Monday, July 30, 2007

Internet is a Hot Commodity Out Here in Yehuppitzville!

Virtually every hotel/motel/motor inn/hostel/dog kennel in this great land boasts of free high-speed internet. So I had visions of late model Mac Pros - or at the worst the very latest Pentiums - on every desk in every room. Much to my surprise, I discovered that there is one computer, in the lobby, and it's not that fast anyway. Why do I mention this? Because there's also thirty-six guests in the lobby, just wandering around aimlessly, waiting for the moment when I leave the computer and they can pounce. So instead of writing of all the great work that we're doing here in spectacular mid-Missouri I'll just end off.

Next time...less fluff, more content (if we get an upper-class hotel!)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A quickie

Shabbos is over. Tomorrow we go out, with G-d's help. On the schedule is Columbia, Jefferson City, and perhaps the beautiful Ozarks. Truth is, I don't know that they're beautiful. AAA is my source for that one. But so far they've been relatively reliable, so until I get there myself, they'll just have to do.

Until next time...

P.S. In response to the comment on this entry, yes, all cities are beautiful. You just have to look.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The point is...

This entry may ramble a bit, so excuse me please.

First off: (Drum roll please) The Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of Chabad, said that he would have had another fifty thousand followers if he hadn't included the phrase "B'midat Emet Leyaacov" in the Tanya, his seminal book on Chassidic philosophy. Isn't that incredible? He had the chance to have fifty thousand more Chassidim! That's like a sold-out Yankee stadium suddenly becoming Chassidim. It boggles my mind. But why didn't he have those people? Because he insisted on truth. Pure, unadulterated truth.

Batting second, the Chazzan, (if you get the joke, great. If not, sorry) Lipa! The three weeks (and the nine days) have ended (simultaneously, actually)!! I feel as if a cloud has lifted and the sun came out. No more feeling miserable! We can now listen to music, and serve God with joy!

And in the third spot in the order, we have an interesting phrase that came up while in S. Louis. Incidentally, did you know that the Previous Rebbe was in S. Louis? Have I written that already? Well, I certainly intended to. Anyway, I was talking with one of the congregants at Chabad, and I mentioned something about "Bringing us closer to our father in heaven."

He said, "Hey, you sound like a preacher now!"

I replied that no, it is not a Christian thing to talk about our father in heaven, it's actually a very Jewish thing. Avinu Shebashamayim.

Which brings me to the cleanup hitter, the guy who drives in the first three runners with a grand slam (or, knowing my luck, ends the inning with a double-play). Why are we going out looking for Jews? Simply to bring them closer to their father in heaven. That's it. That's the whole reason for people to go out and dedicate their lives. Every penny you donate to Chabad is (hopefully) being spent on spreading forth the wellsprings of Chassidus. Of Judaism for that matter. Same thing, if you think about it.

And lastly, in to close this win and send us all to the showers, I'd like to thank all the people who read this blog, particularly my fellow bloggers (and guys I went to Yeshiva with) in Florida and beyond. I'm honored. No, really. Because, to tell the truth, I'm not reading your blogs. Sorry.

Next time...more stuff

Thursday, July 26, 2007

High Falutin' Plans for Wichita!

My my, that title is cheery.

We're planning on going out on Sunday. The wild west is beckoning. No more creature comforts (AC), we're going to ride horses to Wichita. Yeehaw!

OK, not exactly. We're actually going to rent an economy car and go down the highway till we reach beautiful Wichita, at which point we will search for Jews, find some, inspire them beyond their wildest imaginations, and then come home. Simple, huh? But until we actually do anything, I don't have much to write, so, so long.

That didn't come out quite right, did it? The problem with writing is that you can't get the whole verbal inflection and pregnant pause thing going. Let's try it again. So Long. Perfect.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fast nights and slow days

The title sounds so pompous. And it's not even true. The night wasn't particularly fast, nor the day particularly slow. But enough chit-chat, it's time for action. Or at least the story of one man's Tisha Bav.

We ate. No meat, of course, which is really OK, because who wants to eat meat before a fast? Besides me of course? Then came Maariv and Eicha. One of the beautiful things about the ninth of Av is this whole thing about little chairs. You know, the type they have in preschools. In fact, the chairs we all sat on were from the Chabad preschool. But perhaps "sat" is too strong a word for what we actually did. Back when I was a little tyke in, oh, first grade, my family lived in beautiful Mequon, Wisconsin. We were eating a Shabbos meal at a family (who shall remain nameless) and I sat down on a little plastic chair they had in the basement. Remember, I was seven years old. The chair broke. So here we are thirteen years later, sitting on the same size chair, praying to the One Above that we all survive. It's not like the things are comfortable anyway. They're really not. And that, my friends, is the whole point of Tisha Bav - suffering for the destruction of the two Temples.

