Friday, July 29, 2005

YidStock - Should I go?

It's been 5 days of solitude. With the exception of dinner with my mother at her place, I haven't seen or done anything all week. I had plans to go to my Rabbi for Shabbos, but I'm thinking of cancelling to have a relaxing Shabbos at my house. However, I have no minyan nearby. Aw well, I guess I know where I'm going.

I was thinking about how I'd like to spice up my life a bit. I have no interest in Rock & Roll, however, perhaps change is due. There is an event called Yidstock. It costs $30. I wonder if I should spend the money just to get out and to see what I'm missing. At the very least the food there is kosher, even Cholov Yisroel. I like that. I suppose it's better than going out to a club in the city like the Limelight or some other place I've been ranting about that a frum Jew should definitely NOT be at.

(I remember one time in college, a few of us from our dorm went to the Limelight and some girl asked me if I would like a sticker on the inside of my arm. There was a rainbow smiley face on the sticker. I said "sure," not knowing what it was. The rest of the night was exciting -- dancing on the stage with the other dancers, seeing vapor trails and colors, driving down a twisty 2nd Avenue (it's actually straight), and friends forcing me to pull over and sit in a pizza store for hours until I came off my high. Didn't realize until afterwards that it was all from the sticker I had on my arm.)

Maybe Yidstock is a way to rebel a bit, but in a "kosher" way.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I WALK in THEIR shoes.

I was blown away by the resistance I got both via e-mail and on the comments from the last post about sexual morality. I've posted my last comment as a post of its own here because it merited its own space. Surprisingly enough, I believe strongly in what I wrote. Somehow, each of us (to our individual ability) needs to beat this free-sex attitude that plagues our people. I am also infected by it, and I fight it daily. It is a problem that I wish would go away. Even better, I wish G-d never prohibited it in the first place.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bilam's warning about squandering sexual energy through pre-marital sex, non-observance of laws of niddah, and masteurbation.

I was inspired by a post by Josh Waxman, (a.k.a. ParshaBlog), where he gives a detailed law-school exam-styled analysis of the parshat hashavuah (weekly Torah portion). I've enjoyed his analyses, and I believe that his thinking skills have real potential to do some real good in the world.

This week, he writes about Parshat Matos, where he mentions the Midianite women. In short, in Parshat Balak (two weeks ago), Bilam (the non-Jewish prophet) gave Balak the secret to the power of the Jewish people, and conversely, he gave Balak the Kryptonite to harm the Jews as well. He said that the weakness of the Jews are the Midianite women, and by causing them to sin by having them engage in sexual intercourse and intermarriage with these women, this would harm the Jewish people as a whole. As Torah is objectively Truth, and if true, it is true for today's times as well, I believe this message is a strong warning and reminder regarding the weakness of Jews even today.

I feel that a giant weakness that plagues the Jewish people today is not idolatry, not kashrut, nor any of the other sins; rather, I feel the main weakness of the Jewish people today is succumbing to sexual temptations. Today there is more intermarriage and more sex going on among traditional Jewish non-married adults, even in the modern orthodox (MO) and orthodox world. I saw it in China; these good, attractive women had non-Jewish boyfriends who they were engaged to, and warm and caring Jewish observant men were marrying non-Jewish Chinese women who promised to convert (as if conversion for love were even a valid conversion). This is not a China phenomenon -- this goes on with Jews across the world, even here in America.

Men, there is a nasty temptation today to date non-Jewish women. Do you think there is no risk dating a non-Jewish woman? Do you think you are safer having sex with non-Jewish women (for fun and practice) because you think you can then go and marry a Jewish woman and be experienced -- for her pleasure?? First of all, it is a sick thought, and it is flat out immoral and WRONG from EVERY moral standpoint to test out your sexual prowess on one woman to satisfy the next. It is also immoral to use non-Jewish women as sex toys so that you can then dump her and marry a Jewish woman. I can only imagine the horrified faces of my non-Jewish women readers at reading this.

First of all, this is simply NOT COOL. A Jew should not be having sex before he or she is married to start with. Second, when men date and have sex with women they are breaking not only Rabbinic laws, but the essential Torah laws themselves. And please don't give me any rationalizations for practicing the Halacha of pleasuring your wife, and please don't try to justify niddah hores [non-Jewish, single women (in various communities) who have sex with men for money while their wives are in niddah] or the such (if that horrible concept even happens); control yourselves.

Last and most importantly, MANY JEWISH MEN WHO DATE NON-JEWISH WOMEN AND ARE SEXUALLY ACTIVE WITH THEM END UP FALLING IN LOVE AND MARRYING THOSE WOMEN. Don't kid yourself; when you are in bed with a woman, eating her food, sipping her wine, licking your fingers and your lips (and hers), don't tell me that you won't fall in love. And don't tell me that after spending every night with a woman for weeks, months, or even years, that you will have the self-control to break it off when it comes time to getting married. You are lying to both yourself and to the rest of the world, and you are bound to get in trouble.

In parshat Balak, Bilam warned us indirectly of this problem when he told Balak how he can injure us if he really wants to. Yet at the same time, he also gave us the secret of our greatest power as Jews. Through sexual morality, a.k.a. the observance of restraint and the laws of taharas hamishpacha, we harness the greatest source of our Jewish power. Our sexual power. (For readers of other religions, we are talking about a similar concept to what can crudely be compared to the Kundalini effect.) Jews, you are bound and circumcised to be holy to Hashem (G-d). Men, even your male organs are cut and circumcised as a covenant between you and Hashem. Do you think that he chose this location of the body because He wanted a good laugh? NO! The sexual organs are the source of our purity and our power. Stick it into the wrong place and you take the covenant into a place it shouldn't be. Squander away your energy and life force through masturbation and pre-marital sex, and you will cause more death and drainage to the power of the Jewish people as a whole. This was Bilam's warning.

However, harness and properly channel that sexual force in the context of a kosher marriage with a Jewish woman in the observance of the laws of niddah and taharas hamishpacha, and you will create the biggest influx of power and spiritual force for the Jewish people and you will attract an uncountable amount of berachas upon yourself. You will tap into the source of the Jewish people's greatest power and will add to it and be part of the solution, not the problem. The greatest source of power of the Jewish people is that they are a holy people because they practice sexual morality. We're supposed to be a "priest onto the other nations." We should act that way.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Truth About Self-Nullification and Happiness

As a continuation of my conversation with my Rabbi, I wanted to know if what was written in Rabbi Dubov's "Jewish F.A.Q.'s" book [by] was literally true, or was it hokey BS that religious people use to try to entice lost souls into becoming religious. Basically, in the summary section it says "A life of Torah and mitzvot is the surest path to a good life. It is the very best thing for a human being and will bring him to the greatest fulfillment in this world." [For my non-Jewish readers, note that it said "human being", and not "Jewish person". Keep this in mind when you learn about the 7 Noahide Laws to which non-Jews are obligated to keep.]

Furthermore, the text said:
"In short, if a person wants to have good relationships with his parents, spouse or children he should follow the directives of the Torah. If he wants to have a healthy body he should follow the laws of Kashrut. If he wants to create healthy children he should keep the laws of Taharat Hamishpachah (the laws of family purity). If he wants to have a healthy mind and heart he should lay Tefillin and study Torah. To create a healthy atmosphere at home he should create a home where Torah is studied and mitzvot are kept. If he wants family dialogue he should have a Friday night table upon which words of Torah are discussed. If he wishes to be protected he should have a mezuzah on his door. If he wishes for Divine benevolence he must dispense charity to the needs. These are the pathways, not only to bliss in the World to Come, but also to a meaningful and fulfilling life in this world."

After I read this simplistic paragraph, I was floored. I thought to myself, "is it this simple?? Do X, Y, then Z, and then your life will be taken care of?? Perhaps this is the secret of the Jewish People's survival over the years, and perhaps it could be my reality too if I did these things.

I spoke to the rabbi (my mashpia) about this and I wanted him to prove to me that this was objectively true using statistics and secular logic. What I wanted to know, and in truth, this is the question I have been asking myself this whole time on the blog, is "if I lead a religious life, will I find happiness and fulfillment?"

In short, the rabbi went through my achievements in my life and asked me how I felt about each one. College. Public Speaking. Law School. Grades. Relationships. Accomplishments, etc. From each achievement, I felt nice, but we came to the conclusion that my accomplishments are not making me a happy person because the pleasure I derive from my accomplishments are ego-based, and by its nature, ego (in Hebrew, ga'aiva) is never satisfied. When I become a patent attorney and I make $100,000, and I work and make the law firm millions of dollars, I will feel like I deserve a salary of $150,000. When I make $150,000, and I make the firm even more money, I will want $200,000. In other words, I will never be satisfied with my accomplishments, and I will always be hungering for more. Apply this to many life scenarios and you'll see my point. Counter to logic and modern-day self-help psychology, what you work for and achieve does not make you happy.

