Part II-"Friday Afternoon"

2:00. Eliana calls me, and tells me what happened.

“So did you call the health center, and poison control center?” I asked.

She said she did. The Poison control center told her the toxic level of contact solution is very low, so not to worry about that.

The health center told her to try various methods of getting the contact out, such as:

*eating something hot
*eating bread
*going to the bathroom
*throwing up

When none of these methods worked (Ok, she didn’t try the last one) she called the health center again, and they told her to go to the ER. So, 2:30 Friday afternoon, 3 and a half hours before Shabbat, we head out to the Hospital.

Eliana has since come up with a theory about hospitals. “The whole point is to simply move you from waiting room to waiting room, so that you think they are getting something accomplished.”

When it was 5:00 and we had only been seen by the triage nurse, it was pretty clear we weren’t getting out of there before Shabbat. We called the campus rabbis, and one of them offered to walk the 5 miles to the hospital to come and meet us after dinner! We told him no way, we did NOT want him to walk ten miles in the cold rain for us.

The other one advised taking a taxi. It’s better that a Jew not do the driving, and theres no way we could have walked. Theres more to this psak than simply that, but I don’t have time to go into it now. Perhaps a later post.

We still weren’t a hundred percent sure what we were going to do when we finally were ready, but as the sun set, Eliana and I sang lecha dodi to the passing police officers, men in handcuffs, and drug dogs.

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Part I – "Friday Morning"

It’s 9:30 am. “Eliana”, a friend of mine at UMD, wakes up and goes into the bathroom to do her morning routine. She has a nutrition test coming up that she has been studying for, so vitamins are all on her mind.

“All right,” she thinks to herself. “I’ll be healthy and take a calcium pill today.”

She reaches for the pills and then realizes that since she doesn’t usually take pills in the morning, she doesn’t have a cup in the bathroom. But, no worry, her roomate’s cup in sitting convienently on the counter. And even more conveiniant, there’s already water in the cup.

“Sweet!” Eliana thinks to herself as she gulps down her pill with the water.

But as she drinks the water, “sweet” is not the term coming to mind. More like “bitter” “burn” and “acid”. Thinking that it must not have been water she swallowed, she asks her roomate what was in the cup in the bathroom. Roomate responds “My contacts and contact solution. Why?”

“Eh..” Eliana responds. “I think I just drank your contacts!”

Math and Rav Kook

Disclaimer: I’m writing this post kinda randomly. That is to say, I have a bunch of thoughts running through y head and i don’t exactly know how they connect. Yet. I’m sure there will be a point by the end of this.

So, in math, we’re learning about complements. The complement of a given set is anything that’s not part of that set. This is the venn diagram which illustrates what the complement is:

In the diagram, the left circle represents everything in group A. Everything not in group A can be defined in three ways. First, you can simply call it “C and D”, or you could call it “A complement.” The way to write “A-complement” is Ac.

This gets more interesting when you start to assign actual values to the letters. For example, you could say that A represents all the people who ate at Hillel friday night , and C represents all the people who came to shul Friday Night. B would be the people who came to shul AND ate at Hillel, while D would be the people who neither came to shul nor came to eat at Hillel. Ac would be anyone who did not eat at Hillel, regardless of whether or not they went to shul on Friday night .

I find this interesting because when writing down math problems, my professor tends not to write the symbol Ac, opting instead to write a different variable which describes this group, perhaps S for “starved” (in this example, it doesn’t quite work because obvously people who didn’t eat at Hillel would have eaten somewhere else and would not have starved, but you get the point)

I thought about this today while learning a letter of Rav Kook. In it, he discussed the idea of a culture and a counter-culture. The hippies of the 60’s were a counter-culture, a response to the general straight and narrow culture of the time. He talked about non-religous Judaism, and whether chiloni society is a culture or a counter-culture. In other words, do you define non-religous Jews simply as “NON RELIGOUS Jews” or are they something more than that? Are they “my neighbor down the block with the really pretty flower garden ” and “That really funny guy in my Biology class”, or are they simply “The group of people who are not religous.

Rav Kooks point is that its so easy for religous people to look at the rest of the world and think of them as “Religous-complement” but thats an entirely wrong way of looking at things. A guy I know, “Bobby” is possibly the most insightful person I’ve ever met. And I happen to know alot of really insightful people. I really value Bobby’s opinions on almost everything. It doesn’t matter to me that Bobby is not particularly religous-I can still count on him to explain my math work to me, or to shed light on a really complicated sugiyah I’m learning.

So often, we as religous Jews fall into the trap of staying in our own little Jewish circle, and never really branching out beyond that. A friend of mine grew up in an ultra-Orthodox family, went to Ultra-Orthodox schools her whole life, attended an Orthodox seminary in Israel, now is in Yeshivah University, and is getting married soon and moving some Chareidi nighborhood in New York. I’m not judging her particular choices, for her they probably were the best move. However, this girl does not have any real exposure to people who are not exactly like her. And that, in my opinion, is really dangerous. I mean, she could live her whole life never having to really think about why she is religous. And worse, she won’t be able to convey that over to her children if she herself is unsure. And then people wonder about the “crisis” of kids going “off the derech.” Amazing.

Shake your…checkbook

My good friend made a comment after shaking her 4 species* the other day. She said “What a silly mitzah. Not that doing it is silly, but you just feel so silly while you’re doing it.”

How true.

You kindof have to wonder what the rationale behind it is. Ok, we do it cuz God said so, but…why? It seems to me that succot comes in the fall. Ok, wait that didn’t come out right. It’s obvious that succot comes in the fall. It seems that the time of year is vitally signifigant to the underlying reason behind the mitzvah. Fall is the time of harvest. Many other cultures have harvest festials. In essense, succot is the time that we look at our produce and realize that it’s all from God. We have to take a moment from our excitement and thank God for allowing our crops to grow.

Untill recently, almost every society was highly dependant on agriculture. Most people either grew their own crops, or grew cash crops to sell, enabling them to buy other types of food to feed their families with. If the crops didn’t grow one year, you didn’t eat.

Nowadays, we have a somewhat different culture. We’re still dependant on agriculture, but not to the same extent. If florida has a bad year of Oranges, we can order from California instead. We may see tomatoes rise in price to over $3.00/pd., but we would never starve to death because of it. Thank God.

Today, we are much more dependant on business. I personally know day traders who committed suicide because the stock market went down that day. Our society is an economically minded one. We no longer care about the dividends of the field, rather, our interest is the dividends of the checkbook. With this in mind, maybe we can change the way we view sukkot.

Instead of thinking how silly it is that we are standing outside waving around a bunch of plants, we should imagine we are waving around our wallets, or laptop computers.

Succot is, in essence, a holiday of thanksgiving. Its the time where we look to God and say “Everything we have comes from you. Without Your graciousness, I wouldn’t have my cozy warm bed, or even my house. I wouldn’t have any food to eat, or money to buy food with. Thank You God, for providing me with sustenance.”

*It bothers me when people refer to the 4 species as “lulav and etrog”. What did the haddasim and aravot do that they don’t deserve to be included as well?