Talking to God

Today, I attended the CJE‘s annual Yom Iyun, where the theme was God. After the initial keynote address by Rabbi Kushner, a reform rabbi from San Francisco, the 400+ participants broke up into several groups for talks by other community leaders. I attended a talk by Rabbi Goldberger, of Tiferes Yisrael, about talking to God, and the way we communicate with Him. The audience included people from all sorts of Jewish backgrounds and denominations.

He opened up with three basic questions.

  1. Who can daven? Does it have to be someone special? Should it be someone who does the davening for you?
  2. Are there specific times that one should daven? Meaning, is it something that should only be done mornings, set times, etc.
  3. What should we daven about? Can we/should we only daven about the ‘important stuff’ like world peace or the health of the sick?

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Pickup line overheard at Starbucks

I was at the newest Starbucks in Baltimore doing some homework when two older adults, aged approximately 75 years old, walked in.  They had apparently never been to Starbucks before because they were wondering about ordering a small or medium coffee, and the cashier kept on explaining that small was tall, medium was grande, and large was vente.  Like three times.

Anyway, the guy finally orders his coffee, when the following conversation takes place:

Cashier (~17 year old girl): “Would you like cream or sugar with your coffee?”
Old man #1: “No thanks. If you want, though, you can stir the coffee with your finger.  That will definitely sweeten it up.”
Cashier: [Half-hearted laughter]
Old man #2:  “Don’t  listen to him, he’s a dirty old man!”

I was sitting in my seat hearing this, and I started laughing out loud, as did the people sitting at the next table over. Regardless of the inappropriateness of his flirting, I thought it was a funny and clever line.

Romance in the blogosphere

I came across several dating oriented blogs that are obviously all by the same person.  I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. In any case, here they are. Some of these look brand new.  Others look like they’ll never have another post.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

First, to get a date, you have to make sure to ask the appropriate questions.  For example, does the SDJ  have the same cellphone carrier, so they can use shared minutes?  Lots more crazy date questions here.  Once you have your date all lined up, you need a place to go. Like Starbucks or Target. Therefore, we have the next blog, called Great Date Places.  Unfortunately, your date often times ends up being crazy, so we try to put a stop to it by creating blogs in hope that these people will find the stories about themselves and learn to become normal.  But if that doesn’t happen, there’s still hope.  Because chances are, they’ll give you a sign that it’s time to move on.

It may be hard to believe, but everyone will find the right one eventually.  And when you do, it’s important to publicize how he proposed.  And to get rid of these pre-marriage jitters, there is one more blog to talk about marriage and such.

Wedding rings and Orthodox Jews

I was recently at a sheva brachos that was also attended by JewishCube. We got to talking about personal and spousal preferences to Orthodox Jewish males wearing wedding rings. I know that in the more yeshivish crowd, wedding rings are practically unheard of, whereas in the more modern orthodox crowd, it is pretty common. I don’t really consider myself to be in either of these categories, but I do not wear a wedding ring. Nor does anyone in my immediate family. I was curious as to the background of the wedding ring and how the practice came about. With women, it obviously goes back several thousand years. This is how Jews married from the beginning.

The Wikipedia article on wedding rings gives some interesting background. According to the article, the double-ring ceremony was started in the late 19th century by jewelers as a marketing tool. If everyone would do a double-ring ceremony, the jewelers would get more business. But it never became widespread until after the Great Depression. By 1940, double-ring ceremonies made up “80% of all weddings as opposed to 15% before the Depression.”

So this really is a recent phenomenon amongst non-Jews, and even more so, amongst Jews.

After doing a quick search on the subject, I came across this thread on a discussion board. It says there that according to R’ Moshe in Even Ha’Ezer 3:18 and Even Ha’Ezer 4:32, giving a ring under the chuppah or shortly thereafter should not be done. However, “even though perhaps it is repugnant for a God fearing person, one apparently should not forbid it in my humble opinion.”

What it boils down to, in my opinion, is personal preference.

