Monday, December 6, 2010

Not funny

Which of the following two videos is a bigger Chilul Hashem?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blame Canada

In today's Chumash the verse (42:28) speaks of the tribe's misfortunes, and they say, "What is this that G-d has done to us?" As far as I can tell, this is the first time in the Torah that people actively invoke Hashgocha Pratis in a negative manner. Before this, who ever blamed G-d when something went wrong? In fact, how many narratives went wrong in the first place? Sure, there are stories of G-d punishing people, but does anyone in those stories actively say, "Hey, this is G-d's fault, why is he doing this to me?" If I'm wrong, tell me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


One of the issues attendant with non-attendance at your average university level philosophy course is the inability to articulate the buzzwords necessary to appear as if you know what you're talking about. For example, today I had a long conversation with a customer about the Cowon J3. Frankly, I don't know much about it (and I can't see why anyone would want to know much about it), but the thing was that I knew slightly more about it than he did. More importantly, I know all the buzzwords of mp3ology, and thus I was able to appear much more knowledgeable than I really am, and I was able to give learned opinions regarding his future purchasing habits. After all, my goal is to help people self-actualize, if not hyphenate themselves.

My point in the above lengthy example is that I really don't know how to express myself well when it comes to the comment which I want to make on today's Parsha. Basically, Rashi asks a simple question, "Why is Yaakov so worried about Binyamin going on a journey?" I mean, I get that he'd be worried about his youngest son (who by the by already had ten of his own children, but that's neither here nor there) going off to Egyptland, but why did he specifically mention the journey? You think that by staying at home you'll escape disaster? Rashi answers that we see from here that the accuser prosecutes at a time of peril. So yeah, logically there's no difference, but when it's more dangerous, it's more dangerous.

The philosophical point that I think is important here is that life just is. There's no way to know what's going on, what's going to happen, or whatever. I'm sure there's some fancy philosophical term for all this, but it seems to be very fatalist. Like, whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and there's nothing you or your redundancies can do about it. And just as you're about to go eat that cheeseburger and jump off the Empire State Building and dedicate your next six lives to reading Bill Bryson, something happens. And that something is G-d. In this case, he's making sure that climbing the Empire State Building is more dangerous than you might think at first blush, but be that as it may, there's shtuff happening that you can change. Sort of like "Don't go into the desert and you won't get thirsty," but not so cause and effective. Or maybe it is.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


The following quote from wikipedia is why I'm not planning on going to university:

Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a sleep disorder belonging to the parasomnia family. Sleepwalkers arise from the slow wave sleep stage in a state of low consciousness and perform activities that are usually performed during a state of full consciousness. These activities can be as benign as sitting up in bed, walking to the bathroom, and cleaning, or as hazardous as cooking, driving, writing a thesis, extremely violent gestures, grabbing at hallucinated objects, or even homicide.

Who knew that writing a thesis was hazardous?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Left with memories

A couple of years ago the Yeshiva High School of the Twin Cities had a banquet to celebrate the end of the Yeshiva year. When I say "celebrate", of course, it has different meanings for different people. Some of the Bochurim are undoubtedly quite happy that it's all over, while others are probably quite sad. As for me? I remember doing the postmortem this summer after finishing up Merkos Shlichus in Kansas and Missouri; I felt that I had accomplished a lot, but that there was a lot more that I could have done. Nine or ten months later, I feel pretty much the same. Thank G-d I accomplished a lot but there's still that nagging feeling inside that I could have done so much more. Oh well, that's life.

In other news, Rabbi Yosef Eizicovics Farbrenged beautifully last night. He said a lot of shtuff, most of which applied to the Bochurim here; of course, there was also lots of other goodies, which I'll be happy to share here now: And here we go...

There was once a Jewish community in Russia which received funding for various activities, including a school, hospital, orphanage, poor house, softball league, and various other functions. The government notified them that there would be an inspection, to see that the money was going to a good cause, and the community was worried. They were mostly Misnagdim, and therefore mostly normal. Unfortunately, there was also a small number of Chassidim among them, who acted in ways that were slightly out of the norm: they walked around ignoring everything and everybody, thinking Chassidus; they Farbenged 'till the wee hours of the morning; they spontaneously danced in the streets; in general, they weren't the very best ambassadors for a nice snaggy community. The inspection was drawing nearer, and the community council couldn't decide what to do. Two days before the government was delegation was to arrive, one of the town's men hit on a brilliant plan.
The great day arrived, and all the Chassidim of the town were crammed into a Shul, lured by the promise of a massive Farbrengen, at the community council's expense, and warned not to leave until the next morning. The government delegation toured the town's Jewish institutions, and turned to go. They were on the way to the train station when one of them noticed a large building that had yet to be inspected. He mentioned this to the other members of the delegation, and they all went over to investigate. The city council, which was accompanying them, tried to persuade them not to go, but it was to no avail, and the Shul was entered.
The scene that greeted their eyes was, to put it exaggeratedly, incredible. There was a massive Farbrengen going on: Chassidim were dancing on tables with bottles in their hands, doing somersaults and other stunt-like activitys; others were still Davening Shacharis, and they paced around with deep concentration; still others were singing to themselves, looking for all the world like shepherds in the Urals. The community council didn't know what to say. When everyone on the tour was outside again the head of the government delegation asked the community leader a question, "Why didn't you show us this before?" The leader started to explain, "Well, you see, we, um...". "It's quite impressive," said the government head, "you Jews are truly brilliant. In all the Russian towns and villages, all the crazies wander around and bother everyone. This is the first time I've ever seen them all gathered together, in one place, where they won't bother anyone. This is truly incredible!"

The lesson? Craziness is no problem when everyone is together. Trite, but true.

Once there was a (rich) guy who was brought closer to Judaism through two Jews, a Shliach in beautiful New Jersey, and a Rabbi Kaminetzky, or maybe that's Kamenetzky. Regardless, as you may or may not have noticed, one was a Lubavitcher and the other a Misnaged. The guy had a baby boy, and called in the Shliach to find out the different honors that are part of a Bris. The Shliach explained everything, and said that in Lubavitch, the biggest honor is reading the Rebbe's letter.
At the Bris the father announced, "With the reading of the Rebbe's letter, Rabbi XXX, Shliach of XXX; and with the holding of the baby during the reading of the Rebbe's letter, Rabbi Kaminetzky." The Shliach stood up to read, and Rabbi Kaminetzky stood up to go. He simply refused to hold the baby while the Rebbe's letter was being read, and was prepared to embarrass himself, the father, and everyone attending because of it. He was ready to lose a rich supporter.
After the Bris was over the father said to the Shliach, "I always knew that there was some friction between Lubavitch and Misnagdim, but I never saw it until now."

And what can we, us fine-feathered fiends, learn from this story? A lot of things: A. There are haters in this world, B. There are people who don't like the Lubavitcher Rebbe very much. As Rabbi Yos says, with regard to the Rebbe, you're either with him or against him, there ain't no middle road.

Yoni Chanowitz, fellow Shliach here at MyYeshiva told over a story about the Rebbe Rashab. After the Rebbe had finished saying a Maamar a guy came over and said, "Devarim Hayotzim Min Halev Nichnasim El Halev (words which come into the heart go into the heart), and I didn't feel the Maamar you just said at all. Hhmm?" The Rebbe Rashab gave him a piercing glance, and said, "Don't blame me if you don't have a heart."


Saturday, November 6, 2010

What the heck?!

Yossi Kreiman, the guy who sat behind me while we were learning smicha and cracked corny jokes and knew smicha better than anyone and loved this blog and- gone? What the heck? This isn't supposed to happen. What the heck is G-d doing?!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The wizard of us

Anyone who has ever spent significant time around me will know that I often sing one of several songs, depending on the situation I find myself in or the mood I'm currently enjoying. Many of these songs are Jewish, but there are a few that aren't Jewish. Amazingly enough, they're all from around 1994. I'm not sure why I remember the hit songs from that year's daily bus rides any better than any other year's, but I suppose that is as it is. Not that I remember most of the songs- to the contrary, I generally just know some of the tune and bits of the chorus. But it's enough. These songs are all non-Jewish, but they're all family-friendly (no females), and in a good cause.

Last but not least, here's a cover of "One of us" sung by Prince. I'd put the original up, but I'm morally opposed to giving Joan Osborne any airplay on TRS. Besides, I am a bit of a homeboy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whoever thought?

As some of you might be aware, I recently did a nice little interview about religion. In the comments of that post, I was asked a few questions. Here's my answers.

e: Would you observe the traditional seven-day mourning period if your kid left the religion, but didn't marry a non-Jew?

A: I would ask my local orthodox rabbi for the correct approach to this issue. In general, I think it would probably be based on how my kid left Judaism. Did they convert to another religion, or merely stop practicing this one? But again, I would let Daas Torah decide.

Actually, as you can see, I was only asked one question. And now you know what I would do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A review of Hasc 23

There are some things in this world whose worth is obvious to all. Everyone can appreciate that a freshly baked muffin from Breadsmith is in all cases superior to a stale cookie from Ostreichers (not that I have anything against Ostreichers. On the contrary, I'm a big fan of their products. But still). Sure, the obnoxious among us could come up with an example that disproves my assertion (as Lipa would say, "Diet Diet"), but generally speaking, kulam modim that one is better than the other.

