So I said I was going to Detroit. In the end, I didn't go, because of factors beyond my control. Yup, G-d has struck again, this time in the form of (cue the drum roll here please) The Weather. Yes that nemesis of all that is right and righteous (was that a tautological redundancy right there?) struck the forces of good, goodness, and the pursuit of various other things.
See, A. Winter weather, plus B. Notoriously unsafe 15 Passenger Van, plus C. Even more notorious, if that's possible, very young drivers makes for a toxic cocktail that tastes worse than a screwdriver made with ethanol. Then I figured that I'd look for a ticket, on an aeroplane, (and why does spellcheck not like that), but aside from the high cost it seemed likely that there'd be delays and various other forms of fun, so I decided to I'd skip this one.
Anyway, it does mean that I'll get to spend another Shabbos in my beloved Cottage Grove. Whoever thought they'd see me write that, eh?
Friday, February 29, 2008
So I said I was going to Detroit. In the end, I didn't go, because of factors beyond my control. Yup, G-d has struck again, this time in the form of (cue the drum roll here please) The Weather. Yes that nemesis of all that is right and righteous (was that a tautological redundancy right there?) struck the forces of good, goodness, and the pursuit of various other things.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
As you may or may not know, depending on who the you is, last year I was ensconced in the warm pottery workshop that is Morristown, New Jersey, popularly known among those of us in the know as "Motown". Well, today, with the help of the Almighty, I, along with the rest of the Shluchim here at YHSTC, will be going to the world's "Motown", Detroit, Michigan. Why? Well, there's a convention happening for all the Talmidei Hashluchim throughout this vast land that is known to those of us who dwell here, there, and somewhere, as North America. It was funny to see Chai Lifeline's Chinese Auction place Mexico in South America. As far as I know, there aren't any Talmidei Hashluchim in Mexico, so hopefully that won't be a problem.
Yesterday we had a nice little discussion with Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm about Shluchim Conventions, and whether they serve a purpose. He said that if he hadn't personally heard the Rebbe say how important the convention was, then he would never have believed that Shluchim should attend. The Rabbi said that many years ago he wanted to make a program for Shluchim, to learn the laws of marriage, divorce, etc, and he wanted the Shluchim to fly to Minnesota or wherever six or eight times a year, for two or three days each. Obviously Shluchim would only come to one or two sessions a year. Anyway, when Rabbi Wilhelm broached this idea to R. Krinsky the presumptive head of Lubavitch misunderstood, and thought that the Shluchim were supposed to come every time, and he said, and of course I paraphrase, "You know what Rabbi Chadakov would say if a Shliach took this much time off, even to do something important? That obviously he's not needed where he's on Shlichus, becuase otherwise how could he take so much time off?"
So yeah, it's all good.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Hershel Tzig recently wrote that he too has writer's block. Poor guy. I sympathize. In fact, I was planning on writing some poetry today, and I sincerely hope that you enjoy it. Here goes:
Lipa was singing
A song that was beautiful
but also happened to be goyish
the rabbonim banned him
the gedolim slammed him
and now he's learning orange
The Lipa story was
we moved on
We started moving along
the democrats joined us
strange times, eh?
So we got onto Chassidus
according to Matisyahu it's really deep
so deep he fell in and can't get out
Speaking of Matisyahu
it's nice to hear he's still alive
even though he dumped Lubavitch
for some screamers and potheads
i hope he finds his true calling
What, frying squirrels is not
a true calling?
How 'bout boilin 'em
Obviously that's not Kosher
but then again, neither is
kolko, which didn't stop lipa
the other one
Of course... Would a TRS production
be complete without some words on ellipsis?
How does one make those plural?
Grammarians are a lot of fun
especially when they are done
after work they do party
and sometimes even flit from tree to tree
The time has come
to end this soon
as soon as my internet works again
but until then
'till the soon is as soon as soon should be
you'll have to put up with some more
If you would glorify it with that label
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Yes my friends, the eternal question must once again be asked-what exactly does one do with a drunken sailor? I refer of course to the "Gedolim" and "Rabbonim" who banned a concert by my beloved Lipa. Jerks. Mr. Chaim Rubin, aka life-of, claims that he really doesn't want to become a beacon of Lashon Hora for the world, and therefore is trying his best to stay above the fray, or something like that. Heck, my hits increased yesterday after I blogged about Lipa, and I fully expect to have thousands of new readers by tomorrow morning.
So now that it's basically officially over, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, content with the knowledge that there is now a new ban to reference every time we feel the need to curse out the afore-mentioned Rabbi people. Let's see, we've got: shaitels, strawberries, broccoli, shaitel stores, concerts by Avraham Fried, Yaacov Shwekey, Lipa Schmeltzer, Shloime Gertner, and...um...anything else? Oh well, I'm sure my (likewise afore-mentioned) readers can give me some others.
Do these bans accomplish anything? I still eat strawberries and broccoli, still wear a shaitel (oops, no one was supposed to know that [:)]), and still attend concerts. Truth is, I wouldn't attend a Shwekey concert, so maybe these Rabbis have been at least a little successful. Maybe if you gave me free tickets I'd go. We'll have to see when they arrive in the mail.
In the meantime, the issue of the current ban is still fresh. What's the solution? I'm not sure. My not listening will accomplish nothing. Of course, there's no way of me not to listen to this ban, because I wasn't planning on going to the concert anyway. Too bad there's no form one could sign in opposition. Too bad I don't now HTML to make a form that everyone could sign. Too bad I wasn't paying attention in 8th grade when they taught us HTML. As always, nu nu.
But seriously folks, what's my advice for you? Whenever anyone mentions Matisyahu Solomon or David Feinstein's name, just laugh. Trust me, you'll have fun with them.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I now listen to the strident call to arms and present to you my thoughts on the big event of the century, an incident that will surely change more lives than the big bang, a cataclysmic event that may signal the end to listenable Jewish music, a...you get the point. I speak, of course, of the planned Lipa Schmeltzer/Shloime Gertner/Yisroel Lamm which would have rocked WaMu like nobody's business. As of this time no one really knows whether the concert will continue as planned.
