Monday, December 31, 2007

Second guessing...

My good friend Karma Dude is a volunteer Hatzoloh/EMS. He's got all the training, goes on calls, etc. This past Shabbos (to be precise, Friday night) he was woken up in the middle of the night by a frantic neighbor of his. His neighbor has a little boy (about 7 years old now), and several years ago, the kid had a brain tumor. Thankfully, the kid got better, but this Friday night, the kid had been acting erratic, had gone to sleep very early, and they couldn't wake him up.

Karma Dude went running over there. Finally, they were able to wake the boy, and KD checked his temperature, his heart beat, and determined that the kid was dehydrated. After they gave him (the kid, not KD) several cups of water, KD had to make a judgement call. On the one hand, it could be nothing, just a side effect of the fever. On the other hand, it could bely something more serious, given the kid's medical history, etc., and warrant a visit to the hospital.

In any event, KD advised the parents to continue checking up on the kid, and if anything happened, they should call Hatzoloh (i.e. the ones who are on call on Shabbos) to go to the hospital.

Karma Dude went home afterwards, and couldn't sleep for the rest of the night. He kept second guessing himself.

What if...

This happens so often, in every aspect of life. We make a decision, and we're final about it. But, then we're haunted by this nagging voice, a voice that makes us reconsider everything.

It's everywhere. In shidduchim, in where you'll live, which direction to take to get somewhere, etc. Sometimes, we never get rid of that feeling, even when in the depths of our heart, we know we did the right thing.

In fifteen minutes, it'll be my English birthday. I don't know if I'm wiser, but I do recognize that I've made many decisions this year, many choices. Where to go for yeshiva, whether or not to continue learning in yeshiva, dating decisions. Thankfully, I can say that, with God's help, I believe I have made the right decisions on almost all accounts this past year.

I want to bless all my readers, all Jews in the world, heck, everybody (and myself) that we should continue on this great journey, making our decisions with the conviction and fortitude that we all have deep within us...

Oh yeah, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Shameless plug...

My good friend Shmuel Nelson (of Eden MiQedem. I had an interview with him awhile back. For a recap, or if you've never seen it here, click here.)contacted me a few weeks ago, with a request to advertise for an upcoming show of his. Naturally, I agreed.

Here's the info:

Night of World Fusion at the Knitting Factory with "Eden Mi Qedem", "Atlas Soul", and members of "Zikrayat"
Wednesday December 26 at 7:30 PM
Price: $15

Knitting Factory - New York
74 Leonard Street
New York, NY 10013
Tel: (212) 219-3132

Psychedelic meets Middle Eastern with Eden Mi Qedem's unique signature fusion "wherein Western and Middle Eastern pop culture clash in a colorfully spectacular fashion that redefines rock and roll, like crossing U2 with Dead Can Dance" ( Whisperin & Hollerin )

Atlas Soul is a band performing original music that celebrates Afro-Mediterranean culture and rhythm heavily spiced with Jazz and Funk.

Zikrayat is a New York based ensemble of musicians and dancers dedicated to presenting the traditional repertory of Arab music, song, and dance

I won't be attending, however; I just don't have the time.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Remember when you were a kid? You thought that your mother and your father were perfect. They could do anything, and certainly do no wrong, either.

Remember the first time you saw a chink in that shiny armor, the slightest dent or taint? When you realized they weren't perfect? How did you feel? I was at a lost, and I remember the exact moments that I came to the realization that they were humans, not only capable of making mistakes, but big ones. It took a long time to get used to that fact, but eventually, I learned that these things just aren't that simple...

I had a terrible moment of deja' vu yesterday evening.

Right after breaking the fast on a much needed coffee, I climbed into my car to get some grub. My phone rings, and it's my cousin, bearing terrible news. Apparently, an important person that we know very well was arrested, implicated in some sort of money laundering scam. This person ( a Hasidic Rebbe, actually), is very close to my community. More so, he's very close to my immediate family. I've known him all my life, gotten brachas (blessings) from him at least once a year, and have asked for his advice numerous times.

Needless to say, I'm shocked and dismayed.

I know white collar crime is common in the jewish community (not just among the Hasidim either), be it large scale insurance frauds and tax evasion, or on a very personal level. I don't know where the permission to do these things is found, either; I'm not the most learned person, but dishonesty is dishonesty, any way you slice it. Even if it's not strictly forbidden, not written explicitly in the Torah "though shall not...", I don't understand how one can compartmentalize falsehood to just his business dealing with gentiles. It has to effect every other aspect, not to mention what kind of mention it sends to our children. Even if we know the difference, children tend to takes things quite literally, and see things in black and white...

I don't know what to say. I certainly don't think that Reb ______ is a bad person; on the contrary, I've known him too long to just write him off so quickly. I don't even know how involved he actually is in the whole deal. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this news.

One part of me wants him to get out as soon as possible, while the other part wants to ensure that he and his Hasidim get shaken up by this visit to jail, at least enough so that they won't be too hasty in doing this stuff again...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lessons to keep...

First of all, sorry for the lack of postage recently. Things have been sort of busy, and I just didn't have the time...

Anyway, although Channukka has come and passed, I'd like to share some lessons that Karma Dude pointed out to me. These are lessons that aren't necessarily taught or discussed in classrooms, and yet, they speak volumes and raise interesting questions about today.

We know what the catalyst for the rebellion was. For over two hundred years, the Assyrians had their way with us. By law, any jewish girl about to be married had to spend a night with the Assyrian general beforehand; they weren't playing Parcheesi, if you catch my drift.

Imagine the pain, the shame that these poor girls had to endure, right before what should be one of the happiest days of their lives!

For two hundred years (and change), the Jewish nation accepted this terrible affront to one of the pillars of our way of life, that of marital sanctity. And we accepted it, and went with it.

Then, one very brave daughter of Israel stood up, and did something so daring, it was impossiblr to ignore. She was the daughter of Matisyahu - the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and a scion of the Hasmonean dynasty - and he couldn't do anything but heed her cry.

What did he do? He stood up, made a public statement: Mi L'Hashem Elai? Who is with me for God? With those words, he stated that he would no longer stand by and watch the spirtual destruction of his Nation, and he invited, he challenged all to join him.

And who joined him?

None, save for his five sons. They recognized what their father was saying, and they answered him, standing with him.

Lesson One: Family. When the going gets tough, and the chips are down, who's at your back? Your family, and most times, they're the only ones.

They started a campaign, a coup d'etat the likes no one has ever, nor will ever see. In the face of many, this small group (aided by others who heard the call and felt the need to take a stand), took on the might of the Assyrian military. With God helping them always, they emerged victorious.

Lesson Two: It wasn't the popular thing to do. When everyone was complacent, or afraid, and would rather not make a ruckus, Mi L'Hashem Elai wasn't much of a rally cry. "Be quiet, you'll only make it worse!" "Don't worry, soon this will all pass..."
No. Sometimes, God is telling us to make a choice. Hishtadlus is a very important aspect of out lives, of our existence as humans. It may be hard, and it may be dangerous, but it must be done. He will lead, but we have to walk...

These are such important lessons!

I don't like to be all gloom and doom, but take a look around. Our status quo? The Orthodox (all denominations) community is but a tiny majority. We cluck our tongues and talk about the so called crisis' - both real and imaginary - but do we do anything about them? "That's for the professionals..." "What can I do? Who am I?" "Oy, it's a shandeh, it's a rachmanus..."

I'm not talking about Kiruv, or shidduchim, or any one specific problem. It applies to every facet of our lives, every minute of the day. We're all aware of various problems in our respective communities, both spiritual and material. What do we do about it? How can we change it?

We're all one family; the chips are down. What are we doing about it?

Mi L'Hashem Elai still isn't a popular rally cry, apparently. But let's face it, at the end of the day, on whose side would you rather be? On the victorious side, the ones who answered "I am."? Or the ones who just laid down and took it?

Think about it, people...

Let's be true warriors...

--Thanks to Karma Dude for the discussion. I love you man.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I knew it...

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
The Flash
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

This actually makes more sense than expected...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why not?

Just a few clips, because I noticed that the overall tone on the blog has been a little depressing of late...

This is just cool. The sheer amount of upper body strength to do this is astounding!

Kind weird, but mildly entertaining...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The trip that never ends...

I don't mean to sound all grumpy, but I'm sitting in the Ninth Circle of Hell (Toronto Pearson Airport, in case you forgot), and my flight has been pushed back even further.

I'm tired. I'm wired. I feel drained, after the whirlwind of activity that was my week so far.

