Harmony & Synergy

From My Life to Yours ~ Let's Build Some Bridges!

Jewish Guilt? Yom Kippur Misconceptions and Elul

Yom Kippur, my favourite holiday!  I wanted to make video about Elul before doing on about Yom Kippur, but then I was shown how many misconceptions there are about Yom Kippur and what we are striving for that MUST be cleared up first!  So happy to share with you my excitement for this incredible holiday and clear up some false ideas.  Enjoy!

A video from Israel: Ideology and Hope During Conflict

I’ve Missed This!

Gila Manolson’s New Book – Must Read!!!

Does everyone here remember the refreshingly honest interview that I posted with Gila Manolson last year??  If you haven’t read it, read it NOW – I often reread it when I want to be inspired!!

There are many aspects of Judaism that everyone finds intriguing – but nothing quite as much as the concept of shomer negiah (guarding one’s touch).  I only made a few short videos about the subject, and it is the one that is most asked about.  I can’t begin to tell you how many people from other religions have written telling me how this idea has changed their relationships and made their lives so much better!!

Gila Manolson has written THE book on shomer negiah (it’s called The Magic Touch), and in her interview she told us that she is working on a new version specifically to benefit the lives of christians.  Well… it’s out!!  So all of you who are christian (or even secular or any other religion) that want to learn about this life changing idea… this is for you!

I asked her to write something specifically for you ladies on here.  Here is what she wants to say to you:

Gila Manolson“Hello ladies!
Andrea tells me that a lot of you are Christians who are intrigued by the Jewish practice of hair-covering. (Aren’t Andrea’s hair-coverings unbelievably stunning?!?) And I hear that some of you are intrigued by other Jewish practices as well, including being shomer negiah, refraining from getting physical in premarital relationships–what I call “cherishing touch.” Well, I just came out with a book you’ll find interesting–it’s called Hands Off! This May Be Love: God’s Gift for Establishing Enduring Relationships, that offers a practical, down-to-earth explanation for the power of this practice, backed up by sources from ancient Jewish wisdom. You can learn more about it and order it on my site, www.gilamanolson.com. Please check it out!

This woman was one of my biggest influences when embarking on my journey towards a more meaningful life… and she still is one of my biggest inspirations!  I am so happy that she came out with this book for all of you!!!

(I’m going to post this on my facebook pages but please leave a comment HERE if you want Gila to see it!!)

Love, Andrea

New Video!

Check it out by clicking HERE!

I’m still here! (+ happy 1 Year!)

Hi everyone!

Don’t worry, I am totally fine and everything in my life is going well.  I know more than a few of you have been concerned because I haven’t added a new post in a while.

It has come to my attention that andreagrinberg.com has been public for a year!  Wow!  What an incredible journey this has been… thank you all so very much for helping me make this happen!

The reason why I haven’t been able to sit down and write or make a meaningful video in a while is because of the many balls I’m attempting to hold up in the air.  I’m not overdoing it, thank Gd, but I am working 2 jobs plus a lot of extra music performing and Judaism lecturing projects I’ve been asked to do.  I’ve had lots of great ideas for posts (wrote some of them down… somewhere…) but haven’t made the time to sit down and get them online.  And I don’t want to put anything on here unless I feel that it’s good and really needs to be heard.

Some of you have asked how I manage to make (almost) daily updates on my tichel wrapping, hair covering site, Wrapunzel.  Honestly, that is super easy!  It takes me a grand total of 5 minutes to snap a picture of what I’m wearing on my head today, upload, and write a witty blurb about it.  And when I’m making posts about other women, they are the ones doing all the work and answering my questions!  So that’s a breeze (and amazing how much popularity the site has gotten in less than 2 months online!)

Anyway, I wanted to let all of you know that everything is okay, and I am doing well.  Thank you to those that asked!  It means a lot to me.

What do you think I should do for the 1 year anniversary of Harmony & Synergy?  Should I make a post with the articles that got the most attention over the year?  A reflection post?  A timeline?

Kol tuv,
Andrea

andrea grinberg

 

Interview with Gila Manolson

I am honored to share with you an interview that I was able to do with Gila Manolson.  I had known about this woman long before I met her in person; Her book about the depth of physical touch was passed on to me by a friend, and after reading the whole thing in one night, I sought out her other books and finished them within the week!  Little did I know that when I went to study in Jerusalem, I would get to meet her in person and she would become one of my teachers!

gila manolson

Gila Manolson’s books and lectures address the topics that are most important to us, and she does so with beautiful insight and refreshing honesty.  These topics include: physicality, modesty, dating, sexuality, and love.  In this interview, I was able to ask her all the questions that I have been wondering about for years, as well as find out about a new project she is working on.  For those of you that have read her books and seen her speak, I’m sure you can understand how excited I am, and for those of you who don’t yet know her… well, you should!  And now is your chance.

