Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dear TRS: A roaring success!

Once again, folks, you're privileged to read another fascinating edition of Dear TRS. How about a brief preface from today's Shulchan Oruch? So let's say you have a cow in a room, and there's a lion nail in the cow's back. There also happens to be a lion having a nap outside the room. Is the cow kosher? If the lion nail came from the lion, then the cow isn't kosher, it's a treifah. So what's the safek? Maybe the lion never went into the room. And even if it did, maybe it got a nail stick in the wall, and then the cow walked over to scratch it's back, and the nail got implanted in the cow, in which case the cow is still kosher. The Shulchan Oruch rules that the cow is kosher because it's a sfek sfekah.

The obvious question is, why? There would seem to only be one sfekah here, whether the lion put the nail in or not. Otherwise, how'd the nail get there if the lion never came in the room? (At this point in shiur I suggested aliens, but Rabbi Chaim Schapiro wasn't too taken with my answer). Another interesting factoid that emerged from today's shiur is that lions have poison in their claws! Who knew? It would also appear that even the Darchei Moshe (the Ramah) couldn't answer this question, so we're in good company.

The point of this was to demonstrate that I don't know all the answers (surprise, surprise) to all these genuine questions. On that note, here goes.

Dear Sir:

What is the purpose of the comment field on a blog?


170 comments on my shirt today :-)
Dear anon:

To leave comments, of course.
Dear Sir:
Why penguins? Why not parrots or some other exotic bird?


Colorful Bochur
Dear uniform-challenged young man:

Penguins can swim underwater (mikveh), and they wear tuxedos. Could there be a better role model for our youth?
Dear Sir:

Which is faster, to New York or by train?


Joseph Biden
Dear foot-in-mouth:

I prefer aeroplanes, myself.
Dear Sir:

Please rephrase the following sentence so that it doesn't end with a preposition:
Land is not worth risking your life for.


The Almighty Editor (retired)
Dear crotchety baldy:

How about, "Yes it is."?
Dear Sir:

I am a crocodile. I stole a child. I told the father that I would give it back if the father could accurately answer the following question:

Will I (the crocodile) give back the child? The father guessed that I would not return the child. Now what should I do?

Crying crocodile tears, yours do I remain,

Mr. Croc
Dear Mr. Croc:

Have you ever considered investing in 240,00 pairs of crocs, five dollars each, for sale outside of the United States of America? The proceeds would allow the father to buy a new child to replace the one you ate, and that child to buy a new father to replace the one you ate for dessert.
Dear Sir:

How do you deal with a Big Meanie that is controlling your life and using your labor? Do you run away? Do you stop working? Do you confront them?


A simple slave
Dear A Poshite Kabbalos Olnik:

Polish her floors (very early) in the morning, and when she wakes up she'll walk on them, slip, hit her head hard on the spotless floor, and have peculiar brain damage, such that she will lose her previous character and become a happy, healthy, contributing member of society once again.
Dear Sir:

Is one allowed to dance around the bimah on Shabbos during the sefira?


Permission to tango
Dear Permission to engage in highly immoral activity:

What makes you think you can dance on any day of the year? This is the kind of leitzonus which is bringing the Jewish people into disrepute among the nations.
Dear Sir:

If half of my French toast is runny and the other half is burnt, what changes in cooking should the cook implement?


Butter side up
Dear Butter side up:

Have you ever considered coming to the Rabbinical College of America, where Dovid Solomon makes a decent french toast every week?
Dear Sir:

Is one allowed to eat a pas Yisroel cookie shaped like Harry Potter?


Concerned Hogwarts parent
Dear Vernon Dursley:

Is it yoshon?
Dear Sir:

Why are literal penguins forbidden to bring into the zoos where figurative penguins (i.e. bochurim) have their habitats?


Dear tree-hugging liberal:

The bochurim's guano might prove too much for the penguins.
Dear Sir:

If the measure of a philosopher is the quality of his hamburgers, what about vegetarian philosophers? Or philosophers who prefer hot dogs?


Hugh Akston's Brother in law
Dear One of the last great advocates of reason:

Well, what about vegetarian philosophers? Is nisht kein stirah!
Dear Sir:

Why isn't a fish a cow?


The other 4
Dear plus 1:

Because if it was, all hell would break loose.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Caveat enterers!

This past Yud Shvat I made a hachlata (as prompted by my mashpia) to refrain from any sort of untznius posting. Thus far I have stayed on the straight and narrow, but tonight that all comes to an end, because tonight it's time for Klalei Sfeik Sfeikah 2-9! I can tell you're all wildly excited. That's right folks. We're in for a fabulous evening's apocalypse, complete with omelets for everybody!

A warning for those readers of ours who are in possession of a youthful persuasion: the Sifsei Kohen does get a little, shall we say, "explicit", so if you're reading this (aren't you up past your bedtime anyway?) and not of the age of majority then you might wish to reconsider.

All right, on with the show!

A sfek sfekah is when there are two sfekos, two doubts regarding something. One of the classic cases regards a man who comes to his local orthodox beis din and declares, "My wife has had relations with a man other than me!" Upon finding this to be true, does the beis din immediately take her out to killing fields? Of course not.

Who said she had these relations when she was married? And even if she did have them while in a state of marriage, maybe she was raped? This is a case of sfek sfekah, because neither condition is dependent on the other. Even if she wasn't raped (i.e. it was consensual), who says it happened after she was married?

Another classic case of sfek sfekah is when there is a kosher hen and a possibly-kosher hen with one egg among them. (A possibly-kosher hen is one that might be a treifah). The question is, of course, is the egg kosher?

The first safek is that the egg might have come from the kosher hen; even if it didn't, who says that the other chicken isn't in fact kosher?

The question is, since one of the sfekos is on a d'oraisa, why don't we say sfeka d'oraisa l'chumrah? In English, since there's a possible Torah prohibition (if the bird is in fact not kosher), why don't we follow the dictum that whenever there's a possible Torah prohibition we rule stringently?

We answer that in this case, when we look at the egg (whose status we're examining), we find that after the first safek we can assume that the egg is from the kosher chicken. And even if it's not, maybe the other chicken is really kosher anyway?

The same principle can be found in a case where some blood is found on a sheet following marital cord (the opposite of discord, right?). Actually, if I recall correctly, the loshon in the Shach is that a husband and wife were doing there thing.

Once again, there are two sfekos here. Who says the blood is from the woman? Maybe the guy was scratched?And even if the blood is of female origin, who says it's prohibited niddah blood (from the womb)? Perhaps it's from one of the corridors?

By the way, why is a woman every a niddah? After all, it's a always a safek! Well yes, that's true, but it's safek d'oraisa l'chumra. Regardless, in the above case, we can say the same thing as the chickens. We start with the the assumption that there's no problem, that the blood came from the hubbie. And even if it didn't, maybe it was non-niddah blood.

So how about if a possibly-treif chicken gets mixed up with a bunch of kosher chickens? Is there a sfek sfekah, because who says you've got that chicken, and even if this is it, who says it's treif anyway?

Actually, we rule that there is no sfek sfekah here. The reason is that we there are two different sfekos here, one in the body of the chicken itself (whether it itself is treif or not) and one in the mixture (whether you've got the possibly-treif one or not). This is called safek echad b'guf v'safek echad b'taaruvos, and it's not a sfek sfekah. A true sfek sfekah always is on one body, for example one egg, or one woman.

The mateh binyamin does permit this chicken, in fact, in a case where the safek was only recognized later, for example where the chicken's being a safek treifah was only revealed after it had been mixed up. The Shach rules that we can rely on this heter in a case of hefsed merubah (large financial loss) or else when the food is needed for a seudas mitzvah.

How about one last bonus case? It's called "tolin" and it only applies in a public domain.

What if there's two paths and one of those paths has a dead body buried underneath it. Problem is, we don't know which path it is. If someone walks on either of those paths he doesn't become tameh because he can always say that the other path is the impure one.

And what if two people walk on those paths? If they come before a rabbi separately, then they are both pure, because both can say that the other guy is the impure one. However, if they come together, then they're both impure, because one of them is certainly impure, and the safek is only which one it is. Since we say safek d'oraisa l'chumra, they're both impure.