Aside from being in town for a shidduch, my friend's wedding here in Toronto was last night. All my buddies drove in, and I was the "inside man", coordinating the places where they would be crashing for the night.

So, the shidduch has ended. I'm fine about it; to tell the truth, I really didn't feel anything here nor there about this girl. She was nice, but while I didn't have a reason to not continue, I didn't have a reason to keep going, either. I think she felt the same way; as a matter of fact, she beat me to the punch, and said "no" first.

Thinking that I was going to be able to return back to Jersey this morning, I changed my ticket. However, my sister-in-law had other plans. She arrainged for me to have a date today, smack in the middle of everything. It would have to be rushed, in order to accomodate the new flight that I changed my ticket for, which I should have been on by now, but due to delays, yadda yadda you now the drill. I took this girl out today, and it was only when we got in the car that I realized this girl was a newbie to the scene. That put a little pressure on me...

On top of all that, she also paraded me around last night at the wedding. Introducing me to people in a not so subtle fashion, she let them know all of my vital statistics. Age, where I learn, that I'm in shidduchim, my neck, waist, and inseam sizes...Everything that a prospective buyer might want to know...

I am so exhausted...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On the road again...

Once again, I find myself in Newark airport, waiting for a flight.

This is my second trip to this particular destination in as many weeks; as you can tell, I'm in the middle of a shidduch.

Maybe it comes with the territory of being the youngest in the family, but it seems as if each one of my siblings feels compelled to give me a call in order to impart their pearls of wisdom. I don't usually mind, but when it's mostly unsolicited, and simultaneous, it can get to be a bit much...

Each one thinks that they're are helping "clear things up" for me, when in reality they're only added to the din and confusion. However, if you tell them as much, you run the risk of insulting them, and burning your bridges...

Talk about a rock and a hard place...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fight for Kisses...

Karma Dude just shared this with me, and I felt that this is worth sharing with you all...

The classic struggle...for love.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Impossible needs...

I collapse from working harder than
The average workaholic
I intend on reaching farther than
To get exactly what I fight so hard and labor for
And crack the surface of
what I intend to be

Not for you
You're too hard to please

How do I meet your impossible needs?
How can I reach
With you pulling on me?
With your impossible needs
How can I reach
With you pulling on me?

I snap but still hang on
by the thread that you throw me
One hand to just hang on
and the other to catch me
One too many ticks past the second
that you were so happy
I cant go back around again

Not for you
You're too hard to please

How do I meet your impossible needs?
How can I reach
with you pulling on me?
With your impossible needs
How can I reach
with you pulling on me?

In a round-about way
I'm better than this
But you keep me from taking a chance
On what I believe I am
And what you think makes me a man...
- Nonpoint, off the album Recoil.

Something about this song always resonates with me, and this is how I've been feeling the last few days...

- This is a cover that they did of Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight; it was featured on the Miami Vice soundtrack...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A must read...

I just finished reading an amazing book, and I need to tell everyone to read it.

The Dawning Of The Day is the story of a simple man living in Jerusalem. I can't really explain what the book is about, but it happens to be one of the most amazing reads I've ever had.

The author, Haim Sabato, has a hesder yeshiva right outside Jerusalem. His writing is rich with faith, quoting from TaNaCh left and right. Though the style may be simplistic, there is such inherent profundity that you won't notice it. I read his first book, Adjusting Sights, last winter, and was awed by his storytelling as well as the pure emotion within. This book just compounded that sense in me, and I urge everyone to get it and read it.

Trust me.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day Six...

Today's is a real doozy. If I was on my deathbed, what message/messages would I try to impart to my friends and family before leaving this plane?

I'm not sure why this is a topic on positive blogging week. Although death isn't negative, per se (after all, we are essentially working towards death all our lives,in aneffort to get through this plane to the next REAL existence), and doesn't have to be relegated to the the corners of our psyche, it still tends to evoke sad and yearning feelings within us.

In any event, this is the topic, so let's take a look...

The truth is, I have no idea what I would say.

There are several problems. 1) Whatever I say is dependent on the dynamics of the relationship I have with each individual family member. I don't want to write some generic platitude that serves as a overall statement. It has to be appropriate to each individual, tailored for that person alone. 2) I certainly hope that I won't have wasted my time as a parent/grandparent/mentor/friend not telling them what I think is important for them to know. Why wait until the "last minute" in a literal sense when I have a daily opportunity to teach by example?

In any event, there is one thing I would definitely say, and it's something I got from my great-grandfather, H"YD. This is a lesson that's been repeated over and over in my life, and remains as relevant as ever:

When my grandmother's family was brought to one of the concentration camps, she and her sister (my great aunt) were separated from the rest of the family. Frantic, they tried making it through the crowds, desparately clinging to each other, searching for the rest of their family.

At one point, they found a clearing near a fence, and stopped or a moment. My great-grandfather appeared on the other side of the fence, which served as the separation between men and women.

The last thing he said to them was "Love each other! No matter what, you have to always love each other!"

I think that would resonate with anyone, but it is an important lesson. We let all the petty things get in our way, and sometimes we don't express our love for each other. We can even be led to believe that we hate someone, because we forget about who that person really is, and who we are.

"Love each other! No matter what, you have to always love each other!"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day Five...

I'm sitting in Newark airport, waiting for my flight out. We're off this Shabbos, which works out very well, because I have a date tonight at my destination. Thankfully, I'm feeling much better, albeit not quite myself yet...

Today's discussion is to recount a time when we saved someone's life, or helped somebody.

Truth be told, this makes me a little uncomfortable. All the other topics so far have dealt with recognizing the good in others, whereas this one focus exclusively on one's self. Still...

I was on my way to night seder. It was 11th grade, and I was late. It was very cold outside, so I had my collar up, a knit cap on over my headphones, and a huge scarf wrapped around my face. I could see in my periphery that there was someone ahead of me, about 15 feet or so, but because of the wind, I had my head down.

Suddenly - through my very loud playing music - I hear an ear splitting screech. I look up, and it doesn't register right away what I'm seeing. What I originally thought was a guy hanging out the passenger side of an extremely fast moving car turned out to be a pedestrian rolling up the hood, over the roof, and down off the trunk onto the ground. The car never slowed down, but continued laying rubber as it sped away.

A hit and run.

I ran over to the guy, and as I got closer, my heart skipped a beat: it was a guy from my yeshiva. As I got closer, I recognized him. He was a grade younger than me; he'd just come that year, and he was a very sweet guy. I get to him, and he's knocked out. Out of the corner of my eye, I see people running over. Some lady pulled into the parking lot across the street, and as she came running over, she tripped and fell. Another guy quickly pulled over to the side and hopped out. I screamed at him to call 911. Everything was so clear, like it was in high definition.

The guy who got hit came to just as I knelt by him. Disoriented, he didn't even realize I was there. He started screaming for help, struggling to get up, freaking out. I saw his pupils were dilated; he probably had a concussion.

I have very minimal first aid training, but I know that when there's an accident, you have to consider the possibilty of neck/spinal trauma, and ensure that the victim stays immobile. This guy has no clue that any of us are standing there, and much as I try to talk to him, nothing is getting through. Like I said, minimal training, but I've seen movies, and people can go into shock. I covered him with my coat, and basically crossed my arms across his chest with my thumbs out, forcing him - gently - to remain still until the ambulance came.

After all the excitement, I had to take a phone call from the hospital to answer the doctor's questions about symptoms the guy showed immediately after the accident.

When the guy came back to yeshiva a week later, he wanted to buy me something, as a "thank you" for saving his life.

I don't think I saved his life, but I was glad to help...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Days Three And Four...

Sorry, I've been sick for the past few days...

Day Three's assignment was to write about something good happening in one's community. Recently, the high school branch of my old school in Cleveland brought in a brand new kollel.

Originally, I was skeptical, if not apprehensive about this new endeavor, due to several reasons. From what I had heard, the official mission statement of this new program was to make the high school more "yeshivish", which usually raises my hackles. What exactly is "yeshivish" anyway? To me, thgat word usually has negative connotations, choosing to focus on more superficial things like appearance and attitude than anything else.

So far, the high school has done rather well, with their boys. In some ways, I wish that the high school had begun a year earlier, so that I could've attended. I know that the guys who went through the system have become excellent people, earnest in every facet of their lives. I was worried that with the influx of kollel people from out of town (i.e. New York) might damage certain points of integrity to the school, because they would teach the guys that they have to wear black hats in order to be considered frum, but they wouldn't teach them anything else.

