Playing the game. Or not. And a San Francisco Wedding. Because.

Thoughts on Purim.

So many. I'll just jump right in.

Photo-0315.jpg

Today is Purim. It's a day we celebrate (and boy do we celebrate) the salvation of the Jewish people and the downfall of her enemies (woohoo!). For the full story (and a whole lot more) check out: https://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/default_cdo/jewish/Purim.htm

There's a lot we can learn from this story, and I'll just share some thoughts I had this morning while listening to the Megillah reading.

The Purim story took place some 2400 years ago. The Holy Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed some 50 years earlier and most of the Jews were exiled from the land.

Empires came and went and King Ahasuerus (good luck pronouncing that) was sitting on the throne of the vast and mighty Persian Empire.

He was three years in, feeling pretty secure (back then term limits were enforced via poisonings, beheadings, etc.) in not only his position, but in the overall hierarchy of things.

Some time before the destruction, the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) prophecied (is that a word?) that after 70 years G-d would wreak vengeance on the nations and that the Jews would return to Israel and rebuild the Holy Temple.

Anyways, this was bugging the king until his third year when, according to his calculations, the 70 years were up.

So, feeling powerful and indestructible, he made a massive party. For 180 days the people ate and drank and ate and drank and did whatever people did back then at parties.

He also used the precious and sacred vessels that were plundered years earlier from the Holy Temple. Yikes. He obviously hasn't watched Indiana Jones, or any other of that sort of movie...

***

Now, lets' go to the Jews. They've been chucked from their land, their people decimated, now under the whims of whatever winds happen to flutter through the minds of the various rulers.

There's this massive party, celebrating the emperor and all he stands for, to which they are invited, and their absence will be obvious and possibly dangerous.

The Jews have been, for the most part, under their own rule and in their own land ever since they left Egypt almost 1000 years before.

This whole exile thing is new, and frankly, terrifying.

There's no blueprint, and Egypt was, well, different, and a really long time ago. They weren't even really Jews back then.

Some of the Jews are like "what?! the King is making a party? He's celebrating our defeat? Wait, what, he's using the holy vessels from the... awww hell no!!"

And others are more "Yikes, I don't know. We're already persecuted and hated, not going to this thing will REALLY tick "them" off, I think we just gotta suck it up and go.

(And I'm sure there were a few of, "Oh man, a party!! Gonna get my party sandals and rock it!")

Contrary to Moredechai's take, many Jews go. Some sadly, some happily.

Then the whole Vashti scandal goes down, Esther becomes the new queen, and things die down. For a spell.

Sometime later Haman (boo), a descendant of Amalek (remember not to forget!) is appointed Prime Minister (all decrees are delivered within two days) or whatever that position was called back then.

Haman is immensely rich and now powerful to boot. Low self-esteem though. So, as happens, he orders that "all must bow" as he passes by. Cool cool.

What are you gonna do? I mean yeah, we aren't supposed to bow to humans or idols, or human idols, or idle humans, but sheesh, it would be madness not to.

So everyone does.

Except on old Jew. Mordechai. His head is probably stuck in a massive book, and well, he just isn't going to bow. Not even bend.

Haman is NOT happy. Capital letters. He was a newbie to the royalty/wealthy scene, having gotten his money (and thus power) illegitimately. You know how it is, you tell a lie, a whopper, and know matter how many people believe it, if there's one who sees through it, and she gives you that look, oh man it gets to you.

He flies into this massive rage, and after consulting with his wife, decides to punish the entire Jewish people. He offers loads of cash to Ahasuerus, and he's like "yeah whatevs man, here's my ring, go to town, what's on Netflix?"

Whoa. Pause.

Remember all those people who said that maybe we should just bow down and not poke the bear. They kind of had a point it seems.

Unpause (also known as "play"). I'll get back to that.

Okay so now there are two major directions the Jew peeps can go. They were at a crossroad in their history. One that would have repercussions all the way down.

