Wednesday, December 30, 2009

TGL and his descendants

First thing's first, a big Mazal Tov to Reuven Kasten and his wife Tzipora (read about their wedding here) on the birth of a baby daughter. Mazal Tov also to Shmuelie and Hindy Bortunk (read about their wedding here) on the birth of their firstborn daughter. A fun time round for all, eh?

Meanwhile, in other news, it has come to my attention that today's Torah portion deals with that most noble of creatures, the lion. As you may well know, the lion, otherwise known as Panthera leo, is best known for having perfected what is known as the "male dominance" lifestyle, wherein the male sleeps all day and the female does all the hunting. Females may dispute this, and claim that responsibility equals power, but real lions know the truth.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The blood runneth in the streets

It's like a Krakatoan Russia.

(By A. Petrosian.)

In case ya'll are wondering why I'm not writing anything on this here humble blog (and merely posting other people's pictures), it's because today I wrote a whole long thing on this here humble blog, and now I'm all blogged out!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The man doth protest

The tall structure in the center is a part of Peter Paul fortress complex, where Alter Rebbe was imprisoned.

No, the sky is not always of this color in Petersburg. Only when Putin kills especially many oligarchs on the particular day.

(courtesy of the CA)

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I had thought to continue my recent practice of commenting on the day's Torah portion, but though I had many questions while learning it I didn't encounter anything that was bloggable. Instead I'll relate a few matters which have been percolating in my mind over the last few days.

1. I spoke to a shadchan regarding a friend of mine a few days ago, and at the end of our comversation she said something along the lines of, "I give you a brocha that when it's time for you to go through this you should have-" At this point I interupted her and said, "Actually, I already-", at which point she interupted me, saying, "What? You're ready?" in an extremely excited voice. I hated to disillusion her, but these these things must be done, so I said, "Oh, no sorry, I was saying that I'm already married." She gave a very disappointed "Oh." to that one.

2. Today, after much annoyance and heartache, not to mention schlepping, I managed to get the rest of our shtuff toiveled. le7 is quite happy.

3. I would just like to point out to all the Lubavitch drivers of fancy SUVs that when the pedestrian has the right of way, and you come screaming through your turn, looking for all the world as if your going to cross paths with him, he will stop. Just because the pedestrian has the right of way doesn't mean he's suicidal. Now, if you stop, the pedestrian will begin to excercise his rights once again and cross the street. This is not, repeat not, a good time to honk at him and gesture rudely through your window. Just saying.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Disenfranchised kids

Interesting that Hashem spoke to Yaakov all the time, but not to his kids. For example, in the previous several parshas, we've found lots of interesting stories with the tribes, including many questionable decisions that they made. You would think that the age of G-dly communication has ended, and now people have been left on earth with only their own intuition and abilities. Then what happens? G-d comes to Jacob and has a whole conversation (Genesis 46, 2)! Where was G-d when Joseph was missing (yes, I know the Sicha that's brought down in the Gutnick Chumash on this very point), or when Judah had the whole thing with Tamar, or when Yosef was in Egypt, or when the brothers came down to him? In fact, this appears to be one of the few cessations in prophecy during the entire Tanach! What's most interesting, to me at least, is that the three forefathers all talked to G-d on a regular basis. Moses, Aaron, David, and Solomon, all talked to G-d on a regular basis. Yet do we ever find that he ever spoke with any if the twelve tribes?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 Jewish Music Blogger Awards Are Here!

JMR is hosting this years awards, so go on over, tell them what you think and let’s hand out some statues.

Last year, YK of organized a Jewish Music Bloggers Awards where he gave both his readers and several Jewish music bloggers an opportunity to vote for their favorites in a number of categories. It was an exciting process to be able to vote for your favorites, read the opinions of some of Jewish music’s best known bloggers and finally see the winners when they were announced. YK was hoping that the Jewish Music Bloggers Awards would become an annual event and has asked us to host this year’s awards. We are so honored to be a part of this exciting event!

We have come up with a list of categories and are giving you, the readers, until Sunday night to nominated your favorites in each category.

Once we have firmed up the list, we will post it on our website and you will have ten days to vote for your favorites. During this period, we will be posting picks from a number of Jewish music bloggers who have graciously volunteered to share their opinions. After that, we will narrow the poll down to three finalists in each category, before we finally tally up the votes and proclaim the winners.

Below are the categories for this year’s awards. Who would you like to see nominated in each category? Let us know at We look forward to hearing from you!

  • Best Album
  • Best Song
  • Best Debut Album
  • Boys Choir Album
  • Best Arrangement
  • Best English Song
  • Best Yiddish Song
  • Best Concert DVD

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maybe the computer tells them

I've just returned from my third wedding in two nights, and I'd love to write all about them, but something very important has come up that must be addressed. I was talking to a bochur tonight at one of the weddings, and we were having quite the conversation, but then he had to go. Why? I wondered the same thing. Was it because I was boring him? Perhaps he had an urgent appointment with his hairdresser? Or maybe his phone needed to be sanitized?

Turns out it was none of the above. Turns out he had to attend a shiur, entitled, "How will I know when I've met my bashert?" After snorting my ginger ale up my nose two or three times I inquired if he was serious. He was. I thought this a bit ridiculous. I mean, seriously, what are you expecting? Will there be angels singing verses from Handel as cherubs place wreaths of garlic over you and your beloved's heads? And that's just the first date!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Dedicated followers of this here blog will recall extensive discussion regarding alcohol and its effects on the human psyche/body. Here's a little science on the matter:

Dark Liquor Makes for Worse Hangovers

A new study may help drinkers pick their poison. In a head-to-head comparison, bourbon gave drinkers a more severe hangover than vodka, report Damaris Rohsenow of Brown University and colleagues in an upcoming issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

But vodka drinkers aren’t off the hook: Drinkers’ sleep suffered equally with both drinks, as did their performance on tasks requiring attention and quick responses. Understanding the lingering effects of alcohol after a night of heavy drinking is important for people who engage in safety-sensitive tasks, such as driving, while hung over Rohsenow says.

The researchers recruited 95 healthy young adults, ages 21 to 33, and gave them caffeine-free cola mixed with bourbon, vodka or tonic water. The drinking ended when participants’ breath-alcohol concentrations hit an average of 0.11, well over the legal intoxication limit. Participants were then hooked up to sleep monitors, which record brain activity, and allowed to sleep it off. At 7 a.m. the next day, the researchers roused the subjects from bed (a wake-up that did not include coffee or aspirin) and asked them to rate the severity of their hangovers.

Overall, bourbon drinkers reported feeling worse than vodka drinkers, rating higher on scales that measure the severity of hangover malaise, including headache, nausea, loss of appetite and thirst. It should come as no surprise that alcohol drinkers said they felt much worse than those who had drunk only tonic water.

One reason for the different effects of vodka and bourbon, Rohsenow says, could be that bourbon contains 37 times more toxic compounds than vodka does, including nasty organic molecules such as acetone, acetaldehyde, tannins and furfural. A good rule of thumb for liquors, she says, is that the clearer they are, the less of these substances they contain.

Both the bourbon drinkers and vodka drinkers slept poorly compared to the nondrinkers, the team found. The next morning, when the participants performed cognitive tests that required attention and quick reaction times, the drinkers performed worse than the nondrinkers, but the type of alcohol had no effect on performance. Both groups of drinkers were impaired equally.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Charity saves

There are many people who ask for money in Crown Heights. Some of them work in stores and give items in exchange for the money they expect you to hand them. Sometimes these items are even worth the price. There are many other people in Crown Heights who ask for money in exchange for the chance to win thousands of dollars. Most of these people run what are known as "Chinese Auctions". Some of them are from Williamsburg. Unlike the store people mentioned above, these inquirers rarely give anything in exchange for your money. Still, there's always the promise of filthy lucre, which is not to be sneered at.

We now come to that most honorable class of money makers, the schnorrer. 770 is filled with these people, and most of them are rather harmless. Sure, they'll give you dirty looks once in a while, but all in all they're happy when you give 'em the odd quarter. It's always embarrassing to be saying Rambam on an iPod Touch and to say you have no money on you, but it's true! If only these people carried credit cards around...

There are two schnorrers in Crown Heights who I do not particularly like. One is the woman who sits next to the dreidel by the Jewish Children's Museum and insults passers-by who fail to make a contribution. Though this makes for great street theater, and is undoubtedly a source of entertainment for the women herself (who wouldn't like coming up with innovative curses with which to shame the masses?), it's also very sad and a bit disturbing.

The other guy I really don't like goes around saying, "Give Tezadaka please" with this curious sing-song that suggests intense boredom and a desire to appear as if the money's not needed by him. About three months ago I heard from someone that he's a really big nebach, as he's a CH druggie, which answered one question of mine (why didn't he just get a job, like the rest of humanity?) and brought up another, (why should I give him a penny?)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cold Borscht

In verse 21 of today's portion in the Torah we read, "Then they said to one another, 'Indeed we are guilty concerning our brother inasmuch as we saw his heartfelt anguish when he pleaded with us and we did not listen; that is why this anguish has come upon us.'" Right after all this mutual commiseration Reuben pops us and says, "Did I not speak to you saying, 'Do not sin against the boy'? But you would not listen! And his blood as well - behold! - is being avenged."

