Monday, December 31, 2007

Elokists included

Today, like all days, is a very special day. Exactly 18 years ago the Lubavitcher Rebbe finished saying Kaddish for his wife, the Rebbitzen. And the Chasidish Bochurim in LA finally got some sleep. See, the Rebbe's Davening would be played in the Zal for all those Bochurim who wanted to hear it. In New York, it wasn't so tough. After all, the Rebbe would begin prayers at 10:00. Yes, I understand that there was a whole goral thing going on for admittance, but even if you didn't luck out, you could still listen without too much effort. Rabbi Wolfman in Morristown told us of his days in Yeshiva, in Morristown, that he had a room mate who would Daven Shacharis, in the room, while the Rebbe was Davening Mincha, which was played over the PA in the whole campus. Later this guy became an Elokist. That's why I'm not mentioning any names. Rabbi Wolfman theorized that he went crazy because he would be Davening to G-d, hearing the Rebbe, and mix up the two. But that's just a theory. Anyway, back to those brave Bochurim in LA, so yeah, they had to be in Zal at 7:00 AM. And to hear the Rebbe Davening without going to Mikve first? Horrors. By the way, I wasn't in LA in those years. More's the pity. I was a mere tyke of two. Anyway, once the Rebbe finished up the year, those Bochurim, like CCL, could get some more sleep.

Speaking of sleep, last night I didn't get enough. But what of it? The really annoying thing was that I was falling asleep for Korbanos through the 18 Benedictions, but once I got to Tachanun I was fine. It's annoying because 1. I wouldn't have Davened the beginning so quickly,and 2. Now even if I tried I wouldn't be able to sleep.

The reason I didn't get enough sleep is because last night I picked up a book called, "The Cantonists." It's one of the most terrible things I've ever read, especially contrasted with this week's Parsha. Both featured horrible Goyim, which is something I've come to expect. The abuse that these (literally) babies went through is more than I can comprehend. Most of us would collapse after two or three birch canings. These guys took 1000 and kept their faith. But yeah, as I said, I've come to expect this kind of treatment from Goyim. After all, as the holy books say Eisav Sonei Yisrael. What's really disturbing is what the Jews did. In Egypt, the taskmasters would let themselves be beaten so as to avoid whipping their fellow Jews. In Russia, many Jews made a business of capturing children. The official community establishment itself would help these people commit their nefarious crimes. I don't have the patience to describe all the horrors that occurred in that generation, so get the book yourselves. It's important for us to know why we have to hate the whole world. Or something like that.
In other news, my friend Nissy Gansbourg, of beautiful Montreal, got engaged to a girl from Madison. How convenient. If they have the wedding in Madison, and who in their right mind would('nt), then it'll be an easy drive there for me. Nissy was a Shliach in LA when I was a Bochur, and we used to learn Chassidus every Shabbos morning. So yeah, all my friends are going.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Truth and (some) consequences

There's been a lot of questioning lately, in the sacred halls of YHSTC, who exactly are the 7 people that brought the Shechinah down here? Everyone knows that Abraham took it down the first step, while Moses brought it back to earth, but who were the intermediate guys? The Friedriker Rebbe mentions Yitzchak, the second of our three forefathers, as being next in the chain that forged eternal links, but that still leaves us with 4. I'm sorry for plagiarizing that phrase, "Forged eternal links" from Artscroll, but it disgusted me so much that I felt the need to say something. Everyone forges eternal link. It's called having a kid. Even if you remain childless, no comment, you still affected people who forged eternal links. So, in effect, you also forged eternal links. So why pay Artscroll thousands to say that you forged eternal links? Get my point? Tremendous.
Back to the missing four. Today, while perusing the Friedriker's Maamarim, in search of a Maamar about lions, I found another Basi Legaani, this one from 2 Nissan, 1932, in which the entire list is enumerated. Ready folks? Here we go: 1. Abraham 2. Isaac 3. Jacob 4. Levi 5. Kehos 6. Amram 7. Moses. Happy? Me too. I haven't really learned the rest of the Maamar yet, but I'll try and report back when I finish it up.
Now onto less important things. This Shabbos Yoni Chanowitz and I, fellow Shlucim in the sacred precincts that are YHSTC, went to West St. Paul for Shabbos. Nothing too incredibly interesting, except that some guy was trying to get me engaged the whole time. I told him that I was enjoying the life of a Bochur too much to get married. So he asked Rabbi Mendel Feller if I was right. Rabbi Feller answered, "The life of a Bochur is the best life for a Bochur." I disagree. I say that the life of a Bochur is the best life for all.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Time flies


A Hungarian Orthodox Jewish man dances with his son at the beginning of the Hanukkah Festival in downtown Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007. The Hanukkah Festival is also known as the Festival of Lights and lasts eight days. It commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Second Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. after its desecration by followers of Antiochus of Syria. (Photo: AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
I would simply like to point out that the above Hungarian Orthodox Jewish Man is not in fact dancing with his son, nor is he in fact Hungarian. It's actually my friend, name withheld to protect the innocent, who is on Shlichus this year in Budapest. And he's from Sydney. And a Shochet. So stay out of the way of his knives.
And now, wow, time for another weekend. This week went by faster than a speeding Olympian on steroids. We've come into the phase that I refer to simply as, "The Zone." How melodramatic. How common. Nevertheless, it describes the situation with a frightening degree of accuracy. The Zone is a state wherein time, in Yeshiva, seems to contract. Time, as everyone knows, doesn't tick the same tock in all situations. for example, the time it took for the three weeks of Yeshiva to conclude before my sister's wedding took much longer than the three months before Pesach. This is fact. I was there. In LA, Sundays would take as long as the rest of the week combined. Here in beautiful, if a bit chilly, Minnesota, it appears that I won't even get that one day. When I wake up Sunday morning, the week is basically over. I don't anticipate time slowing down until, oh, a week before Purim. Actually, I'll probably be so busy, the Time Police (I'd say gods, but that might be controversial, and possibly illegal) will spite me still. Oh well, we can but try. Oh yes, and check out some of my dear relatives in this article-http://lubavitch.com/article/2021570/Chabad-Unveils-Talmudic-Study-Program-In-15-Cities.html

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Good Shtuff

Today I have two things to blog about. As Avraham Fried says, "This is gonna be fun." Truth is, I think we're gonna have more fun, because he had to sing with Shalsheles. Poor guy.
Anyway, I've been having some deep discussions with my fellow Shluchim, and the other Bochurim, who together make up the wonderful symbiosis that is the Yeshiva High School of the Twin Cities, Kashrus issues not withstanding. They say that they have problems learning certain things because they were didn't go to the right schools, have the right teachers, or have the right motivation. I say that this is nonsense. If a person really wants, then nothing in the world can stop them. And if they don't want, then nothing in the world can make them succeed. They say that this is depressing. Why? Because I, unfortunately perhaps, get rather critical when I see people complain about this or that. So yes, they have a point, perhaps I should moderate my rhetoric a bit. But like our friend CCL, I get so frustrated when people blame their problems on external factors. The only problem is you. Only you have the power to change yourself. I can help, but only if you're willing. This, by the way, is the message in every self-respecting self-help book. So I've just saved you significant cash. Is the check in the mail? My perspective is an empowering one: I believe in the power of every single person, regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, gender, intelligence, appearance, or even likability, to succeed. Does every person have the same capability's? No. Can we all achieve the same things? No. Is this depressing? It could be. My standard answer is, "Achieve all you possibly can, and then we'll talk."
Once a person reaches their ultimate, they'll realize that it's not so depressing after all. Will they still struggle? Of course. That's the whole point of life. As the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya, and I paraphrase heavily here, perhaps that's why he was created. To struggle. To work. To succeed. I believe in you.
All this segues nicely into my next topic, today's Tanya. It deals with the complete Rasha, the guy who never feels bad for anything, the guy who rejoices in the death of anyone, the guy who is completely evil. We talk not of the ignoramus here. Atheists, for example, are of little concern. As the famous line goes, "The G-d that you don't believe in, I don't believe in either." We are dealing here with people who know G-d, who know right, who know what is good, and go against it with all their might. Standing opposite him on the righteousness scale is the complete Tzaddik, the guy who has no Yetzer Hora. My question is, which is harder, to have no good, or no evil? This doesn't only mean in thought, deed, and action; that's regular. The question deals with essence. We really have no connection to either. Just like we could never be perfectly good, we could never be perfectly bad. So it's a moot point really. Interesting nonetheless

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What about?

Presumably everyone's had enough of my self-righteous shtuff from the last few days, so tonight I'll try to be irreverent.
Everyone knows how wonderful the Yeshiva High School of the Twin Cities is. After all, everyone has been reading my blog, right? Well tonight I'm going to expose you to the darker side, the evil side, the spleen, as it were, of Yeshiva. Today there was no lunch. More accurately, lunch was not Kosher. You see, our wonderful chef put together rice, tuna, and cheese, baked it up, and served it up. I took a nibble, and thought the concoction revolting. Later I found out that some milk was also involved. Seems that my taste-buds didn't desert me, because it was Treif.
This resulted in many people, myself including, starving. Quite sad, huh?
Has this been irreverent so far? Not really. Sorry.
Meanwhile, I just read a cute article on crownheights.info which was taken from the NY Times about a Lubavitch couple's search for an apartment. The reason I'm telling you this is because it gives me something to write about. Basically, in the article it mentions that they have a TV, so all the very Frum Lubavitchers commented that this was absolutely horrible, and that these people are keeping Moshiach from coming. Some people then pointed out that perhaps it's not quite the nicest thing in the world to criticize people who you not only have never met, but who probably never want to meet you, you cruel, horrible, vicious, Crown Heightser. You get my point? Don't judge people so quickly. It's not so nice.
There, I've finished my little ramble. Yasher Koach. More substance tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The response

I received a comment on my previous post, and I emailed the author of that comment the following:
Firstly, I'd like to say that I'm truly honored that live from the hilltop is reading (or read) my blog. Secondly, whatever possessed you to read my dribble? Thirdly, I'd like to try to answer your question. I'll do it on the blog too, but I figure that you have a better chance of reading it in an email then of reading my blog again. Your question is, why do I presume to have the answers? What makes me special, that I can preach to people? And the answer is that me, on my own, I have no right. What makes me any better than anyone else? Nothing. So why do I do it? Because I have G-d on my mind. And yes, that's the same excuse as the Crusaders, the Nazis, and Hamas. So why am I even better? Because I really have G-d on my side. And though this sounds terrible to our modern ear, it really is the truth. Why believe Bichlal in G-d, Bifrat in Judaism? I (or Manis, or Immanuel, or Yossi, or a thousand and one people better than me) can explain why we are right intellectually. But there's not a single person who can do it emotionally. And until we achieve Moach Shalit Al Haleiv, there's no way that a person who isn't interested can be convinced. G-d can do it, but then there's no free choice. Without free choice there's no Dirah Betachtonim.
In the end, am I looking down at people who aren't Frum? I try very hard not to, as I explained in the beginning of the blog. Heck, I look down at myself, because I know I could do better. So no one's better than anyone else. If I can come, with the Rebbe's words, and say something, then I think that something should be said.
Once people start making excuses why they're Frie, for example their Mashpiim were terrible, then we have something to talk about. Very few people hate the Rebbe, they just hate his flawed messengers. Point is, no one's perfect. And if people ask me why I do certain things, blogging for example, I can quite easily say that I'm only flesh and blood. The problem with Catholics is that they claim that the Pope is infallible. So when he has "nephews", it becomes a theological problem. In Judaism, no one claims perfection for anyone but G-d. Could I be better? Should I be better? Yes, but blaming me for your issues is wrong. I try, you can try, and then we can all try together to bring Moshiach.