1. Damage control. Disown Mordechai, send a delegation to the king, raise some money to counter Haman's offer, kiss some Persian derriere, just do what you got to do. Work it. Worst comes to worst just pay lip service and fake convert (heaven forbid). Play the game.

2. Step back, re-analyze. Realize/remember it's all up to G-d, who plays by different rules. Maybe an entirely different game.

Well actually here's where my thoughts kind of started about this all.

There's always a game that's going on. And there are rules. Lots of them. Hustle. Work hard. Know the right people. Say the right things. Be born into the right family.

Way back when it was the Game of Thrones. Maybe without dragons. Money was king. Power was king. Rules were for the weak.

Now it's better. But there are still rules. The "rules of nature" we can even call them.

1+1=2. It's just the way it is.

But then there's the creator of the game. Master of the rules.

And connecting with that lifts one above the rules that we live by. Swear by. Sweat by.

And that's what ticked off Haman, and the Hamans of the world.

There's a story of this women who was about to be carted off to a death camp. She asked if she could go to the Mikvah first so she can die pure.

"Du bist nisht kein mensch!" the officer, apoplectic, exclaimed. And then he shot and killed her.

"You're not human!"

That's why Haman wanted to kill all the Jews, not just Mordechai.

He played the game and got to where he was and gosh darn it, everyone else must play it as well.

I hope you realize where this is going...

(Spoiler alert: They chose the second option)

///

I've played the game. Maybe not so well, but I definitely have. And do. Anytime I prioritize work over G-d. When I think I HAVE to be vocal on social media because I rely so much on it for work.

When I try too hard to come off a certain way.

When I know what my purpose is in life but I let my job get in the way of pursuing that.

Yeah of course we have to work, but only because G-d wants us to. He wants us involved in the world. But the job or who we know or what we know. Whatever machinations we come up with. It's really all up to G-d.

The thing is, the game works. It's a real game played by real rules.

But we don't need to play it.

We really really don't.

I mean you can't just ignore life and expect G-d to take care of you.

But you can find your purpose. Where your passion mixes with something that will change the world (for the better of course). And run with that. Run hard. Run fast. Run true.

Rules be damned.

Ignore the haters. They never really last anyways.

///

Okay, a few more, possibly related thoughts.

The above is not to say that "believe in G-d and do as he says, and all will turn out okay".

Absolutely not.

In the long run, as a family, tribe, culture, country, group, species and world in general, yes. But for you and me as individuals, no. Nowhere is that promised.

The Jews didn't make a calculated decision that option B was the best chance of survival.

In the face of the options they realized what their core values were. Who they were. Deep down.

Will a connected and moral life be better? More fulfilling and happy? Usually, yeah. Not always. And that's not why we should do it.

On Purim there is a custom to drink. Alcohol (for those who use the word "drink" to mean other things 🙄 ).

The Gemara says one is to drink until one doesn't know the difference between "blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman".

The point is not to get smashes until you can't tell between Corona Extra and Lagunitas Waldos' Special Ale (good luck getting there). Or whatever.

Sometimes we need alcohol (in the right settings) to uncover some things, to strip down a few layers and get real.

Yes, we know that Mordechai, the doer of good and propagator of morals, will be blessed. He'll be happy and fulfilled. If not in this world, definitely in the next. His name will be remembered for good. And Haman? Yikes, who would want to be a Haman?! Cursed as black cat looking in the mirror on midnight of the 3rd full moon of an odd year.

But that's not why we want to be like Mordechai and not like Haman.

No.

Cursed. Blessed. Blessed. Cursed. Bursed. Clessed.

We do what's right because it's true and right. Not even because we want to do what's right. But we do it because it's right.

Yeah there's a difference. Maybe have another L'chaim.

///

For some previous thoughts on Purim...

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfywkHCAZOy/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BgWY1obnPOv/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BgZxA0MnzoO/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRjHCUeA3K4/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BDeElzuK4V2/

https://www.instagram.com/zalmy_b/p/BDV9Jl5K4YQ/

///

I haven't posted any weddings for a while so here’s one.