Thankfully, my fears were allayed. I happen to know several of the new Kollel guys personally, from around the Tri-State area, and I know that these guys are very sincere. I have confidence that they won't just focus on the outer things that make people seem to be frum, but rather they will take pains to ensure that the boys understand what is really important about being a true Torah Jew.

I wish them all the best, and that they have a lot of luck.

With that said, we can segue into today's topic: If I would have $30 Million to spend over the course of three months, how would I use it to help the world?

Well, several points: 1) I may sound naive, but I really don't have a grasp on what $30 Million is. It's just beyond my imagination. 2) Is it just me getting this amount of money, or does everybody?

In any event, I think that rather than focus on the world at large, I would focus on my community first, following the rule that you have to help the needy in your own city before anyone else.

Since the Jewish nation's future is always reliant on the children, I'd focus on the educational system. Unlike many places, Cleveland still has a school that will take in anybody who is Jewish, and wants to recieve a real Torah education. However, with many monetary problems, it can be hard for a school to take care of everything, so that would be the first step. I'd tell the administration to take whatever they need in order to get such affairs in order. Bills, supplies, etc.

I would make it a requirement for every member of the faculty (especially the Rebbes) to take a course in education, in order to make sure they know how to teach, and be an educator (just because one is a learned man, or a scholar, that doesn't mean he fills the criteria of being a teacher that molds young minds).

Then, I'd institute a mandatory session with every single student, from youngest to oldest, with a guidance counselor/educational director ( one who is hired with the money exclusively for this job). This way, we'd be able to determine the strengths, qualities and needs of each and every child, knowing what s/he needs in order to be successful.

Along those lines, based on the information recieved, I'd try to implement a smaller classroom policy. This entails hiring more teachers, but thankfully, that doesn't seem to be an issue. Smaller classes, where the student/teacher ratio is lessened seems to work better, as it gives more of each teacher's attention to each child. A close relationship is very important. This also has the advantage in terms of disciplinary actions...

I'm sure there's a lot of change left after this, but it's still a start...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Day Two...


Today's task is to write about a particular someone(s) that either saved my life, or inspired me to excel.

First of all, as I grow older, the more I see that - despite our differences of opinions in many forums - my parents were definitely on to something. They were the first ones to tell me that I can do better, and that they indeed expected that of me. While at the time, I couldn't understand how they couldn't understand that I worked so hard just to get the grade I got, I now see that this was their way of telling me that they could see my potential. They could see it, and because they could see to a certain extent what I capable of, they didn't allow mediocrity.

The same went for the rest of my siblings...

Someone who saved my life? That would most definitely be my Rosh Yeshiva, in a sense.

Five years ago (and some change, to be exact), I was going through a real rough patch. I had just gotten into major trouble at my high school/yeshiva, and I was now desperately looking for a new place, a new yeshiva where I could maybe have a fresh start, and hold me back from completely losing it.

I knew what I needed. I needed a small place, where the group's a little more close knit, where they weren't as judgmental. However, the most important factor was the Rosh Yeshiva. I needed somebody with warmth, someone who just cared about his boys, and that's exactly what I found when I came to my current yeshiva. From the first time we spoke on the phone up until this day, I would do anything to make my Rosh proud of me. His entire approach to running a yeshiva is based on trust, and because of that simple fact, I just couldn't let him down.

I only found out much later that he was completely aware of everything that happened at my old yeshiva, and even so, he decided to give me another chance.

I think I owe him forever...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day One...

Today's topic is about positive memories, influences, and the like. I've noticed that several people wrote about places, so I will as well.

Obviously, any Jew will tell you that Israel makes it into his/her top ten list of favorite places. The same goes for myself, specifically Jerusalem (taking the #1 spot) and Tzfat (the #2). However, I'd like to write about my third favorite place: my hometown.

I'm from Cleveland, born and bred.

Since I first came to Jersey almost ten years ago, I'm constantly met with this response when I tell people where I'm from: "Oh, Cleveland? (eyes roll) Yeah, what's there, anyway?"

Truth be told, their not prepared for my answer. Usually people try to defend their respective hometowns, insistent that their city isn't dead, that there's loads to do, places to go, and exciting things to see. And, Cleveland (and the surrounding area) does have all those things. There's the Rock and Roll hall of fame, I'm told that the nightlife can be pretty intense, and the local music scene is very happening.

However, my response to people's disdainful comments is full agreement. For me, the reason I love my hometown is because there's really nothing going on, if you want it that way. The sole reason I love going home is because that's my decompression area. When I go home, I go to the library, stock up on books, and relax, allowing myself the time needed to recharge my physical batteries.
In a "small town" like mine, you can't rely on the fact that there's a shul around the corner, where you can catch a minyan (quorum of ten adult Jewish males, a basic requirement for public prayers) until 10 in the morning. No. In my neighborhood, the latest minyan is at 8:30. If you don't catch that, you have to either pray alone, or drive to the other neighborhood.
The politics in a small town can get pretty messy, but thankfully they are isolated cases; they don't happen very often, and eventually, even the most bitter fights are cleared up, with both parties moving on.
To be honest, it's very refreshing to come home and see a real sense of community, something that does exist elsewhere, I'm sure, but not as recognizable in larger places, like in the tri-state area. Nothing beats walking into shul on Friday night, and seeing people's faces light up because you're there. They don't know what is happening in your personal life - because you're always out of town - but it doesn't matter to them anyway; you're home, and that's all that matters...It gives you a real sense of belonging.
Being home, eating mom's delicious food, praying at my shul and seeing all my childhood friends? That's a perfect vacation for me, and I wouldn't give that up for anything in the world.
A lot of times we feel like we have to define ourselves by what we have. Cleveland reminds me that not only do we not have to define ourselves that way, but sometimes it's better to define ourselves by what we don't have...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Positive Blogging Week...

This week, starting tomorrow, is positive blogging week, a brainchild of fellow blogger Ehav Ever. Each day has a different subject that intends for the writer to write an essay about something positive in his/her life.

Hopefully, this will lead to some inspirational writing, and thinking...

God willing, I'm going to give it a shot, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Choosing a path...

This is something that I've been struggling with for a while...

Over the past Chag, and then again when I was home two weeks ago, my mother kept on making disparaging remarks about how my siblings "went off". She didn't mean literally; thankfully, all my siblings are quite religious. However, due to several different factors, some of my siblings don't practice Judaism quite the same way as my folks do.
My family comes from a Hungarian/Hasidic background - from both sides - and we have certain traditions that have been passed down. For example, my family prays in Nusach Sfard, and my father wears a gartel ( a special belt worn during the prayers and other important services that acts as a barrier between the torso and the lower half of the body, thereby separating the animalistic part of the body [i.e. the genitals] from the spiritual part [the heart and the brain] of the body).

My brothers do not do either of these things (opting to pray in Nusach Ashkenaz, and to rely on their actual belts as a separation), and these are among many other differences. This bothers my mother to no end, and she never misses an opportunity to harp on it.

I do most of the things that my father does, albeit with a twist or two. I looked into many things when I was searching, trying to learn more about my roots, and I found that many of our own traditions appealed to me, and give meaning to my service of God.

Still, I don't understand: I know that it would be great if my siblings did everything like my folks; it makes my dad feel good, they're keeping up the tradition, etc.
However, if they honestly don't feel any satisfaction in their service, then what's the big deal if they do things a little differently? Should they really continue down a path that makes then feel empty or unsatisfied? Wouldn't it be better if they found a way that makes them feel whole (provided that it's within the parameters of halacha)?

How far does mesorah go?

Do you have to keep it alive, at the risk of feeling unaccomplished?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Burial...

As the sun bakes down, we stand heads bowed
the body lowered slowly into the ground
in this place there's no ego, no one is proud
the scraping of spades the only sound

The wood splinters in my grip, biting my hand
pain vivid, in this moment, so surreal
an instance of clarity, I now understand
this is how the mourning feel

They stand off to the side, silently weeping
saying their last goodbyes
all that's left are memories, theirs for keeping
trembling, they wipe at their eyes

I'm struck by the silence, the finality
awaiting me at the end of my days
I shake, awash with humility
inspired to change from my ways

"From dust we came, to dust we return"
the man in black somberly states
when reaching that point, with no where to turn
ultimately, we fulfill our fates

The procession moves away, flanked left and right
moaning and crying, appearing bereft
I look back once more, memorizing the sight
just a small pile of dirt is what's left.

