with these, I feel like a whore every time I succumb to use them instead of reading the text. These summaries, regardless of the publisher, give you the issues and the rationales from the cases, along with enough facts to understand what the professor is talking about in class. However, it sincerely lacks in details, which is where us law students get caught when we use them. I had a dream that I got caught using them and I was completely embarrassed when I was found out. Part of me wonders whether it is an honor code violation to use them in preparation for class instead of actually doing the readings.

After class there was a Pre-Halloween Party in the cafeteria. People were dancing and partying and the lights were all off. I got scared in the bathroom when someone with red eyes and a hood walked towards me.

A girl I am attracted to was drunk and she saw me and came out of the party to talk to me. Normally she's too cool for me and I'm too shy to pursue anything non-academic with her. Plus, I am religious, and we were in school and for me there is a difference between going clubbing and dancing in a bar versus doing things in your own home (I consider my school my home since I spend so much time there and most of the people I spend my days with are there). Even though I have been shomer negiah for many years now, and even though as of late I've slipped a bit allowing my hands to be shaken by women when we say hello, tonight was different because I was attracted. There was a danger here of doing something I shouldn't do, and I knew I was in unfamiliar territory.

As she was talking to me, she put her hand on my hand which was grasping my rolling book bag (carry-on bag in which I keep my books) very tightly. My normal impulse was to hold her hand but this wouldn't have been meaningless and so I let her hand drop to her sides as I took my hands back from her grip with a smile and a bead of sweat rolling down my forehead.

Almost in tears [of course I am being dramatic], I excused myself and instead of going into the party, I left the building to go home. I walked away from an experience that could have been amazing, and I am not talking about the girl, I am talking about the dancing at the party. But it was personal tonight -- I could feel it. My heart really wanted to stay which is why I knew that I needed to gather all my might to go because this wasn't the place for me.

As I walked out of the building, I said to one of the security guards, "I don't know why I live the life I do. All this discipline better be worth it." I was going to call my rabbi and tell him that life better be good because the life that I am not living calls to me so strongly as the full moon calls to a werewolf hiding within the bones of its human host. My fangs grow, my eyes widen. Yet I stay in control and I don't let temptation overcome my understanding of right and wrong. I don't hate myself for this. I just think I am a cruel S.O.B. to restrain myself from experiences like this, even if it is for my own good. I sure hope that there is truth and pleasure -- greater than the kind I am missing -- around the bend. !New! Browser

There is a new kind of browser which builds upon the Mozilla Firefox browser. It is chock full of features and it is cutting edge. (It is also FULL of bugs and crashes, so if you're not okay with a few scrapes and bloody knees, beware.) I think the software will be pretty cool. I'm actually writing this blog entry from the software [between crashes].

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What do you think?

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Mysticism of Today and Tomorrow

Since tonight and tomorrow will be what is called Hoshana Rabba and Simchas Torah, I figured that I would share a quick vort (lesson) that I learned from the Lubavicher Rebbe, and then I'll share something personal.

As you know, for the last week, us Jews have been carrying around something called a Lulav, which is a palm branch and various other types of branches all bound together. Some have a smell, others have a taste, some have both, and some have none. The interesting part is that for these next few days, we have these branches bound together and we shake the Lulav in every direction.

I don't know why we shake it, but I do know that it causes a great upheaval in the spiritual realms. The effects here seem minimal, but in the spiritual realm, the effects are earth shaking.

The different types of branches symbolize the different types of people. The branch with taste correlates with someone who does G-d's commandments; the branch with a smell is someone who learns G-d's Torah. (Or vice versa). The important thing is that during this week, all of us somehow spiritually are bound together and we affect each other in magnitudes I cannot describe. The interesting thing is that tonight for Hoshana Rabba, we all say the whole [5] book[s] of Tehillim (Psalms) together, and tomorrow, we all dance together in the streets, which is a physical manifestation of what was until now symbolic and on the spiritual realm. And as Chassidus (the study of Jewish mysticism) teaches, specifically through physical actions do we bring about the greatest spiritual effects, and how much higher a Jew get by everyone of all religious and observance levels dancing together with the Torah?

