Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Cubicle King Havdalah

I thought this came out really nicely, and the Cubicle King has said I can feel free to post it, so in honor of Havdalah... enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Be Thankful, Give Charity

As many friends and readers of this blog know, we have in the past hosted a really nice (in our opinion, anyway) Thanksgiving party at our apartment. This not-quite-a-tradition started on a whim a few years ago and turned into quite the large festivity last year, with over 50 people showing up, including some people we'd never met previously. We love doing it, and we had a lot of fun both preparing and hosting the whole shebang each time, and it allowed us to finally meet and become friends with people we otherwise might not have.

This year, circumstances called for a far more modest weekend. We're heading to a Bar Mitzvah in Baltimore this Shabbos, after I attended a wedding last night while Serach took the girls with Pobody's Nerfect and Princess D'Tiara to watch some of the Macy's balloons get inflated. Elianna loved it!

Thanksgiving is as good of a time to give thanks as any other, and we're incredibly thankful to all of our friends who have made this past year so nice. Y'all don't know how much y'all mean to us, whether we see you often or rarely at all. We'd love to express our gratitude to everyone, but we'll also use this opportunity to ask anyone who can and is willing to help support some friends of ours in accomplishing a great, worthwhile goal that they've set out to do.

Many of you already know that a number of friends of ours are running on behalf of Chai Lifeline in the ING Marathon/Half-Marathon in Miami in January. While Bad4 thinks she's hit her fundraising goal already, the Linns (including a cool video of the route of the marathon) and Bas~Melech (who has written a series of stories detailing her experiences working at Chai Lifeline's Camp Simcha) are getting there but could use a drop more help. Should all of those hit their goals we have some other friends running who could use your help, too.

We hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving, and have a wonderful Shabbos!

Live Video From Mumbai

Life of Rubin has it. As I post this Indian forces have dropped onto the roof of the buildings around the Nariman house, some gunfire/explosions being heard.

For those who haven't been following the news: Muslim terrorists in India have killed at least 119 125 and injured 287 327 in sudden takeovers of the Taj and Oberion hotels in Mumbai, India in addition to raiding the Nariman home. The Nariman house houses the Holtzbergs who are the shlichim for Chabad-Lubavitch in India. The Indian forces are finally starting to take control of the situations somewhat.

Treppenwitz has a great post on one interesting aspect of the story and the coverage around it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How I Met Serach, Part XII: The Big Bump and Fun Dates

Serach and I met five years ago tonight for the first time. People often think five years isn't a whole lot - trust me, it's a whole lot. Happy Anniversary! :)
This is Part XII of a series about how I proposed to Serach. Part I is here, Part II is here, Part III is here, and Part IV is here, Part V is here, Part VI is here, Part VII is here, Part VIII is here. Part IX is here. Part X is here, Part XI is here. Or, you could simply use the dropdown menu on the right side of the blog or this link right here titled "How I Met Serach".
After our third really great date, I debated whether to tell my parents that I was seeing someone. They were in Cleveland, I was in Queens, and while I thought it had a lot of potential (okay, a LOT of potential)... it was still only three dates, I was 20 years old, and they might get hyped up about it for no reason. On the other hand, they'd probably want to know, if it were turning serious and if I was serious about it. So what did I do?

I called my sister, of course.
Ez: Soo... I'm dating this girl, we've gone out a few times, I really like her... blah blah blah... should I tell Mom and Dad?

Vervel: You've gone out three times, and you're 20. Are you going to tell them every time you're dating a girl just in case? Wait until it's more serious, then tell them. They'll just drive you nuts otherwise.

Ez: Okay, I hear ya. Thanks!
Now, I happen to think this was the right advice, and that's why I followed it. This was probably a bad idea... and by probably, I mean cross-continental calls in the middle of the night bad. However, we'll get back to this.

Meanwhile, Serach and I continued dating. I'd often come after night seder to the city, we'd go out in the city, she'd stay at Touro, while I stayed at my friend JB in YU or shlep back at 2-3am to Queens. I can still recall what we did on most of our dates: On our fourth (?) date, we went to Toys 'R Us, had a good time there, bought a hot pink motion-sensing monkey with purple polka dots for Jon, the guy we met through, and walked around midtown a bit. Some friends had recommended trying a comedy club, so we headed toward the Village and went to one.

Advice to daters: DO NOT DO THIS! (Except perhaps a clean improv show.) Now, we can appreciate a funny joke, even if it's a little dirty... but some comedy shows are just gross. It seemed to us that the better the comedian, the less they relied on dirty jokes; there was one guy who was getting booed for a couple minutes, and impressively stopped; paused; and started a whole new (and cleaner) sketch, and got some nice applause at the end. We also had a couple of awkward moments, sitting in a raised front corner away from the stage, with our bags next to us on the bench. At one point, we suddenly see Serach's bag start moving and cries of "OOO OOO OOO AAA AAA AAA!!!" coming from it, getting us really strange looks from people nearby. The monkey had apparently been moved, and started squawking like mad. Of course, we didn't yet know how to shut it off, and moving it too much just made it start again. Finally we flipped the switch and shut it up, but it had gotten attention. A lady who'd noticed was doing the next (dirty) routine, and of course chose us to ask questions to:
Lady: Aw, look at that cute couple. How long you guys been dating?
Us: Almost a month.
Lady: That's nice... are you sleeping together yet?
Us: Er... no.
Lady: Why not?
...etc. I should note that this was the cleanest bit of her performance. I can't recall what our fifth date was, though perhaps that was the time we were freezing like crazy and swiped our Metrocards to hang out in the much warmer subway station - best cheap date - before heading back up to a 24-hour cafe and getting cup after cup of hot tea. We also had a really nice date around Christmas time in Rockefeller Center, checking out the incredibly cool ice sculptures, the lit up area, the tree (which was actually nice that year), and whatever else was there. It's also nice to see so many people having a fun time ice skating even if you aren't interested yourself.

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

HaNeiros HaLalul Kode-WHAT?!?!...

...ummm, yeah - I think this can be safely filed under D, for D'OH!

And So Begins the Witch Hunts

Considering how the left and Hollywood still remember the days when members of their own community were picked out and literally had their lives destroyed, I find it too ironic (and scary) what is being done now. Contributions over $1,000 have been published publicly on the internet for all to see. Now, they are being used. Of course, this isn't the first, and it's not the last. 

Here is another case regarding a suit filed against eHarmony. Really, I don't understand this feeling of entitlement. A business caters to a certain niche market, and now is forced to change? Can I sue the all womens gym in LA for not letting me in?

Class Clown?

What do you do when your 2-1/2 year old daughter - who apparently is normally shy in school, despite being not shy at all at home - decides one day to get up on her teacher's chair and pretend to be the teacher (instructing, leading singing, etc.) for a while? When even the teachers think it's hilarious and really talented, do you bother trying to teach her that it's a bit rude? Or just let it go?

Elianna is soo cute. :)

And a joke to keep you going, entitled The Rabbi and the Priest, by R' Dr. Aryeh Frimer:
Opening his front door, the Rabbi found himself face to face with the local priest. "Rabbi, may I have a few words with you?" asked the priest.

"Of course, Father," replied the Rabbi somewhat nervously.

"Rabbi," began the priest, "It must be evident to you that in this town we are plagued by thieves. Scarcely a day passes without one of my flock coming to me bemoaning the fact that his house has been broken into. On the other hand, I have noticed that thieves do not bother you Jews nearly as much."

"Father, you are correct."

"Yes, but why is that?" inquired the priest.

"Look at this little box here on the side of my doorpost" said the Rabbi. "It's called a mezuza. We Jews believe that when we put a mezuza on the entrances to our houses, the Holy One, may His Name be blessed, protects both us and our property."