Well, that was fun, I sure hope you all enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pinnie the Pooh-by M. M. Farmilnt

Pinnie the Pooh said to his friend Seymour, "Hey, Seymour, what's going on?" Seymour groaned and said, "Life is terrible. If you were a sheep you'd know life was terrible. But no, you're a Pooh, so you think life is good." Pinnie the Pooh was disconcerted for a moment, but then he thought of a sure way to cheer his friend. "Hey Seymour!" said Pinnie the Pooh, "do you want some of my delicious pot of cholent? Yum Yum!"

At that moment little Goatlet bounded onto the scene and squealed, "Oh boy, cholent!" Cower (the cow) bounced in at this point and proceeded to upset the pot of cholent all over Seymour. Goatlet wasn't very happy at this turn of events, and Seymour said, "See, I knew this wouldn't turn out well."

Chezky ambled by and cleaned up the mess that had been made. He admonished Cower for making such a tumult, and brought them all inside to have their teeth be brushed and say shema in preparation for bed.

(And that's exactly where I'm going!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kol haposel

You all ready for some shulchan oruch I learned today? Excellent. This is in no way intended to replace a thoroughly competent orthodox rabbinical figure, and anyone who paskens from here deserved whatever happens to them.

The mechaber writes, in siman 110 Halacha 7, concerning any mixture of kosher food and food that is not able to be nullified, for example a live animal, an insect, a piece of meat worthy of being served for a guest, or a forbidden item that will in the future be permitted. If one of these non-Kosher foods is mixed up (not cooked) with a similar kosher food then the entire mixture is forbidden because it's impossible to know what is kosher and what is not kosher. If, however, one of the pieces of the mixture is lost forever, for example it's eaten by someone accidentally, then the remainder may be eaten, provided that double the amount of original forbidden food is consumed each time consumption occurs.

For example, if someone has ten kosher steaks and a tenth non-kosher steak gets mixed up among them, and then one of the steaks is accidentally eaten, then a person could eat two steaks at a time, no problem. Why two? Because then there's always at least biblical permission to eat the one (potential) non-Kosher steak. If there's only one then at some point you'll definitely be eating treif, and of course it's forbidden to eat treif. The same reasoning would apply if three treif pieces originally fell into the pot; you'd have to eat six pieces every time, in order to make certain of the biblically-mandated majority kosher meat.

The Taz (ches) asks why the Mechaber allows the remainder of the previously-forbidden mixture to be eaten. It's because we consider the missing piece to have been the forbidden piece. The question then arises, why didn't the rabbis forbid this mixture, because we should be scared that someone will then intentionally eat one piece in order to permit the remaining pieces.

The reason the rabbis didn't forbid this is because what this person would in effect be doing is eating a piece of treif meat (remember, that's what we consider the missing piece to be) in order to make the rest of the meat kosher. But if he cares about the rest of the meat being kosher, then he's not going to eat the treif! And if he doesn't care, then he's going to eat it anyway! So either way, you're fine.

The Taz says, this can't be right. Of course no Torah-observing Jew is going to eat treif, but who's to say he won't get rid of it somehow else, like by giving it to a non-Jew or dog, or by throwing it into the sea? Therefore the Taz says that we do in fact prohibit the entire mixture, even if a piece is accidentally lost.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The house

You will recall (for so have I commanded) that last week one of my posts referenced the next great American novel, or something very much like it. Well, here it is. As the Magratheans would have it, "We are not proud".
Chapter One:

I was helping my father, the Rabbi, put his sefarim on the bookshelf when the blue minivan pulled up in the driveway for the first time. My father was tall, with a long, black beard, hints if orange in odd places, and prematurely graying hair. I was seven years old, the firstborn, a regular-looking boy, with my mother's eyes and my father's nose.

The doorbell rang, and my father, embarrassed as always, let my mother answer it. She walked into the living room from the kitchen with a slight frown on her face. "Oh, thank you," she said, "how very kind." It was a homemade apple pie, presented by a woman, a year or two older than my mother. My mother didn't yet know how to say that she couldn't take the pie, it wasn't kosher, her family only ate kosher-thoughts tumbled through her head, and she raced to respond appropriately.

"My name is Mrs. Simons," said the woman at the door, "welcome to the neighborhood." My mother didn't yet even know how to respond to this midwestern friendliness, and she hadn't even had time to think of something to do with the pie resting in her hands. Helplessly, she invited Mrs. Simons into the house, directing her past my father and I putting books on the shelves and into the kitchen.

My mother put the pie down and offered her guest a drink. "I'm sorry we only have water and iced tea," my mother said, taking a jug out of the nearly empty fridge, "we've only just moved in." Mrs. Simons replied, "That's no problem."

I heard this exchange from the living room and wondered if I should get a glass of iced tea myself. My father had stopped putting sefarim on the shelves because he had found one that was interesting. Later that night he would read it aloud to us around the dinner table, translating the Hebrew words into English for my mother. In any case she was too preoccupied with my younger siblings to pay much attention to what my father was reading. I would listen though, not understanding everything, but feeling a bit of the awe my father felt for the words contained in the book. This was no ordinary book, it was a transcription of a farbrengen, words written down by wise men, guided by the divine and the expectations of the many.

Years later, when I too could read these farbrengens, I felt a bit of the awe my father felt. But it would never be the same. He had been by the Rebbe when these words had been spoken; actually, I had also been there sometimes, but I was too young to remember anything that had been said.

When I was in high school, writing short stories for my own enjoyment, I never wrote of the Rebbe or his farbrengens. They were holy, above fiction. There were so many stories told about him, and they all professed to be true. No one was brave enough to mention him, even in passing, without at least claiming to be true. Of course, not all the stories could be true-only a fool would believe them all, but at the same time, they could have happened.

To put this man of truth in fiction, a lie? To knowingly say or write that he did what he did not? Leave that for historians, who neither know nor care. For us the pain was too great, the knowledge too dear.

My stories instead featured a boy named Joshua who challenged all the belief's his author held. I didn't realize it at the time, but the stories were cries for what I could not allow myself to have. I wrote of a youth in turns cynical, sarcastic, and above all humorous; I strived for all three, but only managed to produce what I was, a confused mess of ideas, tangled beliefs, and teenage humor.

Laughing at jokes I could not comprehend and making light of elders who comprehended too much. Pretension I hated above all, yet no matter how hard I fought to keep it out of my stories it came through in great chunks, with little spaces in between for my laugh at society and its moors.

[the end]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

For no other purpose

Something is only work when you don't want to do it for its sake. The day a baseball player only steps onto the field because he wants his paycheck, not for the love of the game, he's working, not playing. There's nothing wrong with work; in point of fact, it's quite the wonderful thing. Forget the financial aspects-there's something very satisfying about doing something you're not particularly interested in doing and doing it well. But at the same time, it's only a means, not an end. G-d created a world, and everything in it, but he didn't create it all equally. He wanted to create non-Jews, but not because he wanted a world filled with goyim; he made them because he wanted them in his world. Jews, on the other hand, were not created for another purpose. They're just there because He wants them.

Speaking of work, today is Beis Iyar, the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash, Lechatchila Ariber, as the Rebbe would often refer to him. Of course, if you're Shlomo Cunin then you put on your Sefer Torah (at Running Springs) "Lechatchila Ariber unAriber" (ooh, chasssiiddisshh), but that's neither here nor there. As the Tzemach Tzedek remarked when his son was complimented, "What do you expect of Tiferes sheb'Tiferes?"

The Rebbe Maharash has always been a little mysterious. We don't have a picture of him. (Actually, I have heard tell of a likeness possessed by some family in Crown Heights displayed under a glass counter top, but that could just be over-active Bochur imagination). He was first married at the age of fourteen to his niece Rebbitzen Shterna, after a whole round of sibling squabbling. She became ill soon after the wedding, and after a prolonged illness she passed away. When he was fifteen he was married again, to Rebbitzen Rivkah, no relation. (For a complete biography, see here)
Meanwhile, in other news, the latest Haveil Havalim, ably hosted by the Rebbitzen's Husband, is up here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dear TRS: The oddly calmed edition

R' Shmuel Munkes once invented a mouse poison which he guaranteed would kill all and any mice. A chassid bought it, and came a few days later to complain, "You're poison doesn't work! The mice won't touch it!" R' Shmuel said, "Very simple. First you catch the mouse, then you make it swallow the poison, and then it dies." The Chassid said, "But once I catch the mouse, I don't need the poison anymore!" R' Shmuel said, "Ain lecha nami."

