Category Archives: rant

What ever made me think I could drive in this country – Part II

The inside of my head feels like a construction site today. And just yesterday I was thinking to myself (I was smart enough not to voice this thought out loud in case I gave myself an ayin hara)  how nice it is that I have not been sick for a while. Seemingly, it isn’t enough to ward off superstition by refraining from verbalizing one’s thoughts – the thoughts themselves jinx you. Voila, today I am sick, and, of course, being British, am blaming it on the weather.

Well, all is not lost. I may not have the necessary concentration to work, but the show will go on, and here is Part II of my misfortune on the Israeli roads, the drama of which continues until this day. 

 So where were we? Aah, yes. Summer of 2005. Just two weeks before the birth of my second daughter, I had come through the worst, and was officially an Israeli driver. I wasn’t sure if this was something to be proud of – judging by the insane driving and amount of fatalities on the road in this country – but I was euphoric to finally have the independence I so craved, and never in my life thought I would be so elated at the prospect of being able to drive myself to the supermarket to buy a bag of milk.  I was not the only happy camper. After three years of Josh being the one who had to run all the errands single-handed, he was happy to relieve himself of the responsibility. Of course, I didn’t really have much opportunity to drive in the two weeks leading up to the birth, given my size and my extremely pregnant condition, and I could not drive for six weeks after the birth because of the c-section delivery, but the knowledge, the sweet knowledge, of knowing that if I wanted to drive, I could, made me a very happy woman.

Fast-forward a couple of months to December of 2005 – it was a Friday morning in Modiin, and wanting to beat the normal Friday craziness in the supermarkets, I headed out early in the morning to the supermarket to do some last-minute errands. On my way back, at 8.30, I approached an intersection, and came to a stop at the stop sign. So far, so good. Advancing past the stop sign, I looked to my left, and saw a car coming from a distance, but thought I had enough time to make it, and cross the intersection. Well, I didn’t. The car was speeding, and we collided. Thank G-d, no one was hurt. My car took the extreme brunt of the damage, while the guy’s car was only slightly dented on the left side. I was reeling from shock. Before I knew it, the police had arrived, and our cars were moved away to the side of the road. The first thought that entered my mind was: I am screwed, I am screwed. For the first year of having your license, you are supposed to have a “New Driver” sign on the rear window, but mine was lying unused in the trunk. All it would take was for a policeman to look at my driver’s license, and see that I had only passed the test a couple of months before, and I would really be in trouble. As it turned out, that was the least of my worries. The policeman did indeed take a look at my license, and remarked that I didn’t have the sign at the back of my car, but instead of bailing me out for it, he winked at me and said, “al tidag, beseder, beseder” (Don’t worry, it’s fine). In this case, playing the role of the helpless female worked wonders.

A couple of minutes later, Josh arrived at the scene after my frantic phone call, and we talked to the Russian guy whose car I collided into. As far as I could see, he could only gain from the accident. His car looked as if it was at least fifteen years old, and the insurance money he would receive from the accident could help him buy a new car. It looked as if it is was on its way out anyway. We didn’t fare as well. We had to replace the entire right side of our car for a hefty bill, even with the insurance. A very annoying situation, but we were philosophical about it. No one was hurt, we were just a couple of thousand shekel poorer, and life goes on. His speeding combined with my poor judgement caused the accident.

A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call from the guy’s insurance company. He had claimed that his entire car was a write-off, and they wanted to verify his story. His car was only slightly dented, but obviously shekel signs were flashing in front of his eyes, and he wanted to profit from the situation, so he made out that his car had been totally wrecked. I told the insurance agent in no uncertain terms that HIS car was fine – although I couldn’t say the same about my car.

So my insurance company battled it out against his insurance company, and we were issued with a notice that we had to go to court over it, and that we had to be present… I am sure you can guess from my “luck” this far the outcome of the case – the representative that was sent to court on behalf of my insurance company was an arrogant, oil-slicked teenager who looked as if he would be more comfortable as a DJ in a night club in Tel Aviv than in a court of law, and did not endear himself to the female judge who had obviously had had her fair share of swaggering insurance agents that day. So yet another defeat for us, and a letter arrived in our mail box just a couple of weeks later notifying us that they had “dropped” us, and that they would no longer give us insurance, since we had been in two accidents in two years. (The first “accident” happened a year before on our street in Jerusalem, when our car was parked outside our apartment, and a school wall came tumbling down at  7.30 in the morning, luckily injuring no children, but crushing our car.)  The injustice! How dare they just “drop” us like that? What is the point of having insurance if the minute you get into an accident, you are considered too much of a liability, and you find yourself insurance-less? Well, what choice did we have? We found another insurance agent who finally agreed to take us on, and although we weren’t as fully covered, at least we had insurance.

