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-

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 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 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
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


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.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


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.