My boyfriend suffers from depression.

Does this mean I should suffer with him?

I suffer from low self esteem, and I am acutely aware of this.

I keep thinking I need to end this. I think, why should I be stuck in a relationship where my partner doesn’t want to do things with me, doesn’t make an effort to see me, doesn’t understand why all this upsets me.

And then I think, but if I break things off, I will be alone. I like thinking that I have someone to confide in, someone to share things with, someone to turn to when I’m upset.

And then I think, I’m that person for him. I’m who he turns to when he’s upset, when he’s depressed. And is it fair for me to not be there for him if I want him to be there for me?

And then I think, if I break things off, he’ll get more upset and more depressed, and now is not the time to do that to him.

But maybe now is the time to do that. Maybe I shouldn’t wait until he is happy, because then I will be set him into ANOTHER bout of depression.

I love him. I think he loves me, but he never tells me unless I say it first.

He makes me laugh. When he’s not depressed, I can make him laugh.

We enjoy the same forms of entertainment, though lately we haven’t been doing much of anything.

I will only persue a relationship that I think has long term potential. Does this?

I love him.

Seeing the Silver Lining

Last summer, I bought a new laptop. My old laptop was stolen out of the trunk of my car while I was on vacation in New Orleans (Incidentally, my father had actually expressed concern that I was going there specifically because he had heard that the crime rate is now especially terrible).

I loved my old laptop. It was a little big and bulky, but it did everything I needed, and it did it fast. It had all the cool, little features that I liked, like the fact that I could close it and it would automatically go into sleep mode, and then I could open it and it would wake up again. It had all my programs on it, which admittedly aren’t many, but still, important. It had a lot of my music on it, and many of my pictures as well. The pictures weren’t quite as big of an issue, since most of them were online or printed already, but still, they were there. Since it was the summer, I didn’t any papers or things I was in the middle of working on that were lost, which was extremely lucky. In any case, it was a good lesson in the importance of backing up files. My new best friend is now my USB flash drive.

In any case, I had to buy a new computer. I shopped around, spoke to my brother, who is my go-to person when it comes to anything with a cord, and finally chose one I liked, that was in my price range, which was quite low, considering that my parents weren’t helping me out (“This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t gone to New Orleans like we wanted”).

The computer had everything I needed, and there was nothing noticeably wrong with it. But for some reason, it didn’t feel like it was “mine” yet. I would type out my papers, do research online, do the facebook/email/onlysimchas procrastination thing, but it just didn’t feel the same. The buttons weren’t the same, the tabs weren’t in the same places, and worst of all, it was Windows Vista, which I have learned is a horrid operating system.

It reminded me of something I heard in Seminary. Once a week, the head of Darchei Binah, Rabbi Kurland, would give a weekly talk. The class was officially called “Modern Halachik Problems”, and to paraphrase the description of the class given to us on our first day, “Sometimes I [Rabbi Kurland] will talk about modernity, sometimes I’ll talk about halacha, and sometimes I’ll just talk about problems”.

One week, around the halfway point of the year, he spoke about Getting All You Can Out of Your Time in Israel. He said that the year was half way over, and that it was time to embrace all that seminary offered. It was way past the time girls should have been rethinking their decisions. The “what ifs”, he said, were the biggest reason why girls weren’t happy. “What if I had gone to a different school?” “What if I didn’t go to Israel at all?” The past was over and, at that point, it wasn’t realistic to change. He went on to list things you COULD do, if you didn’t feel you were getting everything you expected from seminary. Take different classes, put more effort into the classes you were already taking, make meetings with teachers, come over to his house, etc.

I didn’t particularly like that speech, but I could feel him speaking straight to me. He was funny like that. Every single class of his I felt was tailor made for me. I wasn’t too fond of Darchei Binah while I was there, and if I had it to do all over again I probably would have chosen a different school, but I learned a lot that year, and not just about “where I didn’t want to be”, which is what I told people who asked about it afterwards. I really do owe a lot to my teachers. I’m in the middle of preparing a Shavuos shiur on Rut, and I’m taking much of it from my seminary notes. My skills have multiplied, and I really believe that I have become a much more open-minded person due to my time at Darchei Binah.

