9 Things We Can Learn From the Video of Daniel Radcliffe Wrapping Tefillin

I can think of a few choice people who could use this message, so here goes nothing:

  1. Just because a Jew is lax in his/her observance doesn’t mean s/he isn’t a huge help to the Jewish nation.
  2. If Orthodox Jews shame and ostracize non-Orthodox Jews for their lack of religious observance, then we are no better than the assholes who were behind Kristallnacht.
  3. Any idiot can do a mitzvah, correctly or incorrectly. But, like everything, it’s the intention behind it that really counts.
  4. One Jew is not better than another simply because he’s more frum. That’s bullshit.
  5. It does no good to hide one’s past, for said past may come back to either bite you in the ass or do insane amounts of good.
  6. No one can control whether s/he is a pig-eating, Israeli-flag-burning, sex-having shiksa or a black-crushed-hat, dog-hating, TV-condemning frum from birth, so stop judging right now. Again, it does absolutely no good.
  7. Labeling Jews based on their observance level does absolutely nothing at all but divide us.
  8. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.
  9. Harry Potter can defeat Voldemort and still be totally, adorably clueless.
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What’s Jewish About Downton Abbey?

I started watching this show a few years ago. I’d seen documentaries about its real-life setting, Highclere Castle, and I’d been hearing rave reviews about it, but I’d never actually seen it. But I could not for the life of me get the commercials out of my head. So I checked Season One out from the library.

I was hooked. Wealth, servants’ gossip, and illicit affairs (Yes, I’m talking about you Lady Mary; you didn’t really think I’d forget the whole Mr-Pamuk-died-in-your-bed affair in a hurry, did you?) It was everything that a good story should be.

But the further in I got, the more it began to disturb me. Downton was uncannily similar to biographies I had read about the Hasidic rebbes. A passage in Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman particularly stuck out to me: “Where, I wonder, is the brotherly love that G-d commanded Jews to feel for each other, now, in this community that calls itself holy? Back in Europe, Zeidy says, no one would dream of fighting to be called a rabbi. In fact, they often turned down the position when it was offered to them. A man truly worthy of being a rabbi is a humble one. He is not in search of power or recognition. But in this day and age, rabbis are chauffeured in black Cadillacs and have private ritual baths built into their opulent homes. They are the celebrities of the Hasidic culture.Children trade rabbi cards and boast of having rabbinical connections. On Purim, the holiday of masquerades, they Scotch-tape long beards made of white cotton balls to their chins, drape themselves in faux-fur coats, and walk with the aid of a shiny wooden cane. What more does every child dream of than to grow up to be a rabbi, or at least a rabbi’s wife?”

Deborah is right. Modern-day rabbis have become entirely too damn much like the stuffy, English well-to-do Crawley family portrayed on the show. A man who really is worthy to be a rabbi is humble, modest and doesn’t try to climb up the social ladder.

What do you think?

A Week in the Life of a Super Busy College Student/Baal Teshuva

Sunday-I usually spend Sundays with my boyfriend, depending on which one of us is free.

Monday-12:30, call up my chavrusa to debate the weekly parsha. 3:00, call up my other chavrusa (yes, I have two). Go sample hopping at a strip mall. 

Tuesday-2:00 to 3:15 is my Creative Expression class. I usually have a two hour and 45 minute break before my Infants and Toddlers class. I use this break to print out commentaries on the weekly parsha as well as the text itself.

Wednesday-volunteer at food bank from 10-7. Occasionally take items home. 

Thursday-CE again, but no IAT. Therapy session after class. Vacuum, dust and change sheets. Do laundry.

Friday-volunteer from 5 to 6 at library. (Yes, I know, it’s Shabbat. Please don’t judge me; I’m not quite there yet.) Have friend pick me up biweekly for club meeting.

Saturday-10 to 2:30, attend Shabbat services at my local Chabad. Library again, also five to six. Watch new episode of Outlander. 

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my world!

How Far I’ll Go: How Moana Helped Me Solidify My Jewish Faith

The movie Moana isn’t one I watched by choice, but when you’re around kids as often as I am (I’m an Early Childhood major and an ex-nanny), you learn to appreciate and even love the annoyingness that is kid movies.

Moana is about a girl who finds the courage to follow her heart even after her father tells her not to go near the ocean. (Side fact: Moana’s name literally means “ocean.”) It took her a lot of courage to save her people.

