Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blog Elul: Hope

Hope is the light at the end of a tunnel.
Hope is the smile in a sea of frowns.
Hope is the music that floats in my window in hour four of my homework.
Hope is the thing with feathers.
Hope is what was left in the bottom of Pandora's box.
Hope never leaves.
We may forget about it. Make ourselves believe that it isn't there.
It there it will stay. Just hanging around, under all of the guilt, discord, and doubt.
Ready to come out and fly away.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Blog Elul: Begin

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the year. I've always liked it better than the Gregorian new year because Rosh Hashanah is actually at the beginning of my year. Sure, i've been at school for a bit, but it still feels like the dust hasn't settled so much on the year to come yet. But really any time can be a beginning if you decide to define it as one. The beginning of each day is a new start and one can make a conscious decision to live one's life anyway they please.

Beginnings, while exciting, also contain a lot of uncertainty, and there is very little I dislike more than uncertainty. But I am confident that this next year will bring happiness and sadness and love and trust and a myriad of other things that I cannot even imagine. And I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Blog Elul: End

I really hate endings. I hated leaving camp--I basically cried for the last 48 hours. I hated leaving school in the spring. But the end of this year feels a whole lot more like a beginning that it does an ending. The ending of this year allows me to think back to the beginnings of so many important relationships and to think about how I will strengthen them and myself in the coming year. The ending of this year means that at some point I will be able to stop worrying about High Holiday logistics. The ending of this year means the beginning of the next. And I get to bring in the next year with my best friends. The people who I feel like I can avoid endings with. With whom it will always be see you later instead of good-bye. And that's a blessing. With endings come beginnings. And both require the same blessing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Blog Elul: Love

Love. One word that means so much.
A command. From God and from social pressures.
An emotion. Felt towards individuals and group.
The warmth one feels after making a new friend.
The fire while discussing Torah on Shabbos morning. 
The tight hug of a family member.

Love is complicated. It can cloud our judgment.
Cause us to act too selfishly. And also not selfishly enough.
Cause us to spend more time on things irrational.
But love isn't supposed to make sense.

Love is important.
It helps us breath.
Through pain and through joy.
It's refreshing and hopeful.
And with it, we couldn't live without.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Blog Elul: Fulfill

One of the greatest mitzvot(commandments) that Jews are to fulfill is "laasok b'divrei torah," which is defined as "to engage with the words of Torah." Now, many rabbis and people much smarter than me have different interpretations of how one goes about fulfilling this commandment, and I honestly think that I forgot how to fulfill this mitzvah until the other night.

Yesterday, at my rabbi's suggestion, I began studying Jewish text on my own, specifically Psalms because she thought they would bring me comfort. Directly after spending a bit of time studying by myself, I joined some friends in our house of study (Beit Midrash) to learn about the Torah portion for the week. Walking out of that building, late at night, I felt different than I had in a long time. I felt alive and filled with the words of my tradition, and the world, my stress about everything going on in my life had melted away if only for a short moment. And I was reminded of why I love being Jewish and why I want to grow up and be a professional Jew.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Blog Elul:Judge

I am an INFJ. I'm proud of it. But I'm not proud of how judgmental I can be. My initial instinct is always to judge someone on the clothes that they are wearing or the way they talk, but that's not the way to a successful life. I started out by just not saying those things out loud, but now, now I have trained my brain to stop judging, at least for the most part. And that's something I can be proud of.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Blog Elul: Ask

We all ask similar questions. Why are we here? Who are we? How do we make meaningful use of our limited time on this earth? Is there a God? Does that God require something of us? What do we worship? 

But we answer these questions in different ways. With science and religion. Or a combination of the two. We don't debate as to whether these challenges exist. We know that they do. We argue over how they are addressed, and that is an entirely different issue.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Blog Elul: Awaken

Wake up.
Wipe the film off of your eyes and use your senses to see what is happening around you.
From the tragedies of the world to the bad grade on your homework
Don't just sit there.
Do something.
Pray. Learn. Write. Speak.
You are not alone in waking up.
But your voice is the only one that occupies your head.
Make the choice to help yourself. Or to find someone or something that can.
Make the choice to be empathetic and loving.
You could change someone's life.
It's a beautiful and broken world we live in.
Wake up.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Blog Elul: Pray

