Thursday, January 31, 2008


What is the scientific explanation for writer's block? I looked it up on that great source of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, and discovered that there is disagreement as to what it actually is, and whether or not it actually exists. It says there that some guy couldn't write for sixty years. That's pretty sad. Perhaps he told his wife, "Honey, I'll take out the garbage as soon as I'm done writing this page." Just imagine all that rotting garbage. Just imagine his wife's anger and disgust.
Anyway, what's more pertinent to you and me is whether or not I should bother posting anything if I really have nothing to say. On the one hand, I really want to post something everyday so that no one gets disappointed. On the second hand, perhaps people will be disappointed when they read this dribble and realize that they've wasted thirty seconds, or however long it's going to take. On the third hand, perhaps someone will sponsor an anatomy course for me.
In the world of Jewry, VIN is reporting that some Jewish women in some Israeli town have started being really Frum and wearing burqas. These women obviously have issues. I've gone on a bit of crusade these past couple of days against for posting pictures of girls. I sent in several comments, none of which have been posted of course, expressing my dismay at this blatant disregard for Halacha and common sense. may be a bit boring, and snotty to boot, but as far as I know they have yet to be accused of indecency. The reason I'm bringing both of these topics up is that they really represent a similar problem. One group thinks they're being so holy, while the other thinks that there is no problem with not being holy. As I say, it's really the same problem. What's the root of the problem? People have stopped following Shulchan Oruch and have instead decided to follow the dictates of their hearts, with the results being either excessive piety or a lack of decency. Which is worse? Personally, I think that they're equally destructive.
The solution? A return to the G-d of Israel, the one and only true G-d. Speaking of G-d, Shmulie Bortunk asked me to write that I hogged the Lessons in Tanya for twenty-five minutes today, which he claims negatively affected him. Is this assertion true? You be the judge.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

English, hockey, and some other shtuff

Many many years ago, when I was a mere child of twelve (as opposes to being a mere child of 21), I had an English teacher at Torah Academy who would make us free write for the first ten minutes of class. This was preparation for learning how to conjugate verbs and other fun shtuff, like swallowing chickens whole (Just for the record, I don't know how to conjugate verbs, and I'm little better at swallowing whole chickens, though I'm sure that with a little practice I could learn how to do either).
For some reason, I thought that this teacher was a practitioner of Wicca, though I really couldn't tell you why I thought so. I also suspected my eighth-grade teacher of being a secret communist (well, until I outed him). Speaking of my eight-grade science teacher, we used to have a floor hockey league, and various teachers were the "owners" of the teams. This teacher of mine was also my "owner", and he was persuaded by the "commissioner" (our gym teacher, Mr. C.) to trade away one of our better players in order to make the teams more fair. We ended up not winning the championship, while the kid who was traded lead his squad on to victory and eternal joy. I've never forgiven my science teacher, for obvious reasons.
An interesting future poll might be: Which is worse, a communist or a wiccan?
Anyway, my seventh-grade English teacher always told us that if we had writer's block then we should just write, "I have nothing to write", or something similarly inane, until we thought of something more edifying to write, at which point we could record that. Again for the record, I don't recall ever having nothing to write, much as I don't recall ever having nothing to say. Ahh, the curse of genius. Or maybe that's idiocy? Which President talked more, Carter or Polk? You be the judge.
This whole reminiscence has been (as you might have guessed) leading to the point that when I began to write I had nothing to say. In fact, I began this post three times before I could think of anything to type. As you see, I didn't exactly come up with anything too brilliant to say anyway.
In order that you shouldn't feel that you've been wasting your precious time, I'll relate a recent exchange that I had with a fellow Merkos Shliach, who also happens to be the brother of our very own almighty editor. I learned in the Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 685, that some people have the custom of spending every Thursday of the weeks of Shemos, Vayera, Bo, Beshalach, Yisro, Mishpatim, Teruma, Tetzavah, Vayehakel, and Pekudei, in fasting and prayer. This, by the way, is only in a leap year, the likes of which we all are currently enjoying. Anyway, my question was, why not Parshas Ki Tisah, the only week in Chumash Shemos that no one bothers to fast.
The answer I got is a good one, particularly because it has a source, Eliyah Rabba 685. The answer provided there is that since Ki Tisah is always Parshas Shekalim (in a leap year), the Tzedakah (charity) replaces the fasting.
So yeah, it's a nice answer, and yeah, it's a leap year, which means that we all get an extra month of Pesach cleaning! Woohoo!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

22 Feelings

Today is the twenty-second day of the month of Shevat, the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe's wife, Rebbitzen Chaya Mushka. There's been a nice thought that I've been meaning to relate, but I hadn't remembered it until today, which is perfect, as you'll soon see. BTW, I heard it from our Dean, the great Mordechai Friedman.
In the Torah it says that when Aaron the High Priest passed on everybody wept, while when Moses our Teacher left this world only the mens' eyes moistened. Rashi explains what he explains, and you can look it up there. R. Friedman explains, and this is available right here, that the reason everyone cried by Aaron was because they all saw Moses crying. This is similar to what is brought down in Rashi in the portion of Yisro, when he says that the entire Jewish nation came out to greet Jethro because Moses went out.
The Rebbitzen's funeral was packed, because the Moses of our generation, the Rebbe, was there.

In other news, and believe you me there ain't too much, today is also the Yahrtzeit of the Kotzker Rebbe. He's one of those guys who have some seriously popular sayings, but no one would ever actually try and follow what he says, because they'd probably lose their minds, which is precisely what his opponents accused him of doing. His goal was to seek the truth. That sound easy? Not if you think about it. Living a life according to the truth is pretty difficult.
There's a story, whose truth I can't vouch for, that a Kotzker Chassid came to his Rebbe and said that the way of Kotzk was too harsh, and he wanted to have a little more love, so he was going to the Tzemach Tzedek, to Lubavitch (which everyone knows means "City of Love"). The Kotzker said, and of course I paraphrase here, "No problem, but you should know that Chabad says the same thing as I do."
The lesson for us? As the old saying goes, "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Typical Lubavitch shtuff

Whenever a topic doesn't immediately suggest itself I try to remember something interesting that I learned recently. Today is one of those days. How about some Gemara? That's usually exciting. My thanks to Mesorah Publications/Artscroll for (presumably) not reading this blog and suing me for copyright infringement. I do recall a Halacha (law) that allows a person to ignore warnings such as the one reproduced in the beginning of the volume if by doing so a person will be spreading the light of Torah throughout the world, and possibly to California as well. Anyway, you're supposed to have Mesiras Nefesh to teach Torah, right? It's like the verse says, "Even if Nosson Scherman doth commence litigation, I shall not tarry." Or something like that.

The Gemara in Berachos, 3a, quotes a teaching of Rav, and I'll quote it too. "Rav Yitzchak bar Shmuel said in the name of Rav: The night consists of three watches, and at each and every watch the Holy One, Blessed is He, sits and roars like a lion and says: Woe to the children because of whose sins I destroyed My Temple, and burned My Sanctuary, and exiled them among the nations of the world.

I learned a Maamar with my dear friend and fellow Shliach YYXPS (Yosef Yitzchak Shusterman) that deals with exile (B'laila Hahu 1968). Back in the day I learned in Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm's Yeshiva, and he used to like saying a certain thing that I'll now relay over to you, my devoted (and apparently patronized) followers. Don't worry, this all connects in the end. At the beginning of Psalm 126 we say, "Shir Hamaalos B'shuv Hashem Es Shivas Tzion Hayinu K'cholmim, which literally translates, "A song of ascents, when Hashem will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers" (Again, thanks to out friends at Artscroll). There are many different explanations of this verse, and this is Rabbi Wilhelm's: when Moshiach comes we will look back on exile and see it as if it was a dream. As the Maamar says (see? I told you I'd tie it all in), many strange things can happen in a dream. An elephant can walk through the eye of a needle. An airplane can eat chicken. A chicken can eat an airplane. Heck, the eye of a needle could even walk through an elephant. A dream is not merely something which makes no sense; it is something which made sense at one point, during the dream, and now is incomprehensible. Our lives make sense, but only because we haven't yet woken up. Once we wake up, with the coming of the Messiah, we will realize how everything we experienced in exile really made no sense. Hey, most of it barely makes sense anyway.
It's a nice vort, no?
Getting back to the Gemara, we see that Hashem waits for us to come back to him. So why don't we start listening, and end this bad dream?
(If I was in a different mood, I'd savage this pretentious post with a quickness reminiscent of the late great Karl Retburg's famous impression of tortoises on steroids in January. In the snow. Yeah.)