For those who don't know, this concert was officially "banned" a few days ago by about thirty Litvish and Chassidish people types. Some would call them "Gedolim" and Rebbeim". I certainly wouldn't. The blogosphere has pretty much divided itself as to whether Lipa, who the ban is mainly directed against, should listen or not. Perhaps the most important issue is one of intent; why this singer, why this concert.
The people who orchestrated the ban are known as "Askanim", community workers. We bless these people every week on Shabbos in the Yekum Porkans and Mi Shebeirach. Who are these people? The conspiracy theorists would have you believe that these people are out to get Lipa, for some unnamed offense, and they managed to get a bunch of gullible Rabbis to sign on. The self-righteous slimesnags (ooh, can I copyright that word? [and with that objectivity flies out the window]) are saying that these Askanim are righteous people, concerned for the welfare of their community, and trying their utmost to make this world a better place.
As I've commented several times on other blogs, I'm very happy to be a Luabvitcher, obviously for many reasons, particularly because it means that I don't have to listen to this ban. This attitude is really not to conducive to Judaism, but it certainly does have precedent. Do any Sephardim not have two wives because of Rabbeinu Gershom? (Major tangent here: As reported on that indispensable source of [possibly true] information, the reason for the continuation of Rabbeinu Gershom's decree against polygamy is a source of major conflict among the weirdos who are [potentially] interested in getting hitched twice.) Additionally, if Lubavitch Rabbonim were to ban the concert, would I go? Obviously, if the Rebbe were to come out against something like this (which he would never do, because 1. He is way too classy, and 2. He is way too smart) then obviously not only would I not go but I would also try and stop everyone else from going too. But what if, for example, a Rav I respected would prohibit attendance? Or a Mashpia? In fact, I've been told by a Bochur that I respect that he, though a big fan of Lipa, would never go to a concert, because it's not a place for a Chassidishe Bochur. This wasn't a criticism of those who do attend concerts; after all, an unimpeachable source of religious inspiration, our gallant leader, has been seen by this blogger at various concerts. Heck, his uncle and brother make their living standing up on stage and singing. So Lubavitch is ok with concerts. Great.
But the rest of the world? If the concert happens, are they allowed to go? I would say yes, but that's only because I can't stand the slimesnags and look for any opportunity to show their true colors. (Man, I just realized that I'm really a close-minded bigot). The Torah tells us to make fences in our lives, to be holy in that which is permitted. At the same time, the Torah tells us that the original sin was caused by Adam's adding to G-d's prohibition. Where's the middle ground? Go ask a Rabbi. But what is obvious is that banning a concert like this is a great way to write the word "is" three times in a relatively short sentence. No, really what I'm trying to say is that some Rabbis don't see the forest for the trees, and don't get that sometimes they shouldn't listen to askanim and blindly sign anything that comes their way.
Isn't it nice to parrot what a bunch of other bloggers have written and not even write it as well? Yup, life is good.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Last night I remembered some more of what Rabbi Manis Friedman said, and I'll relay it to you right now. Oh yeah, and if anyone has any theological problems, please remember that generally it's not nice to shoot the messenger. With that said...
The Jews got the Torah. Hashem himself told us the first two commandments. Forty days later they worship a calf. What's up with that? And think about it. The only two commandments which they broke were the first two! The two that they heard directly. (Fine, so what about Rashi? That's why I said, don't shoot the me. Please.) What was the problem? Hashem wanted to tell all the commandments to Moshe, and then he would relay them over to the Israelites. The Israelites weren't too pleased with this; they wanted to hear from Hashem himself. So Hashem said fine, if that's what they want. After two though, they couldn't take it anymore, so Moshe continued. Why couldn't they take it? Because they weren't keilim, they weren't vessels. They couldn't deal with G-d himself talking. So what happened? They broke these two commandments. The lesson for us? You've got to have a Moshe. Without a Moshe there's no hope. Heck, even with a Moshe we sometimes have problems.
Another great little thing that I heard in the name of the Rabbi, though not straight from the horse's mouth (as it were) was a little question from some dude to the Rabbi. "Is your Rebbe the Moshiach?" Obviously this question is one of the more controversial things to have ever hit Lubavitch in the last, oh, let's say sixteen thousand years or so. Rabbi Manis answered, "Have you ever seen what it says about Moshiach in the Yalkut Shimoni? It says that he's a leper, bound in chains, degraded, suffering public humiliation and private torments, a broken body, a destroyed physique, (etc). Do you really think I want this for my Rebbe? Now Shach maybe, he would be a good candidate. After all, Menachem Shmo."
And thus was the empire forged.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
This Shabbos was the YHSTC Father-Son Shabbaton with Rabbi Manis Friedman, father of our gallant leader, and he was pretty good. Actually, he was great. The only problem is that it (obviously) wasn't recored, and I have difficulty in remembering everything a person says over the course of about six hours worth of speaking. But, because I'm so dedicated to you, my dear readers, I will try as hard as I can to give you the goods.
There was a famous disagreement between the Rebbe and the Friedriker Rebbe, about the importance of telling stories of miracles. The Rebbe asked his father in law, and I paraphrase, "Why don't you say miracle stories? I know that there are theological problems involved (major paraphrase), but they're so good for inspiring people, and raising their spirits." We don't know what the Rebbe was answered, but we do know that the only miracle stories the Rebbe told were always about the Baal Shem Tov, or another Chassidic personality, never having anything to do with Chabad. Here's an interesting story that illustrates this point.
