Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rationalizations of Impropriety

You're all right. It's all about blazing my own trail -- doing as much as I can within my abilities at this moment.

I'm not so freakish as I was this morning. I feel okay with having the beard, and with hiking down this slippery slope.

I feel excited because I can feel that this is one of those transition points where one gets the opportunity to strengthen his position with G-d from his weakened state. I believe that following halacha (Jewish law) out of bittul (self-nullification) and kabbalas oyl (accepting the yolk of G-d's commandments, as an ox carries a large burden) is the proper way and the best way to observe Judaism, however in my case, it is not working unilaterally. I'm testing the waters here to see where I can slip and where I have firm ground, and I will tread carefully.

This is a journey of self-exploration that I should have done some time ago before becoming frum all at once without questioning or asking questions. I went with the flow and let the rabbis mould me into whoever they wanted me to be. But some parts just clearly weren't me. I tried on the lifestyle as if it was a garment, and now I feel that some parts don't fit. So I consider this as if I am going to a tailor to get alterations.

I do plan on going out again tomorrow, although part of me thinks that maybe this is not a good idea because of the whispers. Many people at school have noticed that I went out [people who saw me out told other people, etc.], and suddenly people are telling me that I'm the topic of a lot of conversations. I don't think this is a good thing because I fear that I might be a bad role model for others. Keep in mind that while I don't quite care what people think, my ultimate intention is to do good and not harm, and if I am harming other people's observance or respect for Jewish people, that would be reason enough to think twice about my actions.

On the positive side, perhaps I'm teaching people that one can be religious and can keep most of the commandments while living a relatively normal life at the same time. Maybe I'm finding a balance between good and evil. Personally, I don't know what I'll do next or how far I'll go. Now it's just a drink and a dance. I don't plan on going further. I have moral boundaries. Yet I wouldn't openly want to test them because I can't be sure that I could trust myself if the situation arose, and then all my work and effort and abstaining would have been for nothing.

Yet, it is important for me to stay level-headed and not to get overly excited. I'm just meeting with a few friends from class. I shouldn't be there because its a bar, I know, but maybe some good can come from this. I believe that the truth will show its face from this course of action very soon, and I will know 1) whether I have made a big mistake by going out, and 2) whether this is a good thing in my development as a Jew.

Emotionally, [and I know this is TOTALLY WRONG], I made a contract with G-d in May, telling him that I was tired of being single and waiting for my rabbis and shadchanim (matchmakers) to find a shidduch. I told G-d that if my shidduch that happened in May didn't work out, then I would resume ballroom dancing and going out. In my heart I feel a bit of peace because the shidduch didn't work out -- in fact, as you have read it was a disaster -- and now by going out, I have fulfilled my end of the bargain.

I had a friend in Yeshiva who was on the path that I was on. He went out, drank, had a bit of fun, and then he found a girl, mekarev'd her (influenced her to become religious), and then he married her. His story echoed through the Yeshiva -- as bochurim (yeshiva students), we were very impressed with the story. Maybe I'm on that path. That would be a cool twist to the story.

Modern Orthodox, Here I Come ?!?

Whoa. After reading Logan's comment this morning to last week's clubbing experience, I came to an observation which shook me up. I might not want to live the Chassidic lifestyle I've been laying the foundation for these past few years. We all know I've come a long way. I'm orthodox now where I used to be nothing. I do most of what a religious person does, i.e. kosher, shabbat, Torah, mitzvos, etc. However, I do see myself carving out piece-by-peace my own life separate from the religious drone existance I accepted during my years of uncertainty at yeshiva, and now it occurred to me that I am trying to "scenario" myself away from the rabbi's influence.

In my heart, I like in theory what I have become, but practically I'm not finding the whole picture so practical anymore. Yet here I am stuck with a beard that I am terrified as all hell to shave because I feel that my identity would go along with it. For the first time in my religious life, I woke up this morning in a cold sweat, and I wanted the beard off.

I've always wanted to find a balance between hardcore religion and real life (as if the two were separate), and I am finding that balance. However, I want to move far away from my religious Chassidic influence so that I can lead my own life. I am just praying that I fall into a religious life before I break away completely. I think something has been beggining to stir inside of me since my last shidduch experience in May, and I'm not sure if I want to live the chassidic life I chose for myself, or whether I want to be a regular modern orthodox Jew. Do you think I'm a quitter? Can't I just be like the guy in this picture?


Monday, August 29, 2005

Cloud Busting Videos Online

Okay. I don't want anyone to throw stones at me. I mentioned this a few months ago, here, then here and here.

Basically, when I was younger, a man taught me a form of Hawaiian mysticism he referred to as Huna. In this practice, he taught me that it was possible to look at a cloud, think about its disintegration, and with the power of my thoughts connected to the reality that surrounds me, the clouds would disintegrate.

I have tried this literally hundreds of times and it has worked literally hundreds of times. There were days in yeshiva that I would lay on a mattress on the roof, and with my thoughts I would pop them as if I were popping a balloon, except each cloud took anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes of concentrated mind power. As sad as this fact is, the original reason I decided to become religious was to get an answer why and how this works. It's years later and I still don't have an answer, but after a while of various people mocking me after I divulged this secret to them, I decided that it was time to video tape it for myself and prove to them that I wasn't imagining this.

I taped a few clouds being busted while I was in Israel, and I taped a few clouds this past Thursday. Finally, I figured out how to get them online. I put four of them online -- they are not the best ones, but they are the ones that were on my desktop. Download and look at the videos if you would be willing to [1) here, 2) here, and 3) here,] and tell me what you think. Feel free to go outside and try to do this yourself. I'm looking for explanations, not whether this is real or not. It's real; that much I know. What it is I am doing, I can't explain or understand. I feel like a G-d or a Superman, but I know there has to be some real, scientific explanation to this.