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Last night I watched an oldish video of a lecture at Beis Chana. This brought to mind the not so famous (yet) story of Rabbi Manis Friedman, father of our fearless (except when it comes to strong coffee) leader, who was once asked by a non-Lubavitcher (you know what that means) a question. A quick caveat: I don't remember the wording so precisely, and I hope you'll forgive me. Perhaps one of the illustrious Rabbi's sons could provide us with a meduyak loshon. Anyway, the guy asked, "Is it permissible for me to give classes to women?" Rabbi Friedman answered, "Absolutely not." The guy said, "Waddya mean, you teach women all the time!" Rabbi Friedman answered, "I'm on Shlichus, and therefore I have the power of the Meshaleich, the one who sent me, to ensure that only good comes from my teaching, and not heaven-forbid the opposite."
As I was saying, the video I was watching was on the Holocaust. First a Righteous gentile told the story of how she saved many Jew's lives, and then R. Friedman got up to speak a bit about the Holocaust in general. He explained how the Mesiras Nefesh of the martyrs in the Holocaust was different than that of all the other martyrs in Jewish history. The traditional Jew who gave up his life, to sanctify G-d's holy name, died in a fiery pyre, or with a sharp sword at his, throat, proclaiming G-d's greatness to the very end. While it may not have been pretty, it was certainly glorious. The person literally became a martyr, and was revered as such. But the Holocaust was different. The Nazi's intent was to make the Jew less than human, and to accomplish this they mechanized the process of death, taking the humanity out and replacing it with slaughterhouse efficiency. And how did the martyr respond? He sang as he walked into the gas-chamber. His death was not glorious. Indeed, he has been criticized for not fighting to the end. But the truth is that the Jew showed greater courage, greater humanity, by singing. The Nazi's expected the Jew to fight back, because that it what animals do, and the Jew to them was an animal. But to sing? Only a man can sing.
A person realizes when they die a relatively natural death, that they have only a few moments left on this world. And when that realization comes they cease to care about the trivial pursuits with which people clutter their lives. They're not scared anymore. They realize that there is a higher power in play, and transcend the cloud which clogs our earthly vision. When the martyrs went to be killed, they knew they were being killed. And when they sang, they unnerved the guards. Because the guards expected to see sheep being lead to the slaughter, and instead they saw people, still proud of their humanity. They didn't go out in a blaze of glory, because they had past that stage. Their glory was so much higher. It was the glory of the essence of the soul. Because that which is essence can't be tampered with.

Good shtuff, eh? I may have fallen asleep in the middle, so blame me and not the Rabbi if any of this doesn't make sense. Onto slightly lighter material, I had a divine awakening right before Davening today. I decided to translate Pelech Harimon, the magnum opus of Reb Hillel Paritcher, a man who was so Batul, so nullified, before the Tzemach Tzedek that he was half-Rebbe. Why have I decided to translate this obscure work? After all, there's a lot of other Chassidus that certainly deserves to be made available for the masses. The reason is that 1. I'm interested, and 2. I'll finally officially be labeled a nut. How glorious. Seriously folks, though I'll probably abandon this dream in a couple weeks, at least I can imagine, right?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday morning feelings

Yesterday I had a conversation with my "best friend and colleague" who mentioned that the reason certain blogs thrive is because they are controversial, while other blogs which pretend that Judaism is all roses and chocolate fail miserably.
In other news, our not only fearless and gallant but also obedient to his wife leader R. Chayim Friedman Farbrenged for a bit before riding off into the sunset in order to make shnitzel or something. He told a story that's been retold countless times, and doubtless has a beard longer than your average Indian mystic who's been using Rogaine since he was six. Additionally, I have a feeling that I may have written this story already, but I can't remember, and anyway, it can't hurt to write it again. Basically, there was an old Jew in the Gulag who one Pesach had no Matza, and he suffered great agonies over his inability to fulfill this important Mitzva. The next year he had Matza, and he wanted to share it with another Jewish inmate who was incarcerated for dispossessing people of their hard-earned belongings in a manner usually associated with those of the thieves of Arabia. But I digress. This Jew had no interest in taking part in this important Mitzva, and made that known to the old Jew. Some of the cutthroat types who also inhabited the cells, and respected the old Jew as an extremely holy man, heard about the not so holy Jew's refusal to obey the old Jew's command, and threatened to slaughter him if he didn't eat the Matza. So, like any normal person, he ate the Matza. Wouldn't you?
The question is, which Jew's performance accomplished more; the old Jew who suffered intense agonies worthy of Job because he couldn't eat Matza, or the not so holy Jew who suffered intense agonies worthy not only of Job but possibly also of your average chain gang slave because he did eat the Matza? The answer, of course, is that one of these men accomplished something, while the other didn't. Eating the Matza fulfilled the biblical command. Crying, while exemplary, and quite impressive to boot, did not fulfill the Mitzva.
It's a nice story, no? Please don't all comment with more details, because 1. I know them, and 2. I purposely left them out of the story.
Everyone have a tremendous Shabbos, and remember to stay the course. Or something like that.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Some ranting, if you're lucky

Yesterday we had a Shiur with Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm. He said a vort from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef which was really nice. The question, R. Ovadia asks, is why do people react to a punch by blocking it with their arm? After all, whether the assailant hits their arm or their face, their body is still getting hit. The answer is obvious-sure, they're one body, but they're not equal in importance. Their is a saying in Judaism that all Jews are one body. R. Ovadia says, some Jews are heads, some are arms, and some are heels.
This story came up because R. Wilhelm was lamenting the sorry state of today's Jewish world, which of course has been a favorite pastime of humanity since the dawn of civilization, which of course occurred half an hour before the creation of time itself. He said that back in the old days, when times were good, Bochurim were either in Yeshiva, of which there were only half a dozen, or totally Frie. At least back then, things were relatively black and white. A Bochur knew that he had to live up to a certain standard. Nowadays though there are so many Yeshivas that cater to Bochurim who aren't living up to that standard. In fact, these schools are lowering their standards to accommodate their students, instead of raising their students to meet the standards of the yeshiva. This was always my big problem with Matisyahu, everyone's favorite fly-by-night Lubavitch/Breslov/Karlin reggae guy. The Torah calls for Kiruv, for bringing Jews closer to their Father in Heaven, when the Passuk says "U'mekarvan L'Torah." But that's exactly it; the verse says to bring the Jews up, not the Torah down.
Even back in the day, before 3 Tammuz, people Fried out. That's simply a fact, and there's no reason to pretend otherwise. But at least people knew they were Frie. Now there's a Yeshiva for everyone, and no one thinks there's any problem with anything. This is where the R. Ovadia Yosef story comes in-every Jew is part of our body, but sometimes we may have to sacrifice one part to protect another. I'm aware that such a comment could get me into deep trouble with every Lubavitcher on the planet, but what can I do?
Something that everyone can agree with is that our world is lacking boundaries. I don't mind if someone drops out, but at least they should know they've dropped out. Well, that's enough ranting for today.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My issues (fascinating, eh?)

