Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Building" For Tomorrow...

...where honor and respect meets responsibility and liability.

This is a real life situation, so please do not tweak the facts when/if providing your opinion in the comments:

-There exists a young congregation with an already large and growing membership.
-The success of the congregation is directly attributable to its Rav, he is the draw.
-There are plans to purchase land and build a shul; total costs will run into the millions of dollars.
-Due to the relative youth of most of the membership there is a built in limit to how much money will be able to be raised. These are young families with limited disposable income.
-Therefore, it is almost assured that a very large loan will need to be obtained in order to get the shul where it wants to go.

These are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed.

Now then, under such circumstances there will need to be individuals willing to guarantee the loan. These individuals will need to provide collateral in case the loan is defaulted on. In most cases these people put up their houses or some other possession.

Being that the Rav is the reason for the success of the shul, and that if he left the shul would quickly fall apart (again I restate that this is an undisputed given) is it fair/allowed for the membership to request that he be one of the people to sign on the loan, and therefore become financially “on the hook”?

The thinking being that, “we are building you this shul and taking on a commitment for you, we would like some type of commitment in return”. The fear being that, absent this quid pro quo, the Rav could get a better offer and depart for a better position, leaving others “holding the bag” on the loan.

So, do you feel that asking him to be one of the guarantors is okay/right/allowed or is it disrespectful and not b’kavodik? So long as he gives his assurance that he is committed to the shul there should be no reason for any further action. He is the Rav and you take him at his word.

Well Waddaya Know VIII

...aaaand, we're back! Shragi, our host for this series, sent this to me a while ago, but I neglected to post due to busy season and Yom Tov obligations. So, though it is the middle of the week, in honor of Shragi's turning a quarter of a century old yesterday (happy birthday Zucchini boy!), we're going to post this today.
Moshe's mother sent him to buy 20 items. He will remember:
  • the first items
  • the last items
  • between 5 and 9 items
  • all answers
  • answers 1 & 2
  • answers 2 & 3
Poll is going to be up to the left. Good luck! :) Feel free to elaborate in the comments, and also discuss the previous question which didn't last long enough to get any comments:
What do you think of the idea to privatize the jails?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Almost...!

Busy season is almost over. Today. Tomorrow. After busy season party on Thursday. And then... let freedom reign!

It's that time of year again...

..S'FIRA

On our drive back home from NY, i subjected my poor husband to various Jewish a capella CDs. After listening to a few tracks of CD Eichler's latest "A.K.A. Pella" album, "Adaption" my husband turned to me and said,
"You know when all of these guys are together, one of them says "I sing
lead vocals", another one says "I sing harmony"... I just feel bad for the guy
who has to say "I sing guitar".

Monday, April 28, 2008

Matzah & Guns

If you can make sense of this, you can see how we spent a couple of our hours over the last days of Yom Tov. It was a lot of fun, and probably most interesting for us, since it was the first time I've ever really had a chance to shmooze with a number of the people there.

In addition, I ran into a whole bunch of other J-bloggers in different places, with the notable exception being our good friend G. I think Baltimore has the highest number of J-bloggers per capita, which is, in an odd way, an interesting strength of its community.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sunny day, sweepin' the clouds away

Sometimes, in adulthood, it's good to look back at things from when you were little. They just take on a whole new dimension of appreciation.

Treating People

My dear wife Serach sent me this quote a couple of weeks ago, and noted that she felt it was appropriate for me. I don't know that it is appropriate, but I certainly like it:
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being." - J.W. Van Goethe

Why McCain Should Win

Of all people, Karl Rove shows why today in an incredibly sharp analysis of the two Democratic candidates:

The Democratic Party has two weakened candidates. Mrs. Clinton started as a deeply flawed candidate: the palpable and unpleasant sense of entitlement, the absence of a clear and optimistic message, the grating personality impatient to be done with the little people and overly eager for a return to power, real power, the phoniness and the exaggerations. These problems have not diminished over the long months of the contest. They have grown. She started out with the highest negatives of any major candidate in an open race for the presidency and things have only gotten worse.

And what of the reborn Adlai Stevenson? Mr. Obama is befuddled and angry about the national reaction to what are clearly accepted, even commonplace truths in San Francisco and Hyde Park. How could anyone take offense at the observation that people in small-town and rural American are "bitter" and therefore "cling" to their guns and their faith, as well as their xenophobia? Why would anyone raise questions about a public figure who, for only 20 years, attended a church and developed a close personal relationship with its preacher who says AIDS was created by our government as a genocidal tool to be used against people of color, who declared America's chickens came home to roost on 9/11, and wants God to damn America? Mr. Obama has a weakness among blue-collar working class voters for a reason.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pesach Point to Ponder

Greetings and Baruch Mechayeh Meisim. I have come to various crossroads and have lost a little time and a lot of focus. I just wanted to poke my head back up and offer up a little something.

If your like me at some point you may have heard this, as well. When I was a kid growing up, like everyone else I learned about the Jews being enslaved in Egypt. I remember some of alte kakkers in the community who offered as fact that the Jews must have been responsible for the architectural wonders that are the pyramids of Egypt (because Jews are better at everything, of course).
Now, as I got older I tossed this aside as some sort of Modern Orthodox historical urban legend. However, enters our old friend Josephus:

And having, in length of time, forgotten the benefits they had
received from Joseph, particularly the crown being now come into
another family, they became very abusive to the Israelites, and
contrived many ways of afflicting them; for they enjoined them to
cut a great number of channels for the river, and to build walls
for their cities and ramparts, that they might restrain the
river, and hinder its waters from stagnating, upon its running
over its own banks: they set them also to build pyramids, and by all this wore them out;
[Antiquities of the Jews; 9:1]

Certainly interesting as it does seem to lend some source-based substantiation to this speculation.
In fairness, though, one of the footnotes raises an interesting objection

וַיְמָרְרוּ אֶת-חַיֵּיהֶם בַּעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה, בְּחֹמֶר וּבִלְבֵנִים, וּבְכָל-עֲבֹדָה, בַּשָּׂדֶה--אֵת, כָּל-עֲבֹדָתָם, אֲשֶׁר-עָבְדוּ בָהֶם, בְּפָרֶךְ [Exodus 1:14]

The biblical account of Jewish slave labor only mentions work done with brick, while the pyramids were works of stone. Still, there seems to be more here than I would have ever thought.

This is really neat

(See, I am a child of the nineties - who else says neat? Anyway.)

Ezzie pointed me to this blog, which seems to have been around for almost two years already (better late than never) (now you have more to read in the archives). It's really clever and creative, and requires a bit of time to get it, but once you do, it's a lot of food for thought. Check it out!

Please Help - Need Copy of The Baltimore Sun

A client of mine (who lives in California) was featured in an article from the "Health Today" section of The Baltimore Sun this past Thursday, 4/17/08. I was supposed to send her a copy of it, but a certain someone in my household didn't realize that I had set the newspaper aside for a specific purpose and, unfortunately, that person threw it out.

Therefore, if anyone still has a copy of this newspaper lying around, I would really appreciate it if you would let me know. Just send me an e-mail (jstein at bookendsconsulting dot com) or call me on my cell, 410.935.5337, and I'll come pick it up from you.

(Yes, I do know that I may order a copy directly from The Baltimore Sun, but that would take a few days and cost $$, so I'd like to see if anyone has a copy for me first before going that route.)

Thanks so much!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Mordy Show

It’s been three weeks instead of two, I know. But I’ve been busy, which you will soon find out if you continue reading. Why you care on the other hand is beyond me.

[Click expand to see it all]

Yiddishkeit:

1. Stop cursing

Haven’t quite got this one down yet. It’s really hard!
Someone gave me an idea to carry a roll of pennies around with me and every time I curse I just put a penny into the other pocket and then at the end of the day put all those pennies in tzedaka. So that’ll be the next thing to start I guess…

1. Carry roll of pennies to help with not cursing.


2. Going to shachris with a minyan

Ok, so since I wrote this on April 2, out of 21 days, I missed only 3 minchas, 4 maarivs, and not a single shachris. Out of those 21 shachrises though only 7 were with a minyan. 15 out of the 18 minchas were with a minyan, and 9 out of 17 maarivs were with a minyan. I think I should get down all the tefillos first before worrying about minyan, especially since I don’t think I’m doing too bad with the minyan thing so far.