"In that case", replied the priest, "I must have one!"

Not wishing to be the cause of an incipient pogrom, the Rabbi reluctantly handed over a mezuza to the priest.

Some two weeks later the Rabbi was awakened by the sound of someone pounding violently on his door.

Dressing himself hastily, he made his way down the stairs. "Who's there?" the Rabbi asked tremulously.

"Open the door! Open the door!" screamed a voice on the other side.

Leaving the door on the latch, the Rabbi cracked the door wide enough to seethe priest standing in front of him, his eyes wild with great distraught.

"What happened?" asked the terrified Rabbi, "Robbers?"

"No, even worse!" screamed the priest, "Schnorrers!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Journalistic integrity?

EDIT: The Observer contacted VIN to ask about the copying of the article. VIN neglected to apologize, and even had the chutzpah to congratulate the Observer that "this should give you a good profile as we have more than 10K unique visitors daily." [the apple: ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!]

I found this disturbing.

It is an article on VIN, a "frum news" website, but did they author the article? No. Instead, they copied and pasted an entire article from the Stern College paper, The Observer, and didn't admit that they lifted the whole piece. They passed it off as their own work, when in fact someone else researched and wrote it. No credit was given. No link to the original article provided.

What kind of ethics does that represent, when a "frum" news website is ready to steal -- yes, steal -- an entire piece?

Not to mention that this throws all their other news pieces into dubious light.

Guaranteed Gains

The study of economics generally relies on the assumption that people make rational decisions. Of course, people don't, which forces economists and people who work in business fields (or really, everyone) to take that into consideration in everything they do.

When someone is in college or graduate school, they are offered the opportunity to take out student loans which tend to have a low interest rate after college, are interest-free while you are still in college, let you choose how quickly you will pay it back, and have other advantages at later times (say, the ability to postpone payments for a year without penalty if you are unemployed). All in all, they're mutually beneficial to both the people taking them and the people giving them, and are one of the better investments the United States tends to make in its citizens. [Note this is only in reference to subsidized loans. Unsubsidized are a completely different case which is far more complicated.]

The question a typical student faces when starting college is whether to take out loans or not. For some, there is no choice: They must. For the rest, there is much to factor in. If a person's purpose in taking out loans is to spend it on non-necessities, they should never take out the loan. If a person is not sure what they will use the money for, they should also not take the loan - odds are in the end, they will spend the money much like the first group. A person should only take out loans if they have a clear plan that they will follow as to what to do with the money.

Many people - generally those who are more comfortable, but not exclusively - do not need the money at all. Perhaps their parents are paying; perhaps they have a scholarship; perhaps they have both; perhaps they are working on the side. Often, people automatically react to the idea of taking out loans quite negatively: Why pick up debt if you don't have to? While normally this might be true and even laudable, it does not always make sense.

If someone came over to you tomorrow and asked you for a $10 bill in exchange for two $5 bills and a $1 bill, you would likely look at them suspiciously and ask if the fives were real. After a few minutes of trying to ascertain what the catch was, you'd either take the money or tell the person that such a deal makes you uncomfortable and walk away. Yet when offered the same opportunity from the government of the United States, people blanch at the very idea. (Note the term opportunity.)

A person who does not trust him or herself to not touch the money should not take the loan. A person with moderate self-control, however, would be able to take the loans and stick them immediately into CDs (Certificates of Deposit) with a trusted bank, Treasury Bills, or some other guaranteed instrument. As an example, a 1-year CD with INGDirect would earn 4%. If a person took out $2,500 in year 1; $3,500 in year 2; and $5,500 in the last two years of college, they'd have borrowed a total of $17,000. If they invested all of it in those 1-year CDs and then took the lump sum and paid it back before any interest kicked in, they'd have about $18,500, or a net gain of about $1,500 after their loans are paid off. This gain would be tax free, guaranteed, and rather uncomplicated. This is by taking the absolute safest route, with no real risk of any kind. Adding in risk could result in higher rewards, but this is certainly not wise as these are loans that a person wishes to repay.

On the last post, Sephardi Lady - who authors Orthonomics, the blog I most often recommend to people - commented:
I'm old fashioned. I do not think it is a good idea to take out debt, even if the numbers crunch positively.
In terms of giving advice to people in general or communities as a whole, this is the wisest route. Most people who hear that it could be smart to take out loans will likely end up spending it - even if mostly on worthwhile things - instead of investing it safely and wisely. But if someone understands how and why the numbers are crunched positively, and will actually do so, then there is no reason they should not. Simply saying that "debt is bad" ignores its potential utility for the positive and its ability to help people get yet another small boost to start their lives. Moreover, the lesson someone can learn from that simple but mostly untouchable example of how interest can help or hurt a person will prove to be very useful throughout their lives when considering other debt or investments. This, too, should not be underestimated.

Not all debts are "bad", just as not all investments - even sound ones such as houses - are "good". It is important to understand which is which and why, on both sides of the coin.

Yes We Did...

...and it really wasn't all that hard to tell the truth.

For those just tuning in

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

Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful evening (this raises and interesting point – is there “time of day” in the blogosphere? Or is it more like a Vegas casino…constantly 2 o’clock in the morning?)

My friends, you have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly…FOR ME!

A little while ago, my opponent had the honor of calling me to congratulate me…as well he should, seeing as I soundly round-housed his poor excuse for a candidacy clear across the Internet.

(BOOING)

Hey! Shut Up!!.

To congratulate me on being elected the next president of the country that we both love…but that apparently seems to love me juuust a little bit more.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been (more so for him than for me because honestly this thing was a cake walk), my success alone commands his respect for my ability and perseverance (damn skippy!). But that I managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something he deeply admires and commends me for achieving (preach on!).

This is an historic election, and he recognizes the special significance it has for J-Blogging Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight…that was, of course, after I explained to him what exactly a ‘blog’ was and walked him through this little thing called ‘the internet’.

He’s always believed that the J-Blogosphere offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it (and boy have a lot of you been doing some seizing, if 2 jews have 4 opinions then they must also have like 15 blogs). I believe that, too…and seize it I did baby!

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some bloggers the full blessings of J-Blogger citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound…although that power is directly proportional to the size of their readership so most probably there is not all that much to worry about.

What must feel like a century ago, one prominent blogger's invitation of a college student between semesters to post at their blog was taken as an outrage in many quarters…mostly yeshiva guys who counted on such invitations to fill the hours between (during) seder.

The J-Blogosphere today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time…instead it has gone on and embraced various other and more attention getting forms of cruelty and bigotry. There is no better evidence of this than the election of myself to the presidency of the J-Blogosphere.

Let there be no reason now for any blogger to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest sphere on the Net…that’s right I said ‘cherish’. You should all feel honored and blessed to be a part of something with the wisdom and foresight to put me in charge. (and make no mistake – if I find out you’re not actively involved in cherishing at least once a day, I have people who will find you and when they do it’s gonna be back to the stone-age of blogging for you)

I have achieved a great thing for myself and for my country. He applauds me for it (like he has a choice), and offers me his sincere sympathy that my beloved grandmother did not live to see this day (okay, that was a nice thought – I’ll give him that). Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise…that man being me, in case anybody got confused for a second.

I and he have had and argued our differences (did I forget to mention? The rules of the English language will henceforth be suspended in order to allow for references to myself to always be placed first), and I have prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain…and annoy the heck out him, not that it matters anymore because it’s my way or the highway going forward – deal with that!

These are difficult times for our country. And he pledge to me tonight to do all in his power to help me lead us through the many challenges we face…a nice gesture I guess, not that I would even consider taking him up on it. ‘His power’…pffft.

