Posted by inkstainedhands in

I used to only allow comments from registered users on my blog, but since I realized that some of my friends were reading and might not have accounts, I have decided to change the settings so anyone can comment.

I really do not want anonymous comments though, so if you are not a registered user, please have the decency to at least write your name or something by which I can identify you. Alternatively, you can email me at myinkstainedhands (AT)


(And with all that said, I enjoy receiving and reading comments.) :]

You're Being Watched  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

As my eyes wandered around the classroom at one point today, I noticed a sign hanging on the wall that had been there for weeks (months even). I see it in most of the classrooms I sit in, but this time it made me think a bit more.

"Ayin roeh. You are always being watched. Don't talk during davening."

We know that G-d is watching us at all times and sees all of our actions. When we try to talk someone out of doing the wrong thing, we sometimes use the line, "G-d sees what you're doing, so you don't want this to be on your record."

Does this idea of being watched actually stop people from sinning? I mean, you would think that since we are aware of G-d's presence we would refrain from sinning, but that is not the case. People still talk during davening, cheat, speak lashon hara, act maliciously toward one another, transgress the Torah's commandments on a regular basis, and act in a way that does not follow the Torah's values.

So does the knowledge of Hashem's omniscience and omnipotence deter us when we feel tempted to do something we should not be doing? Or is the thought not strong enough?

I understand that people make mistakes; I do so on a regular basis, too. But what I want to know is why religious, G-d fearing Jews would misbehave intentionally, with the knowledge that what they are doing is wrong.

Is it because they do not think about Hashem watching them often enough? In that case, if they would be reminded regularly of Hashem's presence, would their behavior improve? If they kept this though in their minds constantly, would it make a big difference?

Or, does the thought have no effect on them for whatever reason? Do people just dismiss the fact that they are being watched every minute of every day because they want to continue doing whatever it is they are doing against their better judgment?

I am not trying to be critical of anyone here. I am just making an observation about human behavior and about something that is hard for every single one of us: the battle with the yetzer hara. It assumes a different form for each individual and every person has a different weak spot or problem, but the idea is the same.

I remember once saying to a teacher a few years ago, "If Hashem runs the world and we know we were created to serve Him and to follow the Torah, why do people have such a hard time with mitzvot such as tzniut? Isn't it obvious that you should just do what G-d wants of you?" She was impressed by my conviction, but if only I was able to act upon it more often. I do try, but sometimes it is hard.

I find, however, that it is usually easier for me to make the right decision when I mentally remind myself that Hashem is watching me. Sometimes, of course, it is still too hard and I do what is easier.

So what do you all think? Would there be a drastic change in our actions if we constantly reminded ourselves that we are being watched and judged, or would we ignore that voice of conscience if we really wanted to do something that is not allowed?

I want some opinions.


Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

It's Coco's birthday today!! Coco is my adorable pug, who just turned 4 years old.

Here is a picture of the birthday boy with a smile on his face.
We had fun playing around in the backyard, and he got some treats he seemed very excited about.
One day I'll have to introduce the rest of my pets on this blog. :]

Cat's Out of the Bag  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

I thought I would keep myself anonymous for at least a few more months. I started off by being anonymous on this blog not because I didn't want anybody knowing who I was, but because I wanted to feel secure here before revealing my identity.

That is semi-useless because some of you already know who I am, but I just did not want my name on my blog for everyone to know.

After speaking to someone about it recently, I have decided to put my name here. When I post, I don't want it to seem as if I'm saying certain things only because I am shielded by my anonymity. In one of my previous posts, where I responded to the letter one of my classmates wrote, I mentioned that it was anonymously written. Most of the letters submitted to us were anonymous, which I thought was somewhat cowardly. I believe that if you have an opinion you should express it and not be afraid to put your name under it.

My name is Hannah Rozenblat. A few of you probably know me.... I self-published a book at the age of 14, won a Scholastic award for writing at 16, and have been published a few times in The Jewish Press. One of my articles is actually in this week's issue (April 24th), so you can check it out. I think it will be in newsstands until Tuesday.