2. Don’t miss any minchas or maarivs


3. Learning b’chavrusa

This one was a long shot, but in the past 21 days I did learn some Pirkei Avos on 10 days. I think my chavrusa is moving to Israel after Pesach, so I gotta do something about that.

3. Find a new chavrusa
4. Learn more Pirkei Avos


4. Say no to my yetzer hora

21 days=21 $’s and +’s. (that’s a good thing)

5. Continue to say no to my yetzer hora


And I started keeping track of what time I get out of bed every morning, which I guess really goes in the Life section, but I figure it will assist in the shachris thing and everything that gets tracked on the calendar is tied in to Yiddishkeit anyway, so I’ll just mention it here. Times for the first week, starting Sunday the 13th were: 7:05, 7:39, 8:09, 8:13, 9:30, 7:15, 6:46. Times for this week so far have been 9:13, 9:22, and 7:30.

School:

1. 6 Discussion board posts and related readings for His I

A chapter and half down. Another chapter and a half to go until I’m where I want to be and start putting up DB posts. Although while I’ve been trying to catch up, I’ve still been behind so really I’m behind 2 ½ chapters and 8 DB posts.

1. 8 Discussion Board posts and 2 and ½ chapters of reading for His I


2. 7 Discussion board posts and related readings for His II

Too busy with His I

2. 9 Discussion Board posts and 5 chapters of reading for His II


3. Get 2 books and write paper for His I

Got the books, now I gotta…

3. Write His I paper


4. Make up His I mid-term
5. Make up His II mid-term

Made up both mid-terms. Didn’t say I passed, just said I made them up.

6. Get 2 books and write His II mid-term

Got the books. Too busy with His I

4. Write His II paper


7. Write 2 Lit II papers

Too busy with His

5. Write 2 Lit II Papers


Work:

1. Finish catching up
2. Stay caught up
3. Try not to go insane
4. Get pay check


Quit job. Didn’t go insane. Got pay check.

5. Find better job

Working for pops in interim

1. Find other job


Firehouse:

1. Find someone to cover cleanup next Thursday night

Covered

2. Fill ice coolers

No one noticed that they weren’t filled because we haven’t really needed them yet. I’ll worry about it when it gets warmer out.

3. Stop wasting time

Getting there. I’ve been making the time I do spend there at least somewhat productive instead of just sitting in front of the tv. It’ll be easier over Pesach since we won’t really eat there.

1. Continue to not waste time


4. Check out a set of pocket tools

Haven’t got to that yet. Busy with everything else and FAST team class.

2. Check out thumb knife, interchangeable screw driver, and Klein wire strippers.


Climbing:

1. Finish all blacks and whites (V3’s)

Was finished but then they put up new ones. Now I gotta finish those.

1. Finish new V3’s


2. Project purples and limes (V4’s)

Finished some! Those were awesome. But the week break I just took will probably mean that it’ll take a couple of days to get back into trying anything too crazy.

2. Try some V4’s


3. Attempt yellows and teals (V5’s)

After I deal with 2.

4. Finish lead test

Eh, whenever I’m in the mood. No rush. I’ve got plenty other stuff in climbing to keep me busy right now.

5. Check out new shoes

I should really make this number 1. My shoes are officially busted. Hole straight through the edge of the toe. Oh, and I need more webbing and other gear since I’m going to start climbing outside more often (hopefully) since the weather is nice.

3. Get new shoes asap
4. Get more webbing


Dating:

1. Make some calls
2. Go on some dates
3. Find the right girl
4. Marry her

Technically I could just cross off 3, start from 1 then 2 and then 4. But I don’t have the guts for 1 and 2, and I don’t think 3 counts if she doesn’t know I found her. (If I really had it my way, I’d just skip straight to 4)LOL

Honestly, I just haven’t had time to think about this whole area.


Life:

1. Take defensive driving class

Signed up for the nights of April 29 and 30

2. Finish off ticket/license stuff

Lawyer is paid in full

3. Fix laptop

Debating whether to just buy a new one.

1. Fix the laptop or just buy a new one already!!!!!


4. Pay off debt

Credit card is done. Now it’s just something else, but it won’t affect my credit score (or break my legs)

5. Help out around the house

Helped a bunch before Pesach! (Helped not as much over Pesach… but I did still help!)

2. Help more around the house


6. Clean my room

Ok, so I FINALLY bought a stupid desk and chair that I’ve needed for like three years. Gd bless IKEA! $85 later and I have exactly what I want and my room is already looking better. Now if I could just find a place to put those stupid old accounting books. Accounting books, ewwww.

3. Keep room clean


7. Clean my car

Planned on doing that Thursday afternoon but got too busy with #2, but it’s a good thing because the wet/dry vac at the firehouse conked out on another guy while he was cleaning his car around the time I was planning on using it, so thank Gd I didn’t have to be responsible for breaking the stupid thing. And now that Pesach has started already, I guess there’s really no rush anymore.

4. Clean car after fire house gets new vacuum (hehe)


Alright, so here’s the new list:

Yiddishkeit:
1. Carry roll of pennies to help with not cursing
2. Don’t miss any minchas or maarivs
3. Find a new chavrusa
4. Learn more Pirkei Avos
5. Continue to say no to my yetzer hora

School:
1. 8 Discussion Board posts and 2 and ½ chapters of reading for His I
2. 9 Discussion Board posts and 5 chapters of reading for His II
3. Write His I paper
4. Write His II paper
5. Write 2 Lit II Papers

Work:
1. Find other job

Firehouse:
1. Continue to not waste time
2. Check out thumb knife, interchangeable screw driver, and Klein wire strippers
3. Clean gear (after final FAST team class on Thursday night)

Climbing:
1. Get new shoes asap
2. Finish new V3’s
3. Try some V4’s
4. Get more webbing
5. Start climbing (more) outside again

Dating:
1. Make some calls
2. Go on some dates
3. Find the right girl
4. Marry her

(or:
1. Muster up some guts
2. Ask girl out
3. Go on a couple of dates
4. Marry her before she changes her mind)

Life:
1. Fix the laptop or just buy a new one already!
2. Help more around the house
3. Keep room clean
4. Clean car after fire house gets new vacuum (hehe)
5. Continue to wake up early

Be back in two (or three) weeks...

Dating, Part I

By my tall (and cynical) friend.
Dating (Part I)

One hot afternoon you get the call
It's your mother's cousin's friend's dog's Uncle Paul
Do I have a girl for you!, exclaims Paul
Probably not, you mutter, I'm sure she's just tall
She's a good girl and from a great family too
And then again, you think, she might be barely five-two
By now you know the lingo: A little quiet means you're talking to yourself
A little heavy means she eats everything on the shelf
But since the next couple days hold no other amusement
You bite back your cynicism and come to an agreement
Paul of course is in seventh heaven
Great! Tomorrow night front door of the Plaza at half past seven

Friday, April 18, 2008

Not the far side III: Pesach edition

This is something that I learned in high school from my esteemed principal. I really liked the idea and so actually wrote it down for posterity . . . enjoy.

In the haggada, we use four pesukim to explain the story of the Exodus from Egypt - each pasuk is quoted and then every word in the pasuk is subsequently expanded upon:

אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי, וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה, וַיָּגָר שָׁם בִּמְתֵי מְעָט; וַיְהִי-שָׁם, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל עָצוּם וָרָב. 
An Aramean nearly caused my father to perish, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.
וַיָּרֵעוּ אֹתָנוּ הַמִּצְרִים, וַיְעַנּוּנוּ; וַיִּתְּנוּ עָלֵינוּ, עֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה  
And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage.
וַנִּצְעַק, אֶל-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵינוּ; וַיִּשְׁמַע יְהוָה אֶת-קֹלֵנוּ, וַיַּרְא אֶת-עָנְיֵנוּ וְאֶת-עֲמָלֵנוּ וְאֶת-לַחֲצֵנוּ  
And we cried unto the L-RD, the G-d of our fathers, and the L-RD heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression.
וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ יְהוָה, מִמִּצְרַיִם, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבְמֹרָא גָּדֹל--וּבְאֹתוֹת, וּבְמֹפְתִים  
And the L-RD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders.

