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Why I Get Depressed & How I Feel Better

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I’ll conveniently skip over my gross neglect of nearly two years and get right down to it. You know the thing that gets so many people down? We go through phases (if not longer) of sadness, low self-esteem, and feeling lost. Sometimes there’s a reason and other times, it’s foggy. On this eve of Cyber Monday, I’d like to make a suggestion. Perhaps Thanksgiving weekend is the quintessence of what plagues us.

I hate to pin this on Thanksgiving. I, for one, love Thanksgiving. As an orthodox Jew, Thanksgiving embodies a value that defines the Jewish people- gratitude. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word for Jew is Yehudi. The Hebrew root of Yehudi means thankfulness. I love the opportunity to be grateful in a country that has allowed me to connect with God as a Jew. (Side note: the irony that the patriotic and unifying holiday of Thanksgiving almost immediately followed an especially divisive election is not lost on me.)

So, I hate to pin this on Thanksgiving BUT consider this: Thanksgiving weekend begins with a shortened Wednesday of school or work for many. A break! A rest! A respite! Following that, Thursday brings a smorgasbord of delicacies from roasted turkey to mashed potatoes to a variety of pies. Oh, the eating! Many spend the afternoon flip-flopping between assuming the couch potato position in front of a televised football game or in a justifiable food coma. Just as a turkey-induced sleep threatens to become permanent, we are motivated out of bed by Black Friday. Ah, Black Friday. Who doesn’t love a good sale? Friday, for the die-hard shoppers begins early with a strong latte and ends late with a severely depleted bank account. On Saturday and Sunday, we begin pre-shopping for Cyber Monday, the Digital World’s parallel creation to Black Friday. I received an email on Sunday suggesting I urgently begin shopping NOW since by the time Monday actually begins, many items will be sold out (the horror!).

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To wrap up, there’s an inordinate amount of eating, napping, and shopping. Outrageously excessive. If this weekend came but once a year and was an isolated incident, I wouldn’t be concerned. I write because Thanksgiving weekend is a mere culmination of a general culture that considers consumerism to be a lifestyle.

We feel low because we can’t stop consuming. We feel depressed because we can’t stop consuming. We feel unproductive, unaccomplished, and incapable…because? You guessed it. We can’t stop consuming!

How do we climb out of our depression?

It’s actually simple. We just need to start DOING. Imagine giving instead of receiving! Creating instead of devouring! Take me for example. I just need to get up and write the blog post I procrastinated for two years. Alternatively, I can clean my room or even my inbox. Last resort, I can call a friend or feed my children (joking. sort of.) I just start doing something. Anything. Immediately.

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Sometimes, we need to pick ourselves up by our post-Thanksgiving fat pants, and DO. Self-correct and adjust as necessary but go directly to ‘DO’ mode before we become too bloated  and lazy to move.

I made a joke to a friend that I feel better eating my chocolate when I see her facebook photos of marathon running. While I perhaps won’t sign up for the next 5k run, I hope to keep moving, working, giving, and not waste a precious moment.

I’m A Masculinist

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Let me back up. I’m an advocate for the rights of women everywhere. Since I began my explorations in Judaism, I’ve taken particular interest in women’s creative expression, outlets, and roles. Part of this is because I’m naturally curious and passionate about the topic. The other part is…well, I’m a vocal and strong-minded woman! I never chose to be. Frankly, I never wanted to be! I always envied women who were a little docile, sweet types, the quiet ones. Those were ideal women to me.

But… not anymore. I have learned to appreciate all the different shades women are in the last decade or so. Now, I even appreciate the way I am. It’s for this reason that I choose to teach about the unique role of the Jewish woman and persist to ask tough questions. I find Torah values to champion women more than all other codes of conduct and value systems. As I continue to examine and understand, I am astounded by the lack of feminism in America today.

But I digress. Back to my new-found masculinism. I recently attended a lecture on the Jewish holiday of Purim and we were all speaking afterward about the prominent heroine, Queen Esther. We spoke about all the ways women today celebrate Purim and, for that matter, how women today celebrate Jewish holidays generally.

I (being vocal!) said that I wondered about how a Jewish woman can appropriately celebrate this holiday and all holidays when her primary role is the home. A Jewish woman is the foundation of the Jewish home and it is through her wisdom and strength that her home is built. On Yom Kippur, for example, when many go to synagogue to pray and repent, I lived in a neighborhood of Jerusalem where the women mostly stayed home that day with their young children. They barely saw the inside of the synagogue.

Is this the way Yom Kippur should be celebrated?

Moreover, Judaism today (for the vast majority of American Jews) is confined to the synagogue (or delicatessen- wink, wink). At present, the center point of a typical Jewish community is a synagogue. If only men show up on Yom Kippur, or only men are counted in the minyan, or men usually read from the Torah- where is the place in Judaism for women?

So women responded by: showing up, counting themselves in a minyan, and reading from the Torah. The sentiment being- if men can do it, so can we. The logic is certainly there.

But what if we’ve been looking at this whole Judaism thing backwards? What if our premise is altogether untrue and the decisions that have sprouted from that premise are then false?

I recently had a revelation thanks to a wise friend who quoted Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch zt’l. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that the Jewish people only recently began to view Judaism as being rooted in the synagogues. He was, of course, referring the synagogues of Germany at that time. He boldly declared that all the synagogues should be closed down for one hundred years because they were wrongly taking over as the center of Jewish life instead of the home. The actual center for the Jewish people, the way it’s been since the times of Abraham is, in fact, in the home.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold the phones!

If Judaism’s headquarters are the homes rather than the synagogues, and all the men are in synagogue and now all the women are shoving the men aside to lead the synagogues:

1. Who’s leading the Torah atmosphere in the homes?

2. Where does this leave men?

Ladies, I think we’ve made an error in our calculations. Our stake and our legacy in Judaism is our homes. Unmanned (unwomanned?), the Jewish home is desolate and lifeless.  We have a big gaping hole in the most critical Jewish location. Paging ground control!!

Also, because women are such powerful forces, where should men go when the one place they can express their Judaism has been taken over? There is no outlet for them anymore.

So, I guess I’m a masculinist. These poor shlubs need a woman to help them out of this rut!

To my lady readers, if you agree with me, let’s reclaim what’s rightfully ours and make space for the men who need real Jewish heroines in their lives to fight for their rights.

I’m not suggesting we boycott the synagogue. While I would support the brave words of Rav Hirsch, I somehow don’t see today’s Jewish leaders going to those extremes to make this point. SO if attending synagogue helps elevate your spirituality, why not go for it? But let’s renew our dedication to infusing the precious and holy Jewish homes with our intuition, joy, and infallible Torah values.