Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Decorations and Ballerinas
And Chana's latest story is amazing. I loved it.
Pictures & Video from the Rally
Quarry from Temple Mount Found
The Antiquities Authority announced today that it has found the quarry that supplied the giant stones for the building of the Temple Mount. The quarry is located in what is now one of Jerusalem's newest neighborhoods, Ramat Shlomo (also known as Reches Shuafat), between Ramot and French Hill. The quarry was found in the course of an archaeological rescue dig prior to the construction of a neighborhood school.Cool.
The ancient quarry is spread out over at least five dunams (1.25 acres), with rocks between three and eight meters long - the size of those that can still be seen today at the foundations of the Temple Mount and in the Western Wall - hewn out of the ground.
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky has ordered a halt to the school-building plans, budgeting 350,000 shekels ($86,500) for the archaeological work.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Columbia University's Free Speech
Sad. Meanwhile, I agree with that speaker who felt that Columbia should allow Ahmadinejad to speak, though I think it was a poor choice to invite him in the first place. Or, to understand it better, just read Irina's post. Excerpts:
One major argument in favor of his presence there thus far has been "freedom of speech". That we live in a free country (unlike Iran), and we should encourage "vigorous debate, even with people we find absolutely vile. Although in general I would agree with such a statement, there are a few key issues that many people seem to be missing.Exactly.
1. This doesn't really have anything to do with free speech. Private institutions, such as Columbia University, can do pretty much what they want. In this case, they've voluntarily chosen to extend an invitation to Ahmadinejad. Was it their legal right? Sure. Did they HAVE to invite him? No. Failing to invite him would not intrude on anyone's free speech right. It's just like failing to invite someone over to your house.
2. Vigorous debate and constructive dialogue. We're being extremely naive if we honestly believe anything constructive is going to come out of giving Ahmadinejad, a dictator and a criminal, extra forum for his vile rhetoric.
3. Columbia University has the temerity to speak about "vigorous debate"... when in reality it only seems to invite speakers from the radical left/anti-Semitic/anti-Zionist part of the spectrum. Catering to its left-leaning faculty and majority student population no doubt... which is all fine and good... if only it had also been inviting people with opposing points of view for real discussion - I'm talking about members of the current administration, and others with similar POVs. The recent Minutemen event ended in disruption. It's not about providing all possible points of views, no matter how radical. It's about presenting one side of controversy, even at its worst, and getting as much publicity as possible.
- Does anyone know of support groups for frum people who suffer from depression? Please put it in the comments or e-mail me.
- The protests against Ahmadinejad's appearances seem to be going on all day at the UN and at Columbia; I'd go to the one at the UN, which isn't a bad walk, but I have to help welcome the new first-years to the firm. If you can go, though, I'd recommend going.
- The 60 Minutes interview with Ahmadinejad is now up online (thanks David).
- I still need to put up recipes, I know...
- I'm not sure what's stranger about the plays just before the Browns' field goal got blocked yesterday. After spiking it with 18 seconds left to make it 2nd-and-10, I didn't understand why they took risks on passing when they could have run it for 5 yards, spiked it, and kicked. But it worked out anyway, because the Browns completed a 12-yard pass with 3 seconds left on the sideline. I just don't get how they did that, seeing as how the Raiders dropped ALL 11 players (!) into coverage on the play before, and yet still allowed a sideline catch?! The Browns had no timeouts, they had to throw sideline or throw it away... weird.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Ahmadinejad on 60 Minutes
My sister also noted that while she knew that he was twisted and crazy, it's quite another level to watch him in an interview. (Twisted and crazy in that he is clearly smart and knows exactly what he's saying... and what he's saying is nuts.)
Friday, September 21, 2007
Yom Kippur Roundup
SJ is trembling:
How are we supposed to concentrate our thoughts to heaven if our stomachs are rumbling? Rabbi Teller counters: haven't you ever been reading, and been so engrossed in the book that the hours fly by, until you finish, only to realize that your neck is sore, that it is 3:00 am, and that you are super hungry? (I, for one, know that this has happened to me.) It is possible to get so engrossed in a task that everything else gets shut out, even basic physical concerns. If we were able to immerse ourselves entirely in our tefillos, we would not even notice our hunger. Though very few people are actually on that level, even I have experienced it to some degree, if only for moments instead of hours. So on Yom Kippur, when my stomach starts to distract me, I redouble my efforts to focus on what I am saying, on what weighs in the balance and what I am asking for.R' Shaya Karlinsky at BeyondBT with many thoughts, including:
Pushing too fast, whether ourselves or others, has a serious potential down side. If a person changes in a way that lasts for a certain amount of time, then he drops the changes with regret (which, unfortunately seems to be evidenced in “angry” ex-BT’s) then not only is he unlikely to return at a later stage, but the time he spent doing Mitzvoth is negated.Greg gives a narrative of what [he feels] the day is about - a good reminder for us all and a pretty good explanation, particularly for those who would like to know more about Yom Kippur.
Patience in our growth, patience with the growth of others, will ensure that the changes that happen will be stable, creating a foundation that can be used for future growth. Decisions about change must be made with a realistic and penetrating assessment of their likely long-term consequences.
Much of Jewish education focuses on educating our children (and grown-ups) towards observance of ritual matters, and adopting proper ideological beliefs. Most efforts are devoted to increasing knowledge and commitment to Shabbath, Kashruth, Family Purity and Prayer; and to believe in the Truth and Divinity of Torah. What seems to be ignored is a fundamental lesson taught to us by our Rabbis, and developed by the Mussar and Chassidic masters: “Derech Eretz Kadmah LaTorah,” proper behavior precedes Torah, and “Im ein derech eretz, ein Torah,” if there is a lack of proper behavior and respect towards other, there can be no Torah.