Monday, December 24, 2007

All rightie then

I decided to blog now, even though I recently posted, because I'm not sure when I'll next have access to the internet. Seeing as tonight is Nittel, I've been surfing instead of learning. One of the things I've discovered is that some people really hate Judaism. And my question is, why don't I? After all, I've had many of the same experiences as them. I guess you could say that this is similar to Survivors of the Holocaust-some came out believing, and some were non-believers. And just like we don't judge Survivors, I believe we shouldn't judge people who left the Judaism of their youth. Is it presumptuous to say that I think we should try to help them back? After all, what gives me the right to tell someone else what to do? Our devoted Dean said something today to a Bochur that kind of answers this. Incidentally, this really shows the power of everything a person says. He wasn't even talking to me, and I casually overheard. Imagine, though, if I'm able to use this Mashal for the rest of my life, and it helps some people.
Anyway, the Bochur was saying, "Why should I listen to you?" So the Dean answered, "Because I'm an adult, and you're still a teenager." The Bochur returned with a withering, "So what?" Our dependable Dean answered, "Do you listen to a Doctor? Yes, because he's a Doctor, and you're not. Once you become a Doctor, you can stop listening to other Doctors." Firstly, I felt like saying that a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient and an idiot for a Physician, but I restrained myself. Secondly, I realized the power of what the Rabbi had said-you are a teenager. You do not know what you are doing. I can guide you. Obviously only some people are responsible enough for this important job. Obviously our beloved Dean fits the bill. Going back to our brethren who have strayed from the path, it appears to me that they haven't seen the whole picture. If they did, if they knew everything that was going on, then they'd probably return. And if they do know, and still leave? Man has free choice, and without this life would be impossible. Ok, merely very improbable. We're not here to discuss numbers though. They, like everything else in this universe, are finite. Even ideas are finite. But you knew that already. Point is, do good. What other universal message of love and peace can I relay? Oh, yes, one caveat: Do good according to the will of G-d, not your own. There, that seems like it should fit the bill nicely.

The X-mas edition

Another week is upon us. Glorious Joy. Tonight of course, not only will creatures not be stirring in your local Christian watering-house, but local Yeshivas will be shutting their doors, and sending their innocent charges out to play in the snow. If they want, they can stay inside and play chess, but that of course would not bring the desired effect on the young innocent student's body. Now that we've gotten the nonsense out of the way, I'd like to warn everybody that the following is Torah, and therefore you may not read this tonight, at least until after midnight. That's right, it's the once a year celebration of all that is right in America, Nittel, the night when Christians commemorate their savior and Jews commemorate one of the worst people to ever sully the surface of G-ds green earth. It's nice, isn't it, that here in America we can insult the national deity without fear of punishment. Yup, Jesus sure was a Schmuck.
Oh yeah, the Torah. In case anyone is listening to TanyaChaz's Tanya Shiur, I'd just like to point out a misconception that may have arisen in the most recent Shiur. The Tzaddik's hatred of evil is mentioned. The example of "steak" is given. In fact, the Tzaddik only hates evil. Steak is not evil. It is Kelipat Nogah, meaning that it has potential for both good and bad. The aspect of steak that the Tzaddik hates is its use as a pleasurable thing, not as a way of serving G-d. But he doesn't hate the steak itself. Now if the Tzaddik is looking at a pork chop, then he hates.
And after this eclectic bit of shtuff...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Weekend Edition

We had another Farbrengen with our fearless leader and all-round good guy on Thursday night. First he spoke about the Parsha, and the Rebbe's famous Sicha re: Yosef, Binyamin, the crying, etc. The point is, of course, that instead of crying about your own problems you have to fix them. Sometimes, of course, the solution is to cry. But that's the only time when it's acceptable. Otherwise there are no excuses for just giving up.
I have a pet theory. I've tried it out a couple times, but so far the results haven't been too tremendous. My theory is that if one Jew would ever do one Mitzvah perfectly then Moshiach would come. Personally, I know that I've never actually given my all; that I have never done everything in my power to accomplish something. Does this mean that I've never accomplished anything? Obviously not.
Has anyone ever done their utmost? Is that for me to decide? But I still think that all of us have that little voice inside that says, "You could do a little more." Some people will look at this and say, "oh, that's depressing." This is not the right way to think. The right way is to realize that this means that you, every Jew, has the power to bring Moshiach. Just give it all you got, just once, and see what'll happen. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
Truth is, I could be wrong about this. For example, someone said to me, "Are you saying that the Rebbe didn't do all he could do?" I replied that it wasn't for me to decide, but that I did remember seeing somewhere that if one Tzaddik would do complete Teshuva, then Moshiach would come. Ahh, so the Rebbe said he had done all he could, and now it was up to us? Go ask a Rabbi.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

So it continues...

Tonight is the birthday of friend and fellow Shliach Shlomo Goldin. I just thought you might want to know that. In other news, I'm glad to see that people have started voting in the most recent poll. Tongue and corned beef are the early leaders. Whatever possessed anyone to vote for bologna? The stuff is disgusting. At least in my own humble opinion. Just don't invite me to your house for deli. Please. And what about pastrami people? Have you lost sight of all that is righteous and good in Judaism? Salami of course is only palatable in fried form, preferably with an omelette. Don't try this with turkey roll by the way. When I was starving in Yeshiva in Los Angeles we once fried up forty pieces of turkey roll. It was nasty.
To segue nicely into a little Torah, for the benefit of the editor, I'd just like to relate a beautiful little thing that Our Fearless Leader, fresh off conquering the wilds of New York, related as a sort of introduction to welcome the students back to the friendly confines of our beautiful little campus set here in the picturesque (I can't believe I spelled that right on the first try:) countryside of Cottage Grove, Minnesota. Wow, what a sentence. Almost makes me wish for an editor again. Oh yes, the promised Torah thought.
When people ask why they should follow the Torah, their excuse usually is, "I don't understand it." The answer to this is, "Well Duh! Of course you don't understand it! Your intellect is finite. G-d's intellect is infinite. The finite, by definition, can never grasp the infinite."
The problem comes when people have faith but they don't act on it. The answer? They must be crushed. If you have any problems with this doctrine, just learn the final Maamar that the Rebbe gave out. But don't worry, the exile is taking care of it. Until now. Because now is Moshiach.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yes we have no salami

In case anyone didn't understand our favorite Mustard Man's comment, and I for one did not, he was saying that "when boteach says anything, the first thing people say is who are you to talk, even if he has a good point. And thats entirely his fault".
Got it? Good. I happen to agree that this is a good point. I also happen to realize that it's so blindingly obvious that my Haskamah is worthless. By the way, check out Pastrami Person's blog at shtikelfarbrengen.blogspot.com. He writes about Bochurim's obsession with clothing and why it's ruining Lubavitch as we know it. Or something like that. In my many years in Yeshiva I've never really had the problem that he describes. Firstly, I'm too cheap to buy hot clothing. Secondly, I don't want to look like a moron. Much better the Brooks Brothers look. Question is, which is worse, following the latest fashions or spending thousands to be as classy as possible. Even if you're not spending the money, there is still the issue of ties, french cuffs, polished shoes, and various other forms of torture innovated by the greats of Italian fashion, like Giorgio Armani and Bill Belichick. It's probably better, since both Turkey Dude and I have chosen to follow this path. Oh yes, and people respect you more. Not that I need respect. Far from it. But if I claim to represent the Rebbe then I want people to see a presentable person and not some a loser who follows the latest fashions in Ankara, or wherever it is that these things are fabricated in.
In other news, I'd like to thank everyone who helped make the latest poll a resounding success. Rosh Chodesh Kislev won big over everything else. Of course it's hard to tell with so small a sample, but I won't complain too much about that. So vote in the next poll, and remember not to eat too much corned beef next time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A definition please?

In response to Eliezer's comment: What exactly is a bad Bochur? Or a good Bochur? There are so many different criterion that I bet no Bochur could fulfill them all. And conversely, everyone has at least some redeeming characteristics. But I'm not dealing with these"Bad Boys" right now. Anyway, in my experience, half of all Bochurim are good, a third are terrible, and a third are exceptional. Oh yes, and at any given time at least 51% are not interested in getting married while 52% are interested. See how complicated this all is? Once again, a graphic description of how Lubavitch simply defies the laws of arithmetic.
My second issue with the comment is his assertion that girls are intentionally Freying out in order to appeal to modern Bochurim. I'm sure that some do, but come one, is this some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy to rid the world of all that is right and good in the warrens that make up our beloved Crown Heights, and indeed the whole Lubavitch world? Sure, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy, but I assure you that it has nothing whatsoever to do with Chabad and its minions. Or minyans. Take your pick. Point is, unless girls are really vastly different from boys, does anyone really model their behavior in a manner solely intended for display on the meat market that is our Shidduch process? I certainly don't. A quick check has brought to my attention that in fact, not everyone thinks with the purity and good intentions which I myself profess to have. Scandalous, eh?
In conclusion, I'll guess we'll just have to say that this world is slightly more cynical than is healthy for any normal person to experience. Perhaps I'll go hide for the next three years in a little cave somewhere on the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. At least the weather will be a bit better. Hopefully.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pastrami on rye

Cold Chopped Liver (Does anyone eat it hot?) once again proved that he's no fake by coming through with another excellent comment, proving that he's definitely not mocking us (you could even say that he's rather eggcellent).
Mr. Liver correctly points out that girls in Crown Heights dress like prostitutes simple because no one tells them that they can't. Or, more likely, no one they'll listen to tells them that they can't. I don't, however, agree that Rabbi Boteach's assertion should be entirely thrown out the window. If Lubavitch Bochurim would refuse to marry girls who didn't behave correctly then I'm sure things would change drastically. Obviously not everyone would change for the better, but that's not to be expected. Maybe if the Bochurim were more Frum the girls would be too. As I said earlier, this is hardly my problem. Truth is, it's really no one's problem. Everyone has to start worrying about themselves and forget about everyone else's faults. I couldn't help from laughing as I wrote the previous sentence. "Imagine," I imagined, "the Real Shliach telling people to do things he only wishes he could keep!" I guess that's just the way of the world.
In other news, I'm currently going through the painful process of selecting 3.75 GB worth of music for my new (borrowed) iPod. In fact, it's a rather old model, but I'm going to use it until I can get a new one. Problem is, there's 7 or 8 GB worth of shtuff that I consider "vital". I'm sure you can appreciate the dilemma I'm going through.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In celebration of Bochurim

Usually, before I begin to blog, I search for inspiration among the websites listed to the left. Tonight, like the night before, I failed to find any inspiration. So instead I'll do a little rambling, and perhaps find some inspiration among the words I weave. Oh, perfect, I didn't even have to sink into morass of adjectives to find something I could write about. Look at the Jerusalem Post for the reason.