The Rebbe once called up a Jewish guy and asked him to install air-conditioning in the Friedriker Rebbe's office. The guy came with his engineer (remember, this is the forty's) and the installation was done. While it was taking place, the man noticed the Friedriker Rebbe sitting by his desk, and he was awestruck. The sight of the holiest man of the generation was incredible, and he was extremely affected. Later, in the car, the man asked his non-Jewish engineer, "What did you think of the Rabbi by the desk?" The engineer replied, "What Rabbi?" The Jewish guy was amazed. He questioned further, and his engineer really hadn't seen the Friedriker Rebbe!
When he got home he called up the Rebbe and excitedly told him of the miracle that had taken place. The Rebbe told him, "What are you so excited about? The guy was busy working, he was involved in measuring, in calculating, it's no wonder that he didn't see my father in law."
The man said, "It was impossible to miss the Friedriker Rebbe. Did a miracle happen? Obviously. Did the Rebbe try to downplay it? Of course."
What does this story mean to us? I'm not sure. Certainly that the Rebbe followed instructions. And just as certainly, that there is stuff going on that we have no idea about.
Later on, or perhaps it was earlier, the question of creation was brought up. As I had just watched the Boteach-Hitchens debate, I was quite interested to see what the Rabbi would say. He blew my mind. What caused the big bang? Two things interacted. That's about as basic as you can get. There must be two things. Because if there's only one thing, why should it create a universe? There's no desire. That's where Judaism comes in. It teaches that G-d wanted to create a universe. So he did. Otherwise, why should it have come into existence? This is the reason we do Mitzvos. Because Hashem wants us to. For some reason, non-religious Jews and non-Jews understand this a lot more than Frum people. They say, "Why? G-d said so? OK." A frum Jew, on the other hand, will say something brilliant like, "Oh yeah? If G-d wants it so much, why doesn't he do it?" And how do you answer this? Well, it's pretty simple.
You listen to Him because He created you. Simple.
Anyway, we're having a Melaveh Malka with Rabbi Moshe Feller soon, so I better go. I'll try to update with some more shtuff when I have the time/will/memory.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Today many of the members of YHSTC went skiing. I just thought you should know that. It was actually pretty fun. I learned Rambam and then a Maamar (from a Dvar Malchus) on the ski lift, which of course only increased my already substantial "Chassidish" cred.
It's funny, I worked out the numbers and discovered that the last time I went skiing was right before the war in Iraq started. So much has changed since then, huh? If I wasn't so tired I'd post a picture and write a witty caption underneath, but as I am rather tired, I won't. Oh, and if anyone from chabad.org, my former masters, are reading this, "Hi."
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I was going to write about Purim Katan again, but then I learned a Sicha on this week's Haftora, which just happens to be my favorite, and I decided to write about that instead. Oh, a quick note about Shmuley Boteach, who I've savaged in the past. Last night I watched a recent debate of his with Christopher Hitchens, and I must say that I was very impressed. I had previously seen Mr. Hitchens savaging Mother Theresa, quite rightly I believe, and he didn't disappoint in this argument either. Shmuley also performed quite well, and even though I didn't agree with several of his points I still think that he had an admirable performance.
OK, enough praise. This week's Haftora is the famous one of Elijah the prophet on Mount Carmel, exhorting his people to follow their true G-d with the famous words, "Until when will you limp with two opinions? Either to Hashem, or to Baal!" The reason this is my favorite Haftora is that it's so quotable-if ever someone is wishy-washy, or is being hypocritical, this line is great. Not that I'm not guilty of being wishy-washy and hypocritical, but at least I feel bad about it afterwards. Sometimes.
Anyway, the Rebbe (in Likkutei Sichos 1) asks two basic questions: Why does Elijah give the Jews the option of going to Baal? And why does he accuse them (merely) of having two opinions; why not say that they are worshiping the idol, which is in fact what many of them were doing.
The Rebbe's essential point is that wavering on a theology as a whole, being an agnostic, is worse than completely believing in the power of the idol. At least when you believe in Baal, you believe in something. The same point extends to repentance; when you know you've done something wrong, it's much easier to return than when you can justify it to yourself.
The obvious question is, how does this apply to our times? The Rebbe explains that there is a world which proclaims certain things, especially with regard to a person's livelihood, and it's very difficult to break free of these expectations. We are taught to believe that certain behaviors will ensure our financial success, like going to college, while others, like staying in Yeshiva, spell financial ruin. The Rebbe is not saying here that getting a job is a bad thing; what he is saying is that believing solely in capitalism, communism, or any other 'ism to get you through life is our equivalent of idol worship. Even saying that a person can do both is not acceptable, because this is wavering with two opinions, believing both in G-d and the almighty dollar.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Tonight is Purim Katan, and I'm happy to report that according to R' Yechiel from Paris we should all eat a very large meal tomorrow and possibly (probably) get completely stoned out of our boxes. In case you're wondering, R' Yechiel is a Rishon, so you're allowed to listen to what he says. Am I planning on following this course of action? Possibly. (Not probably).
Did you know that kids, between the ages of two and six, learn five to ten new words every single day? Isn't that incredible? What is equally incredible is how I've become something that I couldn't stand back in Mesifta. An up-hatter. When I was in Mesifta, it used to annoy me to no end that there were Bochurim who walked around, and even Davened, with the brims of their hats up. Now it's my turn to have Bochurim approach me and ask, "Why is your brim up?", and even try to forcibly put it down. I haven't yet been able to figure out a response to them that I can communicate in the six second window I'm given. My question is, why did I ever care whether a guy's hat was up or not. Fine, so there is the issue of looks, and a fedora's brim is meant to be worn down. But otherwise, why does it matter? Surely there is no religious reason. Wearing a hat and jacket is mandated by Shulchan Oruch, but as far as I know nothing is mentioned regarding the orientation of the brim.
When I think back to my own high school days, it seems that the reason I was so against brims being up was that I had a very strong idea of what Lubavitch was supposed to be, and obviously the Rebbe wore his brim down, so presumably we also should. Does that mean that married men should wear a Kapote every day? Or even a white shirt?
