Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The return of Joshua! (again)

I spent a lot of time today writing a very nice continuation of my impersonator series, and I'm not particularly interested in writing a whole 'nother post, particularly because I still have three kitchen drawers to clean for pesach before I go to sleep. So maybe I just take another Joshua out of the archives? Enjoy.

G. Mantle
August 6, 04
Joshua XIIIX

Of People and Golf Tees

“The connection between the two is virtually non-existent.”

“On the contrary, there is a large and ever-growing connection between the two.”

“Would you mind pointing that out?”

“Of course, I would love to.”

“Go ahead.”

“Well, first of all, they are both organic.”

“Not necessarily.”

“Look, what do you make golf tees out of? Plastic, which is oil, which is a hydrocarbon, and then they make some that are biodegradable, and those are obviously carbonated.”

“I’ve seen gold golf tees.”

“It’s the exception that proves the rule.”

“All right, name me another similarity.”

“Well, both are needed to play golf.”

“That is slightly obvious, isn’t it?”

“Only to the untrained eye it is.”

“And to the trained eye?”

“Then it’s definitely not obvious.”

“Are you suggesting that training takes away from perception?”

“My, you’re quick on the uptake.”

“How does experience in a subject reduce one’s knowledge in it?”

“That’s not what I said.”

“Stop nitpicking.”

“No, it does matter. I never said anything about knowledge; I said that perception was lessened through training.”

“And how is that?”

“Quite simple. They stop seeing the forest for the trees.”

“Has this whole conversation been in an exercise in cliche using?”

“Not exactly.”

“Well I’m glad to hear it. Now would you kindly explain, in your own words, what you meant?”

“I can try.”

“Well, get on with it.”

“What I’m trying to say is that training builds up preconceptions which can be hard to dislodge. For example, when you train a bird to eat computer mice, it loses all its ability to kill dogs with shotguns.”

“I wasn’t aware that birds could kill dogs with shotguns.”

“But you accept that they can eat computer mice?”

“I never said that.”

“So why didn’t you mention it?”

“This is stupid. You’re just trying to trick me so that you don’t have to explain your own 

“That’s impossible.”

“What is?”

“To explain your own stupidity.”


“Because once you can explain the stupidity it ceases to be stupid.”

“That’s very deep, but I’m not sure if I understand it.”

“Oh, it’s really quite simple. To do something that is truly stupid means that it defies explanation. Once you can explain why you did it, even if it’s a stupid reason, the act ceases to be stupid. Instead it’s merely a boneheaded maneuver.”

“But the explanation can be stupid.”

“That is correct. Once you explain the explanation, of course, then that too stops being stupid.”

“This conversation could go on however.”

“I would enjoy that.”


“Because then I would continue getting disability insurance.”

“How would you get disability insurance from talking. I mean, what exactly is this disability.”

“As long as I keep on talking I have a disability.”

“And what’s that?”

“My stupidity.”

“Why’s that?”

“My stupidity?”


"I have no idea.”

“Ah ha, it has ceased to be stupidity.”


“Because you explained it.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Sure you did.”

“No, I said that I had no idea.”

“That’s an explanation.”

“Not a very good one.”

“That doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it exists.”

“So once it exists it has validity.”


“Good, you’ve proved my point.”

“What’s that?”

“Another connection between golf tees and humans.”

“What’s that?”

“You sound like a parrot?”

“Get to the point.”

“The point is that both tees and humans exist.”

“That’s like saying that Beethoven and peanut butter are one and the same.”

The End

Monday, March 30, 2009

Save the best for last

This morning I flew back to good 'ol Minnesota, and had a terrible flight. No, it wasn't the turbulence, nor the pathetic amount of ginger ale (one cup!) or even waiting forever (and half an hour after that) to deplane. No, what was terrible about the flight was that it was scheduled to leave the gates at 10:50, and like the tattelehs we are we were all sitting nicely in our seats, waiting to leave. The stewardess came on the public address thingie and said that there were just a couple passengers who hadn't yet gotten on the plane, and we'd be waiting for them. At 11:15 the last of those couple (it was more like 12) passengers got on the plane. And guess who the vast majority of those passengers were? That's right folks, frum Jews!

Now, I don't mind being a little late, but I do mind A. the chilul Hashem, and B. the connections my fellow passengers made between me and those late in boarding. For the sake of truth I must point out that the five Lubavitchers on the plane were all on time, while of the 12 or so non-Lubavitchers, about ten.... But my point here is not to bash our Lakewood brethren. It's to plead for a little courtesy and respect for one's G-d. If you don't believe in that, at least have some mercy on your fellow passengers!

This point was brought closer to home tonight at Shul where we had two of our SLP brethren join the minyan. It was embarrassing for me as a Lubavitcher to see everyone talking during Davening and generally showing that we don't particularly care about prayers or halacha.

The bright spot of prayers was Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm coming over to me and saying, "You're causing trouble." I asked him why, and he told me that someone came over to him and asked, "Is it Lubavitch minhag not to do Birkas Hachamah?" Rabbi Wilhelm asked him where he could get such a crazy idea from. He answered, "From The Real Shliach!" I was as shocked as Rabbi Wilhelm at this, and as soon as I could I went online and looked at the post he was referencing. I assume that it's this post, because no other post talks about our once-in-28-year blessing of the sun/early wake up. As you can see for yourself, I said no such thing.

Another bright spot of prayers was Rabbi Wilhelm's halftime speech. He asked, why is it that the afikomen is hidden? Even in Lubavitch, where we don't steal it, we still hide it. What's up with this?

The gematriah of Afikomen is the same as "B'mirmah", which means trickery. We find this word used in the Torah to describe the way Yaakov got the birthright from Esau. Why specifically this word? It's explained in the holy books that when Yaakov brought his father two sheep he was actually bringing his father a korban pesach and a korban chagigah, for it was in fact the holiday of Passover. Once Yitzchak had eaten of these he could bless his son with all the goodness of the world.

There was one remaining problem. How did Yaakov know that his brother Esau wouldn't come, feed his father as well, and get a share of the blessings? The halacha says that one may not eat after the Afikomen, so Yaakov fed his father this-the afikomen, b'mirmah. When his brother later came with his meal Yitzchak could no longer eat, and the blessings were given exclusively to Jacob.

The Vilna Gaon asks a question on this. He says that the Seder must be at night, and the blessings were given in the day. So how can you say that this story happened on Pesach? Rabbi Gershon Grossbaum said that we find the same thing by Avraham Avinu. When the angels came he gave them matzos and meat for it was Pesach, even though it was in the middle of the day. Obviously, you must say that when it comes to the simanim of the Seder, even the day is okay. Or something like that.

Rabbi Wilhelm then proceeded to ask another question. What's with the four cups of wine? Why do we drink them? To show we're free. But for many people, four cups of wine is a burden. Even for those who imbibe with ease, we it still seems like an odd choice. After all, most people becoming at least a little affected after four cups of wine-is this the freedom the Torah recommends?

When the Jews left Egypt they had no clue what was going on. It's not like nowadays, where no one goes to the airport and catches the next flight out. We first want to know where it's headed! When the Jews left Egypt, however, they just got it, having no clue where they were going, or what they would do for food, drink, and the other essentials of life (wifi?). They simply put their faith in the word of G-d as transmitted by Moses and journeyed onward and upward. This is true freedom, to not be encumbered by physicality, by obstacles, but rather to make like Lipa Schmeltzer and hut bitachon.

Today, when we drink the four cups, we look for the very same feeling. We are trying to leave our limitations, our personal Egypt, and have faith in our Father in heaven.

There's an interesting story of the Kotzker, who when he heard this vort immediately thought of his Rebbe, R' Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. He reasoned that his Rebbe was not one to get affected by mere piddling amounts of alcohol, but he also knew that the Rebbe would surely want to fulfill this mitzvah. (You know, maybe I'm getting the story mixed up a little. Maybe R' Simcha wanted to make sure his talmid fulfilled the mitzva correctly?) When it came time to select cups for the seder the largest cup possible was selected by (one or another) for (the other one) in order that he should be able to fulfill the mitzva properly.

Man, it seems so wrong to print such a bad retelling (my fault of course) of a story. Oh well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dear TRS: advice for the masses

This is the first installment of what I hope will be a regular feature on TRS: an advice column. And let's get right down to it.

