Monday, March 31, 2008

Obligatory Sports Post

Sorry folks, it's that time of year. I'm going to assume that only people who care about such things will read this, so excuse the lack of explanations.

Figure it's a 14-team, rotisserie-style league with the basic 10 categories (R/HR/RBI/SB/AVG., W/S/K/ERA/WHIP), maximum 162 games at any position and 1,250 combined IP. The league allows moves daily and you can have 7 active pitchers, one player at every position, and two Utility players every day on a 22-player roster (plus two DL spots). I got stuck with the 3rd overall pick. [Pos. Player (Round/Overall)]
  • C R. Martin (3/31)
  • 1B J. Loney (13/171)
  • 2B K. Johnson (14/194)
  • SS H. Ramirez (1/3)
  • 3B H. Blalock (20/278)
  • OF C. Hart (7/87)
  • OF B. Hawpe (8/110)
  • OF A. Rowand (12/166)
  • UT (OF) M. Diaz (22/306)
  • UT (OF) J. Guillen (19/255)
  • Bench 1B/3B/OF C. Blake (16/222)
  • Bench 2B/SS A. Cabrera (21/283)
  • Bench C K. Suzuki *FA pickup
  • SP E. Bedard (2/26)
  • SP C. Young (5/59)
  • SP F. Carmona (6/82)
  • SP J. Shields (10/138)
  • CL F. Cordero (4/54)
  • CL M. Corpas (9/115)
  • CL B. Lidge (11/143) *on DL
  • RP M. Koboyashi (17/227)
  • RP R. Perez (18/250)
I seem to have the best overall pitching staff, according to another guy in the league who ran some numbers, and my hitting - which I thought was average - is up there. What do you think/who do you like?

Yesh Lecha Cigarya?...

...Smoke 'em if you got 'em

To quote a personal favorite of mine..."Hey, you know, I have had it with you guys and your "cancer" and your "emphysema" and your "heart disease." The bottom line is smoking is cool and you know it."

stam a post

Ezzie: post the story
Stam: why
Ezzie: why not? duh.

Wednesday, March 26th

Early this morning, i grabbed my coffee, abnormally large bag, outgoing
mail, and keys and left my apartment. I got to my car and unlocked it, threw in
my bag, sat down, put my coffee in the cup holder, mail on the dashboard, and
the keys in the ignition. Then i looked down.

Unexplainably, my skirt was dirty. I guess these things can go
unnoticed when you're getting dressed in the dark at 6:30 in the morning.
Frustrated and running late, i climbed out of the car and ran back up the front
steps. Something caught my eye.

Laying on the ground next to my neighbors Acura (why she drives an
acura and lives in my building i'll never know) was a bright green 'alligator
skin' wallet. I opened it up to check if it belonged to the girl next door. Out
of state address, don't we all have one? I checked the picture, but I've never
really seen the neighbors. My husband and I have no idea what her name is. My
husband has seen her coming and going to dance class, and she once asked for
help with her car. To us she is just "Dancer Girl".

We also have "Smokey Smokerson" (smokes in the building), "Crazy Paranoid
Guy" from downstairs who now lives in our walls (that's another story) and was
recently replaced by "Temple Convert" (he heard our zemiros one week and told us
he's converting through the Temple across the street), "The 4AM-ers" upstairs
(one of them always wakes up at four in the morning, walks around, and makes
coffee. We hear the spoon stirring. I don't know why. We hear coughing and
people blowing their noses also!), Lady with a Cat (the hair is everywhere,
including the laundry room*), and the Dumb Barking Dog (scares the daylights out
of me everytime i pass their door). Of course Cat, Dog, and Smoker could be
other people too, or the same person. Like i said, we never see these

Anyway, I ran into the building with the wallet and into my apartment. My
husband heard me come in and came to see why I was back. I asked if he knew what
DG's name was, and he had no idea. I handed him the wallet and asked if that's
what she looked like, and he said it was her (pre-blonde, apparently). I found a
clean skirt and went to return the wallet.

What's the point? I don't know.

Maybe that it just goes to show what a small town place this is. In
previous cities i've lived in, you couldn't leave as much as a slurpee in a
*locked* car without a window getting smashed. Here a wallet can sit on the
ground all night and won't get touched. Or that in a place like Pickwick we'd
know everyone in our building and who the wallet belonged to, but here we have
to give the neighbors nicknames instead.

Maybe that was the reason that my skirt was unexplainably dirty. So i'd
have to go back inside, notice the wallet and return it to the owner.

Maybe by returning her wallet we left a good impression on her. Score
one for the Jews.

Maybe I felt like writing.

*yes, communal laundry room, this ain't
posted by stam :)

A post on dating (yikes)

A friend and I were discussing dating this weekend (what else is new) and we touched on the topic of dating for a "long" period of time (and yes, I know that "long" is a relative term - for my purposes, I will say that a "long" time to date someone is spending three months or upwards dating one person steadily). She posited that doing thorough research on the person eliminates the need to date for longer than, say, a month and a half at most, because if you do a lot of intensive research on the person and find out how they react/behave in different situations, you don't need to experience those situations with said person to see what they do.

On the other side of the coin, I posited that even good research can't really tell you what truly happens when the person encounters situation x, and as such, it's probably a better idea to date longer, so that you can see them in many different situations and experiences and see first-hand how they behave, and make a more informed decision about whether or not you want this person to be your spouse.

I guess a lot of it comes down to trust - how much do you trust the references to give you accurate information that would cancel out the need to experience situations with the person first-hand.

I don't know, though . . . something about her method seems a little off to me.

Your thoughts?

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Far Side...

…is going to look slightly different this week. Circumstances arose recently that, truth be told, I have not decided how to deal with yet. A brief synopsis will be provided at the end of the post.

Fair Warning: I have never seen what follows written anywhere nor heard it other than from the one person who originally told/taught it to me, so…I'm gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don't, send it right back.

וַיִּקְחוּ בְנֵי-אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אִישׁ מַחְתָּתוֹ, וַיִּתְּנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלֶיהָ, קְטֹרֶת; וַיַּקְרִיבוּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, אֵשׁ זָרָה--אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם.

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.

וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה, וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם; וַיָּמֻתוּ, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה.

And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

Pffft, just like that…say good-bye to the oldest sons of Aaron HaCohen, the future Kohanim Gedolim of Klal Yisroel, gone. The weird thing (okay, one of the weird things) is that it is not very clear what exactly they did wrong. Furthermore, as the story progresses, Moshe instructs that the bodies be carried through Machane Yisroel and placed outside the camp…that their families not perform any acts of personal mourning for the two dead…that all of Bnei Yisroel mourn the fact that God was forced to perform such an act. This all seems a little over the top and in many ways twisted, and yet Aaron accepts it all… וַיִּדֹּם, אַהֲרֹן, And Aaron held his peace.

In the immortal words of one of the great teachers of our time: Son, what--ah say, what in the Sam Hill is going on here, boy!?
--Leghorn, Foghorn J.

A straightforward reading of the pesukim tells us that the error of the sons of Aaron was that they brought before God a “strange fire”, whatever that means. (I am not certain of the specifics behind what constitutes a “strange fire” but for today it is not important). Chazal provide a few other opinions as to what exactly they did wrong:

--that they acted arrogantly in the presence of Moshe (deciding a halacha in his presence)
--they did an act that their father Aaron, the Kohen Gadol, was supposed to do
--they were drunk with wine

Regardless of whichever of the above you wish to learn as having been the reality of what happened, our original question of “what did they do wrong?” would seem to have been answered. However, a second even more confusing question now stands out from this entire episode. Let’s say for the moment that what the sons of Aaron did was deserving of their punishment…HOW WERE THEY SUPPOSED TO KNOW!!! At no point had any such rule been transmitted to Bnei Yosroel…or the Leviim…or to the Kohanim. It seems a little harsh to hold someone accountable for something that they have not been informed of. Also, we still have all of the stuff about not mourning for them and having them paraded through and placed outside of the camp.

So what--ah say, what exactly is going on here?

The answer I was taught is as profound and meaningful (at least to me) as it is short and blunt; that the reason they were punished, regardless whatever it was that they did wrong, was because of the following….THEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. Correct, they were never told specifically that doing many of the above things was wrong. You know…so what. Not everything in life needs to be, can be or will be spelled out in black and white. God expects people to be able to use the abilities that He instilled in them to make the right choices. This applies to all people to varying degrees. Should I be able to discern the same sense of appropriateness for what should go on in a Royal Court as one who is spends all of their time there and has a “feel” for what will or will not fly…no, I should not. However, I should be able to do so when it comes to things that do fall within my sphere or things that fall within everyone’s sphere. At its heart the lesson is that a person is responsible for their actions.

