Friday, February 29, 2008

Not quite the far side II

It was brought to my attention that perhaps the usual poster of this wouldn't have the chance to do so today, so I hope this does justice:

In chapter 36 of this week's parsha, Vayakhel, it says:

ג: וַיִּקְחוּ מִלִּפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה, אֵת כָּל-הַתְּרוּמָה אֲשֶׁר הֵבִיאוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לִמְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ--לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָהּ; וְהֵם הֵבִיאוּ אֵלָיו עוֹד, נְדָבָה--בַּבֹּקֶר בַּבֹּקֶר
3: And they received of Moses all the offering, which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the sanctuary, wherewith to make it. And they brought yet unto him freewill-offerings every morning.

The "they" in this sentence is referring to the people who worked under the leadership of Betzalel and Ahaliav to make the keilim (vessels) used in the mishkan. And what did they do? They took all the donations that Bnei Yisrael brought for the mishkan - all the different materials that members of klal Yisrael donated for use in making the keilim, such as gold, stones, wood, etc. The Imrei Shefer points out that these workers did something more - they also brought their own materials to be used. They did not exempt themselves from the obligation to bring donations to the mishkan just because they were the ones chosen to build the keilim. In a sense, they demonstrated both a personal and communal responsibility - these men, even though they had been chosen to do the holy work of building the vessels of the Tabernacle, still saw the importance of fulfilling their more personal obligation of bringing their own private donations, and even before they began working on creating the keilim, they brought materials to be used.

We all have local responsibilities to those in our immediate surroundings, whether that be providing for a family, living conscientiously and politely with a roommate, or even our responsibilities to ourselves to maintain a healthy spiritual and physical lifestyle. Our responsibilities also tend to extend to the greater community as well, in the workforce, our volunteer activities, etc. The important thing to remember in dealing with all these different "sponsitivities" is to not neglect one at the expense of the other, and to not assume that just because we have bigger and more important things to do that we can't do the smaller and perhaps more mundane-seeming tasks as well.

Now, I'm not much of a Far Side fan (sorry G), but rather I come from the school of thought that is the creation of the genius Bill Watterson. This is a different sort of "bringing" of objects, but still so classic:

The WSJ on Flipping Out

(Hat tip: Fred) A very interesting contribution from Ben Harris to the Wall Street Journal:

Exact figures are hard to come by, but YU estimates that some 2,000 Modern Orthodox high-school graduates depart for single-sex Israeli yeshivas each year. ...

"They're basically given the message that they are doing what they were created to do, which is to study Torah, that they are princes and princesses of Judaism, that that is all that they have to do," says Samuel Heilman, a sociologist of American Jewry and the author of "Sliding to the Right." He fingers the Israel year as a chief reason for Modern Orthodoxy's supposed shift toward traditionalism. ...

For many Orthodox educators, particularly at Yeshiva University, which recruits heavily from the programs in Israel, these findings are cause for celebration, not concern. With its motto of "Torah Umadda," literally "Torah and secular knowledge," YU has long been the standard-bearer of the ideal of marrying Orthodox practice to secular education. "I believe our tradition is such that we should be confident that we can contribute to the world based on our values," said YU President Richard Joel, five of whose children have studied in Israeli yeshivas. "We're not supposed to view the modern world as the enemy."

What remains unclear is the extent to which the educators in Israel, a country without a tradition of liberal-arts education, share Mr. Joel's commitment to the Modern Orthodox ethos. I have earned two academic degrees from top universities since I left the yeshiva in Israel, all while continuing to observe many of the rituals urged upon me a decade ago by my rabbis there, though I take certain liberties with the law that they would almost certainly frown upon.

Still, I consider that year to have been one of the most enriching of my life. The headmaster, I'm sure, wouldn't agree. Some weeks before my departure, he called me to his office to tell me that I had wasted my time. "Maybe," he said, "if you had learned a little more Torah."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Amen To This!!!...

...Daaaaaaaamn Skippy!!!



-visit us online at: spendpesachwithyourfamilylikeyouresupposedto@trueredemption.com-

Straight Cash Homey...

...with apologies to Randy Moss...seems to have become the bass line for much of what goes on in the jewish community. In the immortal combined words of two great quote machines of the late twentieth and very early twenty-first centuries, Sean 'Puffy' Combs & 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin: It's All About the Benjamins...and That's the Bottom Line.

This has become a topic of some interest of late in World of Blog-Craft, for some good reads on the issue you could do worse than spending some time sifting through the posts at the following locales: Orthonomics & ProfK

Sir Ezzward recently sent me the study referenced below; while I do not come with as much worry as our resident Econ expert, it is food for thought. Things are clearly getting stretched in many communities and there is belt tightening going on that would leave Fat Albert, Ralph Kramden or even Uncle Phil aghast. I do not pretend to fully understand all of the elements involved or to have a firm grasp on what it means to keep a family and household running, although with Gods help I hope to be fully ensconced in all the lurid particulars sooner rather than later (im yirtza Hashem, pooh pooh pooh, bli eiyen hara, ::throws salt over shoulder::, ::turns around three times and spits on the floor::**)

--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 NBA is strictly prohibited.--

I'm staring out into the night,
Trying to hide the strain.
I'm dreaming of a place where love
And feeling good don't ever cost a thing.
And the strain you feel's a different kind of pain.

Well I'm going broke,
Tryin’ to fit in and belong,
How come what I have is not enough for me.
It’s not being ‘frum’!
No, I think we’ve got it all wrong.
I don't think this is the life God chose for me.
Oy, these races and these chases are getting old,
I'm going broke.
Well I'm going broke.

The costs keep getting larger, it seems,
And the tuition just came due.
I've always tried to be the best man and pull us through.
But it’s a scary truth.
And I want to cry.
‘Cause it seems I’m worth more dead than alive.

Well I'm going broke,
Tryin’ to fit in and belong,
How come what I have is not enough for me.
It’s not being ‘frum’!
No, I think we’ve got it all wrong.
I don't think this is the life God chose for me.
Oy, these races and these chases are getting old,
I'm going broke.
Well I'm going broke

Be careful what you wish for,
'Cause you just can’t get it all.
Oh, You just might get it all,
And then some you don't want.
Be careful what you wish for,
'Cause you’ll never get it all.
There’s more to life than “get it all”, yeah.

Oh, Well I'm going broke,
Tryin’ to fit in and belong,
How come what we have is not enough for us.
It’s not being ‘frum’!
No, I think we’ve got it all wrong.
I don't think this is the life God chose for us.
Feel these places and these faces are getting old.
I said these places and these faces are getting old,
So I'm going home.
‘Cause I’m going broke.





**what?! did not any of you see "Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"?

Jews, Basketball, & Money

Happy birthday DeepThroat! I've long found it amusing how people will ask my friend, upon hearing his birthday, if he "only gets to have a birthday every four years." For some reason, people don't seem to get that it is the 29th - not the 28th - which is the 'extra' day. On that note, a guy who sits near me in shul will be celebrating his 1st anniversary tomorrow. Now that's a good way to get out of giving presents.

An interesting story that's out there: A Jewish high school basketball team is one game away from a regional championship... but the game is on Shabbos. And the league won't move the game, despite requests from all over including state senators, and despite the seeming ability to do so... and the league does not allow games on Sunday. Why? Hard to say:

"Sunday is a logical day, because people don't work on Sunday. There's no school," Reader said. "It's been picked by society to say that's a day when people from a family are together. And so why not make that the day of rest."

When a reporter said most people would consider his "day of rest" comment to be a Christian biblical referance, Reader said, "You can make an assumption and I can make an assumption."

Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, praised the young men for making the hard decision to stand by their faith, even if it means forsaking their hoop dream.

Amen to the last part - it's quite a Kiddush Hashem. Jewess with Horns and Jersey both have posts on the subject - check them out.

On another interesting note, via DaBoys, I found this fascinating Pew study about religion in America. I want to expound on this later, but this set of statistics shows just how well Jews have it... which means we also are incredibly bad at other things.

The most affluent religious group in America? Well... Hindus. But right behind them, and well ahead of anyone else? Jews. 46% of Jewish homes have an income over $100,000. 46%! And yet... we have so many institutions and charities begging for money?