The assumption could be made by someone that wearing the brim up is a sign of independence, and possibly of revolt. Funnily enough, the people who are most concerned with my current behavior are those whose own Chassidishkeit, not to say religious standards, are hardly exemplary. Oh, and the reason I sometimes wear my brim up is because I often forget to put it down, and the reason I keep it up, frankly, is to antagonize certain crowds.
Just a note: I realize that I'm way over-analyzing this issue.
Anyway, as I was saying, what I now believe is that someone who has yet to fully grasp the point of Chassidus will latch onto a certain external aspect, like the brim, and confuse that with what Chassidus is really about. Far be it from me to criticize, but it does seem that many different Chassidic communities are at this stage, where all they have is their unique clothing, music, food, or even tablecloth cover.
Chabad Chassidus, on the other hand, says that "Chassidus Mont Pnimius", that Chassidus demands not the outer shell, but the inner intent. Rabbi Ahron Gancz once farbrenged about this, and pointed out that this does not mean that a guy can buy a very stylish suit and then tell people who criticize him, "What do you mean? Chassidus Monet Pnimius! What do you care how I dress?!" Obviously there must be some standard, but as long as that is basically adhered to, do the itty-bitty things really count? As long as heart is turned to the Father in Heaven, and the intentions are pure, does it really matter what shade the pants are, or the kind of Tefillin bag?
Monday, February 18, 2008
Many years ago, in a land far, far away, there was a very old man who had severe brain damage. The result of this was that he didn't recognize his children. It was all very sad. His children would visit him in the nursing home once a month, and they always made sure to bring flowers and chocolates, because who doesn't flowers and chocolate?
Unfortunately, like many things in life, the assumptions of the man's children proved to be false, and in fact he couldn't stand flowers and chocolate. Every time he saw them he would get a pathological hatred for all things verdant and caffeinated, and once he got so angry he pulled the plug on his life support and thus life ended.
That is really only the beginning of this story, because later on all his children decided to go to group therapy in order to get over their collective grief. Their guilt was also terrible to behold, but as everyone knows guilt is good for people, so they weren't calling in the psychological people to solve that problem.
During the group therapy the question was broached as to what exactly the children could do to get over their collective grief. One of the grandchildren proposed that they separate the collective grief and make it more personal, as that would save them all a lot of money with the group therapy. The group therapist quickly pointed out that this course of action would result in the group therapist losing his current position, and probably end up with much death, and possibly dismemberment, for the group therapist's family members, many of whom relied on him for their daily bread and caviar. Another family member, this time a favored nephew, proposed that the group therapist's family members stop eating caviar, and instead eat sushi, which had the undoubted advantage of not only being tastier but also cheaper.
A fracas ensued as a troop of Russian and Japanese performance artists burst into the room and started to argue about the relative merits of their respective national foods. Most of the family members started to throw the complementary doughnuts, thoughtfully provided by the group therapist, at the Russians, because no one likes sturgeon anyway. Incredibly enough, no one was hurt.
The local Shliach walked in and said, "What in the world is going on?" Immediately everyone stopped what they were doing and began to explain. The Shliach was not very impressed with their explanations and decided to do something drastic. He turned off the lights, and bedlam instantly commenced. The editor being out of town on a Hawaiian vacation, grammar started to dissolve in on itself and whole sentences began to die. Lakewood itself, home of more giants in Torah per capita than any other township in New Jersey, and also one of the last remaining real tennis courts in the world. But that's another story for another day.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I've begun to dabble a bit in the Shadchan business (www.therealshadchan.blogspot.com coming soon) and it occurred to me that it would be a lot easier if we treated it like real-estate. For example, I remember a broker making the promise that if he couldn't sell your house in 3 months than he'd buy it himself. Wouldn't that be great for this whole matchmaking thing? All right, so it probably wouldn't work too well, but it would certainly make life more interesting. Or how about if there were open-houses every couple of weeks? Just think how many marriages would be quickly set up if there were complementary cookies? I for one feel that a little competition would be good for business. And how about a "Better Shadchan Bureau"?
These thoughts and many others have occupied my mind in the last half hour or so as I've wracked my brains, trying to come up with a way to help the people of America come to terms with the facts of life. What the facts of life are, I can not truly say, perhaps because I've tried to avoid them for the last seventeen years, but be that as it may, now is the time for action. Now is the time for change. Now is the time for action. Now is the time for hope. Now is the time to vote for a man whose sole qualification for the job of President of the United States of America, this glorious Union which has made possible much more than most other third world countries, is that he is not a woman. Yes my friends, which does America dislike more, a woman or an African American who may or may not be a Muslim terrorist, and at the very least subscribes to the quite primitive belief that all Illinoisans were born equal under the sun, which is of course patently untrue. As virtually every relatively normal Democrat knows, it's dead people who count most in the Land of Lincoln's political landscape. After all, voting early and often is a sure way to win a nomination in Denver, and when it's people in cemeteries casting their ballots, then all the better. Who would have ever thought that a guy named Kennedy could buy his son an election? And yet, as all good Republicans know, that's exactly what happened.
After writing the above I realized that it was past my bedtime, so I decided to go to sleep, but not before giving a shoutout to Kosovo and expressing my admiration for any country which bucks the trend and declares independence from the machine.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Isn't it great to have a lot to write, and to have interest in writing it? First of all, I'm currently in Mequon for the wedding of Sholom Ber Munitz to Leah Spalter, which actually happened last night and was quite nice, especially the sushi station.
The reason I went to the wedding is because many years ago I lived in Mequon, and actually used to have birthday parties with the bride; listen, it was like 16 years ago, don't worry. That brings up another point. Today I went to a showing of my old house, which is back on the market for about 140,000 dollars more than we sold it many years ago. Here's its listing, and if you're interested in buying it for me I'd be grateful. They've changed or updated most of the house, leaving only the bedrooms as I remember them. It's incredible how places that seemed so big when I was a kid now seem so small. The bedrooms, for example, are rather small. Also, the leopard print on the master bathroom is not quite my style.