Nadan and Avihu where Kohanim…sons of Aaron HaKohen…students of Moshe Rabbeinu and yes, in this instance they messed up and did something that they should have known not to do, even without being told so.

This was a profound lesson that Moshe felt needed to be instilled in all of Bnei Yisroel. So he ordered them carried through the camp, still in their clothing so that it was obvious who they were, and placed outside of it in order for people to ask what had happened and to learn from the event. So to the family was prevented from mourning publicly in order to strengthen this message, that to a certain degree they “had it coming” and there was no reason to “feel bad” (note that this was a one time thing and only done under express direction from God through Moshe, this is not an approach that should be taken in general) and Aaron understood this lesson and therefore held his peace and did not challenge this action. Imagine the self discipline and clarity of thought required by a father in the face of the death of two of his sons to be able to see the greater message that was being delivered and that needed to be sent (but we should expect nothing less from the very same man who was able to set aside personal ego and stand beside and behind his younger brother for so many years).

The only mourning that was allowed was a national one in sadness of God having to have struck down two people in such a manner.
The sense of loss was to be one of not living up to our abilities in our service of God…and hopefully a better understanding of our roles in that service. We are not mere automatons fulfilling orders from on high, we are active participants who have a responsibility to try and achieve Gods will…at all times and in all situations.

--Now then, to the status of the cartoon normally found in this location. Recently the following message was received by the managing editor of this little collection of letters and words we like to call a "blog":
Blogger has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that some of your images allegedly infringe upon the copyrights of others. The URLs of the allegedly infringing images may be found at the end of this message....Please note that repeated violations to our Terms of Service may result in further remedial action taken against your Blogger account. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel. If you have any other questions about this notification, please let us know.

The Blogger

I am in discussions with our esteemed ME as to how best approach this situation. It pains me how some would wish to limit the dissemination of the works of The Gary Larson...truly there is no limit to the forces of evil in this world.

Force & Chumrah

A great post by RafiG, utilizing some points made well by R' Horowitz, in light of the "Burqa lady" being arrested on charges of child abuse and allowing molestation. Excerpts:
Rabbi Horowitz said that anybody who is violently forcing his chumrohs on others, and especially those who are physically assaulting women are prime candidates for being sexual predators, pedophiles and wife beaters. He repeatedly told us that over the course of time, it will become evident to all that a disproportionately high percentage of these thugs are not only abusing the women on the buses, but are committing far worse on those close to them. He said that, in his view, these people have a distorted and perverse obsession with women and sexual matters, as opposed to, lehavdil, true tzadikim, whose minds are preoccupied with torah and avodah. Tzadikim and true Chassidim make chumros – on themselves. And never resort to violence on others.

Yesterday, I spoke with Rabbi Horowitz about the subject and he pointed me to the sefer Kav Ha'Yashar chapter 52. The sefer says, I will summarize it briefly, that "A person who busies himself all day with davening with kavanah, and he walks with his tefillin all day long (an unusual behavior – a super-frum chumrah, as men typically remove their tefilin before leaving shul) - it looks like this person is very pious. You think that he must be a kosher and straight person who deals constantly with the holy work of heaven. But you do not really know what is in his heart. As Shlomo HaMelech wrote (in Koheles) - don't be too righteous or too evil, and Chazal said be wary of the "tzvu'im" (hypocrites) - they look like prushim (people who separate themselves from materialism), but they act like zimri, and then they request reward like Pinchas. Rather you should look for someone who is really a tzaddik" – one who is an honest and decent man.

When I asked Rabbi Horowitz what his guidelines were regarding healthy chumros and those mentioned above, he identified three areas:
  1. The chumroh is within the realm of the Torah and established Mesorah, and not way beyond what Mesorah advocates.
  2. The chumroh is personal and not imposed upon others. When a person is obsessed with forcing (as opposed to appropriately inspiring or encouraging others other people to keep those chumrohs), that is an indication something is wrong.
  3. When the person advocating the chumroh is ready to resort to violence to ensure that others adhere to it, that is a clear indication that something is wrong.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Taking Pride

From SIL:
Ez, you'd like this note about our brilliant son. In class, they are learning to write their letters. What they are supposed to do is copy the letter at the beginning of the line and then keep repeating the letter along the line until it's all filled. According to Ben (5), that's a real waste of time and pencil. He just makes one big fat letter that takes up the whole line. I could see you doing that. :)
:::brims with pride:::

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Too weirded out for words

Pobody's Nerfect pointed me to this . . . all I can say is wow.

Buuuuut moving right along to the comments! My personal favorite:
maybe they should start a Vaad Liyichus Yisroel, and make everyone list their lineage before getting into a school in lakewood!



A friend asked me yesterday an interesting question, not because I haven't been asked it before, but because of a couple of small, 'nothing' stories that happened recently that I thought said a lot.

My friend asked simply "What moves you?"

I've noticed that it's often the little things that 'move' me far more than anything else. The example I gave was a person taking an extra second, or a bit of extra care, to make sure someone was happy, that everything was okay, that they have what they need - that moves me more than (say) a large charitable organization doing what it sets out to do [however amazing that is].

I'll give a quick example from Shabbos. Friday night, while MordyS, G, and myself were davening in the non-post-Purim-Carlebach minyan behind the mechitza (long story), I noticed at the front left of what during the day is the women's section two young men sitting and davening with the front minyan. The one on the left was a regular, the other was a visitor, sitting alone. The one on the left asked the visitor a couple of questions about himself, then asked where he was eating that night; he pointed to the man just in front of the mechitza and responded he was eating by his brother, and the regular said "Oh well, I was going to ask if you wanted to come to us." I couldn't help but smile at the whole exchange.

The next day, as we were leaving shul, G tells me that he liked the shul (and not just because it was over after an hour and a half). I asked why, and he explained that after davening ended, the man on the table he was at asked him simply: "Hi; What's your name; Where are you from; Do you have a place to eat?" Now, this is not a shul that rarely has guests - every week, there are a large number of people who aren't regulars at the shul, there are plenty of new people constantly (KGH is a transient neighborhood with many young people in particular constantly moving in and out), and it's often hard to know if the person next to you is new or has been living next door for ten years. Odds are, people there have places to eat, usually their own house. This isn't the Young Israel of Cleveland where you know that someone is from "out-of-town" and not sitting with someone, so there are odds they might need a place to eat. And perhaps it's easier to assume that an "out-of-towner" might need a place for a meal in New York... but I still thought it was a great story.

When my friend asked me what moves me, it is stories like these that immediately rushed to my mind. People showing awareness of others and their needs, or even just something that will make their lives a little easier or nicer: Making a bunch of calls and sleeping on a floor to make sure someone else has a place to stay after a miscommunication - when it's not your problem. Bringing a couple small items that just make life that much easier. Taking someone else's daughter for a walk, or putting her down to sleep, or just keeping her busy for a little while. Inviting people to meals at places where you know it won't be a problem, because it's needed for whatever reason. Offering to switch places to stay when someone wants to go to sleep and everyone else wants to keep going. Not coming along even when you'll be bored to let a friend talk about something privately. Going to check on a friend first even though there are other important things to do. And in just about all of the cases above, these actions were treated as perfectly normal - expected, even - and were done in a rather low key fashion (or joked about). Modestly. Quietly. As if everyone does it.

Those types of 'little' things move me, even though they're rather common among people we know. Heck, all of those last few examples were just from our guests this past weekend. I don't know... this is what moves me.

What moves you?

Israeli Air Force

My dad sent this to me and I thought it was pretty shareable:

Am Yisrael chai!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This is freaky

But also so cool!

Runs in the Family

Elianna woke up for a little bit at about 11:00 last night, and was pretty much just sitting there, reading her Garfield book, pointing at the objects whose names she knew. After a few minutes, I decided it was enough time, so I asked her simply:
Elianna, rotzah lishon? (Do you want to go to sleep?)

Elianna: (looks up, smiles) Noooo... {pause} Siggy [silly] Dada... (chuckles to self)
...and went right back to her reading.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Best Line From Shabbos & Purim

There were so many to choose from, as one might expect from a weekend like this, but I think this took the cake:
Serach: "[blah blah blah something about Ezzie] ...but I married him anyway."


That pretty much sums up how much of the weekend went. :)

Purim Burqa Madness

The Burqa Babes have taken over Beit Shemesh. Now I know why I live in the's far safer (though not as funny) Hat-tip: myself.

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

Two Years

It's amazing how much has happened in such a short period of time...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What some people do with their time and energy (and money) *shakes head*


...I sincerely hope this is just a purim prank.

(Belated) Purim Point to Ponder

Hey, I know its a little late, but I have been busy and it IS Purim Me'Shulash in Israel now so here is a short one...