The problem is not that people aren't giving. The problem is an incredible redundancy of organizations and schools that are not necessary, horrid spending practices by individuals and institutions, lack of oversight of any funds whether in schools or charities, a ridiculous level of inefficiency in all institutions, and a complete unwillingness to open up the books. Why aren't more parents - who are increasingly asked for more and more money for tuition - demanding to see where their money is going?! Why do we allow what should be an affluent group get drained of all resources to the point that an economic crisis is always looming? Why is that bottom group constantly getting bigger and bigger instead of being lifted up?

It is laughable that almost no Jewish organization has opened their books. Not schools. Not charities. Not shuls. There's all this money in the Jewish community, yet where does it go? Nobody knows.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

PP2P #2 [Special Double Digest!] - Va'Yakhel

C'mon Fhqwhgads, I see you jocking me...

I have returned! I am the grandest (guest)blogger in all the land! I come bearing Parsha Points...

In the beginning of the sedra it states [Exodus 35:2]:

שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן, לַיהוָה; כָּל-הָעֹשֶׂה בוֹ מְלָאכָה, יוּמָת

Malbim points out an interesting textual anomaly. All references to festivals (e.g. מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם) are stated as holy to YOU, Israel, whereas all references to Sabbath are holy to G-D, as we see in the above verse. Why is that? Malbim gives a slightly "lomdish" answer, since festivals are dependent on the calendar, as affixed by Bes Din, their holiness, in essence derives from the actions of Israel. Sabbath, on the other hand, having no such requirements is automatically made holy by G-D; hence the differences in the text.

I would humbly like to expand on this in an eminently practical fashion, which I feel is intrinsic to the above explanation, that is that the festivals derive their significance from history, namely the history of Israel. Were it not for Israel would Passover, Sukkos, etc. have any meaning? Sabbath, however, derives its sanctity from G-D's acts of creation and subsequent rest; therefore, in a manner of speaking while Sabbath is important TO us, it would theoretically retain its spiritual/cosmic significance WITHOUT us, as well.

Additional item for consideration:

וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם: אֵלֶּה, הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה יְהוָה, לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם

Moshe tells Israel that the following are things G-D has commanded them to DO. What follows is a list of things to NOT DO (labor on Sabbath, fire on Sabbath). What's p'shat?
[Malbim suggests that since they were commanded to labor on the Mishkan, the prohibition of continuing that labor on Sabbath had to be integrated into the previous commandment to DO (i.e. "Six days you shall labor...). If that were the case, how does that explain the presence of the additional negative command of making fire on Sabbath? Either they are both negative commands or the second one shouldn't be there, seemingly.]

What The Glob??!!...

...after much debate into the nature, meaning and relevance of the above term, the outcome was along the lines of the following:

-What in the name of strange made up Internet terms is "globbing"?

Princess Consuela D'Tiara--It doesn't mean anything, it just sounds
funny!

-So basically you'll donate a buck for any blog post (capped at
$100)?

Princess Consuela D'Tiara--One per blog(ger)

-Okay...I guess. You just could have said that you would donate a dollar for any post on any topic...but whatever works.

Princess Consuela D'Tiara--You guess it makes sense? It's Adar! Its just something silly that will give money to a good cause.
Princess Consuela D'Tiara--Glob is the "Ve'Nahafoch Hu" of Blog!

-Well no, that would be Golb ::check::
Hey, you invented the word and then saw fit not to give it meaning not to mention requesting a melody "about" said meaningless word.
However, let it not be said that I am an unreasonable person...and so (as this is a request)...any particular genre of music that her ladyship is a fan of?

Princess Consuela D'Tiara--You know how in the Smurfs Smurf means everything? Kind of like that...


Ahhhhhhhhhh...Yes, yes I do...

--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 NBA is strictly prohibited.--

Glob - all I really want is glob
And in the morning it's glob
Cause in the evening it's glob

I like the way that they glob
And it's chill to hear them glob
And I can always make glob smile
From White Castle to the Nile

Back in the day
There was this glob around the way
Glob liked my glob-piece Ser&Ez
He said he would not glob glob play
I asked him, "Blog?" - he said, "No way."
“How about ‘Glob’?” – he said ok!
If glob would dance - I would Glob.J.
We took a glob down to the bay

I hope glob say, "Hey me and you should glob the
glob!"
I globbed glob out - glob said, "No way!"
I should've probably globbed her glob
So I globbed up with no delay
I heard glob globbed real glob away
That was two globs ago this May
I seen glob just the other day

Glob - to do the globes’
Glob - to glob up my glob
Glob - to do the globry
Glob - and in the globroom
Glob - that's all I really want is glob
Two at a glob - I want glob
With new wave globdos - I want glob
- glob, glob, glob, glob, glob,
glob, glob, glob,
glooooooooooooob! Yeah!!

Anatomy of a (Concert) Ban

An absolutely excellent post by BloginDM. There's a ton to say, but he makes a number of sharp points and critiques that are applicable whatever you think of the ban.

And of course, today's follow-up.

Glob of the Day

If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.
- Vera Pavlova
Via SJ, the MTA, and numerous fitting applications of the above that have come about for myself and many of my friends recently. Diana, I expect more money towards charity!

SJ & I have different interpretations of the above poem, both of which work wonderfully for different situations. Feel free to ask or add your own; I think it's a brilliantly structured poem when you think about it...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Globbing

Once in a while, Princess D actually comes up with a pretty good idea. She will be donating a dollar (that is $1) to the Ahavas Israel Charity Fund in Baltimore (a very worthy cause if I do say so) for each blogger who decides to glob. Very few rules to the game, just do a post about globbing and send it to Diana and she will donate a dollar. Deadline is Purim.

Because I thought it was such a good idea, I decided to match whatever she raises. And I think you should too. Let Diana know if you're in.

Best Line from Shabbos Past

StrongBad has now earned his stripes. Remarking on gedolim stories and how outsiders would view them... telling the famous story of Rav Shach (?) walking in, holding a little girl's hand, and being asked by his students why he was doing so, he noted that he had gotten caught up in his learning after offering to help the girl cross the street. StrongBad:
So basically, he kidnapped a little girl!?

PP2P #1 (First Edition, RARE!!!!)

Lookout... Radioactive Man! Here comes yet another guest series in Ezzie's Blog-O-Verse.

I am called Strong Bad; you may remember me from my humble beginning as Israel Baseball Correspondent. Ezzie has encouraged (needled) me to expand my role here for a while, interrupting many of our conversations with, "You should post that!" Anyways, I love a good hock, as long as there is substance at its core, and I am continuously baffled by the purported pedagogical value of Gedolim Stories.

Before I lose any more readers, allow me to welcome you to the first public edition of my Parsha Points to Ponder (PP2P). I am a big Tanach fan, which somehow makes me less religious according to Yeshiva Parameters of Frumkeit/Shtarkness, and what I like to do is present a more or less open-ended idea that will stimulate thought in the reader; I skew heavy towards p'shat, but will occasionally stray into drush.

Without further ado...

Mendelssohn, yes THAT Mendelsohn, comments, in his Biur (which was widely read and appreciated by the likes of the Netziv, amongst others) an interesting hashkafic idea. In this weeks sedra, Va'Yakhel, we learn of the connection between Sabbath and Mishkan. Traditionally, we are told that the construction of the Mishkan, while of the utmost importance, did not take primacy over the observance of Sabbath. Additionally, we see the link between observance of Sabbath and Mishkan, as those labors that constituted desecration of the Sabbath were learned from the labors done in the service of the Mishkan.
Mendelssohn points out a beautiful idea here that we see that goal of Man's labors and toils in this world should be dedicated to the service of G-D; so much so to the point that THE VERY definition of labor was defined according to Service in the Mishkan, as it represented the pinnacle of Man's labor.

I realize this is VERY drush-y, but I liked it and it gets bonus points for the shock value achieved when citing Mendelssohn.

Boys & Girls

Bas~Melech has an interesting take on the differences between boys and girls... check it out.