I don't understand how or why this works. Here are my possible explanations for my experience: 1) Perhaps I am connected to everything, and my thoughts can literally influence the outside world and manifest [and destroy] things at will; 2) I can conjure the wind to blow away clouds; 3) I have a psychic ability for telling which clouds will dissolve within 30 seconds; 4) Unconsciously I sense which clouds will disappear and in which order; 5) I would be a good weatherman. [When I say "I," I actually mean you and me as human beings. Trust me, I am certainly not special. If I can do it, you can too, whatever the "it" is that I can do.

Anyone, please download the files and comment. Sorry for their size; I didn't know how to convert them from their original .avi file format, so they're about 8-10 megs each. Most of all, if you have ANY explanations, please please please tell me, because I've been hitting my head against a wall (not literally) for years trying to find out this mystery. If anyone wants, I can record more videos. Sorry about not having voice on the recordings; I am using my cheap digital photo camera to take the .avi videos.

Warm regards,

Friday, August 26, 2005

Shomer Negiah Out The Window

I guess since it is past 2:30am and I am still awake (tonight for a good reason) I figure it is appropriate to write.

I suppose the people who have been writing me and reading have been enjoying this blog because this is a tale of my search for finding myself -- and enjoying the journey. I've been having a difficult time trying to mold my ways according to the rules, and some things are just plainly incongruent. However, deep down I believe I'm finding my way and I am making terrific progress. I will tell you why I am still awake in a minute.

I saw my psychologist today. I will stick to the sessions even though I feel it is a waste of time. We saw each other for 30 mins and then he said "time's up." I expressed that I couldn't see this being productive and he said "trust me, I've been doing it for a while. Somehow, this works." My guess is that his clients get bored of waiting for him to do his magic and so they fix themselves while waiting until the next session. Mine is in two weeks. I'd complain, but my health insurance is paying, so I'll be content that I'm at least getting help.

Okay, why am I up tonight. I visited a friend of mine from law school and I met her friend from Israel. We spoke Hebrew for a while, and then I was invited to someone's dorm for a drink. I accepted the invitation. Alcohol is kosher. What you do after drinking isn't necessarily.

After two cups of rum and seven up with real mint leaves, I was feeling good. The girls there (don't worry about yichud [the prohibition against being secluded with a woman], I wasn't alone -- there was another man there with me) invited me out to a bar which the law students go to every Thursday night. This, an experience I've always avoided because it is not a place for a frum (religious) person to be, was something I was up for after two drinks. A third and a fourth girl came in, one who I always thought was religious because she was Israeli and always spoke about cooking for Shabbos and having guests. She came in and grabbed my hand when we said hello. Okay, there went shomer negiah (the prohibition of unmarried man and woman touching).

I also made the decision that tonight I would dance. I was excited about it. And that is exactly what I did. I entered the bar -- they checked my ID -- and I joined my friends on the dance floor. My thought pattern was not to think. I wasn't hooking up or finding the love of my life here (as I used to think I would when I would go out in college). In fact, any woman who was here was probably someone I wouldn't want to be with anyway.

I danced with many women tonight who in the past I wouldn't even shake hands to say hello. The salsa beat gave a good atmosphere for dancing and I was comfortable here because I used to ballroom dance so I knew what I was doing. Plus, I had in my mind that I was just dancing and not finding love, so I was enjoying the music and the dance for the dance and that was it.

Some of my friends couldn't believe I was dancing with them. "Pretend I am someone else," I would say because they couldn't believe we were dancing in a club. Many were very good at dancing; some women led which I found to be funny. One person asked me if I thought I would be going to hell for this. I said I was. She said, "I'll be in hell too, so you'll have good company."

After a while, the place started to clear out. I guess people went home to sleep. I caught a ride with one of the girls I came with and we went back to the dorms. I hugged everyone good night and went back to my car. Knowing that [based on the hours passing,] even though I couldn't still be drunk, I decided it would be prudent to take a nap before I drove home. I slept for an hour, I drank a quart of water (I remember that helps to avoid a hangover) and I drove back home; now I am here in my room at my dad's house at 3am writing to you through this blog.

While it was halachically (per Jewish law) wrong to be where I was tonight and it was wrong to touch and to dance with the women (I'm not lying to myself -- there is no interpretation to the rules -- what I did was clearly forbidden), I enjoyed myself tonight. I might do this again.

I hope and I ask G-d that by taking this yireda (dive) into sin, that I don't get too deep into it, and that the ultimate goal is that through becoming more balanced by having more of a social life, and by having more contact with people, I hope to become more centered, so that I will be able to have an aliyah (a raising) to a higher religious state than I was before this whole experience happened. I also ask G-d for a shidduch (a wife) soon so that I don't have to resort to sinning to have a good time, because I really enjoyed myself tonight. This wasn't a taiva (a temptation), rather it was a decision to sin based on throwing Jewish law to the wind (of course in a calculated way). The real danger, however, in doing this is that it's a slippery slope and I hope I can keep my foothold to stay with my moral and religious decisions and not to stray too far. Doing what I did tonight is exactly what leads a man to kiss a woman among other things, chos v'sholom (G-d forbid) and keep in mind that it is over four years since I have even held hands with a woman. I would hope that I wouldn't succumb to do things worse than I did tonight. I do want to keep a semblance of yiddishkeit (Judaism) and I wouldn't want to break any more halachot (Jewish laws) than I did tonight. However, I won't lie that what I did was okay. I clearly broke the rules. I also had a good time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Woman's Mikveh and Female Body Parts

I felt so bad that I wrote about my concerns regarding my best friend's callah not going to the mikveh (purifying baths) that for a day or so, I took the post off of the blog. However, after looking through my logs, I saw that the authors of Mayim Rabim read my article and they decided to reference it on the Mayim Rabim site, which is a group blog which discusses topics such as Mikveh and family purity in depth; also, all of its contributors are women, which means that they know more about the topic than I do. So I decided to put my original blog entry back up because it is that important of a topic.