He urges all J-Bloggers who supported him to join him in not just congratulating me (applaud you puppets, applaud!), but offering your next president your good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited…and you WILL offer all of these things, if you don’t it will make me angry…you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…

Whatever our differences, we are fellow J-Bloggers. And please believe him when he says no association has ever meant more to him than that…again, like he has a choice at this point – it’s all he has left to associate himself with!

It's natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment (for you I mean, not for me). But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again…so get over it already!

You fought (kinda)— you fought as hard as you could (at least I assume you did, although I gotta admit at times you had me wondering if there was some big ‘rope-a-dope’ scheme being laid out and there was a big blind-side knockout blow coming..oh well, guess not) And though you fell short, the failure is his, not yours…(forget about him, you can still be winners. Just join me – join me. Join young Blogwalkers, come over to the Dark Side…wait, was that out loud?)

AUDIENCE: No!

Why you little...

He is so deeply grateful to all of you for the great honor of your support and for all you have done for him. He wishes the outcome had been different, my friends…alas t’wasn’t meant to be, ::shrug:: wadda ya gonna do.

The road was a difficult one from the outset (right, and Odysseus’ took a ‘difficult’ path back to Sparta), but your support and friendship never wavered (why was that exactly? Still trying to figure that out). He cannot adequately express how deeply indebted he is to you…but his accountants are doing their best and hope to have figures before the inauguration.

He’s especially grateful to his wife, Cindy, her money, his children, his dear mother, her money and all his family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by his side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign.

He has always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given him…true enough.

You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate's family than on the candidate, and that's been true in this campaign…what? You think I just hand out puppies on a whim? They have to be earned. Why in my day growing up on the hard scrabble streets of Hawaii we didn’t have puppies…sure we had endless sunshine, sandy beaches and some of the best surfing in the world – but no puppies!

All he can offer in compensation is his love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead…at a way, good for him to go and find the silver lining.

He is also, of course, very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin, one of the best campaigners he’s ever seen (really, he needs to get out more- watch a little CNN, C-Span or something ) and an impressive new voice in your party for reform and the principles that have always been your greatest strength (blah, blah, blah I can’t even say this stuff w/ a straight face – bring it on lady, I’ll see you in 0-12) ... her husband Todd and their five beautiful children for their tireless dedication to your cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign (enjoy the great white north kiddies – NO WHITE HOUSE FOR YOU!, or naval observatory or whatever)

We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country…okay, maybe just two out of three.

He doesn’t know what more he could have done to try to win this election (really, it’s true, he doesn’t! can you believe that?!). He'll leave that to others to determine (yeah, you do that – great campaign strategy, wait until AFTER to figure out what you can do better). Every candidate makes mistakes (clearly), and he’s sure he made his share of them (duh). But he won't spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been (okey dokey, whatever works for ya).

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of his life, and his heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the J-Blogging public for giving him a fair hearing before deciding that I and my running mate (me, in case you’ve forgotten) should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.

(BOOING)

Hey! I said shut-up!...don’t make me send The Wolf out there 'cause I’ll do it!

(SILENCE)

That’s better…

He would not be a J-Blogger worthy of the name should he regret a fate that has allowed him the extraordinary privilege of serving this medium for a half a decade…only to be cast aside and passed over for the likes of me.

Today, he was a candidate for the highest office in the sphere he loves so much. And tonight, he remains my –I mean her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and he thanks the people of the J-Blogosphere for it.

AUDIENCE: UJA. UJA. UJA. UJA.

Tonight, more than any night, he holds in his heart nothing but love for this sphere and for all its citizens, whether they supported him or me — whether they supported him or me…I on the other hand…

He wishes Godspeed to the man who was his former opponent and will be his president…me again. And he calls on all J-Bloggers, as he has often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of J-Blogging, because nothing is inevitable here…except for DoveBear’s politics, XGH’s retirements, Ezzie’s economic beliefs, Gil’s attempt to remain above the fray and of course the inevitability of my victory.

J-Bloggers never quit. They never surrender…they just take extended breaks from time to time due to either burnout, annoyance with the whole medium or because they are getting engaged or getting married.

We never hide from history. We make history…history dammit, history!

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless the J-Blogosphere. Thank you all very much...

...woah! I almost forgot the most important part. In the words of one who's true genius and contributions to society go unappreciated in his own time - one Stewart G. Griffin..."VICTORY IS MINE!!!"

Comments Worth (re-)Reading

Josh:
About the concept of yeshiva relying on charity.

Someone told me recently that the current economic crisis might, in some way be a good thing because it will make yeshivas realize that you can't always rely on big donors and should plan accordingly. Perhaps many of the kollels and yeshiva's are "not necessary" and it would be a good thing if some of them closed so that there is more money for the ones that really need it. The people learning in the closed ones can switch to other ones, hence "not necessary". (Of course, there are different types of people who need different types of yeshivas so many of them are "necessary", this is for daas Torah to decide)

I think that the Rosh Yeshiva (Ez: R' Henoch Leibowitz of Chofetz Chaim) ztl said that a yeshiva shouldn't go into debt without a backup plan, in other words more than the yeshiva's total assets are worth. So, for example, if a yeshiva has a $5 million building they can go up to $5 million in debt because they can always rely on selling the building. Anything more than that would be considered relying on miracles. A Rosh Yeshiva must be willing to close down his yeshiva if he no longer has the money to run it. Until then he should have bitchon that Hashem will provide, but he has to understand the difference between bitachon and relying on miracles.
G (elsewhere):
Nobody can tell you what makes you happy and you're right that it can be found in both areas...hence the dilemma.

it's a long life and there is time/room for more than one path. I would only make sure that you feel/think whatever it is you feel/think about a given aspect of this issue because it is what YOU HONESTLY HOLD. I would hate to see someone decide on something because "well everyone else seems to think that this is important so then it MUST be to me too".

cultivating a talent - living large - utilizing strengths - making a difference...these are all valid things from which to draw happiness, just make sure they are from what YOU can draw happiness.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Can they be serious?

You have to be kidding me...

Nothing Like A Good Haka

For your entertainment... I think this would be amazing before (real) football games (first one gives atmosphere, second one... you just have to see the whole thing):

SIL, Fashionista

From SIL:
Last night I was getting ready to go to the Chofetz Chaim Annual Dinner and I was wearing a fancy outfit. Shira (almost 2) patted my skirt and said "I-like-it dress". I had yet to put on my make-up and wig, but Ben (6) thought that was fine. He commented, "It's good that you look beautiful, but not so beautiful because then you'd be showing off."

On Shabbos, Ben and Hen (4) were finding commonalities in everyone's clothing color, but Hen announced that since she was wearing black, she went with everyone because "black matches everything."

Relying on Charity

A year or so ago, someone we're close with and I had an interesting conversation. He is married with three kids, learning for semicha, has no debt, a little bit of money put away in investments that he doesn't even look at, and all in all lives extremely modestly in a very inexpensive basement apartment. Being that it is a basement apartment, many people think it's really not a great place for them to be living with three kids and that they should move to a larger apartment or rent a house for a few years while he gets his semicha. Of course, they can't afford such an apartment on her salary alone... so someone made them an intriguing offer.

One of the sets of grandparents had a conversation with them, offering them the difference in rent over what they could afford and what the rent would cost as a gift. The couple would pay whatever they currently were paying (perhaps a little more) each month, and the grandparents would pay the difference, whatever that would be. After a couple weeks of deliberating and perhaps even some asking around as to what apartments which make sense for them were going for, they turned down the offer. The rationale they gave was that if something happened and the grandparents were no longer able to support them, there was no way they would be able to pay for the apartment. They didn't want to chance being stuck in a situation where they would be living well beyond their means and stuck in a situation they would not be able to get out of.

