Monday, June 28, 2010

Music from the '80s.... those were my years and check out my birthday.... this is my group

What's with these students at my school?

As some of you know, I am taking a summer class. When the semester started, I sent an Email to the entire class, asking if anyone wanted to form a study group. These students in my class.... oy, they have been making fun of me, mostly for being religious. There's another religious Jewish girl but, she doesn't say boo to them so maybe that's why  they don't bother her. I moved to the other side of the room to get away from this little group.

What's the worst part?

One of the guys in this little group making fun of me is Jewish.

I mean actually, half the class is Jewish. A bunch of the guys went to the same uber modern school in Flatbush. This guy who's sort of in the their group but, not the main culprit is Sephardic. I haven't asked him, but I don't think he went to school with others because he doesn't really talk to them. Then there's a frummy, complete with frummy accent. He's an accounting major. How come I wasn't surprised? He sits in this little group and yet, he doesn't stick up for a fellow Jew. I've even asked these folks, "why do you make comments about me eating bacon and no comments about him eating bacon?" They are incorrigible-absolutely incorrigible!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Snap... Crackle... What?

Guest post: final installment...

Aspirations of escape held no sway over Avraham. Rashi, in an overlooked note, outlines exactly how Avraham understood his relationship with God, and the responsibility of the eternal relationship the Creator had forged with him.

In a remarkable aside, the Torah text interrupts the narrative of the angelic departure from Abraham’s tent to Sodom with a Divine soliloquy over whether Avraham should be informed of the city’s impending demolition.

And God said: ‘Could I really hide what I do from Avraham? After all, Avraham is going to become a grand and mighty nation, and every nation on the Earth will be blessed through him. And I’ve loved him—because he orders his children and his household along his path: that they guard the path of God, to do rightness and justice so that God may bring upon Avraham what He promised.’

(Genesis 18:17-19)

Rashi – ‘So that God may bring…’: That’s exactly how Avraham would put the order to his children: “Guard the path of God so that God may bring upon Avraham…”

Far from images of an aspiring martyr, we have an Avraham who perceives the “path of God” as a path to the fulfillment of…himself. The things that God promised Avraham are worldly phenomena that fulfill deep human aspirations: land, children, fame and wealth.

How could God approve, indeed embrace, a religious quest whose expressed goal was “that God may bring upon Avraham” the wonderful things that humans yearn for? Isn’t obedience to God supposed to stand irrespective of material consequences? Aren’t we enjoined to be servants “who serve the Master without a condition of receiving reward”?

Unless…we’ve misunderstood the fundamental imperative driving Avraham from the beginning. On the first recorded communication from God to Avraham, Lech lecha, “go for yourself”, Rashi comments: “Go for your own enjoyment and your own benefit.” This isn’t a mission of self-denial, asceticism and theological doctrines, but a journey for Avraham’s own self; to Avraham’s own self.

In recognizing that there was a single Creator uniting the disparate personas and phenomena of a chaotic world, Avraham recognized that his own physical existence was the will of this Creator—and that the Creator’s Own desire must be that His creatures expand and build themselves into everything they can be. And that the immortality of everything they can be emerges from within the building of their own lives.

Without that awareness, that the path to eternity is irreducibly ‘Earthy’, physical Creation necessarily becomes neglected, self-contradictory and unsustainable.

Avraham’s rejection of glib explanations, popular superstitions and shoddy cosmologies propelled him onto a path paved with an expanding awareness of Existence itself and ultimately led…straight back to Avraham: awake, fulfilled and expressed.

It wasn’t about rewards or punishments, doctrines or catechisms. It was about the impossibility of a path that leads to the Source of Life not leading back to one’s own life. And God indeed “loves” the first person who recognizes the interconnection of the two searches.

The awareness that enabled Avraham’s path makes him the most fundamental prototype of Am Yisrael—Rambam’s “pillar” that holds up the structure, no matter how many beatings it takes or how many floors above it have collapsed.