What exactly was Reuben hoping to achieve here? To be all self-righteous and lay the blame on others? In general, his is a sad life. First there's the matter of his moving his father's bed, which got him pretty badly censured. Then he's not around to save his brother when push comes to shove, which of course resulted in the embarrassing episode mentioned above. Then comes the task of guaranteeing the safe return of Binyamin, and his own father calls him a fool. Ouch. Later on his father doesn't bless him, his people choose not to live in Israel, and even Moshe doesn't bless him. And yeah, can't forget that whole little thing of losing the birthright and the priesthood, eh?

Seriously though, what was he doing telling everyone that he was blameless? What did he hope to accomplish? Why did he do it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Joe College

I had an interesting conversation with a semi-relative tonight at a chanuka party. Essentially, he questioned Yosef's motivation in his dealings with his brothers. The guy sets himself up as this horrible scary ruler, continues the charade for a while, and at the end he says, "Hey boys, guess who I am!" Why didn't he do this in the beginning? Presumably he was testing them, trying to figure out if they had repented enough for their past sins. The immediate question is, who is he to play G-d? What gave him the right to set himself up as this big guy on campus, deciding the fates of his family with his only concern being an ancient slight? On the other hand, he was certainly a big believer in individual divine providence and all that jazz, so if the fates had delivered his brothers into his hands, who was he to argue?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Only in Texas

With thanks to the Shvigs.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Almost like a jelly doughnut

Tomorrow night is Chanuka, and in honor of that I made a new label, "Chanuka", which contains much Festival-of-Lights-Goodness. Here's an excerpt from some of those posts, containing a newly freshened-up bit about my favorite Maamar of all time, Al Hanisim '29:

There are two main points of this maamar. The first is an explanation of the war between the assimilated Jew peoples and the faithful-to-their-father-in-heaven peoples. What was the root of their argument? The Greekifieds refused to accept the existence of G-d. Simple, no? You would think that things would've change in the last two thousand plus years, but I suppose that wise King Solomon was correct when he asserted that, "There is nothing new under the sun." The Greeks asserted the primacy of reason, as does our culture. If they didn't understand it, well, obviously it couldn't exist. And even the particularly enlightened ones, who acknowledged that reason is not the be all and end all of human existence, refused to accept a higher power. Even when they acknowledged that they didn't know everything, and even more so, that it is impossible to know everything, that intellect and logic can't explain all there is, they still refused to accept a higher power. Why? Presumably because they were having too much fun attending toga parties. But seriously, they had major issues with Kabbalos Ol. They couldn't accept anyone telling them what to do without a good reason. If they had known there was a good reason, just they couldn't understand it, that would have been ok, but for there to be no reason? This they couldn't accept.

So what is the way to fight this invidious form of human behavior? There's only one way: with Mesiras Nefesh. And that doesn't mean giving your life up either. It can also mean deciding to say Tehillim after Davening instead of running to breakfast and getting runny egg yolk from sunny side up eggs all over your freshly laundered shirt. Which happened anyway, as it turned out, but I suppose that's one of the reasons for sweaters.

Mesiras Nefesh means that you have to do something which is crazy, to tap into your internal soul-powers, to go beyond intellect. That's really the whole point, isn't it? To do something that makes no sense. Not to you, and not to your mother either.

The second part of the Maamar deals with a mystical explanation of the advantages of the horn, getting into a whole thing about Dovid and Shlomo vs. Shaul.

Also, a big Mazal Tov to Shmuelie Schapiro, brother of our great leader, who was not only in smicha last year in Motown but also came to the TRS+le7 wedding! At the lchaim I thanked him for getting engaged to a Crown Heightser so that I could repay the favor easily, and he said, "Repay the favor? It was worth every penny!" I thought that was very sweet.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shmuelie Gourarie, why are you here?

Two things.

1. I'm one of those people who don't mind leading services for the congregation on occasion, and normally this goes off without a hitch. A couple weeks ago, I lead the evening services in the big 770, and while I was waiting around for people to finish their personal devotional services so that I could commence the Kaddish, I was criticized by several members of the congregation for my speedy rendition of the prayers. I'm not one to respond to criticism of this sort, so I merely shrugged my shoulders and half-smiled. Sensing fresh blood in the water, they pounced, and started telling me how terrible I was (or something like that). Eventually I escaped, and lived to tell the tale.

In my defense, this particular quorum of people had been waiting around for five minutes, and I had declined to lead the prayers several times, on account of my recitation of the daily Ramabm (to head off any advance at the pass, it was the laws of the sanctification of the new moon, and there's no way I'm learning that without a shiur and coffee). Eventually I got fed up (and finished Rambam), and agreed to pray for the assembled masses, to (at the time) great acclaim. Point is, these people wanted me to daven, and it's really not my problem that their own benedictions flowed like molasses in January (admittedly, I davened faster than one would Neilah on Yom Kippur, but still, it's not like I was pulling off a ten minute shacharis [obviously, it was maariv] or something like that). I felt rather put out at the time, but got over it, and am now a better man because of it.

Last night a similar thing happened. There were a number of people waiting for a leader to take them to the promised land, and after I finished up a conversation with an esteemed employee of I volunteered to lead the services. Learning from my previous mistake, I davened nice and slow, allowing everyone to take a couple yawns between paragraphs, and once I had seven or eight people waiting who had finished the silent standing I began "Sanctified and Hallowed be His Name." Soon after, while still saying Joshua's prayer (they always get you when you can't respond, eh?), I was assaulted by a man in black who demanded to know why I had begun Kaddish before I had enough people.

This time I managed to respond, and I told him that where I come from (good 'ol S. Paul), we say the Kaddish prayer when there are six people able to respond. Here there were definitely more. He said something about nine people, but I'll take Rabbi Z's word over his any day. He then launched into a whole thing about "sizing up the situation" which I felt was completely unnecessary, and finally let me go home when I gave him a non-committal grunt. Sheesh.

2. I saw a friend of mine, who recently went off to become a Shliach in southern California, in 770 this morning. I saw another friend of mine (undoubtedly looking for shlichus) and asked him why this other guy was in town. He said, "It used to be that when a guy suddenly appeared in 770 you didn't ask questions...". I answered that this was a very policy, and one which I strongly promoted, but it didn't cover the current situation. I continued that we couldn't even compare this case to that of Los Cabos, because there's no reason to suspect that the hospitals in Los Angeles are in any way inferior to those of New York. In fact, seeing as this person's wife is from Los Angeles, it wouldn't make any sense for them to come to Brooklyn for that reason. So, what's the story?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rabbinics vs. The Rabbanus

Courtesy of the Rev. H.B. Schmoe (הרוצה באילום שמו)

Don't ask why, but I ended up on the website of JTS's rabbinic school. The curriculum was laughable until I got to the part on "required skills." Your average flatbush/boro park shul rabbi can do about half of this and relies on bochurim and baalei batim for the rest.

Required skills:

  • Weekday nusah: Shaharit, Minhah, and Ma'ariv
  • Shabbat: Kiddush and havdalah
  • Knots (tying of tzitzit and tefillin knots)
  • Hallel
  • Torah/haftarah reading
  • Shabbat nusah: Shaharit, Minhah and Ma'ariv
  • Use of luah
  • Megillot trope
  • High Holy Day Torah reading
  • Shofar
  • Shalosh Regalim

Even funnier is that they not only expect the Rav to need the luach, but they don't expect him/her to know how to use it and need to give him/her a test.

Friday, November 27, 2009

At least it was warm

You know what happens when you listen to your mashpia? I'll tell you what happens: You end up looking like a complete dork for wearing your kapote on Yud Kislev. "Why is this?" you ask. Because there's a total of four other people wearing Kapotes in 770, and two of them look like they haven't used their brains in four decades.

You know, I don't mind being holier than thou, but there comes a point where it looks more like you're out of your mind than being holy. Think about it-it's really holy to learn chassidus for six hours and then daven, but if you're putting on Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin during Rabbeinu Tam Shekia? No one thinks you're holy, they just think you're nuts.

In summation: just because you're mashpia wears a kapote on Yud Kislev in yeshiva, where no one else is wearing one anyway and it looks cool, doesn't mean you should.

In other news, N G asked me to mention him and his blog. I agreed, but only if I could savage it, because you know, I don't just give out links for free. Seriously, I don't. So I was going to ridicule someone he mentioned this week, R' Shimshon Ostropolier, but it turns out he's a holy dude, so I couldn't do that. This guy, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, on the other hand, looks like he could be fun...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Redeem thyself

Tonight is Tes Kislev, which leads into Yud Kislev, which is the day I wrote a cute post a couple years ago. Some things change over time, and something don't... (read the comments in that post).

