Category Archives: Jewishness

My mediocre pursuit of mediocrity

The Jewish new year is imminently upon us and amazingly, I remember my resolution from the beginning of the year that is coming to an end. The one new year resolution I had was to stop pursuing perfection.

So how did I fare? Have I internalized more that idealizing perfection is a creativity and fulfillment killer?

Well, it’s complicated, I’d have to say.

I’ve exposed my perfection demons to my consciousness. I’ve become more familiar with how they behave, how connected I am to them and what I think about them.

Being more aware of their presence has allowed me to make some exciting and scary decisions. Namely, I am spending my days on things more connected to my talents and loves. This is an amazing development and couldn’t have happened unless I was more able to admit that I can pursue my passions without being perfect in them. It’s so much easier to fail at something that isn’t a dream.

But now that I’m doing more of what I really want to be doing, my expectations of myself and of my life have skyrocketed which hasn’t been fun.

Tapping into my hopes and dreams makes failure seem scarier than ever.

Bottom line? In a perfectly  mediocre manner I am succeeding beautifully at fighting my urge for perfection. I am allowing myself to pursue my dreams despite my fear of failing and I am fighting my pursuit of perfection when so much more is at stake.

How did you fare with your resolutions from last Rosh Hashana?

Shana tova. :)

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I will never remember

I may never forget the Holocaust but how can I remember it if I wasn’t there?

The survivors can’t remember all alone. Especially as they get older, their numbers are dwindling and, as Melabev put it, a lot of them physiologically literally can’t remember anymore.

melabev on yom hashoah

But truthfully, the Holocaust is full of untold stories of people who died along with every single person who ever knew them. There is no one to remember them individually and so they are only part of our collective remembrance. It is our job to remember them.

holocaust poster

And so we do it. We all join the band of the surrogate memory-bearers so that the survivors can have some peace of mind, knowing that although we don’t understand, we will try and although we can’t remember, we will never forget.

Yom Kippur, a lamentation

I really hyped up Yom Kippur yesterday in my post on The Times of Israel hours before the fast began. I meant what I wrote and yet, post-Yom Kippur, I need to make a confession.

This year I had a very annoying and pretty upsetting Yom Kippur.

First of all, I really hate fasting. I’m not the worst faster but it makes me feel uncomfortable and weak and the whole time, I just can’t wait for it to be over.

Secondly, I knew I might have menstrual cramps on Yom Kippur and I wouldn’t be able to take pills for them. This stressed me out all day.

And then, thinking about cramps without pain killers got me thinking about other people who would suffer more than usual because of the extremely strict fasting laws on Yom Kippur. Ynet’s overly dramatized Yom Kippur in numbers article mentions that 108 fasters were taken to the hospital by ambulance after fainting today. Oy vey.

Third, Yom Kippur really stirs up the emotions and sometimes that means we get to see the stuff about ourselves that we wish wasn’t looming there, ready to rear its ugly head. My oh my.

In yesterday’s piece I said that I was going to focus on the positive – imagine a better me and a better world. But instead I kept thinking about how crappy I can be and that wasn’t fun. (For some odd reason.)

Finally, this year I didn’t feel like being in shul. I normally spend quite a lot of time there but after Ma’ariv last night, I decided not to go to during the day. This gave my Yom Kippur much less structure and maybe, much less meaning.

Of course Yom Kippur this year wasn’t all bad. Last night I walked to Emek Refaim with a few of the kids in the family and that was really nice. Instead of going to shul today, I took up camp on my parents’ couch and stayed on that dear couch from approximately 8:30 in the morning until around 5:00 in the evening. During that time, I read (Great Expectations), slept and had many visitors in the form of parents, sisters and nieces and nephews.

At around 5:30 this evening I decided to go to shul for the end of Ne’ila. I got there in time for the very dramatic and touching ending of the Yom Kippur prayers (I’m not being facetious).

And then it was over.

Usually when Yom Kippur ends, I am giddy that it happened and relieved that it’s over. This year I’m left feeling a bit empty. Maybe I would have felt better if I’d forced myself to go to shul at least for Mussaf today. It’s hard to know.

It’s interesting that I had such a frustrating, forced Yom Kippur after I wrote such an excited piece about this holiday a few hours before it began. I wonder if I jinxed myself or maybe, through writing the piece, I realized that actually I don’t exactly feel the way I thought I do.

Or maybe this Yom Kippur I was just in a bad mood. Everything being said, I think the truth is a mix of all of the above.

Shana tova.

The perfection in mediocrity

My grandmother has a new idea. She wants me to wear a t-shirt when I go on dates that says:

I know how to bake bread and apple pie. I’m an amazing balabaste. With me you surly will never know hunger.

It’s a gimmick, for sure, but it just might work. As long as it’s a flattering t-shirt.

Another year has gone by and I’m still single. Often, at this time of year, I think about my singlehood, I feel pretty badly about it, and I hope that in the coming year I’ll meet my beloved.

But this year is different. So much has happened this year and I have so much going on even as I write this, that I hardly have time to focus just on that. There are many matters that are much more pressing.