Where, exactly, did these pesukim come from?

These are the phrases said upon fulfilling the mitzvah of bikkurim - of bringing the first of the newly blossomed fruits to the kohen gadol in the Beit Hamikdash, as explained in Parshat Ki Tavo, chapter 26, verses 5-8.

Whaaaaa? Why, when bringing a gift of fruits, do we go back and say "My forefathers were slaves in Egypt"? Seems to kill the moment, which is ostensibly one of happiness - the crops flourished, there will be food for everyone to eat - why are we dredging up historical memories of slavery and bondage?

Because contrary to what it may seem like at first glance, these are words that actually bring us joy. The mitzvah of bikkurim is an acknowledgement of Hashem, in His boundless munificence and glory, choosing us as a nation. And so we say precisely these pesukim as a way to thank Him! These pesukim recognize that Hashem redeemed us from slavery and elevated our status to that of His chosen nation. Thus, these four pesukim (and you'll notice how the four pesukim follows the pattern of "four" found in the haggada) are associated with the concept of hakarat hatov, of gratitude, to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for choosing the descendants of Yaakov to be His nation, the one that will accept the yoke and beauty of the Torah.

Using these pesukim to tell the story of Mitzrayim evokes that feeling of overwhelming gratitude to Hashem that we feel at the time of the bringing of the bikkurim. He redeemed us, He chose us - He infused us with the holiness of being the Jewish nation. By saying these lines, we bring the mood and essence of the bikkurim to our own tables: thanking G-d for what He has done for us.

Furthermore, a person who brings bikkurim is not someone who actually experienced the Yetziah, but rather, is a descendant of someone who did. However, these pesukim are in first person, as though the sayer of them is speaking about a personal experience. So too, we, living 3,320 years after the Exodus, relate the story of Egypt as though it happened to us. These pesukim connect us way back to the people who left Mitzrayim after the shibud, just as the person who is bringing bikkurim connects the events of the enslavement to the ultimate freedom experienced in Eretz Yisrael.

R' Yosef Dov Soloveitchik says the statement made when bringing bikkurim (ie the four pesukim quoted above) celebrates the status of being free. A slave is considered to have no yichus, no lineage - he is just a cog in the wheel. However, with these words, we connect to our family - "Arami oved avi" - my father Yaakov was nearly killed by his father-in-law Lavan. We establish our larger connection to all of the Jewish people with these words, and acknowledging the fact that we have lineage, ancestry, is part of the ultimate statement of freedom.

Have a chag kasher vesameach, and may this be our last Pesach experienced in galut!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chametz Hockey

Yeah, you read that right. You wanna see where all the fun is?

Check it out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why I Love Pesach

Just a short glimpse into my head, and why Pesach Rocks

My Dad: "You want burgers or steak for dinner"
SE: "Either, whatever is easier (Note: I wanted steak but was being polite)
Ezzie afterwards: "Both"
My Dad: "Steak is easier, then there are no rolls"

That's why Pesach rocks!

On Empathy

SJ has a very thoughtful post on empathy, and where do we draw the line on what is proper and what is unhealthy. In discussing this subject recently, I think she also mentioned another factor - how helpful it is or is not. After all, my feeling bad does little or nothing for whomever is affected by a tragedy, does it not? It further strengthens the question: Since I'm not really helping, why be empathetic at all, or more than a certain amount. The passing of R' Henoch Leibowitz yesterday brought this to the forefront of my mind again, as my brother (in Chofetz Chaim) is obviously far greater affected than I.

I have lots to say on the subject, but go over there and give your own input. Interesting discussion...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Baruch Dayan HaEmes

UPDATED From R' Hayim Schwartz of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in Kew Gardens Hills, via JL:
With a profound sense of loss that can't be quantified, it pains me to inform you of the passing a few minutes ago of our dear, beloved, respected Rebbe, Hagaon Harav Henach Leibowitz a"h.

The levaya for Rebbe zatzal will be tomorrow, Wednesday, at 12 noon 1:30pm, at the Yeshiva, 76-01 147th Street, in Kew Gardens Hills.

Kevura will be at Mount Judah Cemetery on the Jackie Robinson Parkway.
Baruch Dayan HaEmes.

UPDATES [click to expand - lots of important information, including call-in and online viewing information]

via JH:

Audio/Video Hook-Up Information

To access the video feed: go to http://rsavideo.noblejewels.net
If you access it before the Levaya, you should see a sign about the
Levaya being at 1:30 pm.

There will iy"H be two (2) phone hook-ups for the Levaya. The numbers are:
1-218-936-1600; enter code 7601147
(accommodates only 150 callers)

or

1-712-432-1001; enter code 431238585
(accommodates 1000 callers)

It has been suggested that as these lines can get very busy, it is
advisable to call in early - even up to an hour before (12:30 PM), to
increase your chances of being connected.

via YS:

There will be a phone hookup of the levaya starting at 1:30pm. The number is 218-936-1600. Access number 7601147.

via JL from NS:

1. To accomodate the huge interest in listening to tomorrow's Levaya (our regular service could only accomodate 150 lines), we have arranged a second service with 1000 lines, at a different, second number. Call 712-432-1001, and use access number 431 23 8585#.

2. The Yeshiva has also been able to set up a live video feed of the Levaya which you can access from your personal computer. Connect to http://pointers.audiovideoweb.com/asxfiles-live/1c2winlive6951.asx. There are no limits to the number of people who can access this video feed, and it is accessible from anywhere in the world.*\*

3. To accomodate the fact that all the local yeshivos are already off for Pesach and kids are home, some local girls have volunteered and offered to create a babysitting room during the Levaya, to enable mothers to attend Rebbe's Levaya undisturbed. Mothers should prepare by writing their child's name and their cell phone/emergency number on a small card and pin it to each child or infant they bring. Include any allergy information. Mothers should also be aware that there are no toys or supplies in Yeshiva and should send everything their child may need, labeled with their child's name, including (but not limited to) diapers, wipes, pacifiers, bottles, snacks, drinks, toys, books, anything these girls will need to take care of your young child (please only boys till age 6) during the Levaya. They cannot take responsibility for any lost items. Babysitting will begin a few minutes before the Levaya and will conclude a few minutes after the Levaya. This babysitting room will be in the Blatt Shiur Room on the lower level of the Yeshiva, across the hall from where women will be able to sit during the Levaya.

4. All women who come to the Levaya should please enter through the side entrance to the Yeshiva on 147th Street and proceed downstairs to the Dining Room where chairs and a large video screen have been set up for them. If you are bringing a stroller and/or need to use the elevator, enter the building through the left side of the Campus Plaza, near the office, and proceed to the elevator.

5. Any private busses that may be coming should park on 150th Street. The police have set up that street as a staging area.

6. 147th Street in front of the Yeshiva will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at 12:30 pm, from 73rd Avenue through 77th Avenue. Please attempt to car pool as parking near the Yeshiva is very limited.

7. After the Levaya, the aron will be driven up to Union Turnpike and will make a right turn onto Union Turnpike. Any and all cars going to the Bais Hakevaros should line up behind the hearse on Union Turnpike and down 147th Street. The local police department plans to shut down Union Turnpike to other vehicular traffic, to enable the expected, large funeral procession to proceed unencumbered.

7. Rabbi Welcher shlita has paskened that any talmid who went through the Rosh HaYeshiva's Blatt Shiur and/or who feels very saddened by the passing of Rebbe zatzal should tear kriah on their shirt after the Levaya, with shem umalchus, Those not attending the Levaya should do so at 3 pm DST.

