Saturday, February 28, 2009

Yeshiva Darchei Menachem Sparks Hakhel Concert

Here I am at the Darchei Menachem concert. Supposed to start at 8:30. I think. I got here at

9:05. Doors opened five minutes later. Rehearsal going on as I, and the rest of the world, walk in the door. No worries.

9:08: the cool Jew taking pics. We chat for thirty seconds. He recognizes me not. Nu nu.

9:20: are we starting? Could it be? Besides for the fact that I have to use the men's...but did you want to know that?

9:22: Sholom Mendelson emceeing. I didn't know he worked at Darchei Menachem. Maybe he doesn't. Regardless, I spent 11 great days with him this past summer on birthright, and he just had a baby girl. Mazel tov.

9:23: the sparks boys (international?) boys choir takes the stage. Mr. Mendelson announces that the show will begin in two minutes. Btw, he's wearing a nice tie. Oh, the sparks boys walked off and are now (presumably) backstage. I didn't see, I was typing. And no, I don't touch type on an iPod. Have you ever tried touch typing on an iPod? I didn't think so.

9:26: No smoking or fireworks in the concert hall. Dang.

9:28: the crowd is asked to take their seats. The show is about to begin.

9:29: Sholom is out of his mind. That's a good thing.

9:30: Rabbi choni tzucker. Who? But sing he does. Yossi green/MBD's anovim anovim. A great song. Mr. Tzucker, a little loud perhaps (undoubtedly the speakers' fault) does it proud.

9:35: the crowd is asked to sing along. Am I the only one who knows the words?

9:36: the guitarist (not piamenta person) has a MacBook in front of him. Nice. If anyone wants to sponsor one for me...

9:39: after another really cute mendelson speech we're ready for the sparks boys choir. And cute! (I use that word way too much-just ask my roommates) they're all holding sparks. Or something like that. It's a pity I have no idea what song they're singing. Some form of kadsheinu from shabbos. Very techno-ish. The band isn't behind them playing. That's right, the pipes are playing.

9:43: I might have had no idea what song that was, but they certainly have the dance moves down.

9:44: dani finkelman speaks. Ooh, he says the name of the next song-pitchu li kitzipuda shel machat. Or something like that.

9:45: some kid starts singing yedid nefesh. Am I the only one who notices that this song isn't about opening up small spaces? But that's ok. Anyway, it's a rock-ballad. I think. If I was chaim rubin I'd know what that meant. By me there's just two types of songs-fast and slow. There's a lot less dancing in this one. That's probably because it's a slow song. I'm good at figuring things like that out.

9:52: the piamentas! (sholom mendelson was born to address crowds). Ok, it's the kids. Three kids. What's their names? I have no idea. They begin with v'yichazkem. One wears a white hat and sings, one plays flute and gebearded, and the third plays guitar with a red shirt. I mean, he's wearing a red shirt. If anyone could actually play guitar with a red shirt-well, that would be super cool.
The song is played really well.

9:57: ooh, the flute player speaks too! About hakhel. His voice is cute (don't blame me if I think everything is cute). It's a mix of lubavitch and piamenta. As I said, cute.

9:58: yibane mikdash. I love this song. Excuse me while I enjoy it.

10:00: yehuda? Is that flute player piamenta's name? A flute solo. And then "lshanah hazot b'yerushalayim habnuyah". I couldn't agree more.

10:01: yehuda starts to tell a, in his words, "cute story" about the Baal Shem tov.
Ok, the Baal Shem tov goes off with his students on motzei shabbos and they all say lchaim. Then the Baal Shem tells them to pour the rest of the mashke into the ground. Huh? The Baal Shem tells a story. Once a Jewish innkeeper came on hard times and the local priest made friends and eventually convinced him to shmad. His wife leaves him, the priest gives him his own daughter, life is good.
Years later he's inspecting his vast holdings and comes upon a worker crying in a corner. Why? Turns out the guy is a descendant, on his mother's side, of Marranos and it bothers him greatly. Our hero realizes that he's a Jew too, and the next day he runs away. His wife (the priest's daughter) finds out about this and she's so inspired by her husband's return to Judaism that she also runs away and becomes a giyoress.
The old Jew in the field is old and he really has nowhere to go or anything, but he realizes that he's also a Jew, and he too begins to wander. But he has nowhere to go, and he passes away. His neshoma is in limbo until the Baal Shem tov comes and says lchaim with him.
(continues yehuda) I heard today from Mendel morozov a proof that there's mashke in gan Eden. How do we know? Because meir itkin passed away, and if there wasn't any mashke in gan Eden then he'd certainly be back by now.

10:11: azreinu kel chai. Or is this one called keli keli? Recall I can't.

10:14: Asher bora. In honor of yehuda's future brother and sister in law. A piamenta classic. This song is good enough to get banned.

10:17: I notice Shaya Lieberman (Isiah and the prophets) playing bass guitar. Or is that regular guitar? You would think I would know this after spending a year with yoni chanowitz, but I guess not.

10:18: yehuda piamenta (red shirt man) plays a riff behind his back. Even his relatives are impressed. The rest of us just have huge smiles on our faces. That's nuts.

10:23: ayal Bension (my sort of [don't tell CCL this] relative) principal of darchei menachem, takes the stage.

10:27: yeedle! singing ashrecha from his new album. I know it from lipa non-stop. I love this song. I guess I'll have to buy yeedle's new CD. All right, lipa sings it better. But lipa does everything better. You knew that already.

10:30: turns out we've been listening to the freilach orchestra. And yeedle sings gut voch from melave malka's Avraham fried. Or is that the other way round?

10:31: cab-driver in Acapulco heard listening to ananchu maaminim. Mexican guy. Why? Because this music comes from the heart. And it's gonna bring moshiach.

10:33: a fast ilan bama avarechecha. I expose my ignorance by revealing that I've never heard it before. Presumably from the new album.
So you want to know what he's wearing (cheerio I become)? A boring black bekishe, no cufflinks on a white shirt,, but a sparkly silver tie. And a nice watch. At least, I think the tie is silver. It can be hard to tell with all these lights flashing and everything.

10:38: a little moving around of mics.

10:39: emor meat. This song I know. The crowd starting to get into it. And why shouldn't they?

10:45: bizos ani boteach. Another classic from yeedle IV. Say what you want (not in my hearing) but that was a great cd. Got me through yeshivas kayitz Florida. That and slurpees from 7-11. Yum, I could do one of those right now.

10:50: intermission

11:18: a darchai menachem kid (fuchs?) begins to sing a song. What else would he sing? It's an English number. About darchai menachem. And another kid joins him on stage. Shloimy samuels maybe?

11:20: some issues with the mics.

11:21: a third kid onstage. I have no clue.

11:22: oh, the rabbi who just got onstage to sing is shloimy samuels. I think. So the second kid becomes a mystery.

11:23: and the darchai menachem kids go wild! I think my ears are going to fall off.
Oh, meislish was the second kid I think. Horowitz the third? This is really confusing.

11:25: ah, here's something I know. The sparks boys choir. Lead by dani finkelman. Singing kol habotchim bishimcha b'emes.
Another fastish song. A lot of parents are shepping nachas I'm sure. As well they should be.

11:29: ooh, back to the dancing. Mr. Finkelman is really into this part.

11:32: what yeedle concert would be complete without shiru lamelech?

11:39: holy smokes! Another song I love from non-stop lipa! Tzahala I think it's called. Or maybe not. Regardless, I obviously must get this new yeedle cd. Who knew it was so good? Ahh, all the kiddies in the audience, plus some adulties, up to dance. Now I can't see what's happening on stage. I mean, it's not that interesting. Presumably. Band playing, guy singing. At least I can hear.
Oh, cute, teachers dancing with their classes. I forgive my bad sight. I guess there are maalos and chisronos to everything, yeah? You get a great seat (row B, seat 205), you got to make some sacrifices.

11:44: ok, I think the world is going to end. The next song is another of the top three from non-stop lipa. Matamar. This is freaky. Wow. Don't worry, lipa, I still love you, but maybe next time you record songs like this on your own cd?

11:46: yeedle introduced this song by calling up some little (two feet tall?) to tell yeedle the kid's favorite song. Moti greenbaum his name? Kid, in between dancing cutely (what else?) look traumatized.

11:48: the worst niggun of all time. Vayehi bemei achashverosh.

11:49: oh good, we switch to a medley from Abraham fried's avinu malkeinu, with choni tzucker.

11:50: anachnu maaminim. Can moshiach be far off?

11:51: I guess not. Right now it's hu yigal osanu. You know what? Choni looks and acts exactly like shmuelie bortunk. The same looks, voice, mannerisms...scary.

