Saturday, January 31, 2009

Not too shabby...

Thank the one above I had a pretty good Shabbos. And even a pretty good erev shabbos. Here's me before my haircut.

And another...

And here's after the haircut...

Remember, I only get three haircuts a year...I told the guy to give me a one, but this looks more like a two, which kind of stinks. The peyos are supposed to be a three, as per the instructions of the Rosh, though I guess if I got a two then they should have been a four. Oh well. I guess the barber will have to do some burning, not only for violating the Rosh's will, but also because he didn't give me the cut I wanted.

Once the holy Shabbos began I made my way to the holy confines that are 770 and conversed with several people who want attention, i.e. webjem, tanyachaz, and several who don't, who therefore won't be getting any attention.

Due to my incredible amount of self-control and amazing amount of hiskafia-type powers, I got up at 9:10 and was in 770 by 9:38, allowing me to get an aliyah pretty quickly and Daven with the Minyan. I know, you're impressed. It must be the earliest I've been in 770 for five years or something. Heck, I even did 2/3 of Shnayim Mikrah during kriah, which was preceded by the ceremonial chucking of candy at Ephrayim Baskin, whose Kiddush I attended after the cessation of prayers. Due to my many sins I didn't stay very long, which is pretty sick, and instead went upstairs and chatted with Nemo, SZB, Big Fan, and a few others from my MN days. Also featured, downstairs, was Mottel, and Eliezer Wrightman, who wants me to tell y'all all about his absolutely gorgeous tie, which is mamash morahdik and will no doubt have thousands of Raptors fans/Lubavitch girls swooning as soon as they lay eyes on him. This would also be an appropriate time to mention all the middle-aged women who follow me obsessively, at least that's according to their brother who I mikveh'd with before the whole thing even started.

Oh, and here's an entirely gratuitous picture of part of my family. I hope they don't get mad at me for posting, though I can bet you they will. Well, you have to suffer for art.
Edited for Content
Fine, another. That's my brother in law from Denver, if you were wondering.

Two nieces playing...

And one with yours truly...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Asiri Yehieh Kadosh: The Schapiro Farbrengen

As the Farbrengen with Rabbi Chaim Schapiro began he was talking in a relatively low voice, and I loudly said, "Hecher, Hecher!" He turned to me in the corner and said, "Next time have someone else say it, and I might actually do it." With that encouragement here is, unabridged and mostly the way he said it, our very own Morristown Smicha Farbrenegen. Remember, whenever it says "I" it's the Rabbi speaking. And if something doesn't make sense, it's undoubtedly my fault.

I had a conversation with a bochur regarding farbrengens, and I said that I wasn't a farbrenger or mashpia, I was a bullshover. I'm just older, the chief bullshover. Oh well, nichnas yayin, yatzah sod. Until the mashkeh kicks in I'm talking to myself, afterwords it's only to you. What, you want I should talk to myself then also? What are you, my shrink?

A farbrengen is Wednesday night for Morristown Smicha for obvious reasons. This is a hachana for Yud Shevat, because next week you'll all be in New York. So today is really bo bayom.

Since I'm a small little bochur I remember the Rebbe spoke about Hachanos for Yud Shevat on the 12th of Teves, '47. I see on everyone's application papers here, you were all born in '47. So you guys don't remember it.

Everyone's busy doing hachanos for Yud Shevat, an extra maamar or sicha, coming on time to seder, even learning nigleh.

What is Yud Shevat? Not that I know, but I suppose that it's whatever you make of it. That's what it is. If you make it important, then it's important. Otherwise...it might be Bentzi Shemtov's Asiri Yihieh Kodesh, and even though it's holy by itself, it's only as real as you make it. You can scream and shout all you want that it's important, but unless you make it real...and unless by somebody else it's real too, it's nothing. There's a klal that something that's wet makes something else wet. What's the chiddush? Isn't this obvious? The chiddush is that you make the other guy wet enough to make a third guy wet. In Osios of Yoreh Deah, Nat Bar Nat Bar Nat.

If all Chassidim were B'achdus, if they all had their chassidishe inyanim the way they're supposed to be...but the fact is, everyone is on their own. Before, by the Rebbe's farbrengens, you were schlepped in, at least b'chitzoniyus. But now you have to make it real yourself. And however real you make Yud Shevat, that's how real 11 Shevat is going to be. Nothing happens by itself. The hachona is important, and to make it real it must be a peulah nimsheches. That's got to be real. Otherwise you failed.
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A"KP, nu. So what do you make of Yud Shevat?
Some people say, "What's a true manhig Yisrael?" Obviously, he cares about every Jew, loves every Jew.
Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, the former chief rabbi of Israel, once said, "In every stage of life there's a different thing to learn. When you're a bochur you have to learn what a bochur has to learn. When you become a Rabbi, you have special sefarim for rabbis. When you become a Rosh Yeshiva, again there's a specific limud for Roshei Yeshiva. But what happens when you become a manhig Yisrael? Are there special sefarim for manhigei Yisrael? There are. The Lubavitcher Rebbe's sefarim. The Rebbe was the ultimate manhig."
This is al derech what Johnathan Sacks said, "The Rebbe didn't make chassidim, he made leaders."
What makes someone a real manhig? If they're able to relate to every single Jew. We saw this by the Rebbe. Everyone walked in and said that the Rebbe was like them. A zionist would walk out and say, "The Rebbe is the biggest zionist in the world!" A Satmar chassid would walk out and say, "The Rebbe is the biggest anti-tzioni out there!" An agudah guy would walk out and...ok, lav davka by agudah.
Every MK of Knesset, even Shimon Perez. The Rebbe related to him.
Is there another manhig out there right now? I've never heard of him.
So comes Yud Shevat, and every chassid out there is making hachanos, and he has the same cheshbon. Ephrayim Piekarski says, "The Rebbe's my Rebbe." It has to be a personal thing.
No chiddushim here.
A person's father turns 60, or he has a big wedding anniversary, he finds a present. He finds the perfect gift, because it's personal.
Yud Shevat is the same thing. It has to be personal. You have to make it personal. Has to be your Rebbe. Nowadays, not so b'galoi, or even b'galoi at all...but all that means is, there's no limitations, no boundaries.

The downside here is that all the people who felt the Rebbe was with them, that he relates to them, think the Rebbe is like them...they don't have to change. The Rebbe is their Rebbe.
You meet Israelis who say, "You think you know the Rebbe? I know the Rebbe!" I found my derech in the Rebbe. The biggest anti-religious in the Knesset, the Rebbe related to him. But still...
It's al derech a smart kid, his father loves him, but does he do what his father wants? Don;t be smart. Do what the Rebbe wants.
We as Chassidim, there's no me. Sure you can find in the Rebbe how he relates to you, but the Rebbe wants to know how you relate to him!
Everyone knows their father has a soft spot. Everyone knows how to manipulate their father. But do you do what your father wants?
The Rebbe did all sorts of things anonymously. When the Rebbe pushed for 71 new Mosdos for the new year Bobby Vogel came to the Rebbe and suggested that his new Machon Parnasa should be included in that number. The Rebbe said no. Why? Because maybe some satmar guy in London is looking for a job but if he sees the Machon Parnasa is Lubavitch he isn't coming.
The Rebbe told a non-Lubavitcher he'd make a lot of money, and he should give a lot of tzedaka. Not to Lubavitch.
If the Rebbe is my Rebbe, if the Rebbe loves me, if I have my maamar, my sicha, my reshimo, that's great. But it's all me. It's all ich.
Sure, the Rebbe is mine. But the goal is for the Rebbe to be able to say, "These are my chassidim!" Re'u Gedulim She'gedalti!
Could the Rebbe say that about all the other Chassidim with a shaychus? He was their manhig, sure, but were they his?

We forget about the nekudah. The nekudah is not the hachana. The nekudah is that we must be chassidim. To be the Rebbe's. It's no kuntz for it to be "My Rebbe". The Rebbe loves every Jew! You don't have to change! I'll even do the Rebbe a favor! I'll learn an extra maamar!
But can the Rebbe say, "This is my chassid"? Is this who the Rebbe wants? Hiskashrus means that we're miskasher with the Rebbe, not that we're schlepping the Rebbe with us.
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How do we be the Rebbe's? Is there one answer? Each mashpia will tell you something different. The truth is that you all know...
There's so many inyanim. I'll pick one nekudah that's nogeah to us in our lives right now. The Rebbe wanted for his Chassidim what all the Rebbeim wanted for their Chassidim. The Rebbe wanted we should look like the Chassidim of 1840. Ok, you can have money. And you don't need torn clothes. And no yellow tzitzis either. And teeth. Back then they didn't have dentists. But now you can have good teeth.
There's a story of a Lubavitcher Rav who was hired by a non-Lubvaitcher Shul, and they wanted him to wear an up hat. He wrote in to the Rebbe asking if he should take the job, if he should wear the hat they wanted him to wear. The Rebbe wrote back, "Lubavitchers aren't chitzonim".

A Chassid has to be a pnimi. What is as pnimi? You have to be one to know what one is.
One thing I remember, it's not the true inyan, but I remember the Rebbe would always say, "Avraham Zaken Bah Bayamim". In general, the older a person gets the less intense he is. But Avraham, though he was old, he didn't get less intense. He was Bah with his Yamim.

When you do an aveira that should be chitzoniyus. Your job should be chitzoniyus. But real inyanim? These have to be b'pnimius.
By a bochur, everything is pnimius. You eat, drink, use your cellphone so that you don't waste your minutes, but otherwise? (All right, I understand, some people have rollover.)
There's no downtime. At least there shouldn't be. All right, a little by Pesach and Sukkos. But even in downtime you have to do everything with emes, with full chayus, with a full shturem.
In Chabad there's no direct Kav, nothing specific. Whatever the Rebbe wants, that's what you got to do. At the same time as you can go on Mivtzoyim, you can learn. Or be a counselor in camp. And if you have to throw a football around, fine. No bochur says "is pas nisht". I didn't do it because it wasn't worth my time, 10 cents an hour, but still...if I had to do it, I would do it. I'd even throw a football around.

I know a shliach, back in the day, who had to send his kid to a day school because there was no local cheder. The kid was a big Chassid. He knew that the Rebbe disapproved of learning secular studies, so he didn't learn 'em. Just sat in class and did nothing. His father wrote in to the Rebbe and asked if this was proper conduct, and the Rebbe wrote back, "Absolutely not. Is it the ideal situation? No. But once you're there, it's all hashgacha pratis, you have to learn properly. A chassid can't waste his time!" Once you're there, the Rebbe wants you to learn. Do it properly.