Moving right along, I received an email from some guy claiming to be a tennis fan dealing with meat processing. I assume that he googled "Shechita" to send me this link to the Forward which deals with animal cruelty among Kosher slaughterers in Uruguay. I'd just like to point out that while I have no particular wish to see animals suffer I'm also not particularly saddened at their pain. The way I see it, as long as a Rabbi I trust says that G-d approves, why in the world should I listen to some anti-semitic PETA activist rant stupidly about animal rights? These are the same people who stand by idly as Jews are slaughtered mercilessly in the Holy Land.
In other news, I have a cute story for you from Laibl Wolf which I trust you will find to be as entertaining as I thought, followed by a similar story, told over by LDT, which provoked much the same reaction. Here goes:
Once a guy sold his house and bought a horse. The whole town told him that he was crazy, but all he said was, "You don't know, wait and see." The next day the horse ran away into the forest, and again the whole town told him he was crazy and called up the local institution to find out if they had any space for a new patient. All he answered them was, "You don't know, wait and see." The next day the horse came back with ten horses in tow, and all the town's people proclaimed the man a genius and canceled his psychiatric evaluation. All he told them was, "You don't know, wait and see." The next day one of his children was walking by the horse and it lashed out at him and broke the poor kids leg. All the people in the town called up to say that he was obviously still very crazy and that the evaluation was now rescheduled for Friday. All the man replied was, "You don't know, wait and see." The next day a children's crusade broke out and all the children of the village were gathered together to die at the hands of the Muslim infidels, except of course for the horse buyer's kiddie, whose leg was in shambles. All the people in the town said, "Wow, what a genius," while he said, "You don't know, wait and see."
The moral of the story is obvious. At least, the moral according to Laibl is obvious. Personally, I would shoot the guy. Anyone who was told me, "You don't know, wait and see" that many times deserves to have some steel implanted in his head.
Ah yes, onto our next victim, oh, I mean story. Again, this is courtesy of LDT.
Once there was a Moroccan King who had a Prime Minister who responded to every event with, "Don't worry, it's all good." He said this so often that people called him "It's all good". The King, rightfully enough, got pretty annoyed with all this self-righteous nonsense, but the Prime Minister did a good job, so the King figured that he could live with this little issue.
One day the King was being interviewed by the local press, and he took them into the Royal Grounds for a little demonstration of the King's horticultural prowess. Unfortunately, the King cut off the tip of his thumb while trying to trim some bamboo, and all the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put the King's finger back together again. The press were of course all thrown into prison, to suppress the story, and the Prime Minister was sent for in order to give his expert opinion. When he was appraised of the situation all he said was, "Don't worry, it's all good." The King was incensed, and he threw his Prime Minister into prison with all the journalists, vowing that none of them would ever see the light of the day again.
Three weeks later the King, along with 93 members of the Royal Retinue, went on a trade mission to Kenya, but once again fortune turned on him and his ship was waylaid by a passing storm and washed up on a cannibal island. Immediately thirteen thousand cannibals surrounded the Royal Retinue and demanded to know who their leader was. "It is I!" proclaimed the courageous King, and he was immediately taken off to be eaten. As the cannibals were undressing him they noticed that the tip of his finger was missing, and fearing that they might contract some dangerous and deadly disease they let him go and instead ate the new Prime Minister, allowing all the other people to leave the island in peace.
A historical note: As per the poll on the Real Shliach, they ate him with A1 steak sauce, and he was quite delicious.
Anyway, the King returned from Kenya, and realizing that his chopped off finger was the reason he was alive, and that his Prime Minister had been correct in telling him not to worry, the King took him out of jail and gave him back his old position. The King asked forgiveness from his Prime Minister for incarcerating him together with a bunch of journalists, and the Prime Minister answered, "Don't worry, it's all good." The King was astounded. "What do you mean, 'It's all good?' You were in a cell with a bunch of journalists for three months. It must have been a living hell!" The Prime Minister answered the King, "If I had accompanied your majesty on his trip, I would have been the one served with the A1 steak sauce."
Nice story, eh? The Prime Minister is slightly less annoying than the horse guy for the simple reason that he's rather less insulting, but I think that the moral of the two stories is that while it's fine, and even commendable, to have this attitude for yourself, as we see in the Talmud and various Lipa Schmeltzer songs, it's quite another thing to have this attitude when it comes to other people. Actually, I think I blogged about this a couple months ago. Basically, for yourself, accept the suffering with equanimity, but when it comes to other people, you should storm the very heavens (as opposed to what?) in order to bring about an end to their pain, sadness, grief, and the various other things that afflict people locked up together with journalists.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Hey everybody, I'd just like to put in a little blurb for a friend of mine on Shlichus in Budapest who'd like every single one of you to help him and his fellow Shluchim in Hungary do some good for the local heathens. Just go to http://www.bjyc.org/ and help bring some Jews closer to their father in heaven.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Today the Shluchim of YHSTC had another spectacular Shiur from Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm, and I'd like to share a nice vort that he said at the end. Kosher fish must have both fins and scales. The truth is, however, that all fish that have scales also have fins, so what's the point of the Torah mandating the fins? The Alter Rebbe says that we can look at the particular functions of these two body parts for the answer. A fin is something that is used to go upward, to go higher, and this is representative of Torah study, a discipline that plumbs the depths of the human intellect and simultaneously soars aloft to bask in the rays of G-d's own knowledge. A scale is a cover, a protection. We see this in Tanya, where the Alter Rebbe writes that a person builds up a chain mail with their Mitzvos, particularly Tzedaka.
So the answer is; when someone only has fins, only has Torah (like a misnaged), then they're suspect. But if someone only has good deeds, then they're all right.