11:52: Someday. Dina Storch's masterpiece.

11:54: Carlebach's "Return Again" for a sec.

11:55: and that's all folks!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shameless pandering

Am I the first person in the world to write a post solely for the purpose of having something to send into Haveil Havalim? Of course, this does lead me to deliberation over which category it should be put into. Anti-Semitism? Not so much. I don't know if Jewish music will work so well either. Why isn't there just a label for "shtuff"? I think shtuff is good. The real question, of course, is what The Israel Situation is going to write about me. If s/he is like most other bloggers it'll probably just say something boring like "The Real Shliach tells us about (insert whatever title I think up here)". If h/se is interesting then we might get something interesting. Sounds good, no? I'm thinking something like, "TRS is so desperate to have something to contribute that he wrote a whole post saying absolutely nothing for your reading pleasure."

Hmm...would ?/?e like it better if I wrote about Israel? Something about how I had a 1/2 hour fight this afternoon with YYR about Birthright. I said, where better to get free access to the best falafel in the known universe? He brought up something or other about the evils of touring our holy land, which utterly failed to address the falafel issue. You think that'll make this week's HH leader happy? I'm picturing, "TRS tells us why Birthright is the absolutely most fabulous thing in the history of mankind!"

Or perhaps something about Israeli politics would be preferred. I could reference ?/??'s post about the seating of the new Knesset, and add a brilliant statement of my own, along the lines of "TRS blogs most incredibly about the incompetence that is sure to accompany the new Knesset, and he writes most poignantly about his memories of Shimon Peres." Actually, is it possible to put the poignant and peres in the same sentence? The guy is a walking talking-actually, I don't even know what he is. Bad? Yeah, that sounds about right.

Still, maybe I should go for a more cosmopolitan feel? After all, HH types are notorious for their love of the big city and a byline that encourages clicks. If I can just think up a provocative title, something to do with Brooklyn maybe, and then a quick insert about the joys of planting cabbages. Or maybe not. I don't even like cabbage (except in falafel of course).

Before this exercise reaches terminal futility I think I'll make one more humble suggestion: that I blog a lot better the rest of the week so that when it comes time to submit for HH I'm not stuck like a monkey in a tree. Yeah, that and having a little less stress. A little more understanding. Actually, a lot less stress. And a lot more messiah. I could do that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

To Grandma's house we go

You know, jetting around the country can be very tiring. No matter that thank the one above I'm able to sleep on airplanes, it's still tiring. This is especially true when changing timezones like other people flip pancakes for breakfast. Is skiing really worth all that bother? I didn't think so. Yes, falling down a mountain could be seen by some people as entertaining, but as for me? I'd rather be shteiging in yeshiva. Which of course makes the last couple days all the more bewildering. Not only am I exposed to all sorts of winter weather (when I walked into Shul on Shabbos, having braved a massive blizzard, the assembled congregation burst out with "Look! Santa Clause!"), my beard getting caked with snow and my coat turning white from car doors, but now I have to contend with explaining my actions to everyone in Morristown as well? Can't a guy go off for a couple days of rest and relaxation (in this case, hurtling towards me doom on plastic stick-like things) without having the whole world accuse him of doing just that? I knew I should have gone south and just fished for a couple days. Dang. Not that there's anything wrong with Colorado of course. But down south it's warm, and you can fish. Fishing never hurt anyone, right? Besides the fish of course. But look at what skiing can do to people. Last year us shluchim people took them bochurim not so much people yet on a skiing trip and one of the English kids smashed his face into a tree. How inconvenient for us all. Not to mention my complete lack of hachlata keeping vis-a-vis proper paragraph management skills. But what do you expect me to do?

From the mouth of babes

You ever heard of a blogcation? I think I'm going to take a commentcation. For a while. I'll still read every comment, and I'll probably respond to some, but the days of obsessively answering every single one are (hopefully) over. At least for now. Sorry if this is inconvenient.

Also, in concert with the current poll... Yes, I have a mashpia, and yes, I think he's incredible. I mean it. All right, it would be nice if he'd pick up his phone once in a while, but other than that, you know, I'm a big fan.

Monday, February 23, 2009

No details.

Why is it that certain people feel they have the right to run their lives by themselves? That they have the right and ability to decide Halacha for themselves? You can't even argue with them. They just find some rishon who they like to hold by. No matter that they only use his kulos, or that he recommended against whatever it was. No matter that Torah doesn't work like that. You can't just decide what you want and then mold the system to fit your preferences. And yet some people think they can. This attitude annoys me. I understand that you think yourself to be the most smartest thing on two feet since Solomon. You know what? You're a pisher. You don't know anything. And a rabbi ten years older than you is ten years smarter too. And a rabbi who lived a thousand years ago is a thousand years smarter than you. The rabbis didn't do things because they were a bunch of manipulative conniving monsters. They did things because things had to be done. They do things today because things need to be done. So what is the issue? Even more annoying is when out of intense apathy I fail to contradict, and my shtikah is taken for hodaah. What's a guy to do it? Blog it with going into details? I just did that. It didn't make me feel any better.

Continuing on in this blog that we call life, I saw today something so cute, so precious, so luminescent and transcendent, that I have to write about it. The bathroom has two lights on the outside. One is green, and when the room is available for public usage this light shines brightly. There is also a red light, which indicates the presence of humanity in the rest room. Genius, eh?

Sunday, February 22, 2009


For all those who are interested I happen to be in the middle of writing a relatively interesting story over at BB, a link to which can be found to the left and a little down. Enjoy. For everyone else...let's just say that snow does a terrible job at putting out fire.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Murder in the shteeble

Once it happened several moons ago that I was a bit bored and I wrote an outline for a murder mystery. You are correct, this more properly belongs on this blog, but still, I feel the need to blog on TRS, so please, enjoy:

Guy discovered killed in mikve before yom kippur, discovered morning
of 11th.
Question number one-which city killed in? Motown, Minnesota, crown
1. When killed? On erev yom kippur, during, that night, or maybe early
that morning? Disputed evidence from pathologists, perhaps due to
presence of chlorine, or maybe not? Would that make a difference? If
it did, would the amount make a difference? Who is responsible for the
chlorine in the mikve, if that is indeed a factor?
Is possible died of natural means?
2. Who killed?
3. Why killed-motive.
4. How killed? Drowning? Or dead before ever got in the mikve?
Last person to see him alive-by last supper, walking to shul, or in
5. Why didn't Mexican who is supposed to clean mikve report it?
Instant suspect.
6. Guy who publicly refused to forgive him erev yom kippur in 770-
suspect. Different versions, by witnesses of course, of what was
actually said.
7. Black employee who accused him of cheating him his wages, or maybe
committed adultery with the guys wife? . Suspect, possible race riots?
8. Wife? Suspect? What would she be doing near mikve? How saddened is
she by death?
Discovery- by whom? Connection to the dead dude?
How does protagonist hear about it? How does media report it differently than
If in Minnesota-does protagonist stay there, or go away to yeshiva?
Motown-smicha, zal, what? Spend most shabbosim where?
Consult with which love interest-dead dude's daughter, her friend, or
someone totally unconnected? Marry in the end?
Crown heights-spending year there, or in Motown? Plot device-can only
work on the case on the weekends.
Police-competent or not? Deal with who exactly? Take long time to gain
their trust or not? What do they think happened? Is their version of
events correct?
Community-what do they say and think about it-2 different things. Some
people happy he's dead, others happy? Was he notorious in community
for something, i.e. like fisher, or something similar?
What do with body? Inquest, autopsy, funeral-who shows up, who
doesn't, does it really matter?
How does Judaism play into all this? Shabbos in 770, rumors flying all
over, are any of them true? Is anyone maliciously spreading untruths,
and if so, for what reason?
Sidekick-good at playing crown heights, protagonist is not, how does this affect
Lawyers for prosecution-do they have a case?
Defense-who is being defended? Multiple potential defendants, do they
have lawyers before being charged?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alter Rebbe’s Shluchan Aruch Siman 334

The following is not intended as an actual halachic guide:

1. If a flame falls on Shabbos the Rabbis decreed that one may not save anything from inside, even to bring permitted things in a permitted manner to a permitted place. Even food and drink may not be saved except for what is needed for that Shabbos itself. For example, if the flame fell on Friday night before the meal then provisions for three meals may be saved, what is fit for a person for a person and what is fit for an animal for an animal. If in the morning then provisions may be saved for two meals, and if in the afternoon then provisions for one meal may be saved. The reason is that if a person was allowed to save all his possessions then we are scared that due to his exertions over the saving of his possessions he will forget that the day is Shabbos and come to put out the flame.