R’ Keleman on Relationships

I went to a shiur by R’ Keleman last week on relationships. It was amazing! Of course I can never say over anything the way it was originally given over, but I’ll try. FYI, the audience was a non-frum crowd. My favorite part was the last two paragraphs.

He said that before he became frum, he went to a yeshiva in Israel to stay these seemingly pagan worshipers who did everything with blind faith. While there, he made lists of all the things that truly bothered him about Judaism. Ironically, it was these things that made him later appreciate Judaism the most.

One of his problems was Jews attention to detail. If you ask someone what time Shabbos starts, he’ll answer “8:43!” Does it really matter if you start Shabbos at 8:44? Does it make a difference to God when it actually starts? In another example, when shechting a cow, the shochet needs to cut 50.00% of the trachea and esophagus in order for it to be a kosher shechita. If its 49.999%, it is not considered a kosher shechita. Again, why? Who cares? Either way, the animal is in no pain when being slaughtered, so let it be kosher! Why such great attention to all the details of all the mitzva’s?

Another question he had was regarding tefila. Why is it codified that one has to actually say the words of shmone esrei, and thinking the words is not enough? Does God not know what is in your mind? Why is it necessary to say things out loud?

Since the topic was on relationships, R’ Keleman then tied it all together.

As a marriage counselor for 20 years, R’ Keleman noted that the couples who came for marriage counseling didn’t come for big intellectual issues that were threatening a divorce. Rather, it was the trivial things. One example he gave was about a couple who were about to get divorced over sugar cereal. The husband was a doctor and the wife had a fast metabolism. The husband was upset because he kept finding sugar cereal in the house, and the wife was upset because he kept taking it away and wouldn’t let her eat it. A trivial thing like sugar cereal was about to make a couple get divorced. He said that it’s these small details that can make a marriage go bad. However, the small details can also make a marriage go from good to better.

For example, if a man were to remember that Monday was his 25th wedding anniversary; that does not prove love. However, if he were to remember that on his first date they shared a specific wine that they both enjoyed, he remembers what she was wearing, and the particular way she likes her flowers made up, that shows love. It is the attention to the fine details that express the love. The more detail that you pay attention to your spouse; the more you love your spouse.

It’s the same thing with mitzvos. The more you pay attention to the fine details within all the mitzvos, the more you can express and appreciate your love to and from Hashem. This is why we are so meticulous in everything we do. We want to increase our love for Hashem.

Next, he talked about terms he called masculine speech and feminine speech. He defined masculine speech as speech that gets things done. For example, “we need to change the light bulb,” or, “I’m going shopping.” Feminine speech is more like “How was your day at work,” and “this is what I did at work…” Both males and females talk both types of speech, but masculine speech is more common with males, and feminine speech is more common with females. In conversations between husband and wife, the wife engages in a lot of feminine speech. The more she talks and shares with her husband, and the more her husband listens, the more her love for him grows. Therefore, it is the expression of speech that enhances the love between couples. If a woman were to have ESP, the husband would never have to say anything, but she’d continue to talk to her husband. In such a case, only the woman’s love can increase, as she’s doing the talking. The husband has no verbal communication, so his love for her can’t grow.

It is the same thing in davening. The only way we can truly grow in our relationships with God is to actually talk to him. Thinking about it isn’t enough. That’s why we have to say the words of shmone esrei out loud.

R’ Keleman spoke about many other things, but I’ll share one more thought that he said during the question and answer session at the end.

In the laws of Shabbos, we cannot do Borrer. So if someone has a plate of peas and carrots and he doesn’t like the peas, he can’t remove the peas and leave the carrots. Rather, he must eat the carrots and leave the peas. Why is this? Why does God really care how it is done?

He answered that this is to teach us a lesson. When viewing other people, and especially in relationships, we tend to take the one bad thing that sticks out and focus on that, or in other words, we take the bad from the good.. The law of Borrer teaches us that we have to do it the other way. We should only be taking the good out of the bad, so we should only look at the positive traits of a person and try our best to leave the bad traits for last.