Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Of the fruitiest

A comment was left on this here blog a little while ago, and I've taken the liberty of republishing it in order that a wider-ranging audience could see and appreciate it.

Dear Mr. R.S.

You do seem to land yourself in interesting social situations! I might recommend the "family support" role as very effective on occasions where one's presence is required. My rule is to avoid all social events unless, by some quirk of fate, I am expected to pay for all or at least most of the costs of the event on the principle that I might as well get to eat what I've paid for. However, this does not always work and when I do have to attend social events sponsored by others my standard reply to questions regarding my presence, relationship to the celebrants etc. is to gaze deeply into the eyes of the questioner and say, with great feeling, "I'm here to support the family." The questioner is immediately placed in a vulnerable position - clearly there is something afoot that they are not aware of and, if you have spoken in a deep, serious tone, something they should not ask about. You gain further advantage by being someone who knows things the questioner does not in addition to holding the moral high ground by being there "in support." As a fallback posiiton you can always use the "Finkelstein barmitzvah" ploy but I'm sure this is far too easy and hardly challenging to an experienced campaigner as yourself. I'm sure our founder and president, Mr. Stephen Potter, would agree.

I smite you on the chin,
Leo d T.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday Monday Happy Days!

I should make a label entitled, "embarrassing social occasions I have lived through". Actually, that's a bit redundant- virtually every social occasion I have lived through has been embarrassing in one way or another. Tonight's installment came courtesy of a good friend of mine from LA (and later in Morristown), Yankel Wilansky, who got engaged just a little while ago. My wife (the inimitable le7) informed me of the happy occasion as I was washing dishes, though her reason for mentioning it was because Yankel got engaged to Mushka Grossbaum of S. Paul, that beloved (semi)hometown of mine. When my wife told me the happy news I said, "Hey, Yankel Wilansky from Maine?" "Sure thing," she replied, "from Portland." I immediately dried my hands and called him up, and heard that the lchaim was on Monday night at Chovevei Torah, but the pre-lchaim was at a mutual acquaintance. I decided not to go, but then I changed my mind and went. These things happen.

I left about twenty minutes after I had spoken with Yankel, and I figured that the party was in full swing. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and discovered that the place was virtually empty! Turns out the happy couple were not yet back from the Ohel (something about saying the entire Maaneh Lashon) and consequently I was stuck. Not to say that I wasn't made welcome, but it was a bit awkward. The last time I went to one of these pre-lchaim shindigs (Hey Zalman Aharon) I was in the room for about thirty seven seconds, and if I hadn't run into Ben Tzion Friedman I would have been in the house for just about that amount of time. Here, on the other hand, there was patently no Chassan to congratulate, so I was left to eating popcorn and making smalltalk with a future brother in law (another Ben Tzion, oddly enough).

People slowly trickled in, and after they had said "Mazel Tov" to everyone else in the room they would turn to me and say something along the lines of, "And whose side are you from?" As it happens, I have a connection to both sides, but it's hard to explain such subtleties in five seconds. Thus passed an awkward time which only abated when Yankel walked in. I proceeded to make several phone calls notifying friends and acquaintances of the happy proceedings, which of course mandated my staying put until they arrived.

Did I appear strange in the eyes of my fellow party-goers for staying so long? Possibly. But I can't live my life worrying about what other people think-I have enough problems with what I think.

In tomorrow night's exciting episode, catch TRS by the lchaim, where despite the crowding milieu he somehow manages to feel awkward.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's to be done?

Fifteen year olds have many admirable traits. One of these is not their belief in their own infallibility, which is manifested in their believing themselves to be always right. Another distasteful aspect of the personality's of many young adults is their desire for "dirty" conversation. One unfortunate consequence of these two behavioral traits is the general disregard for polite conventions in conversation.

Both of these traits are understandable- the one a result of immature youth yet to taste the nectar of gray, the other the result of hormonal changes and other such things. As such, the bearers of these traits can not be castigated for having them; they can be taught to control themselves, and even to change them and begin the process of maturation, but to criticize? It can't rightly be done.

There is another species altogether, one that has long passed the age of crude humor and that realizes its own humanity, its own ability to make mistakes. The people who make up this group are not necessarily immune to the charms of the fifteen year old life, but rather recognize that while it may have been fun at the time, it is now time to move on. Because these people have lived the life and have come to recognize its deficiencies, they are uniquely suited to moving beyond it. There are certainly times when aspects of this life are acceptable; in a bar or among close friends, there can be no gainsaying the fact that behaving like a fifteen year old has its merits.