As for my personal comment, the fact that we are saying the whole book of Psalms is a big deal spiritually. It does something -- what, I do not know. However, there are codes within the Psalms; if you say one combination, you get one result; if you say another combination, you get another result. These codes are no longer known to us, yet we still say selections each day -- we also say the whole book on the Shabbos Mevarchim (the Sabbath preceding every new month) and on select holy days such as today when the decrees of the new year (Rosh Hashanna) are signed, sealed, and delivered.

Lastly, regarding the clouds. As you've seen in the videos I put on the web, I learned the uncanny skill of melting big clouds in the sky. However, I couldn't explain why or how it worked, but it did. As you know, this is why I became religious (one of the reasons) -- I wanted answers to explain events such as this.

Finally, I cornered my rabbi into a conversation on a pseudo-topic where he described that things like this can happen, where righteous people can somehow reach into the spiritual realm and make a change at its source, and the physical world reacts by manifesting or de-manifesting something. However, he used very specific language saying that only Tzaddikim (righteous people) can do this, and you know me -- I am no righteous person. The fact that I sin proves this because by definition, a righteous person does not sin.

So how I am able to melt clouds is beyond me and still without an explanation as to how "I" can do it, but nevertheless, at least now I have more of an answer, that to do this, one needs to be living at a level that is not bound by physicality and physical rules. Maybe somehow I fit into the category, although how is beyond me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sad Today... Not Sure Why.

I wish I had something more positive to say. I’m quite lonely. I spent a considerable amount of time by my rabbi’s house, but because his house was full of guests and I am like a natural resident there, I felt like I was in the background for most of the holidays which I spent sleeping when I wasn't eating or in synagogue.

That’s exactly how I’ve felt these past few weeks – like I am in the background. Today I picked up food for our Sukkah party for the Colorado Jewish Law Students Association. Nobody noticed. Someone asked me if she can make a beracha (blessing) on the Lulav, and when I helped her with it, someone screamed out, "shake it", so she swung it against the wall almost breaking it. I am positive that it is no longer kosher. I will have it checked tomorrow.

I bought food for the Sukkah party. Nobody noticed. Everyone came in, ate, and left. Later on when I came to the Sukkah to study and pray, the place was a mess. Food was spilled everywhere. People didn’t clean up after themselves. I cleaned everything up, prayed, and ate some leftover vegetables.

While I was at Staples picking up some supplies, I went to park my car, and someone cut in front of me and took the space I was pulling into.

Everyone at school is talking about the interviews they have been receiving. I haven’t even sent out my resume to anyone. I don’t feel that I would get a job even if I tried. I don't feel like I am like the other people. I’ve been spending all my free time studying for the bar exam. I am hoping that somehow I will find a good job when I graduate and pass the bar.

Later, while I was standing in the Sukkah on my own as the sun began to set, I heard a girl walk by with her friends and say, "I promise you, there was pizza in there before." I wished I had a girlfriend or someone to speak to. I am feeling quite lonely. I can't bear being good for much longer, and being bad was no fun because when I tried, nobody wanted to be bad with me. I kept having a good effect on people which isn't what I wanted. People talk about good things around me. Nobody does rebellious things in my presence, so clubbing and getting drunk was a lonely experience too. I can't escape this.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Father Teach Me To Play Baseball, Please.

Regarding my father. I was sad to see him show up to shul today AFTER it ended. He missed Yizkor (in memory of parents) and he didn't feel bad about it. I was heartbroken, and when I gave my pledge to the shul, in my heart I said to myself, "so that my father grows a heart."

Sitting on the bimah, when I told my dad that he missed Yizkor and that everything is over until this afternoon, he said, "I came here to see you." I wish he didn't. He broke Yom Kippur to see me. He was wearing leather shoes (not permitted) and he was dressed in business casual (cowboy) clothing, not a suit.

I was reminded of the time that I sent the counselors to keep him away from me when he drove hours to see me when I was a child in summer camp. I faked fearing that he would beat me. In reality, I didn't want to see him then, and I didn't want to see him today. I only have emotional reasons for this response.