There are other things in this world whose worth is entirely subjective. I sell earphones for a living, and I would challenge you to find ten randomly selected people who can say that the Shure 535s are any worse sounding than a pair of triple-driver Westones or a copper Turbine Pro, or a Klipsch X10, or a Sennheiser X8, or a Grado GR8, or... you get the point. All these earphones cost a ton of money, and they all sound great. Of course different people will prefer different ones, and they'll all have their own reasons for those choices. Does that make any opinion and more valid than another? Besides, something like 97% of people can't tell the difference anyway. As the holy Jewish books say, "On taste and smell there can be no argument." Point is, everything I'm going to be writing in this review is my opinion and my opinion only.

And another thing. It's very difficult to take the full measure of a cd on just a few listenings. It's a scientific fact (I'm not making this up) that the more often you hear something (be it music or a campaign ad) the more you like it. Also, I'm judging this cd based on what it is, a cd, not a concert. What I mean to say is that there are many things which work wonderfully well in a concert setting which don't work well at all on a music cd. I loved the dialogues between Avraham Fried and Lipa, but how often can you listen to them before you get sick? Same goes for much of this concert- it was absolutely tremendous being there, but to listen to it repeatedly? Again, watching this on DVD, which you aren't likely to do more than a few times, is entirely different than listening on your iPod.

Having got all the caveats out of the way, it's time for an actual review.

The show begins with Nachum Segal announcing that it's time for A Time for Music 23, and Yisroel Lamm swings into action with the Neginah Orchestra and the Choir running through a review of everyone's favorite Avremel and Lipa tunes. It's well done, but it serves more to whet the appetite for what lies ahead than to really produce any masterpieces. Which I suppose is the point of intros. So good for them.

There are three types of people out there: those who love everything Avremel/Lipa do, those who hate everything they do, and the three percent of the population that lies somewhere in between. The first type will obviously be buying this cd sight unseen, and the latter won't touch it with a ten foot pole. So who is this review for? It's for the people in the middle, the ones who like Jewish music but don't feel the need to own every single recording of every tnuah of every Chazak or Hentelach. Will this cd be a good buy for them?

The first song of the main course is the old standard Mareh Kohen, very well sung by the two stars of the show. I'll be honest- there's at least twenty songs that I'd love to hear these two guys cover before this one, but for all that, it's an enjoyable experience.

Moving quickly along we've got Avraham Fried's Boruch Haboh, again with Lipa dueting. The gold standard for this song, at least until now, was the one Avremel sung at the YU concert so many moons ago, which after you got past all the annoying chatter in the beginning, was incredibly powerful. This version, I think, takes the cake, with both singers giving it their all. The only thing marring it is a bit of distortion with Lipa when he's really screaming, but I can live with that. Notwithstanding that, it's a really solid song, and probably worth the price of admission in and of itself. I'll certainly be adding it to my "HASC classics" playlist, where it will join other classics like MBD's Golus Paroh (2), Ko Amar (6) and Mimkomcha (7), Fried's Eliyahu Hanavi and Lashanah Habah (both 3), and the great Yoel Sharabi's Hineni Kahn (1). There are a few others, but those are the important ones. And again, I love "A small piece of heaven," but how often can you listen to the same English song?

The next song is one of those which would have been wonderful to see in person, but which grow tiring after six or seven repetitions. It's a version of R' Yom Tov Ehrlich's classic story of the salesangel and his attempts to sell the Torah to the various nations. Avremel and Lipa really do a great job with this one, though inhabitants of France (you know who you are) might find Fried's interpretation of their accent to be the tiniest bit offensive. I assume that there were myriad special effects or costumes or something to go along with this song, but since it's difficult to tell these things solely through hearing them, I must withhold comment. If someone wants to send me a DVD of the concert I won't say no, but until then my lips are sealed. They're not sealed regarding the song this one leads into, which is Lipa's Bichsav-Baal Peh. It was never my favorite, but it's great to hear Avremel really get into it.

Lipa's off stage for the next number, a melody of Chabad Niggunim sung by Avraham Fried. Nothing too remarkable, though my years in 770 have conditioned me to expect a "Yechi Hamelech" in Didan Notzach, but I suppose that would be asking a lot of the concert committee. It's a very nice melody, as melodies go, but I'm disappointed that there's nothing off Avremel's latest album, Yankel Yankel. Wasn't that the whole point of releasing four albums of Lubavitcher niggunim, that we wouldn't have to listen to Hupp Cossak for the 89th time?

The first several times Lipa appeared at Hasc were by way of video, and people have undoubtedly been waiting for him to repeat those songs at Hasc in real life. Or at least I assume that's the case, because the next track is Gelt, Abi Meleibt, and Diet. Nicely done, nothing spectacular. I really wish he'd sing some of the slow tracks off his albums, because many those are really gorgeous. No one ever accused Diet of being gorgeous.

Ahh, my wish for something hartzig is fulfilled with Avremel singing R' Shlomo Carlebach's Gam Ki Elech. I always feel like there's something missing from a Carlebach song if the performer's voice is too nice, but Avremel manages to rise above that handicap to truly do this song justice.

What is with Dedi and Jim Hynes? Oh, sorry I think I forgot to mention that Dedi makes an appearance with "Kulanu". And it's time for the requisite, "When will Dedi finally put out a new CD?" His energy in concert is really great, and he really looks cute strutting up and down the stage. Obviously there's no strutting included with this cd, but it doesn't hurt to use your imagination once in a while.

There was much discussion following the release of A Poshite Yid regarding the two versions of Wake Up and which one was better. You can add a third version to that roiling controversy, and I think the only sensible solution is the old, "There's maalos and chisronos to everything."

As I mentioned above, there are certain things that work wonderfully at concerts but not so much on a cd. Another example of that would be Avremel and Lipa singing a medley of Fiddler on the Roof shtuff. Hearing them interact is quite cute, and they obviously enjoy being with each other on stage. But to hear their interactions too many times? It reminds me of those pizza stores or car services where they have the same cd playing for three years. Still, it's really cute.

Ahh, the next song is what a concert should be- a chance for Avremel, Lipa, and Dedi to sing Anovim (MBD), Vehi Sheomdah (Shwekey), and Kulanu Ahuvim (MBD). Gorgeous. Tremendous. Seriously.

Next up is a song I've never particularly liked, Lipa's Hallelu, done with R' Yitzchok Fuchs. I mean, it sounds as good as it'll ever sound, I just don't like it.

Moving right along, we've got Lipa singing his "Hentelach around the world," which actually sounds a lot better than the version on the Oorah cd. Again, and I seem to have beaten this particular horse to death already, but this song is great for concerts, not so much for daily listening.

Many years ago Avremel came out with a single called Change the World, or something like that. All right, so he didn't actually come out with it, but it somehow ended up on my iPod. I have no idea. Anyway, this live version is superior to that one, even if the lyrics are still a bit sappy. But what else can you expect from a Hasc anthem?

And just like that, it's time for the traditional Hasc finale. Fortunately it's not something pathetic like Dedi singing R' Shlomo's Neshoma, but rather a medley of popular melodies (I've always wanted to use that one) from the stars of the show, actually sung by the stars of the show (unlike the opening act). More of the same? Yeah, I guess so, but which heathen doesn't want more Avremel, Lipa, and Dedi singing each other's songs? Hmm? I didn't think so.

And that, as the saying goes, is it. Should you buy it? Obviously those who buy every Hasc, Lipa, Avremel, or Dedi production have purchased it already. But how about for those on the fence? Should they fork over the big bucks? Well, that depends. If you're looking for music you've never heard from these performers, this is a good cd for you. If you're looking for a transcendent musical experience that will change your life, or at least be wildly inspirational, perhaps you should have bought tickets to the concert. Overall though, it's a really nice cd. I certainly don't regret getting it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tachanun redux

So there's a bit of an ongoing discussion amongst the Lubavitchers at work regarding that old hobby horse of mine, tachanun. You see, our non-lubabitch brethren (of the hassidic ilk) very rarely, if ever, say the penitential prayers during the afternoon services. Why is this? I'm not quite sure. Perhaps they're worried about time. A noble trait, to be sure, but one that nonetheless rings hollow. If they wanted to say tachanun, they'd make time. Besides, from what I hear, they pretty much never say 'em anyway, regardless of context. But hey, that doesn't bother me. To each their own.

The question naturally arises when one davens with a minyan lead by these non-sayers: to say or not? Some are of the opinion that there's no need to say Tachanun, and in fact it's a bad thing. After all, there is the dictum of "Al tifrosh min hatzibbur," and when the minyan isn't saying something, why should we?

On the other hand, I am a Lubavitcher, and as such, I have the arrogance to assume that everything I do (mitzad Lubavitch) is the correct thing to do. In this case, when everyone is merrily skipping their way past tachanun and right onto aleinu, I begin to beat my chest and repent for my evil. When fellow Lubavitchers question my behavior, I ask them if they'd ever say tachanun on 19 Kislev. Obviously they wouldn't. So why is it any different here?

I could think of many examples where, as Lubavitchers, we thumb our noses at the world. Just because this time it would be convenient to go along with everyone, does that mean we should do it? I know that some people will think, "Well, it's not like you're eating chalav akum." But really, is it that different? They're both commandments from G-d.

