Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dating guest post 3: experience

Once again, I am not responsible for this. But it is pretty good. And once again I can't emphasize how good it is of my guest posters to write here; you guys definitely get a share of my learning here. Of course, I suppose I could just not post until after the test, but what would be the fun in that? In case you're interested, today I learned simanim 91 and about 2/3 of 92. If yesterday I cruised, today I slogged. The laws of drops of milk mixing with pieces of meat are slightly more complicated than those of menorahs on tables. Anyway, enough complaining, on with the show.
Disclaimer: I wanted this to be a two part series. Alas, it was not meant to be. If it's too much for you to handle in one sitting, make a mark on the screen (permanent marker works best), take a break, and finish reading later. Remember: your future happiness depends on it.

People get a lot of advice before heading off on a date. Siblings, parents, mashpias-they're all ready to offer their own "Ten Topics To Discuss" and "What Grandma Told Me That Worked For All Of Her Children, A Secret You Can Never Repeat, Especially Not To Your Cousin Until He Apologizes For Scraping The Car" etc

What they fail to mention, is that the deep discussions you have are, quite honestly, the biggest waste of three hours (or however many hours you marathon for) you'll ever come across. Oho! Wait! Before flinging your stacks of books, notes and other dating-advice paraphernalia (not your mashpia, though), let me illustrate my point with the following third date deep discussion scenario.

G: So…

g: …

G: (in one swift breath) If we go out again and then decide to get married and then do get married and then have kids and then need to discipline them, (pause) how would you do it?

g: Well, (leans back, takes a swig of iced something) [insert random discipline philosophy]

Please note: In general, it's best to be on your best Public Relations mode when on a date. In other words, even if you firmly believe that every child's backside needs a firm swat, you won't say that, because your date will swiftly conclude that a)If this is your best PR mode b)and you're talking about physical discipline c)that discipline may be directed towards others, such as neighbors, pets and perhaps even themselves d)…where's my pepper spray.

But…fast-forward a bit…long after the ice has melted and the hotel staff has changed the cheap wallpaper design…It's three in the morning and you're trying to finish an assignment before that blasted sun rises again. Suddenly, your tuba toting toddler decides that three in the morning is a GREAT time to practice his new musical composition (titled "Cat Falling Down The Stairs").

I can't tell you exactly what will happen, but I can guarantee that what follows will in no way at all resemble that eloquent discipline philosophy you had spouted earlier.

This is true for nearly all topics. All. You can't really know how you'll spend money, or where you'll live, or who will be the one to go and rob the banks, etc. until you're actually there. So what is the point of dating, you sigh. What should we talk about besides for sports and the weather and past summer experiences? Ahh, now if people would only listen to me, life would be a lot simpler….

Your purpose is simple. You are there to answer three questions. This doesn't mean that you'll marry your date, but at least you'll know whether it's a great catch or merely a phish.

Question 1: Can you live with this person?
Oh, sure they talk to you about the spiritual connection that you have. And they'll go on and on about how you need to look past the outer layer and discover the inner gem. But honestly, let's not forget that you'll have to actually live with the outer part of the person too.

Periodically throughout the date, you should do the following exercise: Close your eyes. Imagine that you have been up all night, working on a paper that your computer has just regurgitated. You're holding a cup of water, trying vainly to pretend that it's coffee, even though you know that you finished the last coffee in the house (including those little candies) at three in the morning. You stumble bleary eyed into the kitchen and nearly break your neck as you trip over an itsy bitsy piece of lego. Somehow, the puny ounce of water manages to reduce you to a soaking, sodden mess.

Now, quick, open your eyes. Is that really the face that you want to be greeting you in the kitchen?

You should do this at random times throughout the date. Don't worry. Your date has probably read this post too. And if they haven't, then at least you've answered question number two for them.

Question 2: Is this person normal.
While normal is a relative term (for example, your relatives are always/never normal), there are some basic baselines. And if you need those spelled out, then my friend, you need a lot more help than what's to be found here.

(If they do a lot of blinking during the date, they're probably testing out Question 1. And if they haven't thrown up, then you're probably doing pretty well)

Question 3:

This is where I get lazy and the post gets personal. Everyone has their own specific criteria. You fill it in here. Don't forget to devise a test for that criteria. For example, some people are concerned about consideration. A good way to judge consideration is by the person's actions. If your date suggests a bank heist, but neglects your mask, they are probably not considerate.

In any case, don't forget to drop me a line if things work out despite my advice. My party favors are ready and loaded.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dating Guest Post #2: Deal with it.

Once again, another guest post about dating do we have. And once again, the same rules apply as last time. As the title says, deal with it. By the by, today we started chazarah on Basar B'challav. Basically, we learned for two months, and now we have two weeks to go over it. Three times. Today I went over 87, 88, 89, 90. To put that in perspective, it took me three weeks to do that the first time 'round. And incredibly enough, I learned it better now than the first time. Obviously, without the toiling the first time over I'd have nothing to show after the second. Also, I'd like to express my gratitude to the two wonderful people who wrote posts for tonight and tomorrow night. They saved me about six hours (I kid you not) that I can now use to learn/sleep. And yeah, at this point, with me getting an average of five hours a night, that can't be a bad thing.
We always hear that our zivug is our other half. The part of our Neshomah that is vested in another being that makes us incomplete.

Thus, as we walk the aisles of Target (or fill in any other store...), and hear songs with lyrics like "I need you... without you I'm half existing... with you I'm everything, without you I'm nothing..." etc. etc. (okay, my re-rendition is not so romantic...) we might not realize how very wrong and emotionally unhealthy these words are.

If someone is going into a marriage, they cannot be "half a person". If a person seriously believes that another person can cover up and replace their faults and deficiencies, then they have a lot to work on.

In order to marry someone, you need to be a wholesome person. You need to have self-esteem, be happy in an autonomous state, and understand your faults-yet work on them.

Very few of us are realistically perfect, so no one is meant to be a completely perfect person before marriage. If that were the case, people could never marry! To be a wholesome person you need to be emotionally and psychologically balanced. If you think that your issues will disappear with marriage then you need to take a look at what's really missing in your life. If it's something that's from within, it will forever haunt you until you deal with it. Marriage is not a cure all or remedy. It is the opportunity to create, build, and grow with another, but you first need a stable and concrete foundation to begin with!

So what exactly is the mathematical equation of marriage?

Is it that 1/2+1/2=1? That two half people create a whole person??? No, because as said above, you're not supposed to be half a person before marriage, you should be wholesome.

In which case, is it that 1+1=2?
Yet again, wrong answer.

A marriage is a union between to distinctly opposite individuals who come together and create an everlasting edifice. If a couple marries, and does not learn to integrate themselves as a unit, as a family, then they've missed the point of marriage. It is just two people with two separate identities playing house.

This is where the "half neshoma" comes in.

The correct equation for marriage is as follows:

1+1=1 (bet you didn't learn that in math class did you?!?)

Basically, as said above, you need to be a person who is stable and secure in order to marry. Yet, once a marriage comes into fruition, it is two different people, with different backgrounds, tastes, opinions, and wants coming together to form one entity. One neshoma package.

A marriage is when someone is willing to gain, grow, inspire, give, concede, compromise, and learn from another individual. In a healthy marriage, a person should never lose their identity, rather the two should build together. They are each a team player that is dependent on the other to "win the goal", yet must be an all-star in their own right.

Dating Tip of the Week:

1. If you're on a first date, let the person get to know you before you bring in politics and religion. Seriously. Let the person begin to like you before they judge you on your view points. For instance, on a first date, do not ask, "Do you strive to be a Beinioni?" It won't necessarily play out well.

2. If you just don't "feel it" after the first date, that's not a concrete reason to not see each other again. Unless you have a valid reason, don't terminate the shidduch. After a few dates, and you still feel something is amiss, then listen to your instincts, and your mashpia.

3. Don't even think about dating without having a mashpia to guide you through it. You'll just confuse yourself otherwise. If you talk to your mother, sister, friends, etc. you'll get 100 opinions, but no concrete advice. The Rebbe has said, that via a Mashpia, his advice will come to you.

Here are some words of the Rebbe from Eternal Joy, although such a topic can hinge on "mushy" (l'havdil), these are words of the Rebbe, so they are measured and exact.

When The Head Says "Yes" And The Heart Says "No"

... You write that "the head says that there can be no better, but the heart says no." You do not write, however, why the heart says "no."

In practical terms: Generally with regard to a shidduch, the feelings of one's heart are more than of secondary importance. Therefore, one must have at least a beginning of feeling for this matter [i.e., a feeling for one's potential mate], or at least conjecture that this feeling will eventually come about.

If, however, even this is lacking and the heart says "no," then one should give due consideration to this [absence of feeling].

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVI, p. 306)

May we only hear of simchas!!!

Questions, Comments, and Critical Feedback are all, as always welcome.

Monday, December 29, 2008


This is Zos Chanuka. The final day of Chanuka. There are plenty of maamarim and sichos about today, and you'd do well to look them up. I'd look them up myself, but I'm currently on a subway and therefore don't really have the necessary resources. But I wasn't planning on blogging about that anyway.

First of all, a massive mazel tov to two really (relatively) close friends of mine, both of whom were my shluchim when I was in yeshiva, Yossi Kagan and Shua Lustig. Do guys ever have really close friends, or is that reserved for girls? Anyway, mazel tov mazel tov, may you be zoche to build a bayis neeman b'yisrael. Also, I met a Dukes guy today, and when I told him that I meant to go to his brother's wedding last night but didn't he said that I could male up for it by blogging about it. Since there's not much I can say about an event I never attended ( news I'm not) let me just assume that a grand time was had by all.

