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Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
5:19 pm - Ma'am, what is your good name?

I am really sick of people asking me for my “good” name.  Next time someone asks that, I’m going to tell them I only have a bad name to give them.

current mood: aggravated

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Sunday, January 30th, 2011
5:05 pm - TMI.

Oh, another TMI moment for today.  Did you know that if you eat too much ghee (clarified butter), your pee comes out smelling like popcorn?

Also, if you eat too many beets, your poop turns an alarming shade of red. Don’t worry, you’re not about to die of internal bleeding. You’re just eating too many beets.

And for the coup de grace, just visit http://orangeman.commo.de/unrated.html

current mood: amused

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2:54 pm - Beaver Tails

Did you know that beavers will sometimes cut (bite?) off their own testicles and throw them before a predator to spare their own lives?
I'm not a male, but ouch.

current mood: amused

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Friday, December 17th, 2010
3:27 pm - mooooooo
Today I got to pet a baby water buffalo.

Ok, gotta go... need to cook Shabbat dinner...!

current mood: exhausted

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Friday, December 3rd, 2010
2:45 pm - Spreading Light

I’ve been learning in my free time in the evenings about Chanukah and have come across some interesting thoughts that I thought I would share now that Chanukah is upon us.  Chanukah has always been an important holiday to me.  It was one of the two – the more important, in my family – of the two Jewish holidays we celebrated and it was the one I loved the most.  There was something special about standing next to my mother, who normally wanted nothing to do with Judaism, as she lit the candles and said the special Hebrew prayer.  Suddenly, we were Jewish!

When I struck out on my own, Chanukah remained one of the most important holidays in my Jewish world.  Lighting the menorah was special and I wouldn’t miss it even if I had to light a bit late one night.  It was just too special to miss.  In my apartment in Miami, I would turn off the lights and just sit and bask in the glow of the candles, watching them slowly melt lower and lower, sad when they finally went out.  Each night, after my candles had died, I would be nearly jumping, eager with anticipation of the next night’s lights.  The eighth night was always my favorite.  I loved seeing the full menorah.  The light shone on me and I felt Hashem’s presence, the shechinah, hovering palpably over me.  It was always a holy moment.

As I became more religious, I learned more about the origin of Chanukah and the irony of my youthful celebrations.  The Greeks wanted to take over the Jewish nation… not to kill them physically, but to kill them spiritually.  To make them Greeks first and Jews second.  They forbade them to do the things that were crucial, preventing bris milah and mikveh, and forcing Jews to eat pork as a means of violating kashrut.  They forbade the studying of Torah.  Keep your traditions, the Greeks said, but you cannot do the mitzvot!  A small core of Jews, the Maccabees led by Matisyahu, stood up to the Greeks, engaging in a sort of desperate guerilla warfare.  In a battle where the odds were stacked so obscenely against them that we now cannot even imagine it, the Jews won and were able to clean out the Temple, remove the idols, and stand true to their faith.  They fought with all they had to be allowed to keep these main mitzvot!

And as a child I, as many Jews (especially in America) still do, did none of these mitzvot, yet celebrated this holiday.  Now that I do these things, however hard they may be for me at times, I really value the holiday of Chanukah.  Given where I’ve come from, it’s special to me because I am a modern day Maccabee.  Western culture is seductive and it is so easy to slip into its warm embrace, to imagine that there’s really nothing wrong with eating shrimp or pork or a cheeseburger, to decide that in these sexually enlightened times there is no reason to ritually immerse in a mikveh before touching your husband, that there is no need to study such an ancient and outdated document as the Torah.  All that was meant for people in ancient times! We are enlightened. We know better.  We don’t have to do those things! And after living that life for such a long time, I realized the falsity of it.  Torah IS emet.  And I had to fight against the “Greek” influences in my life to be able to finally keep the mitzvot Hashem so lovingly gave us!

I don’t talk about these struggles often, but they are not easy.  Even keeping kosher is still hard for me (putting a plate of seafood near me is pure cruelty), but I can still do it!  My ancestors fought hard to be able to do these mitzvot!  And even if they were fighting a spiritual enemy and the enemy I am battling is ingrained fundamentally within myself, it is still the same battle.  It is the battle of Chanukah.  And when I light that menorah, I know I’ve won! And I feel the shechinah come down to share in my triumph and I feel Hashem’s love for me, and mine for Him.

Every year I celebrated Chanukah in a special way, not with latkes and sufganyot, but with cookies!  My annual Chanukah cookie swap became the talk of Chanukah among my friends, as we all got together just after lighting our menorahs and swapped every different kind of cookie imaginable.  They may not have had much to do with oil, but they had everything to do with sweetness, caring, sharing, goodwill, and friendship.  Almost everyone who attended my swaps were ba’al teshuva and we came together to celebrate, as the Maccabees did, our own private victories in our own private wars.  And just as the lights of the menorahs Jews light for this holiday shine out from windows and public squares, we are each our own lights, sharing our mitzvot with the world.  We are Jews.  We can do the mitzvot.  We choose to do the mitzvot. And we are proud! Thank you, Hashem!