Unfortunately, this attitude is shared by almost nobody within the frum community. It seems as if huge chunks of the community are completely reliant on other people's money - charity, not loans - to get through stages of life, if not large chunks of it. This article on Yeshiva World underscores how much of a problem this has become, noting all the kollelim which are being forced to close or come up with umbrella funds and beg rich supporters in America - who are undoubtedly having extremely rough patches of their own right now - to make up the difference. The same concept applies to young people, especially couples, in college or graduate school. More and more people spend not just one year but two in expensive schools in Israel, a lot of which might not count toward college, and then attend college and grad school for 3 to 7 or more years. Particularly if they get married in this period of time, and often even if they do not, they are simply unable to afford to live even if they are taking out full loans for their education. They are reliant on help from parents or others - and when that money suddenly becomes unavailable, there's no real way out.

One of the silver linings in this current financial crisis is that it is a real opportunity for the Jewish community as a whole to see just how unstable it is economically. Perhaps this will allow people to realize that if we are always reliant on each other's money to simply get by, any little problem blows up the entire system. We can't continue to live well beyond our own means. This does not just mean that our spending is out of hand and we need to cut back - though that is true. It does not just mean that we can't rely on charity - though that is true. It does not just mean that we have to create self-sufficient institutions - though that is true. It means all those and far more. The attitude that things are coming to us must change. The attitude that we don't need to be completely self-sufficient must change. The "God will provide" attitude must change. The idea that it's okay to have no savings must change. The idea that it's okay to live paycheck to paycheck (or parent check to parent check) must change, and not only because "just in case it disappears". It is only after people are self-sufficient that we can look toward helping one another and our communities to support larger projects, to have extra luxuries for the community, to help people.

We have been given an opportunity to examine ourselves, and we really need to take it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Homework! Oh, Homework! I Hate You! You Stink!

I wish I could wash you away in the sink, and all that.

But, in all seriousness, I have a question for you all. I once wrote about this on my own blog, but I think it was before a lot of people were reading it so I'm going to ask again.

How do people feel about:*

1. Reading a novel for school on Shabbos? What if you enjoy it and it's something you would read on your own anyway?
2. Reading an article for school on Shabbos?
3. Studying on Shabbos? What about only for Judaic subjects?


Is it not a good idea because it's just not a very Shabbosy thing to do? Is it like preparing for after Shabbos? Are there other issues I'm just not thinking of?

*Look! I did a cool box thing!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Random Observations

Just a few things I noticed the past few days that I found interesting...
  • It's interesting how different stores treat customers, and how customers act in general, at least in NYC. I stopped in Mendy's on 34th Street on Tuesday, and an older man finished his meal, got up, and started to leave. One of the cashiers, a frum guy who looked Moroccan or Israeli, called out "Sir... Sir! There is a garbage over there." The man calmly stopped, walked back, threw his garbage out, and left.
  • Yesterday, I was stopping in Rite Aid to get diapers, but as I was nearing the store, a shaky-walking older black man was staggering fast, backwards, from the store pointing at the Indian store manager who was yelling at him to Shoo. He bumped into me (didn't see me), then turned around and walked quickly away. The manager then apologized to me, and explained that the man would steal from the store, grabbing items off shelves and stuffing them into his jacket before running out. The manager then turned to one of the cashiers, who was black, and said "Your friend was just here again! He tried to come again!" While I don't think he meant it negatively, the cashier seemed to react for a second at the term "your friend" because he was the only black cashier there. Nothing poorly intended anywhere, but the choice of words made for an interesting result.
  • Last night, I was getting Serach something from the burger place and a customer who sounded a lot like Rocky was a bit frustrated with the Mexican man behind the counter. He decided that the delay (even though his burger was still cooking and he'd been waiting all of about two minutes) was annoying and said something along the line of "F*** you, n*****" to the Mexican guy, much to the surprise of everyone else there. He then proceeded to drop a couple more F-bombs over the next couple of minutes, including when he didn't realize that the guy before him was getting the same sauce on his bun and didn't understand why the worker was putting it first on that guy's before his. Finally, he demanded his stuff "to go", so the Israeli girl who worked there - who had spoken up at one of his outbursts - said "To go, PLEASE" to him. (He didn't seem to get that she was talking to him.) Finally, he left... with his 9-year old kid in tow.
All in all, I think each store acted properly, but it was really interesting to watch. Often stores either argue with customers when they shouldn't or in the wrong way, or they don't speak up when they should. This was nice to see. It was also interesting that in each case, the customers were [seemingly] longtime New Yorkers, while the people who spoke up were immigrants from other countries.

Also:
  • I was moving our car this morning (stupid alternate side), when I saw our friend DGEsq2 who recently moved with his wife from Chicago stumbling, glossy-eyed, to his car. I rolled down my window and noted "This is where you say 'I hate New York'", to which he replied "Yeah, and this is why I'm going to an 8:30 Shacharis instead of a 9. Ugh."
  • There were a ton of frum Jews at the Cavs-Nets game on Tuesday, including a couple guys who got Lebron to sign their jerseys. For an empty place, it was a little surprising, but I guess it's reasonably kosher, cheap entertainment if you live near there.
  • Nancy Pelosi is a moron:
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that the House and Senate would hold hearings the week after Thanksgiving and move toward a vote on a $25 billion loan package one week later if the Big Three come back with a plan that is logical and ensures that the companies will remain viable. ...The decision to call the House back into session next month does not depend on the quality of the plans offered, she said, but rather on the automakers meeting the deadline.
Have a great Shabbos!

Ponederous Parsha Point...

...that I was mulling over last night. Any coherent thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

So, Avraham Avinu dispatches his most trusted servant to find and bring back a bride for his beloved Yitzchok. This is done with very explicit instructions when it comes to qualifications for "who" and "from where" - namely his family and his homeland.

Okay, no problem. So Eliezer travels forth and meets up with a fine young lady whom he decides will be the bride and brings her back to his master's son. Easy Peasy.

My pondering was on the following - That's it? First girl he meets up with and the search is over?! Why not look around and see if there is someone even more suitable or worthy of being the wife of Yitzchak/daughter-in-law of Avraham? Was there no one else who was even a possibility?

1) It doesn't seem that too much time and effort was put into the search to make sure that he was the most successful that he could possibly be.
2)If, in fact, Rivka was the only person who fulfilled all of the necessary qualifications (meaning that there were no other sisters or cousins floating around)then why not just tell the servant at the outset "Go get the girl Rivka and bring her back"...or along the same lines - WAS Rivka the only choice? Were their other people from which to choose, I honestly don't know.

Also - what's with the whole "watering" test? And if after she went through all that work he had asked her name and she replied, "Eleanor, from the house of Jackson". That would have been it for her...next! So why not first find out who meets the mandatory requirements and THEN look for additional personal distinctions.

Thoughts...

My Shtark Is...

...quite honestly not what it once was - but we're working on rectifying that.

Anyway, I thought we might take a page out of the NIKE playbook...sometimes they just knock it out of the park with their commercials.

My fast is faster...

My shtark is shtarker than your shtark. My shtark is all shtarker. I got yeshivish all day. Shtarker. Geshmaker. Sharfer than your sharfer. I'll give you a head start. You underestimate my lomdus. My lomdus is the CEO of the United Global Lomdus Corporation. I’m mechavin to a Rishon right now. My shtark is shtark. Shtarkety Shtark. My Shtark and my Geshmak had a baby, named him Araingutan. You are not that shtark.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Danes Banning Circumcision?

maybe

Wanna Go To Israel?