R' Dovid Gottlieb (Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore) has a very good post on teshuva at Cross-Currents including some interesting insights:
Elsewhere, Jack has a nice and comforting video from the IDF called "Army Letters"; and DAG and Sephardi Lady point to communal issues - and more importantly, ideas and solutions - worth keeping in mind at this time of year.
In fact, the Rambam (Laws of Repentance 2:2) lists the following crucial components: azivas ha-chet – the sinner must cease and desist from the prohibited behavior; kabalah le’asid – he must then commit to not repeating this behavior anytime in the future; charatah al ha-avar – he should sincerely regret his sinful action; and finally vidui – he must verbally confess his sin.
It is striking that the Rambam lists kaballah, the pledge to stay the improved course, before requiring charatah, the regret over the misdeed. At first glance this sequence appears anachronistic, as the future is placed before the past. And more than just an issue of timing, logically it would appear that charatah would come before kabbalah.
How are we to understand the Rambam’s order?
I think it’s possible that the Rambam is teaching us a profound lesson in the psychology of spiritual growth.
Deep down, many people don’t believe that there is a meaningful chance for lasting change. Past habits are deemed too hard to break and previous mistakes are considered too numerous to rectify; we feel unworthy of redemption. Even when God is ready to forgive us we are not always willing to forgive ourselves. This may be mistaken but it is a common feeling.
If a person focused initially on the guilt of the past, there would be a real danger that instead of charatah being a catalyst for positive change, he or she could become trapped by negative feelings of despair and hopelessness.
Even though it may be intuitive to focus on the past we are instructed to look towards the future because the Rambam understands that the most profound inspiration for change is the positive image of the new and improved person we will be. We must be able to hope for a better tomorrow before we come to grips with a disappointing yesterday. We need the vision of what lies ahead to give us the strength to face up to what came before. Once the kabbalah has taken place, then – and only then – are we ready for charatah.
Again, have a g'mar chasima tova, and for those who will not be reading over Sukkos, have a wonderful chag as well. SerandEz will be taking Elianna on her first airplane trips as we head to Cleveland and Los Angeles for 5 and 6 days; we're just hoping it's not going to be cold and snowing in Cleveland. Over Pesach, the weather was 80 and sunny on the first day, snowing 20 hours later, and 8 inches on the ground by daybreak of first day chol hamoed.
I hope to put up the recipes that were asked for sometimes after Shabbos.
The Last Lecture
Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted "Last Lecture Series," in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?They have a short embedded video along with the article with clips from his speech; it's a little nuts, looking at this seemingly perfectly healthy man and knowing he'll likely die within months. Some of the wisdom he imparted is excellent:
At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.
Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."Read it, watch it. Thinking about what we'd impart, what we'd want to do, should it be our own last lectures, last months is something worth keeping in mind often. Have a wonderful g'mar chasima tova. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for good.
He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you."
After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."
Thursday, September 20, 2007
R' Gil Student (Hirhurim) Leaves Reshimu
Due to readership feedback and increasingly divergent views on direction, I had been planning on asking to be removed from Reshimu. However, that is now unnecessary (link). This means that Hirhurim will be staying where it is but it will not be staying the same. Some things will be changing. It is a bit premature to announce these changes now but please stay tuned.The link in there is Ben Atlas's post on Reshimu. As I noted when it first occurred, I (and just about any reader of Gil's) didn't think it was a very good idea; while I feel bad for Gil that it didn't work out, I can't say that I'm upset about it, either. Much hatzlacha to Gil in the future on Hirhurim and in whatever his plans are.
My Fat Brother
Hen: [Shen] came out of your tummy right?Nice. Meanwhile, here's what Ben had to say after his first day of school:
Hen: And also [Ben] and me?
Hen: But not Daddy cuz he doesn't fit.
Ben made a good friend in school already BH. He told me: _______ is my best friend. He became my friend so quickly. (Sighs and touches his heart) I have so much love for him in my heart. This is what happened. My heart went out of my chest, went into _______'s chest and came back into my chest.
A Few Good Posts
- On a lighter note, G sent me this great post on Deadspin about selling Sandy Koufax's yarmulke (which looks much like CWY's old one) - the cliche Jew comments are hilarious in that they're so completely not funny... His fave, though I actually don't see it:But what if God's not a Dodgers fan, and we've picked the wrong team to follow? Every week we're just making God madder and madder
- And on a heavier note...
- Irina wonders if she'll live.
- Pearl thinks about U'Nesaneh Tokef; so does TNSPR. Pearl:Perhaps I was most aware of the theme of this post as the kohanim went up on the bimah for "duchenin"; two of those men that were up there, whom I know, have cancer. They have been taking treatments and I believe that one of them has decided to stop his treatments. It shows in his face, in his body and in his wife's eyes as she looks at him.
As those men stood and blessed the congregants, as kohanim have done for centuries, I couldn't help but wonder if these men would be around next year to bless us again.
And moreso I thought that they are blessing us; Hashem should bless them hundredfold with strength and good health.
- R' Ally thinks we should take it all personally.
Iran Threatens Israel
Iran pledged to deliver a "final reponse" to the U.S and other supporters of Israel during a religious ceremony next month, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported Thursday. Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said the message would be sent on Qods Day, held each year on the last Friday of RamadanHow nice. Gotta love the use of the words "final response" - is that really different than "final solution"?
Meanwhile, Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani thinks Israel should be welcomed into NATO while noting that Iran should be set back 5-10 years should they try to become a nuclear power. That's more like it. (Thanks, Pamela for that last part.)