This year I cannot do my annual cookie swap, which is sad for me.  And unfortunately, I do not even know if I can light my own menorah.  Both because traveling it is difficult to find or create a menorah and because I am now married, so my husband lights for me.  My rabbi, however, suggested that if I love the mitzvah so much, maybe I can still light the candles… but be yotzi by my husband’s bracha.  I think I would be fine by that.  But the miracle of Chanukah is a special miracle for me and the lights are a visual commemoration, with the flame of each candle dancing up toward Hashem like the flame of a Jewish neshama.  When I see the dancing light-neshamas, my own neshama dances up, too.

And indeed, Chanukah is especially a woman’s holiday.  Yehudit went to Cicero, fed him cheese and dairy products and got him sleepy, and when he fell asleep, killed him by chopping off his head, a huge victory for the Jewish people.  It is interesting to find that the gemara, in talking about Chanukah, begins by saying that women are not allowed to work when the candles are lit.  This is followed by the mention of the minhag to eat cheese on Chanukah.  Why are these mentioned before it even says anything about the halachot of lighting candles and the different interpretations commentaries present on these halachot?  There must be something special in this holiday that places women truly at the forefront! 

The answer, according to Rabbi Yosef Grossman of the OU, lies in the ultimate battle of middot that took place in the battle Chanukah commemorates.  Think about who the Greeks were, what their life was like.  They were the personification of everything physical – they pursued beautiful bodies, they competed in public sports (and not only that, they did it in the nude just to show off some more), they valued very highly arts, theater, and music.  All of these things are public and all of them are showing off.  In other words, they are all the opposite of tzniut.  So, Chanukah was really a battle over modesty.

But what is tznius, really? Was this whole war just about clothes (or lack thereof) and elaborate public displays?  Didn’t we already mention that it was about the Greeks wanting to stamp out Jewish spirituality?  The Vilna Goan in the Ramah brings down this example: You want to do a mitzvah, but you’re afraid to do it because people will mock you.  But he says that you shouldn’t be embarrassed to do the mitzvah because of people who mock you.  The solution to this problem seems simple: Try to do your mitzvah modestly.  Do it so people don’t see you doing your mitzvah.  Do it without a confrontation.  Of course, if this isn’t possible, then you will have to have a confrontation and be mocked because you must do the mitzvah, for the sake of Hashem.  You should be keeping kosher, but do you really need to make a scene about it in the workplace when the staff luncheon isn’t kosher? This will only cause a confrontation and (in many situations) people will mock you later or complain about you because you caused a scene.  Much better to either say you’ve already eaten, or tell them your wife packed you a special lunch today and you really can’t make her sad by not eating it.  This is doing a mitzvah privately, modestly.  And this is how the Gra says we should try to do our mitzvot – modestly.

But how does this jive with Chanukah?  We know that if 13 Jews (Torah scholars, even – not battle-hardened soldiers!) were able to defeat an entire Greek army of 100,000 trained warriors, then this clearly was not a private act.  Obviously people knew what was going on and I’m sure this news was all over the Greek empire in no time at all.  I guess this is one of those cases where, as the Gra says, if you have to have a confrontation in order to uphold Torah, then you have to have one. But if so, where is the modesty?  And to come to that, let’s turn to the parsha.   The main player in last week’s parsha, like this week’s, is Yosef.  Yosef hardly seems to be the most modest person in the world.  Just look at him in last week’s parsha – his escapade with Potiphar’s wife was news all over town.  Eventually everybody knew what had really happened, that he’d run away.  And in this week’s parsha he becomes the big man in charge.  Yosef is in every way a public figure.  So how is this tznius?

The Maharal says that having tznius doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do things without anybody seeing or knowing.  In other words, people can see you do a mitzvah or know that you’ve done a mitzvah and it can still be tznius – but only so long as you are doing it because deep in your heart you are doing it only because Hashem commanded it.  Yosef fulfilled the hidden Torah – he was in Egypt; nobody knew what Torah was, there were no Jews there – he did what was right only because he was serving Hashem.  He didn’t want praise and he didn’t want compliments.  He was doing it only for Hashem.  Even if you do something in public, it is still considered hidden if you are doing it only for Hashem and not for your own motives.  So it makes sense then, to say that when the Vilna Gaon says you shouldn’t be embarrassed because of people who mock you AND he says you should have tznius, what this means in essence is that you can do things publicly and they will still be considered tznius, so long as you are doing them for the right reason.

We learn that Yosef is compared to a bow.  What is a bow?  It is an object where when you pull the string closer to you, it gains more power.  That Yosef is like a bow teaches us that Torah is like the string – the closer to yourself you keep your Torah, the stronger it – and you – will be.  It is no coincidence that Yosef shows up right at Chanukah time, just in time to deliver this message about tznius.  Yosef shows us to keep that which is important to ourselves.  When speaking physically, do not flaunt your body or your talents like the Greeks did (although the Torah also teaches that neither should you waste them – tznius does not mean you must throw away these things, simply to hide them, and to reveal them only in the proper way, at the proper time.  Do not flaunt your body as the Greeks did in their nude sports competitions, but rather, cover it tastefully and reveal it only to your spouse at the appropriate time and place).  When speaking spiritually, do not use your spirituality to gain respect or praise or honor, as the Greeks did their intellect and their religious beliefs.  Instead, reveal your spirituality only at the right time and place, and only for the right reasons. Like the Maccabees, who held their Torah close to them and fought the Greeks only for the sake of the Torah, you can be strong.  Be like Yosef and keep the Torah, but keep it for the right reasons, and keep it close to you because through it you will become strong.