It's very difficult. In other places a bochur can basically do what he wants. You don't have to all learn the same gemarah. You find your own chaburah, b'makom shelibi chafeitz.
But in Lubavitch...you can't decide at 7:30 to start learning Rambam. It's seder chassidus. A bochur has to be a pnimi.
Shulchan Oruch is difficult. The Rebbe wanted bochurim to learn a year before they got married. Why? Does it matter? The Rebbe wanted it. Bah B'yamim.
And Seder Chassidus by night? Bah B'yamim.
This is one of the inyanim of "I am the Rebbe's". No Hiskafia, no ishapcha, simple. There's no "is pas nisht". There's no saying, "This is not for me." There's no saying, "I'm not holding by Tehillim." Who am I? I'm supposed to be batul umevutal. It's hard. But it's supposed to be.
There's no "why not". If you know that it matters.
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Every seven years the Mossad has to get accredited to get money. So they bring in a Rosh Yeshiva to figure out what's happening.
One time the Bobover Rosh Yeshiva came to Morristown. He gave a shiur, the bochurim were prepped beforehand, they all came on time (probably because they were threatened with big knasim), he was impressed. He asked if the bochurim were always so perfect. We said, "Of course not, but when people come..."
He said, "In Bobov, the bochurim would never do anything because of the government." Why in Chabad do they?
Because they feel an achrayus, a responsibility. All right, it's only 99% of the bochurim. It's like an insurance company, they know there'll be x number of accidents, but who will be in them? That's Hashgacha klalis.

In Oholei Torah, thw Bobover Rosh Yeshiva came to look. He saw a full zal, all the bochurim there bluffing and trying to impress. Even the rabbis did it. Rabbi Yisroel Friedman gave a shiur then... And why did they do it? Achrayus.

You know what? Be a pnimi. Yeshiva is dependent on you. It's tough to wake up on time. Even tough to daven shacharis with a minyan. Mincha and Maariv, k'yadua, are not too hard. And it all has to be with a chayus. The Shach is hard. The Taz is hard.

A chassid doesn't look the future. Bocvhurim always ask, "Why learn gemara, what's the point?" You never have this question by chassidus. Maybe the kids are too embarrassed to ask it, or maybe they get it. They know they have to learn chassidus so that when they go on shlichus they can teach their mekuravim.
Guess what? You have to know how to learn gemara when you're on shlichus too. Because after you teach him two lines of Tanya and talk to him for an hour about his neshomah...he wants a daf Gemara.

In Moscow, they told me, a guy walks into Chabad, they talk about G-d. He walks into the snags, they teach him a daf gemara. Where does he feel more accomplished? The gemara.

Why do we need smicha? You're learning for a piece of paper? I can give you the whole argument, for and against. I can give you better arguments than you why you shouldn't be learning Yoreh Deah. And why should you be? If there's no paper at the end, how many people are going to actually going to learn?
But the point is, if you know that's what the Rebbe wants, then do it. Why do you have to sit in Yeshiva to learn? You're 22 years old! Go sit in shul and learn. In Lubavitch though, we sit in Yeshiva. That's what the Rebbe, not Shulchan Oruch, wants.

I remember a bochur came over to me, he had come late to yeshiva, he wanted to know if he could daven with the baalebaatim minyan and then start yoreh deah immediately afterwords. I told him fine. Later I found out that he got up at 5:30 every morning to learn chassidus, because how can a chassid daven without first learning chassidus? At first I laughed at his naivete, but then I realized that he's right. A chassid does have to learn chassidus before davening.
Ok, not everybody can do this without going to sleep every night at 8:30, but the point is, someone did it. The nekudah is that you have to be a pnimi.
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We mentioned before that a chassid has to be a pnimi.
But what can I do? I'm not a pnimi.
As Rabbi Manis Friedman once said, "You can't tell someone, 'Be happy.' You can't tell someone, 'Have seichel.' What can you do?"

So I'm not a pnimi.
A Misnaged bochur came into the Rebbe Rashab and asked him a question on Rashi. The Rebbe answered him, and later said, "It was my mazel that I had just happened to learn that Rashi."
My brother when he was 12 or so once asked me if I was baki in Shas. I told him that I was. He asked me a question from some totally random mesechta, and miraculously I had just learned that mesechta. I blew his mind away when I told him the page. I have mazel. Later I told him that I wasn't actually a baki in shas.
There's the story of the Steipler Gaon who felt bad that someone thought he knew a certain Ritva but really he only knew it from a Ran.

There's a story from the Alter Rebbe, that people came to him and complained, "You're chassidim are making themselves into yirei shamayim, baalei nefesh, there marbim b'mitzvos and ma'archim b'tefila. Who do they think they are?" The Rebbe answered them, "Aino Mais Min Hazikna Ad She'yiheh Ne'echad Mahem. (Perek 8 of Peah, Mishnah 9)" You're not a pnimi right now? Fake it until you make it.

The worst thing you can tell someone in Lubavitch is that they're a chitzon. Used to be, the worst thing in the world was to be a baalebaatishe bochur, but nowadays...they think it's ok.
Back in the day, because called a chitzon was a terrible thing. The truth is, if there's no chitzoniyus, then there's no pnimius either. "I'm a Jew at heart" means nothing. So obviously...
The issue is when there's a kuch zich in chitzinoyus. It has to be derech m'mailah. You can't be a chassid if it's not apparent on your face that you're a chassid.

How do you Daven B'arichus? The Rebbe Davened at 10:00, the Farbrengen was at 1:30...

When Yossi Nemess, who became famous because of Hurricane Katrina, was a young bochur he was almost Berel Lazar. He used to go to Russia, and he related once when he came back that he went to a Moscow baalei Teshuvah's house and the guy served him an apple. He noticed that his host wasn't eating, and he asked him why. Turned out he was fasting, as is brought down in Tanya. Yossi quickly explained why this wasn't necessary, how the Rebbe explained that this wasn't our avoda nowadays. The chassid took an apple and ate it. It was bigger mesiras nefesh for him to eat than to eat. But he did it. Why? Because it wasn't his fast day. It was the Rebbe's. He was the Rebbe's. He did what the Rebbe wanted.

A person shouldn't daven b'arichus. That's chitzoniyus. Daven b'arichus. Get the difference? Just do it. Don't give up a day too early. Last place you look, you always find it there.
Chitzoniyus is important. If there's no chitzoniyus, then there's no pnimius. So do it, eventually you'll do it properly. Even though now you're a chitzon...
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I'm the first call for shidduchim. People want to know if the bochur kept seder. I don't lie. But I do tell them that in Yeshiva he didn't, but when he was on shlichus or camp, when he had achrayus, he did it fine. By most people sleeping is not a chronic disease.

Avremel Shemtov was once farbrenging in 770 how the Rebbe is the rosh, we're the guf, and we build up the Rebbe. At that point Avraham Gerlitzky walked in and said, "The Rebbe depends on us?" They argued for hours. I'm not a big chikur. Who cares? Stupid philosophy. Means nothing. According to either, you have more or less Rebbe? Whatever.

You don't have to do anything. But...we found the truth, we're stuck with it. We got to do it. If we do it enough times it becomes natural. I saw in a sefer that you have to make sure to put your legs properly into your pants 22 times in order to accustom yourself to it. They asked the Rebbe, how does he survive on so little sleep, he said, every few weeks, decrease by 1/2 hour. I don't know what this story was, if this guy wanted to sleep very little too.

There's a famous polack joke, he jumps out of plane, at 5,000 feet they tell him to pull his parachute, he refuses, at 1,000; 500; at 20 feet they tried one more time, but when he found out he was only 20 feet from the ground, he said, "It's ok, from here I can jump!"

There's a story with Rabbi Chadakov, he asked a yungerman where he was by seder, the yungerman said there had been a farbrengen the night before...Rabbi Chadakov told him, "Next time make a kiddush Hashem and pick yourself up and leave in the middle, tell them there's seder in the morning. You have to have mesiras nefesh to do the right thing.

The Jews stood with mesiras nefesh a whole year by Purim. For four days they had it by Pesach. Sure, it was mesiras nefesh, but they had bitachon in Hashem, that he would save them. They had a tnuah of doing what's right, they weren't nispael. And who does this nowadays? Lubavitch.
Hain l'tov, hain l'mutav.
We excel in not being nispael. We don't care what anyone says. We have the truth. You explain differently to us 25 times, makes no difference. But when it comes to pnimius...
When the Rebbe came out with mivtzah Torah, the joke was that now everybody was going to run around and tell everyone else to learn.
We have to not be nispael by waking up on time for chassidus in the morning. We don't have the shtarkeit like by chitzoniyus. You have taanos on Lubavitch? We'll fight you hard. But when it comes to ourselves?
A chassid can't be nispael, outside or inside. Do what you have to do: mivtzoyim, chitas, rambam, do what your loved one wants you to do.

I heard a story from my shver, Schmerling from Switzerland. He went to yechidus, and the Rebbe told him to talk to Chadakov who would give him specific instructions. He went to Chadakov, who showed him a duch from agudah, from the thirties, and they had decided at their annual meeting to open an office in Germany for kiruv purposes. They never did it. Now they wanted to open a kiruv office in Italy to deal with all the Russians who went there before getting to America or Israel. By the next asifas harabbonim they called Schmerling and asked him for advice, as a Lubavitcher, how would he do it? So he said to them, listen, many years ago you decided to go to Germany. So go there! Don't go anywhere else in Europe!
Of course they didn't listen.
(Chadakov was called "my finance minister" by the Rebbe. When Merkos called you, they made you call back, save the Rebbe money. Once Chadakov started up to the Rebbe's room, the Rebbe shut off his lights because he wasn't doing anything in the room, then when Chadakov left the Rebbe turned them on again.)
Chadakov called Schmerling in again, told him there'd be another asifa, and told him to deal with the situation. Schmerling went there and told them they'd never be successful in Europe. Why is Lubavitch successful? Because they don't care if they have money or not when they start a program. If they have, great, and if not, fine. They'll find a way. But the agudah doesn't work like that. They'll never be matzliach.
Of course they didn't listen, and they opened up an office in Italy. Schmerling sent a message to the yungerman there and told him there was a kepeidah from the Rebbe on him. The office failed. The guy lost all his money. He went to his Rav, who was also the Rav of Schmerling's town in Switzerland, and told him about the kepeidah from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rav asked him to try and help.
Schmerling went to Yechidus and told the Rebbe that, he had somehow possibly maybe implied that the Rebbe had put a kepeidah on this guy.. The Rebbe smiled, said he was maskim that the office shouldn't open, but he didn't want a Jew to not have parnasa, so he gave the yungerman a big bracha, and good thinhs happened from then on.
Later when they made the Schapiro-Schmerling in Switzerland Rabbi Schapiro's father was worried that the Rav wouldn't allow Lubavitch minhagim by the chuppah. Schmerling said, "Not to worry, he thinks I've got an in with the Rebbe, the wedding will go exactly as you want it."
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The Freidiker Rebbe said that a Rebbe never puts a kepeidah on a chassid. Sometimes a chassid thinks a Rebbe put a kepeidah on him, and then, if that's the case, once the chassid is mad at the Rebbe, then bad things can happen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The pre-farbie post

In just one hour begins the farbrengen. I am pumped. Before that though, there are some preliminaries that I think should be gotten out of the way.