Boteach. Shmuley Boteach. Shmuley Boteach in Crown Heights. Shmuley Boteach in Crown Heights for Shabbos. Shmuley Boteach in Crown Heights for Shabbos, in 770. Shmuley Boteach in Crown Heights for Shabbos, in 770, together with The Real Shliach.

As you may or may not have heard, Shmuley Boteach was in Crown Heights for Shabbos, as was I. I didn't actually see him, but that's OK. I wouldn't have said anything until I read an opinion piece by R. Boteach on the afore-mentioned newspaper's website. It dealt with not only his incredible ego, which is only to be expected, but also with an issue that he correctly points out is a major problem in the Lubavitch world.

A Note: I have absolutely no business writing about this topic. Sure, some of my friends are affected, but neither I nor any of my relatives are feeling the strain. In fact, I'm too young to be writing about this. This is of course exactly why I'm writing about it.

Another Note: Why in the world does this guy have to spell his name "Shmuley"? Why the extra "E"? Does it stand for "Excellence", or "Exquisite", or "Extraordinary"? Just wondering. Anyway...

Boteach's point is two-fold: 1. Why are Lubavitch men suddenly focusing on beauty as the sole determinant in choosing their mate, and 2. The repercussions resulting from this, namely the growing single's crisis.

Shmuley is a bit of a latecomer to this topic. The Jewish Press, and every other Jewish publication, has been writing about this ever since I was a small child. With regards to the first issue, Shmuley writes the bleeding obvious, that there's a heck of a lot more to a girl than her looks. As I say, this is obvious. It's easy for me to say this, of course, because it doesn't affect me, but I trust that when the time comes it won't be too much of an issue. Shmuley adds that girls in Crown Heights have responded, in the best possible manner of course, by becoming much more Tznius. Ha! Actually, sadly, it's quite the opposite. Perhaps we should all begin to wear burkhas as a sign of our delicacy and holiness.

With regards to the second issue, I really don't see a solution. Incredible as it may seem, many people, including myself, enjoy being a Bochur. I am not talking about being a bachelor. The second a guy enjoys being a bachelor he should find a wife post-haste. Though the two labels share many similar characteristics, they're diametrically in principal. Being a Bochur is enjoyable because being a Bochur allows you (or me, for that matter) to tell the world Kushen Tuchus. This means staying up until four in the morning Farbrenging on a Tuesday night; it means deciding to go to a Shliach for Shabbos on Friday afternoon; it means being able to learn Chassidus for two hours before Davening every day; it means BS'ing about Misnagdim for four hours on a Wednesday afternoon.

I don't think I have to write about the bachelor lifestyle, principally because it should be obvious, but also because I have no experience. Do I live the lifestyle of a Bochur every day? No. Is this because I'm not a good Bochur? I don't think so. Nobody's perfect, or so I've been told.
So yeah, if you don't want people marrying at 25, make 'em marry at 20. And if they don't want to marry at 20? Perhaps a database should be set up with information about every single Bochur, and Bochurette, in Lubavitch, and then parents and Shadchanim can comb through the lists. Just like I don't believe that every 23 year old Bochur wants to get married, I also don't believe that every 20 year old Bochur wants to be a Bochur. The same is obviously also applicable to girls.

Is anyone going to do this? Probably not. Nu Nu. Oh yes, and a final word to Rabbi Shmuley: Perhaps if you lived your life as a Chassid people could respect you as a Chossid. Just a thought.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In response to the responses

BH I got a couple responses to last night's lightning rod of a post on the topic of music. I'll try and dissect each comment with the wit and wisdom for which some people think I have a bit of a knack. Davening with Simon and Garfunkel? I wouldn't do it, and in certain situations I'd probably protest, but then again, in certain situations I wouldn't. In a Yeshiva, where we are supposed to be trying to at least be pretending to be religious, if it's not too much bother, then I would protest. But if the only way people are going to Daven, or enjoy Davening, is with Simon and Garfunkel, then that's a beautiful thing. For a Chabad House. In a Yeshiva, if the Bochurim try and use this argument, then something is rotten. Probably the salami. Yeshivas are notorious for serving multi-colored salami.
The next issue raised was the conversion of non-Jewish music. If it's done by a Rebbe, a holy person, then it automatically becomes holy. This is the refining of the sparks, otherwise known as Tikkun Olam. Can anyone do this? Of course not. But it can be done.
And our great national anthem, the Stars and Stripes? I sing it. Is this the right thing to do? Who knows? If this is all I burn for in the eternal BBQ upstairs, then I'll consider my life to have been well lived. With regards to steroids, I have no problem. I want to see good baseball games, with everyone trying as hard as they can. Fixing games does not allow for this. But drugs? They're great. If a guy is willing to destroy his body for my pleasure, I'm all for it.
Onto the next comment, from Mottel, Dean of our lives. He makes a good point by pointing out that there are actually three separate categories, besides the holy shtuff. Is it better to listen to music which sounds Goyish or music which is Goyish? And should you ban songs which are known to be Goyish? A perfect example is Piamenta's Asher Bara. It's hard to imagine a wedding (besides the ones which only have Niggunim) that doesn't include this song. Has it been "made" holy? And if it's for charity, like Lipa's Abi Meleibt?
It would be nice to have a soul Doctor who could see how different types of music affect the soul. But we don't. Oh well. Once again, I guess that the only solution is to set your own standards, be your own man, buy your own music (though I am accepting sponsors), and all in all be prepared for the cries of hypocrisy! to rain down upon your head at every turn. These things happen, I guess.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The truth about music (pretentious, I know)

What's the easiest humor to write, shtuff that makes fun of yourself or shtuff that makes fun of other people? This question occurred to me because I just read a humorous book which consisted mostly of self-deprecating laughs. Just wondering.
There's an important issue which I've never really touched, whether out of laziness or whatever, but now I'm going to, because why not? Presenting, for the first time ever, [Warning! Corny] (Drum roll please...) The Real Shliach's Jewish Music Extravaganza! Yay! The question is, how far will you go? Most of us will listen to Avraham Fried and Mordechai Ben David. They're Kosher, right? What about when MBD sings to the tunes of non-Jewish music? Yidden, Pharoah in Mitzrayim, Daddy Dear, and who knows what else. Are these all right? How about the rest of his music? Has that been tainted? And if he's ok, then obviously there's no problem with Piamenta singing Asher Bara, right? And when they play Jimmy Hendrix? Is there a problem with that? Skipping through all the Yeshivish garbage, how about Lipa and Nisht Shabbos Geredt, or even Gelt? Abi Meleibt? Matisyahu? Maybe his own stuff, but the covers of Goyishe songs? How 'bout Carlebach? Other people singing Reb Shlomo's songs? Gershon Veroba's "Variations"? Shlock Rock?
I'm sure you could think up countless other examples, but these are the only which come to mind right now. My personal standards are not the point of this blog, but I'd like to say up front that they're hypocritical. Which is all right. We'll get to that later.
At the top rung of Jewish music is the holy shtuff, Niggunim. Obviously I hold of Lubavitch, but I won't discriminate. If there's a guy, a holy guy, who makes it up, who'll have it sung by his Tisch, then it's holy. Is Shlomo in this category? Frankly no. An interesting side note: Carlebach music has become not only acceptable in today's Chabad world, but even praised. Do I listen? Yes. But that doesn't mean I don't think he was wrong. Forget going against the Rebbe-the guy went against virtually all the laws of Shomrah Negiah. Does that make it Treif? Tough call. My only point with him is that I wish people wouldn't make him into a Rebbe or something. Is he evil? Probably not. Who am I to judge? Does that stop me? Of course not.
At this point I'd like to emphasize that I'm not dealing with quality here. Almost everyone knows that a performer like Avraham Fried is vastly superior to one of the Yeshivish singers, like Sruli Williger or Shloime Dachs, but that doesn't mean that his music is necessarily more Kosher. Is Piamenta good? After all, they played for the Rebbe! But can you listen to their performance of non-Jewish music? I say no, just like I say that Matisyahu is off-limits. Hey, I used to listen, and enjoyed it too, but that's no barometer for Kashrus.
Jewish music has changed greatly since I was a young lad. What does this mean? And can I listen to it? Fifty years ago, even Goyim would be shocked.If Avraham Fried were to release a hip-hop CD, or Lipa a jazz album, would I listen. Actually, that question's been partially answered, as Lipa did release a Jazz album, Likro Et HaHallel. And I'm a big fan of it.
With regards to MBD's ripoffs, I don't listen to Yidden, since it's rather unsavory, but the other two? Yes. Is this hypocritical? Yes. But so is going beyond Niggunim, but not the whole way. Because if MBD is ok, why not Bob Dylan? He's Jewish. And is this hypocrisy ok? I would venture to say that yes, it is, because life is not black and white. There's a heck of a lot of gray in there, and if you look closely, even some magenta. (My one ounce of humor for the evening). We must all set standards for ourselves. For example, I believe that the internet is a terrible thing for a Lubavitcher to be using, unless of course it's for Mivtzoyim. Do I use it? Heck yeah, because I have standards. Do I keep to them always? I wish I did, but nobody's perfect. For example, I'm online now, at 2:30 AM. I'm an idiot. I know. Sorry.
In summation, follow Rashi's words, Kadesh Atah Bemutar Lach. Make yourself holy in what is permitted to you. Can you find a Heter, a loophole? Yes. Should you? No. Can you impose your standards on others? If you're a parent or teacher, yes, but be careful. Be smart. In fact, be a Real Shliach.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Great joy

