Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where Amazing Happens...

...is the catch phrase that the NBA is using this year. Now I don't know about the rest of you but if the question is Where is Amazing Happening(?), my money is on somewhere in the vicinity of NO.23 in Wine & Gold.
It was a busy week for the King, he traveled west to preach to those in the lands of the setting sun. I don't think they were really keen on listening but like many before them, and more still to come, in the end they learn...they know...they understand...they...witness.

Game winner #1


Game winner #2


Hippity, Hop and it's off to Seattle for a west-coast sweep.

The Other Side

There's almost always another side - whether we might like it or not, agree or not, there's almost always another side. And sometimes, seeing that other side can be quite an eye-opener. A few worthy reads...
  • On the flip side has a different - but far more true - definition of rich and poor.
  • SoccerDad notes that the NYPost has endorsed... Obama! in the Democratic primaries. Definitely different.
  • Sephardi Lady takes on the idea of only one spouse knowing the family finances.
    But, there is too little time and too much to say. However, when I spotted these two threads on the Imamother Chat board, I had to move this topic to the head of the class. In one thread, a poster asks the women "Do You Get An Allowance?" I opened it up, thinking it was a discussion about giving allowances [to children], only to find out that there was no grammatical error and the thread was, in fact, about receiving an allowance from one's husband. Ugh! One poster writes that her husband provides her with $200 a week for household needs. Lovely.
  • Jonathan Rosenblum with another good piece about what changes we need to make in our educational system, and that to even know where to start, we need good, hard data. At first the article upset me when it seemed he accepted a claim (by a charedi) that 70% of charedi dropouts were children of ba'alei teshuva, but I think that's part of his point - we need better data.
    In the course of the conversation, I mentioned a recent column, in which I noted that the dropout phenomenon is even more severe in all chareidi communities than in mixed communities.

    The explanation of everyone to whom I spoke, including two major talmidei chachamim, was that such communities generate a degree of social pressure that proves unbearable for many youth, especially those who have their own “issues.”

    My conversation partner, however, offered a very different explanation. In his opinion, it is the higher percentage of ba’alei teshuva drawn to the all chareidi cities that explains the differential. He claimed that at least 70% of the drop-outs in one such community are children of ba’alei teshuva.

  • Finally, a post I debated linking to because of its more personal nature, but decided that there is much anyone can take from it. Corner Point's Silent Wishes....

Quote 37

I have met a lot of morning people, I have met a lot of night people, but I have yet to meet a late afternoon person.
--Douglas Coupland

Moving On Up

Some of you may have noticed the ads for Nefesh B'Nefesh appearing above this; some may have not. Either way, I'm presuming that most readers know of or have heard of Nefesh B'Nefesh and how it helps countless people make aliyah with far less stress, saving them money and trouble, advising them in so many ways, etc. A friend was just telling me a couple of days ago that he's been rather happy with not only the generally quick responses from NbN but that you can check and see where your application and details of which portions of information are 'up to' in the process at any point, and that it updates consistently.

As an aside, there's something to arriving with a plane full of people all making the same life-changing decision. Check out the pictures that are all over the internet - they're amazing.

Most importantly, even if you yourself are not (yet) planning on making Aliyah, we all know people who are considering the move or who "wish they could go" and just assume or have calculated that they cannot. Please pass this information along - you never know who might decide that it is within their grasp after all.

Anyway, here are the links to different applications and details for Nefesh B'Nefesh;
  • To get the regular or financial aid applications (for those who need financial assistance in making Aliyah), click here.
  • For Doctors interested in a Physician Aliyah Fellowship (including significant financial assistance), click here.
  • For webinars (web-based seminars) about a wide variety of specialized Aliyah topics, click here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Maximas Decimus Meridius...

...but you can call him Max.



What? Ez did it?

Quote 36

Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
--Milton Friedman

Going Off vs. Joining In

A very interesting post at BeyondBT: Are More Jews Ceasing To Be Observant Than Starting?

And More

R' Gil has posted on the wig store controversy in Coney Island by Chaim Berlin, and while it is a solid post, he doesn't address the questions many such as Nephtuli have asked about why R' Schechter wouldn't approach the store owner directly himself. He also feels that the pictures are indeed provocative, about which reasonable people can disagree; I'd question that if this is indeed the case, all the major Jewish publications which carry similar ads should be similarly boycotted by Chaim Berlin's constituents.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Elianna Bana :)

Posted by Picasa

Quote 35

The average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think.
--?

Come To Order...

...members of the blogosphere, please come to order. All rise as the presenter of our keynote address steps to the fore. We will now hear the STATE OF THE BLOGNION address:

::APPLAUSE::APPLAUSE::
::KEY TAPS::KEY TAPS::
::MOUSE CLICKS::MOUSE CLICKS::

Thank you. Thank you all.

Madame Serach, Vice President Ezzie, members of Ser&Ez, distinguished readers and fellow commenters, three weeks have passed since I first typed before you at this keyboard. In that time, our reality has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined (at least I hope this is true, if not then you have seeeeeeeeerious problems). We have faced hard decisions about music and cinema, rising competition in the world of Judaism, and the health and welfare of both college and professional football (P.S.A. please keep ‘Eli ben Archie’ in your good thoughts…and ‘Tom ben Lucifer’ & ‘Bill ben Satan’ in your bad ones). These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve answered the call. Yet history will record that amid our differences, we acted with purpose. And together, we showed the world the power and resilience of not blogging exclusively serious topics.

All of us were sent to blog to carry out the people’s business. That is the purpose of this body. It is the meaning of our posts (or lack of meaning, as the case may sometimes be). It remains our charge to keep.

The actions of even a post’s 110th Commenter will affect the security and prosperity of our blog long after this post has ended. In this election year, let us show our fellow bloggers that we recognize our responsibilities and are determined to meet them. Let us show them that serious posters and not-so-serious posters can compete for hits and cooperate for results at the same time (but I’ll be damned{!} if one more of those stupid ‘roundups’ gets more comments than a finely crafted piece or irreverent humor).

From expanding guest posting opportunity to protecting our readership, we have made good progress (WooHoo!); yet we have unfinished business before us (awww, maaan), and the reading public expect us to get it done (lousy, good for nothing, needy…). In the posts ahead, we must be guided by the philosophy that made our blog great.

As bloggers, we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history (too much?). We believe that the most reliable guide for our blog is the collective wisdom of eclectic topics.

And so in all we do, we must trust in the ability of sometimes not-so-wise people to make wise decisions and empower them to improve their posts for our futures. To build a prosperous blog, we must trust people with their own ideas and empower them to grow our readership (y’know, that actually sounds half-way intelligent…go figure how THAT got past the editors).

The strength — the secret of our strength, the miracle of Ser&Ez, is that our greatness lies not in our posters (although let’s be honest some of them are pre-tty awesome), but in the spirit and determination of our readers and commenters (you hear that COMMENTERS, get the message). When the federal bloggers convention met in Philadelphia in 1787*, our nation was bound by the Articles of the Confederation of Web Logs, which began with the words, “We the signed-in delegates.” When Gouverneur Hador was asked to draft the preamble to our new Blogstitution, he offered an important moderation and opened with words that changed the course of our nation and the history of the world (the world{!} daggumit): “We the bloggers.”

By trusting the people, our founders wagered that a great and noble online nation could be built on the liberty that resides in the hearts of all men and women (although nobody really knows which are men and which are women because it’s all anonymous anyway). By trusting the people, succeeding generations will transform our fragile young “sphere” into the most powerful nation on Earth and a beacon of hope for millions (YeeeeeeeHaaaaaaa, we’re cookin’ now). And so long as we continue to trust the people, our “sphere” will prosper, our posts will be secure, and the state of our blogs will remain strong until we reach our ultimate goal of total world domination, MWAHAHAHAHAHHA, ahem...sorry, where were we…oh yes…

So tonight, with confidence in blogging’s power and trust in the people, let us set forth to do their business. God bless the Internet. Thank you all.

*I had nowhere to go with this, sorry.

Good Stuff

  • A terrific clip at SaraK - probably the best thing ever shown on Oprah. Bring a tissue.
  • BeyondBT asks if anyone has experience dealing with marital issues related to observance.
  • Via CC, it seems that Iraq did have WMDs as everyone thought, but after the UN destroyed most of them, Iraq destroyed the rest - but pretended not to:
    "And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?" Pelley asks.

    "He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the '90s. And those that hadn't been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq," Piro says.

    "So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk, why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?" Pelley asks.

    "It was very important for him to project that because that was what kept him, in his mind, in power. That capability kept the Iranians away. It kept them from reinvading Iraq," Piro says.
  • ASJ with an excellent quote about constructive criticism from R' Pam.
  • Nephtuli sums up very well the issues with the 'wig story' surrounding Chaim Berlin.
  • Most importantly, here are the first two parts of R' Yaakov Horowitz's series on molestation within the Orthodox community. Please take out a few minutes to read those posts. Thank you.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Conversations Worth Having

A number of people have been pointing out this blog to me lately, and it's certainly worth a look: Conversations in Klal. It seems to focus primarily on shidduchim, at least lately, but a lot of it points to greater areas of concern within the Orthodox Jewish world. Excerpt:
Yeshivot and seminaries pride themselves on having a "recognizable product." "You can always tell a ____________girl/boy" they say, and with some justification. And this is a good thing just why?

Beyond our all being human beings and followers of halacha, we are all individuals with unique combinations of thoughts and actions that make us who we are. Even siblings raised in the same home are not clones of each other. For a community or a group to try and squelch this uniqueness, to try and shove us all into the same mold, is unnatural. Where commonality is a rationally proven benefit to survival, then go for it. Where it is not, banish it, refuse to buckle down to it, expose it for the sham it is.

When it comes to shidduch making, what possible, real, definable benefit is there to Klal Yisroel in "standardizing" our children, so that one is pretty much interchangeable for another, in action and in thought? Again, I am not talking about halachic dictates but societal dictates.
As a note, my wife is a purple coat if you've ever seen one... but her actual coat is blue. :)

Quote 34

"The future ain't what it used to be. "
Yogi Berra

Recession? Uh-Uh

Finally. Someone saying exactly what I keep telling people, except backing it up with numbers! :)

A great piece in today's Wall Street Journal discussing why the chances of a recession are extremely low, and showing just how well the economy is actually doing. Excerpts:
With housing so weak, the recent softness in production and durable goods orders is understandable. But housing is now a small share of GDP (4.5%). And it has fallen so much already that it is highly unlikely to drive the economy into recession all by itself. Exports are 12% of the economy, and are growing at a 13.6% rate. The boom in exports is overwhelming the loss from housing. ...

Models based on recent monetary and tax policy suggest real GDP will grow at a 3% to 3.5% rate in 2008, while the probability of recession this year is 10%. This was true before recent rate cuts and stimulus packages. Now that the Fed has cut interest rates by 175 basis points, the odds of a huge surge in growth later in 2008 have grown. The biggest threat to the economy is still inflation, not recession.
I also like how he ends with "Warren Buffett is buying."

Un-Be-Lievable II...

Remember this?...Now we got pics....Behold the horror, the horror.

In the great words of Sir Charles Barkley: "This is crazy, it's just terbl".

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New SerandEz Feature

My friend Shraga, who has been mentioned a handful of times on this blog in the past, and will hopefully become a contributor at some point [cough], has started a weekly trivia feature to which he won't even tell me the answers. The questions will appear either in posts or - as this week - at the top left of the blog. The answers will be posted a week later.

It's just for fun, and of course most trivia is educational as well, but some might be worthy of further discussion as well.

Enjoy!

Quote 32

Love this one....

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
--Albert Einstein

Struggling Minds

A number of interesting posts that are worth reading on a long Sunday (longer if you're going to be at work for most of it... ugh):
  • Jack takes over Haveil Havalim with #151, the post-Soccer Dad edition.
  • Jonathan Rosenblum on stereotyping charedim... even by himself, even of himself.
  • A very interesting letter from a secular father asking his son to marry Jewish - Dear Sean.
  • Bad4Shidduchim turns serious for a couple of days, noting the soft gloom of the end of a 'good dating streak' and the feeling of being left behind by all the friends getting engaged.
  • Rafi G has the Israeli Supreme Court decision on mehadrin bus lines. A reasonable decision from what he translated, essentially mandating clarity on the guidelines and signage for such buses.
  • The Apple lists 10 quick reasons she wishes she were still in Israel... they're good reasons to live there, too.
  • Scraps writes a song about yeshivish dating - very well done. :)
  • Orthonomics notes that it's a problem when people think that money is the solution to all of the Jewish community problems.
  • Imagine hosting your mother-in-law for 3 weeks. And she doesn't speak the same language as you. Or have the same way of doing much anything. Well, welcome to RaggedyMom's life.
  • I meant to post this a while ago - Fudge with a really nice story from a car ride with her grandparents. Guaranteed to make you smile.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quotes 30 and 31

Good shabbos to all!
"Don't let yesterday use up too much of today."
-- Will Rogers

"I think, therefore I am dangerous."
--?

The Far Side...

…is one of those cartoons that was seen by many (okay by me) as having the ability to key in on aspects of life that are often overlooked. In this weeks parsha we have a similar situation taking place between Moshe and his father-in-law Yisro (while Mr. Larson’s observations are usually of the more whimsical persuasion Yisro’s is more along the lines of practical advice). Yisro shows up and, it would seem, in one day points out something that to that point had not occurred to any other member of Bnei Yisroel.

Let’s step back for a moment. Rashi says that Moshe’s father-in-law had seven names: Reuel, Jether, Jethro [i.e., Yisro], Hobab, Heber, Keni, [and] Putiel (Mechilta). Rashi continues…’[He was called] Jether (יֶתֶר) because he [caused] a section to be added (יִתֵּר) to the Torah [namely]: “But you shall choose” (below verse 21)’. So he was given the name of Yisro due to his having added a section to the Torah, specifically the section beginning with… וְאַתָּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל-הָעָם, where he lays out for Moshe what should be done in order to rectify the issue of judging all of Klal Yisroel on an ongoing basis.
I heard the following question and answer in relation to this last night during a shiur given by Rabbi Frand.

Why is the section that Yisro added to the Torah limited to that portion beginning with Pasuk כא? Did not his advice to Moshe really begin in Pasuk יד when after seeing what his son-in-law must go through on a daily basis he asks Moshe,

מָה-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה עֹשֶׂה לָעָם--מַדּוּעַ אַתָּה יוֹשֵׁב לְבַדֶּךָ, וְכָל-הָעָם נִצָּב עָלֶיךָ מִן-בֹּקֶר עַד-עָרֶב
'What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand about thee from morning unto even?'

or if not there then surely in Pasuk יז when he tells him,

לֹא-טוֹב, הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה, עֹשֶׂה – ‘The thing that thou doest is not good…’.

Why does Rashi ignore these sections and pinpoint another as the specific area in the Torah that was special enough to warrant a new name for Yisro?

The answer is as follows; because the other two Pesukim pointed out above deal with the recognition of a problem and the vocalization of said problem. These two acts are not worthy of recognition, to do that is no big deal. Most can notice a problem and as we are all more than well aware ANYBODY can talk about that problem once it has been pointed out…it doesn’t take a godol to complain.
It does take a Godol to go about putting together a solution and to see that it is implemented successfully. That is why the section of the Torah that was so special as to warrant a new name for Yisro was only that section beginning with Pasuk כא,

וְאַתָּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל-הָעָם אַנְשֵׁי-חַיִל יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים, אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת--שֹׂנְאֵי בָצַע; וְשַׂמְתָּ עֲלֵהֶם, שָׂרֵי אֲלָפִים שָׂרֵי מֵאוֹת, שָׂרֵי חֲמִשִּׁים, וְשָׂרֵי עֲשָׂרֹת.
'Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens',

it is here that Yisro outlines for Moshe how to go about setting up a better system of judgment than the one that was being employed. It was here that Yisro showed that he was more than just a kvethcer, a complainer…he was a man of action, not just a problem finder but a problem solver...THAT deserves recognition.


And so does this:


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Un-Be-Lievable...

...I lack the words...the comments, I just...I'm at a loss

Them Cheatin' Jews

(Hat tip: FG) A great piece by the editor of the NJ Jewish News after an Orthodox Jew ripped off another for $78.5 million dollars, discussing the desire many - especially Jews - have to bash Orthodox Jews. I think even Orthodox Jews do this; we'll sometimes complain that "Jews make the worst customers" or "Jews are cutthroat businessmen", etc. and perhaps rightfully so on occasion... but that's not the point. It's a really great piece, check it out. Excerpt:
Crime in a religious community is always going to be magnified since outsiders expect that its members should be above such things. And there are some darker, even Oedipal forces involved. For many Jews, the Orthodox represent the past, and their stubborn adherence to tradition is a rebuke to those who have abandoned it. Nothing expiates a secular person’s sense of guilt faster than seeing an Orthodox Jew show up on the crime blotter. (Call it affinity schadenfreude.)

