Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bent food in houses of worship

Oh man. Oh man. Oh man. I just had a truly brilliant post written out, and for whatever reason, it disappeared into the ether. That is quite annoying. Another thing that is annoying is that I haven't gotten a single email in over ten hours. Holy smokes folks, I feel as if I've been cut off from the rest of humanity or something like that. But don't worry, I'll get over it.
Rabbi Manis Friedman, fellow Minnesotan and bargaining chip of the '87 world series, farbrenged for the bochurim of tiferes bochurim here in Morristown this past shabbos. For various reasons I was unable to attend, but it sounds like a fun time was had by all. He focused mainly on a diatribe against liberals, as the old saying goes, "There are two types of people in this world: thinking people, and liberals." So the great Rabbi bashed all the liberals in the world, including, I was surprised to find out, homosexuals. I'm not surprised that he bashed them-after all, he is an orthodox rabbinical leader, but I am surprised that he chose to do so in this particular forum. After all, we're talking about the delicate ears of the students of tiferes. Be that as it may, or as it may be, the fact remains that the rabbi reportedly said, "The problem with gays is not that they like men, but rather that they don't like women." Now, far be it from me to argue, so I won't. I mean, what exactly am I supposed to say? I once had this argument with my chavrusa here in Motown. He brought a sicha, which he wanted to use to prove me wrong, but I defended his deathblow by pointing out that a careful reading of the text in fact supported my thesis, that homosexuality is in fact genetic. Score one for me! Or several thousand, if you must. But I digress.
So yeah, I couldn't very well argue with the great rabbi, particularly as I wasn't there, but I would have liked to. It's not that I'm really a liberal or a conservative, though in thinking I tend to fall into the former category and in voting into the latter, but rather I'm a contrarian.
For example, the reason I wasn't into beautiful (ha!) New Jersey was because I was in fact on beautiful Long Island spending a splendid shabbos far from the comforts of mikve and donut shop. Anyway, at the chabad house I was at the congregants were naturally waxing eloquently about the recent horrors in Mumbai; in particular, there was one older Israeli who loquaciously called for the immediate slaughter of whoever it was that was responsible for the terrorism. Now, I'm just as much for retributive genocide as the next Zionist, but my soul did revolt when not a single person in the room disagreed with his prescription for revengeful death. "Where has the old spirit of liberal Long Island gone?!" I cried, leaping onto one of the white folding tables, splattering chumus all over the shliach's kapote and crying out, "Whoso is for the lord, follow me! Allah Aqbar, and death to the infidel Jews!"
All right, I didn't actually say that, though you can sure bet I would have liked to. Unfortunately, as a representative of the chabad lubavitch worldwide movement, under the auspices of Merkos Linyonei Chinuch, I am prevented from making such statements. Tragic, I know.
So instead I was forced to repress my instincts and had to smile politely and pretend that I wasn't revolted by the proceedings unfolding before mine eyes. Of course, if I was by a kiddush in some mosque in Santa Fe, then I would certainly make sure to uphold the honor of my people, probably with the help of a submachine gun or something. But yeah, I'm unlikely to ever find myself in that particular situation. I mean, do mosques even have kiddushes? If they don't then they can kiss this particular convert goodbye.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Does anyone have G-d's phone number?

Everyone has a different way of dealing with pain. Some people start to cry, others make inappropriate jokes, and still others heed the call of Meir Kahane and buy themselves a .22. And then you've got Lubavitchers, who decide that the only thing there is to do is to move away from the dubious comforts of Crown Heights and go to the wilds of Mumbai, India, there to attempt to fill the shoes of a couple of heroes. And you know what? Whoever that couple is, I think they'll do a pretty good job.

Moving right along...hold on a 'sec-it's impossible to move right along. And yet, that's what we have to do. We have, to paraphrase Lipa, pick ourselves up and move on. Because there's nowhere else to go.
All right, have I said anything different than anyone else? And yet at some point we'll all move on in our daily lives, and that will be that. Tomorrow morning I get on a train and go back to learning smicha in Motown. We'll bs a little, about this and that, and we'll learn, and do chitas, take naps, check this very blog for comments, all the ten and one things people who live normal lives do.
In today's speech Rabbi Ezagui told over the famous story of the Rebbe's pseudo-explanation of the Holocaust, the pseudo-explanation that got that female member of the Knesset all ruled up, because she thought the Rebbe was saying that the holy people who were murdered were like sick limbs on a body that had been chopped off by G-d. Obviously, that's not what the Rebbe meant. So us normal people get to rationalize whatever it is we don't understand by blaming it all on someone else, and moving on.
Oy, I fear that this post could easily turn into an existentialist diatribe against whatever it is existentialist fight against. But really, I'm not like that. I'm just a regular nice guy trying to figure out when it would be okay to move on in life. Every Lubavitch blogger out there, and many who aren't, are blogging about this whole story right now. And a whole lot of them are doing writing much more elegantly than I ever could. Over at Naftali Silverberg brings down what the Rebbe said after Mrs. Lapine was murdered. It's been how many years since then? How many Jews have been killed since then? What the heck is up with this G-d exactly?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kol Hayotze