Be that as it may, there are certain people who do not appear to grasp the essential points of getting older, namely the recognizing of one's social standing and location in time and space. Whether these people are deluding themselves or merely have had their development arrested is outside the purview of this article, but the object is clear in either case. These people, being unaware (for whatever reason), or at the very least deluding themselves, are very firmly entrenched in their behavioral patterns. The reason they're so firmly entrenched is because they, like people many years younger, believe themselves to be infallible, and even worse have not the redeeming quality of being young and foolish. The result is a horrendous lack of social sense, grace, and tact. These people wouldn't know etiquette if it hit them in the head with a baseball bat.

What is to be done with these people? Apparently they are beyond the pale of humanity. Unlike their younger brethren, they have no future perfect. In point of fact, they have moved beyond the normally allotted time which is reserved for maturation and thus seemingly will live the rest of their lives in blissful fifteen year old-land. Blissful, that is to say, for them, for their contemporaries will undoubtedly be too polite to point out their failings. I suppose there is always the chance for a late blooming, but these sorts of things can't be counted on. Is there no other solution?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Did you know?

Did you know that at some point in the recent past Jerome (aka Jerry) Seinfeld gave $100,000 to the Kabbalah Center? I was the only person in a room full of, oh, thirty people who cared. In fact, I was probably the only person who noticed. Still, it disturbed me.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why can't we all just be friends?

Some people were troubled by my linking to an article and stating "And people wonder why we have no respect for snags..."

I would reprint the entire conversation, but I wouldn't want anyone to feel bad reading the the things they wrote, so instead I will merely offer a defense of my opinion.

1. I never claimed that Lubavitch was perfect. I merely claimed that in this instance, we are far more normal than others. Lubavitch accepts all manner of riffraff into its institutions, erring on the side of accepting too much rather than too little when it comes to these things.

2. In my opinion, the worlds of Lithuanian and Chagas Jewry have moved closer and closer together to the point where the only thing separating them is their clothes and their accents. And even then, not so much. Witness the increased veneration for the Godol's every breath, and the decreasing enrollment at chassidish Yeshivas, with the corresponding increase in Litvisher places of learning.

3. I don't know why some people think I have anything to do with Sean Hannity. I don't like Sean Hannity. I have never professed to like him. In fact, I have often professed the opposite.

4. Lubavitchers have nothing against Sephardim, the same way we have nothing against any Jews. Anyone who thinks we do is merely projecting their own feelings of animosity.

5. From everyone can be learned a lesson. Even a militant.

6. Point is, in this case, the people responsible for this massive Chilul Hashem are acting in a very racist manner, reminiscent of the actions of many in the south during the Jim Crow era. They are preventing their fellow Jews from attending their school, and making them feel like trash. The problem with these people is that for them, it's only a Chilul Hashem if it disgraces G-d in the eyes of their fellow Jews, not if it cause a similar reaction in the eyes of the nation. These people do not view chilonim or sephardim as being their fellow Jews, and thus they feel free to act in any which way they want in regard to them. Lubavitch, for all its many warts, is keenly aware of the way it is seen in the world, and is very quick to repair any media scandals that may come up- witness the way R. Manis Friedman was treated when his opinions on Israel were made known, or the way Weiss was immediately disassociated from Chabad.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vos vet zein

What will be when moshiach comes with minyanim? I mean, what's going to be in the third temple? For some very strange reason, I feel like I've blogger about this very topic before, but I can't seem to find the relevant post. Regardless, it's an interesting topic. The Korban Tamid Shel Shachar was of course offered early in the morning, and I don't see why that should change when the messiah shows up. Apparently then those who daven vasikin will be praying alongside the morning sacrifice, which I suppose might be seen as a good thing. They'll have to pack out for their daf yomi shiur once they're finished, which will be perfect, because it'll give the chassidim a chance to roll in for chassidus and mezonos faren davenen. I'm not sure whether they'll actually serve mezonos in the temple itself, or if someone will have to open a concession stand right outside the walls. I'm thinking a Dunkin Donuts, but Gombos will do in a pinch. The chagas chassidim will show up about the time the Lubavitchers are starting shacharis, but of course they'll have to go to the mikveh and shvitz first, so we'll have to arrange a later time slot for them. On days when there's a mussaf offering things might get a little crowded, what with the chareidim staying late and all, but hopefully the yekkes will be running the show, elsewise the Mussaf will drag on forever and things will really start to fill up. The ketores will always be a popular event, with all the Carlebachians trying to get a sniff, though of course they'll probably be disappointed when they learn that marijuana is not actually an ingredient therein. No one quite knows what will happen with the tzfatim, but you can be sure they'll make themselves heard.

Mincha will of course be a bit complicated, with major fights erupting over when it should be brought, and some people trying to extend it as late as possible. Maariv will be simple as pie- just keep the flame burning bright, and we should all be fine. Those wanting to do tikkun chatzos might be disturbed by the late night farbrengens, but at least there's that whole water system to clean up in the morning. And the best news is, SMR will be directing the slaughtering, and he won't even have to worry about under-age kohanim either!