I've recently come across some people praising my blog, saying that it's beginning to have a lot of Toichen, substance. This deeply troubles me, because people might begin to expect all my posts to have meaning, which is of course not only unrealistic but also undesirable. It's good to be silly every once in a while, and if it's funny as well, even better.
Speaking of silly, I think it's high time that a little Shmuley Boteach bashing goes on here once again. After all, what would life be if we couldn't kick dead horses? In his most recent article Shmuley says several things that got on my nerve.
The main thing which annoyed me was the story he told at the end of the article. Basically, back in 1992, Shluchim were throwing around different ideas as to how they should mark the Rebbe's ninetieth birthday. Some suggested that ninety new institutions should be established, while others called for each Shliach to bring ninety new people before the Rebbe. Shmuley suggested that they work hard to get the Rebbe a Nobel Peace Prize. Shmuley says that unfortunately nothing ever came of it.
My problem is that this guy is still proud of having such a stupid idea. The Rebbe had no interest in Nobel Peace Prizes, or indeed prizes of any sort. He would much rather his Shluchim spend their time helping one Jew put on Tefillin than a thousand such prizes. Fine, so Shmuley was young and immature back then, but to still think it was a good idea?
After I wrote the above I approached our fearless Rosh Yeshiva, leader of Bochurim and all-round good guy to find out if my thought process was straight. First he told me to speak to Avremel Shemtov, and then he popped my pimple, saying that my thought process was actually more bent than your average blech, more twisted than your average steel cable, and more warped than your average thirteen year old, exposed to water, eaten by termites, and used for a Sukkah, piece of lumber. (Wow, now that was a great American sentence). He said that obviously the Rebbe did not want any personal honor. But if the Rebbe gets an honor or a prize, and it brings Jews closer to their father who art in heaven, then it's a wonderful thing. What a Noble prize would have accomplished is beyond the scope of our imagination. Just think, world hunger might no longer be a problem. Perhaps global warming would be accepted by all the environmentalist types as a not only necessary but quite desirable thing. The Democratic party might have been abolished. Oh well.
There only remains one problem; I had already written the first bit, and I didn't quite feel like writing a whole 'nother thing. But as you can see, it all worked out. Praise the L-rd!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

15th story

Today we had a Shiur from Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm about, what else, 15 Shevat. The basic point was, what's up with it? Why celebrate it? We didn't really get an answer. Why don't we say Tachanun? Why can't we fast? It appears that there is a Siman in Shulchan Oruch, or that at least it's mentioned, but I wasn't able to find it. Sorry. How about a story instead?

Many years ago there was a great Rebbe named Reb Levi Yitzchak from Berditchev. I told a story about him to a friend last night, and I figure that since I really don't have too much else to write I might as well just tell it over here.

He had a son of marriageable age, and throughout the days Shadchanim, matchmakers, would come with proposals. Reb Levi Yitzchak would turn them down, and pay each one. Eventually the Shadchaim stopped proposing matches, because they knew that Reb Levi Yitzchak didn't have any money, and they felt bad wasting his money when obviously none of their suggestions were working.

A few weeks later Reb Levi Yitzchak called the Shadchanim and asked them why they had stopped bringing his son proposals? They answered that they didn't want to to pay for ones which didn't work out, since Reb Levi Yitzchak didn't have any money to waste. Reb Levi Yitzchak told them the following:

It says in the Gemara that forty days before a child is conceived a voice goes out in heaven and proclaims, "The son of so and so is going to marry the daughter of so and so." If this is the case, why is it so difficult on earth to find a match? The reason is that in heaven it's also not so simple to make a match. A voice announces, "The son of so and so will marry..." and immediately angels come and shout out names. Eventually one angel is heard above the rest, and his name is chosen as the one, at which point the heavenly voice proclaims, "The daughter of so and so." Sometimes only one name was spoken, and sometimes it's hundreds. Since our temporal world reflects the celestial realm, a person must go through all the proposed names before they find their true match. Every time a Shadchan proposes someone, even if it's not the right match, the true match is brought closer to fruition. And that's why I pay every time, because you're bringing my son closer to his wife.

It's a nice story, no? My friend really like it. He's in the middle of the dating scene. You have anyone for him?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Coffee, Tefillin, and Trees

This morning I came back to YHSTC with a very humble and devoted servant of Yeshiva, a man so great that his identity must be kept hidden for fear of the evil eye, or possibly world domination by a race so evil that its name too must never be revealed. Or something like that. Anyway, we stopped in an anonymous coffee shop to get high. While our coffees were being made he (our anonymous hero) noticed that some whipped cream had come into contact with the rim of one of the cups. He asked the coffeemaker man to give us a different one. The man obliged. I was very impressed. I absolutely hate making a scene of anything, and would probably have just dumped the coffee or something instead of saying something. But our hero was no shy man when it came to upholding the laws of Kashrus. Though he specifically told me not to write his name, I'd just like to say that I was truly impressed.
After witnessing the above Kiddush Hashem I went to Daven. Since today is a Monday, we read the Torah, and I noticed a kid taking his Tefillin off while the Torah was still out. I went over, with my newly-found assertiveness and told him that his actions were forbidden by the Laws of Moses. I started to wonder why exactly it's forbidden, so I checked it out. The Alter Rebbe says that the reason is the same one as why a person can't take his Tefillin off in front of his Rabbi. The reason a person can't take his Tefillin off in front of his Rabbi is because it's disrespectful to uncover your head in the presence of your Rabbi. The Magen Avraham in Siman 38 says that it appears from the Beis Yosef's words that the prohibition is when the person takes their Tefillin off before their Rabbi, which would make it appear that they're more important, or that they're giving him a sign to take off his Tefillin.
Once I figured out the above I turned my attention to the Maamar in this week's Dvar Malchus, Kuntres Tu B'Shevat 5751. It's so amazing, because it reveals a 15 Shevat that is so much deeper than carob and apricots. I'm not trying to be mean or anything (which of course means that I have every intention of being a jerk), but how exactly is 15 Shevat celebrated in Beth Medrash Gevoha or Mir? They skip Tachanun. They eat some fruit. Perhaps they even have a shmooze about "Ki Haadam Eitz Hasadeh", that man is a tree in the field, which is explained in Taanis 7A. What's funny is that if the Misnagdim knew the way 15 Shevat was explained in Chassidus, it would be their biggest holiday. The Rebbe says, near the end of the Maamar, and I freely translate:

And this is what it means, that the fifteenth of Shevat is the new year for trees, that the concept of tree alludes to Torah, (as was explained in the beginning of the Maamar), that this day gives strength to the entire year with regards to the learning of Torah. The learning of Torah should be with diligence and fortitude, and that the Torah which a person learns should be his pleasure and life force (as was explained earlier, that in Kabbala, a tree is representative of pleasure). And according to what is known, that all of the four Rosh Hashanahs {Jewish New Years} are connected to one another, we can say that the Rosh Hashanah of trees gives the power that the concepts which are connected with the other three new years should be fulfilled with pleasure, like we said previously, that through Torah, even the service of Kabbalas Ol {Acceptance of the yolk of heaven} should be with pleasure. This is the reason why the new year of trees is on the fifteenth of the month, instead of the first like the other three new years, because the fifteenth is the fullness of the moon, while the first is when the moon is just barely visible, because this that the moon is barely visible shows on the concept of Bittul {nullification}, while pleasure in the service of Hashem, and specifically in the learning of Torah, is an idea of completion and greatness.