Last night I posted a quote from the Gemara about the soldiers in Dovid's army, who would write a get, a divorce document, to their wives before going off to war, in order to prevent their wives from becoming agunos in case they failed to return. The Rebbe Rashab writes that this also applies to Bochurim, who have to divorce themselves from this physical world in order to succeed in their spiritual battle.
We also find this concept by Shluchim; they give up their physical comforts in order to go out and help Jews. There is a famous saying in Lubavitch, "Po Nikbaru", "here you'll be buried", meaning that once a person goes out, whether to Yeshiva or to Shlichus, they have to give up their previous lives, and realize that where they're going, and what they're doing, is the end. They have to give it all up, not leave anything behind.
Still, no one ever thinks that this will all be literal.

Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife were young Shluchim; heck just a few years older than me. And they accomplished a lot. You know, I didn't know them personally. That doesn't matter. They were doing the Rebbe's work, in a very difficult place to do the Rebbe's work. And now they're gone. They went out to fight in the war of Dovid, in the war of the King. And now they're not coming back. And yes, you can tell me a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo about heaven; yes, I believe in all that, but it's not enough. It isn't a comfort to believe in the resurrection, because there should be no need for a resurrection.

And where do we go from here? Obviously, the only thing to do is to surge on ahead. The Rebbe constantly stressed that the only response to terrorism is not to give up. If you give up, they won.
So yeah, more Chabad houses, more Shluchim, more deeds of goodness and kindness. It may sound trite, but it's true.


Kol Hayotzeh limilchemes beis dovid koseiv get krisus l'ishto-did I get that right? V"DL.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Farbie time! (short and nutra)

Today was the yahrtzeit of R' Michoel der Alter, one of the original mashpiim/mashgichim in Tomchei Tmimim in Lubavitch. When he got old, and couldn't give shiur anymore, the administration of the of the yeshiva wanted to take him off the payroll. The Rebbe Rashab said that they couldn't do this, because the sight of him was worth all his salary.

Once R' Michoel was patrolling zal, and he noticed a group of bochurim who were talking instead of learning. He went over and said, "What are you guys talking about." They said, "Hanhala's many problems" Now, a normal mashpia would have cursed them out for their chutzpah, but not R' Michoel, who said, "You think you know what our problems are? Believe you me, we're a lot worse than you think we are!"

R' Aharon the great of Karlin said, it's no sin to be depressed, and there's no mitzvah to go to mikve everyday, but depression can lead to the worst things in the world, and mikve leads to the best things in the world.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Us and ritual

Last night Morristown Smicha had a very nice farbrengen in honor of the birthday's of two of our number. After the farbie I was asked by a number of people if I was going to blog about it. At first I thought not to, because it wasn't one of those farbies that one blogs about.
After a little reflection I realized that on fact there was a lot I could write about.
In the big wide world there is a custom of certain people to follow the doings of other people. The center of this universe is Hollywood, but it has branches all over the big wide world. Shmuelie Chazanow says that there is a certain population of lubavitchers who do the same thing, if the subject of their attention is a bit different. Instead of watching Entertainment Tonight these Lubavitchers read COL. Instead of reading People magazine they read Shturem. Instead of following celebrities they follow Shluchim. Now, far be it from me to dissuade anyone from pleasuring themselves in whatever which way they choose to do so; this free license, guaranteed by our glorious Constitution, does not however mean that people have a right to inflict their passions on the rest of us. Why exactly do I have to sit and listen, by a supposedly spiritually uplifting chassidic gathering, to prattle about this head shliach's fight with this head shliach, or the amazing wonder, that this macher in Lubavitch sat next to this guy's son in law, or various other permutations of the same? Who cares? I understand when someone obsessively follows the Rebbe. The Rebbe is someone who is worthy of being obsessively followed. His shluchim on the other hand, while undoubtedly being truly incredible fellows, are not worthy of this attention. You think it makes you chassidish to wear silk socks? Go knock yourself out. You think it makes you chassidish to have a shirt that was vomited on by Berel Shemtov? Not so much.