I had the merit of participating in a rare mitzvah yesterday: The burial of a Meis Mitzvah. A Meis Mitzvah is when someone dies, and there's no one to bury the deceased. To partake in the care of treating the body and going through the various things required is one of the few commandments that we learn has reward in this world, and it's pronciple remains in the next world.

The deceased in question was a woman who died this past August. As far as the hospital knew, she had no surviving relatives, and her body sat in the morgue until two days ago. At the end of the week, if someone hadn't claimed her, the city would have taken possession and given the cadaver to one of the medical schools. Somehow, a distant relative found out about it - or was found, for that matter - and thankfully rushed to claim the body.

May her Neshama have an aliyah...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Here we go...

Again, I'm really sorry that it's taken me this long to sit down and just get it all out. I've been really busy as of late, with yeshiva starting up again last week, and on top of all that craziness, I had a date last week that didn't fare too well...

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's skip back to my last few days in the Holy Land, and work forward from there.

My parents left two days after the Chag, but I stayed until the end of the week. This left me with plenty of time to visit the friends that I hadn't had a chance to see yet. I had stopped several times at the Zone (for those of you who don't remember, or didn't know, I volunteered there during my tenure in the Holy Land. Click the link for my post about it...), but it seemed to have closed down. I was trying to visit my boss, and the two guys who I had really gotten to know well over there, see how they were doing, etc.
Never one to be deterred, I started visit the local haunts, places where I knew the guys used to hang out when they weren't at the Zone. Several times that I went, my search was fruitless, until I ran into a guy who I knew, albeit not too well, who was friends with one of them.
He gave me one of the guys' number, and I called him up.

This guy - we'll call him Jay - had gotten arrested shortly before I left the Holy Land on posession charges. While we tried to raise money to afford him a lawyer, it ended up not being enough. He sat in jail for six months. At the time, we thought it was a bad thing, but as it turns out, jail was the best thing that happened to him in recent times.

The last time I had seen him, he was in a bad state. Long hair, dirty clothing, really spazzed out, and looking for things to get him high, because the Ganja was starting to be too dull for him. Because he was inside, he was forced to be clean. I'm sure he could have scored in jail, but because he was too scared, he kept to himself...

Anyway, I has been hearing really good things about him. He was clean, he was laying tefillin every day, had himself a steady job. I was really looking forward to seeing him. He came to town about an hour after I called him. First impression as I see him step off the bus? He looks healthy, and cheerful. He's wearing a pair of jeans and a hoodie with the sleeves torn off, he's let his beard grow, and he has a big yarmulke sitting on top of a tight little ponytail.

He looks great.

I wrap him up in a bear hug, because I'm truly happy to see him. I step back to get a better look at him, and then I notice it: the little ponytail actually consists of his peyos tied back; the rest of his hair is cropped very short.


We start walking, chatting, catching up with each other. He tells me he's eight months clean, out of jail. I mention that I'd just reached the two year mark myself, and he claps me on the back. "This calls for a L'Chaim, man!"

We head over to a little, quiet bar where we won't be bothered, and get ourselves a table.
Jay: You drinking, man?
Me: If you are, I am.

I don't really drink too much; aside from vodka, I don't like the hard stuff. It hurts my stomache. We order a few shots of vodka, and the serious shmoozing begins. He tells me that he's between jobs, but he quit because he's trying to open his own business. He lays tefillin every day, and he learns several times a week with a mutual riend of ours. I know he's in good hands. As the hours go by, the drinks keep coming, but it's spread over the time, so it's no big deal. I'm just so happy to see him, and hear how he's on the up and up, that I forget momentarily about everything else: the dating, the pressure from everybody to hurry up and wait, to figure out what and how and where I'm going to spend my life. For once I'm back doing what in love...

Total drink tally: 5 shots of vodka, two cokes, and 5 bottles of Tuborg Red (the big ones), one pack of Pall Mall Lights. At the end of the night, I had quite a nice buzz.

Getting back into the swing of things in yeshiva was difficult; it's always hard to shift gears, but after being in the Holy Land? Oh, man...

This past shabbos, I went home. My dad turned sixty last week, so we threw a bash for him. Other than that? Nothing much doing...

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I've been a bit neglectful to the blog and my readers.

Things have been quite hectic, but God willing things should clear up in a few days...

Hopefully, I'll have plenty of material...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

To keep you busy...

...until I get home.
This is a new video from SoCalled. He's from Montreal, he sports a Jew-Fro, and the video for his latest single is very weird, but cool, as well.
Warning: There is a woman singing throughout the song, so if you're iffy about that sort of thing, you may want to skip it..

For those of you who like reggae and jam music, this is a video clip from Acharit Hayamim. This Jerusalem based band sets up shop in Zion Square on a regular basis, and they just jam for hours for anyone who wants to dance. They're really nice guys, too...


Sunday, October 7, 2007


My laptop is on the fritz.

Apparently, I unknowingly downloaded a serious virus, which multiplied numerous times.

Now, I have to remove everything important from my computer and reformat the entire thing. The damage is so widespread that my computer genius friend - armed with his extensive arsenal of spyware protection, et al - battled with it for many hours and finally admitted defeat.

...swift justice for a moment of weakness.

This should be a tikkun...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jam Packed...

Wow, it's been absolutely crazy here! Since the moment I arrived I've been around and about.
Erev the Chag, my mother let me know that I had a date on Motzei Shabbos, with several backups if the first didn't work.
So, instead of going out to a Simchas Beis Hashuevah like I usually do, I went to a hotel lounge. Thankfully, I found a place where there wasn't a single person I knew. As a matter of fact, the hotel was virtually empty.

That's because the hotel in question was in East Jerusalem, and aint no religious Jews hangin' out there!

Sunday was exclusively me-time. I went shopping for gifts, and then went visiting my various and sundry friends who are lucky enough to live here. I stopped in at a yeshiva that caters to "at risk" (ugh...that name!) kids, where a lot of my friends volunteer. They were having their own party, with a band, and they let me sit in on the bass for quite some time. After that, I went to Doodlehead's apartment, and chilled there for a while.

Later that evening, I attended a parlor meeting for Operation Open Curtain. OOC is one of the original programs created to do kiruv in Russia, and my parents are very involved with the organization. I go to this parlor meeting every year, and I see people that I only see at these gatherings. It's actually a lot of fun, and very inspiring.

Monday I went for a round two with this girl. We went to this park about 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem, and there are natural springs there. It's really nice, and just walking through the whole place took several hours.

Today I went to Bethlehem and Hebron. I haven't been there in quite some time, so it was pretty shocking when we got near Kever Rochel and had to go through this whole corridor made out of huge, twisting, concrete walls. Shocking and saddening. Every year the place changes even more...

I took pics, but I forgot the USB interface for my camera, so when I get back, I'll add the pics...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Terminal Boredom...

I am trapped in the Ninth Circle of Hell, and it is Toronto Pearson International Airport.

It's currently 9:07 P.M. I arrived at this particular Terminal at 12:50 P.M.
I was told that once I entered, I could not go back out.

I thought they were kidding, to a degree. Little did I know how serious it is. Even when you're airborne - as I was - it seems this place throws a powerful glamour over everything. Twenty minutes after we took off, the plane suddenly turned around and headed back to the airport, due to a mysterious "mechanical malfunction".

The first six hours in this hole was bad, but now we have to sit here for several more hours?

Since the whole situation is FUBAR, it goes unsaid that our Kosher meals were lost in the confusion. The best that the heirarchy could do was give us a travel voucher with a whopping value of twelve dollars. Canadian dollars.
On top of all that, the vouchers are only good in the non-kosher restaurants, not the newstand that has food we can actually eat.

And, in keeping with these events, the pretty girl who I prayed would get the seat next to me? Yeah, she did. And she's getting married in a month. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I realized afterwards that she's a friend of mine's sister.

I'm hot. I'm smelly. I'm tired.

I could really use a cigarette...

It just keeps getting better and better.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Parting Shot...

A hunter is making his way through the forest when he realizes that he is lost. There's little time until nightfall, and the hunter knows he must find his way out beforehand, lest he be caught in the darkness with the wild animals he hunts.
As he is walking, he hears a rustling in the bushes near him. He doesn't know what's behind the bushes; it could be the wind, or some fearsome creature. Instinct takes over; he shoots an arrow into the foliage. No more sound comes from that direction.
He continues walking, only to hear more sounds from the forest, coming from the other direction.
Again, he sends an arrow flying into the woods, hoping he's killed whatever is stalking him.

Over and over, the scenario repeats itself: he'll hear something that could be a danger, and he shoots in the direction of the threat, until he is down to one arrow.
Suddenly, he hears an unmistakable sound: the growl of a tremendous bear, making it's way towards him.