In Josephus' account of Purim, a Jew named Barnabazus, who was a servant of Bigthan and Teresh, was the one who uncovered the assasination plot and then relayed it to Mordechai, who relayed it to Esther, who relayed it to Achashverosh. He didn't get a horse-ride though!

Never heard of him? Me either, but, midrashim aside, the megillah DOES only state that the matter became known to Mordecai, so who knows.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tanakh Yom Iyun on March 23!

On Sunday, March 23, there will be a Tanakh Yom Iyun at Yeshiva University. It is completely free and features a powerhouse lineup of speakers.

The event will take place at Furst 501 on the Wilf Campus and begins at 12:45, running until 5:30.

Check out the speakers/ subjects below! Hope to see you there!

Click here for the fullscreen version (and hit the magnifying glass to enlarge.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

84% of Palestinians...

support the attack at Merkaz Harav

I, am, TOTALLY shocked.

Brilliant, Bloody Brilliant... can bet these will be available where I'm hearing Megillah reading.

...and Why Judaism Gives Me Hope

Note: This was originally supposed to be the second in a pair of posts, the first negative, the second positive. I haven't written the first one yet, but in light of Purim, I'm just going to post the second one for now. Enjoy!


This requires a short story.

When I was 10 years old, my family went to Israel for three weeks. I'd never been there before; my brother was studying in Chofetz Chaim in the Sanhedriya Murchevet section of Jerusalem for the year; and my sister had just gone the previous summer. I don't think my parents had been there since the 1970's, when they went on a pilot trip in contemplation of making aliyah. We arrived on a sunny afternoon in February, and it was to turn into quite the interesting trip. We arrived the day before Ta'anis Esther, two days before Purim in most of the country, and four days before Shushan Purim - like this year, Purim was on a Friday, Shushan Purim was celebrated on Sunday.

On Friday, February 25th, 1994, just two days after we arrived, Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Arabs by the Me'aras Ha'Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs). This obviously sent the whole country into an added sense of craziness, wondering what would happen, particularly over Purim. It wasn't but a few years earlier where Saddam Hussein was dropping Scuds on Israel on Purim, and the fear and worry on the faces of the adults present was palpable, even to a 10-year old like myself.

And yet, Purim was amazing that year. We spent Friday and Motzei Shabbos with my Charedi cousins in Sanhedriya, before heading over to cousins in HarNof for an incredible seudah. One of the moments from that weekend which was highly amusing and has stuck with me for all this time was when we went to visit my aunt in Sanhedriya, confined from so many medical issues over the years to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic, and yet who had the most incredibly memory and liveliness to her [and whom we had in mind somewhat when giving Elianna her middle name Rachel]. While we were there, a few of my cousin's [at the time eight] children came in, and they started singing a song that their father had taught them. And this is how it went:

For those who cannot see the video, the song is "Pick a Bale of Cotton." The tune is familiar to most Orthodox Jews as "Mishenichnas Adar".... and the words they were singing were of the original, that their father had taught them. While this was happening, their father and grandmother were just a few feet away, laughing and enjoying the show as much as we were.

When it comes down to it, Judaism is whatever we make it out to be, and perhaps more importantly, whatever we instill in the people around us (and vice versa) - particularly family, but friends, neighbors, and acquaintances as well. What gives me hope, in the face of all the external pressures of trying to conform, in the face of kannoim ['zealots'] hijacking the religion, is that ultimately, those people are not the ones who will determine the fate of Judaism. It is up to each of us, not them, to determine how we let ourselves and our actions be defined and how we will live our lives. It is how we raise our children, how we show them how we deal with these issues, that will have a much stronger and lasting effect on how they will in turn live their lives.

Have a wonderful, freilichen Purim, everybody!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Great Purim Torah

Looking for great Divrei Torah to drunkenly recite at this years breakfast seduah. Check out what my good friend Rafi has over at Da Kani Ma Chaser

A Freilichen Purim

Please Daven...

...for a Refuah Shleimah for R' Henoch Leibowitz, shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim yeshivos (Rabbinical Seminary of America), who is in the hospital.

The branch here in Kew Gardens Hills has canceled their chagiga for tomorrow night, and will be replacing it with a seder limud in the merit of a speedy recovery for the Rosh HaYeshiva. His name is:
Alter Chanoch Henoch ben Chaya Rivka Leah

Funny and Smart...

...these are the only criteria.

"Will you please just take the damn picture already so I can open my eyes!"


Caption contest in the comments. Winners get posted after Purim.

A Freilechin Purim/Purim Sameach/Happy Purim...

However you put it, have an awesome Purim, y'all*! (tractors too!)
*yes, some of us are actually certified to use "y'all"

I Love Parody... is the perfect confluence of both creativity and laziness.

From Yeshiva World News:
Dear Yeshiva world editor,

I ask you to please post this letter, as I think it is extremely important and raises a major issue that is affecting the Jewish Community at large.

As my wife was flipping through the pages of the Jewish Press one Friday night, she was shocked at a certain advertisement and called me over to have a look. What I saw might not cause such a reaction to many people, which is a problem in itself, but for this advertisement to appear in a “Frum” weekly newspaper was mind boggling to me. The ad was a picture of two women who where modeling shaitels for a certain Shaitel macher. I can’t understand how the Jewish Press allows such ads in their paper. The women are posing in such immodest ways; the advertisement belongs in People magazine not the “Jewish Press”.

I am definitely not someone who is on a level to give mussar and tell people what’s right and wrong, however I feel very strongly about this. Advertisements’ like this have to be part of the reason why the Jewish community is suffering so much pain recently. Tzinous is so very important and having the Jewish Press advertisement immodesty for a few bucks shows how far our community has fallen.

In the words of Rabbi Yaakov Salomon….”Something to Think About”

Ari Taub

Brooklyn, New York.

...and now my version...

This is very interesting, I recently wrote a very similiar letter to a local jewish publication about the exact same topic:

Dear “The Advertiser”,

I ask you to please post this letter, as I think it is extremely important and raises a major issue that is affecting the Jewish Community at large.

As I was flipping through the pages of The Advertiser this past Friday night, I was shocked at a certain advertisement and called my brother and his wife over to have a look. What I saw might not cause such a reaction to many people, which is a problem in itself, but for this advertisement to appear in a “Frum” weekly newspaper was mind boggling to me. The ad was a picture of two women who where modeling shaitels for a certain Shaitel macher…with their faces blurred out. I can’t understand how The Advertiser allows such ads in their paper. The women are simply posing, not in an immodest way; such an advertisement belongs in a fanatical religious
publication not “The Advertiser”.

I am definitely not someone who is on a level to give mussar and tell people what’s right and wrong, however I feel very strongly about this. Advertisements’ like this have to be part of the reason why the Jewish community is suffering so much pain recently. Tzinous is so very important and having The Advertiser advertise this as what passes for immodesty shows how far our community has fallen.

In the words of God….”Bar Yochai, go back to the cave! You are no longer fit for the company of other human beings”


Any place but Brooklyn, New York.

Comment by G — March 18, 2008 @ 8:21 am

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

If Crap Could Talk...

it would sound like this

My problem is not necassarily defending Obama, my problem is the double standard here.

From my comment:
What a bunch of crap.

Replace the word "Wright" with Pat Robertson

and "Obama" with Bush or a McCain.

Then lets see if you are so understanding and willing to give those people the benefit of doubt you are giving Obama

Summoned or Not

Chana and R' Gil are having an interesting debate as to whether Esther, when she is speaking to him again in Perek Ches (Ch. 8), is there yet again without having been summoned. The key lines:
3 Then Esther spoke again to the king; she fell at his feet, weeping and pleading with him to avert the evil design of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. 4 The king held out the golden scepter to Esther, 5 and Esther rose and stood before the king.
Chana feels she was coming unsummoned and again risking her life, while R' Gil feels she no longer had to worry about doing so, and that is not what the pasuk is saying. I believe I always learned this Chana's way, and while I think Gil makes interesting points about the word Vatosef, I think he is incorrect in thinking Esther was unsummoned. (I liked a commenter's suggestion that Vatosef is referring to her continuing in her attempts to nullify the decree.)

Gil argues
The king has just appointed Esther, and then Mordechai, as important ministers and has even given his signet ring to Mordechai. However, the king has not yet nullified Haman's decree by sending out letters to undo the letters that Haman had sent. Other than that, Esther and Mordechai are now among the most powerful people in the empire. Esther should not have had any need to be summoned to the king.
I don't think this is true. Esther was the queen in the first place, and still was terrified of coming unsummoned; and more importantly, Haman - even as #2 with a signet ring - was unable to simply enter the palace, but waited impatiently by the gates when Achashveirosh couldn't sleep in order to make a request of the King.