Aryeh and Ariela are some of the happiest people I know and, I don't know, they just remind me of Purim. So here's some photos of their (truly) lovely wedding.

Enjoy and thanks for getting through this sea of words!

(now good luck getting through the sea of images 😅 )

Special thanks to the talented Russ Levi for shooting with me! Check out his work!

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Zoo. Pizza. Names. Stuff.

Wow, my last blog post was some time in the middle of 2017!

So much has happened in the past year and half.

Let’s see, in order.

In late October I presented at the ARC conference in Vancouver (my first presentation at one of these things. Holy moly was I nervous. Didn’t sleep for like 3 days before).

Two weeks later I found myself outside of Auckland, New Zeland, teaching at another photographer retreat/shindig. (A Bit More Soul. One of the reasons I haven’t blogged is that each of these occurrences deserved their own post and I just got overwhelmed!)

A day after that I was named one of Rangefinder Magazine’s Top 30 Rising Stars in Wedding Photography (a pretty prestigious reward, shared by pretty much the everyone who’s someone in the wedding world).

Then a month or two later we had a baby boy (child number 6, boy number 5), who is currently adored and pampered by all of his siblings (also deserves its own blog post, duh).

I also started giving workshops on composition, something you’d think I’d write about, you know at least to get people to come…

Later that year (a few months ago) I flew down to Australia to teach at Camp Common Folk, a lovely retreat in the middle of nowhere (4 hours south of Perth which is also fun middle of nowhere), after which I gave workshops in Melbourne and Brisbane.

I’m also like 4 years behind with my “year in review” posts, but I never officially signed up for anything so imagonna pretend those aren’t a thing.  Not to mention all the weddings piled up, just waiting to grace the blog. Because waiting weddings are a thing. Just take my word for it.

And now I finally took the kids to the zoo, so I figured at least that should make it to the blog… Okay, that wasn’t true, I just missed writing and sharing, and the longer I didn’t the more I thought I had to “comeback” with a spectacular post everyone would tell their mom and dog about.

Anyways, as you can tell we went to the zoo, saw some caged animals (always makes me a bit sad) didn’t see a bunch (seriously! The elephant somehow disappeared, rhinos were nowhere to be seen, gorillas and chimpanzees were AWOL…), but we did see lions and some seriously pudgy looking hippos (in a pool full of poop and no grass to be seen). Why do I sound whiney? It was fun! Kind of. 

It was the LA zoo. Aka, somewhere near “the city”. Which means, for us farm dwellers (I can believe what I want, shut up), kosher pizza!

We didn’t want to go to the city itself, because, you know, traffic, and we wanted to try something new. So we did some internet sleuthing (harder than you’d expect) and found this new pizza place/restaurant. But we didn’t realize that the large pizzas were only for taking out and the sitting down area was for fancy food (read: more expensive). So we sat, and the waiters were all milling around, confused when we told them we ordered already. We ended up eating on paper plates (they let us stay!) out of the box while everyone around had pretty food on nice dishes. Whatevs. Live and learn.

I’m telling you all this, not because it’s important, but, actually I have no clue why I’m telling you this.

Truth is I just want to write. For me, for you, doesn’t matter.

///

This past week we started reading Shemos, the  second book in the Torah, aka Exodus. Shemos though doesn’t mean exodus, that would be *geulah* (there’s a lovely Israeli song titled Geulah, and I though it was about redemption, but it’s actually about his cat named Geulah, I kind of wish I never knew that, I mean nothing against cats, but they’re not as inspiring as redemption), shemos mean “names”. Whoopdeedoo right? I mean yikes! Whoever was in charge of naming these things was probably just really tired (judge favorably yo!).

But seriously. Everything in the Torah is exact, especially the name of an entire book, so what’s up?

Looking through the book, the most defining moment or event would probably be when the Jews received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Everything was leading up to that point. The enslavement, the redemption, and everything in between. 

