Friday, November 30, 2007

Global Warming: Blame Canada

This is great, via Special Ed:
Scientists have found a new threat to the planet: Canadian beer drinkers.

The government-commissioned study says the old, inefficient "beer fridges" that one in three Canadian households use to store their Molson and Labatt's contribute significantly to global warming by guzzling gas- and coal-fired electricity.

"People need to understand the impact of their lifestyles," British environmental consultant Joanna Yarrow tells New Scientist magazine. "Clearly the environmental implications of having a frivolous luxury like a beer fridge are not hitting home. This research helps inform people — let's hope it has an effect."
There's just too much material here to poke fun at.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Memory Book

A friend caught this post on the Facebook group in memory of Yonah Goldman, a'h, by his mother, and suggested I post it.
This is Yonah's mother, and I would like to share some stories that touched the family during Shiva. Yonah's employers told us they loved Yonahs attitude and creativity and hired him on the spot. They said he was a quick learner and at the end of his three month probation was offered a raise. His creative ideas are now being implemented. Everyone constantly said how "Yashar", honest, and responsible he was. Yonah had the ability to relate to all ages and the young children in keriat Arba would name the playground by his house " gan Ish Tov" the playground of the good man. Yonah was the official tennis instructor for Efrat and Keriat Arba. I wanted to emphasize that not only was Yonah a friendly, happy guy with a big smile but he was very respected and admired for his courage in leaving the comforts of America to move to Keriat Arba. I was told by everyone in the community that Yonah fit in like a glove.One man in particular, couldnt get over yonah's amazing hospitality and care for his guests. He compared him to Avraham Avinu. This man only met him one time, and yet he felt a strong connection to him. He told us that he aspires to be just like Yonah. While Yonah was trapped in his car for one hour waiting for the fire truck to extricate him, an amazing Rabbi stayed with him and recited Tehillim, Vidui, and shema. We have been very touched by the out pouring of stories and it is giving us a lot of Chizuk, and we would love to have someone compile a memory book of Yonah for his son, Benyamin Tzvi.
Regarding a fund, I've been in contact with Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore and they are waiting to discuss the idea with the Goldmans after they return from Israel. I will keep everyone updated.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup 11/29

Hit expand to see excerpts.
  • Chana questions why Stern students - and Orthodox Jews in general - seem unwilling to discuss sexuality.
    One of the girls was clearly uncomfortable with this and said to the teacher in an accusatory voice, "Well, it's clear he has no shame." The teacher was perplexed by this. "Do you mean he ought to?" he asked, surprised. The student found the very mention of sexuality to be somehow problematic, even though this was one of Donne's less melodramatic poems; in fact, one of his sweeter ones, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning."

    Why is this idea so prevalent? Why this instinctive shrinking when sexuality is mentioned; why is it forbidden for the Jewish girl to admit that she too may be beautiful, that sexuality and eroticism are a part of life, and that both of these aspects to life, when sanctified within the bond of marriage, are utterly wondrous? I have had discussions with many people, some of whom have ashamedly admitted to their thoughts about those of the opposite sex or worse, in their eyes, the fact that they fantasize about their future partners.
  • Erachet writes about rejection - incredibly written and oh so heart-wrenchingly sad...
    Rejection. Rejection. Rejection.

    The sound of it reverberated inside Lily, forcing her to recognize it, to acknowledge it, to pay it her utmost attention. And because she was so aware of her own rejection, others must be, too. Strangers, her teachers, her friends. They all knew. All of them. They all talked and laughed and joked with each other, flashing her friendly smiles, no, mocking smiles, because they knew. ‘There goes a rejected girl,’ they were probably saying. ‘We are not rejected, only she is. Oh, I do feel so sorry, don’t you feel sorry? Oh quickly, smile at her lest she should feel badly.’

  • ~Sarah~'s pictures always make you smile.
  • I meant to include this a couple of days ago: RafiG discusses the posters being put up decrying the de-Haredization of a neighborhood. Very troubling.
    It seems that a number of families connected with Merkaz Ha'Rav have moved down into the Haredi neighborhood of Givat Shaul. The sign above condemns their attempts to make changes in the neighborhood and their attempts to muscle in. The sign asks if their public school system which has already become bankrupt of values and whose alumni have already abandoned all memories of Judaism, now they want to bring that to our neighborhood?

    It also asks if their mixed educations which contains no Torah and no derech eretz and whose students have taken every "infection" from the Middle East, should be an example for our children?

    The pashkevil closes cynically and hurtfully "Go to Chomesh and Gush Katif and leave us, residents of Givat Shaul, alone." It is a hurtful statement because they are suggesting that the dedication to the land is what caused their failures (true or perceived) in the notes within the letter, i.e. regarding the failure to educate their children and keep them on the path of Torah.
  • Jameel links a heartfelt post by someone who lives in Karnei Shomron, discussing their feelings about their home.
    I have written a great deal about our right to this land, about the history of the conflict, about an alternative way to solve the humanitarian problems of the Palestinian Arabs. Today, I want to write about the people who actually live in this land, the so-called settlers that everyone loves to hate.

    We live in Judea and Samaria and we love it here. We have taken rocky, barren land and turned it into a paradise. We have planted trees and gardens, built schools and shops and raised our children to love the land as we do. ...Years of accumulation. I looked at the pictures on the wall, most of which have been painted by my very talented daughter. Years of activity.
  • Treppenwitz tells a cab story that will bring tears to your eyes.
    The click of a far-away mic was followed by a laconic, "Shome'ah" [I hear you]

    "Itzik, you'll never believe where I am. I stopped for cigarettes in Kiryat Arba and I'm parked within a few meters of the Ma'arat HaMachpelah!"

    The dispatcher's voice burst over the radio... this time full of excitement and now, apparently on the public channel: "Hey Dudu, tchacho, Zvika, Hezi... everyone! Yossi's calling from the Ma'arat HaMachpelah in Hevron!"

    While this wasn't exactly true (since we were still technically in Kiryat Arba), the response was immediate and electric. The radio speaker began broadcasting a competing jumble of joyful salutations from his fellow drivers in 'far-away' Beer Sheva:

    "Kol Hakavod [congratulations], Yossi!"

    "Zachita!" [you won!]

    "Yossi, you have to say Tehilim [Psalms] for my mother at the Ma'arah [cave]... she's having an operation tomorow. [Her name is]... Sarah Bat Shifra... Sarah Bat Shifra... you hear me... Sarah Bat Shifra!"

    "Aizeh Gibor [what a hero!]"

    "Yossi... Tell us what you see."

    "Sarah Bat Shifra... Yossi, don't forget!"

    "Yossi... Hazarta B'Tchuvah? [Did you become religious?]... Kol HaKAvod!"

    "How did you get there... did you get lost"

    What does it look like... is it beautiful in the moonlight?"

    "Sarah Bat Shifra... Yossi... Sarah Bat Shifra!"

    It was like a replay of Motta Gur's famous "Har HaBayit B'Yadainu!" [the Temple Mount is in our hands!] broadcast.

    Apparently forgetting completely about how frightened he had been just minutes before, the driver turned to me and asked if we could go into Hevron to pray at the Ma'arat HaMachpelah.

  • Jonathan Rosenblum at Cross-Currents writes up the postscript on Al-Dura.

    Neither of the scenes cut out of the footage produced by France 2 in court directly relate to the Palestinian boy and his father. At most, they were more cumulative evidence that Abu-Rahma was busy that day shooting one staged scene after another. Even on the remaining 18 minutes, there are plenty of examples of obvious staging. Little boys throw stones and run away, presumably from Israeli fire, but they don’t even bother to lower their heads. And meanwhile adults are seen strolling in the same area as if they are out on a holiday outing.