I pray that God has control of that which I do not.
I pray that God instills me with hope and with kindness for myself and others.
I pray that God protects all who I care deeply about.
I pray that God helps my mind to think and my body to function.
I pray in doctors' office waiting rooms and sitting in the wilderness.
I pray in bed before I fall asleep and as I walk up the stairs to class.
Prayer is something I can do. Prayer isn't easy. Prayer is giving up control. But prayer is what I have.
So I pray. So I pray.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Blog Elul: Change

 Every summer at camp is life-changing, but as I've gotten older(most specifically this past summer and the preceding one), I have found myself learning and changing huge amounts. I grow up a little each year. I learn how to do my job better; I change based on my evaluations and based on my mistakes. I change because I am older. I saw this when i was a kid as well, but it wasn't as obvious. But one of my favorite things about camp is that very few things change--and by this I mean major things, not the addition of the pool or anything like that. The traditions of camp, especially in Tiferet, the arts unit in which I found my home, have not changed since I was a camper, and from what I hear, they have endured from well before that. We sing the same combinations of melodies of L'cha Dodi every single week; we decorate the walls of the Beit Am; we dance during Miriam's song. And there's something magical about getting to go back home to that. There will be a longer post specifically on why Tiferet is so special after we get through High Holidays, but I have to say, the melodies of Oseh Shalom may change and there will always be new faces, but the comfort of home remains. I am in a period of my life when a lot is changing, so I'm unbelievably grateful to get to have camp as a place that doesn't change in the important ways.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Blog Elul: Learn

I spend most of my day learning. Learning about the Ancient Greeks and Romans, their language, their culture, how they were and weren't like us. Every day, every struggle, I learn a little more about who I am. I learn a little more about my body, my limitations, my capacity for love. I learn to forgive and to help and to take care of myself. And I hope to never stop learning. Because learning, whether it be in a Jewish context or otherwise is one of the the most important things in my life. Fittingly, the day that this will come out with be Shabbat, which I will spend learning Torah with our rabbi and my friends and learning about how I can use Shabbat as a way to take care of myself.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blog Elul: Remember

I spend too much time remembering, but I think to some extent, it's really important. It's really important for us to remember where we have been so that we can have some idea of where we are going. And really important to keep those who we no longer see every single day in our minds. Because just because I now live halfway across the country from many of the influential people in my life does not mean that they are any less important to me.

I think a lot about influence. The people and the places and most of all, the experiences that have led me to where I am today, whether they be good and bad. And we can't ignore the past, especially in these days of reflection because ignoring the past will do us more harm than good. Instead we must remember the journey we have been on, but still look forward to the next great milestone.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blog Elul: Forgive

This whole High Holiday season is supposed to be about forgiveness, although for me it has mostly been(so far) about finding Torah readers and handling logistics, but never mind that. Forgiveness scares me because forgiving means the pain has disappeared. I know longer feel the wound, but that does not mean I must forget about it. We must forgive not for the other person, but for ourselves because we cannot move on from something if we have not made peace with it beforehand.

And we must forgive ourselves. This is the hardest part. We must forgive ourselves for not being perfect. We must forgive ourselves for the pain we've inflicted upon our own bodies as well as on others. We must forgive ourselves for all of the shoulda coulda wouldas over the last year. Because forgiveness allows us to heal and to step into the new year determined to not make the same mistakes again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Blog Elul: Trust

Trust is hard to form and easily broken. 
Trust is a careful balance between too much investment and fear that everything could just fall apart. 
Trust is vulnerability.
Trust is showing someone the parts of you beneath the mask. 
Trust is difficult.
Trust is terrifying to me. 
But trust is important.
Because those people you trust, the good ones, they are the ones that enrich your life.
So fear is to be expected. It hurts because they matter.
But I matter too.
So trust is worth the work. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Blog Elul: Count

I spent so many years counting down the days. Counting down the days until the next NFTY event or the next time I got to go to camp. Every day that everything hurt, i would open the app of my phone and find out how many days there were until my next respite. But if you only count down, you lose time. You lose the small moments in every that make every day count. Even if it's just a chocolate bar that you forgot was in a drawer or a friend sending you a text asking you how you are, every day counts. And I am so happy that I stopped counting down the days and started making the days count, or more accurately, realizing why every day should count.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Blog Elul: Observe

This weekend, I helped to run the first year Shabbaton for Hillel which was a marvelous experiences is many ways, but some of the conversations that I had really related to "observe."