And, as he notes, the difficulty lies in why the King put out his scepter. If she was not summoned, the answer is simple - she again had taken a gamble, and again it paid off, with the King allowing her to live despite coming without being summoned. Gil's suggestions for this are not bad, but none truly explain why it was noteworthy for the Megillah to mention it; I feel it makes more sense to note it if in fact it was showing that he had spared Esther's life.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Just As A Note

Working 69-hour weeks stinks. And before any lawyers complain, remember that auditors don't get paid like lawyers. Not even close.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

just a lil purim humor...

30 Days Before Pesach (original source uncertain)

I had 12 bottles of whiskey in my cellar and I was instructed by my wife to empty each and every bottle down the sink, so I proceeded with the task.

I withdrew the cork from the first bottle and poured the contents down the sink, with the exception of one glass which I drank.
I extracted the cork from the second bottle and did likewise, with the exception of one glass which I drank.
I then withdrew the cork from the third bottle and poured the contents down the sink, with the exception of one glass which I drank.
I pulled the cork from the fourth sink, poured the bottle down the glass, which I drank.
I pulled the bottle from the cork of the next, and drank one sink out of it and threw the rest down the glass.
I pulled the sink out of the glass and poured the cork from the bottle. Then I corked the sink with the glass, bottled the drink, and drank the pour. When I had everything emptied I steadied the house with one hand, counted the bottles, corks, glasses, and sinks with the other, which were 29, and put the houses in one bottle, which I drank.

I'm not under the affluence of incohol, but thinke peep I am. I'm not half so thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here the longer I get.

Don't Assume

I was reminded just now of an image that is etched into my mind all too clearly from Purim, six years ago, and I thought it worthy, even important, to share.

I was carrying a large but almost empty suitcase up the steps of my cousins' building in Sanhedriya Murchevet, having by now lightened the load of shaloch manos tremendously after delivering a large number of them all over. I could hear the screaming and singing from all the way downstairs, and knew immediately whose apartment it was; there was no doubt that it was my cousin and the bochurim from his yeshiva, there to celebrate the chag with their Rosh Yeshiva.

As I made my way up the steps, the sounds grew more and more familiar, and I tried to figure out what exactly it was they were saying or singing. As I walked in, it began to click, and the picture was astounding: There, in various assorted costumes, but all with the same incredible intensity, scattered throughout the room, around the set but empty tables, everyone was standing in place. Some were waving their arms, some were concentrating, some were crying, some were quiet. All were following the lead of my cousin and a loud young man wearing a huge fat suit which made him look like a large balloon who were yelling something. That something was Mincha. And that mincha was not the one you'd say on Purim... but the one you'd say on Yom Kippur.

There was something about this that struck me as amazing. That a group of people - completely drunk - could be focused solely on teshuva on Purim in their state blew my mind. Yes, it was funny as well - they kept going back to the beginning, they kept repeating the same parts, etc. etc. But they were all as one, and they all truly felt whatever it was that they were doing.

And yet, this is not the image that stuck with me most from that apartment from that day.

As I was leaving, I had to maneuver my suitcase around my cousin's oldest son - at that time, he was 19 years old. He was sitting - still in full costume - with his head in his hands at the top of the flight of stairs immediately outside their apartment, and while at first I thought he was merely half-asleep in a drunken stupor, he was in fact sobbing. Sobbing and muttering. Crying his heart out, after a few moments. And this is the gist of what he was saying, through his tears, broken up by sobbing...
What am I doing wrong? How can people say that I don't care!? That because I don't go to the army, that I'm not fighting? I'm fighting the best way that I know how, the best way that I can! People say that I don't care, that I don't daven for the soldiers... I think of the soldiers every single time I daven, three times a day! I cry for them, and people say that I don't care! I just want them to be safe, to come home safely.
I know that this doesn't come off anywhere close to as powerful or meaningful as it did when I was watching him... but it was so moving. He was basically doing viduy over the idea that he somehow didn't show enough care for soldiers, because he was learning - and truly learning - full time instead. That because he was charedi, he must not care as much for the soldiers' welfare.

While the charedi - dati leumi - chiloni divide in Israel is often emphasized, it is important to recognize that on an individual level, there is a positive blurring of the lines that occurs. My cousin inspired me at that moment because he was showing his true feelings about all that goes on, and it was ripping him apart inside. He couldn't care less what type of person each one was - they were people, Jewish people, and that was all that mattered. The lines never mattered to him, and in some ways, while they are obvious to him, they were also invisible to him - why did that matter, why did people care, why do people assume.

My cousin is now married and lives in Kiryat Moshe in Yerushalayim, just south of where Merkaz HaRav is. He is very charedi, yet goes there most nights to learn for a little while and to daven Ma'ariv before heading home for the night. I don't know that he was there last Thursday night, but he is surely completely shattered by what occurred there.

Many people have noted that it was wonderful and touching to see so many Gedolim of all stripes make a special effort to come from all over to Merkaz HaRav for the levayos, then again many went to pay shiva calls to the families. Many have remarked on how it is incredible to see the achdus that occurs among us in times of trouble, in times of need - how beautiful it is to see klal Yisroel come together like this. And it is, it really is. But we shouldn't need tragedies to see this. We shouldn't need tragedies to realize that the Gedolim of this generation care for everyone equally, that they aren't overly focused only on their own. These should be more obvious to us every day, not just times like these. We shouldn't need to see 8 yeshiva bochurim covered with taleisim, surrounded by tens of thousands of people with all different - or no - coverings on their heads to realize we are one people.

So maybe don't assume. Don't assume that because someone dresses differently, they don't value what you value... any more than you wouldn't want them to assume you don't value what they value. Don't assume they aren't thankful for what you do, that they don't respect what you do. Respect what they do. Understand what they do. Understand why they do what they do.

But most importantly, don't assume.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Far Side...

...might also be interpreted as the side less traveled. After all, it is far away...aaaaall the way on the other side...and really, who wants to expend the energy it would take to see what there is "over there" much better can it be than what we have right here?

Luckily the One Above has seen fit to ensure that there are always people willing to make the journey to The Far Side and report back to us those beneficial things that can be obtained by sometimes following the road less traveled.

Rabbi Y. Frand, in my opinion, is often such an individual (yes, I'm biased...too bad), let's see what he has to say on parshas Vayikra...from an angle most in his sphere would not take:

In this week's parsha, we learn about the laws concerning the situation "When a ruler sins (asher nasi yechtah), and commits one from among all the commandments of Hashem that may not be done - unintentionally - and becomes guilty." [Vayikra 4:22]

אֲשֶׁר נָשִׂיא, יֶחֱטָא; וְעָשָׂה אַחַת מִכָּל-מִצְו‍ֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תֵעָשֶׂינָה, בִּשְׁגָגָה--וְאָשֵׁם

Rashi comments on the peculiar expression "asher nasi yechtah" which literally means "THAT the prince sinned." The more common usage throughout the parsha is "v'im" (AND IF). Rashi explains that the word "asher" comes from the same root as "ashrei" (meaning fortunate) as if to say "Fortunate is the generation whose ruler sets his heart to bring an atonement for his unintentional sin." There are a variety of comments recorded by later commentaries on the intent of this statement by Rashi.

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin in his sefer Oznayim L'Torah suggests that aveyros [sins] come about as a result of new initiatives. A person will normally not commit an averah when he sticks to the straight and narrow, merely repeating that which has been done in the past without attempting new approaches or enactments. Innovation and change sometimes leads to inadvertent mistakes. The pasuk [verse] is praising the Nasi [leader] who is willing to change and to try something new. Even though such boldness can sometimes lead to inadvertent error, the generation is fortunate to have a leader who is at least willing to try.

Rav Dovid Feinstein provides a different insight, which I believe may be closer to the simple interpretation (p'shat) of the pasuk. People in power are normally not inclined to admit that they did something wrong. A person in power is normally afraid of criticism and second guessing by his opponents. He is very leery to publicly admit, "Guess what? I goofed!"

How many times have we heard the President of the United States - any President of the United States - admit, "I have made a mistake." The few times when a president does admit to a mistake, he gets lambasted by the press and all his political adversaries. Rare is the public leader who is prepared to stand up in front of his nation and admit to having made a mistake. Happy is the generation that has a leader who is not ashamed to admit that he erred. Fortunate are those led by one secure enough to admit that he is not perfect.

Rav Shimon Schwab explains the very same lesson in explanation of a very perplexing Gemara [Chagiga 14a]. The Gemara states that the prophet Yeshaya cursed the Jewish people with 18 different curses but his mind was not put at ease until he foretold the ultimate indignation: "The youngster will domineer over the elder and the base over the respectable" (lo niskarera da'ato ad) [Yeshaya 3:5].