 If only this was the end of my sorry tale. In June of this year, a message on my cellphone informed “Hakhel” that his court case had been postponed till July 15. Having put the accident behind me, and thinking that the message was obviously not for me, since who in G-d’s name was “Hakhel”, I concluded that they had the wrong number, and felt sorry for the dude who was never informed of the change in date of his court case. Well, another phone call a week later confirmed that “Hakhel” was their way of pronouncing “Sorelle,” and that the message was indeed intended for my ears.

I tried to keep my voice even and calm when I spoke to the clerk, and thanked her for notifying me of the change in date in court case, but that I had no idea that there was even going to be a court case, and if she could please tell me what in G-d’s name she was talking about, I would be ever so grateful. The next five minutes of our conversation revealed that the State of Israel were prosecuting me for poor judgement in an accident that had occurred two years ago. Of course, I had never received the original letter from the court, so this follow-up phone call telling me that the case had been postponed was not exactly helpful. 

You gotta love Israel – the ENTIRE government at the time were being indicted for some crime or another, including the beloved prime minister, Olmert, and the head of the police, and I WAS BEING PROSECUTED FOR POOR JUDGEMENT?   

After recovering from the initial shock, my next phone call was to find a lawyer who could find out from the police what the story was – and what it was that I was being prosecuted for. Apparently, the other driver had not only claimed that his car was a write-off, but that he had to go to hospital because of injuries sustained as a result of the accident. Frustration turned into rage – it’s one thing for this guy to try to get rich out of the accident, but to claim that he was hurt was so outrageous and deceitful, he may as well have been claiming that night was day. My lawyer suggested that we work out some sort of plea bargain with the court, whereby I lose my license for a couple of months (that’s a compromise???), and that would be it.

The lawyer told me that the worst-case scenario would be for them to take away my license for three months, so I wasn’t quite sure why agreeing to them taking away my license for three months was a plea bargain – but he claimed that that was the best he could do given the fact that I was a new driver, and the cards were stacked against me. He did, however, assure me that there would be no fine. Okay, three months without a license – I had lived for this long without a license, life goes on. 

Well, to cut an extremely long story short, I arrive in court to find that not only was I going to be without my license for three months, but that I was going to be slapped with a NIS 1000 shekel fine. Apparently, my lawyer “forgot” – when he met with the prosecutor over coffee and croissants – to bring up the issue of the fine, and that was why, in essence, there was no plea bargain. I had paid $600 to an absolutely useless lawyer, and the prosecutor must have been laughing his head off at the results of the “plea bargain.” The lawyer did reassure me, though, that I could pay the fine in tashlumim – monthly payments. How very reassuring. NOTE TO SELF: Hire an Israeli lawyer, not a self-effacing British one. Well, I didn’t roll over meekly on this one – my husband and I insisted that the lawyer pay half the fine, and eventually he agreed, admitting that he had “forgot” to bring up the subject of the fine. There were TWO things the lawyer needed to discuss – the issue of my license being revoked for three months, and the fine – and out of those two things, he suffered amnesia, and forgot to deal with the money aspect.

I was told by the judge that I had to hand in my license to the court office, and pay the fine. Well, as I handed over my license – and my freedom – to the faceless woman behind the desk, my heart started to pound as she told me that she could not take my license, since it had expired just two days before. The three-month clock could not start ticking until I renewed my license, and then return to the court to hand it in. Exercising extreme self-restraint by stopping myself from having a nervous breakdown right then and there, I asked her calmly and slowly where I could renew my license in the area, and she told me where, but with one caveat – the Ministry of Transport were on strike, and I could not renew my license until they resumed work. So I had to wait an extra FIVE days until they deigned to get up from their strike and join the rest of the workforce before I could renew my license, and begin the three-month period of my driverless status.

I suppose I should have realized two weeks ago, on October 31st, when I finally got my license back, that that wouldn’t be the end of it. Just this morning, I was delivered a letter informing me that I have to take a twelve-hour course on basic driving, followed by an exam at the end.