What say you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And tonight, we say l'chaim...

Rabbi Mordechai Friedman tells me the following every year, and I think it's quite pertinent:

The two days of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are very precious. Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn, fifth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, stated:

The 48 hours of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah should be highly treasured. Every moment is an opportunity to draw bucket- and barrelfuls of material and spiritual treasures. And this is accomplished through dancing...

I also remember something along the lines of, "What can be accomplished through the 48 hours of Rosh Hashanah through penitenting can be accomplished in the 48 hours of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah through dancing," but I can't find a source for it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prince of Bloomington

I know I've been remiss in my blogging over the last year or so, but hey, I've been busy. I also know that I may have offended some people at some point in the last year, and for that I'm sorry. Even if it wasn't intentional, it wasn't nice, and as everyone knows, TRS is all about being nice. I don't G-d forbid rue the performance of good deeds, i.e. I don't regret not blogging, because I was probably busy with other, more important things.

Meanwhile, in other news, I was recently emailed some interesting shtuff by a loyal reader, and I'd like to know all your's opinion on the matter.

Virtual Mincha - A Taste of the Future?

The Jerusalem Post recently published an article about a new phenomenon in the Jewish world: virtual mincha. Although many synagogues now webcast services for people who can't make it to schul in person, two new websites are creating Jewish communities that are 100% online. was created by two young Jews in Atlanta who hosted their first online prayer service in June, while Cincinnati based is led by Rabbi Laura Baum. Both websites aim to bring Jews together regardless of geographic location. "I can be your rabbi even if you're not in Cincinnati," says Rabbi Baum. "We are your rabbis and this is your community."
While online prayer groups meet the needs of those unable to get together in person, they also raise questions. As the JPost article notes, certain prayers require a minyan - a group of 10 Jewish adults - in order for the prayer to be recited. "But in an age of webcams and the Internet telephone service Skype," said Jewish Jumpstar founder Shawn Landres said, "spatial relations become altered and who's to say what 'together' means?"
Here's the question: At what point does start up a similar thing?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reflections of a retired rover

On second thought, that title isn't particularly appropriate (even if it does get full marks in the alliterative department). First of all, once a Shliach always a Shliach, and second of all, it's way too pretentious. Just last week I assisted an Israeli customer (I work in retail) who needed help finding a Minyan in Manhattan. Another customer, this one a South African, happened to be celebrating a birthday, and I directed him to the Rebbe's Ohel. Is it the same as visiting Jews in Kansas, Missouri, and Connecticut? It's something along those lines.

Point is, there's always Jews out there waiting for the proverbial lamplighter to come by and spark a flame inside. Wherever we are, whatever we're doing, we can be the ones to light that wick and turn it into a raging fire. And that's really what Merkos Shlichus is all about. Reading the stories of the current crop of Roving Rabbis makes me realize how truly awesome it is to have been part of something so incredible. Like everyone connected with any enterprise, I never realized how much I was accomplishing through my simple slogging-through of the spiritual desert that is much of modern day America. Because really, that's what it's all about. Take a car, crank up the AC (if you have it), and drive out onto the prairie, following in the footsteps of all those pioneers on the Oregon Trail so many years ago. Once you're out on the road, open up the local Yellow Pages, Google a bit, and find some Jews. Reach out, put on Tefillin, put up some Mezuzahs, inspire, get inspired, drink some Coke and eat some potato chips, and generally make the world a better place. And if you have any cool stories, send them into this here blog.

Thing is, there are so many Jews out there waiting to be found, their souls simply crying out for spiritual solace, and all you've got to do is try. We don't expect any miracles, and there aren't even any quotas to be filled. There's no measurement for accomplishment; the only requirement is to rove far and wide, searching for the remnants of a people that has been beaten so many times it's forgotten how to raise its head in pride. Which is exactly what the Roving Rabbis are for. Lift those heads high, show them what you got. I know this has all sounded corny, but sometimes life is like that. Kansas is like that too. I mean, lots of corn.

(The above was written for Roving Rabbis.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pretty brutal, eh?

As the Chassanim were being called up to the Torah this week by R' Gerlitzky I marveled at their well faces and wondered if any would be at 770 in the coming week for my newly-customary 6:45 Shacharis. As the Torah was being read I wondered if any of them were taking eternal lessons from the portion that has fallen to their lot, and if any of them noticed how brutal this week's Parsha was in that department. Here's a short summary thereof:
Kohen (Aliyah #1): Marry some beautiful woman on the battlefield, but first see her debased.

Have two wives, one of whom you hate.

Testify in court that your son should be die.
Whoever got Levi (Aliyah #2) got off easy- the only thing in there is a prohibition against cross-dressing, though I suppose that this week's crop of clean shaven grooms might have a hard time with that one.
Yisroel (Aliyah #3): If a man marries, hates her, and claims she wasn't all pure and virginal when the nuptials occurred.

Get into a massive fight with your in-laws.

Pay lots of money for defaming your wife.

Result in your wife being stoned (not in a good way).

No Adultery!

Seduce a betrothed girl? You both die.

Rape a betrothed girl? Only you die.

Seduce a single girl, pay a fine.
Fourth Aliyah: No promiscuous men or women.
Fifth Aliyah: Guy divorces his wife, she gets remarried, the next husband divorces her too. First husband wants her back? No go, Joe.
Sixth Aliyah (Finally, something propitious!): If a guy marries a new wife, then he doesn't have to serve in the army. Not only that, but he has to gladden her for a whole year.
Seventh Aliyah: When there are two brothers, and one of them dies without issue, then the wife of the deceased has to either marry her brother-in-law or perform a ceremony, at which point his refusal to perpetuate his brother's memory is publicized throughout Israel.

If two guys are fighting, and the wife of one of them comes in to rescue her husband, and grabs the embarrassing place of the other guy, then her palm gets cut off. No pity.
At least Maftir (Aliyah 7.5)is relatively simple. All you have to do is wipe out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heaven. Benign stuff, really.
So there you have it folks- five of this week's eight possible portions were filled with cautionary tales re: marriage. Hope those Chassanim take it to heart, along with the hangovers they're undoubtedly enjoying.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Adam had a party

The Mosque in downtown is a Trojan Horse!

--Charlie Buttons

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bald is beautiful

In today's Chitas we learn about all sorts of permitted and forbidden animals. This is rather strange, because the Torah already dealt with this topic in Leviticus. Why does it need to reiterate in Deuteronomy? The Rabbis answer (as brought down by Rashi) that they were repeated because the first time around two important species were left out: the Shesuah (an animal with two backs and two backbones) and the raah (which actually was mentioned in Leviticus, but under a different name). My question is, if the whole topic was only repeated because those two species were missing, why weren't they simply mentioned in the first place?

In other news, today's Chitas also comments, "You are the children of the Omnipresent, and you are fit to be handsome." Just saying.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ponder this!

Was Chelsea Clinton's Chosson's wearing of a Yarmulkeh and Tallis at their nuptials a positive development for Judaism in America or was it merely the latest sign of the destruction of our once-proud religion? Does Lubavitch have a different answer to this question than, let us say for example, Povonezh? And what would Moses Mendelson say?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No temps

I know you've all been desperately waiting for a new post (hey Sam), and believe you me, there's lots to write about. Only thing is, I'm no waiter to be ranting, and anyway, it's kind of hard to be anonymous when you're working for the world's largest media retailer (box). Plus, there's the whole picture on the side of the page thing. Be that as it may, there's still plenty I can write about without getting my pants sued of. For example, did you know that I'm working on a real live book deal? No details no, but expect to see my name in print within the next three years or so. And the day job? So far so good. Learned lots re: headphones today. Now I just need to pay a decent pair for myself.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quick question

If the Rabbis had known then what we know now, would they have made the washing of the hands with soap following a visit to the lavatory mandatory?

As is my usual wont, I merely inquire.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back to the Kansas

So many years ago, out of the land of Goshen, I heard my people's crying heart... In other news, here's yesterday's news, served fried on a stick:
My friend Sruli Clapman and I just got back from a house call in Leawood, Kansas. There's a very nice elderly couple living there, and we were coming to check their Mezuzos. First, of course, we exchanged histories. He was born to Jewish parents in Salt Lake City, Utah, but had no Jewish contact until he met his current wife, in Omaha. She's involved with the Chabad here in Kansas City, and had asked for us to come. The first Mezuzah-case that we looked at had no scroll. The second had a piece of paper in it. The third had a piece of parchment, but it was obviously not Kosher. So we put up five Mezuzos, which is really tremendous. Might be a little expensive in the short run, but they protect you and all you own, for eternity, or your next scheduled oil tuneup, whichever comes first.

Following the Mezuzos, we asked the man of the house if he would like to put on Tefillin. He hemmed and hawed a bit, but his wife soon put a stop to that. 45 seconds later, he had phylacteries on his head. The first time too. Amazing, isn't it, that a Jewish man can go 85+ years without checking his Jewish blood pressure! And then it was time to go, but not before cooing over their great-grandson, who is quite cute, I must say.