    The 18 minutes that were shown did no more to restore Enderlin’s journalistic credibility. Indeed, as reported by Melanie Phillips in the Spectator, the packed courtroom on several occasions burst into spontaneous laughter at Enderlin’s tortured explanations of what they were viewing on the film.

  • JoeSettler discusses the Jerusalem Feint.
    The physical impossibility of carving this city up which has become so integrated (whether some people want to admit it or not) is far more difficult than untying a mere Gordian knot.

    The Arab residents of Jerusalem have made it clear they don’t want to be residents of the PA. They don’t want to give up their freedom, their lives, their safety, and their jobs.

    And Olmert knows his government would collapse the second he gave away sovereignty over the Temple Mount, much less allowed PA policemen into the residential sections of the Old City.

    And everybody knows this.

    I believe the whole Jerusalem discussion is a feint, a ploy, a trick.
  • A great story at BeyondBT about finding one's Jewish roots... by a Buddhist priest.

    “My host father realized that I was searching not only for a job, but for spirituality,” Jason said. “He told me that when he dies ‘there will be such and such spirit in the next world who will save me. I live this life with confidence because I know I will be saved when I die. On the other hand, a Christian person has Jesus. A Christian person has Jesus, who is a bridge to the Jewish G-d. That’s how he will be saved when he dies.’”

    “‘But you, you are a Jew. You have a direct connection to the Jewish G-d. What more are you searching for?’”

  • And finally, a good piece on BeyondBT regarding minhagim; as I noted in the comments, it's not exclusively an issue for BTs. Either way, it's an interesting question.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life Ramblings

A reflection by iPayTooMuchForMyHair

As another year passes by I am forced (yes, literally....) to ponder 365 days worth of events. One thing I can say for sure is that life certainly doesn't get any easier. The decisions we faced in the past seem to pale in comparison to those of the present. I certainly wish I could go back to Kindergarten with nap time and coloring inside the lines! But the truth is the only way to develop our character is to live and learn. If there is one thing I can take away from the past year it is that friendship (along with family, obviously) is priceless. Friends are the family you choose. They are there every step of the way when your family geographically can't be.

One of the binding factors that keeps me so close to my friends is that we are all going through the same "struggles" together. In the past year we all left our bubble lives and embarked on our journey into the supposed "real world". This bubble personally consisted of very little responsibility. I was 100% supported by my parents right down to every penny of tuition for the undeservedly overpriced Stern College. I will forever be grateful to my father for not leaving me loans in my name. And not only tuition; clothing, food, airplane tickets home, and anything in the realm of going out with my friends was entirely on another person's bank account.

After the ties to financial freedom were sadly cut, I began to understand what it means to pay all the bills (OK well maybe not all. I plan to be on my family plan til the day I die :) ), go to work every day, and still make sure to take care of my own personal needs at the end of the day. it didn't take me long to realize that I am an expensive person. It took some time to learn the difference between 'want' and 'need' and I still struggle with this sometimes after a whole year.

After discussing some of these ideas with a friend the other day, we came to a conclusion. When you look at the big picture, the difference from one year to the next is huge. But that hasn't been difficult for any of us (Thank G-d). It's the day to day events that can really shake a person up. For example, it is more stressful for me to cook shabbos for 15 people at every meal than it is to pay rent on a month to month basis. Why is it easier to step up to the major changes in life than it is to deal with small stuff? I suppose the obvious answer is that there is no drowning option in the game of life. If we don't swim, and swim well, then we will have nothing to show for ourselves.

But we must not lose sight of what the importance of life is all about. I see all too often people that I know who graduate college, live away from home, haven't gotten married, and with each passing year they become more and more disconnected to their affiliation with religious Judaism. Personally knowing people in this situation makes me realize how strongly I never want this to happen to me. Our sole purpose in this world is to figure out our tafkid (designated job/purpose) and serve Hashem to the best of our ability while (hopefully) fulfilling that tafkid.

My friends are the people that I count on to keep me going on the right path. After all, life is a path, not a ladder (I don't know who gets credit for that line or if it even makes sense in this context, but Ezzie mentioned this to me today and I like it). We provide the support for each other to work through the daily obstacles and never judge one another for the decisions we make. Even if I have temporarily fallen, I know that they will be right there by my side to help me get back up.

Yonah Goldman, a'h


I received news a few minutes ago that a good friend of mine, Yonah Goldman, was killed this morning while driving in Israel. The JPost has a headline of it, Vos iz Neias has some details.

He was a good friend of mine from our time together in OJ, originally from Baltimore [and before that Kansas City]; we became friends instantly in Israel when we realized our brothers had been in WITS together prior to that. He was married to a wonderfully nice woman and they have one child, and he was living his dream - living in Israel and making a nice life there with his wife Dina. Yonah was almost always smiling with that huge smile of his, was an amazing friend, and always told you what you needed to hear straight, without any games. There was a group of us who were really close in Israel... this is so hard.

His funeral is tomorrow afternoon at Har Tamir in Givat Shaul at 3:30pm Israel time.

Baruch Dayan Emes.

Shiva Updates:
Congregation Shomrei Emunah
Condolences to Bruce and Freda Goldman on the tragic loss of their son Yonah.
Bruce and Freda can be reached after Shabbos at 011-972-2-996-8048.

Bila Ha-Maves L'netzach

Updated information for Goldman family:
The Goldmans are remaining in israel for the remainder of shiva and will return to Baltimore at the end of this week.
May the family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Shiva info in Israel: The Goldmans are sitting shiva at the home of Yonah & Dina - 141/2 Ramat Mamre, near Kiryat Arba. You can take the 160 bus from the Tachana Merkazit - central bus station. Get off at Ramat Mamre, ask about the Goldman family.
As I get more updates I shall try to post them, b'n.

Here is the Facebook group: In Memory of Yonah Goldman.
A few of Yonah A'H's friends have been talking and we would like to/are trying to set up a fund or tzedaka to help his wife Dina and their baby. If anyone knows how we can go about doing so in a way that would maximize the assistance we can give them, please contact me at serandez at Thank you very much. We'd also like to coordinate this with the family and with whomever should or could be a part, whether that means Shomrei Emunah or any other organization or individuals. Any help would be much appreciated. Again, updates will all be added to this post. Thank you.
Regarding a fund, I've been in contact with Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore and they are waiting to discuss the idea with the Goldmans after they return from Israel. I will keep everyone updated.

UPDATED: The website the family has created which includes fund information for both the fund they started and that Shomrei has started is here. A short summary is here.

A comment and request from Yonah's mother on the Facebook group has been reposted here.

For Serach...

Ok, you were buggin' me on Thanksgiving to do it... so here it is, thanks to my good buddy Heshman over at (he was the camera man). Enjoy folks!

[Currently going through my head: OMG, what's wrong with me? I can't believe I'm about to make the biggest fool of myself. Well, here goes nothing...]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Wow. Thanks, everybody. This is really, really amazing. Who'd have thunk it?! I'm incredibly flattered that people have thought enough of this blog to come back here and there; thank you to all the amazing contributors, the commenters, the readers, and of course, all the amazing friends. Thank you all so much.

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Ezzie's Blog Roundup 11/27

Hit expand for excerpts.
  • Jacob da Jew is looking for contacts in the jewelery industry. If you can help him out...
  • Treppenwitz is both proud of and sad for his son, who is doomed thanks to his dad.

    I didn't have the heart to tell him that he had just set out upon a lifetime of giving terribly inappropriate and/or ill-conceived gifts to people of the opposite sex. Not only that, but that he comes by this particular talent quite honestly since his old man has handed over some gift-wrapped bombs in his time.

    In the silence that stretched between us there in the dining-room I could clearly visualize a series of girl's faces flashing by... each with a more horrified/disappointed look than the previous one, as I handed over one stinking dud after another.

  • A great YU Observer article on the value of AIM, and to me, GChat.
    But for me, Instant Messenger is so much more.

    I have had some of the most meaningful conversations of my life via that medium; fascinating and thought-provoking conversations about topics that range from the death of a friend to emotions of empathy, anger, and arrogance, and above all else, the subject of people. I do not refer to petty gossip, to an indulgence of my baser nature in a furious attempt to keep track of everyone's social moves and mores-who is going out with whom and when this occurred. I am referring to people discussing themselves and what is important to them, the things that make them tick. People describe their feelings and their thoughts, wonder about whether they are normal and their problems legitimate. They come for guidance, for conversation, for an entertaining interlude to break the monotony of their otherwise boring day-but they come nonetheless.
    Those who know me well know how I love using GChat to talk and discuss life and its issues. Amen to the piece.
  • WildTumor writes about the humanity of cadavers in medical school - fascinating and touching.
    When temped to think that I was actually dissecting a human, I chose the basic belief of many in the medical field. In medicine we are often faced with a difficult dilemma. We are expected to develop a deep relationship with our patients on both an emotional and personal level. Every attempt is made to make them feel comfortable enough to discuss the most private aspects of their lives with us, their physicians. At the same time, however, we are expected to detach ourselves from our patients and recognize that while the doctor-patient relationship is crucial to patient care, if the line separating the doctor and the patient is too thin the relationship can suffer.

    This is how I approached my cadaver for the first few weeks. I understood that this was a human being who donated his body to science. I also recognized that focusing too much on the human aspect would make the dissection – and the learning experience – extremely difficult. To a certain extent, I guess, I bought in to Dr. Stern’s philosophy which he expressed to us in the beginning of the semester. He said “while I respect and admire the generous gesture of these people who donated their bodies, you need to realize that at the end of the day they are just specimens.”

    I thought I could handle that philosophy.
  • Cross-Currents has a great piece on secularism by R' Yitzchak Adlerstein. R' Dr. Fried was an old family friend when I was a little kid, in addition to being my principal.

    Those of us who could not make it might find solace in the recent availability online of a classic from a previous convention, in this case the West Coast Agudah Convention. Although sixteen years have passed, many of us vividly remember the debate between Prof. Aaron Twerski and Dr Aharon Hersh Fried on the topic of “Are Our Children Too Worldly?” Prof. Twerski was powerful and engaging, but it was Dr. Fried who dropped the bombshell in his opening lines: “The question is not whether our children are too worldly, but whether they are worldly enough!”

  • LWY returns with a new moniker and a good post on the 2nd Amendment.
    First of all, note the location of the 2nd Amendment. It's in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is all about an individual's rights in relationship to the government. Context matters. If the right to bear arms was a power granted to the States, then it would be in Article 4 of the Constitution.

    Second of all is the argument that the 2nd Amendment only protects weapons that were available at the time the Amendment was ratified, like muskets and flintlock pistols. That argument only works if you're going to limit the First Amendment to newspapers speeches in the town square.
  • PsychoToddler points to a great review of the Battle of the Bands. I'm really impressed.
    Perhaps it's not surprising then that the experienced Yaakov Chesed scored the loudest applause-and the first-place award of opening at the YU Chanukah concert-mostly by eschewing gimmickry. Through layers of cascading drums and abbreviated, lush acoustic chords, Yaakov Chesed fashioned a connective simplicity. They didn't jump or strut, and their music, heir to the gold-standard Blue Fringe, followed safely in the footsteps of radio-friendly alternative bands like the Goo Goo Dolls; but like both of those groups, Yaakov Chesed conveyed emotional sincerity and even a touch of melancholy with their full, rich sound, tamer and yet more satiating than the preceding acts.
  • Jameel discusses the lack of free speech in Israel, and how that has affected at least one blogger so far.
    While Freedom of Speech is protected by the US Constitution, it's a whole different ballgame in Israel. Disagree with your local municipal council? One blogger did...and found his blogger anonymity disappearing under court order to Google.
  • R' Gil criticizes R' Shafran's article about sex abuse in the Orthodox community. I agree - when I saw the piece by R' Shafran, I didn't get the point; it does nothing to minimize the problem, but there are those who would use those doubts to again pretend the problem doesn't exist.
    While the many accusations about abusers may or may not imply something about the general Orthodox community, the cover-ups, the diminishing of the seriousness of these accusations, and the belittling of the victims and the immense courage that many of them have shown by coming forward, is in my mind a greater indictment of our community than any Brooklyn courtroom can issue.

    There are public figures who have said that we should not report to the police the wrong-doings of abusers but the greatest rabbis of our times – including those to whom the Agudah looks for guidance – have disagreed. Whatever Chillul Hashem emerges is saddening but the protection of past and future victims is a more overriding concern. Let us not belittle the ongoing revelations but instead work together towards ensuring that these abuses never happen again.
  • Bad4Shidduchim questions the prevalence of shadchanim really watching every move everywhere you go. Really funny.

    I was insulted. Every other single woman in the tri-state area has a dozen shadchanim scrutinizing her at weddings, but not even one deems me worthy of attention?

    Then I thought perhaps I need to be more approachable, so I began smiling at strange women at odd moments. All I got were polite “who the heck are you?” smiles back. Another dead end. A heretical suspicion began to grow: maybe these women don’t exist.

    So I started lurking around the edges of the room observing people surreptitiously, looking for the ones who were looking at others. But everyone always seemed busy chatting with their friends or stuffing their faces with expensive meat from the carving stations.

    Eventually I gave up and concluded that they are a myth created by the establishment to keep in line the young women who might otherwise feel liberated and get a bit wild.


Smile, it's Tuesday!

There is a picture I saw today during class that made me smile. I looked at it again and laughed under my breath. I found it so irresistible that when I viewed it for a third time I had set it as my desktop background.

I then decided to show it to the students sitting near me. I told them “here is a picture that will most certainly make you smile.” Without fail, every one of my classmates who saw it laughed or giggled. I even sent it to Ezzie who said that he laughed.

So here it is. A unique photo that will make you smile.

It will make you happy – if only for a brief moment (after which you may think: “wow, this Moshe guy is out of his mind”).

As for me, I have made you smile today…mission accomplished.

Have a happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Whatever Happened to Brains

I really enjoyed this post by Jewboy, discussing the need to plan for the future when one is in yeshiva.
What strikes me about the decision making I see from many of my peers and those younger than me is the lack of cognizance of the need to consult those older than them when it comes to important choices. As I faced decisions, I sought out not only rebbeim as many yeshiva bochurim do but also baal habatim who were 5-10 years older than me who I knew had similar backgrounds and interests. Many conversations I had with some of my older friends were quite illuminating. One friend who had several children cautioned me that it was important to make a career plan now, before I was looking to get married, because he had seen the bad experiences many of his yeshiva friends had had when they started large families, only to discover a few years down the road that they had no marketable skills or training with which to support their families. Today, I am extraordinarily happy that I followed his advice.