About the Mt. Sinai shindig, the Torah says “and he camped there, opposite the mountain”, using the singular term for the word camped. The commentaries explain that they Jews were then “as one man with one heart”. Which, for Jews, is a really big deal. I mean completely and utterly unified? Beating with one heart? Holy moly, that’s legit.

Yet the name of the book, Names, is like the opposite of that. Names are how we are all different. I am Zalmy. You are my mom (and maybe someone else will read this! In that case you’re not my mom). Names are powerful, and it’s often the first thing to be discarded when attempting to dehumanize.

One of the things I love about Torah is that there isn’t one answer. There is no “the” answer. But here’s one (and I didn’t even make it up!).

While the whole one heart thing (no they did not sing kumbaya, please) was amazing, and necessary at the time (when getting something so earth-shattering as the Torah, any ego would have prevented it from being truly assimilated and accepted), is not the ideal.

Not that arguing about a wall on a stranger’s facebook thread is ideal either. (Just clairfying.)

But G-d created us all differently. Unique. Weird, talented, different, imperfect(ly perfect).

And we all have to change the world. Each of us. In our unique way. We need to embrace how we are different, find our talents and run with them.  Fixing the world and revealing the G-dliness within is a creative endeavor, not a mechanical one. 

So (I just wanted to start three paragraphs with the forbidden words, just to see if I get struck by cyber-lighting or something), although the acceptance of the Torah had to be with a complete abnegation of self, the fulfillment of the Torah and it’s directives are only accomplished when we utilize our gifts and talents, not run away from them.

A name is weird. The soul doesn’t have a name, and the body doesn’t. Its only when the two are together that the name serves a purpose. 

And that’s what the Torah is telling us with the name Shemos. The purpose of the Torah and of creation itself is to harmonize the body and soul. To serve G-d in this world and with this world, yet remain G-dly. To take all the lessons and morals of the Torah and use them to change this physical world. To harness each of our unique gifts and quirks, our humors and characters. Because the deepest levels of G-dliness are found not in the spiritual, but in the merging of the physical and spiritual.

The lesson?  I guess don’t run away from who you are. Don’t let it scare you. Embrace it, harness it. But don’t let it control you either. Use it to change the world. Because we all can.

Even you, mom.

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Two people get married in a place

b"h

(Warning! Lots of words coming up. Feel free to skip right to the photos, it’s probably what I would do.)

I was chatting with some strangers on google hangout at 3 AM the other night (yup, I’m a total baller), and you know how things are when those wee hours appear. All the farfetched quasi-intellectual theories claw their way out from the more lonely corners of the mind. And bad jokes.

We got to chatting how odd it is that people need so badly to be right. Online seems to be worse than IRL ("in real life" for those who actually live out there and don't need an acronym for it) but it's pretty prevalent everywhere. For myself (this is something I really worked on) it’s gotten to a point (I was as bad as any for a while there) where I kind of enjoy being wrong. There’s something exciting about seeing an idea in different light. I’m wrong about so much so often it’s laughable. Laughable now, but sad if I would have refused to listen to what other people say. Actually listen, not just wait until they stop talking to you so you could say your bit because you already have them pegged and boxed and you know what they’re going to say… 

Stranger Google dude brought up a valid point about how if we are so open to all ideas, then who are we? Are we just a blank canvas for others to impress ideas on?

Then it got late(r) so we all hung up and waited patiently for the next day’s hangover.

The conversation was lingering around as I slept (very well mind you), and when my daily post coffee epiphanies hit, it had expanded quite a bit.

Chassidic literature is filled with the idea of “bittul”, and how important it is. It’s more of a concept than a simple translation of a wordword, I guess it means self-nullification, abnegation of ego, or something of the sort. We are constantly warned of the danger of ego, and how G-dliness only rests in a place of bittul. Yet we are also supposed to serve G-d as full individuals, replete with a logic, emotion, a sense of humor, and all that jazz (is jazz Jewish?). So what's the dealio?