From the first one:
Boys need pride. It's really very simple. You insult me, I punch you, now we all know who's stronger. (you can now proceed with the interrupted activity.) Note to teacher: Lay off his pride or he will fight you to the death. Yours. Every boy can succeed because he'll always be able to beat somebody. If you have a real weakling, chances are he's smarter than someone. If he's a dumb weakling, he'd better have a big brother, rich father, something. He'll be OK as long as he has his pride. That was easy -- this is why I teach boys.

Now let's talk about girls. Girls need friends.
From the second one:
Boys want life to be fair. ...

Girls want life to be nice. Though not as treacherous as "friends," "nice" can be frustrating in its own right. Mark my words and you will be spared disappointment in the future: Nice has no limit. You will never be "nice" enough. Now, girls believe in fair, too. They will use this word hourly, on average. Do not be fooled. Girls do not want fair. I repeat: Girls do not want "fair." When a girl says "It's not fair!" she really means, "I want you to be nicer to me."
I think this is also known as "males are logical, females are not."

Labels & Judgmentalism - II

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
And they all got put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all used to own TVs,
And daven in one big Shul ,
And they all have pretty children,
And the children go to school.
And the children go to summer camp
And no more to the university,
And they all get put in boxes
And they all come out the same.

And the boys go into learning,
And marry, and raise a family,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There’s a black one and a white one
Perhaps a blue one but no more colored ones
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

This wonderful little satirist composition was written by my good friend G on an interesting post at Bad4Shidduchim discussing that wonderful little subject we like to call 'labels'.

The key to solving, fixing, or even remotely improving any difficult problem or situation starts with understanding where the problems lie and how they came about. I was reminded of this after having a conversation with a good friend tonight, and reading a well-put post elsewhere. My friend was noting the concern they had with dating a suggestion their father made, questioning whether their parents actually understood what it was they were looking for and needed hashkafically. Out of curiosity, and to verify my own presumptions, I asked my friend to explain what each of those were, and they proceeded to try and do just that - and did quite a good job of explaining themselves rather clearly, furthering a point that Special Ed originally suggested and which I think has proven itself time and again:
Special Ed: a lot of the use of labels is to cover up for the fact the they don't know the person you're asking them about all that well.

Labels are just an easy way to describe someone, and the lack of detail is a convenient cover for lack of knowledge.

Ez: I found that a few people were described or described themselves or what they were looking for to me; almost none used any labels whatsoever. The more closely they knew the person, the less likely they were to use any labels at all. For example, a person describing their sister used zero labels to describe their sister, but when it came to talking about what their sister was looking for, they were able to explain a lot of it without... but the parts they were vague on they resorted to labels. As another note, our friends who describe what they mean without falling back on labels give a much better sense of what they are and want than those who do not.
But at the same time, my friend was slightly frustrated by the definition they had given of themselves. [edited for formatting, emphasis, etc.]
Friend: I'm a confusing person.
Ez: You're in that elusive "normal" label.
Friend: I guess. Just very moderate; not too extreme either way. And it's somewhat difficult to define frumkeit sometimes... most of the time it's a sense of things that you can't quite explain... (Ez: yup)
Friend
: ...especially in terms of another person. (Ez: YUP)
Friend: Right - so I don't like explaining "why" all the time because sometimes it can't be explained. (Ez: yup)
Friend
: Sigh.
Meanwhile, while I understand my friend perfectly, the question remains as to whether I could give that over to someone else... and even if I can, would they understand?

After mulling that over for a few minutes, I think I know the answer to that one. But before I get to the answer, this post by a young woman named Miri made a very salient set of points:
I know that categorization is a useful and necessary tool for manipulating and understanding the world, and G-d knows, for shidduchim. But there is a limit people. Really. I am, indeed, all for the whole "be in as many categories as you want! It's fun and confusing!"approach, because it is fun. And confusing. But there is a point at which other people really don't care as much as you do. So, you know. Chill out.

I think this last is very possibly my main point. When you start getting into long-winded, more than thirty word descriptions of exactly who, where, and what you are in the Jewish world, it gets to be a little much. It's like "ok, I get it, you're not the steryotype!" Only, of course, you are.

I mean, look man, all I'm saying is this; I barely have the energy to care about my own issues of identity (which I have, just like everyone else) but I have even less patience for everyone else's issues of identity. Really, we don't care that much. And really? Neither should you.
Amen. In the beginning of the post, we discussed that improvements to and solutions of problems require understanding of what the problems are and how they came about. When everyone is trying to come up with a simplified understanding and breakdown of people, 'defining' people into certain categories, it automatically leads to large amounts of people doing what they can to fit into certain boxes as opposed to "other" boxes. The old "two shuls - one to go to and one not to" joke certainly rings true. At the same time, people hate being put into their own box, either, so they continually explain just how they're different from all the rest.

And now, back to the answer. Even if I could describe my friend well, would people understand me? Would they be able to 'get' that "sense of things you can't quite explain?"

You know what - I think they could. The ones who want that, the ones who are looking for that, they'll understand. They'll know that this is someone worth spending some time getting to know and seeing if it makes sense for them. They'll understand that someone who is unable or unwilling to put themselves into - or even explain how they can't put themselves into - all the neat little boxes is not someone who doesn't know themselves, but someone who is simply frum. Or normal. Or whatever you want to call it. Oh, and that they might not have decided everything in life yet, either.
Friend: I was just thinking earlier today that I don't have an opinion on EVERYTHING, but I don't think that that matters even...

Friend: ...sometimes it's because I just haven't really thought about it too much; and sometimes it's because I thought about it so much I just concluded that I have no conclusion.
As to all the people looking for neat little labels and boxes, I wish them well, and hope that they find whatever ticky-tack box they're looking for. Just remember that in that quest to fit into the perfect little box that's just like all the other ones, it becomes a lot harder to show the fine details that makes it different from all the other little boxes.
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Best Line From Shabbos

...also known as "why I'm afraid to eat at the Raggedys."
Raggedy Mom: Where do big boys make?

Raggedy Andy (2) : In the oven!

Just Another Brick...

...in their wall. All in all it's just a-nother brick in their wall.

See here,here and here.

--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.--

Just last night I looked in the mirror
All these lines on my face made things clearer
The beard is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
It’s true what they say
Everybody's got their tests in life, so praaaaay

Yeah (now), I know nobody knows
What life’s about and where it goes
I know some can and can’t “buy in”
I know that both can do what God has bid

Half my life
is in books' written pages
Lived and learned from fools and from sages
You know it's true
The things they said come back to you…

“Learn with me, learn for “just a year”
I hear your nervous laughter, and understand your fears
Sit with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will show you the way

Yeah, Learn with me, try a second year
Ignore all the laughter, and your parent’s tears
Sit with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will show you the way

Dream On Learn On Dream On
Learn until your dreams come true
Dream On Learn On Dream On
Learn until your dream comes through
Dream On Learn On Dream On
Dream On Dream On
Learn On Learn On

Learn with me, I know it’s been ten years
Life’s not ‘bout laughter!, but livin’ in constant fear
Sit with me, forever and a day
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will show them the way
Learn with me, now it’s been ten years
Life’s not ‘bout laughter!, but livin’ in constant fear
Sit with me, forever and a day
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will show them the way”

Baruch Dayan Emes

WestBankMama's father has passed away, and she is sitting shiva.

Shomer What

I saw this a couple of weeks ago, and couldn't stop laughing. (click to enlarge)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Well Waddaya Know V

Last week's question and answer:
How did Jack the Ripper get his name?
I was surprised by the voting, in that only one person voted "Other" and very few picked multiple answers (though perhaps many people didn't realize you could). Anyway, the least picked answer excluding "Other" was the correct one:
How did Jack the Ripper get his name?
He "ripped" victims. (killed)
7 (15%)
He sent letter about ripping victims to media.
5 (11%)
R.I.P. (Rest in Peace) turned into Ripper.
11 (25%)
He would slit victims' stomachs.
8 (18%)
A reporter gave it to him after an early murder.
15 (34%)
Other
1 (2%)
And the reason:
Jack the Ripper was a serial killer who terrorized England. He murdered five prostitutes and possibly two other women. He earned his name through a letter he wrote to the press: "I am down on whores and shan't quit ripping them."
This week's is up to the left. Feel free to discuss in the comments as always.