Have you ever realized that truth is non-negotiable? It just is. If you don't like it then that's fine, but you can't escape it. Why do I bring this up? Probably because I couldn't remember what I really wanted to write. Ah, now it's all coming back. Last night we had a Farbrengen for the auspicious day of Yud Kislev, the day that the Mitteler Rebbe was freed from jail. Though Shillibear attended he didn't say anything, leaving the inspirational shtuff to the Shluchim of YHSTC. Oh, in case you're wondering, the reason I try to avoid the word "Stuff" is because my third grade teacher, Mrs. Ring, would always tell my class that "stuff" is what you put in turkeys, and for every other situation you should be a bit more specific. Anyway, I talked about the Mitteler Rebbe. He really made things very easy for us. Both of his important days are right next to each other, so we can spend just 48 hours and then forget about him for the rest of the year.

Shillibear liked this. At least, I think he did. He laughed. Point is, we've got this incredible Man of G-d, and no one cares in he least. His father, the Alter Rebbe, said that if you would cut him no blood would would flow it, but rather Chassidus. When he was 14, and ready to get married, he had many proposals, and when they asked him which he wanted he said, "whichever one is ready to get married the fastest, because I want to hear a Maamar from my father."

Do you realize what this means? Here's a guy whose whole existence was dedicated to the word of G-d. Simply incredible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

You can't judge art!

A blogger recently blogged about how much they liked a certain song (MBD's Moshiach). I left one of those comments that say "I'm only leaving this comment to subscribe to comments from other people who actually have something intelligent to say but I'm not so gauche as to do it with the word 'subscribing' so I came up with something inane to take its place" though not necessarily in those words. Be that as it may (and it may well be), about thirteen seconds after I left that comment I was dishing up a bowl of chili when it hit me like a bolt of bricks (not the chili, that was safely in my bowl). "Someone actually admitted to liking Jewish music!" I thought, "I should've written something sarcastic about someone actually admitting to liking Jewish music!"

Because really, it's sick. People hate Jewish music. They think it's ridiculous, it's cheesy, it's pathetic. You know what? I think your poetry stinks. No, sorry, I didn't mean to say that. What I meant to say was that I could really care less what you think. Do I go around criticizing your tastes in art or literature? No, and you would consider me a total heathen for expressing such thoughts. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, right? Somehow though, when it comes to Jewish music, you either think it's all terrible or you have the brains of a dodo bird on speed.

Sure, everyone has their one or two groups/songs which they like. Some popular choices would be the Marcus Brothers, Matisyahu, Shlomo Carlebach, Soulfarm, or any other counter-cultural group which doesn't sound so much like other Jewish music to be hated. Lipa Schmeltzer used to be in this group, but then he got popular, so he's not cool any more.

Do I like every Jewish song, or even every artist? Not at all. Do I think every artist or every song is terrible? Not at all. There's good and there's bad, just like there's good and bad in non-Jewish music. Do we hear that all non-Jewish music is terrible? Of course not! Because it's not all terrible. Not all Jewish music is terrible either. Most of it is actually pretty good. And even if you think it's bad, I really don't care. Unless you want me telling you your poetry stinks...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The least I could do

Even after a year I still have no words...

Read this for some insight.

Monday, November 16, 2009


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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Last call?

"This must be Thursday," said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer, "I never could get the hang of Thursdays."

--Arthur Dent

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Don't let Lubavs be disenfranchised again!

Dear Everyone,
Two bochurim from MyYeshiva - Nissin Weissman and Tzemi Zimmerman - are finalists in the local Federation Tzedakah art contest.
Take time to vote for them!!!
Good luck!

Yours Truly,
Michoel Rose

(PS from TRS-there's a reason the good L-rd created Opera-vote early, vote often!)

Sunday, November 8, 2009


There's a dvar Torah about this past week's Haftora (Vayera) that I've thought about every single year since I first heard it in 2004. Originally blogged on October 27, 2007 (read some cute comments there), here it is (slightly edited):

When I was a young child, back in YOEC, I heard something so good that I still remember it. The Rosh (Our fearless leader) gives a speech every Shabbos, and four years ago yesterday was no exception. The Haftora for Parshas Vayera deals with the Shunamite woman who Elisha first promises a child and then brings back to life. The child I mean. Sephardim only read the Haftora half-way, up to the point where she (the woman) tells her husband not to worry about the dead kiddie. Ashkenazim read the whole thing, up until the actual resurrection. Lubavitch normally follows the Sephardim rite, but for this Haftora we read according to the Ashkenazic version. Why? Hold on a second, you'll soon find out. See, Sephardim are big believers. In fact, they'll believe anything you tell them (how do you think I got that bridge off my hands?) which is a beautiful thing. On the other hand, Ashkenazim are a bunch of skeptical Apikorsim. So, obviously, Chabad wants to believe. But in this Haftora, we follow the Ashkenazim, because it deals with redemption, and when it comes to redemption, we don't want just to be told that it's all going to be good, we want to see the redemption.

Isn't that beautiful? I certainly thought so.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Avimelech says to G-d, "Even if it is righteous, would you slay it? Perhaps this is your practice, to destroy the peoples for no reason. So did you do to the generation of the flood and to the generation of the disunion. I say too that you slew them for nothing, just as you say that you will slay me."

What the heck was the dude thinking, trying to shtech G-d? Like, "Oh, I'm going to win a logical argument with G-d, now he's not gonna do anything to me." Hello, this is G-d we're talking about, he invented logic! And even if he somehow loses, he's still gonna kill you. Will that make you feel better about how things went, that before you died you proved your point? Yasher Koach.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Jew

Background: The following essay was published in Der Angriff, 21 January 1929. Goebbels founded the newspaper in Berlin in 1927 shortly after taking over as the party's leader there. This article is a typical attack on the Jews.

The source: "Der Jude," Der Angriff. Aufsätze aus der Kampfzeit (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., 1935), pp. 322-324.

The Jew

by Joseph Goebbels

Everything is discussed openly in Germany, and every German claims the right to have an opinion on any and all questions. One is Catholic, the other Protestant, one an employee, the other an employer, a capitalist, a socialist, a democrat, an aristocrat. There is nothing dishonorable about choosing one side or the other of a question. Discussions happen in public, and where matters are unclear or confused one settles it by argument and counter argument. But there is one problem that is not discussed publicly, one that it is delicate even to mention: the Jewish question. It is taboo in our republic.

The Jew is immunized against all dangers: one may call him a scoundrel, parasite, swindler, profiteer, it all runs off him like water off a raincoat. But call him a Jew and you will be astonished at how he recoils, how injured he is, how he suddenly shrinks back: "I've been found out."

One cannot defend himself against the Jew. He attacks with lightning speed from his position of safety and uses his abilities to crush any attempt at defense.

Quickly he turns the attacker's charges back on him, and the attacker becomes the liar, the troublemaker, the terrorist. Nothing could be more mistaken than to defend oneself. That is just what the Jew wants. He can invent a new lie every day for the enemy to respond to, and the result is that the enemy spends so much time defending himself that he has no time to do what the Jew really fears: to attack. The accused has become the accuser, and loudly he shoves the accuser into the dock. So it always was in the past when a person or a movement fought the Jew. That is what would happen to us as well were we not fully aware of his nature, and if we lacked the courage to draw the following radical conclusions:

1. One cannot fight the Jew by positive means. He is a negative, and this negative must be erased from the German system, or he will forever corrupt it.

2. One cannot discuss the Jewish question with the Jews. One can hardly prove to a person that one has the duty to render him harmless.

3. One cannot allow the Jew the same means one would give an honest opponent, for he is no honorable opponent. He will use generosity and nobility only to trap his enemy.

4. The Jew has nothing to say about German questions. He is a foreigner, an alien, who only enjoys the rights of a guest, rights that he always abuses.

5. The so-called religious morality of the Jews is no morality at all, rather an encouragement to betrayal. Therefore, they have no claim to protection from the state.

6. The Jew is not smarter than we are, rather only cleverer and craftier. His system cannot be defeated economically — he follows entirely different moral principles than we do. It can only be broken through political means.

7. A Jew cannot insult a German. Jewish slanders are but badges of honor for a German opponent of the Jews.

8. The more a German person or a German movement opposes the Jew, the more valuable it is. If someone is attacked by the Jews, that is a sure sign of his virtue. He who is not persecuted by the Jews, or who is praised by them, is useless and dangerous.

9. The Jew evaluates German questions from the Jewish standpoint. As a result, the opposite of what he says must be true.

10. One must either affirm or reject anti-Semitism. He who defends the Jews harms his own people. One can only be a Jewish lackey or a Jewish opponent. Opposing the Jews is a matter of personal hygiene.

These principles give the anti-Jewish movement a chance of success. Only such a movement will be taken seriously by the Jews, only such a movement will be feared by them.

The fact that he shouts and complains about such a movement therefore is only a sign that it is right. We are therefore delighted that we are constantly attacked in the Jewish gazettes. They may shout about terror. We answer with Mussolini's familiar words: "Terror? Never! It is social hygiene. We take these individuals out of circulation just as a doctor does to a bacterium.