Every Jewish woman benefits from immersing in a the mikveh before her wedding. Every married Jewish woman whether she has ever immersed or not will benefit both spiritually and physically from learning and observing the laws of family purity (Taharas Hamishpacha, or T"H) and immersing into a kosher mikveh every month.

What I thought was cute about Mayim Rabim's article was that she said that my view of women going to the mikveh was misinformed and simplistic, since I mistakenly thought that a woman toiveling (dipping herself) into a mikveh was akin to dipping a plate into the mikveh to toivel it (process of dipping utensils into a mikveh to make it usable) and poof! The plate is tahor (pure). Apparently the process is a bit more complex than that, but if you call any mikveh, the women there will tell you the process you need to go through before your wedding or after your time of the month.

A woman going to the mikveh to purify herself for her husband is a beautiful thing. I thank Mayim Rabim for writing on this topic, and I look forward to learning these laws myself when I find a woman to marry and when the topic becomes applicable for me to learn. Until then, my rabbis discourage me from learning these laws because they are quite personal and include discussions of the menstral cycle and other aspects of women's body parts which they don't think I should have on my mind until I find someone to marry.

Monday, August 22, 2005

50 MPH saves gas

Coming home from a close friend's Sheva Berachos (after-wedding party), I remembered seeing a speed limit sign when I was younger that said, "50 MPH SAVES GAS." Because the gas prices are getting pretty high, I decided to slow down the car to 50 MPH and drive home. I'm usually a speed demon; my usual average [averaging the highs AND the lows] speed is around 80 MPH. I did a quick calculation and I realized that going fifty will add another few minutes onto my ride, but nothing so imposing. I drove the whole way home going fifty, AND IT WAS VERY RELAXING!

I think from now on I will slow down my driving and learn to relax more effectively. By the way, does anyone know if this really does save gas?

Wedding Hottie Seduction

The wedding was beautiful. I mean BEAAUTIFUL! My friend (the groom) called it a $30,000 dinner.

I remember throughout the wedding ceremony thinking "l'chatchila (before-the-fact), not okay. bidieved (after-the-fact), it's kosher." The chosson and callah (groom and bride) weren't standing under the chuppa (wedding canopy). Okay, l'chatchila, probably not okay. Bidieved, I think it was okay because they were sort of under it. The rent-a-rabbi (who ended up being a nice guy) was under the chuppa with his table. I wanted to tell them to move the chuppa over them, but I didn't want to sound baal teshuva'ish. [A baal teshuva is someone who is newly religious, as in a few days to a few years.] The groom's father was standing there, as was the rabbi. They are both religious. Surely, if there was a problem, they would have noticed and said something. Plus, there were four stages of the wedding, each alone which can make a person betrothed. Okay, no worries, they were married. It was kosher, thank G-d.

When I saw the bride cry from happiness at the various stages of the wedding, all my doubts about her erased. I am very happy for them, and I believe it was meant to be. I was also impressed that while the bride and groom were not themselves religious, they did everything a religious orthodox wedding would do. I was very impressed.

The dancing was nice. There was no mechitza (separation) between the men and the women, but the men made their own circle and we danced away like real chassidim. Power circles, that's what I call them when chassidic guys start dancing at an incredible speed that the circle seems to start to move on its own. If or when a woman would join the circle, the circle would disband and the religious men would stop dancing.

After a few drinks of wine, I was sitting at our table next to a friend of mine who enjoys figuring out with me how to seduce every attractive woman at the table. Its a game we play, and because there is no risk because I would never do anything sexual with anyone because I'm religious, I enjoy the conversation.

There was a woman there with her boyfriend. She was a hottie. I've known her boyfriend for many years -- he is truly a nice man through and through. After a few drinks, I wanted to show my friend who was trying to seduce her with his words how it was done. Of course she was no risk, especially since nothing would ever come of it; if for some crazy reason her and her boyfriend didn't work out, we'd never see her again. She wasn't friends with either the bride or the groom.

What I was trying to show my friend was that just talking "stuff" with a girl -- objective facts and experiences -- really doesn't do anything for her. You have to really get INTO her head, swim around in her thoughts, and let her experience her feelings through your words. Be very interested not in what she does, but who she is. Get to the essence of it. Arouse her with your words but don't be interested yourself. Tease her by using subtleties, but don't ever let on that what you're talking about is really sexual. Leave it to me, I was playing the drunk rebel who was obviously deeper than the surface warmth she saw on my face. She wanted mystery and I showed her darkness and depth which was arousing for our conversation.

She liked my questions. My friend described it that I didn't only get into her private space, but I swam around in it, comfortable and unobtrusive. I was in the private parts of her private space with my words, and she was enjoying the clever exchanges and the unexcused intrusions.

