Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Just thought I'd share some random thoughts that have floated into view in the murky fishbowl I call my mind...
- A guy in Yeshiva approached me the other day to show me a band he'd recently discovered. They're a metal band called Killswitch Engaged, and they've been around for the past seven years or so. I'd heard them plenty of times, of course, but the last I'd heard they had a guy who screamed a lot, and his screaming wasn't so good anyway, so I didn't pay much attention to them. Last year they got a new singer who utilizes his singing voice more, but I'd never heard him. Anyway, this guy came over to me with stars in his eyes. "You've gotta here this guy, Jewmaican! His lyrics are out of this world. Reluctantly ( I'll explain why I was reluctant later in this post...) I took his mp3 player and strapped on the headphones. Amid a blistering guitar riff coupled with a thundering double-bass drum, I heard the very familiar lyrics "...ride the tiger, you can see his stripes but you know he's clean... I nearly laughed out loud, but stifled it and handed the 'phones back to him. Basically, it's a cover of an old famous song by Ronnie James Dio, who fronted Black Sabbath after Ozzy left. After he in turn left Sabbath, he started a solo career...I love when guys think they've discovered something "new".
- Thinking about that later on brought back memories. I remember when I was first turned onto Dio. I was in 8th grade; it was 1997-98, and the rock scene wasn't really hot at the time. I should mention that I had all kinds of musical influences from my siblings when I was a really little kid. One brother was into Roxette, Poison, and the like. My other brother was into MC Hammer; my cousin was into what is already being termed as old school hip hop ( That's the whole gamut from Run D.M.C., KRS One, to Rakim and Eric B., etc.). One sister loved The New Kids On The Block; the other loved Genesis, Peter Cettera, Chicago, and Phil Collins' solo stuff. Another few of my cousins really liked the eighties metal scene. The only music style that I discovered myself really was reggae, and that was because of UB40. Anyway, at the time I was listening to classic stuff: Rush,Led Zep, Iron Maiden, and the likes of those. I had started getting bored with it; I had a new CD player, and was craving more. It was at a family barbecue, and one of my cousins approached me. He's several years older than me, but we got along really well. When I told him about my predicament, he smiled a little smile and ran back to his house. He came back holding a mixtape, one of those old ones that were clear with green and yellow markings all over it. The label said one word: Dio. I vividly remember going back into my house, up to my room, and not leaving for the duration of the tape. Afterwards, I said one word: whoa. It's funny how we can remember the things that mean significant changes in our lives, isn't it?
- I've been reading up on a very interesting concept in the psychology world lately. There's a school of thought going back several decades about a different approach to helping people with their issues. Rather than psychanalyze and try various forms of therapy which seemingly "harp" (focus would probably be a better word) on past trauma and childhood experiences, this approach seeks to cause the patient to focus on the positive aspects of his current experiences. This approach is known as Cognitive behavioral Therapy. The shrink will help the patient build up his self esteem by focusing on the good things that the person has going in his life, etc. By enumerating his accomplishments, and such ( note: in these matters, I'm basically a layman; this is how I understand it, that's all.). In my humble opinion, this does seem like a better approach, and most likely fits into hashkafic parameters as well. As a matter of fact, many Hasidic texts enjoin the reader to do just that...I even tried it earlier tonight on a friend of mine, and I think it helped.
- On that note, I was reminded of a beautiful meditation that my friend told me the other day. We say "Hashem reigned, Hashem reigns, Hashem will reign forever..." One of the commentaries explains that we, the nation of Israel say the past tense, the Angels say the present tense, and together we say the future tense. My friend's observation as to why this may be is because in hindsight, it's easy to see God's hand in everything; conversely, we can also say with faith for the future that we see God's hand. But in the here and now, when things may seem a little rough, it's sometimes difficult to actually recognize God's hand in everything, and therefore, only the angels say it. Obviously we have to get some CBT going to work on that...
- As for an explanation why I reluctantly listened to that guy's music? Well, truth be told, I've started to systematically delete my many files of non jewish music. I still like it, and I certainly don't look down at anyone who listens to it. I understand the draw it has, and the power it has, and how it can be cathartic. Hell, I lived at certain points only with the help of music. I would even venture to say that given the certain music - and the way it's utilized - it could even help a person grow. However, personally, my time is drawing to a close. First of all, it's not necessarily consistent with where I aspire to be, both spiritually and in real time. Second, to illustrate my point, I'll use a nice parable that I lifted from a Buddhist book I once read ( a looooong time ago): A man is walking and he comes upon a body of water he must cross. Suddenly, a boat drifts by. The man takes the boat, and uses it to cross the sea. Over the period of time he's in the boat, the man becomes very attached to it. After all, the boat keeps him afloat, keeps him safe. There's a small shelter that protects him from the sun and the rain and the winds. Without it, he'd never be able to survive. But when he gets to the other side of the sea, what will he do? Will he lift it out of the water and strap it to his back? The point is, the boat served a particular purpose; it got him across the water. But now, were he to take it onto his shoulders, it would be nothing but a burden. That's how I feel about the music issue. I have the knowledge that I have now, and I'll use that knowledge for the best things. But I don't really think I need the actual listening anymore. Now, I'm still listening to stuff, but I'm trying not to buy anymore music. And, while it's somebody else's business entirely as to whether s/he listens or not, I don't want to discuss it with others and possibly cause them to go buy or download stuff as a result of my "help."
-Another thing that recently flitted around my head was a memory from the bad times in High School. I read a book a little over a week ago called Go Ask Alice ( named after the trippy Jefferson Airplane song "White rabbit"), which was originally printed in 1971 by an anonymous author. It's alittle murky as to whether it's real, or based on the real diary of a teenage girl from then as she chronicles her own descent into the drug world. It's pretty freaky and probably would've stopped a lot of people from ever trying drugs if they'd read it early enough. Anyhoo, there's one entry that jumps out at me: August 13: It's all I can do to keep from crying. Mon and Dad just called to say how proud they are to have me for a daughter. There are no words to express how I feel. She doesn't have to say them, because I know exactly how she feels. I remember that happening to me. it was right before some proverbial shit hit the fan, literally two days. I was really down because I knew the other shoe was gonna drop, and I was talking to my mother. Out of the blue my mother said those exact words...
I wonder if all children go throught that experience? Will I do the same -unwittingly - to my own children? Definitely something worth thinking about...
Anyway, enough from me.
See you soon!

