Archive | August, 2010

Q & A: Tznuah vs. Anavah

30 Aug

For the longest time I’ve been having this debate in my head. What’s the difference between the two?

When I say “tznuah,” I do not simply mean a way of dressing. Tznuah (modesty), is something that radiates from the inside, out; you can’t fake it, even if your collar if up to your nose and your skirt is the perfect “doody” length. And it’s not only for girls– tzniut is something a man can (and should) embrace as well.

Anavah (humility), is also something that exudes from the inside out. As Rabbi Abraham Twerski explains in many of his books, anavah doesn’t mean one sees himself as a lesser or unworthy being, rather, he is aware of his strengths and abilities and uses them in the service of G-d.  Someone with anavah is neither of a flagrant ego, nor a deflated one.  One with anavah is at the happy medium, with a solid understanding that:

a) he is a capable and talented individual

b) he only has such capabilities and talents because G-d gave them to him

c) thus it is his mission and obligation to use them appropriately and to the best of his abilities.

Both tznuah and anavah are rooted in an understanding that, that which we see as our own is really Hashem’s– they are His gifts to us. So what’s the difference? Any ideas?

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The Reward of a Mitzvah

24 Aug

“Need a ride, Pesach?”

It was always nice when the locals offered him rides home from Kosher Galaxy. Though he didn’t mind the walk from work to home, it sure was a mechaya to beat the four o’clock heat.

“Yes, thank you so much.” He answered in the most mentshlekh of manners, quickly clicking himself into the grey leather seat. With a crank of the steering wheel, Mrs. Scheinbaum wedged the purple minivan back into Kings Highway traffic, just missing the yellow light.

“So how is it working at Kosher Galaxy? Are they keeping you busy?”

“I spend most of my time keeping tabs on the inventory and stocking shelves but every now and then I take over for the cashiers on lunch break, so yeah, they keep me pretty busy.”

“My, my what a load. Do you ever ask them to lighten it a little?”

“No, I don’t mind the work. Stocking the shelves in pretty calming actually and the rest isn’t all that bad either. There’s always something new to learn. Working a cash register is definitely not something they teach in yeshiva!” He ended with a chuckle.

“They definitely do not…so what do you do during the year?”

“Learning. In yeshiva.”

Mrs. Scheinbaum’s briefly took her eyes off the road to get a better look at her passenger. Broad shoulders. Brown eyes. Blonde hair.   “Oh? And how many years have you been learning?”

“Well, it’s been three years since I graduated high school so–”

“You’re approaching your fourth year.” She finished with a grin.

“Uhhh yeah.”

“So where are you learning? Mir? Chaim Berlin? Torah Vodaas?

“MTI.”

“Hm, never heard of that, is it on the other side of town or something?”

“No it’s in St. Louis– Missouri Torah Institute.”

Mrs. Scheinbaum slammed on the breaks as she approached the turn onto Avenue N. “St. Louis! Why on earth would you go to yeshiva in St. Louis?”

Subtly placing his black, velvet yarmulke atop his flaxen head of hair, he genially explained: “It’s a smaller yeshiva with a heimish environment, which I really like. I went to New York for high school and it wasn’t really my speed.”

“Only high school? Where are you from?”

“South Bend.” He answered with a smile, but as the silence grew thicker, his smile thinned. “…Indiana.”

“And you’re here in Flatbush?” She remarked. The real question wasn’t why he was in Flatbush, the real question was what took him so long to get here and why wasn’t he staying?

“Yeah, I had nothing to do during keiyitz zman, so I figured I should make a little extra money. I asked my chavrusa if I could stay by him, his parents agreed and I took a job at Kosher Galaxy.”

“Unbelievable.” Mrs. Scheinbaum remarked as she pulled along side the brown brick abode.

“Thanks again for the ride, Mrs. Scheinbaum.” Pesach replied with his ever-present smile.

“My pleasure,” she assured him before he shut the door and disappeared into his friend’s house.

*****************************************************************

“He’s from Indiana!” Mrs. Scheinbaum exclaimed to her Shabbos afternoon coffee clutch. “Who am I supposed to call up in Indiana?”

“He did have rebbeim here from when he went to high school here, Mrs. Klein interjected.