Page copyright © 1997 by Randall Bytwerk.

Hashkafah? Ha!

Today's (yesterday's, whatever) chitas says, and I quote from the Sapirstein Rashi Chumash, "Any 'Gazing' (השקפה) that is mentioned in Scripture is for bad, i.e. indicates the detriment of that which is being gazed upon."

Got it?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jewish Tweetup

Attention Tweeters and Bloggers, and have teamed up to throw a Jewish Tweetup in NY at the 92Y in Tribeca on Wednesday night. IY"H le7 and I will be there, and there'll be free food (even kosher!), so it should be a wild party. Yup.

Plus, yours truly is featured (not so) prominently in this week's Haveil Havalim, live at Snoopy the Goon.

Minnesota Connections

I got a call from Benny Friedman on Friday inviting me to a CD release party/farbrengen on Motzei Shabbos (that would be the night that was). I accepted, and Motzei Shabbos (of the night that was) found me at Lubavitch Yeshiva Crown St. at my first ever CD release party. Woohoo! First of all, of course, the CD was playing very loudly, and it sounds great. Very catchy.

After a while of standing on the side feeling awkward I went over to a bochur who was doing the same thing. Turns out he's e's and Dowy's roommate, which is cute. We chatted a bit, doing some people watching. Everyone who's anyone in the under-30 music business was there, including Benny Taubenfeld (head of Sameach Music) Yitzy Spinner, Dovid Stein, Yisroel Werdyger, Shloime Taussig, Avi Newmark (the producer), Sruli Meyer, and a whole bunch of other people who I don't know. Eventually Benny took the mike, and with Mr. Benshimon (yes, I must admit, I don't know his first name) on the keyboard, started to sing beautifully. He sang some duets, including Chasoif with Yisroel Werdyger, which he prefaced with, "I hope you're all drunk by now, because we've kind of forgotten how this goes." Needless to say, it was really nice. The whole thing was really nice, except for the whole feeling super awkward for most of it.

I was thinking that I was very provincial, let loose with all these fancy people, totally out of my league. Then I realized that in reality, when I'm comfortable, I'm on top of the world (witness last week's Poetry Slam). If you had stuck many of the people in that room at the poetry slam, they also would have been really uncomfortable and awkward and various other things. So really, it's all about who you know at any given moment. Of course there are also those people who are blessed with a certain natural ability to make friends wherever they are. Put me at a shabbos table with someone and I'll be fairly friendly with 'em by the time the meal's over, but a big room? I'm impressed that I made one friend!

Anywho, in case you somehow missed it, here's Benny's video preview thingamajiggie:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The wild sandy yonder

As you've all probably guessed by now, I'm working hard spending most of my day on the computer, which isn't as interesting as it might seem. Heck, I'm even spending a lot of time on Facebook, which isn't as interesting as it might seem. Consequently I'm not quite as interested in spending time blogging as I once was back in the day, which is of course why it's so vitally important that I do blog. Right? Right.

Abraham our forefather went out from his homeland, at the age of 75, to the land where I will show you. What did he have to gain? Not a whole heck of a lot. How did he know he wasn't hallucinating? Did he have any proof that the voices he heard weren't some products of a fevered imagination? All right, so he survived the fiery cauldron that was Ur Kasdim. I don't know, maybe he had a fire-retardant suit or something? And where was he going anyway? He had no clue. For all he knew, he was gonna end up in the Payatas trash heap or something? How miserable would that be?

Point is, you can't trust the voices in your head. No, sorry, that's not the point. The point is that Abraham, at 75 years of age, showed some major gumption in leaving his homeland and setting out for who knows where. And his wife? What did she have to gain? I suppose she would have lost her hubbie, but it's not like he had even so much as looked at her before, so I don't suppose it would have been such a great loss.

I could write a nice little paragraph about the souls which they made in Haran, but after a little contemplation I realized that they're not worthy of such an honor. After all, they were all brainwashed. Perhaps something about their kids though. I bet they were a bunch of skeptical Lubavitch BBTs...

So there they went, riding into the sunset, setting off for a new life in the land they would be shown preparing to begin the epic story of the world's two great religions. Yup.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The best wedding picture ever

To the ground

As noted by e, tonight there was a poetry slam in good 'ol Crown Heights. I read two pieces- the first was originally published on this here blog 167 days ago, called "Traumatize this!", and the second will be originally published on this here blog right now. Here goes:

A poetry slam.
No Mushkie, you can't slam people's poetry.
What does slam mean then? Um, you slam?
What do you slam? Don't ask questions like that. Judaism doesn't appreciate questions like that.
So why doesn't slam mean telling people off?
People don't appreciate criticism.
Even if you say it's constructive. It hurts their feelings.

No, you can't boo; it's not right. People don't like that.

So what do you do by a poetry slam?

You listen? You listen to poetry? Who wants to listen to poetry? I would only come to talk. To recite. To recite poetry.

So what if it's pretentious? Or obnoxious? Is the point of a poetry slam really to listen to others? To understand them? To try and figure out what drives them? What makes them tick?

Yeah, like, whatever. Absolutely ridiculous. I'm supposed to listen to others? As I said, I'd rather just talk.

Because really, when you think about it, we're all just cogs in the wheel of a vast thingamajiggie. Or something like that.

OK, was that good? Did I slam correctly? Anyone's feelings hurt? No? Good?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Should I try writing something tonight? Like, is there a point? My wife is talking to me, but I can type and look at her (and pay attention! a miracle!) at the same time. We're discussing the proprietors of Why? Because how much discussion can you do about the proprietors of

Anyway, it's past 1:00 in the morning, we just got back (just is a a very vague word) from Empire Kosher, and we're both tired. So maybe I just write a little about our adventures picking up a bookcase from Fort Greene and sticking it on top of a car for the ride back to Crown Heights, or else picking up a couch from Boerum Hill and sticking it on top of the car for the ride back to CH, and then taking off the door of our home sweet home (no matter how humble) in order to maneuver it inside (many thanks to Yehudah brother of Cheerio). Or maybe I just go to sleep. Yeah, that's a good idea.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dangerous Ground

Last night I was walking home from the lchaim of Yitzchak Lerman, with whom I spent countless hours last year commuting from Morristown to New York. As I was walking back from the festivities (and some decent sesame chicken) I ran into a couple of friends of mine, Shaya Lowenstien and he who (intelligently) prefers not to be named, and Shaya mentioned that he's never been mentioned on this here blog. I told him that I'd mention that he's single and looking for a soul mate, and he laughed and said "Great!" I don't think he believed me when I said it though...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wishes spoken, desires known

I just got back from a mini-blogger convention... e, Nemo, and oh yeah, SZB. Did I mention that this little convention was in fact SZB's lchaim? Nice, eh?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blues can be a good thing too

I'm sure people want to know why leading Mussaf services on Simchas Torah in Milwaukee's Lubavitch House, otherwise known as "The Shul East" fulfilled a lifelong dream, right? Right.

Basically, on Simchas Torah by Mussaf you can do whatever the heck you want. You're loaded with spirit, you have no voice left (and if you do have one, shame on you!), and everyone is waiting for a show. Here's a more detailed look at my Mussaf:

After many years of partying on the high holy days, my voice lasts about ten minutes. Sure, if I didn't scream it would last a lot longer, but it's difficult to modulate properly after the heavy imbibing of spirituous liquids. This year I lost my voice on the night of Shemini Atzeres and never really got it back until after the holiday. You know how on car racing games there's a turbo function, where you can speed up for a short amount of time? So I can do that with my voice, for about a minute at a time, which comes in handy when the rabbi is trying to end the hakofa and I have to keep it going. This doesn't help much for extended periods though, so my mussaf was hoarse, which was fine, because mussaf on Simchas Torah is supposed to be hoarse.

Alcohol plays an important role in the Jewish religion. For example, we do the blessing of the Kohanim in Shacharis on Simchas Torah, not in Mussaf, because we assume that that priests (among others) will be too drunk to do much by Mussaf time. In my case, I made kiddush at about 11:15, farbrenged for a while, and was slightly recovered by the time Mussaf rolled around. When I stood up to lead the congregation in prayers one of the local shluchim declared that the kohanim's saying their blessing early shouldn't be for naught, and he poured me several generous lchaims to get me back in the party spirit.

The last and most important factor in Simchas Torah Mussaf is the ability to do whatever you want. For example, through Kedushah I used the nusach for Shemini Atzeres (the blessing for rain). I can't see myself davening on Shemini Atzeres ever, but for a few minutes I was able to sing for precipitation. I continued pretty normally after that, embellishing in the (in)appropiate places and leading all in the rousing tunes that make up our prayer service. By Birchas Kohanim I did the traditional fake benediction, another thing which I can't see myself doing for a while (principally because we don't do Birchas Kohnaim until Pesach).