Tznius is also the special area where women are experts.  When Hashem created woman, he considered creating her from many parts of Adam.  However, He knew she would fundamentally take on the characteristics of any part of the body she was made from.  If from the eyes, she would run after things she saw; if from the hands, she would grab anything she could; etc.  So Hashem chose to create woman from the rib, which is always covered by the skin, always hidden (and also incidentally close to Adam’s heart and protecting his lungs, which contain his breath – breath representing in Judaism the soul, that which makes us fundamentally spiritual beings).  This means that woman’s number one middah, the one character trait that makes woman so outstanding in the Jewish world, is her tznius, her modesty.

And she is rewarded for it by Hashem because tznius is such a fundamental part of who we are as Jews.  We learn in the Gemara an interesting story about a woman named Kimchis.  Kimchis had seven sons and all of them became kohen gadols, high priests.  This is unprecedented!  We have never seen the likes of this before – that not one, but all seven, of her sons reached the highest level possible.  What did she do that was so amazing to merit this?  The Gemara answers that the beams of her house never saw the braids of her hair.  This is her tznius, her modesty.  Not only did she cover her hair, but she went further and covered her hair not only publicly, but privately, too.  She was tznius literally both inside and out.  Furthermore, hair represents a wild, creative force, and by not only covering, but also braiding her hair, she took her tzniut to a higher level.  A man can afford to have that wild, creative force untamed, but a woman cannot – it is the woman’s job to take the man’s incessant ideas and creativity and actually do something with it. (“No, honey, I don’t think it’s a good idea to invest all of our savings in that ponzi scheme.  But that idea you had about starting a restaurant might be worth looking into…”)  The woman’s role is hidden – she does not need to be in the limelight, getting the praise, getting the attention, being regaled for her great ideas – because she is modesty personified.  Woman is tznius.

We see, then, that in the battle of tznius women are fundamental.  In the battle of Chanukah, we see their unbridled passions were overcome by the power of tznius the Jews had.  And women played an important part in this.  When Yehudit chopped off the head of Cicero, she was not doing something literally hidden, yet it was still tznius.  It was still considered as if it was hidden because her motivation was pure Torah.  She knew the Greeks would continue to molest Jewish women if nobody did anything and so she did what she had to do, but only for the right reasons.

This, then, reveals the answer to our question as to why the minhagim of eating cheese and women not working are mentioned even before the mitzvot of lighting candles.  There is something even more important to learn here than the technicalities of lighting candles to commemorate a miracle Hashem performed.  There is the miracle we performed – and can still perform every day.  It is the effort of improving ourselves in our service of Hashem, the hard work we put into working on ourselves to improve this very important middah of modesty. 

The minhag of eating cheese represents Yehudit and the modesty she stands for, the modesty that we were fighting for the right to have – and the modesty that won the war for us in the end.  As we sit around and eat our cheese, we should not be simply savoring the delicious flavors and thinking what a delicious holiday Chanukah is.  We should instead be looking into ourselves and thinking of what it truly represents – tznius – and thinking of how we can emulate this, whether we are male or female.

The minhag of women not working while the candles are lit is something special just for women.  Again, it commemorates us, but this is our little reward.  Like Kimchis who is rewarded in an extreme fashion for her extreme tznius, we women are given this little reward for our innate tznius, at whatever level we may be holding right now.  This is because Chanukah is made into, during these hours when the candles are lit, a mini-yom tov, a little holiday just for us.  Just as during a holiday, such as Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, we are not allowed to work, so too we are not allowed to work during this time.  And the commentaries even go further to say that a woman should not work while any candles are still burning anywhere in the town, which, the commentaries say, is safe to assume is about midnight (as this was the time when men used to finish their learning in the main synagogue).  As with other yom tovim, we are to celebrate with the entire klal – we eat festive foods, have parties (and cookie swaps!), and say no eulogies – because Hashem made a miracle for us.  But women celebrate a little extra, in our own special way, because women are the guardians of tznius.

current mood: Spiritual

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Thursday, November 25th, 2010
2:11 pm - Random
The internet cafe where I am smelled deliciously of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies..... mmmm.... until about 30 seconds ago when the woman sitting next to me lit up a cigarette.  DISGUSTING.  Yuck.


current mood: irritated

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Friday, November 19th, 2010
10:30 am - Happy Friday! Happy Weekend!

Today is Friday, which is the Muslim day of rest.   Saturday is the Jewish day of rest.  Sunday is the Christian day of rest.  Here in Jordan the busses don’t run on Friday.  In Israel the busses don’t run on Saturday.  And in both Jordan and Israel the weekend is Friday and Saturday, with Sunday a regular workday.  In the US, Saturday and Sunday are the weekend.  For the sake of equality and cultural sensitivity, I propose this solution: A Friday-Saturday-Sunday weekend!   Yes, I believe we should all have three-day weekends. Hallelujah!

current mood: chipper

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Friday, November 12th, 2010
8:06 am - Ayin Baemtza
My husband forwarded me this weekly email he gets from back in Australia... this week's was very good and I thought I'd share.

Question of the Week:

My life has fallen apart. My husband left me, I have been kicked out of my home and my career is over. And now I am losing my faith too. I used to believe so strongly, but now my thinking has changed. Was I deluded to think that G-d would help me?  



I feel for you in what must be a huge test of your character. Your whole world has been shattered to pieces. Just to get up in the morning and face the day must take mammoth strength.
There is a name for your situation. The Kabbalists call it Ayin Baemtza - "transitional nothingness."