Despite the mournful mood, we didn't say tachnun (penitential prayers). Tisha Bav is also a bit of a holiday, and will be even more so with the coming of the Messiah speedily in our days Amen, so it's simply not appropriate to ask for forgiveness for all our many sins.

Oh yeah, I also got in a good six hour nap today. The gain of which I'm now wasting at 1:45 AM.

But Tisha Bav is not all about pain and sleep. It's about something far, far greater. For more info, see (shameless plug again) this article by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg.

Back on the road very, very soon.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Beautiful S. Louis

I haven't written in a while. I'm sorry. See, we drove to beautiful S. Louis, MO on Friday. Have you ever been there? They have this big arch thing. Really big. We touched it. Exciting, eh?

I'd love to be able to say that we found some Jews hanging out there, but I guess they were all home preparing for Shabbos. So we headed there ourselves. Well not really home. That's in Minnesota/Florida/New York, but close enough.

And as for Shabbos? It was very nice. The Chabad Shul is, thank G-d, bursting at its seams, so hopefully they'll soon find some bigger digs. And otherwise? As I've said before, it's tough to write when you've got writer's block. There is an apostrophe there, right? After all, it is my block.

So, as I say, I'm sorry, I've nothing too inspiring to write, but hey, I'll try tomorrow. Nothing like Tisha Bav to fire up those creative juices.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Boring title, eh?

A couple of nights back we went to Lawrence to learn some Torah with the locals. Lawrence is the home of Kansas University, and so I learned Kuntres Inyana Shel Toras HaChassidus with a student. We'll call him Charles. Sorry about the plug there, it was just one of those things that had to be done. Essentially, this work explains why Chassidus is so important. After all, we have the Torah, the Mishna, the Talmud, the Kabbala, the Medrash, the Codifiers, and the great Halachic authorities. Who needs Chassidus? I won't spoil the surprise, so go pick up a copy and find out.

Officially we sell books on Merkos Shlichus. OK, not only officially, but something tells me that a little more emphasis was put on it forty years ago than today. Just a hunch. Anyway, I'm just doing my part.

After the learning was done we settled down to a Farbrengen with Rabbis Wineberg and Teichtel. It's great to be able to sit with guys who really don't have too much contact with the rest of the Lubavitch world, and who look for inspiration from Yeshiva guys like me. Me! Sure, I'm great and all, but I don't really see myself as too inspirational. (If anyone disagrees they can post a comment). See, guys in Yeshiva look up to the Shluchim, and rightly so. These people are on the front line of the battle for Jewish survival, and they're doing an incredible job! Meanwhile the Shluchim (some of them anyway) are pining for their days in Yeshiva, where a guy can be surrounded by people like himself all day and just learn and pray and all those things to his heart's content.

Sorry this is so needlessly soppy.

Anyway, we all enjoyed the Farbrengen (and the excellent pickles) and then we headed back to KC for the night. Morning. Whatever.

Next Time: More italics, and maybe some Louis

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


For all those breathlessly waiting for info on the summer Yeshiva, this is the wrong post. I'm sorry.

My friend Sruli Clapman and I just got back from a house call in Leawood, Kansas. There's a very nice elderly couple living there, and we were coming to check their Mezuzos. First, of course, we exchanged histories. He was born to Jewish parents in Salt Lake City, Utah, but had no Jewish contact until he met his current wife, in Omaha. She's involved with the Chabad here in Kansas City, and had asked for us to come. The first Mezuzah-case that we looked at had no scroll. The second had a piece of paper in it. The third had a piece of parchment, but it was obviously not Kosher. So we put up five Mezuzos, which is really tremendous. Might be a little expensive in the short run, but they protect you and all you own, for eternity, or your next scheduled oil tuneup, whichever comes first.

Following the Mezuzos, we asked the man of the house if he would like to put on Tefillin. He hemmed and hawed a bit, but his wife soon put a stop to that. 45 seconds later he had phylacteries on his head. The first time too. Amazing, isn't it, that a Jewish man can go 85+ years without checking his Jewish blood pressure! And then it was time to go, but not before cooing over their great-grandson, who is quite cute, I must say.