8. We hope everyone understands the huge operation that we are attempting to perform and will bear with us if there are any snags. We apologize in advance for any difficulties we may experience. We just want to perform Kavod Acharon for our beloved Rebbe zatzal.

YoU Are Sub-Par II...

...that's right kids, it's on like Donkey Kong.
Two Bais Yaakov girls go round the outside; round the outside, round the outside
Two Bais Yaakov girls go round the outside; round the outside, round the outside

Guess who's back
Back again
Rav B's back
Tell a friend
Guess who's back, guess who's back, guess who's back, guess who's back
guess who's back, guess who's back, guess who's back...

Almost exactly a year ago, an e-mail exchange went around certain parts of the horror and danger to judaism and all that works for the power of good in this world known as the blogosphere, between a young man and a certain Rav B in Eretz Yisroel. The Rabbi has since been identified as none other than Rav Asher Balanson of OJ (Ohr Yerushalayim) and Mikdash fame.

Unfortunately (who am I kidding, this stuff is awesome) Fortunately, it seems these sort of e-mail exchanges are going to become an annual event, as this recent give and take between a young lady and Rav Balanson clearly indicates.

A personal note: I only take issue with the first part of the dialogue; anything after "I once went out with a boy..." is not too much of a problem for me. After all, she kind of does have it coming. The truth is I am not sure what worries me more from this little electronic question and answer... the questioner’s superiority, arrogance, and self-righteousness, or the answerer’s superiority, arrogance and self-righteousness.

The funny (or sad, depending on your brand of vodka) part is that the worldview of Miss Q'er is a direct result of this type of "advice". The "answers" provided are the cause of some of the very issues they point out! ...and the beat goes on Da da dum Da dum Da da.

Keep in mind that these exchanges (and others like them) are included as part of a weekly public e-mail that is read far and wide.

(Just a word before your descent...What in the name of Daas Torah was Question #1!!!)

Question #2:
>Im sorry to trouble the Rav with a lengthy email, but I was wondering if the Rav could give me eitza...
A: I will try.

>Ive been dating for less than a year. Although Ive gone out with several boys, I havnt once yet been impressed or felt that any of the boys were at all shiach for me.
A: All that means is that they weren't your bashert.

>Ive been told by close friends and Rebbetzins that Im "too picky" and that I just keep finding faults in the boys Im dating and write them off too quickly. I personally dont think Im being picky. On one hand, I understand that its not healthy to have a detailed image in your head of exactly the boy you want to marry, but there are certain things I feel like I need in a boy that Im not yet ready to be mivater on those certain nekudos.
>I want a boy who is going to learn in kollel, who is extremely intense about his learning and yiddishkeit, but who is also a ben aliya -- who is constantly working on his middos and looking for ways to refine himself.
A: That's very nice. However, there aren't very many boys of that sort, and most, if not all, want a girl who comes from a pure Torah house: a house where the father is either a Rosh Yeshiva or who is still in Kollel.

>Ive found that with the majority of boys that Ive dated, they often focus just on learning and not on middos.
>For example, several boys Ive dated have spoken pure lashon harah on the date about different sects of klal yisrael. Often, boys bash YU. Im not AT ALL the YU hashkafah, but even if I dont agree with the hashkafa I would never speak lashon hara, and bash a sect of klal yisrael.

A: Who paskined for you that it is lashon harah to speak against YU? YU goes against the accepted Daas Torah of Gedolei Yisroel and there is no issur at all to speak against them! You simply aren't adequately familiar with the halachos of lashon harah!!

>To me its pure sinas chinam and bashing yiddin, no matter what their hashkafa, drives the shchina away.
A: TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY WRONG!! Rabbeinu Yona writes very clearly that anyone who isn't willing to HATE those who go against HaShem, is a bad person!! YOUR hashkafa here is way way off.

>I spoke to a Rav about this, and he told me that boys will be kanaish about their hashkafos, and will verbalize their disagreement with another hashkafa- but it can be worked on. He told me that when he was dating he did it too in order for the girl to know where he was holding, but then when he got married his wife made him realize that its lashon harah. But its so hard for me, while Im dating to just say "Oh, he's speaking lashon hara now, but together we can work on it" --
>I dont understand why a boy wouldnt have worked on not speaking lashon harah before he gets married!?
A: I don't understand why a girl wouldn't have worked on her hashkafa before she gets married!

>Additionally, many people have told me that Im not going to marry a Rav, that Im marrying potential, and that Im Yirtza Hashem he will gradually grow into his potential. Everyone tells me this, but what can I acutally do lmaaseh? How when Im on a date should I look over things that, to me, seem to be indicative of a lack of yiras shamayim, lack of working on their middos ....etc ?? How, when Im supposed to be looking for the person Im going to spend the rest of my life with, should I overlook things?
A: I don't think that the problem is overlooking things, but rather that you yourself don't have clear Torah hashkafa and therefore don't recognize it when you see it in a boy.

>I once went out with a boy who said something completely insensitive about my past. Even my best friends would never even think to make a comment like that to me, and this boy made a comment on the third date! I said no to going on another date, because I was not only offended but also really hurt. I spoke to a Rav some time later and he told me that I deffinately should not have said no, that boys will sometimes say silly things, and that I should go out with him again. A Rebbetzin that Im close with told me the same - but I dont understand why - I dont think I was being too "picky" or finding faults. He made a totally inappropriate comment, that embarrassed me, and I dont see why I should go out with him again?
A: Because EVERYONE makes mistakes from time to time. If you aren't willing to overlook mistakes, then your married life will be pure Gehenom! If you are so critical now, how will you be after marriage? Don't you think that working on midos includes forgiving mistakes?

>So, on one hand I dont think Im picky, but then on the other hand - is it weird that I've never been impressed with a boy, or that I never thought any of the boys Ive been set up with were at all shiach?
A: Weird? That I don't know. However, you are certainly highly critical and very judgemental, both of which are not good midos at all. Don't you realize that your critical approach to life is a VERY GOOD REASON for a boy to say no to YOU?

>Maybe Hashem gave me a lot of clarity, or maybe everyone's right, and Im just being too picky? I clearly need to work on not being judgmental and critical of the boys I date, but at the same time, I want to make sure I pick the right one!
A: Certainly. However, just like you admit that your midos here are not at all good, why can't you accept that in a boy as well?

>And, if I hope to iyH be moser nefesh to support my husband in kollel, then I want to make sure he's an emesdik eved Hashem!
A: Are you sure that you are one?

>I would really appreciate the Rav's eitza in this matter, and Im sorry that the letter is so long. Thank you very much.
A: I wish you hatzlacha.
Nooooooow this looks like a job for B
So everybody, just follow he
Cause we need a little, controversy
Cause it feels so empty, without Rav B
I said this looks like a job for B
So everybody, just follow he
Cause we need a little, controversy
Cause it feels so empty, without Rav B


And remember...YOU ARE SUB-PAR!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pesach Caption Contest...

...in the comments.

As before - Smart and Funny are your only criteria.

"I tell ya Sol, this holiday is making my wife crazy. She's running around like a...like...well, I can't think of the right analogy but you get what I'm saying."

HEY-O!!!!!!!

Customer Service Tip

Select the option for Espanol and your call will get answered much more quickly. You can speak in English after they pick up. This has worked with many corporations. Adios.

What's Right

Reb Abe sends me a couple of e-mails every week; one from R' Eisenmann, one from R' Aviner. They're always interesting and full of excellent thoughts and information, but a couple points really struck me this weekend. The first is a mildly amusing point from R' Aviner, in his Q&A section about Pesach:

Husband's help

Question: Does a husband have to help his wife?

Answer: A husband does not have to help his wife nor does a wife have to help her husband. Rather, the two of them have to clean together since this is a shared home, and it is a shared life as well.

Heh. Meanwhile, on a more thoughtful note, there was this excerpt from R' Eisenmann, discussing a comment by NJ Governor Jon Corzine at an event.
“Even though I am not a moral leader, nevertheless, I must tell you guys, always wear your seat belts, believe me I know.”