The Rosh of LA, one of the better people currently living, always farbrengs for many hours on this day. All right, so the second year I was there he didn't but that's because he was in New York celebrating the wedding of his son. So that was a little disappointing, but at least I have the first year memories. We were still in the old zal, and the menora was still burning. It continued to do this for several days after, a true chanuka miracle! Actually it burned because we kept on refilling it, but I'm not here to write about people waking at 4:00 in the morning to keep a menora lit. Truth is, it was LA, so they probably hadn't gone to sleep yet. They were undoubtedly shteiging away until that hour. Or going to clubs. Whatever, it's all good.

Anyway, back to the farbie. I only remember two things the Rosh said, and I'm pretty certain that I've blogged one of them before, but seeing as I heard him say it as least six times I think I can give myself leave to repeat it.

As religious Jews we watch negel vasser every morning after we wake up from our undoubtedly chassisishe chalomos. As chassidim we're very careful to have a cup filled with water and a bowl to pour it into next to our beds so that immediately upon awakening following our recitation of the modeh ani prayer which is of course accompanied by some heibt of hamtelech we can lave though very same hantelech, though of course we're careful to wait a few seconds as per the Alter Rebbe's explicit instructions in his Shulchan Oruch which of course applies to every Jew great and small. Was that a glorious run-on sentence or what? I saw in Nshei Chabad Newsletter and family story time that you should prepare the whole shebang every time you go to sleep for an extended period of time, but this seems to be to be excessive. As the Friedriker Rebbe writes, anyone who is more frum than you is a fanatical nut, and anyone who's less frum is frie like the birds.
Anyway, the question becomes, what do you do with that unclean water? No Shulchan Oruch gives instructions, but our mothers have decreed that the only thing to do is to immediately pour that water out. Not like my roommate does it, outside the window onto the hapless souls struggling underneath but rather in a proper receptacle, such as your friendly local orthodox bathroom sink. Why do we do this? Because the water is impure.

The Rosh said that he searched many years for the source of this and was unable to find one. So why did he do it? Because when Jewish mothers have been saying things for many generations it's a good idea to listen.

Of course this came just a few days after I crashed a shiur gimmel farbrengen in his apartment when he wasn't quite singing this tune. It was the end of the Farbrengen, the Roshette was desperately trying to get us out, she had already turned the lights off, and I mentioned something about guilt to the glorious leader of YOEC. I said that my mother was a big fan if guilt, because it kept people frum. The truth is that in my recollection she never said anything like that, but I was trying to give my words an air of authenticity. Ironic, isn't it, that to give an air of authenticity I lied. Anyway, the Rosh turned on me as if I had said the worst thing in the world. Turns out that he doesn't believe in guilt as a motivator. It's too bad that I don't remember his exact words, which were much more colorful and impressed themselves upon me greatly.

If I was a really big chassid of his I could say that he had ruach hakodesh and knew that my words weren't coming from my mother, and therefore what he would later say wasn't a contradiction. I'm not such such a big chassid though. Heck, he's the master of Jewish mother guilt. Every yeshiva tries to inspire its students with it, but his is one of the best.

The second thing he said, and as I said I heard this from him several times at least, was to explain the difference between a child and an adult. We learn in the holy books that a baby is born with a yetzer hora, an evil inclination (personal satanic element!) and only gets his yetzer tov, his good inclination (a veritable piece of the living G-d) when he turns the ripe old age of thirteen. All right, I remember blogging this very recently. If I was lazy I'd tell y'all to go look it up for yourselves, but I'm on a NJ Transit train and don't really have anything better to do anyway. Besides, you're supposed to learn everything 100 times, and if you're working 101 times, so I'm sure you'll survive the experience.
It seems like the holy books don't know what they're talking about. Have you ever seen a baby? They're the cutesy things in the world, so innocent, so fragile, with neither sin nor double-parking infraction to mar their holiest of souls. Have you ever seen a thirteen year old? These children are the brattiest of the bratty, with more double-parking tickets than you can shake a stick at. So where exactly is this yetzer tov?

A baby thinks about one thing, and one thing only: himself. Hungry? cry. Sad? cry. Tired? cry. Kids are the same thing. They only think about what is best for them. In fact, they can only think of what is best for them. They don't have a yetzer tov. When you turn bar or bat mitzvah you suddenly get the ability to realize that it's not all about you. Obviously many people never get this, and they spend their whole lives focusing entirely on their own needs and wants. These people are self-centered, and though they might do some very good deeds they still don't get it. The goal is to realize that you are not all there is in the world.

What is the yetzer hora? Self-knowledge. What is the yetzer tov? Bittul. Nullification to a higher power. Realizing, but really realizing, that the entire world does not revolve around you. It's tough, it takes a lot of work. A lifetime's amount of tough work. But that's why you were put down here. So get cracking.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

One more hurray for santa!

Tonight is the eighth night of Chanuka, the night that we did our Secret Santa, and the night that I'm supposed to write a character-driven sketch/story. What does it mean that it's the eighth night of Chanuka? Well, despite last week's claims to the contrary, there are not twelve nights of Chanuka. There are in fact only eight. So, if there are only eight nights, and tonight is the eighth night, then it stands to reason that tonight is the last night. And that is a depressing thought. You know how many times I learned my all time favorite Chanuka maamar this year? Once. That's a sick thought. Sure, I was busy learning other things, but still, it would have been nice to go through it for a month straight, as I've done in the past. Oh well.

And now the moment you've been waiting for...Secret Santa! The ten dollar extravaganza! Woohoo! The guy whose name I picked out of the hat was my sister's brother in law. What the heck could I get him for ten dollars? Eventually I realized that the best thing would be a relatively classy bottle of wine. How classy can a ten dollar bottle of wine be? Classy enough that it, along with what I was given, was the classiest gift at the party. The way we did it was that we started with said sister's brother in law, the oldest guy in the room, and whoever he gave to would then give out his or her thingamajiggie. No one realized this at the time, but what if that person had him? Hmm? That would have ended it right there. Fortunately, no one picked their partner. Most of the presents were pretty cute, though some were a bit odd. I was tapped to find a gift for my brother in law's brother, though I didn't have to pay for it. This afternoon, after a reviving couple of slices of pizza at Pizza Time (best NY pizza, even if it is three bucks a slice), we went to the new Target by Brooklyn College. Man, that place is gorgeous. The other Target near CH is as ghetto as they come, but this place is clean, cool, conscientious, and there's actually a decent selection of merchandise to be had. At first I thought to get him an army or Elvis full size nutcracker, which looked really cool, but then I saw a binocular-shaped flask, and since he's been obsessively talking about wanting a flask for the whole week (he's 17) I figured that this would be perfect.
Anyway, back to the party. My sister's sister in law (the guy I was giving to's wife) evidently picked my name out of the hat, and she prefaced her giving by saying that she had no idea what to give me, because she doesn't know me too well. Anyway, I got a very nice silk tie in a cool tie-roller keeper-thingie. The tie isn't garish, so it's not quite my preferred style, but my mother will like it. She doesn't like my style ties.
Once I had done the appropriate oohing and ahhing over my tie it was time to give over my gift, which I did with aplomb. My brother in law had wrapped all the presents with ridiculous amounts of the same Chanuka-themed gift wrap and it took a good thirty seconds to reveal the splendor that was some dry Israeli wine. I actually like dry wine, and it appears, so does my relative's relative. So everyone was happy.

And now it's time for our character-driven plot-device laden etch-a-sketch! Or not.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Getting serious...

I had a nice conversation with a friend in 770 on Friday night, and he mentioned that more people would read this little blog of mine if I were to include pictures. I asked him if he was planning on sponsoring a digital camera. That got him, but I did promise to try and post a picture for all of you people's to look at. It is, as you may have guessed, a Purim picture. I don't normally dress like that. Nor am I normally that drunk. But it was fun. As is this cute little article from the Jerusalem Post. Oh yeah, and before I forget, let me just say Mazel Tov to Shneur Pruss whose Kiddush I attended today in 770 and who wondered if he'd make it on to TRS. Rest assured Schneur, you got my back, I got yours.

Meanwhile, on with the show. I promised someone that I'd write a nice character-driven (not like Joshua) story tonight, while to another someone I promised a mushy, self-introspective, angst-ridden post that would reveal my inner essence, lay bare my soul, make all you men out there vomit in disgust. So what's a guy to do? Could I kill two birds with one stone, and write an auto-biographical story, character-driven of course, which would also do all the other things I mentioned? I suppose I can try... Still, it'll be a pain. You see, too many people who know me would start asking questions or making references. I'm not interested in that. So here's the deal I'll make with y'all: If you're related to me then you can't ask questions. If I only know you a little then ask away. Fair?

This is the story of a boy named TRS. He hated thinking about serious things. To put it a different away, he hated thinking about things that required serious thought. Sometimes he'd blog for a couple hours, and G-d would, for reasons known only to him, cause all of TRS' hard work to go down the drain. TRS didn't like this of course, but he didn't let it stop him.
So what's up with serious and not serious? When did TRS decided to become the joker? He doesn't know. He isn't particularly interested in finding out. After all, the past is nothing, it's dead and done for, what good will come of dredging it up and peering at the little things that caused the big problems? Still, because TRS promised, he will look back and try to determine from whence his disease derived. When Pirkei Avos says that one shouldn't sit in the company of leitzim, it's generally translated as "scoffers", but I think it's more like cynics. What is a cynic? The question is half the answer, and cynic is defined as
1. a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view.
2. (initial capital letter) one of a sect of Greek philosophers, 4th century b.c., who advocated the doctrines that virtue is the only good, that the essence of virtue is self-control, and that surrender to any external influence is beneath human dignity.