So do you think someone’s trying to tell me something?

   

Busy, busy, busy

Every so often, I will think a thought or observe something truly insane, and will make a mental note to myself that when I actually have a second, I will return to the land of bloggers. Well, in the meantime, here is a short bite-sized recap of what has been going on chez Sorelle.

1. Two weeks ago, my daughter turned four, and all I can say is that if this is her fourth birthday, I can’t begin to imagine what her wedding is going to be like. She has been preparing for her birthday for months, and took dessert cookbooks to bed with her in case she had a last-minute change of heart.

The festivities were a week-long affair, resembling Sheva Berachot in length (and almost expense!), beginning with a party in gan on the actual day of her birthday with a Cinderella and Eliana masterpiece for a cake. Thanks to the wonders of technology, and the ability to print out images onto sugar paper, Eliana did end up going to the ball! Eliana dressed up as a princess for Purim, so Josh, the Internet genius, put the image of Eliana and put it next to Cinderella, and voila, we had it printed out on top of sugar paper, and placed it on top of the frosting. Ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure, I present Cake # 1.

Yes, we did win the Cool Parents popularity award amongst 26 very sugar-happy four-year-olds.

For Shabbat, we had over my husband’s cousin, who Eliana is in love with, and for lunch two of Eliana’s close friends and their families, and we gobbled up the remains of the Cinderella cake. A good time was had by all. We bought Eliana for her birthday a trampoline; the idea being that she will be able to channel her considerable amount of energy in a positive way. The jury is still out. At the moment, her energy seems to be more directed at fighting with Tzofi over it.

Then, her birthday celebrations culminated with a private party at home. I was in two minds about whether or not to have a party at home – it seemed like it was encouraging cliquey behavior by asking her to select 10 of her best friends. But since many of her friends had had parties at home, I could hardly NOT give her a party. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and all that. Anyway, the exclusivity element didn’t turn out to be an issue in the end. Eliana decided that in addition to the invites I had already handed out, she would randomly invite some other friends in addition, so our initial plan of having a nice SMALL party morphed into something quite different altogether. It was hectic. Very hectic. But we pulled it off. We had a pitta pizza party, where the kids made their own personal pizzas. We put out pittot and various different toppings, and it was a big hit. Josh was also phenomenal. I was standing wide-mouthed and passive in horror at the sight of 16 four year olds in my living room, but Josh just held it together, and took the reins. So for the second birthday cake, Eliana requested… a rubber duck. Every night in the bath, she asked for a rubber duck, so a rubber duck it was. Not bad, eh?

Thankfully, the celebrations are behind us now. I now see why birthdays only come once a year, thank goodness. You need the other 364 days to recover.

2. What else? Well, there is less than a month to the end of the gan year, and I am working on four projects simultaneously. Busy is an understatement. And because we are going away to the States for a month in September for the holidays, we are trying to work extra hard now so that we can take some time off while we are away. That is the PLAN. Let’s see what happens.

3. About three months ago, I posted a message about my zero tolerance for noisy eaters, and it seems that I am far from being alone in this affliction, as evidenced by the ongoing comments (OK, there are only 9 comments [and yes, 2 of those 9 are my responses], but that’s record-breaking on Double Take) I still receive about the problem. Here it is again. The people who commented seem to suffer even worse than I do, and I thought I had it bad. One reader, Matt, summed it up perfectly (sorry Matt, I fixed your typos. I can’t help myself. It’s another disease I suffer from).

As for a cure I think we are all well aware that this is a psychological issue but feel like we need or have to live with it. I mean, we can all appreciate how it seems like a non issue to non sufferers and that such an incidental, intangible noise should stir such violent, hateful emotions.

The annoying thing (apart from the condition itself lol) is that AFAIK there is no current classification for the ‘condition’ so where do you start to look for help? It’s not a phobia as it instills a feeling of rage rather than fear. I would love to be free of it but what do you do? Go to the doctor? Where do you even start to explain it without him having you sectioned under the mental health act? The other issue is that the usual treatment for phobics is ‘de-sensitivity’ therapy and that scares the shit out of me as I couldn’t be held responsible for murdering whoever tried to de-sensitise me!

A few months ago I emailed a few hypnotherapy clinics detailing the issues and feelings I go through in the hope that was the way forward and received a couple of emails that were quite vague and mentioned being able to help in the inner rage side of things but not enough to make me take any further action down that route although I’m still of the mind that it would probably be the way to go.