Tonight I finally had the singular pleasure of meeting the editor face to face. But first, I plunked down 105 dollars on Sefarim at Kehos. Worth it? I certainly hope so. The question is, what's their profit margin on a 50% sale? Zero? If so, then their profit at full price is 100%. Does this seem right to anyone? Or perhaps they lose money on Hey Teves. This I could stomach.
All right, so back to the editor. We met in 770, and then went upstairs for an exclusive tour of the home of . There I got to see Gefilte P. Fish. I know what you're thinking-did I kidnap him for a multi-million dollar ransom? The answer is sadly no. You see, I have some moral scruples left in this little world of mine, and I would hate to lose them over something as trifling as this petty little crime. I'm a big believer in hoarding one's scruples for as much time as necessary, thereby allowing them to increase in value until such time as there value will exceed the moral imperative governing them, at which point one can give them up with ease. Ahh, there's nothing like convolution, eh?
Point is, a nice chat with the Editor, including a brief reminiscence about the good old days of www.rovingrabbis.com/kansas.
Until next time then folks, so long, and remember, only time never ends up telling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A tale of two

You know the old saying, "You can't dance at two weddings at one time"? It's true. Tonight I tried it. First up was my first ever Williamsburg nuptial, on the legendary Bedford Ave, just a few (give or take a couple miles) blocks from my infamous Chanuka Mivtzoyim of last year. It was also the first real non-Lubavitch wedding that I've ever been to. The Shmorg? Also a first for me. There was portion control by the wait-staff, but I asked extra nicely and got what I wanted. Actually, I got what my sister wanted. Before the Chupah I left to go to Shmulie Bortunk's wedding at Oholei Torah in beautiful Crown Heights. I felt a lot more comfortable there, seeing as I knew at least 3/5 of the crowd, and anyway, they're all Lubavitch, I'm Lubavitch, so it fits. Following the first dance it was back to Williamsburg, also for the first dance, which was more stop-and-go than anything. I was really able to get a good read on the difference between us and them. By us, (Chabad), everyone just dances in a circle breaking off to dance with the Chassan at various intervals. By them, (not Chabad [Duh]), it's all about the individual guys showing themselves off. Perhaps I'm being unfair, but it sure looked like they needed a little lesson in Bittul. Anyway, I'm not here to criticize, (officially), so instead I'll report that 3 Friedmans and an Eizicovics came to the wedding, near the end, and Benny sang Tanya very nicely. What else would you expect? Then we all headed back to OT where Benny entertained the sparse (11:30) crowd with Dedi's Ima and then Pia Poscha. Hey, the kid sure does know how to sing. Both bands were pretty good, though the Williamsburg version was way too loud for my taste. There's no Mitzvah to lose a pretty good set of eardrums.
And Chanuka 5768? Gone the way of the dodo bird? Mentioning Chanuka, I was gratified to see that someone had lit a small Menora in the wedding hall in Williamsburg. Why? No one could possibly be Yotzei with it. So obviously it was for Pirsumei Nisah. And obviously the only reason is because of the incredible work of Chabad Lubavitch worldwide. Would that be acknowledged in this particular wedding hall, deep in the heart of Satmar? Possibly not, but facts are facts.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tonight

I went to see the world's largest Menorah be lit tonight in Central Park. Unfortunately, I got there after it had been lit, due to the severe incompetence of the MTA. All right, so it wasn't actually that bad. I just never realized how packed a subway car would be coming into Manhattan at night. Saks Fifth Avenue was as expensive as I thought it would be. Can you imagine spending 290 dollars on a baby outfit? I've spent less on, well, just about everything. In fact, I don't think I've ever spent spent that much money. And for baby clothing? A couple pieces of material? What is wrong with this world? To what depths have we sunk? This is the exact opposite of the message of Chaunkah. After all, the festival of Lights teaches us that spirituality is what counts in life, not material goods. Listen, I understand splurging a little when it comes to things which bring a person pleasure, but hey-the kid wearing this dress will not appreciate it. Guaranteed. They'd be as happy in a onesy, or knowing my family (I jest), nothing at all. Actually, that's not such a joke. Much better to spend nothing to wear nothing, right?
In other news, I like Grand Central Station. A lot. I have a thing for really classy buildings. Sure, the Apple Store in Manhattan is cool and all, but it just doesn't say timeless like the (I assume so anyway) marble of the last great railroad terminal in the known universe. There's nothing like awe-inspiring. And to top it all off, Grand Central is functional. I was even asked by some Isreali girl to buy some dead sea products as a Chanuka present for that special someone. Only problem is, I don't have a special someone. Oh well.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Rifyon

Never, and I mean never, tell people anything that they're not prepared to hear. Unless, of course, you want to be exceedingly successful at what you do. What brings this on you ask? Good question. Firstly, I got less than 1.5 hours sleep last night, which meant that I slept the whole flight, missing out on the soda (dang!) and consequently causing the second annoyance, which is that my back hurts from sleeping awkwardly. Thirdly, I've discovered that the state of California, where I spent two wonderful years of Yeshiva, allows those who have not attended law school to take the bar exam. That's why it's the hardest test in the country. But what of it? Even in Minnesota, where I'm currently spending a wonderful year in Yeshiva, allows one to take the test after just one year in law school. Oh, and if any of these facts are wrong, don't blame me. I'm not interested.
Did I mention that I'm seriously tired? So I think I'll be signing off now.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A couple of parades-The Rifyon Special

I attended a couple of parades in the last several days. The first was the world-famous Hollidazzle. Not so world-famous? Not a problem. What happened was that we decided to go on Mivtzoyim on Nicollet Mall again, only problem being that they have a holiday parade on Thursdays and weekends. Did that bother us? Certainly not. Most of the people looked at me like I was crazy. Looking for Jews? At an X-Mas event? But hey, I found several, and gave out 4 menorahs, so it was all good. Admittedly, only two of those Menorahs were to Jewish people. I also got into a nice little fight with a Baptist. He started trying to proselytise to me, and I kept trying to explain that I wasn't interested. He didn't really get it. "But your sin!" he said. "What about my sin?" I responded. "Your sin!?" He said again. I asked, "What business of yours is my sin?" He said, "How will you get to Paradise?" I told him that I could care less about Paradise. I wanted to tell him that he wasn't religious, just selfish, but his wife and kids were with him, so I didn't really have the heart. I'm religious because I want to serve G-d. I was created to serve G-d. I am not doing this in order to sip nectar, play the harp, or get seventy virgins. Or white grapes. That's simply not the goal of my life. Though those white grapes sure do sound tempting.
Oh, the second parade? YHSTC's very own Menorah parade. I got a ride with a a dedicated reader of this blog, because Shillibeer's car had a bottle of vinegar explode a couple of days ago, and as you may one day find out, that's really not such a good thing. So yeah, the parade was nice , even if most of the Menorahs didn't actually light up, and the Kumzitz at Yeshiva afterward was enjoyed by the thousands who attended. You don't believe me? You doubt the veracity of my numbers? Were you there? I didn't think so buster.
Oh, and in between the parades, the Rosh came to town. He was, as always, quite entertaining. He started to curse me out, for not standing during Keriah, but then I told him that there was another Minyan for it later on. I'm just glad he didn't notice my cuff links.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Oh Chanuka!

So last night was the first real night of Mivtzoyim. I went, with several other guys, to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Don't let the name deceive you, it's just a street that's only accessible to buses and bikes with a ton of stores opening onto it. It took us nearly two hours to get there because of terrible traffic. Normally it takes about 35 minutes.
Anyway, there I was standing outside, in ten degree weather, with not-so-great gloves, asking people if they were Jewish. Most just tell me know. Some think they're being hilarious and tell me, "Not today" to which I invariably reply, "How 'bout tomorrow?" If they say "No" again,
then I yell at their retreating backs, "We have openings next week!" A good yell is very therapeutic, I think. And I know that I'll get six comments now asking how I could possibly yell on Mivtzoyim. Well, let me tell you, the only way to do Mivtzoyim when everyone is wearing A. iPod headphones, and B. A scarf, is to yell. My first customer was a non-Jewish guy who wanted to know what the holiday was all about, and so I first explainedChanuka and then gave him a brochure. Next was a woman who actually turned out to be Finnish-Norwegian/Baptist, which I know is strange, but what can you do? So we discussed Judaism a little, including what I do on X-Mas day. Finally a found a Jew. Actually, he came over to me and asked where he could find chocolate coins and Dreidels in downtown? I answered that unfortunately I couldn't help him with those, but did he have a Menorah? Thirty seconds later he did, and the Baptist woman gave me a thumbs up. Turns out he's here on business, and forgot to bring a Menorah. Well, that's what Chabad is for-to send out people like me into the frozen wasteland that is the Twin Cities after 7:00 PM to find Jews. Like (another) guy, also not Jewish, asked me, "Aren't all the Jews inside their houses celebrating Chaunka? Why don't you go home and celebrate?" My answer came a second later, as I accosted a group and asked if any of them were Jewish? "Yes" came the answer from one lady, and I asked if she needed a Menorah. "Not
really" she replied, but when I said they were free she agreed. She was visiting from California, and had also forgotten a Menorah. I asked her why in the world she had come to this frosty corner of G-d's green (in California, that is) world. She didn't have a good answer. I gave another one to a non-Jewish guy who said he'd give it to a friend, and then a deaf guy came over and motioned that he wanted one. I didn't notice the large cross hanging 'round his neck 'till he came back with a note that read, "The spirit of G-d is in you." Well, a nice thought. I found my last customer as I was already walking back to the car, and asked if he was Jewish. He said, looking quite shocked, "How did you know?!" I answered that I have special powers. He persisted, "No, really, how did you know?" And of course, I told him that he has a big nose. He laughed, and took two Menorah's, one for himself and one for a friend. Little does he know that I have no special powers, I just ask every single person. Besides the blacks. Nothing against African-Americans of course, but something tells me that I won't have
too much look with them.
Driving back was fun (ever tried negotiating a parking ramp when your power-steering is shot?) and then came the biggest test of the day. I made Latkes . Unfortunately, we didn't know that there were more potatoes under the box, so we mixed two medium potatoes with some frozen fries, 4 beaten eggs, 1/4 cup Matza Meal, onions, zucchini, salt, and pepper. A carrot in the frying oil to soak up the scum, and there I was, frying up Latkes like nobody's business. They came out nice and fluffy, which admittedly is not how everyone else makes 'em, but that's OK. Even Shillibeer's wife liked 'em, and especially the fact that I washed the dishes afterwards. And that, my friends, was day two. Good stuff, huh?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Funny you should mention it...