Here are links to some of my articles from The Jewish Press:

Here is my book:

So now you know who I am, putting me at a disadvantage since I don't know who some of you are. (Feel free to share.) :]

Shavua Tov.

Echos of the Past  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

Empty chocolate boxes
Dust covering the tops,
A jagged scratch
Running down the bottle,
Wilted roses,
A cracked gemstone,
Peeling paint
On the mask you wore.

Since When is Copying Homework Ethical?  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

A few months ago, one of our teachers knocked on the classroom door and called a few girls out of English class. I was among the number. While I wasn't happy about missing English class, I was curious to know what could be so important that it would warrant being called out of class.

It turned out that our school wanted to start an opinion magazine in imitation of the letters column in newspapers such as Yated. They wanted to give us a forum for expressing our opinions on controversial topics. A few girls were chosen to be on the editorial board (including me) and it was our job to introduce some topics we thought were important enough to be discussed. We put together a list of three topics and some general writing suggestions. All the eleventh graders were then given the assignment of taking a position and writing a convincing letter about whichever topic they chose. We (the girls on the editorial board) have already gone through all the letters, choosing for publication those that were well-written and presented good arguments.

Right now, I am typing up some of the letters we chose for publication and one of them really seems to be making my blood pressure go up. It was written anonymously, so I can't give a self-righteous lecture to the author, but I thought I might at least respond to it on my blog.

The three topics were:

  • Is copying homework ethical? Why or why not?
  • What is more important in class, quantity or quality? Should a teacher strive to finish the curriculum, or should she take time to answer girls' hashkafic questions in class?
  • What should a grade reflect, effort or test results?

I wrote an extremely long two page letter insisting that teachers are under no obligation to answer questions in class, because girls will take advantage of them and ask dozens of questions just to waste time. Perhaps I'll post my letter on my blog some other time if anyone's interested. Right now, however, I want to tear apart this anonymous letter I'm typing up for the magazine.

The girl starts off by claiming that "copying homework is ethical." This in itself is a ridiculous statement, in my opinion, but perhaps if she had managed to come up with a plausible argument, I would not have been so upset.

She continues to say that "many of our assignments are busy work." Um... sweetheart, are you planning on going to college or getting a job? If you are, I suggest you start practicing now. Perhaps you can get away with avoiding "busy work" now, but try that stunt when you have a job and you won't have one anymore.

Teachers often say that their homework assignments are to help you review and understand the material better. After explaining that her friends don't mind letting her copy their homework, our anonymous writer argues, "If I do need to review the subject, but choose not to, it's not your problem, it is mine." It is not entirely certain to whom she refers when she writes "you." There are two options: a teacher or a classmate. If she is referring to a teacher, then yes, she makes a valid argument. That is only true, however, if the teacher was assigning homework for reviewing purposes. If the assigment was meant to be marked though, it is the teacher's business if this girl copies someone else's homework and tries to pass it off as her own. Assuming "you" refers to a classmate, on the other hand, this girl no longer has a valid argument. If she simply chooses not to do her homework, it is her problem and only hers. But if she then wants to copy her classmate's homework, it becomes her classmate's business as well.

As her final proof that copying homework and lying to the teacher about who did it is ethical, she writes, "Don't tell me that you never copy homework." I think this is what really set me off. A hundred people doing the same unethical thing does not change the fact that it is unethical! Two wrongs don't make a right!

It does not matter whether I have copied homework or not; I know it is unethical. When I say lashon hara, I know it's a sin. I don't try to cover up my guilt by exclaiming, "Oh come on, it's not like you've never done it yourself."

If you're going to copy homework, go ahead and copy homework. I can't stop you, the teacher can't stop you (and she probably doesn't even know you're copying it), nobody can stop you if you set your mind to it. (The spiritual consequences are a separate topic. Once again, though, the state of your soul is none of my business.)

But please, if you're going to do it, at least have the decency to be honest about it. Don't lie to yourself; you will not benefit from it. Your excuses don't make your actions any more ethical, so why waste your breath?