Well, from what I can gauge, I am not the only one who starts entertaining violent thoughts when in the company of munchers and slurpers and biters, and I also would like to consider myself a fairly nice person in most situations. I agree with Matt, though – desensitization and hypnotheraphy to help you get in touch with your “inner rage” definitely scares the living daylights out of me.

Well, on THAT note, I bid you a fond farewell. Until the next time.

Good reads

If you are curious what other people are reading, or want to find some good reading material for yourself, Goodreads is the place for you. Enjoy.

One aspect of living in Israel which really infuriates me – yup, it’s Friday the 13th, and I am in the mood for a rant – is the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, there are no English-language libraries that allow you to take out books FREE OF CHARGE. (If anyone does know of such a library within the Israeli borders, let me know, and I will happily make the trek over there.)

You won’t often hear me say very positive things on this blog about my hometown of Manchester, England, but it has to be said – the public libraries ROCKED. As a child, I would hand in the coveted library card that entitled me to take out as many books as I had plastic bags in which to carry them, and I used to leave the library about twenty pounds heavier, with a pile of books that were taller than me. And it was free. I mean, I suppose it stands to reason that they would provide such a service – what else is a girl to do in her free time in Manchester? Indoor activities were definitely the way to go in our cold, gray, and dismal climate.

In the English-language library in Modi’in, you have to pay a ridiculous 250 shekel (which is over $50) just for the privilege of becoming a member, and 50 shekel for the first book you take out, and 10 shekel for each subsequent book, and to add insult to injury, you can only take out 4 books.

For that money, I may as well head over to the local Steimatsky, Israel’s best-known book chain, and BUY brand new books that are not discolored with coffee and ketchup stains. Okay, I might not actually leave the store with the book I want, but at least it would be MINE, all MINE. Steimatsky may be Israel’s largest book chain, but do not mistakenly make any mental comparisons between this bookstore and Barnes & Noble. Unless you are interested in overpriced travel books, coffee table books about the history of Israel, and the odd Steven King novel, you’ll be lucky to leave the store with a book you can sink your teeth into. They don’t even have their own website. Sigh. I mean, even I have my own website. What is that all about?

What I find myself doing nowadays is heading over to a second-hand bookstore on Rechov Yaffo in Jerusalem, Dani’s. I hold onto the books that I like, and those that are in the reject pile I return, and receive thirty or forty percent of the original price I paid. Pretty sweet deal. It just means, though, that I have to head over to Jerusalem whenever I have the reading itch.

Anyway, if anyone has any inventive (and legal) ideas how I can get my hands on some good English-language books in Israel, don’t be backward in coming forward.

Guilt baskets – an ingenious way to feed off armchair Zionists

There are some things in life that are constants. Some of them good, some of them not so good. Almost every chag (Jewish holiday), we are the unlucky recipients of the aforementioned Guilt Basket from a person we know in the States. If you peruse this website, the baskets contain items that can be purchased from our supermarkets for less than 50 shekel, but which costs the naive American over $50. Every chag, Josh and I keep telling ourselves that we should just phone her up and say, “Listen, it’s really sweet ‘n all, and I know you think that you are supporting the Israeli economy, but you are being ripped off good and proper, and the company is taking you for a ride with your guilt gift basket.” But we don’t have the heart.

Just a few days ago, this person told us that she wouldn’t be sending us the guilt basket, and that she would give us money instead. Hallelujah!! But as we got off the phone, and had a good laugh about it, we realized that these companies who market their gift baskets to Americans are sitting on a goldmine. How many American Jews are there who do not want to make Aliyah and relinquish their creature comforts, but who want to make themselves feel good by supporting the Israeli economy?

In plain English, what these sites are really saying is the following:

For $50, give yourself a pat on the back, and send your loved ones who are sacrificing their lives in Israel on a daily basis some Telma date spread and some stale cookies. They will be eternally grateful.

For $100, you will go down in the books as nothing short of a hero. With some choice Cabernet Sauvignon wine and some Elite chocolates, no one will ever wonder again why you are over 10,000 miles away sitting in front of your plasma TV instead of making sacrifices for the future of the Jewish people.

Ingenious.

God is a Mob Boss

Posted by The Husband

If anyone is reading this blog then let me warn you that the following post will be heretical, heathenly, and hopefully, hilarious.