With that story in mind, it's time for a wholly original Dear TRS. Yup.

Dear Sir:

Why do penguins/bochurim, while on the street, spontaneously burst into song? It's unnerving.


Dear Alarmed,

Your question is very important to us, and as soon as we finish humming this tune we'll attempt to get back to you.
Dear Sir:

I really must know, why is a fish?


New Age Feminist
Dear New Age,

Because if it wasn't, then what would it be?
Dear Sir:

If even snags admit they are allowed to sing during sfira why do they prohibit recorded singing (a capella) as "too much like music"?


Hypocrisy Rocks
Dear Hypocritical,

One of the most fundamental elements of snagginess of learning not to question the Gedolim. When the gedolim say something, you should listen. In other words, the words of the Gedolim to you must be the law. What I'm trying to say is, the Gedolim must be listened to and trusted in implicitly.

Having said that, I would like to point out that in fact only a capella music that is able to be listened to is banned from being listened to. Therefore, any non-listenable music is permitted to be listened to.
Dear Sir:

Will you join my organization Morons And Dumkopfs Negating Endlessly Stagnating 'Stereotypes' (MADNESS) We have several guidelines for our members to follow. In the interests of furtherance of multiculturalism will you agree never to speak to a Muslim lest you offend his or her religious sensibilities? Furthermore, will you agree never to take a picture of a young sfardi chareidi lest it be misinterpreted as an image of Muhammad may he rest in pieces?


A.P Manson
Dear A.P. Manson

At first I was very excited to join your organization, but then I realized that you made fun of the prophet Muhammad, and I resolved to blow you up.
Dear Sir:

Don't you know that it is the height of shamelessness for an advice columnist to solicit questions?

yours truly,

Dear Heckler,

I merely follow in the best traditions of my predecessors who always have a mailing address by their columns. Besides, wouldn't you think it weird if I had an advice column and no one to address the address to?

Sincerely to all, TRS

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wake up

Have you ever felt an overwhelming sense of deja vu? Or maybe it's just because it's raining, and it's much easier to simply post what was once posted, without comment, then to write something anew, awet. Whatever the case may be, here's an encore performance entitled Typical Lubavitch shtuff, originally published Monday, January 28, 2008.

Whenever a topic doesn't immediately suggest itself I try to remember something interesting that I learned recently. Today is one of those days. How about some Gemara? That's usually exciting. My thanks to Mesorah Publications/Artscroll for (presumably) not reading this blog and suing me for copyright infringement. I do recall a Halacha (law) that allows a person to ignore warnings such as the one reproduced in the beginning of the volume if by doing so a person will be spreading the light of Torah throughout the world, and possibly to California as well. Anyway, you're supposed to have Mesiras Nefesh to teach Torah, right? It's like the verse says, "Even if Nosson Scherman doth commence litigation, I shall not tarry." Or something like that.

The Gemara in Berachos, 3a, quotes a teaching of Rav, and I'll quote it too. "Rav Yitzchak bar Shmuel said in the name of Rav: The night consists of three watches, and at each and every watch the Holy One, Blessed is He, sits and roars like a lion and says: Woe to the children because of whose sins I destroyed My Temple, and burned My Sanctuary, and exiled them among the nations of the world.

I learned a Maamar with my dear friend and fellow Shliach YYXPS (Yosef Yitzchak Shusterman) that deals with exile (B'laila Hahu 1968). Back in the day I learned in Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm's Yeshiva, and he used to like saying a certain thing that I'll now relay over to you, my devoted (and apparently patronized) followers. Don't worry, this all connects in the end. At the beginning of Psalm 126 we say, "Shir Hamaalos B'shuv Hashem Es Shivas Tzion Hayinu K'cholmim, which literally translates, "A song of ascents, when Hashem will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers" (Again, thanks to out friends at Artscroll).

There are many different explanations of this verse, and this is Rabbi Wilhelm's: when Moshiach comes we will look back on exile and see it as if it was a dream. As the Maamar says (see? I told you I'd tie it all in), many strange things can happen in a dream. An elephant can walk through the eye of a needle. An airplane can eat chicken. A chicken can eat an airplane. Heck, the eye of a needle could even walk through an elephant. A dream is not merely something which makes no sense; it is something which made sense at one point, during the dream, and now is incomprehensible. Our lives make sense, but only because we haven't yet woken up. Once we wake up, with the coming of the Messiah, we will realize how everything we experienced in exile really made no sense. Hey, most of it barely makes sense anyway.

It's a nice vort, no?

Getting back to the Gemara, we see that Hashem waits for us to come back to him. So why don't we start listening, and end this bad dream?

(If I was in a different mood, I'd savage this pretentious post with a quickness reminiscent of the late great Karl Retburg's famous impression of tortoises on steroids in January. In the snow. Yeah.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thrice original

They say that a wise person perceives the future and acts accordingly. Here's part of a (originally comment-less) post, originally entitled So much shtuff, originally published on February 14, 2008. Enjoy.

In other news, I have a cute story for you from Laibl Wolf which I trust you will find to be as entertaining as I thought, followed by a similar story, told over by LDT, which provoked much the same reaction. Here goes:

Once a guy sold his house and bought a horse. The whole town told him that he was crazy, but all he said was, "You don't know, wait and see." The next day the horse ran away into the forest, and again the whole town told him he was crazy and called up the local institution to find out if they had any space for a new patient. All he answered them was, "You don't know, wait and see." The next day the horse came back with ten horses in tow, and all the town's people proclaimed the man a genius and canceled his psychiatric evaluation. All he told them was, "You don't know, wait and see." The next day one of his children was walking by the horse and it lashed out at him and broke the poor kids leg. All the people in the town called up to say that he was obviously still very crazy and that the evaluation was now rescheduled for Friday. All the man replied was, "You don't know, wait and see." The next day a children's crusade broke out and all the children of the village were gathered together to die at the hands of the Muslim infidels, except of course for the horse buyer's kiddie, whose leg was in shambles. All the people in the town said, "Wow, what a genius," while he said, "You don't know, wait and see."

The moral of the story is obvious. At least, the moral according to Laibl is obvious. Personally, I would shoot the guy. Anyone who was told me, "You don't know, wait and see" that many times deserves to have some steel implanted in his head.

Ah yes, onto our next victim, oh, I mean story. Again, this is courtesy of LDT.

Once there was a Moroccan King who had a Prime Minister who responded to every event with, "Don't worry, it's all good." He said this so often that people called him "It's all good". The King, rightfully enough, got pretty annoyed with all this self-righteous nonsense, but the Prime Minister did a good job, so the King figured that he could live with this little issue.
One day the King was being interviewed by the local press, and he took them into the Royal Grounds for a little demonstration of the King's horticultural prowess. Unfortunately, the King cut off the tip of his thumb while trying to trim some bamboo, and all the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put the King's finger back together again. The press were of course all thrown into prison, to suppress the story, and the Prime Minister was sent for in order to give his expert opinion. When he was appraised of the situation all he said was, "Don't worry, it's all good." The King was incensed, and he threw his Prime Minister into prison with all the journalists, vowing that none of them would ever see the light of the day again.
Three weeks later the King, along with 93 members of the Royal Retinue, went on a trade mission to Kenya, but once again fortune turned on him and his ship was waylaid by a passing storm and washed up on a cannibal island. Immediately thirteen thousand cannibals surrounded the Royal Retinue and demanded to know who their leader was. "It is I!" proclaimed the courageous King, and he was immediately taken off to be eaten. As the cannibals were undressing him they noticed that the tip of his finger was missing, and fearing that they might contract some dangerous and deadly disease they let him go and instead ate the new Prime Minister, allowing all the other people to leave the island in peace.

A historical note: As per the poll on the Real Shliach, they ate him with A1 steak sauce, and he was quite delicious.

Anyway, the King returned from Kenya, and realizing that his chopped off finger was the reason he was alive, and that his Prime Minister had been correct in telling him not to worry, the King took him out of jail and gave him back his old position. The King asked forgiveness from his Prime Minister for incarcerating him together with a bunch of journalists, and the Prime Minister answered, "Don't worry, it's all good." The King was astounded. "What do you mean, 'It's all good?' You were in a cell with a bunch of journalists for three months. It must have been a living hell!" The Prime Minister answered the King, "If I had accompanied your majesty on his trip, I would have been the one served with the A1 steak sauce."