A couple of nights later we went to Lawrence to learn some Torah with the locals. Lawrence is the home of Kansas University, and so I learned Kuntres Inyana Shel Toras HaChassidus with a student (Lawrence is the home of KU, and therefore I learned with a guy? Whatever happened to the almighty editor?). We'll call him Charles. Sorry about the plug there, it was just one of those things that had to be done. Essentially, this work explains why Chassidus is so important. After all, we have the Torah, the Mishna, the Talmud, the Kabbala, the Medrash, the Codifiers, and the great Halachic authorities. Who needs Chassidus? I won't spoil the surprise, so go pick up a copy and find out.

Officially we sell books on Merkos Shlichus. OK, not only officially, but something tells me that a little more emphasis was put on it forty years ago than today. Just a hunch. Anyway, I'm just doing my part.

After the learning was done we settled down to a Farbrengen with Rabbis Wineberg and Teichtel. It's great to be able to sit with guys who really don't have too much contact with the rest of the Lubavitch world, and who look for inspiration from Yeshiva guys like me. Me! Sure, I'm great and all, but I don't really see myself as too inspirational. (If anyone disagrees they can post a comment). See, guys in Yeshiva look up to the Shluchim, and rightly so. These people are on the front line of the battle for Jewish survival, and they're doing an incredible job! Meanwhile the Shluchim (some of them anyway) are pining for their days in Yeshiva, where a guy can be surrounded by people like himself all day and just learn and pray and all those things to his heart's content.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Amused at the muse

Two years ago I blogged a whole long piece, and no one commented! The shame! Maybe it's because I end everything off with "yup"? It's supposed to be an ironic commentary on life, the universe, and everything, but perhaps it's been misinterpreted? Anyway, here's a republishing of that long ago post:

I was at a loss tonight, because I really couldn't think of anything to write. Thankfully I popped onto Hershel Tzig's site and was directed to another site which seems to think that Chabad is the embodiment of evil on G-d's green earth. I really enjoy sites like these for a couple reasons. The first is that they validate my belief in Chabad; the second is that they give me something to write about when the times they are a slow.

It's really amazing that some people spend so much of their time bashing us. Sure, I bash people when they annoy me, but I don't go around looking for people to slam. Do I wake up in the morning and think, "Who can I hurt today?" No, I wake up in the morning and think, "Man, I'm a moron, I should have gone to sleep before 3:00 AM". You understand the difference? The haters are always thinking about other people, while I constantly think about myself.
As I was reading the posts, and especially after reading the comments, I found myself formulating replies. I stopped myself and said (in the hushed tone normally reserved for visitors to the Minnesota History Center), "TRS, can't you read what they have to say? Instead of trying to fight back, just absorb their words and try to understand that they have a valid point of view." Once I stopped laughing I began to type a response. Then it hit me: You just can't argue with these people. So I stopped typing. It occurred to me that I also don't take criticism very well; after all, yesterday I made a typo, an august presence advised me of its existence, and instead of admitting my mistake like a man I made a joke of the whole affair. Where's the accountability?

This specific blog itself is actually, I must admit, quite fair in its approach. There's a great story that he brings from Rav Hutner:

There is the well known story about the bed of Sodom (also known as the Procrustean bed). If a visitor to Sodom was too short he was stretched and if he was too big for the bed his legs were cut off. Rav Hutner said, "We have such a bed in the frum world. The difference is that if someone doesn't fit his head is cut off."

Fine. So I really don't have too much of a problem with this blog. Many of the comments are off the wall, and he seems to think that all of Lubavitch waves yellow flags around, but these are quite ordinary problems. There's nothing particularly offensive about what he says. So what's my problem? I was just looking for something to write. Today's MS, you see, was a bit uninspiring. While I was making phone calls I realized that I could open a very successful business: Everyone I talk to says they're "just about" to go on vacation. I should start charging people to have me call them and then they'll magically be going on vacation! I think that this idea is worth at least five million a year, and I'm looking for some venture capital to help me start this thing.

Moving right along, it has come to my attention that we're currently in the middle of the nine days, and we're supposed to be sad that we don't have a temple. Is anyone here depressed? Does the sting of exile bite into anyone's heart?

I didn't think so. What can we do about this? I don't know. Seems to me that we've all settled into a malaise that only something really exciting can get us out of. If, for example, the sun were to have some major histrionics, most of us would take life a little more seriously, at least for the fifteen seconds we'd have before being wiped out like a bunch of Toyotas in Detroit.
The nine days, huh? Tough time. Yup.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The ten plagues of Facebook

1. Face Worship. Facebook, the Book of Faces, could have been a blessed endeavor, strengthening family and social relations with the help of a social network. Unfortunately, however, it is a monster that has attacked its creator and become an impediment with its worship of faces. Man is not a face but a soul, which is revealed through its good character and good deeds, not through outer appearance, or through various artificial shows that one puts on for the sake of photo-ops. “Grace is false and beauty is vain, but the woman who fears Hashem – she shall be praised” (Mishlei 31:30). One time our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, was invited to an exhibition devoted to his father, Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. He said, “People will see his books and his pictures there, but they won’t see his fear of G-d there. I’ve got no business going.” How the soul suffers, seeing itself shoved into a corner, alone and scorned – and the individual being judged by his picture.

2. Exposure. A person has to be humble and modest, and not to expose personal details for all to see. The Jewish People are humble. A Jew does not have to be so extroverted, to reveal his personality and emotions to all, but only to his true friends. One time, Prime Minister Golda Meir was interviewed following the Yom Kippur War, and at the end was asked: “What do you feel personally?” She answered, “What I feel personally, is personal.” A person has to be a bit introverted. Moshe placed a veil over his face. Likewise, one should not peek with curiosity into the lives of others, and certainly not into the pictures of women, all the more so if they are immodest.

3. Advertisements. Facebook is sponsored by advertisements, some of which are disgusting, full of offensive language and sexual immodesty, provoking people to commit acts that are base, coarse and forbidden.

4. Crime. Since the information is out in the public domain and available to all, all sorts of unsavory people take advantage of it for evil: identity theft for the sake of extorting monetary contributions; for convincing people to come to rendezvous where they will be robbed; as well as the use made by various types of sexual perverts; for sending junk mail, and for racist groups that encourage hatred.

5. Addiction. Facebook is the fifth biggest cause of addition in the world. 400 million people in the world are addicted to it, and 2.5 million in Israel use Facebook. 75% of youth are regular users. Facebook addicts can spend 4-5 hours a day on it.

6. Loss of time. Time is one of the most precious things in life. A person thinks he is going into Facebook for a moment, and he may be stuck there for long hours.

7. Superficiality. It’s all so shallow, so full of nonsense. People pursue that nonsense, and wallow in it. Pictures and videos, talkbacks and cheap blogs, and blogs responding to blogs. People engage there in superficial discourse, in nonsense, emptiness and shallowness, and they become shallow themselves. It’s a vicious cycle, and it gets worse.

8. Exhibitionism. A person develops a longing to be seen by others, to share glances and find favor in the eyes of imaginary, virtual friends. He constantly updates his personal profile in order to increase his popularity. He strikes an alluring pose and has his picture taken in order to draw attention to himself. He becomes enslaved to finding favor in the eyes of others, and to being seen by them.

9. Disintegration. Time disintegrates. Life disintegrates into grayish nonsense. One’s personality disintegrates. True, quality friendships disintegrate into virtual friendships.

10. Loss of friendship. Friendship is something vital to a person. Friendship or death! Loneliness is an awful sort of wretchedness. Therefore, one is supposed to acquire for himself a friend (Avot). Facebook instead supplies addiction to a shallow kind of socializing, engulfed in meaningless excitement, in virtual friendship. Pictures no longer reflect life. They have become the essence of life. It is the end of friendship. Facebook is a social network devoid of friendship, because a true friend is like a war buddy – someone ready in every situation to offer help and support. Certainly social connections are good, but that’s not a real bond, but the destruction of the concept of friendship. Facebook also leads to the disintegration of the family. 20% of divorces are because of Facebook and the corrupt chats that go on there. True friendship is face to face, not face to screen or screen to face. Therefore, please harness all your courage and cancel your membership in Facebook. Be brave! At first you will have 4-5 days of feeling dazed, but after that you will feel wonderful pleasure and supreme freedom.

Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim/Ateret Yerushalayim. This is from Rabbi Shlomo Avi-ner, the Rosh Yeshiva.

Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Pinchas 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg

Monday, June 28, 2010

Memories of Manhattan

They say that you can turn on cruise control, fall asleep, wake up, have lunch, turn the steering wheel, and be all good while driving on the I-70. Point is, it's a straight road. Not too much to look at either. Since it's the three weeks we can't listen to music, so instead I popped in a CD of a Farbrengen with Rabbi Gordon. Which Rabbi Gordon? I have no idea. Not that's it's too important anyway.

Here comes the inspirational part:

Rabbi Gordon said that some people ask, "Why go out and help Jews? Live in your own world, keep your kids religious, and let everyone else do their own thing." The answer is best explained through a parable. Life is a big sea. And when people come down into this world, they're dropped into that sea. Some people happen to fall onto boats. Some people are immediately swallowed up by the dark, frigid, shark-infested, non-chlorinated, probably salty waters. The guys on the boat get to suntan. And some people even fall off the boat. Now what's the law if you see someone foundering in the depths? You must go save them! There's no Well- I-have-a-schedule-plus-my-wife-will kill-me-if-I'm-late-what's-in-it-for-me type of talk. You go and rescue the drowning person. And if the cry of "Man Overboard!" is heard? Everything stops! The man (or woman, or child, or whatever) immediately becomes the focus of attention. You must save them!