Rabbi Chaim Schapiro reiterated his request that no recording of the farbrengen be made. "If there's even a hava mina that there'll be a recording device then I won't show up." When asked about yours truly, he is reported to have said, "I'll deal with him separately."
I attempted to assuage his fears with a story. All the Rebbeim had ksavim of chassidus which they kept hidden from the chassidim. Once some chassidim tried to take some of these from the Tzemach Tzedek, and he got very angry with them and threatened a kepeidah. A while later there was a massive fire in Lubavitch and all these writings were destroyed. The Rebbe was inconsolable, and asked his chassidim if they had managed to save even a few of the priceless works. They told him no. He said, "What, you didn't copy anything?" They were understandably shocked, and said, "But you threatened us with a kepeidah if we so much as looked at anything! You expected us to copy them?" The Tzemach Tzedek answered, "For Chassidus you must have mesiras nefesh."
The Rabbi wasn't particularly impressed, so I told him a story I heard from the Rosh.

The Rosh once wanted to honor a youngish guy by a dinner or something, and the guy told him no. When asked why, he said, "When a person is young they have taavos for sweets and toys. When they grow older they have taavos for women. When they get even older they have taavos for kavod. Please, I'm still in the second category, don't move me up."

Rabbi Schapiro told me, "Don't worry, I have taavos for kavod too, but I'll get it myself." I told him that I merely wanted to help him, and he responded, "According to the one who is honoring is the honor received." I took that as a hint to not press the subject. If I can't record the Farbie then at least I'll be able to pay attention and try to become a better person.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A renaissance man in our very own MoTown

This morning it was suggested to our lord and sovereign Rabbi, the real Chaim Schapiro, that he farbreng tomorrow night in honor of the upcoming holy day Yud Shevat. He pointed at yours truly and said to the the bochur making the suggestion, "As long as you are willing to take responsibility for everything he records." I was shocked and awed by this statement, and asked the leader of our humble smicha pogrom here in Morristown if he was really scared of me, an idea to which he vigorously assented. "Its not only what you write that I'm scared of," he said, "but also what you don't write."
Funnily enough, I think today will go down in the book of chronicles of the kings of TRS as the day which featured the apex of Schapiro inspired genius. I hope I'm wrong, and today is merely the beginning of a beautiful friendship, as Rick would have said to Louis, but if the fates have it otherwise, we'll always have Paris. I mean, I'll always have this 2 Shevat to look on with joy. Not only did it feature an abundance of Schapiro inspired goodness, but I got most of what I was learning. Turns out we don't have as many problems trusting Jews as you might have thought. But more on that later.

Anyway. A bochur approached the Rabbi and asked him a question regarding the biblical prohibition of Baal yiraeh and baal yimatze. I feel a great longing for those glorious days of long-gone bochurhood when I too could decide in the beginning of Shevat to go through all of hilchos Pesach, the scheduled Gemara be damned. I used to do it too. But now I'm stuck learning all about pieces of meat and drops of milk. Oh well. I suppose I wouldn't have it any other way.
I didn't catch the whole conversation, but I did hear the Rabbi compare chametz to cocaine. If you find it in your house, what is the law? How about if you inherited it? You think the Torah is strict when it comes to chametz? Try out the US government when it comes to drugs.

Next on the agenda was a discussion about toothpaste. I mentioned that I used Tom's of Maine, and the Rabbi said that he thought it was disgusting, tasted like pure fluoride. I said that I liked it, but we were already discussing the efficacy of that important mineral. The rabbi confided that when he was a mere child he got fluoride treatments when he went to the dentist, and was shocked when I too told the assembled multitudes that I too underwent the same procedure as a young pup. The question then arose as to the kashrus of commercial fluoride treatments and that of floss. The Rabbi said that if you're careful to only use kosher toothpaste then you should only use kosher floss as well.

In the Pri Megadim it mentions an edition of the Rashba that was publishes in "Crimnean", or something like that, and the Rabbi speculated that this was our modern day Crimea. We then had an hour long discussion regarding; the Yalta conference of Uncle Joe, the great Winston, and FDR that mamzer, the Russo-Japanese war of 1902 and the Rebbe Rashab's efforts therein to provide matza for the Jewish soldiers, the annihilation (did I just murder that spelling?) of the Russian navy in 1904, the Crimean War and the Charge of the Light Brigade and their annihilation at the hands of the Russians (was that better?), his great uncle's fighting in the bloodbath that was Stalingrad, the Berlin Wall, the Berlin Airlift, and several other topics that I don't remember offhand. A lot of fun.

To cap off this great day I asked him to explain the Taz's comparison of food to a woman who intentionally adulters but thinks it's all right. He explained that it's talking about a woman who's a "swinger" (I am not making this up) who thinks that there's no problem with going to parties and going home with men other than her husband. So what's the problem here? Since she didn't know she's not allowed to do this she should be permitted to her husband, just like if you think you can intentionally be mevatel an issue in a heter someone else is allowed to benefit from it. Ahh, the Taz explains, there's a special passuk here, teaching that although she may be okay with G-d she's not all square with her not so dear hubbie. So she must leave him. But in our case of the food, where no one gets hurt, there wouldn't be a problem.

As you can see, today's time in zal rocked. And tomorrow's farbie promises to be even better. All right, so the bochur who's arranging it threatened to get me drunk beforehand so that I wouldn't be able to record the contents, but don't worry. If I have to I'll manage both with the aplomb for which TRS is justly infamous.

Monday, January 26, 2009

We've nothing to fear when Washington near-Dec 25, 1776

I was under the impression that there'd be a farbrengen in Morristown tonight in honor of Rosh Chodesh Shevat, but unfortunately I was mistaken. Since I don't have that to post I'll instead give y'all a post I wrote a while back but never got around to posting.

Is it just me, or are my most popular posts the ones where I'm embarrassed or confused about something and come out looking really cute and cuddly (and pathetic)? Like where this older Asian women in the train station out of the blue starts talking to me. While I I'm wearing headphones and listening to Yisroel Werdyger's excellent CD. And looking in a totally opposite direction. I of course have to take them off to hear what she's saying. "Peacocks." I make a noncommittal grunt. "Eyes. Lots and lots of eyes." I said something like, "Oh, yes." Then she said something which I didn't catch, and then, "Black and white. Do you agree?" I did, and thank the good one above she picked herself up and moved away. The moral of this story is that I had no idea what to do. When the black guy approached me and asked for two bucks so he could buy a train ticket home I gave it go him. When the teenage snag/bochur walked over and asked if he could sit next to me I said, "Please do." So I know how to deal with normal people. Or at least, relatively normal people. But this? What are you supposed to say? And I'm sure that most people in my situation would do the exact same thing as I did. And I'm also sure that somewhere out there has a great line to deal with this kind of thing. I have to meet that person.
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All right. Enough of the past. How about the present? There are so many issues currently flying around this little corner of the blogosphere, and it seems a pity to ignore them. The question is though, which one to choose? I could follow the self-proclaimed rational and pious one's suggestion and blog the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in the form of a primal scream, but I don't think that's very practical. At the time he suggested this he refused to understand the downside to the approach, but from the heading of his blog it appears that he now understands my objections.
I could follow many people's lead and complain bitterly about Loving Leah, buy it seems to me a pointless endeavor. What do I have to add of originality? I could even go the frum satire route and reveal that one of my friends just came out of the closet, but seeing as it didn't happen I'd have a hard time justifying such a course of action. Besides, I blogged about the topic around Rosh Hashanah time. What else? I suppose I could tell everybody that thank the one above Taaruvos is going much better, or that it's seriously cold outside, but it seems to me that there isn't much more to be said on the topic.
Oh, I know, I'll write a little something about Rosh Chodesh Shevat. The first day of one of the most important months in a Chassid's year. A day that has in potential all the others. A day that marks the completion of the second ten day period of preparation for the Yom Hakadosh, Yud Shevat. Less than two weeks to my birthday. So obviously, a very important day. And what can we learn from it? How can we improve our daily service of the holy one blessed be He? Honestly, I don't know. In this long slog that is life, we sometimes don't get it. In fact, we usually don't get it. As I said to a friend of mine today, "reality lies." Because what we percieve as reality is olam m'lashon helem. This world is just a joke. It lies to us. We can't even percieve why every creation is unique, why every day is the greatest day in the history of mankind. But you know what? That's OK. Because we were put down in this world to slog. To work. Sometimes, often times, it's in the dark. But again, that's OK. Because only from the dark can you percieve the light. Only from toil can come rest.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The dog's muse

You know what the difference between a painter or sculptor or whatever and a writer? Notice that I didn't just call the former "artist", because I consider writing to be an art. The difference is that where allegory comes naturally to the canvas, and metaphor to the sculpture, there is no such thing for a writer. Sure, you can write in tongues, but if no one gets it then what was the point? And if people do get it, then whatever it was you wanted to express without those thoughts being brought into the open is also lost. For example, if a painter is in a mood he'll paint a stormy sky, the ominous clouds interspersed with bolts of lightning and lashes of rains flying down to wreak a most terrible watery vengeance on the earth. And people will look at that painting and say, "Oh, that's nice. He must have been in a bad mood that day."
If a writer tries to express his emotions, he is hampered by those very emotions. He doesn't necessarily want to reveal what it is that upsets him, but without this catalyst how can he accurately portray his mood? His very ability to portray without revelation is rendered impossible.