Dear Sir:

My cow refuses to eat the grass put before him. And he constantly hits me too. And steals my mechanical pencil. And won't allow me to use his sefarim as a book holder. What do I do?


Dear Fish,

Your cow refuses to eat the grass put before him? How absolutely ghastly. And physical abuse is certainly not cricket. Neither is theft. Perhaps though you might soften on your stance of misappropriation of property, and he might come around on his own. At the very least you could simply stop telling him the latest gossip regarding your family-he'd certainly fall very quickly for that ploy.


Dear Sir:

Shmuley Boteach has a nasty habit of writing stupid things. How do I prevent this in the future?


Someone's future son in law.
Dear someone's future son in law,

Shmuley Boteach has made a living of writing incendiary copy and then backtracking faster than even I ever have. The man is positively obsessed with being politically correct, and can't bear the thought of looking like a fundamentalist. He's also a wonderful human being (that's to save myself from his libel-seeking lawyers). My advice is, stop reading his articles and instead read those of Meir Kahane, who is probably closer to your cup of white hot chocolate (from Second Cup, of course), though he isn't as entertaining, principally because he's been insufferably right lately, despite his current deceased status.


Dear Sir:

Why is it okay for a Republican to root for Tiger Woods but not for Barack Obama?


Randy Moss
Dear Randy Moss,

Perhaps it's because the former gets the job done?


Dear Sir:

Why is it that people think they can get away with writing nothing of substance if they can come up with a couple of cheap jokes and a few jibes at America's president?


Dear IJT,

Darling, I have no idea what you're talking about.


And thus concludes our first edition of whatever it is we'll be calling it in the future. Go us!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Will time do it then?

I've been feeling very self-righteous lately. This is not a good thing. The problem is that I read this book of Mrs. Margolese and now suddenly I'm all liberalized and fired up to take on the challenge of life. Am I possibly correct in my self-righteousness? Possibly. But my fanaticism disturbs me. I suppose I've merely exchanged one set of ideals for another. Before I was big into law and order, but now I think I've found truth in love and all that sort of shtuff. The truth, of course, is that both approaches are backed up by our holy bible, and both are necessary. Contrary to what some may think, there is right and wrong in the world. As a religious Jew I turn to the Torah to define that right and wrong for me. So what's the problem? I'm not even completely sure. I'm simply disturbed by my own new-found over-hyphenization and belief in the power of being nice. Being nice wouldn't have stopped the Nazis or the Commies. Of course, being nice would stop a lot of things. The problem is figuring out which is which. Every mature adult, at some point, figures this out. So I'm not saying anything new. Woohoo.


Meanwhile, back on the ranch, if anyone is considering frieing out because they're not happy, well, it's not going to work. It's like marriage (not that I would know). It doesn't solve all your problems. I realize that these are blanket statements, and there'll always be someone who'll tell me why I'm wrong. Fine.

Amyway, for example, I have a friend I was talking to recently who I always puzzled over. He seemed to be the type of guy who made a good bochur, and yet he got married very soon after finishing smicha. I asked him about this, and he explained that he really hated being a bochur. He was lonely, this, that, the other thing, whatever. Point is, if you're lonely, then getting married can solve your problems.

So too with frieing out. If you're obsessed with eating chicken nuggets at McDonalds, then yes, frieing out and eating chicken nuggets at McDOnalds will solve your problems. And no, I did not just compare being lonely at wanting to eat chicken. I mean, I did, but I didn't mean to.

My point is that if someone is really unhappy, deeply unhappy, not because of an external reason but because they're b'etzem not happy, then they probably don't need to get a spouse, they need to get a therapist.

And please, I'm not a supreme court justice, this doesn't mean I'm not happy. BH, I may be a bit stressed, but basically, I'm pretty happy.


And also, go check out the latest Haveil Havalim. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, March 27, 2009

An interlude of uncertain quality

After a week of intense posts I feel pretty wasted. Besides, it's nearly four in the morning, which is enough to make anyone to feel wasted. So maybe I'll blog about one of the dumbest possible things to blog about. That's right folks, as per Cheerio's suggestion, it's time for...the music post! Yeah! Truth be told, I have blogged about this before, and I don't know that I have anything original to write, but that's all right.

So. Jewish music. What is it? Jewish music is, according to Yossi Green, is “where a melody is joined with a specific lyric that familiar or not familiar, to teach a certain message, to convey a feeling, that makes you closer to G-d. That basically what we consider as Jewish music.” So essentially, when Bob Dylan pairs Modeh Ani with a tune of some sort that's Jewish music. When Matisyahu sings, that's Jewish music. When Avraham Fried sings, that's Jewish music.

There must be something wrong here. That was way too simple. Anything Jewish can't be that simple. So let's make some problems. TRS, for example, won't listen to Matisyahu's music. But he will listen to Shlomo Carlebach and Yeedle Werdyger. Is this hypocritical? Yeah, probably. But what of it? Differentiating at all in this subject opens one up to charges of hypocrisy.

Lipa Schmeltzer said several years back that the only real Jewish music was the shtuff the Levites played in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Are niggunim Jewish music? Perhaps the question is, are niggunim inherently Jewish? The answer is that of course they aren't. A lot of them were taken from the surrounding population. I'm not saying they aren't holy, merely saying that provenance alone fails as an arbiter. Besides, while I might claim that every Lubavitch niggun is the holy of holies, a Modzhitzer will claim the same for his niggunim, even if I think his aren't Jewish.

Is all cantorial music Jewish? I should think not. Moving right along, is all "Chassidic" music Jewish? No, it's not. Here's a post from Yeshiva World News where the commenters actually care. It's nice to see people get worked up about these sorts of things. Shows there's still hope for this religion of ours yet!

In conclusion, moral equivalency, and a little understanding, especially when it comes to matters like this, can come in very useful, and maybe then people will stop fighting with each other all the time. Run-on sentences can also come in very useful.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The closest Jews?

This afternoon I finished reading "Off the Derech" by Faranak Margolese and reported back to my chavrusa (him of the bovine persuasion). He asked me to sum up the book in one sentence, and I said, "If Lubavitch practiced what it preaches then virtually no Lubavitcher would ever go frie and many more people would be frum." It's funny, because a large part of the problem is people who think they're better than other people. So why am I saying what I'm saying? Because I think it's true. All the problems Mrs. Margolese describes in the book are theoretically not problems in Lubavitch. I say theoretically because of course we do the same stupid things everyone else does. Heck, I do the same stupid things everyone else does. So what's the solution? As Barack Obama says, "Change we can believe in." The fundamental difference between the change our president wants and the change the Jewish world needs is that A. We know what we want (or at least we should), and B. We know how to get there.

What is it that we want for ourselves and our children? A world where people want to be Jewish and work hard to be Jewish. Too often we're missing one or both of these factors. If this isn't what we, as committed (in some way, shape, or form) Jews, want for ourselves and our children, then that needs to be worked on.

How do we get there? We work hard at fixing our faults and following the words of our sages. This means, for starters, internalizing Perek Lamed Beis, applying it not only to the Jew we find on the street but also to the Jew in our shul, our classroom, and most importantly, our home. Unconditional love may not be the answer to all our problems, but it sure can solve a lot of them. Actually, that's not true. The temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. It'll be rebuilt because of baseless love. I'm not saying anything new here; unfortunately, I'm also not saying anything that doesn't need to be said.

You know, it's really not so easy to love every Jew as yourself. In fact, it's downright difficult. A lot of times Jews do things to you that are really not nice. If it was just anybody behaving badly we'd be able to shrug it off with a "what can you expect from a shikere goy?" (not that I condone such language or thought processes). However, when a Jewish person, particularly a "frum" person, behaves despicably, we condemn not only him but the G-d he so badly represents. It's very difficult to love such a person. Yup. And yet? You got to do what you got to do.
OK, enough serious shtuff for once. Seems like this whole week I've been posting serious shtuff. Crazy.

As everyone by now probably knows, there were a fair amount of negative comments about my 27 Adar post which ended up on crownheights.info. I didn't respond on the posting itself because I didn't want to waste my time, but I figure that I might as well now.