2. When do we say this? When we are discussing the house that the the flame fell in. However, houses which are close and are in danger of being engulfed in the flames may save everything that they want, since they aren’t so worried, they won’t forget that it’s Shabbos due to their exertions.

Even money or any other important muktzeh items may be saved and this is the law, that one is permitted to deal with them in order to save them from thieves, or from the municipal workers who come to house. This is because the Rabbis did not legislate at all on the moving of muktzeh objects if a great loss will be incurred due to their loss. This is only if there is no other way to save them. For example, it is forbidden to bring a large case indoors even if the city is surrounded by an eruv since it is possible to place a guard or to watch it yourself. However there are those who forbid the saving of any objects, even if a great loss will be incurred, and this opinion is the main one.

Nevertheless there are those who say that it is permitted to save money or other expensive items from a fire or thieves because a person is careful on his money and he will certainly save them from loss. If the Rabbis had not permitted this than a person would transgress a greater prohibition and put out the fire. Since the Rabbis allowed a person to save them by moving he won’t transgress.

For this reason there are those who permit one to save his possessions through a karmelis, but since many argue with this leniency a person should not be lenient unless he is merely moving things.

Halacha 28: Nowadays, when we live among the nations, and there is the possibility that a fire will spread… it is permitted to put out a fire, even if it’s in a non-Jew’s house, as we are afraid that it will strengthen and endanger lives, and whoever hurries to put out such a fire is praise-worthy. When they are certain that there is no danger to human life then the fire may not be put out, but if there’s the slightest danger then it is permitted to put it out, and this is what we do.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mishenichnas Adar marbeh headaches

You know how goyim people have this thing about x-mas creep? We Jews have it too. In my case it was the first guy (tiferes, of course) singing Vayehi bemei achashvarosh. Worse punishments have not been invented yet. As I pointed out to him, loudly, in the line while waiting for Chernobyl chicken, "It's a week until rosh chodesh Adar! You'll be sick of that song in three weeks! Please". Honestly, that has got to be the most annoying niggun of all time and space. You know why? Because at every single farbrengen and wedding and kabbalos shabbos and kiddush and whatever they'll sing it for at least twenty minutes. And it's not like it's an interesting song either. It's on the same level as didan notzach, which isn't a good thing. Boring, repetitive, with no merit other than being apropos to the time. You know why he was called achashverosh? Because he was a major headache. Which is exactly what you get after listening to this song. And as I say, after three weeks even the diehards in tiferes will be sick of it. People like me who have been around the block a couple of times? It'll take about two minutes.

Meanwhile, in other news, I was learning v'ata tetzaveh with Shaul Nemtzov tonight (we miss you moshe rudd) and came to the footnote where the Rebbe uses the famous "din v'cheshbon" concept to explain how when the FR said that Mordechai was the undisputed king of Jews (al derech HASC 15) he was paskening on himself, and by extension of course the Rebbe was paskening that on himself.
I explained to Shaul how the phrase "din v'cheshbon" makes no sense. Do you walk into a courtroom and the judge says, "Guilty! Now how about a trial?" Obviously not. The holy Baal Shem Tov explain that when you get up to heaven they'll seat you in a nice movie theater (the downtown ones that people who are stuck in the fifties are always talking about) and you'll get to watch someone's life story. At the end they'll ask you for your opinion. You'll comment that he seemed like a really great guy, and he should go straight through the pearly gates to the highest heavenly abodes. And then they'll tell you that, surprise surprise, this was your life story, and how you ruled on him is how the heavenly court rules on you.
I then said that what I was about to say was incredibly snaggy, but one lesson you could learn out from here was that you should train yourself to always judge other people favorably. Between you and me, tzaddikim we ain't; still, if you accustom yourself to being dan lekaf zechus (hello Ms. Whitman?) then you have a chance in heaven.
Why is this so snaggy? Because it is. The goal is not to ensure that we have a comfy place to drink nectar. The goal is to bring Jews closer to their father in heaven. Judging others well because it's convenient is sick.


I had a really great post all planned out and then my mashpia calls me up and asks me what was up with last night's post. See, on Yud Shevat I made a hachlata to not write anything shmutzik on this here blog for two weeks, and last night's post didn't qualify. I asked him if, seeing as I broke it once, I could break it again. He said no. So here I am, with a great post all ready, and I can't post it. I hope you appreciate the iskafia I'm having here folks.

Fine. Plan B. I'll write about life. As Marvin would say, "Don't talk to me about life." I remember back in the good 'ol days when I was a mite of a bochur in YOEC how I used to crash the shiur gimmel farbrengens, and even on occasion the smicha farbrengens. I never got why the smicha guys didn't quite appreciate my attending their shows. Sure, I got it intellectually. They were older and smarter than me, and they wanted to be able to do their own thing. Still, I didn't get it totally, and the proof is that I still crashed some of their farbies. Most of them were too nice to say anything, but some of them weren't quite so, how shall I say it, polite, and told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't particularly welcome. I usually left at this point.
I bring this up because tonight the smicha bochurim had a farbrengen, and several tomchei bochurim decided to come and join us. It's not like they didn't have their own farbrengen to attend, but I suppose the allure of us older people was too much for them to handle. And you know what the funny thing is? I've become that not-so polite guy who tells them to scram! I remember how I felt as a bochur, and yet it's so annoying to have to be m'tzamtzem my dibbur to accommodate these kids. Uch.
I suppose that's life. You do something for a while and then you get mature and realize that it's not for you, or at least you realize why it's wrong. I don't know if I'll ever get a chance to put my new-found maturity on the line in this particular circumstance, but I hope that I get it now, that I recognize (in a way that the brain is in charge) that sometimes, even though you want to be there, even though it's good to be there, I still don't need to be there. As the Alter Rebbe told R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, not every market do you have to attend.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The soaked woman

Tonight I was testing Dovid Greenberg (whose sister just got engaged to Dovid Russ) on a blatt of kesubos when rejoicing struck. Or something like that. The page he was saying by heart contained the gemarah's view on women and alcohol. Is there a better topic for the twenty second day of shevat? Here we combine those two loves of every detroiter-the mama and alcohol, in one easy package. Which brings up something Rabbi Schapiro, our noble leader and babysitter to the masses, said today. Seems like Meir Harlig once called up Bentzi Shemtov and proposed the perfect bochur for his daughter-chassidish, disheveled, a regular alcoholic! Could there be a better addition to the Shemtov clan? Once Rabbi Chaim had finished describing how Bentzi told Meir him in no uncertain terms that nothing was happening our Rabbi said, "The Shemtovs may encourage bochurim to be 'detroiters', but they know that they're nuts; for them it's all a show, and when it comes real life they know what's going on."

Anyway, the Mishnah on 63A in Kesubos conspicuously does not state that a wife is to be given a stipend of wine. This supports the assertion of R' Elazar. Go look up the gemarah for full details. This seems to contradict a baraisa which states that if a woman is accustomed to wine then we give her a stipend of it. The gemarah answers that a woman who is accustomed to wine is different; she receives one cup, while one who is unaccustomed receives two cups.
The gemarah immediately states that this makes no sense, and says, in the name of Abaye, that a woman who is accustomed to drink two cups in front of her husband gets one when not in his presence, while one who only normally drinks one when in his presence gets none when she's nowhere near him.
The gemarah cites a related baraisa which says "One cup of wine is good for a woman. Two will result in her being disgraced, three will cause her to verbally solicit her husband for marital relations (which is uncharacteristic for a woman to do, and which will result in negative effects on the kiddies produced), and after four cups she'll solicit even a donkey in the marketplace and she is not particular."
Rava said that they taught this baraisa only where the husband is not with her, but when he is, we are not concerned.

Good shtuff, eh? Yup folks, this is your religion!

A shocking shulem

Last night I rambled into 770 and immediately spotted Yosef Abramov wearing a new suit. I hadn't expected to see him there, and I walked over and said "Good Shabbos-nice suit." He said, "Mazel Tov-" and I said, "Huh?" He repeated, "Mazel Tov!" and then, "I'm a Chassan!" I of course immediately said my own Mazel Tovs. Yosef's a really good friend of mine, and I'm really happy for him. Turns out he got engaged just before the Shabbos started, and no one knew. This lead to some funny situations that night. Almost everyone who walked over to him said, "Good Shabbos", and he'd respond with "Mazel Tov". Then they'd say, "Thank you," and stop and think for a second. Why was he wishing them Mazel Tov? He would then say, "I'm a chassan!", and they'd say, mechanically, "Mazel Tov." Then it hit them, and they'd scream out ecstatically, "Mazel Tov!" Or something close to that. Anyway, it was really cute.