Overall, it was a great experience. The only thing to mar it was the absence of some extremely important persons, but I suppose that even in our greatest joy we must recall the destruction, or something like that.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Simchas Torah Blues

Last year I had some problems on this night. Read on:

I knew something was wrong the moment I walked into the door, and realized what it was as I chanted Havdala tonight. The problem was that I didn't have a hang-over, and I didn't plunge immediately into bed upon coming home. What kind of Simchas Torah is it where I can make Kiddush on Mahke three times and never feel the effects once? What is the world coming to?

Still, basically, Simchas Torah wasn't too bad at all. It wasn't quite as inspiring as it has been in previous years. There was no great Farbrengen which brought the gathered throngs to instant repentance, nor any pithy wisdom which could reduce the most inebriated baalaboss to tears in nary a moment. Sure, it's great to hear local exalted figures belittle themselves and say, "I'm so full of #$%&" over and over again, with innovative invective at every turn, but after a while it begins to wear. "All right," I wanted to say, "I can accept that you are full of it. In fact, I'm convinced. But can you stop focusing on your own shortcomings for a little while and try to actually accomplish something?"

This reminds me of the old joke, where a Rabbi on Yom Kippur gets so inspired that he cries out, "Oh G-d, I am nothing!" The chazzan, not to be outdone, follows suit with, "Oh L-rd, I truly am nothing!" The gabbai doesn't wish to be left out of the fun, and he too screams out, "Oh G-d, I am nothing!" The Rabbi turns to the chazzan and says, "Huh, look who thinks he's a nothing."
Yeah sure, we're really proud of you that once a year you pretend that you recognize your own shortcomings, but hello? Does anyone really care? We all know that we're a bunch of morons, and most of us are drunk enough to think that we want to change. And what happens instead? We end of eating crackers and salsa (the chips were all stale-for shame!) and drinking Cherry Coke Zero because no one can come up with anything intelligent to say.

Of course there were some nice things about Simchas Torah this year. We danced with the scrolls, made Kiddush, screamed at each other, got annoyed by hordes of little brats who seem intent on ruining as many lives as possible. And what was the whole point of this exercise? That our kids should stay frum. All right, I don't have any kids. And if I did I would certainly object to them being called brats. Be that as it may, why do we have this whole shindig? You think we do it for out health? Have you seen the state of our liver?

No, we make this whole production because we want our kids to stay frum. All right, so we enjoy it too, but that's only a fringe benefit. And sometimes it can be even more annoying to write royally than it is to read it. And pretentious too.

That's a problem. I hate sounding pretentious, and I know that in the past I've failed miserably in this regard. Who am I to tell anyone else to do anything? Of course, this attitude can have negative consequences. Last night someone asked me why they should go to a Lubavitch BT Yeshiva versus any other BT Yeshiva. I told him that he should go to a Lubavitch institution because we're better. This was of course after I had made Kiddush. I then proceeded to tell him that of course every Jew thinks that his Judaism is better. So what's the difference? We know we're better. Except that everyone knows they're better. So what's the difference? We learn Chassidus. So does Breslov. We learn Chabad Chassidus, plus we're not always high. Who says Chabad Chassidus is the way to go? We do. And they say that Breslov Chassidus is the way to go. Plus they're always high.

Fine, but at the very least we're far superior to Misnagdim. After all, we learn Chassidus, and they learn Mussar. Of course, a Misnaged will tell you that this is exactly the reason why his way is better. And how about the modern orthodox? At least we're not Judaism-lite, right? Ahh, but the MO will tell you that the only way for a Jew to be successful is to integrate himself into the world. And that way is the best.

Perhaps, at the end of the post, the only thing to do is to quote Rashi (which I will now fail to do) in today's Chitas, when he says that at the end of the day, all the Jewish people are blessed, and they're all wonderful, etc. etc. etc.

Isn't it nice to be able to clothe a lack of strong moral value in a cloak of Judaism? And if this can be said of Jews, why not invite the whole world into the mix? Why can't the whole world, devoid of malice and money, just be friends?

If you think I'm pandering to the Obama camp, trying to avoid being one of the first against the wall when the revolution comes, then...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Esau don't like us

I heard a story from an older Russian Doctoress, Tzilia Lotman this Sukkos which interested me. Many years ago, there was a cruise ship which was renovated by the USSR. They decided to take it on a tour of the Western world, to show how advanced the Soviets were. 50 members of the Russian "intelligentsia" were selected to come on the cruise, along with 40 members each of the other 14 Soviet republics. Dr. Lottman, a university professor, was also invited, the only Jew to be so honored.

So there they all were, going on a tour of the Mediterranean, stopping for a week or two in each port and engaging with the local literati. One day in Naples it was discovered that one of their number had defected to Italy. Immediately of course they were rounded up, but it was difficult, because they were spread throughout the city. Dr. Lotman was one of two people missing when she came back to the ship, and she was greeted with thunderous applause. She wanted to say something, but she was too choked up to be able to get anything out, so she just got onto the ship. A KGB officer who was part of the security detail, and a friend of hers, came up to her later and told her that the guy who had defected was found in Rome and was "being taken care of".

Dr. Lotman said, "It was only then that I truly realized that I needed to leave the Soviet Union. Over six hundred people on that boat, and who did they all assume was the one who defected? The lone Jew. That's why they all cheered, because they were so surprised that I came back. Only then did I realize that they truly hate us, that no matter what we do..."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gott's Nomen (day 2)

This morning I bumped into the Rosh in shul and I said, "You're number three (for the minyan)." Then someone (who won't be mentioned because my wife said not to) said, "I think he davened already." I said to the Rosh, "You did?" and he nodded yes. I walked off to the mikve, but before I got there he called out "TRS!" All right, he didn't actually say my name, I doubt he even knows this blog exists (though his son told me he reads it), he said my real name. Anyway, he called me in, and said, I'll help you make a minyan, I'll wake up the people in my house. Then he told me the following:

The medrash says that sins begin to be counted from the first day of sukkos. Why is this? Because people are so busy doing mitzvos, either putting up a sukkah or buying a lulav or esrog or whatever, that they have no time for sins! Only when they relax a bit, on the first day of sukkos, do they begin to sin. (The lesson is that once you begin to relax... [he said parenthetically]). Some people though learn this medrash incorrectly; they think that they're coming out of yom kippur clean and pure, and they can afford to do a few sins here and there... I'll go wake them up...

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I was getting a ride home from kapores with a devoted reader of this blog and we got to talking about this, that, and the other. He mentioned that the "gedolim" have begun advocating that people stop going to Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah itself because of all the mingling between the sexes that occurs. In fact, he said, some have suggested that it would be better to forego Tashlich altogether rather than possibly induce cross-genderal contamination.

I got to thinking (dangerous, I know), and came up with a new idea for PETA. I've heard that they are running a campaign in New York this year "Gelt, not guilt", but it seems to me that they're going about it all the wrong way. What kind of frum Jew is going to allow a bunch of liberals snot-faces to determine what kind of religious things, no matter how odd, he practices? However, if PETA were to infiltrate the religious community and convince the gedolim that kapores posed a tznius risk... After all, not only do many men and women come in contact with each other, but it sometimes happens that men hold females (chickens) and women hold males (chickens)! What a shandeh!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reports of my disintegration have been exaggerated

Crazy thing, this whole marriage shebang. Takes up a whole lot of time, you know? Seriously.

Meanwhile... the esteemed leader of our local congregation Rabbi Asher Zeilengold attended the Sheva Brachos on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, and mentioned to me there that he thought I was trying to put my own political views into the discussion when I was saying the maamar by the Kabbalos Panim. I thought he was referring to the part where it goes on a bit of a rant about how Jews are so much better than non-Jews. I, cognizant of my audience, had inserted a whole thing about how "What it means is that Jews are not bound by nature and non-Jews are", or something to that effect.

I asked the Rabbi what he meant, and he said, "You kept on saying how Obama is bad!" I said, "Huh?" He said, "Sure, in the maamar, it talks about before davening, when a person considers himself to be a bama, a structure, meaning that he's haughty and full of himself!"

Cute, eh?

Friday, September 11, 2009


TRS's aufruf will IY"H be in the Rebbe's room this Shabbos (Nitzavim-Vayelech), and the kiddush will take place downstairs at around 1:30. All bloggers are expected to attend.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Last Suppers

So here's the story folks: My life is over. OK, not really. Just saying that this is my final post for a while (probably). See, tomorrow night I stop talking to the kallah, and seeing as this beautiful 21st century that we're living in has so many forms of communication, I'm cutting it all out. No blog, no twitter, not even responding to comments on other people's sites. Sure, I'll respond to emails and whatnot, but otherwise? I'm off for a week. And after that? Who's gonna have time after that? So consider this my final post for a while.

Meanwhile, in other news, I had my pre-aufruf aufruf this week in shul. T'was quite cute-I got chamishi, had a ton of sunkists thrown at me, was embarrassed by everyone singing "Mazel Tov" to me, and was even more embarrassed by the kiddush when I got dragged into a dance-type thingamajiggie. The question of what to call this assemblage came up, and it was decided that a pre-aufruf aufruf would more gloriously rejoice in the name "rufruf". I'm glad you agree.