First of all, if I had known it was going to be posted on there I would have removed the Lipa Schmeltzer thing. It's cute, and everyone here gets it, but the uneducated rabble outside doesn't.

Also, I would have insisted that the title be in Hebrew, and would have changed it to the correct passuk, "Yesomim hayinu, v'ain av," Eicha 5,3, and hopefully people would have responded to it better. The first time I saw that passuk used in this context was the front cover of the Kfar Chabad immediately following Gimmel Tammuz 5754. I was shocked to see it, expressing many of the same feelings people expressed here and there, but I soon recognized that A. It's a passuk, and B. Makes a lot of sense. Obviously the Rebbe is found more down here than before Gimmel Tammuz. And just as obviously, the Rebbe is not here. A dichotomy? Perhaps. But I don't know if you can be a believing Lubavitcher without these two incontrovertible (for a Lubavitcher) facts.

And no, I'm not depressed, and I do believe in Moshiach. Thank you.

Now, onto the criticism of "the immortal Lipa Schmeltzer". I resent whoever it was who suggested that I was not utterly sincere in my quoting of him, and using that title. All right, obviously I'm being minorly facetious, but still. I'm a huge fan of the guy, and I think he's done more for Jewish music than anyone since the eighties versions of MBD and Avraham Fried. This is of course another huge discussion, and one which I categorically refuse to partake in right now. Sorry.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kabbalos Ol just doesn't cut it

This morning I was learning B'yom Ashtei Assar '31 (Kuntres Yud Aleph Nissan '49) and R' Melech walked by and asked me what I was learning. I showed him what it was, and he said, "Not for the first time-" to which I answered affirmatively. After he walked away I continued learning, and started thinking about the maamar, and I understood it totally differently than I ever had before. The Rebbe Maharash (I believe) once said that you haven't learned a maamar once until you've learned it forty times. So even though I've learned this maamar many times (if not forty then certainly near there) since I first got to zal in LA many moons ago I'm really just beginning to plumb its depths. Thanks must also be given to that book I'm reading, "Off the Derech," which has provided the conceptual background for this understanding.

In sif zayin the Rebbe brings a mashal from the siddur im da"ch of a king who makes a big expensive feast for his important ministers and honored servants. The leftovers from this mammoth endeavor go to the lowly maid/servants and even to the dogs of the palace. Certainly the king did not make the feast for these people and for his animals, and yet it's very possible that they get even more food than the people who the feast was made for! After all, the king's very important guests only receive the best of the best, and anything that's not perfect is thrown to the masses.

The Rebbe explains every aspect of this mashal, starting with the people who eat of the feast's bounty. First you have the dogs, who run under the tables and get the bones thrown there. The word in Hebrew for dog is "Kalev", and this is interpreted as "Kulo Lev", all heart, because a dog is rules solely by his heart, by desires. A person's intellect naturally controls his heart, and some peoples' heart controls their mind, but to negate the mind totally and listen only to one's desires? This person is like a dog.

And you know what? They're treated like one too. Sure, they get all those juicy bones, but they're missing the meat! I think the maamar is talking about a cultural Jew here, someone who loves Judaism not because he believes in it but because it has great kiddushes after davening and the the dancing on Simchas Torah is a lot of fun. The only mitzvos this person keeps is those he enjoys, which provide him with pleasure. Now certainly it's better to do a little than nothing, but to be ruled solely by your desires? What kind of life is that?

The second level of people is the lowly maid/servants. They serve the king only because they're scared of getting hit by him, not because they understand or care. What kinds of Jews are these? The ones who keep Judaism only because of kabbalos ol.

I never used to understand why this level was referred to as "lowly". After all, doesn't chassidus extol at length the greatness of a Jew who serves his creator with kabbalos ol, acceptance of the yoke of heaven? The Rebbe answers this in the maamar, "d'avda b'hefkeira neicha lei." These people would much rather not serve the king.

What kind of people are we talking about? Those who were never taught why we do things, only what to do. Sure, many of them do things for a while, but as soon as they lose their fear, they're gone! They don't have any other reason to connect themselves to Judaism, so they leave. And whose fault is it? Obviously every person is responsible for their own actions, but really, where were their parents and teachers, who should have imbued them with a love and understanding of yiddishkeit? They failed. These people don't get to sit by the king's table, because they don't want to. They don't appreciate their Jewish heritage.

So what is the purpose of kabbalos ol? After all, from here you might think that it's worthless. In reality, kabbalos ol is very important, but only in the right circumstances. When you're dealing with an eight year old, you don't explain everything you tell him to do. But when you're dealing with a fourteen year old, if he doesn't understand (at his level) why he has to do something, then he's not going to do it. Even when dealing with a kid who has kabbalos ol, you only have a limited amount of time to rely on this blind acceptance. Unless you explain in a way he can understand why you're telling him to do things, he will give them up. Some people can rely on kabbalos ol for years and years, but at some point, without a reason for their faith, they'll give it up. Or their kids will.

When is kabbalos ol a good thing? When a person has a crisis of faith, or a difficult time doing things, or doesn't yet understand, then kabbalos ol is a very good thing. But to base your entire Judaism on it? That Judaism won't last. And even if it does, it's a lowly Judaism, based on fear or habit, not on feeling or appreciation.

The great servants, in contrast to their lowly counterparts, serve the king not only with kabbalos ol (after all, they still must sublimate their will to his), but also with appreciation for the king. They might not understand why they're doing things, for after all, who can understand the will of Hashem, but they want to do what he wants. And why do they want this? Because they understand the greatness of the king. This type of person has a seat at the feast, he's steadfast in his Judaism, but he's not the ultimate. It seems to me that this level is that of the beinoni, or that of the person who wants to be, is capable of being, a beinoni (all of us). He struggles with his yetzer hora all his life, but that's because he wants to struggle, he wants to connect to and serve the king.

The ministers of the king serve him because they understand his ways, which is why many of the affairs of the kingdom are conducted through and by them. Even more than that, these ministers decide policy, because they know what the king wants done. This level is, I believe, the level of a tzaddik, who walks in the ways of his G-d.

There are many levels within this classification, which in general can be divided into two, ministers (stam) and great ministers, which I think represents tzaddik she'aino gamur and tzaddik gamur. These three general levels of people who sit at the king's table are all secure in their Judaism, with an intellectual and emotional basis for their belief and a desire to serve their G-d. Sure, they still struggle, and sure, life is hard, but with the proper foundation a house will survive the strongest earthquake, with the proper roots a tree will withstand the most powerful winds.

With this mashal we can now understand the greatness of the pekeach, the smart man, who chooses the king...in brief, a person could strive to be like the great servants or ministers, to become a beinoni or tzaddik, or like the Rebbe says, reach for the highest levels of atzilus. But if he does this then he's missing the point. The point is anah nesiv malkah-I choose the king! It's tough all right, believe you me, but it's the only true way of serving Hashem.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rejection is not a good thing

My chavrusa is a good guy, cow notwithstanding, and he bought a book for me to read (what else would I do with it?) entitled "Off the Derech-Why observant Jews leave Judaism, how to respond to the challenge," by Faranak Margolese. We'll talk about this book and other things after a brief message from our sponsors:
A couple of weeks ago Rabbi Manis Friedman spent a week bringing some 770 Bochurim closer to their father in heaven in a unique Beis Chana-esque enviroment. They all had a ball. You can too, by purchasing the complete recordings for only 20 dollars-that's hours and hours of Manis goodness for only 20 bucks! And right now, if you call Zalman at 973-449-6777 and mention TRS you'll get a 25% discount! That's right, my faithful readers only have to pay $15! It's a steal of a deal! So call now! (I'm serious by the way. A portion of your purchase goes to support this wonderful blog. So please, spend some of your money on spiritual enlightenment.)
Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming. So yeah, I'm reading this book, and a lot of what she says makes sense. At first I was thinking, "Hey, these issues she's describing aren't found in Lubavitch homes," but then I realized that Lubavitchers are frieing out too, so obviously these problems are found in Lubavitch homes. What's the solution? How the heck should I know? But the following are some things I gleaned from the text. I know that they might be a bit obvious, but it can be good to see the bleeding obvious every once in a while and realize that it might just be true.