Eliezer made a good point in his comment on my previous post, even if he was only trying to be sarcastic. Chassidus teaches (Chanuka Maamar 1953) that ultimately, holy knowledge leads to faith while unholy knowldege, the Greek kind, leads to atheism. There's also an interesting thing, that people wonder why they can't understand Torah. Idiots! There real question should be, why can I understand any Torah? Torah is the wisdom of G-d, and completely and utterly beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals. So we have to feel privileged when we can even grasp just a little.
Now for my report on the first night of Chanuka. There was a massive snowstorm that started right after I arrived at the dentist's office, and continued clear through midnight. By the way, they want me to have my wisdom teeth removed. Tragic, isn't it. Anyway, we arrived at the Capital a bit early so I got to help prepare. Former senator Rudy Boschowitz didn't show, but the Governor, Tim Pawlenty, sure showed up, and gave a nice little speech too. It was funny, he kept on mentioning "A Higher Power", but never G-d. I guess that word is taboo nowadays, huh? Anyway, even though there wasn't a great crowd (due to the aforementioned snow)it was still very nice. Bless the one above.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Now it starts

It's so funny. Weird. Strange. Odd. Not only has my usually fertile mind run out of more superlatives, but I just don't feel that Chanuka is coming. Tomorrow night. Crazy, isn't it? Usually I anticipate the holiday for weeks on end, but now? Nothing. The scary thing is that I could wake up up on the seventh night and realize that, "Oh! Chanuka's over. Dang." That would be pretty disappointing. And it's funny, because I've learned more Maamarim and Sichos about Chanuka than ever before, hoping to force some excitement. Perhaps I'm all Chanuka'd out. Who knows?
Anyway, the good news is that I've finally discovered the secret to long life, everlasting success, and gobs of cash. But you'll have to send me a money order for three thousand dollars to find it out. Oh yes, and your Nigerian bank account number.
Cheers!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Snow

Yesterday it snowed. I'm not overly put out, thanks to my moccasins from Lands End. I even shoveled Shillibeer's driveway, a selfless act of kindness that ended with me singing Niggunim to Shillibeer's baby to try to get her to fall asleep in my arms. Cute, no?
In other news, I'd appreciate if Zalman would email me, and then I could email him. Brilliant, no?
What's with all the Jewish inflection? No?
Anyway, what with all this snow and everything, I've barely had any time to come up with anything inspiring for the upcoming holiday of Chanuka. But don't worry, I won't disappoint. Chanuka is the holiday when we Jews leave our homes and brave the cold (not like CH, 25, but 10) and go out to light up the world. Some people foolishly think that we don't have to do Pirsumei Nisah (Publicizing the miracle) with Goyim. Well, they are wrong, as clearly shown by the great JB Soloveitchik in one of his Sefarim. For more on that, email R. Wilhelm.
Point is, we have a sacred duty as Jews to light up the world. How do we accomplish this? It's not easy, I'll tell you that much. Chanuka at least people know about, and usually respond well. Last year, in Williamsburg, I asked a woman if she had a Menorah? She started screaming at me, "Every block you ask me that! I'm not Jewish!" Now I did get a fair amount of doubles, but I knew that she had never passed by me. Plus, I obviously did not run to every block in front of her path in order to ask if she was Jewish. Then I realized that there were indeed Bochurim on every corner, and she thought we were all one guy. So I apologized, and that was that, but it taught me a valuable lesson: There is no "I" in "Team". No, really, it showed that a guy can have the best of intentions and have them be thrown back in his face like so many flies on a windshield. But I don't mind. Really.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Heads up

Yes Zalman, you are one famous dude. Actually, he mentioned that he'd like to post some articles and other shtuff on the blog, so perhaps he'll be even more famous. Anyway, today is Chuf (20) Kislev, the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Last night we had another Farbrenegen, which was (but of course) very nice. A thought occurred to me as I was writing some notes to post on here. Is it better to fully immerse ones self in the words and songs of the Farbrenegen, and forget about transcribing it, or should I record for future reference. Yes, I know, I should just a sound recorder thingie. Anyone want to sponsor?
Last night Rabbi Chayim Friedman, fearless leader of the YHSTC, Farbreneged with us. He told over a story from Rabbi Aaron Karliner, a holy guy. Problem is, I can't remember the story, just the Mashal (parable), which is a good one, but hardly worth the bother of writing down if I can't remember the analog. So instead I'll write the famous Mashal of the Russian peasant. A journalist for Pravda, the Communist paper, heard that there was a really wonderful peasant who was completely dedicated to the cause. So he traveled to go visit him. Isn't that a great sentence? Two pronouns! So vague! Yippee!
Yeah, so the journalist comes to interview the peasant, who we will, in the interests of sanity, both mine and yours, call Ivan, and sees that the guy is dirt poor. The journalist, who we will also name (why not?) shall henceforth be called Boris. Two nice Russian names, no? Anyway, Boris asks Ivan, "I've heard that your incredibly dedicated to the Party, Mother Russia, Lenin, vodka, etc. How dedicated are you?" And Ivan answers, in the way that only a Russian peasant with more alcohol in his body than blood can answer, "I'm very dedicated". Oh yes, in case you didn't realize, this conversation is obviously all taking place in Russian. So Boris was very impressed with this answer, because he had brains the size of a peanut, and asked Ivan, "If you had one thousand cows, and the party needed them, would you give them up?" Ivan said simply, "Yes". Boris said, "And if you had five hundred goats?" Once again, Ivan came through with a simple, "Yes", though this time it wasn't quite so simple, because after all, who can simple for too long? Boris tried again, "ninety sheep?" and Ivan passed the test." Boris asked, "If the party needs six chickens, to feed the starving soldiers in Smolensk, would you give them up?" This time Ivan begins to hem and haw. Boris is shocked out of his boxers (!). "What do you mean," Boris sincerely questioned, "a thousand cows, no problem. Sheep, goats, no issue whatsoever. But six chickens you can't give to Lenin?" And Ivan answers, all simplicity out of his voice now, "But you see, I actually have six chickens."
Here the Mashal ends. If you must know, Ivan was taken behind the woodshed and shot by twenty select guardsmen, while Boris was promoted to editor of Pravda and eventually died of a broken heart. The point of the Mashal is that we are all ready to do whatever is needed, as long as we can't actually do the deed. We're all ready to go jump in a boiling lake of fiery cow blood for G-d, but we aren't willing to take twenty seconds to thank him for the food we're about to eat.
Just something to think about. And remember, the only tree worth saving is one with a hammock attached to it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The big day

Tonight is the big night. The ultimate. The Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus. I won't bother tellng you everything that I Farbrenged about, because that's done and in the past. Rather, I'll tell you what I started thinking afterwards.
I started thinking about the YH, and how he tries to ensnare a person. There's a story with Reb Levi Yitzchok from Berditchev, that when he was still a young man was appointed to be Chazzen for Selichos. He got up to Daven, and suddenly started saying, in Yiddish, "If you're so holy, you go Daven yourself. I will have nothing to do with you." Everyone thought he was crazy, and left, until only his father in law was left to find out what exactly was going on. So Reb Levi Yitzchok explained, that he was standing with the Tallis, ready to lead Selichos, when suddenly he realized that the Yetzer Hora was standing next to him, also ready to Daven. Reb Levi Yitzchak asked the YH, what are you doing here, and the YH answered that he'd come to Daven too. In fact, he'd been with Reb Levi Yitzchok for all the Torah he'd learnt, all the Mitzvos he's done, all the suffering he'd gone through. And it was then that Reb Levi Yotzchok realized that all the good he'd done was in the clutches of the YH, and even now, when he was preparing to be a messenger of the holy congregation, at the holiest time of the year, the YH was planning on accompanying Reb Levi Yitzchok. But for this Reb Levi Yitzchak had no patience, and he told the YH, "If you're so holy, you go Daven yourself. I will have nothing to do with you."
My question is whether it's possible for Reb Levi Yitzchok's Yetzer Hora to be my Yetzer Tov. Am I that good, or great, or whatever, that I should have these problems? I certainly don't think so, but perhaps I've fallen into his clutches to a greater degree than I ever thought possible. What's the answer? I honestly don't do. Perhaps all my loyal readers could help out here. Anyway, Happy New Year folks, and may you grow in all aspects of both the revealed and the secret Torah.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And the band marches on

So yesterday was only funny, but not LOL funny? What's wrong with you? Or me? Today I finished up a Maamar, that can be found in this week's Dvar Malchus, that deals with the purpose of 19 Kislev. What is the purpose you ask? Basically, there's this treasure that's being expended in order to win this big war thing. OK, so you know the mashal, right? I'm still too sniffly to write seriously, so instead I'll complain about the lack of real tissues in today's society. Your average tissue is so flimsy that when I blow it disintegrates into my beard and clothing. Quite annoying. So instead I use industrial strength sandpaper that also has the effect of turning an innocent bit of skin into a seething morass of bloody flesh, the organs oozing out in a liquidy form, not unlike Al Gore's neck on steroids. If you got that analogy, can I borrow your weed? Thanks. Anyway, more nonsense later.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cold

I have a cold. It's not too exciting. In fact, it's rather distressing. One of the worst things in the world is having a debate with yourself at 4:00 AM as to whether you should get up and get another paper towel, or your blow your nose in the old, wet one. Oh yeah, that's another thing, since I'm such a manly kind of guy, I can't use regular tissues, because they dissolve in my beard with the slightest of blows. Continuing on my little tangent here; I love beards and all, but they do get a bit annoying with a few things. Take drooling for instance. Without a beard, no problem, just a quick rinse and no problem. But with a beard, it gets caught up in the hair, and, when you're too lazy to take a shower-actually, you can't be too lazy to take a shower, because then you have drool in your beard all day. And don't even get me started on stray hairs. Sure, our fearless leader has a Yoel Kahn thing going, but I've just got random hairs floating down two feet below the rest of the beard.
Anyway, I hope that no one is discouraged from growing any sort of facial hair. I'd fell terrible. Actually, I feel terrible already, what with this cold and everything.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Aspiration without Perspiration is worthless