Becoming a baal teshuva is a bit like what Moana went through. She had to go all the way across the ocean to find the god Maui, only to have him refuse to come with her to return the heart of Te Fiti. Sound familiar? Maui is a representation of Pharaoh and Moana is Moses.

For further context, enjoy the lyrics to the song for which this post was named.

I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
Long as I can remember
Never really knowing why

I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water
No matter how hard I try

Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know where I cannot go
Where I long to be

See the line where the sky meets the sea?
It calls me
And no one knows
How far it goes

If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know
If I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

I know everybody on this island seems so happy, on this island
Everything is by design
I know everybody on this island has a role, on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine

I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?

See the light as it shines on the sea?
It’s blinding
But no one knows
How deep it goes

And it seems like it’s calling out to me
So come find me
And let me know
What’s beyond that line, will I cross that line?

See the line where the sky meets the sea?
It calls me
And no one knows
How far it goes

If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know
How far I’ll go

A Chanukah Party with a Nerdy Twist

Consider these items already in your cart. Enjoy, and may the Force be with you.

  1. These lightsaber shaped candle holders. Make sure the candles you put in them are green, blue or purple. I’m tired of these motherfucking Sith in this motherfucking galaxy!
  2. This awesome kippah which will look amazing on the Jedi in your life.
  3. This Vader mezuzah case. (And you can get it in less that twelve parsecs too!)
  4. These fangasmworthy cookie cutters. Use them for latkes. Go on, I dare you. The cooking skills are strong with this one!
  5. This cool menorah. *Sigh* Me to this menorah: I love you. Menorah: I know.

Ant Soup, Halacha and My Outlander Obsession

Anyone who actually bothers to read my blog knows I wasn’t born frum. But that doesn’t make me less Orthodox. As a wee one, my grandmother would have to bribe me just to get me to comply with any kind of religious service or instruction. It started when I was seventeen. I had forgotten how to hang a mezuzah, so like any other clueless idiot, I Google it.

That particular search took me to chabad.org. I read one of their articles and BOOM! Just like that, I was hooked like bait on a line. Three years later, I still have yet to find one reason to regret my choice. For it was just that: my choice and no one else’s. 

They say that chicken soup is the penicillin of the Jewish world, and it’s true. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a cough or a cold or cancer, that shit can heal anything! I remember one Rosh Hashana when I was seven, maybe eight. My grandma hade made her legendary chicken soup in honor of the holiday. I looked down and their were ANTS in my soup. I shit you not! “EEEWWWWW! There’s ants in my soup!” I yelled. The adults all told me to shut up and eat my soup. No one took me seriously,  presumably because I was so young at the time. But I was stubborn  (surprise, surprise; some things never change) and insistent. Finally my mom’s boyfriend looked over at my bowl and confirmed that “yeah, she’s got a couple of floaters in there.” And the whole time my cousin is taking her ants and flicking them at my grandpa’s head! 

Halacha literally means Jewish law. Halacha governs every aspect of Jewish life, from what we wear to to who marry. Personally, I always thought halacha was dry and boring, like toast without the jam. After all, it’s nothing more than a bunch of old darts with long white beards sitting round bent over a series of books written in a language no one even understands anymore, right? Yeah, that’s no longer the case (Not that it ever was). Stereotypes like that only come from insanely offensive movis like Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, Fiddler on the Roof, and Yentl. Chana Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbetzin, was known as an erudite and wise woman. And it wasn’t just glorification, it was because she was able to transcribe notes and maamarim as well as speak several languages. If that’s not the very definition of a Jewish Ravenclaw, I don’t know what is.

And now on to Part Three of my little discourse. I’ve always been a bookdragon. But one series in particular has always stuck with me: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I tore through that book like a half blind colt. Outlander is about a woman named Claire Randallstown who, while on her honeymoon in post WWII Scotland, accidentally passes through a stone circle to 1743. I enjoyed reading about Claire’s struggles she found herself caught between her husband and a gallant an noble warrior called Jamie Fraser. Jamie is every romantic bookworm’s dream: kind, decent and smoking hot. He’s also unrealistic. There isn’t a person alive today who is anything like him. But most people find in Jamie what they should find in their husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend. (Kosher brownie points to any boyfriend of mine what calls me Saasenach.)

All these points may seem completely random, but when you put them all together, they make me who and what I am: a loudmouth, hotheaded Jewish bookdragon. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Thoughts?