At one point I went too far with my words and it was obvious that she got uncomfortable. But she didn't walk away; she lashed back at me at what my friend described as an open confrontation. I was dealing with a very smart and quick woman with a very quick mind and a sharp tongue. I loved how she turned the questions on me when they went too deep. My friend said that I suprisingly kept my ground with quick answers and that sparks flew with our exchanges. Although we both enjoyed the fire or our words, my friend was uncomfortable because he wasn't sure whether we were playing with our fire or whether we were in a confrontation.

For me (and later the woman told me for her), the conversation was highly sexual and erotic. We spoke nothing about sex or nakedness or anything of the sort. However, the intimacy and the depth of the conversation was very arousing.

Again, this was no threat to either of us. The topic of our conversation what what about her boyfriend makes her feel loved deep inside. By the end of our conversation, I saw her standing behind her boyfriend with her arms around him and with her body held up close against his back. I felt sad that I was alone, and I wished for G-d to introduce me to a shidduch soon. Being single is painful.

I left the wedding with a good feeling about the whole experience. My friend was upset that we didn't get the girl's name; I told him it was better that way. If I knew her name, then I would remember her and miss her. By not knowing her name, she will remain in my mind as just that girl at the wedding. I wish her and her boyfried all the best. They are both good people.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Chassidic Dress Not Required??

A serious question. You know that in general, I've been dealing with questions of halacha (law) versus minhag (custom) versus chumrah (stringency) versus dogma, trying to separate out the good from the bad. I've wanted to know that when I do a certain act, that I'm following the rules, and when I'm being lenient, I still want to make sure I'm within the range of right and not within the realm of wrong.

I know shirt colors are sincerely a small deal, and before I went to China in July, I broke out of the habit of wearing only white shirts and black pants. I posted what happened to me regarding colors on a shidduch date here.

Since learning from my rabbi that night that there is no requirement to wear a white shirt and dark pants, I stopped wearing exclusively black and white, and I've incorporated colored shirts and sweaters into my clothing. Further, last Shabbos when I was telling the rabbi that I wonder whether I should be looking for a less frum (religious) girl for shidduchim because I still watch movies and wear jogging pants and occasionally t-shirts, he stopped me and told me for the record that I shouldn't be occupying my head with what kind of shirts or pants I am wearing, because it is such a small part in religious observance.

So we've taken a full 180 degree swing from the rule I was understanding that I learned in yeshiva that a chossidish bochur (religious rabbinic student) must wear white shirts and dark pants to the rule that clothing isn't a big deal, as long as the laws of tsnius (modesty) are followed. Since I'm not exposing my chest, my crotch, my stomach, or any other body part that is not allowed to be exposed, my dress is tsnius both technically and stylishly I am not suggesting anything that I shouldn't be suggesting with my clothing.

If that is so that there are no rules regarding dress, then why do I always see religious people like myself wearing clothes like in the picture above?

Comment: I'm trying to understand this. Does anyone have any good reasons (other than the usual jests at conformity) why religious Jews wear white shirts and dark pants? I'm serious wondering about this, and I wonder whether people look at me funny because I dress normally and I fear that when I will be a parent with children, other parents won't let their kids play with mine because me and my wife might dress more modern and thus we probably don't keep a kosher house, etc.

You might scoff at these assumptions as being those of only evil religious closed-minded people, but seriously, I think I would consider not letting my children play or go over to a certain friend's parent's house if I saw that parent doing something immodest or halachically (per Jewish law) impermissible. The consequences of letting my children stay over at non-religious households are that 1) they might be influenced to be less religious, 2) their heads might get filled with foreign ideas, and 3) [worst of all], they might eat non-kosher food which would taint them on the soul level and I would protect them against that at all costs.

Keep in mind, I'm not married yet, and I'm just thinking out loud. Any explanations you have to offer are welcome.

"Chosson will be forbidden to the Callah in the Yichud Room."

I did a bad thing... Well, maybe I did a good thing, but I know that I will have upset the chosson and callah (bride and groom, in reversed order) the Shabbos before their wedding day which is a bad thing.

My best friend is getting married, and he made the executive decision to get a rent-a-rabbi from Monsey who is not doing his job in trying to get them to do the things they need to do before the wedding. These are the kinds of rabbis who show up at the weddings with their beards and black coats looking all holy and just sign off on everything and accept money for weddings saying that everything was done properly, not caring whether the people getting married are following halacha (Jewish law) or not.

My friend's wedding was what prompted me to start writing this blog in February. I have my first few articles with them getting engaged as the initial subject of my blog.

However, since then my friend has excluded me from all the halachic decisions, and has decided unilaterally to do whatever he wanted to do.
Specifically, he decided that he didn't need his callah (wife-to-be) to go to the mikveh (a purifying process that the woman immerses in certain waters before her wedding) before their wedding. He is also not separating himself from her before the wedding, and he has dispensed with the need for shomerim (people who stay with the chosson (groom) before the wedding). This makes sense to him because he feels they are not necessary since he has already slept with her and already lives with her.

My opinion is that just because they were living in sin and were forbidden to eachother before the marriage doesn't mean that they should live in sin and be forbidden to eachother after the marriage. I feel that they should at least be permitted to eachother after the marriage, regardless of what they have already done beforehand. What also concerns me is that he wants me to be a witness in the yichud room (the room Jewish people go into after the wedding to be alone). However, the problem is that the husband and wife are forbidden to be alone together ("in yichud") until she has gone to the mikveh . Despite my objections, he just doesn't seem to care about it; in fact, he's driving to the hotel on Saturday afternoon -- SHABBOS!! -- so that he'll be on time for his wedding.