Nice story, eh? The Prime Minister is slightly less annoying than the horse guy for the simple reason that he's rather less insulting, but I think that the moral of the two stories is that while it's fine, and even commendable, to have this attitude for yourself, as we see in the Talmud and various Lipa Schmeltzer songs, it's quite another thing to have this attitude when it comes to other people. Actually, I think I blogged about this a couple months ago. Basically, for yourself, accept the suffering with equanimity, but when it comes to other people, you should storm the very heavens (as opposed to what?) in order to bring about an end to their pain, sadness, grief, and the various other things that afflict people locked up together with journalists.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More old, still good

Continuing in last night's vein of posting oldies but goodies that no one ever bothered commenting on... I present to you Fraughts of the evening, originally published on May 9, 2008.

Last night I decided to write The Great American Novel. One of the problems with this plan is that half the book will be explaining Jewish concepts and words. The other problem is that I have a hard time fleshing out ideas. To come up with something brilliant is easy; making it work is the hard part.

Obviously, the book will be half memoir, half novel, and a quarter over-written. The critics will love it, because it'll be ethnic, soul searching, and my first book. The second will of course be widely panned, discovered seven years later, and made into a badly-directed film starring people in the twilight of their immature careers. I'll become a literary critic, living on the fringes of high society, producing books which are decidedly not The Next Great American Novel but are good enough to put bread on my grand-children's table.

Sound like a plan? Anyone know any literary agents who can get me a nice advance? Tremendous.

Moving right along, I learned a Maamar (Emor 1984) this morning that brought back memories of the Rosh's speeches. After Pesach, Shabbbos afternoons are long, and the Rosh gives a Pirkos Shiur diatribe. His favorite topic is Elazar Ben Dodarya, but I won't quite get into that now. The basic point though is Teshuva, that elusive not exactly repentance/kind-of return type thing that Jews like to talk about so much, possibly because we're all so bad at it.
In Pirkei Avos this week we learn that Reb Yehuda Hanassi, compiler (and possibly writer [depending on who you ask]) of the Mishna. He says, "Which is the right path for man to choose? Whichever is for himself and for mankind." This saying seems to imply that while this path is good, there are others which are equally valid. And in fact that's the case. There are two paths for a Jew, that of the Tzaddik and that of the Baal-Teshuva. Hashem wants us all to be Tzaddikim, perfectly righteous people without a sin to blemish the pure white linen that is our souls. Unfortunately, people seem to enjoy spilling all sorts of shtuff on that pure white linen, which makes it very dirty and not so white anymore linen. The answer at that point? Bleach. And because heavenly bleach is of a slightly higher quality than that enjoyed by temporal types, the pure white linen that makes its way out of the laundering process is even whiter and more pure than it originally was. So when a person sins, he is in fact doing a good thing.

At this point I expect that everyone reading this will be doing one of two things. They will either be commenting or sinning furiously. I'd therefore like to add a small caveat to my previous statements. The only people who are entitled to view sinning as a good thing are those who have no connection to it, meaning that the temporal types I earlier referenced are out of the equation. Basically, the only being who's entitled to view your sins as merits is G-d. Sorry.
When a human being sins, he's not doing it to become closer to G-d. He's doing it to satisfy the animal lusts which course through his veins and look suspiciously like cholesterol. So when that heavenly bleach is applied, it's going to hurt. This is not a punishment though, it's a cleansing process. And when the person cries bitter tears for the separation between himself and his G-d, he is also cleansed.

As Reb Yehuda Hanassi says though, there is a much easier path. Just do good, avoid wrong, and everyone will be happy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Go us, and them, and everyone in between

This afternoon my family and I paid a visit to Byerly's in S. Louis Park where I beheld, for twenty six dollars, "Death by Chocolate." Crazy, no? The cake was half the size of cakes which cost half as much, and yet they had the chutzpah to display it prominently... Who knows, maybe it's worth it. Maybe it's not.

In other news, certain nefarious individuals have requested that I read Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. I told them that a roommate of mine at RCA read Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, and that I wouldn't want to stoop to his level. They weren't impressed. 
Tomorrow morning I fly, and to celebrate, here's a nice little post originally published on November 15, 2007, entitled Story time with Uncle Shliach

Can we cue the corny music please? It's time for stories! Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm, fearless leader of the Lubavitch Yeshiva-Wexler Learning Institute, and all-around genius, gave us, the Shluchim of YHSTC a Shiur yesterday. It was very interesting. The part that I wrote down was of course the stories, so here goes: The Tzemach Tzedek was once provoked, and he made a quick mental search through the entire Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi to figure out if he was Halachicly allowed to get angry. What's the point of the story? It's just cool.

Second story: People once asked the Friedriker Rebbe, Lubavitch is Mekarev (brings in) many people, but doesn't it say in Shulchan Oruch (Code of Jewish Law), in the fourth section, Choshen Mishpat, that there are only certain people who we bring closer, and there are some who we even push away. How could Chabad bring in everyone indiscriminately? The Rebbe answered, "First let me deal with every person with the first three sections of Shulchan Oruch, then we can discuss the fourth." Point of the story? Chabad is all about love, baby. 

Third story: Reb Mendel Futerfas once said, "Why by the orthodox world is an engagement celebration called a "Tenaim", literally "conditions", while in Chabad it's called a "Vort", a saying? Because when a Bochur leaves Yeshiva, it's a descent for him, from the rarefied air of Torah learning down to the corporeal world of our mundane lives. This is helped along by the Yetzer Hora, the evil inclination. So by the rest of the orthodox world, they make conditions, have a give and take with the YH. But by Lubavitch, we tell the YH what's what. He has no say." And nowadays, Lubavitch doesn't even have a Vort, we have a Lchaim. Why? Because even talking to the YH can be dangerous, so we just say Lchaim. Point of the story? With yourself, no love, you've got to be firm. 

And the fourth story? Here goes: Reb Yoel Teitelbaum, the Divrei Yoel, former Rebbe of Satmar, was once asked why in the Torah, the laws of personal dealings, Parshas Mishpatim, comes right after the giving of the Torah, in Parshas Yisro, while in Shulchan Oruch it's the final section? So Reb Yoel explained. We try to avoid a court case, the application of the final section of Shulchan Oruch, because it's strict judgement, and someone's bound to get hurt. Two people can't both be right. So instead the Rabbis try to make a compromise. But when it comes to Torah, you must immediately know right from wrong, there can be no compromise! The point of the story is, even Satmar has some cool stuff. 

Haveil Havalim 213: It's been a long time

It's now 2:40 AM and I'm just now beginning to compose this week's Haveil Havalim. But wait! What is a Haveil Havalim? I never thought you'd ask. 

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 Kohelet, (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.'

As everyone who's anyone knows, we're right now in the days of Sefirah, between Pesach, the festival of our liberation, and Shavuos, the festival of the giving of the Torah, otherwise known as Pentecost. These 49 days were originally quite joyous and whatnot, but then a bunch of Rabbi people had to go around disrespecting each other, and BOOM! G-d cuts them up something cruel, which resulted in the something cruel practice of acapella music. Actually, I spent a good twenty minutes trying to explain to someone tonight why the whole thing was bunk anyway, but she wouldn't listen, and in commemoration of that failed attempt I'll be classifying every post presented here with a song that I think would go well with it. Don't listen to these songs, of course, because that would be a mortal sin (according to her), but maybe on Lag B'omer you come back here to get the full list and give me some hits, you wonderful people you. 

All right, on with the show. I was thinking that the Rebbe was always particularly about opening with Dvar Malchus (Torah), so here we are. Paul Kipnes over at Or Am I? presents Redemption Comes Thru Singing, which would seem, to me at least, to fit in with Avraham Fried's Baruch Haboh from Shtar Hatnoim. 

Next up is a delightful entry from muse over at Shiloh Musings, Birkat HaChamah Videos none of which I watched, but which I'm sure are well worth watching. By the by, my friend Yossi had a nice little exposé of the whole thing with his Correction, which at the time brought me great joy. And oh yes, appropriate music for muse's would be Yaakov Shwekey's Shehechiyanu from Shomati, and Yossi's post would go very nicely with a dash of Ich Hob Gevart from MBD's album of the same name.