יִרְהֲבוּ, הַנַּעַר בַּזָּקֵן, וְהַנִּקְלֶה, בַּנִּכְבָּד...

What is the meaning of this Gemara? Did Yeshaya the prophet hate the Jewish people so much that he said, "I'm going to really give it to them and I won't rest until I give them the ultimate punishment"? Obviously not! That is not the role of a prophet. The role of a prophet is not to beat up the people or to indict them.

Rav Schwab explained that this Gemara is teaching the very same lesson as the pasuk quoted above from Parshas Vayikra as elaborated by Rashi. This final 'curse' actually includes a positive and optimistic message. When the children will point out the foibles of the elders - and perhaps the children were out of line for having such brazenness - but when their criticism will prompt the elders to respond, take stock, and admit that they in fact did make some errors, that is positive. That is in fact what appeased the mind of the prophet Yeshaya. In spite of the fact that the criticism was perhaps not offered with the proper derech eretz (manners and protocol), but the leaders were big enough that they could take the criticism and react with corrective action. That is the hallmark of a fortunate generation. It was this good fortune of the Jewish people that put the Prophet's mind at ease.

--Do I really need to lay out this weeks connection to Sir Gary, a man who defined the idea of taking the road less traveled...honestly(!), the man walked roads not existence yet:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What Do You Expect From A Goy?

Ever heard the line above, or similar? I know I have many times throughout my life, and I'm sure most others have as well. When I was younger, it merely bothered me; now, it makes me wince. It is for this reason I was very happy to see one of the points R' Horowitz makes in his latest piece, discussing how one can discuss the Spitzer situation with their children:
Don’t make sweeping generalizations, “Frum people don’t do these things,” or “only gentiles or non-frum people do.” That might carry the day now, but sadly, no community is without its bad apples. Your message to your child will be demolished and your credibility diminished when he/she discovers that we are not completely immune to poor and immoral behavior, and that there are many, morally committed people, outside our community.
There are some other good messages in there as well - check it out. Interestingly, I've often noticed that those who knock non-Jews the most tend to spend the least time around them as a basis for their statements. Meanwhile, those who work with them and especially those who know stories about what goes on in the Jewish community are far less morally superior. This is not to say that the Jewish community doesn't have incredible strengths (and R' Horowitz notes this as well), but there's definitely no reason to knock non-Jews.

Eclectic & Mad

I've always found it funny how that all the guest posters always seem to post at the same time. Y'all must have ESP or something.

Meanwhile, March Madness kicks off this Sunday. As usual, for anyone who is interested, please e-mail me at serandez at Thanks!

Faith Through Tears

From Scraps/Corner Point, this was an amazing piece. What it's about:
Rabbi Yerachmiel Weiss, who lost six students in the Merkaz HaRav massacre, was interviewed by usually hard-hitting TV personality Ilana Dayan - and turned the show into an experience in faith amidst crisis.

Rabbi Weiss is the head of the Yeshiva High School of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. Five of the eight students murdered on Thursday night by an Arab terrorist from Jerusalem studied there, and one is a recent graduate.

Answering probing questions about his relationship with G-d when facing untimely death head-on, Rabbi Weiss spoke, with a voice alternating between choked sorrow and firm confidence, about his students, himself, and G-d.

A written account of such an intense discussion, as the one below, necessarily loses most of its sheer power.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Not Liking to Study song

I haven't posted here in a while, so I figured I would, because I feel less guilty posting on Ezzie's blog than I do posting on my own when I'm supposed to be doing schoolwork. Not sure why. Hmmm.....

Anyway, here's a song I made for y'all. The tune is, "I'm going to Kentucky, I'm going to the fair, to see the seniorita, with flowers in her hair!" You should all know this tune and if you don't then you had a deprived childhood.

I really have to study
It's really very bad
I do not like to study
It makes me very sad
Study study study
I study all day long
It makes me so unhappy
And so I wrote this song.

'K. That's it. Bye!

Always soooooo sweepy

I wasn't going to participate in this little activity, seeing that several people have already posted the meme on SerandEz. But after reading The Apple's meme (and others), I realized that you really learn so much about a person from it. And now, whether you like it or not, I am going to let all of you in on the secrets of iPay's sleeping life :)

1. How much sleep do you get on an average night?
Well....I would say anywhere from 5 to 7 hours a night. But sometimes it's 4 or 4.5 - and usually the day after I am more awake than if I had gotten 8 or 9 hours.
2. Is that enough sleep for you?
NEVER!!!! Even sleeping on shabbos for 15 hours isn't enough!
3. At what time do you normally go to sleep and wake up?
I usually go to bed between 12:30 and 1:30 (although during non-busy season it's more like 2 or 3). Waking up totally differs depending if I'm taking a shower in the morning, whether it's busy season at work, and how late I was at work the night before. Some days I'm out the door at 6:30, uch.
4. Do you usually fall asleep right away or have trouble?
As soon as I turn my light off, I couldn't be sleeping any faster.
5. What size bed do you have?
At home (real home, not NY) I have a twin. In NY I have a full size which I got from someone for FREE!
6. How many pillows do you use?
Two. But sometimes in the summer if it's really hot where I am asleep I don't use any.
7. In what position do you sleep?
On my side with my blankets pulled up really close to my face. If I am REALLY cold then sometimes I pull my blanket over my head.
8. Do you need it to be quiet or dark to sleep?
Not at all. I fall asleep at work sometimes sitting up. woops :)
9. Do you use earplugs or an eye mask?
Neither. But I always wanted to be one of those girls that sleeps with an eye mask.
10. Have you ever used a sleeping aid long-term?
11. Do you use headgear, a night retainer, or a biteplate?
I stopped wearing my retainer a loooong time ago. But I never should have stopped.
12. What do you normally wear to bed?
Wellllll in the winter, usually a sweathsirt and pants. If it's insanely cold, then sometimes a sweatshirt, two pairs of pants, and socks. Oh the hood on my sweatshirt is on and pulled realllly tight. And one time in band camp, no just kidding. One time in seminary, I slept with my mittens on too. And in the summer....shorts and t-shirt/tank top.
13. Do you frequently fall asleep in your clothing?
Only if it's on purpose. Like sometimes when I am taking a 6 AM flight back to NY after a yomtov, waking up at 4 isn't the most pleasant thing in the world. So I sleep in my clothes in exchange for 10 more minutes of sleep.
14. Do you prefer a heavy or light blanket?
Whichever, although in have been sleeping with 2 heavy-ish blankets recently. It's just so....yummy.
15. Do you prefer warm or cool PJs?
I believe I have explained myself at length in #12.
16. Do you wear socks to bed?
Sometimes. And for times where I can't decide if I am hot or cold, I sleep with one sock on and one sock off.
17. What is your bedtime routine?
Crawl into bed, read for a lil bit, all while listening to the radio or my iPod.
18. Do you listen to music when you’re falling asleep?
Yeah I usually set the sleep timer on my radio. I can certainly fall asleep with the music on, but if I like the song I won't be able to fall asleep because I am singing along or enjoying it too much. hehe.
19. Have you sucked your thumb in recent years?
I have never sucked my thumb in my entire life.
20. Do you still sleep with your childhood blankie/teddy?
Never had one! I think I had more like a childhood purse or something....
21. Do you snore?
Nope. Well, sometimes when I'm sick.
22. Do you sleeptalk or sleepwalk?
I have definitely been known to talk on occasion. I guess I really never shut up!
23. Do you wake up to use the bathroom often?
Almost never. But it is SO annoying when it does happen.
24. What things inhabit your bed aside from a blanket and pillow?
I think it's better if we keep this one to myself. Let's just say....a lot of crap, unfortunately.
25. What kind of alarm clock do you use?
My clock. Beeps for the first alarm and then its the radio for the second one.
26. Do you ever wake up before your alarm?
No, not usually.
27. Do you frequently take naps?
On shabbos, absolutely. At work, i have been known to go to the back of a desk area where no one sits and take a nice 15 minute power nap.
28. Have you ever slept ‘under the stars’?
No, I'm not really an outdoors kinda gal....
29. Can you fall asleep on a bus, train, or airplane?
On an airplane, FOR SURE. I couldn't stay awake for an entire plane ride to Israel, are you kidding me?? On the train to work everyday, I never do..I like to watch the people around me while I bob my head to my music. Or I do my makeup.....
30. Have you ever fallen asleep and missed your stop?
Nope, thank G-d.
And last, but not least,
31. Over the course of a lifetime, the average person swallows six spiders in his/her sleep. How many do you think you're up to?
Uh, not every Snapple cap is true.