Basically, it originally meant one thing, but no one knew what that was, so they used it inappropriately and now it means whatever it is that people want it to mean. Regardless, whatever it is that cynic means, G-d doesn't want you to be one. In fact, he doesn't even want you to sit among them. When people are sitting there "blessing" G-d, he wants you to pick yourself up and get the heck out of there. He'd prefer if you'd preach to 'em, or at the very least to douse them all with gasoline and send them the way of the South Vietnamese monks, but leaving is an option for the weak of heart and mind.

So there you have Mr. TRS, the cynic himself, the guy who takes nothing as he should, him who laughs at the most sacred and divine, not to mention the serious, and he has to examine his past and figure out what it was that went wrong. He thinks about it for a little while, ponders the question, but he can't come up with anything intelligent to write. Maybe it's just genetics. That would be a convenient cop out. But no, his whole life he's been copping out, maybe just once he can tackle the challenge head on instead of dodging it the way a punter runs for the bench whenever a return man gets within ten yards of him.

And please, don't say that TRS is being harsh on himself. No one knows TRS better than himself. Of course, he's also blinded by self love, but that seems to be a common condition. So again the question is, what happened? What turned that sweet, trusting little boy into the raving lunatic who stays up 'till 5:00 (and beyond!) writing nonsense?
I don't know. Sorry.
Sometimes when TRS is at a farbrengen and taking things seriously he thinks about all this. TRS doesn't like to think seriously because he doesn't like the facial expression involved. When he graduated from kindergarten he received the "Mr. Smiles" award. He had wanted to get the "Mr. Architect" award because he was the big man on campus when it came to building vast cathedrals out of blocks during nap time, but some undeserving little something or there got it instead. But maybe TRS' teachers were right. If there's one thing of which he can be proud, it's his smile.
Which is exactly why he doesn't like being serious. Being serious wipes away the smile. Please, don't comment "lav davka" because by TRS it is davka. Don't go 'round distributing Tzvi Freeman or Yossi Jacobson articles which say that true joy comes from taking life seriously, or some such nonsense. Yes, it may be true, but it doesn't put a smile on your face. You want to smile, you can't take yourself or other people too seriously. The New York Times never smiles because it takes itself too seriously. The Rake too, even though you'd think it would know better.
Before this descends into a typical youth vs. world revolutionary rant let me remind you that this is TRS on serious. He isn't normally this full of himself, but when pressed to, he can do it with the best of them. Sure, it might take him seven hours, banging out a few words here and a few words there, but it gets done eventually. TRS not on serious makes fun of youth vs. world, which is merely another variant of youth vs. world, al derech the rye catcher. However you want to go about it, it's pretty hard to transcend stereotypes. Oscar Wilde may have done it, but since then? Whether you're with them or against them, writing vaguely so that no one has any idea what you're talking about or in excruciating detail so that they don't care what you're talking about, or even if you're hungry and regret throwing out the chili a couple of hours ago, there just doesn't seem to be much you can do to escape the fates.
The spirit catches you, but it doesn't bring you down. Spirits aren't that classless, they're much worse: they make you into one of them. When the spirit grabs hold it transforms you, and there you are, all spiritual yourself. What's a serious guy to do?
There, you people liked that? Has anyone vomited yet? Make sure to do it in the toilet so as not to inconvenience Rabbis who rejoice in the name of Mottel. I hope I satisfied your desire for existentially angsty shtuff, even if I didn't quite manage to turn it into a story. Next time give me something better to write about, and before you can say "Peter" there you'll be.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Meet the meat

Deep Throat just emailed me the following: Do with it what you will.




1. The Rubashkin Family started their meat business in Postville, Iowa about 20 years ago (January 3, 1989.)

2. As soon as they established their company and began hiring people, they set up a Human Resource office in their company which dealt with interviewing and clearing potential employees.

3. At that time, the minimum wage in Iowa was about $3.00 and the Rubashkin’s hired their starting workers at $5.00 an hour. Over the years they also developed a health insurance plan for all of the workers in their plant, which was partially subsidized by the company and partially through payments by the individual workers. The health plan included the entire family and it also included dental care.

4. After a year of work in the Rubashkin factory, every worker was entitled two weeks paid vacation and the company always had a policy of paying proper overtime to anyone who worked over 40 hours a week.

5. About 7 years ago, a turkey slaughter house which was operating on the other side of the tracks went out of business and several workers from that plant applied for employment at Rubashkin’s plant. Among them were a few workers from South America. All of them were processed the same way as previous workers, through the Human Resource office of Rubashkin.

6. However, it was at this point that more and more workers from South America began to seek employment at Rubashkin’s plant. The documentation that these people brought to the meat plant was checked by the Human Resource office and it was the same documentation they used to get a driver’s license, to rent an apartment, to register their children in school and to establish their bank accounts. So that any immigrants who worked in Rubashkin’s plant was also being recognized by a half a dozen other businesses and government agencies based on the same documentation that was presented to Rubashkin.

7. It was a little after that time that the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union began to agitate in the Rubashkin factory and tried to unionize the workers. However, over the years, as much as they tried, they were never able to get 50% percent of the workers to request unionization and, therefore, they never had an opportunity to have a factory wide vote on unionization. This reality gave the union cause for wanting to harm the Rubashkin plant.

8. The community in Postville, Iowa has approximately one hundred Jewish families and through the Rubashkin’s efforts there are two Mikvahs, there are Shuls, there is an Elementary School for boys and girls, a High School including also a full-time Yeshiva Gedola which accepts students not only from the local families but also from all over the world.

9. Rabbi Weissmandel, from Monsey, who is in charge of the Kashrus at the Rubashkin plant has told people that he knows for a fact that the Rubashkin’s went out of their way to provide meat to various supermarket chains and other wholesalers at a loss when they knew that the meat would end up in the areas that otherwise could not get Kosher meat. One example of this was the nationwide chain of Trader Joe.

10. In May of 2008, the Immigration Authorities made a major raid on the Rubashkin plant and arrested approximately 390 people. These people were led away in chains and went through very difficult times in a legal process which was eventually customized to deal with them and their cases.

Note: The media reports at the time of the immigration arrests included allegations worker abuse – Now they are forgotten!

11. Various legal suits have been brought against the Rubashkin Company, as well as members of the Rubashkin family. Several managers of the company have also been arrested. From May until October all of these pressures against the company caused the company to try to restructure itself. The Schechita was interrupted, the regular cash flow was interrupted, many of the families in Postville did not receive their salaries and the Kosher meat supply in America was diminished so that there are some cities now in the United States where there is absolutely no Kosher meat available.

12. During this time, it became necessary for the company to declare (Chapter 11) bankruptcy and is currently under the Trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court. Shechita has begun in a limited fashion. Some of the families have begun to receive their pay-checks and the Trustee is hoping to bring the factory and the plant back to some form of normal operation. However, the legal suits against the company and against the family are continuing. During that period from May to October, the family worked diligently and feverishly to try to put together funds in order to save the company and to keep things moving. As a result of that, millions of dollars were lost because of legal fees and because of the bleeding of the funds to pay people, to keep the plant going, even though they could not Shecht the sufficient amount of meat, etc. Eventually, all of the family savings were used up in these financial and legal maneuvers so that by the time the very serious blow to the family came along, they were simply unable to put together sufficient legal funds to put together a viable legal team to defend the company and to defend the family members.

13. At the end of October, Sholom Rubashkin, President of Agriprocessors was arrested on financial charges which according to many legal experts are usually put into a civil suit. However, in his case the government decided to pursue the case as a criminal case, and so he was jailed and was denied bail on his initial request for bail. At a subsequent hearing, the Federal prosecutors in Iowa introduced the concept that since Sholom Rubashkin is a Jew and since the State of Israel has a law of return which gives citizenship to any Jew who wishes to settle in Israel, therefore Sholom Rubashkin would be a flight risk. In his ruling, the judge accepted the possibility of flight risk, and he did not allow Sholom Rubashkin to be freed on bail.

14. Legal scholars from across the United States and overseas are amazed and shocked at this strange misapplication of American law. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for fair bail and establishes the concept that a person is innocent until he is proved guilty and that he has the right to be free on bail until he enters the system and is brought to trial. The absurd idea to keep a Jew in jail because he might run away to Israel has been disproved many times by many cases in the past. The legal team working for Sholom Rubashkin has submitted memorandum on various levels of the legal system in Iowa and we are praying that at the next hearing the reality of the situation will be recognized and that Sholom Rubashkin will be allowed out on bail. The family has offered more than sufficient financial guarantees, as well as other specifics to satisfy the judge’s fears that Sholom might be a flight risk.

15. The Rubashkin family has proudly been a contributing force in American Jewish life for several generations. Despite the difficulties that the family had in communist Russia and the difficulty it had in enduring the inhumane sufferings of the Holocaust, in America they have established themselves and have been at the giving end of Jewish society and Jewish community for over fifty years. The generosity of the Rubashkin’s is well known all across America. Their restaurant on 13th Avenue which was one of the first Glatt Kosher restaurants in Borough Park has a tradition of providing free meals to indigent and poor people in a respectful and in a discreet fashion. The Rubashkin’s are known for their generosity and their Tzedakah.