Friday, May 25, 2007


Arms are heavy, body spent
gazing at the rising sun
feeling something heaven sent
sense accomplishment, deeds are done

I sigh, not for I'm physically tired
and it's hard to stand up straight
alive, I am spiritually wired
and it has been worth the wait

Reaching a crescendo, in unity
the echo of the call abounds
I'm struck with sudden humility
as I reverberate with the sounds

The voice of my nation brings me to my feet
can't describe this amazing sensation
anticipation as we long to greet
and recieve this divine revelation

The praise we sing is super-climactic
I reach out and try to grasp ahold
it enfolds and engulfs me, as if automatic
as I relive the experience of old

Try and integrate it into my soul
to carry it with me all along
never in my life have I felt so whole
as my being burts into song...

Hope everybody had a wonderful Chag!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Geriatric Vengeance ( Homecoming )...

So, for the first time since my grandmother died ( about 4 months ago), I went home for Shabbos.
It's good to go home every once in a while, to see people who I don't otherwise get to see, and to just cruise around a bit. It's nice to see things almost exactly the way I left it the last time ( minus several feet of snow).
But I experienced something rather surprising on Shabbos.
A little background first: nearly all of my extended family on my mother's side lives in my town, and we all daven (pray) at the same shul (synagogue). My shul is one of those cozy, old-school shtiebel type of places, and I really love it, except for Krias HaTorah. You see, after every aliyah (that's when one is given the honor of making a blessing on the Torah), there's a custom to bless members of the congregation, at the honoree's discretion (and expense). Needless to say, when there are many family members in one shul, the MiSheberach can take quite a long time...
Back to the story: About a year ago, I was called up for an aliyah, and it was getting late. I really wasn't interested in spending too much time going through all the motions, so I did a shout out to my Rav, my dad, and the Baal Koreih ( the guy who does the reading). As a follow up, I added a general "..and all the worshipers here" to the misheberach, which usually covers you.
But when I got back to my seat, I hear a gravely, heavy accented voice call my name. I turn to see my great-uncle rapidly ( relatively speaking, of course; he walks with a cane) bearing down on me.
Him: Why didn't you give me a mishberach?
Me: I did, Botch ( that's Hungarian for Uncle, by the way...not a typo;) ). I said "and all the worshipers here.."
Obviously that wasn't the smartest answer, and he was pretty ticked off. So miffed, as a matter of fact, that even later on that week, when he came into shul, he went over to a friend of mine...
Him: (points at me) You know this guy?
Buddy: Um, yeah...( he gives me a look that says 'take your uncle away from me, please')
Him: Oh, because I don't think I do. Because the jewmaican20 I know gives me a misheberach, and he ( he points his cane at me) DIDN'T!
Anyhoo, I went back to yeshiva and pretty much forgot the whole thing. But this past shabbos, that same uncle got an aliyah. And, sure enough by the misheberach's he left me out.
I know he did this on purpose because he actually exerted himself to walk past my seat and told me so.
I didn't know that old people could be so vindictive!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Lag B'Omer.

