Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Chassidishe Melave Malka

I was at a Shabbos Table today (thank you the Amazing Yankel!) and I heard a couple of cool Baal Shem Tov stories, and since it's Motzei Shabbos I think it would be appropiate to relay them to all of you people out there.

The chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek were once sitting around discussing the stories of the Baal Shem Tov, and trying to figure out how some of the more incredible ones happened. The Tzemach Tzedek walked in, heard what was going on, and said, "Every story of the Baal Shem Tov could certainly have happened, but there are three of them that I still can't figure out." He then proceeded to tell one of them.

There was once a guy who was married to his wife for ten years and they had no kids. He went to the Baal Shem Tov, who told him to stay married. The guy listened, and lo and behold ten years passed and the couple still had no kids. He came to the Baal Shem Tov and complained that he still had no kids. The Baal Shem Tov said, "Stay married." The guy said, "Look, I've been married for ten years for the Torah, and ten years for you, but I can't deal with this anymore."

The guy went home, divorced his wife, remarried, and had an absolutely miserable life. Like, entirely evilly crazy. Or something like that. He came to the Baal Shem Tov and complained that his life was so horrible- what had he done to deserve it? Sure, he hadn't listened to the Baal Shem Tov's advice, but was what he did so terrible?

The Baal Shem Tov took the guy to the local Synagogue, pulled out a Sefer Torah, opened it up, and showed to the guy a possuk that said, "This guy son of this guy (the guy in the story) should not divorce his wife." The Baal Shem Tov said, "What can I do? It's written in the Torah."

The Tzemach Tzedek did not understand how the story happened, but he said that if anyone could do it, the Baal Shem Tov could.
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There once was a local innkeeper who didn't have any money, so the local Poretz threw him in the local deep dark dank pit. The Baal Shem Tov heard about this, and he fundraised here and there, and lo and behold he collected enough money to free the innkeeper and repatriate him to his long-suffering wife and children. Unfortunately though, there was not enough time for the innkeeper to go home for Shabbat, so he graciously accepted an invitation from the Baal Shem Tov.

The Baal Shem Tov's table was surrounded by the usual assortment of holy men and beggars (and many were one and the same), and the innkeeper had a place of honor at the head of the table. The Baal Shem Tov asked him, "Nu? Vos Is Neais?" The innkeeper told him that it had been a pretty regular pit, with pretty regular miseries. The Baal Shem Tov said, "Really? There was nothing special about your jail?" The innkeeper responded, "Well, now that you mention it, there is something..."

The innkeeper continued...

I wasn't alone in the pit, there were a whole bunch of other people there too. It was a pretty big pit, so I spent all my time on one side, and they spent all their time on their side. It was very strange- they would cry and mourn and generally be in a depressed state of mind the whole week, Sunday through Friday morning, but then Friday afternoon through Shabbos they partied like it was 1697. They did this every week for as long as I could remember, and it was really weird. I never asked them what was going on, because it was rather disturbing, and I didn't want anything to happen to me.

One week I found them much more depressed than normal, if that were possible. This afternoon, right before I was freed, they were much happier, exceedingly so, much more than normal. Knowing that I was to be released soon after, I approached the leader of the group and asked him what gave. He told me that, incredibly enough, he was not a man, nor were all the others of his group, but rather they were demons! Their whole life source came from a very holy man, which was a bit of a downer, because he was a very holy man, so they didn't have much of a life force. He fasted from week to week, and the demons suffered tremendously. Every Friday afternoon he would prepare himself a cup of milk, and prepare himself to drink it. The demons would send a messenger demon to the holy man's house, and just before the holy man could drink it the demon would spill it all over the floor. The holy man would get angry, and the demons would get life force for the weekend. They would party for a bit, but then the new week would start, and they'd be back to suffering.

One week (this week) the holy man decided that enough was enough, so he locked up the cup of milk in his safe so that it could not spill. The demons were very sad about this, because they knew they wouldn't get any life force that week. Nevertheless, they decided to send a demon just to see if it could do anything.