AG -What made you feel the need and decide to write books about modesty, physicality, dating, and relationships?
GM – Simple: I saw the way these issues were handled in the secular world, and I wasn’t impressed with the results. Women are defining themselves more and more physically and having cosmetic surgery at younger and younger ages. In relationships, we put the cart before the horse and dive head-first into physical involvement before we’ve established any corresponding degree of emotional intimacy. And as so many female authors have described, the results are devastating in terms of women’s self-esteem and happiness.

AG – Have you noticed changes in the way that this secular generation is growing up?  How is this different from before?  How would you advise we address the issues that they are dealing with?
GM – Today’s generation isn’t actually doing anything people weren’t doing when I was in college–they just have different names for it. We called it a “one-night stand”–they call it “hooking up.” We called it having a male friend who’s also more than a friend–they call it a “friend with benefits.” There is, however, a huge difference: One, many more people are doing this kind of stuff than before (I’ve heard up to 95% on at least one campus); two, they’re doing it with far greater casualness; and three, they’re doing it with no pretense at any ideology. No “free love,” “breaking old sexual taboos,” nothing. Just basically hedonism. On the one hand, at least they’re not deceiving themselves. On the other hand, it’s sad that we feel no need to even pretend there’s a deeper motivation to what we’re doing. It’s kind of like what happened with tie-dye T-shirts. They used to be an anti-establishment social statement. Now they’re just a fashion statement. Nothing means anything anymore. What we have to do is to re-educate ourselves, because the education is unlikely to come from anywhere else. The media is happy to have us superficial and insecure because then they can sell us more stuff. The PC world we’re in wouldn’t dare attack our sexual mores, no matter how clear the evidence that they’re not producing. We have to take a deep look at the situation we’re in, realize it may take some radical re-evaluation to get us out of it, and have to the courage to make the change.

AG – Were you always interested in public speaking?  If not, how did this come about?
GM – No–in fact, I never did it in my life until my husband pushed me to many years ago. And then once I started, I was hooked. What better way for a strong-minded, opinionated woman with a big mouth to get her ideas out there? (Actually, even better is writing books, but that came later, when I realized a big mouth can reach only so many people.)

AG – Can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to offer your book to those from other religions, specifically Christians?
GM – I have ALWAYS wanted to do this, because I don’t believe that what I have to say is relevant only to Jews. Jews just happened to be my audience. Already 15 years ago, I sent a generic version of The Magic Touch (which explains the practical benefits of the Jewish practice of not getting physical before marriage) to Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins. They really liked it, but said they were sorry they couldn’t be my publisher because the book had no specific Christian content. Then about a year ago I made the acquaintance of Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who has extensive connections in the Christian world and is director of the Jewish Christian Alliance, and he told me that there’s enough interest in Judaism in the Christian world that I could write a book for Christians and still have the book be Jewish. The resulting book is called Hands Off! This May Be Love. One of the top graphic designers in the Christian publishing world did a great cover, and it should be out sometime in the spring. I have high hopes for it, and believe it could really change a lot of lives. (I’ll let you know when it’s out!)

AG – What is one of the largest struggles that you have to deal with when writing and lecturing?
GM – I don’t know if it’s a struggle, but the trickiest thing is always to be as cognizant as possible of exactly whom you’re speaking to and where they’re coming from. Many of the issues I discuss are so sensitive that if I use one wrong word I can blow it. You have to know how to say what you want to say in a way that the other person will be able to hear it.

AG – What would you say to a woman who has grown up in the media-saturated world, but is just starting to see through the facade and now her world is crumbling?  How can we help others that are going through this?
GM – I wouldn’t say her world is crumbling–the media is so powerful that it continues to influence us well after we’ve consciously rejected it. Women just need constant affirmation that they as people are beautiful, and that while they should make the most of their looks since, like it or not, we live in a world in which looks matter, self-confidence and authenticity are more powerful in making a woman attractive than another layer of make-up. We have to return to ourselves. And we have to support our friends in their own struggles by helping them discover their own deeper and far more compelling beauty, and to stay firmly anchored in it.
[AG - I agree wholeheartedly; Her world is not crumbling, it just feels like it.  In reality, it's just shedding some layers in order to build something sustainable and real.]

