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?