Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Lady Gaga and the Counting of the Omer

May 23, 2011 2:36 pm 0 comments



Share this Article

While half-heartedly screening the 53rd Annual GRAMMY awards this year, when Lady Gaga debuted her newest hit single Born this Way, I dismissed the lyrical lore (“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are, ’cause He made you perfect/I’m beautiful in my way, ’cause G-d makes no mistakes“) as more gag-able Gaga-mania, and found myself focusing on the fashion. I hadn’t actually listened to this chart-topping (allegedly horrifying) song until a few weeks ago when a video of the cast of Glee performing the number on the episode Born this Way went viral. Much as I hate to admit evoking any sort of emotional outcome from the small screen, truth be told, it happens more often than not, and Glee’s Born this Way gig surprisingly got me going. I found it to be shockingly raw, honest, and inspiring! But was it… right?

As a young woman and mother I find it rather rational to stay fresh and front-and-center of the young world we live in. While that song is embodying the many terrifying sicknesses (and I mean sicknesses!) of our generation of youth, when iTunes sells one million copies of a hit single in five days, there are bound to be social repercussions. One million youth, one week, one song – there’s no denying it; that’s major. Whether these kids think they are listening to the words or just moving to the beat really makes no difference at all – this song will inevitably become something they identify with, a freedom-anthem of sorts. And that worried the hell out of me.

I spent the week after that obsessing over the whole bit. I couldn’t stop thinking about whether the concept in general was right or wrong and how I could feel so inspired by something so disgustingly vulgar. Mostly though, I couldn’t stop wondering if those ideals would make for a better or worse American future. Is being happy and proud of our flaws and deficiencies something to teach our children? Is “owning it” really the way to go? If not, why did I find this piece so real, so liberating? They had a teacher own-up to her OCD diagnosis and face the fact that she’d need some meds, while a high school boy took pride in coming out of the closet and choosing to be proud and live with who he was. I didn’t really get the polar opposite outcomes… own it to live it, or face it to fix it? It makes a life of a difference!

However awfully disturbing the general implication of this song may be, the fact is – it’a what kids are listening to. And I don’t doubt for a moment that the folks at Fox Studios have managed to inspire some other young things, as they had inspired me, with the musical proclamation of personal pride. I was inspired because I found it fabulous that this song was magically able to lend courage and pride to someone who felt flawed by, say, a jewish nose. Being tone deaf, redheaded, or toweringly-tall can suddenly become not just bearable but an honorary uniqueness! What a wonderful message to send to iPods across America! My issue was the limit. Where would the line be drawn? While we might desperately want our daughters to be proud of their figures, their faces, and their features, I don’t think we’d as easily tell them to be proud of, say, their laziness. I just can’t see myself convincing my son to be proud of his anger. In fact, I would hate to know that there is a song blaring on his earbuds transporting messages of easy self-satisfaction, of complacency, of perfection.

Every morning I thank G-d for the fact that I, as a Jew, have been blessed with a guide to Life; the Torah. Most days I mouth this daily blessing out of mere routine, but there are times, like this week, when I actually feel graced to have access to the greatest form of spiritual and ethical guidance. Judaism is, after all, all about personal improvement, and therefor I knew being proud of a flaw was not a means to an end. In the Torah portion of Vayikra (Lev. 5:5) Hashem gave us the gift of Teshuvah (returning) – a way to be forgiven. In his book Mishneh Torah, the Rambam (Maimonedes) lay it out for us step-by-step: Stop (the commission). Regret (the act). Verbalize (what one did wrong). Make a plan (not to do it again). Within this form of spiritual healing G-d taught us that to truly move on we must face what we did. After all, there can be no confession when we see no mistake. My peace of mind began to materialize as I slowly came to the realization that this, all of this “owning it”, is wonderful – when looked at in a series of steps. Identifying a flaw is the first step to fixing it! And while 2011 was not, in fact, the year of that discovery – hopefully for many young Americans; it was.

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote in the book HayomYom that the true way to know your character is by truly recognizing your own deficiencies and your own good qualities. He went on to say that once you identify your deficiencies you must then go on to correct them with actual work; and not just satisfy yourself with merely groaning about them.

While one might come to the conclusion that this message is great with regard to sole physical matter, the lines can still be hazy. The bottom line is, it must be viewed as a process; the first step – even with regards to a mere physical aspect. Feeling proud for the moment is lovely, but it will take real effort and work to actually internalize that pride. Owning your character flaws may be liberating, but taking control of bettering them will be intensely strengthening.

During these weeks of counting Sefirah (and consequently studying the Sefirot), I re-visited a place inside myself that has been dormant for a while, lost in a heap of dishes, diapers, play-dates, and date-nights; I re-discovered change. These past weeks, when coming to face the many attributes of G-d, the world, and my soul, I came to realize just how much more effort I can put in to my very being; from my secret inner emotions to my outward personality. There is so much to improve upon, and so many ways to change and to grow. This is something that makes me feel blessed. A time of year specifically set aside to scan and comb my character traits. It’s a method of taking account of the flaws, failures, and strengths of my own personality. Looking inside myself in this way will no doubt help me identify, heal, and improve. And that is pride in the making. Work. Effort. These are the words I want to impart to my children… We may have been born this way, but as people with soul we have the power to rewrite our “life script” – to change.

But, I guess for now, I should be glad they can at least identify step one: Own it.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →