Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mazel Tov!

We interrupt the guest posters for just a moment to wish a Mazel Tov to DotCoDotIl, who can finally stop writing the "still waiting" series. Say hello to Yakira Miriam!

And now, back to the wonderful discussions and posts from the guests.

Response to "Fade to Black"

Ezzie is going to be sorry he left his blog unattended now...

Please read Soccer Dad's post below before reading this one. I was going to put this in the comments, but it just got too long.

David -

No offense taken, and I do appreciate your desire to explain where the author was coming from. I have to admit that I have not read either article in its entirety, due to the fact that I don't get the magazine it came from. However, I still disagree with Mrs. Radcliffe's perception of the BT mindset being possibly destructive to family.

You write that “The question is no doubt one that parents whether they are born frum (religious) or not deal with.” However, Mrs. Radcliffe makes no such claim. She specifically states (from Kallah Magazine’s post), “Without the model of one’s own frum parents, a baal teshuvah parent often errs…” and “nothing can replace the day-to-day ‘knowing’ that come with having been raised the way you want to raise you own children.” This seems to make the claim that being raised by frum parents is without flaw, which I dare to say is not the case in many situations. How many people from frum-from-birth families choose to live a different derech than that of their parents, whether that is to the right or left of how they were raised? I know of many such examples.

Additionally, I don’t think that being encouraged to be an independent thinker is necessarily a bad thing. Honestly, and I know many people would disagree with me on this, I would rather see my child choose to not be frum because they have honestly thought it out and truly believe in their convictions rather than follow the crowd blindly, without thinking about what they are doing. As an independent thinker myself (who according to Mrs. Radcliffe will probably lead my children in the wrong direction – there’s goes any shidduch possibilities I had left), I do want to encourage my children to believe in what they are doing, not just “fit in.” The Orthodox world would be much smaller without the incredible numbers of baalei teshuvah that have thought for themselves and rebelled against their upbringing in order to proclaim the wonder of Hashem and Torah.

This is not to say that I want my children to not be religious. Conversely, I hope to instill in them the reasons why I chose to become frum, to model my love of Judaism, and to lead them by example in a frum lifestyle, one in which they are taught that love of Hashem, and other people, comes before judging based on appearance. And I think many baalei teshuvah have that asset to offer their children that frum-from-birth children don’t – that passion and zeal of knowing that they specifically chose to live a religious life, rather than just continued in what they had always done, without giving a lot of thought to it. (I'm not saying that there are no frum-from-birth people with zeal and passion.)

Additionally, the fact that Mrs. Radcliffe states that the fact that many baalei teshuvah keep associations with non-frum relatives and friends as a problem still bothers me. I think the fact that baalei teshuvah can have such relationships with their non-frum family and friends serves again as a great model for children in many Torah values, such as Ahavas Yisrael (loving fellow Jews), and the model that you can associate with non-frum people and still uphold your own religious standards serves to strengthen one’s ability to get along in the world as an Orthodox Jew.

You quoted Mrs. Radcliffe in saying that “the children may also be individualistic not necessarily willing to follow their parents’ example in Torah living.” I think the important point that people should be focusing on is not that individualism, independent-thinking or being BT or FFB will make the difference. I think it’s the kind of example you show your children that does. And we all need to be aware of that.

Fade to black

Posted by Soccer Dad

I want to thank Ezzie for giving me an opportunity hold forth in his blog and for his kind words about me.

I want to apologize to him because I'm about to open a can of worms.

When I checked out his link about the bad attitudes of some FFB's, I read the Kallah magazine criticism of the answer. The case sounded familiar because my wife and I had discussed the question and answer a few days ago.

My wife who had previously read the item didn't find anything objectionable about it. Because of the controversy, I read the answer and didn't see it as offensive either.

The question is no doubt one that parents whether they are born frum (religious) or not deal with. In this case the mother of a teenager was upset that her daughter, despite guidance, had tastes that her parents - who were baalei teshuva - relatively newly observant - disapproved of.

So Mrs. Radcliffe answered by systematically bringing up the possible sources of the daughter's tastes. One paragraph in particular struck me
“In addition, baalei teshuva are often independent-minded individuals, strong enough to break away from their families, their friends, and their communities to make a new life in the frum world. The characteristics that allowed them to make such an enormous life transition also affect their parenting style. They may encourage exploration, experimentatiion, independent thinking, and other individualistic tendencies in their children. .. children who don’t ‘toe the line’ very well or who don’t fit in. In other words, the children may also be individualistic not necessarily willing to follow their parents’ example in Torah living!”


I hardly thought that this was in any way condescending. It was saying that the same qualities that the parents had were likely passed down to the children. In this case, though, the child's way of expressing herself would be to enjoy things that her parents rejected.

Basic message: Don't worry too much, though right now your daughter, due to influences or personality traits is doing things you may not approve of (I'm guessing that it's along the lines of listening to secular music.) but just as she's chosen this path right now, she may well choose to disregard these activities, likely even with the her parents' guidance.

I did not read the letter that KallahMagazine cited in the beginning, but I've heard of that attitude. I just don't see it in Mrs. Radcliffe's letter.

My wife, BTW, is a ba'alas teshuva.

Shoshanna please understand, I'm not trying to offend you. I just really feel that the answer was taken out of context.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Prof. Justice: Mr. Chocolate's Sanctimony

MR. CHOCOLATE’S SANCTIMONY
For the past year, we New Yorkers have listened to your racist and intellectually stunted verbiage whining about why you didn’t get the job done, belligerently blaming every other local, state and federal politician, and pathetically rationalizing why you advised people to stay put and left the busses parked to collect water. I know, something about not knowing where to put all those hypothetical evacuees. In response to your bellyaching, we New Yorkers, along with the rest of the country, rushed to participate in the rescue effort. In the ensuing months, we made donations and helped with the cleanup. And in appreciation, you treated us to a racist and bigoted rant. You remember, that thing about New Orleans being “a chocolate city . . . a majority of African Americans.” That, and the stuff about Bush and the federal government “getting off their asses.”

Of course, spewing the obligatory accusation that racism, not Katrina, caused the damage and it would never have happened if New Orleans had been mostly white was a great sound bite. Look, I understand, as do most Americans, that you and your ilk play the race card in a New York minute anytime you need a cover or detractor for your failures. Hey Ray, imputing racism to hurricanes? Next thing you know, you’ll be blaming the “whitey,” or should I say “vanilla,” meteorologists for having steered the damn thing to you. Okay, you apologized, sort of, but only after you justified it by saying, “black and white make chocolate.” Thanks for the baking recipe, Ray. But “let’s be fair,” shall we? Surely your abject failure, before, during and after Katrina had nothing to do with your unmitigated ineptness.

And I’m certain that your colossal corruption, and that of your governor and other co-conspirators, had nothing to do with the ignoring of thirty-five years of advisements to repair and improve your city’s infrastructure. You and your state were even sent federal dollars specifically earmarked for that purpose. Where did that money go? Wait a minute, don’t answer that. On second thought, I don’t want to know. And now, after all the federal dollars sent there to help rebuild, you resorted to taking cheap shots at the most deadly attack perpetrated on our soil in the history of this great country. Well, Ray, permit me to return the favor. While you were holed up scared of a little wind and water, your people were drowning.

Yet, while thousands of gallons of burning gasoline were incinerating our brethren, a real mayor, Rudy Guiliani, deployed himself along with the police department, fire department, and many good Samaritans, within minutes of the unannounced human missiles slamming into the Twin Towers. They all risked their lives and many sacrificed them. And they saved thousands of lives. How many lives did you save, Ray? What did you and your administration do, besides freak out and play the racist blame game? For crying out loud, Ray, you didn’t even take care of your infirm and elderly! What’s the matter, couldn’t find a place for them either?