The analogy is clear. Some lucky people are born into observant homes, where Torah is learned and Mitzvos are kept. And some people are born into the opposite. And they're drowning. And it's our responsibility to save them. And if someone leaves their religious lifestyle? A man is overboard? How much greater is our responsibility?

Inspiring, huh? I certainly thought so. And guess what? There's more! Joy!

Rabbi Gordon was one of only a few Bochurim with a beard when he was growing up in New York in the forties. He and a friend once went on the train, and the entire car (the people therein) stopped whatever they were doing to stare at two young men with beards. It was simply unheard of. Then in the sixties all the hippies started to grow them, but back in the forties? For a Jew to proclaim his religion? To follow in the footsteps of his fathers? And now look at us. So far, thank G-d, no anti-semitism. It's got to be weird to be stopped in the street by someone wearing a black hat and jacket (in 98 degree heat) and asked if you're Jewish. Someone even asked us if we had horns! (OK, I made that up, but it could have happened. This is Kansas for crying out loud.)

What I'm trying to say is, there's no longer any need to be ashamed of being Jewish, no reason to hide your identity. Just say it loud and clear and people respect you. This is America!

Sorry, this is getting soppy. I'm sorry.

As we always end Farbrengens (Chassidic gatherings) with, "Tomorrow will be totally different!" And sometimes it actually is.

Anyway, We were driving on the I-70, and in between getting inspired by the mysterious Rabbi Gordon I made some phone calls, which went pretty well. Two people were interested in meeting us, one had no interest, one was a wrong number, and the answering machines were as always quite sweet.

Our first stop in Manhattan was the local mall. They had really cool sinks in the bathrooms. You put your hand in, and soap automatically comes out, followed shortly by water and then a grand finale of hot air to speed you on your way. Quite exciting, to tell the truth. The only problem (and there are always problems in this long and bitter exile) was that before one eats bread, one needs to wash from a cup, and those super-high-tech sinks were not conducive to filling cups. Like true Shluchim of the Rebbe, we persevered. That's what water fountains are for. After enjoying Challah and tuna we went off to search for Jews among the stores. No luck.

We went outside, and started going up the street, asking everyone if they were Jewish. Again, no luck. We did strike gold in the courthouse though. We had gone into a lawyer's office, of course he wasn't Jewish, and now met him in the local courthouse. Guess what? No, he hadn't suddenly performed a Halachic conversion, but he did know someone who didn't even have to. Mrs. Lawyer (I'd use names, but the goons at would come and smash my windows) came out. Yes, she's Jewish. Her husband is a professor at K-state. She lights Shabbos candles. Does it get any better? On our way out the palace of justice a young man wearing a large cross and a black hat stopped us and asked us where we got out hats. "Brooklyn," I replied, and answered his next query that they were Borsalinos, and cost about $160. Ridiculous, huh? The price you have to pay for fashion (religion).

Moving onto the next stop we discovered a ninety year old man who owns a business. We didn't actually meet him, as he was out to lunch (literally, not figuratively) so we just left some brochures and business cards. A guy in a jewelry shop told us about another guy, (ad infinitum) who also owns a shop. We did speak to him. Born in Manhattan, lived there all his life. Goes to Shul on the High Holidays. Good for him! Again, some brochures, etc, (another no-no in school, this time in 6th grade, "Don't you ever write 'etc.' on any reports!") and that was it.

Our first appointment in Manhattan was something else. He's an Israeli professor at K-State, she works with autistic children in Topeka. They have three kids, two grandkids, and like Chabad. Plus they know the scoop about everyone in town. We talked about the three weeks, the problem of assimilation, and even put Tefillin on him. It was really nice. Assimilation is a major problem for these small town Jews. The synagogue is little more than a social club, and there's no real sense of Jewish pride, or even Jewish people to hang out with. And that's why we're going out, trying to remind people that yes, they are Jewish, they have something to be proud of, and they should stick with the faith.

At 5:50 we realized that #1, we had an appointment at 6:00, and #2, that we didn't know the directions, and that #3, we hadn't finished up with our current appointment. Twenty five minutes later we were knocking on the door. It didn't open. Oh well. I called, very apologetic, but there was nothing to be done.

After our aborted attempt at a meeting, it was time to go to our favorite hangout: the local library. Unlike in S. Joseph, the librarians were not too helpful. Sure, they were nice enough, but they said something about privacy and we knew it was a hopeless cause. So we left. Man, we sure do seem to do a whole lot of leaving. As we were making our departure I saw a woman staring at me. Being the naturally shy, reserved, (look on for more synonyms) and generally me person that I am, I ignored her. But she continued. So I asked, "Do you know anyone who's Jewish?" And she replied, "Well, actually I'm Jewish." Of course she's a professor at K-State. Like most college towns, it seems that everyone either works at the university or is somehow supported by it. She had never seen a Chassidic Jew in the city. Heck, I had never seen any type of Jew in the city. Which isn't too surprising, since we only arrived about seven hours before. Be that as it may, she was interested, so we gave her the standard pamphlet and business card, and even told her about this blog, which she promised to visit.

Continuing our search took us around town, which is rather empty, as it is summer break at the aforementioned university. So onto Bentonville's pride and joy, the neighborhood Walmart. And unlike the men's rooms at the mall, these mens' here were quite disappointing. The thing flushed every thirty seconds. Quite disconcerting. We davened Mincha in the parking lot, getting more stares than your average elephant in New York, and started to head home, just ahead of an impending storm. Our car was, to put it nicely, a compact, and we felt every gust of wind. But we said the Tefilas Haderech (traveler's prayer) and made it safely to Lawrence, where a hot supper was waiting (thanks Zalmy).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wondering justly

I asked the following on FB but didn't get any pertinent responses, so I figured I'd go for it over here too:

What would the Rebbe say about the hordes of hippies, yuppies, and various other invasive species currently gentrifying Crown Heights?

Meanwhile, in other news, after long discussion with everyone's favorite tippler and toppler, I have come to the conclusion that when you believe in something you should just say it outright. So, without further adieu, and in the interests of spurring further commenting from our wonderful commenters:

The reason I have not attended a poetry slam in many months is because I believe it is morally and religiously wrong.

There, I've said it. Now I can go to sleep with a clear conscience.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rounded, polished, and smooth

Apparently the boys are out on Merkos Shlichus again. Meanwhile, I'm in Crown Heights. That's right, I'm comparing MS and CH, even though they're apparently incomparable. Well, once again "apparently" is wrong, because MS and CH are the same thing. They're both states of mind. Just this past Friday I saw two Kollel guys doing mivtzoyim right outside the Brooklyn Musueum. Quite heartwarming that was. As for CH, well, I know plenty of bochurim on MS who've gotten up at 11:00, gone to Mikve (admittedly not necessarily in an actual Mikve) and only gotten around to actually accomplishing something much later in the day. Point is, here's some MS shtuff from three years ago in S. Joe, Missouri.


The first city we visited was S. Joseph, Missouri. It was a hot day. For some reason we couldn't find any contacts that the previous groups had made, so we were basically on our own. We were walking by the police station when we suddenly heard banging. Of course we looked up, and there was a guy waving at us. "Hey," we thought, "this is pretty easy! These guys are begging us to come!"

So we walked in, and the kind receptionist said, "People banging and waving? Oh, those must be the prisoners." And no, we weren't allowed to go and see if any were Jewish. The lady did give us the names and addresses of the two local synagogues, so we resolved to check out the situation. On our way back to the car I noticed the county office, so we went in. The commissioner was also very nice, and he was even friends with a (minister? priest? reverend?) "clergyman of another faith" who sits with the rabbi of one of the local synagogues on an interfaith board, and so we got a phone number. No one picked up the phones, or was by the synagogues, which was too bad.

...Ah yes, City Hall. Magnificent building, made even more magnificent by the, well, magnificent air conditioning. Do I get a prize for using the word "magnificent" three times, in a relatively intelligent manner, in one sentence? I did mention it was hot, right? Anyway, no new info from the secretary, and so we drove off to the Pony Express Museum. None of the horses had any Jewish affiliation.

There was a store that we meant to visit, but by the time we arrived it had already closed. Oh, well. But right next to that was a beautiful park that we drove and walked around, finding many beautiful vistas but unfortunately no Jews. Then we had a brilliant idea. Where do people hang out? Baseball games. So we tried to find the baseball game. Forty minutes later we ended up at the town library, so we walked in.

Gold. Both librarians were very talkative, which is perfect, because so am I. Turns out there are no decent jobs in S. Joe, but there is plenty of meth. Sounds like a good place for a nice Jewish boy, huh? We did look in the White pages though, and finally found him. The one we'd been waiting for. The whole reason we'd come into northern Missouri. A JC Penney's.

Just kidding. We found a Jew. He didn't really want to meet with us. And so of course he didn't. We don't force people to do anything. It's counterproductive.

