Sunday, April 29, 2007

So, it's motzei the Chag, and as we're waiting for the pizza to be ready ( yes!! ), I'd like to share a profound Torah I saw over the holidays.

In Parashas Beshalach, the Jews find themselves backed into a corner. After being led out "...with an upraised hand" from Egypt after witnessing the ten plagues, they arrive at the banks of the Yam Suf ( Red Sea / Sea Of Reeds ). They turn back, only to find that the Egyptians have changed their minds about "letting" the Jews go, have cobbled together an ersatz force, and are in hot pursuit. Without anywhere to go, no apparent solution, they turn to Moshe and demand from him ( I'm not writing verbatim here... ): "were there not enough graves in Egypt that you brought us here? What have you done to us?" In a moment, they had given up hope, as they realized the gravity of the situation they were in.

Now, we know that the Jews who left Egypt numbered 600,000 in males between the ages of 20 and 60 alone. That doesn't even include the males above and below that age group, as well as the women. We know they left Egypt armed. They were facing a patchwork force of Egyptians, who were still reeling from the aftermath of the plagues. With all that in mind, we should all ask a glaringly obvious question: Why didn't the Jews hold their ground and fight?

Ibn Ezra makes a powerful observation that not only answers the question, but teaches an important lesson. In explanation of the verse ( Shemos 14:13 ) "Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem...", Ibn Ezra reveals that all the Jews could do was "stand fast." After being brought up as the servant class for so long in Egypt ( many generations; 210 years, as a matter of fact...), the Jews couldn't shake the slave mentality that had been indoctrinated into their psyches since birth, even as free men! Despite all they had witnessed - the Egyptians' punishment as a result of their treatment of the Jews, the wonders that God performed for them, showing the world that He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and that He is involved on a constant basis with our world - they couldn't turn around and strike back at their former masters! In fact, this mentality was so ingrained in their conciousness that even though they grossly outnumbered the army of Amalek - to whom they had no slave/master relationship - without Moshe's constant prayer and uplifted arms, they would have been defeated.

But wait - it gets even more powerful...

Ibn Ezra continues, and he maintains that as a result of this "slave mentality", that generation that was brought out of Egypt had to die in the desert before the B'nei Yisrael could enter into Eretz Yisrael. They needed another generation - one born into freedom, uninhibited by the "slave mentality" that their fathers had - to lead them and conquer the Promised Land.

What a powerful message! I think that there is a multitude of lessons to be learned here, but I'll pick one: We are now coming out of the holiday of Pesach, referred to as "Zman Cheiruseinu ( The Time Of Our Freedom)" The whole theme is how God brought us out and broke our shackles of iron, and how we willingly accepted shackles of gold ( i.e. servitude of God). But I think that we need to ask ourselves - especially nowadays - what is freedom? What does it mean to be free? What does freedom entail, and how does a free person - a free Jew - display his/her freedom?

For one thing, I believe that we have to get rid of our "slave mentality". If we're all honest ( and this doesn't exclude yours truly) with ourselves, we'll see that there are things we do that conform to a slave mentality of sorts. It can be a slavery to the fashions of the time, and how it controls everything we do. It can be with the importance we put into the unimportant aspects of money. The way we percieve what is "wasted time" and what is "quality time". All these things are subjective, and when we're surrounded by a society like ours, a lot of times we adopt that society's outlook on things. We have to break out of the "mental slavery" of this Galus, and use the lessons of Pesach to truly experience freedom. As the bumper sticker says: Freedom Isn't Free. That's true, but it's definitely worth it....

"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds..." - Bob Marley

Originally posted Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Worked to the bone...

Hey, everybody.

Nothing terribly exciting's been going on lately. Basically, I went to my sister for Shabbos, and since then, I've been slaving away for her, helping to clean the house for Pesach. My brother in law already thanked me profusely, as this means that he's of the hook ( or at least, he thinks so...).

Yesterday though, I went to get a haircut. When I came out afterwards, there was a meter maid writing me a ticket for some bogus thing called "alternate parking".

Me: What's this about?

Her: You didn't see the sign? ( she points to a sign right above my car that says in big red letters "No Parking Tuesdays 10:30 - 1:30". I shrug my shoulders.)

Me: Actually, I didn't ( she continues writing the ticket ).

Me: Any chance you could let me off with a warning?

Her: None. ( okay, she's playing hard to get? I wave my hand in front of her face, ala Jedi Mind Trick, and say in my most calm voice:)

Me: There's no need for a ticket, officer ( she gives me a look ).

Her: Who do you think you are? Obi Wan? Get out of here before I tow your car.

I must be really tired from all the work, because usually the Force is with me....

