Friday, September 22, 2006

So if you know me than you probably know my philosophy. And if you know my philosophy than you probably know that Im really looking forward to rosh hashana. Thats right. As others are quaking and moaning, fearing reprisals for past actions through vindictive recipricocity by a ruthless and cruel deity, bemoaning the coming of the realization of another earthly spin-cycle and how it will affect their divine fortunes, I eagerly anticipate the coming benedictions that the celebration of the new year will bring. I do this, because I am aware that God loves me. He loves me more every day and so with the coming year he will love me even more than he has in the last one. How then can I be fearful of rosh hashana? I accept his blessings upon me and I love him in return for all he does and vow to be his most faithful servant for as long as he remains my master.

But good news you guys... he loves you too! yay! So quit your fearful bellyaching about the impending doom of rosh hashana and look forward to the opportunity to praise God. We will pray in praise and thanks for the wonderful year that he will most surely bestow upon us in his almighty wisdom and his endless charity and grace. It will be a year of plenty for all. A true bumper crop of divine goodwill.

And so I say, do not moan but celebrate. How then should one celebrate the new year? Much like any other new year. Drink! Only in this state of drunkeness are we ungaurded enough to be open and thankful for what he have. We can truly say "God... I love you man... You rock!" and mean it in much the same way I love you guys. Because i do and want to thank you all. A man is measured by the company he keeps and the people he calls friends. And you all, as my friends, are then to thank for me being such a kick-ass guy. And I you. And so forth in this vast social network of awesomeness to which you all contribute.

And so with love in my heart and blessings on my tongue I wish you all a happiest of new years. If I have ever hurt anyone of you than I beg you harbor no Ill will and I shall surely return the favor.

May we all merit to be inscribed in the book of a good life. With health, wealth, love and happiness to all.

happy holidays,

Xvi G.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

So whatsup? Its been a while. Dunno if Im gonna continue with this thing or not yet but people have been asking for an update on my school situation, my life and my overall mental well-being so here goes. What follows is just thought-process ramblings. I apologize for grammatical errors but its an infrmal post.

First(ly?), no, Im not in med school this year. I got on the downstate waitlist, but as we know i was so terrifically late that I shouldnt have ever convinced myself i ever really had a shot at acceptance. Instead of being productive and working torwards a positive goal I sat back, yet again, and hoped that the crack would develop into a full fledged hole that I could pass through. No go though. So there went the summer. The good news is though that the summers over!

Let me explain.

This year was pretty bad. Pretty damn bad for me all things considered and Im glad its gone. Yes, with the end of summer comes the end of leisure but I can deal with that. People will be back to school or full time jobs or yeshivah, and ill have to find work and be bona fide and such, but at least last year will be past. The questions are gone. Im not in school. I know that. No more "maybe"s or "wait a little more"s. No more endless months of uncertainty, waiting to be informed of my status from on high as I listlessly wait in drooling anxiety. Yes, Ill have to reapply and do the process again. This time though, its in a timely manner, its on my terms and I know the procedures. I know who to talk to and what to do. Who to ask and who to tell. Even if i dont pull it off this time around, it wont be like last time. Ill maintain my sanity and maybe even be happy... a little. Were working on that one.

With the new year comes a clean slate too. They say that rosh hashonah is a yom din and if your teshuva is proper your slate gets wiped clean. Im gonna apply that to the dating situation and maybe be a bit more chipper too. Last years eighteen get dropped back to zero. No more annoyance at women and shadchans. I get to start over and be annoyed anew. Or not. But probably.

What of this year though? Not sure honestly. Its kind of wide open while I simultaneously have no options. On the one hand, its a meaningless year. I still intend to start school next summer and in that sense have this year to throw away (chas vshalom ;) ). However, apparently, the resume' building never ends. Due to my failure to be accepted last time, my folks, advisors and other people not-in-the-know believe that I should be doing more volunteer work / laboratory research / doctor shadowing. This despite the fact that my application has already been sent out and this will only reflect well on the interviews. There is some logic tho this though and so i must consider it. What this means, though, is that full time work cannot be an option. No more wide-open possibilities on the year. Now its part-time work and no one enjoys part-time work. But its money. So yay.