You know, I was thinking about my own life, and I realized that I am the way I am today because I had some excellent parents and teachers. I could have very easily turned out way different, but they didn't respond with rejection and all that shtuff, they responded with love. Or something like that. Here's that list:

1. Put your child first.
2. Love unconditionally.
3. Never abuse in any way.
4. Set realistic expectations.
5. Don't fight everything your child does.
6. Never embarrass your child publicly.
7. Accept your child.
8. Never reject your child
9. Rebellion now does not equal life long behavior.
10. Your child needs both quality and quantity time with you.
11. Respect your child, and he will respect you.
12. Judaism must be filled with joy, infused with meaning, practiced
13. Don't ignore questions.

Pretty good, eh? This doesn't mean that I agree with everything she says. I think that a lot of the problems she describes could be dealt with very nicely by chassidus. Obviously that's not the only answer, but it can be very helpful.

One very good point she did make is that ninety percent of the Jewish population is not observant. Ten generations ago the vast majority of Jews were observant. What happened? One kid went "off the derech", his kid went further, eventually society permitted for many more Jews to leave their faith, and Boom! There we are. People who think that the solution is to ignore the problem or send it away are in fact ignoring the real possibility that orthodox Judaism could very well disappear. Seems far-fetched? So did the possibility, 300 years ago, that nine out of ten Jews would not be religiously observant. But when you think about it, once upon a time, those kids were also at risk, they were also going "off the derech". And what happened? Someday failed big time.

Will we fail big time? I'd sincerely hope not. But this is a major issue. It's possibly the major issue. If we believe in Judaism, then we must do everything possible to ensure its continuity. If we ignore the issues, then that's not going to happen. It's not enough, as I wrote last night, to simply have faith and believe that it will all be good. No, we have to ensure that it will be good.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

17 Years-Yesomim hayinu, v'ain av

Tonight is the twenty seventh of Adar. There are many bochurim in lubavitch who weren't even born. At least I remember when it happened. The question of course is, what does this day mean to us? What does it do to us? And what do we do for it? The answers to these questions are not simple ones. In fact, I don't know if anyone even has the answers. But that doesn't mean we don't have to ask the questions. Because if you don't even have the question, how can you ever expect to work out the answer? Because that's what it's really all about. Every person has to look inside their heart and say, "Hey, what's up? What have I accomplished? What does 17 years without mean to me? Have I gotten over it, or am I still in mourning?have the chai, the living, yiten el libo, taken it to heart? Or was this generation's parah adumah completely wasted?" Those are the types of questions we all have to ask ourselves.

There's two types of 27 Adar farbrengens. There's the ones where the mashpia gathers his charges around and relates the story. I've been to several of these, and although they're informative they're also almost always depressing. The identity of the scapegoat changes depending on who is doing the farbrenging, but at the end of the day, after everyone's been blamed for everything, those 17 years still remain.

The other type of farbrengen, much more rare, is the one where the mashpia rallies the troops and inspires them all to do everything possible to hasten the coming of the messiah. Since it's 27 Adar this is not sufficient; it's also necessary to ask those questions I laid out above. You know why this type of farbrengen is so rare? Because it's so difficult. To sit there, as a mashpia, not knowing the answers to the questions you're asking-that's tough. It's always easier to simply retreat into the past, to pretend that it's 1993 or '95. But doing this is also giving up. Yes, it's important for bochurim to know where they're coming from, but even more importantly, they have to know where they're going.

And where is it that they're going? I wish I knew. Honestly, it's such a crazy world out there, who knows what's going to be? All we can do is, in the words of the immortal Lipa Schmeltzer, "Hut bitachon vet aleh zein gut." Yup.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The 42nd

Someone told me today at the Chabad House that, "Your problem is that you think the Chabad House is a Shul. It's not. It's a Chabad House." I felt like telling him, "You know, I did write the letter on this..." But I didn't. I didn't even bother arguing. What do you tell a guy who tells you to be more open minded, to realize how many shluchim have lost big baalebaatim because they were too frum? How do you respond to someone who thinks that when you're trying to bring Jews closer to their father in heaven anything goes?

Now obviously I haven't walked in anyone's shoes, and I'm certainly not qualified to judge any case, but it does seem to me that something is wrong here. You know why Lubavitch was always skeptical of Matisyahu? Because it says in the holy books, "Um'karvan L'Torah," bring them closer to Torah, not bring Torah closer to them. What makes Shluchim so amazing, so dynamic, so successful? Their authenticity. Their loyalty. Their steadfast commitment to the faith of their fathers. Since when did it become permissible to sacrifice that for convenience? Why is it that people think that just because they can find a heter from some rabbi for something they now have a mitzva to do it? Whatever happened to the ways of old Israel, of kedoshim tihiyu? Does that not apply to Shluchim?

And yeah, I know all about "es lasos laHashem, haifaru torasecha." The guy I was arguing with brought up the story in this week's Torah portion which deals with the mirrors the Jewish women brought before Moses. He didn't want to accept them, because he thought that anything connected with passion and lust could not be used in the tabernacle. But G-d told Moses to accept them, for they were holy.

So what does this story teach us? It does not teach us, as my opponent would posit, to make use of any and all means of luring innocent souls into their nearest local Chabad House. Because guess what. G-d himself had to come down and say, "Look here, Moshe old chap, be a good boy and use those mirrors." Same thing on the mountain with the priests of Baal. Who opposed them, who brought a sacrifice outside the Temple, who brought back the whole Jewish nation to their father in heaven? It wasn't a shnook like me or you. It was Elijah the prophet. The lesson? You need to be a seriously great guy to even suggest the changing of things, of doing not the way they should be done.

It's one thing to not do minhag here or there, or to set aside a couple of obscure halachos, but to actively advocate the overthrow of traditional Judaism? I don't think we've ever done that before, and I sure hope we never come to it.
Meanwhile, in other news, it's time for another exciting edition of the Haveil Havalim! Woohoo! I somehow ended up as the very last blog to be mentioned, which might garner an extra hit or two. Who knows? Who cares?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ain't got the blues

I got a phone call tonight from a mashpia who said, "I have to farbreng in one hour, what do I talk about?" I gave him a few worthless (for a mesifta) suggestions (25 or 27 Adar? Shabbos Hachodesh?) and then admitted that I hadn't been to a good farbie in a while. "After all," I said, "when you're learning smicha you tend to forget there's other things in Judaism." He told me to call him if I thought of anything. I couldn't.

This is not a good thing. This bothered me the whole night. I really couldn't think of a single good thing to farbreng about the entire night.

Happens I guess.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's always hakhel!

One of the difficult things about being a kofer is that there are so many opinions out there in this religion of ours, it's almost impossible not to find one you can agree with and cherish. Take for example Birkas Hachamah, which is taking the blogosphere (and hence the world) by storm, affecting even this little corner of the universe, the Machon L'Horaah of Morristown, New Jersey. A large argument ensued about the sun, the moon, the stars, etc, and the Rebbe's opinion was brought up.

Rabbi Chaim Schapiro, our benevolent leader, mentioned a letter he has seen. Rabbi Klass wrote in the Jewish Press forty or fifty years ago that the earth goes around the sun. The Lubavitcher Rebbe ostensibly (we'll get to that later) wrote a letter protesting this assumption and explained that according to Mr. Einstein it was impossible to prove either way (two bodies circling one another, impossible to ever prove which one is circling which). Rabbi Klass wrote back (presumably in an article) asking if the Rebbe denied that the earth was rotating on its axis! The Rebbe (again ostensibly) wrote back that no, the earth certainly rotated around its axis, but what he held regarding the movement of the sun and the earth remained.

The reason this is all ostensible is because these letters were never sent, or were possibly never sent, or something like that. They're in the collection of R' Nissan Mangel, him of the infamous Ethiopian debacle (cf. Scott) so their validity could be questioned.

Be that as it may, Rabbi Schapiro said that he used to be a big kanoi when it came to this issue (earth rotation) but now he's not. Besides, as he explained, science proves that it's true.

The only difficulty with accepting earth rotation is that it appears to negate the Rabbis' concept of the galgal hatshi'i, which was what used to be the alternative to earth rotation. The simple answer to this issue is that in fact the galgal hatshi'i is the Rabbi's way of saying earth rotation! So now everyone's happy.