16. Sholom Rubashkin devoted his personal attention to the Jewish community in Postville, Iowa and went out of his way and spent immeasurable sums of money to see to it that all of the needs in the Jewish community would be taken care and that the Jewish families who came to live in Postville would be able to enjoy a rich, Chassidishe lifestyle in the center of mid-Western America. The Rubashkin Company went out of its way to make every effort to provide Kosher meat to Jews all over the world so that from South Padre Island, Texas to Vancouver Island, to Bangor, Maine to Shanghai and to the South Pole, you were able to obtain Kosher food, and Kosher meat because of the efforts of the Rubashkin family, very often at a great loss to themselves.

17. The charges brought against the Rubashkin family generally would fit either into the framework of financial problems or bookkeeping discrepancies, certainly not anything of a criminal nature.

18. Furthermore, the question of hiring non-documented immigrants is a question that faces every business in America. There are millions of non-documented immigrants who work in factories across the United States and in businesses across the United States. All of those millions did not work in Postville Iowa. Despite the best efforts of the Rubashkin family to make sure that all of their employees were properly documented, it did turn out that some of them had obtained their papers in an improper fashion but this was not the fault of the Rubashkin family or the Rubashkin business.

19. What we must do now is:
1. We have to spread the word that the Rubashkin meat business was not only a business, but it was also a force for Kosher food in America and that the American Jewish community needs this business to thrive and to continue to produce and to provide Kosher meat all over the United States.
2. We have to let the world know that members of the Rubashkin family who were involved in the business devoted their lives not only to the development of their business but also to the development of the Jewish community in Iowa and across the United States. Through their charity, through their community involvement, through their personal care for Jews in need they were always at the forefront of the “givers” in the Jewish community.
3. The issue of keeping a Jew in jail and not allowing him on bail is a disgrace to the history of America, to the history of our Constitution and to the basis of justice and liberty upon which the United States stands and it is incumbent upon everyone in America to think about this injustice that is being perpetrated against this individual, Sholom Rubashkin, in Iowa and we have to approach our elected officials, the Justice Department of the United States and urge them to enforce the laws of America properly and to see to it that Sholom Rubashkin is freed on bail according to the laws of Human Rights in the United States.
4. We have to raise funds to help the legal teams.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nshei shtuff

One of the great things about having a soapbox to stand on is that when I get mad at a letter writer in a magazine, I don't have to hope and pray that my response gets published. That's right, it's time for another exciting adventure of, "Bash the Nshei!" Rishe Deitsch is in fact innocent this time. Her editorial was quite cute, especially the part where she writes:

"My productivity earned me this email back from my overling.
Overling: Are you feeling Okay?"

Overling! She uses obscure and brilliant words! A woman after my own heart! Besides, she obviously enjoyed writing her editorial. As a writer (snort), I can tell these things. And it took all of ten minutes, three hours after the deadline had passed. Anyone should be able to tell that.
No, my problem with this issue of the Nshei Chabad Newsletter is with another facet entirely. You see, there is a gorgeous picture on the front cover, taken by my good friend Allen Schumeister (no relation). Unfortunately, that picture came out really grainy. I'm sorry, but this is 5769, there's simply no excuse for having grain pictures. At the very least, there is a thing called Photoshop.
The truth is though, this quibble was minor compared to the one which fully consumed me enough to actually write a letter to the editor. Some women/girl named Shoshanna Whitman wrote a letter to the editor which got my blood boiling. I'll quote her entire letter because A. you'll understand what I'm getting at, and B. it'll take up lots of Google's space. Here goes:

Rabbi Aaron Gancz writes in the Tishrei issue, Chinuch Section (page 73): "...there are situations where only love and chesed are called for. For example, a Jew walks into my Chabad House. At that point, it is not my place to show strength and discipline. All I can do, all I should do, is to offer him Torah and mitzvos (and cholent) with as much love as I can muster. I must show him the beauty of Torah. At that moment, I am not his teacher, his rov, or his father."
This could be misconstrued, and that is why I am writing. There are, unfortunately, some Chabad houses that use this rationale ("I am not their father or their rov") and do not even offer Torah and mitzvos. They offer ONLY cholent! I am not kidding!
I was at a Chabad House recently on a Friday night. There was ZERO Kabbolas Shabbos, not even L'choh Dodi, Shema, and Olainu! The rabbi did make kiddush and whoever felt like it could wash. The food was delicious and the crowd was big, the singing was lebedik and frailich, and everyone had a great time, but...? No Davening at all? True, if you have a Chabad house you are not their father or their rov, but they are counting on you like a child counts on a parent to provide genuine Torah and mitzvos, not just cholent. I am sure Rabbi Gancz did not mean to imply that that would be okay, even in a Chabad house.
Fortunately, I have been in literally hundreds of Chabad houses in my life, and I have only experienced a dearth of Yiddishkeit so extreme that one time.

Rabbi Gancz responds:
Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the reader. Of course, I did not mean to imply that it was okay to offer anything less than the full undiluted truth of Torah. The only question is I raised was regarding the method: whether to give it through discipline, or through ahavoh and chesed.
You know what? This woman totally missed the boat. Who the heck is she to criticize this shliach? Does she know where he's coming from, where his community is coming from? Maybe he tried having a minyan, and it failed? Maybe this is the only Friday night format that works? Aren't we always taught to judge favorably? All she does here, after acknowledging how much good this guy is doing, is to bash him. Almost like I'm bashing here now. Seriously, it's sick. Who does she think she is, criticizing the Rebbe's shluchim like that?
Anyway, that just really got me sick. Sorry.

Meanwhile in another part of the issue, Rabbi Mottel Friedman turned last year's nightly rants to yours truly into an excellent article about the evils of the internet. And you know, I respect him for it. Because when he realized this, and decided to do something about it, he did. He cut down majorly on his internet use. Seriously, he did. From a very lot of hours a day to a very few hours a day. That's really cool. I respect him for that.
Sure, I also should. And you know what? I have. It's none of your business, but it happened. You know, if you farbreng with the goal of changing other people you'll never succeed. A farbrengen is when a guy talks to himself, and other people listen in. Even when he talks about someone else it's only because he's embarrassed. When you farbreng in this manner, then you have a positive impact on people's lives. When you look at this blog and think, "Wow, that's inspiring, this TRS guy is really something", you should know a couple of things: 1. you're quite correct, and 2. I'm really talking to myself. All these farbies I attend? They're meant for me. I'm just sharing the love with y'all, not because I think you need it, but because I know I need it.

Moving right along, there has recently been a movement among some of my fellow bloggers to write family stories. I'm embarrassed to say that I can't think of any. Really, I can't. This is pathetic. Where is my family history, and why don't I know it?

Important Correction:
The editorial in the Nshei was not written by Rishe, but rather by Nechama Ozick. My bad.

Merry X-Mas!

It's the day after X-Mas vacation has ended, and all the little children are back in their classroom. The teacher, Miss Melbury, asks them to recount their holiday time. Little Vinny is first:

Well Miss Melbury, we went to sleep early on X-Mas eve, and woke up early too in order to get to mass on time. After we finished at Church we came home, opened up our presents, had a big X-Mas dinner, and then we all gathered 'round and thanked God for baby Jesus.

Miss Melbury said, "That was very nice Vinny. Who would like to be next?" Little Johnny raised his hand, and began to speak:

Miss Melbury, I couldn't fall asleep on X-Mas eve, and was up at 5:00 AM. I ran downstairs and saw a huge toy train under the X-Mas tree. I played with it until my parents woke up, and then we all went to Church for services. Later on we came home, had a big turkey dinner, and then the whole family gathered together and prayed to G-d thanking him for giving us baby Jesus.

Miss Melbury was quite impressed, and asked Moishy to explain how his family celebrated X-Mas. Here is his story:

My whole family woke up early, counted all the money we made off the Goyim this holiday season, and we thanked G-d for baby Jesus.

Merry Chanuka!!

Lately I've been accused of, in the words of SZB, "pandering to your groupie-esque following, thereby effectively banishing the slightest vestige of intellectuality remaining in your empty ramblings." I was, like any self-respecting blogger would be, quite put out. I may not be the greatest human to ever trod upon G-d's green earth, but I do like to think that I'm not merely writing to get hits. If I was, then things would look a lot different on this here blog. How gratified I was then to receive an email from the sometimes-good people at Google Alerts which informed me of a very nice post over on someone else's blog. Not that I mean to toot my horn too hard, but it really makes it all seem worth it. Look, I affected someone. Someone has increased their Judaism because of me. Because of this blog. I don't feel like a fool now calling myself The Real Shliach. Yeah, go me.

All right, enough stupidity for the night. In other news, I finally met the South African who visits this site about once a day. Or maybe that's twice a day? The question remains, is Cape Town and Claremont the same person, visiting from two different locations, or two different people? Regardless, it seems that once again I've fallen into a discussion about me. That was not the plan. Sorry. I'll try to do better in the next paragraph.

Well here we are in the next paragraph, and I think it's finally time to talk about Chanuka. The festival of lights. Oh yes, it's also x-mas. The festival of commercialization. Seriously, what is up with these people? And why aren't they buying me presents?