Meanwhile, in other news, I'm back in Yeshiva in Morristown. Just kidding. No, (yes?) I'm in Morristown shteiging away like nobody's business (the Uncle Sam express), but I won't leave you hanging with the first paragraph. You want to know what prompted them. Well, I was sitting in zal tonight catching up on some Shm"ot and waiting for my chavrusa when the muse hit me. It was of course composed of all my previous experieces in life, as all muses must be, but it reflected most strongly my feelings of the last few days. Such a tempest, a fervor of emotion, enough to make one wish for the dry intellect of Athens or the cold calculation of Munich. And yet there can be much gain in emotion, much benefit to the swirling thoughts flying hither and thither, whirling 'round their intended target and attempting to make themselves foremost in the mind. At these times the admonition of Tanya is most useful, the knowledge that the mind controls the heart, and not the other way around.
It would also be useful to bring up the famous story of Aristotle, once we mention Athens, and his students finding him engaged in highly illegal activities with a horse. They questioned him regarding his behaviour, specifically because he had only earlier that day warned them against it himself. His reply? "This is not Aristotle", meaning that their was an intellectual soul, an Aristotle, and there was an animal soul, which wasn't Aristotle. And never the twain shall meet. Judaism teaches that this is the wrong way to look at things. We are humans, yes, complete with human characteristics and desires, but we also have something higher. All people have an intellect, a brain, an organ that can raise a person from his purely animal past and place him in a world that is governed by reason, not by passion. Jews have it even better, because we have a G-dly soul, quite literally a part of the living G-d. And this soul allows us to rise above the intellectual to allow G-d to penetrate our conscious and replace all that is finite with the infinite. Aristotle didn't accept that he could master himself. He refused to believe that the animal is man is not only shameful for the brain but also for the animal. For that is the difference between hiskafia and ishapcha. The former teaches us to repel all that is evil, but this is not enough. The latter teaches us to change that darkness into light. To make the animal soul itself recognize that there is no greater thing in the world than G-d. Allowing the animal free reign in its domain while the brain rules in its, as Aristotle wanted, is not a proper course of action. We were not brought into this world to satisfy our appetites, but rather to fulfill G-d's will.

And how as a writer am I doing this? Well, hopefully if you made it this far throught the quagmire that is my moralizing, you'll allow it to have the slightest of effects on you.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The sleeping shoes

Is there anything worse than shopping for shoes? Sure, shopping for clothes is a miserable experience, but at least it's a fairly standardized experience. You walk into the store, find ten white shirts size 16.5, try them on, take the three that fit best, and exit the store. The same goes for pants sized 35/36. I understand that some people might have difficulty picking out which color they want. Heck, I even had a pair of dark green pants in LA, and wore them happily until they ripped in the keester. Point is, though the experience may take up way too much time and provide little benefit to humanity, at least it accomplishes something: You walk away having exchanged valuable assets for machined bits of cloth.
Shoe shopping, on the other hand...You know why they called it "The Devil wears Prada"? Because only the devil could find shoes that fit. First of all, is it too much to ask of the shoe department to stock the shoes in the open, where people can actually get to them? What is up with this having to go over to the counter clutching three single shoes and beg the overworked person there to bring you what you want. It's embarrassing, really, because after the seventh time the shoes didn't fit or whatever and you ask for more the salesperson starts to look at you funny. And I'm like, "Hello, what do you want from me? Stock the stupid shoes out here where I can do this myself!" But of course I just politely ask for some more shoes and feel like a moron. Secondly, in this pantheon of idiocy, is the seeming lack of 11.5s in this state. Am I the only male in New York who wears an 11.5? Somehow I doubt it. And yet I couldn't find a single shoe which came in this size. Even when I went to another shoe store which, mercy of mercies, actually had shoes available for customers to try on without making a whole song and dance out of it, they had no size 11.5s. And besides, they had 10, I kid you not, 10 aisles of shoes. Double sided. And how many of men's shoes? 1. One! Are these people crazy. Do female New Yorkers really buy shoes ten times more than their male counterparts? Absolutely ridiculous.
And yes, I didn't end up getting any shoes. I'm almost ready to move to a cave somewhere on the Serengeti and give up this material world we currently inhabit.

Meanwhile, in slightly more positive news, I had a nice Shabbos. I'm sure you're all happy to hear it. Once again the Shliach I was by asked me to say something, and once again I had what to say. It wasn't necessarily the best thing in the world, but the joke got a big laugh, and I figure that means something. So here's a not-so brief synopsis of what I said. Oh, and if it doesn't all make sense, that's ok, because I didn't think it all made sense at the time either. Still, as I said, everyone seemed to like it.

So my roommate has a problem with waking up in the morning, and he invariably comes five minutes late to seder every day. This past Monday the mashgiach got really fed up, and called him over for a chat. "Why can't you come on time?" he boomed, "this is ridiculous!" My roommate responded, "Hey, it's five minutes. What's so terrible about missing five minutes every day?" The mashgiach said, "You know what it's like? There's a train that leaves Penn Station every evening at 7:14 to Great Neck. If you come late to that train, well, sorry Charlie, because that train ain't coming back. You missed it. The world of Yeshiva works the same way. You come late to seder, you missed the train." My roommate was suitably impressed by these words, and vowed to improve his performance. So the next day Tuesday, he doesn't show up at all. The mashgiach finally gets hold of him and begins a'screamin and a'hollerin. "What happened? Not only did you miss the train, but you didn't even make it to the train station?!" My roommate replied, "Well, I was all ready to come at 7:31, but I realized that I had missed the train, so I knew there was no point. I just went back to bed."
That afternoon was the inauguration of the messiah, and Itzik Perlman, Yo Yo Ma, and company played a funeral dirge-excuse me, an inaugural ditty. Later it was revealed that this was in fact the first scandal of the new Obama administration. Turns out that they were play-syncing. Shocking, I know.
The big question, though, is "why do we care?" After all, it's the same music. The same players. The same instruments. So what difference does it make if it was recorded a little bit early?
The answer, of course, is that it wasn't authentic. It didn't have the proper verisimilitude. And people care.
Those same people often ask, "Why is it so important for me to keep all the crazy laws in the Torah? Does G-d really care?" And the answer is that yes, G-d does care. Everything you do makes a difference. When you miss the train, you miss the train. When you're not really playing , you're not really playing. Even if it seems like "Hey, I came to seder, just a little late." Fact is, you missed the boat.
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Everyone around the table laughed long and hard at the train joke, even the Shliach. At the time he said, "Is your roommate telling the same story about you by a shliach this shabbos?"
Later he asked me, "Is this story really true? Because I know you're in smicha..." I told him that I had been waiting for ages to be able to tell this story, and when the opportunity came...I felt like Rabbi Akiva.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's not polite to belch in my ear

If you're wondering who that was pushing a double stroller around Crown Heights the whole day wearing a long black coat, black pants (thank you very much), a black hat, black shoes, and a very long white scarf, then you've come to the right place for the answer. It was pretty weird too, because some Lubavitcher dude was taking pictures around 770 this morning and it sure seemed like he was taking them of me. But maybe he was capturing Lucky Wolf. I don't know. Or maybe it's just my intense paranoia/egoistic tendencies which would think that someone would ever want to take a picture of me. It's funny in CH, because when you're a little famous they fawn over you like you're the next coming of Michael Jackson, but then when you get big they urinate all over you like you're the next coming of Michael Jackson. So right now I'm not even little famous enough to warrant fawning, but some day soon...
Meanwhile, getting back to that walking of mine. I had just turned from Crown to walk up Kingston (away from 770) and some older guy, normal looking, walks right by me and belches loudly in my ear. I turned to give him a look, he looked right back at me, and continued walking. That was strange. In fact, it was possibly the strangest part of my walk. Running into a bunch of sixth grade girls just coming out of school was also a bit odd, but I had the carriage and two cute nieces to protect me from any harm.

Meanwhile, in other news, it was nice to see Barack Obama get down to shirt sleeves in the Oval Office. Sure, it's classy and all to wear a suit jacket all the time, but doesn't it get hot? And if you want to tell me that they'll turn on the air conditioning, isn't that bad for the environment? And the tax payer's dollars? And if you'll tell me that it's winter, and it's all right if they simply turn down the heat a little, I'll say, "But hey, what about the wee wifie and the wee kiddies?" I mean, are they to suffer because of a sport coat? And if you'll say to me that they can take off their own coats, I'll say to you, "What if they weren't wearing any?"And even if they were, what if they didn't want to take them off? And what about Rahm Emanuel? The poor guy is a Chassidishe dude, obviously, who never takes off his jacket, even when he's eating salami sandwiches. With mustard of course. You understand the mesiras nefesh involved? Here he is, potentially lethal amounts of honey dijon goodness spraying all over, and he's wearing a jacket. And now that the Mr. President has taken off his, it's even more important for Rahm's ego to keep its on. Because Rahm has to show who's boss in this relationship. And to be perfectly frank, it ain't the black man. So yes, it is imperative that certain things be done in an increasingly strange manner as befits the oddness that is TRS.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What was so Bohemian about that Blackout?

Today I didn't have some super-duper-top-secret-pompously-important business to take care of in Skokie. Having a license is great and all, but does little good when you don't have anything to drive. Fortunately for me, I don't have a license, so I don't have to worry about securing a vehicle. (Sorry, I'm not hardcore enough to ride my bike in the snow down to Chicago). I'm not either. I mean, imagine riding all the way from Crown Heights to Chicago! That's crazier than being a Cubs fan!

So last night, actually this morning, I went to sleep at 6 am, got up at 11:00 and was in Chabad's Own Professional Shopper's (herein referred to as COPS) van at no point in the day. Impressive, no? Now, I've never seen COPS around, and have never had a conversation with him. Once he realized I wasn't in his van, and therefore didn't have any luggage the conversation became way too deep and intense for never after sleeping a good five hours.

All of a sudden he started on a tangent about all the different pork products he eats and how he drives on Shabbos, about how G-d is cool and all but what's up with 6 million Jews dying, totally not cool naturally speaking, how his kids are so cool, open-minded and good-looking. (I'm not joking). I totally didn't get it. How is he Chabad's Own Professional Shopper if he eats many pork products and drives on Shabbos? And why does he do those things if he thinks G-d is cool? Hey, I agree that the Holocaust was totally not cool, but why does that mean that his kids are cool, open-minded, and good looking? And who would think I was joking?

Started in about how the shluchim's children, since they don't go to public school are being brought up closed minded. I agreed with this point too. I mean, isn't that the point of a Jewish education? To keep our kid's minds pure of the filth and other shtuff they would otherwise be exposed to in public school? This was all before the sun rose. More agreement was reached regarding Milwaukee's beauty, and that Milwaukeeans are lucky to have Lake Michigan and Klode Park. Lance Armstrong was mentioned, and Floyd Landis received much support.