Is that it from TRS? I would hope not, but you know, all good things must come to an end. Perhaps I'll transition to a once or twice a week format, or maybe just give up the ghost. Famous last words, of course, almost like my post from October 15, 2007, when I said:

The great day shall soon arrive. Very soon I move into Yeshiva. Well, not actually Yeshiva, because there's no room here, but rather to a house. What this means in terms of the blog is that I'll probably have less opportunity to write, but hopefully they'll be as insightful as ever. Right.

Did that happen? Of course not. I remember writing a similar post last year when I went to MoTown, but I can't seem to find it, which is just as well, because as y'all well know, I had great mesiras nefesh last year to provide constant TRS goodness. While searching for that post I came across another, which begs for another this year, and how can I disappoint? I guess I won't even go so far as to quote one of five greatest presidents:

You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.

So there you go.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The fish are still trembling

After yesterday's shocking post I thought it would be a good idea to have a little holiness and other shtuff like that, and what better way than by providing some comments received on that very same post? I wish I could tell you who wrote them, but I can't. Nu nu.

ב'יחידות' של אחד מחשובי המשפיעים אמר הרבי ('מקדש מלך' כרך ד' עמ' שצג):

"..כשנהיה אלול בעולם ("אַז ס'קומט אַ אלול אין וועלט") ולומדים את עניני חודש אלול כפי שנתבארו בחסידות, הרי זהו אלול אחר לגמרי!"

In a "Yechidus" of a distinguished Mashpia, the Rebbe said ("Mikdash Melech", v.4, p.393):

"When Elul "enters" the world, and one learns the concepts of the month as they are elucidated in Chassidus – it's an entirely different Chodesh Elul!.."

(A unique, rare expression from the Rebbe, as are many others in that set – culled from personal letters and diaries of chassidim, many of them first-hand).

Here's another vort I heard recently, actually quite "chassidishe" notwithstanding..

Someone once came to RSZ Auerbach zt"l with a calendar for the upcoming year, to approve and/or edit Halachic issues etc. RSZ perused every page, and didn't comment till the last month Elul. There, was in large letters, a famous "slogan" or "catch-phrase":
תכלה שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה

RSZ asked, "Nu, du vintshs di klalos shoin fun heint..?!"

(Meaning, It's definitely a true line, but at its time; don't schedule your problems in advance..)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tickling Leo

When I received an email asking me to review a new film, Tickling Leo, I had reservations, but took a look at the promised content and thought, "Hey, it's like Ushpizin without Adi Ran!" The keywords that jumped out at me were Yom Kippur, Holocaust, and three generations of a Jewish family. I agreed to review it, and days later a Fed Ex envelope showed up at my door. After spending ten minutes trying to figure out how to get the stupid thing open I finally succeeded, and popped it into my computer and started to watch.

The first thing I felt was overwhelming guilt. How could I, someone who calls himself TRS, tell other people to watch a film? That's ridiculous! At the same time, I would feel just as guilty if I didn't review the film, seeing as so much effort went into getting it to me, so I suppose I'll just have to deal with it. Besides, it's "Jewish," right? And anyway, what could be more fun than picking apart the film and showing what it got wrong? Is there any greater possible pleasure? I thought not. Besides, I got to watch a movie before it was released here-how cool is that?

In short, the movie is all about the character we don't see until the very end, Emil Pikler, played by Eli Wallach. Of course what I've said is not true-it's really a movie about a guy growing up, trying to figure out what's going on and in the end realizing that he will end up nuts, just like his father and grandfather. And oh right, it's a movie about the holocaust.

Back in 1944 there was a lot of shtuff going on in Hungary to save the Jews who were trapped there, including the offer by Adolf Eichmann to save one million of 'em. In the end just 1,680 Jews were allowed to escape, while between 500,000/700,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered, primarily at Auschwitz. Those 1,680 were due to the efforts of one Rudolph Kasztner, who selected them based on several criteria:

1) Deserving figures in Jewish Public life

2) People who had served the Jewish community in general or made sacrifices for Jewish social causes

3) widows and orphans of slave laborers

Did I mention that 388 people on the train were from Kasztner's hometown of Cluj? Pretty good, eh? Unfortunately for Kasztner, some people didn't approve of this behavior, and he was gunned down in Tel Aviv in 1957. These things happen.
Tickling Leo starts off with a guy named Zak (Daniel Sauli), with a girlfriend, Delphina Adams (Annie Parisse) who go off to visit Zak's dad, Warren Pikler, (Lawrence Pressman) for Yom Kippur. Zak is not interested in visiting his dad, for a couple reasons, both of which we find out pretty quickly. For one, Zak's mom died a year ago, and Warren didn't show up to the funeral. For another, Warren has a propensity to walk around the great outdoors in his birthday suit. As a faithful mikveh-goer for many years this was not shocking, but for anyone who does not normally see aged men wearing nothing, it will come as quite a shock. Which is probably what the director, Jeremy Davidson, wanted.

Turns out that Warren, never the most stable person in the world (he is a poet after all) is very quickly losing his mental capacities, becoming something of an idiot savant in his non-lucid states. He figures out rather quickly that Delphina is pregnant ("She glows" {I think that was the line}), even though Zak isn't interested in anyone knowing this. At the same time, he also goes to the bathroom in his pants, and his son has to clean him up.

Warren and Zak never had a great relationship, but Delphina seems to hit it off fine with him, so much so that when Yom Kippur rolls around she decides to try and fit in and fast. Not a good idea, of course, because she's pregnant, and Warren tells her into uncertain terms to go and eat. After she gets into a hissy-fit with Zak she hightails out of dodge to a local restaurant and has a hamburger. Yum, eh? No worries, of course, because she's not Jewish. Neither is Zak, for that matter-Warren married a non-Jewish woman.

After some more touchy-feely shtuff we find out that-but wait! Why should I reveal the whole movie to you? You should go watch it. Oh, no you shouldn't. Whatever. Don't blame me. Point is, there are some big surprises at the end (aren't there always?). They make the movie, which seems to drag a lot in the beginning, into something worth watching. It's a powerful movie when you get down to it-people grappling with their origins, living with hypocrisies, and trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

And yeah, those inaccurate Jewish things? Like, if you're going to make havdala after yom kippur is over, do the whole thing. And contrary to what Delphina thinks, her child will not be Jewish. Sorry kiddo. And something tells me that most people don't play pool on Yom Kippur, even if they are fasting. But hey, I once spent six hours playing ping-pong on Tisha B'Av, so who am I to talk?

In short, it's a good movie, if only for the end, where you get to see Grandpa Pikler expound on his own greatness and show why he truly is his son's father. And I have every expectation that Zak will age into a nut as well, though perhaps because he's not Jewish he'll turn out normal. Or maybe not. These things happen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pray for what?

There seems to be a peculiar social contract that exists in shul. Let's say, for example, that you're the tenth guy who comes in. Relatively normal, right? And let's say that there's no chiyuv either. Unfortunately that's not as normal as we would like it to be, but in this case, let's say that's what happens. Moving along further, let's say that there's no one at the amud when you walk in, and even more than that, there's no one interested in going to the amud. The curious social contract I referred to above (look up if you don't remember my mentioning it [not there, there!] {that's better}) was that the tenth man is for some reason expected to be the one who leads the congregation in prayer. Tonight this scenario played out three times, except that only I was the actual tenth man. On the third time we hit a charm, but if not for him?

Let us more closely examine the phenomenon at hand. First of all, the reason I declined the podium was because I had done it last night; in point of fact I lead Maariv, so I don't think that I let anyone down at all here. But still, the curious thing is that of nine other people, I was the one being pressured to daven. All right, so maybe four are incapable, but the others? One was learning, which is fine, but hey, I wanted to learn Rambam too. Is my Rambam any less than what he was perusing? And another was telling me to go, even though he is of course fully capable of doing so himself. Why should I go instead of him? Because he's thirty years older than me? Ridiculous.

In the end it comes down to people simply not wanting to do it, which makes sense, because I also don't want to do it. But why should I do it and they not? Is it because I don't have a gartel? Or perhaps because I would know what I'm doing? It's not even like it can be taken as a compliment, because believe you me, the first barely-literate thirteen year old that walks in there will be feted something fierce if he agrees to descend before the congregation. Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Shallow waters

I got a couple emails from a friend of mine this morning, and tonight we had a little chat, all of which I thought might interest y'all. The first email was sent at 5:15 AM, and the second at 7:15 AM. I take no responsibility...