Parsha Points to Ponder - Va'Yikra - This Mishkan is Loaded and We're Not Afraid to Use It

Sefer Va'Yikra tends to be the winter season on the d'var torah calendar, but I will boldly brave the elements and soldier on...

Many of us have a hard time penetrating the concepts and details of the korbanos (also, no stories). Let's see if we can gain some insight from a look at the text.

וְקִרְבּוֹ וּכְרָעָיו, יִרְחַץ בַּמָּיִם; וְהִקְטִיר הַכֹּהֵן אֶת-הַכֹּל הַמִּזְבֵּחָה, עֹלָה אִשֵּׁה רֵיחַ-נִיחוֹחַ לַיהוָה [Leviticus 1:9]

This is the first instance of many in Va'Yikra of a common refrain throughout the portions pertaining to korbanos and it is often translated along the lines of "a satisfying smell unto the Lord".
Holy Anthropomorphism, Batman! What's the deal with this G-D-smelling business?

Some may be familiar with the Rambam's position that the korbanos were something of a less-than-ideal compromise to the paganistic proclivities of Israel at the time.
In fact, Rambam's position is a bit more nuanced; he views korbanos as an active polemic against idolatry (c.f. Guide 3:46). Some simple examples he gives are the Paschal Lamb in response to Egypt's worship of the lamb, sacrifice of cows in response to their worship by other cultures (Rambam himself refers to the people of India still engaging in such worship), and the text itself even supports his position...

וְלֹא-יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד, אֶת-זִבְחֵיהֶם, לַשְּׂעִירִם, אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה-זֹּאת לָהֶם, לְדֹרֹתָם: וַאֲלֵהֶם תֹּאמַר--אִישׁ אִישׁ מִבֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּמִן-הַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר-יָגוּר בְּתוֹכָם אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲלֶה עֹלָה, אוֹ-זָבַח: וְאֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, לֹא יְבִיאֶנּוּ, לַעֲשׂוֹת אֹתוֹ, לַיהוָה--וְנִכְרַת הָאִישׁ הַהוּא, מֵעַמָּיו [Leviticus 17:9]

Here the Rambam refers to the pagan belief that demons took the form of goats. This is in line with the traditional interpretation by Rashi, Onkelos, etc. that se'irim, in the above verse is referring to demons, despite its normative meaning of "goats"; an animal we DO sacrifice emphasizes the Rambam.

The pagan, polytheistic belief system essentially viewed the gods as capricious and vengeful. Sacrifices served to appease them as some sort of theological bribe. The Rambam portrays korbanos as educational; they are for our good and THAT is why they are רֵיחַ-נִיחוֹחַ לַיהוָה, G-d is pleased that we have distanced ourselves from evil and ignorance (this is why, the Rambam adds, you never see it used in relation to a sin-offering).

R' Sampson Raphael Hirsch adds, to further the distinction from the pagan paradigm of appeasement, that we only see the "shem ha'vaya" of G-D with korbanos, the name that is traditionally associated with loving-kindness, and never "shem Elokim", which connotes G-D's aspect of strict judgment.

Ramban attributes great hidden meanings to the korbanos and argues against the Rambam's approach, going so far as to call it nonsense. Ramban points to Noach's sacrifice in Genesis 8:21 being described as רֵיחַ הַנִּיחֹחַ, this occurring before any of the pagan beliefs Rambam cites ever developed! The Ramban asserts that this demonstrates the intrinsic meaningfulness of korbanos bringing us closer to G-D, and not just some exercise in rejecting paganism.
The Ramban's challenge is strong, but seems to be undermined by a later position of his...

כָּל-הַמִּנְחָה, אֲשֶׁר תַּקְרִיבוּ לַיהוָה--לֹא תֵעָשֶׂה, חָמֵץ: כִּי כָל-שְׂאֹר וְכָל-דְּבַשׁ, לֹא-תַקְטִירוּ מִמֶּנּוּ אִשֶּׁה לַיהוָה [Leviticus 2:13]

Ramban explains this practice as a counter to idolatrous practices which would make use of honey, but shun salt in their sacrifices, citing approvingly... the Rambam!?!
So, in fact, to what degree Ramban actually disagreed seems unclear.

[Homiletically,R' Hirsch offers an interesting explanation for רֵיחַ-נִיחוֹחַ. He points out that smell is unique among the senses; Taste and touch both require a direct engagement with an object, while sight and hearing do not. Smell is when the finest particles of an object come into contact with the nose and result in the experience of smell. {ESB: Perhaps, this is the perfect analogy for our relationship with G-D in which we can never directly "engage" Him fully, but only strive to avoid a state of "disengagement" (no wordplay intended here); I wonder if this could also apply metaphorically to explain why Eve equated touching the Tree of Knowledge with G-D's injunction against eating from it.}]

Holy Hyrax Blog

Bored? Husband got you frustrated? Governor running off with prostitutes? Ezzie forgetting to invite you over for Shabbat?

Not a problem.

Just come read my new post on my brand new blog :)

Thanks Ez

An Interesting Topic... up for discussion.

As is my way, I was incapable of taking it seriously and instead went a different route. However, I thought perhaps that there might be those who actually might have something of value to add.

Please keep in mind that the blog in question is a thoughtful comments not comment accordingly.

Read This Before Purim

(via SaraK)


Dear Friend,

Last Purim started off like all others from years past, but it was almost the last Purim of my life. Beginning two weeks before Purim, Hatzoloh started putting up signs saying, “This year don’t get carried away,” with a picture of some poor kid being carried away on a stretcher. To me, these signs blended right into the background with the other signs hanging up all around my hometown of Brooklyn, New York.

You see, this year I decided I would make Purim even more “geshmak” than in years past, because this Purim I would drink anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t planning on getting drunk, just enough to make me high. I started out collecting like the last year, going from house to house. I had the most “geshmak” group, I thought, but there was something missing. So when I was offered a drink at the next house, I took it. As I recall, it was Johnny Walker Black Label, which is 40% alcohol. I figured that if I took a cup, 8 oz, it would be better than taking eight individual shots, because I could drink the whole thing in just one shot.

After a few minutes, it starting hitting me, but I was able to continue collecting. About 15 minutes later I had another “shot” of 8 oz. And was already getting “high.” The next few houses passed in a blur. I remember sitting in the houses and just singing. I couldn’t really dance too much anymore, so I just sat down and sang.

I was starting to get a little headache, but I kept on going… after all this was “geshmak”. No longer sober, and without my proper judgment skills, I took a cup and a bottle of Absolute Vodka. I remember my friends telling me not to take it, but I told them that I could handle it. “Just a little,” I thought, and this year would be most “geshmak”. I took one cup and, surprisingly, it didn’t burn when it went down. “Maybe I’m immune,” I thought. “This is great, I can drink and drink and I won’t feel it going down.” I took another cup and another, and then, another. Then I poured half of another cup and I couldn’t pour straight anymore, so I just drank what I had in my cup. I sat for about a minute without feeling anything. The alcohol didn’t have any effect on me.

“Why do they even put up posters telling people not to drink? Its not even so dangerous!” The people of the house didn’t realize that I had drunk anything, because there were four or five groups bothering them for money. I suddenly started falling over. My head was attached to my shoulders as if on a rubber band. My head flew back, then front, then to the right, then back again. The whole room was turning upside down. People were screaming my name. Then I blacked out! They called Hatzoloh and they were there in an instant. My eyes weren’t dilating and when they touched me, I didn’t feel it. I was staring straight ahead at the wall and didn’t even feel the Hatzoloh man pinching me. They put me on a stretcher but my body kept slipping off as though I was made of “jello”.

They strapped me down and off I was to the hospital. On the way out, Hatzoloh took my picture and later asked my mother for permission to use it. That’s right, the next year I would be the poor kid on the stretcher.

I woke up eight hours later tied down to a bed. The last thing I remember was my head hitting the table as I fell to the floor. I looked around and saw a white room. Then I saw my mother crying with a Tehillim in her hand and my father at her side. Then I heard beeping. I couldn’t get up because I was tied to the bed. So I just lifted my head. My mother asked me if I knew where I was. I thought, maybe I was in my room at home, but my room isn’t in white. Then I started thinking, maybe we went away on a trip somewhere, but why was my mother crying? Then I remembered the table coming at my head and then it hit me: I was in a hospital. The beeping? That was my heart rate being monitored on a screen next to the bed.