“Right, he went to Chofetz Chaim in Queens.” Mrs. Landau added.

“You know what they say about Chofetz Chaim boys…” Mrs. Davidowitz murmured with a tsk.

“They don’t know how to learn but they have excellent middos.”

“Mrs. Landau, I don’t know if that’s true.”

“Oh it’s just like the girls who don’t have the looks but  have the ‘great personality’. You just don’t settle for that.”

“But he’s such a sweet boy, don’t you all agree?” Mrs. Klein pleaded. “He’s been a mensch to all of us, and just because they take their time learning at Chofetz Chaim doesn’t mean the boys don’t know how to learn.”

“Very true,” Mrs. Scheinbaum agreed, “And my Shaindy isn’t looking for the sharpest of gemorah kups. She wants someone who’s going to be at home at a normal hour; not in the beis until the wee hours of the night .”

“Count me out. Rivka needs a shtark learner. No less than seven years in kollel after marriage. He has to know Shas like the angel never touched his lip,” was Mrs. Landau’s last remark.

“And I can’t see him being shayach for Chani. He does have a bit of a stomach, and she’s an excellent cook. Six months into shana rishona I’ll have to buy him a new wardrobe.” Mrs. Davidowitz folded. “And let’s not forget– he’s an out-of-towner.”

“Yeah, Indiana? Yeshiva in St. Louis? Why has this boy been all over the place?” Mrs. Landau exclaimed.

“His father is a rabbi in South Bend, and has been a rabbi in several other places. You know how it is as a rabbi’s child; they get moved around a lot…so he doesn’t mind it.” Mrs. Klein once again took a stand for the man of the hour.

“Then how do we settle this, Esther?” Mrs. Scheinbaum turned to her ally-turned-opponent. “Whose daughter goes out with Pesach first?”

Several moments of silence passed before the first comment was made.

“Do you really think you’re Aidel will go for an out-of-town boy?” Mrs. Scheinson inquired.

“Aidel loves kiruv. She did Project SEED after 11th grade. How about Shaindy?”

“We have relatives in Denver and she loves staying by them. She could handle living out of town for a few years.”

“But what if he doesn’t plan on living out-of-town for a few years? What if he decides to go pulpit and is sent out to Yahupittsville?”

Mrs. Scheinbaum stopped and stroked her mouth, pensively considering her next move. “…I’m not sure how Shaindy would feel about that. Let Aidel go out with him first and then we’ll see.”

“Alright then, my Aidel has a date!” Mrs. Landau celebrated with a clasp of her hands. “I can’t make plans yet, but you know what I have to do after Shabbos…”

“Make phone calls,” They all recited with a drone.

Mrs. Scheinbaum took their glasses and the empty nosh bowl. If only Oh! Nuts knew how integral a part their chocolate covered peanuts were at these meetings. Otherwise, she’d end up devouring her own hand. “So which bochur are we offering rides to next week?”

“The one who works the back desk at Eichler’s looks like a mensch. I see him walk from the store to minyan every day at 7.” Mrs. Klein suggested.

“Ah, Levi! A little on the short side but who isn’t these days? I get to take him on Sunday,” Mrs. Landau announced, “My Rivka has been out of seminary the longest.”

“I call Tuesday,” said Mrs. Davidowitz. “I have to take Yanky to a dentist appointment on Coney Island. It would work really well for me.”

“Wednesday it is for me,” claimed Mrs. Scheinbaum, “so if things don’t work for Aidel and Pesach, Thursday is yours, Esther.”

“Incredible,” Mrs. Landau concluded, “may our miztvos result in many simchas!”

A Guide to Unofficial Shidduch Breeding Grounds

22 Aug

*Note: The following USBGs have a wide range of hashkafot. I have written about the positive of every organization. Attached to each organization’s name is a link to their website. Whether any particular USBG is appropriate for you is at your discretion.