Tonight by his lchaim I heard a really nice vort that the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe said four years ago when he visited the new YOEC zal. I was there at the time, but since I don't understand yiddish too well, and certainly not poilishe yiddish, I had no idea what he said. Gruntig was good enough to write it all down at the time, and it was Big Fan (the video man) who said it tonight.
We find by the splitting of the reed see that when the going got tough the Jews did a whole lot of praying. And what happened by the war with Amalek? They got all feisty and kicked some Amalek rear-end. Funny thing is, the former was a physical problem (the Jews were in danger of being herded back to Egypt-land), while the latter was primarily a spiritual battle. Seems like they should have switched their reactions!
In fact, of course, they did the right thing. By us Jews, when you have a spiritual problem, you have to go out and fight. When you have a physical problem though? Praying's the way to go.

After the Rebbe finished his drasha (and no, it wasn't in these words) he started off the podium, and then appeared to change his mind and walked back up to say a little more. As one of the bochurim commented, you never saw the Lubavitcher Rebbe do that. After that we all lined up and got (or is it gave?) shulem, and then the Rosh and the Rebbe went to take a look at the Mikve. The whole zal was just starting to pile in after them when they both made a beeline for the exit-turns out the Rosh had forgotten that the Mikve was going through a tough time, and it stank to the heavens.

Meanwhile, in other news, this week's Haveil Havalim is up. I'm doing it in three weeks-should be a whole lot of fun.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Infinite responses

Early (relatively) this morning, after I had finished praying in the big 770, I went to Post Mark-It and purchased my very own copy of the Nshei Chabad Newsletter. After noticing the asinine decision of the head honchos there not to put a picture of my darling niece Chaya on the front-cover (they said they would!), I immediately turned to the letters to the editor section and confirmed my belief. Yes, there is a G-d in the world.
Turns out Shoshanna Whitman wrote a response to my response to her response ad infinitum, and it seems like she missed my point. She writes a whole long thing about how she knows his situation, because she and the shliach talked it over at length, and at the end, "I still maintain that his view of it is skewed if he believes he cannot show Jews how to Daven, that they are so assimilated that they need to go straight to the food part." As I said, she missed my point entirely. Who is she to question this shliach's decision? She spoke to him for what, three hours? Ten hours? Hello, the guy lives this situation. He knows what's going on. Is he necessarily right? How the heck should I know? It's not like I never criticize Shluchim, because I do. All the time. It's quite enjoyable in fact. But that doesn't make it right. I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but really, is there any other way to get my point across?

Revisionist History Note: All right, they did publish a photo of said darling niece inside the magazine. My bad.

I got published too!

I had hoped to be able to provide y'all with a screen shot of the latest Nshei Chabad Newsletter's printing of my letter to the editor, but for various reasons I don't have a copy of the magazine. Oh well. Suffice it to say that for some reason which boggles my mind they also printed the address to this here humble little blog, and I confidently expect thousands of hits over the next few weeks, all wondering who, what, when, where, and how.
I had thought, originally, to have several weeks of brilliant posts all written out and ready to be posted as soon as the time came, but life got in the way of that, what with my cold and Siman 105 and various other adventures, so yeah, I guess all those thousands of hits will just have to content themselves to some three AM drivel. Sorry.

So CH is packed with people of a feminine persuasion. While I have nothing against these people, the constant cacophony of a cackling most hideous certainly (wait-did I just murder my chances of a shidduch?) assaults the ears and makes Rabbi Spalter(Morristown)'s refusal to let the Shiur Daled me of two years ago come to town for this Shabbos more understandable. He wasn't trying to save my soul from the damaging influence of neshamos d'ban, but rather my ears from their inane laughter. Seriously, the worst thing that happens here when all the bochurim are in town (last week-how long ago it seems) is a little brech here and there. Now though, at every corner, and indeed at every stoop, comes a sound most screeching: five teenage girls guffawing most heartily at anything any of them says. Oy. Whatever. I'll get over it.

Funny, then, that in the very post which I imagine should welcome me into the minds of all those thousands of Nshei readers I should write something so negative about their daughters. I suppose you could put it down to the same feelings which cause seven year old boys to pull the braids of seven year old girls. Or perhaps it's simply the result of a sleep-deprived mind addled by too many thoughts of kavush, nifsak hakiluach, and all the other good shtuff which make the afore-mentioned Siman 105 so much fun.

Which brings us to another interesting point. Astute readers will have certainly seen the unprecedented two (!) polls currently polling to the upper left of these words. One of the polls, the one lower down, was already discussed in the comments. The other references a great schism which is currently threatening to tear apart the Morristown Smicha program which we all have come to know and love. You see, a movement has been started to take a test on all of Taaruvos besides Siman 110 before Pesach, and then to have plenty of time after the festival of redemption to get through that most painful of simanim before a test coinciding in some part with the 18 of Sivan. You see, people seem to think that they'll forget the greater part of their knowledge of Taaruvos if they're forced to take just one test on L'ag B'omer. Cynics like me would contend that they probably never learned it too well in the first place, so what's to forget, but the fact remains that it would be a travesty of justice to force bochurim to think about learning over Pesach. Heck, they'll all be in Russia (oh, that's been cancelled?) or Topeka or somewhere making a Seder for lots of our brethren and consequently unable to devote even a moment's worry to the thorny issues accompanying the laws of the fatty meat. That's one thing at least that Ashkenazim have over Sephardim. They may get to eat rice on Pesach, but they also have to be baki bain kachush l'shamain. Ha!
Right now it looks like we might have a written test for Taaruvos before Pesach, then a R. Schapiro administered oral/written test on 110 afterwards, and then get a Rabbi Shochet test for Melicha. If you think this a good idea then please indicate your pleasure in the poll conveniently located for that very purpose.
And for now then, au revoir.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kiss like you mean it

Tonight I sponsored a hakhel-type event in honor of my birthday. It was cute. I chazzered the maamar hayosheves b'ganim '11, whose basic point is that we are the ones who can bring redemption. All the souls in heaven are waiting for us-in fact all the angels are waiting us. Heck, G-d himself is waiting for us. And even though we're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, we can do it. We have to.

After those inspiring words I made a hachlata to make more paragraphs in these here posts, and said a cute story. Here it is:

This past shabbos I was by a chabad house, and I was asked to speak. Of course I agreed, and in the middle of the story i was telling I realized that it was a terrible story to tell in a chabad house. Oh well.
So anyway, chaim shaul brook, or someone like that, was on a train in Israel. With him in the car was a chiloni who was making his life miserable, complaining how frum Jews are parasites and destroying the eretz. He pointed to Chaim Shaul, engrossed in a Sefer, and said, "Look at you-there's a gorgeous land out there, and instead of looking out the window all you can do is stare at that book and mumble. R' Brook turned to him, finally, and said, "It says in the mishna 'da ma leheishiv l'apikores,' but it never tells you what you're supposed to say! You know why? Because the mishne is very polite. It means to tell you Kushen Tuchus!"
All the Lubavitchers at the table laughed uproariously, and then one of his congregants asked what the punchline meant. His answer? A powerful "Umm."
Yup, good times.

This is of course brings to mind R' Mendel Futerfas' famous line, "When someone says I'll try, they really are trying to say kushen tuchus."
Is there a better way to end a post?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bits of it

Last night we had a farbrengen here at RCA with Rabbi Aaron Gancz. Due to a variety of factors I was only able get down a few of the things he said. Oh well.

Misnagdim like to tell a mashal about two brothers who were very rich, and did everything together. One of them developed an ulcer, and his doctors told him he couldn't eat meat anymore, only milchigs. A little while later the other brother found out that he was lactose intolerant, and be could only eat meat products. Since they were very rich they made two separate kitchens, with two separate wait staffs and everything, one serving exclusively meat, the other milk.
Eventually the economy turned south, and the brother's fortunes too declined. Neither could afford their previous luxuries, and they both cut down in their food consumption. The one had to stop eating meat and went to chicken. Eventually he couldn't even afford that, and he was reduced to chicken, thence chicken wings, and then at the end he could only afford potatoes. So too the other brother lost his money, and he went from pizza to mai challav to...potatoes.
The brothers realized the situation, and figured, why are we keeping two separate kitchens? It's so expensive, such a waste. We'll combine them!

The misnagdim say, back in the day, the misnagdim were real misnagdim, the chassidim were real chassidim. Look at the Gra, the Baal haTanya, the many other great leaders of yesteryear. And now? What do we have? We're both eating potatoes! Let's combine our kitchens.