However, if I won $1 million dollars on a lotto ticket, we both know I would be jumping for joy! Why? Because I didn't deserve it, and it was given to me. Similarly with one's wife in the shidduch system. In a way, the woman is given to the man and vice versa. They didn't do anything to find the other person, yet the quality of both their lives are increased exponentially because they were introduced to each other. This is true in many areas of life. The general rule is when you think about benefits and good things that have come to you that you did not deserve, these are the things that cause you real happiness. Think of your children. Why is this so? Because most people are put in awe and are silenced when they think that something like this has come to them. The Hebrew word for this sort of experience is bitul, a Chassidic concept that many people don't understand. The point here is that true happiness comes not from what one does, but by focusing on what has been given to him or her in life.

This is why it says in Chassidic writings that one should be happy that one is given a soul. Why should I be happy that I have a soul? Because it was a gift to me, loaned to my body's use for the years on am on this planet. So too with the opportunities in life that have presented themselves to me, and the people that have come into my life, and my wife and my children (when they come). These are all things that I might not deserve, but nevertheless I pray will have come to me.

So the general distinction that I learned from our conversation was that happiness is not achieved by focusing on one's own self-worth or one's achievements. These are all temporary, and the pleasures felt by an accomplishment fade over time. Think about that "A+" you received in Art or Gym in the third grade of elementary school. Does this achievement still excite you? Rather, happiness is achieved by feeling awe and nullification (bitul) towards the things, people and experiences that have come into your life (your memories) that you did little or nothing to influence their entry into your life. Focusing on these things is what makes a person happy.

Of course I need to think about this and apply it to my own life, however intuitively, this sounds like it is emes (truth).

Bad For Your Spiritual Health

It's almost 4am, and my laptop has 27% (17mins) left on the battery which means I probably shouldn't write because I'd either be overtired or rushed.

I had an important conversation with mashpia (rabbi / spiritual advisor) today over Shabbos. I told him I have not been davening (praying) consistently and that I am not happy in my current state of religious observance (or more accurately, religious non-observance) because I feel that after five years, "I am not the frum person that I believe that I should be." [On my mind were Anakin's words from the most recent Star Wars movie where he said to his wife "I am not the Jedi that I should be," right before he turned to the dark side; this scared me with regard to my own religious observance because I am experiencing similar things.]

The four issues I discussed with my mashpia were: 1) I don't daven frequently and I don't put on Tefillin when I should, 2) I still go lap swimming in mixed-pools with women present even though it's not tznius (modest) and it's assur (forbidden), 3) I still watch movies and I don't intend to stop [although I do not believe a TV belongs in a Chassidic home so I would see movies elsewhere], and 4) I don't like the idea of kol isha (not being allowed to listen to a woman's voice) because that would preclude me from being part of the opera or broadway world, which is an important part of my past, and which I never resolved to give up while I was becoming religious.

I also was happy to have a conversation about my various vices with the rabbi's wife who is looking for a shidduch (wife) for me. This was the first time I confided in her that as I am today, I do not plan on giving up movies, broadway shows, or swimming, and that I am open to my future wife having similar areas of improvement.

The big distinction that I felt was necessary for both of us to have was that if either of us were to be at a point of weakness in our observance where we would violate various halachas (jewish laws), I feel strongly that as Jews, we have the responsibility to be honest with ourselves and with G-d to face reality that an action that violates halacha is wrong, even if we still engage in (and enjoy) those activities knowing they are forbidden.

For example, if my wife and I were to go out to a dance club and get high on extacy, [I thought that the example of simply going out to see a movie or to go to the beach where there was mixed swimming wouldn't get the point across, so pardon the extreme example], then I would expect that the girl at least be at the level in her yiddishkeit (observance) that when she engages in the forbidden act (if she or we must) that she do so with the understanding that she is breaking halacha, and that in her own mind that she own up to the fact that what she is doing isn't the proper way to act. This goes for me too, but I already am at this level. I feel that the important thing at this point is that I don't want rationalizations, lies, or smoken mirrors.

As a disclaimer, I don't do drugs, and I don't like the idea that I am not up to par with various halachas. If she has a similar vices that we enjoy doing together, I don't want that activity to become something where we rationalize that we are in the right in doing; rather, I would expect that we know in our minds that it is wrong and just as a smoker knows that smoking causes lung cancer but he nevertheless lights up anyway, eventually, we should get to the point where we stop engaging in that forbidden activity just as eventually, a smoker must quit smoking or he will die (noting the exceptions).

Friday, July 22, 2005

You've Lost That Chinese Feeling that Now is Gone, Gone, Gone...

[Edited for Privacy. E-mail me if you have any questions.]

Today, on my way to a friend's house in New Jersey, while approaching Canal Street, I remembered that I would be driving through China Town, where there would certainly be Chinese people to talk with and to bargain with. I was feeling sad and nostalgic that I was no longer in China, and that my busy life had taken me over again. There was no rest; I was again on a tight schedule. I stopped the car, I found a parking spot, I parked and paid the meter, and I walked towards the main market. It was refreshing being back among the Chinese; however, it didn't feel the same.

Although I spoke in Chinese to each vendor I passed, they weren't interested in hearing me or to do business with me. Nobody would bargain, and nobody would negotiate. They were actually horrified and insulted by the thought that I was negotiating with them for something with a price tag on it, while in China, they would have gotten out their calculator and engaged me in bidding warfare, trying to get every dollar they could out of me. In the end in China, everything I showed an interest in, I ended up purchasing because the vendors were so interested in selling the products to me at any cost. I was so disappointed that here they didn't even try.

This afternoon, I decided to go to the kosher Chinese food store in Fair Lawn, New Jersey to get take-out lunch. I wanted to someone to talk to in Chinese. The guy that was helping me order was very gracious that I was talking to him in his language. I didn't feel though like I was in China anymore.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 Mood Charts Posted

As you can see, I've just posted my past three months' mood charts from You can tell from the green lines that my sleep patterns fluctuate from day to day based on whether I am tired or not. My mood is charted by the purple bars. The yellow and cyan marks indicate when I am experiencing anxiety and/or irritability. The goal of this program is to find patterns within one's moods so that one can plan accordingly. I can't figure these charts out. I seem to be like a bouncing ball all over the place. Can anyone figure these charts out?

July 2005 Charts

June 2005 Charts

May 2005 Charts

Monday, July 18, 2005

Juicy Sadistic Thoughts Just Below.

I have placed a few of my juicy sadistic thoughts that occupied my mind during my trip home from China. Anyone who gets a kick out of reading something they know they probably shouldn't be reading, enjoy the posts below. You'll have to scroll down back to Sunday, July 17th, 2005 (yesterday).

Hate for Lubavichers Explained

I have arrived home safely to the US, and I have written much on my Palm pilot since my last post that as soon as I can, I will upload it onto the site.

In spite of various hate letters and comments I have received because of the rage various Jews feel towards their own people, I wanted to state clearly my intent in writing this blog. I am not interested in debating Jewish politics, nor am I interested in discussing how bad certain groups are over certain others. I am a firm believer in Jewish unity, and I saw it at the Shabbos (Sabbath) table in Beijing, China, where there were Lubavich Chassidim, Satmar Chassidim, and Bellz Chassidim (forgive me if I've misspelled any of your groups' names) sitting at the same table eating the same food, discussing concepts of the same Torah.

All Jews from all walks of life have the same G-d, the same Torah, and the same rules. Even if you open up a Torah scroll that has been locked away in some forgotten Ethiopian tribe for thousands of years, you will find that they are still following the same Torah which is exactly the same, letter for letter.

No Jew should dislike another Jew because he has a different approach to his service of G-d. Some Chassidic groups approach G-d in service with singing and dancing, while others approach G-d with fear, self-nullification, and trepidation. Some separate themselves from the world, while others try to embrace it and to raise the level of holiness of the world. After all, for you Chassidic-haters, remember that as a Jew, your obligation, as the Torah clearly states, is to be "priests onto the world." Even non-Jews look to us for our priesthood and they expect us to act morally and to have a close connection to G-d.

When a Jew such as my anonymous poster from one sect of Judaism spits out words of hatred against another sect or group, he has violated Jewish law. This person is a sinner, and is in deep spiritual trouble, both when it comes to divine punishment coming to him for his fragmentation of the Jewish people, and when it comes to his own sad isolation from his own people. Jews are Jews, regardless of whether they wear a black hat or have long payis (curly hair let to grow around the ears); regardless of whether they shave their heads or whether they grow long beards. We all wake up in the morning and are obligated to the same laws, and we are connected spiritually in a literal way as one body. It hurts every Jew when another Jew breeds hatred amongst his fellow man. It causes hatred amongst other Jews, and it causes the goyim (non-Jews) to hate us because we are not sustaining the world spiritually the way we need to. Our actions even affect the non-Jews and their quality of life. When we stop being unified and following the commandments we have been obligated to, the world goes nuts and people get hurt. So stop your fighting and drop your hatred of Lubavichers, and of other Chassidic and non-Chassidic sects that are not like you in their approach to Judaism. You cause more damage than good by your hatred.