This, despite five days of being warned that Katrina had the makings of a seriously dangerous storm. So please spare us from your sanctimonious comments designed to deflect your whole incompetence. And speaking of holes, our “inability” to “fix the hole” is the result of the debate over the best and most appropriate way to pay tribute to the innocent people who lost their lives, particularly who voluntarily, and probably knowingly, gave them up to save others. As for your hole down there, well, let’s just leave it at that. Children may be reading this.

Here goes the New York salute,
Professor Justice

Feminism in Halakha- 2 points

Feminism.

I had an interesting class on feminism yesterday. The professor raised two ideas I hadn't thought about before, and once I did spend some time reflecting on them, I found them to be worthwhile.

What is feminism, in terms of Jewish halakha? Or rather, how does or did the feminist movement interact or oppose halakha? I'm sure this depends on what you mean by feminism. My professor suggested some of the more common problems/ questions: women wanting aliyahs, women's prayer groups, women wanting to wear a tallis or tefillin.

We are going to be studying pure halakha in the class, but he began with some ideas. These are the two points I found interesting:

1. The idea of rights. When it comes to the feminist movement, or any movement really, you will hear picketing people (or even soft-spoken gentle people) clamoring for rights. "Rights for women!" or "The right to vote!" Whatever it may be, our speech is laced with this idea- the idea of a "right." And the fact is, that if you look at Judaism, you do not see evidence of these rights. Rights are a secular idea. What does he mean by this?

Take, for example, our Declaration of Independance. We are told we have the "right" to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But do we truly have that right in the Torah? My professor suggests that this is like the question of the chicken and the egg. What came first? There are two approaches. Here are examples illustrating the approaches:

1. I have a right to my property, and therefore you cannot steal from me
2. You are not permitted to steal from me, and hence I have a right to my property

He contends that the latter is the correct stance. Jewish law is filled with obligations and/or privileges, but it does not have rights. Priests, for example, have an obligation to serve in the Temple, or if they are unfit, to perform the duties that remain for them. We have obligations for the Kohen, the Levi, the Yisrael. Privileges, too, if you like to think of them that way. But not rights.

In fact, we are almost against rights of this nature. Look to Korach and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's depiction of what he terms the "common-sense rebellion." Korach was no fool. He was a man fighting for equality. He wanted rights! He claimed that Moses had worked matters out to his own advantage and profit, but it was more than that. Korach was using common-sense and logic to explain his claims. Sensibly speaking, a house full of holy works should protect in the same manner that a mezuza does. Logically speaking, a garment that is entirely blue should suffice for one blue string. (This is all from Reflections of the Rav, which I would quote directly if not for the fact that I don't have access to it.)

Perhaps (and certainly at one point in time) women would argue in the same way. "Men had control of the religious community," some might claim, "which is why they made mitzvot or customs (depending on the belief) in their favor/ created practices only they could fulfill." Similar to Moshe's working to his own advantage, isn't it? So too by women's desire to achieve their logical "rights."

2. The second approach is for people to claim (and this does not refer only to women) that one mitzvah or another is "meaningful" to me. It is "meaningful" for me to wear tzitzis, or to be a chazanit, "meaningful" for me to wear a tallis. The problem with this approach is that "meaning," which is defined by a subjective emotional perception, usually based on a psychological coveting of what one cannot have, does not enter into the equation. Mitzvot must be performed with or without meaning. I may dislike the mitzvah of marror and not find it meaningful, but only irritating. That doesn't matter when it comes to my performance of the mitzvah. Dry, boring, irritating, "meaningful" or not, the mitzvah is the mitzvah, and that is all that matters.

R' Soloveitchik writes about this frequently. He addresses it in the Common-Sense Rebellion by Korach as well. To tie religion to the idea of the "meaningful" is to abuse it and later to allow it to schism and fall apart. Because everyone has a different perception of what is "meaningful." This is subjective, a judgment upon the mitzvot, not something that is inherently part of the mitzvot- if it were, then we would find all mitzvot meaningful! We may reach emotional highs of passion or spirituality, but that is not enough to allow a religion to persist. The same might occur with the reading of a particularly wonderful book, or the meeting of a relative from the past.

My professor told a story in which a woman wanted to wear a tallis. R' Soloveitchik allegedly told her she could, but she should start with the tallis without the actual strings or tzitzit. After a period of a week, he asked her how she felt. "Oh," she stated, "it is wonderful, rapturous...I really feel closer to God." "If so," R' Soloveitchik replied, "it has nothing to do with the tallis. The tallis is nothing without the strings, its corners, and hence this love for God you feel has nothing to do with the mitzvah itself."

Mitzvot, as we understand them, are not "feel-good" mechanisms. We can't decide to practice them as therapy or a form of self-help. Perhaps some mitzvot DO make us feel good, but that is a byproduct and not necessarily the goal. And hence, to argue in the terminology of our secular world by using the word "rights" or to attempt to argue in favor of that which is "meaningful" must necessarily be doomed from the very beginning.

Of course, as one of my classmates pointed out, an adherence to Halakha does not solve all the problems that arise. What about the idea of a woman becoming more involved in the way the shul functions as opposed to receiving aliyos and so on? What about having a woman treasurer, or a woman reciting the announcements after shul has concluded? How come we can't be more expansive in that way? And that, I think, is still a question.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Very First Guest Post

Ezzie has asked me to guest post for him while he's busy trying to cross borders with lots of contraband and move into a new home (something I know way too much about). I've never guest posted before, though I do have lots of experience blogging. So, I'm feeling the pressure to post something that pertains to Ezzie's blog in particular, but unique to me as well. Well, looking at his description of his blog, I know that politics is out, because well, I just have very little interest (don't tell anyone, but I'm not even registered to vote). News is good, but I always feel like other bloggers cover it much better and more quickly than I do. Israel and Judaism - ahh, now those I can talk about.

I was fortunate enough to be the recipient, a few weeks ago, of the wonderful hospitality that Ezzie, his very cool wife Serach, and their adorable daughter Elianna offer in abundance. I have to say it's been rare for me to walk into the home of someone I have never met before and feel so comfortable and part of the crowd. Along with myself and one other person attending the BeyondBT Shabbaton that weekend, three of the Goldish friends were in attendance for the meal, and never once during it did I feel at all left out.

Ok, Judaism and Israel. I'm getting there.

One of the things that blew me away about Israel was the amazing hospitality of the people there. The way that I would go into a tiny three-bedroom apartment, and one of the bedrooms would be reserved for guests, or how the hosts children would clear out of their bedrooms in order to make room. Each guest was honored and made to feel special, like they were the ones doing the favor. I have had this experience on occasion here in America, but it's rare and just not on the same level.

The Goldish home dared to rise to the challenge of Israeli hospitality. In a one-bedroom apartment, guests are packed in to the gills. The Shabbos table was huge in order to accomodate everyone, taking up most of the living/dining room. But at the end of the night, in order to make room for those sleeping over, the table completely folded up so that a bed could take its place. An astonishing amount of food was served, a join effort by Ezzie and Serach (I'm sure Elianna helped as well), and like the traditional Jewish grandmother, Ezzie encouraged everyone to eat more even though we were all completely stuffed.

It wasn't just the hospitality that the Goldish clan offered though - it really was Ahavas Yisrael (love of fellow Jews). I have rarely met such a cool family who opens their friendship to everyone, and takes care of so many. Their warmth is really amazing (and no, they aren't paying me to write this).

Ok, what's the point of this post other than to extoll the virtues of SerandEz? One thing that distinguishes Ezzie to his friends, and which I heard quite a bit of teasing about, is his love of the blog. Lots and lots of blogs. Especially the Jblogs. Recently, Ezzie posted his checklist of the Jbloggers he's met, which others have followed suit in doing as well (I'm still thinking about mine). Since he's such a fan of blogs, I thought this post would be a good way to increase the length of his checklist. So, that's my plug for Ezzie. Give him a couple weeks to calm down from all his international travails (no I don't mean travels), and then give this Jblog enthusiast the opportunity to lengthen his list to the point where no one can challenge him.

Ok, there you have it - Israel, Judaism and blogs. Not too bad for my first guest post. Hope everything's going well, Ezzie!

Pobody Attempts to be Nerfect

So… it’s my very first time posting on a blog. Man, the endorphins are pumpin'....For those of you who read the little blurb about me that Ezzie wrote [Ez: it's here :) ], please don’t be expecting much. He likes to exaggerate. In other news, Ezzie started asking me to post about a billion years ago and since then has been sending me subliminal messages that if I don't post I'm as worthless as a floppy drive, and the guilt finally got to me so despite the fact that no earth-shattering events have occurred as of late, and my life has been quite devoid of any humorous situations, I will now attempt to conquer my blogophobia. (YES! As a blogger I have poetic license to make as many run-ons as I want!)

Hmm.

Okay, here goes.

The current date according to the Jewish calendar is Elul 5, and despite starting my 2nd year back from sem I’m still “shtarked out” and using my Hebrew birthday. Thus, today I have entered a monumental stage in life, a point of no return, an age of bifocals, dentures, and social security checks. Okay, I’m stretching it. But the fact of the matter is, the world looks upon twenty year olds with a much different view than the party-hardy teenagers they were at nineteen. A friend of mine is in such denial that after her 20th birthday, she responded “19b” when questioned about her age.

However, the phenomenon of getting depressed over getting older isn’t unique to me. It’s observable that regardless of race, sex, religion, and age, nobody likes getting older. Wait, I take that back. Nobody over the age of seventeen likes getting older. Kids always think things will get better as their age increases, and its true for the most part- allowances, bedtimes- they’re all better for the big kids. Then you hit the age where… you wish you were a kid.

So why do birthdays seem so depressing? One answer: We realize a whole year has passed and most of our “To Do In Life” lists have not been actualized. For instance, I just keep on telling myself, "Go on and do something to conquer your shyness- stop sitting around, either get cracking or go to therapy." My house is full of half-finished art projects and choruses to songs just missing those last few words. It seems the world is full of dreamers with unrealized dreams.


So as I was showering and pondering why shampoos are scented like fruits when nobody would go and squish strawberries or papayas into their hair voluntarily, my thoughts drifted to this. Why is it that we all have so many goals yet fail to acheive them? After much psychoanalysis (hey, I'm a girl. It's what we do best), this is what I came up with.

THE THINGS THAT HOLD US BACK FROM LIVING UP TO OUR POTENTIALS (note: i can't stand that potential cliche, but i got so many speeches about it during high school that its worked its way into my vocabulary)
A) Laziness. Okay, duh. But seriously, we Americans of the 21st century waste so
much time. Like me writing on this blog, it's wasting a lot of time. I should be
sleeping, so I can wake up before noon and get in a Geshmaka Shacharis
(intensely good prayer) and then save up my energy for job-hunting. But noooo,
Ezzie says I have to finish this post or it is hypocritical of the point I am
trying to prove. Back to being serious, though, Laziness is holding a lot of us
back from achieving. And in retrospect, we always kick ourselves for giving in
to the urge to sit back and drink lemonade while opportunity is pounding away at
the door. So, for my birthday resolution, I resolve to get a speaker phone next
to my doorbell. (: Jokes. On to point B.
B) Indecisiveness. Okay, so it might be worse cuz I'm a girl and it takes me
half an hour to order when we go out to eat (forget it when we go to the
ice-cream store), but the tossing back and forth of unanswerable questions has
many of us miss opportunities right and left. Some famous person whose name I
don't remember said "You always miss 100% of the shots you don't take." So while
it is necessary to weigh out the pros and cons before making a decision,
torturing oneself over the decision will only prolong the agony and prove as a
time waster (read A for why wasting time is so bad.)

C) And my last reason why we end up not taking a lot of shots and therefore
missing them is that wonderful part of our emotional makeup we call self esteem.
Though it is usually regarded as something only applicable to teenage girls
worried that their friends will be embarrassed of their new pimple, it is
something deeply embedded in the psyche of every person. And, once again, it
holds us back from acheiving greatness. Sometimes, (when im in a really
positive, self-loving mood) I'll ask myself, "Self, what would you do in
this situation if you didn't care about what others thought of you?" And the
answer to that question is always... DO IT! Because as Ezzie reminds us every
day when we log on to his blog... "...the people who care don't matter, and the people who matter don't care."

Remember all of this, there will be a short quiz next period.

Feel free to respond with your thoughts, birthday wishes, and self-esteem boosters. (Hey, nobody's perfect.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Heresy of Intelligent Design

CuriousJew listened to, and jotted down, what seems to be almost all of R' Natan Slifkin's speech tonight at Stern: The Heresy of Intelligent Design. Good stuff... StrongBad, if you're reading this, you explained it well on Shabbos when we were talking about it. :)

Chana has also agreed to guest post at SerandEz over the next couple of weeks. As I've said in the past, she is consistently one of the best writers in the J-blogosphere by any measure... and then you find out she's "just" a teenager. Incredible. Welcome, Chana!

One of the interesting things about having guest posters is that they sometimes seem to put up posts all at once. I invite everyone to scroll down and read the earlier posts by the guests as well, starting from MordyS' Welcome to Elul and continuing through Holy Hyrax's End of an Era and Revenge of the Skeptic. I'm going to try and update the drop-downs on the side which list all the guest posters and their posts when I get the chance; any guests posts preceding August 15th from today and earlier are already there. There's some great stuff there - check it out.

Revenge of the Skeptic

I’ve been meaning to write this post, for a few days now, but after I watched a certain movie, last night, it pushed me to write it today. Actually, its this movie that has a lot to do with the post. If anyone has been following, there is a certain blogger out there, that has gone through quite a transformation. If you recall, this blogger started out by nailing it down hard on a segment of the Charedi community, especially those involved in the Slifkin ban. And he did it quite well. A large readership formed. At the same time, many discussions transpired about certain difficulties reconciling science and Torah. The threads were spectacular. Some of us heard things we never heard before. Things that were probably never going to be mentioned on the outside. He captivated us with us brute honesty and willingness to tackle these issues. Many people emailed him to thank him for enhancing their emunah. Many people considered him the champion that was going to once and for all bring orthodoxy back to its greatness. There was something in him we never saw before. Of course, that was the beginning.

Fast forward it about a year (or more), and things started to change. Answers to questions were stopping. Atheists and skeptics started taking over. Where once was light, clouds were starting to come in. Commenters witnessed spontaneous bursts of anger due to frustration. Some of us were beginning to see where this might lead… but we had hope. The greatest of the J-bloggers would lead us on. But, others felt there was a dark influence on him from behind. Slowly, from the blog shadows, whispering in his ears that his current life was a lie. Of course, we can’t prove it, but whats for certain is that we all started seeing a change. A change we did not want to see. This was going on for a while. Fighting to sustain some sort of sanity between faith and reason.

But alas, the “other” side had at last ensnared him. A much different blogger rose full of rage and frustration. He is almost non-recognizable, almost a machine. A lot even consider him a menace now more than ever. To top it all, his name was changed.

I’m sure everyone has guessed to what movie this whole situation reminds me of. (No, no, not Grease). I’m also sure everyone recalled that there was a happy ending at the end of everything. And like the movies, I still have hope. Hope that everything will turn around once again for him. I have hope that some sort of answer will be found for some of those questions that ache us…especially for him. I have hope that there WILL be a happy ending.



In the meantime, all attempts to destroy him (metaphorically) are highly encouraged :P

Triple Enjoyment

CWY pointed to it first, so he gets the hat tip: This is the best article you'll read this week.
Israel's top military commander sat on the edge of his bed, talking on the phone, rubbing his forehead. The bedroom door was closed, muffling the Saturday clink and giggle of his children at lunch. His chief of operations was on the gray, secure phone, the line that rang louder and sharper and made his heart beat fast.
The other person to link to it is SoccerDad - who then discusses the issue a bit.

SweetRose, meanwhile, links to and discusses a couple of items she read. I especially agree with both her and Ariella of Kallah Magazine about the second one - sick, sick, sick attitude among some "FFB"s.

Shoshana and David are the two first J-blogs I ever read (along with the now-busy mom Miriam at BlogHead), and I've always enjoyed their writing - so, of course, I asked them to guest post here a couple of times over the next couple of weeks. I've also had the pleasure of meeting both of them in person, and they're both wonderful. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I have.

More guests to come... (?)

End of an Era

We met about 5-6 years ago. She was sparkling in the sunlight when I saw her for the first time and I knew that we would get along beautifully from then on. And we did. We had so much fun together. Either taking her out to parties, friends houses or just for a ride, it was always a pleasure. But last week, just like that, she was gone. Taken away from me. I’m never going to see her again. Well, maybe I will, but its going to be another mans arms around her, but I doubt it.

No, I’m not talking about a girlfriend or even a friend or even a mistress. I’m talking about my first car. An ’88 Honda Accord. Man that car was perfect. She was white, two door, tinted windows and pretty low to the ground. It’s previous owner had spruced up the engine a bit and took off any marks from the back of the car that it would lead you to think it’s a Honda accord. The car handled perfectly and the absolute best part of that car was the loose steering wheel. You could turn that sucker with your pinky. Some people might not like that, but it was really fun to drive it that way. I had my tassel hanging off the rear-view mirror and a picture of my girlfriend on the dash board next to the tfillat haderech. Two other high school friends had the same car. I think the 88 model was the “it” car to have when I was in high school in 98, (or maybe I just think it is). It was such a simple car. No fancy shmancy GPS systems inside or other electronic gadgets. Hell, the AC didn’t even work well, but IMO, those cars, that you can ware and tear are the funnest to drive. Eventually, I got married, and my wife brought with her, her 95 Toyota Camry. Pssshtt, a Toyota camry, especially a 95 looks more like a granny car to me, so I stuck with my accord. Fate, of course, would decide otherwise. A few years ago, an elderly chap though he could make a left before I get to the intersection. Well, he was wrong. The right side of my car hit his back. Everyone was fine but I no longer had a light there, which means no longer driving at night. My wife and I both agreed there is no point in putting any money into that car, since she felt the car was too small to be safe to put a baby in there. The brakes where shot also. I parked the Honda in our parking lot and there she stayed for a couple of years. We bought her brothers car, a 95 Nissan Altima. She took that car, and I got stuck with the camry.

The car no longer started, and we had to get rid of it because just like Ezzie, we were moving, except we did it much faster than Ezzie and with a lot less whining. So last week was the day. We were going to donate the car. The tow truck came in and was going to tow it out. And then all of a sudden, it hit me. I was so sad my accord was being taken away..Before the car was about to pull out, I quickly took a pen and pulled off the Honda “H” from the Hood. HA!, now no one is going to know it’s a Honda. The tow truck pulled out, and left. I followed her out and said goodbye. You have to realize, I am an incredibly sentimental guy, and this accord, was a huge part of my memories from high school and college days. It’s like for some reason, it was official now. I am now, an adult. A certain part of life is officially over and a new one is underway. I’m sure every guy remembers his first car and what it meant to them. I haven’t met any women that have this kind of attachment to their old cars, but I could be wrong.

Oh, and just so I don't have to deal with an furious wife in talking about a love for a car, I will be posting on how I met MY wife.

Hectic Life

UPDATED

Shoshana asked on her blog recently what people are trying to work on during Elul. I jokingly commented "Moving" - and sadly, it's not such a joke, but it's only half true: I'm also starting my new job in just 3 weeks. The company I'm working for has an excellent reputation for dealing with Jewish issues, such as holidays and the like - to the point that when I started asking about it during an interview, the interviewer informed me that everything was on Saturday/Sunday this year except Yom Kippur, which isn't a big deal because "plenty of people won't be in that day".

But this year will be quite interesting because of the scheduling: There is a week of orientation that leads right into Rosh Hashana, followed by a second week of orientation in a different locale where check-in is "Sunday evening, anytime after 3 pm" - while Rosh Hashana doesn't end until after nightfall. Even better, the next Monday is the first day of actual work... the same day as Yom Kippur.

Until then, there are a few weddings, including one tonight and another Wednesday night with my exhausting trip to Toronto and back in between. There's also the packing of an entire apartment, plus whatever I bring back from Toronto, then unpacking it next week there - and I still have some other work I need to get done. And of course there's a couple of Shabbosos in the middle. Fun fun.

Blogging is going to be slow. Some guests are going to be posting in my stead - MordyS already posted an excellent rant/shmuess on Elul below this post, and Prof. Justice sent me a great piece on the Chocolate City that I'm going to post later. SIL helped me compose a piece that I'm hoping to put up soon - it just needs a bit more editing - and if Holy Hyrax stops following XGH to the depths of wherever (kidding!), maybe he'll post as well. And we're still awaiting the first post of Pobody's Nerfect, but she is busy with her own move, so we'll have to see if that happens or not.

I'm probably going to invite a few others to post over the next couple of weeks - if you're interested, let me know via e-mail.

UPDATE: So far, so good. 'Leave whenever you have to on Fridays to be home on time, come Monday morning if you have to.' Nice.

MordyS: Welcome to Elul

Welcome to Elul. The cliché of the mussar Rebbeim that’s been drilled into the heads of anyone who’s ever attended a yeshiva. What’s that one thing we always hear that Elul is all about? Change. What a great thing. So what’s the deal with changing? We’re supposed to come out of a month, then a ten day period, then a grand finale of Yom Kippur completely different people. That’s the idea all of our Rabbis spend so much time shmoozing us out about. We can evangelicalize the situation and think that our Rabbis are all hopped up on crazy conman dreams of glory and money and “Healing this boys SOUL!!!!” and we can walk out of a shmooze thinking the fire and brimstone is a bunch of bull, telling ourselves that, “my rabbi doesn’t know me!” or “who does this guy think he is?” Besides the fact that (I cannot remember which sefer this is from) one itty bitty joke can always shoot down a powerful, moving mussar shmooze. Now, that is if it’s actually fire and brimstone, because I don’t think too many Rabbis in community shuls these days rub too hard on their constituents. Shteibels, definitely not; they’re lucky if they even have a rabbi. Meanwhile, 15 year olds in yeshivas who can’t even control their own hormones, let alone outside pressure, get subjected to biweekly harangues.

I’m not an enemy of change in the least. In general, I prefer routine. But I certainly don’t have anything against people doing some serious soul searching, doing a cheshbon hanefesh, even if only once a year, and actually changing their evil ways.

Elul makes me uncomfortable. Yom Kippur scares the bejeeses out of me. And like I said, I prefer routine, but I’m certainly not afraid of change.

So since I got a keen sense of the obvious, I’ll call it like it is. We’re supposed to change our ways from evil to good. To make it a little bit more mathematical:

Elul+Asseres Yemei Teshuva+Yom Kippur=Change.

Specifically from bad to good, or better known by its more popular title, Teshuva.
Now, notice how I just equated Teshuva with change. Is that not all that Teshuva is? Changing.

The big problem with change though, is that there has to be something to change. A personality trait, a character defect, a business practice, or maybe a different perspective on life. Those all seem like things that may need some changing. Or maybe just a good attitude adjustment. Yeah, I think a lot of Jews out there just need a swift kick somewhere below the gartel to get ‘em contemplating what put them in their current fetal position on the ground weeping like a little girl. What better way to realize you have a major ideological deficiency than by someone making it physically clear to you?

In all seriousness, what is change? I think by now you’ve all realized that I’m not the greatest master of subtly. In fact, I prefer painfully obvious any day over the gentle drawn out prod with a stick approach. And that’s why I’m here telling you what change is.

Bur first I’ll start with what change is not. Change is not taking the Triboro Bridge instead of the Whitestone because of the construction. Change is not going to a Mets game ‘cuz the Yanks are out of town. Change is not going to Wok N Take Out instead of Glot Wok just to see if food tastes different on the other side of town. Even if you do all those things for no reason, it’s still not the change I’m referring to. I’m also not referring to the stuff you find under the couch cushions when you’re gutting your house for Pesach.

So we know what change is not. But then what is change?

How about deciding to let the old woman go in front of you on line for once in your life, is that change? How about deciding to file your taxes honestly this season, is that change? How about putting a little extra in the pushka this morning at shachris? Hmmm, I’m starting to smell a hint of something.

I finished summer school a month ago. The partners at the accounting firm I worked at for the past year told me I could take off for the five weeks of summer school that I was going to be living in Brooklyn, since summer classes were every day from 3:30 till 8. I finish school and inform them that I’m ready to come back to work. They say they’ll call me when they need me. A week and a half later I walk in asking what the deal is. They tell me they don’t need me anymore. And I didn’t fight for my job because, frankly, I was kind of sick of the place anyway and I wasn’t learning as much as I could have been. But anyway, here I am a little while ago without a job for almost seven weeks. Money’s getting thin, my parents are in Alaska for the next two weeks and my car is in the shop getting a week and a half long $1,300 “tune up”. Besides being in a rut and sitting on my tuchus all day watching war coverage, with $40.69 to my name, wondering how I’m gonna pay my car insurance bill, I wasn’t very happy.

I suddenly realized that my life has completely changed in seven weeks. July started with money in the bank, a steady job, a GPA that was ok (but sinking), and a car. But what really changed? Things were all different, but nothing changed. I never got up and consciously decided that I wanted my car not start, to be running out of money, to be suddenly out of a job, and to be wondering whether it’s worth it for me to go back to school next semester. But now here I am, conscious, healthy and wondering. And everything seems to have worked itself out. So maybe nothing did change. But that can’t be since I have some ideas now that I’ve never had before. I finally realized that school is actually more important right now than working. So yes, something definitely did change.

I finally figured out a direction to go in after that shake up, and that direction is of a completely different mindset than I had just two months ago. And that’s change.
It must be. Change must be more than just things being different than the norm. It must be a certain emotional, or mental/psycho earthquake of sorts. It must be a shake-up not just of shaky, but of shattering proportions. It must not just move you to action, echoing a thump as you roll out of bed. It must move to action as the lava that eventually moves an entire city and consumes it as it flows down Main Street. And the speed of action is not as much a factor because all that really matters is that the change will lead to an end result of becoming better, of rising up. However, the change must also move the way a tornado suddenly sweeps in and throws the trailer across the county. It’s got to be drastic (and seems to best be described by metaphors of natural disasters).

I am not concerned with how quickly one makes a life altering change or how many steps they must first make in order to get to wherever they truly hope to be in life. That’s because if you ask one Rabbi, he’ll tell you that you have to work on yourself slowly, step by step. However, if you look at some of the dudes I went to yeshiva with in Israel, they never would be sitting in the Mir right now if they never decided to just take a swan dive off the deep end. What concerns me is that people actually do it, not how fast or how slow they do it.

I want people to change. I want to change. I want to be better and learn more and do more chessed and daven with a minyan three times a day. I want to change plenty of other things about myself that I don’t feel like talking about here. I’m not even close to being as good of a Jew as I want to be, and who knows if I ever will be. But it’s not just about wanting to change. It’s about actually changing. It’s about how I change for the better, that I elevate myself in whatever way I can into a higher being. The point is that I become a better Jew at the end of the day after all is said and done.

And yes, I know, “sur meira v’aseh tov.” Yes, it sucks to talk about all the bad in the world. And not just all the bad in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and everywhere else, but the bad in our community. Yes, there is bad in our tiny little interconnected insular Jewish village. I know, doesn’t it suck to think about? There are bad Jews? The more I think about it, the more I feel like thank God we haven’t resorted to murder just yet (at least not that any of us know about) . We seem to have covered white collar crimes, indecent public officials, drug dealing, and a recent checking of the sex offenders list shows that we thoroughly covered that area as well.

Then what about the stories not everyone hears? In my 22 years on this Earth, should it make sense for me to say that nothing surprises me anymore? Should I listen to stories about fights breaking out in beis medrashes and Sefardi quotas in yeshivos and bais yaakovs, and not bat an eye lash? Should I read in the newspaper about frum girls getting kidnapped and Rabbis getting away with child molestation and not think that it’s weird? Should I hear about tax fraud, money laundering, housing schemes and $100 million Chasiddus empires, and not be wondering how certain people have the guts to call themselves “ultra-orthodox” Jews? Should I be driving through a predominantly Jewish neighborhood and wondering if this is really how my people were meant to go about their daily lives? Is this how God fearing, Torah abiding people act?

And everyone reading this knows that I could go on and on about all the cracked out stuff that goes on in the Orthodox Jewish community. We all have the little deep dark community secret that we think no one else knows about, so I’m sure you can all relate. And yes, all the negativity makes my skin crawl as well. I’d rather smile about all the fluffy seminary girl stories that we can all tell about all the good things and how much chessed we do. But like I said, thank God we haven’t started murdering people yet. I just don’t get how bad we are. This is our community? This is the Jewish world that I grew up in? Am I just a huge pessimist?

Last week I had a discussion with two friends of mine, CD and Duvs, about how annoying it is to live in a large Jewish community. Of course, it’s easier to live like a Jew with having tons of options for minyanim, having easier access to mikvaos, and other necessities that plenty of Jews in the larger communities totally take for granted. But even better, you can also get eight different brands of a myriad of types of kosher products; you can choose your poison/Chinese take-out and compete with your neighbors for coolest chumra of the month club, but is that what it means to live in a large Jewish community? My friend Duvs told CD and I about how in a particular small Jewish community, it was just about impossible to keep Cholov Yisrael. Guys from a certain Yeshiva would love to go there because they’d finally be able to eat Entenmann’s donuts. But this one guy was determined to keep Cholov Yisrael and he had an industrial freezer and he’d drive many hours just to stock up on Cholov Yisrael milk.

Keeping Cholov Yisrael is not the point. Working to be a Jew is the point. It’s almost like the more Jews that congregate in a certain place, the more competitive Judaism becomes. 2 Jews, 3 opinions. Why does that have to be true? Why can’t we work together to change that? Why can’t we all realize that it takes work to be a Jew and just because you can wake up and choose from six different minyanim to go to, it doesn’t by default make you a better Jew? Why can’t we realize that belonging to a Jewish establishment does not mean we can automatically have a place to hide when the poop hits the fan? Rabbis and teachers, and principals, and parents, and everyone who has a say in the community has to realize what it means to be accountable for your actions. They have to realize that they hold the future of our people in their hands and that they mold and form these fragile souls into the next leaders of our community we supposedly hold so dear.

I almost feel like I’m on my knees here pleading to the world. Maybe a little dramatic, ok, I’m sorry. But what’s left to do? I can change myself, of course, and I’m trying to do my part. There are the little things I know I can change that I have been working on. But then I look out at the microcosm of the Jewish world that is the community that I live in, and I wonder who out there is working? Who out there is pushing for change? Who out there sees the 24 year old girls with three kids getting divorced and asks what can we do to change this situation? Who out there is seeing all the imperfections of the Am Kadosh and wondering when something is going to change? I’m not begging for a Jewish utopia. I’m just asking for people to get up off their tuchuses and try to change, personally and as a whole. Actually, no, that’s not what I’m asking for. I am begging for perfection. I am begging Jews to make change an agenda. I am begging Jews to change for the better in order to reach the ultimate goal of Moshiach. I am not a pessimist. If I was, I wouldn’t have wasted my time typing this up.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Looking Up

Well, here's further evidence that the media representation of news is not reality.

Glenn Reynolds:
HMM: "In a recent poll, more Iraqis, who live in Iraq, say Iraq is headed the right direction than Americans who merely watch TV reports about Iraq or read newspaper reports about Iraq."
I actually took the time to go through the entire poll. It's fascinating: Iraqis are generally upbeat about their country, clearly spelling out what they think its issues are and clearly concerned with them - but not in despair at all. I found one aspect particularly fascinating:

Nationallly, 75% of Iraqis say the security situation in the country is poor.

But, when asked about the security of their own neighborhoods, 60% give the security in their town or neighborhood a passing grade.

This shows the power of the media to conflate a perception–even among those closest too it.

Fascinating.

The Different Twist Cafe


This Sunday, for those of you in the Queens/Five Towns areas, there is a new cafe opening up, just up the block from where we live in Kew Gardens Hills. On Main Street at 76th Ave., The Different Twist Cafe is having its grand opening.

The coolest part? Two friends of mine from Miami who went to Lander are the ones who are opening it. Different Twist Pretzel Company is actually a chain of pretzel/cafes, but this will be the very first Kosher* one - and I hear they're looking into opening another in the Five Towns and another on the Upper West Side.

* Vaad HaRabanim of Queens

The pretzels are great, it's a really, really nice place, and they have plenty of stuff besides pretzels - sandwiches, salad bar, coffee, shakes, ice cream, yogurt, sundaes, smoothies, etc. I took a couple pics of the menu (after the jump) when they were still putting the place together - check it out and come on out. They're in a good spot - there's a decent amount of parking around them, and easy to get to from anywhere in Queens or coming off the Van Wyck from the Five Towns. If you see the owners, you can tell them I sent you. :)


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Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 8/25: Tired

Why am I up? Some good reads:
Inner Music has a cute story from the subway.

Jameel has an incredible post on the desire to live in Israel. Both Irina and Amishav have expressed similar sentiments in the recent past as well, though I was too busy to dig up the links for Jameel...

Da'as Hedyot has an interesting post on being pushed away. I don't agree with certain portions of the post, but some parts really resonated with me.

Canonist has wedding pics - mazel tov!
Enjoy!

Elianna at Chihouly

McAryeh is right. How could I possibly not put up a picture in honor of Elianna turning 5 months yesterday!? So... here are some pics from Wednesday's visit to Chihouly. Enjoy! [You can click on any picture to make it full-screen.]

More...





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Thursday, August 24, 2006

No Phone Trees

(posted with permission)
I saw your blog entry [Ez: this one] about Gethuman.com on August 22nd, and thought you might be interested in a project we have been working on called NoPhoneTrees.com. Our mission is to take the next step in the process by directly helping users skip phone trees and connect with a real human on the customer support phone lines at many companies throughout the U.S. Users simply choose the company they wish to call, and we'll dial the company directly, navigate their phone tree, and call them back when they are in queue for an operator or customer service representative. The service is available for free, and we've gotten some great feedback so far.

We are in the middle of doing a soft beta launch, and we are trying to get early feedback to refine the site before we publicize the site more broadly. I'd love to have you check out the site and offer your opinion on the user interface, and overall concept. Of course, we'd love if this was interesting enough for you to post about us in your blog (although we are currently avoiding the major media outlets until we are able to refine the site a bit more).

Marcin Musiolik
NoPhoneTrees.com
marcin@bringo.com
I checked it out, and the idea is definitely interesting. The site seems to make its money off the advertising revenue from its site, and you aren't giving any information other than your phone number to the [automated] site. I tried it quickly with Dell, and it is incredibly fast - within a minute I already had verified my phone number for NoPhoneTrees and they'd contacted Dell and had connected; the only flaw being that it was going to someone's answering machine already.

One little aspect I especially liked is their instantaneous updating on the site as you're using it: When it was calling me to verify and again later when it was ready, it told me to pick up on the screen, and when I did, it immediately showed as being connected. This wasn't a big deal, because I know what I'm doing; but it did the same with Dell as well - showing that they were calling, connecting, etc.

They're still testing it and working on it, but they're definitely on to something with this. Try it yourself.

Video of the Day

I've been sent it a couple times, but I saw it first on Jewess with Horns, so go there to watch it. It's awesome. :)

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 8/24: Five Months

Elianna is five months old today! Let's see... still almost no hair, still not walking or talking, still not potty-trained, pretty fat. She's living the life. :)

When Elianna was born, there was no real waiting - Serach had to get induced if Elianna hadn't come out on her own, and that was that. Others aren't so lucky: DotCoDotIL has already put up three waiting posts, but his latest one was especially interesting.
No news yet.

Was thinking about how the waiting for a person to enter the world is different to that of one who is about to depart it.

The latter is filled with reflection and contemplating. Looking back on a life's work and deeds while possibly questioning the meaning of life. Trying to assess the legacy that person will leave behind as well as coming to terms with what life will be like without that person around. Sadness and grief.

The former?
Read the rest.

It's Thursday, so presumably this will help everyone for Shabbos: Sarah has posted the 9th Kosher Cooking Carnival. Looks delectable... especially the main.

Meanwhile, MOChassid has started telling how he met his wife. Is every J-blogger going to start this? :) And why are only husbands doing this? The closest I can think of from the J-blogging females is Cruisin' Mom when she tells over some of her stories from the past...

Journalism & Letters:
Nobody likes commies, but now apparently a lot of people have issues with the YU Commentator (affectionately called the Commie). Great posts from different perspectives by both Town Crier (a former editor) and Fudge (a current contributor).
Must Reads:
DAG has the letter Ari Fleischer wrote to Jimmy Carter recently. Excellent.

Jack links to a wonderful piece by Jeff Jacoby regarding airport security. Excerpt:
Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad things -- guns, knives, explosives. It is a reactive policy, aimed at preventing the last terrorist plot from being repeated. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters as weapons, so sharp metal objects were barred from carry-on luggage. Would-be suicide terrorist Richard Reid tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe, so now everyone's footwear is screened for tampering. Earlier this month British authorities foiled a plan to blow up airliners with liquid explosives; as a result, toothpaste and cologne have become air-travel contraband.

Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do -- and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people.
Avrom links to an article about the state of Orthodoxy in Toronto; it's a really great piece by the CJN, and it applies to many communities today.
Israel:
RafiG writes how desperately Israel needs direct elections. Great piece.

He also notes that the Na Nach are everywhere. This is pretty funny.

Irina is a hypocrite.
Misc.:
David Linn writes down The Monster - the story he told at the BeyondBT Shabbaton. It's funnier watching him tell it over, but it's still a good read... with a nice message for Elul.

Jewish Blogmeister is considering becoming a cantor.

Pearl loses her (baseball) virginity... at "37"!

If you're up for some Japanese comedy, these are [wrong and] hilarious. Thanks Jack, I was laughing for 15 minutes straight... and I can't even understand the commentary.
Enjoy!

My Very Eccentric Mother...

This has nothing to do with my mother, but with an old acronym:
My very eccentric mother just served us nine pizzas.
But thanks to this story, it no longer makes any sense:
New guidelines knock Pluto's standing to 'dwarf,' one level below Earth, bringing total planets to eight
All right - now we have a job to do, and that is... come up with a lame new acronym so little kids can mutter nonsense when trying to remember their planets.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Intellectual Gymnastics

David Kirschner has an excellent post up at JAJC, explaining why Judge Taylor's reasoning in her recent decision regarding wiretapping was simply wrong. It's always interesting hearing the thoughts of someone who actually works in the field, as he does - check out the piece, it's a great read.

Updating

Well, I finally somewhat updated the blogroll, after many months of saying I would soon. Of course, I already see a few that I missed, including a couple that were so good I put them on my bookmarks instead of my feeds, and therefore didn't see them when I was updating. Brilliant.

I'll fix them soon. Really.

Anyways... if you see you're not there, let me know. If I already read your blog, I may have forgotten you somehow. If I don't, then I will check it out.

Now maybe I'll start finally updating the TTLB J-Blogosphere community...

Wow

From the Muqata:
5:32 PM Speechless. Channel 10 just announced the results of a poll they conducted: If there would be elections today for Prime Minister, who would you vote for? Check out the following results:

Amir Peretz 1%
Shimon Peres 2.6%
Ehud Olmert 3.4%
Benjamin Netanyahu 46.5%
Avigdor Leiberman 46.5%
I don't quite understand how this is possible; Arabs alone make up a decent percentage of the country. If it's even somewhat representative, though... wow.

We're off to Chihoolie or however you spell it with my grandparents. (The glass-blower.) Have a great day!

Post of the Day: How to Negotiate with Terrorists

(via Kesher Talk)

This brief blog entry takes you through a series of negotiations over time between peacemakers and terrorists:

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of a line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker introduces himself. The terrorist kills him.

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of the line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker asks, "why did you kill my friend?" The terrorist kills him and rapes his wife.

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of the line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker says, "Stop that!" The terrorist kills him, rapes his daughter and kills his wife.

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of the line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker says, "I'll pay you $1000 if you stop attacking us." The terrorist agrees to the deal, takes the $1000, and kills him.

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of the line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker appeals to the United Nations. The United Nations says the peacemaker is at fault. The terrorist kills him.

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of the line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker now has a gun, and threatens to use it. Other peacemakers start chanting the old 60's whine, "Can't we all just get along?" The peacemaker hesitates. The terrorist kills him.

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of the line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker tries to convince his peacemaker friends that the terrorists aren't going to respond to negotiations, but they insist that if he kills the terrorist it'll just make the other terrorists mad. The peacemaker reluctantly agrees to try negotiating again. The terrorist kills him., his entire family, and his neighbor's family.

A heated debate now ensues between the peacemakers who want to be nice to the terrorists and the peacemakers who believe that there can never be peace until the terrorists are all dead. While they are debating, the terrorists kill 15 more peacemakers.

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of the line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker asks himself, "Which is more important: being liked by everyone, or protecting my family?" The terrorist pulls a knife to kill the peacemaker, but the peacemaker pulls a gun and kills the terrorist first. The United Nations condemns the peacemaker's use of unproportional force. Many of his peacemaker friends turn against him.

A peacemaker walks up to the left side of the line. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line. The peacemaker apologizes for what his friend did to the other terrorist. The terrorist kills him, his entire family and his neighbors, and threatens to destroy the city as soon as they develop a bigger weapon.

A peacemaker refuses to meet at the line because every time a peacemaker goes to the line the terrorist kills him. A terrorist walks up to the right side of the line and fires rockets into the peacemaker's town. The United Nations condemns the way the peacemaker provoked the terrorist by refusing to come to the line and meet with him.

Generations pass and not much changes until one day when the son of a peacemaker decides that the old strategy simply won't work. He walks up to the left side of the line a little early. As the terrorist approaches the right side of the line the peacemaker shoots him. Another terrorist approaches to replace the first, and the peacemaker shoots him too. This scene plays out several more times. Then a terrorist approaches carrying a white flag, but he also has weapons. The peacemaker shoots him. A terrorist next approaches with a ceasefire resolution from the U.N. The peacemaker shoots him also. A large group of terrorists approach and the peacemaker shoots them all and drops a nuclear bomb on the city they came from. The peacemaker continues killing the terrorists until the terrorists are all dead.

There is finally peace on earth and the United Nations takes the credit.

(No peacemakers or terrorists were harmed during the writing of this blog.)

Yet Another Trip

Well, here comes Canadia again. (Yes, it has an 'i'.) Have I ever mentioned that I love JetBlue? I'm flying myself and a friend to Buffalo early Tuesday, where we get to pick up a 17" UHaul truck and take it to Toronto to load it up with stuff. Then, I have to somehow cross the border while convincing them that I'm not stealing the stuff in the back - fun.

We're not sure yet how we'll do it: We have a wedding here in NYC on Wednesday night, and we want to get to Niagra Falls at some point. The question is whether we should do that Tuesday night - leaving us with no great options to stay - or Wednesday morning, which lets us stay in Toronto somewhere - but makes it tougher to get back in time.

So... anyone going to Niagra? ;)

How I Met Serach, Part VI: Livewire

This is Part VI of a series about how I proposed to Serach. Part I is here, Part II is here, Part III is here, and Part IV is here, Part V is here. I'm currently giving the background of the story... starting from the first date. I've just met Serach for the first time face-to-face by... scaring her. Nice.

Though it may not have seemed like it from the last post, the first things I noticed about Serach were not her looks or how she dressed... it was her smile, eagerness, and energy.

As anyone who has ever met Serach can attest, Serach is... well, she's a bit nuts. [ducks] In a good way. She's funky, she's crazy, and you never quite know what she'll say or do at any given moment. Sometimes, this gets a bit scary (embarrassing?); most of the time, though, it's funny, and it always keeps everyone going. Life around Serach is never boring. As many a guest has said,
"With Serach around, you never quite know what's going to happen next."
Anyways... when I met Serach, there she was, this big smile, walking around Main Street at 10:30 at night as if she'd just woken up or had chugged a couple lattes and had all the energy in the world. When we were engaged, Serach went to LA for a friend's wedding; the bride's aunt is a cousin of ours, and called my mother after the wedding to tell her she'd finally met Serach. She described her in one word: "Serach is a livewire."

To this day, I think that's the best description of Serach I've ever heard.

On this night, she was. She was almost jumping around as we walked back and forth on Main Street, talking as all the stores closed around us. We stopped at the park nearby and sat on the benches and talked [and unlike friends of ours, did not get a ticket for it], discussing mutual friends we discovered we had, and how strange it was that we'd never met considering some of the close friends we shared. Serach did (and still does) most of the talking, which was fine with me. I was just enjoying being around someone who was so... :::exciting:::, bursting with excitement about everything, so full of life.

As the time passed quickly, and my watch creeped closer to 1:00 in the morning, Serach asked if I minded if she made a phone call. I think she called her mother about something related to their upcoming trip to LA for her nephew's bris; I honestly don't remember, though. Regardless, as soon as she got off, we started talking again, when suddenly... my phone rang.

It was B.

Ezzie: I'm writing the story as I remember it, and unfortunately that sometimes results in skipping some details. When I remember them, I'll try to fill them in; possibly in the comments, possibly in the posts if it won't make it too disjointed. If anything is unclear or you have any questions, feel free to ask! Serach won't admit it, but she's been reading the story [and lately, other posts, too!] - maybe she'll fill in some of the details and her perspective at some point. I'm still hoping. :) She's started at least telling me some of what I missed offline...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Strongest Dad

(Hat tip: Sara K)

Read this, watch the video underneath. Wow.
Eighty-five times [Dick Hoyt]'s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

Now THAT is Customer Service

I just called Canon about our camera, and - using the GetHuman database - was speaking to a person within seconds. This person listened to our issue and immediately got us to a tech support guy [time elapsed: <10 seconds], who listened, assured me right away it's under warranty, and took down all my info and told me how to send it in. Total time from dialing to hanging up: 7:52. Take that, Dell!

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 8/22: The Horror

Our camera is broken. I think it's just a fluke - seems to me like an inner lens cracked or something when zooming in and out. Whatever it is, I can't see it. What's especially annoying about it (excluding for the moment that we can't take pics or video of Elianna!!!) we wanted to take before pics for our upcoming move...! Looks like I'll have to somehow convince SIL and OD to lend me theirs (ahem!) for a bit... or at least for tomorrow, when we start packing boxes. Come on guys, I even have my own memory card and batteries...

The next few weeks are going to be nice and busy. Forgetting that we still have a few weddings [aufruf in Far Rockaway/Lawrence this week included], and that I'm starting work in mid-September, we have to pack and unpack all our stuff, which somehow is a heck of a lot more than the suitcase or two I wheeled over from Lander a little over two years ago. On top of that, Serach's sister who made aliyah this year after a year of testing the waters is giving us a nice load of items from their house in Toronto. That's the good part. The bad part is... I have to go and get it, which likely means driving a car to Buffalo, attaching a hitch, clamping on a UHaul trailer, driving to Toronto, putting all the stuff into the UHaul, driving back to Queens, unloading it in our current apartment, then moving it along with everything else. A bit of an extra cost at the end there, but we don't really have a choice, timing-wise.

So... assuming that this plan does happen and I can convince a couple friends that they have nothing better to do than go on a 2-3 day road trip in Toronto... I'll be crossing the border once again. Maybe I'll bring my passport this time.

Speaking of aliyah...
MOChassid's son [who, if I'm not mistaken, I know] writes about choosing to go vs. living the "easy life" in the US. A really clear, well-written and well-thought out post. I can't say I had much to do with him, but that fits my impression of him perfectly.

Meanwhile, Robbie is there and spent the obligatory Friday night at the kotel. It's quite an interesting perspective on something I remember pretty well from my years there. (I actually have cousins who live in the Old City, which is pretty clutch.)

And Me-Ander has pics from the most recent Nefesh B'Nefesh flight.
Some quick Mazel Tovs:
FrumDoc has a job!! Really!! FFW is ecstatic.

Steven I. Weiss is married! Now he wants your marriage advice.

Jameel's wife is treated to an exciting anniversary dinner, with cocktails and everything! Now that's a Muqata-style celebration.
And some content:
LoR has a new anti-terror video that is getting out there... it's a simulation of a suicide bombing. Pretty effective.

EditCopy notes that the US must choose what to do about troop depolyment in Iraq. Much to say about this (short version: Either send more to finish this right or force the Iraqis to shape up quick.), but no time to do so...

CWY says married friends need to learn what not to say to singles.

ThanBook writes about the KOE issue, and notices a glaring pair of issues.
Enjoy!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ruvein

From Harry Maryles: Please pray for his grandson, Ruvein ben Tova Chaya.

Embarrassment

From DAG:
I was the pizza shop the other night. A mother was on cell phone in front of the register flanked by her aunt and a 7 year old daughter. On the cell phone, mother dearest was yelling at what appeared to be another daughter.
You can't wear that. NO! (yelling) NO YOU WILL NOT WEAR THAT...OK FINE....EMBARRASS ME IN FRONT OF MY AUNT.
Mother dearest, don't worry about your daughter embarrassing you. You did a FINE job of doing that yourself.
Amen, DAG. Furthermore, these types of things have always bothered me. I can count about 5 different things the mother did wrong:
  • When you're at the register, you should not be on the phone, but paying your bill and getting out of the way to let other people pay theirs.
  • You should never be yelling on a cellphone in a restaurant, even a pizza shop - it's annoying to everyone around you.
  • What embarrasses "you" should not be the issue.
  • What's the problem with the clothes? *elaboration underneath
  • Why should someone feel embarrassed in front of their own aunt by their daughter's clothes?
  • What's the point she's making anyway, if the aunt is standing right there?
  • Yelling at one child in front of another like that doesn't seem wise, though this one is often unavoidable [except the yelling part].
  • Wonderful lesson to teach your children: It is far more important to dress a certain way than to act a certain way.
* If they're immodest, so say [nicely, quietly] that they're immodest and she shouldn't wear them.

But I'm more worried that they weren't immodest. If not, then what's the issue? They're not "fancy" enough? They're not "nice" enough? That they're a little too funky or not "frum" enough? Why is it that people are so obsessed with not only forcing extra "frumkeit" on people, especially their own children, but they're even more obsessed with showing off said frumkeit or money to everybody else - even their own family.

I'm honestly not sure what about this story bothers me the most: The mother acting irresponsibly, the mother teaching her children that dress is more important than anything else, that anyone can be so engrossed in their own little world, completely oblivious to everyone else... or worse, that the mother truly felt pressured to have her daughter dress a certain way to meet the mother's aunt. I'm curious if the aunt would ever bother to correct her niece, saying "Look - I love your children, I don't care if they wear fancy outfits or even if their clothes aren't the most modest. They are family, I love them anyway." Would she? Would you?

What kind of mentality are parents forcing on their children? How shallow can we be? Why does this mother get so embarrassed by her daughter not being 'just right', not fitting into a specific mold or expectation? Why is it that people send out information about themselves or their sons and daughters for shidduchim and feel compelled to include every single detail about the person's parents and siblings? Are they dating the parents or siblings? Does it matter what school the sister went to 6 years ago, or who the brother married, or that the younger kids are in a different school than the older ones went to?

Grow up, people. Stop trying to be who everyone wants you to be. Be yourselves. The people who care... don't matter. And the people who matter... don't care.

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