Finally, Jameel has an interesting story about prayer from Ichilov Hospital, and one of my managers showed me the hilarious addition the NY Post has been making to the week's NFL lines. Just check out the Patriots' line.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Orthodox Jewish Attorney General
The man who in all likelihood will replace Alberto Gonzales as our next Attorney General will be klapping al cheit this shabbos, shaking lulav and esrog next week, and dancing with the Torah the next. That's right: Judge Michael Mukasey is an Orthodox Jew.In case you're wondering why you haven't heard that yet, Krum has a theory on that, too. Also, as I noted to Krum, this puts him how many spots away from the Presidency? Is he #4 in line? Either way, hopefully he'll make it past the deliberations without difficulty; yiasher kochacho.
UPDATED: David Linn notes I missed Daled Amos' post on this:
So you want to know more about Bush's appointee to be the new Attorney General?Cool.
Check out the Kehilath Jeshurun Bulletin, September 2004 (page 5):
Hon. Michael Mukasey
What a privilege it is for us to be able to honor the Hon. Michael Mukasey, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
An alumnus of Ramaz, class of 1959, Judge Mukasey received his B.A. from Columbia in 1963 and an LL.B. degree from Yale Law School in 1967. A recipient of an honorary doctorate from Brooklyn Law School, he also won the Federal Bar Council's Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence.
Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 9/19: Cancer Research
For those who don't know, I audit hedge funds for a living. I'll often joke or lament that there is little redeemable social quality to it, as opposed to (say) Serach's job, in which she teaches two classes, each with 14 special-education students. But it's not completely true: The money that is being made is usually not just sitting there making these people richer (though that certainly is true), but rather is being used to promote good ideas, new businesses, and sometimes even more: Breaking down the walls between people in cancer research so they're willing to share their ideas. It's a very interesting article.
- The New York Times writes about and has a slideshow of pictures that were taken around Auschwitz in 1944 - a rarity, as most pictures were from after the liberation of the camps. The pictures are of German officers and auxiliaries having a good time... just a few miles from where hundreds of thousands were being murdered. It's mind-boggling in its sickness.
- Orthomom discusses an interesting piece about people testing for Gaucher (and other) diseases, and the decision by some to abort. It is a very difficult balance of morals.
- Mishmar's Boruch Horowitz discusses choosing your battles wisely.
- Kefirot on political conservatism, the environment, and life. Quite a nice mix.
- Chana on trust.
Baruch Dayan Emes
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 9/18: Tipping the Scales
And yes, David, I know I owe you two meals. Ugh. Why can't you be a Bengals' fan?!
- 5) Just Another Stern Girl asked last week if one would prefer total amnesia or a perfect memory.
- 4) NoyG notes that he's in for a crappy year, because he's not into the simanim.
- 3) Steg with one of the best posts he's ever written (IMHO), on judgment.
- 2) R' Horowitz on weighing what's important. Not everything is a 10.
- 1) I heart BeyondBT. A few great posts the last week or so - Phyllis' roller-coaster path to Judaism is fascinating; David Linn's emphasis on drop by drop is a perfect lesson; and I enjoyed Mark Frankel's We're all Baalei Teshuva.
Israel's Economy Working
The Orthodox Jewish world, in particular the Charedi world, has been up in arms for a few years about the Israeli government's cutting financial benefits for welfare and similar services (e.g., link). Here is another perspective on what these cuts and other financial reforms have done to save Israel's economy from collapse: Believing in Miracles by Daniel Doron:It is interesting to note that upon seeing the successes of Netanyahu's policies, the Olmert government (even with Amir Peretz in a prominent role) has simply renamed the policies while keeping all of them intact in order to avoid giving the credit to Netanyahu, though few if any don't see right through it. The impact Netanyahu has had on Israel's long-term growth has quietly been incredible.As the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, told us: "The Israeli economy is now into its fifth year of rapid growth, of around 5 percent per year, with inflation that has averaged less than 2 percent per annum, and a large balance of payments surplus — a result of disciplined budgetary and monetary policy, structural reforms carried out over the last two decades that have integrated the Israeli economy into the world's markets, and especially of a vibrant and innovative private sector."
State Sen. Sues God
The defendant in a Nebraska state senator's lawsuit is accused of causing untold death and horror and threatening to cause more still. He can be sued in the state's Douglas County, the legislator claims, because He is everywhere.I'm not sure suing God is a great idea this week, but it's certainly amusing. And it's certainly hard to argue with the disgust with frivolous lawsuits. I wonder if anyone is going to represent God in the Douglas County court. Plus, how can he prove to the Court that God actually is everywhere, or that God carried out whatever destruction he claims He did? Should be extremely entertaining!
State Sen. Ernie Chambers sued God last week. Angered by another lawsuit he considers frivolous, Chambers says he is trying to make the point that anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody.
Chambers says in his lawsuit that God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents, inspired fear and caused "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants."
Monday, September 17, 2007
756 should go...
No matter your opinion, give credit to Ecko: This is really cool.
Rosh Hashana & Shabbos Were...
Back to the guests - you guys are great, we love you all. Hope the mum was as good as the company and the singing; and if you were surprised by the crowding [13-13-11-11 in the end, as J&R sadly had to cancel - Refuah Shleimah!], you clearly haven't been over to SerandEz (...and Elianna!) before, so you need to come back like everyone else. For those who have asked, I hope to post some of the recipes over the next week so y'all can have them in time for Sukkos.
The ba'alei t'fila at Lander were amazing as usual. And I'm not just saying that because they're really good friends... who sang at my wedding... whom I've known for a long time. They were really, really great - those are just bonuses. I hear the haftorah was great on the second day, too. Rumor has it that it's a segulah to... umm, have the recipient give the donors a really funny look like "I can't believe you did this." Or something like that. Right?
Please continue to have in mind Aliza Rochel bas Liba Yenta in your tefillos for a refuah shleimah.