Nice, eh? For the next few days I'm going out of town, to a wedding in Mequon, and while I will certainly try and post I can't promise anything. But check back again next week, because hey! why not?
As you probably read already, today is my birthday, so I think we'll all celebrate by writing the top ten reasons not to vote for Barack Obama.
1. He's a Democrat (that one was obvious).
2. There's no substance behind his rhetoric.
3. He's developed a cult.
4. There's only one messiah, and he sure ain't a Christian.
5. He's surrounded himself with advisors who want to see the end of Israel and the destruction of world Jewry.
6. He opposes the war in Iraq.
7. Seriously, why would anyone want to abandon our commitments?
8. A President with the name Hussein?
9. Oprah likes him.
10. Your vote might make him win.
Am I being very nice here? Fine, so maybe not, but this guy is seriously scary. No other candidate that I can remember has ever had such a great chance of winning and such a lack of substance. Would Dole, Gore, Dukakis, or Kerry have been so bad? Probably not. Nothing would've changed in this country. But with Obama? Bad things will happen. The country will begin to demand healthcare, taxed will rise like nothings ever risen before, and I might even have to leave the country and go to California. Wouldn't that be fun?
That's right folks, happy secular birthday to me, the Real Shliach. I am now old enough to go on over to Jack's liquor store and buy some Benedictine. Oh right, it's also Abraham Lincoln's birthday. He's lucky to share birthdays with me, huh?
Monday, February 11, 2008
It's really annoying when I have nothing to write, because then it's difficult to write. It's even more annoying when I have what to write and it's still difficult to write. The reason I bring this up is because MyYeshiva, the Yeshiva High School of the Twin Cities, visited Postville, Iowa for the weekend. One would think that I'd have lots to write about; after all, there's so much exciting shtuff going on in that bastion of world Jewry. Truth is, it's quite impressive that all types of Jews live and interact there with no one getting killed. The problem is that I really don't feel like describing how cows are slaughtered, processed, and turned into tasty burgers. In case you're interested, Agriprocessors has recently started making precooked shnitzel that you just microwave, and let me tell you that it is good. No garbage in that product, just chicken breasts. I was quite impressed. As I was saying though, I really don't feel like telling you all about wading through pools of blood and guts, or standing inches from a dying cow, or watching atrocities reminiscent of Israeli dealings with Arabs. All right, I'm just joking about that last one. The Rubashkin Mafia threatened to shoot us if we said anything bad about their operations.
I almost became a member of PETA, but then I ate some of that shnitzel, and I realized that the reason the good G-d gave us meat was to enjoy it. Actually, I wouldn't become a member of PETA even if was a vegetarian, simply because they're a bunch of lying hypocrites who advocate death for all normal human beings like me and you. Am I being harsh? Possibly. Nu Nu.
In the Shushan Purim Maamar from 1954 the Rebbe talks a lot about angels, but the main focus of the discourse is on a pretty basic question. We all know that the Jew's completed their acceptance of the Torah on Purim, and the question is raised, why is it that the Megilla, depending on circumstances, can be read on five days, while the original acceptance of the Torah, Shavous, is only one day? The Maamar obviously goes into this in great detail, but the main point is that the reason there is only one day that the Torah was given to us is because-oh, that's it! The Torah was given to us. It was a gift from above. From above everyone is equal. On Purim, we worked hard, and we accepted the Torah. We did it, and since we're all different, there are different days of Purim.
What's the practical application? We have to know that everyone got the same gift, but we all have different purposes, and therefore different abilitys to do different things. Wow, wasn't that a soppy liberal sentence. I almost made myself vomit.
There was a guy Farbrenging in Postville who was telling a couple of the Shluchim from YHSTC that if you think good about a kid then he'll turn out great, and if you look at him as if he's bad then he'll be bad. I felt like punching him in the head, but decided against it because after all he is a ritual slaughterer, and as you know those guys can be pretty dangerous. My problem with his statement is that it's needlessly positive. Life isn't so perfect that by mere attitude behavior can be changed. It takes much more than that. It takes massive amounts of cash to accomplish anything.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Today is the first day of Adar, and therefore the first of sixty consecutive joy upping experiences. To celebrate I read some stories from Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin about Purim, and here's one of them, with some commentary by myself. (A Treasury of Chassidic Tales, Artscroll, 1979)
One year, at the festive Purim meal of Reb Noach of Lechovitch, he told his Chassidim that he would be giving out spiritual gifts to anyone who wanted, as it is written in Shulchan Oruch that whoever stretches their hand out on Purim for charity is given. All the Chassidim began to ask for help in their divine service, besides one, Reb Moshe of Kobrin. Reb Noach asked his Chossid why he didn't want a Brocha, a blessing? Reb Moshe answered, "I want to be a soldier, to work my way upward through my own efforts."
This story reminded me of one of the Tzemach Tzedek, who was given a similar offer by his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, and declined for the same reason. Later on he said that he would have rather taken the gift, because then he would be even greater.
From these two stories it appears that there are three types of people. The first takes the gift and uses it, without bothering to put any effort of their own into their spiritual growth. The second types doesn't want the gift, because they want to grow through their own effort. The third type is really the best, because they use the gift to go higher than they could ever possibly go in any other circumstances.
Make sense? Tremendous.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I know that everyone was eagerly awaiting my post today, and I'm sorry that it's coming so late, but I only just (well, in the ballpark) came home from the Republican Caucuses, which I'll now describe for you in excruciating detail.
I showed up at my caucusing place, Expo Elementary School, at about 6:45. The place was packed. It took ten minutes to get past the lobby and into the gym. This gym was, by the way, the most pathetic excuse for an exercise facility that I have laid eyes upon in my many years upon this rapidly browning earth. Anyway, as the district leader said, they normally get about 100-150 people, and this year, due to the great interest showed by the public, they set up chairs for 250 people. About 600 showed up. First we got an invocation from a Reverend, who's name I unfortunately can't remember, who also happens to be deaf and actually signed first his prayer and then a political speech to us. Obviously, we got an interpreter.