As a person who has been studying the Talmud for thirty seven years, I am usually attuned to extra or seemingly unnecessary words. Immediately it hit me. Why did the Governor have to add on the caveat, “Even though I am not a moral leader”? Why couldn’t he have simply said to my boys, “Listen, I did wrong, I was in a speeding car without and a seat belt and I almost paid for that mistake with my life”? Why did he feel the need to add the disclaimer, “I am not a moral leader”?

I then realized an important lesson. He views himself and indeed all political leaders as just that: political leaders. Things that have to do with laws and legislation are in his arena; if they touch on morality, well that is just coincidental. Morality, that is a specific realm relegated to religious/moral leaders. However, he, as a political leader, is not only not a moral leader, he needed to apologize and preface his words with a disclaimer before commenting on that which in his mind is a moral issue.
I don't think Corzine is at personal fault for thinking this way, as I think most political leaders think this way, and have for a long time. Clinton's escapades in the '90s just made that belief public and turned it into a debate over whether a leader's private failings matter so long as it doesn't affect their job; Guiliani and others likely reinforced this. This isn't just an American phenomenon either; Israel is not only no better, but in many ways, worse.

It would be nice, though, if this idea started to reverse itself, and political leaders were held to a somewhat higher standard as examples for the country. Do they need to be perfect? No. Do they need to be held to the same standard as clergy? No. But they are the examples we all see every day; they are the leaders of cities, states, and our country. In a way, Corzine is not a step down, but a step up. He may not hold himself to be a moral leader, but at least he is willing to speak up on matters of responsibility. Other leaders should do the same, and then take that next step and think of themselves as responsible to be moral examples for this country as well.

In fact, so should we all. In a short aside about a week ago, I mentioned the quote that has been on the header of this blog for a long time. G noted that while it is a good quote, it can be taken too far as well, which I agreed with. While we should not worry about what others think and do what we feel is correct, we still should strive to set a positive example with our actions.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Readers Wanted

Over at "Which Way Is Up?" I've re-evaluated the title and purpose(s) of my blog. Feel free to stop by periodically--and contribute to the discussions, whether old or new.

Teaser Post

All right. So here's the plan for the next month and a half or so on SerandEz & Friends*:
  • Update the Guest Bios list to include: The Apple, SJ, Erachet, Squooshball, Special Ed, Cubicle King, Shragi, G, and Moshe.
  • Update the J-blogger checklist to include... oh my God, it's way too long. But we're going to simplify it and update it. This should be fun. :)
  • Try and finish some of the series that I started writing, like How I Met Serach, Childhood of Potential, and whatever else is sitting there unfinished. (i.e. all of them)
  • Laugh at G.
  • Survive the last 3 weeks (!) of busy season, with Pesach interspersed in the middle of it.
  • Not have any more weekend guests until May! (Um, not as crazy as it sounds. Think.)
  • Figure out why this blog gets more hits the less I write. (Wait a second....!!!)
  • Update the blogroll. No, really!
  • Label all the unlabeled posts, at least from the last few months.
  • Change the header. :::gasp:::
  • Um, and other stuff.
Yeah, exciting, right? Thought so.

* Who noticed before they read that? Huh? Did you even notice yet? Ha - didn't think so.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Far Side...

…is going to take advantage of the fact that this week is Shabbos HaGadol to skip the parshat hashavuah (I tell ya, Sefer Vayikrah is rough for this kind of thing), and instead post a thought on the coming Passover holiday.

Many fine things have been said about Pesach, the Haggadah and Yetziat Metzrayim in general over the years…the following is a family favorite:

Picture the scene.
Makkas Bechoros (death of the first born sons) is taking place in all its fury…Pharaoh tells Moshe that enough is enough, that the Hebrews (always LOVED that term, no idea why) are free to go and should do so post haste.
We all know what happened next…Moshe rounds up the Bnei Yisroel and they beat it out the front gates of Egypt that morning. In fact, they are in such a hurry (and really, who can blame them) that they do not even have enough time to prepare food for the way.

:::Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech::
::beep-beep-beep::

Hold on a second, can we back the Exodus truck up for a few seconds.

Now I don’t know about you, but I have gone on a few G-Family trips in my day. In addition, I have traveled back and forth to Israel a few times and seen many other people from the Tribe of Yaakov in full blown travel mode. If there is one thing that jews make damn sure of when it comes to traveling…IT'S THE FOOD! This is far from the last thing that gets planned for and taken care of. Forget the keys, sure – Leave a light on, absolutely – Not call to cancel the newspaper, all the time. Not make sure that there are adequate sandwiches, drinks, snacks, cookies, candies, condiments, spices…NO – WAY.

So how is it possible that the Bnei Yisroel were not prepared food-wise for their impending departure? Didn’t Moshe tell them what was going to happen? Should they not have been sitting at their bloody doorways (see what i did there) all packed and ready to go?

So what happened?

Let’s re-examine that scene we were talking about just a tad. Imagine what went down by Makkas Dam; Moshe tells everybody that God is going to perform a miracle and lead them out of bondage. Maybe they believe him and maybe they don’t. Moshe goes to speak with Pharaoh…hijinx ensue…and behold, all the water in Egypt turns the color of a USC Trojan home-jersey. Well, one would imagine that at this point any naysayers are on board. Gotta think that everybody is convinced this is it, time’s up, everybody out of the pool, it’s time to leave. So one and all most probably go to their homes and tell family and friend to start packing up…that Moshe dude was actually telling the truth and God is about to lead them to the promised land.

Only it didn’t happen…Pharaoh remains unmoved and life in slavery continues. Everyone goes home to tell family and friend it’s not happening and to unpack.

Dateline Makkas Frogs; same lead up to the event as with Dam only this time Pharaoh caves and tells Moshe that if God ends the plague the Hebrews can indeed leave. Jubilation spreads across the land. Okay, so it took two plagues for Pharaoh to take the hint…but now they are definitely getting out of there.

Only, once again, it didn’t happen. Pharaoh plays his little yes/no game and the beat goes on.

This continues for SEVEN more plagues. Moshe tells the people that God is going to punish Egypt and lead them out…the plague indeed takes place…the people get all excited that it’s time to hit the road…Pharaoh either doesn’t care or goes back on his word…AND NOTHING CHANGES, life continues on the same as before.

Kinda puts Makkas Bechoros into a new light doesn’t it? Figure by this time, when Moshe tells Bnei Yisroel that God is going to punish the Egyptians and lead them out of slavery, the reaction was just a liiiiiiiiiiiitle more lukewarm than it was when all this started. I’m thinking that at best the majority of people had taken on a “we’ll see” attitude, and no doubt there were some who had gone into “yeah, sure” mode.

Which all explains very well why nobody was ready when it was time to actually leave. They were not ready because they were not expecting it to happen, because they had given up hope of it ever becoming a reality. They had resigned themselves to the fact that it just wasn’t gonna happen.

Okay, so that clears up a slight historical curiosity as to the non-preparedness.

Now I hear some of you in the back…”that’s it, no message?”.
Well, the truth is that there really does not need to be one, I just like the way that this view of events makes things flow better and allows for a clearer understanding of what went down during the Yetziah.

HOWEVAH!! For those who wish a culminating thought…there is an important lesson to be learned from this cycle of events, and that is the following:

We currently stand almost two thousand years into the most recent Galus. Think about that for a moment…TWO THOUSAND years. That is unprecedented in out history. It would be easy, and even somewhat understandable, for one to think that this is just the way that things are going to be. That life will always be this way and God, for whatever reason, has chosen not lead us toward His promised land in His promised way.

Yet, the events of Yetzias Metzrayim show us the flaw in this way of thinking. It shows us that, to use an old cliché, things are always darkest just before the dawn. That when things look to be at their worst, when it seems that nothing can possibly be done, when all hope is lost…at that moment and under those circumstances…THAT…that is when the true Yeshua comes.