If I were her, I would not have started this essay off by claiming that copying homework is ethical. If she wants to defend this common practice of forgetful teenagers, she should have merely stated that copying homework, under certain circumstances, is excusable. Perhaps then she would have made sense in her letter. But saying that it's ethical?

There are more points in her letter that bug me, but I have spent enough time venting already. I still need to finish typing the other letter. Then I have homework to do, and I really need a lot of time for that because... well... I actually do my homework instead of frantically copying it five minutes before the teacher walks into class. And if I don't do it for whatever reason, at least I'm honest about it and I can tell the teacher that I didn't do it.

(Now you see why I might have some difficulties in the friends department in school.)

Sanity is Relative  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

I put my school uniform on this morning for the first time in three weeks. After a long vacation, during which I was so distracted that I had no thoughts of school, wearing it felt so strange.

What was even more strange was the fact that I woke up, did not hit the snooze button even once, and actually got up on time. My usual routine is to hit snooze a few times, then turn the alarm off entirely, sleep a few more minutes, and finally wake up in a panic, realizing that I have to be out of the house in fifteen minutes. I follow that routine religiously whether I had four hours of sleep or seven. All I want to do is push off that moment when I must confess that this thing called school really does have control over my life and I must get up or be late. (Despite this attitude, however, I have not yet received detention once this year. Let's see if I can keep it that way until the end.) This morning, on the other hand, I woke up and was actually excited to go to school. I was sick for a few days, so I don't know, maybe it affected my head a bit.

I got to school and kept up the enthusiasm for a couple more hours, thinking, "Yay, let's learn! Haven't done this in a while. Missed it a bit..." And I really do enjoy learning. I like learning new things, delving into interesting topics, acquiring knowledge and a deeper appreciation of the world around me. (As long as it has nothing to do with mathematics or the Spanish language -- I can do very well without those.)

I don't know if this is a constant thing and I just didn't really notice it before, but girls complain A LOT about school DURING class. I mean, it's nothing new that girls check the clock and count down the minutes until the end of class or until lunch time, but what I realized today was that they were actually saying in class, loud enough for the teacher to hear, "I want it to be lunch time already!" This mantra was repeated countless times throughout the first half of the school day.

What surprised me was my reaction. The first thoughts that came to mind when I heard the girls sitting around me wishing for lunch time was, "Oh, shut up. You just had a long vacation, I think you can survive two more hours. It's not like you don't eat in class while the teacher isn't looking, so instead of whining right in my ear, why don't you pay attention to the lesson? Maybe you'll learn something." Of course, I did not say it out loud because some of my self-preservation instincts are still intact, and they were loudly yelling at me not to rebuke a full class of loud teenagers. I knew from experience that voicing my opinions would only result in more yelling on their part and ringing eardrums on mine, so I kept quiet.

What I did notice, however, was that I have come a long way since elementary school and ninth grade. I wasn't interested in learning (unless it was a topic of my choice) and the more time my classmates wasted, the happier I was. Now, though, I feel angry at them for wasting time in which I could have learned so many things. But they don't see it that way. They're just focusing on how to survive until the bell rings, signifying the beginning of lunch.

On a broader level -- until you're in a certain position, you never really know how it feels. You just see things the way you want to see them, and your only explanation for differing opinions is that the people are crazy. In this case, though, I've been on both sides at different points in my life, so it's interesting to compare. (I am VERY glad though that nowadays I am more interested in learning than in counting down the minutes until the end. But once again, this does not apply to math or Spanish. I freely admit that I count down the minutes most anxiously during those classes.)

So those are my thoughts for today. Throughout the day, I often think of topics I want to blog about. Sometimes I write them down in my journal or on paper, and sometimes I just forget about them.