In other news, I was privileged to hear a classic debate between Rabbi Chaim Schapiro and a bochur who threatened to sue if I didn't preserve his anonymity. He came up to the great rabbinic scholar and asked, "Which is more important, mikveh or davening with a minyan?" the great Rabbi answered, "I'm not going to answer that question, but I will say what I personally do; if I'm very careful to go to mikveh everyday, like obsessively careful, then yes, I would put that before communal prayer. Why? Very simple. There's a possibility that I will be breaking an issur d'oraisa if I break my hachlata to go to mikveh everyday, whereas davening with a minyan is only a recommended practice, not an absolute obligation. However, if I wasn't very careful to go to mikveh everyday, then I would daven with the minyan and go to mikveh later. " The bochur said, "Does that mean that mikveh is more important than davening with a minyan?" Our faithful leader said, "No, I didn't say that. All I said was what I would do. Look, it's like if the only bread you had for lechem mishne was pas palter. Would you use it? No. Would a misnaged use it? Of course. Would he think you crazy for not using it? Of course. So why wouldn't you use it? After all, lechem mishne is a din in shulchan oruch, and pas palter is only a chumra. wouldn't use it for a very simple reason. You don't eat pas palter! That's all that matters! You want halachic backing? Fine, so it would be a mitzvah sheba al yedei aveirah."
My bochur friend didn't quite understand that, and continued to argue for, I kid you not, two hours, but the rabbi have up no ground. Which makes sense to me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

You think polygamy is the only advantage?

So, this is what life is like in the fast lane. What I mean is, by some miracle or other, blogger has started working properly on the iPod. What joy this means I can not properly express, but suffice it to say that it is certainly a wonderous occasion.
In shiur today Rabbi Chaim Schapiro told a probably-apocryphal tale. It seems like way back when there was a large gathering of Jews, and someone accidentally spilled some milk into a pot of cholent or some such other victual. There was less than shishim, and the crowd was consternated (whyever not?). A great rabbi who was present proclaimed that, since everyone was experiencing such consternation, they should get a non-Jew to taste it, and if it didn't taste milky, then a Sephardi should taste it (like the mechaber), and if he didn't think it was milky, then the Ashkenazim could eat of it too.
Nice story, no? It obviously could never have happened in Israel, because the ashkenazim there treat their fellow brothers like dirt, but one does like to think that somewhere out there it might possibly have occurred.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kinnus report

Like every good Lubavitcher out there, I'm currently sitting and watching the Kinnus banquet from home. All right, so the really good Lubavitchers are at the event itself, but for some reason my invitation got lost in the mail, so I'm reduced to following it from the dubious comfort of a pretty bad live-stream. No matter, it's still pretty funny to see Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky trying to get everyone to shut up and sit down. He says, "You've got sixty seconds," and about half a minute later says, "now you have thirty seconds to sit down." What's he going to do exactly, send them into timeout?
My sister was at the event, and reports that the most important of the evening went off without too much of a hitch. The food, it seems, was pretty good. Not incredible (the steak was a bit tough), but she appreciated the leaving of the salmon on the table for more than the usual twenty minutes.
Other thoughts on the banquet? It would be nice if someone could teach Rabbi Kotlarsky the proper way to pronounce words. Mrs. Molly Reznick may think that an inability to speak English is "Chassidish", but the rest of us think that it would be a good idea if someone were to help him with his diction. He has the delivery down, and his words were certainly inspiring, but if he's going to be watched by millions online, then it would be a wonderful thing for him to learn the right way to do things. Think how much better he could be!

And that, my friends, is all for now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's not what you think

What is the appropriate way to leave someone after your conversation with them has been interrupted by someone else? This always seems to happen to me in 770; I'll be talking with someone, someone else comes, and they begin to chat with the guy I was talking to. Should I just leave without saying goodbye, hang around looking like a fool, or say goodbye while looking like a fool?

In other news, dedicated reader (really?) Rabbi Mottel Friedman reports that he was accosted in the airport by some random element of Jewish society, who on hearing that the good Rabbi was from Minnesota, asked if he was "The Real Shliach"? In point of fact, he is a real Shliach, as substantiated by the bracelet he'll be wearing to the banquet tomorrow night, but he isn't "The Real Shliach", since that is of course me. Still, it is nice to know that random elements are reading and internalizing the messages contained in this blog, though what exactly those messages are has yet to be determined. In short, this brief tale provided a wonderful ego-boost at a time when one was certainly welcome. Of course, they are very rarely ever not welcome, though that is as may be.

Continuing in this snippety vein, the thought crossed my mind, "Why am I still trying to find something to write at 2:00 AM?" Last week's topic may have been distasteful, but it had the wonderful effect of providing me with fodder for several excellent posts, E's comments notwithstanding. Tonight, however, I just didn't seem to be able to get on a roll. Oh great, now I sound like an interior linebacker explaining why the defense gave up 600 yards and seven touchdowns in the first half. "Yeah," Johnson said, "we just weren't able to penetrate like we normally do." When asked by this reporter why he failed to record a single tackle in the first thirty minutes of play, despite having ample opportunity to do so, Johnson said, "Sometimes, you just can't pull through. It's hard on us, sure, but we have to use this half as a lesson, and come out stronger next time we're on the field."
Yeah, that's what I feel like. Hey, at least I got to see Nemo. It was pretty funny too, as I didn't even recognize him until he mentioned something about Philadelphia, and his identity suddenly dawned on me. Fortunately, Kedushah of Shacharis then started, and I got the opportunity to formulate something intelligent to say. In the football analogy I've got going now, that would be like Johnson opining, "You liked how we came back in the second half, huh? You saw that fumble return I had for a score? Uh huh, that's what I'm talking 'bout baby. All right, so our kicker missed the extra point (because I failed to guard my man on the play), but it was a score, right? Only six points this team put on the board-all mine. Thank you very much."
Fortunately, I'm no football player, even if I did once break Dovi Slater's arm while playing, and my fictional Johnson isn't writing. And that reminds me...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breslav branches