This weekend on shabbat, I was pondering the parashat hashavua and I decided that God has a lot in common with Tony Soprano. This (past) week’s parasha was parashat Ki Tisa. In that portion of the Torah, there are a few passages that relate how God will punish the Nation of Israel if they do not follow His Law. Concurrently, though not on shabbat, I was reviewing the last season of The Sopranos in preparation for The Last season of The Sopranos which will return to television (and my computer) around the middle of April. For anyone unfamiliar with The Sopranos, the show is about a mob boss named Tony Soprano and his relationship with his family, therapist, and crew.

In the last episode that I watched, there was a side story about how one of Tony’s front companies, Barone Sanitation, was being sold by the son of the owner. The owner had killed himself thereby passing on the business to his son. The son was never informed of his father’s connection with organized crime and only wanted to sell the business for his mother. The part of the story that is germaine to this particular discussion is that the son gets involved in the shady business side of his father’s business and ends up getting threatened, beaten, and then shaken down by one of Tony’s own captains. Of course, at the same time, Tony is assuring the kid’s mother that “nothing is going to happen to him, I swear.”

So how is God like Tony Soprano? I’m glad you asked.

Go back a few thousand years. God does a favor for the Nation of Israel. They are slaves in Egypt and pretty miserable and God offers them a way out. “I’ll take care of the Egyptians,” says God, “and I will make a nation of you.” Pretty good offer. “All you have to do,” God says, putting His (figurative) arm around the pathetic slaves, “is promise to worship me and obey my laws.”

Now the slaves, who probably were ready to do anything about that time, say, sure, what the hell, we’ll obey, we’ll listen, just get us the hell out of here. So God does. He sends a couple of His goons to break a few kneecaps, smash a few windows, and smite some firstborn sons. Israel rejoices and runs like hell to get out of Dodge. God sends one of his captains, Moses, to lead the newly freed slaves to the mountain of Sinai where God explains his business plan. Along the way, God gives the nation some seed money, in the form of manna, and helps them with some pesky legal troubles by splitting the Red Sea and drowning the opposing council.

God business plan is simple. “Here’s My rules. 10 basic rules and 603 more to come. Follow the rules, do what I ask, and I’ll protect you and make you prosperous. If you have a problem, don’t take it to any other god. Don’t go outside the family. Take it to me. I will take care of it. At some point in the future, I might ask you to do Me a favor. There’s this nasty other family called the Amalekites who are trying to bust in on My action and I may need you to clean up that mess. Don’t go to the cops, they won’t help you. Other nations won’t listen to you and will turn their hearts and hand against you. But I am your God. I will help you. I will make it alright. Of course, if you should happen to go against my wishes, I will smite you and your children and your children’s children until you come back to Me and beg My forgiveness. But don’t worry, I’m sure you are smart enough to do the Right thing.”

So here we are, the children of the Nation of Israel who made a deal with God to protect and deliver them. God doesn’t really talk to us anymore, but we’re still obligated to Him. He hasn’t done much in the protection racket lately, although occasionally He steps in and stops us from being totally annihilated. But we’re still paying our dues and paying for the deal that our forebears made with God. And, according to the terms of the deal, if we don’t kick up to the Big Boss, we are gonna wish we were never born.

The previous comments do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of Double Take. Thank you for your understanding.

Toddlers posing as stuffed animals

Warning: the rant you are about to read has nothing to do with editing, books, or any observations on the world.

I am blessed to be the mother of two gorgeous little girls, Eliana who is three years old (right) and Tzofia who is 18 months (left).

Kids eating frosting

Both girls attend gan (daycare), and today being their last day in gan before Purim, the children were supposed to come dressed up in costumes. (If you want to find out about the origin of the custom to dress up on Purim, check this out and scroll down to the title, Masquerading.)

My oldest, Eliana, is a princess through and through, so it didn’t require much effort on our part to fulfill her dream of dressing up as a princess. Luckily, she fit into last year’s princess dress, and thankfully she had no recollection of the fact that she wore this outfit last year. All is calm chez the Weinsteins.

Now we turn to our little one, Tzofia, who is just a year and a half and as well as recovering from a stomach bug is teething terribly at the moment. Now that we are older and wiser(?) as parents, and realize that Purim has absolutely no significance or meaning to an eighteen-month-old toddler, we figured we’d save her the discomfort and annoyance of dressing her up in an uncomfortable outfit – especially since she has no comprehension of what is going on. (She’s an extremely bright kid, but I am not going to subject her to wearing a Purim costume until she is able to say, “Purim” and actually be conscious that her friends are wearing Purim costumes.)