Continuing in the sun-worship (blessing, whatever) vein is Yisrael Medad's And The Sun Rose Over Shiloh, whose musical accompaniment would be Shlomo Carlebach's Hiney Lo Yanum (I have no idea from which album).

My own humble contribution to this group of Torah words, Almonds too, would go well with the Marcus Brother's Furt a Yiddeleh from the very first 8th Day album.

 One of the problems I have with frum Jews is that traveling with 'em is always a major Chillul Hashem (the title song of 8th Day Vol II: Brooklyn, or maybe even the title song of Lipa Schmeltzer's Lipa Baderech?); with that in mind, here's this week's Anti-Semitism.

We'll start off with a dose of LB who blogged Responding to ?New? Antisemitism which ends off with a call for mass emigration to the Zionist entity, which is good enough for me to recommend Ron Eliran and Amos Ettinger's Sharm el-Sheikh. 

Next up is muse's Will The U.S. Stop This Deal?. The deal referenced is one selling drones to Russia, and I just have to wonder, do we really want to sell military shtuff to Medevev and Putin? I mean, these are the same dudes who blasted the heck out of Georgia this past summer... hmm, come to think of it, wasn't Israel selling military goods to the Georgians also? Are they trying to replicate US policy in South America in the early fifties? On that note I'd have to recommend Moshe Kravitsky's Schizophrenic Soul.

And that concludes this week's peek at the jerks who hate us. Next up? Culture. Woohoo! I can tell your excited. First up is Lady-Light and Our Illustrious Guest. It would seem to me that this would be a good time to say that the best thing about gezheh is six feet under, but it does seem like the guest lived up to his illustrious heritage, so I won't. I'll just mention that Yosef Karduner's Sheimot Hatzadikim from Choice would seem to fit the bill here. 

Mark has Major League Baseball Opening Day Rosters, all about the amazing Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and now, Jason Kubel...I'm just kidding. It's actually about Craig Breslow, our beloved Jewish Twin who has not started the season off to well, but at least he has that sefirah beard going for him. Speaking of Sefirah, how about some Sefirah music? Lipa Schmeltzer's Men Darf Bahalten from Leeilu Uleeilu, which seems to fit in nicely with the whole beginning theme Mark is working at over here. 

And that's it for culture. Good thing, because I was never big into culture. History though, that's more my line. Muse (my, she's been busy as a bee) wants us all to Remember The Titanic! Honestly folks, is anyone ever going to forget it? Just to make sure you don't, go listen to Benny Friedman's (btw, Mazel Tov!) Achas Shaalti. 

Ben-Yehudah has Jewish Naqba النكبة which is all about the Jews who were kicked out of Muslim lands with nary a penny of compensation. I'm not sure who sang it originally, I think Amudei Shaish, but MBD and Baruch Abittan did a fine job with Yizkereim at Hasc XV.

All good things must come to an end, but don't worry, there's (hu)more on the horizon! Sorry, I know that was bad. I couldn't resist that introduction for Humor. Get it? Great.

Muse (holy smokes, she must be working overtime!) has an Important Annoucement! for us all, and while your reading, listen to Chaim Israel's The Blue Sky from Garden of Life.

Shtetl Fabulous was getting a manicure and came up with Tatu Tattoo which would be nicely accompanied by ibid's Playing on Pain from ibid.

Toby Curwin has Duck Duct - Redux which features some snikcohg snleilpg, which could only be rectified with Piamenta's Slach Na from Big Time.

Elisson has a cute post ON RED SEA PEDESTRIANS which reminded me of Shlomo Simcha singing Shlomo Carlebach's Moshe v'Aharon on Hasc XV.

I had a cute little post Dear TRS: Reality sets in answering your questions, and because Kiddush Hachodesh is all about math, why don't you listen (on Lag B'omer, of course) to Lipa Schmeltzer's Kiddush Levana from Letova?

And foremost in our minds if last on the humor list is our mentor and sage JackB telling us all about The Best Clothing You'll Ever Own, which at first I kind of doubted, but now? I'm a believer. Speaking about belief, how about Miami Boy's Choir's Ani Maamin from It's Min Hashamayim (a cop-out, I know)?

Rahel starts off Israel by paying A Visit to the Light Rail Depot which is cool. I may be a staunch conservative, but I love trains. Is there a better song to listen to on a train than Abie Rotenberg's Ride the Train from the second Journeys? I think not.

Yisrael Medad wonders at those who aren't staunch conservatives in Jeremy, J Street Jew and Roger Cohen Keeps Getting Tougher which would go nicely with a little Arabic Medley from Sameach Music's Sephardic Dance Mix 1. And yes, I know they're Persians, not Arabs. 

LB complains about morons in the Israeli army and media with Religious Soldiers and the Establishment, which put me in mind of Avraham Fried's Aleh Katan.

Ben-Yehudah waters the mouth with Jealous?, though I'm not sure why anyone would have to toivel a brand new BBQ. Having problems with digestion? Listen to ibid's Adon Hashalom from Chazak for peace and calm.

Karen has some photos of The KOTEL on Pessach. Wish I was there. Jerusalem is Calling (Avraham Rosenblum, title track).

Eric tells all of us that Lieberman's Two State Solution might just work, but would it be the best solution? Is there a best solution at this point? Of course there is! It's MBD's Moshiach! (Or anyone's Moshiach, for that matter).

Harry says that Yoga puts religious Israelis in an uncomfortable position, and that TV’s The Office to open a Petach Tikva branch, and that Foto Friday - Yuval Nadel takes to the air. Those are all pretty self-explanatory, no? And I think Dudu Fisher's Lo Yarda Shechina from Odecha would sound good right around now. Work out the connection yourself, I can't think of one.

Joel Katz asks, "Hey, where can you get all the articles dealing with religion & state in Israel -- in ONE place, every week, including ultra-Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Secular points of view -- you name it... Religion and State in Israel is the only review of media coverage on issues of religion and state in Israel. Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement." The answer is that it's all at Religion and State in Israel - April 13, 2009, which is simply begging for Oif Simchos' Tzarich Liyot B'yachad from Od Avinu Chai.

Oh, this is a surprise. It's Ben Yehudah with some Jewish Music! He asked, What's Different About This "Mah Nishtanah?" Go listen and find out. Convenient, no, that I didn't even have to come up with my own song for that one?

Now it's time for Judasim our oft-misunderstood religion. Lady-Light gives us another song with Ki Ata Kadosh. . ., straight from Adi Ran.

Mordechai Torczyner, the Rebbitzen's Husband (but aren't we all [females excepted]?) explains what I have always believed in A Tale of Two Loves: 3-day Yom Tov, and Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) which puts me in mind of Avraham Fried's Around the Year (title track).

Shvach Yid defends himself in Schvach - פני דל  and let me say that "Hey, I'm a Lubavitcher, and I read at least this post!" He also blogged about Schvach - פני דלa and even though it looks like it's the same post, it's really two posts. The London School of Jewish Song performed at one of the early Hasc concerts-that would seem to fit the bill here.

Home Shuling has The ultimate in home shuling which sounds like it's about Chabad Houses but is actually about Pesach. Ken Burgess provides the soundtrack with The Hero from I'll Never Walk Alone in the Desert.

Leora Wenger writes strictly for orthodox Jews (no peeking!) in Banging on the Bimah, which goes nicely with Country Yossi's Deaf Man in the Shteeble.

David Curwin gets all dikdukey on us with omer, all about the history of the word omer and the phrase sefirat haomer, which goes well with Vetaher from Lipa Schmeltzer's Letova.

Mordechai TorczynerThe Ugly Side of Kashrus Recommendations, which is very interesting (and disturbing), coupled with Gershon Veroba's Bugs, from Just One Shaitel, makes a new beginning for Kashrus,  and Baila ends it off with some delicious-looking Challah on Happy Day-after-Pesach! I hope there's no bugs involved in that! 

Now we're onto Personal, and Elisheva has a whole lot of personal shtuff going on at Update: Freedom and all that. How about some Bein Kach u'Bein Kach from Avraham Fried (title track)?

Yoav B made it on, no worries, with Passover in the IDF: The true meaning of Freedom, which touched even this cynical old blogger, as did Lipa Schmeltzer's Yoishvei Eretz Yisroel from A Poshite Yid.