I'm sorry that this post has turned into more of a stream-of-consciousness/e-loving-hyphen-party than it was meant to be. After all, we're dealing with a pretty cool day in Jewish history. First of all, I finished learning Bassar B'Challav. Once again, go me. Sure, I still have some major chazarah to do, and the test is in less than a month, but I'm pretty impressed that I managed to get through it without killing either myself or my chavrusa. Speaking of my chavrusa, his mother said, after reading this post, that I'm a lovely boy. My chavrusa thinks that she didn't actually read it, because, he thinks, how could she possibly come to that conclusion?
The reason I rushed to finish, instead of doing it over our mini-break, is because I know me, and me doesn't learn in Crown Heights. I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it is a true thing. Chitas yes, Shulchan Oruch no. Heck, our esteemed leader and possible candidate for man of the millennium Rabbi Chaim Schapiro, may his name continue to be a blessing for us, cursed out one of my friends today on this very subject. Basically, and I don't want to get into too many details because that wouldn't be nice, the great Rabbi had two simple points:
A. Chassidishe bochurim don't get upset with hanhala because of the rules. Every job has rules. Every school has rules. Any bochur who gets mad because of the dress code or because he can't have a cell phone or whatever is simply an immature brat. And there's no way he's chassidish either. Hopefully he'll mature in Yeshiva, because if he doesn't then he'll never be able to hold onto a job, a marriage, or a life. I once, in ninth grade, had a problem with the Yeshiva dress code. I got over it. If your ego is too massive to get over it in Yeshiva, then you have no chance in the real world.
B. No one, unless they are a tzaddik and a gaon, can leave yeshiva, go home, and learn. 99% can't even stay frum. It simply doesn't happen nowadays.

After this diatribe, and believe you me the Rabbi really got into it, a true pleasure to behold it was, I went to him and said that we should put up a sign in front of his desk that says "Truth". He didn't think much of the idea, but he loved it when I said that he should be a talk-radio host. Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil or whomever it is polluting our airwaves nowadays would have nothing on him. I can see it now, some stupid woman calling up and complaining about her kids or something, and the Rabbi lashes into her like a cat o'nine into a sailor's back. American's love this kind of thing. He'd make millions. I'd be his producer. I'd make even more money. It would be great. And the best part is, unlike all the other people who do this who eventually get caught having affairs or running ponzi schemes or other shtuff like that, our righteous leader is exactly that. At the very least, he's too smart to get caught. By the way, what is up with Madoff? (Plug to Chef for this) Jews are supposed to rip off goyim, not their fellow Jews. Sickness.

The second piece of excellent news, which I think can connect to the third, is that today Rabbi Schapiro gave out Chanuka gelt. If I wasn't so lazy I'd photograph the inscription, ala King of Crown Heights, that I put on mine. He liked that too.

The third piece is, Mrs. Chaim Schapiro, behind every great man is an even greater woman, made the five smicha bochurim who were still in Yeshiva this afternoon fresh doughnuts. Like, we ate them hot. They were really good. She used the recipe in the Spice and Spirit cookbook, which I also used once, though her's came out much better than mine. If I recall correctly, the oil wasn't hot enough, so they didn't cook properly. Nu nu, I got over it. Still, I really appreciated it Mrs. Chaim Schapiro.

Guest post: Dating column #1

Before you all get on your high horses and accuse me of who knows what, just know that this is a guest post, I had nothing to do with it, I don't know who wrote it, I refuse to be associated with it in any way, shape, or form. I am not going out, I am not planning on going out any time soon, if you want to set me up call my mother or mashpia, they're handling all these issues for me. Thank you. Additionally, my real post is going up later tonight, as soon as I get around to it. Thank you and enjoy.

Some wisdoms and thoughts on dating… who knows, they might prove to be useful advice!

Before we begin to delve into shidduch guidance,

Intertwined within my writing, you will find various quotes. Unless otherwise stated, these are all words taken from Gila Manalson’s book “Head to Heart”.

Firstly, Shidduch dating is not just to have and interesting experience. Don’t get someone’s hopes up just for your entertainment. It’s cruel.

Furthermore, as tempting as it may seem, dating for “practice” is not as promising as it may seem.
“Dating (not for marriage) may be educational, but education isn’t always wisdom”
Dating for practice can actually backfire! “For while learning a new sport can be difficult, it’s doubly frustrating when you thought you already knew how to play... The resulting disappointment and discouragement can even ruin the marriage.”

Thus, before even beginning to embark into the journey of shidduchim, ask yourself what your motives are.
By agreeing to date someone with the ideals of marriage, you are making an extremely strong and courageous move.
Quite possibly, four months from that first date, you will be married. You will be committed and responsible to another person for the rest of your life. For the rest of eternity.
Are you ready to handle that?

I’d like to end off with a short yet (as always) meaningful and applicable letter from the Rebbe that can be found in “Eternal Joy” Vol. 1 pg. 3

“… As one embarks upon such a critical and vital step in one’s life as constructing a Jewish eternal edifice of marriage, improving one’s spiritual state is of crucial and fundamental importance.”

May we hear only good news, and mazel tovs!

If you have any comments, questions, arguments, or if you would like me to discuss a specific topic, please share.

Two dating tips:

1. Keeping the conversation going is a beautiful talent, and it makes the other person seriously feel at ease. Please remember though to let the other person speak, even if you're a phenomenal orator. If I wanted to listen to a soliloquy, I would have gone to see a show.
2. Being honest and to the point is a very valiant thing to do, but it needs balance and good timing. Do not "lay all the cards on the table" on your first date. Let people get to know you before they consider your familial, financial, or emotional status. Also, let me clarify; the person you are dating is your date, not your therapist or diary. It takes a while for emotional intimacy to grow... don't rush it, because it may scare people off.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Show me the money!

So here I sit, blogging in front of the chanuka lights; all right, so I should be looking at them instead of the screen, after all, in the Moshiach Times of old, there was a comic which had the line, or something very much like it, "Look at the story which the candles are telling." Well, guess what? I looked at the lights, they told me a story, and now I have to blog it.

Rabbi Chaim Schapiro announced today that he's making a macha against people buying their children chanuka presents. It seems that he is of the opinion that this falls under the category of "lo seilchu b'chukas hagoyim." Jews give Chanuka gelt; goyim give x-mas presents. This is very similar to the tooth fairy. Jews don't tell their kids that there's a tooth fairy, because that is simply not true. People who tell their kids that there is a tooth malach are even worse; not only are they following in the footsteps of the heathens, but they're making up new shtuff in our own excellent religion. You want to bribe your kids when their tooth falls out and it hurts? Fine, but there's no reason to lie to them in the process. The same goes for chanuka presents. Your kids feel bad that all their friends are getting popcorn makers or whatever it is parents give their children nowadays? So take them shopping after the festival is over, and they can spend all their chanuka gelt on whatever it is their little hearts desire.
This is merely a poor rendition of the Rabbi's passionate speech, and I think you would all do well to contact him and ask for a recap. Of course, when we asked him if he would accept a chanuka present...let's just say that he's an open minded Rabbi.

Cold place

There's a thing called hashgacha pratis, individual divine providence. Twice tonight I wrote lengthy posts about tonight's mivtzoyim, and twice tonight they vanished into the ether, as of they had never been. Why did G-d want me to waste well over an hour on things that will never be seen be seen by anyone? I don't know the answer to that question. Is it annoying? Sure, and perhaps there's a lesson here. Maybe G-d doesn't like it when I complain about mivtzoyim, about the intense cold, the lack of Jews in Old Tappan, the way bikur bayis is always foisted on poor innocents like myself. Maybe. I don't know. Though I would probably enjoy the experience, I haven't yet been invited to read G-d's thoughts, so I don't know what it is he was thinking. All I can do is my best here in this dank little world we have, and hope to goodness that in this case the third time will truly be the charm.
I'm reminded of an emeseh maaseh shehaya, so lab davka so true, that I hears while I was in yeshiva in LA. It wasn't the Rosh that told it, so depending on your particular political viewpoint that is either a good thing or a bad thing. Anyway, there was once a gabbai in a non-Lubavitch shul who wasn't the biggest lover of chabad. Once at a kiddush during this, the holiday season, he got up and, holding a besantad bottle of coke in his hand, he said, "Look everybody, it's the Lubavitcher Rebbe!"
A week later his house burned down. A week after that he was fired from his lucrative day job. A week after that his wife sued for divorce. After a quick cheshbon hanefesh he realized wherein his problem lay, and the next time there was a kiddush he begged mechilah, publicly for his moronic behavior. Things brightened up considerably after that.

I have a lot more to write, but I'm really tired, and anyway, I wrote it down a couple times already. Sorry 'bout that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twelve nights of Chanuka

On the first night of Chanuka, my true love said to me, let's cook some Chinese food, and make a party.

On the second night of Chanuka, my master and overlord said to me, let's walk out in the freezing rain pushing a double baby carriage, to make a party.

On the third night of Chanuka, my dripping partner said to me, let's avoid the spilled milk all over the store and just buy our groceries.

On the fourth night of Chanuka, my sopping wet sister said to me, why don't you babysit while I go to a wedding, shouldn't be more than, hours three.

On the fifth night of Chanuka, my niece woke up in bed, we played for a while, and she broke out in a smile, but then for the last hour she called out I WANT MOMMY!

On the sixth night of Chanuka, my brother in law said to me, do me a favor, buy something on Kingston, take your niece for a ride, and Daven Mincha, at 770.

On the seventh night of Chanuka, everyone looked at me strange, why are you pushing a baby carriage, I answered-why is every store packed as if a Rebbishe marriage, why is 770 filled with screaming children, including my niece.

On the eighth night of Chanuka, the ride didn't quite work, the music played but the taxi didn't move, very disappointing, the stores were too full, the niece too desirous of mama, and I finally home.

On the ninth night of Chanuka, my menora said to me, you buy the fourteen dollar twist-off you get what you pay for, at least it works, be thankful for that, and yes you have to starve 'till the guests come.

On the tenth night of Chanuka, all the guests finally came, and what do you expect, three couples with kids, all they talk about,

On the eleventh night of Chanuka, at least the food was unsurpassed, excellent Chinese, a doughnut for desert, fall asleep on the couch afterwards, and then slip on the ice on the stairs by Shul.