There was a guy selling super cheap wood that day who was coming up the road, and the holy man's wife got really excited. Super cheap wood! Woohoo! She approached the holy man, informed him of the upcoming woodsman, and begged him to allow her to purchase some for the house. The holy man said, "Sure thing, here's the key to my safe so you can get some money to buy some wood." The wife went over to the safe to get the money, and she spilled the milk! The demons were very happy. Super happy.

thus ended the innkeeper's tale...

While the innkeeper was finishing his tale one of the holy men around the Baal Shem Tov's table collapsed in a faint. Turns out he was the holy man in the story!

The Baal Shem Tov explained the incredible Hashgocha Pratis in the story. The innkeeper was imprisoned with the demons, only to be freed by the Baal Shem Tov, but it was too late for him to go home, so he went to the Baal Shem Tov's house, and told the story...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yup

Even though you've all probably seen this countless times before...

There were once four brothers: Everyone, Someone, Anyone and Noone. They had a very important task to do. Everyone was sure that Someone will do it. Anyone could have done it, but Noone did it in the end. Someone was angry because it'd have been Everyone's job. Everyone thought that Anyone could have done it, but Noone realized that Noone will do it in the end. In the end, Everyone was angry at Someone because Noone did what Anyone could've done.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mazal Tov Mendel+Dvora!!

Most of you know my sister as an awesome cook, master hostess, and mother of two of the cutest daughters ever. This morning she added a baby boy to the mix- my very first nephew! Anyway, it's a big party, and you're all invited- more details to follow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pitchers and catchers reporting soon...

Furthermore, koching in sports is not chassidish. So, if a sport requires you to koch in it (follow the statistics of certain players, etc.) in order to enjoy it, since on the face value, there is no action going on, the sport itself is not chassidish. And since chassidishkeit is a measure of perfection of all things... well, there you go.

Someone recently wrote the above comment to attempt to prove that soccer was better than baseball and football. This person's argument appears to be that all sports are bad, but soccer is slightly better than other sports because it takes no particular ability or intelligence to understand the game. Furthermore it is posited that "chassidishkeit" is the measure of perfection of all things, and if soccer comes closer to the ideals of "chassidishkeit" than anything else then it must be the best sport.

This argument is specious for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's stated that being involved in sports is not chassidish, but there is no attempt to prove that is true; the author merely states his opinion and then proceeds to his flawed conclusion based on that premise. The author compounds this faulty logic by ascertaining that "chassidishkeit is the measure of perfection of all things", a completely baseless opinion that has no bearing in reality.

In short, opining that baseball is not chassidish because there's a certain interest in statistics is a fallacious argument that merely belies soccer's own extreme tear-inducing boredom. Baseball, on the contrary, has tension before, during, and after every pitch, as opposed to soccer which has a bunch of guys doing wind sprints and kicking each other's shins. Baseball's statistic's driven culture results in a truly intelligent way to judge the game and its players, as opposed to soccer, which relies on emotions and things like "beauty" to measure its performance. As everyone knows, the true measure of "chassidishkeit" is how it relates to chassidus, and since chassidus equals Chabad, it's obvious that intellectual appreciation is what is valued, i.e. baseball, not the emotionally charged game of soccer. Baseball appreciates the brain, allowing it to exercise its considerable talents, much like Chabad Chassidus, unlike soccer, which is just a bunch of guys running around do wind sprints and kicking a ball.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Options

I had a phone conversation with one of the persons I was talking about in the previous two posts, and since this whole thing has played out so nicely online and in public, it wouldn't feel right to withhold from y'all the fruits of my telephony. Of course there was contrition and promises to do better in the future, but whether this means anything is not up to me- only the cook can prevent the chili from being burned, as it were.