Once again Rabbi Chayim Friedman, our fearless (and catalytic) leader came through in the clutch, hitting a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to beat the--oh, sorry, that's what the Twins opponents have been doing the last fifteen years! (That was for Shillibear). No, what I meant to say was that was R. C. actually Farbrenged in honor of the Rebbe's wedding yesterday, and came through, despite there being a singular lack of physical sustenance for the various peoples attending.
What's the difference between a Chassid on Shlichus and a Snag working for Aish Hatorah, or for some community Kollel, or for Oorah, or any of the other groups currently populating our little landscape? The question is, what's the difference between a Mikveh and a Mayaan, a wellspring? Both purify the impure. Both have water inside them. (I'm grasping for similarities here, folks). Both, um, both start with the letter Mem. Good one, huh? Anyway, the difference is in the various laws governing their purifying abilities. For example, a Mikveh must be perfect-no cracks or leaks; basically, it must be rain water that is currently stationary, and it must have at least 40 Seah (a measurement) of rainwater. Without these, not only does the Mikveh not purify the person going in, but he makes the Mikveh water impure! On the other hand, a wellspring can have as many leaks as it wants, it can move all over the place, and it doesn't even have to have the 40 Seah, all it needs is to cover the body. Why this difference? Because a wellspring is connected to it's source. So too a Chassid and another-another, who is not connected to his source, his Yeshiva, if he doesn't stay at the peak of excellence he can not only not do his job but even destroy others. A Chassid, on the other hand (that's the third one, for those counting at home), is always connected to his source. He can't fail, as long as he is connected to his source, his Rebbe.
Nice, no? Oh, and in honor of Zalmen, who recently revealed his distaste of short posts, I'd like to put here a little poem in his honor. I'd like to, but I can think of nothing. Perhaps Zalmen would like to contribute something?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks

Someone left a bunch of comments. I didn't appreciate them very much. Remember people, the goal in life is to think positive. On that note, I'd like to tell a story that I read in the previously-mentioned "Shabbos Secrets". By the way, this book absolutely rocks. Buy it now. Seriously. Anyway, there's a story told of the Belzer (Bobover?) Rebbe who once held a Tish by a summer resort. Short note: I've been to just on Tish, of the Skverer Rebbe in LA, and it was pretty amazing. I imagined, if this is a Tish, then imagine how great a Farbrengen with the Rebbe was. As my friend Sholom Goldberg said, quoting his father, "Watching a video of the Rebbe Farbrenging is amazing. The only thing you miss is the sound of angel's wings beating."
Back to the story. A bunch of Litvisher (man, that was PC, huh editor?) Bochurim from Mattersdorf (don't ask) came, and they were very interested to see all the interesting Minhagim. The Rebbe invited them to ask any questions that they might have on his Hanhaga (conduct). One Bochur, named Chaim, asked, "I noticed that the Rebbe made Kiddush very late, at 11:00. It says in Shulchan Oruch that a person should make Kiddush as soon as possible after Shabbos starts. What gives?" The Rebbe answered, "The Shulchan Oruch doesn't say a time that a person has to make Kiddush by, just that he should hurry. And this I did, for if not, I'd be making Kiddush tomorrow morning." The Bochur was so impressed that he became a Chassid on the spot.
Do I have a problem with this story? You bet. Let me preface my rant with another story. Back in the day, Mikves were cold. Like freezing cold. Like Lake Superior freezing cold. Like I once went into Lake Superior for Mikve. Like it was really cold. Once again, back to the story. The way they used to heat up the Mikve was that they'd keep a steaming vat of water near the Mikve, and every time a guy wanted to use it he'd pour some in, jump in, out, and get on with his life. I believe this story took place in Ruzhin, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, two local Chassidim went into the Mikve, did the vat-pouring trick, and a horrible scream alerted them to the fact that there was in fact a guy underneath the vat. Whoops. They carried his dead body to the Rebbe (of wherever it was) and he did the Elisha thing (look it up) and the guy, who happened to be a Lubavitcher woke up. An incredible miracle. The Chassid said to the Rebbe, "Yasher Koach (Thanks), but the Rebbe is in Lubavitch."
So what's my problem with the first story? If you're going to be affected every time someone has a brilliant comment, you may as well go be the Chassid of a late night talk show host. Judaism demands inner struggle, work, the triumph of good over evil. OK, so I'm being a little harsh. But that's what Thanksgiving is all about, no?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nachas


Last night we had another Shiur with Rabbi Shagalow, and it was really good. In fact, we also had a Shiur with Rabbi Wilhelm, and that was really good. So I was going to write up the Shiurim, but then the editor sent me a photo, which appears on the top left, which is very cute. If you don't get it just ask.
Ahh, so what am I going to blog about today? I picked up a book that is even cuter than the photo on the top left. This book is called "Shabbos Secrets" and it's written by a guy named Dovid Meisels. What's cute about the book is that in the back is a whole photo section of different Minhagim for Shabbos. Incidentally, the one time he mentions Chabad in a picture, he gets it wrong. We put our thumb outside the Kiddush Cup, the opposite of what this dear boy says. But what of it. There are, and I'm not exaggerating, 42 (!) different customs when it comes to holding a Kiddush cup. That's crazy! In the text of the book I'm sure it explains each Minhag, but I was too lazy to write all that down. And how many Kugels? 24. We Jews are crazy.
So at first I was going to write that it's a pity that people focus on such narishkeit instead of learning, but then I realized that this is a terrible way of looking at things. Why are Jews so great? Specifically because we have so many different Minhagim. Specifically because each and every one of these Minhagim has a source in Torah. It says that there are 70 "faces" of Torah, but the amazing thing is that they're all the will of Hashem. If this doesn't make sense to you, just email me, along with your question about the picture on the top left. Then I can answer. Then we can all be friends. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Redemption

Have you ever realized that truth is non-negotiable? It just is. If you don't like it then that's fine, but you can't escape it. Why do I bring this up? Probably because I couldn't remember what I really wanted to write. Ah, now it's all coming back. Last night we had a Farbrengen for the auspicious day of Yud Kislev, the day that the Mitteler Rebbe was freed from jail. Though Shillibear attended he didn't say anything, leaving the inspirational shtuff to the Shluchim of YHSTC. Oh, in case you're wondering, the reason I try to avoid the word "Stuff" is because my third grade teacher, Mrs. Ring, would always tell my class that "stuff" is what you put in turkeys, and for every other situation you should be a bit more specific. Anyway, I talked about the Mitteler Rebbe. He really made things very easy for us. Both of his important days are right next to each other, so we can spend just 48 hours and then forget about him for the rest of the year.
Shillibear liked this. At least, I think he did. He laughed. Point is, we've got this incredible Man of G-d, and no one cares in he least. His father, the Alter Rebbe, said that if you would cut him no blood would would flow it, but rather Chassidus. When he was 14, and ready to get married, he had many proposals, and when they asked him which he wanted he said, "whichever one is ready to get married the fastest, because I want to hear a Maamar from my father."
Do you realize what this means? Here's a guy who's whole existence was dedicated to the word of G-d. simply incredible.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jokes and shtuff

Here's a quick semi-joke I thought of this morning while listening to one of the wonderful Shluchim give an even more wonderful Shiur on the day's Chumash. Basically, Jacob fights this angel guy and gets a name change. Wouldn't it be sick if he had just gotten like four thousand personal address labels and now had to change them?
Enjoyed my little semi-joke? It was funnier at the time. Anyway, during Mincha I remembered a beautiful Vort from the Rosh (same as last time, Mr. Editor). It doesn't make sense that a person only gets their Yetzer Tov (good inclination) from 13 while they're born with a Yetzer Hora (evil inclination). After all, babies are really cute, and even kids are relatively innocent. When they reach 13 is specifically the time when the evil urge takes over! So what's the story?
What is the YH exactly? He's not necessarily an evil monster. His whole point is himself. The YH makes a person focus only on themselves. A baby's whole existence is himself. Sure it's cute and all, but it's the work of evil. When a kid turns Bar Mitzvah he finally realizes (hopefully) that he's not the only person in the world. This is what it means when a person gets a YT, that he understands that he is not the only existence in the world. Some people, unfortunately, never get this fact. They can be nice people, generous people, but it's all because of them.
Right? Good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Responding to the response

So my previous post has elicited much response from the one guy who actually bothered to read it. In order not to spoil it for those of you who have not read it, go down and read it, and then scroll back up and read this one. That way we'll all remain friends and no one has to get eaten. Unless you want to get eaten.
I have very few complaints about YHSTC, but one is that virtually every lunch is some sort of noodle with some sort of cheese, cooked in some sort of way that guarantees a maximum of smell and minimum of personal comfort. I'd like to state for the record that my entire lunch today consisted of six pieces of bread. I ask not for your pity, nor for your money (though I won't say no), but rather for strongly-worded letters to the editor. Or cook. Or whoever they hired to cook here.
Judaism? You want Judaism? Come back tomorrow. Tonight's Tes Kislev, the birthday and passing of the the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch, second Rebbe in the Chabad line, so hopefully we'll have some more info a bit later.

And now you know..

One of the many fun things about blogging is writing people's names and then finding out that other people read your blog just for those names. It's happened before, but never have I gotten a request for juice on the guy. But that request has come, so now I shall reveal all.
I used to learn with Yankee Majeski (him of the recent engagement) and one day I was waving my hand around when he grabbed it and bit a finger. I don't quite remember why. Anyway, the next day, I said to Mendy Rabin (also a Shliach, and still available) that I was amazed that Yankee had bit my finger. And Yankee said, "Do you want me to do it again?" and I said all right, so of course he bit it again.
Anyway, I hope that all are happy now that I've spilled the beans in public. Just as long as his Kallah doesn't find out. I'd hate for anything to pass between the two.
Anyway, more later. Probably. If I feel like it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And the truth rolls on

So last night we had a Farbrengen with Rabbi Chayim Friedman in honor of the wedding anniversary of the Tzemach Tzedek and my sister's sixth anniversary. OK, so it wasn't quite in honor of her, but that's all right. Scary, but I remember the score of the Viking's game that Monday night with almost the same clarity as the wedding itself. The Vikings, if you're wondering, beat the Giants, avenging their loss the previous year in the NFC Championship Game. But I digress.
R. Friedman talked about our half-hearted efforts in life. It's true. I can not recall a time when I really tried. My theory is that if anyone ever really tried then everything would come together and the final redemption would be among us. There's a famous Mashal, parable, that I won't go into now, but essentially compares us to "Friends of Lubavitch". Sure, we respect the Rebbe, respect what he does, perhaps even love him. His Chassidim? Great guys. They do such good work. We even give a donation sometimes. Or even often. But at the end of the day, we're not given over.
So what is the difference between us, the half-baked Chassidim, and "Friends of Lubavitch"? We care. We wish we could be better. It's not much consolation, but then again, it's not like we deserve it.
In closing, I'd like to wish Mazel Tov to my friend Yankee Majeski on his recent engagement to some girl from Florida. I learned with him every day for a year in Los Angeles, and twice he bit my finger. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Story time with Uncle Shliach