Originally posted Thursday, 29 March 2007

Bein Hazmanim is here!

Well, the zman ( for lack of a better term, the semester...) has just ended, and it looks like I'm sticking around in the Jersey area for the time being. We'll be staying at my sister's house for Pesach, so I've been recruited to stay and help her. That, along with the prospect of dating before the Holidays start are the two main reasons why I'm not going home.

In the meantime, I told my sister that Bein Hazmanim isn't starting until the end of the week, and for now, I'm using my dorm as my base of operations. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Anyway, don't have anything to post about yet, except that Monday night I went to a Sephardic wedding, and it was awesome. My hips are killing me from belly dancing to the sephardi music.

Oh, and this morning, I came out to my car and found a note attached to it. Apparently, I had left my interior light on, and some guy slim jimmed ( i.e. he broke into ) my car and turned it off for me. Which is nice, but very weird...

Originally posted Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Hypothesis... ( Been thinking about this for a while already...)

Hey, everybody.

I've had this theory I came up with a while ago, and various observations continue to strengthen (in my mind, at least ) this idea I've been having.

I've noticed countless times that people in general have a tendency to over dramatize things. Be it events in their lives that are either constant or occasional, personality issues, or just random "things" about them, people seem to feel an urge to embellish, to endow, to appear "larger than life".

The most interesting thing I've noticed, though, is that it seems most apparent when the person doing the addition to his/her life comes from a "normal" ( I never really like that word, as I believe that normal is relative anyway) background, a "perfect" background.

I'll explain, by giving a real time example: I have a friend. He comes from a pretty solid background; both of his parents are alive, thank God, and they have been married for quite some time. He's a healthy, good looking guy. His parents ( to my knowledge) are - if not "well off" - financially comfortable at least in the sense that they've been able to support their family. Aside from the standard ( I assume ) dysfunction that comes along with family life in general, it would seem as if he comes from an ideal family background. He's a smart guy, he's able to grasp new concepts fairly quickly, and were he to apply himself to his various studies with serious dedication ( not to say that he slacks off, per se), he would excel in most subjects.

Here's the weird part. I've come to notice that he tends to tweak his image a bit. He has diagnosed himself with several learning disabilities. Nothing crazy or debilitating ( in a social sense, that is ), but just enough to add a certain level of sympathy to the way he believes himself to be percieved. He also tends to brood a lot, most notably when around people, giving himself an air of mystique and depth ( for the record, I think he's a pretty deep guy, but most of the deep people I know don't actively establish their depth...).

Obviously, this is a more extreme case, and in that same vein, it's not a new concept that people exaggerate their image; most people don't enjoy being seen as average, or regular, or "normal". However, many people exaggerate in a positive fashion: they're very atheletic, they're very smart, their virilty and prowess in unmatched, etc. That's one group.

And then there's the "Tragic Hero" group; people assume an underdog position: not smart enough, not good looking enough, family problems, etc.

The first group is understandable, to an extent. People like to feel accomplished, to have been there, done that; it's a source for competitiveness, and it's a boon for business.

But what about the other group? Why do they do the things they do? And they aren't such a minority, either. Go to Greenwich Village; you'll see tons of the tragic types there. They'll tell you their sorrows and sing the blues, but ask some of them where they're from and they'll clam up. Why? Because they're from a nice home in suburbia. It's the same thing with Hip Hop music; a majority percentage of all urban album sales are to white kids from middle class homes, who can't get enough of the misogyny, voilence, and bleak atmosphere of the "ghetto life". For that matter, how many rappers out there are really gangstas?

Why do a lot of kids from poor backgrounds seem to knuckle under and try and get themselves good educations, go into business, and make a lot of money, only to have their kids later turn their backs on the "capitalistic pigs" who work for the "money hungry corporate entities" who raised them ( besides for the obvious answer that they are spoiled, have never had to actually work hard in their lives, and probably will never have to)?

I think I have a theory.

I'm not talking about the last three examples I wrote. Going back to my friend, I think I have an idea of what's happening. It's misplaced guilt.

Before I went to high school in the tri state area, I lived a relatively sheltered life in terms of how harsh the world can seem to be. In my elementary and junior high, there were no kids in my class who's parents ( or one of them ) weren't alive. There was only one kid who I knew who's parents had divorced. In my community ( as it is, in relative terms, smaller than those in the tri state area ), families who had financial woes had a certain amount of help. Add that to the fact that I was a little kid, who didn't know from the world, I wasn't prepared for certain things when I hit high school. For the first time in my life, I encountered on a constant basis people who knew what it meant to suffer, to feel honest pain, and loss, and hardship, to a degree. One of my roommates throughout high school lost his father when he was eight years old. Another guy in my class lost his mother the year before we entered high school. A different guy was able to leave every Shabbos because his parents had alternate visitation. Another guy was wearing the same suit for the the third year, because he had an older sibling in shidduchim, and his parents needed every last cent they could save.