You understand? All right, so it wasn't the world's greatest translation, and it didn't really make a whole lot of sense, because you don't know all the previous shtuff, but I think it made the point that 15 Shevat is the day which is most connected with the perfection of Torah study, Torah Lishmah, Torah for its own sake. And if the Misnagdim knew that Chassidus explains why Torah is important, then they'd be bigger Chassidim than the Chassidim, because they know how to learn. As I mentioned once before, one of the Rebbe's points was to show how every day is the most important day in the history of time. This 15 Shevat, in 5768, has potential to be the greatest day that mankind has yet witnessed.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


There's an old saying 'round these parts...A friend in need is a friend in deed. So it's interesting that someone calling himself "Your best friend and colleague" would savage my recent post. It's funny, because I specifically did not write about girls, so I'm not sure what the problem is. I was going to write a whole thing about my cluelessness as to the identity of my supposed best friend, but then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I'm not going to put a link to his blog here, mainly because I can't quite remember what the address is, but also because he has terrible grammar, and I'd hate to expose my loyal and enlightened readership to that kind of abuse.
How about for something interesting that doesn't have to do with girls? How about we discuss a different issue? Like my flight today which was delayed for two hours? All right, I guess that's the end of this discussion.
Remember I heard a great thing from our gallant leader on 19 Kislev that I couldn't quite recall? Well R. Chayim Friedman, Principal partner of worldwide peace efforts at YHSTC said it over on Thursday night, and I think I should be able to regurgitate it for your reading pleasure.
A guy came to R. Aharon the Great of Karlin, and said, "Rebbe! I became a Baal Teshuva, a returnee to the faith of my fathers, mothers, grandparents, etc, and at first it was tremendous. I felt a fire in my belly, a closeness to the divine, a true appreciation for the wonders of Cholent on Motzei Shabbos, Saturday night (bathing time in Denver). Now however, I've lost all feeling for Judaism. What's the problem?" The Rebbe answered with a Passuk, a verse, from the Torah, and a parable, which I do remember.
He said, "There was once a very rich man who gave a loan to two very poor men. One of them invested the money wisely, and built up a great fortune. The other squandered the money on cheesecake and expensive Sefarim
The rich man came back after five years, and came to the investor dude. The investor dude said that he'd be happy to pay the loan back, but the rich guy said that he didn't have to, because he had used the money well. Next he came to the squanderer, and insisted that the guy pay him back every last red cent, because he had wasted the opportunity. The analog to this parable is that the inspiration that a person has when they do Teshuva, when they repent, is comparable to a loan. If they use it wisely, then it lasts them forever. If they squander their original inspiration, then eventually it is lost."

Introspective Shtuff

Tonight is my birthday. Tonight I am 21. Tonight I'm really tired and don't really feel like blogging. But I'll do it anyway, because I'm so loyal to you, my audience. You're welcome.
A relative of mine, who shall remain nameless until he begins to read this blog regularly, said that I should be careful with what I write here, because some girl is going to go on a Shidduch date with me, use that great invention known as google, and come up with this blog. A little more searching may just turn up some shtuff that I perhaps might not want a girl I was dating to read, VD"L. So I answered him, "You know what? If a girl doesn't like what I write, then I don't want to marry her." He answered, "What if her mother reads it?" to which I had no answer.
Now of course there are certain aspects of my personality, perhaps many aspects of my personality, that I readily admit are not perhaps the greatest aspects of all time. Contrary to many people's opinion, I am not in fact perfect. Sorry to disappointment you. What I'm trying to say here is that the opinions on this blog are opinions which I am not embarrassed to have broadcast publicly. I've said many dumb things in my life, many things which I don't want my wife, and certainly not my mother-in-law reading, but they weren't put out for all the world to hear. I've self-censored myself a lot on this blog. For example, I wrote a whole thingie tonight about the girls of easy virtue in Crown Heights, but then I decided that it really wasn't consistent with what I want the world to be reading. Knowledge is powerful, and it's also dangerous. A week ago I was planning on blogging about a serious issue in my community, but decided that it was really none of my business. Would it have been popular? Sure. Would it be the right thing to do? Probably not. So I didn't.
Anyway, sorry for being so pretentious here. Birthdays tend to make me thoughtful, and to get me out of my normal position in life as a wannabe letz.
I wrote at the beginning of this blog that I really didn't feel like blogging, and I guess it showed. Oh well, these things happen.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Wrapping Up Yud Shevat

To the right is a photo of our fearless leader, Rabbi Chayim Friedman, courtesy of I only arrived at Beis Rivka at 10:30 because I had been at 770, where they spoke a foreign language, so I left. Much was said, many Lchaims were said, and this blog now sounds like a typical CH report. Sorry. R. Friedman said a great thing, which in his modesty he attributed to R. Yoel Kahn. Here goes. Let's say you have a hat. It doesn't really matter which brand, but preferably Borsalino. If there are nine papers in there that have an Aleph on 'em, and one that has a Beis, what's the chances that you'll draw an Aleph versus a Beis? Obviously, there's a 9/10 chance that you'll draw an Aleph. The first time you pick, it's a Beis. Incredible. You mix them up again, and the second time? A Beis. The third time? a Beis. The odds are astounding. How about you pick two thousand times, and every single time it's a Beis. The bookies in Las Vegas are having conniptions worthy of a Pharaoh. The 2001 time. What are the chances that baby's gonna be an Aleph? 9/10.
The Rebbe told us that Moshiach is going to come before Maariv. And the next night the Rebbe told us that Moshiach is going to come before Maariv. What's up with that? Our problem is that we think that Moshiach has only a 1/10 chance of coming. Like Rabbi Schapiro told us, before the the fall of Communism, it seemed that the only way the Jews would ever get to leave Russia was if Moshiach would come. It seemed more likely that Moshiach would come then that the Russians would fall. And guess what? The Rebbe was right again. Anyway, as I was saying, the reality is that there's a 9/10 chance that Moshiach is coming before Maariv. And if, CH"V, Moshiach does not come, our disappointment should be genuine. Because the fact is that he's coming, and he's coming now.
I made my way over to 770 at 1:30, and at this point I'd like to give a big Yasher Koach to Lands End, because they're moccasins kept my feet dry in rather bad rain. In 770 I packed in to hear R. Schapiro Farbreng, and he was great, of course, though it beats me as to what he actually said. See, I was nearly killed by the various Dibs and other forms of life who were smashing various parts of my body against various parts of benches and other various things that hang around the various parts of 770. To sleep I went at 4:30. Again. Great Joy.
Since this week is my Bar-Mitzvah Parsha I'd like to write the Dvar Torah that I said on that momentous occasion so many years ago. We know that whenever the Torah says the word "Vayehi" it's prefacing a bad thing for the Jews. So why does this Parsha, Beshalach, begin with a "Vayehi"? After all, the Jews are leaving Egypt, home of all those connipting Pharaohs! The answer is in the words of the Passuk-Vayehi Beshalach Pharaoh, And it was when Pharaoh sent out. The Jews attributed their leaving to Pharaoh, not to Hashem. And that, my friends, is not a good thing. At least they redeemed themselves later in the Parsha, when they believed in Hashem and in Moshe his servant. Want some fun? Ask a Misnaged to explain that one.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Yud Shevat Review