My parents also want me to go back to yeshiva, but im not so sure. Its hard to find a program thats going to study what i really wanna study and not just give me a chavrusa to learn some random mesechta of "yeshiva gemara" with. I already know that if one man's ox gores another man's ox, compensation depends on whose field the oxen were in. Thats not very exciting. Considering the fact that my parents want me back in yeshiva to beef up my shidduch resume'...

Im working on one resume' this year. Not that one.

So what about work? I dunno that either. Other than a hasc/beis ezra type job I dont even knbow my options. Is my BA is psych good for anything? Its just the year. And its part time. Suggestions are certainly welcome.

Anyway, thats pretty much it. My current status. Consider yourself informed and in th know. And say hi.

Until later then...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

So Ive explained the situation. Ive described the anguish of the unknowingness, the induced inability to perform basic human functions, the incapacity to grow as a person or develop past this point due to an inability to commit myself to the slightest activity. What I havent described though is, by a significant margin, the most painful and torturous portion of the experience.

The Boredom.

So I sit and I wait. Im used to that. But I dont do anything while I do it. I read a book, but its only killing time until time X where I will have some epiphany of where/when/what. I go to the beach, I meet my friends, I eat out, I finish up at Dunkin' Donuts. But so what? If everything is done in anticipation of the future event than nothing is performed for its own merit and, therefore, has none. So I lose the urge to perform the basic social activities. I sit in my room. I dont read. I dont study. I dont watch.

I surf.

I read a lot of blogs now. Not because I am necessarily interested in the news or discussions, even though I am, but because its a simple activity that can be performed from my desk in my room. It requires no movement. No activity. No interaction with other people in the present tense. I spend hours here, at my computer, cultivating boredom. I have my AIM profile set to invisible so I can voyeuristically see who I am ACTIVELY ignoring because I dont feel like chatting. Im not good at it anyway. I cant multitask and the activity of IMing consumes me. But all I do is wait for Time X and exist as boredom.

But its not just the current boredom.

With the boredom that is the result of my present lack of doing anything, is the boredom of yesterdays inactivity. And the knowledge of tomorrows boredom and the day after. My boredom exists non-temporaly, as I simultaneously experience the mind-numbing loneliness of every point of space and time. I experience this nexus of infinite nothingness that illogically is able to grow exponentially to greater values of infinity. Worse yet, I induce it, as it gives me something to focus on and write about, rather than being genial but inactive.

Now, granted, I may have a flair for the melodramatic.
The point remains though.
Im pretty damn bored and I seem to have an inability to do anything about it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Update Time.

But first, if yiu havent read my last post you may not know what Im updating on... so do that first.

So here is what hass happened recently. Firstly, I hate physics, but not as much as she hates me. In my very last semester in school I failed a course. Ive never struggled for a B and I failed a freaking course. And what course? The only one that mattered this semester which inevitably means the only one I couldnt study for. So what does this failure mean?

At last update I was waiting to hear back from school. In fact, today (Thursday) was the 12 week aniversary and pretty much the promised deadline of when Id have some sort of answer, even if it just means being waitlisted. I got this big, fat, f**king F last week. Now, thinking from last weeks perspective what was I supposed to do? If I got waitlisted, Id probably have to send an updated transcript, in which case the F would become obvious and Id be contacted. Because Im already waitlisted though, I can easily just say that Im gonna retake it in the summer and my acceptance can be contingent on that. The same certainly can be done if I get accepted. So I took the initiative and signed up for physics in CSI.

Because its the second physics, it is only provided in the second summer module, which is the month of July. This means though that I cant get a job for July and need to find part time work for just June. This is a major impossibility. So I putz around my house now, watching videos on youtube and reading blogs. Ill usually leave the house for the very first time, only about... 3ish? Ouch. And Id love to jobhunt for next year (god forbid I should need it) but how can I land something I cant commit to?

Anyway, yesterday, judgement day, arrived. The letter was here. Finally! I tear open the letter.

Im on hold?

What the f**k is hold?

So apparently, the school is so backlogged on applicants and interviewees (a disconcerting thought itself when considering the 175 setas available for a year) that it has decided to not decide. They cant even commit to putting me on a waitlist. Basically "we know we promised you that wed inform you in June, but hows July sound?"

So now what? They havent put me on a list but they still want my updated transcipt that I WASNT SUPPOSED TO BE JUDGED ON!!!!!!!

Do I send it?

Anyway, next week I begin studying for the LSATs.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The past is our friend.
The future... who can say?