When my husband dropped her off at her gan this morning, he was accosted by the sight of twenty toddlers posing as stuffed animals in ridiculous heavy outfits. Tzofia was conspicuously human in her sweat pants and sweater. Josh came out of gan, got back in the car, and said, “I hate it when people make me feel like I am a bad father.” Apparently, one of the women at the gan (who, by the way, has no children of her own – I’d like to see her force a teething baby into one of those heavy things) was horrified that Tzofia didn’t come to gan dressed up. “You have to dress her up,” “What – you didn’t even bring the costume with you???”

Now, I ask you, for whose benefit is dressing up a child of that age? Trust me, the kids are not getting a kick out of it – if they were old enough to actually speak, they would be saying, “Save me! Take off this ridiculous outfit so I can actually breathe!” The kids are being dressed up for the parents’ amusement and so they can pose in the group picture.

It is a scary thought that even at this extremely young age, when my daughter is still in diapers, that they are trying to make the children conform. I say, it won’t be long before my kids are doing all sorts of bizarre things out of peer pressure, so why not try to enjoy these few years of blissful innocence?

Pesach – Enforced Slavery?

The holiday of Pesach (Passover) is fast approaching, and this year, the concept of deliverance from slavery will take on a new personal meaning. I have to meet three deadlines in the week before Pesach, so when Seder night comes round, I will not have to work very hard to summon up emotions of relief as I experience my own delivery from bondage.   

I do feel pangs of guilt when I speak to my family abroad. While they have been slaving away, and cleaning their houses from top-to-bottom since January, I have spent more time on the computer than I have taking care of my husband, my girls, and my home. (Luckily for me, my husband is actually far more domesticated than I am and actually enjoys cooking, cleaning, etc. – I know, he was a rare find.)

I thank G-d for giving us the holidays, because we are not just celebrating historical events, but are reliving the highs and lows that accompany each festival on a personal level. Each person, on whatever level, has experienced in their lives their own Exodus, and it is in this way that we can infuse personal meaning into each chag (holiday).

The holidays enable me to stop and smell the roses. Lately I have found that time has been passing by too quickly for my liking; I am not sure why this is, but before I catch my breath, another weekend is upon us. The presence of the Jewish holidays on my calendar force me to stop and think about myself and my connection to G-d.

Over the last seven years of my career, I have edited a number of works about Pesach, two haggadot and various compilations of thoughts on Jewish holidays. One perspective on Pesach which I found to be particularly refreshing was provided by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner in his work, Moadim LeSimcha: Explorations into the Jewish Holidays. (No pressure, but if you order the book off my website from Amazon, I get some sort of [monetary, I think] reward.) I very much enjoyed editing this book, because it was a break away from the typical thoughts you hear about the chagim.

Here is a quote from his book that I identified with so much that I decided to place it on the back cover. I think the women out there who are gearing up for Pesach will particularly get a kick out of this:

It shouldn’t take more than a day to clean the whole house, including the kitchen. Anything more than that is a stringency. If we are not capable of dealing with the extra workload we decide to take on, we deplete our energy and take out our exhaustion on our families. Not only is there increased tension between husband and wife, but we show our children a very negative example by shouting at them things like: I told you not to go into this room anymore. Why did you go in?! Eat on the porch! Eat standing up! Don’t touch! The whole kitchen looks like it was overturned by vandals – the husband and children will tremble in fear, eating in some corner, while the woman of the house glares at them like a drill sergeant. Is this preparation for Pesach? Is this educating children? No, it is a reign of terror with the mother as Pharaoh presiding.

So, not only is excessive Pesach cleaning unnecessary, you run the risk of becoming a Pharaoh yourself! I like this man. A lot.

Online socializing – blessing or curse?

Against my better judgment, I got ensnared into joining Facebook. For those of you who are not in the know, Facebook is an online social network that connects you with friends from the past, your next door neighbor, colleagues, ex-flames, you name it….  You can post as little and as much information as you want, and can share an unlimited number of photos, videos, etc.