Today was Yud Shevat, and I thought I'd give you a little insight of what it was like for me. I went to 770 to for Maariv, and started Davening with the fifth Minyan that had began after I came. This year is the first year that I'm truly appreciating this holiday. Every time I turn my head I see a friend that I haven't seen in a year or two, and of course I must have a conversation with them. The difference between guys and girls, besides the obvious ones, like their (whose?) superior intelligence (I'm not telling-too dangerous) is that girls have to talk every two days in order to keep close, whereas guys can not see each other for twenty years and then hook up like it was yesterday. Man, that was a nasty sentence. My point is merely that I've been bumping into friends, and it's really great. So anyway, after Davening Maariv, I talked with some guys, including the not so-almighty editor, and then walked up some Shul on Crown St, called Agudah (I think). It has some great exposed brick for a wall, which is something that I really like. Rabbi Schapiro, of YOEC fame, was the Mashpia, and boy oh boy he didn't disappoint. His greatest line is "Taamu Ureu Ki Tov Havaya", literally, "Taste and see that G-d is good." It's funny, he didn't actually say it this time, but it was the underlying foundation of everything that he did say. Oh, in case you're wondering, I'm aware that it's from Tehillim.
The great thing about R. Schapiro is that he makes everything crystal-clear; in fact, it's from him that I picked up my life-philosophy of "Either G-d or Baal", which is basically that if a person believes in Hashem, then he or she should go all the way, and if not, then leave it all. This is of course the subject of today's Tanya. Look it up. The truth is that this philosophy doesn't leave any room for 99% of our Jewish brethren, so it does require the caveat that if a person is trying, or trying to try, to be sincere, then it's all right if they slip up from time to time.
R. Schapiro dealt with a whole host of issues, all of which are very important. The one which struck me the most was his assurance that if a person gives his all to the Rebbe, then the Rebbe will give his all to the person. He brought as an example a true story, that actually happened (Emese Maase Shehaya), where a guy had four unmarried daughters. He went to the Ohel, and promised the Rebbe 10,000 dollars for each, and he paid up. That year, all four of his daughters got married. This was not a guy swimming in cash, and that's the point. Only if something is difficult is it worth doing. As a Bochur, it's out of the question for me to give 10,000 dollars, because I've never even seen that much money. Rather, I, and everyone, has to do something special, something that can't even be demanded, and do it.
So I went to sleep at 4:30, and woke up at 8:45. This comes after getting four hours of sleep the previous night too. Following Mikveh and Davening (in 770 [not the Mikve]), I went to the Ohel, waited in line for 45 minutes, which time I spent listening to inane comments for 14 year olds, and saying the first third of Tehillim, was in the Ohel itself for approximately 39 seconds, tried to be a little holy for a few seconds, and then it was all over. Mincha in the Rebbe's house was interesting, to say the least. After the chazzan started Ashrei a kid finished with Tehillas Hashem... and then launched into half-Kaddish. Once he was done the Chazzan said half-Kaddish. So that was weird. My Yud Shevat concluded with a Sicha learned in 770, with my good friend Yossi Shomer, and tonight I'll be farbrenging again with R. Schapiro.
And as they say in books, magazines, and other forms of idiocy, a good time was had by all. And remember, starting a sentence with "And" is an important ingredient of your everyday breakfast.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Life Lessons and other shtuff

Last night I learned a valuable lesson, one that would go nicely on A Shtikel Farbrengen. But it's here, and it's now, and I can't think of a funny way to end the sentence, so tough luck.
Anyway, I was talking with a distinguished lawyer last night about various random things, and I noticed that he jay-walked. I did it too. Actually, the entire Manhattan was doing it. I mentioned that five years ago he would never have done such a thing. Then he recalled a conversation he had with a trial lawyer, who said that whenever he was going to trial he would always be very careful to follow all laws very carefully, because you just never know who's watching. He (the trial lawyer) had seen cases that had been lost because a juror had earlier that day seen the prosecuting attorney do something illegal. So you just can't be too careful.
This got me thinking about one of the major complaints that one hears from Bochurim. They can't stand Yeshivas' rules about clothing, language, and various things. Why can't they read a newspaper in the gas station, or a sports magazine in the store. The answer to this is that Bochurim can't do whatever they like, because they never know who's watching, just like the lawyer can't do whatever he likes, because he just doesn't know who's watching. It's like the Gemara says, that if a person wants to sin, let him go far away, put on a black cloak, and sin. Obviously this isn't a blanket condoning of misdeeds; rather it is saying that when sin a purely private affair it's much better than when it is public for all the world to see.
In conclusion, I'd just like to wish everybody a meaningful Yud Shevat, and they should take their Mashpia's guidance to heart, and may we soon be redeemed, and then we will truly laugh and sing. As well as doing various other activities of course.
(Ahh, wasn't that sweet?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The shtuff we do

There's this great program out there called Google Analytics that lets you see a whole bunch of shtuff about the people who visit your site. The most important feature is a thing called "Keywords". Keywords are the words that people searched for which resulted in your site showing up. I've had some pretty funny ones, but the latest one was actually a bit disturbing. Someone searched for "Naked Bochurim" and my site was the first to be featured on Google's list. What kind of weirdo would search for unclothed Yeshiva boys? I truly have no idea. Well, I do know that this person was from Montreal. Have they ever heard of a Mikveh? But that's hardly the point I'm trying to bring out here. The point is (is) that I brought this funny little thing to the attention of CCL, who immediately railed against me as being the purveyor of much sin, vice, and other forms of prohibited pleasure. I decided to investigate, because I didn't recall ever mentioning Bochurim going commando on, and lo and behold, guess who's comment it was that triggered my exceptional listing? That's right folks, and here's the proof. You like?
I'm glad to hear that you thought that was funny. In other news, I've come to the Big Apple in honor of Yud Shevat. Why so early? Well, you see, I also have Yehuda Leib Heber's wedding to attend tonight. And that, my friends, is the story, so remember to park your cars wisely and to never eat chicken's before they hatch. As they say, sterility is the mother of invention.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bochurim who have girlfriends have brains the size of a peanut. I'm being serious. You want to know why I say this? (btw, this has potential, because I'm rather livid) I was just exposed to an article on about another major problem in Lubavitch. It's funny, Lubavitch only has major problems. There are no minor problems that we can just ignore and pray for disappearance of; rather we have major problems that we do ignore and don't even bother to pray for. Anyway, back to my original point. The article is about girls on Shlichus who get used by the Shluchim and Shluchos who bring them out. Do I agree that it's terrible for girls to get no food, for girls to not get paid, for girls to be used as cleaning ladies and babysitters, for girls to be guilted into doing things, "For the Rebbe", that no normal human being would ever do. My problem with this is, what are they thinking? Are they thinking at all? Whatever happened to leaving? Back in the day, when I was a counselor in a camp in California, I decided that for my spiritual, physical, mental, and biological well being, I should leave and go home. And guess what? I have not regretted this decision once since then. Why, instead of taking action, do these people think that they have to waste my time by putting op-eds up on websites. Sure, I had the choice not to read the article, but come on, you think a guy like me isn't going to read an unsigned editorial on a Lubavitch news website? Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?
Sorry, I guess that I just wasn't able to keep up the intensity of that rant for too long. Here's a cute little story. One Bochur came to me, back when I was a student at YOEC in CA, and told me how he had broken up with his girlfriend, because she was costing too much money. He was too dumb to realize that she was ruining more than his wallet, but I digress. The point is that even he understood the stupidity of his actions.
I was once at a Shtikel Farbrengen, and the Mashpia said that every Bochur needs a girlfriend. All ears present perked up, down, around, and then returned to the up position, ready to listen to every pearl flowing from the lion's mouth. He said that a major problem in Lubavitch (another one of them) was that Bochurim had no one to talk to, to trust, to love, to etc. So there are two solutions; one is to give every Bochur a girlfriend. The other option is to make sure that Bochurim have parents, teachers, and Mashpiim who they can talk to, someone they can trust, someone they can love, someone they can etc.
Like I've pointed out since the beginning of time, and possibly half an hour before that, there are Maalos and Chisronus, advantages and disadvantages, to each. Each could theoretically result and much good, and each could theoretically end in much bad. Lefi anias daati, according to my not so humble opinion, the bad far outweighs the good in the first option, and the good far outweighs the bad in the second. So once again, we're left with the conclusion that the only solution is good parenting. And praying to G-d. And having a brain.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chosen and other shtuff