Since most of my readers on this site are non-Jews, I also want to clarify the angry posts that you are witnessing by the random Jewish self-haters who come on this site from time to time. What you are seeing specifically is roughly a 200-300 year old fight between those who follow the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and his teachings of Chassidus versus those who reject Chassidus. The problem was that the Jewish people were turning into angry disciplinarians whose observance over the years turned cold and heartless. Their study of Torah and observance of the mitzvos (commandments) continued to be strong, but their hatred of others and their protectionist measures towards those who were not like them as a reaction to all of the anti-Semitism they experienced over the thousands of years led them to drive many Jews away from the faith.

Judaism as people today well know has a mystical side and a practical side. The real mystical side we see today, often called "Kabbalah", has been lost through disuse because it became dangerous to practice Kabbalah after we lost our holy Temple in Israel and went into exile. This is because our spiritual garments which are maintained on some pseudo-physical level by our performance of the mitzvos (commandments) became incomplete when we stopped having the capacity to fulfill many of the mitzvahs through the loss of our temple (i.e. bringing sacrifices, temple service, etc.). By lacking the ability to have a complete garment, Jews became prone to being influenced by dark angels, demons, and other non-corporeal evil entities who were able to possess, effect, kill, and misdirect our energies to do bad and not good when we tried to practice Kabbalah. For that reason, we stopped its use and over the hundreds of years, we forgot its methods.

Chassidus is not Kabbalah, nor is it the practice of magic or sorcery that so many Jews rightfully fear. By the way, a Jew is not allowed to practice magic or sorcery. This is a biblical prohibition. Rather, Chassidus teaches Torah in a way that the average person is able to understand the spiritual concepts in a tangible way. By learning Chassidus, one becomes refined in his attributes and in his thoughts. He learns that it is a bad idea to do the mitzvos selfishly for one's own reward rather than to serve G-d with a pure heart. He learns the concept of bitul, and other concepts of living that prepare a person to live a moral life.

However, for some reason these Jewish misnagdim, as they are called, have been fighting with the followers of the Baal Shem Tov since the beginning. This is the fight you see today when someone attacks Lubavichers, who are modern-day followers of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, better known as that Baal Tanya (the one who wrote Tanya, which can be crudely summarized as the handbook for Chassidic thought). They also don't like the fact that Chassidic people follow a head Rabbi (a.k.a. a Rebbe), even though there have been Rebbeim since the beginning of the Jewish people leading them and directing them. Moses was the first Rebbe, as all Jews respectfully call him "Moshe Rabbeinu" (Moses, our Rebbe). Rebbe is an acronym which stands for "Rosh Bnei Yisroel," which means "the head of the Jewish people." Misnagdim don't like this either, while all it means is that as all Jews are part of one spiritual body, some are born with souls who have their source in the equivalent of the arm of the Jewish body, and others are born to the head. Rebbeim are said to have their source in being part of the head of the spiritual body of the Jewish people.

I hope this helps to explain a few of the concepts involved in this fight, and to understand why you'll have these self-hating Jews who populate the web and the blogsphere causing trouble for others through their hateful comments.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mirror, Mirror...

7/17/05 7:25 pm. I can start to feel my return to the US. There is a lady and a man that I feel personifies my disgust with my old life of which I am still guilty of the things I am about to mention. At first glance there is a man and a woman. He is a bad man, even a criminal. I could feel it as it oozed out of the pores of the innocent-looking whites of his eyes. But I could feel something wrong inside of him. I have the intuition to ask him if he is a criminal and whether he has broken any laws lately. But I know that would not be nice because many people who wear the truth on there skin don’t realize how much the truth about them is broadcasted out to the world.

I know my secrets, but I don't talk about them yet I know it shows on my skin and is felt by others. I am a mean person, behind my sheepish eyes and calm teddy bear-like appearance, I am a rabid dog with fangs and blood and drool dripping from my long red-stained teeth. But the blood that still drips is not my victim's blood; it is my own, left over from the open wounds that still bleed from the fight for my life so many years ago. I am rabid and I am fierce; my white teeth are swollen and my eyes are fixed in a tight stare. I have a growl that could put the fear of G-d into the angriest Doberman.

But in person, I'd never let you see that pain inside of me. I don't even see it most of the time because there are so many layers of manufactured calm which soothes the howling that bellows across the spiritual fabrics spanning across our world. This is all hidden, and I am skilled at masking that pain.

I've also moved past my pain and I have opened up with love which I have given to various people at various points in my life. They have all basked in the glory of my love and have enjoyed how great they must be to have been awarded the prize of my love. They used it, they flaunted it, and when their appetite was satisfied from digesting its familiar taste, they left it on the dusty floor to pursue their next cheap thrill.

The man brought with him a woman; they were sharing their visit to China as a pre-wedding honeymoon. They resolved to make this their romantic getaway one day before they boarded the plane because it was, as he described, "convenient". He had to be in China anyway on "business" (a.k.a. criminal activity). I felt sorry for this obese woman who was obviously staying with this slime of a man because she knew she would never get someone to love her at her obese state. However, it occurred to me after hearing them speak that they are two of a kind. The cheap words they used and the shallow romantic gestures reminded me about the times I would only fit a person into my schedule if I can couple it with some tax deductible business purpose.

I am disgusted by my attempts at past efficiencies. There was a time where I would not agree to visit a friend’s home unless they agreed in advance to allow me a set amount of hours with which I would use their telephone line (and my long distance access number) to prospect for clients and sell products.

While this is a sad part of the person I once was, I often wonder why I am having difficulty attracting good people (namely good shidduchim) and good friends into my life. I also had a difficult time understanding why seemingly good shidduchim have broken it off without explanation. My mom told me that it was a good thing that these past shidduchim have said no to me because I am not a good person. Her opinion of me is that I don't listen, that I am selfish, and that I wouldn't be right for these good girls because I am not a nice person. Yet if that were true, I asked my mom "who would go for a selfish, bad person who cannot listen?"

I am hurting while writing this because I don't believe it is true. However, I have a difficult time wondering whether what she is saying is true.

If what she says is true and I am this terrible person, what am I to do about it except to work on myself? I do carry a lot of pain inside of me, and I often get tired for being responsible for having these complications. After all, regretfully, she is the one who let my father beat me. She is the one who let it all happen. I don't forget the collection of her fingernails on my arm, or how I used to have to lie to my teachers about what happened at home. I used to feel stupid explaining away bruises, cuts, and collections of fingernails and scratches on my arm, my shoulders, and on my back that she used to do to me. My mom used to get angry at me when I would slip and tell people about the mess in the house, or how I had to fend for myself and look around and collect change off of the floor so that I could buy myself dinner or have money for lunch at school.

As if it is a terrible secret that I am given the burden of hiding from the world, she doesn't want me to talk about these things because they were factors which were out of her control because she was "at a bad point in her life."

Truthfully I blame neither my mother, my father, nor myself for what happened because in truth it was a lot of bad things happening at the same time with my mom and dad trying to get in control of their messy lives by making the best decisions they could (albeit harmful and destructive decisions) with the resources and the circumstances they were given.

Bottom line, I was neglected, I was abused, and I did live much of my childhood in fear for my life because I thought almost nightly from the screaming, the hitting, the holes in the walls, and the temper tantrums that my mother would instigate my father into one day killing her; my father would get arrested, and I would be out on my own. People conveniently forget that it was me who called the police on my father when I was thirteen and had him arrested more than once because I thought he was going to kill my mother. People also downplay the fact that I used to sleep with one hand on my knife hidden under my mattress because I spent a large part of my childhood in fear that my father would kill my mother or vice versa. I went to sleep each night with one eye open ready to kill if necessary to protect myself if I were next.

This obviously could explain away (but not excuse) any negative traits I once had and any lingering feelings of anger or hurts that linger beneath the surface of my many tough layers.

Does this mean I am a bad person for the sadness I carry? Does it mean that I can't fix what was neglected or broken? This emptiness that lies inside me needs to be excavated and resolved. I am trying to do good with my life, and the progress I have made since my childhood experiences has been nothing short of miraculous. I have a good relationship with both my mother and with my father, and they have been happily devorced since I was fourteen years old. I am now nearing thirty in just a few years, and I will have supported myself through high school, through college, and through law school with little help from my mother or my father. As you know, since law school started, I've been living with my father using a room in his home as my temporary dwelling place. He gets immense pleasure from it, and aside for the times my skin crawls each morning or evening when he kisses me on my neck to say hello or goodbye, otherwise, we get along. I don't think it is appropriate for my father to be kissing me on the back of my neck, and I've told him that MANY times because I am sensitive there and that is not a place I want to be kissed by a man towards whom I carry anger and hatred from my childhood.