Shana tova and a g'mar chasima tova to all!
mum - food in Elianna's language
refuah shleimah - [may you have a] full healthy recovery
ba'alei t'fila - cantors
tefillos - prayers
haftorah - portion read after the Torah portion
segulah - charm (?)
shana tova - good year
g'mar chasima tova - may you be sealed for [a] good [year]
Digging on the Mount
My own thoughts while reading this were that this proves yet again how little 'gestures' or copping to worries about PR have devastating future consequences... while ignoring them leads to bad PR in the short-term but saves so much over the long-term: Lives, politics, money, and more. There's definitely something to the idea about do what you need to first, deal with the questions later.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Israel Took Out Syrian Nukes?
Read the whole thing.
IT was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.
At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.
Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.
The Israeli government was not saying. “The security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. “We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.”
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
To everyone else: Have a chag kasher v'sameach* and a shana tova u'mesuka**! L'shana tova tikasevu v'sechasemu***!
* - A happy, kosher holiday
** - A good and sweet new year
*** - You should be written and sealed for a good year
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Kosher Pareve Ice Cream
She knows the couple who started this, and apparently they brought over some samples... and now she's addicted. As she put it:
They finally found manufacturingAnd the best part, for the mavinim (those who understand), the name: Shannon Road Ice Cream. Sweet.
and got certified Cleveland Kosher*,and are now looking to be nationally certified. This is the best damn parve ice cream EVER. seriously. no soy aftertaste, rich, creamy - i'm not sure i want to know what's in it :-)
Some more details from our anonymous friend:
after being on ice cream hiatus for august in order to get his manufacturing ducks in a row, he is selling today out of his house first come first serve for yom tov, and i think for sukkot yom tovim as well. he should be in stores (Unger's, Altman's etc.) by sukkot or shortly thereafter. tell your folks, perhaps they can pick some up.Heard that, Ma? :)
* That's the hechsher in Cleveland; similar to how Chicago has the CRC or Queens has the VHQ. Ice Cream Dan Man commented and emailed that they are NOT and never have been certified by the CK but are currently looking for a large national certification, and hope to have it within a week or so, just some last details to work out. This hasn't stopped most people from buying it from him. He doesn't know if he'll have it in stores by Sukkos, but will be selling from his house until then.
Kucinich on Syrian TV
(i'll tell you the point of the quiz after, though you may guess it straight away.)
Fill in the following blanks with the word that comes to mind. Don't allow yourself time to think before answering; just write your immediate thought:
- 1. If he is carrying a knife, he is probably ________.
- 2. Politicians are usually ________.
- 3. Male dancers are usually _________.
- 4. All ________ have good rhythm.
- 5. Jewish men make good ________.
- 6. Teachers are usually ________.
- 7. ________ are good at math.
- 8. ________ all sing well.
- 9. Restaurants are usually owned by _________.
Good job. Wasn't that difficult, was it?
So, what was the point of this?
Well, after my college classmates and i had all written down our answers, the professor read question one again. He then asked each girl to say her answer out loud. He did the same with the rest of the questions. We were astonished. So many girls had the same or very similar answers!
The course was titled, "Teaching the Social Studies Spectrum" and the goal of this lesson was to show us that everyone, regardless of religious observance or background, is somewhat prejudiced. If anyone has seen the documentary "Paperclips," I remember one of the teachers saying something along the lines of, "I'm a racist too-- I think of you Northerners as cold and always rushing, as opposed to us laid-back Southerners." Anyhow, I thought it was a cool exercise. Feel free to post your answers, and at some point i'll put up what the most popular responses were, both when these questions were asked to a random group of people and to my class in an all-girls jewish college.
Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 9/11
On the terror rocket attack in Israel which wounded 50 soldiers -Finally, I think Scraps sums it all up perfectly.
On Rosh Hashana:
- Jameel notes that while devastating, the attack had a miracle of its own, hitting dead-on the only empty tent.
- Treppenwitz does a sad take on the discussion over wording that is oh so important. It's so right it makes me want to vomit.
- JoeSettler notes an important point that nobody else seems to have mentioned: There's a good chance they weren't aiming for the soldiers at all, but the power plant next door!
- A wonderful shmuess from Northern Light;
- A nice Rosh Hashana Survival Guide from Mother in Israel;
- and a whole list of detailed advice and tips from Juggling Frogs from last week that still applies. If you're not reading this blog yet, you're missing out.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Rosh Hashana: The Menus
- SerandEz, Elianna, + 8 guests so far
- Grape Juice, Challah, Apples, Simanim
- Layah's Salad
- Deli Roll
- Beef & Spinach Wraps
- BBQ Chicken
- Lemon Curry Chicken
- Dessert - to be determined
- SerandEz, Elianna, + 11 guests so far
- Grape Juice, Challah, Apples
- Fruit Soup (Pineapple/Strawberry)
- Taco Meat Salad
- Deli Roll
- Breaded Italian Cutlets
- Apricot Honey Chicken Poupon
- Dessert - to be determined
- SerandEz, Elianna, + 7 guests so far [our "easy" meal]
- Grape Juice, Challah, Apples, Shehecheyanu
- Salmon [maybe]
- Caesar Salad
- Rockets (or Rukka Crumka or something)
- Blueberry Pie (?)
Yes, we like the whole apples in honey thing in my family. Yes, we eat milchigs on Yom Tov. No, I don't eat broccoli. Or blueberries. Yes, we're also having drinks such as soda; no, I don't know why I put in kiddush and hamotzi and not the drinks.
- SerandEz, Elianna, +11 guests so far
- Grape Juice, Challah, Apples
- Sushi Salad
- Strawberry Mango Salad
- Tuna Quiche
- Broccoli Kugel (?)