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  • SIACH is a one-year post-high school program in Israel (in Jerusalem) that is rather different from most. Run by R' David Harbater (Orthodox), it is both co-ed and pluralistic, catering to students from all backgrounds: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, unaffiliated... geared primarily towards the intellectual student with an open mind and lots of questions. The structure of the program is discussion and debate (hence: Siach) on any and all issues that can involve Judaism. They aren't trying to be mekarev students and make them religious, just give them an incredibly strong foundation in Judaism, and the tools to work with to apply them to their lives. Besides the education side, there are plenty of tiyulim (trips) and the like. Registration is now, and it is filling up, so people who are interested should register now, or ask for more information by clicking here.
  • Nefesh B'Nefesh has a December 29th flight geared primarily toward singles who wish to make aliyah with other singles and still has some spaces available. It is a chartered NbN flight, and those interested should contact Nefesh B'Nefesh.

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Winter Dating Season...

...is upon us - I feel for ya fellas, I truly do. Dating destination options have just been halved...at least!

Door bells ring, think she’s listening?
Here she comes, what’s she thinking?
A beautiful sight,
We're happy tonight.
Dating in a Shidduch wonderland

Gonna go, get some coffe,
Hope the place has indoor parking
Make sure that you tip
To not to ‘aint hip
Dating in a Shidduch wonderland

With any luck soon you’ll call her freely
Perhaps she’ll even pick the place and time

You'll say: Is this okay?
She'll say: Whatever,
To give her choices
Is like speaking to a mime

Later on, you'll conspire,
Something cool to surprise her
You know she’ll say ‘Yes'
And yet your nerves are a wreck
Dating in a Shidduch wonderland

Alas not every date will go this fondly,
Some will leave you angered or let down
In that case remember, abuse the Shadchan
After all that’s why their around

When it snows, ain't it thrilling,
Steps extra slow, lest she go spilling
We'll frolic and play, as only Jews may,
Dating in a Shidduch wonderland

Kollel Tabloids

On the radio they were discussing (again) whether or not Jennifer Aniston was pregnant. One of the radio hosts had a good point: "If you're an actress, there's always a rumor that you're pregnant"

My version of this: "If you're a kollel wife, there's always a rumor that you're pregnant".

Iran Has Nuclear Bomb... Minus The Bomb

For all those who said such concerns were years away:
Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make a single nuclear bomb, according to atomic experts analyzing the latest report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

To date, Iran had enriched about 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium suitable for nuclear fuel, according to two confidential reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency that were obtained by The Associated Press.

Several experts told The Times the milestone was enough for a bomb, but Iran would have to further purify the uranium fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that experts in the West are unsure Iran has been able to achieve.
On the flip side, at least Israel seems to be ready:
The Israeli Air Force is ready to attack Iran's suspected nuclear weapons project if diplomacy fails to persuade the Islamic Republic to halt uranium enrichment, said Commander Ido Nehushtan in an interview published Tuesday.

"We are prepared and ready to do whatever Israel needs us to do and if this is the mission we're given then we are ready," Nehushtan told German magazine Der Spiegel.

A strike against Iran's nuclear facilities "is a political decision," the IAF commander said, "but if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table ... The Air Force is a very robust and flexible force. We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us."

Asked if the Israeli military would be able to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, which are spread around the country, with some built underground, Nehushtan said, "Please understand that I do not want to get into details. I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question."
Hopefully unnecessary, but it's good to know that they seem to be confident in their abilities to take care of things.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

AHHHHHHHHH!, RUN!!!, RUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!...

...IT'S ALIVE!!!, ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!!!!!

Link

Sportsmanship

This post is not totally being written as an excuse to talk about last night's Cavs-Nets game, although my brother OD and I went to the game in New Jersey and enjoyed immensely. After all, the Cavs outscored the Nets 28-13 in the third quarter on their way to destroying the Nets, 106-82, and we were rather impressed with the Izod Center, which is a rather nice - if empty - arena. No wonder they're moving to Brooklyn.

Sports are incredible not only for what they are, but for some of the things they teach us about life, such as: Hope. Fairness. Doing what's right.

In that vein, here are two rather amazing stories that I read this morning. The first (via the DailyFix) is about hope.
Harrison Hill kicked through the smoke of uncertainty, the soot of fear, finding the back of the net with a solid right foot on a spotless white ball.

He kicked the first goal, the only goal his Westmont College team would need, then he turned and ran.

He ran past the teammate who, at this moment, owned only the uniform on his back.

He ran past a teammate who had prepared for the game by searching Craigslist for a place to sleep.

He ran off the field, under the covered bench area, and into the arms of one who lost more than any of them.

In last week's Montecito fire, the home of Westmont Coach Dave Wolf burned to the ground.
The whole story is rather moving, and worth a read. The second, which I think is even more amazing, is about doing what's right, or going above and beyond to make good.

J.P. Hayes can sleep at night, knowing he did the right thing.

That doesn't mean the last few days haven't been difficult and it doesn't mean the coming months won't be a challenge.

They have been, and they will be.

But as a professional golfer, playing a sport that is self-policed - a sport in which integrity is as important as winning titles and cheating is practically non-existent - Hayes knows he did the right thing.

His sin?

Hayes inadvertently played a non-conforming golf ball - one not on the list approved for competition by the United States Golf Association - for one hole of a second-stage qualifier in McKinney, Texas.

The 43-year-old Appleton native disqualified himself from the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament last week. The first DQ of his career was especially harsh because it left him ineligible to play fulltime on the PGA Tour in 2009.

What's particularly amazing about what Hayes did is he didn't just call a penalty on himself, which is a two-stroke penalty; he did that, but then afterward realized that the penalty might be an even bigger one, thought about it, and called up the Tour.

Often in life, we're placed in difficult situations. One approach is to simply remove ourselves from the situation, and that has its place; but always, even when we are removing ourselves, it is important to do what is right, whatever the costs to ourselves are, however uncomfortable it might be for us. A former boss once said that I was "too honest" and that I should "lie more" or I'll be making things much more difficult for myself in the long run, and I had "too much potential" to "waste it" like that. I passed, noting that I'd rather take the harder, less successful route than sacrifice more important things such as integrity. It's more important to do what's right, period.

Speaking of what's right, the Cavs' game last night was awesome. In the third quarter, the Cavs started the period with a 12-0 run on four consecutive wide-open three-pointers, thanks to Lebron slashing his way toward the basket and drawing the Nets' D in with him. The Lebron block of Harris was impressive more in effort and skill in getting back so fast and so high than in the actual block; the Cavs had a few other more impressive blocks, actually. It's also impressive to see the Cavs' bench (or starters, when the bench is in) so continually into the game - they're all pumped, standing a lot, rushing out to greet the players as they come back for a timeout, etc. I don't remember seeing that in previous years so much other than in the playoffs. That should bode well for them this season, in case 9-2 [with close losses at Boston and New Orleans] wasn't enough to show that.

Other notes: Mo Williams is a really good ballplayer. Daniel Gibson and Delonte West are decent, and being able to consistently have two of those three on the court is really hard for other teams. The frontcourt rotation is solid. J.J. Hickson looks like he'll be pretty good. The team as a whole moves really well on defense, makes a lot of nice plays. They're a much better team than last year, so they're a legitimate title contender.

The Fire of Growth

The tones go out. That ever present little thing hanging on your belt like a leash suddenly goes *beep beep beep*. You could be anywhere. You could be about to sit down to eat. You could be at work helping a customer. Or you could be davening mincha in the middle of chazaras hashatz. But when it happens, when it beeps or vibrates, it is always sudden and always unexpected. You never see it coming. You're never sitting around thinking, "you know what, we're definitely going to get a call in 3 ½ minutes from now." You think a call might come in, or you might even be sitting around waiting for one to come in, but you're always thoroughly surprised when it actually happens.