-------------------------------------------------

what of the legal request you ask...we stand on tenterhooks awaiting a reply from the great one.
In the mean time...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mazel Tov!

A huge mazel tov to our good friends FFW & FFD on the birth of a baby girl this morning!!!

Bein Hazmanim Awareness...

...with apologies to the original creaters of the term.(I was going to title this post Chumming The Waters...)

It seems this time of year means different things to different people. As the "scene" in some realms of the greater jewish community takes on a, how shall we say, Beatles appearing for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show feel(?).

Here is a post outlining the hysteria.

One commenter suggested a song was in order, another put forth the idea of a musical...let it never be said that I do not give the people what they want.

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

Link to original

Guess who just got back today?
Them white-shirted boys that had been away
Haven't changed, still shteiging away
But man, they gonna be datin' like crazy

They were asking which girls were around
How pretty they are, and how much Dad's puttin' down
Told them you were lookin' for a learner
That Lakewood's your idea of heaven

The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
I said
The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time

You know that girl you used to see a lot
Every day doing something else, well that’s all gonna stop
Man I tell you she dropped it all like it was red hot
I mean she started dating

Manhattan @ 7:30 is the time and place
One time this chick got up and she slapped “Johnny”'s face
Man forgot which girl he was out with
If that chick aint shomer negiah, forget her

The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
I said
The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time

Make sure you're seen around
Start dressing up, not down

Get your name spread around

Shabbos at Shul the girls will dress to kill
At night, restaurants and lounges will fill
The Diet Coke will flow ‘till he calls for the bill
And if the boys don’t tip, you'd better dump them

The Shadchanim in the corners do their dance & song
The nights are getting warmer, it won't be long
Won't be long till the weddings come
Now that the boys are here again

The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
The boys are back in town
It's Bein Hazmanim time
Spread the word around
The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town

The bochurim are back, the bochurim are back

Take A Kid To Shul

R' Horowitz had discussed and I've linked this issue many times, but it never hurts to get a reminder:
I’ve lost track of the times in the eleven years since Project Y.E.S. was founded that I was approached by single mothers who requested that I help make arrangements for someone to take their son(s) to shul. Countless others have asked me for an eitzah regarding the appropriate response to their son who categorically refuses to go to shul alone.
When I was in Israel, I would go last days of Yom Tov to my cousin in Neve Yaakov. She was trying to work, take care of her seven kids ages 2 to 16, and in the process of getting divorced (and the second year I was around, received her get). There was a huge difference in the sons' demeanors when they would daven with someone next to them (a neighbor, me) and when they'd be on their own. The difference in happiness when they'd go on someone's shoulders for Simchas Torah instead of just standing on the side was immeasurable; the, for lack of a better word, blah look when they would sit there alone was deadening. It doesn't take much to go over to a kid and invite them to sit with you; while for me it was easy, since it was family, there were a couple of other men in the shul who walked over and had my cousins join them and/or their kids.

Little things can have huge impacts. Don't underestimate your own ability to do them.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cubicle King: Thoughts on the Merkaz Harav Shloshim

The following is a moving guest post by the Cubicle King.
Thoughts on the Shloshim of the 8 Mercaz Harav Kedoshim
I needed to take some time out from my busy schedule to write a few words on the shloshim (30-day mark) of the Mercaz Harav massacre. I have been going over in my mind why this event affected me so much and I keep coming back to the same conclusion. You see, to me, Mercaz Harav represented the finest in the Torah World. They were able to toe the line between limud Torah and service to Eretz Yisroel greater than anyone else. Instead of castigating the state as a "Treif Medina", they decided to embrace it and Mikadesh [sanctify] it.

This is so profound to me. The army was too much of a spiritual challenge so they fostered a movement that eventually led to the creation of Hesder units at other Yeshivot. Instead of just making it forbidden, they changed it so that it could be permissible. They did not shirk their responsibility in defending the land. They went out of their way to make that responsibility a religious obligation.

The students at Mercaz Harav Kook not only were the top soldiers on the front lines of the battlefield they also were the top Bochrim on the front lines of the Beis Medrash. We are still hearing stories of these beautiful neshomos who were learning in the library at the time of the attack, in order so they could maximize the utmost amount of time for their limud Torah.

Rabbi Gottlieb (of Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore) said something so profound Thursday night about the blood that was spilled on those sifrei Kedusha. It takes the blood of those bochrim to wash over us so that we don't divide ourselves over our petty differences. That unfortunately it took those pools of spilled blood to wash over us and bring us all together.

I think this is one lesson I can take away from this horrific incident. We need not look at the insignificant things which make us different, but the blood that runs through our veins that makes us all one and the same. It is in this holiday of Pesach when we celebrate Zman Charusaynu, when we celebrate our exodus from Egypt. Let us remember that when Am Yisroel crossed the red sea they did not cross it based on their head covering, or where they went to Yeshiva. They crossed as one Nation pressing forward to a brighter future.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Sweetest Thing

There's comedy that hurts, and comedy that helps. This is just plain awesome. (Same people who did the Frozen Grand Central and the Food Court Musical.)



via Erachet, who has her own pair of excellent posts here. The first is a short video she put together that's excellent; the other is a great critique of YU and its student body's standards, and why it should be held to a higher one.

Have you ever wondered just how we all fit in this world?

Courtesy of Apple.

Not Guilty

A great post by RaggedyMom on feeling guilty for not making Pesach.

Perspective Is Everything...

...one's view on just about anything is influenced, if not flat out dictated, by their point of reference.

Posted originally on Life In Israel
Guest-Posted again on The Dove Bar

My response, as it were, can be found in the comments of both postings.

I was chatting with my chavrusa the other day. We were talking about Kollel life and the topic of mesirus nefesh to learn Torah came up (my chavrusa is a Rosh Kollel. He is very organized, very serious and runs his kollel in a very organized way).

Kollel guys are moser nefesh - they give up everything, to learn in kollel. To learn Torah. And that is wonderful.

Typically when we hear the phrase "moser nefesh to learn Torah" we think of money. These avreichim are giving up a life of (possible) comfort, earning a decent living, all to learn Torah while living on, often, nothing more than the basics and the minimum.

Aside from the money aspect of their mesirus nefesh, there is an aspect even greater. And this is what I had never heard described before. The whole lifestyle is mesirus nefesh on a psychological level.

Avreichim, living in an area where there are plenty of kollels and plenty of avreichim, live a life of obscurity. many of these guys (the more serious ones), could easily have been successful in the business world; as professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial pros, etc., computers, whatever. They would have been noticed, their work would be appreciated, and they would feel good about what they do because they are noticed (to a certain extent).

However, as an avreich in a neighborhood where kollels and avreichim are "a dime a dozen" so to speak, these guys are all bundled into one package. They are not noticed because there are so many. An exception is one who is unusually exceptional - he gets noticed as a real star, but he will often take a job fairly quickly in the Rabbinate, or in a yeshiva, etc. But just for good serious guys who are learning, successfully, there is tremendous mesirus nefesh in living such a lifestyle. These are, often, guys who could be doing other things, yet they chose to learn because of its importance to them.

He went on to explain that this is why, he thinks, he sees many frustrated avreichim at about age 29-32, who start looking for things to do - starting local shiurim in shuls even for just 2 or 3 people, for example. They do that because they have begun to get frustrated that they have learned, and learned well, for a number of years, but they are not noticed at all.

Yes, it is nice to be altruistic and say that people should do what they love and not be concerned whether they are being noticed or not. Especially when learning Torah. But everybody likes, and wants, to be appreciated, and recognized, for their accomplishments and for their success. So even if for a number of years they go by and learn quietly, eventually it catches up with them, with most of them, and they start to feel it at a certain point.

That is a tremendous mesirus nefesh. To learn in kollel, seriously, knowing that nobody is recognizing you for your accomplishments, for your achievements, for your contributions. And add to that, when you could have been doing something else that would have gotten you noticed, even if only on a small scale. And it is harder for a kollel guy who is in an area where kollel is more accepted, and even the standard perhaps, than it is for a guy who goes to learn in an "out of town" kollel" where it is not the norm and they are appreciated by the local baalebatim, and they get involved, etc.