On the twelth night of Chanuka, my true love said to me, life's actually pretty good, the menora is lit, there'll be latkes tomorrow night, doughnuts for breakfast, if I ever go to sleep.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why does every Joshua involve death?

So remember how a couple nights ago I tried to write a couple stories without using the word "that"? Tonight I'm going to try for an original story that actually makes sense. I know what you're thinking, "Huh, once again TRS has nothing to write on a Motzei Shabbos, so he's going to create some internet filler." And of course I couldn't say that you were wrong. Still, I have as much an idea of what's going to happen as you do, and it might just turn out to be a masterpiece worthy of O'Henry or Maugham. You just never know.

Joshua woke up one morning and decided that he had to change his name. He was quite fed up with cashiers looking at the name on the credit card he handed them and saying, "Oh, you're Joshua? The guy who thinks he's a brilliant conversationalist?" Joshua really didn't feel that it was fair; no one else in the world had to explain their life-story to every single low-IQ convenience store clerk they encountered. Sure, life wasn't fair, and boy could Joshua talk about that for six and a half days, but seriously, this was getting ridiculous. Joshua understood if life would throw him a curveball once or twice, but every time he wanted to pick up some milk or mike and ikes?
After he had brushed his teeth and eaten some breakfast Joshua headed down to the local courthouse to see about getting his name changed. There was a long line of people there waiting to get married (it was a Wednesday morning), and Joshua had to wait for well over an hour. As he was about to step before the judge a large woman wearing red pushed her way beside him, trying to get ahead. Unfortunately for her, there was no where to go, and before Joshua could disengage himself the the judge said, "I pronounce you man and wife." Joshua didn't even hear him the first time, and grunted, "Huh?" The judge, none too pleased to have noise in his courtroom, said, "Didn't you hear me the first time? I said that I pronounce you man and wife. Go kiss the bride or something, and get out of my sight before I sentence you to three consecutive and possibly concurrent ten day sentences for contempt of court."
The next thirty and possibly ten days were a blur for Joshua; he had never been to jail before, and it was quite a shock to him to have to share his toothbrush with eleven other people named Bubba. At last he got out of the slammer, and his new wife was there to greet him. Joshua ignored her, chiefly because he never wanted to see her again, but also because the life of him the only thing he could remember about her was that she was wearing red on their wedding day. As it happened, on this day she was wearing green, and Joshua totally missed her.
As Joshua was hailing a cab to go home his new wife realized that he was trying to escape, and she sent her three hundred pounds flailing in his direction, and with a booming voice declared, "Joshua, your wife, it's me, come to my arms!" Miraculously a cab appeared just at that moment, and Joshua managed to get in it and close the door as she landed on the outside looking in. Joshua, wishing to distract the cabbie from the great dent which had suddenly appeared in the cab's structure, called out in his best movie actor voice, "Driver, follow that car!" The cabbie proceeded to follow the only car which was then moving on the road, which happened to be a copper bent on a mission of peace and justice. As they accelerated ever closer to the speed of sound a second member of the police began to trail the chase, and soon there was a merry threesome winding their way through the grim streets of Joshua's hometown (where else?).

Six months later Joshua was still trying to make sense of it all. The media had finally stopped hounding him. They had given the "Accidental marriage, intentional homicide" story as much run as they possibly could, but once he had been back in jail for a month, it was difficult to find anything to write about. There's only so much copy that can be written about sharing toothbrushes with multiple people named Bubba, and anyway, it's not like the public really cared anymore. Joshua was stuck in jail for thirty years minimum, and there'd be plenty of time to tell his story when he either died or was released from jail, whichever came second. "The only good thing to come out of this whole story," Joshua reflected, "is that I didn't have to change my name, rank, or serial number", not that he was given much choice in the matter. Judges don't like it when prisoners try to change their rank.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

No cheese for you!

I'm thinking of changing the name of this blog from "The Real Shliach" to "The Real Chaim Schapiro". What do you think? Anyway, during shiur today, the Rabbi explained the many opinions re: Na"t Bar Na"t, and the many ramifications involved therein. At one point he mentioned that Halacha paskened one way, but for the public we pasken another way. My ears immediately perked to full attention, and after shiur I asked him to repeat what he had said, so that he couldn't come to me later with taanos.
So, when a pot is not a ben yomo, and you cook pareve in it, then you can later take that pareve out of the pot and eat it with the other min. For example, if you have a fleishik pot that was last used for meat two days ago, and now you cook spaghetti in it, you can take that spaghetti out, put it on a milchig bowl, and eat it with cheese. Yummy.
Now, if you have smicha, then you can do this. Otherwise, fawgettaboutit. Why? Because you, my smicha-less friend, don't know the halachos and would get all mixed up, violate G-d's commands, and burn forever in the fiery pits of hell for all eternity.
At this point please excuse me while I get hysterical. THE RABBIS HAVE ONE LAW FOR THEMSELVES AND ONE FOR THE PEOPLE! I needed to get that out of my system. Yes, it's true, we just can't trust the common folk to understand these things, so unfortunately we have to deny them the chance to eat this particular delectable delicacy. I hope you don't mind.

Meanwhile, moving onto much more important matters, it's now time for the pictures of the cutest two year old niece in the universe, later followed by the cutest five month old niece in the universe. I'd like to provide pictures of the cutest three year old niece in the world too, but I can't find any recent pictures. Sorry. Anyway, here is my two year old niece Raiza Miriam:

And, here is five month Chaya Mushka:

I'd love to write some more, but A. I'm tired out from my day of strenuous learning (this is true) and B. It's not like I have anything brilliant to say anyway.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The romantic reporter

This afternoon I went over to Rabbi Schapiro and told him that I felt bad and regretted his newfound inability to say interesting things in front of me. He said, and I paraphrase, "Really? You mean, you regret that you'll have nothing good to write anymore, but you don't feel bad about it." Once again I was forced to agree with his wise words. A little while later he said to me, "My father told me that there's only two peoples you should be afraid of: the Rebbe's secretaries, and the press. You know, back in Russia, there was only two people that were given kovod in town, the Rav and the moser (government informant)." I said, delighted, "Are you calling me a moser?!" He said, "No, of course not!" I got the last laugh though, "Ahh, but in six hours the whole world will think you did."
Yes my friends, the pen is truly mightier than whatever it is heads of smicha programs fight with.

Moving right along, it has come to my attention that there's a serious overusage of the word "that" on this here website. I will therefore endeavor to write the Rosh's favorite story now without using such a hideous word. Will I succeed? Who knows? Who cares? On with the story! Oh yeah, as astute readers will remember, I've written this story at least twice before. Still, if the Rosh can say it thrice a year, so can I.

Many many years ago there was a guy named Elazar Ben Dodarya. He wasn't the holiest guy in the universe; in fact, he visited every single prostitute in the entire universe. So there he was, living happily in wherever it was he called home, and he hears that there's an incredible new woman of pleasure who charges something like four hundred golden coins, which in today's money would be something like AIG, CitiBank, Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, and the United States Treasury put together. Suffice it to say, Elazar was there in a flash. As he was talking to her at she let out a bit of rearward wind, and said, "Just as the wind I released will never return to its source, so too will Elazar never return to his." For the first time ever, Elazer stopped what he was doing and thought about his situation in life. And he realized, "Hey, she's right, I'm lost!" In a flash he was sitting in a valley, his head between his knees, repenting like no man had repented before. He cried out to the mountains, representing his parents and upbringing, saying, "My sinful life is your fault!" They answered him, "No, each man, no matter how he was raised, is responsible for his actions." Next he turned to the sun, moon, and stars, representing random chance and luck, and blamed them for his evil. They too responded, "No, each man, no matter what cards chance may have dealt him, is responsible for his own destiny." At this Elazar realized that he truly was responsible for what he had done, and then he repented like a man possessed. In fact, his repentance was so great and so awesome that he died. Immediately after a voice from heaven came down and proclaimed, "Reb Elazar Ben Dodarya, you have a place in the world to come." Or something like that. I don't remember the exact details so well. I haven't heard the Rosh say this story in a long time, which kind of stinks. Point is, his repentance was so great that he was called by a title normally reserved for Tannaim, meaning that he was on their spiritual level. Yeah, he was truly the cat's pajamas.
When Reb Yehuda HaNassi, redactor of the Mishna, saver of mice, and post-death Kiddush sayer, heard this story, he started to cry. His students asked him, "Oh great Rabbi, why the tears? Isn't this an incredible story? We see the incredible power of Teshuva, raising a man from the lowest of lows to the highest of spiritual highs." Reb Yehuda said, "That's exactly why I'm crying. Just imagine if he had used this incredible spiritual power he possessed in his life! How much greater would he have been!"

Before I do a post-mortem on this story, and my performance vis-a-vis the evil word, I think I'll transmit another story which this first one has reminded me of.

There was once a guy, many many moons ago in the times of the Talmudic sages, who heard about an incredible, you guessed it, woman for hire. This one too was incredibly expensive, and there's some detail about seven beds which I don't remember, go look it up in the Meam Loaz if you're really desperate. Anyway, this here guy isn't able to conquer his natural desires, and off he flies to the loosely-moralled lady. As they're about to consummate their sin he takes off his clothes, comes to his Tzitzis, and realizes what they represent. He can't bring himself to take them off, nor to sin. The prostitute is so impressed that she converts to Judaism and marries him. I'm not making this up. Point is, it's a good thing to wear Tzitzis.

