Lady Gaga and the Counting of the Omer

May 23, 2011 2:36 pm 0 comments

Author:

avatar Menucha Levy

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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.