HH #155

Jack continues to do a great job since taking over Haveil Havalim - check out #155 over here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

LOST

Shalom everyone.

I am thinking of having a weekly LOST post. A recap and obviously we can talk about what on earth is going on on that island. I am curious first of all to know if there are any LOST fans amongst the readers (or am I the only LOST geek? :P). There is no point in posting about a show that nobody here follows.

Shabbat Shalom

The Far Side...

...has returned. Sometimes, I tell ya, the lead-in writes itself:)

This is one of those Parsha's (never liked the way that sounds, with the "s" on the end, but writing it with a "t" on the end just didn't look right) that does not lack for material.

It is also one my favorites (does that sound right, should one have "favorite parsha's"?, anyway...) because it allows me to use my favorite thought that I have ever heard. It may not speak to anybody else to that extent...but I like it and I'm the one doing the typing:)

There is a medrash which relates the following:

When Moshe went up onto Har Sinai (or up to the shomayim…pick your preference) to receive the Torah, God was at that time “finishing up” writing the Torah.
After God had completed the writing there was a small amount of ink left over. So, God rubbed this leftover ink into the forehead of Moshe Rabbenu and this is what accounted for the Or (light) that shone forth from the pnei Moshe (Moshe’s face) after he descended.

(Now, I am not going to get into the issue of whether or not this is to be taken literally because for the post at hand it makes no difference.)

Questions abound…How is it possible that God had “left over” ink? Does the medrash mean to say that God did not know exactly how much ink was going to be needed to right out the Torah? Why did God make use of this “extra ink” by rubbing it into the forehead of Moshe Rabbenu? Furthermore, why does the medrash attribute the Or of the pnei Moshe to this specific thing, the extra ink, as apposed to anything else that took place on Har Sinai (…or in shomayim) or to the overall experience of being in that setting itself?

I truly love this explanation (can’t help but get jazzed up every time I write it or say it over)…Of course God didn’t “overestimate” on the ink, it was “extra” on purpose! The ink that God rubbed into the forehead of Moshe Rabbenu represented the giving of God to Moshe, and to all of mankind, the ability to interpret the Torah and use the Torah as it is intended.

Many things are not written in the Torah. However they were written, by God into the seichel ha’yashar (sound, uncorrupted intellect…innate common sense) of all of Bnei Yisroel.

Often people will say “show me where that is written” or “the Torah never says that”. The answer to these people and those questions is that not everything needed to be written down. God gave man a mind and an ability to use it and the Torah to his utmost, and some things are known simply by one’s own intuition/knowledge.

(Big finish)…and THAT is why this specifically caused the pnei Moshe to shine; because it is this ability, this responsibility(!), of a person that gives true life to the Torah and true meaning to ones emulation of HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

You know who else was blessed with an innate sense...that's right, one Mr. G. Larson. It's just that in his case the bestowed sense was one of perspective:
(always thought the jar should have been labeled "Jews")


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quote 58

"This quote series is coming to an end. This is the last quote."
--Moshe

This Was Fun...

...over there (Part I, Part II) and so I thought it might play well over here as well.

**UPDATE** It would appear that while I was away from blogging and carousing in the great white north (aka the alrgest suburb in North America...Canada) someone else beat me to this idea. So while you should still feel free to leave your contribution in the comments here, please also take some time to peruse those submissions (you can also vote for your favorites there)

However, we're gonna tweak it a little.

So...Write a six-word motto for Judaism.

This can be for the religion at large or a specific group, wing, movement, faction, camp, party...(I love the thesaurus function, could you tell?)...one more...cult...okay I'm done.

All players are most welcome. Feel free to include, along with your answer, your age, gender, where you live, and what sect (for lack of a better word) you hail from...or not, if you prefer.

Feel free also to punctuate your motto liberally (or, if you will, conservatively); for instance: “Battered? A bit. Beaten? Puh-leeze. Onward!”
The best entry, as decided by a quorum of to-be-determined persons and a batch of capuchin monkeys we keep at the ready, receives her/his choice of Ser&Ez swag.

Ready...set..."Letter "G" Should Start The Alphabet"...aaaaand...go!

The Times' Timing

First: Chana writes about a soldier she knew who was killed in Iraq. Baruch Dayan Emes.

Akiva has a very interesting post up at BeyondBT worth reading: Ultra Orthodoxy: Not So Inclusive Yet.

Finally, there's a lot of commentary regarding the New York Times piece suggesting Presidential hopeful John McCain is guilty of infidelity; it's a rather weak piece overall, giving no backup to any claims other than a few people thinking that their relationship had an appearance of looking like it could be inappropriate, and this will probably be a short-lived story overall. What I found interesting, however, was the note that McCain had refused interviews [presumably about this story] since December.

I'm rather curious as to why the Times is publishing this story now, when there's so little substance in it, and not back in December. Was there new information gleaned since then? It doesn't sound like it. Most of the story is about events between 8 and 21 years ago. Certainly, the Times favors Democratic candidates in the long run over any Republican - but of the Republicans, the Times would be least dismayed by John McCain, viewed as the most 'left' of all the major candidates. Had this story come out in December or January, there is little doubt that it would have negatively impacted McCain in his race against Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and whomever else; and at this point, it helps elevate either Democratic candidate by keeping McCain from moving ahead nationally while they continue to duke it out.

Granted, it isn't as if the Times was sitting on this for 6 months and running it at the height of election season; but I'd be curious how long they normally hold similar stories, and why they held this one and then published it now. Were they still fact-finding? If so, that's fine. If not... that's questionable.

On SerandEz & Sleep

SJ last night:
Something about your apartment has a caffeinated effect on people.
SJ this morning:
...but not in the morning.
Apple (in her head, at least):
No kidding. (Grr.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Segula

Segula
by Sara Ireland
"Drink this wine," they said, "to find your destined mate,"
Like some magic love elixir, some romance potion.
So I grasped that bridal cup and brought my lips close,
And wouldn't you know it? I spilled it all over me.

"Take this broken shard," they said, "to meet your true beloved,"
Like some miracle pottery, some wondrous earthenware.
So I reached for that wedding plate, that little shattered piece,
And wouldn't you know it? I cut my finger on its sharp edge.

"Hold this lighted candle," they said, "as tall as you want your husband,"
Like some enchanted torch, some supernatural flame.
So I held that Sabbath candle and raised it above my head,
And wouldn't you know it? I lit the house on fire.

"Eat this bread," they said, "to catch your other half,"
Like some Divine manna, some holy sustenance.
So I bit into that wedding loaf, that warm, doughy morsel,
And wouldn't you know it? I began to cough and choke.

"Recite this prayer," they said, "to uncover your betrothed,"
Like some sanctified liturgy, some sacred hymn.
So I said those ancient words, and I began to cry,
And wouldn't you know it? He handed me a tissue.
Akiva & Sara Cooperman

Quote 57

"A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers."
H.L. Mencken

Segulos & Prayer

Over the last number of weeks, a number of people have been decrying the seeming reliance and obsession a large swath of the Orthodox community has with segulos (essentially charms). As Wolf noted:
To me, I think there is a fundamental difference between prayer and the segulahs that LWY brings in his rant. When one prays, one (hopefully) takes the time to recognize to Whom he is praying and takes into account that He is the source of all our blessings. God expects us to pray to Him for our needs and wants. He *wants* us to turn to Him for help and to recognize Him. Prayer causes us to develop a relationship with our Creator and to become closer to Him.
Or, as G said yesterday in a quick (G-)chat:
Ez: whaddya think of it
G: of segulos?
Ez: yah
G: depends what it's tied to
Ez: ?
G: dont buy the whole do a and get b
but if the idea is to "turn you to God"
then...maybe
With all of those posts on the mind, I attended one of my best friend's weddings a couple of nights ago, and at the chuppah, they handed out a small piece of paper listing who would be walking down from the families on one side... and a beautiful poem on the other side, written by the wonderful young woman who was about to walk down the aisle. And that will be the next post.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Quotes 55 and 56

Sorry I missed yesterday's spot...I was in a different state with no access to computers...
Here are two quotes from Winston Churchill to make up for yesterday's absence:
"I am easily satisfied with the very best."

"We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out."

Notes to Self... or Whomever

  • I love my friends.
  • Don't leave the blog in the hands of the inmates.
  • When flying to Cleveland, no matter what the weather actually is, remember that you will have your flight canceled due to weather. GRR.
  • And then not get on the next flight because it's overbooked.
  • Airlines are run by complete morons. If you want to make a fortune, run an airline and start off by knowing where all your planes are and where you need them to be. If you can do this, you'll be far far ahead of all your competitors. If you can get them there, too, you'll make a mint. Someone should write a Dayenu - Airline Version. (G?)
  • It always snows in Cleveland, even if it was 57 degrees the day before. Or 80, last time.
  • "Out of town" weddings are nicer, period. Every time I go to a wedding in Cleveland, a friend who is visiting from elsewhere remarks "This wedding is so much nicer than most weddings. It's simpler, it's not gaudy, it's not overdone... it's so nice."
  • Weddings should be smaller and a little further away from where the people who are getting married live. It ensures that the people who come actually want to be there, which makes for an amazing time for all. I've been to three weddings the past two weeks, and all had those aspects to them, and all were fun. And the people were genuinely happy.
  • I love my friends. All the travel hell in the world is sometimes worth it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

With Liberty and Waffles for all.

(A Guest blurb by Jameel)

I've been away for a while.

I just finished writing all about my latest trip adventure, the people I met...and even though Ezzie had a sneak preview of the post, he insisted I post it on his blog as well (or at least a link).

So click on over to the Muqata and see what I've been up to (maybe even get some inspiration at the same time, Ezzie thought it was decent)

Clicking on the waffle brings you to the story (as it should)

Jameel.



PS: A belated Happy Birthday to the Holy Hyrax with the cute pink nails.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Well Waddaya Know IV

Last week's question and answer, immediately blown by Shoshana and others - clearly, too many psych majors read this blog:
What does MMPI stand for?
The answer is, in fact: Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.

This week's question is...
How did Jack the Ripper get his name?
Feel free to answer in the comments and on the poll at the top left. You can select more than one answer.

Quote 54

I LOVE THIS ONE!!!!!!
The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
--Stephen Covey (one of my favorite authors)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Not quite the far side...

As the usual poster of this little tidbit on SerandEz is traveling, I took the liberty of posting a replacement d'var Torah. While I might not be quite as entertaining as the master of wit himself, this has a really nice message that I think can speak to all of us.

In chapter 27 of our weekly portion, Tetzaveh, G-d commands Moshe to tell the Jews as follows:

כ. וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית--לַמָּאוֹר: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר, תָּמִיד.
20. And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.

This is an interesting term used here - לְהַעֲלֹת, literally, "to raise." What does it mean to raise a flame?

Rashi explains on the words "לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר, תָּמִיד" that this means that it is necessary to light the lamps until the flames of the lamp can hold their own and don't need help to stay lit. You know how it is - when you first light a candle using another flame, the candle's new flame is a little weak and it sort of sputters before it really gains strength and can exist on its own, unaided. Once that happens, the flame is truly strong enough to give light to its surroundings.

The Sichot Tzaddikim takes this idea further and points out that there exists within every Jew a bit of the light of G-d (in colloquial terms, the "pintele Yid"). Every Jewish person has a spark of Jewish feeling within them that can never be extinguished. This is the unique connection of all Jewish people to G-d that every single Jewish individual, no matter what his or her circumstances in life are, has within them. Sometimes this spark burns more strongly and sometimes it is more dormant. Sometimes you feel this connection to G-d clearly, and sometimes the connection needs a little help to bring it out. You just have to take that little spark and warm it up a bit to help it reach the status of a full-fledged flame, and then it will be lit from within, on its own, and is able to illuminate everything surrounding it. You just need that little bit of inspiration and feeling to touch the spark within, and the spark absorbs that feeling and gathers strength, and before you know it, is burning of its own accord.

We are all capable, no matter what our level of religiosity or observance, to both touch and be touched; both our own inner connection to G-d and the connection of others. The key is to really take the moments of inspiration in Judaism, when our G-dly spark within senses the truth and purity of what we're experiencing, and to internalize those moments so that the feeling that accompanies them is not lost. Then the light of those moments lasts, and burns continuously, and gives strength to all that follows it.

Have a great, spiritual and uplifting Shabbat!

Quotes 52 and 53

Double dosage for shabbos:
The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.
--William James

A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.
--Patricia Neal
Good Shabbos!

Ezzie's Blog Roundup 2/15

There was a lot of worthwhile stuff to read yesterday, but with all the stuff getting put up here, I held off until this morning.
  • This article in New York Magazine about kids and lying is absolutely fascinating and important to read. It gets into a whole bunch of discussions on different subjects, but it's still not long.

    Meanwhile, the child’s parent usually cheers when the child comes up with the white lie. “Often, the parents are proud that their kids are ‘polite’—they don’t see it as lying,” Talwar remarks. ...

    Encouraged to tell so many white lies and hearing so many others, children gradually get comfortable with being disingenuous. Insincerity becomes, literally, a daily occurrence. They learn that honesty only creates conflict, and dishonesty is an easy way to avoid conflict. And while they don’t confuse white-lie situations with lying to cover their misdeeds, they bring this emotional groundwork from one circumstance to the other. It becomes easier, psychologically, to lie to a parent. So if the parent says, “Where did you get these Pokémon cards?! I told you, you’re not allowed to waste your allowance on Pokémon cards!” this may feel to the child very much like a white-lie scenario—he can make his father feel better by telling him the cards were extras from a friend.

  • Bad4Shidduchim discusses Loving Mr. Not-Perfect.
    It’s interesting because I think most people will admit, at least cognitively, that a perfect mate doesn’t exist. Getting married is really a matter of deciding how short of perfection you’re willing to stop. And in the shidduch system, the more right you go, the larger that gap gets. At the same time, there shouldn’t be a feeling of “settling” because you’re not - nobody could possibly be perfect. It’s just a matter of when you find out about all those faults. In fact, the more you know of a person’s faults before marriage, the less let down you’re likely to feel, the happier you’ll ultimately be.
    See the comment by "Ari" there, as well.
  • ProfK discusses an elementary teacher's wonderful way of teaching kids finances. I think this should be done again in high school so people can remember it for life. (I do recall at least a couple Rabbeim doing similar things with us in elementary school, but not quite as sophisticated.)
    She told me that some students seemed not to be able to get out of the here and now mode of spending. Every week they spent their allowance completely. They bought a small piece of candy or a crayon. Some were satisfied with these small purchases and never complained. Others complained that all they ever seemed to be able to buy was a little thing when they really wanted something more expensive from the shopping catalog. Some children, when they got a raise in salary, spent it all each week by buying a more expensive piece of candy. A few listened to the teacher's advice and put the raise in salary into their "savings accounts."

    Midway through the year there was a real dichotomy in the students' accounts. A lot of students were living paycheck to paycheck. They had nothing in savings. A few had a little bit in their savings accounts. And even fewer had a lot in their savings accounts.
  • I think stupidity like this makes people not want to be religious. Grr.
    Jews become Agnostics... Because they drink Cholov Stam!
    From AskMoses (regarding the law of Cholov Yisrael):

    This law also has spiritual reasons. Drinking unsupervised milk causes agnosticism. The milk may in fact be 100% from a kosher animal, but if no Jewish person was present to watch the milking, it has the effect of casting doubts in our core beliefs.
  • Wolf knows what Rebbetzin Jungreis should respond to a young woman asking if she should marry a not-so-religious but wonderful man.
  • Finally, a very interesting vort from Ibn Avraham for this week's parsha.
    Ben Zoma said: We found a pasuk which is all inclusive, "Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Ekhad." (Devarim 6:4)
    Ben Nannas said: We found a pasuk which is all inclusive, "v'Ahavta l'Reakha k'Mokha." (Vayikra 19:18)
    Ben Pazai said: We found a pasuk which is all inclusive: "And the first sheep you shall offer in the morning . . . " (Shemot 29:32?, Parshat Tetzaveh*)
Enjoy!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Un-Be-Lievable IV...