Where I needed to be, which was nowhere, didn't open until 9, but I didn't get there by 6:30, so someone bought some sushi in Jewel. It would have been nice if they had shared, but no, they had to have it all to themselves. (He is the professional shopper after all). What that means I don't know. Does a professional shopper get better rates on sushi than other people? Someone drove around on Touhy looking for somewhere they could hang out in for two hours. They found a bagel shop and sat there for two hours. Confidential sources indicate that the bagel purchased at the shop was delicious.

Eventually the place opened, but things were a bit behind there, so, long story short, I didn't miss my ride back to Milwaukee, because I wasn't in Chicago to begin with. (This is all while I wasn't sporadically blacking out from lack of sleep. At least I was with old Russians). That at least was true. 770 today was filled with old people speaking Russian. And it felt vaguely claustrophobic.

I ended up walking over to Brooklyn Children's Museum, not before which I did some research for a Lubavitch.com article, and hung out there for a few hours. I had Davened way before (right[lame I know, I am a slacker]), wish I ate some sushi, attended Reuven Lakein's birthday party, complete with ice cream cake, pushed my niece home in her carriage (what else?). It appears that slaves at Chabad Houses seem to have much the same job description wherever they are.

Eventually, if someone had been nice enough to buy me some, I would have finished my delicious sushi. Delicious. It would have been. Didn't get on the bus. If I would have then would have slept the whole way home. I probably wouldn't wake up whenever an album ended on my iPod so I could put on some more music. Hello? Ever heard of shuffle? The good life. Got home. Didn't eat any tomato soup. Still, the good life was head by all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This morning I...

I was recently thinking about this whole blogging thing, particularly as regards my autobiographical posts. Do people want to read my every move? Is it time to sign up for twitter? The one major issue is that normally I'm in Yeshiva, so my feed wouldn't be too interesting. But even without that consideration, or if someone is willing to sponsor an iPhone with service, there still remains the fundamental premise of the whole endeavor, and that is that someone is interested in my every movement. If I was Barack Obama for example, then I would understand people wanting to know what I ate for breakfast, but guess what? I'm not the President. Wow, it's weird to write that. No one cares that I had half a bowl of chassidishe rice crispies for breakfast this morning. And yet there are time when it could come in handy. For example, I don't think anyone's ever twittered a smicha test. That would be really cool. Even a live feed of a farbrengen would be great.
Which brings us to the next stop on our program. Today was the 24th of Teveth. The Yahrtzeit of the Alter Rebbe. He passed away in Piena and is interred in Haditch. I was going to bring down what I said last year on this day, but I didn't really say anything too brilliant. However, I did notice a nice short post from last year that never got commented on, so I figure no one read it and will therefore enjoy it now. So, without further ado, let's bring it back to my birthday last year, the 12th of February 2008:

Today the Shluchim of YHSTC had another spectacular Shiur from Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm, and I'd like to share a nice vort that he said at the end. Kosher fish must have both fins and scales. The truth is, however, that all fish that have scales also have fins, so what's the point of the Torah mandating the fins? The Alter Rebbe says that we can look at the particular functions of these two body parts for the answer. A fin is something that is used to go upward, to go higher, and this is representative of Torah study, a discipline that plumbs the depths of the human intellect and simultaneously soars aloft to bask in the rays of G-d's own knowledge. A scale is a cover, a protection. We see this in Tanya, where the Alter Rebbe writes that a person builds up a chain mail with their Mitzvos, particularly Tzedaka.
So the answer is; when someone only has fins, only has Torah (like a misnaged), then they're suspect. But if someone only has good deeds, then they're all right.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The TRS inaugral special: W we love thee

After all the stress I've been under the last few weeks preparing for the test I thought I'd take today a little easy. Naturally that found me beginning Taaruvos. First thoughts? These beis yosef's are huge! The typeset in these shulchan oruchs isn't half as good as in the bassar b'challavs! And the maareches hashulchan is no shaarei yoreh deah. Man, I'm going to miss that. What a great Sefer. Rabbi Brod, if by some odd chance you're reading this, do the world a favor and continue the series, because even though Rabbi Chaim Schapiro argues with you a bit, you still made a great Sefer.

Meanwhile, several people asked me today if I'd be blogging about the inauguration. At first I thought not to, because truth be told I don't really care about it too much, but it is a historic occasion (Dick Cheney in a wheelchair!) and anyway it's nearly 1:00 AM and I don't really have anything else to write, so why not?

Barack Obama is about to become leader of the free world. That's a pretty cool job. And how will he assume these responsibilitys? With a mighty expensive party. Not that I begrudge him that. Still, it makes you think. Jews also have an inaugration of sorts every once in a while. Actually, it's a coronation. And some would claim that Mr. Obama is being corona ted right now, but again, I won't get into that. Point is, how do we crown our king? We pray mighty hard. Starve until lunch. Don't even get mezonos faren davenen. It's funny, because the snags all get to eat before shofar, but we don't. And once again I won't get into that.
So there we are, about to accept G-d upon us as king, all solemn as synagogue mice, listening to the blasts of the shofar and praying that we should be inscribed for a good year. And how does it work here in USA land? The guy's gonna give a big speech, which will probably not be among his best (he may think he's Abraham Lincoln, but trust me...), and there'll be all sorts of balls and parties and environmentally responsible stupidity. Where's the solemnitude? The reflection? All right. I'm sure it's there. I was just trying to form a comparison where none should have been attempted.
And yet. And yet tomorrow night, for the first time in eight years, there won't be a Republican in the White House. That is a bit depressing. I really like the guy who's leaving now. He never pandered to the public that placed its trust in him. He did what he thought was right, not what the public opinion pollsters thought was right. And he stood his ground when the whole world was arrayed against him. And now? How does it feel to be, what, sixty years old, and know that the most important thing in your life is now done? After this, it's all downhill.
But we can learn from our forefather Jacob, who saved his best years for last, that it doesn't have to be like that. Because if you're still alive, then you still have a job to do in this world. For our retiring president, that'll mean figuring out a way to get a Republican not named Bush (unless by some miracle Jeb decides to run) into power for the first time in what will be nearly a quarter century. That's a long time. So yeah, Mr. Bush, keep the faith, because I still believe you got it in you. And Mr. Obama? Do the right thing. As Americans we expect it of you.

And after all that political twaddle, how can you not be inspired folks?

Tov tov lehodos!

Due to a combination of stupidity and slow trains I missed my smicha test today. The stupidity was all mine; for some reason I believed the Rabbi when he said my group had a possibility of getting tested tonight or on Monday, so I only planned on getting back to Motown at 7:30 or so. As it happened the testing went much faster than expected, and I was still on the train when my group went in. Is there any specific reason why every single station had to be stopped at? So you may ask, "Where does the stupidity come in?" The answer is that it's just stupid to think you can waltz into yeshiva half an hour before a test and ace it, so even if my plan had worked out I would have looked like a fool. Fortunately someone arranged to switch with me, and there I was, ready to take the test at 6:00. Except that we were told that the test would commence at 7:15. After not having an appetite for supper caused me to shun the supper spread, I meandered up to the testing room and proceeded to do some quick cramming. As the appointed time passed the room filled with its complement of six sacrificial students, and once the Rabbis came in we were ready to get tested. Rabbi Yeruslavsky's first question, which we had been warned he asked at every test, was, "By saying what do you violate the prohibition of baal tosif?" By the time I got my first question, four down the line, they had become significantly harder. I answered the first in relatively good time; fortunately I had written down the opinions of the Shach and Taz in my shulchan oruch, but I didn't want it to look like I was just reading my notes, so I looked in the Shach for ten seconds, read half a note, did the same for the Taz, and so on down the line. Worked like a charm.
They always say that in a group oral test you always know everyone else's answers perfectly, and this was really brought out the next time the guy sitting next to me was asked a question. He totally blanked, and began to frantically flip his shulchan oruch in a desperate attempt to find the answer. I calmly hit my pencil repeatedly on the correct Ramah until he noticed what I was doing and read it off. My next question dealt with cucumbers, and once I had dealt with that I thought of appropriate to begin writing down the questions so that I would remember them for y'all, my faithful readers. I then realized that it looked like I was writing the answers for the guy sitting on the other side of me, so I ceased and desisted, which means I can't provide you with the full report you deserve.
At about this time Rabbi Chaim Schapiro took a bunch of smicha certificates out of a UPS envelope and Rabbi Yeruslavsky began to sign the documents we'll be getting in a year from now. Once that was done, and we were just finishing up the fourth round of questioning, Rabbi Schapiro decided to show us off a little and subjected us to a fifth round, which is more than anyone else. In this one I totally blanked when asked a pretty simple query, "What is the machlokes mechaber and ramah regarding N'at bar N'at. Fortunately the rabbi managed to drag the correct answer out of me, and I escaped the test, and the cigarettes (for by this time Rabbi Y had lit up) with a kimat tov, which is very nearly good but not quite there. But the main thing is I survived it.
You know it's funny, because everyone said their own thing on what he would ask, and how he'd ask it, but in the end he didn't really follow anyone's assertion. After an hour we were up, and that was that. And I'm so tired that I'll say the same.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Passed!

Full details to follow...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just before the battle mother...

The night before the test. Or maybe not. See, I'm in the fourth group out of seven, which means I could either be tested Sunday night or Monday morning. Actually, I'm in the sixth group out of nine, because there are two Shabbos tests for last year's Smicha dudes which happen before our test, so I'm pretty sure I'll be on Monday, Still, the powers that be want me rested for tomorrow's potentially big day so tonight will be a short post. Or, as Shmuelie Gourarie said, the day after you get no sleep is not the problem, it's the day after that is the killer. Though I never really tested this theory out scientifically, real life experience does seem to corroborate it. Though maybe that's just because I was thinking about it, so my mind convinced itself that it was true. Honestly, I really don't know.

Meanwhile, in other news, last night I met WebJem (jemnationblog.com) in upstairs 770 and we chatted for well over an hour while I was introduced to a bunch of his brothers, who either greeted me with, "Oh, you're the nut who blogged for rovingrabbis?" or else, "Oh, you're the nut who blogs at TRS?" Obviously I'm quite the popular guy with the clan. Don't get me wrong, I had a really nice conversation. I even got a semi-offer to blog/write for chabad.org. I'm not sure if I could hack it though. Content editors and I don't necessarily get along (unless I manage to make deals with 'em like I did with e) but people have done worse for salaries. Besides, what a great job. Getting paid to do what you love. Incredible. So yeah, WebJem, I look forward to collaborating with you on future propagan...I mean worthwhile projects in aid of JEM, everyone's favorite professional and money losing video making venture. And remember, when you're a colleague and not an employee, they can pay you half price. But the sacrifice to put out a top-notch product is totally worth it.