I would stop this anger if I could, but it permeates my existence when I am around my family or in their respective homes. When I am on my own, while it is still there, it is dormant and unfelt by me and those around me.

ON SECOND GLANCE she loves him. He is a man trying to get by to find his way. It is only my eyes and my heart which has criminalized him. In my heart this makes me a bad person. What I see is a reflection of what is inside of me...

What makes chills go down your back??

7/17/05 1:44 pm. I learned a while ago that to find your path, you must pay attention to where you are inspired with a longing and where you get chills when you see or experience someone else doing what it is that inspires you. For me, for some reason I get inspired when I hear someone singing. Deep inside me with every fiber of my being, I know I should be singing too. G-d even gave me the musical talent, the voice, and the range to be a male tenor singer. Further, he has furnished me with a set of childhood experiences that has taught me to use my voice and to perform.

Secretly, I have always felt like I was wasting what was given to me. Yet the years has rusted and matured my childhood angelic voice, and it has masked the sound I still know with every fiber of my being that I have dormant. Why would I be given this gift only to waste it by pretending it is not there?

I have resolved to contact my old mentors (if they are still alive) and to look up the actors and singers I have performed with who would recognize me on sight. Further, I have resolved to look into finding a way to test whether this is an empty dream or a calling. Names that immediately come to my mind are Elena Doria, Barbara Elliott with the Il Piccolo Teatro; Joshua Wolf, Jonathan Gotch, and Adam Plotch. (Maybe by listing their names, by chance, they will look themselves up on and find this site and get in contact with me.) It seems as if we were always up for the same roles. I wonder what ever happened to them. Where are they in life? What have they done with their voice? I also can think of Dov Farkas, the son of Cantor Farkas, (now married & frum), Paul Zim (I was in his "Come to my seder" album), and Motti Lazar, who I was singing for when I was first "discovered" by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City’s Lincoln Center.

Now realistically, there is a halachic restriction which I have recently become aware of which could be the monkey wrench to all my plans; Kol Isha, the prohibition against hearing women sing. This could be a halachic problem [Jewish law]. I might not overcome this objection and I have never known to abstain from this practice and the more I think about it this might have come into conflict with an area I do not have an intention to observe or follow. As I've written previously, I would openly sin if I were to ignore this prohibition. G-d forgive me because I plan to sin. I am not strong enough to overcome this and to commit to exclude these kinds of activities from my life; I won't.

I don't have faith in the halacha (law) that a Jew should separate himself to such an extreme from secular society. This is too far out for me right now in my growth as a Jew and taking this on would be too much for me to handle. I have done a lot of growth in my religious observance and I have come a long way; asking me to commit to refraining from this category of activities would be too much for me to take on.

There is a distinction here that I should recognize in my path to full observance. There is a difference from abstaining from a prohibited activity this specific time versus committing to never do this forbidden activity ever again.

The areas I am still on a case-by-case basis involve (and I must comment that on MANY OF THESE, I am at a 100% abstention rate for the last four years, meaning that I have almost never participated in these activities, but I am not strong enough to commit to never do the forbidden activity in the forbidden form again, and on SOME OF THESE activities, I have never abstained from at all, such as): Movies, TV, video games, kol isha, ballroom dancing, clubbing, tsnius (modesty), ga’ava (arrogance), mixed swimming, shomer negiah (no touch between the sexes), kavod av v’aim (respecting and obeying parents), davening consistently every morning with Tefillin, kosher medicines & questionable vitamins, always davening (praying) with a minyan (quorum), always being in a place on Shabbos w/ a sefer Torah, ignoring my desires, and neglecting daily fixed Torah study. These are the transgressions for which I will answer to my Creator on my day of reckoning. My friends and law school acquaintances would laugh at the fact that I am able to count my sins on my fingers.

Taxi driver plays "Chicken" with a moving bus on the way to the Beijing Airport

7/17/05. I just had a tiny catastrophe where my 3L water bottle (or my grapefruit juice) leaked all over my Chumash and my other books. This was not supposed to happen. The taxi driver was so excited looking at me shuffle around that he not only missed hitting a bus by an inch (on my side), but he caused two cars and another bus to swerve into oncoming traffic on one side of us and onto the grass on the other side. Now he's talking on the cell phone going 40 km/h in a 100 km/h zone.

One thing I neglected to say in my last post last night (actually a few hours ago this morning) was that I felt that the community in Beijing rubbed off on me and it had an effect on me. The interesting part was that I realized that I could (and would) enjoy actually living there as what people call an ex-patriot. Finding a wife that would also be open to this kind of lifstyle (in theory) would be a nice plus.

What I found most humorous was that I was able to learn the language so quickly (of course in a very limited way), and how I was able to blend in with the locals. It felt nice that I was able to integrate into another culture & another country should the political, economic, or social environment of the United States turn unfriendly to my kind.

Pre-China Departure - Goal Setting Session

I wanted to reflect on my experiences these past five weeks in China, and what I have learned about myself in the process. This will serve as a mental checklist and as the goal setting session I wanted to have before I came back to the United States.

From a vocational perspective, I had a chance to dip my fingers into the Chinese culture. I have lived with these people, among these people, yet not quite as one of these people. Yet, as an observer, I have learned how they live, how they speak, and how they think. China is an interesting country which has both its benefits and its issues with regard to its national culture and its economy. There are both strengths that can not be imagined, and challenges which they must overcome to reach the potential they have.

As a home for an American lawyer, I was surprised that there is opportunity here that I never could have imagined. For someone who wants to delve into various business or banking projects, China is the perfect place to become rich and famous within the law field. Anyone who works here today in these fields is a pioneer. However, being a future patent attorney, I am years ahead of the wave and there is not yet an opportunity here to be a patent attorney, and when the opportunity arises, the nature of the opportunity will be exclusive to Chinese lawyers; an American would not want to compete here on this turf, if only for the severe language barriers when it comes to reading and writing legal works and patents in Japanese and Chinese. Yes, for patent law a Chinese patent attorney will need to be able to be fluent in both Chinese and in Japanese, because many of the patents are and will always be in Japanese. This is just the way things are. I would have fun taking on the challenge, but this would be a lifelong pursuit and I feel that my energies would be better spent pursuing other paths.

I, however, am not swayed from my interest in the Chinese and my interest in their culture and their language. There seems to be an elementary fundamentalism to the way they act and the way they speak that appeals to me. Their legal system talks about the concept of the ideal man, and it hold each individual to that standard. This has its benefits and its flaws over the United States' "reasonable person" standard for many of its laws. In addition to the "ideal man", there are concepts and duties within the law such as loyalty to one's self and to one's fellow that are not found in the American system.

Nevertheless, I have decided that if I will practice patent law which is my plan, I will practice it with a small-to-medium firm in the United States. I would hesitate to join a large firm because I am under the impression that large patent firms and strong families with strong values are concepts which do not relate well. Of course, perhaps I can travel frequently to China to develop relationships and contacts with various companies who will have a need for patent work in the United States as soon as China moves from a manufacturing country making other people's products to an innovation country where they are designing their own. So far, we've grown up with "made in China" stickered on many of the products we buy. Hopefully soon, "made" will no longer mean "manufactured", but rather, "invented". Imagine 2 billion Chinese inventing and bouncing ideas off of each other. When that happens, Silicon Valley, watch out! The world will be a fun place to live in.

As for personally, I am ready to head home to finish various projects I have been working on for a few years now, namely law school. I would also like to start a family which has become more important to me now than ever. I have always somehow felt okay with being single because in my religious progress, I have always allowed the possibility of slippage, where my observance level could increase or decrease based on my circumstances and my environment.

However, to someone's credit, I have stayed "below the radar" (as some friends refer to it) from the influences that would have easily taken me away from the level of Judaism I worked to achieve. There were times maybe even for months or years that I wished someone would distract me from my religious pursuits, but because I believed that it was the right way to live, something inside of me wouldn't let me deviate from my morals as much as I wanted to disintegrate into the hedonistic underworld. I tried to let these non-religious experiences come into my world, but I was unsuccessful because I would not put myself into a scenario which would facilitate their entry into my life. I have stayed away from bars, from karaoke clubs, from dance clubs, and from any other experiences that would lead me to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Anyway, I have grown tired of fantasizing about being something I will never be. I'm too good of a good boy to allow myself to do something that would be wrong. Perhaps I can be considered weak for this, or perhaps I can be considered strong for keeping to my morals. The point is that I am tired of emotionally "sitting on the fence", and if I choose one world over the other, I choose the religious world. I will always have that part of me which will seek to find ways to integrate both worlds, and I hope that I am able to come to terms with those parts of me which are in conflict with the person I have decided to become.