Later when he didn't want to stay until Mincha, I asked him why he even came at all. I asked him why he prayed if he declares that he doesn't believe in this "crap." If he doesn't believe in this crap, "then his parents are dead and there is no soul or afterlife or G-d and they are just dead," I said. He said, "I keep them alive in my heart." I didn't say this, but I thought, "Yeah, just as alive as your last sexual experience with your non-Jewish girlfriend." I actually said that keeping someone alive in your heart doesn't really keep them alive, because their memory dies when you die. I then was wondering how he felt if I told him that I wouldn't say kaddish for him when he died because it is all "crap".

Either there is an afterlife, a soul, and the whole organization, or people DIE AT DEATH. There is no other reasonable alternative.

My dad was hurt when later on I told him I want a seat in between us for books. I didn't want him rubbing up against me or touching me. You know how this makes me feel. Plus, my stress level goes through the roof when I get within a foot or so from him and I completely glaze over and I zone out to avoid the anger that boils in my heart from the past.

I realized something today about why I am angry at him. He never taught me anything as a father should. Isn't that weird? Oh yes, he taught me to lie, to steal, to seduce, to cheat, to be dishonest, to ride a motorcycle, but he never taught me something of value. I was sad today about this. I wondered if he knew how I felt about him. Again, I know my statement is emotionally true, but probably factually false. I am just expressing how I feel.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

"G-d, I did bad, you did bad -- Let's start a new account."

My Rabbi tells a story every Erev Yom Kippur about a guy at an inn who has two journals. Every year he looks into the first journal which contains his sins, and he takes account. Next, he looks into the second journal which contains G-d's sins (things that didn't go right for him) and he takes account. He looks at both books, says, "G-d, I was bad, you were bad -- let's start a new account."

While this was a joke, I am actually considering starting these journals. My first sin for tonight is listening to loshon hara and not saying anything about it while people were commenting on the chazzan's slow speed. I could've said something or stood up and walked away, but I just sat quietly and listened.

My first entry in G-d's book was also today. While backing up in the torrential rains motzi (after) Yom Kippur, I hit a black parked car. I didn't cause any damage, but I was embarassed when I walked over to the person and said, "I hit your car. I was going very slowly and so I don't think I caused any damage -- I checked -- but if I did, let me know and I'll pay for the repairs." I could have said nothing and gotten away with that, but being that Yom Kippur just passed, I felt that I wanted to do the right thing.

Otherwise, I blew the past two hours checking e-mails and looking for sewing machines. I know nothing about this; in fact, I am a complete space cadet when it comes to sewing. But I have many clothes where I want to take in my shirts, and I want to hem up my pants and sew on missing buttons that it would cost so much to have my stuff altered at a tailor that I thought I would venture out and learn a new skill to do it myself. It can't be that difficult.

Regarding school, I am feeling overwhelmed handling both the bar review and classes. I am not staying afloat, and this is bothering me. I need to overcome my "stupid distracted state" (SDS) and I must get to work. I am serious about this. I am passing the point of no return where my grades will start to get affected if I don't get down to business and catch up on the volumes of work.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Lack of Sleep declares, "No School Today"

Something hit me today. It wasn't the lazies, but it was an incapacity to be able to move or get anything done today. I was tired beyond belief. I still am.

I went to sleep last night around 1 am. I won't say that it was because my dad kept me up late -- again. I woke up this morning at 5am (yep, four hours of sleep), went to minyan to pray, and then I went to the gym. I lifted again the same amount of weight as yesterday. I also pressed some weight and now by body is feeling it. I might have pushed too hard.

But when I came home, I got frustrated because my investments weren't going my way. I was also annoyed because my computer wasn't working properly and the hard drive was spinning, effectively locking me out of my computer for twenty minutes at a time. Stupid me waited. Then who knows what I did -- a little piano playing, a bit of reading, some breakfast -- the time snapped from 10:30am to 1:30pm. I lost three hours of time doing who knows what.

At 1:30pm, I was physcially exhausted and I could barely move. I tried to pack up for school and do some work, but my mind was so exhausted I couldn't focus enough to be able to pack my bags and get into my car. Now it is 2:45pm, and hour and a half later -- I napped for half an hour, but I am still exhausted -- and I decided to skip the three classes I have today in order to catch up on some work.