I’m just thinking out loud here, but maybe it’s the egotistical expression of self that’s the issue? When we hold on to our ideas, thoughts, expression, even emotions, as if they are who we are, and without them we are nothing. But they aren’t, they’re just expressions of the soul or “self”. The unique way our individual minds work, how we react to the world, and our unique experiences is what we bring to the table. Being open to new thoughts, views, and experiences, does in no way lessen our self. I think it’s just the opposite, when we allow our egotistical grasp on these garments of the soul to slip, we find out who we really are. So while hunkering down behind the walls of past experience may feel  safe, all we are really doing is holding our self prisoner.

So I raise this glass of lemon water wish you all (and myself) a massive dose of organic letting go juice. L’Chaim!

(I may be wrong about all I just wrote. Bring it.)

///

A few months ago I packed my bags (again) for the holy city of Brooklyn to this lovely couple’s lovely (and rainy!) wedding. And truly, they were (and probably still are) the sweetest of the sweet. Quite international as well; she from China, him from Hawaii. They met in a small town in Sudan, okay now I’m just making stuff up. But the rest is legit.

Fun fact. The house the bride got ready in was in the family for like 4 generations. I think her great-grandmother was born there. Something like that.

Anyways, as always, this is best viewed with a brew (coffee, beer, or maybe kombucha, that’s up to you) and a good chunk of time. And if you made it this far, congrats! You have a special place in my heart.

Makeup by the talented Sary Farkash
Flowers by the wonderful Mimulo Floral and Event Design
S
econd shooting by Paul Simon (not that one)

You Gotta Have Faith Faith Faith

Each week on my blog, of course, we choose a Torah portion, bring you different kinds of stories on that… (I'm a wee bit obsessed with This American Life.)

Okay that’s not all true. It’s not every week (though maybe it should be)... and I don’t really choose a Torah portion. Those are a given. One per week. For a year. Since a long long time ago.

This week is all about the Jews finally getting out of Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and some subsequent desert happenings (mostly involving complaining, woohoo!).

The parshah (as the portions are called) starts off with the words “It came to pass when Pharaoh allowed the people to go…” wha? huh? Every Bible buff worth his Hebrew knows that Pharaoh didn’t “let the people go”. No matter how many times Moses pleaded, threatened, and sang, Pharaoh was like “heeeee-double-hockey-sticks no!”. Until finally, as the scene was rendered immortal in the famous ballad “Pharaoh in pajamas in the middle of the night”, Pharaoh came looking for Moses and begged him to go. “Just take your peeps, and go!”.

Why does the Torah prescribe power to Pharaoh, as if it was him who, from the graciousness of his heart, allowed his slaves to leave?

The Abarbanel (famous Portuguese bible commentator) asks this question. But he also asks 14 others until he gets to the answer…

Egypt, in Hebrew is מצרים, Mitzrayim. It can also be pronounced Meitzarim, which means boundaries, or borders. The concept of leaving Egypt is breaking out of whatever is holding us back. On all levels. Physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.

Everyone can change the world. Everyone. But for the most part we end up crimping our style with all our blocks and mindsets.

The Jews were slaves for so long, they forgot what power they had. You get up when your master tells you to, you eat when you are told, you sleep, if you get to, when you are told to. Eventually we start doubting our worth, we start to rely on our masters for their prompts, and we feel lost without them. and I am all over the place with tenses here because this has happened, and is happening, and will happen. Unless we don’t let it anymore.

Even after all the plagues and signs. When the Hebrews left Egypt they “had Pharaoh to thank”. Just as they attributed their slavery to Pharaoh, so too their freedom.

They had left Egypt, but Egypt didn’t yet leave them.

Until the splitting of the sea.

G-d doesn’t need fancy footwork. If he wanted the Egyptians gone all he had to do was to stop creating them. The world was just dancing so hard at the news of Exodus that it split it’s sea(m). That was horrible, Zalmy. Never do that again.

But seriously, why the whole split-the-sea-and-have-the-Jews-go-across-and-the-Egyptians-drown show?