A society that rejects Avraham’s imperative to relentlessly dig for truth, smashing the idols and sacred cows blocking the road; that yearns to squelch individuality and quash inquiry in the name of stability and acceptance; a society that abandons existential aspirations for the cheap security of supposed ethno-religious superiority; is a society that is walking away from Avraham’s path.

The road to the Creator isn’t numinous, disembodied or coolly “objective” – it’s proximate, personal and covered with earthy soil.

* * *

The Haggadah reminds us that the long walk to freedom didn’t begin with Avraham. It started with his father Terach, a marketer of religious idols who was also, curiously, the first of the outliers who lived “on the other side of the river…” (Joshua 24:2).

The Torah records that Terach, not Avraham, was the first to begin the journey towards Canaan, the land of Israel. Terach’s journey halted midway and failed to reach its goal. But while he only made it halfway there, Terach’s abortive steps towards a New World are a prelude to Avraham’s own journey that is usually ignored — because it doesn’t fit popular images of who Avraham was, or where he was going.

Terach’s sortie was the impetus from below that hinted at a new trajectory, and laid a groundwork that Avraham could both follow and transform. Terach’s walk to Eretz Yisrael was the first step in the derech eretz that was the precursor to Avraham’s discovery of Torah.

Bags: fashion from the Michaltastik prospective...

I'm not one of those fashion-obsessed girls. I never have been and I never will be. So, right now, there is a fashion, I find a little odd. I'm talking about what I call the oversized armpit bags. It's seems like all the girls have one of these. Furthermore, it seems like they are always looking for something in them. I see them all the time on the subway with their arm lifted rooting and looting through their bag. Another thing I see is multiple purses. I mean does someone really need to carry 3 or 4 smaller bags? Wouldn't it be easier to carry one big bag?

It seems like lately, women are criticizing my backpack. Shoving me on the subway making comments about my "big" backpack that might only have one thing inside it. When did the backpack lose it's appeal as a timeless classic?

Incidentally girls, I'm bucking your oversized armpit bag fashion in favor of the classic, my backpack. You won't catch me in those ugly oversized sunglasses, either. They were ugly in the 70's when people wore them and they're still ugly now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The rate my prof reviews of a prof I'll be taking later on in the summer....

Now, those of you who read my blog know, I like to have a hay day with the rate my professor comments. I tried looking at comments for not the business major and I didn't find material for the blog. One particular note, is that we have several online classes, which is appealing to me because of my 2 hour commute to college. Next summer session, I'm taking an online class... here are some of the comments on the professor....

"UNBELIEVABLE IS ALL I HAVE TO SAY! Tests are insanely difficult! How can we do such complicated homework when we arent taught anything? THE MOST HARDEST CLASS WITH THE WORST PROFESSOR EVER! he does not explain anything! Did not respond to any e-mails until everyone began complaining to the head of the dept. one word TERRIBLE!"

Ok, the tests may well be difficult, but, as to the comment, we aren't taught anything... it's an online class. You're supposed to study the material on your own. I swear, they should require a 2.85 minimum GPA for online classes like they do an independant study. It's basically the same thing.

"would not recommend!!..never answered students emails...hard homework, which we were given no help on...waited until week before final to offer to help wasn't that hard, took questions from the quizzes on line..managed to get a B-, but could of got a better grade if professor was more helpful..."

What help is the prof supposed to give? He doesn't teach calculus. It's "could have," maybe even "could've" but definitely not "could of."

In closing, I'll mention, I Emailed my class to see if anyone wanted to form a study group. I got a whole bunch of kickbacks. About four or five of the kickbacks were from the domain of the community college from which many of the students come. Now first off, this is a summer class, so they've been out of there for over a year, they don't think it's time to fix that? Then I'll point out, why are they even using the Email address for a college they aren't going to? Even if they used it when they applied, why would they do that? You know they are going to keep this on file, free Email addresses are in abundance.... I have a hotmail I started just for college-related correspondance. Furthermore, how do they expect to take an online class if they don't even have their account connected to a valid Email address?