Why does this all matter? First of all, it's always a good thing to figure out what exactly we believe in. The Rabbis say some pretty wild things in the aggadata, but once you learn that most of them are allegorical, faith is easier to handle. So too here-I never understood how it was possible to say that the earth was not moving, but now I don't have to. Yes, this is bordering on apologetics, but that's why I'm not the one doing it. When the Lubavitcher Rebbe clarifies a matter of belief that's one thing; when TRS does it, well, that's another matter entirely.

I'll conclude with a famous story. A professor was once told by his Shliach that the Rebbe held that the sun rotated around the earth. The professor was so shocked out of his boxers that he wrote into the Rebbe, "I can't believe that a man as intelligent as you could possibly think that the sun goes around the earth. I'm so confident that you'll tell me that you don't believe such things that I told the Shliach (Zushe Weiner I believe) that if you do I'll put on tefillin for the rest of my life!" Boy was he surprised when he got the Rebbe's answer.

Postscript: I just watched next week's Living Torah, and there's a great story from Yisrael Gordon which ends, "Then we realized that our shul was special. Not only was Hashem there, but also great tzaddikim. We knew we had to behave differently."

Isn't that a great line? I know that some people have in recent days gotten very angry with me for writing things that might provoke our brothers of a snaggish persuasion to hate us-and Rabbi Gordon says it for all the world to see! I can just imagine a snag saying, "What! By you tzaddikim are more important than Hashem!?"

It's great, no?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hesech Hadaas

I meant to spark a theological debate. Heaven forbid that I should be one of those debating, but I had hoped to inspire the masses to bickering of a divine nature. My chavrusa at least satisfed this urge, but unfortunately I was the victim of his venting of thoughts. Listen, I love my chavrusa and everything, but I'm trying to study for a test in taaruvos here, not debate the various advantages of a/theism. Because as I told him, I simply don't know the arguments the non-believers use! Even though I tried my bestest to advocate for the devil (though of course the side I was taking doesn't believe in the devil) it was pretty pointless, because I simply didn't know what to say, so he was convinced he'd won. Then I googled a little and left him with some reading material. Because, you know, just like I wouldn't want Shmuley Boteach arguing for G-d's existence I wouldn't want myself arguing against it, because neither of us have a clue. And besides, I hate being involved in arguments of this nature. They're so utterly pointless (why then do I blog...?).

What I did learn today though was all about that mysterious Sefer Torah found in the temple in the times of Josiah. Interestingly enough, there's a machlokes between the Malbim and the Metzudos Dovid regarding the identity of the burner of all the other Sifrei Torah. The malbim says that it was Menashe, grandfather of Josiah, who burned them, while the Metzudos Dovid claims that it was Achaz, great great grandfather of Josiah, who burned them.

Don't worry, the Radak comes and makes sense of it all. Turns out that Achaz burned them all, then his son Hezekiah came around and did what was right in the eyes of the L-rd, which included writing a bunch of new scrolls of the scripture, and then Menashe his son abandoned the ways of his daddy and went after the path of his grandfather (isn't there something about genes skipping a generation?) which included a new destruction of the Torah. Terrible, I know. Some Kohanim got super scared and hid the last remaining Torah, which was written by Moses himself, and it was lost for 67 years. Why didn't Menashe locate it when he did teshuvah near the end of his long reign? The poor guy was old and tired, and he didn't have much time before he passed on.

This is of course the time to repeat one of the Rosh's favorite stories, which I have written here previously, about the Amora (Rabba? Or Rava?) who was giving shiur and said, "Menashe our colleague" and felt really proud of it. That night Menashe came to him in a dream and said, "Don't get so excited dude, if you had lived in my times you would have raised your cloak to run to worship idols!" See, the people of Menashe's times, though they were incredibly idolatrous, didn't lift up their cloaks when they rushed to serve their local getchke, which of course slowed them down (which they appreciated, though they couldn't overpower their evil inclination). Had the amora been there he wouldn't have even been able to control himself that much. Anyway, the next day in shiur he said, "Menashe our teacher".

Back to the story...

So what happens? The high priest Hilkiah (or one of his minions) finds the Sefer Torah (with a 'hey') and everyone gets really paranoid when it's seen that the Torah is rolled to the tochachah. Hulda (of the gates), female prophetess extraordinaire, predicts lots of doom and gloom, but she comforts the people that because they're so righteous they at least won't suffer.

Thence follows a period of national truth and reconciliation which includes some serious idol destruction, and thence follows the best Pesach since Samuel the prophet. Just about 35 years later the temple was destroyed and the Jewboys exiled from their land. Yeah, life stinks, eh?

So the point is that in fact the mesorah was not lost. Sure, no one had a Sefer Torah to base themselves on, but the Kuzari isn't based on the physical Torah. It's based on the mesorah, on the tradition, which was never lost, even if some people forgot about it. Heck, even in the days of Hezekiah, who Hashem wanted to make Moshiach, things weren't all banana smoothies and cheesecake. Not all the Jews jumped on the bible bandwagon.

And as the Rosh ended off many a cursing, um'sayim betov.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Four square

Every once in a while there's so little to write you end up with a post like last night's. And every once in a while you have so much to write that you end up with a play like last night's.

What's a guy to do? There's simply so much to be said. I could for example publicly defend myself against a private email attack, or else wonder why Ohad, Shloime Gertner, and Shwekey have all failed to put out recordings in the last two years (or so). Then again, I could write a little something about the existence of G-d, or maybe even pontificate about chitas.

You know what? That's a good idea. Am I the only one out there who completely forgets that it's a double parsha until it's Monday, and then have to make up a whole day's Chumash? This seems to happen to me every time there's a double parsha. Not that I'm complaining, of course, it just strikes me as funny.

Next topic? Right, we've got some existence of G-d shtuff. Now look, I'm a simple guy. By that I mean that I'm very accepting and shallow, not given to questioning the way things are or even wondering at them. Yeah, I'm the poshite yid Lipa Schmeltzer isn't. Not that I'm not intelligent, but I tend to accept things at face value, and not analyze them. That's why I was never very good with Gemara. Be that as it may, I wasn't meaning to toot my own horn here or anything, or even to denigrate myself. I merely wanted to figure out what it was that made atheists tick. You see, there's two famous arguments made by Jewish philosopher people, only one of which is really Jewish, but whatever.

The one that isn't Jewish goes something like this: so there was a big bang. Ok. We're happy for you. But what caused the big bang? At some point there had to be something which made those two little particles come together and produce whatever it is that the big bang was. Science can work its way back to that point, but before that? It's no go Charlie. And don't tell me, "It could have been anything, why G-d?" That's just lame. Fine, it was a higher power. Or whatever. But it was definitely something. Something pretty danged powerful, and beyond what you or I can possibly concieve in our little imaginations.

And the second, Jewish proof? You know the whole mount sinai thing, where 600,000 men and countless women and children gathered together and had the biggest trip of their lives? So yeah, we're the only religion confident enough to claim mass revelation. Because when millions of people saw something together, it's kind of hard to lie about. This, by the by, is known as the Kuzari principle.

So come one, come all, to the great atheist fair, and tell me why these aren't good proofs! Or else abandon ye false gods and start keeping kosher.

Next up we got music, namely those three artists who have been negligent in their musical distribution. Honestly, Shwekey I could care less about, but I'd love to hear new cds from the other two. And while we're at it... paging Ben Tzion Friedman, Avraham Fried, Mordechai Werdyger...

And last and possibly least, it's time for the public response to a private indignation. You see, a couple of days ago I got an email cursing me out for referring to a certain Rabbi as the "Chazzan Pish". After a little searching it turned out that I never called him that. So then I got cursed out for not cursing out whoever used that term. I pointed out that if I were to respond to every stupid thing said on this blog I'd have no time to actually blog. So then I got cursed out for not taking responsibility for everything written on the blog. Makes sense? Not so much.

Anyway, the Chazon Ish's big sin was A. Arguing with R' Chaim Naah (and the Alter Rebbe), and B. Being the epitome of a "snag". The first would make anyone's blood boil, and the second just gets under the collective chassidic skin.

This reminds me of the famous story of a rebbe or rabbi or big someone (the Chassam Sofer maybe?)who was told, "Rabbi person, they're saying your Torah in their name!" The great man responded, "As long as they don't say their Torah in my name."