Between any two states of being lies an intermediary state of nonbeing. Like a seed that must become a tree, it first decomposes, nullifies itself and rots into oblivion. Just as it reaches the verge of complete nonexistence, the seed starts to sprout and reinvents itself into a new being. Only by losing its being as a seed and becoming nothing, can it reach a new being, a greater being, as a tree.

It has to be this way. To truly reinvent oneself, there must be a true and complete break from the past, a real nothingness, to make room for the new self to emerge.
You are presently going through an Ayin Baemtza stage in your life. The life that was is gone, the life that will be is yet to blossom, and you are left in a big black hole of confusion, pain and darkness. That is a very hard place to be. Because everyone knows that transitional nothingness is just a temporary state, a step between two stages in life. Everyone knows that except the one who is going through it themselves. For you the nothingness is real. It is hard - maybe impossible - for you to see any bright future ahead.
So what can you do to survive the transitional nothingness? What will keep you going until you transform into the you of tomorrow?
In your state of nothingness you need to hold on to something higher than yourself. Now, you need faith, not philosophy. Say to yourself: My life is in disarray, I don't know what's flying, I don't know what will be, but I am in G-d's hands. This is a process that for whatever reason I must go through. And with G-d's help, I will get through it.
When in an Ayin state, it is not the time to be changing belief systems, or making important life choices. The ground you are standing on is too unstable for you to be able to think clearly. It would be sad - no, it would be tragic - if in your frustration you made choices that you will later regret, but not be able to reverse.
I offer no solutions to your predicament. But I offer you one piece of advice. Just hold on to G-d, the one thing that even in your nothingness you haven't lost. You will get through this black hole and your life will be reborn. The seed is planted. Have faith, and your new tomorrow will blossom soon.
Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

current mood: sleepy

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Thursday, November 11th, 2010
3:13 pm - Ooooohhhhh
Would it be wrong of me to want to have a little girl JUST so I can buy her these flip flops? OMG TOO CUTE.  Havaianas FTW.

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Thursday, November 4th, 2010
2:06 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 10
Notes from Chapter 10 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":
  • If you find yourself in a negative state, keep your focus on the state that you do want, not the one you don't want.
  • Seven tips for accessing the state/mood you wish:
    • Change your present physiology or posture to the way it is when you are in the desired state.  Try as an exercise looking in a mirror and smiling and waving to yourself.  You will immediately feel an emotional lift.
    • Remember a time in the past when you were in the specific state in which you now wish to be.
    • Imagine being in a certain state in the future.
    • Think of people who exemplify specific states that you want for yourself.
    • Ask yourself questions that enable you to access states.
    • Use the tone of voice of the state you want.
    • Use positive "anchors" to access positive states.  An "anchor" is any sound, word, picture, image, motion, or touch that causes a reaction.  When you are in a positive or relaxed state, create an anchor to access it again in the future.  When you find that something is a positive anchor for your spouse, increase the use of that anchor.  When you find something is a negative anchor, stop saying or doing it.
  • Express your points in a way that puts your spouse in a positive state.
  • Two people who care about each other and consistently express appreciation, gratitude, praise, encouragement, and validation can frequently put each other in positive states.  Help your spouse access resourceful states by speaking in these ways even when difficulties arise.
  • How can you transform boredom and frustration into enjoyment? Find a positive reframe for what you are doing. Sing and dance every once in a while or formulate a mental fantasy.
On a side note, I find that the most effective mood-lifter for me is to eat.  If I don't eat, my mood immediately goes haywire... I get a headache, I feel miserable and insecure, and I start picking irrational fights with anyone around me.  The worst part of it is that once I get into this state, it gets exponentially worse because once I'm moody, I don't even WANT to eat, and if I DO want to eat, I don't want to eat anything but that ONE THING I am craving.  It's horrible.  Still, I wish people would realize that if I'm having a bad day, the best thing to do is simply to give me a good meal (preferably with a yummy dessert at the end... Fro Yo anyone??!).  I also need to start taking more responsibility for my own food needs.  Often, I will refrain from eating when it is socially impolite (such as if others are waiting for food) or when I feel I will be judged for eating (as in when I want to eat something less than super healthy) and I need to get over those hang-ups and if anyone challenges me, just be assertive about my NEED to eat.  This is a personal problem, I know, and eating won't solve most people's mood issues the way it will mine.  But it is probably the one most important thing I need to deal with to improve my moods.