Update! During Davening I remembered that his name is Emory Dively, and his website, though seldom updated, is http://www.emorydively.com. We then all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and I doffed my hat for the Stars and Stripes, and recited the pledge for the first time in, oh, ten years or so.
Anyway, we got some speeches from people running for Congress, as well as the state house, with much cheering in evidence when one of the would-be politicians called out Michael Pay-more for doing what he does best and trying once again to raise taxes. Then it was the turn for each candidate's people to give a two minute speech telling us voters why we should commit to their guy. First the Mccain guys roused the crowd, and it was nice that they mentioned his strong support for Israel. Next up was the Paul people, who were quite noisy, but also not too endearing. My view is, if I wanted to vote for a Nazi, then I'd move to Germany. Or Austria. Or somewhere like that. Huckabee's local spokesman then came to the fore and basically said that if you hate abortion and same-sex marriage, then go for him. Romney's young man said that he was Huckabee with a plan for the economy and the chance to win.
We split up for the actual voting, which goes by precinct, and I'd like to report to you that p3w6 (if I recall correctly) not only sat on chairs designed for six year olds but also voted 9 for Romney, 7 for Huckabee, 6 for Mccain, and 3 for Paul. Later we voted for delegates to the BPOU convention, which I would have been happy to attend except that it falls out on a Shabbos, which of course means that my religion prohibits my attending. Oh well. At least I got to tabulate the results, as a "teller", and though I was given the chance to skew the results I held firm and reported what people actually voted back to my caucus. Since none of the candidates really meant anything to me, I decided to vote for the four people who were trying to get into the convention for the first time. A little note here: We were entitled to five delegates, with three alternates. Since we only had seven people actually running it really made no practical difference one way or the other. We did have Georgia Dietz as our caucus chair, and from some recent articles in the Highland Villager (our local news organ) at appears that she's quite the live wire. It also appears that she used to teach at the Cheder (our local Lubavitch schooling organ).
A recommendation was passed supporting the gold standard or something. And that, my friends, was that. A beautiful exercise in Democracy, or Republicanism, depending on your bent, and now we can all rest assured that the Real Shliach's candidate, who I by the way neglected to mention, so I'll reveal my secret to the world and say that it was Mike Huckabee, will go on to great heights, but not the White House.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Did you know that it's snowing outside? Isn't that incredible? While I have no particular affinity for the fluffy stuff, it certainly is nice to see it falling. Ah, how trite the Real Shliach is today, you say, must be the cold has finally gotten to his vital systems and turned them into mush. Well let me tell you something, I'm as sharp as ever. There's no denying that I'm not as sharp as I've been in the past, probably due to the looming clouds that are, quite appropriately I feel, looming in the distance, but please don't let this disturb you.
Anyway, in that video of Rabbi Manis Friedman that I watched last week there was a funny part, where he rhetorically asks, "Who else but my wife and I should take care of our kids?" A female voice in the background then replies, "Who else but you and your wife would want to take care of your kids?"
This puts me in mind of a cute story that I read about R. Manis, that he was once asked by a (presumably) radical feminist, "What does your wife do all day, while you fly about the country lecturing, making money, oppressing females, etc?" R. Manis answered, "She runs a home for fourteen unwanted children." The radical feminist was taken aback, and said something to the effect of, "That's beautiful", or something equally unintelligent (not, of course, that I'd expect anything less from a radical feminist). Anyway, R. Manis continued speaking, "Yes, she asked around to see if anyone else wanted our fourteen kid, and no one did, so we kept them." Presumably the radical feminist had a seizure or something and consequently went to commune with nature in a pine box, but I really don't have too much information on that part of the story.
In other news around here, tomorrow is the Minnesota GOP caucus, and I'm pretty excited to be able to attend. I've never been to a caucus, so I really don't know what's going to happen, and I still haven't figured out who to go for. My priorities are 1. Israel, 2. Homeland Security, and 3. The economy. I assume that no Republican, aside from the infamous Ron Paul, will cut and run from Iraq, so hopefully that's something that I don't need to worry about. A friend in the community was supporting Duncan Hunter, who professed a great love for the holy land, but now that he's gone I'm just not sure who I'll be going for. Probably Romney, because I think it would be fun to have a President who can't eat chocolate.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
I recently heard a song, I believe by Dov Shurin, which not only insults Meshichists and Na Na Nachmans but also proclaims that "Hashem is my Rebbe!" This line reminded me of a conversation that I had many, many moons ago with a couple of Snags in Savannah Georgia. I was only 11 or so, and consequently wasn't as well versed as I am now. Anyway, they tried to convince me that there was really no fight nowadays between Chassidim and Misnagdim, as after all, everyone has a Rabbi, right? Obviously they didn't quite get the difference between a Rebbe and a Rosh Yeshiva, but that's not the topic of today's post.
Fast forward several years to a Farbrengen with the Rosh in LA, who told a great mashal, parable, about the whole concept of Rebbe. Here it goes, with some slight embellishment by yours truly to keep it interesting.
Misnagdim have a famous question on Chassidim, "Why do you need a Rebbe? After all, there's no Mitzvah, no commandment, in the Torah to have one?" Chassidim have two choices when they're faced with this query: the first thing that comes to their mind, and lefi anias daiti the right move, is to give the guy a quick punch in the gut. The second thing that comes to the mind of a Chassid is to say the following...