Here’s the deal. Everything in this world is a reflection of its spiritual source. The sea is hidden, or more accurately it hides. There is an entire world under its waves, but all we really see is the surface. This is a reflection of the attribute of Kingship, or מלכות, which contains everything, but hides it in order to present, or allow for, a different perception to exist (one where G-d is not apparent). The splitting of the sea, and the Jews walking on the dry land was a reflection of G-d cracking open the door and allowing the Jews to see reality at a much higher level. In fact it says that the most simplest Jew saw a higher revelation at the splitting of the sea, than the prophet Ezekiel ever did.

Until then we saw G-d’s power. His might. But not G-dliness itself.

When the Jews came to the water and saw Pharaoh and his army bearing down at them with their mighty four horsepower chariots, they kind of freaked out. And they started praying.

Praying? Why? Didn’t G-d say he would take them to the promised land? Did they not trust him yet?

No. I mean, kind of. They had faith, but not enough. In their mind G-d was even more powerful than Pharaoh, but Pharaoh was still powerful. The world was still a huge and dangerous place, with hateful and mean people and happenings.

But then they saw G-dliness, they saw the truth, and it changed their lives forever. Because the truth is, there is nothing outside of G-d. The world and all its trappings is a facade, a trick. A necessary perception to allow for free choice, and for us to rise above it.

“Why are you praying to me, keep going!” said G-d. So what if there is a sea in the way?!

This is what finally freed the Jews from Mitzrayim. From limits.  From doubts. From fear.

“Stop kvetching! keep rocking!”

We can all change the world. We just have to get over ourselves first.

(Much of this was from the first half of a lecture by Rabbi Mendel Kaplan that I tried to listen to while doing the dishes late last night.)

///

I was blessed to have photographed (together with the amazing Katie Merkle) the wedding of Matty and Zvi. Too often, especially with weddings, we do what is done, because it's what's done, without really thinking about what it means to us. This wedding was as far from that as possible. Anyways, here a few (ahem) photos from the wedding. Enjoy :)

Peace!

Down with the Patriarchy!

B"h

Okay!!

I’ve started and deleted (well actually copied and pasted to the nether regions of my hard drive) too many posts to count (that is not true, I’m just not in the mood of counting, and who cares anyways?) in the past few days. Some silly, more sad, many angry.

And you know what? The last thing the internet needs is another introspective piece about what went right and what went wrong. That and another video of a cat cuddling with a deer. Actually we could always use more of those.

But our cat is too busy eating lizards, and the local deer wants nothing to do with her. Says she only cuddles with striped cats. Whatever, we all have our issues.

In my marvelous Facebook newsfeed, now mostly an hodgepodge of political and photographic posts, with an advertisement for boots every few scrolls (seriously Facebook?! I bought my boots already, I am not in the market anymore!), someone posted the following:

(This is how much I love you guys, I actually typed this out from a photo. You know, because somehow on facebook it’s so much cooler to post a picture of words than just the words themselves.)

Well actually I’ll just paraphrase:

(for the original (in Hebrew) see here (start from אות מג) )

In 1958, it was a hot and humid (probably) Monday at the end of June and 770 Eastern Parkway, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, was jam-packed as all listened (okay, almost all) to the Lubavitcher Rebbe giving a communal address in honor of the Chassidic holiday of י’ב תמוז.

Towards the end, the Rebbe spoke about “who is smart, he who learns from everyone”, and got into a little digression about how we as Jews have to learn from our country and her politics, especially on the left, where there are women in high positions of power (remember this was early in the modern feminism movement (ten years before the song "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"), where, especially in religious circles, men held most positions of power and leadership).

He then spoke about how in the Lurianic teachings of Kabbalah, it talks about the generation before Moshiach being a reincarnation of the generation that wandered the desert. Since then, the woman refused to take any part in the golden calf, therefore in this generation they merit to affect what they really want (what that is he doesn’t mention, (isn’t there is a movie about it or something) but maybe that’s a hint to us guys to stop assuming we know :) ).