When R' Yoel Kahn heard this he wasn't impressed. He explained that in reality chassidus has spread so far that the misnagdim have become chassidim! All their theology has become chassidus, even if they don't know it, even if they don't want to know it, facts are...
When Rabbi Gancz was a kid in Satmar his teacher brought in a Russian Jew who told them his story. He grew up frum, keeping kosher, davening three times a day, learning Torah, etc. The only thing was, in Soviet Russia it was impossible to go to shul, especially if you were a kid.
This kid grew up into a young man, as frum as anyone, but he had never gone to shul, never davened with a minyan. Came shavuos, and he had a huge taavah to hear the aseres hadibros. The only thing stopping him was the knowledge that if he went bad things would happen to him. A taavah is a taavah, he went to shul. And as he had known, he was arrested for two weeks, lost his job, and generally was made miserable.
After the man finished the story Rabbi Gancz's teacher said, "You see the kinds of trouble you'll get into if you give into your taavos?"
A woman came to Rabbi Gancz when he worked in the diamond business many years ago, and told him a story. Her parents didn't raise her frum or anything, and she was quite surprised when she came home and found out what her mother had to say to the question, "What would you do if I came home with a goy?" Her mother, sensing that this was more than just a theoretical question, answered, "Simple. I'd kill you."
The girl was not only surprised but she was also perturbed, and she packed her bags and prepared to leave forever. Just as she was dragging her suitcases out of the house she figured she'd ask her father what he thought. So up she went to him, and asked her father the question. He took some time to respond, but eventually he answered. "I'd get a gun with two bullets. With one I'd shoot you, because you can't live with a goy. With the other I'd shoot myself, because I can't live without you."
For the first time in her life she understood that Judaism meant something to someone. Not only in a negative way, but in a positive way. Something worth getting worked up about. Or something like that.
One of R' Mendel Futerfas' daughters passed away, and by the funeral he was seen to be mumbling through his tears. A guy walked over and heard what he was saying, "Fifty years and you still haven't gotten that everything is for the good?" A little while later his niece passed away, and he was really crying this time. His wife asked him, "You cry more for your niece than your own daughter?"

Monday, February 9, 2009

TRS tagged

I was tagged by Mr. Rationally Pious to fill out Nemo's "25 things about me" thingie. Joy. Seriously, have you ever seen one of these things that wanted 25 facts? Usually they want like 8. And why no questions? I'm just supposed to make things up on the spot? But...I'll do it anyway, because I'm such a nice guy. I will make a change to the format though: just give us one fact from each year of your life, which in my case would make for 22 facts, and then make up the remaining facts with your favorite food, color, whatever. Everyone got that? Excellent. Let's begin.

1. I was born on a cold Thursday morning in beautiful Boston, MA, on the 12th of February, 1987, meaning I share birthdays with Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, and the Boston metro system, which incidentally first started running 100 years before I was whelped. BTW, that translates into 13 Shevat, 5747 for all those keeping count.

2. I don't remember much about this year. As far as I know my family moved to Mequon, WI, otherwise known as the place which used to have really incredible kiddushes.

3. My upshernish was the first one to take place at Chabad of the North Shore's Mequon location (the Rapaport's basement). They took away my orange soda when it was time for the hair cutting. I'm still traumatized. I seem to recall that Mrs. Shmotkin was the first to take a snip, but I could be wrong.

4. This was the year the Twins, my favorite baseball team, won the greatest World Series ever played. I don't remember a single thing about it, and I wouldn't be a fan for another decade... oh well. The banner looks nice.

5. Kindergarten. In Hillel Academy. I remember doing a rehearsal for our class chanuka party and chanie shechtman faked an injury to get a call...I mean a chocolate chip cookie. Sick, isn't it? These girls always get sympathy.

6. My best friend at the time was Levi Litvin, and I vividly remember the whole neighborhood searching for him when he wouldn't come out from his hiding place in a game of hide and seek. They had just brought out the police dogs when he came out, thinking he had won. Which I suppose he did. That night we ate hot dogs. You see, I remember the important things.

7. 2nd grade was miserable, because the Litvins moved to Kfar Chabad so that their father, Jay A"H, could work for Chabad's Children of Chernobyl. That year my Hebrew teacher would ask each of us in school how we were doing, but she stopped doing so for me a couple months in, because all I'd ever say was that I was depressed, because my best friend Levi had moved away.

8. For one glorious year I got a new friend, Ira, whose imagination and intelligence was only matched by my willingness to go along with whatever it was he proposed. We used to go to the ladies class every shabbos and take as much candy as possible before we were kicked out. The Spalters, I recall, had the best spread.

9. We moved to Minnesota the day before I started 4th grade at a new school, the Lubavitch Cheder Day School, with all new classmates and whatnot. For a long time I hated Minnesota, but after a while I got used to it, and now I think I can honestly say that the word love might come into the conversation.

10. My third school in three years, Torah Academy, in S. Louis Park. I didn't particularly like my time there, though it is where I became a Packers fan. So I suppose it was helpful.

11. I started my bar mitzvah lessons a year and a week before the big day; that first week I mentioned that the next would be my birthday, and Rabbi Goldstein nearly fell off his chair. "What? You want to learn the whole leining in a week!?" He was only slightly mollified when informed of the actual timeline.

12. I went away to sleep away camp for the first time, Gan Israel Montreal, with my best friend Ira and the most awesomest counselor in the whole wide world, Yossi Bryski (he's the only guy I ever met who lived up to "Normal is Boring") Since I had requested to be in Ira's bunk, and he was in the BT/frie kids bunk, I ended up there too. It was great. We did whatever we wanted, because who's going to tell a frie kid not to so something?
In addition, a big shout to Yossi Bendet, the only person I knew when I got off the bus (Ira only came that night), who took me to canteen and bought me a coke. I still appreciate the gesture.

13. I became Bar Mitzvah. Let's see: read parshas beshalach (which includes the shirah), did the longest haftora of the year, davened shacharis and mussaf, and said the bar mitzvah maamar, in Hebrew, by the kiddush luncheon. Exactly one year later, to the day, my father's father passed away. I still miss him.

14. Graduation from Torah Academy. Woohoo! I gave by far the best (funniest) speech by it, but it was stuck way in the end of the program for some obscure reason. Miss Hollerich, I'm not sure if I've forgiven you for this one yet.

15. First year in mesifta, the Lubavitch Yeshiva of Minnesota-Wexler Learning Institute. I think I learned more about life and less about Judaism in that one year than any other so far. Yeah, it was an education. One thing I learned was not to predict to boastfully that the Packers would trounce the Vikings, because those guys in Yeshiva can be vicious...

16. The year I started keeping my diary, 03/03/03. If anyone wants to read all the embarrassing things it contains (believe you me, it won't
disappoint in that department) then be my guest, because even I can't read my own handwriting. How my biographers will manage is anyone's guess.

17. My first year at Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad. Possibly the best school year I ever had. Rabbi Mendy Schapiro for chassidus, Yankee Majesky my nigleh chavrusa, Shmuelie Gourarie for chassidus at night, Nissy Gansbourg chassidus on shabbos mornings, Shua Lustig teaching rambam...suffice it to say that my brain was stuffed full of all sorts of good Jewish shtuff.

18. The Rosh used to give his shiur a test on motzei shabbos. Once I said an answer from two pages back, and he screamed at me, in front of the whole zal, "I'm going to kill you!" He then turned around to look for a suitable weapon in his shtender, and Schneur Wilhelm whispered the correct answer to me, which I immediately relayed to the Rosh. Lucky for you people, otherwise TRS would never have been born.

19. My first year in Morristown. I used to stay up until two every morning talking about Brazilian politics with one of the smicha bochurim (Yasha Dayan) in the library.

20. Started this here blog when I was in Kansas on Merkos Shlichus. Hey, better than my chavrusa there, who started a facebook account.

21. Shlichus in Minnesota. I did a lot of dumb things, and yet at the end of the year everyone still thought I was the holy holy holy shliach who sat in zal all day and learned. Heck, the guys still think that. I love first month's impressions.

22. Smicha in Morristown...who knows what the current year will bring?

23. So how am I a Twins fan and yet I hate the Vikings? Simple. I only became a Packers fan l'hachis all the Vikings fans in Torah Academy, and in that respect 1998 was probably the best year ever. I became a Twins fan in 2001 when they started winning for the first time in nearly a decade. Until then I never knew the joy of listening to a west coast game extra-innings game at 1:30 when bedtime is at 9:30...sometimes I wish bedtime was still at 9:30.

24. I haven't missed a day of Chitas or Rambam since a week before Purim when I was in Shiur Aleph mesista.

25. I still don't get that guy for Second Hand Fitness' slogan, "Why buy new when second hand will do-except when the prices are this good!"