How to Turn a Smartphone Into a Mobile Yeshiva: My Favorite Apps

There are millions of kosher websites and apps out there. For the sake of time, I can’t list them all. Here are the ones I have on my phone right now. Most of these are from chabad.org. IMPORTANT: I have an Android device, so I don’t know how many of these, if any, are compatible with Apple devices.

  1. Chabad.org-the whole site at your fingertips 
  2. Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi-where you can submit any Jewish question, no matter what the subject
  3. Chabad.org Daily Torah Study-works with you by taking date, time zones and locations into account
  4. Chabad Locator-helps you find the nearest Chabad shul
  5. Chabad.org Hayom-see #2, also helps with halachic times (zmanim), provides news articles and insights on the weekly Parshah.
  6. Shabbat Times-tells you what time to light the Shabbat and holiday candles. 
  7. Hebrew Flashcards-perfect for people like me, who are shit at reading Hebrew (even after having been raised Jew-ish)
  8. Brachos-I can’t even tell you how many times I didn’t know what bracha to say on what food, and this app saved my ass.
  9. Chabad.org Write to the Ohel-allows you to send messages to the graveside of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, OBM, to intermed On High on your behalf. I used this before a final once and it worked.
  10. Sefaria-has every single Jewish holy book you could possibly imagine. Be careful if you’re trying to study the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, because they don’t yet have a complete version in English.
  11. Chabad.org Jewish.tv-access thousands of Jewish videos
  12. Mayanot-quick access to hundreds of shiurim given from the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies
  13. Chabad.org Rabbi Gordon- allows you to watch Rabbi Gordon’s classes on Tanya, Torah, and Talmud.
  14. OU Torah-they aren’t just for food anymore
  15. Chabad.org Daily Mitzvah-allows you to study the daily Rambam.

Did you enjoy this list? I certainly hope you can get as much use out of the apps listed above as I did. Comment your favorite Jewish apps below.

How to be Kosher on the Cheap

Keeping kosher can be both easy and difficult. It also comes with a pretty hefty price tag…or does it? Here are some tips on how to eat kosher without putting too much of a strain on your wallet.

  1. Dollar Tree sells dishes of every size, color and shape imaginable. Jewish Law requires the complete separation of meat and dairy at all times, and dishes are no different. Pretty dishes can be expensive as hell, so dollar stores and thrift stores are two great ways to get what you need for cheap.
  2. Use disposable plates, cups, napkins and utensils so separate dish sets won’t be an issue. These can be found in supermarkets and Dollar Trees. But it is very wasteful, so I recommend not doing this. 
  3. Go vegan/vegetarian. Many products that are certified vegan are also certified kosher. Canned fruits and veggies are commonplace and kosher, and you can do so much with tofu.
  4. Artscroll has a whole section that helps you with keeping kosher.
  5. Shop at farmers markets. Fresh produce doesn’t need any kind of kosher stamp, and locally grown is the way to go.