The past keeps our secrets. It knows us. Where we came from. Who we were. What we did. It knows our fondest memories and who was involved in them. The present soon will be the past and will join that vast network of friendship. Soon the present will know our secrets of today and it will not yield. The past does not reveal secrets. The past protects us.

The future is the unexpected. Will the future be kind to us? Will it treat us well? Or will it abuse us and our trust. We allow the future to approach. In good faith, we say 'come future, and bring your good tidings.' We await its blessings, like the blessings of the past, but they are uncertain. Unknown. The future may betray us. It may reveal those secrets that the past has kept so well. It may disobey our wishes, in much the way that the past cannot. It may be our greatest fears.

In the light of the past, events are beautiful. Nothing is wrong and everything is unchangeable. There is certainty and assuredness. In the past we are Safe.

When you look to the future, events are glaring. It is dark. Unknown and unknowable. It offers no promise of protection. It is scary.


I was going through my junk drawers during end-of-semester (incidentally, graduation) clean up when I came accross this short... poem? Essay? Editorial? Im no good at classifications. Anyway, I wrote that for some writing assignment in 9th grade and it probably meant nothing to me then (I was just a moody little pre-emo punkster), but it resonated with me today, Erev Graduation.

Im frightened to graduate. Truly scared.

Most people look forward to graduation, as it is symbolic of a continuation. The completion of one stage of your life, moving on to another. Many kids have jobs lined up, or are going to grad school, or even plan on traveling for a bit and having some time off.

Ive got nothing planned.

And how can I? Ive been in limbo for about 4 months now, and the bar keeps getting lowered, but the game isnt ending.


It was supposed to be so easy. Go to college, get good grades, take the MCATs, go to med school.

Went to college.
Got good grades.
Did well on the MCATs.
One year later, still waiting to hear from school.

It started with the advisor. The letters of reccomendation are an integral part of the application process. No school looks at you without them. I painstakingly hunted down old bosses, retired professors, family friends and such and built up a small but mighty dosier of praise. I was ready to go. Applications complete.

One month...

Two months...

Into the third... Still nothing?

I called a school, a big no-no mind you, to find my appliction status.


Never got the letters?

Next school... same thing. And the next. And the next.

And the next

"Professor! What happened to my letters?" "Oh shit, Stephen, look at this --> You never signed the waiver." "But you didnt tell me... that I needed..." "Well how was I supposed to know you didnt sign it? We dont open a folder until we have a waiver."

"You werent in the computer system"


So now its late. Past most deadlines. Whats left? Downstate? Israel? DO? no. Not DO.

Declined. Too late.

Declined. Too late.



March 15th intrview!

it went WELL!

Today: May 30
still no word. 'try calling in 2 weeks. '


I cant take it anymore. Ive been strung along for too long and its driving me crazy. The very unknowingness of it and the absolute inability to do anything about it. Will I get in? Wont I? Should I get a summer job? But what if I get in? I cant commit to August. Should I look for a job for next year? Just In Case? Whos gonna hire me without commitment? OK, so what about june-july? But i need to retake Physics 2. Lousy mark the first time around. Should I be dating? Whats my hashkafa? Is there a god? Of course theres a god! Really? Or is that high school talking? Should I go to Israel for the summer? Why? So you can slack off and miss another opportunity ? No! So I can rethink my thoughts and organize my life. Vocationally. Spiritually. Sexualy. Objectively. Should I ask her out? NO! why? Shes 18. Shes 25. Shes too fat. Shes too thin. Shes not bright enough. Shes too smart for you. She hates/loves animals. Her father is... Her brother did... Should I run away?

Should I go to law school?

Monday, May 15, 2006

They say tragedies come in threes, and so I wonder what the orthodox community is in store for next.

As you may know, this past week saw the abduction (and thankfully, the release) of a frum girl in Lakewood, taken from the rear parking lot of a gym and returned there 8 hours later. On some accounts she was abused sexually, on some only physically, but purportedly, the message that the kidnapping slime sent back with her was that she was merely a message to the community. The kidnapper had been fed up with the local jewish community, citing specificaly how on two seperate occasions in the same week, he was rudely cut-off on the roads by unapologetic Lexuses, and more broadly, how the Jews all remained insular and aloof, thinking they owned Lakewood and could take without returning to the community. She was the pascal lamb, demonstrating how quickly a simple act of kidnapping could bring the entire community to its knees.