Ok, Real and Wright, it's your turn to shine.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Ten TRS Commandments

If I didn't have a miserable little cold I'd be pretty happy right now. Imagine, I woke up with two possible things to blog about, and now I have two more. Oh, the joy! Plus the author of three of the guest posts on this here blog just got engaged. Mazel Tov! No wonder Fab Gal/Farbrengen/Kesem stopped commenting on here. She was involved in more worthwhile pursuits. Anyway, back to blogging. The first possibility is a treatise on the reeducation necessary to truly call one's self a TRSer, while the second is a favor for this blog's very first supporter and friend, for which I remain grateful. Hmm, maybe I can combine the two.

The first thing that is necessary to know is that fundamentalism is only tolerated if it makes sense to me. Zev Brenner refusing to comprehend what his guests have to say is not appreciated. Look, I get that he doesn't like Footsteps, but I have a hard time believing he never heard of them before what, Friday? It also strains credulity to imagine that he fails to see any good in their work. The first point is particularly troubling. Isn't Talkline with Mr. Brenner supposed to be at the forefront of Jewish talklininess? When the New York Times Magazine runs a feature article on Lubavitch, and features Malky Schwartz, he doesn't read it? How about when a controversial book prominently features her organization? Is he too busy reading Berger? And a couple of years ago the New York Times again ran a story on Footsteps; where was Mr. Brenner. The second point that rankled was his seeming inability to understand that not every person who fries out l does so because he was molested as a kid or because he didn't talk to the right rabbi who would undoubtedly have saved his soul if given half a chance. Why does he not get that not everyone gets what he gets? I love Lubavitch, but I don't expect everyone to love it too. And that's fine. Mr. Brenner evidently expects the world to love what he stands for, and if not, to try and love it.

This then is the first step to becoming a TRSer, realizing that everyone is different and that this isn't a bad thing. Do we really need a world populated exclusively by clones of me? I think not. One is more than enough. And the same goes for everyone else.

The second rule is that you have to love a simple Jew named Lipa Schmeltzer. I understand that he's not so popular among a certain element on this blog, but what can I do? He happens to be the best Jewish singer out there right now. Heck, I bet Miss Schwartz even likes him!

The third rule is that we're all adults, and as such we are expected to maintain a certain standard of intelligence. These standards include a basic knowledge of "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves", as well as an ability to criticize those who deign to litter our environment with ill conceived attempts at grammatical independence. I'm not calling for a general repudiation of all English innovation, but rather of those who fail to recognize the humor inherent to those who choose to strain the barrier that keeps the masses intelligible.In short, rule four: no contradiction shall remain unchallenged, and if the source of said contradiction points it out themselves, then all the better. Because remember, we are only as critical of others as we are capable of being criticized ourselves. In Mr. Brenner's case, it would be nice to see an acknowledgment that he doesn't know everything in the world. If Footsteps thought it necessary to have a rabbinical adviser then they would have one. The fact that they don't is telling: that's not their job. They aren't here to tell formerly-frum people why they should stay frum. They're here to help those people adapt to the outside world, an often scary place, especially if you're satmar.

This brings up the next rule: never, but never, but never ever ever ever eat satmar meat. Unless Mendys has nothing else, in which case it's ok. Here at TRS we believe that you should never let religion get in the way of life. By that I mean, when you see a woman drowning in your local water reservoir, don't call your local orthodox reverend and find out the propriety of saving her. When you're at Mendys and the turkey gumbo has mealmart fowl, don't swear it off. When you're at a movie theater and the guy next to you spills his popcorn all over your date...All right, that's taking things a bit too far. What the heck are you doing at a movie theater you frie yak? And another perfect segue into Footsteps. Yes, these rules are arbitrary. And that's probably one of things you hated about Judaism. Or just didn't like.

Whatever. Deal with it. You think the world out there is any less arbitrary, makes any more sense, has any more rhyme or reason? Well listen darling, it don't. Things are. That's just the way it is. Some of us like having a G-d be the source of those arbitrary rules. Others don't. Whatever floats your boat. Just don't expect me to get in and help you paddle.

What is this now, rule five? Six? Whatever. Whichever one it is it's pretty simple. Comment early. Comment often. Don't be afraid of doing stupid things. Don't do stupid things. Try to avoid putting too many instructions into a single rule. Realize that your planned "Ten
commandments of TRS" isn't getting anywhere near there. And realize that Zev Brenner is just trying to best he can to bring Jews closer to their father in heaven. Which is all I really ask of anyone.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Be a contrarian. Argue for the sake of argument. Don't shy away from confrontation just because the side you've gotten of an argument is clearly in the wrong. And one more thing: can someone please get me some normal tissues instead of this sand paper I'm currently dealing with? Thanks, I'd really appreciate it.


Sometimes I have nothing to write, and I end up writing nothing worth reading, because, as I mentioned, I have nothing to write. Other times I have lots to write, and I end up writing nothing, because I have lots to write. It's a vicious business us bloggers are in. The good news is that tonight I really have a lot to write. Whether I get to it all is an entirely different question.

First on the agenda is a link to the latest and greatest Haveil Havalim, a compendium of a bunch of blogs that was produced quite nicely by some guy with an apostrophe in his name. He did something which almost no one else does, which is to give me more than three words. Seriously, how do you sum up an entire post in three words? Especially one of mine? So I appreciate his sentences. I solemnly do pledge that when I run my very own HH (coming up in about a month) I'll give everyone a good cursing out for at least a paragraph.

Next up is the saga of the shoes. Faithful readers will recall my struggles two weeks ago to find a new pair of protection for my feet. Another visit to Sears proved to be fruitless, even though this one had the shoes available for purchase off of shelves where customers could get to 'em. There just weren't any 11.5s. The reason for this shocking lack of TRS-compatible footwear was explained by a kindly saleshuman at Macys; turns out stores are phasing out half sizes in an effort to control costs and the minds and bodies of virtually every American. If you thought the revolution was going to come from the socialists or commies or somesuch group, well, you were wrong. The revolution will be televised, and sponsored, and produced, and watched, by Nike wearers. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Anyway, back to shopping. Macys proved to be a really good place to buy shoes. Aside from feeling really weird when a guy who was possibly twice my age helped me put on my shoes, things went well. It's a rather funny thing, but one of the pairs of shoes I actually got is an 11. I know, I betrayed my principles, but what could I do? At least the next pair was the size I thought I was supposed to get. The main thing here is that I got these shoes in less time than it took to blog all of this. Boom! and there I have shoes. Oh, the humanity.

I'd write more, but understandably, I'm too tired.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What a chassidishe farbrengen can accomplish...

This afternoon I got an email from Webby over at with that picture I referenced earlier. In the email he also said some other shtuff, but since I'm finally learning to keep my big mouth shut...NOT! Regardless, I'm not sure if even I, TRS, would spill the contents of a private email. Actually, I would. If you pay me enough. Don't worry Webby, I'll split it 50/50.

What were they thinking?

Please, do not listen to what they are telling you. The Kinnus Hatmimim in Beis Rivka-Campus Chomesh tonight was a failure. A massive failure. If the goal had been to arrange a place for bochurim to come and socialize in a relatively chassidish environment with free food and drink then it was a success. And you know what? I don't think that would have been a bad goal to have. But the goal of this particular kinnus was for all the bochurim in Lubavitch to sit down like tattelehs and listen to a ton of super-boring speeches for hours and hours and hours. Ridiculous, I know. The only person the olam paid attention to was the Rosh, and that's because he talked about guts on the ceiling, or something like that. I got there in the middle of Rabbi Perlstein's speech, and it got so bad in the middle that Rabbi Gancz came up to the microphone and tried to get everyone to shut up. Poor Rabbi Perlstein, how often can you fix your kapote while someone is trying to get people to be quite so that they can listen to your speech? Regardless, he spoke for way too long. All the speakers did that. And did any of them tell any jokes or at least stories? Somehow it's gotten into people's heads that it's chassidish to chazzer every sicha in the book, but that telling chassidishe maasos is for Chabad Houses. Hello people, you ever read the Friediker Rebbe's farbrengens? Today's speakers aren't the Rebbe, they can't say chassidus for six hours. They simply can't pull it off. And you want to know a little secret? The sichos people paid attention to the most by the Rebbe's farbrengens were the political ones. Why? That's just the way people are.

What was really sad was that Rabbi Holtzberg, father of Gabi HY"D, spoke, and no one listened. No one even knew he was speaking in English. And whose fault is this? It's not the bochurim's fault. They see their friends, they go over and chat. No, it's the fault of the organizers. You want to have forty people sitting on your dais? Enjoy. But don't have ten speakers, have two. And make sure they're interesting. Then people will listen. Seriously, it seems like they think they're producing a show for sleeping seniors, not for a ton of 15 year olds. Which brings up another point. I was older than 94 percent of that room. Scary.