A doctor came in to make sure I was O.K. and to tell me how lucky I was to be alive. They told me that since I came in “early” I was able to get a bed in a room as opposed to sleeping in the hallway. I still felt a little dizzy, but I was able to go home right away. The doctors told me my Blood Alcohol Content and told me that the IV that they gave me lowered my BAC, so I would have nothing more than a bad hangover. And again, he called me lucky. On the way out of the hospital the halls were lined with bachurim, unconscious on stretchers and beds. Parents and rebbeim were crying and saying Tehillim. It looked more like a funeral than Purim.

On a visit to my pediatrician, I realized why that doctor kept telling me I was lucky. My doctor calculated my weight with how much I drank (approximately 50 oz.) of 40% alcohol and told me that, according to the charts, I should have been dead a long time ago. The fact that I was still alive was a miracle in itself. Most people with that BAC are usually, at the very least, brain damaged. I asked him why I was not dead if his calculations and his charts were right. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Someone up there is watching over you.” I really am lucky.
Almost dead! Not a cold, not the flu, dead, because I wanted Purim to be more “geshmak”. The people in the hospital and of Hatzoloh know that every year this happens to too many bachurim. Too many! Even one is too many! That’s why they put up signs telling you not to drink. No, don’t get carried away. What else do they have to do?

[Written by Reuven Epstein, 18-years-old]

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Only at the Kosher Gym....

I was out at the Kosher Gym trying (hopelessly?) to get in shape, when i noticed a warning posted:

"WARNING. Do not text while on treadmills. You could lose control and CV be killed. NO JOKE."

Oh. My. Gosh.

Now That's Talent...

...V'Hamevin Yavin (hint: read the comments)

I'm Baack

On my way to my new job in "Hicksville" (not actual name, or current residence) I drive down "Main St" (actual name) for about three miles, and along the route are some interesting road signs.
Deer Crossing - okay, pretty normal so far... Even b'more had these

Motorists Must Yield for Guide Dog
- not the blind pedestrian, the dog. i can't even find an image of this online, i don't think they really even exist.

And my personal favorite.....
Tractor Crossing - you can't get more out of town than that. (i think this sign almost makes the commute worth it)
Personally, I was hoping for something more along the lines of....


(via Diana) Either way, oy.

Quite Moving

Received via e-mail from R' Dr. Aryeh Frimer, written by Sharon Millendorf.

Every morning I take the 35 bus line to work. It's a quick ride and usually takes no more than 12 minutes. The third stop after I get on by the shuk is directly in front of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. This morning I found myself a bit anxious, unsure of what I was going to see as we passed by. As I looked around, I saw death notices pasted all over the street and flowers that had been brought lined the entrance to the Yeshiva.

When the bus pulled up to the stop, the driver shut off the engine and stood. With tears in his eyes he told everyone sitting on the bus that one of the boys killed on Thursday night was his nephew. He asked if everyone on the bus would mind if he spoke for a few minutes in memory of his nephew and the other boys that were killed. After seeing head nods all over the bus he began to speak. With a clear and proud voice, he spoke beautifully about his nephew and said that he was a person who was constantly on the lookout for how to help out anyone in need. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved learning, and had a passion for working out the intricacies of the Gemara. He was excited to join the army in a few years, and wanted to eventually work in informal education.

As he continued to speak, I noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me was crying. I looked into my bag, reached for a tissue and passed it to her. She looked at me and told me that she too had lost someone she knew in the attack. Her neighbors child was another one of the boys killed. As she held my hand tightly, she stood up and asked if she too could say a few words in memory of her neighbor. She spoke of a young man filled with a zest for life. Every friday he would visit her with a few flowers for shabbat and a short dvar torah that he had learned that week in Yeshiva. This past shabbat, she had no flowers.

When I got to work, one of my colleagues who lives in Efrat told me that her son was friends with 2 of the boys who had been killed. One of those boys was the stepson of a man who used to teach in Brovenders and comes to my shul in Riverdale every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to be a chazan for one of the minyanim.

We are all affected by what goes on in Israel . Whether you know someone who was killed or know someone who knows someone or even if you don't know anyone at all, you are affected. The 8 boys who were killed will continue to impact us all individually and as a nation. Each one of us has the ability to make a profound impact on our world. This coming wednesday morning, I will be at Ben Gurion airport at 7 am with Nefesh B'Nefesh welcoming 40 new olim to Israel . We will not deter. We can not give up. We will continue to live our lives and hope and work for change, understanding and peace.
Sharon Millendorf
Student and Young Professionals Program Coordinator
Nefesh B'Nefesh
Cell: 0546-797-323
From the U.S. : 646-502-8420

America Eats for Israel

Please check out for a list of participating restaurants, but here's the basic idea:
America Eats for Israel is an entirely student-run organization currently in its fourth year, designed to aid impoverished Israelis. Dozens of restaurants across the US and Canada have agreed to donate 10% of their gross revenue to America Eats for Israel on March 11th, 2008. You can help by spreading the word, and most importantly, eating at a participating restaurant on March 11th. For a list of participating restaurants in your area, click here.
This idea was initiated by students at Yeshivat Rambam in Baltimore (my sister works there), and quickly spread all over. Yiasher Kochachem. Even if you can't make it to a participating restaurant today, you can still help support the cause by visiting the website and donating.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Governer Spitzer to Resign

So it seems... after this. How crazy and stupid do you have to be? That's pretty much all there is to say. What a moron. Good riddance.

Remember, he ran a campaign on "ethical standards". Instead, he has been caught using a prostitute ring that charges up to $5,500/hour (your tax money at work?).

Apparently, he was indicted on Feb. 7th in a sealed document.

(Hat tip: Mara S)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Anyone else bored tonight?

I really wanted to go to the concert tonight. You know the big event. I'm one of the few who enjoy Lipa.
Instead I was faced with this....

Well Waddaya Know VII

Last week's question and answer:
Which Israeli city has a Freud Street?
And the winner is...
17 (40%)
6 (14%)
Tel Aviv
14 (33%)
5 (11%)
Be'er Sheva
2 (4%)

This week is going to be a little different, with the question up for discussion more than trivia:
What do you think of the idea to privatize the jails?

Shiva Info for Zev Segal in Israel

It didn't click until Shabbos, but Zev Segal, a'h, who passed away tragically on Thursday, was the great-uncle of my good friend Shragi who comes up with the "Well Whaddya Know" trivia questions. He was also the great-uncle of my good friend and shomer from my own wedding Akiva, whose wedding I just attended in Cleveland a couple of weeks ago. His grandmother, whom we know well from her time in Cleveland, is sitting shiva for her brother in Jerusalem.
[Frum Cleveland News] Fw: Sitting Shiva in Jerusalem
Mrs. Zahava Sukenik will be sitting Shiva (as of Tuesday morning) for her brother (Rabbi Zev Segal) at her home in the Ramat Tamir Apartment complex on Rechov Golda Meir in Jerusalem. Rabbi Segal's funeral will be in the Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday evening (approx 7 PM Israel time). The phone number in Mrs. Sukenik's apartment is 02-581-1590.

For further information contact her children Chaim and Shelli Sukenik (08-979-0375 or 052-889-8811).

Despite It All: Rejoicing in Adar

(From Jameel, crossposted at The Muqata)

Several years ago during the "height" of the current Intifada, my settlement was not spared the horror of a terror attack.

Shootings on the roads, infiltrations into settlements, bombers on buses, attacks on yeshivot and high schools were the norm. Families would borrow bullet proof vests from the "Gemach" (free loan organization) just to drive around on the roads. All the school buses were quickly bulletproofed and our roads were pock marked by the heavy treads of IDF APCs.

Difficult times.

Our kitat konenut (Rapid Response CTU) was on alert alot those days, and we were all still reeling from the terror attack at home.

And then, one Friday night as we were sitting around the Shabbat dinner table (I believe we were in the middle of soup) there was a knock at the door.

One of our children went to the door to open it, and his eyes widened unexpectedly as the Rav of our community was at the door. Walking through the door, he started singing "misheh, misheh, misheh", the ubiquitous song heralding the start of the joyous Adar month. Trailing after him were about 30 neighbors; men, women, children, all dancing and singing into our home on Friday night...circling our dining room table, they sang and danced. I quickly grabbed our youngest, plopped him on my shoulders, and joined in the dancing, as did all our children, around the dining room table and living room.

After a few minutes, our Rav led the group to the next home on his list, and we joined in.

For close to an hour, we would go from home to home (as our group of dancers grew to close to 80 people), knocking at doors and dancing in -- as our Rav tried to heal some of the sadness and tragedy that affected our community.

That was a few years back; but the tradition continues.

Despite the awful terror attack on Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav this past Thursday night, the ongoing Katyusha rockets, and the bittersweet times we are experiencing these days in Israel, this past Friday night there came the same knock at the door, and dozens came in singing and dancing.

The soup was already cold when we returned home, as our group had grown to almost a hundred people as we continued to make house after house "smile" as we danced around their dining rooms.