AG – What are your long term hopes in terms of reaching out to different types of faith?
GM – Really, I would just like to see good people of all faiths spared the pain that so many suffer today due to unsuccessful relationships. (I’ll tackle the topic of internal self-definition in my next book for the non-Jewish world, if my first one is successful.)  If, at the same time, I can impress people with the wisdom in Judaism, that will make me very happy, since we Jews need all the good press we can get!

AG – Could you tell us what you think is the most important step that women of the world have to take today?
GM – We have to reclaim the right to define ourselves by our own values and standards, not by those thrust upon us by the beauty industry or any other external factor. We have to get in touch with the power of our souls and learn to define ourselves internally.

AG -What role do men play in your writing and lectures? 
GM – Although my books are written from something of a feminine (and sometimes feminist!) perspective, they are in fact addressed to men and women alike. So I certainly hope men will continue to read them. As far as speaking goes, I always appreciate men in the audience simply because they ask such different kinds of questions than women ask, which provides me with a different kind of stimulation than I usually get. I really like men and what they have to say. And let me just mention that, while men definitely operate on a different plane than women do, I am adamantly against male-bashing (not only because it’s unfair to men, but because it’s detrimental to women to have such low opinions of men).

AG - How has having a family shaped you?  How have they influenced your writing and teaching?
GM – Having children has definitely made me feel even stronger about the kind of men and women I’d like them to grow up to be. My daughters in particular have made me aware of what a huge struggle holding to religious behavior is for a cute teenage girl, and has greatly increased my empathy for those who find it very challenging.

AG - I know that you are very conscious about the food that you choose to eat and are an advocate for exercise.   Could you share some of your thoughts in regards to this?
GM – Judaism is a religion that acknowledges both the spiritual and physical sides of life. We are souls put into bodies for the purpose of accomplishing things down here on earth, in the physical realm, and to do that, we have to take care of our bodies. You can’t do as many good deeds if you have a back problem or no energy because of a lousy diet. For me, eating natural, whole foods and making sure I get enough exercise is part of serving God. And because of the absolutely horrific cruelty to animals involved in factory farming, as well as many other reasons, I have chosen to be a vegetarian, which to me seems to be most in line with Jewish values about the respect for all living things (although I have no argument with those who eat humane meat).

AG – What would your answer be to someone who thinks that your modesty is a result of your being repressed?
GM – One person’s repression is another person’s liberation! Modesty liberates me from superficial self-definition, allows me to have respectful and mutually gratifying interactions with men without any undercurrents, and gives me the dignity to be taken seriously as a person. At the same time, it enhances the sense that the body is special and beautiful when it IS revealed, and I’ve never met a woman who would object to that in her marriage. How can personhood on the one hand and an intensified intimacy on the other be repressive??

AG – What is your favourite colour?
GM – Beautiful blue-greens, like the color of the Mediterranean. Purple/plum is a close second.

AG - What are you grateful for today?
GM – Having Judaism in my life, having a wonderful husband, having seven precious children and two adorable grandchildren, having terrific friends, having a deeply satisfying career, and living in Jerusalem. And the ocean.

~*~

… sigh :)
Wow.  Didn’t I tell you she was refreshingly honest?

If you have questions of ideas you would like to share with Gila Manolson, please leave them in the comments section and I will make sure they get to her!  She now has a new website which you can check out at gilamanolson.com, and her books, Outside Inside, Head to Heart, The Magic Touch, and Choosing to Love are all available through her site.  I highly recommend all of them (they are on my shelf), and I will be sure to let you know when her new book comes out, because I know there are a lot of Christians on here that share many similar dating and marriage values.

This Past Weekend…

exotic fruits

Something happened to me over Tu B’Shvat this weekend that I want to share.  I would love to hear if you have had similar experiences and/or if you have any feedback for me.  This is not your usual “harmony & synergy” video.  No inspiring conclusions, no exciting ideas… just something that I am dealing with and need your help to figure it out!

Three Magic Words

As a teenager in a high school classroom, I have received many an eye roll.  I had a reputation for being brainy, but certainly wasn’t the teacher’s pet.  “Boy, am I in for it” was one of the thoughts that teachers had when they found out I was to be in their class.  (Yes, one of them actually told me.)

I asked a lot of questions.  If a teacher didn’t explain something clearly, I asked him to clarify.  If there was a point that she skipped over in order to avoid something controversial, I asked the very question she hoped to avoid.  I had a sponge-like brain that was thirsty for knowledge, but that also refused to let something sink in until I had wrestled the concept to the ground and taken a good bite out of it.