And besides for a quick stop at the local mall, punctuated by some more talkative but unfortunately non-Jewish people, that was basically it. A success? There's a famous story that two students went a'roaming and came home depressed, having accomplished nothing. And that Shabbos, the Rebbe said that no, they had accomplished. An old woman had seen two young men walking around, with beards, hats, and jackets, and decided to light Shabbos candles. Point is, you never know what you've done. And as I said, we certainly did our fair share of walking around in beards, hats, and jackets. So please do your part and light those Shabbos candles. ;)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Long frock and all

I came to the Rosh's farbengen tonight charged with a mission: to record his every word for posterity, and provide inspirational messages for the masses.The good news is that I managed to hear lots of good shtuff; the bad news is that I didn't manage to transcribe it. The reason for this is that I sat down right next to the Rosh, and I figured he wouldn't be too pleased to see me pecking away at my iPod while he was speaking.

One thing that did stick in the hemp weave that is my memory was a statement which pretty much summed up the evening: "The truth is not negotiable- once you compromise, it's no longer true."

He also said a long vort about how the Torah starts from the letter Beis and not from the letter Aleph because the letter Aleph is the number six (trust me on this one) and Beis is nine. This is in contrast to the traditional explanation, where Aleph represents curses and Beis represents blessings. Regardless, when you count the Sefiros starting from Midos (Chesed, Gevurah, etc), the sixth one is Yesod. When you count the Sefiros beginning from Chabad (or Kesser), the ninth one is Yesod. So what's the difference? It's very simple. When you start everything from midos, from emotions, because you want, then that's what you are left with- self. Everything flows into yesod, and when the only thing is self, then that's all that gets passed down.

Chochmah, on the other hand, is very different. It's not emotions or ego. Chochmah is the spark, the first illumination that precedes comprehension, the smallest point of dawn. When you begin with chochmah, when you start your journey with nothing, then when it comes down to Yesod it remains nothing, a vessel empty of ego and self pretension, a vessel that can receive G-dliness.

This is the curse of Aleph: Aleph is I, the ego, the person who has no room in his life for anyone else but himself. The Beis, is different though. The Beis allows for someone else, is willing to listen and put others ahead of itself.

Today there is seemingly no need to listen to anyone else. Everything is written down and easily searched. There are thousands of Sefarim that have been printed, an answer provided for every question, a solution for every problem. Who needs a mashpia? Just because you're a little older and wiser, just because you saw a little more, heard a little more, felt a little more... you think you're any better? I can read any Chassidic story I want, I can learn any Sicha I want, I don't need you!

And that attitude, as they say, is just plain wrong.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I'd like everyone to take a moment to recognize one of the more beautiful computer-designed headers anyone's seen in quite some time. Thanks to the inimitable Yossi, I finally have my very own customized header. Yup. If you'd like him to design something for you, just ask.

Meanwhile, he also designed this for me:

Here's the original:

What say you?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Firing synapse

Random thoughts upon completing the dishes and laundry from TRS:

Does Merkos Shlichus equal the great American road trip (listen to act two)?

In baseball, what comes around goes around (but as bad as this?)

It really hurts to type after you've been washing dishes for a while and your skin is all ridged and whatnot.

Seriously, if you have the best ballpark (depends who you ask, here or here) in baseball, why must you constantly stink?

Is there any reason why (at last count) eight people had to post that video of that kid on Facebook?

Why couldn't Lipa have cut out two or three songs (Hora Yes Loshon Hora No, Mi Chochom, Meimka D'Lipa [English]) and made some of the others (Ve'anpaha Ne'hirin, Mizmor Lesoda, Ayei) significantly longer?

Why do Tom (what a pic!)and Ray Magliozzi constantly demean themselves so much? Is it some sort of psychological thing?

Sorry, if there's no food by the lchaim I'm not staying.

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo (what kind of stupid website posts people's addresses and phone numbers?)

So what do you tell the Lubavitch women now?

Having a side table in the living room is actually a really good idea.

Anyone want to sponsor an air conditioner?

Even a fan, we're not picky.

Who knew a book about violins could be so good?

And yes, we're still looking for a good luthier for a little cello fixing.

Do violinists get offended when you call their instruments a "fiddle"?

If you fall asleep while doing Chitas, do you get a prize?

When was the last time the average American dressed classily every day of the year?

Not too shabby.

What kind of a dorky name is "US Men's National Team"? How about something more along the lines of, "La Furia Roja", "A Selecao", "Oranje", "The Three Lions", "Beli Orlovi", "Azzurri", "Selecao das Quinas", Les Bleus", "The Elephants", "The Indomitable Lions", "Danish Dynamite", "El Tri", "La Roja", "The Black Stars", "Super Eagles", "The Fighting Jondas", "La Albirroja", "Zmajceki", "La Celeste", Schweizer Nati", "The Socceroos", "To Piratiko", Bafana Bafana", "Taegeuk Jeonsa", "Nippon Daihyo", Los Catrachos", "Les Fennecs", "Choilima", or "All Whites"? Heck, even "Die Mannschaft" or "La Albiceleste" would be superior. Isn't the US the greatest marketing concern that ever lived?

And seriously, you've heard of Google, I'm not putting hyperlinks there for you.

Camp starts when?!

One last thing- if you want a Farbrengen, you can count on us.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Not too sunburnt

On Sunday there was a whole lot of boat-going in the RS household. Chief among these was a visit aboard the USS James E. Williams (DDG-95), courtesy of Fleet Week. The USS James E. Williams is a member of Destroyer Squadron 26, which also included the destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81). As a courtesy to her namesake country, a member of the Royal Navy is assigned to the ship's crew at all times. Isn't that awesome? And it's not like they've got a limey manning the stoves either- for two years the navigator was Lieutenant Angus Essenhigh, RN, of Portsmouth, England. I'm not going to even mention the awesomeness of having someone on your boat with the name of "Angus."

I seem to be getting off topic, eh? The Williams' official page is rather sparse. While it looks about the same as most other ship's pages, that is to say amateurish, there's really very little info available on it. Contrast that to the Churchill, which has all sorts of goodies, including a link to the ship's official newsletter. Not that I'm saying anything, but they could use a few tips from Gan Izzy in the humor department. Still, a boring newsletter is better than no newsletter, right?

The apparent reason for the Williams' lack of information is that there was recently a bit of an issue on the ship. I hope they sort it out quickly, because, well, why not? It's our tax (China's, really) dollars at work here, and we expect every man to do his duty. We do not expect the following:

Though I suppose it's fair to say that shtuff happens.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dairy days

At some point in the not-so distant past Nemo said that he missed the good 'ol days, when serious discussion took place on this here blog. As I was perusing an old post I noticed that he (check out that beard!) indeed had a point- the conversation on this blog was at one point on a higher intellectual level. What happened? Ich vais nisht. Maybe it was the girls. After all, the first one wasn't even outed until I was with Yossi in CT. Speaking of that, I'm sure we're all very excited that Sebastion and Penelope can finally live ever after happily. Meanwhile, it was just about two short years ago that e, Tanyachaz, and I were planning our trip to Israel. Good times, eh? So much has changed since then, and yet so much has remained the same.

Anyway, way back when, I wrote a post that didn't quite turn out the way it should have. As Nemo commented at the time, "Sorry, was a little hard to follow and there were a number of disconnects in the explanation." Here's a (slightly edited) version.

Yesterday (May 28, 2008) I came across an interesting item in the Sefer Taamei Minhagim Umkorei Hadinim by Rabbi Moshe Sperling. He brings down the Rokeach who states that the consumption of dairy products was, until the giving of the Torah, forbidden, and so when the the Torah was given the Jews celebrated by eating cheesecake.

Why was dairy forbidden in the first place? Because it's Aiver Min Hachai, i.e. a limb from a living animal. I thought, "Hey, that's a really cool answer!" and determined to track down the source, which turned out to be the Gemara in Bechoros, which thanks to Artscroll I didn't have to break my head over. A lot of what I'm going to write now is based on their translation and commentary; as far as I can recall there's no prohibition involved, but if there is....

The Gemara on 6B (2, for those keeping score with their Artscrolls) states that we would have thought that a person can use milk from a non-Kosher animal, because we're allowed to use milk from a Kosher animal. The Gemara brings two reasons for this: The first is that milk is made from blood, which is normally prohibited. When Hashem permitted blood, we would think that he permitted milk (transformed blood) from all creatures. Therefore the Torah has to specifically lay down the law. There is a problem with this answer according to one opinion (look it up), so the Gemara brings the additional rationale that since Hashem permitted us to use a "limb" (milk) from a living Kosher animal, we would think he permitted us to use a "limb" (milk) from any living animal. This is why the Torah has to specify that dairy from a non-Kosher source is prohibited.

Milk being a "limb" is pretty hard to understand, because it seems to be a separate entity; therefore many Acharonim say that the Gemara holds there should be a problem with dairy because it's from an animal that hasn't been shechted properly.

I don't understand why this would answer the question. According to the simple way of learning the Gemara, the problem is that the milk is a "limb", and eating dairy from a live animal would seem to be forbidden. According to the way the Acharonim explain it, the problem is that you're eating something which wasn't shechted properly. It's a problem to eat something which wasn't shechted properly because it's (the milk) considered to be...what? If shechting solves the problem, why is this called Aiver Min Hachai by the Gemara? It's entirely a problem of schechita. The Gemara seems to be saying that the reason we're allowed to eat dairy is because the prohibition of Aiver Min Hachai was relaxed by Hashem in the case of Kosher milk.
The Gemara implies that before Matan Torah dairy from a dead animal was permitted. According to the Acharonim, would that mean that before Matan Torah only dairy from a properly shechted animal was permitted? In general, are non-Jews nowadays allowed to have milk? It would seem that they can only have milk from a dead animal; after all, we got the Torah which allows to have dairy from a live cow, but non-Jews didn't get the Torah. According to the Acharonim, this wouldn't seem to be a problem, because non-Jews are only commanded to not eat a limb from a living animal; they have nothing to do with shechita.