I had thought to write a comprehensive response to the recent comments which dealt with Lubavitch family issues etc., but I reconsidered this when I realized that I was really in no mood to rehash all the arguments presented. It seems that, aside from some inflammatory material served up by SZB, everyone is pretty much in agreement that gezheh as it was forty years ago is basically dead. There is a natural human desire to be superior in any social contract, and I have no doubt that in ten years from now there will be a new definition of gezheh, or spitz, or whatever it is, that will allow certain people to feel good about themselves. This reminds me of an article I recently read in the New Yorker magazine about teen pregnancy in the bible belt. It seems that there's a movement to get girls to pledge their chastity until marriage, but that this only works up to a certain point. Once more than thirty percent of a class has pledged, they
"frie" out as it were, because their lifestyle is not seen as being exclusive anymore; it has lost the charm of "us against them", and the girls lose interest. I suppose that one could apply this formula to any social group: for example, if mote than thirty percent of Lubavitchers were gezheh, then the status would lose its cache. And it would soon be replaced by a more restricted label, which would once again enable exclusivity.
The same thing, could be said about the Shluchim convention; the only way to keep people interested is by keeping the convention exclusive. If you allow everyone in, then what's the point? Gezheh has been relatively lucky; with the influx of ballei teshuvah the status has remained exclusive, allowing the people who cling to it to feel special. If the definition of gezheh were to expand, and I think it is slowly doing so, then it'll lose it's significance; there. There will be a need for a new and improved status symbol, though what form that would take I could not begin to guess at.

Wow, I wrote that I wasn't interested in writing about this, and look what happened! I was sucked in like a peregine falcon into an F-22 engine. The results were, however, slightly prettier, as evidenced by the lack of blood.
What did I really want to write about tonight? I wanted to write about this nice little argument I've been having with some breslav guys on some blog about saying na nach after you make the wrong bracha over food. The blog is called na nach nachma nachman meuman, and it can be
found at The people on the blog make the claim that one should not get involved in the nitty-gritty of Halacha, as that can lead to depression, but rather a person should just say na nach if they make a mistake, or something like that.What I don't understand is, what makes these people different from reform or conservative? All three say that you shouldn't let Halacha get you down, and rather you should just say some magical incantation
and G-d will take care of it. I mean sure, ten points for style, but negative several million for complete lack of intellect.
If they wanted to argue that it was a bad thing to be overly machmir, I could understand, but to ignore the basics of Halacha? Heck, I'm not perfect myself, but I don't claim that what I'm doing is the will of G-d! If you don't know the Halacha, ask someone; if you have to, sweat
over it. In fact, the Torah was designed to be worked at; thinking that you can just replace a part of it by uttering a mindless adage is rather infantile.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A word from our sponsors

And once again I've stuck my foot in a hornet's nest and boy, does it sting. Reading LdT's comment made me feel terrible, though frumhouse's comment did assuage the pain a little.

Funny, I always say to myself, "If only I could blog about the many issues facing Lubavitch, my life would be so much easier." The reason I can't blog about many of these issues is because of societal constraints; e.g. I would hate to have certain people read certain things I write. But here is a heaven-sent opportunity to blog about something that no one could possibly object to, and to top it off, I might even have something good to say on the subject.

Let's go through this, shall we? I walk into Chabad house, and am greeted like a BT, simply because I came in with one. Even though I shattered expectations, some preconceptions die hard, and the one that remained in this case was the assumption that I couldn't possibly be an honest to goodness lifer. And so, as LdT points out, I got to experience what it means to be a
BT, if only a little. I suppose that his assertion is correct; BTs are never fully accepted, but I would like to think that it's not because they're not trusted but rather because there's such a great gap between the lifer and the BT.

I mean, sure, the BT could possibly sin, but so could anyone. Rather, I think the explanation is that the lifer, in this case the Shliach, is coming from such a different place; the Shliach, in most cases, grew up in a certain lifestyle, and he has many basic assumptions about the way life works. Even a Lubavitcher who fries out has this worldview. A BT, on the other hand, will never understand where the shliach is coming from. Even if he knows it intellectually, he will never feel it in his bones.The shliach doesn't know how to relate, and therefore there's a certain amount of patronization, or at least distance, in the relationship.

I remember listening to a lecture about shlichus, and the speaker said, "You can't open up to a mekurav the same way you can to a fellow Lubavitcher. You can discuss certain problems, for example your money issues, but matters of hashkafa, difficulties with the education of your children? You talk to a Lubavitcher, not a member of your community."Again, I don't think this is a matter of trust, but rather one of life experience.