Nevertheless, all I will do by staying single will be to tempt myself with thoughts about living different lives and the freedom to make the decision to change will continue to be very tempting. I feel that being without a home and a family leaves me vulnerable and without a foundation, and so I flounder wondering whether the life I have chosen is real and whether it will yield a quality life. This playing field of being "neither here nor there" frustrates me because I have the burdens from both worlds and few benefits from either world. However, decisions cut off other possibilities and so I am announcing that I have made the decision that religion is here to stay. It's probably an obvious decision for anyone who knows me, but it's important for me to say because I am saying it for myself to hear and for my eyes to read these words because of the impression my words have on me when I go back days, weeks, and months later to re-read what I have written. It's funny how I've actually inspired myself through reading something I wrote a long time ago and then remembering something about myself or some goal I would like to reach that somehow life distracted me from. It is picking up these loose ends in life that gives me a lot of pleasure.

Physically, I've always known how I would like to be, namely, at what weight and at what level of fitness. I was getting close to carrying 230 lbs with me wherever I went when I left to China. Now on various scales, I am 96 kg, which tells me is 211.643772 pounds. This is an amazing accomplishment that I never thought I would be able to do living on rice and simply keeping kosher in China. The weird part is that I don't feel much different when it comes to my weight. I don't feel such a difference, and I still have various areas I would like to improve on or to make go away. I am actually scared about going back to the US because having so much kosher food will tempt me to increase my food intakes which can only lead me back up to 230 lbs, which is where I do not want to be. Anyway, the goal I have had for over a year is to reach 212 lbs, and apparently, I have met that goal. I will confirm this when I actually see it using a US scale that measures my weight in pounds and not kilograms. I sincerely hope that I have reached this goal because being out of shape has been a personal irk for me for many years now.

Socially, I feel like I need to develop closer friendships with those I am friends with. Because I have immersed myself in the law school world, I have not spent time developing and growing my friendships with those I am close to. Frankly, because of my absence, many friends have fallen by the wayside and so I have learned who is a friend and who was not. This is still a touchy subject for me; even years after these friendships have broken due to my becoming religious.

Intellectually, I have discovered a renewed interest in searching for answers to questions I was pursuing before I became religious. I seem to have gotten swept away in a lifestyle and on many levels; I forgot my purpose in life. This has been recently somewhat recaptured, yet I have a suspicion that my former interests might be limited and that with my new-formed knowledge and belief systems, I have new questions which bring my old questions to a new level. Namely, how does an individual interact with his environment? Besides for building and manipulating tools which can influence other objects outside one's self, I wonder what one's capacity of personal influence is on the objects that surround him. Further, this spiritual "stuff" that science calls various forms of energy -- what is this stuff? What is its mechanism, and can it be captured and studied and understood?

As for confidence, somehow I have gained so much confidence over the past few years, yet I notice that on so many levels I have lost my confidence. I have trouble distinguishing in certain scenarios whether I am limiting my actions or whether I am afraid to act. This is something I will need to break through. I have the history of being what I fondly referred to as a "dynamo", and lately I have lost that disciplined part of myself for a more relaxed "somehow it always gets done" mentality. This requires work to resolve.

Personality-wise, I have a lot of anger built up in me. I am not sure whether it is unresolved childhood anger or whether it is new-found frustration as to life's twists and turns, but this needs to be resolved and eliminated immediately because it is a poison to my system and to my well being.

I also need to evaluate whether I am really a nice person. People that know me believe that I am a good person, yet other people who also know me think that I am a selfish, antisocial SOB that doesn't like people. They might both be right, but they shouldn't both be. With great hesitation, I will find some way to do nice things for people that will help them on a selfless level. Hopefully, this should bring out any bad sides of me and help me face them so that I can flush these parts of me out of my system. I have a suspicion that a person doesn't change when it comes to his innate level of kindness (there's even a presupposition of this belief in the way I've phrased the statement), and that a person can not become a better, more kind person by one's experiences. However, I am open to proving myself wrong and so I will welcome the opportunity to engage in this sort of activity, again, with great hesitation because I don't want to do this because I feel like my life is too busy as it is.

Next, I would like to achieve some sort of psychophysical balance, and I believe this can be achieved through the practice of yoga, tai chi, or the like. I have already taken the steps of ordering various yoga tapes and I have played around with it, but I have never tried to actually do it on a regular basis. If the physical benefits of having a more relaxed mindset with inner harmony and peaceful thoughts result from this sort of activity, then it will be something I will participate in.

Conversely, I will also start using my gym membership more as a hard workout place where I push myself to go beyond my limits rather than a nice place to catch a swim and a light exercise. I will get some mp3 music that I can put on my player, and I will push myself past my comfort zones. The rewards should be self-evident.

On another note, I will start forming systems that I will follow as to regular times for doing laundry, for sleeping, for preparing foods for eating, and studying, davening (praying), and learning. This will require discipline, but I believe it is well worth it and that my life needs this sort of stability and I will benefit immensely from implementing this regimen.

Financially, I am satisfied with my investing skills, and I am happy with the progress I have been making since my string of bad investments when I was trying to apply my philosophy to the market, rather than listening to what the market was trying to tell me. I will continue this system of using stops and carefully watching those stocks I am invested in so that I continue pouring money into the positions that are profitable, and so that I get out of positions that are unprofitable as fast as I can realize I have made a wrong decision.

Fiscally, I need a job. I am getting nervous living on school loans which will need to be paid back when I graduate. However, I would much prefer to network my way into a position rather than do the "standard interview for a job" process. However, this will be my first course of action, and I will get on it as soon as I get back to the US. I will start attending bar functions and various functions where I believe that people who could be future employers will be visiting. I need to do research to think this out. The reason this is so important is because the career is where I will be spending most of my days for what could be the rest of my life. I should choose this one carefully, just as one chooses one's wife carefully. The reason this is so important is because if I want to raise a family (which I do), I will need to have an income to support this family. I am too old to be living on school loans and I cannot maintain this standard of living forever.

On the topic of money, I am suspicious that prices of gas might cause the price of travel to and from school to be a burden. I will look into whether it would be more economical to start riding the train. The countervailing factors against taking the train are that 1) I use my car to get to minyans, and 2) I use my car to get to the gym in the mornings. It would seem silly to drive around and then to park to wait for a train to walk fifteen minutes when I could drive and be there in twenty with a car, especially because my schedule is seldom fixed and my departure times and needs change daily based on the circumstances and adjustments in my schedule.

As for music, I will reconnect with my roots, whether that means improving my piano playing (I should put buying a piano on my wish list next to the desire to play the harmonica, although I will likely not buy either of them any time soon), singing (in the shower, on the road, publicly, or other.) I would also like to look into composing music, as I have learned that deeper expressions of one's soul can be expressed through music on a level which can not be experienced through words. I would like to explore this, especially since sound is a key element in my research into the areas of life I would like to understand. Cryptic, yes, but for my ears. Those who know me know what I am talking about.

These are the goals which I would like to achieve. This is what I would like to take from my experiences in China.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Don't ever tell me Chabad is a cult.

[I'm sorry for starting this entry on such a bad note, and mom -- if you read this, I am sorry for insulting your husband (be happy that this blog is anonymous).]

I have a new family member who has hated Lubavichers since I've known him. This guy doesn't know how to shut his mouth and to exercise a bit of discretion when relieving himself of his need to give his opinion MONTHS after being fought, debated, and most recently and the most current trend, ignored. As if he is a child in diapers with the need to pee, he just lets it out and he feels good and hot and wet until the next time the urge arises. He doesn't realize that like a mosquito that buzzes in someone's ear, one day he is bound to get swatted. I have been very careful what to say to him and what not to say. In fact, I don't think I've ever held my tongue as much as I've held it around this man. I hope the day never comes when I let him have a piece of my mind where I tell him what I think of him.

The topic of his tirade is my religiousness. For a while, he felt inferior that I was living what he used to refer to as "the diamond standard" of Judaism, where one lives his life as a Jew, doing daily what a Jew does. Around a year ago, he began to change his tone when he realized that the end result of my being what he referred to as "a work in progress" would not lead me to becoming more like him. Recently, he has been on this war path with me trying to convince me that Chabad Chassidim are all members of a cult. Playing on my obvious weaknesses and my religious frustrations (i.e. style of dress, abstinence with women, the shidduch system of dating, etc.) like an asshole would, he has twisted the truth into a disfigured and warped picture that could make any onlooker vomit from the disgust for one's own kind his picture portrays. He is a Jew hater and he is a self-lover.