Tomorrow, the summer Yeshiva. If I get around to it. No, really, I'll try.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


1. difficulty
2. teaching people twice your age
3. teaching people younger than you

The Journey Continues...Oooh

Lipa Schmeltzer, for all those not in the know, is a Skverer Chassid who sings songs (what else?) in Yiddish. More Matisyahu than Yom Tov Ehrlich, if you get my drift.

Getting back to exciting Manhattan, after our aborted attempt at a meeting, it was time to go to our favorite hangout: the local library. Unlike in S. Joseph, the librarians were not too helpful. Sure, they were nice enough, but they said something about privacy and we knew it was a hopeless cause. So we left. Man, we sure do seem to do a whole lot of leaving. As we were making our departure I saw a woman staring at me. Being the naturally shy, reserved, (look on for more synonyms) and generally me person that I am, I ignored her. But she continued. So I asked, "Do you know anyone who's Jewish?" And she replied, "Well, actually I'm Jewish." Of course she's a professor at K-State. Like most college towns, it seems that everyone either works at the university or is somehow supported by it. She had never seen a Chassidic Jew in the city. Heck, I had never seen any type of Jew in the city. Which isn't too surprising, since we only arrived about seven hours before. Be that as it may, she was interested, so we gave her the standard pamphlet and business card, and even told her about this blog, which she promised to visit.

Continuing our search took us around town, which is rather empty, as it is summer break at the aforementioned university. So onto Bentonville's pride and joy, the neighborhood Walmart. And unlike the men's rooms at the mall, these were quite disappointing. The thing flushed every thirty seconds. Quite disconcerting. We davened Mincha in the parking lot, getting more stares than your average elephant in New York, and started to head home, just ahead of an impending storm. Our car was, to put it nicely, a compact, and we felt every gust of wind. But we said the Tefilas Haderech (traveler's prayer) and made it safely to Lawrence, where a hot supper was waiting (thanks Zalmy).

And that, folks, is about it. Tomorrow we'll have some more info on the summer learning program. So stay tuned. This wasn't a very stimulating conclusion, was it?

Monday, July 16, 2007

An Enjoyable and a Non-Existent Meeting (Respectively)

Our first appointment in Manhattan was something else. He's an Israeli professor at K-State, she works with autistic children in Topeka. They have three kids, two grandkids, and like Chabad. Plus they know the scoop about everyone in town. We talked about the three weeks, the problem of assimilation, and even put Tefillin on him. It was really nice. Assimilation is a major problem for these small town Jews. The synagogue is little more than a social club, and there's no real sense of Jewish pride, or even Jewish people to hang out with. And that's why we're going out, trying to remind people that yes, they are Jewish, they have something to be proud of, and they should stick with the faith.

At 5:50 we realised that #1, we had an appointment at 6:00, and #2, that we didn't know the directions, and that #3, we hadn't finished up anyway with our current appointment. Twenty five minutes later we were knocking on the door. It didn't open. Oh well. I called, very apologetic, but there was nothing to be done.

We'll get to the library, Bentonville, and KU a bit later.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Some longer words on Sunday

I just wrote for half an hour. It was pure genius. Then I accidentally clicked something, and poof! It was gone. Somewhere in cyber-heaven there's a post that will never come down. Sniff Sniff.

I got over it. Here's the new and improved Story of our Manhattan Adventures. We were driving on the I-70, and in between getting inspired by the mysterious Rabbi Gordon I made some phone calls, which went pretty well. Two people were interested in meeting us, one had no interest, one was a wrong number, and the answering machines were as always quite sweet.

Our first stop in Manhattan was the local mall. They had really cool sinks in the bathrooms. You put your hand in, and soap automatically comes out, followed shortly by water and then a grand finale of hot air to speed you on your way. Quite exciting, to tell the truth. The only problem (and there are always problems in this long and bitter exile) was that before one eats bread, one needs to wash from a cup, and those super-hight-tech sinks were not conducive to filling cups. Like true Shluchim of the Rebbe, we persevered. That's what water fountains are for. After enjoying Challah and tuna we went off to search for Jews among the stores. No luck. We went outside, and started going up the street, asking everyone if they were Jewish. Again, no luck. We did strike gold in the courthouse though. We had gone into a lawyer's office, of course he wasn't Jewish, and now met him in the local courthouse. Guess what? No, he hadn't suddenly performed a Halachic conversion, but he did know someone who didn't even have to. Mrs. Lawyer (I'd use names, but the goons at would come and smash my windows) came out. Yes, she's Jewish. Her husband is a professor at K-state. She lights Shabbos candles. Does it get any better? On our way out the palace of justice a young man wearing a large cross and a black hat stopped us and asked us where we got out hats. "Brooklyn," I replied, and answered his next query that they were Borsalinos, and cost about $160. Ridiculous, huh? The price you have to pay for fashion (religion).