And how about me? As the son of baalei teshuvah, I have my own niche to fill. Not that I'm particularly interested in going into the subject on this particular forum, but I know that my possibilities in life are very much defined by my own circumstances. All right, everybody, whether they like it or not, is confined by factors that are beyond their control. It's not anyone's fault. Heck, I know people, as gezheh as they come, who would love to be in my situation. I'm not ashamed at all, nor do I feel like i've been hard done by. I'm proud of where I come from, and I wouldn't have it any other way (unless of course Bill Gates or Warren Buffet is looking to adopt). Consider that a paid message by our sponsors.I suppose you could compare my situation to that of the child of an immigrant. Yes, I was born here in America, but am I fully integrated? I'd like to think so, but at the end of the day...So at the end of the day, life is what it is, and that's about all there is to say for it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shluchim people, hear my cry!

I understand that I may have been a bit harsh yesterday to people who have returned to this, the faith of our fathers. If I did, I would like to say that I'm intensely sorry.

One of the most enjoyable things to say to a child of baalei teshuvah is the Kotzker Rebbe's explanation of why tzaddikim can't stand in the place of baalei teshuvah. This statement is generally taken to mean that by types are incredibly high, exalted above even the greatest
righteous types. The Kotzker said, "You know why they can't stand there? Because it smells so bad."

Typically, children of repentant sorts will grab whatever is nearest (for the convenience, of course) and attempt to make violent contact with mine body. This is generally why I only repeat this particular statement when in a padded room, or alternatively zal. Once I explain where I'm coming from (not that I quite understand it myself), I repeat the statement of R' Hillel Poritcher, or maybe it was R' Isaac Homler, about their view of baalei teshuvah. Basically, whichever one of was didn't trust them; after all, that they sinned he knew for sure, but their repentance? Only G-d knows that.
By this time I'm usually in full flight, pursued by thousands of crazed repentants. Before the comment box has a similar vibe going, let me just say that I don't necessarily believe everything I wrote above. So why did I write it, and why do I say it? Simple. Because I can.

All right, the answer is slightly more intelligent than that. See, I have this thing of exposing people to other viewpoints. I don't think this is necessarily a good thing, and I generally do it more to my own entertainment than anything, but it is what it is.

The truth, according to Garth, is that baalei teshuvah completely and utterly rock the house. So why didn't I wish to appear like one? Because it's disconcerting, and even more so, because it makes me feel like I'm being patronized. It's like walking into your office one day, and instead of treating you like an employee, everyone acts as if you're a guest. "What is going on," you wonder, "have I been fired, or is everyone on acid, or what?" That feeling, that odd and sinking pull you experience in your stomach as you slowly realize that something is horribly wrong; you know what I'm saying? Being treated like a visitor is fine for visitors, but or an employee, it's certainly not Best Day Ever. A BT would be treated differently than fresh fodder off the street, of course, but as a bochur, I'm used to operating in an entirely different manner. When bochurim are at a Chabad house, they're there because they've been brought out to help in some capacity, not because they want to be helped. Even when I tried to help, my efforts were kindly rebuffed. My soul cried out, "Please, let me help in the kitchen, the sanctuary, something!" And the response, kindly intentioned and kindly expressed, "Please, have a seat, make yourself at home." "But," my soul continues to bleat, "this is how I make myself at home!" And no one heard my plaintive cry.Um, yeah, it wasn't quite that melodramatic, and I see opportunity for entertainment if the situation perseveres, but I just thought you should understand a little from where I'm coming.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Economize This!

This is the post I wrote a couple nights ago. I'm in a very different mood than I was then, but that's okay.

If there's one thread that runs through history, it's the natural desire to leave for your kids a better world than you inherited. Often this objective isn't achieved, but it is still always sought after. Curiously enough, the world does seem to have run a course of improvement since its inception. Sure, there have been many glitches along the way, but these in general have been short-lived. All right, I'm assuming a lot of highly debatable points to make this premise, but I'm fairly comfortable that my position is highly defendable. This rumination was brought on by a conversation I recently had in which the future was discussed. In short, the future doesn't look to bright. Simply enough, this country is at a crossroads, and we could just as easily go the way of Rome as, well, nothing lasts forever, does it? So is our time up? What if we didn't look at history as leading to some goal, which is the Judeo-Christian-Moslem model, but rather looked at history as leading absolutely nowhere?

At this point I'm sure you're accusing me of trying to reinvent the wheel. I'm sure there is a vast wikipedia article on this very subject, written much better than I could ever hope to aspire to,
and undoubtedly a truly profound treatment of the subject. Unfortunately, I don't have access to wiki right now, more's the pity, so please bear with me as I attempt to do this thing myself.
Essentially, if we tend to no particular path, and manifest destiny is merely a fantasy, then what right do we have to expect anything?In other words, why should my country 'tis of thee have any expectation that it should come out of the current crisis in any better shape than any other country. At the same time, if China, Russia, or the Arab world think it their "time", why should we lend any credence to their fevered imaginings? Someone will rise from the ashes of the USA; will this merely be a blip on our collective American radar, or is this the paradigm shift the pundits have been looking for ever since punditing was invented?