Observing the way that others practice their Judaism is positively fascinating to me. And I really try to just observe, not to judge because you learn so much less if you judge while you watch. And this weekend, I got the opportunity to watch many of these incoming first years, who have only been at college for a few weeks, figure out how they want to celebrate Shabbat and how they want to be Jewish on campus. I observed many of them leaving their comfort zones and talking to someone from outside of their denomination for the first time.

I've always been a very observant person. my friend joke that I can read minds because I can read mircoexpressions(which for the record is reading emotions and not minds, and I don't read micro expressions just for the fun of it). I see a lot, which is exhausting, but it's also a gift. A gift I am very grateful to have as we step into this season of reflection.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Blog Elul: Hear

Voices from all directions.
Inside and outside of my restless mind.
Someone needs me. So does someone else.
Who is suffering more?
How do I choose what to hear?
Can I choose what to hear?
Why do I have to hear so much?
I hear so much pain that has no solution.
All I can do is hear. And try to listen.
But can I listen to everyone?
I can surely hear their cries, but how many voices can my mind truly hold?
and how will I know when I am hearing too much and acting too little?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Blog Elul: Choose

Everything is about choices. This kind of hit me as I was running from one thing to another all day today, and I realized that everything, not just my social life, is about choices. And I could talk about the choice of how to think about things, but we have David Foster Wallace for that, and I don't think I'm doing such a great job at that whole thing right now anyway( if you have no idea what I am talking about, read DFW's brilliant commencement address This is Water here).

I choose who I want to maintain relationships with. I choose who is important to me. I choose who and what to worry about (although sometimes anxiety chooses that one). And I choose how to spend my time. I don't think whole thing was as clear to me this year because I came in to sophomore year with an incredible group of friends. I felt like I didn't need to "choose" anything; I was just lucky. But I need to choose to maintain those relationships especially as we approach the most celebratory and also some of the most meaningful times of the Jewish year. I can choose to be a little bit less anxious about High Holidays, and a little more excited to be spending them with my best friends in one of the best places on earth. I can choose to be grateful for the mentors and resources that are helping me to stay sane as I plan the services I have to plan. I can choose how to look at the things in my life. And in some ways, even though that means I have to make more decisions, that's freeing.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Blog Elul: Believe

I've been thinking quit a bit about belief in two ways recently. The first one is in an academic setting: we spent a large part of my Ancient Greek History class yesterday talking about whether we can take the Iliad and the Odyssey as believable sources for history, that is, are they true? This question gets very messy, partly because we don't actually have much else to go off of from that time except for a couple pieces from the archaeological record that haven't proven themselves all that helpful, and partly because they are literature. To some extent, at least, they are myths that can tell us something about the people who wrote them, but can we believe them completely? That's your decision because I don't really want to get in to that debate right now, and I want to talk about the other thing I was thinking about.

I believe in God. It's no secret to anyone around me or who has talked to me, and I'll talk about that in a later blog post if you want, but that's not what I've been thinking about. I've been thinking about how much I believe in other people. How much I cheer my friends on and try to make them see that they can get over whatever seemingly impossible hurdle they are facing at the moment. And as I've been thinking about this, it's hit me how truly horrible I am at believing in myself. And I should try to work on that, as cliche as it may seem. But how do we believe in ourselves when there is aways another hurdle to jump over or mountain to climb? How do we fight the urge to compare ourselves to others? I guess I should talk to myself like I talk to my friends and take my own advice...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Blog Elul: Understand

I don't understand my life. And I think that anyone who says that they do understand their life is either lying or quite delusional(or lucky, I guess). I don't understand a whole lot of the things I read for class--granted quite a few of them are written latin and greek, but still. But more importantly, with all joking aside, I don't really understand why many things have happened in my life. Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for the people and things I have, but sometimes I feel like I don't deserve them or like I'm faking it. And I don't understand the bad things that have happened either. I'm not saying that they have happened to me because many of my trifles are not about me, and my perspective on many of them have changed over time.

I don't understand what's good or what's bad. I don't understand what's going on in American political discourse at the moment. I don't know. And in a way, it's kind of freeing to say that. We live in an age in which most pieces of information can be accessed just by picking up one of the tiny computers that we carry in our pockets all of the time. But we don't know the answers. I don't mean to questions that can be accessed with a quick search. I mean the answers to the big questions, the overwhelming ones. Will we every learn to accept the fact that there will always be so much that we don't know?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Blog Elul: Search

Searching. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of searching is google searching, and that's not exactly spiritual or anything even though I do google questions about the Torah and Talmud occasionally. But I don't think that we should be searching in the way of just typing something into a query box and receiving an answer just like that.