Many, many years ago, in a land far, far away, like Arizona, but not exactly, there lived a man who wanted to become a goldsmith. He decided to apprentice himself to the greatest living goldsmith, a man so renowned for mastery of the precious metal that he had earned his country's highest medal for his genius. Let's call him Jonathan, or John for short. Oh, and the seeker can be Pedro. So Pedro comes to John and begs to be apprenticed. John says, "All right, as long as you promise to pay attention to everything I say, and even more so to what I do, and don't be an idiot." Pedro agrees, and spends the next seven years learning how to create the most magnificent vessels, jewelry, and the occasional casket.
One day John told Pedro, "Today is the day when you shall go off into the world and become a man for yourself." Pedro did so, returning to his hometown and opening up a goldsmithery. The first day of business he gets very excited, and places a large hunk of gold on the table, and starts to hammer it. Nothing happens. He thinks that this is strange, and takes out a chisel. Again, nothing. He tries all his tools, but the block of gold does nothing.
Pedro runs back to John, and complains that nothing is working. John looks at him strangely, and asks him to replicate everything that he did. Pedro takes a block of gold, puts it on the table, and starts to hammer. Again, nothing happens. John says, "You idiot!" Pedro looks up, all offended, and asks, "Why?" John tells Pedro, "You didn't light a fire underneath the gold, you moron!" Pedro says, "Huh? You never told me to light a fire underneath the gold." John responds, "I figured that it was so obvious that I didn't have to tell you. Didn't I say int he beginning that you have to pay attention to what I do even more than what I say?"
Thus ends the mashal. The point is obvious. The reason Hashem didn't tell us, in the Torah, to get a Rebbe is because he figured it would be obvious. After all, he appointed Moshe, and assumed that people would get that you have to have a Moshe in each generation.
And that, my friends, is the why Dov Shurin is out of his mind, and why a Rebbe is very different from a Rosh Yeshiva.
Friday, February 1, 2008
After several days of struggle I have arrived in the golden land, with three (that's right, count 'em: 1 2 3) things to blog about. I hope you're as excited as I am. Ahh, you say, why doesn't TRS write these three topics up over three days, and thereby spare himself, and his readership, the agony of potential drivel? Well, what if Moshiach comes or something, and I never get the chance to write all that I have to say? That would be tragic. Better to feed it all now, and you can digest it later if you please.
All right then, topic number one: I watched a video of a Rabbi Manis Friedman lecture, and he mentioned that once he was asked by an obviously hostile woman, "Which do you consider yourself first, an American or a Jew?" The Rabbi answered, "I'm a Jew first." The woman looked at him with hatred in her eyes, and was about to pull a shotgun on him when he continued, "Because if I was an American first, then I might as well have stayed Russian (his country of choice, I guess). The greatness of America is the freedom to be a Jew first."
I have no idea what the woman then did-perhaps she flapped her wings and flew to the moon, though I somehow doubt it. Anyway, onto the second part of today's blog, we have an exclusive report of last night's Farbrengen with our gallant leader, a man who is unafraid to ski down mountains in Canada, Rabbi Manis Friedman's favorite ("every kid's my favorite") son, R. Chayim Friedman.
There was once a Chossid who moved to Israel. He decided that he would leave his Yetzer Hora, his evil inclination, behind, because why should he bring his evil passions to the holy land? His YH agreed to stay behind in Russia, where it could catch up on some vodka drinking or something like that. The Chossid traveled to Israel, and lo and behold, his YH was standing there on the pier, waiting to greet him with open hands! The Chossid didn't even want to get off, but the YH came aboard and started to tempt him. The Chossid asked, "I thought we made a deal, that you'd stay in Russia? What are you doing here in Israel?" The YH answered, "What's your problem? Your Russian YH stayed in Russia! I'm your new Israeli YH."
The Chossid realized that wherever you are, you have passions for shtuff.
In additional news, there was once a convention of YH's, who gathered from all over the world in order to get chizzuk and inspiration for their careers. The YH from Argentina was the first to speak, and though he was quite eloquent, he unfortunately spoke in Spanish, which I of course don't understand, so I can't tell you what he said. Next up was Zimbabwe, and the same problem (for me) occurred. The Lakewood YH's turn came up, and joyously reported his incredible success, "I have over 5000 people all learning Torah, just for me!" In similar fashion the Yetzer Horas of the world gave their reports, and everyone was having a great time. At the end a pathetic looking figure stood up, dressed in tattered clothes and sporting thirty or so broken femurs (YH's have odd anatomies). All the other YH's gathered around him and asked what the problem was? He explained, "I'm the Yetzer Hora for Tomchei Tmimim, and I'm failing miserably. These guys never listen to me. It's terrible!"
Suddenly the head honcho, the chief YH himself, walked in, and he cackled ominously as purple and gold smoke billowed from beneath his emerald green cloak. He said, "Do you want to know how to seduce the Tmimim, the students of Lubavitcher Yeshivos? The way to do it is not to offer them big sins, or even medium sins, or really, even small sins at all. They're so good that you'll never get them to fall for something like that. The way to do it is to start them off with something so benign, so pathetic, that they'll never realize that they've been tricked. Make them not bother to put on their hats and jackets before saying Kerias Shema al Hamitah, or forget to eat Mezonos before Davening. You'll have them in no time."
You know what they say, the devil's in the details.
And finally, for the third thing, I'd just like to point out something that the Rebbe said in 1954: If Esther, queen of Persia, had been a Misnaged, then all the Jews would've been wiped out. Because the Shulchan Oruch says that a person isn't allowed to have Mesiras Nefesh, to risk their life, for another person, and since Esther herself was not threatened, she was obligated by the Shulchan Oruch to not risk her life. And if she had asked a snag Rabbi, then he would have told her this. But she wasn't a snag, she was a Lubavitcher, and a Lubavitcher gets things done, without consulting people who have no brains.
The Rebbe also said that obviously Mordechai was also a Chossid, because only a Chossid would make up the rule that a Jew has to get so plastered on Purim that they don't know the difference between good and evil. But that's for a different post. Until next time then, have a great Shabbos, and don't forget the Alamo. Or Enterprise for that matter.