- Dessert - to be determined
Oh, and we also have 5 girls staying here, though probably we'll be putting two at a nearby apartment. Yes, we are crazy. But we enjoy it. :)
Kesiva v'chasima tova!!!
Thoughts on Judaism: Anxious & Need
In the course of conversation, I referenced a conversation I'd had with another friend (B) recently at a wedding, which also touched on this issue of growth. He'd noted that he has a hard time explaining to other people 'what he wants', but I'd understand, having grown up [all too] similar: He wants a *normal* frum Jewish girl. The basic gist was that we know what we need to do, what we're supposed to do, etc.; it's really not all that complicated. It tied in with previous conversations I've had with many people including him about growth and the like - people are who they are, and don't see a special need to be constantly 'growing' the way many people term it. Growth doesn't (necessarily) require change - but when one person says they want someone who is looking to grow, and the other is pretty content overall with how they are now, they each think the other has a very different mindset. Another friend (C) who recently got his semicha and is planning on being a rav said something similar: "I am who I am. I need a normal Jewish girl, not some hashkafa-spouting rebbetzin. If when I ask a girl how things are and hear 'Boruch Hashem yom yom' one more time, I'm going to go nuts."
Perhaps I'm being charitable, but as I said to A on Friday, I believe B meant/would agree with the following: There is a marked difference between a person who feels a need to constantly find something new [e.g. a chumra, though not limited to that], and a person who stumbles upon something and decides that this is something they need. A put it well:
i would agree (mostly) - especially w/ the last part -if there is something extra that will particularly help you, then i think it is beneficial to take it on - as long as you understand why you're doing it and how it helps you.I think that this is something just about everyone agrees with. The difference becomes those people and the rest, whom I think A termed perfectly: Anxious. As in,
"I don't think it's good for someone to be very anxious about their Judaism. You should be happy with yourself, but also looking to improve if you learn that you're doing something wrong or could be doing something better." [Ez: depending on the definition of 'could be better'; A: Agreed]The problem often is that people feel anxious that they aren't 'doing enough', so they try to do more - and while some of it is nice, much of it is unnecessary. It's not normative Judaism. When someone like B or C says they're looking for someone normal, I think they're nailing this problem on the head. Whatever happened to just being normal? To working on yourself without feeling anxious that you have to do something 'more'?
Particularly in light of the upcoming Yomim Na'ora'im, I think it's important to remember that there are different aspects to a cheshbon hanefesh; concentrating on what one can do better, and concentrating on what more he or she can do. While for some the latter may apply, the former seems more proper and more in line with what we should be doing. We should not feel a special need to search out ways in which we can 'change'; we should not have this anxiety over our Judaism. We should be honest with ourselves about who we are and what we do, and fix that which we feel needs fixing.
Shana Tova U'mesuka - may this be a year of sweetness, happiness, joy... and normalcy.
Thanks to B and C, who put a number of the thoughts involved in this post in my mind; more importantly, thank you very much to A for all the comments and quotes that led to it being written, and of course for reminding me to actually write it. :)
semicha - ordination as a Rabbi
rav - Rabbi, generally of a synagogue
hashkafa - [loosely] ideals/philosophy
Rebbetzin - Rabbi's wife
Baruch Hashem yom yom - Bless/Thank God day by day/every day
Yomim Na'ora'im - High Holidays, including Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur
Cheshbon Hanefesh - self-reckoning or self-evaluation (of the soul)
Shana Tova U'mesuka - Have a happy, sweet new year
Once upon a time there were two friends, who nurtured their souls amidst the golden stones of the Old City. Returning to the place of their birth, they both knew that they wanted to make the journey back home. After awhile they found their chosen ones, and from two friends longing to go home they became two pairs. Soon each pair became three, as G-d blessed each with a first born son.
The dream of going home continued to burn brightly, but fear came to visit and put doubts in their way.
“How will you make a living? It is so much harder there!”
One couple decided that they had to work harder, and they picked up the obstacle in their path and carried it with them.
The other couple decided that they would work hard, but that Hashem would provide the rest. In this way they stepped over the obstacle put in their path, and continued on their way home.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
NFL Season Begins: Browns Stink Already
Meanwhile, whatever happened to normal offensive TDs? The Bills just returned a punt for a TD. Two TDs in the Colts-Saints game were by the defense. The Vikings just returned an INT for a TD. The Eagles fumbled a punt and the Packers recovered it in the endzone for a TD. Only the Panthers and Patriots drove down for scores so far. Weird.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Story #3: Rice
Last Thursday night, we placed an order with KS1. They didn't have a few of the items in stock, and it was too late to have it delivered, but that wasn't a big deal: I'd just drive over, pick it up, and head to KS2 for the rest. I drove over to KS1, handed them a check for about $140 (for 2 Shabbosos' worth), took what I needed, and drove to KS2. In KS2, I picked up the rest of what we needed for Shabbos - Grand Total: $47, including chicken, rice, soda... whatever else we needed for the weekend and some staples to last a while. As the cashier rang up and began bagging the food, I pulled out my wallet to use my debit card, then changed my mind and started writing out a check quickly so I could get home. While I did this, I glanced at the person behind me in line - and froze for just a moment.
The lady behind me was glancing at me with detachment, clutching tightly to a few dollar bills in her hand. In front of her was a boy - about 2-1/2 years old - in what looked to be a decent stroller, sitting pretty quietly; clearly her son. She was Hispanic, looked to be about 30, and had just one item to pay for: A large bag of rice. I couldn't help but think what she must be thinking: Here's this Jewish kid, mid-20's, holding a set of car keys in one hand, writing out a check for $50 seemingly almost as an afterthought, a box of rice among his groceries... and here's her, just scrounging together a few bucks to buy a large bag of rice, which may be all she's serving her family the next day.