And yet, so many of the young men I know refuse to follow along this path. They think that it is enough that their rebbeim counsel them to stay in yeshiva, and not give a thought to college or any type of career training while they pile child upon child, many times relying on parents or in laws to support them. Why do these young men not feel the need, as I did, to speak to peers that went through the same travails?
I still recall a conversation I had with a Rebbe in a certain yeshiva I was in for a few months. When the yeshiva heard I was unhappy and planning on leaving, they appointed a few different rabbeim to speak to me and try to convince me to stay. (The irony in this runs deep, but I digress...) I recall the conversation with one of them, who did not know who I was when I introduced myself nor anything about me; only "Oh, right, R' ____ asked me to speak with you, right." He asked me if I minded walking him home while we talked on the way.

As we started to walk up the hill toward his home, he asked me a few basic questions, including what my plans were for the coming year. I responded that I was likely going to be going to Lander College. He questioned why I was going to college, to which I looked at him, slightly confused, as I really didn't understand what he was asking. After a couple of seconds I responded that I needed to get a degree so I can make a living. He immediately spoke up and said simply
"That's a copout."
I was taken completely aback, but I recovered enough after a few seconds to mumble something along the lines of "You don't know me, you don't know my family, we don't have any money..." or something along those lines. He responded that it's still a copout and I was just looking for a way out of staying in yeshiva. I was too dumbfounded to respond, and spent the next 15 minutes of conversation trying to figure out how to have any constructive conversation with him. The walk ended at the door of his home, when he said "I don't believe there's anything I can do for you".*

When this is the mentality of one's rabbeim, whom one is taught to look up to as people who are worthy of respect and who have acquired wisdom, it makes it very difficult for students. They are pressured by rabbeim and mentalities such as these to make life decisions that are not at all in their best interests. Contrast that with advice I heard quoted in the name of one of my rebbeim from WITS, explaining the concept of finding a rav for oneself:
"Whatever you do, make sure you find as your da'as Torah someone who is honest and who cares more about what is good for you than what is good for him or some 'ideal'."
The problem is when those rabbeim are so hard to find...

* (As a note, I left that yeshiva and returned to OJ within the next couple of weeks, on the advice and counsel of family, friends, former Rabbeim, and other Rabbonim.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A new portrait of Ezzie

(Okay, so this isn't quite the same picture that Elianna recognizes as "Dada," but it's as close as I could get. Props to Pobody's Nerfect.)

Giving Him The Business

I've never seen a call like this in a professional game before in my life. It's hilarious... it reminds me of the call in the old movie "Necessary Roughness". Ron Cherry, an ACC referee, in the game between the University of Maryland and NC State.

Haveil Havalim #142 is up!

SoccerDad has posted HH #142 (is that the longest running carnival anywhere?!), and you should check it out. In case you don't know...
Haveil Havalim is the carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Soccer Dad. The term “Haveil Havalim”, which means "Vanity of Vanities", is from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, which was written by King Solomon. Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other “excesses” and realized that it was nothing but “hevel”, or in English, “vanities.”

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shabbat at Serandez

I told Ezzie that he should update his blog because I needed something to read. He said, "you can post on my blog." I took this to mean, I can post right now! So I am. Wow, this feels so powerful.

Aaaaanyway, this was my first shabbat at Serandez. It was so much fun! There were some really funny lines said, but I think this line stands out the most:

Nearly everybody:
My other favorite lines were everything coming out of Elianna's mouth.

And now for something completely different.

There was a comment made this shabbat that no two people who come to Serach and Ezzie's are alike. This really made me realize - there are so many different people in the JBlogosphere and yet many (all? or is that generalizing too much?)of us are respectful of each other and each other's thoughts and ideas. I think we have something that is so, so vital to Jewish life. We have communication. As writers, we are all able to communicate to each other our ideals and views in a respectful manner and so many bloggers manage to be friends, even if they are so different. Personalities, hashkafas...they all become secondary to the most important thing: we are all individuals with our own individual ways of seeing the world. No one said we have to be best friends with just anyone we meet, but having a level of understanding and respect is crucial. And this is one of the reasons why I love blogging.

So, er, you may now all return to your normal daily activities.

Over and out!

(Wow this is so cool! I just posted on Ezzie's blog!)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gobble Gobble

I love this guy (Frank Caliendo), and on Turkey Day, there's nothing better than making fun of John Madden and others, especially the way he ties in Thanksgiving at the end. :) Enjoy!

A SerandEz Thanksgiving

The last couple of days (and the next few hours!) show that preparing a nice feast for one's family and friends is not only not all that difficult, but perhaps not all that expensive, either. Most importantly, it's a lot of fun to have and to host, and it's a great excuse to have over a ton of friends. Ya know, like 50 or so. :)

On the menu for today [how many in brackets]:
  • Turkey! [3 12-14 lbs.] - I'm using this recipe my mom gave me, though I couldn't find nutmeg and didn't feel like using bay leaves.
  • Cranberry Sauce [a few large bowls] - Cranberry sauce, crushed pineapple, and mandarin oranges mixed together. Takes 5 minutes.
  • Stuffing - My mother-in-law is actually making this one for us. It's made of stuffing, duh.
  • Salad Bar [a bunch of bags of lettuce, peppers, terra chips, almonds, croutons, scallions, dressings, etc.] - Basically, we're putting out a whole lot of vegetables with instructions on how to make a couple salads (Terra chip, Layah's, Ceasar) and letting people put in what they want.
  • Yellow Split Pea Soup [3 large pots] - Also known as sweet potato soup. Probably the hardest thing to make of the whole meal.
  • Potatoes [3 large roasting pans] - Red, Idaho, and Sweet potatoes all diced up and oiled and spiced and baked. I've already been eating a ton of them.
  • Apple Streusel [one big, one small] - Apples. Cinnamon. Sugar. Flour, brown sugar, margarine. Yummm.
  • Pecan Pie [4] - Sticky sweet.
  • Drinks - 6 12-packs, 2 snapples, a dozen or so 2-liters.
That's not even including all the yummy things other people are bringing over (unnecessarily). All right, so here's the challenge to y'all (except those who know already!) - how much do you think this meal [remember, there's enough for about 50 people of each thing] is costing us, including all the food, plastic ware, aluminum pans, etc? Take away how much you think will be leftover/unused in coming to a total (at least in terms of drinks). Put your guess in the comments, I'm curious how much people think it costs. I'll post the final tally later today or tomorrow.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

On Friendship

I received the following e-mail tonight/this morning from a friend, and the timing couldn't have been better, as it discusses friendship. As we're going to be seeing a lot of friends today, yet at the same time I know that another friend will be on my mind, this letter really hit home. My friend gave me permission to post anonymously, and I thank my friend for that. [Hit expand to read the e-mail.]

The alleged college graduation speech about Sunscreen is an Urban Legend.

Forget Urban Legends, Invest in one of the most valuable commodities, your friends.

I write this from the apartment of a friend of mine in London. He's not even here, he just left the key for me with the doorman and told me to make myself at home.

Don't get me wrong; one should invest in Friendships not for the sake of getting anything in return. Friendships are good for the soul, so on a personal, selfish level, investing in friendships makes good altruistic sense.

Pirkei Avot teaches us, Aseh Licha Rav, make for ones self a Rav, a teacher.

uKnei Licha Chaver, and purchase a friend for ones self.

The mishna does not mean to literally "buy" friends, but teaches that the value of friendship is even higher than that of a teacher and Rabbi.

This evening in London I heard amazing first-hand stories of friendship, gemilut chassadim and hachnasat orchim to the point that the person telling over the actions had tears in his eyes.

And now, I'm typing this from the apartment of a friend who I know from yeshiva twenty years ago.

And I got a ride to the apartment from someone I don't know, never met before in my life, but when heard me ask for a cab to a specific neighborhood here in London, said not to bother, and offered me a ride there directly since it was on their way.