You're cleaning out your car. Something that's been looming over your head for months, and you decide you're finally going to do it. You find a cd that has some random shiurim on it that you haven't listened to in ages. Or maybe you're looking through an old pile of books and find some random sefer you haven't seen in a while. You pop the cd in or you open that sefer and BAM, a sudden burst of inspiration. You're amazed by the power of that dusty cd or that ratty old book. You remember how much you love Torah, how awesome our God is, how amazing it is to be a Yid and do the things that yiddin do. Totally random, totally unexpected, you're suddenly ready to become that tzaddik you always knew you could become. You've got that flash in your spirit that it's time to get things moving, time to make some changes.

You roll out of bed and throw on the nearest pieces of clothing you've got. Or you drop the fork and head for the door. You grab your keys, jump in your car, flip on the blue light and try not to drive like an animal. *44-control to Dept 7, 7-102; signal 12 structure; 244 route 306" You hear the call, you know something is burning and it's time for you to go to work. You've trained for this, you've prepared, you've set up all your gear so that's it's ready to go, and you know exactly what it is you have to do.

You pick yourself up from the couch and you get yourself moving, into that groove that you need to be in to move forward. You call that rebbi that you haven't spoken to in years. You listen to that cd the whole way through and devour that sefer from cover to cover. You do whatever you have to do, but you act on that flash. You make that inspiration real. You spent all those years in yeshiva training for this, you've studied all that Torah to prepare you, you've got chavrusas ready to go, you had all those rebbeim all that time giving you the perfect instructions on how to achieve that, and you know exactly what it is you have to do.

You get to the firehouse, throw on your gear, hop on the truck, grab a radio, put your pack on – everything necessary in order for you to be able to go to work as soon as you get off the truck. You know that when you pull up and you see that smoke pushing out from the awnings that you're grabbing the red 1 ¾" line that's facing the driver's side with as much hose as you can fit over your shoulder and you're making a b line for the door. You're not running, because when you run you trip and fall and get hurt and then you're of no use on the fire ground. You move swiftly and decisively like a professional because you know exactly what you have to do.

You get to the bais medrash and you meet up with your chavrusa and you've got all the seforim you need for that seder and your cellphone's off and your mind is completely clear. You've done everything necessary to accomplish the task at hand of devoting your entire being to Torah for the next hour so that you can get as much as you can out of this little drop of growth that you manage to eke out of your long and tiring day. You take it seriously and step by step you start to increase the time and work on other important things that need improvement. You make sure to do this slowly and not take on too much at one time because if you try to just jump into it you might burn out and just wind up back where you started. You take precise actions and you record and calculate your actions like a professional because you know exactly what you have to do.

If you do what you learned in Firefighter-1 and Truck Ops and all the other classes you spent hours upon hours attending, and you listen to your Chief and your Captain and your Lieutenant and all the more experienced guys on the scene and you take their suggestions to heart, then you put the fire out and we all go home. It's basically as simple as that, right? If you put the water on the fire, then all your problems go away. But if you go off and do your own thing, or you start doing things out of order or worrying about issues that are above your head, then you start getting into trouble. You either get yourself hurt, or worse, you hurt someone else. If you hurt yourself, you can deal with it. But hurting someone else, how do you know you can live with yourself knowing that you caused their harm?

If you listen to your rebbeim and all those seforim and shiruim and take everything they say to heart, and really internalize it all, then you keep the fire burning inside of you and you build up that inspiration into something real and deep and powerful. It's basically as simple as that, right? If you listen to the Torah, then you become a better Jew. But if you go off and start redefining things to fit your own interests and desires and start justifying your actions, or if you start worrying about the exterior stuff instead of the real internals, or if you start mixing up your priorities, then you start getting into trouble. What are you left with? You either waste all this momentum by burning yourself out mentally and emotionally; you hurt yourself. Or worse, you really hurt your neshama and your relationship with God. If you just burn out a little bit and get a little down about it, then you can always just rebuild yourself. But if you really get yourself so deep and confused through this whole journey and process of growth, then you might come out really messed up and well, that can be really really bad.

So you put the fire out, packed up all the hose, refilled all the air bottles, put away all your tools and you head back to the firehouse. You did everything right, recalled everything you learned, you carried out all your orders and you did a fine job. Now what? You get back to the firehouse, and you don't just hang out and pick up some food. You do that too! But after you do everything else… You clean off all the tools, you refill the trucks, you clean your gear up and you set it all back into its right place ready to go for the next call. And then you critique what happened at that fire and you go over everything that you could have done, everything you should have done, everything that went right, and everything that went wrong, and you learn from that call. And it's still not over! You still come back to the firehouse every Monday night for training drills, and you still sign up for every class you've got time to take even if you've already taken it 3 or 6 or 14 times. You train, and train again, and then you train some more. Why? Because you're a firefighter and a firefighter always has to be ready and prepared.

So you've made your seder kevua for a little while now, and you've started steadily davening three times a day with a minyan, and you've successfully worked on some things that have needed work. You did everything right. You stayed learning steady with your chavrusa, you kept in touch with your Rebbi and took his advice about those certain areas you needed help with, you tried that new approach to shemona esrei that you saw in that sefer and really grew. You really turned that inspiration into something tangible and you've achieved so much in your struggle for growth. You're truly a better Jew. Now what? You get into your routine, and maybe things start becoming a little rote, and maybe things aren't feeling as powerful as they did when you started getting into it. Well, you don't just chill out and take a break for a little bit and relax. You do that too! But all in its right time… If you know you have a hobby or interest or something you know you like to do and you want to do it, then you find time for it, and the more you learn, the more you figure out how to integrate these things into your life as a better Jew. But before everything just turns into a routine, and before you decide you need to relax a little bit, you have to make sure you know where you stand. You have to study, and chazir, and study and chazir some more. You have to keep learning and keep speaking to your Rebbeim and keep listening to what the Torah is saying and living the way it's telling you to live and doing everything that it tells you to do. Why? Because you're a Jew and a Jew always has to do and believe.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NAME THAT TUNE!!!...

...received via e-mail from a man amongst men.

Name That Theme Song game, for those who have a relationship with television that is perhaps a tad less than healthy.

For the record: I played the 30 rounds and scored 1466.

-->yes i DO in fact have parents...they were just busy alot

Are People Overrated?...

...I still think that idea holds true for the most part, but perhaps there is hope after all*

-part two of a soundtrack in 2 parts-

--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 NFL is strictly prohibited.--

Original by Eric Clapton

SHEVA BRACHOS TONIGHT

As day approached evening
She wonders what clothes to wear
She puts on her make up
And puts on her long dark hair
And then she asks me
Do I look alright
And I say yes, you look wonderful tonight

We go to our party
And everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady
Who’s sitting down next to me
And then she asks me
Do you feel alright
And I say yes, I feel wonderful tonight

I feel wonderful
‘Cause I feel the joy shining from their eyes
And the wonder of it all
Is that they just don’t realize
How tired we both are

It’s time to go home now
One more speech and I’ll be dead
So I give her the car keys
(That’s o.k. now that we’re wed)
And then I tell her
As I turn out the lights
I say my darling, you were wonderful tonight
Oh my darling, can we skip tomorrow night's?

*almost had you going there for a moment didn't I...fear not, sarcasm is still the order of the day regardless of any other goings on.