...Take this for what it's worth and decide for yourself.

Part I, Part II, Part III

Chessed Meets Entrepreneurship...

...sometimes you just gotta love the jewish people.

I'm a little conflicted about the practical implications of the concept, but you can't deny the beauty of the idea.
hit expand
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Food is a Necessity

(click photo to see slide show)

Gym membership and vacations are not.

Quote 51

Ezzie saw this quote in the elevator at work:
The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothingbut newspapers.
--Thomas Jefferson

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Now this is interesting...!
Two familiar stories: “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” and “George Washington and the Cherry Tree.” For argument’s sake, let’s take George Washington’s name out of the second story, because he’s so famous. In the first story the boy and his sheep are both eaten because of the boy’s persistent lies. In the second, the boy is praised for his honesty.

Which one of these stories would make a child less likely to lie? If you’re like most people (75%, in a recent survey), you would answer that “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” would be the more powerful motivation.

You would also be wrong. The virtue of honesty, rather than the threat of dire consequences, was by far the more powerful motivator. This is one of the conclusions of a study by Dr. Nancy Darling, a developmental psychologist, described in New York magazine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who Knows Canada...

...or more specificaly the greater Toronto area?

A small no. of brave, intrepid souls will be braving the harsh climate and making way to the great white north for a long weekend.

While in the area I will be in and about town on matters both recreation and serious*.

So, I am in search of recommended activities/destinantions during my international sojourn. Both for a small group, say 4-5, and a really small group...party of two*:)

Any ideas?

*in case that wasn't clear enough let me spell it out...D-_-T-_ (care to buy a vowel?)

Haggling & Deals

Treppenwitz has an excellent post about what should concern us all with the secret dealing going on in Israel regarding what Olmert is perfectly happy to give away to the Palestinians.

I predict that Olmert will chose the next 24 - 48 hours to launch a large-scale ground offensive into Gaza. He won't have any more idea what he wants to accomplish in this offensive than he did when he ordered the opening of hostilities in Lebanon. But in this case his motives will be far less trustworthy. Simply put, he needs a national crisis to save his political career.

You see, once Israel is involved in a shooting war - and make no mistake, a ground incursion into Gaza will quickly escalate into a war - the 'we can't bring down the government during a time of national crisis' crowd will suddenly start to sound sane, and will give Shas the excuse it needs to remain in the government.

On a related note, this post on haggling by Ze'ev was rather amusing.

Teach Them Well...

...and let them lead the way Show them all the beauty they possess inside Give them a sense of pride to make it easier Let the chil...::eyes pan the blog slowly from left to right::...oh, h-h-hi...::nervous laughter::...I'm sorry, I-I didn't realize anybody was here. Ahem. Well then...

This is a pretty good read with an important message.

Quote 50

This is the only quote I can think of after my car spun out of control on a snowy highway.
"Thank you God for letting me live and for giving me a second chance at life"
--Moshe to God

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I finally accomplished Something in Bible Class

While other members of the class were trying to figure out why the source of the Nile wasn't the Mediterranean Sea I found something that was really worth thinking about.

Out Of The Mailbag - To YW Editor (Defending Our Brothers In Sderot)
February 12, 2008

Dear Yeshivaworld, the following letter/warning has been sent to all Jewish members of the Knesset. It was emailed to me as well, and I was wondering what your readership would say to this letter.

*To all Members of the Knesset:

Our holy Torah commands us “Thou Shall Not Stand By Thy Brothers Blood”!

Jews worldwide are absolutely appalled that the State of Israel does not defend the Jewish People in its own land.

We will no longer stand by and watch as our fellow Jews are fired upon and you the Government sit and do nothing about it.

Jewish exiles in the US including New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and many others are preparing a campaign buy the residents of Sderot and Ashkelon rockets so that they can do the job you refuse to do.

We are giving you 1 week to cut off the electricity and fuel to Gaza and begin bombing the Arab neighborhoods from which the rockets are being launched. We expect the Government of Israel to act with dignity and resolve! If you the government of Israel will not stand up then we will!

If you are afraid that the US government will condemn you than do not worry. The Jewish exiles in the US will back you up on capital hill. We will mobilize all are forces to pressure the US government so that they not pressure you.

In 1 week we will start raising funds to arm Sderot with rockets that they can fire back at the enemy population of Gaza.

We will send you this letter once a day for the next 7 days including Motzei Shabbat.

I hope you will respond.

Sincerely,

Jewish exiles in America.

*This letter was not sent to any Arab member of Knesset. The presence of any non-Jew in the Knesset is a violation of Torah Law as the Ramabam clearly writes in the Mishna Torah, Hilchot Milachim, Perek 6, Halacha 1.


Head over there , and read the rest of the comments! It's so worth it. And as an aside, did the editors of TYW run this one by Da'as Torah.


And Don't forget THE SEFORIM SALE!
Stop by and visit me!

Not So Much...

...uhhhh, yeah...so, remember this? Someone I know actually did a little digging, I was sent the following e-mail:

Apparently, the story didn't happen exactly as described in the
newspaper
article. See below.

=====================================================
In a message
dated 2/6/2008 3:04:36 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, [
] writes:


Happened to someone I know.

The accident was in Lakewood (corner of New Central and Miller) and he
killed an old couple.

"he could not carry the the pains of the guilt that he killed an old
man" - I think he was okay but asked R' Chaim if he should do
something because, bottom line, he caused a death. R' Chaim said that
probably if a goy is killed by a yid he was from Amalek.

My friend wasn't the one that went to that house - it was a real
estate agent. The house is in Country Place (Lakewood) - a senior
living development.

The man was an American. There was a picture on the wall of Hitler.

B'H my friend's parents are alive and well.

Sorry to (semi) ruin the story. But it's something to think about - If
this is what happens to a story that happened in America only two
years ago...

Quote 49

This quote is courtesy of Chana. She was telling YCubed that one day she would say about him "I knew him when..." because he will likely go on to do big things in his life -- to which he responded:
"I hope we will all be friends and not see each other as trophies on our wall of life experiences."
--YCubed

On Rabbinic Leadership

Via Gil, two very intriguing posts by R' Reuven Spolter of Detroit after a symposium that took place there.

Rabbinic Authority excerpt:
To my mind, we have entirely lost any notion of mara d'atra. With international communication, telephones, emails, fax machines and the like, nowadays, the community members themselves turn not to their own rabbi, but immediately to the gedolim. Every important question must be posed to a rabbi in New York -- or if it's really important, in Israel. But even more troubling, every local decision is questioned, analyzed and challenged by community members who take their local issues and pose them to rabbis uninvolved in the local community and often unaware of the delicate balance that exists in that community. It's quite easy to criticize events that seem untoward - either halachically or otherwise -- when you don't have all the facts or don't have to personally juggle the issues, which the local rabbi often must do.
Gedolim, Privacy, and the Truth of History excerpt:
Which to me -- only seems to prove my point. Even Shapiro agrees that historical figures deserve some level of privacy. He himelf would not reveal private, defamatory information that he felt had no "larger" relevance. If so, then we both agree that rabbis -- even great ones -- deserve privacy. The difference between our opinions, it would seem, is that I feel that halachah guarantees an individual -- even a dead figure -- the inherent right to privacy, whereas Dr. Shapiro feels that he has the right to make a subjective decision about what rights each figure deserves and receives.
Take out a few minutes and read both. They're quite interesting.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What's Wrong

There are so many things that are just 'off' in the Orthodox community, but a couple of the best involve twisted knowledge. First and foremost is the complete lack of awareness among people about how much it costs to live. ProfK has a series of posts, this being the last, that details a number of the little things that people often forget about when they actually bother to budget (and those who even bother are rare). I haven't had a chance to check out the numbers completely, and still would like to write a series detailing expenses for everyone, but her list is rather comprehensive. And scary.
So how much do the items above cost? No definite figure because it depends on each couple's desires and spending each year. But it would not be out of the ordinary to add another $10,000--$30,000 a year, certainly for a young couple just starting out and who need to provide everything for their new home. (Note: this does not include school tuition and camps for children. That expense is yet to come.) That would put our young couple at $70,000 to $90,000 a year. And whatever the figure, it's coming from after tax dollars.
Then, on top of that, you have all the fun "segulos" that people go crazy about. Granted, most are rather harmless, and a small handful have old sources, but most of them are simply laughable. I think an old Rebbe once put it well:
"A segula only has meaning if you believe it does."
Sigh. What else?