Missing classes in law school is a VERY BAD thing to do, and I just blew off all my classes. I am not happy about this. I wish I knew what I could do to get my energy back. It just feels like it was sucked out of me.

My classes technically start at 3:15pm. I could make it if I leave now. Maybe I should bite the bullet and just get in the car and go to school. Maybe I'll do that. Let's see if I can. NO. I want this time to prepare for the bar exam. There is too much work that I CAN do if I stay home that if I go to school it will be a waste of a day in classes (I am not prepared for my classes and I DON'T LEARN when I am not prepared). I don't want to waste my day. Instead, I want to do bar review.

This is my decision. I am taking the day off to do bar review. My professors will understand.


All That Jazz, All That Muscle

I am very excited 1) that I am awake at 5:15am and 2) that I've been working on my goals faithfully and with diligence.

Last night and most of yesterday, I spent considerable time practicing on my new piano. I was learning how to play in the style of Jazz -- I was learning the rules and the chord progressions, including sevenths, minor chords, diminished chords, and the such. The Jazz book I am learning from is teaching me to learn the techniques it teaches in EVERY KEY -- it is now clear to me where I went wrong when learning to play the blues and New Orleans style piano -- I learned to play in only one or two keys, and then I developed my abilities on those keys for many years without learning the other keys. Now, being very skilled in those keys, as I am now returning to learn the other keys, I feel that I am starting all over both in skill and in style. Had I learned to play in all the keys like I am doing now with Jazz piano, I would be a master at the piano!

The exciting part with what I am doing now is -- now that I am playing Jazz in the different keys, I am hearing the subtleties between the chord inversions and the same chord progressions in the various keys. A few months ago I met with a person who was a composer of music. We spoke about the subtle reasons why someone would choose to play a specific note over another, versus why someone would augment a chord versus choosing to play a diminishing a chord -- all these minor and subtle changes not only change the sound of the music and its mood, but they elicit a specific feeling within the player and within the listener. This is so subtle that one would need to be attuned to the music to pick it up. But, when one develops this subtle ability, the pleasure one can get from something as simple as using one chord over another is so intense that it can excite the heart and paint a smile deep in the cheeks of all of those who come into contact with these musical pieces. I've wanted to play Jazz my whole life. I am happy I am getting to this now. This is a big achievement.

On another note, I went to the gym last night after learning a technique by Pavel Tsatsoline in his book for developing strength and muscle without bulking up. I am a man with gladiator proportions -- bulking up is not something I need to do. Rather, I could use some tone and cuts in the muscles I already have.

So in the gym, I did something called a deadlift, where one simply lifts an enormous amount of weight and then releases it quickly to the ground. Doing this kind of exercise is dangerous for the back and the other muscles unless one has learned the techniques, which I have by reading Pavel's books. On my first try, lifting 100 lbs of dead weight seemed too easy, so I upped the weight to 180 lbs. Add the weight of the bar (another 20 lbs.) and you'll find that I lifted 200 pounds, close to my own weight. This is a big deal. I am very excited about this, especially because I'm learning how strong I really am. This may seem silly to some, but coming from the point of view of being a scrawny kid in high school and college with slim shoulders and experiencing my growth spurts late in my college years, I still often see myself as the tiny 170 lb. kid rather than the developed 220 lb. man. That's a 50 lb. difference, and I am the same height I was back in college (over 6' tall). So lifting this amount of weight has been an exciting experience for me. Even more exciting is now, the next day -- I feel no pain and no strain, which means that I have lifted within my means.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Can Anyone Help Me Find A Watch??

Can anyone help me find a watch? My psychologist said that he feels that I would do better if I wore a watch on my wrist, especially because I don't pay that much attention to time on the wall or on the Palm.

I'm looking on and I like the style of item 1145345 (above). Simple, nothing fancy, but not cheap looking. I also like the idea of an automatic watch (which this one is not), but I don't want to spend that much money; after all, this is a watch we're talking about. Also, size DOES matter -- I want a smaller watch that is discreet and that won't catch people's eye. Function over form matters to me.

Can anyone help me find a watch? I am not limited to's web site. I'd really be thankful.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

My HeroMachine Character

This is my character on the HeroMachine website.

"The frightening thought is when you look at the complete image; those that know me will see me looking back at them."