current mood: curious

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Thursday, October 28th, 2010
10:29 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 9
Notes from Chapter 9 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":
  • Reframing means perceiving a situation or event differently than you did originally or differently than it is usually viewed.  While you do not always have control over external factors, you always have the ability to reframe.  Every situation and occurrence that creates a negative reaction within you does so because of the way you reframed it.  When you reframe the situation in a more positive way, your inner reactions will change for the better.
  • Interview people who are joyous, serene, and kind.  Find out their attitudes and reframes, and start the process of internalizing those or similar reframes.
  • When a reframe is real to you, your feelings toward the event or occurrence will be consistent with that reframe.
  • "The worst disability one can have in life is a negative attitude." (Rabbi Kalman Packouz)
  • Ways to reframe a situation:
    • Think of a positive reframe by asking yourself:
      • "What is beneficial about this situation?"
      • "How can I gain from what happened?"
      • "How can I grow from this?"
      • "Why is this so trivial it's not worth wasting precious moments of life on it?"
    • Take time to mentally focus on thoughts you find enjoyable or pleasant.
    • Think about how joyful or relieved you will be when the unpleasant task is finished.
  • Practice listing five different ways to view a given situation.
  • If something doesn't bother you and yet it bothers your spouse, start off by being compassionate or empathizing with your spouse's distress or pain.  Immediately reacting with a reframe can be highly insensitive to what he or she is experiencing.
  • Realizing there is always a bigger picture will enable us to see things that otherwise we wouldn't have noticed.
  • When we are upset about something our spouse has said or done, that easily becomes our focus rather than all the positive things our spouse has done for us.  Compared to what can go wrong in this world, most of the things that create problems for people in marriage are trivialities.
  • A person's perceptions become their reality.  Challenge the way you view a problematic situation if you feel there is a better way of looking at it.  View setbacks as valuable learning experiences rather than failures.
  • Utilize the stories of great people to serve as a positive reframe and as positive role models to elevate your behavior.
  • Internalize 9 key Torah reframes:
    • "All that the A-mighty causes to happen is for the good." (Berachos 60b)  The Shulchan Aruch tells us to repeat this frequently (Orach Chaim 230:5)
    • "According to the pain is the reward." (Pirkei Avos)
    • "All life situations are opportunities for you to improve your middos, character traits."
    • "Every challenge that occurs in your life is meant to be a Divinely ordained test to enable you to elevate yourself."
    • "This is a kapparah, an atonement."
    • "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Vayikra 19:18)
    • "Judge other people favorably." (Vayikra 19:15)
    • "This is an opportunity to emulate the A-mighty."
    • "This too shall pass."
  • Keep your main focus on how you gain from being married in general, and from being married to your particular spouse.  Ask yourself, "What are all the ways I gain from being married to my spouse?"
  • Change what can be changed and accept what cannot be changed.
  • Expect things to be different than you thought they would be and you will find it easier to appreciate the positive aspects of your marriage.
  • Expect problems so you can mentally prepare for the difficulty and can visualize yourself coping well with whatever occurs.
  • Think about any problematic patterns in your marriage. Mentally visualize yourself handling them well.  Spend time with your eyes closed and see yourself speaking and acting in ways that are spiritually elevating and emotionally fulfilling.

BT and I discussed reframing because he's worked with it a lot in his life and it is an area in which I need major improvement.  We discovered that my most negative reframe moments come as a result of my general mood being cranky or low.  He suggested that I make a list of 10 five minute activities that I can do to get myself out of a cranky mood.  I liked this suggestion and wanted to share it :)

current mood: sleepy

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2:55 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 8
Notes from Chapter 8 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":
  • The rest of your life begins this very moment.  Regardless of what you have ever said or done in the past, you can presently make new and better choices in every area of your life.  Whatever you say or do now is going to be part of the foundation of your future.  From now on you can be totally resolved to act in new and better ways.  Just having insight about why you are the way you are isn't sufficient.  We need new actions to bring about new results.
  • You have been laying the groundwork for this moment your entire life.
  • Make the best of what you have.  Live in the present.  Focus on making the best choices for what is needed right now.
  • Live in the present, learn from the past, and prepare for the future.
  • To live in the present, keep asking yourself, "What can I do now?" Focus on what you personally can do now.
  • If you need to repeat yourself, live in the present.  Ask the tenth time with the same patience as the first time.
  • Forgive and let go.  Keep your mind off past resentments.  If your mind spontaneously keeps going back to the past, tell yourself, "Next," and focus on something else.  Forgiving and letting go doesn't mean that you are denying this person has done something wrong, but it does mean you are releasing the emotional attachment you have toward that wrong.
  • "It is forbidden to remind a person of his past misdeeds or the misdeeds of his family, for this will cause him distress." (Choshen Mishpat, 228:4)
  • Any time you feel like saying something that would be a product of feelings of animosity and you remain silent, you are fulfilling the Torah commandment of not taking revenge or bearing a grudge.  This creates a great light in your soul.  This is tremendous growth.
  • Reinforce improvement.  Express your appreciation.  Also reinforce positive attempts at improvement.

current mood: cheerful

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2:44 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 7
Notes from Chapter 7 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":
  • Be resolved to accept the birthright that Hashem gave you from the moment you were born: The birthright of having been created in His image, the birthright of being His child, and the birthright of viewing the entire universe as having been created for you.  The Creator has given you infinite value.  You are a valuable person just by being alive.
  • Knowing you are valuable even if you have faults and have made mistakes gives you less of a need to defend yourself in the face of criticism.  Even if the criticism is true and valid, it just gives you an opportunity to improve yourself.  Your value and importance are never in question whether or not you actually improve.
  • When you realize your true value, you won't need other people to view you as important in order for you to view yourself as important.
  • Always remember: They can take everything away from you but they can't take away what you yourself put into your mind.
  • The Torah perspective on who you are is that each and every human being has unlimited intrinsic worth.  This means that you have immense value that is not conditional on your intelligence, your knowledge, your wealthy, your popularity, your looks, your health, your weight, your emotions, or any other factor.  The reality is that your value is your birthright and that can never be taken away.
  • Anyone who has not treated you with the utmost respect has violated a basic Torah principle of how fellow human beings should be treated.  This is their problem, and while it can be stressful, you have the ability to still view yourself as a tremendously worthwhile being created in the image of our Creator.
  • We are souls with bodies, not bodies with souls.  Any imperfections on the financial, physical, intellectual, or emotional level are your challenges while living in this world.  They do not detract from you on the soul level, which is who you actually are.
  • Make it a high priority to say and do things that will enhance your spouse's self esteem.  Clarify your spouse's strengths, virtues, and inner resources.  Then keep pointing them out in a way your spouse will appreciate.  Whenever your spouse feels low, say something empowering.  Remind your spouse about his or her accomplishments and successes.
My notes also have one other special note in them :)  BT wrote me a nice note just in the middle of this section while I was sleeping... <3