So here we are, a couple of prurient stories behind us, inspired by their lessons, and realizing several things: 1. Yes, every Jew will ultimately repent, whether he likes it or not (Ha!), but way wait? 2. It's a good thing to wear Tzitzis at all times and places, even when it's inconvenient. 3. Sometimes the word "that" can come in handy.

Tough it out, it's a long life

Rabbi Schapiro, it appears, is now running scared. Does this mean I'll never hear anything good from him again? I'd certainly hope not, because that would make writing this blog much more of a pain than it already is.
In Siman 95 it says that if you cook an egg in a fleishik pot then you can eat that very same egg with milchik, and vice-versa. The Shach comments that you can even boil a peeled egg and do this, as long as the pot was clean. It appear that I was the only person who asked the obvious question: how the heck do you boil a peeled egg? I asked Rabbi Chaim Schapiro, hero to millions and guy being paid the big bucks to answer these kinds of questions, this very question. He told me that the answer was obvious. You take off the peel but leave the membrane. Now, anyone who is as bored as I sometimes am can attest that this is no easy feat. I told the rabbi that in point of fact this was a very difficult thing to accomplish. He said, "So what? That's what the Halacha is!" About thirty seconds later he added, "You think life is easy? Life is hard!"
Now, this is a beautiful story in and of itself, but it becomes much more important when you consider that it is the most important thing I had to write tonight. Yes, there are a couple stories in the docket, but they're inconsequential as you'll soon see. Tonight's Farbrengen, while quite impressive in its drink allocation, was sorely lacking in bloggable shtuff. Rabbi Melech Zweibel talking in a language I barely understand, though he's perfectly capable of lucid English expression, was hardly the only reason. Most of the farbie was the kind of inspirational thing that either demands attendance to be inspiring or requires a greater writer than I. So I suppose I'll instead elucidate Rabbi Schapiro's answer.

That's life, huh? It's hard. You've got to work. There's no way to avoid it. It's funny, I just realized that I wrote about this very topic last night. I guess it's just one of those things that you can't plug too many times.
Oh, was that all there was to write? I mean, it's such a simple lesson. As the old saying goes, "How do you ruin a liberal's day? Work hard and smile." You've just got to do it. For example, there's this thing called Tanya which all of us here in Lubavitch are expected to learn daily. Now, as everyone who has ever opened up a Tanya can tell you, it's not an easy sefer to learn. Does that mean that you shouldn't learn it? Of course not. It just means you have to learn a little harder.
Rabbi Gancz told a story tonight about an Amshinover Chossid who, when a bochur, learned Tanya. Now, he was a serious guy, and when he saw that every Jew is capable of becoming a beinoni he decided to become a beinoni. So the next morning he wakes up, goes to mikveh, Davens, learns, and manages to stay a beinoni for six hours. Then he slips up. "Fine," he reasons, "it's only the first day. Tomorrow I'll do it properly." So the next day, again he wakes, does everything he has to, but what happens? He's out of it after five hours! The same thing repeats itself until he isn't a beinoni for even a little bit of the day. He realized that being a beinoni is a lot more difficult than it looks, and decided to go to the Amshinover Rebbe for advice and a brocha. The Rebbe heard his problem, put his arms on the bochur's shoulders, and said, "You know, the Tanya was written 200 years ago. You do what you always did until now; these days, it's not really possible to become a beinoni."
We look at this story and think, "Wow, that Rebbe is crazy! He should be stoned!" And that's the right attitude too. What do you mean, the Tanya doesn't apply to us now? It says in the holy books that anyone who learns Tanya is having a yechidus with the Alter Rebbe. Every word applies for all time!
The truth is though, are we really any different? After all, who among us ever tried to be a beinoni? Who even learns Tanya properly? We act as though the Alter Rebbe's words don't apply to us; after all, back in the day, things were much easier. They didn't have facebook or blenders or cars or indoor plumbing. Do we really believe that the Alter Rebbe was taking to us, that what he wrote applies to us as well, or do we just pretend to? Yes, it's very hard work to be a beinoni, in fact it seems to be impossible, but that doesn't excuse us from trying. In fact, that's all G-d really wants anyway. If he had wanted perfect creations, he would've just stuck a bunch of angels down here. But he didn't want perfect creatures, and he didn't get them either. He wanted us to work as hard as we possibly could. The rest is up to him.

Meanwhile, right before Rabbi Schapiro left, he told a story about R' Avraham Maayor. He was supposed to farbreng in his hometown in Russia, but he came two hours late to the Farbie. When he finally arrived the assembled chassidim, or what was left of them, asked him what had kept them waiting? He answered that he was on the way to the farbrengen when he saw a harassed mother, at her wit's end, with a bunch of screaming children, and no father in sight. He knew he was supposed to farbreng, but he decided that he couldn't leave this poor family, so he stayed and helped for a couple hours. All the chassidim were very impressed, and as they expressed this he said in an undertone, "Does it matter that it was my wife and kids?"

This reminds me of the famous story from Rabbi Manis Friedman, who was once asked by a feminist at a speech, "What does your wife do all day?" She was of course expecting to hear some horrible female-confining job or somesuch thing, and her mind was blown when she got her answer, "She runs a home for fourteen unwanted children." The questioner was of course very impressed, and she said so in as many words, and probably more. The Rabbi, who hadn't finished speaking, continued, "Yes, she went around asking if anyone wanted our fourteen kids, and no one did, so she kept them." History has not recorded the profanity-laden tirade which surely followed, though from experience I can assure you of its being quite the entertaining thing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A hardhitting Yud Tes Kislev

As reader's of tonight's previous post will no doubt have apprehended by now, I was a bit depressed coming into tonight's farbie, convinced that it couldn't possibly come close to the glorious 19 Kislev Farbrengens of yesteryear. Usually when I come into a farbie with this attitude I'm pleasantly surprised at the results, presumably because my expectations were so low to begin with. As it turned out, tonight's farbie could have been entered with high expectations, and they would have been fulfilled. Rabbi Yisroel Cotler was tonight's victim, I mean mashpia, and he performed admirably. All the opinions expressed herein are his, though I do reserve the right to defend them if I must. If they seem trite or obvious, well that's probably the transmitter's fault. And don't get the idea that just because I write something that means I practice it. It's enough that I try. And so, enough chit-chat, on with the show!

What's the point of 19 Kislev? What did it accomplish? Like most things in life, it's easier to describe by writing what it ain't. For example, and this is as true a story as a story can be, there was a bochur taking a bus in Israel on chol hamoed sukkos, and he noticed a non-lubavitch bochur on the bus. This other bochur went over to the bus driver and told him that he was going to sleep, but please, if it begins to rain, please wake him up. Why? Because then he can eat.
What is wrong with this story? Hey, the bochur was keeping shulchan oruch, wasn't he? The problem is that his whole Judaism was a cat and mouse game with G-d. A chassid recognizes that there ain't no one but the big guy, both upstairs and downstairs.
Once a chassid came to the Tzemach Tzedek and he asked him for a bracha for his grandkid. He wanted to bring junior to hear the Rebbe say chassidus, and b'derech mailah, automatically, he would become a chassid. The Tzemach Tzedek got up from his chair, and said, "For fifty years my grandfather, father in law, and I have fought that a person shouldn't become a chossid automatically, and you're asking for a bracha for it?!"

There is a relatively famous story with Professor Velvel Green, who had just made a hachlata to keep kosher. A couple days later he went to a week-long NASA sponsored conference in Huntsville, Alabama. Unlike seasoned kosher eaters, be didn't yet know that when you go to Alabama, you pack two suitcases: one with your clothes, and one with your kosher food. So here he is, at the end of the first day, and he's starving. There had been a delicious buffet dinner that night, but he I course couldn't eat at it. He walks out, and lo and behold! The hotdog man approacheth! Now, this wasn't New York where chances are that it's Hebrew National; this stand had treif written all over it. Poor Velvel is standing there, and he makes a deal with G-d: I'll start keeping kosher next week. What else was he supposed to do? He walked over, bought a dog, and then it hit him. He couldn't do this. He said he wouldn't. So bye bye hotdog. The rest of the week he lived on potato chips, Coca-Cola, and the occasional apple. When he got back to Minnesota he wrote the Rebbe a letter detailing this experience, and the Rebbe wrote him back, saying that he had released an incredibly great spiritual light into this here physical world. Like, major fireworks. We all have our hotdog stand. For Velvel now, it's not a hotdog anymore. But he still has one, just like everyone. The question is, what will we do? Give in, or fight the great fight?

We are living in a microwave generation. We need gratification, we need it now, and we need it easy. When we learn a maamar or sicha, the first thing is, "how does it speak to me? What lesson can I learn out of it?" If it's too hard, or too esoteric, then there's plenty more where they came from. There is even a wide selection of sefarim which give a nice question, a nice answer, an it only takes two pages instead of twenty. This approach works for a chabad house; after all, which shliach has the time to learn a whole sicha before shabbos? This approach will also work for a shabbos table, for mivtzoyim, for virtually any situation...except one. It won't work for you. The only way to learn chassidus properly and to internalize it is to sweat over it. Sure, you won't understand it the first time. Heck, you won't understand it the fifth time either. But you keep on plugging away? Good things will come your way. It's the difference between a tradition soup and a homemade chicken soup. Sure, the instant soup is simple, easy, and hassle free, but you can't compare it to a chicken soup which was slaved over for many hours. So too, any chassidus you manage to pick up in a few minutes won't fool anyone. The only way to accomplish anything is through constant application.