At the end of the day, as a believing Jew, the answer seems to be Moshiach. Can the world get any worse, any lower? At the same time, we've been saying the same thing for 2000 years, and guess what? No dough. Why is now any different? I'm sure the Rebbe asks this question, probably does so many times, and I'm ashamed to admit that I can think of no good answer. Presumably there is a good one, and once the Messiah gets his act together and finally shows up he can explain it all. Until then though, I can make lots of open-ended and minorly depressing posts like this one. Well, hopefully not too many more.

Postscript: You know what's really annoying? The way the monsters over at the DFL are trying to steal the election and install Al Franken as junior idiot from Minnesota. They should all be shot. And yeah, I know that the L-rd of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers, but sometimes you've got to wonder if He's doing this just to make us righteous ones (clears throat) mad, or what? It's all quite distressing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No, really, it was nice

It's pretty funny, walking into a Chabad House and being treated like a BT, not like the card-carrying member of the International Chabad-Lubavitch movement that I am. It's different, because instead of being the one serving, I felt like I was being served, and let me state clearly here that I never ever ever want to have that feeling again. It seems like once a year there's an article on one of the Chabad news sites about shluchim overworking the kids they hire. Sure, it's a terrible thing, but at least the kids are used to it. In Lubavitch we grow up thinking that it's our duty to save the world. This Shabbos, I felt like I was being saved. I didn't enjoy that.I felt like an outsider, as if I was visiting Chabad, not that it was my permanent residence.
Of course, I compounded the problem by doing something quite BT. The Stone Chumash usually says what the minhag for the Haftora is for Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Sometimes they'll mention the custom of Frankfurt, and I think maybe twice they say what the Lubavitch minhag is. Odd then, that this week they mention what the Lubavitch minhag is; it's odd because this week the Lubavitch minhag is exactly the opposite of what the Stone Chumash says to do. It's all explained in this post from last year. Read it.
So anyway, the guy reading the Haftora ends early, exactly as we don't do, and starts to say the Berachos. I start to think, "Should I say something? Should I not say something?" I go along this line for about a minute, and as the guy is wrapping up the third Bracha I walk over to the Shliach and mention the mistake. Now, what is he going to do? Tell the guy and go back? No. So the only reason I had for going up was to show off my knowledge. And that is a terrible reason. The Shliach, who had no idea what I knew or who I was, said that he didn't know, but the Artscroll Chumash said what it said. I felt like an idiot.
The good news, he's a really nice guy, pretty funny too, and as soon as I get a chance to shmooze with him a little he'll get it. And maybe, just maybe, I'll get it too. But the chances are much greater for the former. Oh yeah, and in case you're wondering, I did enjoy Shabbos. I really did.

In other news, I started reading Alice in Wonderland, the annotated edition. The man was a genius. And pretty sick. And I wish I wasn't so lazy, and could write like that. Nu nu.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


There seems to be a conspiracy in Morristown: make it rain Wednesday night and Thursday, so when TRS writes a brilliant post on Wednesday night, he can't post it on Thursday, and by the time he gets a chance it's too late anyway. So maybe I'll save it for next week.

That's it. I'm done.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Battling the good battle

One of the bochurim here in Morristown was pontificating about the greatness of Lubavitch bochurim. He commented on their tremendous kabbalas ol, and how roshei yeshivos who claim that today's bochur refuses to listen to rules and accept guidance are utterly wrong. "All right," he allowed, "so maybe they're not perfect, but to say that they don't take upon themselves the yoke of heaven at all? How could you say this?" I said, "What they're doing is not kabbalas ol, it's convenience!"
Now listen, I'm the first one in the world to say that Lubavitch bochurim are incredible, and on top of the world, but when someone is waxing lyrical, I often feel the need to burst their bubbles. And listen, I did have a point. When you're just doing something out of habit, then it's not worth too much. As the good 'ol Bible says, Mitzvos Anashim Melumdah. So yes, maybe it's not the nicest thing in the world to do (bursting of bubbles I speak of), but a guy got to do what a guy got to do.

Monday, November 10, 2008


People don't seem to understand that tragedy is the parent of art. Without struggle to overcome, adversity to upstage, what exactly is the point? So when my blog seems a bit depressing, it's because I have nothing happy to write about. Not because I'm not happy, of at least content, but because there's little point in recording that state for posterity in multiple variations. Today, I'm happy to report, I'm feeling rather annoyed with this whole smicha thing. See, there's this massive Shach, not to mention an equally daunting Taz, that I simply don't understand, even after spending the better part of a day trying to assimilate whatever of is they're trying to say. A smart guy in Tiferes here, by the name of Adam Epstein, told me tonight that my frustration is a good thing, because you only get frustrated when you care, which I suppose is true. R. Schapiro here says that you won't understand the first time you learn, and probably not the second time either, but if you sweat enough, then good things will happen.