The main thought I had coming from the conversation was how the point I wanted to get across wasn't. Instead of a discussion of right and wrong, good and evil, Mac and PC, what we got was a discussion on the fiery pits of hell awaiting some people and the eternal excision of the soul awaiting others. Look, I know that having a belief of reward and punishment is fundamental to our religion, and indeed in this case it's particularly pertinent, but I just don't think that someone over the age of twenty one is going to change their behavior based on their fear of eternal damnation. Face it, they know what the books say, they claim to believe what the books say, and yet, at the end of the day, do they really care? I would argue that they don't.

What a person does care about, what a person does feel, is their own personal responsibility and their own principles. If a person believes that what they're doing is wrong, and cares about their own beliefs, then they'll stop. If they don't stop, then obviously they don't really care, but again, what I wanted from this conversation was a discussion on this person's own beliefs, not of some future reward and punishment.

Oh well, I'm sure there'll be plenty of chances in the future.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shtuff Happens

I was thinking about a specific Rashi for most of the day, and lo and behold I discovered that this very Rashi was in today's Chumash. Basically, I wrote a post a week ago that was meant for a couple of very specific people. Seeing as I got no feedback from that couple I have to assume that they didn't get it (or else didn't even read it, a very real possibility considering the circumstances). Be that as it may, this morning I got an email from someone who assumed that I had been talking about them! They proceeded to say that I had been correct in my assessment of the situation, and they were impressed that I had managed to say what I had to say in such a delicate manner.

Two things struck me about this whole episode. The first was that someone took what I wrote to heart and not only did they not get upset (which they had every right to do) but instead they took the lesson to heart in the most magnanimous way. I was very impressed with this, even though I don't happen to believe that the lesson they assumed needed taking actually needed to be taken, and even though I'm certainly in no position to criticize this person, even if I wanted to, which I don't.

The second thought which struck me was from today's chitas. Rashi quotes the Gemara in Makkos which has a whole thing about how if one person killed intentionally and another unintentionally, and they couldn't (for whatever reason) be prosecuted for their crimes, then G-d arranged for a fitting punishment. He has them meet up at an inn, and the one who killed unintentionally falls on top of the one who murdered, thus killing him, and then the one who killed unintentionally is sent to exile. This fulfills the verse, "Evil comes forth from evil ones".

I was thinking about this because here was someone who thought they should be criticized and they thought I was criticizing them, and it was all accidental- G-d arranged for whatever needed to be said to be said! Of course, this means I'm an evil one. Also, I hope the people I really was referring to don't think this means their innocent.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Holiday’s 10

With less than 300 shopping days until X-Mas, it’s time you started thinking about your giving for next year. Sure, it might be difficult to think of what you’re going to give, because most of the products you’ll be gifting to your friends and family haven’t even hit the stores yet, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan ahead. Some thing never change, no matter how much you believe in it, and it’s best to be prepared for these sorts of things and be able to get them safely out of your way so that you can focus on the important things. For example, you know that your aunt Betty is going to give you a highly fashionable sweater. Unfortunately, her idea of highly fashionable doesn’t encompass anything past 1986, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the opportunity presented here. Instead of waiting another eleven months to write the trite thank you that aunt Betty normally receives, why not write it now, and, after consulting with your favorite actuary, xerox an appropriate number of copies?

Good idea, I know, but it’s a bit cynical, don’t you think? After all, you’re a savvy, discriminating person (as evidenced by your reading this here humble blog), and is it really befitting for you to go that route? I think not. Better yet would be a visionary approach that combined the kindness normally associated with holiday giving with keenness generally attributed to hedge fund managers who have a bad Friday morning hangover. I would suggest that you look into a gift that says, “Really, I care about you and the sweater you gave me, and I’m so happy with it, and I can’t wait to receive another, and by the way I’m sending this one to the starving children of sub-saharan Africa who I’ve heard are in great need of fiber.” Isn’t that beautiful and touching? Even better will be the gift accompanying this message- a brand new Motorola H17 Bluetooth Headset. Aunt Betty will really appreciate this present, because now she won’t get a crick in her neck when she’s knitting you that sweater and talking on the phone at the same time, and who knows, maybe she’ll even present you with some hip and stylish outerwear next x-mas! OK, that’s going a little far, but just think of the possibilities…