GP talks about horses in Blessed by the Best « Manely Montana, and even though I don't like the beasts much myself, I do like Avraham Fried's Al Tirah from Bein Kach u'Bein Kach.

Politics it is to end the night, and Barbara begins it with Wah! Wah! Israel's Bullying Us!, which sounds like a cry for help, or at least The Sydenham Choir's L'Dor Vador, from Shabbat.

Shmuel Sokol will end it for us here folks, with Foreign Policy's "evenhandedness" unfair to Israel, and it seems like as good a time as any for Moshe Kravitsky's American Lies.

And that's all folks! Sheesh, it's been fun, and make sure to submit your next post with the carnival submission form, and check out all the old haveil's at the blog carnival index page. So long, and thanks for all the gefilte fish!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The last of the Litvaks

So here I am, at an obscene time of the night, listening to Yosef Karduner's a capella; and now it's the same style from the Friedman family. My point? Pesach has passed over, and now we're in that six week period between the festival of Matzos and Pentecost, characterized by a severe lack of hair cutting and other forms of merriment. The more religious/gullible among us also refrain from listening to proper music, and so we're left with vocal efforts. Happens to be that these two albums were excellently produced, but they still can't compare to the majesty that is any one of the old MBD or Avraham Fried albums. Oh well, what can be done?

Meanwhile, in other news, this afternoon I walked a disappointing 9.6 miles from beautiful S. Paul, MN, to not-quite-so beautiful but-not-entirely-without-charm S. Louis Park. I call the walk disappointing because I thought it nearer to thirteen or fourteen miles than sub-ten, but I suppose I'll get over it. Every year there's a, in the words of Rabbi Lieff, "Neilas Hachag, or as it's known here, Seudas haGra, or as it's known by Chassidim, Moshiach Seudah." A wit among us (moi) suggested that in fact it was not only the neilas hachag but also the neilas harav. That's right, Rabbi Lieff is leaving the community, moving onto greener pastures, i.e. the Agudah Shul on Nostrand and Avenue L. What will next year bring? Who knows? I for one can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear TRS: Reality sets in

That's right folks, it's time for another exciting edition of ask the RS. Incidentally, all of these are real questions, sent in by real people. Scary, I know. Here we go:

Dear Sir:

Can you think of an English rhyme to aid baalei tshuva in understanding the talmudic and practical concept of "der oilam's ah goilem?"

Shliach to the poets-in-residence
Dear Shliach to the poets-in-residence,

Are you trying to suggest that the masses are asses? And not even the asses of Rebbi Pinchas Ben Yair?
Dear Sir:
Is the prohibition of music in effect on hallel days that occur during sfira? If so does yom ha'atzmaut (known to certain chagas kreizin as yoim huhhatzomos) count?

What about stuff that is technically produced on instruments but is not music by any sane definition? (Insert singer/group you dislike)

Metal Fan
Dear Metal Fan,

The answer to your first question is that if you're willing to suspend rational thought and hold that you can't listen to whatever it is you're not listening to then the same would apply on hallel days as well, obviously excepting the 5th of Iyar, when it's a mitzvah to play Hatikvah on loudspeakers from a Mitzvah Tank in Williamsburg.

Any music which is not music by any sane definition shouldn't be listened to anyway, so what's the question? You mean if you're of a snaggish disposition and have masochistic tendencies?
Dear Sir:

What is the fundamental question of integral calculus and what does it have to do with differential calculus? And oh yeah, what is the point of that little carrot shaped button on my blue calculator?


Mathematically Mystified
Dear Mathematically Mystified,

Let f be a continuous real-valued function defined on a closed interval a,">b. If F is the function defined for x in a,">b by
F(x) = \int_a^x f(t)\, dt
F'(x) = f(x)\,
for every x in a,">b.

Let F be a continuous real-valued function defined on a closed interval a,">b. If f is the function such that
f(x) = F'(x)\, for all x in a,">b
\int_a^b f(x) dx = F(b) - F(a).


Let F be a real-valued continuous function defined on a closed interval a,">b. If f is the function defined by
f(x) = F'(x)\, for all x in a,">b
F(x) = \int_a^x f(t) dt + F(a)
f(x) = \frac{d}{dx} \int_a^x f(x) dx.


Part I

It is given that
F(x) = \int_{a}^{x} f(t) dt
Let there be two numbers x1 and x1 + Δx in a,">b. So we have
F(x_1) = \int_{a}^{x_1} f(t) dt
F(x_1 + \Delta x) = \int_{a}^{x_1 + \Delta x} f(t) dt.
Subtracting the two equations gives
F(x_1 + \Delta x) - F(x_1) = \int_{a}^{x_1 + \Delta x} f(t) dt - \int_{a}^{x_1} f(t) dt \qquad (1).
It can be shown that
\int_{a}^{x_1} f(t) dt + \int_{x_1}^{x_1 + \Delta x} f(t) dt = \int_{a}^{x_1 + \Delta x} f(t) dt .
(The sum of the areas of two adjacent regions is equal to the area of both regions combined.)
Manipulating this equation gives
\int_{a}^{x_1 + \Delta x} f(t) dt - \int_{a}^{x_1} f(t) dt = \int_{x_1}^{x_1 + \Delta x} f(t) dt .
Substituting the above into (1) results in
F(x_1 + \Delta x) - F(x_1) = \int_{x_1}^{x_1 + \Delta x} f(t) dt \qquad (2).
According to the mean value theorem for integration, there exists a c in x1,">x1 + Δx such that
\int_{x_1}^{x_1 + \Delta x} f(t) dt = f(c) \Delta x .
Substituting the above into (2) we get
F(x_1 + \Delta x) - F(x_1) = f(c) \Delta x \,.
Dividing both sides by Δx gives
\frac{F(x_1 + \Delta x) - F(x_1)}{\Delta x} = f(c) .
Notice that the expression on the left side of the equation is Newton's difference quotient for F at x1.
Take the limit as Δx → 0 on both sides of the equation.
\lim_{\Delta x \to 0} \frac{F(x_1 + \Delta x) - F(x_1)}{\Delta x} = \lim_{\Delta x \to 0} f(c)
The expression on the left side of the equation is the definition of the derivative of F at x1.
F'(x_1) = \lim_{\Delta x \to 0} f(c) \qquad (3) .
To find the other limit, we will use the squeeze theorem. The number c is in the interval x1,">x1 + Δx, so x1cx1 + Δx. Also, \lim_{\Delta x \to 0} x_1 = x_1 and \lim_{\Delta x \to 0} x_1 + \Delta x = x_1. Therefore, according to the squeeze theorem,
\lim_{\Delta x \to 0} c = x_1.
Substituting into (3), we get
F'(x_1) = \lim_{c \to x_1} f(c).
The function f is continuous at c, so the limit can be taken inside the function. Therefore, we get
F'(x_1) = f(x_1) \,.
which completes the proof. (Leithold et al, 1996)

Part II

This is a limit proof by Riemann Sums. Let f be continuous on the interval a,">b, and let F be an antiderivative of f. Begin with the quantity
F(b) - F(a).
Let there be numbers x1 thru xn such that a = x_0 < x_n =" b. It follows that
F(b) - F(a) = F(x_n) - F(x_0) \,.
Now, we add each F(xi) along with its additive inverse, so that the resulting quantity is equal:
\begin{matrix} F(b) - F(a) & = & F(x_n)\,+\,-F(x_{n-1})\,+\,F(x_{n-1})\,+\,\ldots\,+\,+ F(x_1)\,-\,F(x_0) \, \\
& = & F(x_n)\,-\,F(x_{n-1})\,+\,F(x_{n-1})\,+\,\ldots\,-\,F(x_1)\,+\,F(x_1)\,-\,F(x_0) \, \end{matrix} The above quantity can be written as the following sum:
F(b) - F(a) = \sum_{i=1}^n - F(x_{i-1}) \qquad (1)

Here we employ the Mean Value Theorem. In brief, it is as follows:

Let f be continuous on the closed interval a,">b and differentiable on the open interval (a, b). Then there exists some c in (a, b) such that
f'(c) = \frac{f(b) - f(a)}{b - a}.
It follows that
f'(c)(b - a) = f(b) - f(a) \,.
The function F is differentiable on the interval a,">b; therefore, it is also differentiable and continuous on each interval xi-1. Therefore, according to the Mean Value Theorem (above),
F(x_i) - F(x_{i-1}) = F'(c_i)(x_i - x_{i-1}) \,.
Substituting the above into (1), we get
F(b) - F(a) = \sum_{i=1}^n - x_{i-1}).
As the derivative of the antiderivative is the original function, F'(c_i) = f(c_i). Also, x_i - x_{i-1} can be expressed as \Delta x of partition i.
F(b) - F(a) = \sum_{i=1}^n x_i) \qquad (2)
Notice that we are describing the area of a rectangle, with the width times the height, and we are adding the areas together. Each rectangle, by virtue of the Mean Value Theorem, describes an approximation of the curve section it is drawn over. Also notice that \Delta x_i does not need to be the same for any value of i, or in other words that the width of the rectangles can differ. What we have to do is approximate the curve with n rectangles. Now, as the size of the partitions get smaller and n increases, resulting in more partitions to cover the space, we will get closer and closer to the actual area of the curve. By taking the limit of the expression as the norm of the partitions approaches zero, we arrive at the Riemann integral. That is, we take the limit as the largest of the partitions approaches zero in size, so that all other partitions are smaller and the number of partitions approaches infinity. So, we take the limit on both sides of (3). This gives us
\lim_{\| \Delta \| \to 0} F(b) - F(a) = \lim_{\| \Delta \| \to 0} \sum_{i=1}^n x_i)\,dx
The expressions F(b) and F(a) are not dependent on ||Δ||, so the limit on the left side remains F(b) - F(a).
F(b) - F(a) = \lim_{\| \Delta \| \to 0} \sum_{i=1}^n x_i)
The expression on the right side of the equation defines an integral over f from a to b. Therefore, we obtain
F(b) - F(a) = \int_{a}^{b} f(x)\,dx
which completes the proof.


In answer to your second question, "What's up Doc?"
Dear Sir:

My recently engaged friend was appointed to oversee all dorm-food preparation and thus is at her wits end. How might I go about telling her that raw eggs mixed with mushy bananas doesn't create ice cream, without losing my head?


A'feared of Wrath
Dear A'feared of Wrath

Just give her this simple recipe, and mention that TRS is now accepting donations:

Blend 6 very ripe bananas until smooth. Add 2 egg yolks and 3/4 cup of ground nuts, filberts, or almonds. Blend for one minute. Beat 4 egg whites until stiff. Mix slowly into banana mixture with wooden spoon. Pour into a glass dish and spread remaining 1/4 cup nuts on top. Freeze at least 4 hours. When serving poor 1 teaspoon wine on each scoop or portion.

Serves 12
Dear Sir:

My brother insists on not cutting his afro and I fear that by the end of sefira all hope, not to mention sight, will be lost. Do you think he's mind if I trim it during the night? Then again, it would make for a lovely sheitel...


Dear Distressed,

Do I think he'll mind if you sin against all that is holiness and sacred? Of course, locks for love is a wonderful organization.
Dear Sir:

What's a Chol Hamoed trip that will be enjoyable for a family aged 1.5 through 55?


Even more desperate
Dear Even more desperate,

What exactly do 1.5 year olds enjoy doing anyway? From what I can tell, they're the same happy whether here or there.
Dear Sir:

Why is borscht in America made of beets and borscht in Russia made with cabbage?


Dear Ari,

Perhaps because Americans prefer sour cream nine times out of ten?

And that's all folks!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Almonds too

Tonight there was a farbrengen at Lubavitch House in West S. Paul, and yours truly was on the scene cracking an obscene amount of nuts and writing down some of the shtuff being said by Rabbi Moshe Feller, director of Upper Midwest Merkos and Twins fan.

He mentioned one of the biggest conservative rabbis back in the day, Arthur Hertzberg, who was no friend of Lubavitch. He eventually became friendly with our glorious movement when his daughter, who lived in Fresno, California, sent her kid to the local Shliach's (Zirkind) preschool.

At some point he made it to the Shluchim convention, where he said that for years he had been preaching "a Jew in the home and a citizen in the street," but this failed. The Rebbe said, "A Jew in the street, and through this you'll be successful at being a Jew in the home." This method worked.
Nochum Schapiro (from Australia) on the shluchim conference call/farbrengen on Yud Aleph Nissan said that one of the people he knew, a banker, suffered from tremendous spinal pains. He was a regional overseer for banks, and his job was to come in when problems arose and solve them. He said that the only time he escaped from his wrenching back pain was when he was immersed in financial issues. The lesson? You can only be happy when you're helping someone else.
Everyone should say some Tehillim for Charlene bas Molly. Thanks.
The Friedriker Rebbe was a genius in both Chassidus and Nigleh, but he didn't publicize his erudition in the latter. He once declared that this wasn't his job in life. At some point the Rebbe came across a whole series of letters between the Friedriker Rebbe and R' Chaim Ozer regarding shechita, which showed off the Friedriker Rebbe's brilliance. The Rebbe marked the letters "not for publication".

Sunday, April 12, 2009

It's been a long time

My faithful readers, have, I'm sure, missed me and my commas tremendously. Someone suggested that I show off my new-found religiosity by writing a bit about Sotah. You see, there's a minhag among us super-religious types to learn Sotah between Pesach and Shavuos, and I came across some interesting things while shteiging (excuse me while I brech).

Did you know that the whole thing of a shidduch being more difficult to arrange than the splitting of the see of reeds only applies to a second marriage? And that if you're not deserving than someone else marries your bashert and you have to settle for second best? Of course, you'd never know it, because no one in heaven's telling you what's going on anyway, but still, it's interesting.

Is this an obvious opening for serious discussion on G-d's omniscience and foreknowing and man's free choice? Absolutely not. Firstly, it's way too late for such talk, and second of all, even if it was 9:30 PM and a riotous night of blogging stretched before me I wouldn't give it a moment's thought (besides for my probable listening to a Twins game at that point). No one comes here to read deep philosophical mumbo jumbo, and I certainly don't intend to write it. No, I'd much rather write about the approaching doom and impending horror that is Sefirah.

It's not so much the lack of Lipa Schmeltzer (besides for 51 precious seconds of Men Darf Behalten) but rather the hour of horrid Lev Tahor (in the interests of full disclosure, I loved Lev Tahor 2) and a similar amount of the Chevra (Lecha my guilty pleasure). I never heard the Miami Boys Choir music-less album, but I can't imagine it's much better. Who else? 613? No thanks. Kol Zimra is too modern-orthodoxy, and all the rest who I can't think of at the moment are I'm sure equally lacking in merit. No, for me it's Yosef Karduner and the Avraham-lead Frieds. (What's with all the hyphens and parentheses? You'll have to excuse me-must be the late hour).

Still, there are yet a few days of normal music, and I currently rejoice in the symphonic majesty of Truah L'Yisroel on Avraham Fried's Im Eshkocheich Yisroel. And did you know that MBD's Ich Hob Gevart was majesty itself? Yup, I've waited for too year in Monsey!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dear TRS: More advice for the massively massed masses

That's right folks, it's time for another exciting adventure with the TRS mailbag-and this time we actually have mail! Woohoo! Anyway, here goes:

Dear Sir:

I know that I'm not allowed to listen to non-Jewish music, so can I sing niggunim while I'm in the shower?

Piously Pondering
Dear Piously Pondering,

What are you talking about? Do you mean to say that all Jewish songs are niggunim? Or else only niggunim are Jewish music? Either way, I think that any holy music should be avoided whilst in the lavatory or its attendant functionaries. If you feel the need to sing, why not hum sung Avraham Fried tunes? Of course, if you feel the need for niggunim, there's always Breslov...
Dear Sir:

There's a female friend of mine who rides the bus late at night in dangerous neighborhoods. What should I do to persuade her to cease this dangerous activity?

No really, it's not me, it's my friend
Dear No really, it's not me, it's my friend,

Tell your friend to get married and have her husband drive her around.
Dear Sir:

I'm wondering which is more chassidish: to have your last chametz before Pesach be a hot cross bun from Breadsmith, or perhaps sushi from Byerlys?

Dear Insincere,

Seeing as Byerlys hasn't made Kosher sushi the whole week it would appear that the better option would be the hot cross bun.
Dear Sir:

Are you going to make another cheap joke at our glorious president's expense in order to wring some humor from this heretofore humorless exercise, or will you manage to restrain yourself?