Anyway, now that I've got that rant out of my system...but wait, there's more! I understand that you're shushing me. Really, I do. But when you're shushing me so that you can hear better what your friend has to say? And you're in your middle sixties? Please. I talk, you talk, we'll all be happy. And what's with JEM providing a translation for only half of what the Rebbe said on the videos? Kasriel Shemtov's funding ran out in the middle?

The good news is, I did convince a friendly semi-relative to start blogging, and this is the result. I must say, I am extremely surprised at the result. I was firmly convinced that it'd be an ode to ties or something like that, but in fact it's a very nice dvar Torah. I'm impressed. All my blogging people should go check it out and comment obsessively. Oh, yeah, a word to the wise, comment moderation is ridiculous.

I also managed to farbreng with Rabbi Mottel Friedman. All right, it was more like a heart to heart. Mushy, I know. The same can be said for my conversation with Motty Beenstock, who is getting married soon to Rabbi Melech Zweibel's niece. I thought you should know that. Possibly the only inspiring moments of the event were watching hundreds of tmimim jumping on the tables and dancing like nobody's business. All that youthful innocence...before they've been perverted by reality. I used to be like that. Good times. Pity the rest of the event stank. I get that a lot of work was put into it. But sometimes you just have to wake up and smell the coffee, realize that you're not meeting the needs of your audience. Art is great, but if no one's buying it, then it's worth nothing.

After this exciting attempt at religious endeavor I made my way to an apartment for an intimate farbrengen with Rabbi Mendy Schapiro and about fifteen friends. In the beginning I decided that even though it was likely to be a rocking farbie and certainly blog-worthy it would be a waste to blog it live, because sometimes I need a little inspiration too, and it's impossible to listen to a farbie while you're transcribing it. I turned out to be correct, but unfortunately I fell asleep in the middle and left early. Still, the homemade peanut butter cookies were out of this world, and it was really nice to see my friends who were there. One thing I remember that Rabbi Schapiro said was about how we work hard at something, whether it be learning a sicha or doing a job, and we think, "OK, once I'm finished here I can go to sleep. I'll be done." But the fact is, you're never done. Life wasn't meant to be easy.

Sure, I know that this is a bit obvious, but that's the genius of the Rabbi. Tell me something I know in the back of my head and show me why I have to pay attention and realize that I have the answers inside me already, I just need someone to bring them out.

Another thing he said that comes to mind was that whether a person is a bochur, or dating, or a chassan, or married, or whatever, the way to deal with the situation can be found in the Rebbe's works. Without these, no one has any chance of doing what the Rebbe wants. So yeah, that was really nice. Oh yeah, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that it was TanyaChaz's 21st. Happy birthday Chaz. Keep on thinking I'm the greatest guy of all time.

Once I left that little nest of love I had a nice little heart to heart with Big Fan for, oh, two hours, plus some conversational banter with Lucky Wolf and this guy's younger brother, who appears to be going for the Matisyahu look, minus the white peyos. And yes, I have no idea why I know who Jordan Farmar is.

And that brings me back here, blogging late and feeling a bit like Yud Shevat has passed me by. Has passed us all by. I hate to admit it, but Mottel has a point. We need to shape up, and we need to shape up now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Yud Shevat with the (possibly) greatest living Rabbi on the planet

So I go to the Minnesota farbrengen for literally five minutes, and who's there but Webby from with his camera taking pictures, making it look like I was there the whole time. Well, I wasn't. I would have liked to be, but I was by the (practically empty) ohel tonight (said the whole maaneh lashon! First time ever! Woohoo!), and when I got home I had to eat something before I fell completely off the face of the earth. Then I walk to this farbie, and leave five minutes later for another. Crazy. Oh yeah, here's a nice little picture he snapped of yours truly:

That would be me in the green sweater, TC, and Shlomo Goldin. Here's some pictures of us from a couple of months ago. For all those who think my green sweater is cute, does it become less cute if I wear it nearly every day? Just wondering. The two guys in the foreground are Baruch Dorfman and Rabbi Mottel Friedman, of Nshei Chabad fame. Moments after the snapping of this picture Mr. Webby snapped one of me sticking my tongue out at him. He said, "You'll regret that!", to which I said, "Are you kidding me? I'd love that posted online!" He smiled as if he'd fulfill my wish, but then someone told him who I was and about my deep-seated need for as much publicity as possible, and I guess he reconsidered, which kind of stinks, because it was a cute picture, green sweater and long pick tongue and all.
Anyway, from there I made my way to the LA Farbrengen being held in the Beis Levi Yitzchak Shul with Rabbi Mendy Schapiro, who happens to be possibly the most sincerely religious person I have ever met. As in, he really cares. Sure, other people care, but he does something about it.
Due to the limitations of the medium (iPod Touch 2nd Gen) and the many people talking in the room I wasn't able to hear everything he said, so the following may be a little choppy, and perhaps even a bit jagged, which would conform to some people's opinion of me in real life. e, when will you get a blog I can link to? Anyway, here it is. Remember, all the mistakes are no doubt mine, all the genius is doubtlessly the rabbi's. Enjoy.

Moshiach is not going to come through those chassidim who saw the Rebbe and loved him. The chassidim who work hard, those who didn't see the rebbe, they're the ones who are going to bring moshiach.
The Rebbe didn't want bochurim who thought bad about themselves. He wanted bochurim who thought they could change the world.
Nowadays bochurim are depressed. Not depressed, but walking about in a daze.
When I was a bochur I had a real bochur issue. I thought I was a lost case. I wrote to the Rebbe in adar '52.
A chossid is not affected by the world around him. Because the world is bluff.
When you're alone in your bedroom, and you open an igros. I know people who watch movies. They do it because they're not happy with themselves. The Rebbe speaks the word of Hashem. If you learn sichos, translating each and every word, and make a decision to not be a woman, not be a wimp. Grab your etzem. You won't feel atzmus, you'll feel strong. We live in a wacky generation. The Rebbe told us that moshiach is coming. Who's going to bring him? Not the big chassidim who love. It's going to be the chassdim who work.
A bochur messed up in shidduchim, the Rebbe told him to learn chassidus.
The Rebbe is moshiach, but before we say that we say adoneinu, moreinu, and rabbeinu. We have to accept the Rebbe before we can have moshiach.
The chassidim who saw the Rebbe, they don't have it hard. Unless you're a chitzon, what's so difficult?
The kavanah is, there's no default. When will chassidus be real? When you make decisions and act according to chassidus. Not through giluim will you bring moshiach. Through hard work. Who is going to bring moshiach? The bochurim who struggled.
I speak to bochurim who are engaged. They tell me, without the rebbe's horaos, you're a lost case. Forget about Torah, how do you deal with anger?
Before the Rebbe, no one spoke about tafkid hador. There's going to be opposition. How do you deal with opposition? Not through love only. You have to fight it.
B'gashmius, it's amazing. Kids, jobs, life. Mofsim. Tomorrow there'll be bochurim who will have mofsim themselves. They're going to make a decision to become a better person.
Bottom line is, if you go to the Rebbe tomorrow, and you made hachanos, are you going to drop those hachanos when you're done? That's not what the Rebbe wants. The Rebbe wants you to continue on.
There's a story that doesn't work so much-Lazer, you're a shtickel baal seichel. There's a story from the Rebbe-acharon shel pesach 17 the Rebbe brought the story. It's an unpopular story. It might not work. If you're a pnini it'll work. The Rebbe told about Shmuel Munkes. He was a smart guy with a sense of humor. He was looking for the Alter Rebbe in Liozna at the middle of the night. He said that the Rebbe must be up in the middle of the night. He looked around the town, every house was dark except for the Rebbe's house.
The Rebbe learned Torah all night. The Rebbe didn't sleep.
Shmuel Munkes said, I want to sleep in your house. The Alter Rebbe said, you couldn't find anywhere else to sleep? Shmuel Munkes said, this is also a Jewish home! The Rebbe said, I'll call my goy to throw you out. Shmuel said, my goy is bigger than your goy! Fine, the Rebbe let him stay.

The Rebbe explained this story. A bochur comes and says, I want to learn chassidus, to be a chassis. Do we welcome you with open arms? No! We investigate. Do you want to be cool and hip, or do you want to be battul? You have a goy? What does the goy want and do? Even after that, your goy is bigger than the Rebbe's goy. You sinned. You become a chassis easily? Not happening. Cry. Then you can become a chassis.