Today I said a word incorrectly while I was saying Berachos, and it got me thinking. In the Beraisa we say at the end, Ailu Devarim, it enumerates different rewards for different things. One of them is that a person who is early to the Beis Medrash in the morning and evening "eats of the fruit" of the of the deed in this world and principal is reserved for the world to come. So I accidentally said "Beis Hamikdash" instead, and began to think...did people go to the Beis Hamikdash regularly back in the day?
For example, back in the more recent days, everyone would pile into 770 for prayers when the Rebbe would Daven, as well as for Sichos and other shtuff. Did the same thing at the temple mount? Was there anything to see? Was it seen as "Chassidish" to be there? I understand that many people didn't have the time, but did Bochurim come every day? All right, so you had to be pure, but did people keep themselves pure in order that they should be able to attend? Was there coffee, tea, and cookies for those who showed up? The daily life of people in the times of the Beis Hamikdash is really fascinating. How often did the average Joe see the king? What did the king do all day? We know a lot about what happened in the political, military, and religious life of the people from Tanach, but what about the proletarian view of things? Were there local shtieblach, and were they used on Shabbos as well? Was there a police force? Were there traffic rules?
Anyway, I was just wondering. In other news, I found out where I'm going to caucus. It's in some school. Who will I go for? I really have no idea. Every candidate has some good points and bad points, and of course nothing they say means anything, because all politicians are flip-floppers. Truth is, Ron Paul is probably honest, but who wants a Nazi in office? I guess I'll just have to figure it all out then. Of course, if the race is decided by then, it'll be pretty disappointing.
Finally, R. Zeilengold gave a speech on Shabbos in which he cursed out a couple people without actually mentioning what they did, or even their names, meaning that only they, plus those with IQ's over 37, got what he was saying. The problem for Rabbi Z. is that these people aren't going to listen anyway, but I guess he figures that as Rabbi of the Shul he's obligated to say something. I can imagine that it's pretty difficult to be leader of a Shul. Think about it, you're responsible for the spiritual welfare of a bunch of people who have no desire to be guided. This isn't only a problem in Lubavitch, though it might be accentuated here, because we all think that we know how everything should be done, and who's this guy trying to tell us what to do? Fact is, every Jew is like this, and even if in other, non-Lubavitch, congregations, the problem isn't as obvious, I'm sure that it's still there. Yeshiva's have it easier, because at least they have some way of enforcing their will, though even that is very difficult. In a Shul, no Rabbi has any real power to enforce his will. It's different in a Chabad House, because there people (at least pretend to) respect the Shliach. Another point in the Shliach's favor is that his job is to help people, not to run a Shul. In a Minyan of Anash, there are very few who respect their Mora D'asra, whose job it is to run a Shul. The difference is that the Shul is an institution that is greater than the people in it; we can always replace the people, but not the Shul. A Shliach on the other hand is a product of the people, and as such is pretty much obligated to cater to their needs. Some people in my congregation think that if they can break the monopoly, by starting a new Minyan, then they'll either fix the current Shul or at least have an alternative. Will this work? There are, like I constantly stress about everything in life, pros and cons. Some breakaways work, because the people involved are willing to work together and compromise. It's like a marriage, except that instead of one partner you have twenty. All other problems, like money, space, Sifrei Torah, etc, are incidental. The reason I don't think our community would allow it to work is that I don't think there's any willpower to make it work. Besides, personally, I love politics. Politics is what makes life exciting. Though the truth is a breakaway Minyan would help politics bloom. So it's a win-win. Joy!

Saturday, January 12, 2008


One of the greatest pleasures that people have is receiving emails. There are few things that can compare with opening up your inbox and finding a bunch of people waiting to correspond with you. Of course, as you have probably figured out, I didn't get any emails tonight. How is it possible that a whole day should go by and not one human being should find it necessary to communicate electronically with me? This situation must be remedied. Here's some emails I'd like to get in the next couple of days...

Subject: You win our prize! Click here to claim
Dear Real Shliach, we have exciting news. You've just been selected as the eighteenth winner of the Doris Danforth Memorial Shliach Prize. We know how excited you are, and can't wait to give you a beautiful hand-carved wooden chicken in appreciation of all you've done for Shlichus in the last year. Please send a SASE to our national headquarters to claim your award.

Subject: Does your back hurt?
Dear Real Shliach. How are you? Does your back hurt from doing three Hagbahs, on heavy Sefer Torahs, in the last day? Do you wish that someone else had volunteered for the pain, agony, and other sorts of things that sometimes happen? Well friend, here is your chance to remedy the situation. Just send a SASE to someone else's national headquarters, and by the time you get a reply, your back pain will be gone! If it's not, don't worry, there'll be a full discount.

Subject: Is this not so funny?
Dear Real Shliach, what is up? Is your writing not as funny as you would like it to be? Are you disappointed that the spirit of Dave Barry is not currently hovering above you? Well, please do not fear, because we have the perfect plan for you. Just sell your soul for the low, low price of one million dollars to the comic god, and he'll make sure that everything you write from now on is brilliantly hilarious.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Coconut Gods

Since yesterday's blogging seemed to have been well received by the proletariat, I figured I'd write some more caustic remarks which would be sure to draw a chuckle or two. Then I realized that there'd be a problem with this approach. See, it would be almost impossible to recapture the moment which lead to the original descriptions- I was under pressure to produce the copy correctly, to make it as pareve as possible, and I had been doing it for two hours and was in a mean mood. This is why most funny people are not happy; most humor comes out of bitterness. Is that true? Did I just make it up on the spot?
I could of course savage someone or something for this post, but I'm just not in a foul mood. There's no fire burning in my belly. How about a little Torah? People always like a little Torah. It makes them feel good about wasting their time reading blogs.
This is Parshas Bo, which includes the final three plagues that the Egyptians went through. Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm asked a simple question. What was so bad about the plague of darkness? It was just night for a week. All right, so the second half was a bit rough, much like a traditional Vikings season, but otherwise, what was so bad? This is especially true when one considers that the plagues went from bad to worse, starting with the blood and ending with the death of the firstborn. Shouldn't darkness, if it needed to happen, have come earlier? Isn't fiery hail at least slightly worse?
One of the primary components of the plague was that the Egyptians couldn't see each other, as the verse states. This is a terrible thing indeed, when a person feels that he's all alone. Man can withstand suffering with the help of others, but when there are no others, with whom shall man commiserate? Think about it. If you were stuck, alone on a desert island, with only coconuts to eat, wouldn't that be terrible? Even I, a big coconut sorbet fan, would get sick of it after a couple days. Within a week I'd probably make an idol out of the coconuts, and two weeks later have started my very own world religion. Muhammad must have been Jewish somehow, because only a Jew could possibly make as successful a religion as he has. What will my religion feature? Besides the coconuts? Probably some sort of palm tree ritual. Sand worship will also probably feature prominently. So, does anyone want to join?
Oh yeah, back to the Torah. One of the problems that many of us have today is that we're suffering from the same plague as the ancient Egyptians were. We just can't seem to understand that not only are we not the only creatures out there, but that we aren't even the most important creatures! Hey, I can think of at least two more important creatures than you, and probably more, if I really think hard about it. But I'm too lazy, so we'll just stick with these two.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Chinese take the cake

Today I agreed to write the catalog for an unnamed Chinese Auction. You think it’s easy. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. To write a description of sixty items, when half the time the description I was given is pathetic, is like trying to build a bridge over the River Kwai with some chopsticks and half-drunk Texans swearing every time another toe is cut off. In fact, it’s even worse, because there are no half-drunk Texans, just sober ones with long machetes carved our of elephant ivory, smuggled into the country in Poilisher’s long Peyos. Anyway, the work went OK for the first twenty items or so, but then my natural sarcasm boiled up, and here are some of the gems that my fertile brain managed to uncover from the dark recesses that make up the labyrinth that is the Real Shliach.
Here’s one:
Are you paranoid about living in Crown Heights, with the recent rise in home invasions, robberies, murders, etc? Well no fear, because soon you’ll be the owner of either a 4 channel DVR with 2 cameras and monitor installed, or 3 inside and 2 outside intercoms installed. Now you’ll have someone to blame when you’re beaten by some Puerto Rican who came in to steal your TV.

And another:
Your child’s first Bris, first smile, first step, first Aliyah, first marriage, first divorce, first burial, all saved on this video camera with state of the art Mini DV capabilities.