Invest in your friends, in your friendships.

You can be in the worst of moods, and yet a call from a friend can pick you up, revitalize you, turn your situation around 180 degrees, and lift your spirits.

חבר טוב לדרך הישר ר' יהושע אומר חבר טוב
גם אל הדרך הישר שרוצה האדם לילך, צריך להיות לזה חבר ורק אז יוכל באמת לישר דרכו, מה שאין כן בלא חבר טוב קשה לכוון את הדרך הישר והטוב.

ר' יהושע אומר חבר טוב
שנינו בגמרא (עירובין נג ע"ב ): "אמר רבי יהושע בן חנניא מימי לא נצחני אדם אלא תינוקת כו', .. פעם אחת הייתי מהלך בדרך, והיתה דרך עוברת בשדה והייתי מהלך בה, אמרה לי תינוקת לא שדה היא זו? אמרתי לה: לא, דרך כבושה היא. אמרה לי, ליסטים שכמותך כבשוה". כתב הגאון בעל עוללות אפרים (ב"מ רצ"ו) כי ממנו נלמד לענין מה שאנו רואים בהרבה אנשים דשים בעקב, תבואת שדה התורה הם המצוות, וכי ישאלוהו, מדוע ככה עשית? יענה ויאמר: הלא בדרך כבושה אני הולך! כבר דשו בה רבים! ועל זה השיבה התינוקת "ליסטים שכמותך כבשוה", הראשונים שעשו עברו איסור, ואתה מוסיף עליהם, ע"ש7. ואל זה הוא שכיוון רבי יהושע בן חנניא במאמרו כאן שהדרך הישרה שידבק בה האדם היא - "חבר טוב", שיורנו בדרך טובה.

It's the wisest investment you'll ever make.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Light Thank You

I need to put up something lighter for myself, so... enjoy the following:
  • BrightLightSearch gives her thoughts on Thanksgiving from the West,
    Thanksgiving is Jewish. I want to set that straight. We call it the mitzvah of "ha karat ha tov," recognizing the good that is done for you. An illustration of it is that Moses did not personally start the plague that turned the Nile to blood, due to his gratitude that the river kept him alive when he was set adrift as an infant in a floating raft. The example may seem a bit extreme, but the fact we even tell that story shows how much gratitude is part of Jewish tradition.
  • while Alleyways gives his from the East. Both are excellent.
    The first word out of a Jew's mouth in the morning is "Thanks". We don't say Ani Modeh but Modeh Ani. Maybe the reason is that we don't want to begin the day with the word "I" but with the word "thanks".
  • Moshe finds some sunshine.
    Of course there are times when life seems sad. Everything appears dark. There’s a long tunnel ahead and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end. The skies are dark and the sun is nowhere to be seen. We’ve all been there. But even through the worst days, there are things for which one can be grateful. During the worst hours, most people can close their eyes and search for a sunny ray of hope and happiness. Create your own sunshine. Be grateful and happy for any one of the following: family, friends, health, success, the ability to read, and the opportunity to laugh and to cry. (If none of these work – email me and we’ll find something else).
As soon as I finish up the last bits of work that get dumped on me right as I'm about to leave (of course), it's time to start cooking. We're having about 50 people tomorrow. :)

My Daughter and Islam?

I once found this Kiruv book...for Islam. It is literally an Islamic version of the Discovery books full of different kinds of proofs from the Koran and science. Anyways, I decided to keep it incase I had to show some kiruv clown how the same arguments can work for anything. So I keep this book in my book shelf with all my other books. Now, for some reason, everytime my two year daughter wants to look and play with a book, she manages to select this one, and it has happened three times.

Should I be concerned? :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 11/23: Tears of All Types

Both halves of SerandEz are out of commission today, though that should allow us to get some things out of the way in preparation for Thanksgiving, a day on which we open our home and serve ridiculous amounts of food. Or something like that.

Out of commission also means I got to catch up on a few blogs, and there's just so much out there to affect a person it can be almost overwhelming; but it is well worth it. Once again, click the 'expand' button for excerpts if you are on the front page.
  • 10) A very funny satirical video about popstars on JacobDaJew.
  • 9) Charlie Hall turns 50 - the age of counsel.
  • 8, 7, 6) Aidel Maidel has three quick posts in a row about her kids. I think they're an amazing reminder of just how important good parenting and good teachers are... and the importance of teachers communicating well with the parents.
    I just wanted to let you know what a sweet and sensitive girl your daughter is. She is always trying to help Y (a kid with Downs) in the classroom and plays so nicely with him.

    Today LG was playing with her friends and she saw Y on the side. She told all the kids, "Let's make room for Y," and proceeded to play with him and the rest of the children.
  • 5) R' Gil discusses a couple of recent interviews on the subject of Jewish Unity and gives a suggestion to increase unity between the Modern Orthodox and Yeshivish communities.
    I was thinking of how to realistically implement a solution of this nature and it seems to me that the only organization with both the mandate and the ability to do anything of like this is the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. Similar to their B'Drachov program, they can create a curriculum and a campaign that discourages speaking badly of and delegitimizing other groups of Jews. This can, I think, be realistically accomplished and implemented.
    Personally, I don't think organizations per se is the way to go - it's too forced, for lack of a better way of putting it. The best way to increase unity is by example - having teachers and speakers with other hashkafos teach in schools, attend events together, etc. Instead of focusing on the differences, focus on the similarities. When discussing the differences, explain the reasoning of the other side clearly and respectfully. Small things like that make all the difference. It could be this is what R' Gil means to an extent, just having the CCHF help design it; I just think it's more effective when individuals take the step on their own.

  • 4) Jameel writes about the father who was murdered last night while driving near his home in Israel, and about the idea of living where they do.
    Last night there was a terror attack in our area. At 11:18 PM there was a drive-by shooting attack, in which a 29 year old Ido Zoldan was killed. The terrorists riddled Zoldan's car with bullets and escaped. Zoldan's car drove off the road and came to a stop. The first person to stop and help already determined Zoldan wasn't breathing and had no pulse. A resident of Shavei Shomron, I met Zoldan during the Chomesh "standoff" during the Disengagement, when I lived in Chomesh in a tent. He was a charismatic idealist, an officer in the IDF reserves paratrooper brigade, married to Tehila, father of 2 little children.

    Immediately after the attack, the Palestinian Authority's "Fatah Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade" group proudly claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • 3) The Apple makes a couple of interesting lists, one from when she was a child, one from now, detailing what she'd cut out should money suddenly be scarce. It's amazing to think how much money we all spend that we really don't need to; I'm further impressed that a child would make such a list.
    ...when I was younger, there was a period of time during which I thought my mother was going to lose her job. Both my parents work b"H, and if my mother would have lost her job or stopped working, we would have been living off my father's salary.