The reason why I question the wisdom of joining is because I know myself and I do have a tendency to get distracted while I am working, and Facebook provides me with yet another mindless excuse to take just one more tiny break.  The good news, though, is that I reconnected with an old friend from my high school in England whom I have not seen or heard from in over ten years – Dalia, it was great “talking” to you! Thanks to online resources such as Facebook and blogging, the world is getting smaller and smaller by the minute, and in the words of Tom Robbins, “if the world gets any smaller, I will end up living next door to myself!”

From a psychological perspective, I question, though, how beneficial and “healthy” it is to become so immersed in the Internet that we withdraw into ourselves, and forget how to interact on a one-to-one level as human beings. In this day and age, real social encounters, I would imagine, run the risk of becoming awkward and potentially nerve-wracking. It is one thing to express yourself freely in the privacy of your home or office – after all, you don’t need to worry about contemptuous glares from your computer screens – but to reach out to another person in a public setting, such as a party, could be such an intimidating experience that you end up counting the minutes until you can return to the safety of your home, where you can type away on the keyboard to your heart’s content. 

This type of social anxiety brought on by trends in blogging and online chatting might sound extreme, and you may wonder which type of person would really be that socially inept as to experience the above, but my instinct tells me that such social angst happens more often than we think. I have an acquaintance, let’s call her Elizabeth, who seems to have a split personality. When I see her at parties, social get-togethers, and the like, she is withdrawn and quiet. She doesn’t come across as being shy- she just has a distant aura about her. When we chat online, however, it is literally as if I am communicating with another person altogether. There is no point of resemblance between Elizabeth A, who I see every now and again in public settings, and Elizabeth B who is extremely expressive and even eloquent. 

People feel like they can let their guard down in the virtual arena, and while that can be a potential blessing, because they can tap into parts of themselves they may never have discovered, and can access knowledge and information that would otherwise have been blocked to them, it can also be a curse and a vicious cycle. The more you become “hooked” on blogging and online socializing, the harder it is to venture out of your cocoon and face the real world.

I would imagine, although I am not speaking from experience, that this problem applies to the world of dating. You meet a fantastic guy on a dating site – you have so much in common and you count the minutes until you next see him online (you can see where this is going). It gets to the point that you decide you want to take your online relationship to the next level – let’s set up a date. The big night arrives and you are sitting at a table facing a complete stranger, and you are tongue-tied. Suddenly all your mutual interests, likes, and dislikes evaporate into thin air – how do you make the adjustment from writing cute little messages with no real repercussions to interacting with a person face-to-face and establishing a real relationship? Anyway, just some food for thought. As always, I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

Before I go, though, just to present the other side of the coin, I read today that an 107-year-old woman in Australia has just started writing her blog. Considering I never grew up knowing my GRANDPARENTS, let alone GREAT-GRANDPARENTS who reached the 100-year milestone, it is an incredible concept that this centenarian is going to be sharing the pearls of her wisdom with the rest of the world.

Mosquitoes – the stuff that poetry is made of

I have to be honest: I have never enjoyed reading poetry, and could never understand what all the fuss was about.*  In primary school (that’s elementary school to you American heathens), I recall struggling to make my poems rhyme. They went along the following tenuous lines…. “I’m a poet and I didn’t know it…” “The snow covered the mountains, look can you see the fountains?” In high school, we left the world of rhyme behind us, and instead would analyze poetry to death. In exams I “did the do” and would wax lyrical about the hidden meaning behind the words, and the rhythm, and what it all symbolized, because that is ultimately what the examiners want to read, and it worked. Lo and behold, I got that coveted A grade in my GCSE and A’ levels. (Note to anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to be educated in England – A’ levels are the equivalent of your SAT’s. There is actually a world of difference between A’ levels and SAT’s, but that’s the subject of another post.)  To this day, I turn down any editing projects that involve poetry. Give me a straightforward sentence that reaches the end of the line any day.

There is one exception, however, to the “I can’t abide poetry” rule. Many moons ago, when I was a teenager, I came across in the public library a volume of selected poems by D.H. Lawrence.  To give you some background information about this writer: This man was notorious in the 1920’s for his controversial and best-known novel, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, which contained some rather explicit descriptions of sexual relationships. At the time, such subjects were strictly taboo, and the novel was banned in England and the US until the sixties.