(One of my mentors gave me that “wrestling” analogy recently.  I think it’s pretty accurate.)

hermione-potions

I have calmed down a bit since then.  My overzealous passion for asking questions and need to understand ideas deeply has not gone away, but I have worked on my classroom attitude; I no longer ask questions unless I feel that the answer will benefit the whole class, and I try not to bring something up that teacher might not want to discuss.  I avoid embarrassing others at any cost, even though it means biting my tongue (often).  Now, I save my conundrums and approach the teacher after the class is over.

I want to share a story with you.

There is something that a teacher of mine did in high school that I will never forget.  Something that I aim to keep with me every time that I teach or try to explain something to another human being.

It was a class that I always looked forward to.  It wasn’t a mandatory credit, and the subject was difficult, so the class was small and filled with only the kids that really wanted to be there.  Our teacher would often teach us stuff that was much more comprehensive than the curriculum he was given, because the class was always asking questions more advanced than what we were supposed to be learning.  Even though I don’t use any of the specific concepts that we learned back then in my every day life, I regularly use the kind of learning style he encouraged.  We learned the subject so well that I still get excited when I meet someone that shares a passion for it, and surprisingly, I can still hold my own (somewhat) in such nerdy conversations.

It was a normal day in the class, meaning that the lesson had already been taught and we all understood it well.  Now was the time for questions and discussions; I was on a roll with my usual, “But what if…?”  “How is it possible that…?”  “Would one be able to…?”  “Could we say that…?”  The flow of the discussion was, as always, quite lively.  Our teacher loved how much we enjoyed learning, and we loved how much he cared about the subject and our education.  He answered our questions quickly and concisely, and we always made him clarify if we didn’t understand.  Finally, I came out with a “But what about ____?  How is it possible that ____ if ____?”  My teacher opened his mouth, closed it and looked thoughtful.  He started to speak again but then stopped himself once more to think.  Finally, he gave me the answer that I will never forget: “You know what Andrea?  I don’t know.”

He did even more, but first let me explain why this first part was so revolutionary.  You see, up until that moment, I had never heard a teacher of mine say those three words.  If I asked questions that teachers weren’t sure of, I would usually get scolded, be given extra homework, or get an eye roll with some sort of transparent answer.  I had always felt that my need to seek truth and ask questions was a bad thing, an annoyance, and something that I would be much better off without.  Not only did this class with the “I don’t know” teacher give me some much needed sense of self worth, it also taught me to like teachers.  It taught me to recognize that they too, were human, which vastly increased my respect for them.  My teacher’s “I don’t know” came from a deeply humble place.  He recognized that the subject that we were discussing was important, and in that moment, he put his ego aside in order to do the right thing.  My mind was blown.

But there’s more.  The next thing he said was, in an excited voice, “I’m going to find out and I will let you guys know!”

And he did.  The next time we had class together, he told us that he had gone to an old professor that did research on the exact subject we were discussing.  This professor even brought the question to some of his colleagues before giving our teacher a definitive answer.  My teacher told this answer to our class to the best extent that we could understand it.

What was so important about what my teacher did?

First of all, he was humble enough to tell his students when he wasn’t sure about an answer.  He put any need that he might have to exert authority upon us on the backburner because he knew that our quest for truth and love for learning was so much more important.  He didn’t have to preach respect to us, because the very fact that he loved teaching meant that he already had it.  However, to simply say “I don’t know” and leave it at that could easily become a form of laziness.  Instead, he took the extra time to find out the answer and give it over to us the next day.  His love and passion for the subject was real.  This was not just a job for him… this was important!  And he was not afraid to show us that.

Wow.

Since this class, I have had a few more opportunities to witness such passion and humility from another human being.  And for each time it has happened, I have carried the answer given to me until this very day.  I remember, in every instance, the person starting to give an answer and then realizing that he or she didn’t have the tools to give it over.  I can remember how much joy it gave the person, to realize that a student had asked a question that she or he didn’t have the answer to.  Most of all, I remember the spark of excitement.  The curiosity.  The need to find out.  And the phone call or email the next day with the answer.  I am smiling now from those memories, even as I write this.

This is what teaching is about.

This is an important lesson that we also have to learn as friends, parents and spouses.  But especially teachers.  We teach because we have something that we want to give.  But that does not mean that we should stop learning ourselves.  And we should be learning the most from our students.  Instead of being annoyed when a student asks a question that we don’t know, we should feel indescribable nachat (pride).  Because it is when a student starts creating his or her own fire that we know we have actually given something real. And you cannot give what you don’t have yourself.

Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know”.

For all the mommies!

BigMotherhood

… actually, this is for all women, not just mommies.  Thank you to those who inspired me to make this!  (You know who you are.)

Click –> HERE <– to watch the video

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