Monday, December 15, 2008

He knows! plus some complaining: rated TRS

In case I don't get to post tonight after the farbie, though the chances of that happening are slim, I thought you'd be interested in some of the happenings of the Rabbinical College of America. By mincha this afternoon I heard our esteemed leader utter the words, "u'vedivrei kodshecha kasuv lamor", which was quite odd, because he wasn't the chazzan. After lunch I inquired of him if I could ask a highly personal question, and proceeded to inquire regarding his practice. He said, "I'm afraid to answer you, I don't know where the answer is going to end up!" After we all laughed a little, and all the smicha bochurim in this here pogrom digested the news, he proceeded to explain his actions.

"I say," he said, "those words because when the Rebbe davened mincha on shabbos he would do so in the middle of 770, and I saw him say them." I asked if the same applied to, "l'umasam meshabchim v'omrim", but the answer was a negative. So that's very interesting.

Meanwhile, in other news, this place is currently pretty depressing. In every other Lubavitch yeshiva in the known universe they will be having two farbrengens and a seudas hodaah over the next two days, but in this neck of the woods? Wouldn't you do it, but they're combining one of those farbies with the seudah. Even tiferes bochurim, that bastion of Judaism, is not doing things properly. Heck, they're only having one! What is the world coming to? I hate to sound like an AK, but back when I was a bochur, this nonsense would never have been allowed to occur. The bochurim would have revolted against hanhala; here, they take it like sheep being led to the slaughter. All in all, I'm quite put out.
And it's no good telling me to do something about it either. At this point in my AK life, it's enough that I'm still putting on tefillin every day.
I joke. Barely.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

For the young at heart

Today we held a very nice birthday party for my niece. She just turned two, and though this might excite myriad comments, and I sure hope it does, she happens to be the cutest two year old niece in the universe. Bar none. Don't even try arguing. This party was preceded by an epic stomach ache, the kind that results in feeling like your going to faint in 770 during kriah, vomiting up several cups of Coca-Cola Classic (always the real thing) during the shabbos seudah, plus that morning's yogurt and some challah, cucumber (not zucchini, thank you very much) and potato salad, and not feeling up to the gargantuan task of blogging. Fortunately by this afternoon I was able to eat some sushi and keep down the four cups of Coke (drunk entirely for my health of course). By the by, I did manage to expel all that shabbos lunch directly into a stationary potty, a fact which some people, I am sure, are quote gratified to hear.

Anyway, at this party of ours, one of my niece's aunts, no particular relation of mine, decided to make a "secret Santa" for the whole family for the upcoming Chanuka festivities. Though some suggested that we call it a "Hannukah Harry anonymous delivery system", this idea was roundly and soundly objected to as being much to unwieldy for a family-style blog such as this one. Another, slightly more normal suggestion was made, and that proposition did propose to only draw the names of the recipients moments before the gifts were distributed, which would allow for more spontaneity. This idea was also shot down, as it was pointed out that this very same spontaneous selection would also result in a non-ability to tailor the gift to the recipient.
Thus, the fatal decision was made, and all gathered round as the names were solemnly drawn from a plastic bowl. I got someone-you didn't actually expect me to tell you who I got, did you? What if my niece's aunt were to, by some odd quirk, read this very blog? Would I escape the wrath of a scorned 15 year old Beis Rivka girl? Would not death, in all its sorrow, be more desirable? Well, perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but still, the point can easily be made that I would be trifling with my life if I were to reveal the object of my gifting.

Meanwhile, in other news, tomorrow it's back to the grindstone. But before that, let me just mention that tomorrow is the day before 19 Kislev, and therefore we, as Chabad Chassidim, cease and desist from the Tachanun prayers, as indeed we will do for the following two days as well in their entirety. If someone happens to be planning on joining a congregation that says the penitential prayers for the next three days, them they should nonetheless not say them, as they will be celebrating a holiday, the New Year of Chassidus, a festive occasion if there ever was one. Plus, I'll have a partial report from the TWO NIGHTS, THREE FARBRENGENS that are upcoming, and if that's not cause for jubilation, then I don't know what is.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Easy hit generator

First off, a big Mazel Tov to Reuven and Tziporah Kasten, whose wedding I attended tonight in Oholei Torah wedding hall in Crown Heights, New York. I can just see it now, the happy couple goes online for the first time since their wedding, and what's the first thing they check after facebook? They Google their new name of course! And my site comes up! And I get some hits! Yeah!

This evening, as I was being transported into Crown Heights, I remembered something that Rabbi Schapiro said by last night's Farbrengen. He mentioned that Lubavitch is always in the spotlight in the Jewish world. We might be a tiny percentage of the world Jewish population, but everyone has an opinion on us. We're almost exactly like the Jewish people as a whole; a tiny percentage of the world's population, but everyone pays attention to our slightest move, and most of them hate our guts. So too with Lubavitch. You think anyone cares about Satmar's fights, or Bobov's fights, or any of the myriad fights in the Litvish world or Sephardi world et all...but when it comes to Lubavitch and Moshiach? Suddenly everyone has an opinion, everyone cares deeply, everyone hates our guts, the works.
Is this typical Mashpia group-ego building? I don't think so, because the dear Rabbi is often the first to curse out Lubavitchers when he thinks they're in the wrong. For example, a Bochur yesterday asked him to explain the Rambam, 11th Perek of Milchemes Beis Dovid, re: Moshiach and death. "So," Rabbi Schapiro said, "the Rambam says that a person can be assumed to be Moshiach, but if he doesn't finish the job, then he's not Moshiach. What's so difficult about that? Does this bother you theologically?" Of course it bothered this bochur theologically, but he insisted that it didn't. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that this is the only post of the week that I typed on a normal keyboard, and it's the shortest!

Connecting the anniversary

Tonight is the fourteenth of Kislev, the Rebbe's wedding anniversary, and in honor of that Rabbi Chaim Schapiro, who has received plenty of praise on this blog in the past, deigned to farbreng with us, his faithful students. It was of course an excellent farbrengen, and if course it would be impossible to give it over to you the way I got it. Whether this is a chisaron in me or whether it's unavoidable I haven't yet determined, but be that as it may, I suppose I'll just write down whatever it is that I can. Oh, and whoever it is that was by the farbie also, please, add whatever I skipped out.

There was once a bochur who visited someone or other in Miami who, when he he found out who exactly it was that was visiting him, said, "What? A Lubavitcher apikores?" The bochur asked why exactly he was an apikores. The guy related that he had heard a story of two bochurim on Merkos Shlichus who were stuck in some kosher food forsaken place, and they were getting desperate. Eventually they came to a grocery store, and prepared to buy some food that, while kosher, wasn't exactly up to Lubavitch's standards. One of the bochurim, as he pulled his money out of his wallet, saw a picture of the Rebbe and ceased and desisted, realizing that he could continue to live on bell peppers and apricots for the foreseeable future.
The bochur who was listening to this story was impressed, but the story teller wasn't. "Of G-d, who says that this food is kosher, he's not afraid, but of a Rebbe, a man of flesh and blood who says that it is ossur, he's afraid? Apikorsus!"
The bochur said, "What's the problem? We have a clear proof for such behavior from the Torah itself! Yosef the tzaddik, when he was about to sin, saw his father's face, and he too stopped himself. Are you calling Yosef an apikores?"

The point, my friends, is that we are people, and we relate to people. It's all very good to have a big G-d up there, but if we can't internalize it, or even relate to it, what good will be done?
A chossid once came to the third Rebbe of Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek, and complained that he didn't believe in the existence of G-d. The Tzemach Tzedek said, "Tell me, you ever saw the czar?" The chossid answered that he had not. The Rebbe then asked him if he believed in the existence of the czar. The chossid answered affirmatively. The Rebbe asked him how he knew. "Well," said the chossid, "I know Ivan the furrier, and his cousin's third brother thrice removed and four times reconstituted saw the czar in S. Petersburg once. So, obviously he exists." The Tzemach Tzedek answered him then, "If so, you can take it on my word that there is a G-d."

This is similar to another story, with much the same plot, though presumably with a different chossid. The Rebbe asked his chossid, "Why do you care if you believe in Hashem or not?" "But Rebbe," cried out the chossid, "a Jew has to believe in Hashem!" The Tzemach Tzedek said, "If that's your answer, then you'll be okay."
Once by farbrengen the Tzemach Tzedek mentioned a special hell that is looks exactly like this world, so the soul thinks it's in this lowly world of ours, but in fact it's totally fake. One chossid (and I'm undoubtedly a gilgul of this guy), said, "But Rebbe! How do we know that this world isn't that fake world in hell?" The Rebbe said, "Fool! Would I be here if that was the case?"
There are many different types of people with a connection to Lubavitch, and the question has therefore arisen, "Who is a Lubavitcher chossid?" The answer is very simple: whoever can make a chilul Shem lubavitch, can desecrate the name of lubavitch, is a lubavitcher.
Money is like a toilet. It's a wonderful thing to have, very useful too, but at the end of the day, it stinks pretty badly, and anyone who spends too much time involved with it has issues.
So once the good Rabbi was reading a "litvish" magazine for bochurim, and it mentioned tips for bein hazmanim. It recommended that you always have a mesechta ready to claim as the one you're learning, and furthermore, to say that you're learning one of the later dafim, e.g. 80, because everyone knows the first few dafim of a mesechta well, but after that you should be safe. But just be careful that the mesechta you choose actually has a daf 80!

These were the words of the good rabbi. All right, he said a lot more, but unfortunately my recording instrument at the time losses it's capability's to record because of insufficient battery power. Oh well. Just know that he farbrenged well, even if he did focus a bit too much on what comes after smicha, which I have no interest in discussing right now...