The whole incident made me extremely sad, picturing what her family's economic situation must be - perhaps not too bad, as evidenced by the newish, non-umbrella-style stroller, but certainly not all that great. More importantly, it made me that much more appreciative of my own situation, no matter the difficulties we face. True, we're certainly not living it up, and we almost certainly have more debt than this woman, but we also know that we (thank God) have the incomes and ability to pay that debt off rather soon and live a decent lifestyle without worrying about whether we'll have enough food for the next week. We can afford to host all the people we do without problems, we can get Elianna everything she needs.
Reminders of what we have often come from places where you'd least expect it - whether a cab driver, a woman in line at the local grocery, or maybe even a random blog post. Have a wonderful week, and a Shana Tova U'Mesuka (Good, sweet New Year) to all!
Friday, September 07, 2007
Story #2: Ghana
The second one, however, was very different. He first informed me that instead of the meter, he'd be using a chart of zones, thanks to the rules of the strike. I asked how much that would be, and since it was just $1 more than the first cab on the meter (and I don't pay for it anyway), I agreed to the price. A few seconds later, the Ghanaian cabbie turns and says "Shalom!" I responded the same, and he asked what it meant. I explained it could be Hello, Goodbye, or Peace; peace seemed to be the one he was looking for. He started discussing a passenger he'd had the weeks prior from Israel; he apparently was struck by this passenger's kindness, would speak to the guy every evening, drove him around a bit, and was invited to come to the Israeli's home. He even had a piece of paper with the guy's name, address, and phone numbers and email in both Hebrew and English.
But this wasn't an empty offer: Next summer, he's heading to Israel. For a while. He then started discussing some friends of his who apparently live in Israel as well; one of his 'homeboys' apparently plays soccer there. He was surprised that his friend had gone there, but he said his friend is incredibly happy and really loves Israel... so much so that he named his son in its honor: Israel. Then he mentioned a story that he assumed I didn't know, but as soon as he started it, I realized that I'd read quite a bit about it in places such as the J-blogosphere: His friend plays for Ghana in the World Cup... but always wears an Israel jersey underneath his Ghanaian jersey. Cool, right? Well, then comes the famous part. This is the player whom, upon scoring a goal in the World Cup, grabbed an Israeli flag and ran around the field holding it over his shoulders. The one whom Israeli fans went crazy over, tremendously proud of his accomplishments, even though they were on behalf of Ghana - and before he ever grabbed that flag.
I wonder if that player was similarly introduced to Israel by some random Israeli talking to him. Perhaps not, but one need not look further than my cabbie to realize that we can, as individuals, have a tremendous impact on other individuals and how they view Jews, Judaism, and the state of Israel. I don't know who this Yeruchem Levi from Jerusalem is (the cabbie said he works in government), but he made quite a kiddush Hashem.
$1.8 Million for Seats in Shul!?
Story #1: Novelty Purposes
Earlier this week, my friend's car was broken into in Kew Gardens. Someone had smashed the passenger-side window, reached in, opened the dash (nothing there, though), and ended up just taking one small thing. My friend called the police, waiting a total of two and a half hours and requiring half a dozen phone calls for them to actually show up, and proceeded to have an interesting conversation with the officer.
Officer [taking notes]: Was anything taken?
R: Just my radar detector.
O [pauses, looks at R quizzically]: You know those are illegal, right?
R: How could it be illegal? I bought it at Best Buy.
O: Those are for novelty purposes only.
R: Oh, that's okay. I only use it for novelty purposes. [smiles]
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Consistency & Detail
Here's the complete version of the speech I prepared for _____'s sheva
brachos. I ended up forgetting a piece, but luckily it was a stand
alone unit and it flowed well without it. I am happy with the content.
I'm told the delivery was good as well.
'A while back I heard a shiur from Rabbi David Aaron, founder and current head of Isralight. At the end of the shiur he took a few minutes of questions. One man raised his hand and asked Rabbi what's wrong with me? I walk the streets of Yerushalayim, the holiest city on earth, I daven at the kotel and I feel nothing. Why can't I feel the kedusha I know is all around me?Shana Tova!
What Rabbi Aaron often does is to explain that a lot of the questions we have on Judaism stem from misconceptions and if we would only understand the concept we're questioning correctly the questions would just disappear. Rabbi Aaron told him: you have to understand קדושה means dedication. When I'm מקדיש a בהמה to the בית המקדש I'm dedicating an animal to the בית המקדש.
I found this to be a very useful concept because now we know whathappened under the chupah. What we witnessed last night was a מעשה קידושין, an act of dedication. I'm not the first to make the comparison between being מקדיש something and a man marrying a woman. תוספות in קידושין did this for us 800 years ago. תוספות explains that הרי את מקודשת לי means מיוחדת לי and מקודשת לעולם בשבילי, meaning you are dedicated to me and forbidden to all others because of me. This makes so much sense because dedication means focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all others. So if we want to encourage dedicated marriages of course we can only allow one spouse per customer.
Now that we know what kedusha is how does one attain it and how our חתן and כלה incorporate it into their new home? Let's take the משכן as a model. The משכן was the house where הקב"ה and עם ישראל lived together. They obviously did something right because their home was filled with kedusha. It's interesting to note that the word משכן is ראשי תיבות for the words מיטה, שולחן, כיסא, נורה. These are the four basic necessities in a house: bed, table, chair, and lamp. The משכן, like any good home, had all these things. The שולחן and מנורה were in the kodesh. הקב"ה is referred to as יושב הכרובים so the כרובים are the כיסא. The קודש קדשים was called חדר מיטות, the bedroom, so that's our מיטה. Why do I say that these four items are the basic household necessities? Two reasons. First of all it makes sense that a person needs a bed to sleep in, a table to eat at, a chair to sit on, and light to see by. Secondly, there's a ראיה from the פסוקים in מלכים. In 'מלכים ב' פרק ד a woman from שונם asks her husband to make an independent living space in their home for אלישע הנביא so he'll stay by them when he's in the area. She asks him to put in אלישע's room מיטה, שולחן, כיסא, מנורה.