I see that I am most definitely dealing with issues that are forcing me to grow in very interesting ways, and I am thankful for this. Although I am most definitely sad that I am still alone, I think that I am living a full life.

Even in the dating arena I can’t have many regrets. I am a very proactive dater and as I become more refined over the years – I am like good wine – I understand more about what is important for me and what is not. As a result, this year I dated quite a few guys who were on the right track. As other singles can attest, this is a huge accomplishment.

I have heard the idea that if there is a goal that is very important to you, then you should put a certain amount of time towards it on a daily basis – maybe half an hour a day. Well, I can definitely say that I put at least that amount of time towards this goal. The fact I’m still alone continues to bother me, but I know I’m doing what I can to remedy that and all the meanwhile, I’m involved in a many other good things too.

While I cannot feel too badly about my relationship status, I am feeling very frustrated by my writing. Writing is so important to me but something has created a huge block in me over the last year or so and it isn’t letting up. Yes, I wrote some of my most “successful” pieces this year but I know there is so much more where that came from and I yearn to be getting many more pieces out on a regular bases.

But I have been very down on myself about my writing – my style, my vocabulary… It’s been poisonous the thoughts I’ve been feeding myself.

As a young girl, writing was never considered my thing. On the contrary – my mother always called my spelling creative because it was so far removed from proper spelling. I have come to love writing but am aware of my shortcomings. My lack of vocabulary, my sometimes preachy tone… One of my biggest challenges is the fact that I don’t write about extremely personal things, especially if they involve others, which removes the option of writing about a huge amount of stuff about which I have a ton to say.

It’s been difficult and upsetting. I walk around wishing I could write more but it’s not happening.

And so I know what I want to work on in the new year. Well, besides all the other things. I want to work on seeing the perfection in mediocrity. So often I stop myself from creating something or doing something because I am scared it will be insignificant. So often I do get myself to do things but the actions are accompanied by a great amount of fear because I am scared I’m going to do them imperfectly and possibly cause harm.

Basically I’m scared to act. I push myself and I do a lot of things that are very scary but I know I’d have a real blast if I decided to do my best – the key being “do” – and hope for the best. And whatever comes, let it come.

It means having faith in my ability to deal with whatever comes… But of course I can do that.

I want to publish posts that aren’t great and be OK with it. I want to then move on to the next post without dwelling on the success of the last one.

I want to hone the skills I know I have and discover the ones I don’t yet know about. And this will happen if I let go of the need for perfection.

I have a belief that unless you are one of the greatest – musicians, artists, writers, actors – you aren’t making a significant change in the world. I want to contemplate what it is that leads me to have this black and white belief and work on throwing it away.

My perfectionism has, to a large extent, frozen me in place. The modern world trains you to believe that perfect is something that exists. For example, I just bought a new computer bag and keep thinking that maybe I should have held out for something better. For something more perfect.

What a waste of energy.

Perfectionism is a freezer. It doesn’t allow me to act because I know the chances of me being perfect are so slim that it’s a lost cause before I even start.

And I want to stop this destructive way of thinking.

I just saw an old woman, being taken on a stretcher out of her building to an ambulance. She seemed lucid; she was looking around. If she is in fact lucid, she could have been thinking many things. But I imagine she was thinking, “How did I get here? I’m not old.”

And she grew up in a time when time went more slowly. Today, time is zipping by quicker than we can grasp. That day is going to come sooner than we realize and we won’t feel old but we’ll be old and that’ll be a simple fact. And maybe we’ll be able to remember facts from our lives and maybe not.

All those things are out of our control. What is in our control is to look at our lives today, see what we have control over, and take action there.

Someone recently taught me that you need to look at a situation and figure out until what point you can have an effect and from what point it is not your responsibility because you simply lack control – even if you lie to yourself that you have it.

I hope to work on all these things this year.

To put it in one short sentence:

והעיקר לא לפחד כלל – the main thing is to not be scared one bit.

Shana tova.

Read about my mediocre success one year later.

Sh*t everyone says

It’s all the rave. It must be somewhat inspired by Sh*t my dad says, a Twitter account by a dude who documents the hilarious and inappropriate things his father says. (Which has since become a book and I think a TV show with William Shatner.)

Anyway, about the rave. Someone came out with a video “Sh*t girls say” which got tons of hits and was quickly (very) followed by many other sh*itty videos. I found the original pretty amusing:

And I just saw the one about frum girls which I found pretty funny:

OK fine, one more. I just spent too many minutes watching a few of the other ones that have popped up on YouTube and they’re starting to make my head feel stupid (or is it sh*tty) but just maybe check out this one last one, at your own risk of feeling your head go a little numb:

Me? Enjoy praying? My post-Yom Kippur thoughts

As those close to me know, I reeeally don’t enjoy conventional prayer. I mean, I talk to God as much as the next Jew but I can’t stand conventional Jewish praying for the following reasons:

  1. I don’t like feeling pushed to the side because I’m a woman.
  2. I don’t like reading lots of text.
  3. I don’t connect to a lot of the text in the siddur.
  4. I actually have issues with a lot of the prayers. I don’t get showing such reverence to God as if He/She needs it and as if that creates anything close to a healthy relationship with our Creator. (There are other things I don’t get about the prayers in our siddur like talking so much about the animal sacrifices in the time of the Temples in Jerusalem. Yuck.)
  5. It’s boring.