Please Help Save a Life: Emergency Bone Marrow Drive

Marc is a 9 year old boy living in Marlboro NJ. He has a rare genetic blood disorder known as HLH. Marc desperately needs a bone marrow transplant and there is no ideal match today.

Since tissue type is inherited, the best chance of finding a genetically matched donor for Marc, as well as hundreds of other patients with a variety of diseases, lies with those of similar ethnicity. While no one will be turned away from the drive, those of Eastern European ancestry offer the greatest chance of a successful match.

The Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society will be hosting an Emergency Bone Marrow Drive.

A few minutes of your day could save a life!

  • Thursday lunch in the Cafeteria at Wilf Campus, from 12-2pm
  • Wednesday during club hour (2:40 onwards) in the Lobby of 245 Lexington & Le Bistro Cafeteria from 1-4 pm
  • Thursday night & Motzeh Shabbos at the SOY Seforim Sale


  • Thank you so much for participating!

    Quote 48

    "You see, that's the problem...you're looking at everything so logically."
    --Chana to me at the Shabbos table on Friday night.

    Un-Be-Lievable III...

    ...This saddens me...I shudder to think what the future holds for some.

    Sunday, February 10, 2008

    Sheitl Sales on Sunday in Five Towns, Queens

    Corrected

    Michal Wigs - "Custom Wigs at unaccustomed prices" - is having a sale this Sunday, Feb. 10th, at various locations in the Queens - Five Towns - Far Rockaway area throughout the day. As they put it in an ad:
    Why wait until you are crazy with Pesach preperations and all the extra spending? Buy early and put away until Y"T! Smooth, silky, multi directional, no knotting, 6 month guarantee! Come see why thousands of people have realized you don't need to spend $2,000 to look great! Hatfalls, band falls, and sheitels, 18-22 inches. Priced $290-$575!!!
    I know that Serach is very happy with her sheitls and falls from them, and has hosted sales for them a few times.

    The sales will be hosted at:
    • 84-25 112th Street, Richmond Hill (Kew Gardens) - 10am-12pm
    • 6 4 Grandview St., Far Rockaway - 2pm-4pm
    • 69-92 137th St., Kew Gardens Hills - 7:30pm-9:30pm
    At all of the sales, Serach will also be selling tichels and scarves from SerachScarves.com.

    Well Waddaya Know III

    Shragi has decided to name this weekly series "Well Waddaya Know", which is quite apropos.

    Last week's question and answer(s):
    Which child in the family is most prone to criminal behavior: (60 votes total)
    • Oldest (5 votes)
    • Middle (30 votes)
    • Youngest (19 votes)
    • No difference (6 votes)
    The correct answer is... the majority again. The middle child (sorry Vervel) is most prone to criminal behavior. Now, does anyone care to posit why this is the case? For those who thought it was one of the other answers, why did you think so?
    Now, for this week, the answer is going to be a "fill in the blank", so put it in the comments. The question is... (without peeking!)
    What is the MMPI?

    Make Up Post...

    Update here

    ...for what I could not get to last week due to my restrictive status. So while usually the weekend is reserved for actual worthwhile pursuits...

    Please read the article below and,if you wish, place in the comments whether you are buying what the piece is selling.

    -You believe all of it
    -You believe none of it
    -You believe parts of it (if so, which parts)
    For those of you really looking for a distraction...add the all important WHY? to your choice.

    The following comes from an unknown hebrew language paper, the original can be found here
    An Orthodox Jew from New Jersey was involved in a car accident and
    accidentally killed an old non-Jewish man. Although the courts found
    the Jewish man not guilty, he could not carry the pains of the guilt
    that he killed an old man. It gave him no peace and it caused him to
    lose his appetite and was unable to sleep for weeks.

    He decided to seek counsel from the revered sage, Rabbi Chaim
    Kanievsky Shlita of Bnei Brak, and wrote him a letter asking the Rav
    what tikun can he do because he accidently killed a non-Jew.

    The Rav wrote him an answer that included one word, "Amalek".

    The Jew did not understand this answer and continued suffering with
    sleepless nights. At some point he decided to move away from his town
    to begin a new life. He began searching for a new house and found a
    house that appealed to him. The owners of the apartment told him that
    they are eager to get rid of this house because they inherited from
    their dead father that was killed in a car accident.

    After short investigation, turns out the apartment belonged to the
    non-Jew who was accidentally killed by the Jew. In the basement of
    the house, the Orthodox Jew found materials belonging to the old
    non-Jew man. He was shocked to find a picture of the old man during
    his youth proudly wearing an SS uniform, standing next to Hitler,
    yimach shemo.

    It turned out that this old man was an SS officer in the Nazi army
    and after the war, he came to the United States and hid his past. The
    SS Nazi Officer also hid other documents, including all the names of
    the Jews he personally murdered.

    When he read the names of the Jewish people that were murdered, he
    found both of his parent's name on this list.

    HaShem avenged their blood.

    It was then that he understood Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky Shlita's answer
    that contained one word, "AMALEK".

    Quote 47

    I read the following over shabbos. It if from a very interesting article in the latest Torah u-Maddah Journal. The article is titled A Nation Under God: Jews, Christians, and the American Public Square by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and is a must-read for all...especially for people who interact with Christians. The article can be found here. The quote is from Stanley Hauerwas...
    [M]oral authenticity seems to require that morality be not a matter of one’s own shaping, but something that shapes one. We do not create moral values, principles, virtues: rather they constitute a life for us to appropriate. The very idea that we choose what is valuable undermines our confidence in its worth.

    Lubavitch Principal Turns Around Bronx Public School

    (Hat tip: Mom) In 2004, Shimon Waronker, former Captain in the US Army and now Lubavitch, became the principal of Jordan L. Mott school in the Bronx, to the shock of the failing Latino school.
    Some parents at J.H.S. 22, also called Jordan L. Mott, were suspicious, viewing Mr. Waronker as too much an outsider. In fact, one parent, Angie Vazquez, 37, acknowledged that her upbringing had led her to wonder: “Wow, we’re going to have a Jewish person, what’s going to happen? Are the kids going to have to pay for lunch?”
    The article is very interesting; the video is decent as well.

    Friday, February 08, 2008

    Money Can't Buy Happiness II

    It's a good thing that people who aren't as happy have better salaries. According to this article, they need more money because they tend to spend more.

    The Far Side...

    ...has avoided the recycle bin of blog history despite the best efforts of certain people who will remain nameless.
    There appeared to have been something afoot to restrict certain people from posting at their discretion. Now I am sure that there was mass hysteria across the nation yesterday due to the lack of a post from a certain individual. In some cases, probably the overwhelming majority, this was madness of a euphorific type. Alas, thankfully (although I guess that depends on your perspective), this little snafu has been resolved and we are back to business as usual.

    It's a little late and things are little hurried so we'll go with an oldy but a goody.

    The Aron is described as the following:

    וְעָשׂוּ אֲרוֹן, עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים: אַמָּתַיִם וָחֵצִי אָרְכּוֹ, וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי רָחְבּוֹ, וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי, קֹמָתוֹ.
    וְצִפִּיתָ אֹתוֹ זָהָב טָהוֹר, מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ תְּצַפֶּנּוּ; וְעָשִׂיתָ עָלָיו זֵר זָהָב, סָבִיב

    And they shall make an ark of acacia-wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
    And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.

    The form of the Aron was Gold - Wood - Gold.
    Simple question: Why? Why not straight wood or straight gold?