Also recently, allegations of the past 20 or so years have been brought to court. A certain rebbi of a certain elementary school (that I MAY, or may not have attended) has had two seperate lawsuits brought to court, alleging that he molested and sexually abused the two accusers in his capacity as rabbi and camp director, and additional cases are suspected to exist and be brought to light in the near future. These cases go back as far as 20+ years ago and as recently as within the past 6 years. The statute of limitations may be ignored because in these cases if it can be proven that Rosh Yeshiva Lipa M. (too obvious... L. Margolis) blackmailed the students to keep quiet, with threats of public humility and physical violence. Whats, perhaps, most disturbing about this situation is that the rabbi in question, Yudi Kolko, has been allowed to remain active in his teaching children until last week, when the second case was brought. Perhaps most terrible of all, this is expected to merely be the tip of a massive iceberg; just one of tens of molesters who are believed to exist in the orthodox jewish communities who until now have gone completely unexposed.

In my (not really) humble opinion, there is a thread that connects these two situations. These instances are bound by their causation which is rooted in the absolute insularity of the ultra orthodox communities.

This shtetl-in-the-city mentality is what lead to the expanded ego of the Lakewood community. By maintaining a staunch seperation from the rest of the world, the UO have done double damage. They have created a sense of community ego, where the jews are above the petty laws of the community and play no role in Lakewood other than being close to the yeshiva. They have also, thus, alienated their gentile neighbors with their limited, and most likely egotistical, interaction leading to an image of reigiously-fanatical jerks who are resented by the gentiles of the area. I have seen similar attitudes torward jews by gentiles that I have spoken with during my summers in the catskills. They view us as leaches, coming for a few months of the year to interact only with each other and flash our shiny cars around their pickups and 80's models.

This insularity is possibly the cause of the perversion within our community as well. As New York Magazine reports, there is significant reason to believe that such cases of molestation and perversion are more rampant than we may even begin to imagine. What is the cause?

"There are some who believe the repression in the ultra-Orthodox community can foster abuse. Sex before marriage in Hasidic life is strictly forbidden (unmarried men and women are barely allowed to look at one another), and even within marriage, sex is tightly regulated (couples aren’t allowed to have sex, for instance, during menstruation and the week after). As Winston notes, fathers can’t attend their daughters’ school plays, “as the sound of women singing can lead to uncontrollable male sexual arousal.” In a world of Paris Hilton videos and Victoria’s Secret billboards, there are few outlets for an Orthodox man with compulsions the community refuses to acknowledge even exist. The repression, some say, creates a fertile environment for deviance."

The connection between insularity and communal issues clearly then requires some analyses, does it not? If so much trouble can come in so short an amount of time due to this one fundamental principle, surely the gedolim must be anticipating future issues, if not repeats of old issues, and are looking for ways to address the issue of insularity and the possibility of jewish integration into modern culture? That was why I couldnt be happier to hear that the Rabbinical council of Monsey would be calling an Asifa, to discuss threats to the community. Finally! Important issues will be adressed. Taboos would be discussed for the greater communal good. Walls of mandatory resistance would topple. Things would get done!

Well wouldnt you know it...

Looks like they missed the point after all.

Monday, March 27, 2006

So I’ve been getting bugged for a while to follow up on my offer to blog about the hat. THE hat. That’s right... THAT one. Whatsit all about? Why wear one? Does it symbolize anything? Am I a bad jew for not wearing one?

Firstly, who wears hats? For the most part, the hat belongs to the orthodox. The ultraorthodox to be specific. the yeshiva boys and the fathers of said yeshiva boys. This alone should be enough to convince most that the hat is unnecessary and something that has been forced on the right wing for reasons that they cannot comprehend.

Halachically, the reason one might want to have a hat around is for tefillah. You should have a double covering on your head when praying and so, the hat is convenient in that aspect at least. Of course, a baseball cap or a lined velvet kippa is just as effective, but a borsalino works well too.

The reason though, if you were to ask a yeshiva guy or a yeshiva-specific rabbi, is because it is a dress code. To wear a hat is to state that you are in the service of HaShem, seemingly implying that if you don’t wear a hat, you are not. It helps one stand out as part of the right wing community of orthodox Jewry.