And you can't google search what really matters in life. You can't google search who you can turn to in the case of an emergency or just needing to talk. You can't google search how to live a meaningful life. You can only find and seek for those things in a way that is a whole lot harder than just typing some words into google.

But at the same time, i think that sometimes, we need to take a breath and stop searching. We need to realize exactly what we have in front of us before we can go out and search for something new. I spent this whole first Shabbat at school realizing this. I was talking about searching for God's path and thinking about all of the things that I needed to get done and all the relationships I need to keep or get rid of to have a "good year," but in the middle of a crowded room filled with people eating and talking, I stopped. And I realized that at least, for Shabbat, the comfort that I was searching for was right in front of my eyes. It was in the people who hug me as a way of greeting me. It was in the new friends that I made and the songs that I sang. It, like God, was all around me. I just had to stop searching in order to find what I was looking for.

Monday, September 5, 2016

#BlogElul: Act

I really can't act. By acting, I mean the kind when you get up on a stage in front of people and say the lines that someone else has written for you. I've never been able to do this. This summer, I watched my campers preform a play that they had written themselves, and I was in awe of these children. I can remember the lines in my head, but they never come out right, and I never really enjoyed being the one in front of the crowd anyways. That was always my friends' jobs. But recently, I have been thinking about a different kind of acting, one that's a little less obvious, that I'm pretty good at, and that's acting like everything is okay. There has been quite a few times when I have had bad things going on in my life or I didn't get something I wanted or my anxious brain was acting up, but nobody, except for those very close to me knew. I am very good at acting like I am okay, happy even. It's a kind of weird, yet useful talent.

But I want to make one thing clear: you should never feel like you have to act, in front of me or in front of anyone who is close to you. Pretending is not authenticity, and authenticity is one of the most important foundations of a healthy relationship whether that be a family relationship, romantic relationship or friendship. Acting is an art form, not necessarily a method by which one should be living their life. And I would do well to remember this as well.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

#BlogElul: Prepare

I spend a lot of time preparing for things. Perhaps a little too much time in most peoples' opinions, but preparing is how I stay sane throughout my busy life. For example, before I left the cabin every single morning at camp, I made sure that I had both sunglasses and a headlamp with me because I never knew when i would get back and I always need to be able to see. I made sure that I always had bandaids and neosporin and hair ties in my backpack because if I didn't need them the day, you could be sure that someone else would. For school, I sat down with my planner and chose colors for my school supplies and decided which days I wanted to do laundry on. This may all seem like a bother to you, and sometimes, it feels like a bother to me, but I do it because I know my future self will be better for it.

This year, for the first time, I am spending a kind of ridiculous amount of time preparing for the High Holidays because I am planning services for my group at school. This makes the whole high holiday thing both enthralling and stressful. I love what I do, but I couldn't stay sane without preparing is I guess what I mean. And doing nothing makes me anxious, so I prepare when i have nothing else to do... oh well. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Looking Before I Leap: My Resolution for this Year

I've spent a lot of time looking before I leap. I'm a planner; it seems to be in my genetic makeup. I don't do most things unless I know exactly how they will turn out because I'm scared of uncertainty. But that strategy forced me to spend a lot of time and effort figuring out why I shouldn't do things. Now, I don't mean dangerous, YOLOy things like skydiving; I mean things like going to a new club or quitting an activity that I truly didn't enjoy. But this summer, I learned to ask for forgiveness, not permission (at least a little bit). I am not a daring person. I like to plan and I don't think that's a bad thing, i just wanted to start leaping a little more.

That's what my resolution was, coming back to school. If there was something that I wanted to do, I jumped in. I jumped and declared my majors that I have been talking about for the last two years. I joined a new club, and offered to help work on a new project. I said yes to the opportunities that I actually wanted, and I hope to keep this up. I think, in general, I have trouble deciding when to say yes, and when to say no. And I hope to keep saying yes to spending time with friends, talking about things that are interesting to me and learning new things-- as long as I can put them in my planner. But I need to say "no" as well to things I don't have time for or things I simply wouldn't enjoy.