Hagen Daaz of Coffee

I woke up this morning with a headache right smack in the middle of my forehead, between my eyes. You know, the kind you want to just put your hands over and squeeze out of your face? I tried —

it didn’t work.

So, Jonathan drove me to work, and low and behold — we found a parking space, right in front of the BEST (and I mean BEST) coffee in the city!

Coffee I’ve coined the Hagen Daaz of coffee. Because it’s rich, hot, and coats your throat. And it really helped with my headache.


Firmly Planted

When I was little, I thought Tu B’Shevat was the coolest holiday EVER. I had a book called “The Birthday of the Trees” and I would read it all the time — it was about a little girl who wanted to make a birthday party for the trees. She even baked a cake.

Today, I appreciate the holiday even more. Today was the day the world began.

I know that sounds really counter-intuitive. I know I shared my vision for a new year already; I know that there can’t be more than one new year per year. But in Judaism, there are three — Rosh Hashana, Tu B’Shevat, and Pesach.

Today is Tu B’Shevat. The fifteenth of Shevat, the new year for the fruit of the trees.

We can learn a lot from Trees; we are really very similar to them in many ways. And in the ways that we aren’t, we should really strive to be more alike.

Trees have their roots planted firmly in the ground. As saplings, they grow in two directions; as their roots stretch and twist and swell from nourishment deeper and deeper in the ground, trees grow branches and leaves. They defy gravity while sinking into it at the same exact time.

A cross-section of human bone looks just like a cross-section of a tree. It has rings on the inside, rings to help nutrients penetrate to the core – to sink inside something that looks and feels so solid.

People too, defy gravity from the moment they are born, but still can’t overcome it. Our feet must be firmly planted at all times or we will lose our footing; even jumping from a high enough plateau; it will always bring us back to earth.

We are conditioned to reach for the skies, to ponder their depths and to look for answers. To use our limbs to reach out and up and grow — to stand on our tipy-toes to see what the world looks like from a slightly higher altitude.

On Tu B’Shevat, today, we can learn from trees. We can reach and reach and reach, higher and higher until we might topple over from standing so high. We can enjoy the fruits of our labors and the fruits that just appear because the rains fall just enough to give us G-d’s candy. We can harvest and reap and sow until our backs hurt and then just stand in the plowed fields stretching and reaching toward heaven.

Today is the birthday of the fruit of the trees. The start of the world and the beginning of a lesson that has been going on for centuries. A lesson about balancing earth and heaven, our heads and our hearts; how to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and still reach up, searching for more.


Can’t Touch This

Since I work at a Jewish organization, I get put in situations like this on almost a daily basis. These were hilarious, and I couldn’t help but want to share it on this forum.

As I explained in Un-Orthodox, my husband and I are both Orthodox Jews. This in and of itself lends itself to hilarious situations (see: why I won’t eat that lettuce and “the bob-and-weave” at an engagement party), working at a Jewish org where I am the only orthodox person means that I get asked questions. Those uncomfortable questions that don’t always have a simple answer.

For example, a friend of mine came to visit me during lunch last week, and our 80-year-old intern (I’m not kidding. Trust me, I wish I was) came into the office and I introduced him. She has dark skin and is very exotic looking, so when he offered his hand and she told him that she didn’t shake hands with men, he looked at me like we both had 4 heads and they were all growing tentacles.

“She’s Orthodox,” I explained, “She doesn’t shake hands with men.”
“What language?” the 80-year-old intern asked.
“English. She’s Jewish. Orthodox,” I repeated.
“OH! Orthodox. Did you know that I’m related to the Ba’al Shem Tov?”

Today, one of my colleagues had a meeting today with a group of Jewish people, one of whom just celebrated her orthodox son’s engagement. She went on and on in the kitchen (where else?) about the relationship, the short engagement, and wait — the fact that her son has never, ever TOUCHED his bride-to-be.

Everyone gasped collectively and the volume went through the roof–

“Like they’ve never held hands?”
“He didn’t kiss her when she said yes?!”
“They’ve never even high-fived!?”

I could go on for hours, really. Since my office is right next to the kitchen, I got to hear the entire discourse, and as soon as it was over, I knew exactly what was coming.

My co-worker sauntered into my office and started with a caveat, “I hope this isn’t too much of a personal question, but –”
“I know exactly what you are going to ask,” I replied, my cheeks probably red enough to give away my answer.

As I convinced her that yes, there are people who really ONLY touch their husbands/wives/immediate family members in the Orthodox Community, and shunned her previous thought that that was such an “Ultra-Orthodox” thing to do, I told her that there were really normal, living, eating, breathing people who waited until they were married to touch for the first time. And yes, their marriages are normal. Yes, they have sex, and yes, they really do love each other. And they know they love each other before their wedding day.

My co-worker didn’t ask me why, but since I experience situations like this more-and-more freqently, maybe I should articulate why I won’t shake your hand/hug you/kiss you/square dance with you even if you are one of my closest friends.

Similar to Islam, Orthodox Jews do not touch members of the opposite sex they are not related to. Not because men or women have cooties, and not because we’re afraid that we might get automatically “turned-on” from a high-five. The reason is simple – that physical relations are holy – and holy things need to be kept separate. This concept plays a huge role in many of the facets of Orthodox Judaism; but shomer negiah is one that is often downplayed, ignored, and looked-down upon.

In today’s world, so much of what we do is public. We all have Facebook (except me!), we all update our twitter feeds and linkedin profiles, and we are all online, all the time. Even my diary is public and you’re allowed to read it, and I don’t even know who you are! Judaism, in general, is a religion that says that’s okay — great, even, as long as there’s an amount of self-respect that is preserved.

Keeping touch private makes it feel special, knowing that my husband won’t hug my friends or even shake hands with the women he works with (who I will never meet) makes me feel like I am more important than them. Which is allowed, because I am his wife. It keeps our most personal relationships private, adding a layer to our love that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

And it makes our relationship feel holy, for sure.

Waiting Game

Okay – so they placed me on the waiting list.

I am surprisingly at peace with this situation, although it does put me in a slight pickle. I was hoping to be able to leave my job sooner than later, but now I feel like I need to stay to save up whatever money I can in the next few months. In addition, the latest they might give me a decision is April 9, which is less than 3 months before the program is scheduled to start.

At least I’ll know if I need to take summer courses, right?


A Jumping off Point

This week went by with such a blur — once again, I feel like I was home all week but I don’t remember really being home. But being busy means being successful, most of the time.

I hope to have some exciting news on Monday. You’ll know as soon as I do because either I will post, or I will not.

Posting = good, not posting = bad.

Got it?

I am so excited to go home today. This is my plan — make something to bring for dessert tomorrow (Cherry Pie sound good?), take a nice, long shower, take a nap, eat dinner, and go to bed.

Sounds like the perfect Friday to me.

Happy weekend!