And one more:
Is there a man in your life who looks like he just walked out of a Concentration Camp? Dress him for success with a Ben Barber shirt, tie, and cufflinks, as well as a pair shoes by Skoblo, a pair of glasses by a glasses store, and he can even pray with his new Tallis from ___.

The sarcasm keeps on rolling…
Music has never sounded better, with a tall stereo from Sharper Image. This is so tall, it dwarfs even the Empire State Building. But don’t worry, it sounds great. So will the IRS man explaining your new tax bracket.

And more…
Have you ever tried to run after your screaming toddlers while trying to talk on an old cord phone? No more, because with these new and improved, and really thin, cordless phones, you’ll be able to smack your kids and talk to your therapist, all at the same time!

My, you are lucky. Here’s some more:
Your daughter will enjoy time spent with her brand new American Baby Doll, as she tells it her inner secrets. You’ll enjoy the time she spends with it, because it’ll enable you to do some important things, like chat with your therapist about your son’s inexplicable attachment to your daughter’s new American Baby Doll.

Are you excited yet? I thought so. I sure hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sure, whatever man

Some people seem to think that brute force is the only way to live. That suffering and punishment are the only means to achieve a goal. I may have contributed to this by suggesting that we threaten people with AK-47s in order to make them compliant with the rules and regulations which G-d laid down for all of us on Mount Sinai. In addition, some people also think that a blog is no good unless it rants and raves about shtuff, particularly Lubavitch. To both these claims, I would just like to simply state that everyone knows that Chabad is all about love. Is everyone in Chabad perfect? No. Heck, I just may be the only perfect person left! But that shouldn't deter us from our core mission of bringing Moshiach.
Moving right along, today is the first day of Shevat, meaning that there is just 3.5 months left until Pesach. Have you scrubbed your floors? Have you scrubbed your cars? Have you been indicted for child abuse for making your kids do things now which many parents reserve for a month before Pesach? Point is, you've got to start getting ready, both physically and spiritually. Yesterday, I began the arduous journey out of Egypt by learning a Maamar that discusses this very topic. I won't go into it all now, because it's not even Purim yet, but suffice it to say that some of us here at the Real Shliach have a lot to do before offering the Pascal lamb. For example, I have to find out where exactly one gets a lamb. Then I need a permit to first slaughter and then roast it in my back yard. Finally, I need a Rabbi who'll certify that I'm not actually crazy for planning this ceremony before the afore-mentioned arrival of the Messiah. See, it's actually forbidden to sacrifice any sort of animal, including man, before the arrival of the Messiah. There was a town where they did it, back in the days of the Gemara, but they had some excuse which I can't remember right now. Whoever knows, drop me a comments. Preferably not sarcastic, but at this point, I'll take anything.
And one last thing. Last night most of the Shluchim and teachers here at YHSTC watched a video about kids with learning disabilitys. The most important point that was made, and this applies to all people, is that fairness does not mean giving everyone the same thing; it means giving everyone what they need.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The inner Misnaged

There's an old saying among Chassidim: If you can't find a Chassid to ask advice from, go ask a Misnaged, and do the opposite. Back in the day there were people who literally did this. Nowadays however, Misnagdim aren't so thick-skinned, and they might get insulted if you do the opposite of what they say. It's still a good trait to inculcate in young ones. Of course, what it means for us is that we should ask our inner Misnaged, and do the opposite of what he says. There's a famous story of an even more famous Chassidic Rebbe, poor as a synagogue mouse, who once received 300 rubles for his personal use. His personal attendant was quite happy about this, because it meant that he'd finally be able to pay off some of the debts which so plagued the household. A man walked into the Rebbe's room, and poured out a tale so woeful that even a crocodile would shed genuine tears. Essentially, Basically, Like, So, he had a daughter who was of marriageable age, and they had found a wonderful boy, brilliant as the sun, kind as the stork, handsome as an albino rhinoceros, hospitable as a Hmong innkeeper, and virtuous as the swallows of Capistrano. Only problem was, he demanded a dowry of 300 rubles to finance a pyramid scheme he was planning on making with some friends from the local Yeshiva. All right, so maybe the last part's a little exaggerated, but the rest is true. Really, I promise. Anyway, the distraught man begged the Rebbe to help him. The Rebbe took the 300 rubles which had been given him, ang gave them to the now frabjous man. The personal attendant ran to the Rebbe, and asked how he could ignore his 13 starving children, his wife dressed in tatters, and various other household expenses, like the DSL bill. The Rebbe explained, "At first I thought to give the man the whole sum. Then I thought, why give it all to one man? I can divide it into six parts, give five to some very poor familys that I know of, and keep the sixth to help my own family. After all, it's my money! Then I realized that this was the voice of the Yetzer Hora, the evil inclination, (the inner Misnaged), and that the first thought which popped into my head was the correct course. So I gave him the whole sum."
The inner Misnaged makes a lot of sense. He can bring proofs from a thousand places to prove his point. His logic is impeccable. But that's exactly what it is, logic. G-d is above logic. The Chassid, connected as he is, is also above logic. Logic would say that Chassidus should never have survived the Cherem (ban) of the Vilna Gaon. Logic would say that it should have died with the cantonists. Logic would say that America should have killed off the remnants that remained from the Holocaust. Logic would say that 3 Tammuz should have ended Chassidus forever. But guess what folks? Lubavitch lives. And it's an express train, and it's stopping by your station. Jump on, and feel the love.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

March On

Today the Yeshiva went to hear this guy named Dave Rosner. He's a stand-up comedian/marine/Frum guy. He said that when he was booked he thought the gig would be at a regular Chabad House, but when he walked into the Shul and saw all the black hats he realized he wouldn't be able to tell his twenty best jokes. So yeah, he wasn't incredible, but it was nice, and the pancakes were pretty good. In Yeshiva in LA we also used to get pancakes. They were pretty big, and pretty nasty too. Unless you ate 'em fresh, like within fifteen seconds of coming off the grill, they would have the consistency of rubber. My friend kept some in his closet for several weeks, and later several months, and they tasted the same. He even played frisbee with no noticeable side-effects. Except for a couple broken windows that is. Oh yeah, and within twenty minutes of eating the pancakes you get a choking feeling, slowly rising from the intestines, going up the stomach and through to the esophagus, at which point the generally recommended course of action is induced vomiting. It's like giving birth, only that pregnancy has some benefits, like a kid.
In other news, I'd like to say that I do not support the recent developments in the weather around here. There is almost nothing worse than slush. It gets everything wet, makes everyone depressed, and freezes over the next time it gets cold again. Who needs that? I'm starting to fundraise for a trip to Cancun or Cozumel, so if you're interested, I'd be happy to accept any form of money. Seriously, sometimes you just need a vacation. And not a working vacation either. I'm talking locked in a room for four days. No phone, no email, no nothing. Food we might let you have. If we're nice.
Anything else? Oh yes, in a fit of niceness, I decided to put labels on all my bloggings so that it would be a simple task indeed to read exactly what you wanted. Then I realized how much of a pain this would be, and also that there were bound to be questions as to my methodology, so I figured that I simply wouldn't bother, and waste my time on more valuable things. If anyone really wants it, then you can drop a line and I'll see what I can do.
One last thing. Yesterday I went to R. Chayim Friedman's house for the Shabbos Seudah, and while I was there a Bochur asked me a question, "What is the best way to be Mekarev a Jew?" I answered, admittedly facetiously, "With an AK-47." He looked shocked, and responded with an appropriate rejoinder. I said, "What's the problem? By Sinai, Hashem took a mountain, suspended it over the Jews heads, and threatened them with instant death if they didn't accept the Torah. And it worked wonders!" He didn't quite know what to respond, which was good. The question is whether or not there is a response? I know that Lubavitch is all about love, and all that, but what's wrong with a little brute force once in a while? Obviously with Seichel, I'm not advocating arming Bochurim out on Mivtzoyim, but what do you think?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sukkos in January?