In other news, it seems to me that wifi works better when it's cold than when it's hot. This is of course good news for my iPod, even if it's bad news for my body. Oh well, I suppose that this is one of the sacrifices I have to make to keep my faithful readers happy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Joshua's fired

Some people say that every story is worthy of being told. Other people helpfully point out that while this is true, it doesn't change the fact that not every story should be published for the world to read. The following is one of those stories. Oh, and of course it features Joshua, in a slightly less annoying format than usual.

Joshua walked into the room and said to no one in particular, "Hello everybody!" The three occupants of the room, who had been staring morosely at the far wall, where a broken TV wasn't showing anything, didn't even bother to look up. One of them said, "What is this, you want to feature in a story, so the rest of us have to suffer?" Joshua didn't quite know what to make of this response, and he proceeded to say, "What's that supposed to mean? I thought you guys enjoyed the publicity. If I had known that this wasn't quite your cup of tea then I-" He was cut off in mid-sentence when one of the guys pounded loudly on the table and said, "Enough of your infantile prattle, Joshua, do you have nothing better to do than tell us your problems? Go star in your stories somewhere else. Just leave us in peace." Joshua was quite put out when he heard these words, and he turned to leave the room, saying as he exited, "I see. After all I've done for you, all the hard work I put into making you guys successful, this is how you treat me. Well, you know what? I'm finished with you. Good day!" With that he slammed the door and walked outside, impressed with his own resolve but also scared at what he had just done. These guys were his best friends, if only because they were his only friends. He didn't know what he would do now, but he supposed he had burnt his bridges behind him, and now he would have to think of something.
Joshua took his cellphone out of his pocket and dialed his therapist. His therapist picked up, and said, "Hello Joshua." Joshua was so shocked that his therapist had picked up the phone (usually he just let it ring) that he couldn't think of anything coherent to say, and just mumbled greetings. His therapist was quite concerned, and expressed this yodeling loudly. Joshua was quite concerned at this, because his ear felt like it was about to fall off, and he ended the call. As that hadn't been much help he called his spiritual adviser, and she too answered the phone. Unfortunately for Joshua, she only spoke Sanskrit, and they were forced to communicate by grunting. "Oomph, eemph," began Joshua, and she immediately countered with, "Oaph Oomph." After doing this for a few more minutes Joshua's throat began to hurt, and anyway, she wasn't helping too much, so he ended the call. It wasn't a hard decision to make.
Joshua considered his options for a moment, and realizing that they were severely limited he began to walk down the path. Behind him the door opened and one of the men who had been in the room popped his head out and said, "I knew it would take him forever to leave, that guy is so weird, and he has absolutely no idea what's going on." Another of the men joined him at the door, and as they watched Joshua get into his car, he said, "Yeah, he really is a piece of work. Who does he think he is exactly? And you're right, he has no idea what's going on. For a guy who spends all he days thinking about other people's opinions of himself, you would think he would notice what other people thought about him. But no, he's too caught up in his own little world for that." The third man, the one who had originally spoken to Joshua, joined them, and he said, "There but for the grace of fifteen years of expensive private education goes I. You see that? All that promise, all that potential, and he wastes it like the stuff was cheaply available, like-" His metaphor failed him, and all he could do was gesticulate violently with his left hand as he said, "Like, well, you know what I mean. Joshua could have been so much, but he threw it all away, and now he's left with nothing."
Joshua was, as these bright thoughts were being aired, engaged in maneuvering his way out of the parking lot and into the street. He knew he'd have ten minutes to ruminate over the morning, and try to figure out what to tell his charlady, who would soon be asking him how his latest story was going. What would he tell her this time? She wasn't very persistent, and he knew he could get her off his case with a couple of intelligent answers, but he didn't have the strength to even formulate these. He was beaten, and he knew it. Still, he hated to end off a story this way, so he pulled into a gas station and bought a dozen doughnuts. If he was going to be depressed he might at least have a little company.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shorter than sweet

I'm sure some of you out there in cyberland think me so crushed by the results of Tuesday's election as to make me incapable of blogging. In fact, last night I had a brilliant post all written and ready to go, but it was raining outside, and since my internet in Morristown is based on my being able to access the great outdoors, I never got to publish it.
Now of course it's three days later, and I'm happy to report that I'm finally able, after nearly two years, to put politics out of my mind. Sure, there's lots of important shtuff going on in the world, and I'm sure it's all quite fascinating, but why should I get involved? And there'll be elections in Israel quite soon, but again, why should I stick my nose in there? No, a little peace and quiet is what I now need. At least, a little peace and quiet from all this election shtuff.