I heard on the radio this morning one of the rabbanim from the Merkaz HaRav high school who said, "human beings were created to endure pain...death and mourning is part of life."

No one ignores the pain of the terror, no one forgets the mourning.

But we can't forget the message of Adar. We survived our enemies back then on Purim and we will continue to survive and flourish, today, and in the future.

A Joyous Month of Adar to all of Israel.


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

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Far Side...

…doesn’t seem quite so clever this morning. It’s still funny and can bring a quick smile to my face but it just feels…inconsequential.

That’s one of two words that keep flashing through my mind, along with incomprehensible.

Straight to the point then.

Starting with Shemos the final four seforim that make up the Torah end as follows:

Shemos –

כִּי עֲנַן יְהוָה עַל-הַמִּשְׁכָּן, יוֹמָם, וְאֵשׁ, תִּהְיֶה לַיְלָה בּוֹ--לְעֵינֵי כָל-בֵּית-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּכָל-מַסְעֵיהֶם

For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys

Vayikra –

אֵלֶּה הַמִּצְו‍ֹת, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת-מֹשֶׁה--אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: בְּהַר, סִינָי

These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai

Bamidbar –

אֵלֶּה הַמִּצְו‍ֹת וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה--אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: בְּעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב, עַל יַרְדֵּן יְרֵחוֹ

These are the commandments and the ordinances, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho

Devarim –

וּלְכֹל הַיָּד הַחֲזָקָה, וּלְכֹל הַמּוֹרָא הַגָּדוֹל, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה, לְעֵינֵי כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל

and in all the mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel

Many commentators see sefer Bereishis as a stand alone piece of the Torah, almost like a preamble as it sets the scene or lays the groundwork for what will happen from that point on, it is individually historical (which is important in the extreme, but different than what goes on in the rest of the Torah) and includes very little direct instruction that is relevant outside of sefer Bereishis.

The final four sefarim (pun not intended:) are more one unit that flow from one to the next. It is interesting to note then that of the four only Shemos does not end with the words Bnei Yisroel, or words to that effect, but instead the words Beis Yisroel (while sefer Devarim does not use the word Bnei the implication is clearly to the nation at large). It could have used the common term of Bnei Yosroel just as easily or left out a descriptor all together like at the end of sefer Devarim.

Why the special use of the term Beis?

As with many things in Judaism the answer to how things end lies in how they were begun. Sefer Shemos begins with the following verse:

וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַבָּאִים, מִצְרָיְמָה: אֵת יַעֲקֹב, אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ

Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came into Egypt with Jacob; every man came with his household

Ish U’Veiso, every man with his household. This is what the entirety of sefer Shemos is about, the building of the house of Yaakov…the building of the nation of Klal Yisroel. If sefer Bereishis was about laying the foundation, then sefer Shemos is about taking the first steps in putting it to use. All of the rules, all of the commandments, all of the victories, all of the hardships, all of the joy and all of the sadness. They all come as parts of the building and developing of this great entity. The key element involved in this development is the Batim, the home…the Jewish home. The Jewish home sets the tone for what is Klal Yisroel.

There can be no Bnei Yisroel if first there is not a Beis Yisroel.

--Today the former mourns with one of its latter--

Crying... A Plea

Yohai Livshitz, 18. Yonatan Eldar, 16. Yonadav Hirchfeld, 19. Neria Cohen, 15. Roie Rote, 18. Segev Avichal, 15. Avraham Moses, 16. Doron Tronoch, 26.

Baruch Dayan Emes.
Everyone is crying today. Everyone is angry today. On both counts, we should be. This isn't supposed to happen... it just isn't supposed to happen. This was at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav! The place where everything begins from every Yom Yerushalayim! 6 years ago, when they danced to the Kotel on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim, they paused to lament outside of where Sbarro's used to stand. This year, where will they pause?! At their own doors?! Where will they cry? In their own Beis Medrash!?

This just isn't supposed to happen. It just isn't...

Some of my cousins used to study there. I'm not sure if any are still there or not. Another (charedi) cousin goes to learn and daven there every night. Isn't that how it works? We all know someone who's there? Who could have been there? One friend anxiously awaited to hear the status of her recently wed sister's husband. Another realized her brother was just minutes away. We all feel guilty at our own relief, as we find out it wasn't the one we know and love who is among the injured... who is among the dead. It's someone else's loss, and we feel relieved and horrified at the same time.

And then it just becomes a matter of how close does it hit home. For Treppenwitz, this is his neighbor's son. A neighbor who has already had to bounce back from the loss of a husband... and now this. It's unbearable. It's unimaginable!

Then there are all the (warning: graphic) pictures. Rafi has the craziness of the interview of the man who had helped kill the terrorist and stop him from murdering even more young men... children! He calls out Peres and Olmert on live national television about the gun the terrorist used... a Kalachnikov that was supplied to the Palestinians by the Israeli government. How horrible is that thought. That realization. That we gave them the means of killing our own children. We gave it to them...! We gave it to them.

It is so hard... so hard to express what we feel right now. There's just too much to feel. Too much to think. Too much that still needs to sink in. Our good friend SJ has written beautifully through her pain about how this feels and why she is... why we all are crying; that's as close as I could ever hope to explain anything.

We all have our own ways of comprehending, of understanding, of dealing. Of coping. Chana tries in her own way to relate; to try and on some level understand, comprehend how this feels. The Apple is struck by an old message about the efficacy of prayer... specifically Mincha, in combating that which we need to.

I'm so drained. We all are. I'm also so amazed by the strength of the Jewish people, that we constantly go through this, and always come out stronger than the last time. And maybe it's still too soon to appreciate this, but as a friend wrote so beautifully this evening:
But there is something beautiful in that pain as well. Because with every tragedy comes the aftermath. And in this case, we can choose to affect that aftermath. Tragedy, by its nature, brings us closer together, binds us to one another. We become inseperable. We are all of one people; we are all Jews, and we all care. Today the differences fall away. Today the walls fall down. We are Jews and we are human and we care that our brethren were murdered in the library where they sat studying. ...

And this is something we need to take with us for times of strength as well. And something that we can, little by little, strive to do, by allowing this to live on in our hearts - not for just one day, but to take what is beautiful about this, the way in which we come together, and bind it to us so that we do not let it go. So that we stay united. So that we continue in this way, and learn a lesson that we never forget.
May God bless us all and may we all know nothing but happiness.
Amen. Finally... Mindy has asked me to post this beautiful and powerful plea to everyone, and I ask that you read and internalize her message. Thank you.
A Plea (very slightly edited)

We all know what has happened today at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav. Eight yeshiva students, five high schoolers and three yeshiva gedola students, were killed in cold blood by an Arab with a kippa. PLEASE, we cannot let this go on without this changing us in some way. We must do two things:
  • FIRST: In whatever way you can, fight against this injustice. Whenever you see any slanted media reporting, write a letter to the editor. Write or call the White House about any issue: Israel. Terrorism. Darfur. Etc. Check Israeli websites EVERY DAY and subscribe to their email list to keep up on the news. E-mail the Israeli government at Comment on their sites. Comment on blogs. Call politicians. Hashem gave us free choice, and we have the power to change the world if we so will it.
  • SECOND: We have to look within ourselves and our society and find what it is that is faulty within us. Whether it is society at large - and there is no lack of that - or ourselves as a whole, WE MUST CHANGE, or there will be no end to the tragedy! The Ribono Shel Olam is looking down at us from shamayim and waiting to see our reaction when we are killed and trampled on.
And this is why I am begging you to please do two things:
  • One, to take on a kaballah, any kaballah, that you will do something to end the tragedy within us - whether it is an email to the White House, whether it is davening every day, whether it is spreading ahavas chinam in klal Yisrael - TAKE ON SOMETHING to show Hashem that we really care, and do not live our lives in our bubble. Look within yourself to see what it is that Hashem wants you to be and begin working on that goal.
  • Two, start saying Acheinu every day. Stand up and say it in shul, school, on the train, wherever there are Jews who belong to our nation. This cannot go on forever. We must stop this and bring forth the Mashiach already. ***Enough is enough.***
Please daven for the injured:
Naftali ben Gila
Yonatan ben Avital
Shimon ben Tirza
Nadav ben Hadas
Reuven ben Naomi
Elchanan by Zehava
and say Tehillim for them and those who tragically were killed. Also tragic is the attack on Israeli soldiers this morning, and Rabbi Segal's death. Tens of rockets fall on Sderot each day. We cannot let this go on!

Mercas HaRav's e-mail address is
Hamakom Yinacheim Osom Misoch Avlei Tzion V'Yerushalayim.