I Can't Believe It's Not Pesach Anymore  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

I've been looking forward to Pesach the last couple of months. I had grand plans for this three week vacation my school generously granted us. Besides for the obvious cleaning and sleeping in, I hoped to get together with some friends over Chol HaMoed, have good times, catch up on some schoolwork, and feel accomplished. I thought that three full weeks was enough to do all those things that would make me feel like I've used my time well. But, as we all know, man plans and G-d laughs.

I did feel quite accomplished the week before Pesach, having cleaned my room for the first time in months. Meaning, my room ended up looking like one hurricane swept through it instead of ten. By now though, I think we're back to about five hurricanes.

The first days of Pesach were wonderful. I spent them with family and friends and did not miss the Internet or my iPod AT ALL. What I did miss though were my notebooks and pens. I suppose it is because I have this theory that if something was not recorded on paper or immortalized on a photo, it did not happen. That's like asking whether something falling in a forest made a sound if nobody was there to hear it. Obviously it did make a sound, but the point is that nobody knows about it and it is as if it had never happened.

On Chol HaMoed I went back to being lazy. The one day I decided to go out and do something I got sick. Fortunately, however, I got sick AFTER I went out, so I did go at least somewhere. That somewhere was shopping with my mother. One of the things I realized was that the clothing being sold in stores nowadays is not something I would want to wear -- and not because of tznius issues, but just because it doesn't look good. Or maybe I am just a tad too picky about the things I wear? I like to think that I am not shallow or girly enough to blog about clothing, but if I ever find pictures online of outfits I would wear, I might post them.

So the last days of Pesach I spent with a fever, a sore throat, and a cough. When I tried to get out of bed for Kiddush on Wednesday, I felt so sick after taking just a few steps that I gave up and went back to sleep. Needless to say, my sleeping patterns have been greatly disturbed the past few days because I overslept a few times and slept during the day and did not sleep some nights. One night of Chol HaMoed I got about an hour of sleep. Perhaps I was thinking too much about going to sleep and achieved the opposite effect that way.

Although I feel better now than I did yesterday, I am still not feeling well enough to go out or do anything major. If not for this, I might have gone out for pizza today. I don't particularly want pizza (or chametz in general, for that matter), but after a few years you get used to this ritual of loading up on chametz once Pesach is over. The only non-Pesach item I had since havdala yesterday was Vitamin Water. But my mother, who is out shopping for Shabbat right now, said she would buy me hamantashen if she finds some. :] Yes, I'm still in Purim mode. (Which also means that we should restock the items from our alcohol supply that we had to finish or get rid of before Pesach, such as beer, vodka, and rum.)

I'm going back to school on Monday, so I should probably do all those things I thought I would accomplish -- lots of homework, some of which I should have done weeks ago and some of which I am supposed to complete by the end of April.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Pesach! Good luck getting back to your regular schedules now....


Posted by inkstainedhands in

I was not planning on posting again, but I am done with cleaning and am now at my best friend's house, playing around with her Blackberry. Very nice.

Chag sameach.


Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

Although I am not planning on writing here as often as some other people write in their blogs, I thought I might as well have something up besides for my introduction -- especially since introductions tend to be awkward.

Since Pesach is coming up, I would like to focus on one of my favorite things about Jewish holidays: getting away from electronics and other technological things. While Shabbat alone is less than 26 hours, the first days of a long holiday like Pesach or Sukkot can be three days if combined with Shabbat. Think about it -- three full days of living life without the use of the internet, television, iPods, phones, or any other electronic devices you might use on a daily basis otherwise. I'm sure some of you would rather not think about it because it seems so depressing to be separated from these conveniences for such a long time, but I personally love the thought.

It's not because I have something against these things. I use all of these appliances on a regular basis and find them to be very useful.

I love using my cell phone as much as the next person. I use it to keep in touch with my friends, to let my parents know where I am when I go out, to find out information about school assignments, and so on. Although I don't take my phone to school (because it is against school rules, and if I forget to turn it off one day and it rings in class, I would be in big trouble), I do carry it around with me the rest of the day. Even when I go from room to room, I take it with me. I wouldn't say that I am addicted to it as some people are, but I do depend on it to some extent.