That’s why, he continues, that specifically in this generation we see women in positions of high power, and that many communal matters are specifically led by women. And even those that are led by men, when the husband comes home and his wife hits him on the head (his words, not mine), the next day he leads as his wife directed.

Admittedly I don’t completely understand the next paragraph, but it says something to the effect of “if the accepting of the yoke of heaven of the men isn’t enough, they need to take council with their wives and do as they say”.

And just like the Jews merited to be redeemed from Egypt in the merit of the women, so to from this exile…

///

I really liked seeing this for a few reasons. 

1. The Rebbe was not afraid to look outside of the Jewish world for inspiration to what has to happen within the Jewish world.

2. Well, being that we almost elected a woman from the left, this was very apropos. 

3. It solidified a bit my thoughts on feminism and the woman’s place in Judaism.

“What are those thoughts? Please share!!”

Sheesh, okay, I’m getting there.

Massive backtrack.

In Kabbalah it often talks about the feminine and the masculine.

Chochmah (usually translated as "wisdom" but all of these these are concepts that are not really explained with single word translations) is masculine, binah ("understanding", but again, a concept that is beyond he scope of this post) feminine. Chessed ("kindness") masculine, gevurah ("strictness") feminine. Middos ("emotions") masculine, Malchus ("royalty") feminine. etc.

(Disclaimer: both men and women have all these attributes, just in general the masculine ones are stronger in men and vice versa for women)

In general the masculine is the “giving” and the feminine “receiving”. Hence the masculine urge to “go out and conquer”, and the feminine ability to listen, to actually listen.

And that also explains how, throughout most of history, men were the ones in leadership positions, and often looked down out their female counterparts (as if this was ancient history, I wish).

But Kabbalah also explains how there are two ways of viewing the world, from top down, and in that way we are the lowest world, slaves to our bodily desires, and lost in this world of false perceptions.

Then there is the bottom up view, which is what will be revealed when Moshiach comes, how specifically in this world can the Essence of G-d be revealed. How specifically through sifting through the garbage of this world, and finding the G-dliness hiding everywhere, we slowly make this world into a G-dly place, and home for G-d.

This is done not through accepting what is but taking it all in and making it our own. It’s the process of Binah, the feminine aspect of intellect, that allows us to truly assimilate our knowledge. And Malchus, that last Sefirah, is the most powerful of all. It takes everything in, incubates it, and incorporates and takes it to the next level.

The written Torah (24 books of the TaNaKh) is masculine. It is what it is, and cannot be changed. The Oral Torah (Talmud, Code of Jewish Law, Kabbalah etc.) is feminine, it is how we take the principles of Torah and apply our own intellect to it, creating novel ideas and rulings that never existed. It is us taking part in G-d’s wisdom. And that is the whole point. For us to be a part of this whole creation and world thing. Not to be cold fulfillers of divine commands, but passionate warriors of peace and truth.

A few weeks back in the weekly torah portion we learned about witnesses. Biblically speaking, only men could be witnesses. Which really bothered me. (It still does, questions are good.)

I researched and thought about it a bit, and what I found I loved.

The masculine way (again I use these terms instead of male and female, because we have both elements) is to be unbiased. To see things as they are. They can see something and it is what it is. the feminine is more biased. It assimilates knowledge. It gets involved. It gets angry and sad. It sees what may have prompted such a sight, and the history that has to be taken into account.  That’s not good for testimony. But it’s exactly what G-d wants for this world.

For the world is NOT what it seems.

From both a scientific and a medical perspective the world we see isn’t objective. Quantum mechanics shows that we have a symbiotic relationship with reality, and neurology tells us that the world we see is mostly reconstructions, memories, and mindsets.

Hashem wants us to make his perception ours. He wants us to look at the world the way He does. 

Torah is compared to bread. (Sourdough of course. with a really crunchy crust, and soft warm inside… oh man I’m hungry…) for just like the food we eat becomes our physical body, the Torah we learn becomes our mindset. And this is most evident with the Oral Torah, were ours and the Allmighty’s wisdoms combine. 