It's time's like these that leave me pining away for the Holy Land. Tonight is Lag B'Omer, which commemorates several things. First of all, there was a lapse in the deaths of Rabbi Akiva's students; on Lag B'Omer, no one died. It's also a commemoration of Rabbon Shimon Bar-Yochai, and his emergence from the cave where he and his son lived an ermetical lifestyle for many years, while in hiding from the emperor. The gemara describes how God bestowed blessings on them, making a spring open up and a carob tree to grow, therby providing them with sustenance during their time in hiding.
When they first came out, the gemara continues, they were on such a high spiritual level that when Rashbi ( an acronym for Rabbon Shimon Bar-Yochai ) glanced around and saw a farmer tilling his soil, the farmer was engulfed in flames. Rashbi had been immersed in nothing but Godliness for so long that when he saw someone working to develop this world, as opposed to the world to come, it was too much.
The story continues that they went back into the cave for another year, and came out on a Friday afternoon. They saw someone running with two sprigs of hadassim and asked him what they were for. The man explained that he was going to burn them for shabbos, one for the verse V'Shamor, and the other for the verse V'Zachor ( this is also a reason for two candles being lit on Friday night, the eve of Shabbos), Appeased by the enthusiasm they saw a simple Jew putting into his avodah, Rashbi was able to enter back into the world again.
The fires of the madurot (bonfire) remind us of what we are capable of, if we work for it. According to Chasidic and Kabbalistic texts, each Jew has a spark of holiness within him/her. We can kindle this spark into a blazing fire if we strive to elevate and transcend.
Is it any wonder that on Lag B'Omer, we dance around bonfires together, hand in hand with strangers, with friends, with loved ones? Right in the middle of a time when we mourn the passing of so many scholars ( who died because they didn't treat one another in the proper way ), we celebrate a festive day by dancing together, as one.
May this be the last lag B'Omer in Galus.
Below I've posted pictures of the madura I went to. It was small, intimate, and meaningful, and a blast as well. I really miss the Holy Land...

Thursday, May 3, 2007

ziontrain t-shirts!!

That's right, folks.
By popular demand, I've begun desigining and making t shirts for sale (cheap! cheap!).
While I have a few designs in progress, only one is available at the time. I'll post the images here...

The classic Jewmaican20, with a funky new look. His name emblazoned above in big letters, with the URL underneath him.
And now, a sample of how it looks on a tee...

And a close up...

Much thanks to our model, who quite honestly, walks around like that all day. His face is too beautiful and radiant, and lest we mere mortals gaze upon it and die....
Yeah, he's like Moshe Rabbeinu in that way.
Anyway, if anyone's interested, e mail me and we'll work the kinks out. I'm looking for seven bucks plus shipping. Hey, I think it's a deal. And, you get to look cool and flashy for really cheap!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The first official post...

This is it.
The moment we've been waiting for.
This is the first official post on the new site, after a painstaking two months of switching all the relevant posts from the original site to here, for posterity's sake.
But let's look at the stats: The old site - not including the last post - had 135 posts. I switched over most of them, leaving out ones I felt were unimportant.
The old site, as of my last visit to the administration board, registered 33,937 hits to the site. that's an average of 45.13 a day, since April 9, 2005.
I know that that's no big feat in the grand scheme of things, especially in relation to the internet, but for this humble endeavor, I don't think that's so bad...
Now, most of my readers a presumed to be observant religious Jews. But hopefully, this has been stumbled upon by non religious Jews and gentiles, and hopefully, we ( and I say "we" because the readers are as an integral part of this as I am. Really. Your feedback counts!) have been able to make a good impression. Hopefully we've been able to do away with a misconception or two about Judaism in general, and specifically, observant Jews. Hopefully, we've been able to make a Kiddush Hashem to our brethren, both Jew and gentile.
And, hopefully they've gotten a laugh or two, from the funny stories, my neurosis, whatever.
Someone told me recently that they still read my blog ( you know who you are!) and they like it and all, but they miss the humor, that I've changed and the blog seems to be more focused. That may be true, that the blog has taken on a certain direction, with a certain goal in mind. But lost the humor? No way! It's still me, still the same Jewmaican20 as ever. I'm still a little bit nuerotic, a little bit psychotic, and a whole heck of a lot psychedelic!
Anyway, hopefully this new site will continue in the fine tradition ( um...), and we'll all grow.
Onward and upward!

When the leevee breaks...

We're in the middle of a Nor'Easter here in New Jersey, and it is crazy.

My sister's house is flooding, and no matter how much we bail, the water keeps coming.

We found the main spot where the water's leaking in, so I drove over to Toys R' Us and bought 25 50lb. bags of sand to pack against that spot to at least keep more water from coming in, but I think that point is moot already.

Looks like I'll be wearing galoshes to bed...

That's me!