Helping Hands

As a general rule, I don't write about anything involving my work on this blog. This is the wisest, safest choice and avoids my ever running into a problem with work because of this blog. However, there's something I want to write about right now because I think it's important to get out, so bear with me please.

Many friends of ours have known for a while, and many other readers caught on from this post, that I am currently unemployed. (Managing a hedge fund? Call me! {wink}) While I happen to be enjoying unemployment immensely at the moment, with the extra time to read and write when Kayla takes a nap, and the ability to spend some time playing with her and Elianna, I understand (okay, Serach insists) that in the long run, I'm going to need to find a good job. So after taking a little time off to figure some things out, I started to look recently for positions that were up my alley.

What has been amazing has been the help from people, whether friends, people who read this blog, people who barely know us, and people who just hear that I'm unemployed. Everyone either has a lead, thinks their own company might be looking, or has friends to send my resume to who might be able to help. More impressively, some of those friends of friends - people who don't know who we are at all - will call and say that while they don't know of anything, here are some friends of theirs who might. Others will follow up with me before I've even had a chance to do so with them, e-mailing or calling me to offer their help. It's truly amazing, touching, and heart-warming.

The kindness of others has reached the point where I'm starting to feel bad. It's simply impossible to keep track of all the people who have contacted me and follow up with them all as I would like to. I've had to prioritize by which jobs seem most up my alley and that I would have a reasonable chance of getting the job, while pushing the rest to the back burner until those first few play out. This is obviously a wonderful luxury, but it hurts to not be able to properly thank all those who have been going out of their way for us.

So... for all those who are reading this, thank you.

Quote of the Day

The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardor which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquility of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice. Wherever prudence does not direct, wherever justice does not permit, the attempt to change our situation, the man who does attempt it, plays at the most unequal of all games of hazard, and stakes every thing against scarce any thing. ~ Adam Smith
Taken from the video in yesterday's post.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Leah Larson Wins Wells Fargo Contest

Previously: Leah Larson's Wells Fargo Video; Vote for Leah

Leah Larson, daughter of Evelyn from Sharon, MA, has won the Wells Fargo contest intended on helping people to pursue their dreams. Leah is the founder of Yaldah magazine, for young Jewish girls, which she started at the age of 13. From the Wells Fargo | Someday Stories website:

Congratulations to Evelyn from Sharon, MA!

She's won $100,000 to make her Someday dream of expanding Yaldah magazine come true.

Come join us for the Grand Prize event at the Wells Fargo History Museum in San Francisco. Come watch the Stagecoach, tour the museum and enjoy refreshments.

Date:Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Time:10:00 AM PST
Place:Wells Fargo History Museum

420 Montgomery Street

San Francisco, CA 94104

Wells Fargo is also donating $250,000 to Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity received 25,542 votes from all of you. This will help Habitat for Humanity continue its mission of helping families turn their someday dream of owning a home into reality by building houses in partnership with people who need them.

Junior Achievement will receive a donation of $150,000 and Boys and Girls Clubs of America will receive a $50,000 donation from Wells Fargo.

Thank you to all who entered and voted.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 11/17: Stumbling on Happiness

Watch this talk. It's Dan Gilbert giving a TED talk on happiness, and seeing as how searching for it seems to be a common theme in this world, it's worthwhile to actually know something about it.
Elsewhere:
  • ProfK has a fantastic post about the institutionalization of personal choice and individuality in the frum community. One of the best posts I've seen around in a while.
  • Sephardi Lady discusses a number of Orthonomic links, including one about a school Serach works in. While Serach is a SEIT and is unaffected, she's been noting how the school is extremely concerned and will either have to take drastic actions or it might not be able to continue after this year.
  • VIN posts a great letter from Rabbi Reuven Tradburks in Toronto stating that Orthodox Jews need to adopt a more accurate view of the non-religious world, citing in particular the ridiculous claims that were being made about Obama.
  • AlanLaz has a great piece on the need for a culture change in some communities.

Survey on Marriage

I took this short survey yesterday and found it very interesting, as it forced me to think a bit. It basically asks in a mostly open-ended fashion how a couple meshes the roles of husband and wife in a marriage. (One of the best questions in my opinion: What advice would you give to an engaged couple?) The creator of the survey is a friend of ours and is using this as a little unscientific research for a book she's in middle of writing. She's also quite happy to hear any comments, critiques, or suggestions about the survey, so feel free to let her know what you think. From her post on the subject:
The survey has only 18 questions, and asks about how tasks are divvied up between the husband and wife. Clearly I have a position on what marriage is, but I want to know how it works for you.

I think that completing the questionnaire will not only be enjoyable, but illuminating. And your responses may also be beneficial for those reading my book. I know the survey can't be considered scientific, and I'll present the results honestly as such. Still, the more input I have, the better, so please feel free to invite friends and family to participate. I'll only be running the survey, called "How Do You Mesh the Roles of Husband and Wife?" for a couple weeks. I'll be discussing it this Wednesday as I guest-host the third hour of The Michael Medved Radio Show, if you'd like to call in to share your thoughts!

Thanks in advance--I'm eager to see what you have to say!
Please take the survey.

Johnny the Bagger

(Hat tip: Pobody's Nerfect) I saw this video yesterday and found it to be really moving - feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. It is from the Simple Truths website, which puts out some really nice stuff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jameel's Bizarro Erev Shabbat

Somehow, I'm sure that Ezzie would say he's totally not surprised by this Bizarro Erev Shabbat Hitchhiker story. (And no, it has nothing to do with the 18 minute before Shabbat story either).

I can't even blame Ed for this one.

Shavua tov!

--Jameel

Saturday, November 15, 2008

D.G., Esquire

SerandEz would like to wish a huge mazel tov to our longtime close friend and confidante DGEsq on his passing the Bar!! May your title serve you well in the future in whatever you do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Emunah Issues

I no longer believe that G-d only gives people as much as they can handle. If that were true, I would have died about two months ago.

I think it's just a trite cliché that someone came up with in order to help deal with a difficult situation and/or bad times. (Maybe it was Bad4's "Mysterious They.")

Think about it: by its very nature, faith is an intangible entity. Yet we are often told to have faith--as though that were a concrete or tangible item capable of solving all our problems.

In some ways, though, this way of thinking does sort of make sense. After all, if one’s physical--or tangible--world is falling apart, what other options would that person have? If the tangible fails him, he is forced to rely on the intangible--faith and hope (yes, one may also rely on prayer, but that’s a whole other ball of wax) in order to continue living. If he doesn’t have anything to look forward to, then what would be the point of trying to survive?

The Mysterious THEY

Excerpts from a real live conversation, and an illustration of the phrase “so open-minded your brain falls out.”

Other Person: ...we could all be energy independent but They are preventing the technology from coming out.
Me: Why would They do that?
OP: To keep us all in our places.

OP: Don’t you believe that a group of powerful people like the Found Fathers could shape a vision for the nation by influencing the direction of events and squashing anything that gets in the way?
Me: Um, I suppose… But they’re dead. They can’t influence the present.
OP: But if they passed it down from one generation to another through a secret society?
Me: Have you been reading The Protocols of the Elders of Zion? That kind of thing doesn’t exist.
OP: Have you ever heard of the Freemasons?
Me: Oh I see. Because many of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons, so you’re saying— That’s a stretch.
OP: Well does anyone know what the Freemasons do?
Me: Aren’t they a fraternity for people over college age?
OP: They have billions of dollars and members in the highest offices and nobody knows why they exist. And they’re just carrying out the vision for this country that the Founding Fathers created.
Me: What vision would that be?
OP: To cut us off from nature and bog us down in consumerism—
Me: Nasty people, those Founding Fathers. What motive would they have? And how could they imagine a nation bogged down in consumerism before the industrial revolution?
OP: They had a general idea of what they wanted and it was fitted to the times.