It says that Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world,  and through allowing us to be a part of the Torah, we are given the gift of viewing the world as it actually is, an expression of G-d.

I’m rambling but I have a point. I promise! 

This unity of our perceptions and Hashem’s will be complete in the time of redemption. And it’s our journey to that point that makes it happen.

When Moshiach comes it says that “the feminine will surround the masculine”, meaning the talents and aspects of the feminine will  be released to have been greater than that of the masculine, because it’s specifically those attributes that will bring about the redemption, that allow for us to truly assimilate G-dliness within us. 

The Rebbe often said that Moshiach is here, we just have to open our eyes. And that means two things. 

1. We have to realize and acknowledge the good changes that happened and are happening in the world. Instead of constantly kvetching and moaning and basing our view of the world on the media’s and the politicians apocalyptic, profit driven, worldview, we need to be thankful and aware of how the world is changing. And it really is. There are less wars, less poverty, more understanding of “others”. there’s more of an awareness of our impact on this world. Especially as Jews, we have it better than anytime since King Solomon. 

and

2. We have to act as if Moshiach is here. If when Moshiach will come we will all get along, then gosh-darn-it we have to do that now. If we will see G-dliness everywhere, then we have to actively try to do that as well. And if when Moshiach will come, we will finally realize how much women have to offer that men don’t, then gosh-darn-it we have to act like that!!

And this. THIS. Is my point. 

We as Jews (and the world at large) has to stop shoving women into the background. 

Galus (exile) is a man’s world.  Geulah (the redemption) is a women’s world. 

Yes it’s a bit scary as a guy. You know, losing all that (false) superiority, but it’s not a competition. 

I’m not talking about having woman rabbis and the like. Rabbis are overrated anyways. I’m talking about treating women like equals, actual equals. And just like you (a man) will have no problem with a male boss, you should have no problem with a woman one. 

The Rebbe pushed for female leadership, and stressed, so much, how whenever he sent out a couple to wherever, they were EQUALS.

And you know what? The Jewish world shouldn’t be behind the curve with the whole feminism thing. We should be leading the charge.

Down with the patriarchy!!

Seriously.

///

Last year we went to visit New York for Passover. We spent the holiday in Monsey (no photos, as my camera and film was lost/stolen), and then Crown Heights, the amazing oxymoron of idealogical perfection, and the cultural reluctance to allow such change.

I have so much more to say about this all, but I have to stop somewhere :)

Here are some photos of our trip. All with a lovely old Nikon F3, a 28mm, and some expired film. Woohoo!

Chapter One: In which we weigh ourselves at the airport (hooray for small airports!), watch the airplanes ("ours is the one with the wings" said Zusha), cause a huge collective groan when we board the plane, and play hide and seek at the baggage claim.

Chapter Two: In which we stopped by my father father's parent's k'varim, graves. Chanaleh is named after my grandmother Chana, and this happened to be Chanaleh's birthday so it was quite nice. 

Chapter Three: In which we visit Bubby Carlebach, eat yummy food, watch the cars below, and enjoy some wonderful conversation.

Chapter Four: In which we take a bus to the Ohel (the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe), write the customary pan, a letter in which we ask for blessings (the kids drew theirs, notice a baby girl on Chanaleh's :) ), visit the Rebbetzin's kever (grave), then my great-grandmother's (Sarah Schneerson), and then visit the famous 770 Eastern Parkway, the worldwide headquarters for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement (of which we are proudly part of). 

Chapter Five: In which we travel to the Jewish Children's Museum, visit some biblical exhibits, lose our yarmulkahs in a Noah's Ark full of plastic balls, climb a wall, and have a tantrum on the roof.

Chapter Six: In which we walk around, buy Kosher Ice Cream, take the kids on their first Subway ride, and play at a ridiculously crowded playground (because we got off at the wrong stop).

Until next time... Peace and oh, did I mention my wife? She's amazing. (She said she'd edit this post so this is just a test to see if she really looked at the whole thing...)