Moving onto the next stop we discovered a ninety year old man who owns a business. We didn't actually meet him, as he was out to lunch (literally, not figuratively) so we just left some brochures and business cards. A guy in a jewelry shop told us about another guy, (ad infinitum) who also owns a shop. We did speak to him. Born in Manhattan, lived there all his life. Goes to Shul on the High Holidays. Good for him! Again, some brochures, etc, (another no-no in school, this time in 6th grade, "Don't you ever write 'etc.' on any reports!") and that was it.

Next time... appointments, Bentonville, and lightning

Finishing up Manhattan

6. Israelis
7. missed appointment
8. professor in library
9. missed big storm
10. supper in Lawrence

Some quick words following Shabbos

Continuing in the vein of the previous post, here's some more inspirational stuff. (In third grade my teacher, Mrs. Ring, would always tell us not to use the word "stuff" because all it represented was Thanksgiving. I'm sorry Mrs. Ring).

Rabbi Gordon was one of only a few Bochurim with a beard when he was growing up in New York in the forties. He and a friend once went on the train, and the entire car (the people therein) stopped whatever they were doing to stare at two young men with beards. It was simply unheard of. Then in the sixties all the hippies started to grow them, but back in the forties? For a Jew to proclaim his religion? To follow in the footsteps of his fathers? And now look at us. So far, thank G-d, no anti-semitism. It's got to be weird to be stopped in the street by someone wearing a black hat and jacket (in 98 degree heat) and asked if you're Jewish. Someone even asked us if we had horns! (OK, I made that up, but it could have happened. This is Kansas for crying out loud.)

What I'm trying to say is, there's no longer any need to be ashamed of being Jewish, no reason to hide your identity. Just say it loud and clear and people respect you. This is America!

Sorry, this is getting soppy. I'm sorry. It's late, I'm tired, tomorrow will be better.

As we always end Farbrengens (Chassidic gatherings) with, "Tomorrow will be totally different!" And sometimes it actually is.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Little Fruit

Why do I have a great desire to begin every sentence with the word "so"? Is there something wrong with me? Should I take English comp. 101? Does anyone really care? Would you like it if I started writing about Manhattan and stopped gibbering?

They say that you can turn on cruise control, fall asleep, wake up, have lunch, turn the steering wheel, and be all good while driving on the I-70. Point is, it's a straight road. Not too much to look at either. Since it's the three weeks we can't listen to music, so instead I popped in a CD of a Farbrengen with Rabbi Gordon. Which Rabbi Gordon? I have no idea. Not that's it's too important anyway.

Here comes the inspirational part:

Rabbi Gordon said that some people ask, "Why go out and help Jews? Live in your own world, keep your kids religious, and let everyone else do their own thing." The answer is best explained through a parable. Life is a big sea. And when people come down into this world, they're dropped into that sea. Some people happen to fall onto boats. Some people are immediately swallowed up by the dark, frigid, shark-infested, non-chlorinated, probably salty waters. The guys on the boat get to suntan. And some people even fall off the boat. Now what's the law if you see someone foundering in the depths? You must go save them! There's no Well- I-have-a-schedule-plus-my-wife-will kill-me-if-I'm-late-what's-in-it-for-me type of talk. You go and rescue the drowning person. And if the cry of "Man Overboard!" is heard? Everything stops! The man (or woman, or child, or whatever) immediately becomes the focus of attention. You must save them!

The analogy is clear. Some lucky people are born into observant homes, where Torah is learned and Mitzvos are kept. And some people are born into the opposite. And they're drowning. And it's our responsibility to save them. And if someone leaves their religious lifestyle? A man is overboard? How much greater is our responsibility?

Inspiring, huh? I certainly thought so. And guess what? There's more! Joy!

Well, next time anyway. I have to go now.

Finishing Up

I think I'll finish with S. Joe, shall we, before moving on to Manhattan. Let's see, where was I...

Ah yes, City Hall. Magnificent building, made even more magnificent by the, well, magnificent air conditioning. Do I get a prize for using the word "magnificent" three times, in a relatively intelligent manner, in one sentence? I did mention it was hot, right? Anyway, no new info from the secretary, and so we drove off to the Pony Express Museum. None of the horses had any Jewish affiliation.