One of the great things about Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm, Rosh Yeshiva of the Lubavitch Yeshiva of Minnesota-Wexler Learning Institute, and innovative shaker of Jewish society, is that his Shiurim manage to hit a wide range of topics. For example, yesterday he gave a Shiur on Kiddushin, which also touched on Sukkos, among other things. Why does Lubavitch not sleep in a Sukkah. Everyone knows the famous answer. R. Wilhelm yesterday the Shluchim of YHSTC a different one that might be slightly more palatable to the masses. Women don't have to sleep in a Sukkh. They don't have to eat in a Sukkah. There is a concept of Simchas Yom Tov, the joy of the holiday, which includes normal family life. Vedai Lemaven. So men, in order not to interrupt this sacred ritual, sleep indoors. Ah, so why not have women sleep outdoors? There's two different ways a person can be free of obligation: A woman does not have to shake Lulav and Esrog, but she can if she wants to. A woman does not have to wear Tefillin, and guess what? She can't. In the case of a Sukkah, the power a woman has to not sleep in a Sukkah overrides a man's obligation to sleep there. Pretty good, huh?
Since I yesterday entered the politics game, I'm sure you'll be expecting some sort of comment from me regarding the Iowa caucus. Well, sorry. If you want political commentary, there are much more intelligent places to find it than here, a blog dedicated to the dissemination of Torah values, and the occasional joke.
Speaking of jokes, I heard a cute one last night. Unfortunately, I can't remember what it was, so you'll have to deal instead with some reminiscing. Many years ago, when I was a small boy, I used to live in this place called Mequon, Wisconsin. It's a nice place, even if the water is a bit hard. The Kiddushes at the Shul, Congregation Agudas Achim Chabad, were, in my memory at least, spectacular. There were always two or three big white fish served, and the Cholent was tremendous. Yes my friends, those were the days. And now, because of our sins, we've been exiled from the promised land. At least that's what I used to think. But then I realized that life is what you make of it, and I wouldn't be me if I hadn't left that bastion of good-tasting shtuff. So that's the way the herring crumbles I guess. Oh, herrings don't crumble? How 'bout lutefisk then?

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Last night several people's attended a Farbrengen with the one and only Rabbi Mendel Feller, Shliach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to West S. Paul, Minnesota. I wrote about him a couple days ago, and he read the post. As I told him, this shows that he has good taste. The question facing us is, why Chassidus? For thousands of years Jews were doing just fine, and why has Chassidus suddenly popped up? If your grandfather didn't learn it, why should you? The Rebbe answers this question by pointing out that you and your grandfather are not exactly equals among men. He didn't wake up every morning and check his email. He didn't pay cable bills every month. He didn't eat beef with more hormones than your average teenager. And most importantly, he didn't have Italian marble in his bathroom. In fact, he probably didn't even have a decent bathroom.Your grandfather did not learn Chassidus because he didn't specifically need it. And when you live the same life as your grandfather, the you too don't have to learn Chassidus. But our generation needs it.
In other news, it's time for some political shtuff. As everyone knows, Rabbis can't use their pulpits to promote candidates without messing with their tax-exempt status. But I'm not a Rabbi, I'm a Shliach, and anyway, I pay taxes like all good Americans.
So here's my picks, going into tonight's caucus in Iowa, home of Rubashkin's meat and not a whole lot else. Oh yeah, the corn palace thing. They got that too.
I remember in 2000 that I jumped on Bush's bandwagon very early. I liked what Alan Keyes said, but I knew he had no chance, so Mr. Bush it was. And guess what? I'm still a big fan. As for this election, well, it's a pretty tough question. I've been flip-flopping on the issue for a year now. The good thing is that my opinion really doesn't matter, because it'll all be over by the time I have a chance to vote in a primary. I'll be able to vote on the Republican candidate with a calm heart and mind.
Oh, who am I going for? Whoever has the best chance to win the White House. Simple as that.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jottings of a rambling blogger

Do people have a genetic predisposition towards wealth? Or does money merely affect a person's personality to the extent that it appears that their personality has changed? These are deep questions. The Friedriker Rebbe says that in fact people are not naturally loaded, but rather develop a nature based on their bank account. How does this affect you, me, and the guy down the street who not only does not shower but also eats squirrels like it's going out of style? Firstly, it means that a person can't convince themselves that they must be wealthy or not. G-d gives and takes away.
I just got a thorough disgust with myself, for writing as if I know anything. I don't work, I don't pay bills, what do I know? Many moons ago I decided to be a writer, but a writer as unpretentious as Bill Gates is rich. I realized a couple of things. Everyone tries to do this, and it's impossible. Ach, this is how I write when I'm depressed. As a matter of fact, I'm not depressed, just a bit annoyed with life. After all, how could someone be depressed on a holy day like today, 24 Teveth, the Histalkus of the Alter Rebbe, in 1813. That's not even two hundred years ago.
Oh, perfect, I just checked my mail, and I have a couple questions for which responses seems to be in order. Question 1. Did the Rebbe Rashab say "Handicapped"? Of course not. He didn't speak english. Ask R. Manis what the Loshon is. Question 2. With regards to the Chassidish aspect of my recent polls, I'd just like to say that I've gotten a heck of a lot more feedback with these polls than I ever had before. Besides, it's difficult to ask people to rank Jewish things. Perhaps my next one could be, "Who was worse for Chassidism, the Vilna Gaon (see Toras Shalom for details), or Shach (Oso {ask a local Chassid for details} Haish). And lastly, Question 3. With regards to those mysterious lions: I learned the Maamar, and mentioned it to someone, and he, like you, asked me what Chassidus has to say about lions. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the Maamar. And like they, you haven't learned a Maamar once until you've learned it three times, and I've only learned it once (once) so far.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A little Manis for your thought

Yesterday I came up with a nice little phrase that pretty much described my lifeview: Think positively about reality. Good, no? Pretentious? Of course. Anyone who sits for 25 minutes a day and writes about himself for public consumption is certainly full of him or her self. So yes, it is sick of me to think that anyone is interested in reading my nonsense. It's also sick of athletes, politicians, actors, late-night talk-show hosts, and other scum to think that anyone is interested in their performances. It's even sicker that anyone is interested in their performances. Where does this leave me? Pretty average.
I just heard a realy nice vort from a R. Manis lecture. Rashi says that the reason Yitzchak, second of our forefathers, became blind was because of the incense his daughter's-in-law would burn for idolatry. Rashi then offers a second explanation, that his eyes were blinded by the tears of the angels who cried over him by the Akeida. Why did Rashi have to offer this second explanation? The first explanation makes perfect sense. Why bring in this mystical explanation, that Yitzchak was blinded many years earlier by angels? And why does the Torah have to tell us that Yitzchak became blind? Because of the story of Yaacov getting the blessings instead of his brother Eisav, which was only possible through Yitzchak's blindness.
Crying for Jewish children is an angelic thing to do. Rashi is saying that we have to be careful when we cry, because sometimes crying can have the wrong affect. The angels cried, and it caused Yitzchak to not be able to tell the difference between the holy Yaacov and the evil Eisav. So too we have to be careful, that our crying has a positive outcome, and not G-d forbid a negative one.
Nice, eh? Here's another story he told.
The Friedriker Rebbe, as a little boy, heard that to become Aidel (clean, pure, nice, etc.) you had to have Segufim (Self torture). He walked over to the samovar, put his hand under the faucet, and was about to turn it on. His father noticed this, stopped it, and said, among other things, "I don't need handicapped children." Why did the Rebbe say, "I"? The danger is to the kid, not the father! We have to assume that the Friedriker Rebbe was going to do this in order to please his father, because his father wants him to be Aidel, and Segufim make a person Aidel. So the Rebbe was saying that this does not please me. I do not want this.
This is the way to criticize a child, because a child should want his parent's approval. The strongest form of parental disapproval is to say that something does not please the parent.