I think that a marriage ceremony is a joke if it is not done properly. What is worse is that they are expecting me to verbally sign off on everything that it is kosher and I didn't and they are going forward with it anyway.

As a last resort, I sent this e-mail below to the bride and the groom, hoping that this will nudge them one last time to do what they need to do before the wedding.

Dear [Yehuda and Chava],

It is Friday morning and everything here seems to be in order.

Even though it is likely too late to do this, perhaps Chava can find a way to do this TODAY before Shabbos or on SATURDAY NIGHT or SUNDAY the morning of the wedding to go to the mikveh. This won't be a crazy thing because most mikvahs are used to people going at weird hours and at the last minute. Going to the mikveh is an imporant thing becuase it is part of the purification process that should happen before a man and woman get married. It is also important because if she didn't go, you two would be forbidden to be alone together in the yichud room, and relations after the marriage would also be forbidden. Nobody will stop you from going into the room or doing what you want to do, except that it just seems silly to have that whammy on your wedding day, especially after all the time and money and effort that you guys have spent to make the wedding what I'm guessing will be a beautiful ceremony. Also, both witnesses in the yichud room need to be Shomer Shabbos.

Anyway, I'm sure you guys will do what you feel is best, and I trust your judgment. I am looking forward to seeing you guys married.

Warm regards,

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Snacks "L'Kovod Shabbos"

Have you ever purchased junk food thinking "l'kovod shabbos" (lit. "for the honor of the Sabbath") and then you eat them in your car on the way home?? -Zoe

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Thriving with Instability, but Choosing Stability.

It's morning and Adam Plotch wrote me back. As I was writing him back this morning, I remembered how we knew eachother; it was an opera or a music show written by Carl Strommen called "My Heart's In The Highland" which was being played at NYU. Adam had [I think] the lead role; I was the whistler. It was during that play where after spending night after night together rehearsing, we became friends. It feels good now understanding how we were in touch, because for a while it was a mystery to me. I actually think it was there where our parents met and became friends.

It was also during that play that I met Gian Carlo Menotti, who I was convinced must have been dead for many years because he was the one who wrote "Amahl and the Night Visitors," an opera I played the lead role in; I remember thinking, "How can a man who was still alive write an opera?" I still remember every word and note of his opera. I also remember being spooked about meeting him because I was sure that he was a ghost.

Lastly and possibly most importantly, it was at that last play that I met Jack Lemmon, who was my favorite actor. I suspect now that it was him that arranged for my audition with the Lord of the Flies movie. He told me with confidence in his words that he could see me being a great actor and that if there was ever any way that he could help me, I should give him a call and he'll set me up with the right people. Throughout my years in grade school and high school, I always held his promise in my heart thinking that after I graduated, I would get in touch with him and start up my acting career again. I was heartbroken when I learned in 2001 that he died, because along with his death, my dream to get back into music and the arts also died.

Anyway, as I keep telling myself, I am meant to be a lawyer now, not an actor (although in its essence, aren't all lawyers actors?). Although, I have pictures next to my desk of scenes from various operas that moved my heart and that still cause me to think deeply whether the path I have taken with law (and religion) was the straight path, the correct path, or simply the safe route. In my heart I feel a pit at the botttom of my solar plexus telling me that I could be more, and that I could do more. However, my heart and my head tell me to quit whining and to accept the path I have taken because it will lead to a happy life and a stable existence. It is a calculated existence. I have never been one to thrive in stability, and it is davka (specifically) the instability where I shine and I function the best.

Adam Plotch, Thank You.

I've just stared at my laptop's screen for the last forty minutes in shock.

A friend of mine from when I was younger just googled his name and found my blog. Keep in mind, it was my wish and my dream that I could somehow get back in touch with people from my past because I had a yearning to return to the passion and the fantasy of the stage, but this was a dream that I never thought would or could happen.

I was influenced by the Phantom of the Opera movie which a close friend bought me for my birthday present, where Emmy Rossum played Christine. What excited me was that she sang at the Metropolitan Opera just as I did, only a few years after me. Her mentors were my mentors. She trained with Elena Doria just as I did, just a few years later. My mom once asked me what I wanted to do with all the singing and acting I was doing. I didn't know, I was a child. I was just enjoying the experience doing what I loved to do.

The farthest I got in the acting world after the MET was making it through to the last stage of a movie audition. It was 1990, and I was auditioning for the part of Ralph in Lord of the Flies. There were many stages to the audition, and I remember the number of people I was auditioning against went from hundreds to tens to just a few of us all the way down to me and Balthazar Getty. We looked almost identical at the time. I remember being sure that I had the part because Balthazar couldn't swim and I could, and swimming in the ocean was supposed to be a big part of the role we were auditioning for. Plus, as far as I remember, he was into sports and I remember wondering, "How can anyone who is into sports have any affinity for the arts?"

It was the last audition; whoever made the casting decisions wanted us to act impromptu in front of video tapes doing whatever we wanted to do. They were testing our character to see who fit best with the role of Ralph from William Golding's story. I sang "I was a shepherd" from Amahl and the Night Visitors and Balthazar did a comedy strip on sports. They videotaped us, and that was it. Against my mother's better judgment, I sang the sad song about poverty. Perhaps I was showing off my soprano voice and its range. My mom wanted me to sing "Some day I'm gonna murder the bugler" which had a more upbeat tune, but I suppose that I thought I knew better. Well, he got the part and I returned to being a regular kid and I grew up.