If it weren't for the Torah that I have learned and the simple laws of halacha (Jewish Law) that is the basis of everything we are allowed to do or forbidden to do, I would assert that his logic is correct. Since I have become religious, I was molded into the typical Chassidic Jew. I was influenced to grow a long, uncut beard which I have not trimmed (and I do not intend to trim). I was taught about halacha, the stringencies, and the leniencies. I was also taught about the customs of various tzaddikim (ultra-spiritual religious individuals) whom we follow, and we have a Rebbe who we believe was on a higher spiritual level than most. It is this last point about the customs and the following of a Rebbe that my mother's husband can not understand and will never want to understand. He sees him as an academic Torah scholar and nothing else.

His comparisons objectively of Hasidic Judaism (and more generally in my opinion, all orthodox Judaism) being akin to a cult are dead on. I have been taught to seclude myself from the other sex. I have been influenced to follow a senior authority figure. I have been taught the benefits of subservience of the individual to a higher power, namely bitul (self-nullification) to G-d's will. I have been influenced to dress differently and to separate myself as much as possible from the temptations of the secular world (movies, television, etc.) This is not a set of secret rules for cult members; these are the rules that every religious Jew (even my anonymous friend, JMO, who loves to give me hard answers) are obligated to follow.

The individuals who are in my circle of influence are some of the most religious and morally upright people I have ever met. They are simple, religious Jews. I have nothing wrong with even making the observation that they are the highest quality individuals I have ever met. They are all striving to be the best they can be, and they follow halacha (Jewish law) in a way I aspire to one day be able to. They have a devotion that drives them like I've never seen before.

They live their lives sacrificing their own desires to help others have a closer connection with G-d. There have been many times that my Rabbi has told me that he wishes that he could have a real job that makes a good salary instead of living on donations and fundraising. The Rabbi here in Beijing (I could see it in his face) loved being back in New York with the other forty-five thousand Jews who showed up last week to pay their respects to the Rebbe and to spend their weekend in a little uncomfortable tent next to the graveyard in Queens where the Rebbe is buried. The learning I know that the Rabbi from Beijing, my Rabbi, and all of the other shluchim did last weekend (shluchim, a.k.a. emissaries of the Rebbe are individuals who are sent out to the far corners of the world to build Jewish communities and to provide services such as kosher food, a shabbos meal, temple service, and a friendly hello to various Jews who are spread out across the globe) could not ever be compared to the months of daily learning they do with the simple Jews teaching them the Aleph Bais (Hebrew alphabet) or the concept of Shabbos (the Sabbath). They basically give up their own desires of good learning, and being close to their parents, and they move out and do what needs to be done so that the world does not lose its spiritual richness. These people give everything up so that another Jew will know what it means to be Jewish, and these are some of the kindest and most giving people I have ever met.

Don't ever tell me that they are conspirators in a cult designed to overthrow the Jewish orthodoxy.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

As you can see, I put up some more pictures. Today after our exam on the taxi ride back to the hotel, one of the participants suggested that he wanted to go to the Forbidden City before he left China. I had not seen any of the sights either since I have been here, so I told him that I would love to go also. A third classmate in our taxi said to us "why don't you go right now?" I said "let's do it!" and we stopped at the subway station and headed over to the Forbidden City, just like that. You might wonder "what are you doing with your roommate? I thought he was not your friend." That's the interesting part. I have found that enemies make loyal friends after you turn around and befriend them after disliking them. That is just an interesting psychological dynamic. Anyway, I am glad we went. When we got there, we paid for an audio wireless tour guide, which broadcast the beauties and descriptions of each site as we walked towards it.

The outermost building. I had no idea what was in store for me inside.

Mighty lions which were believed to guard the outer layered buildings and its contents.

This stairway made me think of how life is not always such a straight and easy journey. There are turns and there are hidden corners and there are dangers that lurk along the way.

Cauldrons placed around the palace which used to be filled with water. They were used as as a source for water just in case one of the buildings in the city caught fire.

Another building... You'd think that you were inside by now and that this was the inner sanctum... Nope. This is just the outside layer.

Another building within a gated courtyard. This is literally surrounded by the earlier building and its courtyard!

One building with its giant courtyard within another courtyard. Have you ever seen those Russian dolls where inside the large one is a smaller one, and a smaller one, and so on? Same here. I couldn't believe how each time I entered deeper into the Forbidden City, it felt like I was entering it for the first time. Then when I had to leave, each time I left a gate, I felt like I was back in the same spot. This was a city within a city within a city within a city, and so on. I couldn't believe my eyes.

I thought the formation of the rocks were neat. It was cool to have that building sit on top of the rocks.

I liked the picture with the boy in the house, with the larger house behind it. Very fancy.

This passageway was gated off. A few of us stuck our cameras through the gate and took this picture around the corner. We were unable to see this stairway except through the lenses of our cameras.

Three final exams down, last one (China IP Law) tomorrow morning, 10am. This is the room where I have had my classes and exams in Beijing. I am very happy that somehow I made it through all my finals (so far). It seems as if each exam has been progressively more difficult. This last one (World IP Law) was an open book, but the topics were so difficult, so wide, and so broad that you really needed to know how to navigate your way around TRIPS and the WTO and the provisions of GATT to know what you were talking about. It was like I was a god of the law, as I was pulling my answers and backing each one with article citations from the various laws. After I was done, I took a deep breath and let out a large sigh because I couldn't believe the exam was finished. This was by far the most difficult and the most rewarding class.

Guest Safety in the Hotel

I don't know whether I should be frightened or comforted. I was cooking rice and for some reason it started smoking. It wasn't enough smoke to set off the smoke detector, but I didn't want to take the chance, so I opened the hotel room door to air out the room. Seconds later, a Chinese guard in a grey uniform and hat was standing by my door to see if everything was okay. Coincidentally, those same seconds later, I decided that it was a dumb idea to open the door since there really wasn't any smoke. I went to close the door; I saw the guard's face and I screamed. I didn't realize he was standing there. Apparently, our door has a sensor which indicates when it is open and when it is closed. I noticed this device on the door when I first entered the hotel, but I didn't know what it was for. I suppose a door opened at 2:30 am and left open for more than a minute can sound an alarm at the front desk that something is wrong. Despite my freight at seeing a Chinese face looking in my door, I actually am comforted that the hotel is keeping on top of the safety of its guests.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


I don't know how it happened. Two exams, one hour of sleep. First exam. Chinese Law. One essay on the conflict of laws. The question required us to see that a higher law and a lower municipal law was in conflict, and then to resolve the conflict as a judge would using the Chinese legal system. I was floored that I knew the answer. Second exam. Foreign Direct Investments. Between the first exam and the second, I started reading the teacher's notes on the topics, mind mapping them, and then merging the mind maps with the notes I took in class. The questions were on the topics for which I did the readings and for which I took good notes in class. I answered the questions in the time allotted.

My eyes are closing on me and it is 5:30pm. I could muster the strength and plow through studying for my next exam and then crash around one or two in the morning. Or, I could sleep for a few hours, wake up tonight and study through the night. My tailored suits are being delivered to my hotel room between nine and ten tonight, so perhaps that would be a good time to wake up. Four hours of sleep. I better make it a good, deep nap. Two more exams to go. I see that I might make it through this.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Hope as a four-letter word.

Someone wrote me a message as a response to all that has been going on with me here in China; the gist of the message was saying "maybe you're not ready to get married." While that may reflect a bit of truth, probably more so objectively, I think that I am in an emergency state where if I do not get married now, I will fall.

While you can not trust someone who is unstable in their religious observance, there is also the saying that "you strike the iron when it is hot." I am over three years out of yeshiva. I was the equivalent of being on fire when I left. In fact, I used to be blazing so hot that I was like a torch bringing people closer to religion as I would walk into a room. Even non-Jews have told me that just being around me and talking to me has had a deep effect on their connection with G-d. Yet the longer I live alone -- the longer I live with myself and my evil inclination -- the less hot I become every day. My passion for yiddishkeit (Judaism) has cooled to the point that I no longer enjoy helping others become close to G-d because I haven't felt close myself in some time. I no longer want to encourage religious observance because my own shortcomings blind me from wanting to lead others down that same path of hardship that I have traveled.

I commend myself for braving this path, and I commend myself for accepting the programming that one does not break the basics of being Jewish, namely keeping kosher, keeping Shabbos, and keeping other mitzvahs (commandments) such as wearing tzitzis every day, saying berachot (blessings) over food, drink, etc, keeping an unshaven beard (not halacha according to some opinions, but nevertheless important according to the Ari in Kabbalah), learning Torah each day, among many other commandments I have followed to this date, from which I hope I will never deviate.