Well, now I’m glad to announce that this Yom Kippur (which was yesterday), enlightened me to some of the positive aspects of conventional prayer. I actually enjoyed being in shul this year and I had enough time to try to figure out what it was about the prayers this year which made it meaningful. I think there are two things about the Yom Kippur prayers that make it more meaningful to me than regular prayers during the year.

There is nothing better to do

I know it sounds a little lame but hear me out. I spend most days of the year so distracted that if I ever attempt to partake in conventional prayer, I’m almost always thinking about the other things I could/should/prefer to be doing. Prayer can seem pretty unproductive when you feel like a busy person.

On the other hand, on Yom Kippur, there is really almost nothing better to do than sit in shul. You can’t eat. You can’t check your email. You actually very possibly don’t want to check your email. It is such a unique day for me in that regard. It is the one day a year that I really want to disconnect and do “nothing much.” And when you have really nothing much to do at all, sitting and reading from a prayer book or listening to the prayers being recited actually feels quite nice.

Personally meaningful prayers

Yom Kippur prayers are so much about introspection. You are actually given a pretty thorough list of possible things you’ve done wrong so that if you choose, you can take the opportunity to try to think of what you did wrong over the last year and consider how you might improve yourself in the coming year.

Now that I can relate to. I don’t like the major guilt trip and I try not to let myself go there but I do try to think of what I did wrong and consider how I can try to improve in the coming year.

Yom Kippur rocks

Don’t get me wrong. I hate fasting and dread it every time. But this year’s Yom Kippur taught me a lot.

It made me realize that I really am unable to be still in my day-to-day life. My mind is so busy that I can’t allow myself time to just contemplate/meditate. And contrary to my feelings on contemplation/meditation (that it’s pretty bothersome and annoying), I don’t think it’s a waste of time. I think it can be very good for me and I’d like to see how I can add more of this into my life this year, even if it’s through conventional prayer! (Shocking, I know.)

I also realized how much I love Yom Kippur. It is by far the most unique day of the year, especially in Israel. The silence of the cities is awesome. The feeling that every Jew in the country is doing what you’re doing is just amazing. The feeling that we really all have “nothing better to do” than be together, because that is what we’ve all chosen for ourselves, is very exciting.

I honestly think that Yom Kippur might be my new favourite holiday. It is the day that has the potential to calibrate us. If we’re capable of stopping and listening to the silence.

Shana tova!

Photo by chajm on flickr.

Important lessons from this past year

Tonight is Rosh Hashana. Everyone is writing their introspective thoughts on Facebook, emailing shana tova blessings and calling each other. And yes, I’m also feeling introspective and extro-spective. I am looking at my world thinking about what’s gone down and what hasn’t. Feeling grateful for all the wonderful things in my life and sad about the tragedy of life.

I’m working in the same company as last year but have since learned plenty about content, about online stuff and most recently, learning a ton about project management – my most recent position. I’m learning how to work with all kinds of people. I’m learning when to take charge, when to make decisions and when to lean on those around me.

I’m learning about the cyclical nature of relationships. I’m learning about the importance of keeping the peace and keeping the relationships good with those closest to me. I am learning that if both sides will it, it’s usually possible.

I’m learning that I’m not always perfect so I should really get over that idea.

I’m learning that it’s so often not about me.

I’m learning that life is most definitely a bed of roses – it is full of wonderful fragrances, beautiful views and lots of thorns.

I’m learning that it’s really easy to want something you don’t have.

I’m learning to appreciate the time I have, the health I have, the people I have, right now.

I’m learning that sometimes it is best to follow the recipe.

And, thank God, I’m learning to be a nicer person.

And why do I write this all in present tense? Because none of this ends. It is all part of the process of my life.

Shana tova umetuka,

Deena

Suspicious if people are interested in converting

It’s funny… If someone were to come to a Christian and say, I’d like to get to know Christianity since I’m considering converting to the Christian faith, the believer would be pretty happy to go along with it.

But when a non-Jew says the same to a Jew about converting to Judaism, the natural (or conditioned) response is suspicion.

The Middle East and North African refugees

Who do you think of when refugees connected to the Middle Eastern “conflict” are mentioned? The approximately 800,000 Jewish ones from North Africa and the Middle East, of course. Right?

Well, no. The story of the Jews in Arab countries whose lives became increasingly unliveable starting around the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 is little known. So many of them had to flee for their lives. Many were held prisoners, terrible pogroms were acted out against them, until they almost totally cleared out of what became hostile territories for the Jews. Many of whom had lived in those areas for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.

You can read this article by the JTA in order to learn more about the organizations who have taken it upon themselves to document these refugees’ stories.