Now, my own family life is pretty good, comparatively. There's a hell of a lot of dysfunction, but at least I have my parents to complain about. I'm lucky. But I do remember that when I first met these people, and sometimes, when I talk to these folks who've had to grow up considerably faster than I should have, I felt one emotion over all others: Guilt.

So let's get deeper into this. I said that there's a manifestation of misplaced guilt, which connotates two things: that there's possibly something to feel guilty about, and that the guilt is misplaced. I'll explain. I believe, on both a conscious and an unconscious ( or subconscious, for that matter) level, that the act of spicing up one's image to appear to be not so hunky-dory, to be less than ideal, to be flawed - be it physically or mentally - is an act of misplaced guilt. People, when confronted with others who lack what they have, feel guilty that they are priveleged, and their reaction is to downplay it, at times to an extreme. The reasons why I believe it is misplaced are many. When a person sees someone who has a background that's tinged with adversity, and that person's character is defined and ( most of the time ) respectable, they immediately feel guilty of their own inability to progress, despite the fact that they don't have such "problems". Therefore, they might add this spice ( we'll call it Tragic Hero ) to their own persona, which in effect serves them twofold: they're not subject to the scrutiny of their peers who "lack" ( and unwittingly cause this guilt), and it gives them a good excuse as to why they don't accomplish the goals that they're supposed to ( note: in an interesting reprisal of the "chicken or the egg" question, a friend of mine suggested than in certain cases, the lack of accomplishment or bad behavior can come first, and then the Tragic Hero gets added to the mix. Interesting, and worth thinking about..).

However, there should be guilt of some sort. Indeed, those who are blessed that they have never wanted in their life, those who don't know from the terrible pain of loss, if they don't accomplish, should feel guilty, to some extent. They didn't have to climb up mountains. God has give them a "good" lot in life! Especially when seeing the growth that their friends experienced, despite the fact that they had adversity, when one realizes that he can do better, guilt should be felt. Not to a degree that they give up hope, of course. But they shouldn't be embellishing their persona in such a way. That is the misplaced guilt. The "guilt" that they feel should inspire them, not drive them to join the ranks.

I'm not just talking here. This is a lesson that I try ( and fail at times) to incorporate into my personal hashkafah. God has given me so much, and yet, I slack off. But when I see those friends of mine who rose to the occasion, who surpassed test beyond my imagination, they inspire me. they inspire in me a guilt that I'm not doing enough with what God gave me, and they inspire me to knuckle under and grow.

I bless us all that we should get rid of the misplaced guilt, and use it the way it's supposed to.

If anyone has any observations, by all means let me know...

Originally posted Saturday, 17 March 2007

Breaking news...

What is this world coming to? I'm taking a quick break from my regular posting themes to post about something else. Most of you who know me know that among other things, I am a comic fan. I read and collect comics, and contrary to what my folks always said, I actually have profited from it.

When I was growing up, the grittier, seedier side of comics was still growing, and more obscure, but I have to say that it seems as iff it's leaked into the regular comics world. Comic characters like Superman, Spider - Man, and of course, Batman represented certain values and served as inspirations to little kids ( and some big ones. And then even bigger ones..) like yours truly, who - as hard as it may be to believe - wasn't always the coolest guy on the block, the suave individual you know and love. One of the most iconic figures in comicdom is Captain America. Cap was the paradigm of American values; he was created way back in the Forties, and his character ( a sort of Ubermensch for the Americans) wailed on the Nazis with every subsequent installment.

Later, his character moved on, and as the times and climates changed, so did his stories. And yet, the core values remained the same. Cap was an honorable individual, and in some ways is a better role model than many real people in the public eye today.

And now, they've done the unthinkable. They've killed Cap.

That's right: Issue 25 shows Cap being led to an his arraignment, an en route, he is killed by an assassin.

I don't know why they did this ( to generate more sales..?), but they did.

It shows how obnoxious writers are today. They just offed an Icon like he was some second stringer, man! No respect. Back in the day, nobody would dream of doing such a thing.

I know, you're trying to figure out why I'm making a big deal out of this, but it's not just me: CNN had a segment about it as well as Fox News.

Rest in Peace, Cap. We salute you...



Okay. Back your regular programming. And read the post below, darn it! It's more important anyway...

Originally posted Friday, 9 March 2007

Taking a plunge...

Hey there, everybody.

First of all, I'd like to say that thank God, I had a great Purim, one that was uplifting, spent together with my friends and teachers, and I really had a great time.