However, with all this, each day my flame cools more and more. I have been infected by the desire for temptations of the secular world, (I wanted to write "affected" but after I typed "infected", it seemed more appropriate) and anger has let itself seep into my bloodstream from forgotten pleasures and unfilled wishes. I have come so far in so many aspects and yet I am starting to fall off of the plateau I have been treading on for some time.

The dominant reason for serving G-d is that in doing so, I would live a life of harmony, balance, and inner peace. Yet serving G-d has felt more like a daily struggle, battling oozing volcanoes and hot lava that threatens to consume me in my path to the good side. I am known by my friends to be a very persistent person with an inner drive that is insatiable and unstoppable. However, I have been feeling like I have been running at full speed on a nearing empty tank for some time now, and my machine's joints have not been oiled and so I am generating a lot of friction. Parts of me are even starting to burn out. I never agreed to run this religious race alone, in fact, I would tell G-d to go shove it if there was no woman preparing herself to become my wife from the time I decided to become religious. I traded my secular life and I stopped dating women over four years ago so that I could become a better man to the woman who I would marry after becoming the kind of religious man who could bring up the kind of Chassidish family that people I am close to would refer to as "the diamond standard."

This was a contract, and in my eyes, it has always been a contract. I fulfill my part of the bargain and I become religious and live a life of Torah and mitzvos (following G-d's commandments). In return, I would be given health, a good wife, children, and a flexible means to support my family and to give tons of charity to support others as well. These were the terms. Further, when I learned that it was not morally proper to be dating women before marriage, I broke up with the girl I was with (well, let's just say that I lost her because I became too religious) and so she found herself another person to date. I was told by my rabbis that because I stayed religious through the tough times, I would get someone better in her place. The goal was to sacrifice quantity to attain quality, and the unsaid terms of this agreement with regard to time were purposefully left out.

When it came time to get married, my rabbis were surprisingly unhelpful. In fact, they spoke encouragingly, but did not follow their words up with action. Since then, all my yeshiva friends got married, but when it came time for me, I was the odd man out. Even those that came to yeshiva and became religious after me have been married, yet I remain single.

Am I supposed to be waiting for something? Am I supposed to think that the more I wait, the better she'll be in the end? How many more years must I come home to an empty room? How many more years shall the only voice in my ears telling me everything will be okay be my own? How much more shall I improve myself? How much more shall I learn? How many more strides must I make in life? I am losing hope. It is beginning to sound to me like a four letter word.

This is the Xi Jiao Hotel where I am staying in Beijing, China. I've changed rooms again; I think I have stayed in every kind of room this hotel offers. Now I have ended up right across from the room I first was in when I moved out from sharing a room with my old room mate. (In the end, he ended being a nice guy surprisingly who will be the few I will keep in touch with to say hello to from time to time. We will never be friends like I imagine friends should be to each other, nevertheless, he would be one of those people I say hello to for no other reason than we went through a tough time together and have history together. Those friendships are the weirdest for me to understand because there is otherwise no reason to be friends with the person. I wonder why people have friends like this.) With all this said, however, I do still feel that it was a very smart move to move out of that room.

One more thing. In switching rooms, I realized that the room rate I've been being charged was significantly higher in Yuan (Chinese Dollars) than the hotel agreed to in their contract with our group. This is not such a big deal, and it is at most a $50 US problem which the hotel will not help resolve. There is just too much red tape to deal with, and the managers do not want to fix their error of listing me with the wrong group who agreed to higher rates.

This is my absolute favorite room ever. You can see the huge bed, the desk, and the bathroom in one room! Aside for the spiritual idea of separating the bathroom from the other rooms, this is by far the coolest hotel room I've ever seen! [It's too bad I had to give this room up because the internet jack (behind the pillow) did not work. The guy that glued in the jack obviously didn't realize that if you glue the metal connectors, there will be no internet connection when you stick in the plug.] Oh well. This still remains my favorite room.

I love wooden floors. This is another picture of the room I had to give up because there was no internet access.

Here's a closeup of my bathroom. Bathtub on the left, and toilet and a shower on the right around the corner (out of sight). Sorry for not keeping the camera straight when I took the picture.

This room also has a shower! In retrospect, I'm not so excited about this kind of "rainfall" showerhead; in my opinion it lacks strength and pressure. If I want it to rain on my head, I'll go outside.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Somber Today

I spent today making it through the last few hours of my classes. You would think that professors want to just give you the information in a nutshell so that you can make use of it, but rather, they just kept teaching until the class was over and then some. I would say that they had an enthusiasm for what they taught, but they were teaching the topics in such repetitive depth that I think that they were trying more to give us a hard time rather than to help us get the gist of what they wanted us to learn. I’d also toss the insult that perhaps they enjoyed hearing themselves speak more than teaching us, but the words they spewed out might as well have been vomit because our class (myself included) was not interested in hearing it.

Anyway, I am closing up shop here. I am exhausted and I am burned out from all the culture, the shoving, and the torment we’ve been given these past five weeks. Although this was a hardcore summer program, I don’t know that I made it out unscathed. I have uncertainties whether I’ll pass all the classes. And it is not that I went out and partied and that I didn’t do the readings – there were so many times this summer that I felt that two of the four professors didn’t care whether we were grasping what they were talking about. Instead, they just lectured in front of the class. Can you tell how much disdain I have for this program? There’s more beneath the surface to my frustration; I’ll explain.

On a more personal note, I saw the class picture today. I wasn’t in it. In fact, I did not even know that they took the picture. I showed up the first time they announced that they would be taking it, but that time got cancelled. The message conveying the second photo shoot must not have happened except by word of mouth, and I was left out from that among other announcements and events. I ask myself whether it was how I looked, or whether it was the fact that I wasn’t on the Saturday weekend bonding trips or at the non-kosher meals the program hosted from time to time. Nevertheless, I was estranged from the program from the first day and they made no attempts to accommodate me, despite my efforts to stay in gear with what was going on. I mean I was always asking what is happening because I never got the messages because I wasn’t part of the program’s nightlife. I even missed the various Sunday trips because nobody told me about them when I asked around. Well, I was told about two trips, but when I showed up on time for both of them, I was the only one there.

So now I am in my new hotel room which has no broadband access and so I am incommunicado. I don’t even have a way to contact my family to let them know I am okay or to confirm my flight to let them know I am still flying and that I want a kosher meal. Apparently, I was told that we need to confirm or sometimes the airlines will give away our seats. China logic. I will need to make these calls tomorrow when I buy a phone card for $2.99 per minute. I am starting to feel jaded, and I am feeling homesick, and I want to come home. Again, like so many things in my life, I will do the studying for these four upcoming finals once, and then I will never look back again. This will be another experience which I file in my mind under the category of “get through it just once” experiences.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

As you can see, I uploaded a few new pictures of my new hotel room. I will be here until tomorrow until a room with a reasonable rate opens up. I know this is annoying, but the way the blog is structured, the pictures are posted from bottom up.

My hotel toilet. You can't really tell from the picture, but I think they could have better fit a mini-tub here and put the toilet where the shower is. Better yet, they could have knocked out this corner wall that is taking up half of the bathroom. Couldn't they have found a better place to put the closet from the next room? It's in the middle of the bathroom! Poor design. :)

Here is the chair in the shower. Am I supposed to sit down on it? Oh, and if the shower water is coming from the other side, won't it get the towels above me wet? I've always been a big believer that function should determine form, but this is all backwards. I'll show you the last picture, the one of the toilet. I think that it would have been better if a tub placed where the toilet is, and the toilet were here instead of the stand-up closet which is trying to pass itself off as a shower.

Naturally, my favorite part of the hotel room; the bathroom. This one isn't so impressive. I'd say it's a stand-up shower (to the right), but if you look closely, there is a chair there. Why? I'll zoom in closer to get a better look.

This is pretty much the sprouts I've been growing and eating during my stay here. They take a week to get like this. The plan is that on each Sunday, I plant the seeds, I water them and then drain them every morning and evening, and otherwise, I keep them covered so that they can grow. This was a nice batch. Sometimes they get moldy on me.

I am happy that it is finally raining. This is the first time I've seen some real rain here in Beijing. The plan today was to go to the silk market to try on the suits that were custom made for me. I'll do this tomorrow after my class.

I am excited to be back in my new hotel room after my stay at the Rabbi in China. I realized after comparing my camera to the camera of a friend of mine that the scope of the pictures are sincerely limited and so that is why each picture contains so little. It feels nice to be back, although the hotel clerk charged me 467Y for this room for the night since no 250Y rooms were available. This is just my payback for thinking that I could save some money by checking out on a Friday and checking back in on Sunday to save myself a few day's worth of room fees. Serves me right for trying to save money.