Anyway, returning to the point of this post, when I saw the name D.H. Lawrence on the spine, I immediately picked up the book. I had read another novel of his, Sons and Lovers (I am sure by now, you can detect that love was a central theme in his works), and I was a big fan. After leafing through a couple of pages, I think it would be safe to say that I was mesmerized by his poetry in which he ascribed human emotions to animals. Truthfully, after reading his poem “The Mosquito,” I have never looked at this blood-sucking insect in the same way again.  Warning: the poem you are about to read is not for the faint-hearted. 

The Mosquito

When did you start your tricks,
Monsieur?
 
What do you stand on such high legs for?
Why this length of shredded shank,
You exaltation?
 
Is it so that you shall lift your centre of gravity upwards
And weigh no more than air as you alight upon me,
Stand upon me weightless, you phantom ?
 
I heard a woman call you the Winged Victory
In sluggish Venice.
You turn your head towards your tail, and smile.
 
How can you put so much devilry
Into that translucent phantom shred
Of a frail corpus ?
 
Queer, with your thin wings and your streaming legs
How you sail like a heron, or a dull clot of air,
A nothingness.
 
Yet what an aura surrounds you;
Your evil little aura, prowling, and casting a numbness on my mind.
 
That is your trick, your bit of filthy magic:
Invisibility, and the anæsthetic power
To deaden my attention in your direction.
But I know your game now, streaky sorcerer.
 
Queer, how you stalk and prowl the air
In circles and evasions, enveloping me,
Ghoul on wings
Winged Victory.
 
Settle, and stand on long thin shanks
Eyeing me sideways, and cunningly conscious that I am aware,
You speck.
 
I hate the way you lurch off sideways into air
Having read my thoughts against you.
 
Come then, let us play at unawares,
And see who wins in this sly game of bluff,
Man or mosquito.
 
You don’t know that I exist, and I don’t know that you exist.
Now then!
 
It is your trump,
It is your hateful little trump,
You pointed fiend,
Which shakes my sudden blood to hatred of you:
It is your small, high, hateful bugle in my ear.
 
Why do you do it?
Surely it is bad policy.
 
They say you can’t help it.
 
If that is so, then I believe a little in Providence protecting the innocent.
But it sounds so amazingly like a slogan,
A yell of triumph as you snatch my scalp.
 
Blood, red blood
Super-magical
Forbidden liquor.
 
I behold you stand
For a second enspasmed in oblivion,
Obscenely estasied
Sucking live blood,
My blood.
 
Such silence, such suspended transport,
Such gorging,
Such obscenity of trespass.
 
You stagger
As well as you may.
Only your accursed hairy frailty,
Your own imponderable weightlessness
Saves you, wafts you away on the very draught my anger makes in its snatching.
 
Away with a pæan of derision,
You winged blood-drop.
 
Can I not overtake you?
Are you one too many for me,
Winged Victory ?
Am I not mosquito enough to out-mosquito you?
 
Queer, what a big stain my sucked blood makes
Beside the infinitesimal faint smear of you!
Queer, what a dim dark smudge you have disappeared into!

 * Disclaimer: It goes without saying that my strong dislike of poetry doesn’t extend to the poetry that my husband has on occasion written for me. That kind of poetry I will read any day.

Shabbat is wonderful, amazing, and meaningful, but restful?

A member of our community asked me recently if I would be interested in attending and committing to a series of shiurim (lectures) taking place in the holy city of Modiin. My first reaction, to be honest, was to laugh out loud. It is hard enough for me to function as a mother, wife, editor, and hygienic human being who needs to brush her teeth, take out her contact lenses, but to attend shiurim? You gotta be kidding. Would love to, but just not on the cards. I conveyed as much to this woman in my email back to her, but I have to give her 10 out of 10 for perseverence – the same day, she came back at me with an alternative offer: What if the shiur was on Shabbat? Would you be interested?

It sounds like a reasonable suggestion on the surface, but anyone who is a mother – correction, parent – will be able to identify with the following sentiment: Shabbat is anything but restful! It may be spiritual, it may be laden with meaning, and it may be an opportunity for the family to connect and spend quality time together, but restful it is not, and wasn’t from the minute your oldest child was born! Once your child turns three, nap times are a thing of the past, and then there is the challenge of coordinating multiple naps so that you are not up with one kid while another child is sleeping.

The way I see it, the Shabbat that I can actually read one article (or one page, if it is a book) without falling asleep is the day that I can start entertaining thoughts of shiurim. Until then, it’s back to reality.