Here are the rules:
1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

My 5th sentence from my 23rd post is:
"The frightening thought is when you look at the complete image; those that know me will see me looking back at them."

Nothing SO interesting here... Money Stuff

There isn't that much exciting going on. I spent Shabbos hiding out on my own in my father's house, which is too far from any minyan to attend services. I still fully kept shabbos, davened (prayed), and did everything I was supposed to, sans the mitzvah of hearing the weekly Torah reading.

I wish I lived closer to a shul that way I can enjoy a peaceful shabbos like the one I just had, but including the minyan and the shul experience. My dad is still talking about building closets in my room, even though I told him that I plan on moving out soon. He's in denial, just as he usually is when I do something that is against his wishes.

Other than reorganizing my bookshelf by topic, (i.e. Nigleh, Halacha, Chassidus, Tanya; Law books by course topic; Secular books by books on persuasion, investing, grammar and proper writing, "feel good" books by Rabbi Twerski, M.D., and previous journals), I spent a considerable time today reading Pavel Tsatsouline's book called "Power to the People," a book on the strength training techniques the Russian atheletes use when training for the olympics. I've been very impressed by his books and his style of writing lately, and I've found his advice to work very well when it comes to getting results in stretching and exercise.

Otherwise, everything seems okay. I found out early Friday morning that my massive amount of private loan debt's interest rate has been inching up these past few months from 4% to almost 7%. That's a big jump, and I don't think it is going back down any time soon. So, I am thinking of taking all of my investment account Roth IRA money that I saved during college and taking a disbursement to pay down the school private loans. I checked on the IRS website, and this use of my Roth IRA funds would avoid the 10% penalty that the IRS imposes on early withdrawal of Roth IRA funds.

I feel that using my funds to pay the school loan guarantees me a 7% interest (that I will not be incurring), and this is a better deal than playing with the money in this crazy market and risk losing even more of it like I did a few months ago.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Confusion of Gender Roles in Shul

I just posted a comment on Mirty's page regarding women and shul. Her article was about the politics of a shul regarding the various practices and I agree with her. I often wonder why people can't just show up, pray, and do the mitzvos. I wonder about the spiritual value for all the other chazonnis (cantorial productions), speeches, and the wasting of time with kovod (honors) given to the members so that they will give tzedakka. If I want to give tzedakka, I usually just give it. My opinion is that we should just pray, serve Hashem, and get it all over with.

Anyway, the topic of her post was about kovod from a woman's point of view. I wrote a comment saying that it is nice for women to be at shul, but it might be a confusion of a woman's role to think that they have the obligation to actually be in shul. When a woman is not in shul during a mitzvah, the husband or father is supposed to come home and do the mitzvah (i.e. blowing the shofar) at home for his wife and children. This whole idea of women comming to shul and wanting aliyas and making their own services as a response to the men's services seems to me to be a bit confused because I never learned a source that would give women the idea that they should do so. I do think women getting together to pray is admirable, yet the idea of a minyan (ten men together praying so that the shechina will dwell upon them) has to do specifically with ten men; women are not mentioned in the definition nor in the interpretations. I would say perhaps this is based on a male-based control over the religion, but women also have a very important role in Judaism. Rabbi Manis Friedman goes deep into the power of women in his lecture series. As far as I know, ten women together davening don't form a minyan. And women laining (reading the Torah) and getting aliyahs is not the way things are; I'd posit perhaps the Shulchan Auruch (Code of Jewish Law) is wrong, but good luck changing that one -- every Jew accepts the Shulchan Auruch, even women. It feels to me that there is a confusion of the roles here with Jewish women and shuls, and it's probably the men's fault for not having a proper Jewish atmosphere at home. My comment to Mirty is below. [I came back to this post a few hours later and I realized how offensive this post is. I don't mean what I said to be interpreted as chauvenistic; I'm just trying to communicate what I learned in a simple and direct way.]

I hope it is not offensive for me saying this, but I learned a while ago that women doing the shul thing is a confusion of their roles. Women are superior to men in many ways, one of which is kedusha. Men are required to pray three times a day, plus some. Women don't have such a stringent requirement.