Why is a dress code necessary? To answer that, we go back to the late 50's and early 60's.
Christian America, particularly with its large percentage of protestant faithful, is a dangerous place for Judaism. In times of glaring hatred and anti-Semitism, the two religions would never see eye-to-eye and assimilation was low. Christianity today holds no such outstanding grudges and has even renounced certain theological differences with Judaism such as "replacement theology," wherein Christians replaced the Jews in G-D's plan for the world. In times of such acceptance, liberal Jews can have a hard time differentiating their religion from that of liberal Protestant Christianity with its weltanschauung of good living and hard work. They no longer view themselves as distinct from their neighbors and choose not to identify themselves as different either.

As this assimilation occurred, a counter-assimilation movement took shape in the underground of Jewish activity. As culture was lost in tandem with this loss of Jewish identity, small groups or individuals performed "reculturation" where outrageous exaggeration or even brand new concepts of Judaism were practiced. Small technicalities became central tenets of the religion and mystical or existential ideology became the outward face of that particular sect. What inevitably happened was the confusion of "standard" Judaism with these private practices, those not authenticated by the Rabbis, leading to a further befuddling of what is or isn’t Jewish.
More recently, Kabbalah has been dummied down for celebrities and those who wish to attain spirituality overnight, and has lost all its meaning and purpose in the process. This has not stopped it, however, from becoming a major part of visible Jewish culture which in turn drives another nail into the coffin lid of American Judaic culture.

To deal with this spreading of "false Judaism," the different major branches of Jewish pluralism adopted different methods. Conservatism, the traditional middle-of-the-road sect, has done little to address the change in public opinion of the last 40 years save for making its positions on matters of Jewish law more flexible than Orthodoxy without breaking recognizable continuity with traditional understandings. The Conservative movement has stayed in the middle without picking a side, hoping blindly that people will return to them, despite the obvious trends.
The Reform movement since the early 60's, has taken a much more open-minded approach, attempting to attract those who have strayed, by allowing all who identify with Judaism to fall under the Reform umbrella of Judaism. This opening of the floodgates has done its own damage to Jewish culture by being non-discriminatory in what it envelopes. As privatized forms of Judaism are accepted, the definition of Judaism is forever in fluctuation. By accepting all believers as Jewish, the Reform movement has destroyed the old standards of belief and custom and has watered down the culture of Judaism by accepting all.

If the Reform movement has been accused of being too accepting, then the exact opposite can be said of the right-wing ultraOrthodox. In every instance where the Reform have chosen to be open-minded the RWUOrthodox have drawn their borders tighter, becoming more and more severe in their control over their schools, summer camps and other organizations. Where once there was moderate leniency, there is now absolutism in what is and is not acceptable according to Jewish law. In direct contrast to the consequences of the Reform’s actions, the raising of the RWUOrthodoxy’s ramparts around their culture has done its own harm, keeping out those who once would have belonged. The severity of RWUOrthodoxy, as a result of its insecurity in these modern times, has alienated many former believers and has even created hurt feelings and class "wars" in Jewish communities.

In the years since the beginning of this war RWUorthodoxy has transformed. Where once there was a legitimate branch of Judaism, the staunch rightness of the group has turned it into a paranoid bunch of old men with beards, frightened of the future, and so, returning to the past. Once there was open-mindedness about issues of gender, the workplace and individual minhagim. Now we face daily publications of chumras that have no basis in halacha. Instead of facing the modern world head-on, with faith in Gd as our backbone, we have decided to turn tail and flee, using strict adherence to halacha and the torah as an excuse. We have decided to lock ourselves in the bait medrash and abstractly study non-applicable gemaras while we remain ignorant of basic Nach and halacha. If we do not ask questions, we don’t need to come up with answers. Its unimportant if we only keep the Torah, but ignore the Avoda and Gemilas ChaSodim aspects of our religion. After all, heaven is just one big Beit Midrash so you’d better enjoy learning. Ahavas HaShem? Whats that? I have some Yiras HaShem though if thats what you meant.

The black fedora is an embodiment of this concept. No one is quite sure why they wear it or if it has any halachic basis. Why a fedora came to represent RWUorthodoxy is anyones guess. They do know, however,as they were taught, that if you do NOT wear it, you are not a good jew and will probably go to hell. It transcends being a part of the dress code. It is actually fully symbolic of everything RWUO has been doing for the last fifty or so years.

So why do I wear one? Makes my dad happy :)

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