That's how it all ended. Now I'm grown up and I'm in my last year of law school. I often thing back to how life could have been versus how it all turned out. I took a look at Balthazar's movie record and I wondered what would have happened if I took that same route. Imagine how different life would be if that movie list consisted of movies I was in. Balthazar's career pretty much started from that movie. I don't regret not being chosen one bit -- it's just fun to think about. Okay, that's not true. I remember really wanting that part and that the phone call we received telling me that he got the part hurt really badly; it was then when my parents gave up on my acting career probably because their relationship at home was deteriorating from all the time they spent bringing me into the city every evening to perform at the MET, or at whatever opera or play I was performing in at the time.

Anyway, all this acting business is a pipe dream; it is a fantasy for me. I considered getting back into acting this summer while I was in China, but logistically, I couldn't figure out how it would ever fit into my law school life. Somehow I've taken the normal route to life and I've lived a pretty regular life.

Adam Plotch, I was Amahl at NYU with a guy named Buddy the same year you were Amahl with Barbara Elliott. I was Amahl with Barbara Elliott the year before that. I am excited that you wrote me, and I have no idea how I can get back in touch with you and possibly become your friend again after all these years. The e-mail box to respond to your message has been open for over an hour now and I don't even know what to write back to you. I'm actually scared to write you because you are a link to my past and to my childhood which I left behind me years ago. I wouldn't even say we were friends; we were actually more competitive than anything -- well, our mothers were at least. We were always up for the same parts and involved with the same people at the same time. I hope you write me again and perhaps we can get together and share past experiences since from looking you up online, our pasts have more in common than just our singing voices.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I retract what I said. Sorry Dad.

I retract what I said below. While I technically feel that the words I said were true, I didn't want to convey such anger and I feel terrible for it. I realize that I was harsh and angry and I apologize for any hurt I might have caused with my words. I love my father unconditionally by my nature, but the situation is a bit messed up, and I am angry at him for many things that happened in the past. I shouldn't be angry at him over money. It is time that I got my own place anyway. Dad, thank you for opening up your house to me. -Zoe

Monday, August 15, 2005

Halachic Decisions During Sex Dreams

I hate making moral decisions, especially when I know I am in a dream and there are no consequences to my actions.

In my dream it was Shabbos afternoon. I was with a girl and the rabbi wanted us to go to a hotel. There would be no yichud (the prohibition of being alone with a woman) because I planned to leave the hotel door slightly open so that anybody can come in at any time. This was going to be a shidduch date, and in the shtus (garbage) of my dream, we were 1) going to a hotel room rather than a hotel lobby, and 2) we were going to hook up. In my heart, I liked this girl and I thought that she could be the girl I would marry.

We were sitting in my car (note that driving is not allowed on the Sabbath) and we were lost. I couldn't find the hotel. I stopped at the rabbi's house to eat a sandwich because I hadn't eaten all day and I wasn't going to eat until after Shabbos. The rabbi was leaning on the passenger seat window and he was telling us how you can pay someone who is not obligated to keep the Sabbath to carry food to the hotel for you so that you can eat. The girl said, "no, we need to go to the hotel right now. Stop eating that sandwich and let's go now!" It was 6:30pm and Shabbos ended at 8:30pm, so not eating for two more hours wasn't a big deal. But it made me sad because I knew in my heart at that point that she wasn't the one I would marry; she was selfish and she wasn't a nice person. While we were still in the car, she got behind me and rubbed her body against mine and massaged my shoulders and tried to convince me to go to the hotel now. I knew what was on her mind.

Even though I knew that we wouldn't work out, she and I had chemistry and I knew that if we went to the hotel, we would certainly hook up. So in my twisted dream-state logic, I left her somewhere and I was going to drive to the hotel and bring some food there and then meet her at the hotel to have our sexual experience. However, while walking through Price Club (I saw a steel swinging chair that one places on a couch for my dad; I also saw an opened large plastic bottle of Powerade that someone had drinken), I realized that on Shabbos you can't carry through a public domain, so there would be no way to get the food I was buying to the hotel.

I took a deep breath and sighed, "Oh well. We're really not supposed to hook up anyway. Maybe I won't even go to the hotel. This is the moral choice."

I woke up and said "Damn!" Why do I always have to choose the moral path in my dreams?!? Can't I have just a little bit of fun? After all, I can't do this sort of activity in real life; I won't. It's not halachically (per Jewish law) allowed. So why not do it in my dream where there are no consequences?? I hate how I am such a moral person, even in my dreams. Can someone explain to me why I keep Jewish laws even in my dreams? This annoys me.

Dustin Hoffman and Matthew McConaughey, both as me in a dream where we are crime bosses.

I had two dreams which connected. In the first, I was walking towards a bunch of religious Jews, each of whom were wearing blue button-down shirts. The person who I was walking with told me, "Look at these Jews. These are the outcasts. Each one of them has a problem; there is something wrong with them." I looked at the fact that I was also wearing a blue shirt and I thought, "what about me? I'm just like them."

I saved my second dream for last because it was a bit more extreme. There were two of us; both of us were psychotic criminals, but at alternating times. In the dream I was Matthew McConaughey, and my

counterpart was Dustin Hoffman (right). In the dream I had vague memories of past crimes I committed and of my close ties with the mob, but everything was a fog.

I remembered specific crime scenes where I was psychotic with my hair oiled back, and I remember other times where the crime boss (Hoffman) was psychotic with his hair oiled back. I remembered visions I had of each of us in our psychotic state at different times [this fact was important to me in the dream], and that our eyes were overly-wide open and we were letting out a scream that was akin to a roar had we been lions.