Michal's pursuit of good grades... continued...

Another reason why I'm trying so hard to get my GPA as close to 4.0 as possible is because the CUNY school that wouldn't let me in for undergraduate, happens to be the only school with a graduate program in which I'm interested. They told me that for undergraduate, they require a 3.5. My GPA isn't much over 3.5. However, here, almost every exam is multiple choice, the students expect to not study and just guess the answers. In reality, this is how things are set up. Many of the tests, I'm like, I would have had the exact same answers if I hadn't studied. They didn't draw from what we did in class or the book, mostly just logical reasoning. Sometimes, a test is half logic and the other half is the material. The professors are too lazy to grade papers so they don't assign them.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

“You don’t have to get good grades…”

I’m thoroughly annoyed with someone who is supposed to be a friend of mine. Every time I talk to this person, if I am asked how I am and I make the mistake of mentioning school, I get these speeches about how I don’t have to get an A in every subject or something to that effect.
Now, first off, I don’t have a 4.0 GPA and I don’t even think that’s very realistic for the workload I had this past semester with my 16 credit hours. Second of all, when I started back to school last September and I told this very same person that my goal was to break 3.0 GPA, she told me I should get a 4.0.

Most recently this came up because I mentioned that I’m taking an economics class in the fall that is basically calculus. Now, normally, you don’t go around taking Calculus with a math background as weak as mine. I haven’t taken a math class in 18 years. Where I left off 18 years ago was only two years of high school math. I haven’t taken Trig or pre-calc. Yes, my college has protections to prevent this from happening to students. However, as a transfer student with several credits, I was just sort of shooed on through without taking the placement entrance exams. So, on one hand this is good, because who knows what would have happened if I had had to take that entrance exam, if I would have even gotten in. On the other hand, now, I’m faced with the task of getting myself up to speed before taking Math Econ-errrrrrrrr-calculus in the fall.

So, for this, I am chastised as being “obsessed” with good grades. I was told my someone else, not to study up because that’s the professor’s job to teach me. Ummmm, it’s the professor’s job to teach me the items from that course, not high school and grammar school math. Furthermore, I’m not walking into a calculus class without so much as a firm knowledge of high school math. This “friend” who repeatedly suggests such a thing probably would not do so herself.

So, now I ask my readers, am I crazy?

More about gender issues…

So, I’ve been thinking about my experience is that gender issues household and my feelings on the gender issues in the past week. Unfortunately, in Orthodox society, the gender roles have become for women to do everything and the men to do nothing but go and “learn.” The reality is that what the men call “learning” is really all about a good old boys club. They enjoy arguing with each other. The problem is that this is against the very Torah they claim to be learning.

The Talmud says very clearly that if a man does not teach his son a trade, it is as though he teaches him to steal. In today’s society, this means going to college. Yet we have little children 7 and 8 years old who scoff that they won’t go to college. The mother clearly didn’t like my comment about them going to college. They are not the only little boys being taught that they, as men, do not work, they sit and learn.

How do these people expect that all of Orthodoxy should support themselves with only the woman’s salary. Let’s be realistic, “woman” jobs pay less than “man” jobs. The higher $70,000 a year that a therapist might make is not very much money when you have to pay for a nanny, vehicles, gas, tuition, camp and so on and so forth, especially when you have a large family. At least in the scenario where a woman is staying home and the man is working, you are not paying for a nanny.

I’m not even touching on the quality of the nannies that Orthodox women are hiring. They think their nannies are great but, really the woman leaves the baby home alone. I’ve seen it firsthand.

At this point, this arrangement is still working for people because most people have parents who pay for things even after their married. However, logically, I don’t see that happening in the next generation when the parents of grown children become a mother who works as a teacher or therapist and the father doesn’t work and doesn’t have any skills. Also, nowadays, the parents who are supporting their kids often don’t have as many children as the young parents nowadays are having. How is one supposed to support 5 married children and put their grandchildren through school and still retire without starving?