Before the giving of the Torah, what was the issue according to the Acharonim? They say that the issue is shechita. Before Matan Torah, no one kept shechita anyway, because there were no Jews to shecht. In general, with regards to meat, I assume that they ate meat that post-Matan Torah is not permitted. So before Matan Torah, the Acharonim would allow a non-Jew to have dairy from any dead animal, while a Jew could only have from a Kosher animal (remember, they kept all the laws of the Torah before Matan Torah). After Matan Torah, without the Torah's special dispensation, a Jew is only allowed dairy from a properly slaughtered animal. A non-Jew can have dairy from any dead animal, since they don't have a problem with eating non-properly slaughtered animals. With the Torah's dispensation, a Jew can have dairy from a live Kosher animal, though it has not been shechted.

I don't understand how allowing dairy from an animal which has not been properly slaughtered is the same as allowing dairy from a living animal. It seems that the Acharonim are merely allowing us to have dairy from a properly shechted animal.

The simple explanation of the Gemara makes a lot more sense (in my humble [and probably deficient] opinion. Before Matan Torah, all milk from dead animals was permitted; after the giving of the Torah, milk from a live Kosher animal was permitted.

Non-Jews still seem to have a problem, because the Torah did not permit them to have milk from a live animal, whether Kosher or non-Kosher, but this is not my problem.

Anyway, the Gemara asks a simple question: How do we know that the Torah allowed us to have milk from a Kosher animal? It brings several proofs, quickly knocks them away, and ends with three Pesukim from which to learn the dispensation. The first is in 1 Samuel, 17:18, where David was given cheese from his father Yishai for his brothers on the battlefield. This verse only seems to prove that dairy is permitted, but it's not Hashem coming down with fire and brimstone and saying, "Thou mayest eateth the milk of thine beasts!" The next Passuk is from Shemos 3:17, "A land flowing with milk and honey." Would Hashem praise the land with forbidden items? This verse seems to be more in the vein of a command, but it's still not the same. The third Passuk is from Isiah 55:1, where he tells people to go buy and eat milk, implying that it's fine.

The first step

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Kagan had a problem. As he told the Rebbe in Yechidus, "I feel like I'm a great guy." The Rebbe responded, "Start doing things to justify those feelings."


Monday, May 17, 2010

Dear TRS: Live from Atlantic City

That's right folks, it's time for another exciting edition of Dear TRS, where your questions are answered and all your dreams come true!

Dear TRS: Why did you take so long to put out another one of these?


Terry Lean
Dear Terry,

It's the kindness and concern which people like you have shown me throughout this difficult time which has enabled me to make it through. More specifically, I refer to the excellent content on other people's websites which has enabled me to put off updating mine.
Dear TRS: What do you think of Lipa's new CD?


St. Mary
Dear R' Mary,

In general Lipa's albums have been following an interesting track. As you look through them you'll see that the production values have really gotten better as time goes by- by that I mean that the albums sound much more professional and well produced. At the same time, the music has gotten much "shtickier". I don't necessarily mean that Lipa's songs make for better ear-worms, but rather that instead of just music they're filled with all sorts of shtick. At the same time, his songs have gone from being Yom Tov Ehrlich-like, long, not too much music, plenty of Yiddish which I don't have half a hope of understanding, to a much more accessible style, much simpler, using a lot more Hebrew and more complicated melodies and whatnot. If I was a music insider (or even if I thought I was one [in point of fact, it's the same thing]) I'm sure I could express myself much better. If the late, great Chaim Rubin was still blogging, I'm sure he'd have lots to say on this. That's not to say that I don't like the new albums, I really do, but they're a very different style.
Dear TRS: That answer was quite serious, quite eloquent, quite unlike you.


The other guy next door
Dear Karl,

Was that supposed to be nice?
Dear TRS: What do you think of women sitting together with men during services in synagogue?


Sara H.
Dear Sara,

Why would women want to do that? Do they have any idea what goes on in the men's section of your typical Shul? Do you know the last time these people took showers? Hello?
Dear TRS: I went on a date last night, and the girl looked great. Really, she must have spent upwards of thirty five hundred dollars on her wardrobe, and three hours (conservative estimate) on her hair (not to mention her nails). I told her that she looked really nice. Or something like that. She did not respond positively. I can't go into the details, but let's just say that she went Robin Williams on my Mercedes after the date. What did I do wrong?


Considering suing for treble damages
Dear In need of a lawyer,

You seem to be laboring under a delusion here, which has not only cost you significant amounts of money but has also let this great catch get away. The way of the woman is mysterious, but there are certain rules which should always be followed when dealing with this dangerous and elusive quarry. Here's a nine point checklist you should follow:

1. Wear the right camouflage or else the girl will spot you and run away.

2. Relax. Before trying to stalk a girl you must be relaxed. Most people get overexcited when they spot a girl so you must remember to stay calm.

3. Find a girl track. Girl tracks look like two parallel almond-shaped prints that are pointed on the top end. Follow the tracks in the direction of the pointed end.

4. After following the track for a while to see which direction it is going, check the map to see where the direction will take you. Try to avoid following the girl if there are any big rivers or heavy bush to walk through, because girl will run right through it when they are spooked and you will never be able to follow the track.

5. Once you know that there isn’t anything that will get in your way, start heading in the direction of the girl.

6. Look out for coyotes or wolves, because you’ll be hunting during girl mating season and they are vulnerable to coyote and wolf attacks. If the coyotes and wolves are hungry enough, there is a chance that they will attack men, so be careful.

7. Pay attention to the trees and the bushes because the girl may have stopped to eat or defecate; by looking at the feces and checking its temperature, you can tell how long ago the girl was there.

8. If you find a sign that can tell you that the girl was there within half an hour, you may be extremely close to the girl and may spook it.

9. Once you think you are close to the girl, stop and make a girl call for a minute or two. If you hear the girl call back, you know you are within viewing range. Set up and wait for the girl. Once it is close enough to you, try to make the shot.

Amazingly enough, this advice also works really well with deer.
Dear TRS: Sometimes when I'm speaking to someone on the phone, and he's giving instructions or telling me something, I won't understand what he's saying, but I'd rather just say, "Mmmhhhhmmmm. Yeah, OK" than find out what he said. After I hang up, I think, "Gosh I wonder what he said." Why do I do that?


A Bochur in Bobov/Belz/Brergsass/Biala/Boston/Boyan/Bohush/Binding/Bonia/Bender
Dear Bochur,

You know what you need? To clear out the wax in your ear. Or else you need some help becoming more assertive. Try becoming a lawyer, and suing the girl we dealt with in the previous question- who knows, maybe you could even marry her!
Dear TRS: What's your all time favorite Lipa song?


Tom Dennis Fitzgerald
Dear Brain,

That's like asking a father to pick the most precious of his children. Still, we all know that one kid always gets stiffed in the will, and in this case, I think I'd have to say that if there's one song I could never stand, it's Halelu off A Poshiter Yid. In Lipa's defense, he didn't write the song. On the other hand, he obviously loves it. Maybe it's like when the parents adopt a kid who turns out to be a serial murderer- they have to show it all the more love. Or maybe it has something to do with the moon and tides and such things. I really couldn't tell you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The man protests?

Is it possible to protest too much? Probably. Fortunately, I don't have this issue. My issue is that I don't protest enough. Instead I do the passive-aggressive thing, just saying "No" when an explanation would go over much better. Some people would see this a positive (the English?) but in general it's probably not a very good way to go through life. I suppose I could change this particular trait of mine, and I'm sure it would be a very good things for all concerned. In fact, that's the whole point of Chassidus, even if I don't remember this specific character defect being mentioned in Tanya.

I'm not bringing this issue up right now because I'm particularly interested in self-flagellation, but rather because it's pertinent in the extreme. "There but for the grace of G-d go I" said I, and once again I failed to say anything as evil was perpetrated upon innocent souls. In my defense, I actually did try to say something, but though the horse was lead to water it could not be made to shut up and listen. But did I try hard enough? Of course not. But that's not the point. The point is that evil was perpetrated, and though I saved myself (and my wife saved some others) I utterly failed to prevent the horribility from happening. I didn't even properly protest. I feel like Neville Chamberlain after Munich. "But," you are undoubtedly saying even as you read these words of mine, "Neville closed his eyes and collaborated with evil, all you did was fail to constitute the resistance." I answer, "But all that is needed for evil to prosper is the absence of a few good men to say something about it." And, having mangled more quotes than is normal for your average person in a lifetime of mangled quotes, we are once again left with the lack of backbone to say anything constructive about it. Protesting after the fact is all good and fine, but experience has shown that it very rarely accomplishes anything positive.