Music is a large part of my life in addition to writing. I listen to music when I clean, write, and sometimes even when I do homework. After having a bad day, I am most likely to be found wearing my noise-canceling headphones, concentrating on the music.

The internet, like my phone, helps me connect to people and makes my life a bit easier. I shop online, I look up information online, I order photo prints online, I blog online, I read the news online -- you get the idea.

So I would be the last person to say something negative about these things. I do see some of the problems with them, and anything can be used for the wrong reasons, but that is not a topic I want to go into right now. I don't want to discuss the dangers of internet or the pros and cons of technology in this post.

What I do want to talk about is the fact that it takes away from the quality of life. It doesn't matter if you're using this for all the right reasons -- it still takes something away from your life. You start spending more and more time using these things than living and having a genuinely good time. Your relationships become robotic and impersonal. Rather than talking to people face to face, you rely on words to get your message across. I'm a writer, so I have no problem with words. I love words -- I use them to describe how I feel, to create imaginary worlds, to make people connect, etc. But in friendships and relationships, writing should not be the main form of communication. (And I won't even start on the "hey sup, nm u?" conversations, which probably don't deserve to even be called conversations.)

When you start spending more time staring at a screen (be it an iPod, cell phone, TV, or computer), you also start missing out on some of the beautiful things about life. I know I probably sound like a hypocrite right now, but people don't always do what they know is best, right?

Pesach, however, gives you that chance to get away from it all and to focus more on your family, your friends, your life sans modern technology. You can take long walks in the fresh air, marvel at the beauty of G-d's world and appreciate all that G-d has given you. That's not something you do that often when you are focused on your electronics.

I think that's one of the reasons I love pre-20th century period films. I lost track of how many times I've watched some of them, and even if I did know, I would probably be embarrassed to admit it. Sometimes I fantasize about living in a different century. Yes, I know life was harder and a lot of things that are done for you now you would have to do for yourself back then, but at least people grew backbones. And I think it's safe to say that in those days nobody wrote things like:
"supp im sooooo bored"
"omg i got this rly kewl fone u hav 2 see it!"

Messages like that, in my opinion, are an insult to human intelligence and to the English language.

I don't want to offend any of my friends who might be reading this though, because this isn't anything personal. I love my friends even if their typing habits annoy me.

But back to the original topic of this post... For me, that's one of the beautiful things about holidays -- getting away from unhealthy habits and connecting more to G-d, your family, and your friends. It's being set free and allowed to enjoy life in a wholesome way.

So I hope that your Pesach will be meaningful, uplifting, and special, and that you will be able to spend quality time with your friends and family without regretting the time spent away from your electronics.

I might post another time before Pesach if there is anything worth writing about, but if I don't, I'd like to wish all of you a chag Kosher v'sameach now. :]


Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

I was not sure whether I should start a blog again, but since I am sitting here typing this post, it's pretty obvious that I decided to start the blog.

I started my first blog back in 2005 and posted in it faithfully for a few years, until I grew bored of it and decided that I would prefer keeping my thoughts to myself. Although, either way, I don't think many people read that blog, so it didn't really matter.

So after a year of silence, here I am, back in the world of blogging. For now, I don't want to identify myself here. Those who know me, please keep the information to yourself.

Here is a short introduction for those who don't know me:

I'm a 17-year-old girl from New York who mostly identifies herself as a Jew and a writer. I like to think a lot about the world around me and the people in it, which ends up having an influence on my writing. I use my writing both as a means of expression and as an escape. My goal in starting this blog is to write about my observations, some feelings, and the more interesting parts of daily life.

And in case anyone was wondering about the title of my blog -- Ink Stained Hands -- it is just something that fascinates me. Although pens are very convenient, I like using quills and bottled ink, which tends to find its way onto my hands and has even inspired a short story. When I think of writing, I imagine sitting under a shady tree during the day, holding a notebook and a quill, my hands covered in ink. So that explains the title.

Pesach vacation has already started for me, so I hope to have more time to write now.

At the moment, though, I have to run.