Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gott's Nomen (day 2)

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

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009


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

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reports of my disintegration have been exaggerated

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

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

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

Cute, eh?

Friday, September 11, 2009


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

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Last Suppers

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there you go.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The fish are still trembling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tickling Leo

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

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

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

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

1) Deserving figures in Jewish Public life

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

3) widows and orphans of slave laborers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pray for what?

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

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

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