Oh yes, and I hope everyone enjoyed the paragraphs. A pain they were.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The night the died

That's what happens when you have a great title and nothing to fill in. Reminds me of Peppermint Patty, the Peanuts character created by Charles Schulze simply because he was scared someone else would take the name. So that leaves me with congratulations for Motty and Fraidy Beenstock on their marriage (yes I was there) and yes, Chony Milecki once again wowed the crowd. You know, pretty soon I'm gonna start charging for these endorsements here.

Meanwhile, in other news, it's come to my attention that life is not as simple as it looks. Everyone has their problems, and when you think about it, you wonder, "How in the world is he, she, or it dealing with that?!" Even worse than having no interrobang, you wonder, "How the heck am I dealing with my own problems?" Because let's face it folks, everyone has problems, and we often don't know how to solve them. When someone else comes to you with their problems you think, "Oh, that's simple, obvious and hassle free-just do this, that, and the other thing." But then the same problems happen to you, and you realize that HEY! life's not so simple, is it? In fact, it's pretty wildly nutso crazy difficult. And then you dig down deeper...

Ahh, if only it were that simple. You know, there are people who simply fail in life. I'm not talking about the guy who could've been a doctor and instead found fulfillment growing cabbage-he at least is happy. I'm talking about the guy who hates his life, and the whole world is maskim that this guy failed. Or is it worse when the whole world thinks you have it made and you still have it made? Because then you don't even get anyone's sympathy. So yeah, there it is, desperate I was for something to write tonight and all I can come up with is some pretentious twaddle.

In other news, I just heard that someone read this blog and turned to the person next to them and said, "Hey, this guy is great!" That's actually not true. Only thing is, if I told you all what was actually said then valuable channels of information might be cut off, and then were would be? And another thing: you should all know that whoever is leaving comments under my name on collive.com-thanks very much and all, but I hope the general populace doesn't think that I'm leaving those myself. I'm not that tacky. I'm also not tacky enough to call someone RAW, much as they would like me to. Sorry.

Short enough for you?

Here I am standing in the middle of the forest at 1:10 in the morning blogging about what? Today's haftora of course! Or at least I would be blogging about it, but it wasn't this week's haftora, because it was parshas parah, so we got to read another haftora, which was also interesting, but not as interesting as the haftora we would have read if not for parshas parah. Shoo, that was a mouthful. Ok, so why was it such a great haftora? Because it features the immortal line, "Ad masai atem poschim al shtai ha'sifim?! Oy laHashem, oy laBaal!" Good shtuff, no? And of course the Rebbe's famous question, how could you give a Jew a choice in the matter? Very simple! Because when a Jew is faced with the option, there's only one place for him to go-to Hashem!

Any one dispute this?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weird, whoops, and untitled

People often accuse me of being unable to keep my mouth shut, of not knowing when things should be said and when they shouldn't, of saying everything on my mind. My normal response to these harsh accusations is to say, "Believe you me, if I said everything I thought or everything I wanted to say then things would be a lot different." It's nice that tonight I have a chance to prove myself in this regard; Rabbi Chaim Schapiro gave me a whole drasha, and at the end said something like, "If you publish this...a blog is like a gun, and I don't like of when people hold guns to my head. L'mailah it's a real gun, then I have to do what they say, but if not...". I'm sure you'll be very proud of me for keeping my mouth shut here.

Meanwhile, in other news, I think I'm coming down with a bit of a cold, which really stinks, because I just had one like a month ago and I wasn't scheduled for another for another five months. Oh well, this too shall pass. Great, now I feel like a Breslaver. Not that there's anything wrong with being a Breslover, of course, but I'm not one, and I'd like to keep it that way.

And right, you are of course all very interested in knowing how my first Thursday night in RCA in well over a year and a half is going. So far it's not been too bad. This afternoon I couldn't decide whether I should just get out of dodge, but I think I made the right decision, what with this cold and everything, it's probably a good idea to have a normal bed to sleep in. Besides, we do have a test in a couple weeks, and it's probably a wise move to maximize my time here. Not that I'm choished myself to learn over shabbos (CH"V!) but I do know that next week will feature improved shteigen. Or maybe not, what with this cold and everything. Nu nu, it's all hashgocha pratis.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Was it was

First things first...a big huge gigantic super-sized mazel tov to mordechai! Engaged the dear boy is. And my feminine mazel tov? Quite apropos I think. Be that as it may, it was a nice lchaim, and it was nice meeting Tuvia, finding out his significant other was (Just call me) Chaviva, who was also there, but I didn't meet her, because I am of course super frum.

And of course you're all wondering where I've been the last couple of days. Turns out I was in West Hartford, CT, doing what I do best, bringing many Jews closer to their father in heaven and having a great time at it too. It all started on Monday evening with "Purim in Persia-Arabian Nights" at the Konover Center at the University of Hartford, which featured lots of students doing various things. Man, how vague can I get? But seriously, it was nice, if only because lots of students showed up, partook of the free food, danced with us bochurim people to Lipa Schmeltzer's latest hits, and generally had a fabulous time. I feel like I should be advertising a cruise line or something.

Tuesday morning we went to read Megilla by an adult-daycare type-place and then headed over to the Gengras Student Union to distribute Shalach Manos. Most of the students were happy to take one, and most of them were also confused by my demanding it back immediately. Then I gave it back to them. Then they slowly backed off and wondered if I was sane. If only they knew...Yes folks, this is your religion!

So one of the students hurrying by responded to my "Excuse me kind sir, are you by any chance Jewish?" with, "No thanks, I'm straight."

Another time I threw a shalach manos at a Jewish guy, then three more for his roommates, and then some kid in the front of the union asked me throw him also. I obliged, and immediately regretted my acquiescence when a girl in the back of the room wanted the same (thrown shalach manos, that is). I said something about her coming over and getting it herself, and felt bad doing it, but I also realized that it would be sheer lunacy to throw packages at people, because who knows where it might end? What if Walt, the university president, would come in and personally respond to my throwing of shalach manos at his students by throwing me off campus?

Then I got into a little spat with some girls who didn't seem to get that I was there for the Jewish population. Oh yeah, it was Jewish girls making me problems. Of course. You know, if I was blogging for chabad.org they'd probably excise the previous couple sentences, but hey, that's what life is all about. It is? Yes, it is.

Oh right. I asked these two girls if they were Jewish, and they said that they weren't. I was about to wish them a pleasant afternoon when a Jewish girl twenty feet away said, "Who cares if they're Jewish or not?" I responded that in fact I did; I was spending my Purim at the University of Hartford for the local Jewish population, but she wasn't too impressed. "Who cares if they're Jewish or not? Can't you give to everyone?" I explained that my goal was not to give free food to the hordes (though such a course of action would undoubtedly have been popular) but instead to help as many Jews as possible fulfill the Mitzva of Mishloach Manos. Still my adversary refused to graciously concede defeat, saying, "But you're discriminating!" If I wasn't G-d's personal representative on planet earth I would have told her, "That's right!", but my words are not my own, and instead I brought her a mashal (recall this was all taking place across a great divide, physically, mentally, emotionally, religiously, etc): "Would it be acceptable for a man to use a woman's rest room or vice-versa? Absolutely not! And would this be termed discrimination? Absolutely not!" She muttered "Humph" and lessened my joy of victory by telling someone else, "You know, these guys are going to give Chabad a bad name."

That reminds me. I was by a shliach for shabbos and his brother regaled me with tales of Rabbi Heller's reasonings (just wait till I get to kollel) including the delicate matter of telling people the truth on shlichus. You know what I mean? Good. I'm worried that I wouldn't be able to keep my mouth shut, and that I wouldn't be able to lie through my teeth for a couple of dollars. Still, money can work wonders...

And anything else in CT? Of course. A grand Purim International at Agudas Achim Synagogue, cosponsored by by Agudas, Beth David, Young Israel, and of course Chabad. It was really nice to see four shuls get together and make a Purim party together. Quite inspiring, no? Even more inspiring was my participation in a magic show onstage (after enough liquid courage of course) prompted by the request for a "man with a ring". Do I have a ring? Of course not. Did I get one from someone or other? As they would say in Minnesota, "You betcha!" Did I make a fool of myself? Probably. Was I beyond caring at that point? Yup. Besides, who was I trying to impress? No one.