current mood: happy

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10:18 am - I WANT
This camera: www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/673587-REG/Fujifilm_16018645_HS10_10MP_Digital_Point.html#specifications

It's the newest Fujifilm version of my old camera, and I am IN LOVE with it.  It has so many fun features my old one didn't have, plus it meets all my needs and I know it's a good product because every digital camera I've ever owned has been Fujifilm and they've been consistently very, very good products.  Usually, they are half the price of a similar product from Canon or Nikon, but they are so reliable and wonderful that I don't feel I've sacrificed any quality.  Unfortunately, I'm now traveling the world sans camera, my camera having been lost and then stolen on my Delta flight back from Mexico. ;(

Here is a very good review of the camera that explains all its fun features... you will see why I want it <3 www.photographyblog.com/reviews/fujifilm_finepix_hs10_review/

current mood: nostalgic

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Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
5:23 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 6
Notes on chapter 6 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":
  • People have different feelings about what a quarrel is. Some people enjoy as lively give and take, while others feel this is a quarrel.  If either spouse in a marriage considers something to be a quarrel, then there is a quarrel.
  • Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree.
  • When you see that there will not be a settlement of an argument, state your position.  State it as clearly as you can.  Then stop.  Since it won't be accepted there is no difference whether you say it once or many times.
  • When you argue about a specific issue, keep the discussion to the issue at hand.  By bringing up arguments and resentments about other issues, nothing will be resolve, except that hurt and angry feelings will be increased.
  • To work out a win-win solution, ask yourself: "How can I have my needs met while at the same time my spouse also has his/her needs met."
  • Key to preventing many quarrels: "Don't blame." In the vast majority of situations it makes absolutely no difference who was at fault.
  • Master the ability to speak:
    • Assertively
    • Without blaming
    • With respect
    • With compassion
  • If you believe you told your spouse something and he/she now claims you didn't, assume that you told him/her, but he/she doesn't recall it.  Everyone has an imperfect memory.  Very few people consistently get 100% correct on every single test they take in every single subject.  We all forget.  It could be that your spouse was distracted. It could also be that you didn't speak loudly enough when you first said your message.  Repeat your message as if it is the first time you are stating it and let it go at that.
  • Take the initiative to stop the quarrel.  Try saying:
    • "I apologize. Let's stop quarreling."
    • "Let me think this over."
    • "I see that we both feel strongly about our positions.  Right now neither of us is convincing the other. Let's agree to disagree."
    • "Let's discuss this at a different time when we are both calmer."
    • "This is getting out of hand.  Let's call a truce."
  • The only way to be sure you'll get the final word is to say things your spouse will enjoy.
  • "Pattern interrupt" is the ability to say something that will enable your spouse to focus on something else besides the argument.
  • Don't waste your valuable and too-short time on this planet in quarrels over irrelevant or trivial issues.

current mood: happy

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9:29 am - Notes on Marriage Part 5
Notes from chapter 5 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":

  • "Develop the habit of seeing other people as they see themselves.  All anger, all hatred, all quarrels arise because a person views the situation from his own perspective and fails to see himself from the viewpoint of the other person...
"Seeing things from the other person's point of view will have a profound effect on your personality, since all the traits that deal with how we relate to others are dependent upon this concept.  You will find it easier to master this when you realize how beneficial it is for your happiness and success in life to have many people love and care about you.  When you master the ability to view others as they see themselves, you gain the love of everyone.

"In your dealings with other people, do not relate to them only with cold logic. Rather, take their emotions and individual personalities into consideration." (Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, Michtav MeEliyahu vol. 4, pp. 243-5)
  • "When talking to someone who thinks very different than you, especially when the person is being irrational, enter the other person's world and answer him according to his line of reasoning." (Vilna Gaon)
  • What key words does your spouse use frequently that can be used by you to generate greater rapport?  Keep a list of his/her favorite positive words.
  • When asking your spouse questions, they should further your understanding of your spouse and they should indicate sensitivity to the issue on your part.
  • Make a list of the family rules that were spoken about in the home in which you grew up.  Ask your spouse to make a similar list of rules.  In what ways are these rules compatible? In what ways do they conflict?
  • Don't ask unnecessary questions when you see your spouse would prefer not to talk about something.
  • Regardless of how similar any two people are, they will be different in many ways. Regardless of how different two people are, they will be similar in many ways.  View these differences as challenges for growth.
  • True growth is elevating oneself in the situation in which one finds oneself.
  • When you need to confront someone, try using these four tips:
    • You always have a right to speak up for your valid rights.
    • The only power anyone else has over you is the power you give them.
    • If you find it difficult to confront someone, imagine him or her as a young infant, or as he or she will be 120 years from now.
    • Imagine a powerful role model and see yourself talking and acting the way that person would.
  • If you have a quarrel or misunderstanding, try a role-reversal so you can change a problematic problem.
  • Help your spouse understand you better by explaining your reactions, your patterns, and how to handle you when you are in a difficult state.
  • If you can't express yourself verbally, try writing it.