Tonight's last topic brings us to this week's Haveil Havalim, maintained by Jack and beloved by all, which featured a ton of posts about Gaza and several about other shtuff, including my Morristown security guide/propaganda piece. Go check it out at rechovot.blogspot.com. My point is, will my biographers comment on my self-absorbtion and refusal to deal with the world? Will they even reveal their own deep-seated self esteem issues and anxiety by questioning my obvious egoism in assuming the existence of biographers? But the point is, is there something wrong with me? Should I have blogged about Gaza as everyone else seems to have done everyday for the last three weeks? And should I now comment on Israel's fake ceasefire? I'm sorry folks, but maintaining your positions in another sovereign state's territory is hardly called a cessation of fighting. Not that I particularly mind. If I wasn't so convinced that it wouldn't do a shred of good anyway, I'd be all for carpet bombing the place back to the stone age from which it was whelped. Not that they've progressed much farther as it is.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saving the world one TRS at a time

Someone just asked me what would happen if I didn't blog tonight/today/tomorrow before Shabbos. I answered that the world would certainly cease to be. You didn't know my efforts were that important, did you? Now you do.
The question becomes, of course, what to write at this hour of the night. This morning there were, for some reason, three chairs by Rabbi Chaim Schapiro's place instead of the usual one. He asked the vicinity how he managed to merit three chairs when one would surely suffice. I answered that it was to accommodate his schizophrenic tendencies. He made as if he hadn't heard, and when I started to repeat what I had said, he cut me off with, "The other guy heard you."
Yeah, he's really cute.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Armed and dangerous

Today we were visited by Officer Steve from the Morristown Police Department who talked to us about terrorism. Specifically, terrorism and the Rabbinical College of America. Though we've had no threats, there's always the worry that we're on somebody's list. Everything I wrote here, unless otherwise noted, are his words. Yes, I was the dweeb in the back taking notes. I'll save the editorializing for the end.
What is the goal of a terrorist? To kill as many people as possible. And he or she are not worried about the dying. They expect it. As long as they go down in history, they'll be happy. So our goal is to make sure that no one ever gets the opportunity. The best way to do this is, in the words of the immortal Vince Lombardi, to make our defense a good offense. And this is exactly what President George W. Bush has done since 9/11. You think we haven't had a terrorist attack since then because we're lucky? Anything who thinks so is a moron.
So what can be done at RCA? The college has received a grant to get video and surveillance equipment, along with new locks and other safety devices.
In Israel there are armed guards in every school, bus, and public place. If G-d forbid there was an attack on a school here in the United States of America, we'd have to do the same thing. And we don't want to have to do that. Aside from the incredible coat involved, it would mean that students were living in fear. Such a situation is not conducive to learning.
But let's say there was an incident? We were introduced to the concept of "Lockdown". Everyone in the school is to get into a classroom or other safe place and lock the doors behind them. Stay out of sight, don't listen when someone bangs on the door, and make sure to stay away from anywhere that is visible to the outside. Let's say you're in a bathroom? Get inside a stall and crouch on top of the toilet. And don't use your cellphone either. Any noise will alert terrorists that someone's inside. Obviously, if you can report to the police then that's very good. But don't be calling people that don't need to be called.
The students at RCA are training to be leaders, and they often don't listen to other people. This is not a good thing in this instance. The students need to learn that when a police officer or member of the fire department tells them to do something, then they should do it and not ask questions. Later they can ask questions. In general, a school shooting takes less than ten minutes in general, so they're should be plenty of time for discussion afterwords. This, by the way, is a very important point. The enemy of the shooter is time. The more time it takes him to do something, the less time he has to go around shooting. Even if he blows up a door, if there's desks piled up awaiting him, it'll take time to get through them. He might just decide that it's not worthwhile. And if he does come through, then the sheep, the students, have to take to the offensive. Throw stuff at him, distract him, do everything possible to minimize loss of life. Obviously, do this in an intelligent manner.
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So that was about it. Of course we had the obligatory twenty minutes of asinine questions from bochurim asking about every "what-if" on the planet. I sincerely hope that the rest of the world is like this, and they also ask stupid questions. Because I've only been among bochurim, and they certainly seem to be very good at it.
The officer also mentioned that one of the goals of the strengthening of the yeshiva is to turn it into a hard target instead of a soft one. So if you see something suspicious, say so, because if a terrorist realizes that the school's a tough nut to crack then he won't bother trying. That's also one of the reasons I'm blogging this. Because if someone is reading about Morristown, then he should know that we have close to 150 crazed bochurim here who'll do anything to stop you and your nefarious plans. I'm not even joking.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Guest Post #4: Are you ready to rumble?

That's right folks, incredible as it may seem, there are kind and generous people in the world. Another guest post. My smicha is safe. Also, funnily enough, I agree with much of what's written here. Scary, eh? Still, I accept no responsibility. Sorry SZB.
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So, the dating posts were a little... boring? Meaningless for this crowd? Too serious? Therefore, I had decided that I wanted to ditch that direction in my writing, and that's why this was so late. But then, just today, I was asked to write about marriage. Coincidental? Ironic? Whatever...

In any case, I was asked by a very close friend of mine, "Do you think I'm ready to get married?" I never had before considered myself as sagacious enough to give haskama on the readiness of a marriage candidate, so I had to think and dig into my brain files about what I've learned regarding such a question.

The answer that came to mind, and what I said to my friend went something like this:

Is anyone ever ready to get married? Do we wake up one morning and say "Wow, today's the day I feel I'm ready and mature enough to make a commitment for the rest of eternity!"?!?

Most likely not. If you look at marriage objectively, and put aside the passion and fringe benefits, you might question as to why anyone would possibly want to get married... You have to give so much of your time, energy, love, toil, and talent to someone else. This though, is one of the keys to understanding if you're ready for such an eternal commitment.
If you are ready to give of yourself, your strengths and your very essence to another person, unselfishly and with true care and concern for that individual, then it's time to call the shadchan ;)
Then again, how many of us (even married ones of us) can honestly say that we can, or have, reached that stage?
Perhaps, just putting someone else's needs and desires on par with our own, is a big enough sign to know we are ready. And if we can't, then it's time to work on our good ol' Ahavas Yisroel.
I'm going to finish the marriage info. with a joke that will undoubtedly have you rolling your eyes, but all the same, here goes:

What's black and white and red all over?
A bochur on a first date.
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The Mud Hole Moshul and question list will be coming soon enough, just thought I'd at least type up something quick to start with.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Halachic picnic with cousin Vinny

Tonight was supposed to feature a guest post, but unfortunately it has yet to materialize, so before it gets too late I'll just do it myself. If I fail the test because of this..

So you're not allowed to place a salt container next to a container of kutach because we're afraid that the kutach will splash into the salt and then you'll put that salt into meat. Since the kutach is not batul you have therefore committed a great sin and will undoubtedly burn for an extended period of time in the eternal barbecue that is New Haven, CT. Oh, sorry, I meant hell. Same difference.
You are allowed to put a container of vinegar next to kutach though, because even if the kutach splashes over it'll be batul. Obviously this is only b'dieved, not l'chatchilah.
So let's say you want to eat salami sandwiches on your picnic, but cousin Vinny is a vegetarian and insists on dainty mustard and watercress delights for his lunch? And let's say there's no watercress in the house, so he has to settle for some cheddar. So do you have to beat up cousin Vinny, or can you compromise and both eat on the picnic? Did I mention that for various involved reasons, Vinny can't carry a backpack, so you'll have to carry all the supplies? Not that it matters anyway, because all you have is an ancient lunch pail. At least you have separate containers for the sandwiches. Because as you may have guessed, there's no problem with taking these two delicious victuals along with you. Why is the law this way? After all, in the precious case, you had something which could possibly be mixed with meat, and is therefore forbidden, while here you have meat and milk together, in perfect harmony, and no one seems to mind! In fact, that's exactly why it's allowed. Because we trust you to mind the foodstuffs and make sure that they don't mix, because while a person might not be too careful when it comes to mere possibilitys, he sure is scrupulous when it comes to close cases like this. A bit ironic, isn't it, that you're allowed to do something that has a greater chance of going wrong than something which doesn't?
There is still one concern of course, and that is whether you're allowed to share that mustard you thoughtfully provided for Vinny's cheddar. See, you take one bite out of that salami sandwich, and you realize that what it dealt needs, besides to be washed down with Coca-Cola Classic, is some mustard. Good thing that at this juncture cousin Vinny is able to call some of his mafioso friends and arrange for a single bottle of Coke to be brought to the picnic. So can you share the Coke? Was Vinny classy enough to have his friends provide two cups, or are the two of you stuck, one with his mustard and one with his Coke? A tragic ending indeed.

But indeed, hope lurks in the hearts of man, and not only do you discover two cups growing in the bushes, but Vinny remembers that when he was making his original sandwhich he had mustard'ed it before realizing that there was no watercress in the house. The result? Felicitous bliss. How cute.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Short order cooks

Faithful followers of TRS will certainly recall a discussion we had a few weeks ago regarding food which must, according to Halacha, be thrown into a toilet and not even left for a dog. As I was doing chazarah over this piece a thought occurred to me which I felt warranted an audience with our mighty leader Rabbi Chaim Schapiro. Once he had disposed of all the questioners who preceded me I got my chance to ask the question which would no doubt change Judaism as we know it. "If your wife is a really bad cook, and the food tastes really bad, can you give it to a dog?" The rabbi was struck by the insightfulness displayed by this question, and proceeded to analyze it. Turns out we're not talking about people's own dogs, because the benefit accrued by feeding them this forbidden mixture is obvious. Rather we must be talking about feeding someone else's fido. So what benefit could there possibly be here? As Rabbi Dovid Shochet, brother of the Rosh and Taaruvos tester extraordinaire says, "You don't get bit by the dog. That's a benefit, no?" Of course then my question is still not answered. If the food is bad enough to make the dog attack you, so there's no benefit involved, can you feed it to your neighbor's great labrador?