Year Round USBGs

NCSY (National Council of Synagogue Youth): Horse is to carriage as NCSY is to USBG. C’mon, don’t beat around the bush, the first thing that came to mind when I mentioned USBG was this mega-social, worldwide organization. If you are passionate about kiruv and have what it takes to give Jewish teenagers a positive Jewish experience, then this is the USBG for you. NCSY is the ultimate Feel Good experience, so if you’re not into the sing-y, dance-y, tell-your-life-story-at-a-kumzitz kind of person, then you might feel a bit out-of-place, but even so, the opportunity to openly celebrate Judaism with teens who normally hide it is an indescribably precious opportunity. However, the true beauty of NCSY is the vast amount of teenagers it reaches. Some regions are entirely public school kids while others have a large percentage of Yeshiva students as well. Everyone has their own opinion on religious kids attending NCSY, but as a good friend of mine once put it when telling me why she became an advisor– any kid who is at NCSY needs it. Whether they’re there with the “right” intentions is irrelevant. As an advisor, you have the ability to make a tremendously positive impact on a high schoolers life, no matter what his/her religious background, so if you have the burning passion of yiddishkeit in your blood, are a people person, like going new places and know how to have a fun, kosher good time, then this is right up your alley. In addition to school year programming, there is a plethora of summer programs to get involved in (ICE, SEG, Michlelet, JOLT, Kollel, GIVE, TJJ and more) some co-ed, some separate.

Bnei Akiva: Another organization that offers year round involvement is Bnei Akiva. It is the world’s leading Religious Zionist youth group and has kept people of all ages excited and involved in Torah, Eretz Yisrael and AmYisrael for decades. If you were to ask any director of Bnei Akiva programming the mission of their organization, they would tell you that it is all about education. Yet you will rarely find sheets and lecturers at a Shabbat meeting or oneg. Bnei Akiva thrives on its experiential approach to education and invigorating the next generation of Jewish leaders. Though they do not run as many shabbatons as other USBGs (at least on the East Coast of the USA), their camps are their shining stars. Learning and sharing Torah knowledge is encouraged of everyone, whether a member of the Beit Midrash staff or Tzevet Mitbach (kitchen staff).  No one makes education as fun, interactive and real for kids like Bnei Akiva camps, so if you are looking to embark on the cutting edge of Jewish education and pick up top-notch educational methods and skills, it’s worth checking out. Other than getting kids revved up about Judaism, Bnei Akiva has encouraged thousands of young adults to make Aliyah and build their families in Israel. Whether you enjoy the hint of In-towner style of Moshava Indian Orchard, prefer the Midwestern charm of Moshava Wild Rose or the “Socialist Utopia” known as Stone, if you are a religious, Zionist and are pumped about making Torah interesting and exciting for persons of all ages, then this is the USBG for you. And for those of you who are ready for the big leagues, there’s Mach Hach and TVI.

Yachad/NJCD: (National Jewish Council for Disabilities): Those who enjoy working with special needs individuals should definitely join Yachad. In the New York/New Jersey area there are three divisions in which a college-age person can get involved– Juniors (ages 10-16), Seniors (ages 16-26) and Rayim (ages 26 and above). However, if you are looking to broaden your horizons, there are opportunities to get involved in “out-of-town” chapters such as Boston, Columbus, Los Angeles and even Omaha.  No matter what region you get involved in the goal is the same: to integrate Yachad Members into the Jewish community and facilitate them in making meaningful relationships. There is a multitude of programming from Sunday day trips, summer programs (Yad B’Yad and various camp programs) and of course, their famous shabbatons.  Everyone is encouraged to contribute whether it be by giving a dvar Torah at a meal, performing Skitzvas or singing zmirot. Circle time is the time to play games, sing songs and show off crazy cool talents so leave your shyness at home.  Menucha is also a great time to forge bonds whether it be over a shabbos walk, an intense game of Taboo or relaxing at your hosts’ house.  Besides for being a ton of fun, Yachad is a place where we learn from each other. With each Yachad Member you are paired with comes new lessons and insights, and though you are the one with the responsibilities, they end up teaching you more than you teach them. Once a year, the lessons go national, and if you are lucky enough, you can join the Yachad Family shabbaton. All chapters come together and share in the incredible community NJCD has created.

Those who can boogey are strongly advised to join.

Aish: If you are a serious yid and a serious chiller, then you just might be cut out for Aish. There is a lot to get involved in, from shabbatons to classes to some pretty sweet trips all over the globe. Being Jewish has never so cool! But don’t get the idea that Aish is only for the cool and carefree. You have to have your roots firm and solid in Yiddishkeit. You are the up against the college life, the night life and everything else these otherwise unaffiliated Jews have back at home. Different kiruv organizations have different approaches, so, if you like theirs, call up your local Aish rabbi and get in on it.