There was a store that we meant to visit, but by the time we arrived it had already closed. Oh, well. But right next to that was a beautiful park that we drove and walked around, finding many beautiful vistas but unfortunately no Jews. Then we had a brilliant idea. Where do people hang out? Baseball games. So we tried to find the baseball game. Forty minutes later we ended up at the town library, so we walked in.

Gold. Both librarians were very talkative, which is perfect, because so am I. Turns out there are no decent jobs in S. Joe, but there is plenty of meth. Sounds like a good place for a nice Jewish boy, huh? We did look in the White pages though, and finally found him. The one we'd been waiting for. The whole reason we'd come into northern Missouri. A JC Penney's.

Just kidding. We found a Jew. He didn't really want to meet with us. And so of course he didn't. We don't force people to do anything. It's counterproductive.

And besides for a quick stop at the local mall, punctuated by some more talkative but unfortunately non-Jewish people, that was basically it. A success? There's a famous story that two students went a'roaming and came home depressed, having accomplished nothing. And that Shabbos, the Rebbe said that no, they had accomplished. An old woman had seen two young men walking around, with beards, hats, and jackets, and decided to light Shabbos candles. Point is, you never know what you've done. And as I said, we certainly did our fair share of walking around in beards, hats, and jackets. So please do your part and light those Shabbos candles. ;)

Next Time: The Little Apple-Big results


1. drive on I-70 straight
2. calls
3. mall
4. up and down street
5. meat man
6. Israelis
7. missed appointment
8. professor in library
9. missed big storm
10. supper in Lawrence

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Onward and Upward

Hey, just a quick shout out: we're, with G-d's help, going to Manhattan today. No, not the big city, the place in Kansas. Don't worry, I'll finish off with S. Joe. OK, got to run, there are Jews waiting to be found...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Moving Right Along

I'm actually doing something quite unique among roving rabbi types. For the first several weeks my partner, Shua Popper, and I are teaching people in a Chabad House and also going out in the (semi) wild west to look for people. Later we'll rove exclusively, but for now it's both. And you know what? They're both quite challenging.

For example, the first city we visited was S. Joseph, Missouri. It was a hot day. For some reason we couldn't find any contacts that the previous groups had made, so we were basically on our own. We were walking by the police station when we suddenly heard banging. Of course we looked up, and there was a guy waving at us. "Hey," we thought, "this is pretty easy! These guys are begging us to come!"

So we walked in, and the kind receptionist said, "People banging and waving? Oh, those must be the prisoners." And no, we weren't allowed to go and see if any were Jewish. The lady did give us the names and addresses of the two local synagogues, so we resolved to check out the situation. On our way back to the car I noticed the county office, so we went in. The commissioner was also very nice, and he was even friends with a (minister? priest? reverend?) "clergyman of another faith" who sits with the rabbi of one of the local synagogues on an interfaith board, and so we got a phone number. No one picked up the phones, or was by the synagogues, which was too bad.

Next Time...City Hall, Antiques, Baseball, and the local library


1. difficulties with summer yeshiva
2. number of Jews in Kansas- 20,000 ten years ago, 25 or 15 now-comment
3. Topeka (hopefully)

Getting started...

Wow! I'm finally on Merkos Shlichus, Roving Rabbis, whatever you want to call it. Point is, I'm here doing the Rebbe's work. Sure, the Talmud says that "G-d has many messengers" meaning that we're all sent out by G-d to improve this world, but this is something different. This is direct, official, no holds-barred action, bringing Jews closer to their Father in heaven, and bringing me closer to tuna and Matza. (There's very little Kosher food here, and tuna and matza are extremely transportable.) OK, things aren't that bad, thank heaven for Walmart and 7-11, which, by the way, is having free slurpies today. So, we're saving money for the cause, huh? Anyway, more later, Chanan

Monday, July 9, 2007

The squeaky wheel...

Or shall I say, the squeaky Rabbi? Anyway, I got the grease, so that's all good, and I'll now be posting on Cool, huh? Don't worry, I shan't forget this one. Or, maybe I will. We'll see.

First Post

So, the first blog. Sure, is great, but it's missing two very important items. Firstly, my input, and secondly, well, taste. And so I've created this blog to give you the real scoop on what's going on in the big wide world of Merkos Shlichus. Stay tuned for more...