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...