A List of Kosher Websites That I Love

  1.  Chabad*-Main website of the Chabad-Lubavitch Movement. Contains Torah lessons, holiday guides, articles and much, much more.
  2. Aish*-Similar to chabad.org. Offers Torah thoughts, advice, coloring pages, and even a Kotel Cam to keep an eye on the Western Wall/Wailing Wall.
  3. Jew in the City-Helps to break down stereotypes about Orthodox Jews (coughcoughholeinthesheetcoughcough)
  4. ArtScroll*-Can be used to purchase seforim, tallit, ritual items and aids in keeping a kosher kitchen. I recommend getting their Basic Jewish Library to start. It’s $150, and you get a Chumash, four copies of their Family Zemiros, a Tanakh, a Tehillim with interlinear translations, and a really nice siddur. All of these are hardcover except for the Family Zemiros. Don’t try to visit their website on Shabbos, though. You won’t be able to access anything. Their app is running a promotion right now where if you download it, you get the current Daf Yomi volume free in Hebrew only.
  5. Frum Satire-They’re just plain hilarious. They like to make fun of frum people but not in a mean way.
  6. Out of the OrthoBox-Does the same thing that Jew in the City does.
  7. Kosher Innovations-Sells really neat ideas for shomer Shabbos Jews, including but not limited to KosherLamps, Shabbat water games, and more.
  8. Kosher Casual-sells casual tznius clothes, sleevies for short sleeve shirts, running skirts for all you athletes out there, headscarves and more.
  9. Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters-Provides up to date Jewish news, information about Lubavitch, and other resources
  10.  Sefaria*- contains all the books listed here and much, much more. It’s free of charge, but there is a donate option. This site is perfect for broke Jews because they never ask for your credit card information. I love it. They even honor the Daf Yomi cycle of Talmud study.
  11. Tznius.com-online clothing retailer. Sells headscarves, tops, skirts, an accesories. There’s even a list of tznius Purim costume ideas.
  12. Joy of Kosher*-Think of JOK as a Jewish version of 30-minute meals. The magazine is published by Jamie Geller, who is the Jewish Rachel Ray (and a baal teshuva)
  13. Kehot Publication Society-You can purchase seforim here.
  14. COL Live-Primary news source for Chabad on the Internet.
  15. Orthodox Union-most reliable kosher certification in the country. They also have Torah lessons and a news section.
  16. The Jewish Daily Forward-Most well known and trusted source of Jewish news on the Interwebs.
  17. Chabad on Campus International-seeks to be a “home away from home” for Jews on campus and offers a wealth of social, educational and spiritual programs at campuses across America and around the globe.
  18. Kitzur 365– provides not only the text of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch(Condensed Code of Jewish Law) but also translatons and daily text message study reminders. Kitzur 365 paired with Sefaria to me is an unstoppable force in your daily study. 

Am I missing any Sites? What are some of your favorites? Leave your thoughts down in the comments below.

*Website has an app for Android. I don’t use iTunes, so you may want to check for yourself.

Why Trump is Toxic to Jews

Donald Trump is not a good person. He’s bad for women, Hispanics, everybody. For crying out loud, the guy has rape allegations under his belt. Judaism, to me at least, is all about questions. But if anyone dares to question him, he shuts down and whines about fake news. And what baffles me is that an overwhelming number of Jews voted for the stupid creep.

Another aspect of Jewish life which Trump does not poses by any stretch of the word is kindness. Trump is not kind in the slightest. He’s rude, mean, racist, and ugly inside and out. He’d rather sell his own soul than give to any kind of charity. Some people just want to watch the world burn, and Cheeto Voldemort is one of them. He’s conrent to watch a man bleed to death in front of him. That is not , by any stretch of the word, the mark of a decent man or of a good president.

A good president would not refer to neo-Nazis (who chanted “Jews will not replace us!” by the way) as “very fine people.” All forms of racism must be denounced by all government officials, and Trump not only does not meet this criteria, but he praised the Nazis. Praised them! A baby man child such as this is worthy of no respect. He sure as hell hasn’t earned mine.

Not to mention the fact that he’s a disaster for education. Betty deVos should do the walk of shame through King’s Landing, not just Cersei Lannister. (Although make no mistake, they’re both evil old witch-hags.) Students of all ages, myself included are in peril due to her greed. Loan sharks can once again prey on students. Meals cpuld end up not being as easily accessible. Education is key to Jewish life. If it wasn’t, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, OBM, would have never urged people to set their kids to Jewish schools.

In conclusion, Trump is a mean-spirited orange racist bastard who needs to be impeached, institutionalized, and imprisoned, in that order. If we as Jews support such as man for the most powerful office in the country, what kind of example are we setting for other nations?

Unpopular Opinion: Why Abraham Was Directly Responsible for Sarah’s Death

This week’s Torah parshah is Chayei Sarah, meaning “life of Sarah.” It’s ironic, isn’t it? After all, it’s all about her death. I’ve honestly never understood that. But anyway, here’s my take on it.

Taken from chabad.org (source can be found here)

When the news reached Sarah that Isaac was nearly sacrificed, the shock of his near loss coupled with the relief of his life being spared was too much for her to bear, and she died. Abraham purchased the Machpeilah Cave and the surrounding field from the local Hittites for her burial grounds in Hebron.”

Now some may call Avraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son brave or an act of faith, but it’s actually an act of terrorism. Faith in G-d is all well and good, but there are limits. In the above passage, it states that after Yizchak was nearly killed, the stress and fear for her son’s life and the resulting relief that what she feared had not indeed come to pass was too much for Sarah to handle. Avraham caused that stress, and in doing so, doomed his wife. He screwed them both over. This story is proof that stress really is a killer. I know about stress! I’m in college!

Thoughts?