The hunter knows that he must make this solitary arrow count. His aim can not fail, his shot must fly true, or he won't survive...

The Dubno Maggid uses this parable to illustrate the power and importance of Neilah, the final prayer of the Yom Kippur service.

During the forty days of the month of Elul and subsequent Ten Days of Repentance, we use most of our ammunition. A prayer here, a pledge there; some halfhearted, some with real sincerity.
Neilah is that last moment, when it all comes down to making a stand, and making sure that out prayers fly straight up to Heaven. It is the proverbial "last arrow in the quiver".

I want to bless all of us that our "parting shots" will hit their marks, and that we should all merit a wonderful year, with a clean slate, and lots of blessings!

P.S. Next week, I'll be headed to the Holy Land, God willing. If anyone wants me to pray at the Kosel for them or a loved one, just send me an e mail with that person's name. It would be my pleasure. Please make sure to add a specification (e.g. for a refuah, etc,), this will make things simpler for me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Inside Out...

Note: For a September 11th post, click here. I posted it last year, and I think it still sums up my thoughts on the matter.

There's a verse in last week's Parsha that seems to speak to me.
(Devarim 29:28) The hidden things are for Hashem, our God, and the revealed things our for us and our children, forever; to do all the things of this Torah.
A few years ago, I was struck with an observation: the Hebrew word for hidden - Nistar - shares the same root as the Hebrew word for contradiction - Stirah. We know that there are no coincidences, so what is the connection?
Literally, the word Stirah, or Soter(the verb of the noun Stirah), means to clash. Two things that seems to be diametrically opposed, and therefore, seemingly can not be reconciled - they are soter each other. This concept comes about numerous times throughout the entire Talmud.

What then, is the connection between these two words? What similarities are there between "Hidden" and "Contradiction"?

I'd like to offer a thought. Many times, we conduct ourselves a certain way, dependant on our surroundings. We say certain things, we carry ourselves with a different posture, we act in ways that seem unfamiliar to even us. To everyone else, we seem to be normal. That's just the "way we are".
But we know that's not so; not all the time.
Many times we want to say how we feel, but can't because of certain expectations. Sometimes that's a good thing, but it can also be bad. How many times have we really wanted to change, but couldn't because of what others would say? How many times have we done things we know are harmful, or wrong, or mean because that's just the "way we are"?
And all along, the real you is hidden inside. A contradiction of your "outer self". Maybe that's another explanation for the verse. The hidden things - our souls, the real us deep inside? Hashem knows about that; He's aware of the struggle, despite the revealed person that everyone else sees.

Maybe that's our Tikkun. Maybe what each of us needs to do is to reach inside. Pull out the hidden person we have inside each of us, and make the contradiction be no more.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Evolution of a mustache...

I've always wondered how people decide that they will wear a mustache. Do they just wake up one day, and decide "you know, I think I'll leave that caterpillar for a while and see where it takes me..."?

Now, I've had a beard in the past. There are things you can do with a beard. You can trim it into a neat little thing, or go Bohemian and let it out (I usually chose the latter option). I had fun with my beard. In class, I would tuck a cigarette or my pen in there (mine got quite nappy after a certain length), and affect a sort of suburban/whiteboy/jewish version of the "pickcomb in the afro" look that our dark skinned brethren have mastered.

But a mustache?

I mean, there isn't too much in the way of style, right? You've got the bushy mustache that sort of mops up any residual food or drink that doesn't make it into your mouth. You've got the Fu Manchu look, but you sort of need a kimono to pull it off. The Hitler 'stash is just wrong...Or, you could go for the "gay frenchman" waxed job. Of course, there's the good old fashioned handlebar mustache, but that takes a lot of time and patience...
I just couldn't figure it out. What would compel someone to make such a decision?

I realized a few weeks ago that the idea isn't spontaneous; it's developed over time by a process similar to osmosis.
I'll explain.
At the beginning of the summer, I went to the barber to get my hair cut. It was after the three weeks, so my beard was pretty healthy then. Since I was home, I had to get rid of it as well. I asked the barber to trim it, in order to make my shaving considerably easy.

The barber did my sideburns, and then my neck and chin. When it came to my mustache, she paused.
"Do you want to keep the mustache?"
Huh? It was so random. I asked her why, and she shrugged. "You would look good with a mustache. You have the right type of growth there."

I took the 'stash off, but that moment stayed with me.
I would look good in the mustache?
My hair was right for it?
I just didn't see it.

Still, a few weeks later, the thought, the idea, was still bouncing around inside my head, floating to the forefront of the murky fishbowl I call my mind.
Gradually, the idea was seeming less alien to me.

After all, there are other folks with mustaches, right?

Some people even looked good in them.

Hell, a mustache is sort of disarming, right? I mean, you can't be scared of a guy with a bushy mustache, can you? It makes one more approachable, in my mind...

And so, last Friday, when I was shaving my several week old beard, I left my mustache. It would be an experiment, of sorts.
I went to Walgreens. The cashier called me "Sir."
Not bad...
I went to Yeshiva. The few guys who saw me snickered and made some comments, but the overall reception was pretty good.

I was almost sold. Maybe I did in fact look good in a mustache.

Sadly, when I was doing a once over with my crummy shaver before Shabbos, I accidentally chopped off half of it, and had to shave the rest.


Friday, August 24, 2007

An interesting thought...

This past Shabbos, as we were reading the weekly Parsha, I came across something I found to be interesting.
Devarim 18:09 - When you come to the Land that HASHEM your God has given you, do not learn to do like the abominations of these nations.
The narraritive is describing when the Jews will enter the Holy Land, how they will encounter the other nations their, and witness their practices, religious and otherwise. We are warned against learning from these nations, and adopting their actions, and the Torah continues to enumerate the various nations and what they do.
Rashi (the foremost commentary on the Torah) adds in a very important - and in my opinion, revealing - comment:
18:09 - "Do not learn to do" - but you should learn, in order to understand and teach ( a quote from the Sifri ). This means, to understand their deeds, and how they are cursed, and to teach your children "don't do such and such, for those are the ways of the nations."
Isn't that interesting? Rashi is teaching us an important lesson in the fundamentals of parenting: education.
The question, however, is how we go about applying this lesson? What exactly does it mean?
Many would like to say that the best way to raise our children to be God fearing Jews would be complete insulation from the outside world. It's possible that that choice could be the best way, in an ideal situation, where we are able to properly insulate ourselves, i.e. when we are self sufficient, and do not depend on the outside world ( when that is is another discussion entirely).
But what about nowadays? Whether we like it or not, the reality of our situation is that we are in exile. More than that, we are firmly entrenched in a world that is rife with secularism, where gratification of the senses and pursuit of bodily pleasure is King.
Do we, in fact, educate our children in the "ways of the world"? If the answer is yes, then how do we educate? What are the parameters, what are the limits? What is proper and necessary, and what is gratuitous and dangerous?

Any suggestions?

Friday, August 17, 2007


This is a really old one...

The clock shows it's time
emitting a soft glow
I've been lying here for hours
yet the minutes pass so slow

If you stare into the darkness long enough
the blackness will take form
the images flood my imagination
far-flung, away from the norm

Try to think of relaxing things
that will possibly serve to soothe
my blanket is all rumpled;
the sheets no longer smooth

Is it for fear of sleep that I'm awake
afraid to lose myself
sickened by dreams that plague my soul
that disturb my mental health?

Or is it because I might not rouse
once I've succumbed to Morpheus' dust
an eternal sleep, forever unconcious
so awake I stay, I must?

I think over the day's happenings
examining the past events
could it be the discussions so innocent
were really malicious in intent?

Now I finally remember
what I've forgotten in the day
but when I need it, it's already gone
the memories slip away...

Replies that I could have used
only come to me in the black
when I need it, then it eludes me
when useless, it comes right back

My paranoia runs rampant
throughout the restless night
double meanings to every word
compliments only said in spite

Or is it my sins come to haunt me
to remind me of what I've done
tell me in my unrest there's no absolution
my inner battles never won?

Outside it begins to lighten
the world awakens to dawn
another day I must begin
always, I must move on...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Where it all began...

I meant to mention this earlier in the week, but as I wanted the previous post to get decent face time, I let it slide for a few days.
This past Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Joe Satriani's debut, Surfing With The Alien.
Joe is an electric guitar virtuoso, known not only for his inpeccable riffs, licks, and hooks, but for the soul which he infuses his works with. He is where it all begain, in my book. He mentored Steve Vai ( who's incredible to the point of possibly surpassing Joe in technique, but lacks any trace of emotion ), and taught Kirk Hammett ( of Metallica fame ) most of what he knows.