    Something compelled me to make a list of the things that I could forego - things that I thought we should cut back on, should we only be subsisting on my father's salary. I think my mother saw this list (I don't remember if I showed it to her or she found it) and she agreed with me on most of them, but she said that even if we were only living on one income, we would continue our violin lessons, which were private in-home lessons, because they gave an income to the violin teacher who earned very little money. Also, the violin teacher would feel terrible if she lost the business, and my mother was very concerned that she should feel successful and that people appreciate her talents.
  • 2) Corner Point talks about having one's eyes wide open.
    There is something we can learn from every creature, every creation, every invention, every person, every situation. Fortunate are those who live life with their eyes wide open, drinking in every detail of the world around them, trying to glean lessons from every person, thing, and situation they encounter.
    When I was about 15 years old in camp one summer, our shiur division head posed a challenge to us; she asked that we come in to shiur the next day with as many lessons we can learn from the mundane things around us. The next day we spent the entire hour describing what we had learned from CD players, mosquitoes, too-tight shoes, wet towels, pillowcases, shower stall doors, and hundreds of other seemingly insignificant aspects of our world. After the lesson, (which to our chagrin was not enough time for each of us to give over all of our examples), we each walked out with real food for thought. I remember thinking, "Oh my's such a huge world...and everything in it really means something..."
  • 1) WestBankMama discusses their matzav, and the idea of living in a "matzav", finishing by linking to an amazing video and song that's currently very popular in Israel. It explains the matzav and how people there so often live perfectly.
    They are not just “alive and kicking” near Kedumim either. The other night two girlfriends of mine were driving home about 6:00 pm and Arabs threw rocks at their cars. The first friend managed to escape the rocks without any damage - the second friend ran over the rocks on the road and they seriously damaged her car (yeah, they were that big). This incident is another in a series in our area - a gas balloon was found in a tire on the other road leading from our yishuv recently. Last night there was a meeting with the army responsible for security. Things got a bit heated when the army official in charge claimed that they couldn’t arrest the stone throwers because they were “just 17 year olds”. (There are surveillance cameras that record these things so the perpetrators can be identified). One woman exploded at this statement. “My son, who was 17 at the time, was arrested simply for being in a ma’achaz (called illegal outposts in English). All he wanted to do is build another community in Israel and he was arrested. Why can’t you arrest Arabs of the same age if they trying to kill us with rocks?”
Here's the video from WBM's post.


Chana has posted her [as usual] incredible notes from the YU & NCSY dinner. It's fascinating in a number of ways, from how they approach kiruv to addressing some of the criticisms aimed at them to some of the difficulties they run into to simply discussing their own experiences and ideas. It's worth taking the 10-15 minutes to read it; it's a tremendous insight into NCSY.

I did find interesting the acknowledgment of the limitations of NCSY and, really, most kiruv organizations: Follow-up. Keeping that strong connection going after people have moved past the stage where NCSY et al are making their impact. I think that's one of the strengths of BeyondBT, which started to try and fill that gap, and is having a nice small impact in just a couple of years.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My First Tish

This is the story, of my very first tish this past friday night.

When I went to shul this past friday I saw something quite amazing in my shul. Something you don't often see in my part of town let along Los Angeles. Chassidim! Four of them. And they weren't your boring Lubavither chassidim, these were chassidim with huge shtreimels and the socks up to the knees. It was really weird. And not just for me, but for many people at shul that night. It was like seeing a very rare speciman of an animal at a zoo. Seriously. Kids were staring at them in amazement. Anyhoo, on the seats there was a flyer informing us of a tish for that night. I had a friend with me and I was like "No way." He persisted a bit telling me its lots of fun with plenty of singing. So I figured, why not. Its an experience, right? Might as well see what its all about.

After shabbat meal at my place we head out. After the recent hold ups in the neighborhood I am constintly looking over my shoulder. We arrive at the home where the tish is going to be held on time. 8:30. Outside, I notice a woman waiting with some men. A woman? HA! Fat chance she is going to be invited in I thought to myself. We are finally let in. Its a huge house and we are escorted some windy steps downstairs into some large waiting room with a big table. And the woman? Well, she was told its only for men, and I think she was delegated to wash some dishes (or she chatted with some other women there, I forget which one it was). So we wait and wait and wait. Finally, the rebbe shows up only about 45 minutes late. At the table, the Rebbe preceded with some sort of prayer. It sounded like 'Shalom Alecheim,' but I couldn't exactly make it out. Kodesh Boirech hee?????? Elohainee??? Anyways, from the start, till he finally made the blessing over the grape juice was about 40 minutes. OY. Now, everyone had plates, but only the rabbi was being served the food. To tell you the truth, it looked odd. The chassidim he had with him were serving him like he was a king. Nobody got anything till he ate first. The first course was this huge fish on a platter put right infront of him. Then, he dug into it. Literally. He used his hands and simply started taking bits out of that fish and eating. After a bit of that, I guess they finally decided that they should feed the poor serfs that came as well. So half the time someone finally brought a fork and placed some fish on the plate, while the other times, he simply used his hands to cut the fish and plop the piece on somebody's plate. Not sure why, but I skipped that cource. Then came a bit of singing and some Dvar Torah. It was mumbled half in Yiddish and half in Hebrew. I diden't understand a word, till the other chassid interpreted it for us, in which I realized I was better off NOT understanding the dvar torah. God! It was so empty. Nothing inspiring whatsoever. He was basically saying we have to be holy. That our Avot were holy and therefore, we have to be holy. Thanks. I've only heard this about a million times. Then came more food....for the Rebbe. It was a big bowl of soup for him in which he ate most of it, then passed it down the table. We kind of looked at each other wondering if he expected us to eat it. Someone had the sechel to just take it to the kitchen. Then, they brought him a whole chicken. So he did with the hands again and dug in to eat some pieces. By then, it was late and we only sang two songs. My friend and I decided it was time to leave.

In the end, I was quite disappointed. No drunken chassidim. No food. Crappy songs and a stupid Dvar Torah. I expected much more. But what can you do. Maybe LA needs to do some sort of campaign to bring more chassidim to our lovely city. Then we can have a real tish.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 11/19

We've got a family wedding to attend, but here are a few decent reads for the evening:
Enjoy! Excerpt from the KH post It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood:
The past while has been a bit rough for me. For us. I've been feeling for a few weeks that I really need a break - time to just freeze, to stop, anything to let me take a break from everything that's swirling and to just sit. To think. To write. To relax. To take care of all the stuff that's overwhelming me. To talk to some friends I've really wanted to talk to for a while. To plan a bunch of things that need planning. To just... I don't really know. Just a break.

Following Up on Thoughts

As a semi-follow-up to a few ideas raised in some of the posts the past week or so, here are a few ideas mentioned to me or that I noticed over the weekend.

Regarding the man in the pharmacy who wouldn't check out a woman whom he felt was buying non-kosher despite her assertions that she had a psak to do so, a family member suggested that one would have to be dan l'kaf z'chut on the man anyway: That he simply is an ignoramus and doesn't know any better regarding a) that there are other psakim; b) that those other psakim are ones which he would have to let the person abide by; and c) that lifnei iveir wouldn't apply here. An interesting aside was whether the man was Bukharian; the person felt that if he was [and he was], it is even less surprising as that is how they generally approach matters of halacha, as they were forced to do so to survive for many generations.

Regarding labels, Special Ed had suggested
that a lot of the use of labels is to cover up for the fact the they don't know the person you're asking them about all that well.

Labels are just an easy way to describe someone, and the lack of detail is a convenient cover for lack of knowledge.
I thought this might be correct, and was interested in testing that hypothesis over the weekend. I found that a few people were described or described themselves or what they were looking for to me; almost none used any labels whatsoever. The more closely they knew the person, the less likely they were to use any labels at all. For example, a person describing their sister used zero labels to describe their sister, but when it came to talking about what their sister was looking for, they were able to explain a lot of it without... but the parts they were vague on they resorted to labels. As another note, our friends who describe what they mean without falling back on labels give a much better sense of what they are and want than those who do not. I seriously question if a lot of the labeling stems from the advent of semi-professional shadchanim, who as a practical matter are forced to rely on categories because they often do not really know the people involved.