current mood: contemplative

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Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
3:19 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 4
Notes from Chapter 4 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":
  • Think about the outcome you want before you say anything. You not only want your spouse to do something, you also want their goodwill.
  • Thinking is free, so use your brain as much as you can.
  • Omit unnecessary words. When you and your spouse are feeling distressed, the more words you say, the more likely it is that you will say things that would have been better left unsaid.
  • If what you said or did hasn't produced the outcome you wanted, then say or do something else.
  • How to get what you want:
    • Clarify for yourself, "What exactly do I want?"
    • "Word what you say in a way that is conducive to getting what you want.
  • When you speak to someone, the meaning of what you are saying is dependent on the way the person to whom you are speaking understands it.  In communication the point is to get the listener to understand the way you mean it, so if they don't, you as a communicator need to use different words that have a greater possibility of being understood.  If what you said caused your spouse pain, then what you have said was painful even if that wasn't your intention.  If your spouse finds a pattern distressing, speak with a different pattern.
  • Remember this general rule: If your spouse found the way that you expressed yourself distressing, you spoke or asked the wrong way.  Each individual person is the most authoritative expert on what caused him pain. If you feel that your spouse felt pain only because he or she misunderstood your intentions, then explain that you didn't mean to cause pain. But don't blame your spouse for feeling the way he or she did.
  • "There are two basic approaches to take when you see someone doing something wrong. One is to speak harshly to the person and correct him. But this approach does not help people know how they should behave and how they can correct what they did wrong. 
"The approach of the wise is to show people how they can correct what they did wrong. This is a healing approach and the only words that are said are those conducive to healing." (Vilna Gaon, Mishlei 12:18)
  • Getting another person to listen is like opening a closed door. You have to choose which of two ways to open it.  One is to break it down with force. This opens the door, but at a cost. The other way is to use a key or to press the buttons on a coded lock.
  • Anything you say or do to get someone to do something for your can be called manipulative, whether it's asking in a regular tone of voice, screaming, yelling, making a serious or hurt face, or even smiling.  So it's not a question of manipulating another person, but how one does it and if it's in everyone's best interests.
  • You need to be sensitive to your audience. And in marriage that audience is your spouse.
  • If you keep doing what you've always been doing, you'll keep getting what you've always been getting.

(As to this last one, my 11th & 12th grade history teacher, Mr. Landis, had another way of saying it: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.")

current mood: accomplished

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Sunday, October 24th, 2010
9:03 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 3
Notes from Chapter 3 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":
  • 5-word key to a joyous marriage: "Don't cause pain, give pleasure."
    • Tehillim 34:15 says this in 4 words: "Sur mei'ra, va'asei tov." "Keep away from evil, and do good."
  • A lesson on how not to cause pain: Sit quietly for 30 seconds without saying one word. Have a fairly pleasant expression on your face as you do so.
  • Regarding the subject of giving your spouse pleasure, what have you done in the past that gave him pleasure? For that matter, what have you said or done for anyone else on the planet that was helpful, useful, kind, or pleasurable to them?
  • Compose lists of what your spouse likes and dislikes.
  • If you want your spouse to do something, ask yourself, "How can I make my spouse feel good about complying with my request?" Speak and act in ways that will make your spouse happy to do the things you need and want.
  • It is forbidden to say anything that will needlessly cause pain to another person. The speaker mustn't say, "You shouldn't be so sensitive." If the listener will experience pain, the speaker is forbidden to say it. It is true that one's perception is a key element, but the Torah prohibition is clear. When you speak to someone who will feel hurt by what you said, you are responsible for the pain your words caused.  If your spouse claims that your words caused him or her pain, don't argue that your think they really didn't. Apologize. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." (Mishlei 18:21)
  • Ask yourself regularly, "What should I stop saying or doing that is causing my spouse distress?"
  • "If you cut your left hand while slicing meat, would your left hand take revenge on your right hand for cutting it? For this reason we should not take revenge on others, since we are all one." (Talmud Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:4 & Korban Eidah)
  • Continually ask two questions to increase chesed in your marriage:
    • Ask your spouse, "What can I do for you?"
    • Ask yourself, "What can I say or do to give my spouse pleasure?"
  • Appreciation to a human being is like sunlight to a plant.
  • Five tips to good/better communications:
    • Ask clarification questions.
    • Tell stories from books your spouse hasn't read yet.
    • Listen carefully to the comments others make when they speak to someone in your presence.  This will give you ideas on what to comment on.
    • Observe things that happen in your presence no matter where you are.  There will always be things to notice that are a bit out of the ordinary. These are good topics for conversation.
    • Listen to your spouse's side of the conversation when he/she is talking to family or friends and acquire the patterns he/she would appreciate.
  • By focusing on what you're missing, you miss out on what you do have.
  • No matter how busy you are or how long you've been married, always look for positive activities you can do together.