And it’s an American thing. Despite the best efforts of the New Atheists, the most potent charge you can level at believers is not that they are irrational or intolerant, but that they are hypocritical. Conservatives get it wrong when they call the “liberal” media anti-religious for the salacious way they cover religious scandals. In fact, religion usually becomes a front page, top-of-the-hour story when the reporter can explore the gap between the ideal and the real. “Troubling news tonight, Jim,” says the reporter, standing in front of St. Whatever. “A priest who pledged to uphold the word of God is instead in custody for….”

It’s for this reason that a newspaper is more likely to identify the religion of an Orthodox Jew than his non-Orthodox coreligionist. Take The New York Times’ coverage of Martin Tankleff, the Long Island man whose conviction was overturned 17 years after he was imprisoned for the murder of his parents. Everyone in this sad story is Jewish, including a shadowy businessman who called himself the Bagel King of Long Island, but the word “Jewish” barely comes up in the coverage.

Orthodox Jews also pay the price for their own relative insularity. The more sheltered a community is, the more it’s likely to breed distrust (unless they’re Amish; everything they do looks adorable from the outside).

Jewish Pop Culture...

...got your attention didn't I?

***P.S.A. - some of the embedded links contain distinctly R-rated material...both language and content***

The truth is that I was not sure whether or not to bring two current "events" up, but since one has already gotten play on a site many here know and another is all the rage elsewhere, I decided to bring them to your attention.

-The first is a recent episode (season 9, episode 13) of Law & Order: SVU titled "Unorthodox". The basic premise can be found using the link above as well as the show's link through NBC.com (issues include sexual misconduct, spousal disagreement of child observance, communal isolation, Beis Din…). All in all I thought that what started out as a possible nightmare scenario turned out to be a fairly balanced view of many issues within the ultra-orthodox/chassidic community as stand alone topics but more so vis a vis the outside world. If you can find the episode somewhere online it is worth a view (I might, might have some ideas as to where one could find it)...y'know if you're down with that sort of thing …or if you have about 45 minutes to spare...or if you want a peek at the view from the "other side of the mechitza", as it were...or if you just like the show.

-The second is the current story de jure in the greater sports world. Thaaat’s riiiiight, we got another sports related post through the censors! It consists of comments made by ESPN morning talk-show host Dana Jacobson during a recent “celebrity roast” type event. Suffice to say that Ms. Jacobson had partaken of some of the liquid refreshment provided and subsequently found herself in slightly less than full control of her faculties. Short story shorter she ended up making some derogatory remarks about Notre Dame Football and its famous end-zone watcher. Now for the key part…there are conflicting reports as to the extent of her remarks and if they included not just the school and one of its more famous landmarks but also the Catholic religion on a most basic level. The links should be able to provide a pretty complete picture of what went down, including the fallout, and allow one to reach their own conclusion. For me the best part of this whole thing is that despite all of the different media outlets that I have read covering this nobody to this point, that I have seen, has raised the issue of the elephant in the room that at least I see...her being a presumed member, to one degree or another, of the chosen people. I honestly do not know how to view, or if even I should view, this part of it.

Checking Accounts For All

A very good editorial is in today's WSJ, written jointly by Gov. Schwarzenegger and former President Clinton, discussing a way to help the economy, particularly among the poor - without taxes, which is key. It basically notes the huge chunk of people who don't have bank/checking accounts and therefore lose a lot of money simply trying to get the money coming to them, and that getting them accounts would ease a large problem.

While I think that's all true, it fails to discuss two important points: Who is paying for the account (though granted I don't think it's a big issue; while banks charge for the service, I don't think it 'costs' them per se), and more importantly, how they're going to convince people to open bank accounts. Part of the problem is often that people simply don't trust banks or feel confused by those banks. They mention the issue but don't seem to discuss it in the editorial, though they do note that they are getting many people in cities where this has started without saying how. Nevertheless, it's a good idea that should be expanded on.

Quote 29

This quote was sent to me by Ezzie, who heard it from a friend, who heard it from his Rabbi. Yeah.
"It's better to lose an argument than to win it because the loser has learned something new, the winner has gained nothing"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Okay, people!

I have noticed a rather startling trend on this blog. That is to say, nearly 100%of the posts written in the month of January on this blog have been by male members of this blog - the female side of the equation has been woefully underrepresented. Now, I'm not exactly sure why that is, but it's time to change it up a little here at SerandEz.

One of the more clever ideas (or so I thought) that I had in my life was that traffic lights should indicate a few seconds before they switch from red to green that when they will actually make this switch, drivers will be prepared. Well, when I got to Israel for the first time, I discovered that in Israel, the traffic light shone a bright yellow in addition to red to let drivers know when the light was about to turn green. Yes! This was *brilliance*!

Okay, maybe not so much after all though, because this meant that taxi drivers had an unfortunate tendency to start revving up the engine at that point so that as soon as the light turned green they would shoot across traffic, sending passengers pinging around the backseat like so many bouncy balls. Forward! Backwards! Rightwards! Leftwards! Upwards!

Such was the fate of the Apple as her taxi driver careened his way from Rechavia to Har Nof one chilly night in Yerushalayim.

Then there was the five minute stretch where I *thought* the end might be near as the driver wove in and out of lanes, sort of like the way that I drive when playing one of those arcade racing games when the car veers up the sides of the barrier and trundles its way across the grass in the middle of the racing track.

Then there were the last-minute screeches to a stop when the light turned red with the cab halfway into the lane of oncoming traffic.

Then there were the points where the driver felt the need to go fifty miles an hour in twenty-five mph zones.

But still . . . nothing compares to harrowing, death-defying cab rides in the Holyland. Not even harrowing, death-defying cab rides in New York City. Just the fact that you know that the driver is burning rubber on holy soil (okay, tar, whatever) is enough to make you forgive him for endangering your life and charging you more money on the meter. Knowing that that taxi driver is enabling you to see the sites of the holiest city on Earth (even while making you consider throwing up on his backseat so that he'll have an incentive to slow down) is enough to make you pause and thank G-d that you have the opportunity to visit the palterin shel melech, His Palace.

Israel is a holy, holy place. Traffic and taxi idiosyncrasies and all.

We all need to be there.

We need to go home.

Should I Vote...

...in the upcoming presidential election?

This was a topic of much discussion during the weekend past when it was discovered that I have never partaken in the election process, at any level, to this point in my life.

So what sayest thou the noble reading public: To vote or not to vote, that is the question.
--One caveat...I need a reason. This is one of those "Why yeah?" as apposed to "Why not?" things for me. I'll see you in the comments...

Quote 28

Today's quote is brought to you be CornerPoint
Happiness is not about what happens to you but how you choose to respond to what happens. That's why it's called happiness not happenness---though it could be called hope-ness. You must always leave room for hope that all has happened for good cause.
--Karen Salmansohn

Relativity

It's interesting how as I settle into "busy season", I get into more of a rhythm in general. There's something to be said for structure, even if I generally prefer working outside of it.

With that deep thought, I still would rather it be summer (like it clearly is for our wonderful photog Down Under) and have that thing students like to call "vacation". Meanwhile, a friend came to visit iPay and myself at work tonight and noted to a friend on the phone that "vacation was way too short - just a week!" For someone who gets 16 days in a calendar year, most of which go to holidays, a week off [let alone summer!] sounds like a Godsend.

The title of this post is relativity as it's always fascinated me how seemingly everything has the meaning it does only in relation to something else. There's that which we take for granted, that which we feel is important due to how rare or how large or how hard it seems... etc. And of course, this is often the case. Relativity is often what makes things matter. At the same time, it's worth taking each part of life on its own once in a while and appreciating it for itself. A co-worker today passed along a powerpoint about the seven wonders of the world that I particularly enjoyed. I couldn't find the presentation online, but the 'story' is here along with some of the pictures. As is often the case, a child is the one to remind us what we're missing.

And some of us are missing more than ideas. While it's getting further and further away, Elie still misses his son Aaron. He's right - none of us can truly relate, and hopefully we never will. But it's a reminder to appreciate whom we do have around us: Children, spouses, family, friends. A Simple Jew was reminded of this when he received a phone call from the Sudilkover Rebbe while he played with his child on a day off... and the Rebbe, upon hearing what he was doing, told him to call him back another evening. The children come first.

Reminders like this don't just apply to people, but to other facets of our lives as well. From inspiration to simple day-to-day living, it's important to recognize and recall why we do what we do and what we so enjoy about certain parts of our lives. Ron Coleman has a wonderful post about his frustrations with writing and writing to no avail... then experiencing that which he was trying to bring to others and recalling what was so energizing about it.

Finally, there are those who might mistake the concept of relativity with measuring themselves against others. While one can easily mention countless ways in which the two are dissimilar, or in which the person at hand has accomplished so much that the other could not have, or how the spouse could not have accomplished without the person at hand, and all of those would be excellent points, I think a wise friend said it best so simply:
You can't spend your life comparing yourself to others. Everyone has a unique purpose in this world--some will impact society at large, some will impact their communities, some will impact just close family and friends. The important thing is to feel that you are fulfilling your role to the best of your ability.
I think that this, too, should be done without too much focus on where one is relative to where they "could be" - that is a useful tool, but can (as with everything) be overdone as well. It is important to simply recognize where one is at, how to utilize their skills in the current situation, and how to grow and improve and accomplish more - which does not require change necessarily, but simply working on that which is already there.

One last interesting note about impacts that I was thinking about a couple of days ago as I thought about the last post I mentioned above. It is interesting to study the variance in reach of different impacts. Oftentimes, a large impact will happen, followed by a small impact, then a smaller one, and so on until it dies out. Think of a crater dropping into a pond - it makes a huge impact upon splashdown, followed by a few ripples, followed by some smaller ripples... before finally fizzling out. Meanwhile, the small impact a person has is often internalized far better than the message of a speaker or pundit. That person then impacts greater and greater circles as their points and ideas are passed around; think of the butterfly effect we all have every day. It seems interesting how the 'big' ideas seem to quickly turn to 'small' or 'no' impact, while the little day-to-day impacts only grow exponentially.

And with that thought, have a wonderful night and day!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Quote 27

Be great in act, as you have been in thought.
William Shakespeare

Stay With Me...

...this should all come together, but it might require some patience and a little creative thinking (never in short supply around here I know, that's why I have high hopes).
So, a request has been made elsewhere to provide the male point of view on dating. Now, while it might be beneficial to do this seriously and with a degree or respect for the topic, I found it much more fun to go in a different direction. As I am sure has become apparent, I am a fan of the cinema and have been known from time to time to use references to things from movies, if not out and out dialogue, to get a point across. This will be no exception. In fact it will be an experiment in just how far I can stretch the connection between the topic at hand and the movie being used.
With that as a prep, I give you thoughts on shidduch dating from a guy's perspective via quotes from the film I thought best suited for this: ARMAGEDDON.(I tried to include as many different kinds of guys as the material allowed)

________________________________________
F.B.I. Agent: Sir, we have a national security matter. = “So, I have the name of a girl who would be perfect for you”
Rockhound: Good for you. = "Good for you"
________________________________________
Freddy Noonan: Pretty intense, huh?
Lev Andropov: That's why I told you to *touch nothing*... but you were all a bunch of cowboys!
-- After having successfully convinced a date that “shomer negiah” is just a minhag.
________________________________________
Grace Stamper: I understand that you are handicapped by a natural immaturity, and I forgive you.
--Thought we assume has or will pass through the date’s mind at some point.
________________________________________
President: We didn't see this thing coming?
Dan: Well, our object collison budget's about a million dollars. That allows us to track about 3% of the sky, and beg'n your pardon sir, but it's a big-ass sky.
--After you discover something on the date you wish you had known prior to agreeing to go out.
________________________________________
Rockhound: This is so much fun, it's freaky!
--Thought during a really good date.
________________________________________
Rockhound: Well it's about time, I haven't thrown up in about an hour.
--Thought during a really bad date.
________________________________________
Harry Stamper: I'm not gonna kill him, I'm just gonna take a foot off of him. A man can work with one foot.
--Definition of the look her father gave you when you were not clear on how you would take care of his little girl (for the record: this is usually deserved when experienced)
________________________________________
Harry Stamper: How long've you worked for me?
A.J.: Five - wonderful - years.
Harry Stamper: In five years you have never apologized to me this quickly. Something's going on here, I'm gonna find out what it is.
--Whoops, this is related to a different post on marriage. Sorry.
________________________________________
Max: God, it sucks up here.
--Thought during any hotel date consisting of a lounge more than 3 stories up.
________________________________________
General Kimsey: The fate of the planet is in the hands of a bunch of retards I wouldn't trust with a potato gun.
--General opinion of the capability of the vast majority of shadchanim. (Yeah…that’s a good one)
________________________________________
Grace Stamper: Listen, Harry, A.J. is my choice - my choice and not yours.
Harry Stamper: He's the only one in your age bracket, Grace. That's not a choice, that's a lack of options.
--View of Shidduch dating by NYers of those who live outside NY.
________________________________________
Oscar: I'm great, I got that "excited/scared" feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared. Or maybe it's more. It could be, it could be 98% scared, 2% excited but that's what makes it so intense, it's so - confused. I can't really figure it out.
--Pretty straight forward pre-first-date feeling.
________________________________________
Harry Stamper: What's your contingency plan?
Truman: Contingency plan?
Harry Stamper: Your backup plan. You gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?
Truman: No, we don't have a back up plan, this is, uh...
--Conversation w/ date when planned destination is removed from the equation for some reason.
________________________________________
Karl: Sir, I'm retired navy, I know all about classified. But one more thing. The person who finds her gets to name her right?
Dan: Yes, yes that's right, that's right.
Karl: I wanna name her Dottie after my wife. She's a vicious life-sucking b**** from which there is no escape.
--Damn, there’s that marriage post again!
________________________________________
Rockhound: Guess what guys, it's time to embrace the horror! Look, we've got front row tickets to the end of the earth!
-- Pretty straight forward pre-first-date feeling.
________________________________________
A.J.: You know what I was thinking?
Grace Stamper: What?
A.J.: I really don't think that the animal cracker qualifies as a cracker.
Grace Stamper: Why?
A.J.: Well cause it's sweet, which to me suggests cookie, I mean well putting cheese on something is sort of a defining characteristic of what makes a cracker a cracker. I don't know why I thought of that, i just...
--Typical first date conversation.
________________________________________
Lev Andropov: Excuse me, but I think I know how to fix this.
Watts: Move it! You don't know the components!
Lev Andropov: [annoyed] Components. American components, Russian Components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!
--“So, there is only one issue with her… She doesn’t mind if the guy works so long as he is still “yeshivish”.
________________________________________
Colonel William Sharp: Miss Stamper? Colonel Willie Sharp, United States Airforce, ma'am. Requesting the permission to shake the hand of the daughter of the bravest man I've ever met.
--Close friends of the family greeting a successful shadchan.
________________________________________
Colonel William Sharp: United States astronauts train for years. You have twelve days.
--Normal dating vs. shidduch dating.
________________________________________
Colonel William Sharp: Talk about the wrong stuff.
--D.O.A. date (hamevin yavin)
________________________________________
A.J.: You know it's all funny until somebody gets shot in the leg.
--Really, really bad date.
________________________________________
Chick: Harry, the clock on that nine-foot nuclear weapon is ticking.
--Feeling before, say, date no. 8 with a girl who is older then you are.
________________________________________
Dr. Banks: [going through the roughnecks' medical reports] Fail. Fail. Impressively fail! One toxicology analysis revealed ketamin, that is a very powerful sedative!
--“Thank you for the thought but I don’t think it’s a shidduch”

Dr. Banks: [to Truman] I mean it'd normally take 18 months to train pre-screened, viable subjects for space travel!
--“Okay, so I’ll give her your information and get back to you”
________________________________________
Rockhound: You want to compare brainpans? I won the Westinghouse prize when I was 12, big deal. Published at 19, so what. I got a double doctorate from MIT at 22, Chemistry and Geology. I taught at Princeton for two and a half years. Why do I do this? Because the money's good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, ok?
--Sound like anybody we know
________________________________________
Harry Stamper: Come on, God, just a little help. It's all I'm asking.
--No editing required.
________________________________________
President: I address you tonight not as the President of the United States, not as a leader of a country, but as a citizen of humanity. We are faced with the very gravest of challenges. The Bible calls this day "Armageddon" - the end of all things. And yet, for the first time in the history of the planet, a species has the technology to prevent its own extinction. All of you praying with us tonight need to know that everything that can be done to prevent this disaster is being called into service. The human thirst for excellence, knowledge; every step up the ladder of science; every adventurous reach into space; all of our combined technologies and imaginations; even the wars that we've fought have provided us the tools to wage this terrible battle. Through all of the chaos that is our history; through all of the wrong and the discord; through all of the pain and he suffering; through all of our times, there is one thing that has nourished our souls, and elevated our species above its origins, and that is our courage. The dreams of an entire planet are focused tonight on those fourteen brave souls traveling into the heavens. And may we, citizens the world over, see these events through. God speed, and good luck to you.
--Intro to the mashgiach’s “Shidduch Dating 101” shiur.
________________________________________
Rockhound: God, I hate knowing everything.
--Sound like anybody we know (I kid! I kid!!:)
________________________________________
Rockhound: You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?
--Feeling before typical, hey you’re a guy and she’s a girl let’s set them up and see what happens, date.
________________________________________
Max: Something's wrong.
Rockhound: Yeah man, it's ALL wrong. We shouldn't even be up here.
--When you want to turn the car around after 10 minutes.
________________________________________
Rockhound: Wow. Got a great view of the Earth from here. Too bad we'll never set foot on her again.
--Watching a different couple clearly on their first shidduch date.
________________________________________
Rockhound: I don't want to be the materialistic weasel here, but do you think we'll get hazard pay for this?
--So, how much will her father commit to…?
________________________________________
A.J.: If anybody's anybody, I'm Hans and you're Chewbacca.
Oscar: Chewy? Have you ever seen Star Wars?
--D.O.A. date #2 (see above)
________________________________________
Dan: So what's the verdict?
Harry Stamper: They'll do it. They've made a few requests though.
Dan: Such as?
Harry Stamper: Well, there's uh, few things here
--“Yes, he has agreed to go out with her. If you could just clarify a few things first about support…”
________________________________________
Harry Stamper: AJ, I have only five words for you: Damn glad to see you boy!
A.J.: That's six words.
--The look every guy hopes to see eventually,
________________________________________
Oscar: This is space! See this is just the beginning part of space, we haven't even got to *outer* space yet!
--Date #1
________________________________________
Rockhound: "Wow. This is a god dam Greek tragedy."
--Bad date that will make a good story on future dates.
________________________________________
Rockhound: [after stepping onto the asteroid] This is like Dr. Seuss's worst nightmare!
--D.O.A. date #3 (see above)
________________________________________
Oscar: Okay, so the scariest environment imaginable. Thanks. That's all you gotta say, scariest environment imaginable.
--After hearing what a typical shidduch date is like.
________________________________________
Bear: [sobbing in front of Dr. Banks] I am not crazy! I'm just a little emotional right now, ok? Ya'll throwing all this stuff at me, man! Look, I mean, after this is over, can I like get a hug from you or something?
--Things are going really well and…well…you never know…
________________________________________
AJ: [as the two shuttles are rounding the Moon at 12 Gs] Ohhhh God I'm gonna die!
Oscar: Don't worry! This is normal!
AJ: How would you know?
--Two first time shidduch daters talking to each other.
________________________________________
Rockhound: We're staying, we're going, we're staying, we're going, make up your minds!
--She’s busy, she has work, she has school, she’s gonna be out of town…she’ll be available in two weeks (hmmmmmmm)
________________________________________
Grace Stamper: Baby, do you think its possible that there's someone doing this very same thing at this very same time?
A.J.: I hope so, otherwise, what the hell are we trying to save?
--Best case scenario
________________________________________
Grace Stamper: [speaking of A.J] I thought you said you couldn't trust him.
Harry Stamper: I thought you said I could.
--The system doesn’t work, long live the system.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 1/22: For the Big O

I heard a certain someone was missing these, and frankly, so have I, so I'm making the effort to get this out just for you, O Shamash Extraordinare...

In truth, I have so much I've wanted to say about so many of these, but alas, this is not the time of year to be writing long essays and analyzing thoughts, ideas, situations, and solutions. Instead, it is the time to design spreadsheets and invent formulas so one's job can be far easier than everyone above you thinks it is, and that so the person who does the same job next year can look like a genius for filling in the information in two seconds on the sheets that took you hours to design. But that's okay, it's better that way. Keeps people humble.

So instead, here are some interesting views and reads from today and from the past few days:
  • LWY has the video of Martin Luther King Jr.'s fantastic speech from in front of the Lincoln Memorial (the "I Had A Dream" speech). I don't know that I've ever watched it all in one shot before; it strikes me as interesting that the best parts of the speech were much closer to the beginning, not near the end where he talks about the 'dream'. He was incredibly adept at referencing past to present and making analogies (the promissory note was clearly powerful), and there are times where he seems to be ad-libbing based on what is getting a reaction, even with a speech in front of him. I'm also very curious as to whether the news played the whole speech; does anyone know? Would the media now ever allow a full speech (not by the President) get such play?
  • Nephtuli has the first half of an interesting analysis of the Watchmaker theory, Science and Torah, proving Torah, and a "living" Constitution. If you're into this stuff, it's a great read.
  • R' Avi Shafran has a good letter in response to Gandhi (the grandson) regarding his rather anti-Semitic piece. Chardal was reminded by Shafran's letter of an 'open letter' written about 20 years ago that was published widely and is still as applicable now as it was then.
  • Orthomom comes back (!) with two excellent posts. The first is about the Nevada caucus which was held on a Shabbos, effectively ensuring that certain groups couldn't join. Not that too many people cared, but just by being on Saturday it caused a bit of a ruckus...
  • The second is absolutely fascinating. I could write posts and posts about this, but essentially she quotes and discusses an excellent piece by the Freakonomics authors about unintended consequences, in which they discuss - of all things - heter mechira! They discuss how the laws of shmitta, pruzbol, and heter mechira were meant to primarily help out poor people and/or be loopholes out of the law, but the controversy of the latter is now hurting most those who are of the poorest class. It's just incredible, as is Orthomom's discussion of some of it and how that impacts (or doesn't) Halacha.
  • Via Orthonomics (of course), a great step toward financial transparency in the Jewish world. Yiasher Koach to R' Torczyner and the institutions he cites for further encouraging it. May all institutions and charities follow the same path.
  • RafiG (in RBS itself) and others have been keeping people posted about the man who was beaten in Ramat Beit Shemesh by kannoim; there was a protest last night in response by a large number of Charedim, who are finally sick of what is happening around them. See RafiG or others for more details and up-to-date info. Ha'aretz has picked up the story.
  • B4S links to an interesting letter posted to YeshivaWorld by a guy who is appalled with the shidduch system after he was lied to all around. While he opens himself up to quite a bit of criticism (after implying he'd have acted the same as what he eventually complains about and being slightly braggy to start), a lot of what he says has some merit, and it's an interesting read.
And now, back to Excel - err, bed...

Monday, January 21, 2008

God Bless You...

...all of you, I could not be prouder at this time. For those of you who took last weeks message to heart, I applaud you. People, WE-GOT-IT-DONE!!

Dearest Eli stepped up or at least stepped out of the way enough to prevent the most unholiest of unions from becoming a reality.

Now the next two weeks will only cause me to have to avoid half of all media.

A MUST Read

Harry and Life in Israel are reporting about the latest attack in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Both Harry and Dovbear posted contact info of the terror ring leader and the victim. We in the US could probably at least contact the proper people and share our disgust at what is happening and the lack of action by those in the orthodox leadership.

Quote 26

A mature person is on who can say "My parents may have made some mistakes raising me, but they did the best they could; now it's up to me."
-- Shannon Fry
Starbucks Customer
Ann Arbor, MI

40!?

A very Happy Birthday to the ever-youthful (in both actions and looks) Jameel, who turned 40 years old today. As a note, I remember my mother's 40th birthday party. She's always looked younger than her age... Jameel looks like he's younger than MY age.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Quote 25

Tell Moshe to wipe that smirk off his face. You know, the smirk that implies that he has something to say but knows he’ll get smacked if he says it.
--Ezzie to Gabi on Friday night (apparently I had a smirk on my face).

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Far Side...

…seems to be as good a title as any for what I hope will become the sole consistent post to run above my byline. In this case it refers to the side of the Sea of Reeds that the Israelites find themselves on upon the completion of their exodus from Egypt (see, it wasn’t so hard to work it into this weeks post. We’ll see how this works going forward…it could interesting/creative). The children of Jacob flee to far bank due to the heavy pursuit of Pharaoh after he realizes that his nation of slaves will not be returning to work come Monday morning, as he had been told…they are planning on taking an extended weekend of sorts.

The obvious question (asked and answered by many) is as follows: what was the point of Moshe requesting a mere three days of prayer if, in truth, there was never any intention of coming back to Egypt? Was Moshe lying, did he break his promise, did he knowingly deceive Pharaoh about what the true intentions were? Why would such an action have been necessary? I am going to provide two answers, one that I have heard from a number of sources and one that my father once explained to me:

A) The truth of the matter is that the Bnei Yisroel were in fact supposed to come back, just as Moshe had promised.

At the time when Moshe was sent by God to lead the Bnei Yisroel the people had reached what we call the 49th of the 50 levels of tumah (impurity). Had they reached that final level Chazal (the Sages) tell us that would not have been able to ever leave Egypt (I don’t pretend to know what this means or how this works but let’s take it as a given for the here and now). So, God tells Moshe to go and ask for three days of prayer during which the people could remove themselves, even just temporarily, from the hurtful atmosphere of Egypt. During this time they would go out into the desert and through whatever actions were available to them (prayer, sacrifices etc.) and with Moshe’s guidance be able to raise themselves up a few levels. Then they could go back into Egypt and the pre-ordained timeline (they still had quite a ways to go) of their servitude would continue without the risk of their becoming “irredeemable”.

The only problem was that Pharaoh said no, this threw a wrench into the whole proposed set-up. Since the people would not be able to leave for a short period in order to stall their decent God was forced, as it were, to change the plan. So, God made a “Keitz” of the years (He shortened it, the numerical value of keitz is 190) and revised the 400+ yrs. into a significantly shorter period of time. This would ensure that the Bnei Yisroel would be able to leave Egypt before “falling too far”.

B) You’re right, the three days was never intended to be a reality. Moshe knew the whole time that when they left it would be for good, there would be no coming back. The reason for the original request of three days was to prove a point, to make clear for all time what exactly was going on between Pharaoh and the Bnei Yisroel and more importantly between Pharaoh and God.

If you think about it, there was really no logical reason for Pharaoh to deny Moshe’s request. What would have been the big deal? Send out an army battalion with them into the desert and after three days bring them back. What are they gonna do, run? This is a slave nation that has no concept of battle, they are beaten and broken and would be in the middle of nowhere w/ no resources. Why NOT let them go? It would probably even be beneficial for him in the long run. They go out, recharge their batteries, he builds up a little goodwill with the workforce…it’s actually a pretty good idea.

Yet, he says no. Why?

The reason Pharaoh says no and the point that God is bringing into crystal clear view is that this had nothing to do with them as his slaves…it had EVERYTHING to do with them as God’s servants. The thing that Pharaoh could not allow, what really was driving the whole thing, was Bnei Yosroel’s acceptance, and his rejection, of the supreme dominion of God. THAT is what he was against, that is what he was waging battle against, that is what he could not condone…THAT was the real reason for all that he did and wished to continue doing to Bnei Yisroel. Had it just been about slaves wanting some time off he would have let them go, but since they wished to use the time in servitude to God he would not allow it. Moshe asks for three days knowing that he will be turned down because Moshe is aware of what is really going and what is truly driving the actions of Egypt’s ruler. He asks for three days in order to bring forth from Pharoah his true Rishus (wickedness) so that the Bnei Yisroel, then and forever, would know what was at stake, what was going on and, most importantly, what each of them represented.


--In honor of this weeks thought I present yet another man who was blessed by a higher power with the ability to see thing as they truly are...Mr. Gary Larson, we stand in awe:

http://static.flickr.com/27/43999485_28cb868c3a.jpg

**warning: possible offensive material present in link...you have been warned**

Just Read It

This. As G put it: "...not perfect but that would be nitpicking".

Quotes 23 and 24

Erev shabbos....
Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home.
Bill Cosby
Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.
Yogi Berra

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lord Have Mercy...

…for we stand on the precipice of something that frankly scares the bajeezes out of me. Now before detailing this calamity that awaits us in the coming days I must first go back and specify who I mean by “we” and “us”. In this case the audience is those ignored souls of the Ser&Ez readership, and the far reaches of the JudeoBloggtian world at large, those readers who yearn for something else in addition to the many relevant topics that are normally to found across our small corner of this medium.

They…are the sports fans, and this is for them.

My brethren and sisthren, the time to crown football royalty draws near. By the end of the coming weekend we will know which valiant gangs of 22+ will collide at the dawn of the second Julian month to decide who takes ownership of Lord Vince’s prize for the next year. ‘Tis a joyful time across our land, one full of hope and anticipation. We stand on tenterhooks to view the culmination of 17 weeks of thrill and agony, of soaring highs and crashing lows (and also hopefully a few cool commercials because let’s be honest the last couple of years have been WEAK).

Vying for the right to do battle on our nations greatest stage are four teams: the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers.

Here is where we get to the danger, nay I say grave danger, part. Two of these teams (NY/SD) are lead by young men still finding themselves and trying to create their legacies; both Messrs. Manning and Rivers are relative unknowns. Not so the field generals of the Packers and Patriots, these gentlemen need little or no introduction: Brett Favre and Tom Brady, the Ageless Gunslinger and Mr. Perfection themselves. The irrascable veteran charging toward a perhaps his final taste of glory as the sun slowly sets on his storied career (boy, is that sun taking a long time to set) vs. the man of the hour who seemingly can do no wrong and has the world as his oyster.

People, if these two end up meeting in the Super Bowl the world as we know it is in very serious trouble. Do you realize that there is a week off in between the conference championship games and the championship? Do you know what that means? TWO weeks of non-stop media coverage. If both of these icons are victorious we are in for the most unbearable lead-up to a Super Bowl imaginable. The hero worship (I am being VERY good here about only using polite language) given to these two quarterbacks is like nothing else doled out by the national media to anybody else in professional football and quite possibly in all of sports. The degree of sycophantism (hey! that’s the second time I got to use that word today, good times)(and again the terminology here could be much less charitable) will be enough to drive even the most unaffiliated viewer/reader to go out looking for the nearest bridge they can jump off of.

It-Will-Be-Mind-Numbing, It-Will-Be-Horrible!! and WE MUST STOP IT FROM HAPPENING!!!

We have the power, we have the tools. You all know what I’m talking about and as sick and twisted as it may sound now I implore you not to wait until after the scores have become final and the match up has already been set, when it becomes clear what we are in store for, for then it will already be TOO LATE! So I ask you all to join me in the one act that can prevent this cataclysmic union of sports, media and pop culture…

PRAY! PRAY WITH ME!! Pray like you have never prayed before. Pray for at least one from the pair of Eli and Phillip to come through unscathed. Those two noble men of valor are our only chance, so please…pray for them…or against one of the other two, I’m not picky.

Fighting Kannoim

The Jewish community as a whole often swings one way or the other, or even both ways at the same time. One of the reasons for this is the simple fact of life that there are often more than one way of viewing the same issue: From chumras to ways of acting to how we interact with the world around us, etc. There are legitimate points on both sides of the issue that are equally arguable, however one may feel that 'their' way is more valid.

Then there are times where things go too far. Extremism is often (always?) wrong, and while even if one would argue that people can choose whatever extremes they want for themselves, this no longer holds true when they start trying to force others to follow those same extremes. One of the prime examples of this today within the Jewish community is the current fighting going on among the communities of Ramat Beit Shemesh, where kannoim have acted violently on a number of occasions, including beatings, arson, death threats, and more.

When things go too far, there needs to be a reaction to turn things around. To that effect, read this very good post at DovBear which has suggestions and information for how to help, including details of who - including rabbonim - are not only turning a blind eye, but in some cases aiding those who cause this destruction. (For an interesting addendum, see this post by mevaserettziion detailing a phone call to one of the rabbonim about the issue.)

Thank you in advance for your help.

Quote 22

So true... :-)
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
--Helen Keller

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No Good Reason...

...is truly necessary for the basic message of this post. The reason is that requiring a "good reason" would imply that there also exist "bad reason"s and the plain fact of the matter is that what we are saying here does not need any reasoning whatsoever. Why, you ask? Well to be quite blunt, because it is fact, it is truth, it is reality, it is the very quintessence of emes, the...the...definition of veritas aequitas.

Ahhhh, so what is this message? What is this lighthouse in the turbulent harbor that is the life of some (this is a very important point, there are the few and the proud who already know what is to come below as it was with them from birth, ingrained in their subconscious)? 'Tis so hard to put into mere words...no, I believe the transmission can only be done justice in music...in song. You know what music is don't you, it's the harmonic connection between all living things (somebody please get that, it will restore my faith in the reading public). So too this...

--The following is intended strictly for the private use of our audience. Any reproduction in any form or by any means without the express written consent of the NFL is strictly prohibited.--

Hey there Ser&Ez
What's it like in New York City?
I'm some hundred miles away
But still I fear for your safety
Yes I do
In Times Square someone could mug you
I swear it's true

Hey there Ser&Ez
Are interBorough calls long- distance?
How many replies to your "Good Shabbos"?
If you screamed would they listen
Do you drive?
Did that once there, and no lie
I almost died

Oh that's life in NYC
Oh that's life in NYC
Oh that's life in NYC
Oh that's life in NYC
Life in NYC

Hey there Ser&Ez
I know moving can be hard
But just believe this much
Houses in other cities all have yards
And driveways too
Livin' in a suburb neighborhood
You'd have it good

Hey there Ser&Ez
I've got so much left to say
Simple things, like Parking Lots!
Would take your breath away
And local malls! {don’t get more OOT than that!}
Even more out of love you'd fall
Movers you'd call

Oh get out of NYC
Oh that life in NYC
Oh get out of NYC
Oh that life in NYC
Life in NYC

Hundreds of miles seems pretty far
But they've got planes and trains and cars
For the love of God walk if no other way
Your friends will all make fun of you
and we'll just laugh along because we know
That none of them have lived this way
Ser&Ez I can promise you
That by the time you get through
The world would never ever seem the same
And you're to blame

Hey there Ser&Ez
You know that I'm only kidding
Two more years and you'll be done with work
And from there you'll be history, yes it's true
I've got that much faith in you
You can move whenever you want to
Hey there Ser&Ez here's to you
This ones for you

Oh get out of NYC
Oh get out of NYC
Oh get out of NYC
Oh get out of NYC
Out of NYC

Quote 21

"If singles knew what it was like to be married they would scoop up a hobo and head to a chapel"
--FFD

Gathering Crumbs

A few people, including my mother, sent me a link or reminder yesterday to say Parshas HaMan (the chapter in the Torah about the Jews receiving the manna to eat in the desert), which is considered to be a segulah (charm) for a good livelihood. At first I ignored them, figuring "uch, I'm really not into these segulos, they're stupid", then finally changing my mind when I got one while at work, though admittedly I mostly was looking for a quick break from staring at valuation spreadsheets on Excel. Part of why I changed my mind was a quick note my co-worker attached noting that it was someone a few hundred years ago who said to say the Parsha, and also thinking that my own parents are not into segulos and similar garbage and yet my mother thought to send it to me.

So of course, while I still was not [and am not] into the whole segula part, I tried to determine what exactly this rav found so important that he wanted people to say this parsha. Certainly, wanting people to learn a little more isn't a bad thing; and it is a parsha which I didn't realize how unfamiliar I was with it until I skimmed it while saying it today. I found fascinating on rethinking the story that the manna is called that simply because the Jews basically looked out and thought "Wha...!?" I found intriguing that we are so ingrained to think it tasted whatever people wanted it to when the Torah describes rather clearly how it actually tasted. I found it interesting how the dew would first have to dissipate before they could gather it. I wondered whether the fact that Moshe only tells them it is from Hashem after it already happened once was part of why some went out again on Shabbos itself to see if more had fallen. And I particularly wondered what the overall message the rav may have wanted us to learn from it, and couldn't help but wonder if my good friend G was on the right track below. And perhaps it is about appreciation for that which we have, while acknowledging that ultimately, it all comes from God. And I wondered whether people have misunderstood this message to think that it all comes from God if you simply ask in a certain way, instead of working hard to get it.

Noyam has an excellent rant about it, actually. He also touches on another interesting subject, the segregated charedi bus lines in Israel which are now coming to the Supreme Court there to judge their legality. Personally, I have no problem with people choosing to separate themselves based on sex (I think race or another differentiation would be a problem), so long as nobody is forced or pressured to do so. Eugene Volokh (hat tip: G) has a very solid piece discussing the subject, and it is interesting to read a rather well-written piece by a completely unbiased secular observer. I think one of the strengths of this particular initiative is that it is something that is being brought to a completely irreligious court to be judged - an interesting twist on the kind of situation that this is. I'm also more comfortable with the idea of Egged operating these buses than having similar private bus lines, which one can interpret as sad, if they wish; I worry what kind of lines would be crossed on a completely private line, while - despite the handful of stories - on Egged, people seem to be generally respectful of those who do not know/do not care for the separation, and Egged controls it.

So much more to say on so much, but alas, my bed is calling me. Check out this piece of wisdom Chana found, Are Children the Ultimate Literary Critics? The writer makes some fascinating and thought-provoking points about how we grow up, about how we think about God, about how we think and write and read in general, and so much more. It is short but packed full of incredible content. In it you may understand not only why I enjoy blogging, but perhaps why I also enjoy quoting others so often, or why I particularly enjoy Moshe's series of quotes. There is something to be said for learning from everyone, and quite often, whatever you are about to say, someone else has already said it better. That doesn't mean you shouldn't say it; just that you should recognize what has already been accomplished.

And if you're looking for a perfect example of that, check out both the post by Aidel Maidel entitled "I was supposed to be exceptional" and the comments responding to her. I think both her lament and the responses are feelings we all share from time to time, wondering what might have been and what happened... until we remember what else we have that we otherwise would not.

Life is not meant to be full of regrets. The only purpose in regretting that which we have done is in order to learn from it, to know not to do the same should the situation arise again. Beyond that, regret often simply keeps us caught up in the past, mired in 'what ifs' and similar thoughts. Those rarely have any positive utility. It is far better to focus on what we have learned and gained from the decisions we made that we now regret, so that we can move on and become better people. I have long wondered if that was the true meaning behind that which we're taught about the 'sins' we commit - that if we repent and change our ways, they will be viewed as if we had done the right thing in the first place. While obviously we cannot undo that which has already been done, the understanding we gain and lessons we learn from our mistakes are far greater than that which we learn otherwise, and this is what pshat is in that drasha.

As a friend said, sharing an excellent line from another close friend [loosely], "Life is not about all the times you fell down, but about all the times you got back up again." Just remember to dust off the crumbs after gathering what you need.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Five מ's...

...this is something that I was reminded about recently, it came up in relation to a post elsewhere. The idea is to get a quick self assessment of the things that one finds most important when thinking about a possible future spouse. It works as follows: you rank five general issues in order of most important to least important. Meaning like this, think of each one as having its own sliding 1-5 with 1=best you can imagine and 5=worst you can imagine. Then rank 'em based on what your "best case scenario" would look like given the knowledge that some things by default will HAVE to be 1, 2 etc.

That's it, real simple right? (what, you were expecting something useful?? Just kidding, you'll be surprised how much this messes w/ your head) The key is to not over think before choosing otherwise you will not get a true "reading". That's right, self honesty is key here. So, while you may want to "lie" in the comments in order to make yourself look good please, I beg of you, don't do so in real life...everybody loses. On a lighter note, just have fun with it and see what falls out.

Without further ado (Y'know, I'm not sure the last time I was involved in an "ado"...and here it is only January), listed in alpha order so don't read into it:

Mamon = Money
Mar'eh = Looks
Middos = Character
Mishpacha = Family
Moach = Brains

So for example the above individual would have more money than God, be of above average looks, have avg. character traits, come from a not so great family (please, don't start about what makes up a "good family" okay, to each their own) and have the IQ of mayonnaise. Got it? OK!! Ready...set...::reader clicks out of post::

--If you're looking for an interpretive opinion based on different combinations...you've come to the wrong place.

Quote 20

Accept everything about yourself - I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end - no apologies, no regrets.
Henry A. Kissinger

Shifting Economics

A quick post for this morning...

I once argued that one of the reasons President Bush would eventually go down as one of the most effectual Presidents in history was because of economic policy. Unfortunately, since that point, he has been unable to push most of the points that most people were arguing for at the time, such as revamping Social Security, but he has successfully accomplished another key point:
The biggest trick is to let his policies stay in place for as long as possible. Most of his policies take the right approach--long-term fixes so problems do not recur; planned-out ideas that do not rely on external revenues (taxes, etc.) or fixes to sustain themselves. Unfortunately, many politicians rely on short-term fixes that make people happy enough to keep poll numbers high. It will take a dedicated president to let Mr. Bush's policies ride their course and build up this country and the rest of the world.
While Bush has been unable to add to his tax cuts, he has fought any suggestion to 'try this' or 'try that', and the economy has remained strong because of it. (Lest someone try to point to the housing market, it is important to remember that in a country of free choice, little can be done about stupidity save increasing education, which Bush has tried to push for while others have argued we should 'focus elsewhere'.) This patience and 'sticking to his guns' has not only slowly brought people to grudgingly admit* that the tax cuts worked, that lower taxes have increased growth and in turn tax revenues (gasp!), etc., but a good WSJ piece this morning notes that major Democratic candidates are finally changing their tune somewhat. Yes, they still want to try those short-term fixes that do little but make them popular, but there's a marked difference between that and what they wanted to do in the past.

Education, balance, and patience. Who'd have thunk that those would work?

* I'm sure someone will argue that "people don't think the economy is doing all that well". A friend noted recently that this is garbage. Polls asking people how they are doing economically all come out very favorably; polls asking how they think the economy is doing overall come out far more in the middle, leaning toward 'not so well'. That just means that the media does a nice job of telling everyone about the "struggling economy" even when the economy isn't struggling... and why should people know any better about others' finances? I trust hard numbers and people talking about their own situations far more than polls asking people on the street how "they think" the economy as a whole is doing.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Quote 19

I am home and ill but I have an obligation, so here's today's quote:
All love shifts and changes. I don't know if you can be wholeheartedly in love all the time.
Julie Andrews

Just An Observation...

...saw this comment on a post that was getting lots of run. It hit me as a good synopsis of alot of what goes on today (well, at least for one "side") both on blogs and in real life...You remember real life don't you? It's that place with fresh air and trees, where the backround noise is the chirping of birds and not the striking of keys...anyway:

“who appointed JO (the Jewish Observer) to be anything beyond a mouthpiece of the people who publish it, same as any other publication? If the editors of JO think you’re beyond the pale, can’t you just ignore them?”

- "excellent observation. It points to the fact that no matter how free thinking we are we still seek the approval of JO-types because deep down we know they are onto something. The current JO-type spokespeople may be narrow in their view and less than charming in their approach but lema’aseh they most directly represent those who hold the keys to our mesorah. we may argue that we are not wandering beyond the pale, but we know that they are safely within it."

End of an Era

You know how sometimes in life you get a little busy, then walk into your house one day and read about something that happened and think "Whoa! When did that happen!? How'd I miss that?! I'm so out of it..."

That happens in blogging sometimes, too. As busy season begins (see below), I decided to vainly try to catch up on at least some of my favorite blogs from the last couple of weeks worth of posts, only to discover that Soccer Dad has decided to call it quits - not completely, but as host of Haveil Havalim, after next week. After 150 weeks of running it. There's certainly a shmuess somewhere in there about the impact of a single person and how the ripple effects that have come from HH and have spread throughout the J-blogosphere have affected so much. Certainly this blog would be almost non-existent if not for HH, and this blog is but one of hundreds of similar ripples.

One of the many points I'm trying to touch on in my "long post" that will continue to go up this week is the idea that what we do doesn't affect anything - that we have such a minimal impact as to make our efforts completely not worthwhile. I think SoccerDad and what he's done with HH is the perfect answer to that. The skeptical response to this is often "well, what major impact has it had?" But that's just it - a series of minor impacts causes another series of minor impacts which cause another series... and that never really ends. Too often, people look at the big picture, think it is an impossible task, and simply decide that it cannot be done. Let's just live our lives and forget about "all that". But there's so much more than that. Sure, perhaps the overall big picture won't change all that much, but at least we can change some of the scenery! We can change the details, the background, the little foundations that are there. Those do impact the overall picture, even if it's not so easy to see.

Yiasher Kochacha, David.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Quote 18

I was talking to my father today about an event I am organizing at school. We have a model for this event from last year, though we are trying to improve on it. He reminded me that sometimes what you have is good enough and that
"The enemy of good is better"

Untitled

This past Thursday, the group I'm in at work had our annual pre-busy season meeting. It is at this meeting that we are informed of our responsibilities during busy season including how many hours we must bill each week, when busy season will officially end, etc. The numbers were standard and unchanged from last year: 58 billable hours a week [do the math, it's not fun], ending at the end of April (though of course the work will continue past that), and starting...

a week earlier than we'd all thought. As in, Monday. Tomorrow.

The things I'd like to take care of before busy season are far too long to list. Instead, I will list the things it seems I actually will take care of before busy season begins:
  • Family picture.
That's pretty much an all-day event, and at least it's enjoyable. As for the rest of it...

Eh. Hopefully, I'll get around to them at some point.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blessing on Bush?

(Hat tip: FG)

From the OU website:
Reciting a Blessing on Seeing the President of the United States

President George W. Bush arrived in Israel today (January 9, 2008) and Rav Aviner discussed this question today during lunch at the yeshiva.
Question:
If someone sees President Bush should he recite the blessing of "Baruch…she-natan michvodo le-vasar ve-dam - Blessed are You…who has given of His glory to flesh and blood"? (In the Gemara in Berachot 58a, our Rabbis teach that one who sees a non-Jewish king recites the blessing. It is recorded in the Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 10:11 and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:8. The Magen Avraham (224:5) writes that one should recite this blessing upon seeing any ruler, who judges and metes out capital punishment lawfully, and whose edicts cannot be altered by the king. The Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim #159, rules that even if one sees the king outside of his area of "rule," one must still recite the appropriate blessing).
Answer:
No, the President of the United States not a king. Halachic authorities mention four criteria in order to be considered a king for this purpose:

1. One must be the absolute ruler of his kingdom or country (Abudraham, Hilchot Berachit #49, Shut Ha-Radvaz vol. 1 #296). The President of the United States does not have absolute authority. He must bend to the will of the Congress whether he likes it or not.

2. The king must have the ability to administer capital punishment (Shut Chatam Sofer ibid.). The President does not possess this power. While he does have the power to grant life by issuing a pardon, he does not possess the power of death (Shut Be’er Moshe of Rav Moshe Stern vol. 2, # 9). If he issues a pardon to Jonathan Pollard, we can discuss this further.

3. The king must have royal clothing. The President of the United States wears a suit like everyone else (Shut Yehaveh Da’at, vol. 2, #28 and Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot vol. 2, #139).

4. The king must have an entourage (see Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot ibid. Rav Sternbuch writes there that he heard that Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, the great Rav of Yerushalayim before the establishment of the State, once had a private meeting in a tent with the King of Jordan and he recited this blessing). While the President is traveling with 400 guards, it is because he is scared.

People get very scared about what the President says, but there is no need. What he says does not mean that this is the way it is. This is for two reasons: 1. The United States does not help us simply to be kind, but because they profit from it. They need us militarily. We handle this part of the world. They need us technologically. They make planes in the US, and then bring them here and the "chevra" makes them into super-planes. The biggest plane manufacturer has a plant here. It is not to be kind, but to profit. They need us. 2. The President must bend to the will of Congress. The Congress was pro-Israel even before the establishment of the State. The reason is that 98% of Americans believe in the Tanach and it says something as the Land of Israel for the Nation of Israel. The Monroe Doctrine was stated by President James Monroe that Europe would no longer interfere with the affairs of the US: America for Americans. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, applied this doctrine to us: We will not interfere with what America is doing and America should not interfere with what we are doing here.

The President of the most powerful country, with the biggest army, the largest economy, the super-power of the world is visiting the tiny State of Israel, and some people say that this is not "Atchalta De-Geulah – the beginning of the Redemption." Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Shut Minchat Shlomo (the last responsum in vol. 1) writes that one is obligated to recite four blessings when the Messiah arrives: 1. "Baruch…Chacham Ha-Razim – Blessed are You…Knowers of secrets" which is recited when seeing 600,000 Jews together and certainly at least this many Jews will go out to greet the Messiah. 2. "Baruch…she-chalak mechomato lirei'av - Blessed are You…who has appointed of His knowledge to those who fear him" which is recited when seeing an outstanding Torah scholar and the Messiah will certainly fit this criteria. 3. "Baruch…she-chalak michvodo lirei'av- Blessed are You…who has appointed of His glory to those who fear him" which is recited when seeing a Jewish king. 4. "Shechechiyanu" – Blessing Hashem for having arrived at this moment. We still are waiting for this time to arrive, but we are continuing to advance. After all, the President of the United States is visiting the State of Israel. Instead of reciting a blessing over the President, I recommend reciting two prayers for the Nation of Israel which we recite every day before the Shema: Blessed are you, Hashem, who chooses His Nation of Israel with Love. Blessed are you, Hashem, who love His Nation of Israel.

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