    To understand the reason we first must lay out a basic difference between wood and gold, that is the ability of gold to be bent, molded and shaped and the lack of the ability to so to wood. Wood, at its most basic, does not bend and if pushed too far will crack.

    The Aron contained the Luchos (10 commandments) and is therefore a representation of the Torah in general. The Torah was given to man so as to be used to guide his life in this world.
    Toward that end man was given the ability, and more importantly the responsibility, to mesh the Torah with the world. There is a certain built-in ability of the Torah to be adjusted and molded to whatever comes up as time marches on. This is the gold aspect of Torah.
    However, at its core there will always be things that are non-negotiable and unchanging about the Torah and its interaction with the world. That no matter what may come and what it comes up against the foundation does not change and cannot be changed. The center holds and does not, will not, cannot bend...should not try to be bent. If these aspects of the Torah are forced to change then the whole thing simply snaps and falls apart. This is the wood aspect of Torah.

    So the Aron teaches us an important lesson about the Torah and our interaction with and responsibility to it. We must remember that while we can (must) adjust and change in order to live in this world, at the end of the day certain thing are indeed forever and it is those things that give strength to the rest.

    Much like the lesson of the wood of the Aron, the Far Side too will last forever (okay, a bit over the top but it is a great comic) and remind us never to lose track of the big picture:


    Quotes 45 and 46

    Here's your lechem mishneh:
    The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.
    Robert Frost
    (so I have heard...but since I do not work, I cannot vouch for the quote...but I am sure Ezzie can).

    In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.
    George Orwell.
    (Yeah, I can vouch for this one)

    Oh, and in case you are wondering why I have not really posted much on my blog...well, life has been pretty busy lately (academically, socially, etc.) but things should slow down now for a bit on the academic front. Here's a picture of my nightstand. It's basically my to-do list! I'm in for a fun couple of weeks.Have a great shabbos!

    Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 2/8

    Upcoming posts, some of which may not actually be posted, but some which definitely will...
    • Apple & Ezzie's Great Adventure, including Breslov Chassidim, shady taxi repair shops, and bite-sized "hamburgers".
    • Moshe & SerandEz's amazingly fun time at Stam & Chico's wedding, including guest appearances by, in no particular order: Elianna... Esther Ed (not related to Special Ed)... Mirrac... and, of course, the definition of sketchy. Or sketch. Or something.
    • SerandEz's desire to go to more weddings where STF & TDH*'s beautiful wedding was. Included guest appearances by way too many people to name (and/or out), and the added reminder that way too many people read this blog. I have yet to understand why.
    * TDH = If you can figure it out, you're probably female.

    As for posts that actually exist... here are some good ones other people wrote: (excerpts by hitting expand)
    • A fantastic and interesting post about Moshe's path from secular young man to leader of the Jewish people, comparing it to the path of a typical BT among other things.
      So Moses has lived straddling two worlds, neither of which is truly his “home.” He’s a double exile. After killing the Egyptian, and abandoning Egypt, Moses enters his third level of exile: he’s now a Jewish Egyptian Prince in an alien land: he’s lost the protection of his comfortable life, and he’s disillusioned: it seems that justice doesn’t pay in this world: he’s an outlaw with a price on his head, and he had no gratitude from the man whose life he’d saved, or the people of the man he’d saved. Despite the disillusionment though, he persists in doing what’s right, because it is right. In essence he’s dropped out of the dominant culture, as a significant number of secular Jews have long done. After his third act of justice though, by defending the women at the well, he’s offered one as his bride, and he accepts. Maybe justice is rewarded in this life, he now thinks, maybe now I can have a comfortable life. And like a typical secular Jew, he’s met a nice gentile girl, and only subsequently presumably persuades her to convert (although her conversion isn’t documented in the text.) He settles down and builds a conventionally successful life amongst strangers.
    • JoeSettler posts at the Muqata about something I've never really seen before at this level: A $1,000,000 offer to anyone who can give enough information to truly get Olmert out of office and into jail.

      "I am more interested in the ideology than the jackpot," the businessman replied.

      "Then you are better than I thought," the investigator said. "I wanted to interest you in both the jackpot and the ideology. I am trying to find material in all different places; that Olmert received bribes, that he deceived."

      "How much parnasa [livelihood] is involved?" the businessman asked.

      "If we did a good job, one million dollars," the investigator said, and explained what a good job would be: "If we caused someone in the state prosecution or the police or the media to say: 'With this we're bringing him down,' Olmert is going down, he's going home - that's good enough."

    • The Shaq trade. Liking it (or linking to anyway) and not so much. I'm with the latter.
    • A really interesting piece demonstrating the differences in how a lot of people understood Rav Soloveichik's interest in secular studies and philosophy. I'm actually curious if those differences played a role in determining the hashkafah of Lander College for Men (seemingly yes, based on R' Bronspigel's statement and Lander's Torah U'Parnassah motto).
      R. Abba Bronspiegel, pp. 79-80:
      A point should be made regarding the content on which the Rav lectured: he never publicly discussed secular education or Torah u-Madda on an ideological level. Privately, the Rav told several students to further their higher education; he advised me to attend Harvard for graduate school where I could study with his son-in-law, Dr. Isadore Twersky. It is true that the Rav promoted the notion of becoming a highly educated person for purposes of reaching a certain occupational plateau, but I never heard him speak specifically about Torah u-Madda or secular education...

      It is true that there were a few times when the Rav was asked to deliver a shiur at a secular university or someplace of the sort and would aim those shiurim at college students or irreligious people. It was in this setting that the Rav spoke a different language from the one more familiar to his students. On such occasions, the Rav would put down his Talmudic texts and review philosophies and the sciences he had learned during his training at the University of Berlin.
      I find that last part interesting; it is implying that Rav Soloveichik felt it important to be well-versed when in front of outside audiences, but not quite as much when staying within the walls of the Jewish world. This is meant to back the statement that the studies have no inherent value, so to speak - which would then mean that it's not something everyone needs to study but rather is useful for those who will be needing it only.
    • Nephtuli has yet another interesting post discussing the importance of information, in this case regarding Israel, terrorism, and more.
    • ProfK (Conversations in Klal) has a good post about what should be taught in every Jewish high school - Lifeskills 101 & 102.
      Students can give you the square root of pi, explaing the importance of the Battle of Hastings and dissect the character of Macbeth, but they can't balance a checkbook, figure the actual interest on their credit cards or do a cost benefit analysis when comparing possible insurance policies.

      What we need to do is to require classes for all high school graduates along the lines of Lifeskills 101 and 102. No one should be allowed to get a diploma until they pass these courses. I'll go on record as saying that a whole slew of the problems that are now extant in a large swathe of the frum population would recede, if not disappear altogether.

      And perhaps the course should begin with a clear discussion of the difference between wants and needs, luxuries and necessities. And perhaps it is also time to dispel the myth that two can live as cheaply as one--not if you are frum.
    • Ari (via S) answers a question I've often wondered: How did people know when to light for Shabbos before good clocks? Answer: They didn't!
    • Finally, an interesting letter at MysticalPaths that the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote a few decades ago about what one calls the Land of Israel.
      Assume one were to raise an additional point: suppose a new title for the land were necessary. Such an addition weakens the claim and ownership of the Nation of Israel over the Land of Israel, including even the confined area which was liberated in 1948, because:

      i. a new name gives the entire entity the appearance of being something novel, which was only born in 1948. Thus, inevitably, Jewish claim and ownership over the land also began only then.
    Oh, and just because the WSJ has been so darned good the last couple of days - I think people of all political leanings will find these articles fascinating. Hit expand to see.
    • How Obama has been exposing Hillary's health care plan;
    • The need for conservatives to get behind McCain, whether they like him or not...
    • ...helped along by Romney pulling out and allowing for that to happen...
    • [ironically making the 'divisive' GOP campaign, which was far more issues-based, into a united one, while the Democratic campaign is now an ugly one about rhetoric more than policy]
    • ...and what McCain needs to do to get those conservatives to buy it, which is going to be really necessary because...
    • if Obama beats Hillary, he's going to be really hard to criticize without coming across wrong.
    • Oh, and this piece on Bill Gates and a lesson in economics was really great.

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