It took me over two years to realize all that. I wonder if it’s the same for my computer. It’s been a year, and I still don’t like my computer. It just doesn’t feel like me. I don’t know what a me computer feels like, but it doesn’t randomly freeze when I spend too much time online, it doesn’t take ten minutes to start up, and it doesn’t block limewire (which I use for completely legal reasons, mind you 😉 I don’t know if in another year I’ll look back at this computer and think, what a great laptop that was, but I hope so. I also hope it doesn’t actually take a year.

May The Soul Be Lifted

I’d like to ask that you dedicate the Torah you learn today li’iluy nishmas chana bas rachel.

Where does the idea of “an aliyah for the neshama” come from?

I’ve done some research, and the closest thing I’ve found is in the Medrash Tanchuma.

Rabbi Akiva was once walking, and saw a man with a face
“as black as coal”, carrying a load “heavy enough for ten
men”, and running “swift as a horse.”

Rabbi Akiva asked him why he was doing this.

He responded “I am dead. When I was alive, I was a tax
collector.I exploited the poor and was easy on the rich. I
am punished everyday byhaving to collect wood for a fire
in which I am burned. “

Rabbi Akiva asked if there was anyway to free him from
this punishment.

The man responded “I have heard that if I had a son who
would go before the congregation and call out “Barchu es
HaShem Hamevorach”, and the people would say “Baruch
HaShem Hamevorach leolam va’ed”, and also, if he would
say “yisgadal v’yiskadash shmay raba” and the people
would respond “yehay shmay raba mevorach”, then my
punishment would end.

He continued, “When I died, my wife was pregnant. But
even if it was a son, there would be no one to teach him.”

Rabbi Akiva went to find the son. When he did, he found
that the boy had not even been circumcised. He
circumsiced the boy, and taught him Torah and how to pray.
When he was ready, he led the congregation in prayer,
including saying”barchu” and “yisgadal”. When he did this,
the soul of his father was “instantly freed from punishment.”

I think this medrash provides much insight for mourners, both those that halacha specifies as mourners, and those that don’t fit the halachick description, but are still are mourning the loss of their friend or relative.

The key in the medrash was not that the son simply said the words “yiskadal vyiskadash…”. It was the learning torah and teffilah part. Similarly, the father laments that he didn’t get to “teach his son.” If it was simply a matter of getting the son to say those few words, surely someone in the community (perhaps his mother?) would have urged him to do so.

The proclamation of “yiskadal vyiskadash” is so important because it speaks of elevating and praising God. The traditional reason given for this is because it helps the mourners realize that even though they are going through a difficult time right now, they still have to realize that everything God does to them is for the best.

The practical difference in this explanation, as opposed to the idea that kaddish “lifts the soul closer to God”, is how it affects non-halachik mourners. When a person dies and leaves behind no one obligated to say kaddish, yet because of him people are doing more mitzvos than they would have, this is a zechus for the dead person. Praising God in public is a specific mitzvah one can do, but learning more torah or giving more tzedaka or being more careful about kashrus are comparable, in this case.

I’ve seen it happen where (usually non religous) families argue over who will take the responsibility of saying kaddish. Once one person volunteers, the others no longer feel obligated, because “at least the person has someone saying kaddish for him.”

I’ve also seen it happen where people become disressed when someone dies without anyone to say kaddish.

Both of these situations bother me, because they are forgetting the point of kaddish. It is simply a way to help the MOURNERS deal with death. It’s also not the act of kaddish that is important, it is the lifestyle that goes along with it. Why is it OK if only one son out of 2 or 3 feels enough of a connection to religon to say kaddish? Why doesn’t the fact that none of the sons are shomrei mitzvot? And why isn’t learning torah in zechus of a lost friend or distant relative not stressed more?