Regarding impacts and responsibilities, a discussion with Erachet, a post by SJ, and just thinking through a few things a bit more reinforced to me the idea that it's the little things that matter. A friend was concerned recently that as much as they'd like to have an impact, they simply feel that they can't possibly match up to so many others in any regard. Others were so much more talented, worked harder, etc. - how could they possibly have an impact? But I think that's exactly the point: People who aren't so naturally talented, who aren't workaholics, can impact so many more people through simply living their lives as they do - not by carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, but by picking up their own little pieces. Others see them and say "Hey, you know what? I can do that, too" instead of "Well, I can't do that" or "I'm just not a workaholic like that." I'm always brought back to the same wise quote of R' Israel Lipkin Salanter:
"I wanted to change the world, but I realized it was too large of a task for one person, so I tried to change my community. That was also too hard, so I tried to change my family. That was also too hard, so I decided to try and change myself. And though it was very hard, I finally changed myself. And once I changed myself, I discovered my family changed, the community changed, and the entire world changed."

On Sad Perspectives

There are a couple of posts that I've read in the past day that sadden me tremendously; one of them it is obvious why, the other I think would upset people more than it saddens them. [click expand to see the excerpts]

The two posts are Jewboy's Moment of Perspective on Northern Parkway
I find myself behind an SUV. I noticed that there was a somewhat elaborate display in the back windshield that featured a depiction of two baby feet. The display read something similar to "Our Little Man-4/29/03-8/16/03. Around the license plate were the words-"Some People Dream of Angels-I Held One in My Hands." There were several bumper stickers promoting SIDs awareness as well. As a parent of a a young child, my heart went out to these people who were obviously devastated by the loss of their young infant. And my problems with the traffic suddenly seemed rather insignificant.
and Sephardi Lady's Better to be Supported by the Community & Welfare?
My husband has been learning for 12 years, not exclusively, but at least part-time. (Most of the years it was full time.) Even when we first got married, we did not receive any regular support from either set of parents. It was simply impossible for them. Yet, we both felt strongly that the type of family we wanted to establish was based on my husband remaining in yeshiva as long as possible, and, after that, staying in the “yeshiva environment” when employment became necessary. This is not chas v’shalom to denigrate anyone who doesn’t do this; everyone has their own needs, talents and tafkid. However, for me, this was such a strong feeling that I could not bear to have it any other way (although this was not the derech that either of us grew up with in our own families).

I always pushed - no, encouraged - my husband to stay in yeshiva. He didn’t need to be pushed. He always wants to learn and feels awful on a day during bain hazemanim when he barely gets to learn because he is so busy with the kids, etc. But sometimes he’d wonder if it was “time to go to work” because of parnassa. I’d tell him no, because:

a) I can’t bear to have him go into a non-yeshiva environment,
b) Even more than that, I know he could never manage in such an environment (he cannot bear to be exposed to the outside influences; plus, he is quiet, shy, and not a go-getter), and
C) I know that it wouldn’t help financially anyway. He’d never earn the $100,000 (now I read that it’s more like $200,000 - I’m shocked) needed to support a large family, k”ah. What would happen is that we’d lose Medicaid and Section 8 and be worse off than before, chas v’shalom. I’d rather be poor and in kollel, than just plain poor!
I just don't understand. I think the woman here is being brutally honest about her perspective; and I actually think that she's right, in her specific situation, to stay in the life she is in than to try and make that huge transition. (Economically, practically, they wouldn't gain, and emotionally and psychologically they'd be saddened.) What saddens me is the perspective: She says their families didn't have this derech, so where are they picking this up? Who is teaching them so strongly that kollel is the way to go that she 'can't bear to leave it'? Where are they picking up the idea that choosing a life which will - l'chatchila - essentially guarantee a reliance on items such as Medicaid and Section 8 is okay? I believe it is one thing to take advantage of such programs when you fall into a certain situation; I think it is quite another to
place yourself into such a situation. Who is encouraging a large family for this couple who cannot afford it? [Within halachic parameters, obviously.] She also mentions a bunch of items that "thank God someone gave them money" for. I just can't understand where these perspectives come from - who is teaching them that this is a life to live? As a couple of friends of mine like to say, "How is that okay?"

How is that okay?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Where's Your Creativity?

I stumbled across this post and challenge by Bas~Melech, and I think it's absolutely wonderful, so here goes:
The J-Blogosphere Arts Exhibition!

Show off your own talents while viewing masterpieces created by your blogfriends!

Not an artist? There's no better time to start! Try your hand at expressive doodling and display the results for our admiration.

There is no competition involved, just a fun game in which bloggers try to identify who created each piece. You will receive no criticism unless you request it.

Rules for entry:
1. Scan or photograph one or two of your favorite pieces. May include any art forms, including photos of 3-D works.
2. Remove your real name from signed pieces.
3. Upload your image to a hosting service such as, resizing the image if necessary.
4. Email a link to think613 at yahoo dot com. Specify whether you would like your piece to be critiqued or just admired, and sign the email with your blog ID.
5. Deadline for submissions is Shabbos Chanukah.
I know that there are plenty of wonderful and talented artists and other creative minds out there; a number of them are listed as contributors on this blog. It's a great way to showcase some of your work.

On a similar note, for all the writers out there, the National Jewish Outreach Program is running a contest through WebAds that could win you a trip for two to Israel. They're asking that you send in a picture or video of a piece of Judaica, and write a short essay or speak briefly about the piece and what it means to you and/or your family. See all the details here; it's really quite simple and it's always nice to reminisce a bit.

Haveil Havalim #141 is UP!

Haveil Havalim #141 is up at Yid With Lid. In honor (or fear) of the upcoming Annapolis conference it’s appropriately called the “Save Israel Edition.”

Haveil Havalim is the Jewish/Israel blogging carnival.

Friday, November 16, 2007

SerandEz in Far Rockaway

'Tis odd, this. We don't go away all for Shabbos frequently; more often, we're the ones hosting the world and their friends (and loving it). But we were away two weeks ago, we're going to Far Rockaway again this week (and whomever is going to a certain Shabbos Kallah, keep your eye out for Serach - no, I don't think I'm going...), and after Thanksgiving and the Shabbos immediately following, we'll be away for three out of the next four after that. [Teaneck, Monthey, home, and Bawlmoore - woo!] For us, that's pretty crazy, but they should all be a lot of fun.

As for this week, I'll be the one in the brown suit. :)

Bomb Scare on Train... from Jew?

(Hat tip: Rea) This story is really interesting:
Confusion over a Jewish man practicing an ancient religious tradition brought a South Shore train to a halt early Thursday.

Before the misunderstanding was resolved, Metra police and a bomb-sniffing dog were called to a Chicago train stop to investigate.

Robert Byrd, chief of transit police for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, said passengers on Train No. 108 out of East Chicago told the ticket collector they believed a man on the 6:46 a.m. train was dressed strangely and acting suspiciously.

The man was described as wearing a head piece with a box on the front of it. Passengers said the box had wires sticking out of it. Other wires led down his arm, they reported.
I've often wondered why this doesn't happen more often, actually. I had a strange and hilarious experience flying to Israel on the first day the TSA took over; I was remarkably unimpressed with the security, particularly when the two [!] guys checking me spent about 10 minutes flipping through every page of my siddur, but gave my tefillin [see the description above] barely a passing glance. Rea said it well via e-mail:
Yea, its just that these days people have such a phobia against things they don’t understand - especially religion, and automatically perceive it as a threat.
In a way, that can be a good thing; I have no problem with people reporting this guy on the train - it looks incredibly suspicious to someone who has never seen such a thing before. I think the line at the end of the article from a member of a Jewish organization sums it up well, not complaining whatsoever about people reporting the man:
Steinberg agreed and said he can understand why South Shore passengers may have been concerned, adding that many likely have not been witness to the religious practice.