Gimel Tammuz, the Lubavicher Rebbe's Yartzeit

It's motzi shabbos, gimel tammuz, 5765, the yartzeit of the Lubavicher Rebbe. Today was the day he passed away. At the Rebbe's Ohel (gravesite) in Queens, NY, there will be thousands of people lined up to pay their respects and to ask him for various berachas (blessings); most of all, people will be "checking in" to say hello and to hope that on some spiritual level he gets the message that we are still his Chassidim (followers) and that he is still our leader, even though he no longer is alive in this world in his body.

I traveled there last year and the two years before that, however I remember the mentality of the people there and the silent tension that people were feeling specifically last year; that year felt different. Last year was ten years since the Rebbe's death, and there are teachings that say that the tenth year of a person's passing is a meaningful time because (if I remember this teaching well enough to communicate it), perhaps the neshama (soul) of the deceased comes back or comes closer to our world and is more deeply felt by those who are connected to him. I know on the minds of my friends and Rabbis, something else was on their mind. They were waiting for something to happen.

As Jews, we know that moshiach (the massiah) is bound to come any day now. Some of us since it is thousands of years since we've had the Beis Hamigdash (the Temple in Jerusalem) have forgotten that part of being Jewish is the belief in a Messiah. Many Lubavichers before the Rebbe's death thought that he was him. Some still do. Most feel it in their hearts that he is and that on some level, he is working on bringing the Jewish people out of exile even now as we speak even though he is not alive in a corporeal sense. Other people believe that he was capable to have been the messiah, but G-d either changed his mind or that G-d had different plans for the Jewish people. Either way, messiah or not, he is still our Rebbe.

The tension I spoke about from last year was that people were waiting for the Rebbe to happen, as if they were hoping for some mystical lightshow or perhaps even for the Rebbe to come back and materialize in some form as moshiach, or as a manifestation of moshiach's coming. They were waiting for the world to transform to revealed G-dliness. While I remain open to any of these options with the mentality that "we'll know the truth when we see it", I couldn't help to be moved by the silent expectations of all those present that night and the following day. I remember the look on a friend's face when I cracked the joke "what happens if nothing happens?" While the look in his eye was priceless, nevertheless, it was still sad that nothing happened that night and everyone packed up and went home to continue their lives as Jews.

Now again, one year later, they are back. I couldn't make it because I am here in China and traveling back and forth wouldn't have been feasible, plus if something were to happen, I have an idea that I'd know about it pretty fast. After all, if the Rebbe came back or if moshiach came, whether they be the same or mutually exclusive events, I think it would happen all over the world including China. Nevertheless, I am missing a good party.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Coming Home Next Sunday

It is Saturday night, motzi shabbos. I stayed in tonight to study for finals which will be all this week. I have come to terms with my reasons for being here, and I am comfortable with what I will get out of the courses I have taken. The names of the classes were "Chinese Legal System", "Chinese Intellectual Property Law", "World Intellectual Property Law", and "Foreign Direct Investments". From these classes, I have achieved the status of dipping my foot enough into the Chinese legal system to be able to relate to and to communicate with a Chinese individual or entity when they decide to market and/or protect their patents in the USA.

I came here with a belief and an expectation that in the next few decades, China will be a superpower wave that will be either harnassed or it will pass right over us. As a patent attorney, of course my practice will be based in the United States. I wasn't sure about this until after my course was over when I learned on the last day that in order to practice as a Chinese patent lawyer, one needs to be able to speak, to read, and to write Chinese AND to be able to read and understand Japanese because most of the patents in China are written in Japanese. This is just a quirky part of the system.

Plus, China for the next decade or so is still primarily a manufacturing country, producing and making other people's ideas. As a nation, it has not yet transformed into an innovative country with ideas of its own. It will, but this wave won't come for at least another few decades, so I would be very, very early. If I did want to work in China, it would have to be in the developing fields, namely mergers and acquisition, banking, bankruptcy, and the like. These fields would not only be extremely lucrative, but they would be fun because one would be pioneering the field which has not yet been done.

So as it looks, this has been a nice experience in comparative law. I've learned how their intellectual property system works, and now I will spend the next year learning how our intellectual property system works. If anything, I have broadened my knowledge of international patent law, and now knowing the treaties that the various countries have signed and their contents, I will be better prepared to deal with a customer who wants to protect and produce their idea in more countries than just in the Untied States. Of course when dealing with foreign countries, I will not be the one that writes up the patent, but I now know who to talk to and how to supervise the process, knowing the laws to which foreign attorneys are bound.

As for me personally, I am almost sad to see everything here end. I have met some quality people here in the Beijing community, and I have just begun to develop meaningful friendships and business relationships. It would be sad to leave so soon because I feel that all that I have accomplished here will have been lost because there is simply not enough time to develop the contacts I would have if I stayed here another six months or a year or so.

As for the language, I have been getting by fine. I have been learning Chinese from a Pimsleur course in Mandarin. This has allowed me to easily immerse into the Chinese culture and to be one of the people, so to speak. Most of all, through my studies of their history and their culture from both the legal point of view and from speaking to the natives, I have gotten an understanding of their mindsets and their belief systems. It is interesting to think that they believe that their species were literally born from a dragon. I also understand now why they were stopping and staring as I was walking down the alleyways of Xi'an with my beard down and smoke from a cigar coming out of my nose. I wonder whether in their hearts they were screaming "tatty, tatty!" :)

Anyway, five and a half weeks is too short to be in China if you want to have anything more than a superficial experience, and in my opinion it was more of a culture tease than anything. I wouldn't mind, if circumstances allowed, if I spent more time here.

Of course, on that same note, I am needed at home. My grandmother is sick, law school is starting up again, I need to secure employment, and a good friend of mine is getting married. Also, hopefully a shidduch who might one day be my wife is waiting for me to come home so we can meet (if G-d has decided to pay attention to my prayers.) None of this happens if I don't get on the plane and come home.

Yet then again, part of me has the sad expectation that nothing meaningful will happen once I get home. I will not find a job; there will be no shidduch waiting and even if there is, she will be of the same cheap quality as I have been exposed to so far. I will come home to the same mediocrity, with the same boring lifestyle and the same mediocre friendships that have the depths to them of puddles on a sidewalk. My cell phone will not ring, and more years of my life will be wasted away on meaningless experiences. I am just so tired of the way everything has been, and I need to figure out what needs to be changed and improved now before I get home. I need to shake up my life or I fear that I will die of boredom.

Friday, July 08, 2005

One All Nighter

The comments from the last post have been the best I've ever seen. There is a concept of Chochma, Binah, Daas in Chassidus which are the first two prongs in a balanced system, and then the rectification between the two. Abraham was Chochman, Issac was Binah, and Jacob was Daas. The funny thing is that the order of the responses to my last post followed this order. First was Rowan giving me the kind, warm-hearted solution, then came an anonymous reader who gave me opposite hard-nosed Torah reasoning why I shouldn't deviate from the strict route. Then came my answer where I was trying to mitigate between the two forces, and then came Johney Come Lately back on the kind side with his Chessed-like logic that if G-d created the world, then obviously he can find me a wife. For those of you who are lost, don't worry -- this is just Kabbalah. It is not even a real application of it; I just noticed a pattern in the responses to the last entry.

It also surprised me how fast everyone jumped onto blog and started posting as soon as I said that I was tired of being religious. I don't want to go down this path of doubt, but I'll tempt it for a few minutes since I have not yet slept for the night because I was working on a Chinese patent claim project that is due today at 9am. I finished it around ten minutes ago and submitted it. Obviously, this means that I haven't slept yet tonight.

It hasn't felt good these past few weeks being so doubtful of G-d. In fact, it has crushed me and has placed a feeling of heartache in me that I never imagined. I thought about breaking away and frying out (throwing off the yolks of religious observance), but the truth is that I don't think I would be doing the things I am lamenting over if I actually had the opportunity to do them. Opera? Fat chance; I need to finish law school and pass the bar. Girlfriend? Fat chance; I want to get married, not have some girlie. Dancing? I seldom went out anyway. Broadway? I've gone maybe five times in my life! Clothing? Permitted. So what am I complaining about? What is so terrible about being religious? I don't think anything. It's just a question of laziness because it is not easy to make time to keep up with all the obligations. Tefillin, davening, Torah study -- Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya, Rambam, Halacha, Gemara, Chassidus. Okay, then my day gets full. This is my ideal day, but it almost never happens. Something interferes; you know, life?

Anyway, in all likelihood, I wouldn't be surprised if after all of my moaning that there was a good shidduch waiting for me when I got back to Colorado that my rabbi set up. I also wouldn't be surprised if I shaped up and fixed my laxidaisical habits and stopped my babying and my stupidities regarding my selfish desires to indulge in various kinds of pleasures and excitements. It also wouldn't spook me if I figured it all out, got my act together and resumed my learning, thereby getting my priorities back on order. Anyway, for now I am an emotional mess and I am falling asleep because this was one all-nighter I was not interested in pulling.