Dustin Hoffman called me into his office. He told me that he knows nothing about me, and he wanted to know what state I was from. I got the intuition that he was suspicious of me, but I knew he trusted me as a brother. I told him "New York," and then I went into a story about my parents' divorce and the abuse... Mid-story, I decided that I must have sounded stupid for telling the crime boss the story about my family, so I apologized profusely.

The weird thing is that I had a foggy head, and I didn't exactly know who I was or where I was or what I had done the days or weeks (or even hours) beforehand. Hoffman seemed to like me, and it seemed as if he considered me a friend and he trusted me, and I respected him for his power. But I didn't know what our relationship was.

I asked him "do I work for you?" He replied, "In a manner of speaking." I asked, "Am I wealthy?" He answered, "I pay you very well." It was at that point that I stood up not knowing exactly who I was or where I was, and it bothered me because I couldn't focus on what was right in front of me. I remember seeing computers and television screens filling the room, and the crime boss (Hoffman) was sitting in front of the monitors.

I am not exactly sure how to interpret these dreams, but they have many similarities to my real life. If you have any dream interpretations, please let me know.

My Drug of Choice

I found that the GoBack program has an auto-revert feature that allows you to completely erase any of your tracks while you were logged onto the computer. I think this is pretty cool. That way I can install demo programs and play with them, then delete them without crashing my computer.

I found my drug of choice. Computers. It didn't occur to me until before the Sabbath that I spend on average 10-12 hours each day on computers. Doing what? Checking stocks, checking e-mail, defragmenting the hard disk, playing with encryption software, and getting my computer to run in top shape. Do you know that someone once said that computers were meant to save time? Hehe. That's a joke. Anyway, however I use computers, whether it be to waste time or to satisfy any compultions, I've gotten quite frustrated when I am away from them. Almost as if I'm experiencing a withdrawal effect. Just like most of you, I'm addicted.

I was wondering out loud to my Rabbi over Shabbos (Sabbath) how life would be if there were no movies, televisions, or computers to distract me. Would there be meaning in life then?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Off-Track Camping / Davening Shortcuts

I'm feeling burnt out; I need some rest. It's 3am and I can't sleep. I don't quite feel very interested in anything these days, and I can't wait until school starts again where I'll have a schedule to follow. I don't have the motivation to plan because I don't even know what to plan for. A job? I really am not in the mood to work. Volunteer? No energy. Yeshiva? No patience.

Religiously, I've been doing well. My rabbi gave me a method for helping me to daven (pray) because this has been one of my biggest vices in Judaism. I just can't get myself to stand and daven. I get distracted and next thing I know, it is hours later and I haven't finished or often enough, I haven't even started davening. This is a problem because I'm also not doing the mitzvah of Tefillin, which is a biggie. So my rabbi told me that as soon as I wake up, daven berachos without Tefillin and try to get to Baruch She'amar. Take a break -- have a coffee, or something. Then put on Tefillin, and daven from Baruch She'amar until the end. If I MUST skip or else I won't daven, I should say Ashrei, Yishtabach, all of Kerias Shema and through the Amidah, then take the Tefillin off.

Since my last post on Monday, I decided to go camping in the woods. I found a tent in the living room which my brother bought for me last year. I picked up some food, packed the car, and went with my friend.

As soon as we went to set up the tent, we realized there were no poles. So we hung the tent from a tree, got sticks to make a fire, went swimming in a lake [did the mikveh dip without clothes], made the campfire and roasted onions. That was fun. I have found that almost every morning since I had the conversation with the rabbi about davening, I've done this method, and most of the time it works.

Today I davened Shacharis (morning prayer) standing on a rock by a lake. It was quite beautiful. Yesterday I davened Shacharis in the national part by my car and the police officer drove by and slowed down to see what I was doing. I smiled and waved and he drove away. Phew. I thought he would ask me what I was doing, especially with my long beard and tzitzis.

I was very sad to be driving home. I immediately felt the sadness overtake me when I got back into my home state. I drowned my sorrows drinking Powerade and BBQ Chips, watching TV and movies. I don't have much energy now, so there is not much to say except that I don't know what I need to do to get myself back on track.

Monday, August 08, 2005

About being organized and learning shas.

It just occurred to me that I have so many books on Yiddishkeit (bookshelves worth), that there are so many I have yet to read. Apart from the fact that I get bored reading about even the coolest Chassidic concept, I have always had the goal to get through shas (all of the Gemaras / Oral Torah). Yet I haven't opened up a book in weeks. Shame on me.

Instead of worrying about all the mental issues that I sincerely feel at this point that I am making up in my head because I am too lazy to get to work, I feel that perhaps my time would be better spent getting on with my life. I have some major goals which have not yet been fulfilled. 1) Learning all the mishnas. 2) Getting through all the gemaras. 3) Finishing something simple like the kitzur shulchan auruch books, among the many others I've purchased. There are also so many maimarim and sichos of Chassidus that I have not yet learned.

I am also going through an audio set on Huna (Hawaiian mysticism) which has always been a fascinating metascience topic that I've enjoyed learning and experimenting with.

Lastly, I must have assumed the role of a tornado because my room looks terrible. Funny enough, last Shabbos it was spotless. I should clean it up again. The problem is that there are no closets in my house (my dad felt they weren't necessary when he was building it), so I am relying on survival tactics for keeping my clothes in order. No sweat. This is all about being organized.

E-mail from a Spanish chassidishe girl who wants to arrange a shidduch.

I joined a new religious dating site which seems to be a free version of what used to be and what once aspired to become. Frumster used to be a dating site which religious people went to. They didn't charge money, and for a while, it seemed like their goal was to facilitate shidduchim in some form. Recently, like most other things, it seems as if the owners have wet their appetites for money, so now they are charging for the service.