"It's good that people are alert," Steinberg said. "I think this gives us an opportunity to learn about another culture or religion."
Amen. And we're all better off for it.


I think a lesson many of us can learn was expressed beautifully by my cousin a few months ago. He was visiting from Israel to collect money for his yeshiva, and stopped by after Shabbos for a nice melave malka, just sitting in the kitchen, eating and talking. At one point, he noted that he'd had a nice little epiphany one time when he went to meet someone near Rockefeller Center. If you walk there, you'll notice a statute of Atlas, the Greek god, holding a huge globe on his shoulders.

My cousin thought this was an interesting statue that demonstrated a flaw in the way many people think: The statue of Atlas is supposed to signify Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders - and people often feel that this is what they must do, too. Not necessarily the world as a whole, but they think that they are to some extent responsible for helping or assisting or advising all those with whom they come in contact. The weight of the world - at least their world - is on their shoulders.

But that's not how we're supposed to act. He noted that in Judaism, we believe strongly in the concept of community, of tinokos shel beis raban (the groups of children). The weight of the world is on nobody's shoulders; we simply all work together to help. We pray together. We learn together. We work together.

I was talking to a friend yesterday and something similar came up that I think ties in to the same idea. They didn't want to express an opinion on a subject because they felt they weren't adding anything to the discussion at hand; what kind of impact could that have? I wonder if it ties into the same idea - unless we think that we're impacting the world strongly, we don't think we're impacting it at all... and therefore, we don't bother. But as a Rav I know who is making an impact said to a few of us recently, 'You don't realize just how much of an impact you're having.' That we don't see it doesn't mean that someone, somewhere isn't hearing something we've said, reading something we've written, and allowing it to change some small aspect of their lives... and that in turn changes so much. The butterfly effect of small change is immeasurable.

My cousin said that now, every time he sees Atlas standing there, hunched over with his globe, he can't help but chuckle.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Supporting Hypocrisy

This is bewildering to me, and I'm curious what people think about it, particularly the many readers who lean to the left on the war in Iraq.

A troop of Boy Scouts is wondering why their donation boxes meant for troops in Iraq were thrown out of polling stations last week.

Election officials ordered the removal of donation boxes set up by a troop of Cambridge Boy Scouts of America during last Tuesday’s municipal election.

The boxes were set up inside the 33 polling stations around the city to collect donations for soldiers serving overseas in the war in Iraq.

Marsha Weinerman, executive director of the city’s Election Commission, said the boxes were removed after a resident complained to commission workers about their implied “pro-war” message.

I don't get this. Is supporting donations to troops somehow "pro-war"? (Wouldn't that mean not supporting them through donations is "anti-war"?) This seems ridiculous. Supporting troops, sending them products, donating items to make their stay in Iraq easier... these are all things that are completely unrelated to politics, are they not? Regardless of one's political views, troops from this country are serving in Iraq. Supporting them is a wonderful gesture, and will show them that people here care for their safety and well-being. Sending them gifts is not making a statement about the war; it is making a statement about our troops. It doesn't somehow keep them there longer or change the politics of this country.

Am I missing something?

Labels & Judgmentalism

Labels. We all know them: "Modern" "Yeshivish" "Frummie" "Velvie" "Srugi" "He's koveia itim" "She wears pants" etc. And of course, we all say we hate them - and we do. They put people in boxes, they essentially limit or define people into boxes when of course, nobody fits into that box. That's why every girl from Brooklyn still 'isn't the typical Brooklyn girl', and why every guy isn't really that "shtark". But we still all use them, because they're still 'useful' and they still help and they still allow us to get a basic idea of a person in a really short period of time, say... 60 seconds or less, because that's important, too. After all, if you need more than that to describe someone, there must be something wrong with them... right? End rant one.

But let's talk seriously for a second. Those annoying labels do matter, those characteristics we use to define people do have a use. When you're trying to set up a shidduch and you know that one side cares very much about following halacha strictly, it doesn't make sense to set them up with someone who doesn't. When one side cares strongly about specific chumros, even, it likely doesn't make much sense to set them up with someone who is very against those particular chumros. This is not a place for debate as to whether those chumros have great importance or are complete garbage; this is simply a common-sense approach to matching two people together. You wouldn't match up someone who is often extremely sarcastic with someone who doesn't appreciate or get sarcasm; you likely wouldn't set up someone who thrives when they're with someone who stays in the background and brings out their talents with someone who thrives on being at the center of attention. We all use common sense and our own gauges of what we think will 'work', and we try not to do the "oh, here's a girl, here's a guy, let's set them up" approach.

And that's all great. But what about when we start using those labels? Those labels are useful only when they actually have meaning. When someone says "Well, she wears pants...", that's generally used to define a person who doesn't follow halacha particularly stringently, does it not? So if a person is trying to set up a match for a nice frum young man who cares about halacha, and then they hear about the woman that "well, she wears pants", that's often going to cause the person to not even bother trying to set it up. And in most cases, that makes perfect sense. Why bother setting up a guy with a girl who doesn't particularly care about the halachos of tznius? It's simply a waste of time for everyone involved. He wants a girl who cares about the halachos; this girl does not.

But what about when those labels don't actually apply? What about a girl who does feel strongly about halacha; who thinks being tzanua is of utmost importance? What about a girl who specifically wears certain types of women's pants that she grew up learning were absolutely fine? What about a girl who knows more and cares more about halacha than most every girl you'll meet... but in this particular issue her understanding is slightly different than the "that's just what people do" approach? Is that a girl who shouldn't get set up with any halacha-following guy, because "well, she wears pants"? A girl who doesn't feel wearing pants is something she has to do, but something that as a single person following the halachos and minhagim she grew up with and learned - that's something that essentially results in her being "punished"? How does this make sense?

This is when labels cease to be useful and begin having real-life negative effects. Forget the specifics of the example above for a moment, and let's talk more generally. Instead of people consistently vetoing shidduch ideas before they even begin because people randomly throw out a few labels, let's think if those labels make sense in the specific case we're discussing. If the reasoning behind the label doesn't apply in the case at hand [such as pants = doesn't care about halacha], then don't use it. If it's a very specific issue that the person might care about, then why not let the people go out, date, and when the time is right to discuss the issue, they can discuss the issue themselves. They're mature adults, are they not? (If not, they shouldn't be dating!) If it's something within the realm of halacha regarding a specific issue that one may understand differently, let them go out and see if either side feels it's actually important; in the specific example above, perhaps the girl doesn't care that much about wearing pants if it's that important to the guy; or perhaps the guy is okay with it as long as it is within the realm of halacha. Let them see!

There seems to be this unspoken fear by people to set their friends up unless they think a person is 'perfect', lest their friend be 'insulted' that they set them up with a person 'like that'. That's ridiculous. Are we not all adults? If this issue was something that the person being set up cares about, then they can say "Thanks, but this issue is something I care about, just so you know for the future." And the person setting them up can respond, "Okay, good to know, I'll keep that in mind." Is that so difficult? Is that conversation so hard that people would rather look for any way to strike a shidduch through every label imaginable so they don't have to worry about their friend coming back upset? If the person is so horribly insulted by the suggestion, let them explain it. If they just want to whine, so don't set them up and you won't have to deal with it anymore. But don't continually strike ideas that seem pretty good because "maybe he/she doesn't want a girl/guy like that". That doesn't do anyone any good.

Shidduch crisis, eh. Whatever happened to not being so judgmental!?