current mood: happy

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3:50 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 2
Notes from Chapter 2 of Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Marriage":
  • R'Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler said that the key to a successful marriage is for each partner to always try to make the other happy.  But when one constantly makes demands of the other, happiness will not be theirs.
  • Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, zt"l, of the Ponovezh Yeshiva said, "If you are going to do it anyway, you might as well do it with joy."
  • Vilna Gaon: "A person who has mastered the attribute of appreciating what he has is in the same state & emotionally as high as the person who is inebriated during the height of the pleasure of a party."
  • Remember and think of the pain and loneliness of being single, especially how an older single woman must feel, and be grateful always for your spouse.
  • Midrash: "Serve your husband as if he were a king.  For, if you will act toward him like his maid, he will act as if he were your servant, and will honor you like a queen. If, however, you try to dominate him, he will be your master, and you will be in his eyes like a maidservant."
  • Even in the most difficult of times there is something for which to be grateful.
  • Even if you aren't entirely happy with the person to whom you are married, at least treat him with the respect & kindness that you would a stranger.
  • Love is giving.
  • Mishlei 27:19: "As water reflects a face back to a face, so one's heart is reflected back to him by another." What you send out will come back to you. Talk & act with love & respect.
  • How do we create love & respect for another person? Focus on their positive qualities & virtues.
  • "Love is the pleasure of seeing the virtues of another person." - Rabbi Noach Weinberg
  • List the 5 qualities you most admire & respect in your spouse & repeat them 10 times daily.
  • You and your spouse are one. If you wouldn't get angry with yourself, don't get angry with your spouse.
  • Before you are born, a divine voice calls out who you are to marry. The person you are married to was destined to be your partner for your ultimate benefit.

current mood: cheerful

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1:03 pm - Notes on Marriage Part 1

While I was in Montreal, a friend in Israel recommended I check out Rabbi Twerski’s book on the first year of marriage. I went to the Jewish library and while I was there, figured I’d pick up Pliskin’s tome on the same topic. Rabbi Twerski’s book didn’t impress me much. Rabbi Pliskin’s book did.  It seemed so filled with priceless advice, not just on marriage, but on how to work on and improve yourself, thereby improving all your relationships, that I determined to sit down and really study it.  These are my notes.  Some are direct quotes, many are paraphrased, or my own interpretation of what is said there.

Notes from “Marriage” by Rabbi Pliskin.

Chapter 1

·      What can I do to bring out the best in my husband? To make him smile? To inspire him?

·      “The Sages commanded that a wife honor her husband exceedingly.  She should revere him, and all of her actions should be in accordance with his will.  He should be in her eyes as a prince or king. She should do as he desires and refrain from doing whatever he dislikes.” – Yad HaChazakah, Hilchos Ishus 15:19, 20

·      Respecting each other is halacha.

·      Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe lists 5 attributes that are fundamental for a successful marriage:

o   Have a good eye = see the good in your spouse & always judge favorably

o   Be a good friend = totally accept your spouse; be spiritually, financially, physically, & emotionally supportive

o   Be a good neighbor = give space when needed

o   See the outcome = be careful not to do or say anything that will cause distress or suffering

o   Have a good heart = selfless love & compassion

·      If you don’t feel cared-for, become the kind of person it is impossible not to care about.

·      When a problem persists, ask:

o   What is maintaining the problem?

o   What words or actions will solve or remove the problem?

·      If it is a problem for one, it is a problem for both.

·      “Every challenge in your life is meant as a nisayon, a life challenge, from which you can grow.” (Mesillas Yesharim, Ch. 1)  Utilize whatever happens in your life and marriage for growth.

·      A hidden tzaddik gave these 10 tips to help pass any test in marriage:

o   The best preparation for Yom Kippur is to say to Hashem, “I forgive my wife for everything and anything she ever said or did wrong to me.” And the best time to say this is this very moment or any time you think about her having said or done anything wrong. Once you forgive her, keep in mind that you have already let it go.

o   If you want a happy marriage, decide that you will consistently be happy with all that Hashem sends your way.

o   Tell your wife, “You are perfect the way you are.”  Even if she is not perfect for herself, she is perfect for you.

o   Right after saying “Modeh Ani” in the morning, expressing your gratitude for being alive, say “And thank You for giving me my wife. I realize that she is exactly what I need for fulfilling my purpose in this world.”

o   Before going to sleep at night, think about any mistakes you made when interacting with your wife.  Mentally see yourself handling those situations better in the future.  Feel joy that you are in the process of improving.

o   As you stand before Hashem at the end of the Shemonah Esrei, when saying the blessing “Hamevarech es amo Yisrael bashalom – He who blesses His nation, Israel, with peace,” think to yourself, “And bless me and my wife with peace.”

o   Ideally we should do chesed out of sincere love for other people. But if you don’t have these feelings, you are still obligated to do chesed. The same holds true in a marriage. Ideally you should have love and respect for your wife. If not, you are still obligated to treat her the way you would if you did have these feelings. Keeping this up will eventually increase your positive feelings.

o   If you ever feel that things are not as they should be between you and your spouse, pray that Hashem should bring harmony to all couples who need it. Praying for others helps your own prayers to be answered.

o   Increase your level of bitachon and you won’t have to worry about anything. This will improve your marriage.  When your wife sees how confident you are that things will work out well, she will be calmer.

o   Each day say the first 15 verses of Chapter 34 in Tehillim at least 3 times. This is one of the greatest segulos for shalom bayit.

·      Each day ask yourself, “What can I do today to improve?”

current mood: happy

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