Me: I don’t think you need a secret society of powerful people to bog us down in consumerism. I think human greed can do that by itself. The same for the rest of society’s ills. Society moves in waves, not always toward the best or healthiest, but always in tide. You don’t need someone pulling puppet strings – it would probably be impossible to.
OP: Yes – the wave is the national consciousness. And there’s a global consciousness and a racial consciousness too. But it’s the product of environment and factors that can be manipulated by people in the right places…

OP: [on a new conspiracy theory] …I believe it—it’s possible.
Me: Do you believe aliens crash-landed at Roswell and that They are covering it up?
OP: Yes.
Me: Then I’m done.
OP: Why – you don’t think aliens could have crash-landed at Roswell?
Me: No. I don’t believe aliens exist.
OP: Why not? You don’t know that they don’t.
Me: I don’t know that they don’t, but I don’t know that they do. I also don’t know that there isn’t a giant invisible spaghetti monster orbiting the sun between Mercury and Venus, but since we can’t sense it physically, nor deduce it logically or mathematically, I conclude that the existence of a giant invisible spaghetti monster is of such a small likeliness as to be negligible and I won’t waste any belief on him. Do you believe there’s a giant spaghetti monster?
OP: It’s possible.
Me: but improbable.
OP: But possible. There are many things out there we can’t measure or explain.
Me: Er… true… But… If there were really aliens nearby, we’d know. We have the SETI array. And the Hubble telescope. And space ships travelling through the solar system to beyond.
OP: You’re assuming the aliens want to be in contact, even after what we did at Roswell. But how do you know what SETI hears or Hubble sees?
Me: I see pictures… um, released by the government agencies… ok, fine, I don’t know. They might be keeping me in a protective bubble while alien civilization buzzes around our planet. All this to keep us bogged down in earthly consumerism, lest we go buy souvenirs from off-planet?
OP: Well, the aliens might be in a parallel dimension…

OK, so it was a thought-provoking weekend.
One thought: the appeal of the conspiracy theory, and do you believe there are conspiracies? Like drug companies secretly trying to prevent cures from being found? Gas companies sabotaging the search for alternative energy? (I don’t believe that one – most gas companies are now “energy companies” and in the search themselves.)
Another thought: What do Freemasons do anyway?
Yet another: Did you know that Hubble photos are doctored for real? Hubble takes black and white photos. The colors are added by humans.
Though #4: Why do we love to think that the military and government are keeping important secrets from us that would vastly improve our lives if we knew them? EG: preventing our access to alien civilization?
A thought: Why are we so convinced that aliens have it better than us?
And a thought question: If you could create a secret society to control the world for the future, what goal would you set for it?

Lav Sh'ein Bo Cocoa

Posted with permission

by Jon Korman

In mesechta דנקן הינס there is an interesting machlokes brought down between פילסברי דו בוי and מורנו הרב נסלי as to whether or not burnt cookie offering from a girlfriend to boyfriend is preferable to no cookies. הרב נסלי says that its obviously better for there to be no cookies, because if there were burnt cookies, it would cause טרחה for the בעל הקוקי on two different levels. the first level would be that he has cookies before him but cannot eat them due to the fact that they are burnt and will taste bitter, and clearly its not פסח and we do not want to be reminded of eating מרור. The second מדריגא of טרחה would be that his friends would make fun of him. We all know that embarrassment is in fact worse than death. פילסברי דו בוי says that is significantly better to receive the burnt cookies, because at least then we are exposing the כוונה of the girlfriend. Obviously she understands the pasuk of שֶׁרֹּאשִׁי נִמְלָא טָל קְוֻצּוֹתַי רְסִיסֵי לָיְלָה: and is trying to do whatever she can to make her בעל happy. It is clear that the יסוד of this machlokes can be stated as to how one should properly satisfy their boyfriend. Clearly, the כוונה is what really counts in this situation. If a person did not care for their boyfriend they clearly would not bake them cookies, but if they really cared they would make sure to do it correctly. בדיעבד one can fulfill the מצווה by simply being nice to their boyfriend. לכתחלה a girlfriend should bake the cookies, whether they are cooked correctly or not צ'ע. However, there is a concept called הידור מצווה, in english this means to beautify the מצווה. Clearly we should all strive to reach this מדריגא and bake the cookies appropriately and dispense them regularly to your boyfriend... cause we all know תדיר ושאינו תדיר, תדיר קודם!!!

A נפקא מינה להלכה would be whether or not you can be מגרש your girlfriend if she does not regularly bake cookies.

Seemingly, this מצווה could be understood as מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא, which would obviously be problematic because נשים are not חייב in מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא. Rashi explains in מסכתא מגילה that because נשים were part of the נס they are obligated to partake in theמצווה

מעשה אחד אם הנסל וגרטל they were once walking through a field and came across a bakery with a very sweet מקשפה. However, it turns out she was not as sweet as she seemed. The evil מקשפה tried to turn הנסל וגרטל into cookies. There was a נס שבנסתר and the רבש'ע created a ישועה. So today, as a זכר לנס girls bake cookies for boys. These cookies signify how grateful נשים are that they were saved by the boys. Even though we really know it was a נס שבנסתר we still give credit to the boys because the גילוי aspect of this נס it is rather obvious that the boys did all the work.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sheltered

Erachet had a good post recently about balancing what you read and what you don't.
One summer, I interviewed at a Literary Agency for a summer internship. They told me at the interview that, if I got in, I'd have to read all different kinds of manuscripts, from adventure to historical fiction to, yes, pornography. Believe it or not, they told me, there is such a thing as good pornography. I wanted to throw up. So when they asked me if I'd be interested working in their children's books department instead, I very readily said yes.
She discusses the balance necessary and how people should think about approaching reading, TV, and the like while trying to maintain that balance. On the flip side, here's R' Horowitz discussing what happens when people take the other extreme:

A close friend of mine owns a business in an area with a large charedi population and is always looking to provide avrechim with jobs. His ‘entrance exam’ is rather simple. He gives prospective applicants a pad and paper and asks them to write two paragraphs in English expressing the reasons they would like to land a job in his company, and then to turn on a computer and type those lines. His thinking is that if an applicant cannot perform those two tasks, they are useless to him in his business. Suffice it to say that this would probably be my last column in Mishpacha if I shared with you the percentage of applicants he turns away because they cannot do that.

In more than twenty-five years of dealing with at-risk teens I have not noticed a lower drop-out rate among kids who are raised in more sheltered environments. In fact, my experience leads me to support the observation made by my colleague Reb Yonasan Rosenblum, in a number of columns in these pages over the past few years, that out-of-town children have a lower drop-out rate than those who are raised in very sheltered communities.

The first part of that is more sad than anything else - we're talking about men who are willing and able to work, but due to their (lack of) education thanks to the frum community they grew up in, they simply will not be able to get a decent job. The latter part is more interesting, noting that sheltering does not seem to have the advantages it should, and that if anything, having more exposure would help them not only in terms of careers and the like but even in terms of staying healthy and religious. R' Horowitz even concludes with a message about poverty and how it undoubtedly a colossal risk factor in many areas, and that this sheltering causes poverty.

As with anything, a proper balance is necessary. Parents and educators should work on exposing kids and students in the proper way, and should take more confidence in their own ability to expose kids to subjects that include many shades of gray and explain how to approach them, rather than avoid them or whitewash them. It is far better to educate and allow people to decide for themselves what to pursue and what to avoid, and realize that with that education and self-awareness they'll more often than not make the right choice, than to hope that they never come across whatever issues may exist.

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