Most of Satch's music is instrumental, and ranges from blistering solos and pure octane to mellow, bluesy tunes.

The debut CD Surfing With The Alien has been rereleased with digital remastering and a whole slew of goodies. And it's worth getting; it has a picture of the Silver Surfer on the album cover!

Here are some faves of mine:

Monday, August 6, 2007

Drawing a line...

Two weeks ago, Noah Feldman wrote an essay for the New York Times' Sunday Magazine. The essay, entitled Orthodox Paradox is his own personal complaint against the system that he feels contributed to his developement, his worldview, and where he is holding today. You see, Feldman went to a Modern Orthodox yeshiva, where the message he recieved was that it was possible to be both a jew and a professional in the non jewish world. However, after embracing the secular world - ultimately marrying a non jewish woman - Feldman now turns to his Alma Mater - which has proceeded to omit the mere mention of him in their alumni newsletters - and cries foul.
My brief summarization can't possibly do the article any justice. Here's the link; I hope it works, and although it's a very long article, it's worth reading.
The reactions varied; many lambasted Feldman, and as an interesting note, it appears that Feldman didn't just piss off folks in the religious community. Allan Nadler of The Forward seriously questions Feldman's sincerity in his choices to remain outside the parameters of Orthodoxy.
Gary Rosenblatt of the Jewish Week was by far the best response.

That was the background.

When I first read the article, I struggled. As one who aspires to work in the Kiruv field professionally - specifically speaking, with jewish teens who reject religious life - I know the importance of not writing off people right away. A lot of times there are misunderstandings, etc. On the other hand, this Feldman fellow blatantly violates numerous Halachic rulings, is aware of it, discusses it in an open, public forum, and has the cajones to blame the system that he came out of, all the while justifying himself with the pithy excuse of "trying his best, in his own, flawed way."
My question - and this wasn't addressed by any articles I have seen - is this. What is the line? What do we consider the point of "no return"? When do we indeed pull up the stakes and pack it in, because there's no more we can do to help this person who is so intent on rejecting the faith? In Kiruv, we deal with kids who are at all sorts of levels of rebellion. Aside from the dangers of desensitizing ourselves to this behaviour, at what point do we move on?
When is it more than an option, but an obligation?
How do we face that moment, and how do we live with that rejection?

Any suggestions? I'm open...

Note: I just found this article, which lends a significant twist on the whole story.
An added point that I forgot to mention was that I was irked at how much attention the Matisyahu "debacle" got from bloggers in light of the fact that the Feldman story happened at basically the same time. I haven't seen any bloggers responding or discussing this very important ( in my opinion ) issue...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Fair weather" friends...

Due to my trip last week, I missed a "major" headline...

According to this week's edition of the Jewish Week, Matisyahu is no longer on the Chabad-Lubavitch bandwagon. Naturally, chaos ensues.
Several people, like Chaim, express clear concerns as to where this may be headed, in terms of Matis's spot in the public eye, considering his rise to stardom in so short a time. Chaim is the first to admit that he was a huge fan of Matis, and that he no longer feels comfortable identifying with that status. THat's cool, it's understandable, and it's extremely honest of him.

However, Rabbi Levi Brackman writes a particularily nasty piece on this story on his blog. R. Brackman - whom I've never heard of until today - vilifies Matisyahu, basically equating the fact that Matis may be distancing himself from his point of origin in the religious world with the probability that he may shirk his religious beliefs altogether.
He continues to compare Matis to other "jewish, secular singers" and states that Matis no longer reflects jewish spirituality.

Now, I understand where many folks are coming from, to a degree. A year ago, when Matis suddenly broke ranks with JDub Records, simultaneously breaching his contract and turning his back on the friends who'd gotten him his start, I was very worried. Mainly, I was concerned with how this would be viewed out there in the world. The possibilty of Chillul HaShem when a frum Jew is out there in the spotlight is magnified a hundredfold, at least. I was also, naturally, concerned about Matis's well being, in a spiritual sense.
Was it possible that that was hinting at a deeper problem? Was Matis's rise too fast, and too much all at once? I didn't know, but I'd hoped not. The weight of responsibilty being a frum Jew, coupled with what I'd imagine to be an intense touring schedule, seemed to be a very dangerous thing, indeed.
Thankfully, I believe that the overall Kiddush HaShem outweighed that earlier incident. It made only a marginal splash in the news, and lasted for less than a few days.
Now, I hear yet another "scandal" involving Matis. And I must be honest: I don't see the huge deal.
So, he no longer believes that he identifies with Lubavitch? Okay. So what? I know several people who have become religious through Chabad's help. Without Chabad, who knows where they would be today? But some of them eventually felt that they no longer identified with what Chabad represented or had intended for them, and they left.
They are all still very religious, and some of them may even tell you that they are better for leaving.
Everyone continues to grow. Just because you're moving away from something doesn't necessarily mean that the direction is downward.
We have an expectation of Matisyahu that is unfair, in many respects. He is a baal Teshuva, and a relatively fresh one, at that. And yet ( and I realize that in part, he has brought it on himself, by virtue of the fact that he is representing something larger than he...), we expect him to be saintly, holding him to standards we wouldn't hold of ourselves.

Anonym00kie recently posted about judging people. How we don't realize what is going on in other's lives, and how, if we'd take a moment to relate, to understand, to help, we'd all be in a better place.

Can any of us really relate to Matis? As Rabbi Brackman writes himself: while Matis appeared to be this amazing saint, he was 100% behind him, encouraging kids to listen to him, etc. The moment we get a peek at his ( Matisyahu's) humanity, though, we see that people expect the worst. No one, not even Matis or his managers or agents, ever said he was perfect. I realize that in the spotlight, one has to be so careful, and like I said, I agree. However, I'm growing tired of all these fair weather fans.
I haven't seen Matis get arrested for possesion of drugs. He hasn't been in any tabloids. I pray that he won't, of course, but until something really bad happens, I'm gonna support him.
He's trying to be a warrior, just like the rest of us. Let's give him a chance...

Note: This post was an immediate response after reading Y-Love's post on Jewschool. I quickly read all the posted links, and was very hasty in jumping on Rabbi Brackman's back. After the initial reaction, I went back and read Rabbi B.'s post. His post isn't all that nasty, considering. I still disagree with him, though I apologize if I made him seem like a jerk...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Road Trip...

I just got home last night, after a long day of driving. The trip took me about eight hours or so, and was uneventful, thank God.
Oh yeah, there was this one thing, though...

I killed a beaver.

I was driving on the 80 West, and I had just passed the sign that tells you that you're at the highest point on the 80, east of the Mississippi. I was going at about 85 MPH, and I see this black thing in the middle of the road. I tried to swerve, but it darted forward, straight under my jeep.
I think it wanted to die.

I went pulled over and ran back to see what it was I had hit. I had never seen a real beaver before. Technically, I didn't yesterday, either. I only saw half of it...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Rivers of Babylon 2007

This is a little sad, but I think it's appropos for the times.
I've been worrying about this for a long time. How can we properly mourn? How can we actually bring ourselves to tears, when most of us think we have it all?

I feel
in the face
of my own

I'd gladly
fill my
with the
bitter taste of
if it would show me
what it is
that we're missing

I try to
move myself
shake myself from this haze
at this point
dissociation from my
point of view
would be welcome...

Am I apathetic?
Or should I just
drop the "A"?
But in these times
I do not
I can not
possibly know
how to

When we think
we have
how can we
honestly realize
we have nothing?

This is my
funeral dirge.
Not just for the
of the past
but for the
in the

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I don't even know how to feel, or what to say.

I decided quite some time ago to keep the specific contents ( i.e. conversations and other potentially private details) of my dating to myself; to that end, I don't even tell my folks what went on during a date past the bare minimum.

I guess when it gets back to me that a girl who I dated several times repeated certain parts of our conversations, I feel hurt. Especially when it's made out to look like I'm some sort of creep, and the events that are being told didn't even happen the way they're being said over...

The worst part is that I really liked this girl. She was so cool, and even though it didn't work out between us, I still wished her the best.

I just feel like a fool now...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New idea...