And now you find me in CH, for Mordechai's lchaim, Avremel Rimler's wedding (mazel tov to you too!) and laundry. Laundry is very important. And I'll be spending Shabbos in Morristown for the first time in a long time. Should be interesting.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


It was really nice to see all the positive response to my Haveil Havalim-in other words, I'm gratified that no one left any nasty comments. Meanwhile, in more important news, there was recently a request for a post about my yeshiva sweaters and since I'm an obliging fellow I think I'll write about them. Besides, I really don't have anything better to write.

The first sweater I got for yeshiva was the green Land's End number we've all come to know and love over the last few months. I got it when I was in ninth grade and wore it religiously throughout the winter months. The main problem with it was that it was a pain to take off before shacharis and put on after. At one point I tried solving this issue by purchasing a Land's End white sweater shirt (heavy flannel I believe) that would have performed admirably, but the principled principal of the school (Rabbi Mordechai Friedman) said I couldn't wear it in yeshiva, and since most of my time was spent in yeshiva I figured that I might as well return the thing. Oh well.

When I entered shiur aleph zal in YOEC I began to wear a new covering, a black and gray pullover sweater thingie with an essentially useless very short length zipper in the front. Every morning in the winter (snort!) months after breakfast I'd go to my room and put (pull?) this pullover on and wallow in it until it was time to go to sleep. While it was a nice covering and all it did lack to things I considered essential: a hood, and a full frontal zipper. Both these needs were remedied with my next purchase, at Sam's Club, of a green sweater-type thingie which featured both these ingredients, among other joys, including two pull-string things by the hood which facilitated fiddling. Around this time I also got a pair of dark green trousers at Land's End which went quite well with the sweater. I know, y'all are asking, "How could a chassidishe bochur like TRS (and I really was chassidish back then) wear green trousers?!" The answer is that the year before in smicha there was a bochur by the name of Shmuelie Friedman who owned a similar pair of pants, and since every Minnesota Friedman has instant chassidish cred I figured I was safe. Unfortunately those pants only lasted a year (the seat did done split-I have no idea why, because the food was terrible) so the next year in Morristown it was just me and my green sweater. My chavrusa used to call me "the tortoise" or else "the cow" and would often inquire if I had eaten enough grass that morning. Of course, he made mouth motions like a fish, and he was English, so I wasn't too perturbed by these comments. There were only two disadvantages with this sweater: it was too bulky to wear with a suit jacket, thus necessitating a time-wasting maneuver every mincha and maariv, and it also, I thought, was not befitting a Shliach of the Rebbe.

There followed a long and hard road (about two months) in YHSTC in which I alternated among several classier sweaters, all of which had to be taken off every morning before tefillin and out on after (for I was then sleeping in the dean's basement, and needed the sweater at night), and all of which didn't quite make the cut. Salvation came in the form of Century 21 in downtown Manhattan, where I purchased a gray sweater vest, perfect for use with tefillin and classy enough for a Shliach.

And this year? The vest isn't quite warm enough, and the green sweater has once again come forth to prominence. If I'm wearing a shirt that doesn't need ironing then it is that which I wear, while iron-needy shirts get the vest? Makes sense? Probably not. You see, I can wear a decent shirt by chassidus without a sweater, so I can put on the green following morning prayers. However, if my shirt is too wrinkled for polite company, then I needs have use of the vest for chassidus and davening. And now you know.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Haveil Havalim 207: A very TRS HH

Wowee folks, it's time for another wacky and wonderful HH! Every week I read that week's HH and think, "You know what? I could make this thing a lot more interesting." Is this assertion correct? If it is, is that a good thing? How the heck should I know? The important thing is that we're all in for a wild ride. You see, I figure that if I can't offer even a semi-intelligent (half-witted) comment on each and every post here then I've somehow failed miserably. Of course, when it's four in the morning and I'm still not done, then.... Anyway, first a word from our sponsors:

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’

And maybe a few ground rules. I'm sorry if I didn't post all five posts you sent in. I'm sorry if I offended you or reduced your post (which you no doubt spent many hours crafting like a fine wine) to a single quivering misrepresentational sentence. I'm sorry for ever starting blogging. All right then, on with the show:

Would a little Purim be in order? I certainly think so. le7 gives us a graphical reason to stay off the roads this holiday season in A word from our sponsors. If this doesn't sober you up then I don't know what will. If you're depressed about not having any benedictine this Purim (and I'd understand your concerns if you were), then maybe My Non-Alcoholic Purim from the Jewish Recovery Blog can help. Now now, don't get down, Rabbi Leigh Ann Kopans will show you the true Purim spirit with Mishenichnas Adar/When Adar Begins. Or else maybe you prefer my own take on the matter with Mishenichnas Adar marbeh headaches? Or even Mordechai Torczyner presenting Drinking on Purim - adults, children, and adults in the presence of children posted at The Rebbetzin's Husband? The choices are endless! Listen, personally, I'm only a kid (figuratively speaking) myself, what do I know, but still, you know, here in Lubavitchland, you know, we don't settle with, you know, taking naps. Or with skimping on commas. Or with the word "know". But hey, whatever floats your boat. Take diets for instance. I never intend to go near one. Nevertheless, there are people who do, and for them there's muse, who wrote, on me-ander that Purim's a tough holiday for dieters which I suppose is true. It's one of the reasons I'm not on a diet.

All righty then, moving right along, it's time for...Anti-Semitism! Seeing as we're right before Purim, it seems apropos to include a nice little Dvar Torah from yours truly that vaguely deals with the phenomenon (hey, it's my HH, I can do what I want) over at Drink that Kool-Aid. Friar Yid explains that the Society of St. Pius has issues beyond Bishop Williamson in Apologies to some, face smacks to others, while Karen commands us all to wear a blue star. And if you're looking for a hilarious dramatization of a Biblical Psychotherapist, then today is your lucky day. Just click on Zachor Ess Asher Assah Amalek -The Root of All Hatred where Yechezkel explains the causes of social hatred. Before reading this post I would have guessed bad breath, but now....
Is that it for antisemitism? Good, I've never particularly liked anti-semitism.

So how about we try something else? Something like Culture? I suppose Ralph Kaplowitz, Played in NBA's First Game, Dies, posted by Mark, would be a good start, though for the life of me I can't figure out what this has to do with culture. Maya with Lesson #8: Put Osem Soup Powder in EVERYTHING might be a better fit, though as she aptly says, this post might also work in Israel, humor, or Kashrut. Whatever. Anyway, welcome to the blogosphere, and don't become totally obsessed like me, or like RAW, who wrote Ode to Ties which happens to feature some shtuff about moi, so you know it must be good. Then we have Robert J. Avrech writing about 10,000 Violent Women and One Screenwriter, Final Chapter, which also completes our section on culture. Shocking, I know, only four posts on culture. What are we Jews, a bunch of hedonistic brutes?

Moving right along from the shocking images undoubtedly engendered by that graphic language (sorry mother!) we come up to Ari Kinsberg blogging about Women Scribes in Jewish History which is very interesting, because it's certain proof that labor can't be that bad, because why would a woman be scribing if she was having contractions if it was? (I just wrote that to get rocks thrown at my blog by women [breaking their computer screens in the process]-of course, maybe she got an epidural).