In many orthodox shuls, women don't even come to shul. The thought that "Judaism is in the shul" is an American concept which from what I've learned is a confusion of the idea that "one should make one's home a bayis hamikdash." The holiness is in the home -- not barefoot and pregnant, but the domain of a man is the shul and the domain of a woman is the home. There is no stigma to either. I see it as a very honorable thing. Are you angry at me for saying this?

Again, women davening is an honorable thing. They have the obligation to daven. However, doing all the activities that men are supposed to do seems to me to be a confusion of the gender roles.

Everyone, have an easy fast. G'mar chasima tova. -Zoe

Monday, October 03, 2005

Dreamed of Killing a Bad Man

5:53am: I dreamed that I killed a bad man. He had an invisible black drug that he injected into me. I stabbed him in the back with a knife. When nobody arrested me, I took another knife and I stabbed him again in his back. I felt that "now I've killed a man."

I woke up feeling that I had done justice.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Dirty Tzaddik and Teshuva

I wanted to write down something I learned from my Rabbi this Shabbos that moved me. He was teaching me and a friend something about Rosh Hashanna originally taught by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (the Alter Rebbe), the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn; the shiur was given by Rabbi Yoel Kahn, a very respected Rabbi. The topic was about what exactly is Teshuva (repentance), and how one would go about doing it. (I've written this down and added pieces from my own understanding about sinning.)

For starters, a man in Jewish law can marry a woman with conditions, for example, under the condition that he is a tzaddik gamor (a completely righteous man). However, even though he might be a complete sinner, his condition is fulfilled and he is married with a safek (a doubt).

How is this possible if we know that his whole life he was a complete sinner? Even moreso, he could be holding a pork sandwich (not allowed), which he was in the middle of eating right before he proclaimed "you are now betrothed to me under the condition that I am a complete tzaddik." How can this be a valid marriage if we know he’s not a complete righteous person? [Hold this thought and let’s move on to the next topic. We’ll come back to this soon.]

If one wants to join the army, the first thing one must do is sign up. There are many levels to signing up... You need to fill out the forms, you need to take a medical exam, you need to pack your bags and show up to boot camp for training, and most of all, regardless of what position you will hold in the army, (i.e. a soldier, a cook, a chaplain, etc.) you still need to stand in line for roll call.

Through these actions when one signs up to the army (which as we see, there are many levels), the essence of what one does during these steps is he acknowledges that he is part of the bigger organization – in our example, the U.S. Army. When we stand at roll call in the morning, we stand not in our own capacity as an individual unit, but as part of a bigger entity. We acknowledge, "you are our superior; we are on your team."

So too as Jews, the first thing we say in the morning is "Modeh ani lefanecha, melech chai v’kayom, shehechezarta bi nishmasi b’chemla rabah emunasecha" which on its surface is saying "Thank you G-d for returning my soul to me." However, on a deeper level, it says "Modeh ani lefanecha," which means, "I admit before you..." BEFORE YOU! Every morning what a Jew does is he or she LINES UP before his Creator and stands for roll call. He says, "I’m on your team, G-d -- Present and accounted for."

Throughout the day and throughout the year, people sin. We sin. We do things that are against the will of G-d as described in his Torah. What we often don’t realize is that each sin creates a blemish, or a stain on our souls, our spiritual garments.

Of course the worst part of a sin regardless of how one sinned is the fact that the sin occurred. This is akin to a soldier going AWOL (away without leave), where he does things that are not becoming of a soldier. In it’s essence, regardless of what he does while he’s away (whether he goes to a bar or visits a friend), he has disobeyed the army’s rules and he is in trouble. Similarly when a common person disobeys a decree of a king. In both cases, it does not matter what he did specifically, but the fact that he disobeyed the decree or the military rule separates him from the larger entity of which he is part of, whether it is the U.S. Army or the king’s dominion.

In itself, this is a problem. However, the type of blemish on your spiritual garment that occurs from a sin also matters. For example, you can do something small that creates a small stain. This can easily be washed away. Or, you can do something that leaves a giant stain, which requires a special chemical to make it go away. These require more work to clean. However, both of these can be washed away. There are also sins that rip the garment. These sins can’t be washed away, but they can be repaired with a little bit more work.

