Ahavat Am Yisrael  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , , ,

Tisha B'Av is a time of mourning and sadness for the Jewish people, but its message is also one of hope and redemption. Knowing what led to the tragedy which we now mourn, we also have the power to prevent more suffering by striving to fix the mistake which led to the destruction of our beloved Beit HaMikdash. It is time to replace baseless hatred with love and to reach out to one another.

Perhaps it is fitting then that a piece written by me about the unity and love I witnessed at the Salute to Israel parade was just published by The Jewish Press. I think that is the message we need to focus on now. Unity and love should not just be reserved for a parade that happens once a year or for the occasional demonstrations in NYC. It should be a way of life.

You can read the piece in the June 16 edition of The Jewish Press or view it online.

Wishing all of my readers an easy and meaningful fast, as well as the strength to rise above the negative emotions that seem to come so easily and to focus instead on the positive, even when it is difficult.


Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

Little pieces of wisdom from Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Choderlos de Laclos

On passion and prudence:

"What you call happiness is but a tumult of the senses, a tempest of passions of which the mere view from the shore is terrible. Ah! Why confront these tempests? How dare embark upon a sea covered with the debris of so many thousand shipwrecks?" -- Madame de Tourvel

On principles and individuality:

"I say my principles, and I say so decidedly; for they are not, like those of other women, the result of chance, received without scrutiny, and followed out of habit; they are the fruit of my profound reflections; I have created them, and I may say that I am my own handiwork." -- Marquise de Merteuil.

On virtue and sacrifice:

"What would virtue be without the duties which it imposes? Its worship lies in our sacrifices, its recompense in our hearts. These truths cannot be denied except by those who have an interest in disregarding them, and who, already depraved, hope to have a moment's illusion by endeavoring to justify their bad conduct by bad reasons." -- Marquise de Merteuil.

On falling in love and blind passion:

"It is not for the illusion of a moment to settle the choice of our life. In fact, in order to choose, one must compare; and how can that be done, when one is occupied by a single object, when even that object one cannot know, plunged as one is in intoxication and blindness?" -- Marquise de Merteuil.

On vanity and its consequences:

"To what lengths will vanity not carry us! The wise man was right, indeed, when he said that it was the enemy of happiness." -- Marquise de Merteuil.

On the risks of bad influences and dangerous acquaintance:

"Who is there who would not shudder, if he were to reflect upon the misfortunes that may be caused by even one dangerous acquaintance! And what troubles would one not avert by reflecting on this more often!" -- Madame de Volanges

Four Years, Countless Miles  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

When I look back on the past four years and at the changes that I have undergone, I realize more than ever the importance of choosing the right high school. It is different for each individual, and one student can flourish and succeed in a certain high school, while another student will suffocate, feel miserable, and look back on those four years with resentment. Looking at my graduating class, I see girls who fall under both categories and anywhere in between. There are girls who have reached heights that they cannot imagine achieving in any other school, and they will look back at their high school years with fondness, tinged with a bittersweet longing, wishing they could come back and gain even more but knowing that they must move on. There are girls who did all they had to do in high school, passed their tests and completed their assignments, and look at high school as just another one of the things that they had to go through as part of life. And then there are girls who went through high school feeling frustrated and resentful because they thought they did not have the freedom to do what they wanted and were being restricted and choked by the school's standards. To them, graduation meant finally being able to do as they pleased without the fear of being caught or suffering consequences. (Of course, many of these girls did as they pleased even in high school, but it is so much more pleasant doing what you want without having this worrying thought somewhere in the back of your mind that you might get caught.) These girls appreciated school mostly because of the opportunities it gave them of making new friendships. In other words, they liked the social aspect, but the good feelings stopped there.

To determine which category I fall under would be difficult, since I have experienced all three. I have raged, rebelled, toiled, stressed, appreciated, and loved. I experienced frustration, disappointment, despair, happiness, attachment, and delight. But I could not experience the last three until I had re-evaluated my priorities, examined my life with honesty, and decided upon which path I wanted to embark and what was the best way of getting to the destination I wanted to reach. Before I did that, I could not appreciate; I could only see limitations wherever I turned. And I am sure that there are girls who still see it that way and never learned to let go of their prejudice.

Now, when I look back on the past four years, and the last two in particular, I am struck by how much I have learned and gained, and by my growth as a person. I am definitely not the same person I was when I walked into high school, prepared for battle. Once I realized that high school was not hostile territory, despite all its rules and expectations, I was able to begin to truly learn. I was able to connect with sincere, truth-seeking students and embark on a journey together. I was able to also connect with so many teachers, whose patience and generosity made me feel comfortable approaching them with my questions, my doubts, and my struggles. Honestly, I think that my teachers were the most important part of my high school experience, helping me grow and understand myself better without being judgmental or severe. They have encouraged me to seek the truth, be true to myself, and make the most out of everything. They have expressed faith in me, giving me support and investing time and effort in helping me when I needed it. They were always available, during lunch breaks, free periods, on the phone....

It was such a regular part of my life and it was always so easy that I took it for granted. The last couple of months, it struck me that I only had a few more weeks, and then I would be gone. It would no longer be as easy as having long discussions during lunch and school hours. I'm going to miss that, probably more than anything else. I'm also going to miss all those classes that opened my eyes and my mind, which mattered so much to me. I'm going to miss walking into my favorite classes with that eagerness and desire to learn. Of course, there will be no end of interesting classes in Stern (and I am already looking forward to them with much excitement), but it's different. It's a change of pace and a completely different atmosphere. It is one I hope to gain much from, but it is not one I am used to.

And now, I have just a couple of months dividing the high school experience that I miss so much and the beginning of a new experience at Stern. Why do I have the impression that this will feel like the longest summer I have experienced thus far?