It's bein hazmanim here, but I'm sort of in limbo right now, as I still haven't made any definitive plans.
So far, I've been waking at the crack of noon every day and lazing around, for the most part.
Still, all this extra time gives me an opportunity to really let my mind go; take it's leash off, so to speak.
Yesterday, I had this amazing thought...
Years ago - when I was about sixteen, seventeen - a friend and I agreed to be each other's Porn Buddies. A Porn Buddy, basically, is a person that you can implicitly trust with the knowledge of the whereabouts of your stash of porn, or whatever contraband you may have hidden away in your personal spaces.
The idea is that in the event of one's untimely death ( i.e. before he's been able to get all his affairs in order), the other Porn Buddy will go to the deceased's house and remove and destroy any compromising material that may cause shame to the deceased's survivors, or the deceased himself. It's more or less a damage control plan, in a worst case scenario...

Any paraphenalia that I had is gone now, but this idea stuck with me.

The Porn Buddy setup is a good idea, startegically, but it's defensive. What if, I thought, we can use this concept for a better purpose?

Ever seen a movie or read a book where two characters have a fight, and then one suddenly dies? Then, the survivor goes through the rest of his life lacking closure due to the fact that their last words were harsh? "I never got the chance to tell him how I felt..." and so on.
My idea - and I started on it today - is to write a personal letter to everyone I feel it necessary. My folks, my siblings, certain friends, and certain teachers. In it, I would be as honest as possible, telling them truthfully how I feel, and that in case they ever, ever, had doubt, they should know what they mean to me.
In case - God forbid - I die early, or suddenly, a trusted friend ( a Porn Buddy, of sorts ) who'd been holding onto these letters would immediately send them out to the addressees, and this way, they'd know - even if I'd never expressed it in so many words - how much I love and appreciate them.
Sometimes it's too hard to actually say it; we need distance. Pen and paper provide a certain safety, and it lasts a long time...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Is ignorance really bliss...?

Sometimes I wonder.
God willing, I'll be returning to the Holy Land for Succos, which is just around the corner.
My parents already made tickets for theselves, but they left mine for me to make, in an effort to accomodate my plans for being in Yeshiva for Yom Kippur.
I called up my travel agent, who's known me since I was a little boy; she was my Kindergarten teacher.
She's a sweet little lady, married to a very learned man, which reflects on her own stature. She's a very frum woman, completely unassuming.
For example: when discussing possible flight plans, she apologized at one point for not being able to get me a flight that connect through Amsterdam. Puzzled, because I know what goes on in that city - made famous by their legalization of recreational drugs and prostitution - I asked her why.
"Well," she replies, "I know a lot of Yeshiva boys like to go there and tour, because it's such a nice city..."

I'm not surprised at all that guys actually go there; there was a time when I would've given my eyeteeth for one day in that place.
But after hanging up with her, it made me think.
Wouldn't life be a little bit simpler if I wasn't as knowledgable as I am?
This woman, who is a great person, isn't necessarily the most wordly person out there. Case in point, right? But she seems so happy, so content with her life, her little sphere of reality.
And I? Sometimes I think that my exposure has left me open to cynicism. As if I know too much about things that I shouldn't, and that it's much harder not to be critical of some things...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Thing have been really hectic the past couple of days, but rest assured, I'll bring you all up to date soon. Until then, you can enjoy this. It's really fresh...

How long
will it take
for us to
each other?

Are you near me
almost under my nose
or are there oceans
vast and deep
literally and figuratively
between us?

Have we met?
Have we seen
each other
not knowing
but deriving pleasure
from the thrill
of that possibility?

How will we know?

By something
you ( I )
A gesture, a comment
I ( you )

Can you imagine how
it will be?
How we will
one another

How I will be
your strength
constant and consistent

And you
will complete me
cloaking my prose
with your melody
Poetry e-motion...

Do you yearn
as I yearn
are you tired of waiting
as I am?

I thought so...

See you soon...

Thursday, July 5, 2007


This is why I love pictures. The Dreamer just posted a beautiful poem on her blog about the Holy Land, causing me to miss it terribly. Reenforcing that gaping hole of lonelyness I feel whenever I hear mention of Eretz Yisroel.
So, I went to my files and started going through pictures I had taken from my last time in the Holy Land...

This is Mount Meron, taken from atop the hill that leads down to the cemetary in the holy city of Tzfat ( my second favorite place in the world)...

This is a picture of the gravesite of R' Shlomo Alkabetz. R' Shlomo was one of the greatest Kabbalists ever, and he is the author of the song L'Cha Dodi...

This is the gravesite of the original Radziner Rebbe, who many believe brought back the mesorah of Techeiles ( myself included )...That's my shadow, by the way...

This next pic is from a stunning Erev Shabbos spent on the beach in Netanya. I wrote about that day a while ago, but it's in the archives...

This is at a wedding that I went to in Bayit V'Gan. It was a very special simcha; the Chassan was a friend of mine from way back. I had literally seen him in all stages of his path, from being religious to being completely not, then back and becoming so strong in his faith. At the wedding, my buddies from Simply Tzfat rocked out...

Most of my pics have myself or friends in them, so I can't really post them. However, these pics are a consolation, that even if I can't be there now, I know we'll all return soon, with God's help. Until then, these reminders of great times, inspiring times, holy times, can tide me over...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Oh, man...

Why isn't it enough to say "I don't think it's gonna happen"?
I need to have some sort of dissertation as to the how's and why's I don't think a particular shidduch will work?
How do you articulate a vibe?
How do you explain that from the get go, you feel this need to suppress yourself, and that that's not healthy at all?

Shidduchim really suck sometimes...

Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm "IT"...

Apparently, there's this thing called being tagged. Basically, if you get tagged, you have to list eight facts about yourself. Then, you have to tag eight other folks, go to their blogs, and let them know they've been tagged...
I have to post the official rules, which are:
1) Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves.
2) The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed.
3) At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
I know, I already told you before I posted the rules what the rules are, but rules are in fact rules.
Here goes...

1) I was born on January 1, 1985. I was the first baby born in Cleveland ( since then it's been downhill. My folks missed the tax deduction by one day, and the rest is history).
2) I can wiggle each eyebrow independant of the other; I have many other facial features that come naturally.
3) Coming from a Hungarian/Chassidic background, I've become increasingly interested in my roots over the past seven years or so... I would like to put on some variation of the levush after I marry.
4) Boxer briefs. Best of both worlds, I say...
5) I love comic books.
6) I sometimes experience severe bouts of personal hypochondria, in private. I'll be laying in bed, and I'll feel a dull throb, and my imagination takes it from there.
7) I've been clean for almost two years now, thank God. I'm more or less straightedge, with the exception of Purim and the occasional L'Chaim on Shabbos.
8) I make a mean macaroni and cheese.

Those are facts that don't usually come up in my posts. I was gonna write some deeper stuff, but what the hey: anything else usually crops up...

I tag: Lvnsm27, Epes A Chosid, Doodlehead, Sweet Rose, The Dreamer, David On The Lake, Reb Y., and Kismet.
P.S. A special thanks to
tnspr569, who tagged me...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Dreamer, as I promised. This is old stuff...

There were things I hoped I could tell you
things that you should have known
but for sins of the past, the interest will accrue
and I'm left to reap what I've sown

In this time of joy, I should relate
happiness that I really should share
I'm lacking closure, it seems like fate
and it's too late now, I fear

Tried patching things up, but it didn't work well
once, you were my best friend
now I'm stuck in this personal hell
and it feels like this is the end

Want to tell you how happy I am
but it feels so insincere
slipping through my fingers, you're like the sand
so hard to keep my eyes clear

Don't want to feel like I'm suffering a loss
and you're gone from me for good
but it's hard to tell my feelings who's boss
and put myself in a better mood

To suppress my emotions wouldn't help at all
for I'd have a vague sense that I lied
the higher I raise myself, the deeper I'll fall
and another part of me will have died

but I must move on, no matter the cost
it's the only way to stay sane
we're growing up, and you're not really lost
sometimes, in life there is pain

I can never feel there's no more time
as long as I breathe, there's a chance
we move along, towards our prime
for you, I will always dance

I'll remember all the good times we had
all the conversations, meaningful and deep
lifting each other up, when we were feeling sad
those memories will be mine, to keep.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Road Trip!