Going a little bit deeper, just as we have a body and soul, so does our sin. When we sin, we literally create an entity of un-holiness which itself has a body and a soul. Its body is of course not physical as we know physicality to be, but nevertheless, it is a body. It is said that these entities that are created from our sins follow us and torment us throughout the year, living as parasites on our life force until we repent.

How does it have a body and a soul? Well, when we sin, our sin happens by us doing a physical action. This action creates the body of the unholy entity. Its soul comes from the desire we experience when we are taking part in that sin. When we repent, we must literally kill both this body and this soul of the sin we created by our transgression.

In Tanya, it was taught by the Alter Rebbe that in order to repent one needs first to resolve to stop sinning in general (in addition to resolving to stop the particular sin one has taken part of). The reason we resolve to stop ALL sinning is akin to saying that you are joining the army in its entirety. You are not joining on Tuesdays or to take part in one war, but not the other – rather, you are signing up to be a soldier in the army as a whole. This is the same when it comes to G-d. You are telling G-d, "I am YOUR servant completely and I will follow your decrees in their entirety." How you intend to do this an in what time frame and how is between you and him.

Once you have stepped on board and have acknowledged that you are on G-d’s team (i.e. standing for roll call by saying "Modeh ani lefanecha" every morning, or standing before G-d during Rosh Hashanna, the next step is to say viduy during the appropriate time of the service (Viduy are specific words one says while lightly beating one’s heart and thinking about the specific transgressions that one has committed throughout the year.)

By doing these two steps, one slays the body and the soul of the entity he has created through his sin. He kills the soul of the entity by resolving never to sin again; this cuts off the life force that is sucked from the person and given to the unholy entity. He kills to body of the entity created by his sin through the viduy (the action of lightly beating the chest while saying the particular words of repentance). Through this action, one purifies one’s self of one’s sins and cleans his garment and removes all of his blemishes in preparation to be judged by G-d himself during Yom Kippur, the upcoming holiday.

This is a two step process, but can occur at many levels. However, it's essence (and first step) is that a person resolves never to sin again and decides to accept the responsibility of being a Jew by saying, "G-d, I am on your team. I belong to you." This repentance can free a person of his sins. At this point, he is considered a tzaddik gamor (a completely righteous man), and for that moment, he is completely free of his sins. However, his spiritual garment is still dirty and it needs to be cleaned through viduy. This is how one can have a "dirty tzaddik," where he is a completely righteous person, even though his garment is still dirty.

When a man says, "I am betrothed to you under the condition that I am a complete tzaddik" as we saw above, it is now understood how it is possible that this man who is a sinner and is holding a pork sandwich in his hands may have done this kind of repentance by accepting the yolk of heaven upon himself and saying "G-d, I am on your team," so we accept his condition and presume the marriage valid with a suffok (a doubt), even though his garments might still be dirty. This is also what happens on the month of Elul and on Rosh Hashanna, where one greets G-d in the field and then his palace. The relationship between G-d and the Jewish people is akin to a marriage, where G-d is one party, and the Jewish people are the other party.

Rabbi's Note: I wanted to comment that after my rabbi read this, he wanted to clarify that the first step is to do repentance by first accepting the yolk of heaven by saying, "G-d, I am on your team," and by doing viduy on Rosh Hashanna. One continues this process throughout the days of repentance between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur, where on Yom Kippur, one becomes absolved of all his or her sins. He wanted to make it clear that THIS was the foundation of Teshuva (repentance). [Waking every morning and saying "Modeh ani" and doing teshuva during tachanun (by doing viduy during the prayer service) is a benefit we get every day, as if every day is a mini-Rosh Hashanna.]

My comment: I also wanted to comment on my reaction to him reviewing my notes on the shiur. I was very impressed with how carefully he reviewed each point, with a serious face I have never seen on him before. I feel that in his heart he was reviewing the words of the Rebbe, and just as the Rebbe used to carefully review everything that he taught for accurateness, so too did he review the words I wrote to make sure I understood it how he wanted it to be taught. This made the whole experience very serious for me and put fear into my heart because I realized that we are not just talking about abstract concepts -- this is real and is a serious thing. I was actually scared by the intensity in which he reviewed my words above.