If you are working at a job and you accomplish something successfully, likely you will have your peers commend you, your boss will notice, etc. Your efforts will get noticed and you will get complimented. You will be appreciated.

If you are in kollel, and you are learning seriously, your efforts will almost never get noticed. You figured out pshat in a difficult tosafos or Ritva! Wow! You are so excited. You tell the guys learning at the other table, and they could care less. They were not bothered by your question and just want you to leave them alone so they can work out their own difficult piece.

That weighs down on a person, even somebody who is supposed to be learning L'shma will often be affected by this eventually. These guys are human and want to be noticed for their accomplishments just like the rest of us.

That is mesirus nefesh in a way that you probably have not considered.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Far Side...

...is on vacation (in a manner of speaking).

In its place we will once again dip into the wellspring of Torak knowledge that is Rabbi Y. Frand:

The end of parshas Tazria deals with Tza'ra'as (the spiritual blemish often (mis)translated as leprosy, which causes various types of discoloration of skin, clothing or house walls) that appears on clothing. The pasuk [verse] says, "The kohen will see the garment after it was washed, v'henay lo hofach hanega es ayno [and he sees that the blemish has not changed], the garment is unclean, you should burn it in fire."

The pasuk uses interesting language: "v'henay lo hofach hanega es ayno," which means that the appearance of the nega [blemish] has not changed. This is actually an idiomatic expression. The word "ayno" literally means "eye," and the expression literally means "the blemish has not changed its eye."

I saw a beautiful insight, quoted in the name of the Chidushai HaRim. The Gemara in Meseches Ayrachin says that there are a number of avayros [sins] which can cause tza'aras. The most commonly known avayrah is loshon horah [evil tongue; slander]. However, the Talmud in Meseches Ayrachin also says that the punishment of tza'aras afflicts a person "al tzoras ho'ayin." Tzoras ho'ayin [literally - narrowness of eye] does not only refer to a person who is tight-fisted or cheap. A tzar ayin is a person who never sees the good side of anything and always sees evil. It is the opposite of a generosity of spirit. It is stinginess, not only regarding money, but regarding viewing life, in general. A tzar ayin is a person who does not like to see other people's success. The only success that he is interested in is his own success.

If tzoras ho'ayin is a sin that causes tza'ra'as, then the tikun [correction] that causes the tza'ra'as to go away is doing teshuva [repenting] and switching from being a tzar ayin to a tov ayin. That means that one who is like a student of Bilom HaRoshoh, who Chazal tell us had this trait of tzoras ho'ayin, of stinginess of spirit, must change and become like the students of Avrohom Avinu - to become a tov ayin [one with a good eye]. If the tza'ra'as stays the same and does not get better, the garment is unclean and the person does not have a tikun for his avayrah.

The Chidushai HaRim explains that there is a double meaning when the pasuk says, "vhenay lo hofach hanega es ayno" ["and behold, the tza'ra'as did not change its appearance"]. "Lo hofach hanega es ayno" - His ayin [eye] did not change. In order to do teshuva, his ayin must change. He must change from being a tzar ayin to being a tov ayin. The pasuk is hinting to us, "Vhenay lo hofach hanega es ayno." His ayin did not change. He has the same stinginess, the same unwillingness to share and be generous.

The meaning of "Ayno," here, is not merely that the appearance did not change, but the ayin did not change. The tzoras ayin, the avayrah that brought on this terrible punishment is still in place.
The Chidushai HaRim continues with a classic chasidishe vort: The word "nega" is really the same word as the word "oneg" [pleasure]. What is the entire difference [in the Hebrew lettering] between the word "oneg" and the word nega?

The only difference is the placement of the [letter] "ayin." The "nun" and the "gimel" are in the same place. The only difference is whether the "ayin" is at the beginning or at the end. What is the difference between "nega" and "oneg?" What is the difference between a person having tza'ra'as and a person having pleasure? It all depends on the placement of the "ayin." That is this person's problem. The problem is with the "ayin." His problem is with his perspective and his approach to life. His problem is with his ayin, so his tikun must be "hofach hanega es ayno." He must change his "ayin." He must take the "ayin" from the word "nega" and make it into "oneg."
However, if someone is so stingy of spirit that he can not be gracious or see the good side of life, then he remains a metzorah. "Henay lo hofach hanega es ayno" - the nega remains and he must burn the garment because he is incapable of changing his "ayin." He is incapable of changing his perspective.
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--in the matter of the "The Far Side..." v. "The Far Side", we are awaiting response from theCreator to our request for permission of use of "the gift" in this location.

What Is Your Plan?

A great article by R' Horowitz about having a plan, leading to some very interesting discussion and points in the comments about the issue. A number of commenters have argued that much of the problem lies in Rabbeim and Roshei Yeshiva who discourage students from having a plan, by discouraging things like college, emphasizing trusting that if they learn, God will provide, etc. I've mentioned one of my own similar experiences in the past:
I still recall a conversation I had with a Rebbe in a certain yeshiva I was in for a few months. ...

As we started to walk up the hill toward his home, he asked me a few basic questions, including what my plans were for the coming year. I responded that I was likely going to be going to Lander College. He questioned why I was going to college, to which I looked at him, slightly confused, as I really didn't understand what he was asking. After a couple of seconds I responded that I needed to get a degree so I can make a living. He immediately spoke up and said simply
"That's a copout."
I was taken completely aback, but I recovered enough after a few seconds to mumble something along the lines of "You don't know me, you don't know my family, we don't have any money..." or something along those lines. He responded that it's still a copout and I was just looking for a way out of staying in yeshiva.
But, while I think the commenters at his site are making valid points, I also feel that it can't only be the Rabbeim who are at fault, or even necessarily primarily at fault. Parents should have been emphasizing with their kids throughout their lives that they need to have a plan, that they can't rely on other people for things like money, that it's not okay to have 'how much will the in-laws give' as a prerequisite for dating.

Of course, there are many parents who do do this, only to be undermined to an extent by the Rabbeim, teachers, and other influences in their children's lives. And of course, it is tricky to start telling one's children to not respect their Rabbeim, particularly when they're younger; hopefully, they've instilled the right balance of listening to and respecting Rabbeim while thinking for themselves what makes sense and what does not - what is right and what is not.

Have a wonderful Shabbos, and enjoy G's The Far Side, coming in a few minutes.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Food Court Musical

I just saw this at Jack's (actually, he got it from here). It's awsome. I always wondered why in real life we can't spontaneously break into a song like in the movies. Hmmmm....If anyone is interested, I'm going to be at the Sherman Oaks food court tomorrow at 1:00 PM.



Boxer, Rabbi?

(Hat tip: Mom) This story is very interesting:
Four days before his first North American Boxing Federation title defense, Yuri Foreman sat in the basement of a Brooklyn brownstone studying Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law. By early afternoon, he would be at Gleason’s Gym to train for his approaching bout with Saul Román, a power puncher from Mexico with 24 knockouts in 28 fights.
The Times article discusses the possible halachic issues with boxing (trying to injure another), which is also interesting to see.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said Jewish principles would seem to put Foreman’s professional career at odds with his religious education. It is forbidden, the rabbi said, to injure yourself or another person. Rabbinic law also asks individuals to avoid situations of potential danger.

“He has to recognize there are certain issues he has to confront,” Potasnik said. “Doing what he’s doing is problematic, but all of life is problematic. That’s something he has to resolve, and I respect him for his commitment.”

But Rabbi Benjamin Blech, an assistant professor of the Talmud at Yeshiva University, said Foreman could help fight the belief that Jews were weak or could be bullied. When asked how he would react to the notion of a world champion boxing rabbi, Blech said, “I would be proud.”

Finally, I like how the article ends:
Rabbi Pinson said that if Foreman had approached him as a young man, he would not have suggested a boxing career. Because Foreman was already accomplished in the sport, however, he said he would not dissuade him.

