Friday, June 20, 2008

Never blurry

You were always so precise and direct. So focused.

So crystal clear.

You were present. So in the moment. So in the future.

So crystal clear.

You were a light. So positive, so bright.

So crystal clear.

You were action. So quick and on unafraid.

So crystal clear.

You were truth. So unrelenting and unbending.

So crystal clear.

You were alive. So energetic and passionate.

So crystal clear.

And today, we see a new video of you. "Rare video clips" - broken and blurry images never seen before. We are left with black and white movements that are undefinable, unfindable, unwindable.

And for some reason, we are drawn in. For some reason, we're inspired. For some reason, we still see you.

For your images and videos may be faded.

But you.

You are our Rebbe.

You will always be.

So crystal clear.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A box with wings

We were talking about defining ourselves, about marriage, about finding that one person out there who could possible be for us.

He sensed my questions, my desire to redefine.

"But, Mimi, you know who you are," he said. "There's no question."

He encouraged me not to get sidetracked by other people imposing their definitions, or lack thereof.

"But I'm just not in the box, I can't take it," I complained.

"Oh, yes you are," he said.

He told me, "Mimi, you're in a box. But its a box with wings."

As soon as he said it, I was breathing a little easier.

If I give myself wings, I can take this.

So that's what I'm going to do.


Thank you to my office visitor today.

You came unannounced.

At exactly the right time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gimme Color

It's 4 am.

I am up, but the silence is threatening my alert mind.

Too much time to think. But never enough.

Sometimes my thoughts have themes.

The past few days (maybe weeks and months), it's been the same tune.

And with these words, the song opens:

Black and white are for pages that don't turn.

That's right.

Black and white is easy to read.

But it lacks a story.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Cheesecake Lesson

It was one of my greatest disappointments.

Well, as far as cheesecakes go.

My apartment was hosting a meal for the last day of Shavuos. I was thrilled. We sent the invitation out to about ten girls and everyone was signing up with something to bring. The list of salads, blintzes, quiches, fish and pasta grew daily.

Whenever my apartment hosts meals, I never really get to make anything (except for salads) because I work on Fridays and often don’t have the time. But since Erev Shavuos was on a Sunday, I was excited to announce my offer.

I wanted the honor of making everyone’s favorite Shavuos delight: the cheesecake.

Come Sunday, I was super-duper excited. I got a grand recipe (with yummy graham cracker pie crust) and was ready to go. We only needed one pie, but I insisted on making two, with the intention of bringing one to a friend.

So there I was in the kitchen, stirring the ingredients and (admittedly) tasting the batter with my fingers, all the while imagining the moment that I would present the pies and experience the joy of seeing everyone delightfully feast on my tasty creation.

I made sure to kosher our hardly-ever-used oven. The self-cleaner turned my already-boiling apartment into a sauna. But I would do anything for these cakes.

As they were baking, the entire house smelled like a cheesecake factory. Forget, Willy Wonka, this was the real thing; Mimi’s gift to the world. When I revealed them to the world, my babies looked gorgeous. Perfectly golden and smooth and…I believe they were glowing. I put them in the fridge for safekeeping. On Tuesday, we would all enjoy a taste of heaven.

Or so I thought.

I don’t remember how it happened. We were probably just talking about how excited we were for cheesecake when my roommate dropped the news that shattered my cheese-filled dreams.

“Wait, umm, I recently made meat in the oven."

But, I wasn’t worried. It was cool. Afterall, I totally cleaned and koshered it.

But it was complicated. We were concerned. The Rabbi was asked.

And the Rabbi answered.

Due to a piece of foil in the oven that was used when my roommate made chicken last week, my cheesecake was rendered unkosher.

We were on our way to our second-night meal when my my roommate told me the kosher diagnosis. There would be no cheesecake. I was silent at first. I needed to process. But what can you do? The cheesecakes just weren’t kosher.

I couldn’t believe I had made such a mistake. My poor cakes. My poor guests. I held back tears of disappointment and spoke with my equally let down roommate: “Rivky, this is so sad. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.”

She was sympathetic, which helped me get through the trauma. But the next day, facing my guests wasn’t easy. I took a huge breathe and addressed my friends:

“Did you guys hear the news? There will be no cheesecake.”

Hungry gasps filled my living room.

“It’s not kosher.”

To make a not-so-long story even shorter, everyone got over it as quick as they could. Fortunately, there were enough delicious foods to get the disaster out of our heads.

Shavuos had to go on.

--- --- --- --- ---

Looking back, I can’t say that the whole cheesecake fiasco was all that pleasant. I was truly proud of my cakes and so looked forward to offering the Shavuos hallmark to our guests. And to just think that everything would have been fine had I been more careful…

I know it’s just food, but the disappointment was real.

At the same time, however, my cheesecake loss was really the ultimate Shavuos celebration.