I know I said I would make things interesting, but this was too good to pass up:
Ben-Yehudah presents Jameel's Reality Television Show posted at The Muqata جميل في المقاطعة, saying, "This is what happens when bloggers have too much time on their hands. Read the comments."
I'm not sure why I thought that funny. But I did. Oh, did I forget to mention that it's time for HUMOR? Whoops. Anyway, we also have Toby Curwin showing us all why Israelis shouldn't be allowed near the English language with Clobbered. Then there's Yechezkel and what appears to be a Purim Torah with On Chachmas Nashim and Offshore Bank Accounts. Oh yeah, and Mazel Tov on your daughter. IY"H by the rest of us single people.
I was just beginning to think that I might run out of snarky things to write about (it is 2:30 AM after all), but then Paul Kipneswrote I friended G-d on Facebook! and I said, "Yes!" Now I can explain to all y'all people who were really inspired by my post here and wanted to friend me on facebook and couldn't. You know why? Because I'm not on facebook! Who woulda thunked? You know why I'm not on facebook? My answer used to be that lots of perverted things happen on facebook, and I didn't want to expose myself to that nisayon, but then I realized that lots of perverted things happen on blogger too, so my new excuse is that I just don't have the time. Which is true. I waste way too much time blogging as it is, and facebook would only increase the horror. Oh yeah, and Paul, do you know my close friend Eli Friedman who lives in Calabasas too? Just wondering.
You know, I'm getting the feeling that either a lot of people are going to love this HH or a lot are going to hate it. Hmm.
But enough negativity. SnoopyTheGoon sent in Just a cat in a bong or a recipe for world piece? which features an innovative method of animal cruelty. Benji Lovitt brings us back to facebook, if only briefly, with Back to Israel (and Ulpan) but don't worry, I won't go into my whole shpiel again.
Last but certainly not least is Hesh who tells us What frum lingerie shops look like, which is not something I was particularly interested in knowing. But now I know, thanks to Hesh, who I met tonight at a sold-out (the pizza, at any rate, was all eaten) performance at a breakaway from Beis Shmuel. Now I get to go on his 'Bloggers I have met' label! Woohoo!

And that seems to be it for humor. Now it's time to get serious again (ha!) with Israel. Joel Katz leads off with Religion and State in Israel - March 2, 2009 (Section 1), which he describes as: Articles include: Lieberman, religious parties optimistic 'Elyashiv digging in over civil unions' Religious women's groups ask Netanyahu to limit power of country's rabbinical courts Civil marriage for all IDF Intelligence and Navy Look to Hareidi-Religious After Haaretz probe, IDF limits rabbinate activities Rabbi Ovadia rules women may chant Scroll of Esther for men. I am not making this up. Joel Katz also gave us part two of that, which he described as
Articles include: Fresh Rift Seen Over New Conversion Rules Rabbinic court slammed for nixing conversion of Emil Fackenheim's son Panel in charge of reviewing Law of Return 'too homogeneous' 14-year-old girl becomes Israel's youngest-ever divorcee Rabbinical judges have once again turned the Torah into a laughing stock Women worshippers stir row at Western Wall Fostering Jewish pluralism in Israel Should Christianity be taught in schools? Pope’s visit to Israel. Once again, I didn't make this up.
muse said something about laundry in Pass the clothes pins, and I think this might be an appropriate time to thank my sister for allowing me to use her washer and dryer gratis whenever I want. Of course, it would be sacrilege to mention my sister without mentioning her delicious daughters (my supercute nieces)so there you go. ALN exposes the PA as a bunch of scum (but you knew that already) who won't take care of their own people in Scales are Tipped Down, Way Down, by the PA, while Eric reveals that Charedim are a bunch of scum (is that a but harsh?) in New Metal Trash Can for Haredi Neighborhoods. Yeah, that probably was a bit mean, coming from the guy who fought his Birthright leader over the rights of charedim to throw rocks at cars on Shabbos. muse gave us a guest post at Shiloh Musings entitled Incomplete. You want to know what the post is talking about? Go read it yourself. It's 3:30 AM now and I'm entitled to be lazy. Soccer Dad tells us prisoner releases are bad in Another reason why prisoner releases are bad, which you probably guessed from the title. I mean, you probably guessed what the post was about from the title. Which is what I did. As you probably guessed.

Judaism! (Our mutually cherished and sometimes overburdened religion)

Shvach Yid presented Gallows Humor from Mr. Mark, and I'm sorry, I totally didn't get that. I did get Chabad.org learning us to control our instincts, which is something we could all use a bit of. At least, I could. You know what? Chabad.org sent me seven or eight blog posts to put up this week. Now listen, I'm a good Lubavitcher and all, and I even blogged for them the last couple of summers, but there is no way in heck I'm putting up that many posts. Sorry folks. Man, now I feel guilty. You non-Lubavs out there think Jewish guilt is bad? It's nothing compared to Lubavitch Guilt. So go read Wants to Be Religious and Wife Doesn't and donate a lot of money to them or something and then I won't feel so bad anymore. A Simple Jew tells us What's NOT Going To Work Is.... Obadiah Shoher reveals that Satmar, Neturei Karta, other anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews have many valid points
which might get him stoned instead of me.

And now it's time to get all touchy-feely with Personal! Are you excited? Because I can, we'll commence with a little nostalgia from TRS, Turns it does, and then quickly move to Diary of a Rabbi Blogger, by Paul Kipnes which is something I'll hopefully be able to say in a few months (once I finish up smicha). e embellishes his very own quitting story in A (slightly) dramatized version of how I joined the ranks of the unemployed , and Ben Yehudah tells us that he was Banned from the JTF Forum! Horrors!

Luckily for you, we got some Politics. Excited, aren't we?

muse leads off with More Democracy in Action and SnoopyTheGoon ends off with Iran, the Jews and Roger Cohen . My, that was quick.

You know what is the best schora? Torah!

Yehuda Berlinger over at racheladelman.com/ (is there something I'm missing here?) gives us The Dance around the Center the Sanctuary Can Hold which looked really interesting, but now it's 3:48 PM, and there's a reason I did Chitas and Rambam this afternoon.

Do you know what time it is? It's people who couldn't think of a good label for their post time!

rickismom (who I assume is Ricki's Mom) tells us about someone who I assume is Ricki in my-son-soldier-trainee. Yisrael Medad explains to our former first lady and current chief socialist at the state department that The Children, Hillary, It's For The Children, and then a letter from him printed in the New York Slimes. Yitzchak Goodman should probably have labeled this under Israel, but he didn't, and I'm not going back and changing my masterpiece now, so PressTV (Iran): "Zion elders wanted Muslims 'under thumb'"---that's a real headline will have to stay right were it is.

And does that do it for this issue of HH? No sirree! In fact, this is the most important part of the whole thing. It's time to present TRS' friends! Sure, kol yisroel chaverim and all that, but these people are good people, and they deserve your hits. So give it to them people.

We'll start off with Yossi, a shliach at my beloved YOEC, who wrote M'Talmidy Yoser MeKulam, which was a bit disturbing, to tell you the truth. Crawling Axe had a video of the greatest human being of all time and space (all right, I exaggerate in a miniscule manner), and Sebastion (aka j [hey it rhymes!]) told us about his week. Chetta mentioned the incomparable Rabbi Manis Friedman (if only his kids would pick up their phones) in fascinating, and Sarabonne reminded me why I say the brocha "shelo asani isha" once a day with Because I said I would.... and Tangents on Heels. So maybe I should say it twice a day? Cheerio Welton told us that Neil Gaiman is a Friggin' Genius. It's a pity that I've never even heard of Neil Gaiman. Her brother (Cheerio's, that is) is rather talented, as he reveals with his comic representation of the Haftorah of Parshas Tetzaveh. Short plug for me here: I was at a Chabad House for Shabbos and the Shliach called me over right before Maftir and said, "Hey TRS, want to do Maftir?" I replied that I had nothing better to do, so not only did I fulfill the biblical command of Parshas Zachor in the best possible manner, but I also got to do the Haftora off the cuff. And I think I did a darned good job. Thank you.
All right, enough self-congratulation. Oh, all right, just a tiny bit more. Here's a post from Mottel which features several pictures of me, An Amazing Wedding for an Amazing Yankel - Photo Essay. Here's my report of that very wedding. JEMnation wrote about Birkas Hachama - What’s up with it?, and RAW gave us The Usual Chassidish which in my opinion isn't usual at all, and in concluding this nice run-on sentence Elishevers opens up our minds with Chemistry Is Art. Once again, I didn't get it, which I suppose means I must be a philistine.

And acharon acharon chaviv, Basement Blogging: The Crown Heights Underground is the site of some unusual writing experimentation, with a continuation of the inspirational writing exercise (scroll down for the latest), and my very own continuing story, the latest chapter of which is Kings cry too.

And thus we conclude this week's edition of Haveil Havalim. Holy smokes folks, that took me six hours. I kid you not. But it was worth every second. Submit your article or post or whatever it is you have to the next edition of HH, and you should know that past posts and future hosts (and vice-versa) can be found at the blog carnival index page. Well, it's been a pleasure, and if anyone actually read this far then I am quite impressed. Have a spiritually uplifting Purim and don't drive drunk!

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