So what's to do? I'm not sure. I mean, if I'm not man enough to burn some bridges and say something on this forum, what can I possibly do? Is there any solution? Time, the great healer, might possibly work its magic here, but I'm skeptical. When a doctor has proscribed vicodin for six months and the patient jumps off a bridge, it's probably a sign that someone was incompetent. It could be Abbott Laboratories, but probably not. More likely, the patient just didn't respond properly to the medication, and no one cared enough to shed a tear. At least until it was too late.

Will we be left mourning when all is said and done? Will we be happy to point fingers and say, "See?" I would hope not. In fact, I hope that there will be no more war, no more will lions roar, and the earth will be filled with the Glory of G-d. In other words, I hope it all works out in the end. But I doubt it will. Because even if the Rebbe wasn't a prophet, he knew something of the human condition. And when he said that there are consequences to actions, he wasn't joking.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Work? Horrors!

An article was recently read in the TRS-le7 household which we thought should be allowed some wider circulation. Unfortunately, the actual text is not available online, so you'll have to trust my description of the contents.

There is a mother in Israel who merited to raise a large family of boys. She also merited to marry those sons off. She also merited that her mechutanim paid for the costs of those weddings, so she is not in debt. She also merited that her daughters' in law have well paying jobs, so her sons can be the budding gedolei hador that they are.

This sounds like the perfect life, eh? Well, it appears that all is not well in this particular woman's garden of eden. Yes, the snake has reared its ugly head again, this time in the guise of... her daughter's in law! Apparently, they spend so much time working that they have no time for their children or husbands. Horrifically, their husbands are forced to abandon their buddingness and head home to take care of the kids and the general household chores. Apparently, it is a terrible thing for a son to iron his shirts.

This poor woman has a daughter who fell into the same trap as her sisters' in law- she became an accountant, and has by and large abandoned her husband and children. Now, the mother declares:

We are looking for a kallah for our next son, and we've learned our lesson. Torah is acquired with bread and water, financial pressure, and sufficing with little. We are looking for a kallah who will be a mother and wife, not a gold mine.

Touching thought, isn't it? Apparently, in the chareidi world, you either have to starve or else have no life. We thought that one suggestion would be for these women to start working third shift, but determined that the husband would still be short changed.

Any suggestions?

Friday, May 7, 2010

3000 years is a long time

The following is an exchange which has recently occurred on between yours truly and someone named Aviva Larev. Admittedly, it's not much of an exchange at the moment, but I'm certainly hoping for some feedback.

Aviva Larev May 7, 2010 at 12:21 AM

TRS, that same old argument is dumb. Because 3000 years ago and continuing people were ignorant, racist, cruel and evil. THANK GOD for change, would you rather all Christians still murder Jews because that was their “tradition” for so many thousands of years!? Jeez what backwards logic. “Doesn’t matter if its real, matters that its old” Yea so if we found out some TRUTH say, some revelation that proves some of these pointless rules are garbage you wouldn’t want to change it then?! I really LOVE how so many Jews get stuck on the (seriously) dumbest littlethings and seem to forget the ENTIRE idea behind it. Tradition means nothing if all it does is perpetrate ignorance. No effing thanks.


TRS May 7, 2010, at 11:15 AM

Wow, what a blast from the past, eh? When is this post originally, from, January 26, 2009? That's nearly a year and a half ago! Remarkable. Anyway, to respond to your harsh accusation... Of course, I'm not entirely sure to what you are referring, because my last comment on this particular forum was so many moons ago, but I seem to get the general gist of your argument. It appears (to me at least) that you are saying something along the lines of, "The times they are a'changing, get with the program."

Obviously, everyone is entitled to do whatever they want to do. I can go on Mivtzoyim and try to get you to light Shabbos candles, but if you're not interested, you're not interested. If you think that the divine pronouncement from Sinai was not eternal, then good for you. Hey, if you don't think there ever was a divine pronouncement from Sinai, then good for you too. We can deal with that.

What you say, "Change we can believe in," is certainly a wonderful thing, but it doesn't quite solve any of your problems. Evidently, you don't like that Judaism is based on a 3000 year old tradition. Evidently you believe that Judaism should be something different. Or else you don't think there should be any Judaism. Holding these opinions is certainly your right, but coupled with your apparent intention, to reform Judaism, they make no sense.

Judaism is nothing without the Torah. I think we can all agree this point. In other words, without the Torah, there is no Judaism. I think we can all agree this point. Changing Judaism means changing Torah. Changing Torah means changing Judaism. Are you still with me here? Excellent.

You say something about Christians still slaughtering Jews. In my mind, there is no problem with this- if Christians believe that killing Jews is what JC would have wanted, then good for them. Evidently they don't have this belief anymore, which is, I suppose, a good thing for the Jews. Obviously, the Christian belief system is not eternal (for more on this topic, see here: ). Which is fine. It's the Christian's religion, let them practice it however they see fit.

You may not, and again I repeat, you may not use the same logic regarding Judaism. Judaism is very different from Christianity. Even if it were not very different at all, there would still be the fundamental difference, that of the revelation at Sinai. Those who practice Judaism must base their religion on this revelation. Whether they are Sephardi or Ashkenazi, Chassidic or Misnagdic, they're practices and beliefs are solely based on the Torah as it was presented at Sinai 3000 years ago. They may not do everything, they may not even believe in everything, but if they question the validity of something vis a vis it's being part of the tradition, and they can't prove it, then they are beyond the pale. I can accept that bullet proof stockings are not mandated by the Torah. I can not accept that the Torah does not proscribe homosexuality.

Does this make us a mean religion? Possibly. Probably. But I'm not sure what you'd like us to do about it. Shall we change certain parts of our religion based on the prevailing mores? Shall we change inconvenient laws we do based on the latest fads? If you want to do this, kol hakavod, but it's not orthodox Judaism. So again, I'm not sure what you'd like us to do about this.

Moving along in your argument, you state something along the lines of, "If there's new truth, will you change what you've been doing?" Obviously, there will be no new truth. There was only one revelation at Sinai. When Moshiach comes our understanding of the revelation will be infinitely greater than it currently is, but it will still be the same revelation. So no, I don't think we have to plan for the contingency of a possible "new truth". In general, that seems to be an oxymoron, doesn't it? If something is true, it is always true. Just saying.

Next, we have the charge that Jews get "stuck" on the "dumbest little things" while ignoring "the entire idea behind it." I would be the first to agree that Judaism does appear to be OCD about everything. This is not, of course, a bad thing. I'm not sure that I'd characterize homosexuality as a "dumb little thing," however- after all, if G-d saw fit to prohibit it, then it's probably not a "dumb little thing" but a very major intelligent thing. We are not G-d, and presumably he knows what he's talking about.

Your final point is that traditional Judaism perpetrates (I assume you meant, "perpetuates") ignorance. I wonder what you mean by this. Do you mean that traditional Jews are ignorant? Knowing, as I do, many hundreds of traditional Jews, I find this hard to believe. If we choose not to cover ourselves in the slime of current culture, why, that is hardly ignorance, it is nobility. The fact that we choose to spend our time in the depths of the Talmud and not in the depths of the current moral depravity is hardly ignorance.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Well well well well well

The title of this post is exactly what I thought when I saw the following "New Engagement: Dovid Ghods - Los Angeles, CA and Eliana DuBrow - Los Angeles, CA". Funny how things work out, eh? This morning I saw Dovid in 770 and I figured he had come here to date, but I didn't mention anything of the sort, and after a brief conversation we were back to Davening. I did ask him what the story with the blog was- he said he was "busy". I can understand that.

Monday, May 3, 2010


As I was leaving the Lchaim tonight the chosson called out to me, "Make sure I'm on the blog tonight!" I responded that of course he'd be featured, at which point the chosson's brother said (a bit derisively) something along the lines of, "What's your blog, '(the official TRS+le7 last name)'." When I told him the actual address he gasped, "You're the real shliach!" I informed him that this was indeed the case. He said that he had just found my blog a day or two before, attempting to figure out if there was a specific maamar to be said at a lchaim. He said that the picture on the top left looked familiar, but he couldn't quite place it. Anyway, I'm glad we cleared that up for him.

Meanwhile, a big Mazal Tov to Binyomin Kulek, engaged to Mushky Karp of Cincinnati, Ohio, which means that I won't be able to reciprocate Binyomin's coming to my wedding. Oh well. At least I was able to attend tonight's Lchaim, which was quite nice, featuring as it did many friends and plenty of rum balls. It's a little known fact that one of the best Bar Mitzvah presents I received was five pounds of rum balls (thanks Dr. W).

In other news, tonight I experienced "A Tale of Two Targets". The first, at Atlantic Terminal, was crowded and ill-stocked. The items we (TRS+le7) wanted to buy were nowhere to be found, and eventually we decided to leave. At that point I mentioned that for a small fee we could relocate to the Flatbush Target, just a subway ride away, where we might, if lucky, locate our desired goods. We made our way to our second Target of the night, and lo and behold, it was far superior to the first. We quickly located one of the desired items, and turned to look for the others. There was only one on the shelf, but a helpful salesman quickly found another two for us, explaining that the one off the shelf looked a bit ragged (which it did) and he'd switch it out for us.

Suffice it to say that I was very impressed, especially when compared with the other Target. The selection was far superior, there were much fewer customers, and it seemed like the staff were more interested in being helpful. Not, of course, that I generally like to talk to staff, but that's a different post.