Summer USBGs

All of the above USBGs have summer programming but there are some that only function during the year. This list would be incomplete if I did not mention one of the most successful models of the USBG– sleep away camp. Whether it is your “thing” to work at a co-ed one or not, there are always connections to be made and opportunities unavailable anywhere else. Yes, visiting day, whether you happen to be at Mesorah or Dora Golding could very well be the day that brings you to your zivug.

Camp HASC

Camp Mesorah

Camp Morasha

Camp Simcha

And many more!

A few more USBGs to look into are:

Gateways

Local Y/JCC camps

Local Kosher restaurants in need of staff

Pesach programs at The Eden Roc, Fontainbleau (Lasko), Mendy Vim, Kosherica, Matza Fun Tours ( Jersey Shore), Leisure Time Tours (Arizona) and many more.

Going to Shul

Going to Shul and staying for Kiddush

And a personal favorite– shabbos tables!

Alright my friends, add in the ones I forgot to mention!

Unofficial Shidduch Breeding Grounds

17 Aug

By now, most of my readers are probably familiar with the following four letters: USBG. I tend to sprinkle this acronym into my posts because being involved in USBGs has greatly enhanced my life. There is one USBG that I am passionately and enthusiastically involved in, but at some point or another I have been involved in most of the organizations I am about to mention. Some of them I know very little about, however, I do know of people who have met through these USBGs, so clearly they are worth mentioning. My reason for writing this post is to give more information to those who are interested in getting involved in some sort of communal organization but are unsure of which to join and where to start.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

What is a USBG?

USBG stands for Unofficial Shidduch Breeding Grounds. Unlike a singles mixer or shabbaton, the goal of a USBG is not to to make shidduchim. Each USBG has its own specific mission in which it is dedicated to carrying out. However, like a singles mixer or shabbaton, many young singles come together and subsequently get to know each other through their work. Baruch Hashem, this had lead to a lot of young men and women to their spouses.

Why would I want to join one?

To be a contributing member of  Klal Yisrael. As a young, strong, capable and religious Jew, it’s important that you give back to your people in some way. To keep a USBG running smoothly, you need more than hockers; you need the chillers, the emor-me’at-v’ase-harbei people, the zmiros leaders, the shiur writers…everyone has a place. Finding your role may take some time but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

I know no one would actually ask this question, but if you’re hesitantly pondering it– no. I mean, you could go just to meet someone, no one is stopping you, but chances are you will be sorely disappointed. If you are not into the cause of the program, you will either:

a) Have a bad time or

b) Distract others who are there for the cause.

Is it wrong to go to an USBG and look for a shidduch?

Absolutely not. USBGs are wonderful places to find people who have the same values as you do and make valuable social connections that could lead to your future spouse. It’s a two for one deal- if you think you might be interested in getting involved with X organization and are definitely interested in opening up your social scope, go to one event and see if you like it.

How do I give one of these USBG things a shot?

Use your connections. Chances are you have a friend who has a friend who has a friend who has the ability to get you in. Work your networks; keep ’em growing. Most success and happiness, if not all, is an outgrowth of cultivating good relationships. For the places that need more protexia than other, you might need to work a little harder to get in, but if you truly are a worthy candidate of being involved in such an organization, be persistent and don’t give up. If you really want it, you’ll get it.

How do I know which USBG to get involved with?

Go based on your strengths. What do you enjoy doing? Who do you enjoy working with? What are your passions? The answers to the following questions are indicators as to how you can best contribute to the community.

In my next post, I will compile a list of several USBGs. Some of them I will write about at greater length than others, but all can be looked into further by clicking on the links provided. If you know more about any of the USBGs listed and want to add, your comments are encouraged and welcome.

Just Out of Curiosity…

1 Aug

What should a username look like for a Saw You ATtSinai account? Is it supposed to be cute? What if I don’t feel like being cute? Sometimes my idea of cute can be met by a collective HUH. Do people just use thier first inital and last name or is that too business-y?

The bottom line is, I don’t know how this works. Anyone care to fill me in?