On Shavuos, we reaccept the Torah again. We reassert our decision to fully embrace its heart, its lessons, and yes – its laws. My cheesecake experience was a unique chance to – despite myself - embrace the Torah I try to live and follow everyday. I know this all might sound rather cheesy, but I’m being honest when I say that the feeling was almost rejuvenating.

I can’t remember the last time I was forced to sever an emotional attachment because of a Torah law. Subtlety, we do it all the time - but this was on a different plane. There I was, after all the build-up, forced to confront what Torah had to say. The simple acknowledgment that G-d and his detailed laws are indeed my end-all guide is something so freeing. It was like proclaiming, “G-d, I do it for you. I don’t even want cheesecake if it’s not the way you like it. You’re the bottom line.”

I’m glad to say that this story has a happy – though certainly tasteless – ending. What I initially saw as an interruption to my Shavuos was really a sign that the Jewish people and Torah are very much alive. Yes, the attachment I had with my cheesecake offspring was momentous. But it was made insignificant by something that is even more mine: the Torah I received some three thousand years ago.


[The Rebbe points out that the second day of Shavuos seems irrelevant because we counted the exact days leading up to it – surely there’s no confusion about which day to observe Yom Tov! We really should only have one day! But in his usual revealing and clarifying way, the Rebbe points out that the second day, then, is to acknowledge the Oral Law, everything that came after the giving of the torah – yes, the “second day.” So my cheesecake letdown is all the more relevant. It was a recognition of Torah, yes, but even more so the specific laws that keep the Torah alive today…the laws that say, “Mimi, we only eat kosher cheesecake.” :)]

Friday, June 06, 2008

Let's get real, Mimi (Shavuos 5758)

(See me?)

To say that my soul was present at the giving of the Torah is a preposterous claim. It’s a really nice-sounding idea, certainly poetic.

But let’s get real. Doesn’t it just sound like something said to soothe a nation that feels distant from the most pivotal and defining moment of our nation?

It’s like saying, “Oh, don’t worry, you were there, too.”

I guess I just don’t see the relevance. Why is this remotely important? Surely I can believe in and relate to something that occurred without having to think that my soul was there. I mean, that’s what every other story is like, no?

Apparently, understanding that my soul experienced the giving of the Torah is supposed to have an affect on my daily life. I never allow myself to be antagonistic or skeptical for too long. So, I'm trying to look deeper. To see what this all means. To me.

--- --- ---

There really is no denying that every now and then, my body is home to a soul that experienced something grand.

Even just acknowledging that is somewhat painful. It’s like there’s something…


[ Sigh ]

It’s like there’s something truer than the air I breathe but I just can’t grasp it.

Yes, it’s like a …like a distant memory.

My soul is constantly telling me that it has experienced something huge and momentous and defining and true. And my whole life, and more and more recently, I am trying to hear it out. There’s no denying that my soul has been through something that I need to catch up with. I am lucky to hear its whispers every now and then. It’s my soul’s voice that tells me, “Mimi, you’ve seen more. You know more. You can be more.”

If I were to accept that my soul was at Har Sinai, it would explain a lot.

It would explain all those moments that no one knows about, those moments where I cry because I want to get back to where things were, to the way things should be. Those moments when someone says something so true, and my body becomes a cave, hiding a tornado of yearnings ready to take flight…but often never do. It would explain all those times that I feel a giant flutter and I am put in a tight space – forced to respond. It’s like something inside of me is set afire and I’m like, “Oh, gosh, what am I going to do with this soul of mine? Whatever will I do?”

Even just thinking about it now, it’s becoming clear. My whole life, my soul has been telling me, “Mimi, you were there. Truuuuuuust me.”

And for the most part, I have. Various decisions on a winding path have led me to pursue truths that I, deep down, consider to be most aligned with what my soul might have experienced thousand of years ago, at the foot of a humble mountain.

So, I can’t keep denying the facts. My inability to wholeheartedly believe that my soul was at Har Sinai is really just proof that my soul and I need serious relationship counseling.

If my soul saw the giving of the Torah, I really give it credit. Living in my body, it’s confronted 22 years of what must be terrible toil, persecution and unbearable numbness. And through it all, it still always comes up for air, kicking and pounding and screaming and saying, “Mimi, please look at me. Let me tell you what I saw.”

And as hard as it may be to catch up, I take solace in knowing that my soul lives to have unity with me. And I want to try harder. I really do. I can’t keep victimizing my soul. She deserves better.

So, yes, let’s get real, Mimi.

This Shavuos, I thank my soul for showing up 3,320 years ago. I’m really happy it was there. Because if it wasn’t, who knows where I’d be. This Shavuos, I ask Hashem to help me respond to the voice inside. To help all my senses understand and become one with the voice within that, thousands of years ago, said “I will do, and I will listen”

Past Shavuos Posts

The Times and the Siddur

Bringing it in