First Email

This link is a section from a very polemic website that has many negative things to say about Lubavitch. However, it is my opinion that the person behind it, whether he is right or wrong, is someone seeking the truth. The following link is a long dialogue between that person and a Chabadnik who I also believe is seeking the truth. (It seems that the Chabadnik is a relatively learned ba'al teshuvah, but not a major scholar, and that the other fellow is a FFB through Chabad that left the Chabad path to sojourn instead in the yeshiva world and who is also learned but not a major scholar. One line in particular, where he mentions the infinity of G-d in an overly simplistic fashion, leads me to believe he has spent some time around chareidi kiruv people.) Anyway, its an interesting read and it discusses some deep concepts. It could be that its also a great waste of time (note what time of night I sent this email), but I thought it would at least give you something to satisfy your natural curiosity at the milieu of pundits and to distract you from your jitters.
Second Email

Interesting. I have confirmed what I suspected before. This "Identifying Chabad" guy has good arguments for why some things in Lubavitch, particularly the inflation of the "hiskashrus" concept and the cult of personality surrounding the Rebbe are problematic or objectionable, but his notion that the concept of hiskashrus and "betten" a rebbe are avodah zara according to Rambam are based on his misunderstanding of those concepts and the Rambam, although its easy to see why a reasonable person could draw his conclusions from both the Iggeres in question and the Rambam.

If hiskashrus, "betten" and "atzmus u'mehus...areingeshtalt in a guf" are understood from an emotional and spiritual perspective, its not so different from the notion that a tzaddik can help a person reach G-d by getting in touch with their connection to Him or even by basking in the aura of the tzaddik and thereby "transported" to a higher level of awareness of God, or even simply the benefit of being close to a mentor. In some ways, l'havdil, even one's relationship with God is comparable to a relationship with a mentor (think master and Master, which can be terms of service, ownership, tutelage, respect, or endearment, or any combination). I once heard a rabbi talk about how "G-d is THE rebbe" to describe this relationship between man and G-d, in response to which [name expurgated to protect the guilty] who was also there whispered to me "as opposed to 'the Rebbe is god'." Anyone who's ever been close to a rabbi or a mentor, or ever studied Torah from someone or from the writings of someone dead, knows that in some way your connection to the goals and ideas they present you is shaped by and association with the person(s) themselves. That's exactly why college textbooks give you a bio of the men behind the intellectual history of the subject matter. Imagine being mentored and taught directly by those men to appreciate their fields of study.

It's when hiskashrus becomes a very literal metaphysical concept that it becomes trouble. The easiest example is the notion that "betten" truly means the Rebbe controls one's fate and presides over (not just intercedes on behalf of) one's needs and so davening to him in that capacity becomes merely a hair's distance from treating him like G-d, or that "atzmus u'mehus...areingeshtalt in a guf" literally makes the Rebbe into G-d or G-d incarnate or G-d's spirit invested in a man such that "all that the Father is, I am."

Another problem is what Leibel Groner once told me that "one cannot attach himself to G-d without attaching himself to a tzaddik" implying either that G-d is inaccessible without the tzaddik's help or that one must go through the tzaddik to get to G-d (both appear to me to be "memutzah hamechalek").

Also, this guy never properly studied idolatry in the ancient world, or he would understand the difference between prayer and "service" in the Rambam (even though the formulation of the 13 Ikarim includes prayer as only fitting for G-d). "Service" is worship or ritual devotion, its theurgy and primal and involves submitting yourself completely into unity with something other than G-d to serve that thing or to "get closer to [G-d]." I don't think that "betten a rebbe" or hiskashrus or even "making one's will in accordance with the will of the rebbe" are really practiced in the way the Rambam calls avodah zara. The website's claim that "memutzah hamechaber" is what the Rambam is talking about, and says is worse than memutzhah hamechalek, is refuted by seeing how memetzah hamechaber is exactly the opposite of giving oneself wholly to an intermediary to get closer to G-d.

Taken too literally, too far, or practiced too intensely, the concept of memutzah hamechaber does become awfully close to avodah zara, and you and I both know people who's "relationship" with the Rebbe is creepy and too absorbing. I for one am not comfortable with the fact that hiskashrus is emphasized so much even at the extreme "not so creepy" end of the spectrum, and it does hurt to see how dangerously its expressed in writing in the Igros Kodesh. But this doesn't make Lubavitchers heretics.

What makes them heretics is clearly that they pronounce things funny. ;)
The Chat

TRS: you!
i need you!
i need your email!

The Friend: ok
my email?

TRS: yes
can i publish it, expurgated for privacy concerns, on mine blog?

The Friend: there's nothing private in the emails except the sender information
and maybe my gmail signature if its there

TRS: i will clean it up i will

The Friend: first, before you post it
what did you think

TRS: yes?
i thought you had some valid points (perhaps)

The Friend: thanks

TRS: lol

The Friend: that website definitely had a bone to pick
but a simple reading of that iggra is pretty, um, foreign

TRS: which letter?
and anyway, isn't it iggeres?

The Friend: the one about the Rayatz

TRS: which said...?

The Friend: that the difference between asking a deceased rebbe for help and asking things from 'intermediaries' or the dead, is that when one pleas to the deceased rebbe, he is actually pleading to G-d Himself, since the human rebbe is really just "the complete and absolute inherent essence of G-d Himself that dwells in a physical body"
and that a chossid should devote most of his conscious thought to the rebbe
and make sure his every desire conforms to the will of the rebbe
now, fancy kabbalistic notions of panentheisim and bitul atzmus/bitul yeshus, etc notwithstanding
it "farshtinks a bissel"

TRS: ahh, such a typical close-minded litvak you are

The Friend: having a profound spiritual connection to a tzaddik and his teaching doesn't require "Shivisi HaRebbe Negdi Tamid"
and "Make your will into His Will, that he will bend the will of others towards your will"
and "know that seeking the rebbe's help from beyond the grave is not a problem because the rebbe is nothing other than G-d Himself incarnate"
I for one don't think its meant to be taken that way
but its very easy to see how this guy saw it

TRS: well, every translation is by necessity imperfect

The Friend: well, I must protest, considering that the translation is pretty specific

TRS: who translated it?
The Friend: oy
I'll translate it if you want

TRS: no, it's ok
i'm not saying that i disagree with it

The Friend: hold on
I made a mistake
the quote that is the most problematic
is not from the iggeres on devoting one's thoughts to the rebbe
its somewhere else
have to find it agian
hold on

TRS: no worries

The Friend: aha
its from a sicha
after all

TRS: nu, which sicha?

The Friend: from Acharon Shel Pesach 5710

TRS: ahh

The Friend: Likutei Sichos volume two, pages 510-511

TRS: nu, i can show you more impressive things the Rebbe wrote or said

The Friend: the truly "damning phrase" is:
Atzmus u’mehus alein vi er hat zich
areingeshtalt in a guf
the igeres only mentions memutza hamechaber
which is not necessarily a problem
although the thing about making the rebbe the focus of all your daily thoughts is creepy
cause that's G-d's territory

TRS: you like the phrase atzmus um'hus bguf gashmi?

The Friend: ?
like it?

TRS: as in, do you think it's a good phrase?

The Friend: I remember once my sister told me that she babysat for the [name expurgated to protect the guilty] kids and the art project they'd brought home from preschool was a list of mitzvos they'd done to give nachas to the rebbe on construction paper now
that's just creepy

TRS: hey, don't send your kids to a lubav school if you don't want that

The Friend: do you want your kids being taught implicitly that the point of doing mitzvos is for the sake of the Rebbe?
it doesn't matter that explicitly they are taught about doing the will of G-d
they are shown in school at the youngest stages of chinuch that in spite of all the rest of Torah, the personal connection to mitzvos is getting closer to the rebbe or making him proud of us

TRS: ok
does this disturb you?

The Friend: yes
I don't think being a devoted chossid of the Rebbe requires thinking of the personal meaning behind mitzvos that way

TRS: all right
do i annoy you?

The Friend: no
surprise me maybe
what would Zalman say?

TRS: zalmen shechter?

The Friend: who?
[name expurgated to protect the guilty]

TRS: oh
he'd agree with you in public
and me in private

The Friend: maybe
I'm not public to him

TRS: all right, he'd agree with me when talking to you

The Friend: doubtful

TRS: all right, then he wouldn't
i haven't had enough mature discussion with him to be able to accurately predict his predilections

The Friend: I doubt that most lubavs really think first about nachas for the rebbe when the do mitzvos or daven

TRS: but they should

The Friend: but wanting to feel that the Rebbe somehow knows and is proud, or would be proud of them is probably important
to them

TRS: lol

The Friend: "but they should" you are such a devil's advocate
you don't believe that for a second

TRS: i don't?
why not?

The Friend: oh please
you don't put on tefillin to please the Rebbe

TRS: your fear f heaven should be like your fear of man...

The Friend: and your motive for doing mitzvos is that its G-d's command, its 'what you do', its what a good chossid of the Rebbe does, since a true chossid lives up to his Rebbe's teachings, etc
not that it pleases the Rebbe
you should fear G-d as if he's as clearly real to you as a person, but not that you should revere man as much as G-d
don't make reverse kal v'chomers
anyway, enough advocating
you have my permission to post my rantings

TRS: i appreciate it
how about your rantings on this forum?
also properly edited of course...