Meanwhile, in other communication today, I overheard our esteemed rabbi explain that when you call someone you can't pick up clicks on your phone, because such behavior is downright rude. After all, you called them, and now you're wasting their precious time like this?
After the Rabbi said that he noticed me smiling and made a scared motion with his head. I said, "What, I can't smile?" When I graduated kindergarten they awarded me the Mr. Smiles award." The Rabbi countered, "Smiling is fine, except when it's the mischievous type you so recently displayed."

Soul II Soul 5769: Lipa in Lubavitch

Lipa Schmeltzer is out of his mind. He also happens to be absolutely incredible. I know that others will have better reviews than me, and I won't remember everything that happened, and you'll all probably point that out to me, but it seems a pity to blog about anything else at this point.

I had a great seat, AA 116 in the balcony, and aside from the excited guy behind me (BB 116) who kicked the chair whenever Lipa sang (which was quite often, believe it or not), my physical location was fine. And now would be the appropriate time to mention LdT, who sponsored my seat, and who greatly enjoyed the show as well. Thanks!

The concert was called for 8:15 sharp, and I was impressed that it began around 8:30. The Shira Choir came out dressed in shtreimalech and bekeshehs, and started to sing a traditional hamavdil. In general, I was very impressed with them; it's the first time I've ever been to a concert with a choir doing backup, and they really add a lot to the whole experience. Lipa joined in about a minute into the song, dressed in a gorgeous blue bekesheh and thick white glasses. His dance moves are to die for, if only because he's so ADHD. It's hard to describe, but Avraham Fried he ain't. It's the type of dancing that people get away with at a wedding for, oh, maybe two minutes before they collapse and run for some ginger ale. He did it for two hours. Incredible.

Next on the lineup card was Shelo Asani Goy, which didn't really feature any Lubavitch-specific lyrics, which surprised me. Sure, it ended off with "I'm so proud to be a Lubavitcher", but other than that? He sang it really well of course, and the crowd was really into it, but... OK, I don't mean to criticize, just to point out.

All right, here's where my memory starts to desert me a little. Why didn't I take notes during the show? What kind of reporter am I? Whatever. Was the next song "Torah Shebiksav, Torah Shebaal Peh"? I think it was. This one got a lot more Lubavitch-centric, with references to Tanya, Likkutei Sichos, and the Rambam. Since when did the Rambam become a Lubavitch Sefer? I guess it was tainted by association. Or elevated. So yeah, another great song. Honestly, I don't think there were any not good songs tonight.

Hmm...thinking cap on. What next? Was it Gelt? The classic Lipa song. 'Nuff said.

See, I told you other people would write better reviews.

Oh, of course, Arba Midos! Was this before or after Gelt? I don't recall. He sang it without the fake sephardi twang, enunciated well, and added the word "Lubavitch" in strategic places. The song segued into Mi Sheamar Dy, which was sung without too much innovation. Again, you have to remember, Lipa is strutting around on stage the whole time like a peacock, with this gorgeous blue bekesheh, pulling off ridiculous moves with aplomb, and generally bringing down the house. Next up in this little set, I think, was Oif Simches' "Yevani". And of course Lubavitch got a nice little inclusion to. Isn't it amazing that someone can pander obsequiously for two hours and people will just lap it up? BTW, Lipa sang this song, the Yiddish part at least, a lot better than Yishai Lapidot ever did. I guess that's the difference between being an Israeli and being Skver.

The question is, when I realize that I missed a song which should go about three paragraphs above this one, should I edit this and make it all professional, or just be lazy and not do that? Lipa sang Hashiveini. A gorgeous song. Even more gorgeous than the blue Bekesheh, which he shed at some point to reveal a cute gray vest. This song is so great, Rabbi Mottel Friedman has it as his ringtone. And he uses it as an excuse to not pick up the phone. Lipa tonight sang it starting in English, and then moving into Hebrew, no Yiddish whatsoever. It was like he was having a (very exaggerated) personal conversation with Hashem, complete with lolling all over a stool.

They then showed a video that Lipa made about a month ago, which featured him taking lessons in being a Lubavitcher from Mendy Pellin and then practicing on the streets of Crown Heights. Very cute video. You want a full report? Go somewhere else. It's 4:00 in the morning. There's no full reports coming from here.

In fact, it's now well past the time when I can intelligently comment on the concert. Suffice it to say that when we were leaving LdT turned to me and said, "So you want to go to the MSQ concert with Lipa?" Because this concert rocked. He sang a brand new composition, a letter to Moshe Holtzberg. He sang Binyan Adi Ad, but instead of talking about chassanim and kallahs he waxed lyrical regarding the Aibeshter coming down to greet his one and only Kallah, the Jewish people, plus he threw in several minutes of great rap. There was Tizkeh L'Mitzvos, Halleli, Yoshvei Eretz Yisrael for Gaza and Wakeup and all, and the Shira Choir had some great duets with him and Lubavitch niggunim. Shalom Aleichem a Yid, the Russian Tzama Lecha, Teire Bridde. And how can I forget Heibt Deine Hantelech, which featured brief segues into "L-rd get me high" and that rap song which starts off "Ma Ma Ma" on the next Projext X. Yeah, he's crazy good.
And I'm crazy out of it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Wake up and see the truth

I thought that once I left the Yeshiva High School of the Twin Cities that I would be done with shlichus. No longer would wake up at 7 every morning, walk a mile in the freezing cold to Yeshiva, and then spend fifteen minutes waiting for my kid chavrusas to get up out of bed so we could learn a little. And again, the whole day I was pressuring kids to do this or that, and while it was rewarding, and looking back I see that I really loved it, nevertheless, it does have its downsides. When us shluchim first arrived there we were told that the bochurim looked up to us, because we were bochurim like them, not hanhala. We could make a difference. We had the power.
While this is true to a certain extent, the very fact that we had the name "shluchim" hampered our ability. The bochurim had certain expectations of us, and we of the bochurim, and neither of these necessarily enhanced our ability to do our job properly.
On the first day of coming to Morristown Rabbi Chaim Schapiro sat us down and read the riot act, including this gem, "The younger bochurim look up to you. No, that's not true, they'll use you as an excuse." And it's very true. But at the same time, as a smicha bochur, the bochurim, or at least some of them, do seem to be affected by us.
For example, I learn with a younger Bochur by Chassidus at night. He knows that if we're not learning, or if the bullshove isn't interesting me, than I'll either just open up a sefer and learn by myself or else pick up and leave. Because at this age, I'm (usually) not too interested in wasting my time. Last year I couldn't do this, because I had a responsibility to learn with my kiddies. But now, there's no such thing. You're not interested? No problem, but don't expect anything from me.
That's one of the problems with being a shliach in yeshiva. You can't curse out kids, and let them have a piece of your mind. And even when you do, it just doesn't sound right. But now? I farbreng with this bochur at least once a week, just stam in the middle of seder. And believe it or not, he listens to me. He thinks I make sense. Let's not kid ourselves, he hasn't transformed himself or anything, but still, I like to think that I'm having a positive affect. He's also done something that never happened last year in Minnesota-he's asked me to farbreng for his class. As a smicha bochur, I'm somehow able to do so much more because it's not my job.
All those guys in smicha pogrims, they're missing out on so much. Come to MoTown, or even LA, and do so much more shlichus than you ever did while on shlichus. Because, yeah, we got the power.
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Meanwhile, in other news, I finally finished labeling all my posts. It was a major pain, and the astute reader will notice that the criterion for labeling changed over time. Sometimes I just made a new label, and other times I realized that I was labeling shtuff incorrectly. Be that as it may, I think you'll enjoy it. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory. The Farbrengen label has some really great shtuff. The shtuff label? Not so much.
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Last night we had a hakhel/hungry gathering with Rabbi Wagner from our very own Tiferes Bachurim. He said a well-known mashal that I liked, so I'll give it over to you too. Sorry I can't provide you with the second part, the onion rings and Coke, you had to be there. By the way, since when did Liebers (or whoever makes them) change their onion rings? I much preferred the old variety. Anyway...

A chassid, back in the day, once came to the big city and he heard everyone speaking about this incredible new thing; the cinema. Being a curious type he went in, and after buying himself a large Coke and (the original, and much better) onion rings he sauntered down the aisle and found himself a seat. He was amazed at what he saw-people having a conversation on the screen. Incredible! Only problem was, it was so dark in there. He couldn't see. Being a resourceful chassid, he pulled a flashlight out of his vest (did I mention that he was a Zirkind?) and shone it upon the screen. The picture immediately disappeared, and everyone else in the theatre began to hurl invectives at him (in Russian of course). He didn't get it; "What's the problem?", he said, "I was just trying to make it light so that I could see better." It took them a while, but they finally explained to him that in fact the people on the screen weren't there; it was only the darkness in the room that allowed them to seem real.

There's this miserable thing called Galus. We're all suffering in it. We look around the world, at everything that goes on, and become convinced that it's all really going on. We allow ourselves to be affected. The truth is though, it doesn't really exist. Everything that's going on is merely a show. All we have to do is shine a flashlight, and suddenly all will be revealed. What's our flashlight? Ner Mitzvah v'Torah Ohr. Our flashlight is our Torah and Mitzvos. And once we turn those on, this whole galus will be revealed as a fake. It's not reality, just a projection on the real world, G-d's world.
The world doesn't want you to shine that flashlight. It enjoys thinking itself real. The world screams at you, "Why are you showing my true colors? Let yourself be affected. Let yourself think that nature rules, that there's only one way to get ahead in life, to survive." Our mission is to ignore the naysayers, to reveal what's already there.
So why is it dark? Because, if it wasn't, there'd be no battle. Everything would be obvious. we need Galus to fulfill what we have to do.
But you know what? We've done all we can. The mission is over. The buttons have been polished. There's no reason for it to be dark anymore.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Beis Miriam Yerushalayim Seminary and Indoctrination Center