Can we cue the corny music please? It's time for stories! Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm, fearless leader of the Lubavitch Yeshiva-Wexler Learning Institute, and all-around genius, gave us, the Shluchim of YHSTC a Shiur yesterday. It was very interesting. The part that I wrote down was of course the stories, so here goes: The Tzemach Tzedek was once provoked, and he made a quick mental search through the entire Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi to figure out if he was Halachicly allowed to get angry. What's the point of the story? It's just cool. Second story: People once asked the Friedriker Rebbe, Lubavitch is Mekarev (brings in) many people, but doesn't it say in Shulchan Oruch (Code of Jewish Law), in the fourth section, Choshen Mishpat, that there are only certain people who we bring closer, and there are some who we even push away. How could Chabad bring in everyone indiscriminately? The Rebbe answered, "First let me deal with every person with the first three sections of Shulchan Oruch, then we can discuss the fourth." Point of the story? Chabad is all about love, baby. Third story: Reb Mendel Futerfas once said, "Why by the orthodox world is an engagement celebration called a "Tenaim", literally "conditions", while in Chabad it's called a "Vort", a saying? Because when a Bochur leaves Yeshiva, it's a descent for him, from the rarefied air of Torah learning down to the corporeal world of our mundane lives. This is helped along by the Yetzer Hora, the evil inclination. So by the rest of the orthodox world, they make conditions, have a give and take with the YH. But by Lubavitch, we tell the YH what's what. He has no say." And nowadays, Lubavitch doesn't even have a Vort, we have a Lchaim. Why? Because even talking to the YH can be dangerous, so we just say Lchaim. Point of the story? With yourself, no love, you've got to be firm. And the fourth story? Here goes: Reb Yoel Teitelbaum, the Divrei Yoel, former Rebbe of Satmar, was once asked why in the Torah, the laws of personal dealings, Parshas Mishpatim, comes right after the giving of the Torah, in Parshas Yisro, while in Shulchan Oruch it's the final section? So Reb Yoel explained. We try to avoid a court case, the application of the final section of Shulchan Oruch, because it's strict judgement, and someone's bound to get hurt. Two people can't both be right. So instead the Rabbis try to make a compromise. But when it comes to Torah, you must immediately know right from wrong, there can be no compromise! The point of the story is, even Satmar has some cool stuff.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed all those. And a Happy Anniversary to the Tzemach Tzedek, 3rd Rebbe of Lubavitch, who got married at the age of 14 a long time ago.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Psychology for the masses

That's right folks, last night we had another session with Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Shagalow, mental doctor extraordinaire and Shliach to the long-suffering Snags of S. Louis Park. What did the dear boy say? That, my friends, is what I'm about to communicate to you. Basically, you're never allowed to hit your students. Ever. Well, unless they're really bad. Then you can slaughter them. No, just kidding. The only time you can hit students is if they can see the great pain that it's causing you to hit them. It should really hurt so much, that you're such a bad teacher that you have to hit the kids in order to educate them. Because obviously a god teacher should inspire the kids so much that it's not necessary to even raise your voice.
If any teachers actually read this blog, I'm sure I'd get hundreds of angry responses, but since no teachers do read this, I'll be spared. Whoopeee!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So (the traditional) ...

Today I learned the Maamar in this week's Dvar Malchus, which is about Yud Kislev, coming up in a week, about the redemption of the Mitteler Rebbe, the 2nd Rebbe of Chabad. It wasn't one of those Maamarim that inspire you to go off and change the world, so instead I'll write about something else interesting that happened in my day.
So last night I thought I would Farbreng with Shillibeer. Two hours later I realized that Shillibeer would not be appearing, and today I asked him what the problem was. Turns out that his wife is out of town, so he has to watch his kids. Can you believe it? This guy is dedicated. Plus, another reason to stay a Bochur. We don't have these kinds of issues. Farbreng? No problem. Sleep? Except for that annoying Mashgiach dude, also no problem.
So what are you waiting for? Bochurize!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Here's your religion

All righty then, here's your daily religious dose. It's from a Maamar that was said by the Rebbe Rashab in 1898. Basically, the Yetzer Hora is not essentially bad. The reason we know this is because before the first sin (the one with the tree) man was created with two drives, one towards Chessed, kindness, and one towards Gevurah, strictness. Neither of these is necessarily bad. What happened with the sin was that Adam used too much Gevurah when he prohibited his wife Chavah from even touching the tree, therefore causing Gevurah to fall down much farther than Chessed. So the drive towards Gevurah became the drive towards sin. But even this is not a constant; after all, it is possible that a surfeit of love can cause bad. We can see this from the case of a child who cries for a knife. A person who gives it is doing it out of love, after all, the child is crying for it! Nevertheless, obviously it's a bad thing. So we can see that Gevurah is not necessarily bad, nor Chessed necessarily good. Just that normally from Gevurah comes bad. When Moshiach comes the truth will be revealed, that Gevurah is really good. Because remember, strictness is not bad.

Anyway, for a little humor, there was once a haberdasher who had a minister walk into his business. The clothes-seller was so honored that a minister should come to his store that he gave the guy a free suit. A week later the minister sent a bible as a thank you. A month later a priest came in, and the same thing, except that the priest sent a beautiful gold cross. A month later a Rabbi walks in, and the same thing happens. And the gift? A week after the Rabbi gets his suit, another Rabbi walks in.

OK, so it's cute. Deal with it.

The second day

There's an old song about X-mas that I won't be transcribing now, but it kind of fits this month. Every day is chock full of religious goodness. For example, today is the second of Kislev, renowned in Chassidic circles as the day when the Sefarim which had been stolen from the Rebbe's library were returned. Not all of them mind you; as far as I know there are at least three which were never returned. But all in all, a glorious day. It's also famous because the Rebbe screamed at the hundreds who were thronged around 770 waiting for the Sefarim to appear. Why did the Rebbe get upset? Because the people had such great love for the Rebbe, and wanted to share in his joy? Probably not. More like they were wasting valuable time, which is of course the exact opposite of what the Rebbe wants. There is nothing worse in Judaism than wasting time. It's a precious commodity that can never be returned. I'm sorry that this blog has been reduced to platitudes. You know, it's tough to keep up the humor for any length of time. There'll be two weeks where it'll flow like Mashke, and then three weeks where it's like pulling teeth out of a recalcitrant lion. You know, at least lions provide some entertainment. Writing humor is tough. Perhaps I, like the late-night talk-show people, should get some writers. Brilliant idea, no? Almost as smart as Edison's.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How 'bout

Exclusive coverage of the Kinnus can be found on half a dozen websites, but not this one, probably because I'm not actually there. What I can tell you about the Kinus is that Rabbi Mordechai Friedman was very inspired, plus he got the new HASC DVD, which is of course all that really counts. It's a bit of a waste, because who needs a DVD? You watch it once, and then what?
Ah, you want some religion with your fries? Speaking of fries, sometimes I get a big Taavah for fries. Really, it's for salty food. Listen, cookies before Davening, oatmeal for breakfast, and at about 11:30 you just feel the need for some sodium, to course through your veins, leaving a bit of salty sediment behind, bringing gastronomic delight and big credit-card payments to your heart surgeon later on.
Oh, sorry, I got off topic, we were discussing religion weren't we. Oh, by the way, the potato chips were fine.
Today is the first day of the month of Kislev. This is the day when, in 1977, the Rebbe went home for the first time. What does this mean to us? The Rebbe's greatest work happened after his recovery from the heart attack. I just read an article on www.jpost.com about Lubavitch, and while it was cute, it wasn't the point. The point was the many comments (well over 100) about Chabad. It's amazing, there is not a single Jew without a strong opinion on our wonderful movement. Either they hate it with a passion bordering on the violently pathological, or they love it with much the same fervor. I guess we're just very inspirational. Well, enough blab for today, but remember, tomorrow is a brand new day, so, if you're lucky, there will be even more blab.

Friday, November 9, 2007

After Further Consideration

I'd like to start off by saying that the whole "Snag-Bash" topic is now over, with the consensus that it's morally wrong but quite enjoyable nonetheless, and that Shimshon was a holy man. A very holy man. Mistakes? Did the Rebbe make mistakes? Case closed. Any further resistance from the editor is futile.
I saw an interesting article on www.theyeshivaworld.com about Chabad of Kenosha's winning the legal right to put up a Menora. The article itself I read on the Lubavitch sites, what was fascinating was the comments. A certain person cursed out Chabad, the Rebbe, and everything sacred. It was nice to see that many people, quick to distance themselves from personal affiliation, defended Lubavitch with an eloquence reminiscent of my own. (And so humble to!).
Why is Chabad attacked so much? Why doesn't Google recognize the word as being spelled correctly? Is the whole world allied against us? Is there nothing we can do?
And as always, the answer is education. Lack thereof causes hatred. Am I advocating the invasion of Beth Medrash Gevoha and the mass conversion of the thousands of Snags contained therein to Judaism? Of course. There is an old joke that Chabad is the closest religion to Judaism. Last time someone told me that I belted him. It was totally worth the suspension from school.
LT told me that when he was a kid in boarding school the teacher was educating the class on bible, and he mentioned that the Jews were stuck in the desert for forty years. I'm sorry that I can't remember the wise-crack that some brat made, but that same brat has never forgotten the blow LT dealt him immediately after. Sure, he got caned, but it was worth it. This, my friends, is Jewish pride. You've got to show the goy who's boss.
And last and probably least, if you recall I mentioned a while ago that literally no one rates my posts on www.israelforum.com unless I first rate. I rated for a week, got great results, stopped, and it appears that no one reads my shtuff anymore. Oh well, their loss.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

OK Then

To respond to the editor's comments, I'd just like to say that I don't enjoy bashing Snags, I just enjoy bashing Snaggiism, a dangerous disease peculiar to Jews who haven't internalized Chassidus.
I'd also like to say that after further discussion with LT, I have come to understand the importance of the whole Hey Teves saga. Basically, Barry's point was that when the Previous Rebbe gave his library over to the Chassidim it was merely a trick to bring it onto these blessed shores, and that in reality he maintained ownership. The point of the Rebbe is that his father-in-law would never resort to chicanery in order to accomplish something, and that whatever he did was truthful and honest. Saying otherwise impinges on the honor of the Previous Rebbe, and by extension the entire Chabad. The great joy caused by Chabad's victory in court was because of the affirmation thereby of the Previous Rebbe's integrity, of course of the return of the Sefarim, holy and important manuscripts.
This is my (and LT's) interpretation, and if anyone doesn't like it they can post a different one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Oh baby! (2)

This is the second post of the day, make sure you read the previous one. We (The exalted Shluchim of YHSTC) had another Shiur with Rabbi Shagalow. He was very good, especially in the last 20 minutes, when he started Snag-bashing. A little note. R. Shagalow lives in S. Louis Park, which is the Snag Capital of the upper midwest. The man lives his life among these people, and he bashes them. How beautiful. Truth is, I guess this makes him uniquely qualified to bash. Anyway, he said, what's the basic difference between a Lubavitcher and a Misnaged? How they translate the Possuk, "Tamim Teheye Im Havaye Elokecha." A Snag says that it means "You shall walk prefectly with the L-rd your G-d." So, a Snag thinks, learn Torah and do Mitzvos in order to become perfect with G-d. A Lubavitcher, on the other hand, translates the verse as "You shall walk wholely with the L-rd your G-d." Or in a whole manner. Point is, we say that the Possuk means that a person should serve Hashem with all his faculties, his good and is bad. What's the practical difference? Perfection is not the goal. And when a person thinks he has perfection, it's one of two things. Either the guy's mind is blown, or he really is perfect. In which case he has no purpose left on earth. Why didn't G-d create man as angels? Because they're worthless! They don't struggle! Without struggle life is meaningless.
And now we come to a little later in the night, another brilliant Farbrengen from Rabbi Chayim Friedman. His brother Mordechai farbrenged earlier with the Bochurim, but I missed most of that, except for a little speech about the greatness of the Shluchim and how the Bochurim should start respecting us. So that was nice.
Rabbi Chayim spoke about a lot of topics, ending at around 4:45 AM. I was literally falling down because I was so tired. At 2:00 I decided to go once the current Sicha was over. That's why I left at 4:45. But it was totally worth it. The only quibble I have is that his Farbrengens are so flowy (new word for the OED) that it's difficult to take out specific points. The last thing was "why do bad things happen to god people?" The answer is that it's G-d's fault. Since he is everything, therefore all is him, and he is the one responsible. It also says that no bad comes from heaven. Meaning? There is no bad in this world! Just because you can't see the good doesn't mean it's not there. In fact, it's a higher level of good, because it's not revealed down here. And I'm not saying that suffering is a good thing, rather that it's not really suffering. OK, so it is, but only in our eyes.
All right, enough for today, more tomorrow, probably,
(the customary ellipsis)

Oh Baby!

Here's a comment that I got from the editor on my last post that for some reason blogger is refusing to post.

You just mentioned something that kind of pisses me off. I hope you'll find this genius of mine worthy of putting near yours.

People like to take out all the juice of everything and blame it all on the Rebbe. Case in point: "Who the hell understands what was so important about the seforim? Not me! The only reason I'm celebrating is because the Rebbe found it important!" Or, "Who the hell would think it's important to get kids to hear the Ten Commandment? Not me! I'm only shlepping kids off the street because the Rebbe said to do it!" Or, "Why the hell would someone want to learn chassidus? Not me! Just the Rebbe said to do it, so I'm doing it!" This kind of attitude can really make you feel bottul and mekushar and mesiras nefeshdik (Side note: a mashpia once said: the only mesiras nefesh we do is when we're moser our nefesh elokis.) but you're drying out Judaism. Didan notzach becomes a meaningless victory which we celebrate b'kabolas ol because the inscrutable Rebbe felt like it. Mivtzoim isn't necessarily accomplishing anything; it's just doing something that the inscrutable Rebbe wants. Learning Chassidus (Learning Chassidus!) also doesn't accomplish anything, it's also just doing what the inscrutable Rebbe wants. Is this what Judaism is about? An emphatic no! Chassidus does have an effect. Movtzoim do have an effect. If the Rebbe (who certainly is inscrutable) wants something, it's because that thing is worth wanting! If we don't understand why, then we're missing a very important part of the point!
The real mekusharim don't care if Judaism is dry. All that matters is oysfirin di kavanah. Well, if you don't attempt to scrutinize the Rebbe (just a wee bit) than you can't think straight.
For example, people might say, "It's important to build buildings because "der Rebbe vil binyanim!" (It always sounds better in Yiddish, even if the key word in the sentence is Hebrew.) Well, buddy, why, pray tell, does the Rebbe want buildings? Because buildings help you do shlichus. So, if you're on shlichus with limited resources, considerations such as "Der Rebbe vil binyanim" are only going to befuddle your decision—unless you think why the Rebbe wants binyanim!

If you think this is kefirah, then write back, and we'll settle things out.

Did you like his genius? Impassioned no doubt. Kefirah? Doubtful. My point was that sometimes we don't know what to do, and then the answer is to rely on the Rebbe, not on our own intellect. Sure, work as hard as you can to understand, but sometimes you just don't. Is this an excuse to not do what you have to do? Of course not. Is this an excuse to not try to figure it out? It's like the Bracha Shekahol. Shulchan Oruch says that this Bracha is said whenever you don't know the proper Bracha for something. But not because of your ignorance, that you haven't learned which Bracha to make, it's because you did learn and still don't know.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

And now, presenting...

As I mentioned, we had a Farbrengen last night. It was the sort where a serious suggestion was made that we boil some potatoes, and I don't mean for Mashke. As usual, Rabbi Chayim Friedman was excellent. Soon I'm going to run out of words to describe him. But hey, he deserves every accolade he can get. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your religion and/or liver) I was a bit inebriated, so my memories are clouded a bit by the happy Stratocumulus Perlucidus of lukewarm Smirnoff.
What is the whole Simcha of 25 Cheshvan about anyway? We're happy because the Rebbe was happy. The whole court case was a strange thing. The Rebbe was so involved, and thought it was so important. Some people suggested that it was perhaps not so very important-after all, it was just a bunch of old books. To these people the Rebbe was very sharp.
To reiterate, we're happy because the Rebbe is happy. Rabbi Perlstein of Chicago (AY's daddy) told of how he learned a Nigleh Sicha with a Misnaged, and it blew his mind. An hour later a Bochur in his Yeshiva told the Sicha over for the benefit of his fellow students, and they were like, "Oh, that's nice (yawn)". We just don't appreciate the genius of the Rebbe, and even more, don't care to find out. Even on a day like today, the only reason we can figure out to be happy is, "Oh, the Rebbe's happy? Me too!"
You've got to care. To care you've got to feel. To feel you've got to know. To know you've got to learn. And that's exactly where I'm headed.
Oh, and a quick Mazel Tov to Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, fearless leader of the Yeshiva High School of the Twin Cities, and all round good guy. Should there be an apostrophe there? Have I used that joke too many times in this blog already? Does anyone care either way?
Anyway, Shillibear told me today that I should Chap Arein, take advantage now, because when I'm 34 I'll be wishing I was 19. I pointed out to him that I was 20, and I already wish I was still 19. That's the problem with us, when we're 19 we wish to be 34, and when 34 to be 19. Which is worse? Or better?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fifty is eternal

Today I finished up L'maan Daas (Kuntreisim 1), and once again came upon the dichotomy that makes our lives so meaningful. The Friedriker Rebbe discusses faith in Hashem, that he is the only one who makes anything. In fact, he is the only one that is anything. We all have this knowledge subconsciously, but but all it is. We believe, sure, but does it affect us? I know that sustenance comes only from Him, but do I practice it?
As a Bochur it's very easy to live life in this manner. After all, I have no problems with money. The whole world is black and white. Once I grow older, and have eight children sitting at the able waiting for supper, it'll be a little tougher to simply put my faith, and fate, in Hashem.
All right, enough soul-searching. Tonight is the 25th of Cheshvan, the day that the US court ruled to return the Sefarim to Chabad, and therefore we Farbreng. Should be fun. These things usually are. Oh, and for an update on the saga of the "Dubov", I spoke to him today, and he said I should call him tonight. Isn't that brave of me? They should make an award or something (check the comments section for a sarcastic remark by the editor). Until next time then...(ellipsis again)

P.S. And just in, I'd like to wish a hearty Mazel Tov to my dear friend Yehuda Leib Heber on his engagement to some girl (Dassie Butman, if it really matters to you). He was a Shliach in LA when I was there for two years. Incidentally, I notified both shmais.com and crownheights.info. See, I'm getting good at this phone call thing. Did you like the editor's comments?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tacks

I've had some complaints about this blog from a certain editor. Firstly, my previous post was, to him at least, heretical. So I'd just like to clarify. I did not mean that the Alter Rebbe's Maamar made no sense. I did not get it. I am at fault. I carry a cross for the world's sins. Oh, sorry, I'm getting a little carried away. Anyway, happy editor?
Not yet, because I have yet to address his second concern, that this blog has gotten way too serious for his liking. Too much Judaism, not enough stupidity. Is this really such a problem?
Shillibear had the brilliant idea that we bring down Rabbi Dovid Dubov of Princeton, NJ, to come Farbreng for Yud Tes Kislev. I think it's a great idea. Only problem is that I'm the one who's supposed to make the phone calls. Know this, my friends, that I hate (a strong word, yes?) with a passion bordering on the pathological the concept of cold-calling. If you can believe it, that was the most difficult part of Merkos Shlichus. But I did it, because I'm a big boy. So I called Rabbi Dubov. Some girl picked up, and I left a message. He called me back, but unfortunately I wasn't around to answer. Did I immediately call back? Of course not, that would make way too much sense. What do you think I am, some sort of normal person? Horrors. Now I can spend the rest of tonight and half of tomorrow agonising. There's nothing like Jewish guilt to put other nation's pain and suffering into perspective. We suffer the most because, well, we're Jews. Eat that, Armenians.
Lest you think I didn't learn today, I did. Quite a lot, in fact. But nothing mind-blowing. The editor should know that when I put Chassidus up here it's because I'm really excited about it, and there's almost no other place you can find this stuff in English. For example, I just read a great article in this month's National Geographic about memory. Really fascinating. But since anyone can walk to their nearest news-stand and read all about it, why should I bother?
I hope there's been enough stupidity to keep even the notoriously picky editor happy. Tomorrow hopefully we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Moving right along

A quick response to the latest comment, regarding the second story on my previous post "bears". Essentially he was just filling in some background info, and all I'd like to add to the comment is that I faithfully transmitted the story as I heard it.
Anyway, I had a nice Shabbos. Have you ever learned a Maamar and had no idea what is said? Sometimes it's because the Maamar is so profound, one's head is swimming. Sometimes the Maamar is simply unintelligible, in which case, well, I guess, you simply don't get it. The second to last Maamar is this week's Torah Ohr (Alter Rebbe) was a clear example of the latter type. Normally I'm happy to get seventy percent of a Maamar in this Sefer, and even fifty percent is acceptable. But this one? First a little background on this particular bit. The Alter Rebbe said many Maamarim, and a certain amount of them were compiled, with annotations, by his grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch. This Maamar that I'm referring to is the same as the previous one in the Sefer, it's just transcribed as the Alter Rebbe said it, without notes or explanations. And man, is it impossible. I truly don't get how the Chassidim understood it. All right, so they were about four billion times smarter than me.
What else? Um...
That would appear to be all that's on my mind now, so I'll say sonora 'till next time. Or I'll type it. Whatever.