So let us examine the משכן and see what the secret of attaining kedusha was there and maybe we'll have some pratical advice to send our חתן and כלה home with. I think there were two main keys in the משכן. The first was consistency – "אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח לא תכבה", the מנורה had a נר תמיד, and עם ישראל brought a קרבן תמיד twice a day. The second was attention to detail. There are several prerakim which describe the building of the משכן in great detail and we are told repeatedly that everything was done exactly "כאשר צוה ד' את משה". These two things, consistency and attention to detail, show that one is dedicated. Now ____ and ____ you know what's required of you. You each have to show your spouse that you're always there for them forany little thing they might need. It's a tall order, but אי"ה you'll be מצליח and build a home filled with קדושה.'
Thursday Night Football
Here's the total for me:
All in all, not bad, and I'm not shelling out all that much $$ either. Again, if anyone is interested in joining either of the pools I run, feel free to email me at serandez at gmail dot com. And GO BROWNS!!!
A Couple Good Links
- Wolf discusses R' Eli Teitelbaum's article noting that kids need to have fun;
- Sephardi Lady talks about dating mentors (from a couple of days ago, but somehow I missed it).
The Jewish Reconnection Project
Here's the blurb from the e-mail sent to me by its creator, Todd Schecter:
The video is the first in a web-only mini series I produced called the Jewish Reconnection Project. It shows young Jews in New York and Jerusalem talking to each other and sharing how their Judaism affects their lives. Its meant to give viewers a sense of the diversity of Jews around the world and to let college age people express their own ideas about Judaism. Ultimately, we hope that helping disparate groups of Jews understand each other will make for a stronger, healthier Jewish community.
I also noticed that at least two of the people in the video are familiar to me; it's nice that all the people in the video seem to be well-spoken, normal, down-to-earth types. I wish Todd the best of luck in this project. The website is JewishReconnectionProject.com.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Crossing Racism in the Jewish Community
The comments section on Cross-Currents is interesting; while my own rabbeim decried racism in all forms, and I recall one being shocked by one student's racist comments almost to the point of anger at the very idea, I've heard way too many racist comments from individuals and even rabbeim in the Orthodox community. I don't think that most are racist, but to say a sizable minority are - particularly in the more yeshivish community - is not a stretch. It's hard to gauge if those percentages are much larger than the world at large, but my own guess would be that it is - though it's possible that because people feel they're in a "safe", closed environment they are simply more prone to expressing that which others might keep to themselves.
In particular, your friends’ warnings that the Orthodox “are rigid and racist” caught my eye. You repeat it twice, but then go on to recount your personal experience as you began dating: “Orthodox rabbis and congregants were veritably welcoming, with one prominent Orthodox rabbi promising to find me a wife as he encouraged me to move into his Brooklyn community.”
My expectation, at that point, was that you would reflect at least momentarily upon the disparity between the misinformation you were universally given about the Orthodox by non-Orthodox friends, and your own first-person experience with Orthodox Jews themselves. [I must add that the other black Jews with whom I am acquainted all share similar positive experiences.]
Either way, I've found that the easiest way to combat racism in the Orthodox community seems to be head-on. It generally is children - particularly teens - who will make comments, and when adults don't react, they think their comments have tacit approval. Speaking out strongly whenever hearing such comments has a strong effect, particularly to kids who have simply never heard much about other races (or religions) other than jokes or mocking. They simply don't know better.
Oh, and obviously welcoming black Jews into the community a little better would go a long way as well, though the ones I've met or seen in places such as Harrisburg and Cleveland seem to be pretty comfortable within those communities.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Terrorism & Poverty - Not Linked
The idea that poverty breeds terror appears obvious; how could it be otherwise? And people as different as the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Bush, Jacques Chirac and Pakistan's leader, Pervez Musharraf, have also noted a link between poverty and terrorism.Read the whole thing. I found a few points in particular to be very intersting:
In fact, there is now robust evidence that there is no such link. That does not mean, however, that economics is irrelevant.
First, to the question of poverty. Of the 50 poorest countries in the world (see list at right) only Afghanistan (and perhaps Bangladesh and Yemen) has much experience in terrorism, global or domestic.
The freest countries experienced little terrorism; and the same was true for the most oppressed. It was in the middle - where politics was unsettled and evolving and governments are often weak - that suffered the most.I think that's something that's missed when people discuss situations such as Iraq. Yes, there was little of what we refer to as "terrorism" under Saddam Hussein; he ruled with an iron fist. And yes, there's now quite a bit of it, in Iraq's unsettled state. But it's a progression from one extreme to the other: Living under such a regime to living a life of freedom. We need to keep it moving along that path - a long-term, not short-term, world view.
There's more, but it's a bit busy here today. Check it out.
R' Gil Student/Hirhurim Moves to Reshimu
Reshimu is a new site full of Jewish content that is the next generation of the online Jewish conversation. It is the next stage in the evolution of the web, beyond blogs. Hirhurim will be featured on Reshimu, similar to the way a column is run in a newspaper although with one significant difference that I will explain shortly.You can check the comments over there for yourself, but most of the concerns are similar to the ones I would have about such a move, chief among them being the association with Luke Ford, who will also be writing for Reshimu. I'm surprised that there has been little discussion so far about the need to register to comment - I think that what has killed most similar attempts (though granted never with the 'big names' this one has) has been the need to register to comment... particularly for a blog like Gil's which generally has a lot of comments flying back and forth.