This morning I was perusing Shmais.com and I noticed an advertisement for a brand new seminary called Beis Miriam Yerushalayim Seminary. My first thought was that these people must be really desperate, because as everyone knows, people kill their best friends to get into seminary, and here this place is spending money to beg people to attend? Crazy. I clicked on their ad because it offered some reasons to attend the seminary, and since as everyone knows I'm looking to attend.... So the first item on the list of reasons to attend was that they are going to teach girls how to teach JLI courses. This sounds like a look good thing, because if a shliach can get his wife to teach his courses for him, then he can do more important shtuff, like lekk his baalebaatim.
The next item on the list is about farbrengens. Now, everyone knows that I'm a massive fan of farbrengens. What would I write without them? Where else would I get supper from? Regardless, it's a great pity that there's no copy and paste on the iPod, because I would dearly love to tear their description apart line by line.
They start off by saying that "The art of Farbrengen requires apprenticeship", and this is taught by the Rebbeim in their Sichos. Can someone please explain to me what this line means? Are they referring to the art of talking or the art of listening? As far as I know, it's not that difficult to listen. Just shut up and eat something that isn't crunchy. And giving over a farbrengen? Again, you sit down and start talking. Hopefully you've prepared something to say. But it's not like your a plumber; they throw you off into the deep end and hope you swim. Because it's not something you can teach; either you got it or you don't.
It then says that back in the day, older mashpiim would sit down with teenage students and tell them lessons and tales of the past. Please tell me, is that what we're teaching our students? Lessons and tales of the past? Is Judaism a religion of the past? I sure don't want my daughters to think that. The lessons must be for today; the tales must speak for all time. Otherwise the whole thing is a waste of time.
The administration then informs us that, in addition to having a bunch of people who will come and speak, they will also have traditional farbrengens at which they will teach lubavitch dveikus niggunim and create an atmosphere of warmth and kedusha that will be difficult to leave. But wait, there's more! Except there's not. When I first saw this paragraph it promised to teach girls how to say lchaim responsibly and in a chassidish manner. But it doesn't say that anymore. Why not? Did they hear my lambasting hear in Morristown, even before I had a chance to put it down in writing on this here blog?
We had this argument a couple of weeks ago, and I guess the hanhala of Beis Miriam was thinking the same thing: it's not a good thing to advertise that girls are drinking. Does it happen? Of course. Is it an attractive thing? Is a woman smoking, a chassidishe woman smoking, an attractive thing? I think not.
Moving right along, we come to the part of the description of the seminary which really made my blood boil. It seems that nowadays women are not happy with merely being adjuncts to their husbands on shlichus, but must now be CEO Shluchas! Whatever that means. Oh, they're going to get a certificate proclaiming to the world that they're a professional shlucha, which will enable them to get future shlichus employment. Now please explain to me how the 4000 shluchos out there are managing? They don't have a certificate! Besides, what are these girls going to do, hang their certificate up next to their husband's smicha document? This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read.
I know that every seminary pushes shlichus like the only alternative is garbage collection, and I know that snag seminarys push marrying a ben Torah and slaving to the bone while he goofs off in kollel as the only valid lifestyle, but to make a certificate? That's just crazy. Are girls really coming out of school knowing so little that now they have to have a certificate to prove that they know something? And anyways, what exactly will they be teaching these girls? How to cook, clean, and have kids? All right, that's a little unfair, but what are you supposed to teach our future shluchos? And are the qualities that make a good shlucha really tangible enough to merit a document attesting to their having gotten those skills?
The only reason I would ever consider this school is because they offer trips every week to tour the holy land. That is cool. Every school should do that. I have friends who went to Yeshiva in Israel for three years who saw less than I did in ten days. So kudos to Beis Miriam for this aspect of their program.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Nine billion isn't enough?

Adolf Merckle killed himself. What a baby. He's only what, one of the hundred richest people in the known universe. Sure, he lost 3 billion dollars recently, but come now, what is that between friends? He still had another 9 billion to tide him over in his old age. Heck, he's already in his seventies, how much does he need to pay for his nursing home already? Oh, correct you are, his round the clock nurse. My bad. Seriously, he couldn't deal with the pressure? Yeah, life is tough. We all sometimes feel like giving up. But we don't, do we? Or at least, most of us don't. So what made Mr. Merckle decide to end it all? I just don't get it.
When I was a mere mite of a bochur at the Lubavitch Yeshiva of Minnesota-Wexler Learning Institute, then housed at Shalom Home East, Rabbi Manis Friedman came and gave a talk to the boys. For some reason he talked about suicide, and why it was the most selfish act a person could do. I'm not sure why he picked this topic specifically; perhaps the Vikings had just been knocked out of the playoffs, I really don't know. Actually, I do know that that was certainly not the reason, because the Vikings failed to make the playoffs in any of the years I was in yeshiva. I just wanted to make Vikings fans feel even worse than they are already.
Be that as it may, Rabbi Friedman elaborated and pointed out that generally, a person takes his own life (where does he tale it?) because he can't deal anymore. His life was supposed to be really great, but now it stinks, and it's just not worth living anymore. No matter that he's causing pain to the people around him, because all that matters is himself.
Additionally, he's denying the existence of G-d by thinking that he is what counts. The truth is that he doesn't count at all, it's G-d who counts. And he didn't put you into this world to be happy either. He put you here to work. Hard. So yeah, of course it's hard. Why else are you living? And now you failed miserably? You want to abort the video game? Guess what buddy, it's not yours to abort. If you're still alive, you still have work to do. And yeah, it's tough.
Look at this rich guy who just got himself rolled over by a train. He had it all. Besides maturity. He didn't get that life isn't money. Or honor. Or power. If it was, then most people on this little earth of ours would have no purpose. But they do have a purpose. How do I know that? Because they're here. Circular reasoning perhaps, but it works for me. And it's not like he was a pauper either. Look at Donald Trump. He lost all his money, and yet he managed to get it all back, and then some. Look at the guy from "Rich Dad, Poor Dad". He lost it all. Did he call it quits? No, he figured out what he was doing wrong and changed his game. He didn't act like the world owed him anything. He didn't think that he was the most important thing in the world either. He didn't love himself so much that when things got bad he quit. Because that's what babies do.

Asarah B'Teves

TRS: So I was thinking, Rabbi Schapiro, that-
The grand rabbi himself: Since when did you think?
TRS: I understand your surprise, but it has been known to occur on occasion.
His eternal swaminess: So what were you thinking?
TRS: What's the connection between Asarah B'Teves and Basar B'Challav?
The unknowable one: Good question. I would have to think about it.
TRS: Don't take too long on it?
The real smichamaster (TRS!): Why not?
TRS: Because if you don't get back to me today then I won't be able to publicize your words to the masses.
Child of Miami, ruler of MoTown: You say that as if it's a bad thing.
TRS: Is it?
Next stop-the world!: In general, I'm not paid to answer these kinds of questions.
TRS: But this is a machon l'horaah, no?
The universe!: Horaah for yoreh deah, not for deep questions like this.

And thus the discussion ended. For some reason we davened mincha at 12:30, and Rabbi Schapiro fled zal for the safety of somewhere, anywhere, else. So what's a guy to do? I could just make up something, but honestly, I don't know. My chavrusa suggested that the similarity lies in their both prohibiting the consumption of meat and milk together, but I thought little of this suggestion and proposed that he wasn't all there mentally due to his lack of sleep and victuals.
Tragic when you think about it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

One dead Palestinian=one vote for Livni

Right now I'm in a pretty serious mood, and my blogging will certainly be affected. Either it will also be serious, or it will be extra silly. I'm not sure. So we're at a bit of a crossroads. The advantage of a serious post is that I'll get lots of comments; the disadvantages is that I'll probably come out looking pretty dumb. If I write a silly post it probably won't garner too many comments but at least I won't look like a fool.

All right, I've made my decision-I'll blog about Gaza. Many people have asked me why I don't blog about that exciting strip of land, and I've answered them by saying that I'm not particularly interested in what is going on over there. I mean sure, I'm following the news and everything, but it doesn't thrill me enough to blog about. Until today. The reason I chose to break radio silence and inform my readers is not, as they might suspect, because of the efforts of the Morristown Zionists, but rather because a friend of mine called me up from Israel and asked me to blog about it. That friend, Yoni Chanowitz of Flatbush who was with me in Minnesota on Shlichus, is currently visiting the holy land. I assume that he's on birthright, and is currently being pumped full of Zionist propaganda. I can't think of any other reason that would make him call out of the country and leave a lengthy message asking me to tell the Zionist side of the story. Since I'm A. A nice guy, and B. Have nothing else to write I'll be doing just that. Or something approximating it anyway.

Israel. Land of our fathers. Land of really good chalav yisrael ice cream. Land of deranged politicians who will say anything for a vote. A bunch of mamzerim. So now they go attack Gaza. Why? Not because they want to protect their citizens. Because Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak think it a pretty slick election maneuver. Meanwhile Ehud Olmert tries to salvage his legacy, and Bibi Netanyahu looks like a fool, because there's nothing he can do about his slipping poll numbers. Ha!

Some will argue that the end justifies the means. That as long as Israel is busy massacring women and children it's ok. And don't get me started on human shields. I'm bored of human shields. And it's not like I'm criticizing Israel either. Let them kill. Just they shouldn't feel so self-righteous about it. So what was I saying? Oh yeah, the ends and the means. The problem is that if the ends matched the means here then Israel would have done something about this a lot time ago. But they didn't. Because the means aren't particularly good ones. And when the means aren't too good then the ends aren't either. Because believe you me, as soon as there's elections everything will go back to the way it was. And the way it wasn't too great.

Why am I so cynical? Why don't I believe Tzipi Livni when she says that everything has changed now, or Ehud Barak when he says anything? Because I've heard these people say anything and everything for a long time, and they've proven time and time again that their words are worth nothing.
So what's my solution to this? I don't have a solution. I don't know what to do. I don't think that wiping out all the infidels in the West Bank and Gaza is the right thing to do, but I also don't think that letting the status remain quo will be particularly efficacious. Maybe the Messiah should just come. Yeah, that would be convenient. And I wouldn't have to take my smicha test. Woohoo!

Enough serious stupidity. Now it's time for a light-hearted look at life.
Today a bochur from zal, a real know-it-all, approached our medicine man (the incomparable Rabbi Chaim Schapiro) and told him that his smicha pogrom was filled with morons, because they didn't know something or other, which even he, a lowly tomchei bochur, knew. First our Rabbi turned to this boy and showed that he knew not what he was asking of the smicha bochurim to know. This boy, trying to save face, then said that maybe he didn't have a clue, but the smicha bochurim should, because it's part of smicha. Our lord and protector asked him which section of smicha this concept came from. The answer was that it came from taaruvos. "And what are bochurim of the machon smicha learning now?" We're learning bassar b'challav. All right, very good.
But wait, there's more! The Rabbi then asked the bochur a question from the daf he's learning in kesubos. The answer was unsatisfactory in the extreme. Why? Because he hadn't learned it so well. So why was he coming to Rabbi Schapiro to complain about what other people are not yet supposed to know when he didn't know when he didn't know what he was supposed to know himself? Thank you very much. That's what Rabbis are for. To knock the shtuffing out of precocious brats. Oh yes, and to help us learn smicha. But the former was by far the more entertaining of the two.