So, this past weekend, I drove home for Shabbos.
My mother bought a piece of furniture here in the tri-state area, and needed it brought home as soon as possible. We had an off Shabbos, so it worked out. My parents weren't home for Shabbos, but I was able to eat and spend quality time with my relatives, so it was cool.
Originally, another guy who lives in Cleveland was supposed to make the trip with me, but he backed out at the last minute, so I drove by myself. It was long, and tiring, but never boring.
I had my iPod, and though I'm erasing songs already, there's still plenty of music. Enough for a seven hour trip, both ways. So, in an act of unprecedented genius, I decided to put the whole thing on shuffle, and let what came out determine the mood of the trip.
To start, I selected Bubba Sparxxx's song, Deliverance. Bubba is a mediocre rapper ( "He raps like he has Down's Syndrome, dude..." as a friend of mine so succinctly put it once. I agree with him, and hold him at second only to Fifty Cent - who raps like he's William Shatner with a speech impediment - as the worst rapper out there.), but that song happens to be one of the best road trip songs ever.
<----That's the track. Check it out.
After that came a bevy of songs. Rush's Spirit Of Radio. Metallica's One. 311's Amber.

A.O.J.'s Freedom. Atmosphere's Always Coming Home To You. Eric Clapton's Layla. Grateful Dead's Sugaree. ZZ Top's Tush. Matisyahu's Warrior (from the original studio recording Shake Off The Dust...Arise). Acharit Hayamim's Ein Yiush. Shadows Fall's Inspiration On Demand. Tears For Fear's Shout. MC Hammer's Can't Touch This. Beastie Boys' Intergalactic Planetary. Bob Marley's Stir It Up. Pearl Jam's Even Flow. Youngblood Brass Band's The Movement.

Nonpoint's Endure. Victor Wooten's Victa. Chimaira's Implements Of Destruction. Rebbe Shlomo's Hisna'ari. Jaco Pastorius's Portrait Of Tracy ( which has some of the sickest harmonics ever!).

Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell ( which is an awesome song but feels like it goes on forever...). Reva L'Sheva's Wedding Rings.
Anyhow, you can see there was a large variety of music going on.
About halfway through the trip - which comprises of tearing through Pennsylvania on the 80 West for over close to 500 miles - I started to feel very, very drowsy. The music only affected that feeling even worse; at that point, I was listening to very atmospheric samples and sound effects courtesy of the Mars Volta ( their song's are retarded sometimes with all the crap they throw in at the end...). I needed a boost. I was driving alone, and I didn't want anything to happen.
I pulled into the next rest stop and made myself a cocktail consisting of two cans of Red Bull and a couple of Excedrin ( for those of you who don't know, Excedrin is an over the counter pain killer that is loaded with caffeine. It's for migraines and all night cramming). Next thing I know, I'm back on the 80, doing 95 miles an hour, and my hands are shaking like a belly dancer with Parkinson's. Pantera's Strength Beyond Strength segues straight into Metallica's Hit The Lights. Next comes Rage Against The Machine's Testify followed by Sepultura's Roots Bloody Roots. At this rate, I figure I'll be home much sooner than expected.
Of course, as an unforseen side effect of my alchemy with the Red Bull and Excedrin, for the duration of the trip I had to stop almost every forty minutes to pee.
Shabbos was very nice. It was good to be home, despite the fact that my folks weren't. I bonded with my cousin, and got to see the few friends I still have in Cleveland.
The ride back was pretty uneventful. I got stuck in a nasty snarl of traffic for an hour and a half. The Beatle's Hey Jude came on, and I had a good time blaring it at the loudest with the windows down. The car next to me even helped sing along to the na na na na nanananaaaaa part. Run D.M.C.'s Bounce took the edge off of the waiting, creeping along at less than 5 mph. A Tribe Called Quest perked me up with Buggin' Out. Queen's We Are The Champions came next, followed by Rakim's Microphone Fiend.
After the traffic, I picked the pace back up, reflected by Audioslave's Set It Off. 12 Stones rocked out with Far Away. I stopped to refill my tank and use the bathroom, and once I was back on the road, my sister called me.
While I was talking to her, I noticed that the whole car stank like gas. Was there a leak? Were fumes filling up the car? How can I tell? In a whirling moment of ridiculousness, I lit up my lighter. Maybe this in fact was a stupid idea, being that if my car was indeed filling up with gas fumes, I could kill myself. Huh. I'm still here, though...
I got in safely after a grueling eight and a half hours. It was lonely, but I kept myself company. I'm glad I did it. It's an accomplishment, and I do enjoy driving...
See you later...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

When you first held me
did you know what
was in store
for you
for me
for us?
----------------------------Did it matter then?
Was there
a quid pro quo
a pre-partum agreement
Checking the pros
and cons
of an investment
for life
for generations?
----------------------------Did it matter then?
The good times
the bad ones
The triumphs
the disappointments
the simple fact that
I would forever mirror you
and you, me?
----------------------------Did it matter then?
Did you have it all
carefully planned
even then
the lessons you'd impart
the hopes you'd hold dear
the secrets that you'd
clutched tightly to you
knowing, praying
I'd learn them
myself, in my own time?
----------------------------Did it matter then?
Do you live that moment
over and over
and over?
Do you ask yourself
the questions
I am asking you?
----------------------------Does it matter?
Would you change
Anything at all?
Knowing what you know
does it make any
----------------------------No, it doesn't.
And tell me also
did you wonder
if I
in turn
will ask myself these
and will my son ask me?
---------------------------Every day...

Happy Father's Day, dad. You won't read this, but that doesn't matter...

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I wanted to post this before I went out of town.
Last week's Parsha ( weekly Torah portion that is read ), is pretty full. We start off with God telling Moshe to send spies to check out the land which they've been promised. We know how that story ends...
After that, there's the directive that pertains to Challah.
Then, almost as an interlude, we read about the man who gathered wood on Shabbos, thereby breaking the laws of Shabbos.
The portion ends off with the directive of Tzitzit.
Now, we know that the juxtaposition of the story of the spies and the events at the end of the Parsha that preceded it ( Miriam's discussion with Aharon about Moshe, and her subsequent punishment ) is meant to teach us the importance - and gravity - of the sin of Lashon HaRah ( Rashi explains that if Miriam, who was only speaking out of concern for her brother, and she was as righteous as they come was afflicted, then certainly those who are lesser and are slandering shouldn't speak of others).
Also, according to the Ohr HaChaim, Tzitzis immediately follows the story of the "wood gatherer" ( which is how it's referred to) for a good reason. He quotes the Tana D'Bei Eliyahu: After the story of the "wood gatherer", Moshe spoke to God, saying that during the week, the Jews have tefillin to remind them of all the mitzvot. But what about Shabbos? On Shabbos, tefillin are considered muktzah, and can't be worn on Shabbos. What will remind them, then? To which God replied that He would give them Tzitzit, which are always worn, and will serve as a reminder of all 613 mitzvot, even on Shabbos ( see Rashi for a nifty gematria).

This is all very nice, but the entire shabbos, I kept wondering whether there was any connection between the story of the spies, and the fact that Tzitzit is written here ( the bookends, so to speak ), in the same portion. I looked everywhere, but couldn't find any correlation, and I was dismayed. Obviously, there's no coincidence, right?

A few days ago, I was listening to a speech from R' Yissochar Frand, and he dropped the answer in my lap.

The mitzvah of Tzitzit is a fundamental of Judaism, not unlike Shabbos, or prayer. However, unlike those other two, Tzitizit are not obligatory; one doesn't have to wear Tzitzit unless he is wearing a four cornered garnment. But if he doesn't wear a four cornered garment, he is not neglecful. Why is this? If Tzitzit are indeed fundamental, why did God make it optional?
Here's the answer: Twice in this Parsha we see an interseting choice of words. At the beginning, God tells Moshe to send spies "LaSur Es Ha'Aretz". By Tzitzit, God tells us "V'Lo SaSuru Acharei L'Vavechem". The connection is as follows: The spies was something that neither God nor Moshe wanted. The nation came to Moshe and told him that they wanted to send spies. God said, "Fine. I'm giving you this option. Send for yourself men..." This was something optional that became an unmitigated disaster.

God is telling us with the mitzvah of Tzitzit - which are optional - that there are two ways to go about doing something that is optional. The right way, and the wrong way. You want to do something? Fine, go ahead. But do it right. The mitzvah of Tzitzit are meant to be a tikkun for the last option we had, and messed up on.

I'd like to add that the same could be said here. Blogging is an option. It's free, and most folks do it for free. But there's a right way, and a wrong way to do it. You can use the power, the influence, the near infinite reach of the internet to do much good, or much harm. Sadly, many use the internet and the blogosphere as a way to perpetuate their own unhappiness, be it with themselves, their religion, or whatever. A small few have dedicated themselves to making sure to use their option, their choice, in the right way, spreading positivity all around. Those folks are warriors, and they should be blessed...