The goal of a content-aggregating website like Reshimu is to create a community and cross-pollinate ideas from people with different backgrounds and perspectives. In that vein, the line-up of bloggers is reflective of different kinds of people who live and breath the highs and lows of the Jewish people. Therefore, you can expect a wider variety of perspectives commenting on future posts and I am sure that many Hirhurim readers will be adding their unique perspectives to other conversations. Additionally, all commenters will have to register with the website and maintain a certain level of consistency and responsibility in their words. But there will also be more powerful commenting features (including spell check) so that you, the reader, will be more effective in contributing to the discussion.
I'm also not sure I agree with the "next stage in the evolution of the web" bit. In the secular set, metablogs that have quality writers haven't flopped per se, but I don't get the impression that they're incredibly successful, either. A simple way of comparing it would be to say that they're larger than any one of their individual writers, but less than the sum of all its parts. I wonder if this will even be able to reach that level of success, catering to a much smaller audience to begin with.
I wish R' Gil the best of luck in this endeavor, whatever my own concerns may be; and I hope that Reshimu lives up to what it hopes to be and does not get dragged down by its worst elements. B'hatzlacha.
Off to a Running (Back) Start
I had the 5th pick in the draft in the league my brother-in-law and I run, and somehow, thanks to some really interesting drafting all around, ended up with the following team: [League is pretty standard CBSSportsline rules - QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, K, DEF, 6 reserves; standard points (25yds passing, 10rush/rec, etc.)]
The depth at RB is great - I may even trade a RB if I can really improve one of my WR slots. I don't like a few of the picks - Walker and Glenn in particular - but I was surprised (both pleasantly and unpleasantly) a few times during the draft, so I took what was available. I just missed a few people I had targeted for certain rounds: Wayne (3), Rivers (5), Brown (6), Edwards (7), Jaguars (9) to name a few, but most of those ended up okay. Should be a fun season - the draft room was hilarious... no? :)
- Round selected in ()
- QB Hasselback (5), Quinn (15)
- RB Johnson (1), Jones-Drew (2), McAlister (6), Dunn (14)
- WR Holt (3), Walker (4), Holmes (8), Glenn (11), Henderson (12)
- TE Winslow (7), K Graham (10), DEF Eagles (9), Raiders (13)
The big twists were Addai going #3, followed by 4 QB's getting snatched up in the first 14 picks, much to the surprise of everyone else. I expected to take Harrison at 20, figuring all the good RBs would be gone, but not only did Harrison get picked, Jones-Drew was still around. I couldn't pass on that... My biggest mistakes were not really paying attention to byes. I wanted the Jags D, but was satisfied with the Eagles - and had always planned on the Raiders as a backup. But the Raiders' bye week is the same as the Eagles, which really can hurt.
Anyway, at least I have Brady Quinn. He's pretty hot.*
* You may need to know my BIL to find that funny.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Camp Simcha in KGH - Lemonade!
SchoolTime in Sderot
This morning on their way to school, the "Color Red" missile warning system blared, sending children scampering to safety in the school building. The Palestinian Qassam rocket landed only 100 yards from the entrance to the school.
This video is being released on DovBear's blog (and the Muqata) -- the first showing in the JBlogosphere.
Uploaded with permission by the Sderot Media Center
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael
Ezzie's Blog Roundup, Labor Day
Have a wonderful day off, for all those who do. I need to go prepare for tonight's fantasy draft... I've got the 5th pick. I'm thinking it's got to be Gore or Addai, but which one!? (I'd rather trade down... and I'd rather be at the draft party in Baltimore with 3/4 of the league! Ah well...)
- A great article on why every Jew should love the Red Sox and hate the Yankees in American Jewish Life Magazine, via DaBoys. Now, obviously he meant to say Indians, but it's an excellent and amusing piece.
- David Linn's wife finds a picture from his old Monster story - HA! And this picture of tranquility will make you smile. :)
- Pearl asks why people use the term "my wife/husband" etc. instead of names, particularly [it seems] in some frum circles. Feel free to put your own answer in the comments there...
- RWAC has a great piece on self-doubt, particularly as a rav. Read it.
- Jack follows that up with a piece of his own.
- Chaim has questions but no answers - what's your status?
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Sheitl Sales on Sunday in Five Towns, Queens
For all those who may be interested, particularly with the Yomim Na'oraim and Sukkos rapidly approaching, there are a few sheitl (wig) sales this Sunday, September 2nd, around the Queens & Five Towns area. It is a Michal Wigs sale, advertised as "Custom wigs at unaccustomed prices." Michal Wigs sells directly to the customer, thus eliminating the 'middle-man' price. [Full list of sale dates and locations here.]
The homes hosting the sale are: (address links show map of area)
At the Queens sale, Serach will be selling tichels as well; her site is SerachScarves.
- Far Rockaway: 10:30am - 12:30pm at 727 Cornaga Ct.
- Woodmere: 4:00pm - 6:00pm at 373 Midwood Ave.
- Queens (Kew Gardens Hills): 7:30pm - 9:30pm at 69-92 137th St. [2nd floor]
For what it's worth, Serach has had her sheitls for a few years and has been very happy with them. For those who are interested in this stuff, some of the details: European hair, no knotting, multi-directional, six-month guarantee. Hatfalls - $290. Band falls - $365-$415. Sheitls - $475-575.
To our friends: This was a really, really nice Shabbos, and it wasn't even all that crazy. Lookin' forward to seeing y'all back here. :)
Thanks! ~ SerandEz (...and Elianna, of course)