There are a lot of beautiful homes in the world. But you have to go to a light house. One that has the light of Torah.
You can't just say that you want it. Don't just think that by wanting it you can get it. You have to go to a light house. No ego. No self.
Don't think you can just write to the Rebbe and it'll all turn out fine. You can't just surrender. You have to cry out and say, my goy is bigger! Just because you want to be a chassid doesn't mean the Rebbe will accept you. There are no smooth roads. You have to cry. You have to beg to be accepted. You have to want it very hard.
Don't think you farbrenged, decided to be a chassid, and now the sky is going to open for you. You have to open your own heart. Bochurim think that they work hard, and now they should feel elokus. Well, it's not going to happen. It takes hard work. You have to live with chassidus. Until moshiach comes there is no red carpet. There is no free lunch, no free supper.
When a bochur these days wants to be serious, not ad d'lo yadah, it's very easy to put the Rebbe out of the picture. There's a story with R. Yoel Kahn. There was a family who lived in a totally frie kibbutz. They were sick of living in Israel where the religious parties are taking over. So they moved to Tasmania. He was a professor in psychology. They moved so that no one should bother them. Tasmania is the achurayim. It's far away from far away. They moved away and had a good time. No one bugged them.
This is like bochurim who want no one to bother them.
The reform rabbi there left back to America, and they needed a new rabbi. The congregation needed a new rabbi, and they came to this professor and asked him to become their rabbi. He said he wasn't even reform, he doesn't believe in everything, but they said, you're Israeli, you can read Hebrew. He became the rabbi.
His Kids started to ask him regarding yiddishkeit. He had no answers. His wife started praying. A week later he met rabbi Gutnick walking down the street in Tasmania, and they became close, and eventually they came to the Gutnick's house in Melbourne, and asked, why did you come here? Gutnick said, we got a letter saying we should come to Tasmania. When was the letter? The day the woman prayed to Hashem, if you're there, please, show us a sign.
You might think she cried and the Rebbe answered. R' Yoel Kahn said, the Rebbe thought of them, and she cried.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Don't mess with my Rebbe

This writing down of Rabbi Chaim Schapiro's every utterance is getting a bit ridiculous. Some might even unkindly suggest that I have a crush or something on the guy. I was once accused of that by someone, and boy was she embarrassed when I said that the person she thought I had a crush on was in fact my honored father. No, our leader here in Morristown Smicha is not my father, though it does say in the holy books that someone who teaches you Torah is considered to be your pater. Regardless of this, that, and the other thing, and now that we're done with that little introduction, I suppose it's a good idea to get on with the post.

This morning my chavrusa and I started siman 105 and right away the Beis Yosef mentioned the case of an "achbar b'shikra." I asked Rabbi if this really meant a "rodent-like creature in a prominent drink." He answered that indeed it did, and proceeded to explain that we were trying to figure out if this rodent, had it stayed in the liquid for 24 house, would prohibit that very liquid. I said, "You mean, you figure that out after you finish vomiting." He replied, "Are you kidding me? You don't know what's going in on your sheichar and wine." I said something along the lines of "Yuck!", to which he said, "Hey, I'm being serious."
So there you have it, Morristown's very own Upton Sinclair.

Later, in shiur, the Rabbi said that some people were complaining that since they sat in the back of zal they hadn't found out that there was going to be shiur until right before it began. The Rabbi related that back in the day, before 22 Shevat '48, no one knew if the Rebbe would farbreng on any given shabbos. Sometimes the Rebbe would say the mareh mekomos of the Rashi he'd be discussing that Farbrengen. The bochurim in Oholei Torah and Morristown would think up all sorts of questions on that week's Rashis and put them in the kovtzim because sometimes the Rebbe would announce that he would be dealing with "ha'ara 8" or whichever number it was in that weeks kovetz. No one knows if the Rebbe already had an answer or was saying, "I'll figure this out by tomorrow." Other weeks the Rebbe would nod to Rabbi Groner after davening and say that there'd be a farbrengen at 1:30 that afternoon. This always took place in the front of 770, and all the people present would keep their eyes peeled to try and figure out if there'd be a farbrengen.
Anyways, once Rosh Hashanah came out on Shabbos, and Rabbi Schapiro was davening on the bleachers in the back because there was no tekios, and he figured that there was no point in getting crushed in the washing machine if he didn't have to. The Rebbe came in to 770, and nodded to Rabbi Groner, and for once the people in the back found out about the farbrengen before those in the front.

When Rabbi Schapiro came in one of the bochurim asked him if he minded using a padded chair instead of the plastic chair he normally prefers, and someone said, (no this was not me) that perhaps he'd prefer to stand while he delivered shiur. The Rabbi told the following story:

The Rebbe would say a sicha every night of Chol Hamoed Sukkos, and in general these were the only sichos the Rebbe didn't follow with dollars. In '52 they decided that they wanted to have the Rebbe say the speaker from the middle of 770, where he normally farbrenged from, in order that everyone should be able to hear properly. They set up boards from the Rebbe's place in front to the middle, and didn't bring the Rebbe's shtender, just the Rebbe's chair, because they figured they might get the Rebbe to farbreng. After all, it was chol hamoed sukkos.... They also set up 770 like they had it set up by farbrengens.
When it was time for the Rebbe to say the sicha he walked on the boards to the place and looked around for the shtender. One of the mazkirus pointed to the Rebbe's chair, and the Rebbe picked it up, turned it around, and proceeded to lean on it while saying an hour-long sicha.
The lesson? Don't try and be a chacham and try and get the Rebbe to do something he doesn't want to do.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Whence the sin?

I heard a really good vort from a bochur here in Morristown today that he heard from Rabbi Melech Zweibel over shabbos. Why is Avraham Avinu called that? There's a Rashi that says that he was oleh v'shuv constantly, which means that he traveled all over the holy land of Israel. Chassidim explain it to mean that he sinned and repented constantly, which is why he's our father. It's not that he was perfect, but he always picked himself up and got going again.
All right, you'll have to excuse me because that doesn't sound as good as the way I originally heard it. I guess my memory isn't what it once was. Oh well. Happens. This also brings up something which Crawling Axe commented a couple nights ago which was also really good.
Basically, the Friediker Rebbe was sitting in a sukkah that had been built for him by some incredibly rich guy, and when the guy came in the Rebbe said, "Next time, groan before you sin."
Good shtuff, eh? Reminds me of the R' Levi Yitzchak story which I have told everyone on the blogosphere ad infinitum, but it's relatively apropos and it's a nice story, so why not?
Basically, a bochur came to Reb Levi Yitzchak and said that he needed a tikkun for a most heinous crime. Turns out he and his girl friend had relations which are generally reserved for those of a maritial persuasion. The great defender of Israel was all ready with a tikkun when the bochur mentioned one extenuating circumstance: he had made sure his girl went to mikveh before the hanky-panky happened. The Rabbi was not impressed, and he told the bochur that he had no tikkun for him. "Whyever not?!" cried the bochur, "I did much less than other people you have given tikkunim too! I tried to do the right thing!" R' Levi Yitzchak responded that he could give no tikkun because the couple had waited a whole week to do their deed. "I can understand if you had done it right away, when she was a niddah, but to have a whole week to meditate on the enormity of your sin and still go through it?! You I can not help."
We also find this in the holy books, where it mentions that someone who says he will sin and then repent is not given the opportunity to repent. Why? Because if you think you're going to sever your relationship with G-d and then just fix it up as if nothing happened...well, you've got another thing coming. Your sin will certainly be sincere, but will your teshuva be so? Still, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, though this person is given no help, he can nevertheless repent if he truly shakes the proverbial heavens with his sincerely-felt teshuva.

I'll end off with a nice story of R' Levi Yitzchak which I have also told ad infinitum, but which might come in handy for someone or other. The great Rabbi had a son who was of marriageable age, and who consequently got many offers of marriage. His father turned all these down, but curiously enough he gave all the shadchanim who suggested matches the traditional shadchanus gelt which is usually only given when a match works. The shadchanim realized that the Rabbi had no money, and they felt bad about taking it. Besides, they figured, he doesn't seem to like our suggestions anyway, so it's really not fair to him.
When R' Levi Yitzchak noticed that no one was coming with suggestions for junior he called the head of the shadchanim and asked him what was up. The matchmaker explained, and R' Levi Yitzchak said, "Do you know how it works in heaven? You read in the Gemara that forty days before the guy is conceived (or born or something) it's announced by the angels that the son of this one will marry the daughter of this one, but then there's also the gemara which says that since the creation Hashem has spent his time arranging matches. Really, the process is that a guy's name is brought up, and angels start to scream out potential girls. Sometimes there's only one or two mentioned before the right one is found, and sometimes it takes hundreds. But until each and every single name that is supposed to be mentioned is mentioned, there's nothing doing. The same thing happens down here. Shadchanim come with potential names, and until each name that was suggested by the angels is suggested down here, there's nothing doing. That's why I pay you each time, because each potential name brings the real one a little closer."

And with that I say good night.