In other news, I started learning Siman 90 today with my Chavrusa. Oh brudder, it's udderly wild!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Smicha joke

I'm sure that everyone can't wait to hear the brilliant joke I thought up today while learning smicha. What is an example of tavshil bassar?The cheese on top of a cheeseburger!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Mamash inspiring

I read something very wise a couple of days ago, and it went something like this: According to the amount of suffering you have when your team loses, that's how much joy you have when they win. All right , so excuse the Oholei Torah English, but the sentiment remains true; if you're not emotionally invested all the way, through the tough times, then how can you possibly enjoy the light at the end of the Holland tunnel? I mean sure, it's only New Jersey, but hey, that's better than nothing. So yes, as I was saying, how much will I either celebrate McCain's win or loss? Do I deserve to be a real part of it? If he loses, then at least I'm kind of protected, but is that a good thing?All this of course applies to a much more important result than a presidential election. That reminds me of something that's bothered me the whole campaign; everyone gets up there and says that this Is the most important election we've ever had. And guess what? They said this four years ago. And they'll day it on four years too. In fact, they'll say it in two years. And probably in just one year too. Leading me to the obvious conclusion that in fact every election is on fact the most important ever. In this world, the only thing that matters is what
you've done for me lately. The past is dead and buried, and the future is our children's problem. For us, it's just us.

Back to what I was starting to say. Judaism is exactly the same way. The only thing that matters is what you've done for me now. You sinned a minute ago? Move on. You'll have a problem in ten minutes? Burn that bridge when you come to it. The most important thing in the entire universe now, the reason you were created, the reason the entire universe was created, is in order that you should do the right thing right now. And if you're not emotionally invested in this one, how do you expect to accomplish anything? If it doesn't bother you that the Jewish people are suffering, that the holy Shechinah is in exile, then how can you hope to truly partake in the ultimate salvation?

All right, all right, I'm sorry for that self-righteous, pompous, and pretentious little word of mine. Still, it did seem to come out pretty well, and hey, if anyone is inspired or anything, then I'm happy to take credit for it. And thus endeth the lesson for today; check back later for the official TRS reaction to whatever it us that will be happening pretty darned soon.

Pithy votes

As you have all probably guessed by now, I'm bored sick of this election. I've been arguing about it for over two years now, and I don't even enjoy supporting Obama anymore. Or pretending to support. Same difference. I'll be quite happy when it's all over, and we can be free of presidential politics for six months at least. Because believe you me, the break ain't lasting any longer than that. More's the pity.And did I vote? Of course I voted! What kind of American doesn't vote? In fact, I voted before Sukkos even started. As I stood there, ready to mark off my ballot, I was trying to figure which choice would annoy more people. Bob Barr and Ralph Nader, among others, though they would be fun, would not quite answer. After all, each side would be able to claim victory. No, for this lifelong contrarian, there were only two possible candidates: Mickey Mouse and Brett Favre.So there I was, trying to choose between a fictional character and a gunslinger with more interceptions than some HOF QBs have TDs. The analogy, at least to my conservative friends, is perfectly clear. If you happen to be of the liberal bent, then perhaps you'd rather imagine the two possibilities to be the good lord himself, and his opponent to be Satan, surrounded of course by many myriads of evil warmongering neocons. So who could I vote for?Unfortunately, I haven't yet figured out a hack that will allow me to show you the picture which shows my marked ballot, so you'll have to trust me when I say that it does exist. If you don't believe me, ask SZB.
As for the suggestion of voting for myself; what exactly would that accomplish? It's not like anyone would ever know, and it would be a bit of a waste. Obviously, there is a bit if a thrill involved, but once you've gotten past that infantile emotion, what exactly would be the point? As E would say, the point is that there is no point, but I would rejoinder that that is not the point. And so.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The day's day

Tomorrow is Parshas Lech Lecha. The day when we, as Jews, can finally get over this whole flood thing and concentrate on moving to the land G-d will show us. I know you're as excited as I am about this one. Seriously, Bereishis and Noach are pretty weird. They just don't seem to fit into the whole narrative thing. And Noah. What a poor, misunderstood guy. All right, so he was a bit of a weirdo too. I mean, after spending a year cooped up in an ark, would you go and plant a vineyard first thing? And then get drunk? You know what his problem was? He didn't invite anyone over to come and Farbreng with him. How did he expect his kids to become Chassidim if he was saying Lchaim himself? Naturally, things turned out badly for him.
But as I was saying, Lech Lecha is all right by me. It's funny, because most people think about wrapping up their life by the time they're 75. But not Abraham. He was just starting. And he did a pretty good job of it too. I mean, how many other people do you know who are responsible for several major religions and consequently most of the bloodshed this world has seen?

In other news, I was once again in Crown Heights for Shabbos. 770 was full. Not as full as last week, but still pretty full. Now, you all know me, I'm as tolerant as they come, but still, it's getting a little ridiculous here. Why are there so many people, and why do they insist on singing so much? I much prefer a calm and collected environment, where taking a deep breath is a possibility, and speaking Hebrew is not a requirement.

Yup. That sounds about right.