The Friend: uh

TRS: well, you decide

The Friend: well, ok

TRS: you are truly a friend indeed

The Friend: now how about the fact that you are getting married in two weeks

TRS: less!
quite exciting

The Friend: really
no bedwetting?

TRS: no bed wetting

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's that you say?

"Sir, it has come to my attention that-"

"What has come to your attention?"

"It has come to my attention that some-"

"Don't just go on repeating yourself like a jack in the box, I don't need to hear the same information thrice-fold, just deliver it fresh."

"It has come to my attention-"


"It has come to my attention, Sir, that some people are saying that, and I quote, 'Your posts pretty much beg for themselves', followed by a most indelicate wink."

"Beg for themselves what?"

"Beg for, I believe, comments."


"Yes Sir, comments."

"So this, this, this trollop has the effrontery to say that I beg for comments?"

"Yes Sir, that would appear to be the case."


"Might I also point out, Sir, that your calling her a trollop will hardly recommend you to the fairer half for a more generous treatment-"

"Well, dash it, she started it, didn't she?"

"Sir, I believe you in fact did start it, if I may use so indelicate a verbiage."

"Me? Commence such a ridiculous undertaking? Speak up now, my man, tell me when!"

"When did you commence?"

"You mark my meaning most astonishingly. Now get on with it."

"Well Sir, it appears that you started the whole thing by inquiring as to the absence of commentage."

"You mean that most innocent of verbal jousting has been hijacked to represent a most gross liberty?"

"You've smoked my drift most exactingly, Sir. As you say, what is was that you said has been taken in quite the wrong manner."

"Perverted, no doubt, by a most malicious will designed to take me down in my prime, to dissemble that which I have created so lovingly, with so much care and effort. Sick, I say, sick."


"What is it now? Can't you see I'm having a most delicious huff?"

"Sir, you mistake the meaning of that word."

"Which word? 'Huff?' You don't think for a moment I refer to Aubrey, do you?"

"Not at all, Sir, your use of that word is entirely consistent with the best dictionarians in the land."

"Well then, what is it?"

"Your use of the word 'dissemble,' Sir, while sounding on the board, is actually quite fallen off it."

"You mean I used it in the wrong sense."



"I couldn't have said it better myself."

"No profanity-laced tirades coming from your mouth, eh?"

"No, I'm too full of myself for that."

"I noticed. Regardless, enough of the chortling. There's serious issues afoot, and I want them to be solved, and solved now!"

"You mean this insidious suggestion that you pander to your audience for comments?"

"Yes. What's to be done to respond to such horrendous accusations?"

"I don't know. Perhaps your readership has a suggestion or two?"

"An excellent idea. Hopefully they can come up with something."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SOS from London

Help! I'm stuck in London, and I've just had all my possessions taken off me by a vicious (and, dare I say, viscous) squid that was attached to a computer's arm by a large hard drive. Anyway, as I was saying, I'm getting married in a little over two weeks, and I'd love to be there for it, but if I don't get four thousand dollars from you wired to my account now then I might just not be able to. Which would seriously stink.

Listen, I know that many of you are probably skeptical of this. Let me be the first to say that if I was you (which I'm not, thank the one above) I'd also be intensely skeptical. But please, hear me out. What happened was this. I signed up for a facebook account, and I was immediately transported to London. I don't know either. All I do know is that after a few moments of wishing I was traveling on British Airways I landed on top of the London Eye, and then immediately plunged onto the Millennium Dome, which doesn't exist anymore. I immediately realized this, and promptly fell into the nothingness that is now there. All right, that's not true. But the rest id I promise!

Anyway, I hit the roof of the O2, and then rolled off it and into the arms of the squid. I was quite surprised, because most squid don't have arms, but this one did. Don't believe me? Your loss. Actually, it was my loss, because that squid took all my earthly possessions, not to mention my ashes, which were floating above earth with Gene Roddenberry and three hundred carburetors.

So there I was, penniless, alone, in London, redundant tautology, and I didn't even have a tuna sandwich. What would I do? Where could I go? What could I do? Where could I go?

After ruminating over these thoughts for a while I decided to give my hungry mind a rest and decided to turn to you, my faithful facebook friend, in the hopes of quick salvation at your hands. Credit card. Same difference.

Good. So you want to help me get home? Just click here....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Free associations... (slightly expurgated for content)

April 8, 2002

I am free writing right now, isn’t that wonderful and exciting. I know that you think it is wonderful and exciting also, otherwise you would not be reading this wonderful product of not so raving insanity. Okay? Got that? Well then, that is absolutely wonderful, if you get my drift. I certainly get my drift, though that is probably to be expected as most drifts drift in and out regardless of the consequences of drifting. That is a good kind of drift. A bad kind of drift is the kind of drift that leads to any drifting that the original drifter did not intend for the drifter to get, if you get my meaning.

Life is Beautiful is a movie and I saw it with B.J. over two years ago. My feet stuck to the floor as we entered the theater and I remember thinking of a story someone once told me about rats in the Har Mar movie theaters. I used to raise rats for money when I was in junior high. The one that was my favorite smelled a bit like dry corn kernels and was able to walk a tight rope from one end of my room to the other. Nerf grew a tumor in her second year and had to be put to sleep. I wonder if the vet actually put her to sleep or if they just took her in the back and drowned her-- it would be a good way to save money, and after all, she was only a rat.

Diagonally is the way my horizontal blinds cut the light off in the living room as it shoots through the window at the end of the day. The blinds leave a diagonal shadow upon the living room wall which casts a weird dark look upon the portrait of Chuck Close that happens to be hanging there. Chuck Close was always one of my favorite artists because he was so good at those paintings and when he got sick and had to be in a wheelchair like in Six Degrees of Separation, he continued to paint brilliant cells of color, just as large as his original paintings, but sectioned into small portions that were accessible to a man who could barely control his motor skills.

scar hemoglobin hemoglobin or hemoglobin? because hemoglobin is funnier okay?! interrobang I have no idea what the heck you are talking about clueless that's me bad english heavy metal punk rocksid vicious who?! so young... too bad. so sad.not so true that surely you are insane I will return the compliment. You are nuts!!!Cashews. Peanuts are not nuts. I am allergic to peanuts-HA chew chew what sneeze Bless you church steeple fingers chicken pieces sitting in the tree. Who knows?

April 17, 2002

Noble-Nobles were French men who liked mustard, named after the noble who made it instead of the cook, which is sort of like calling a Mac a Steve Jobs as opposed to a Jonathan Ives. John is a cool guy, entirely unlike his namesake who terrorized England, and spawned Robin Hood. Monty Python is sometimes funny, though his protege, John Cleese is much funnier. Faulty towers is absolutely brilliant. The Psychiatrist one is the best. Physcho analyzers are divided into two classes, as are sports teams. There are the have and have notes. Haves would be the Packers, who are about to get rid of Antonio Freeman, a very stupid thing to do, just like Apple licensing Microsoft stuff which was very dumb. Microsoft is of course evil, stemming from its stealing of Apple.

˝Write about a Frenchman who loves mustard."

Pierre was a buffoon who loved all food, even Tortilla chips dipped in hot mozzarella with carrot sauce on top. His favorite food, though, was mustard. He consumed it though, day and night, and never let the cook who made it get him down. The cook was an evil rapscallion who stole all the food in the house and got drunk and ate baguettes all day. One day, the cook decided to commit suicide, because Pierre ate too much mustard. But there was no rope in the house, and so he got drunk, got fired, and enlisted in the Foreign Legionaries where he met Beau Geste. Beau Geste means a meaningless gesture, something like the movie by that name. It is an excellent ,movie. The carpet color orange is not very exciting. Better is white, or off white to hide the stains better. I do not know how to hide stains well, so this is an imperative. Imperatives are usually not kept anyway, so what is the point of keeping them. Who knows? I certainly do not know. More do I want to know.

April 29, 2002

Handkerchiefs are white, or at least they should be. William Brown had all white ones, until they got dirty. When things get dirty, then you need tyde. Don't ingest it though, for you will suffer massively, just like the Vikings this year. They are going to be destroyed by the Packers. Brett Favre is a brilliant genius, no matter what he says. And he is not dyslexic. This fact is proven by his brilliant speech after a brilliant performance over Baltimore when I was in Seattle. It always rains there, which means it has the highest suicide rate in the nation. Or so I have been told.

Birthday cake is usually very good. The icing isn’t, probably because it is equal amounts of sugar and food coloring. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with food coloring. Anyone who says so is itching for a fight, just like those who want the right answers on Michael Feldman's show.The name escapes my mind. Will I fall asleep tonight, sometimes I don’t fall asleep when I cant think about something. Isn’t that just so sad. It literally makes me want to bawl and cry with gusto. It is really pretty pathetic that, but I do not mind as I am a kind and compassionate soul, full of of kindness and compassion, even for those whose souls have led them on the path of wickedness which can only lead to eternal damnation. This is the path of the Democratic party.