Avremel Shemtov
Dear Avremel Shemtov,

Why was Barack Obama so desperate to become the President? So he could get free public housing!

And a Kosher and most happy Pesach to you and yours.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Zev Katz live! (part 2)

Here's the second half of the Farbrengen last night with Rabbi Zev Katz. Again, this is only a rough draft. By the way, did you know that according to the Me'am Lo'ez there were 9,968,760,000 Jews in Egypt? That's nearly ten billion Jews! Keep in mind that the current earth population is about 6.7 billion. Yup. Thanks go to Dvora Lakein for bringing this little bit of info to her attention.
In the early years a group of people from the Jewish federation came to the Rebbe, including Frank Lautenberg, the senator from New Jersey. They thought the Rebbe would ask them for money. What does any other rabbi do? The Rebbe didn't. He discussed education. At the end the senator said, "Rebbe, let's wrap it to, cut to the chase." The Rebbe said, "If tomorrow morning senator Lautenberg will wake up and look in the mirror and see a different senator Lautenberg, then we've accomplished something tonight. And if tomorrow morning he wakes up, looks in the mirror, and sees the same senator Lautenberg? We haven't accomplished anything tonight." 
In a sicha on Shemini Atzeres 1967, the Rebbe related that in 1867 the Rebbe Maharash brought his kids into the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres to say goodbye, and told them that it was now a hundred years since the Maggid of Mezeritch told the Alter Rebbe that he was now going to see the Baal Shem Tov, even though the Baal Shem Tov had passed away seven years before. 

Why did the Alter Rebbe merit this? Because he was the Maggid's meshares, his personal attendant. The Alter Rebbe was only by the Maggid for 32 months out of 11 years, and yet he was the meshares. How? He was like Yehoshua, the meshares of Moshe. He was always by his Rebbe. Even though the Alter Rebbe was almost always physically not by the Maggid, but the way he lived his life.... The Baal Shem Tov appeared to him, because he was with the Maggid always. We too, we can also be by the Rebbe always. Yes, we need the Rebbe physically down here, but until then... We can still be connected to the Rebbe, still always be with him. 
Who figured out that the Rebbe's birthday was on 11 Nissan? The Rebbe went in 1947 to pick up his mother from Paris, left in Adar, came back in Sivan. She told the chassidim in Paris when the Rebbe's birthday was. People then realized why the hayom yom for 11 nissan was what it was (about how to celebrate a birthday). The Rebbe farbrenged with chassidim who had just come out of Russia about hiskashrus. The Rebbe said, "How is it done? With maamad, regardless of financial standing or situation."

In 1951 the Rebbe said that people should write in hachlatos and he'll bring them to the ohel. He said that the hachlatos shouldn't be too difficult to keep; rather they should be practical things that a person knows he can fulfill.

In 1952 the Rebbe's fiftieth birthday, he said a maamar in his room for invited people only. Rabbi Chodakov got a list, that was all who could come. There was nothing after that until 1962, the Rebbe made a farbrengen, said two maamarim, and that was it until 1972, the Rebbe's seventieth year, which was when it became a big deal. In 1982, the eighteith year, the Rebbe told people not to come; after the farbrengen he gave out tanyas until 7:30 AM. 
Meir Harlig tells a story that many years ago in 770 right before Pesach after Maariv 770 emptied out. Meir was still in 770 and the Rebbe came out of his office and told him to come into the Rebbe's office. He went in and the Rebbe gave him matzos and copies of the Rebbe's Pesach message. The Rebbe then told him to go to the airport, to Pan Am, and a well dressed Jew would come over to him and he should give him the matzos and messages. For the tirchah, the Rebbe said to take a matzah and a message for himself.  

And how will he go? By taxi. The Rebbe offered to pay, but he said he had money. The Rebbe said, "How will you get back?" Taxi. How will he pay? The Rebbe offered, again he says he has money. The Rebbe told him to report back once he finished. He did the shlichus, a well dressed Jew came over and asked for matzos from the Rebbe, he gave them, no discussion, and came back. Rabbi Chodakov said, "The Rebbe is waiting for you", he went in, and the Rebbe said, "You did your shlichus, I did mine, now Hashem should do his." 
One of the top criminal attorneys in New York is a guy by the name of Brafman. He grew up in 778 Eastern Parkway, which used to be apartments but are now the apartments next to 770, and he played punchball there every day. He was alwas very careful not to hit the Rebbe, and eventually he developed a kesher. He recalls that he would say, "Hello Rebbe", and the Rebbe would give him a smile and he felt, "I'm the only person in the world who matters to the Lubavitcher Rebbe right now"
Levi Yitzchak Freidan, an Israeli photographer, loved the Rebbe. He would take pictures in Tishrei, then go home to Israel and travel throughout Israel in the kibbutzim and show them the pictures of the Rebbe. He once went in to yechidus, right before kerias hatorah, and as soon as he came out he picked up his camera. The Rebbe came out for kerias hatorah, and pointed to him to take a picture of the time-it was 7:30 am. The rebbe had yechidus all night. And everyone said that the Rebbe would treat every person as if he was the first person in yechidus that night. 
There's a Gerrer chassid in Israel, the Tolner Rebbe, very close to the Pnei Menachem (previous Gerrer Rebbe), who was very close to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He once said, while visiting the US during the three weeks, that for me it's a double three weeks. 1. It's the three weeks. 2. (For whatever reason) I can't have yechidus by the Rebbe. 

By him this was as bad as the three weeks. Anyway, he said about the famous story of the chassid in the elevator with the Rebbe, told him lived in New Zealand, the Rebbe asked, "What about a mikveh there?" Many years later this chassid came for dollars, and the Rebbe asked him, without prompting, "Nu, what with the mikveh?" The Pnei Menachem said, "You see, the Rebbe saw what his soul needed! He needed to be involved in the mikveh in New Zealand." 
The Maggid had a friend from before the Maggid came to the Baal Shem tov. This friend learned all day, and his wife ran a fabric shop. Every couple months he'd go to the market to buy cloth for his wife to sell. Some time later it worked out that he was near Mezeritch, so he popped in to see his older friend. He found him davening for a very long time. Eventually the Maggid ended, and the friend wondered, "I use the same kabbalistic kavanos, I do the same thing. What's with this incredibly long davening?" The Maggid said, "What do you do for a living?" He explained. The maggid said, "Why all the bittul Torah? Just use your imagination! You'll go to the market, you'll buy the cloth, why the need to actually go to the market?" The friend said, "Oh, you don't get it, I need the cash!" The maggid said, "So too here. You think the kavanos, but you're only imagining. I need to actually go get the merchandise, and it can take a long time." 
Why did the Rebbe bother to tell the bochurim in 770 that would be five or ten minutes late to Mincha? Are the bochurim going to start mincha without the Rebbe? Every minute of a bochur is precious. They shouldn't waste their time-they should learn. 
The Rebbe wanted the nigleh of the Nesiim to be special. When the bochurim would make mareh mikimos for their Friday night pilpul, the seven lights of the menorah, the Rebbe would get a copy. He would often add a mareh makom, and usually it was from the Torah of the Rebbeim. Because by the Rebbe that was very precious. 
Chaim Shaul Brook told a story. He was very involved in the maamarim which were magiah by the Rebbe. The rule was, when the maamar was presented to the Rebbe it had to be ready for print. Even if the Rebbe changed things here and there, it had to be ready to print from the outset. R' Yoel, who would prepare the Maamarim, would sit for thirty hours with cigarettes and coffee and work straight. As long as there were no interuptions, he could work. After 1988 the Rebbe would be magiah late at night, then come into Gan Eden hatachton, put it on a table, and a bochur sitting there would take it and give it to the proper people. Once the rebbe returned a maamar with a big part crossed out and the Rebbe said that this was the opposite of pshat. R' Yoel looked at the original hanachah, and he remembered it, it was like he had written in the maamar that he had given in to the Rebbe. He didn't get what the issue was. 

What did it say? It said that a Jew can suffer, but since he knows Moshiach is coming he can still do Torah and mitzvos. R' Yoel didn't get what the problem was, so he sent in Rabbi Groner who asked the Rebbe. The Rebbe said, "How can you say that a Jew can suffer?! Things have to be good for him!"  

Ok, the Rebbe said it originally, but...