The original goal was to put my profile up, and if anyone wrote me, I would have them call my shadchan (matchmaker). Unfortunately, the result of that was that my shadchan got upset at me because non-religious girls were calling her at all hours of the night looking for a good time with me. When the rebbitsen told them I was frum, they said "sorry, not interested."

Anyway, this spanish woman has been writing me these past few days on the new frum dating site. I answered her because she wrote the letter to me in Spanish, and I speak Spanish from High School. I suppose it was one of the few things that stuck with me. I never forgot my languages. She seemed like a very nice girl so I wrote her back to find out if she spoke English, and if she has ever been to the United States, because her profile said she was learning in Argentina.

She wrote back a heartfelt e-mail where even through the language barrier, I got a sense as to what kind of character she was. I even could hear and feel her voice through her words. I suppose I'm intuitive like that; I have always been able to sense a person through either seeing their picture or seeing their written words.

I was sad to write the response that I have attached below in italics. As you can see, it is written in Spanish, but it is obvious [from the mistakes] that I am not proficient enough to have a lifelong relationship with a person who doesn't speak English. [Between you and me, it would take me a very short time (weeks or months) to become fluent again, but I can't imagine having a relationship with someone that doesn't speak English. It would be an amazing adventure, but it would be weird not having the English. Below is what I wrote back, and I hope she got the message that I can't imagine it working out.

Entiendo. Tambien, en mi corazon y en mi acciones, estoy una jasidishe bojer con todo de la energencia que tengo. Por muchas anos soy una Lubavicher y estudio jasidut. Pero, mi lengua es el Ingles. A Ud puede ver, mi Espanol es similar de un chico que aprende en una Universidad Secundario por menos de seis anos. Hace muchas anos que hablo Espanol con gente. Y la primera cosa es que estoy en las Estados Unidos en Florida.

G-d must have had a sense of humor if he made my bashert to speak another language.

- [Zoe]

I think she'll get the message that it won't work out after reading this response.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Anakin, how much are you like me? I don't like our thoughts being so similar.

I was going to start originally writing about how sad I was this Shabbos that I was still single. I complained to my Rabbi during Havdalah that I don't think I'll ever find a shidduch. He told me my statement was irrational; however he did admit that he was thinking of me a few times today and he felt bad that I was still single. I told him that I was avoiding going back to yeshiva (rabbinical school) for Tisha B'Av (as I've done every year since I left) because most of my yeshiva friends are already married and I feel like a failure going back there alone.

"Strike while the iron is hot," the rabbis at yeshiva used to say. They would get us all excited about how great our lives would be and we would become so frum (religious), even frummer than the rabbis (hence the word frumpter), but then while we were getting close to leaving yeshiva, the rabbis would find shidduchim (wives) for the bachurim (students) and by the time they left, they were not only psyched about being religious, but they were married.

I left yeshiva on my own without a wife, and I ventured into law school land where everything is secular and everybody is having sex with everybody. It's been so difficult staying frum (religious), especially with the temptations around me all the time.

I was complaining to the rabbi that my iron is no longer hot, and that I've cooled in my religiosity, and that I am not the kind of religious person that I feel I should be. [Remember Anakin's comment "I'm not the kind of Jedi I should be"? I related to that.]

The rabbi agreed with me and told me that he sees it too that I am not as religious as I used to be and that my "iron" has cooled. Yet he says that after four years of battling the secular forces around me that tempt me to leave yiddishkeit (Judaism) and the loneliness I feel on a daily basis from being alone and single, he feels bad for me that I have to go through this, but other than his wife working as hard as she does to find a shidduch for me, he doesn't know what else to do. It's a rough situation, but he hopes it will be over soon.

I think of my Rabbi like a master and I am his apprentice, kind of like the system in the Star Wars movies. In Chassidic Judaism, the system is similar -- there is a mashpia (like the master), and the disciple. In my heart, I hope I am still on my rabbi's side by the time I get married. I fight my war against loneliness and against becoming secular and breaking Torah and halacha (Jewish law) every day. I am not in a yeshiva world, and I am not in the secular world. I am stuck somewhere in between with little support from either side. As I said before -- I just hope I stay frum and something inside me doesn't change.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Its very weird. I will get ideas, and when I go to do them, I find that I have already done them. I had an idea how to organize my to-do list on my palm pilot. When I went to execute that idea, I found that I already did it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Twin Shidduchim, May I Date the Other?

Update: I have been trying to figure out how to best move forward with this blog. The first thing you'll notice is that many blog entries have been edited. The reason for this is that the last shidduch has found her way onto my site, and I don't want to leave my old thoughts and feelings about past shidduchim sitting on the web for future shidduchim to see. While this is not the end of the world -- everyone gets discovered eventually -- a new shidduch prospect has come up, surprisingly from three shadchanim (matchmakers) at the same time.

She is the cousin of the girl I dated, and they have quite different personalities. They both know about this, and I take no credit nor blame for it happening; it feels like a weird turn of events. Before this new one dates me, she wanted to find out why I would date her cousin who [to my new knowledge] was not religious [she wasn't? was I duped?], and why I would overlook the [serious] problems of the first one and let it go so far (almost to an engagement). In short, it seems that while these two cousins are close, they are competing with each other when it comes to shidduchim.

I feel defensive because in my heart this could be a set up, but nevertheless, it would be quite interesting if G-d had a sense of humor and set me up with the first one to prepare me for the second one who in the end became my wife.