Foreman attempts to restrict his fights to weekdays.

If a bout lands on a Saturday, as was the case in June, he observes the Sabbath by remaining within walking distance of the arena. Wilson, his manager, said the sun had yet to set when HBO officials called for Foreman to make his way to the ring. He refused to do so.

“He pulled me into the corner,” Wilson recalled, “and said, ‘Please, let’s pray for five minutes.’ ”
Firstly, I think that the point from R' Pinson is often missed today: Advising people on what's best for them, not on what is typically done or expected. Unfortunately, it seems that this is not always the case today. And of course, the young man's actions are a nice Kiddush Hashem.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sheitel Sale in Queens

After forgetting to announce the one last night, I'll try and make up for it tonight...
Sheitel sale $290-$575 Wed, April 2.
Michal Wigs: Custom Wigs at Unaccustomed Prices.
Pesach is coming, don't miss this chance to get a beautiful new wig at an amazing low price!
Multi directional, no knotting, 6 month guarantee!
Hat falls $290, falls $365-$415, sheitels $475-$575.
Wed, 4/2/08, from 730-930pm, 17920 Tudor Road, Jamaica Estates.
Not sure if Serach will be there with her tichels.

My life...Enjoy!

While discussing how busy my life has been recently I realized that all the things I’m involved with on a day-to-day basis fit nice and neatly into little boxes. I also believe cheshbon hanefesh is a big deal and it’s something I’ve been doing in my own way for about 10 months now. However Ezzie and I have come to the conclusion that I’m no longer capable of managing all the different areas of my life, and in attempt to step the whole chesbon hanefesh thing up a notch (or 7 or 36) I’m going to put it all out there for the readership to monitor. Call it “The Mordy Show” or the “Mordy Experiment” or “Project Mordy” or me just having no busha, but basically I’ve compiled a list of everything currently going on in my life that needs to get done. I tried to refrain from putting on things that I merely want to do, and put on things that I actually have to do for some reason or another. I’m not quite sure what the actual parameters are of this test or experiment or whatever it is just yet, but I’m open to anything and if anyone has any questions on any of the listed “tasks” and their specific importance I’ll definitely give further explanation. Basically, what I think is going to happen is that I’m going to post this list again in two weeks and we’ll see which ones I’ve crossed off as completed, which ones I’m working on and what new stuff needs to be added, etc.
So this is what’s currently going on in my life summed up into 7 categories and 36 needs, listed in some sort of order of importance, without getting too specific…

Yiddishkeit:
1. Stop cursing
2. Going to shachris with a minyan
3. Learning b’chavrusa
4. Say no to my yetzer horas

School:
1. 6 Discussion board posts and related readings for His I
2. 7 Discussion board posts and related readings for His II
3. Get 2 books and write paper for His I
4. Make up His I mid-term
5. Make up His II mid-term
6. Get 2 books and write His II mid-term
7. Write 2 Lit II papers

Work:
1. Finish catching up
2. Stay caught up
3. Try not to go insane
4. Get pay check
5. Find better job

Firehouse:
1. Find someone to cover cleanup next Thursday night
2. Fill ice coolers
3. Stop wasting time
4. Check out a set of pocket tools

Climbing:
1. Finish all blacks and whites (V3’s)
2. Project purples and limes (V4’s)
3. Attempt yellows and teals (V5’s)
4. Finish lead test
5. Check out new shoes

Dating:
1. Make some calls
2. Go on some dates
3. Find the right girl
4. Marry her

Life:
1. Take defensive driving class
2. Finish off ticket/license stuff
3. Fix laptop
4. Pay off debt
5. Help out around the house
6. Clean my room
7. Clean my car

See ya in two weeks!

A Kosher Use of the Internet

Being that we just bought a new house, we are trying to figure out how many mezuzahs* we need. Every dollar that we are spending on this house is accounted for—both projected and actual—and these mezuzahs don't have a chance of escaping their designated cells within my Excel-based budget.

Since it's the middle of the night, I can't exactly call up our local sofer to find out how much I should anticipate spending on mezuzahs. And I don't want to wait until tomorrow to fill in this information within my spreadsheet. I figured that I might as well do a Google search and see what comes up, and you can imagine my surprise when I realized that I could actually buy mezuzahs on Amazon.com. Kosher ones, too.

How's that for a "kosher" use of the Internet???

*In this case, I'm talking about mezuzah scrolls and not mezuzah cases (even though I need a bunch of those as well).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Jewno

Not April Fools...

...this is an actual comment from a post on YWN, that's right -- Yeshiva World News.

Perhaps all is not as lost as it seems:
(the associated post was about a certain ad in the Jewish Press, but that is beside the point. The greater message is the important part)

Oy. Is this what we have come to? We spend years in Yeshiva and Beis Medresh educating ourselves as to what is appropriate for us and what is not and yet we have to run to seek the guidance of Daas Torah on what newspaper advertisments we look at? Yidden!! It is time to look at what Hashpo’oh you can have on the world instead of constantly obsessing over what influence it has on you! Do you have so little confidence in your upbringing and your Jewish education, in your community and your conscience that you fear the influence a half-noticed ad will have on you? How are you going to be mekarev a woman who doesn’t happen to be dressed to your impossibly high standards of modesty? How are you going to fulfill your responsibility to your fellow Jew, who might benefit from your knowledge, your committment, your connection with thousands of years of Torah tradition?

One of the previous posters mentioned burkas. The problem is not that Frimme Yidden want to be dressed modestly. That’s their positive choice. No. The problem is frimme yidden want the entire world outside their community to disappear. Jews, Non Jews, Good, Bad, it doesn’t matter. if its not in my arba amos, I’M NOT INTERESTED.

Do you think that the gift of Torah and Mitzvos is a treasure for you to hoard like Gold in a safe bechedrei chadorim? DO you think that you are fulfilling your responsibility as a Jew by cloistering yourself and patting yourself on the back for keeping out the wig ads from your home? That kind of self righteousness is just another form of koichi v’otzem yodi.

For myself, I don’t read the Jewish Press because it is in general poorly written and sensationalistic. I can’t live in the real world, paying for my children’s Jewish education and our frum lifestlye, interacting with other Jews and other good people, without encountering, unfortunately, everything in that ad and more. The challenge is not to look away - that goes without saying, and is the easy part. The challenge is to have some emunah, have respect for what your parents spent their lives and their hard earned dollars teaching you about yiddishkeit, with the expectation, I hope,
that you wouldn’t treat it all like buried treasure.

Comment by
yichusdik — March 18, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

Knesset Resolution: National Waffle Week!

A Guest Waffle Post, by Jameel the Waffle King.

Knesset Resolution Passed:
Waffle Week Starts Today!


After months of painstaking legislative lobbying, Prof. Ben-Chorin's hard work has finally paid off; in a landmark Knesset vote today, National Waffle Week has been declared in Israel, STARTING TODAY!

Though Shas MKs were against the law (and voted against it because they favored their own bill, "National Pancake Day"), the Knesset came through and voted 72-19 in favor of Waffle Week!

Instead of the silly customs that are associated with Israeli Independence Day, i.e., plastic whistle hammers, spraying white foam over innocent passerbyers, etc., Waffle day involves 100% Waffles!

Send your waffle blog posts, pictures or videos of yourself wearing waffle apparel, eating waffles, or being seen at an official Waffle House, and we'll post it here. Write a creative waffle posting, involving waffles and Israel, and you COULD be a winner!

Winning entires may be eligible for a waffle breakfasts, AT THE MUQATA! (Fine Print: Unless of course, you spell your first name with a "q" in it).

Examples of fine apparel include:





















In an attempt to keep this appreciation week entertaining, this celebration is EVEN open to registered members (in good standing) of the National Waffle Association! So go out, write a post about waffles, go find some waffle apparel, eat some nutritious and sumptuous waffles, and let us know! Celebrate Israel @ 60 in style; and shows us your spirit of Eretz Yisrael with or without the syrup.












Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

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