With that said, I'd like to address an issue which has gnawed at me for quite some time: Jewish blogging.

Thankfully, there are many blogs out there written by honest, God fearing people, who truly use the open realm that is the Internet to write about their experiences, hopes, dreams and disappointments. It warms my heart to see that there are so many forward thinking individuals who use this form of expression to their advantage, and hopefully inspire others. However, I am saddened to realize that these people are a minority in the blogosphere.

The sheer volume of Jewish blogs out there that are saturated with negativity towards the observant communities is astounding, and, obviously, they are the ones that resonate the loudest throughout the Internet, as they are the most vocal. Apparently, they have much more time on their hands than the rest of us.

I read the various blogs and I am almost sickened by their statements. Vitriolic, they spew their rhetoric constantly, and no one stands up to them. Some are fueled by anger and pain, making their rants little more than bouts of hysterics, peppered with condemning statements that point accusatory fingers at the Jewish community at large. By no means am I trying to downplay their pain; it is real and valid for them. Others use high vocabulary to make their point, and use certain facts to get people to listen to them. Those, the *intellectual* blogs, are by far the most dangerous, as they lure their readers into a sense of comfort. After all, if a guy maintains he's a Rabbi, he must know what he's talking about, right? Wrong.

"I was raised in a prominent Orthodox Jewish home. I was privileged to get a wonderful education and ultimately received S'micha (the real kind) the old fashioned way...I earned it. I graduated at one of the respected institutions of higher learning with honors."

That was an excerpt from the introductory blurb to UOJ's blog (http://www.theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/). UOJ maintains that he has Rabbinical Ordination ( the real kind ), and that he has seen the problems that are tearing our nation apart. Therefore, due to the fact that he is, in fact, a rabbi, we should all listen to him.

Fine, okay, good. We know that the Jewish community has problems, no doubt. We've all seen it in our own personal happenings, and, tragically on the news. Perhaps someone with ( supposedly ) knowledge in scriptures and the like ( a.k.a. Da'as Torah ) will be able to show us how to fix things... but what words of wisdom does the UOJ give us?

"I CALL UPON YOU TO TERMINATE YISROEL BELSKY FROM YOUR ORGANIZATIONS.

THIS MAN IS THE EPITOME OF THE HOOLIGANISM AND DECAY THAT HAS CAUSED SO MUCH SUFFERING AMONGST US!

THROW HIM TO THE GUTTER.. THAT'S WHERE HE BELONGS! DO IT QUICKLY!"


That was another excerpt from a recent posting of his. Where is the respect for others - no matter how much you disagree with that person - that I've come to associate with the rabbonim in my life? Another excerpt:

"Rot in hell, Shafran, Zweibel, Perlow & co."

Another:

"Rav Ahron Kotler and Rav Moshe Feinstein would be proud of you mamzeirim at the Agudah!"

And just one more:

"Kaminetzky sat smiling on the Agudah dais Fress Convention nodding approvingly of Mattisyahu Salomon's "under the rug-dignity-daas Torah-beat the shit out of the Bloggers" speech!"

I know that these are taken out of context. I know that UOJ makes very compelling arguments and points out things that need to be addressed in our times. But if the delivery sullies the message, then the entire thing is worthless. He has devoted his power and influence to tearing away at the infrastructure of our communty, "destroying" one reputation at a time. That is not the way problems are dealt with, even in the most radical of times. Look at how he writes! Profanity (which doesn't offend me, but doesn't seem to be a rabbinical mode of speech in my honest opinion ) for no particular reason. He addresses known, respected, and dignified people ( by most people, at least ) - people who certainly have more of a wealth and breadth of Torah knowledge than I, and most likely, more than himself - in familiar terms, without using the honorifics they deserve...

This guy can claim he's a rabbi all he wants, but one thing I know: anyone who really has a shleimus ( completion) in Torah wouldn't talk that way, in an anonymous blog or not. A Rabbinical ordination is indicative of nothing if one doesn't show that he is deserving of respect. The Gedolim have shown us time and again that they are deserving of said respect, by virtue of their actions, whether we always understand their choices or not. That's without getting into the fact that they are human as well, and can make mistakes on rare occasions. This guy's posts are tainted with hate, and that fact pervades throughout his blog, impeccable vocabulary or not.

He's not the only danger online. There are many more out there, but none as lucid or eloquent as he is.

My goal is not to be an apologist for the problems we have in the Jewish community, nor do I reall want to get into a drawn out fight that will most likely benefit no one. And who am I, anyway? I can't claim to have any superior knowledge in Torah. I don't have a college education. Heck, my high school education was a joke! I don't have experience in the world; no doubt many who will read this post will think I'm naive, stupid, or a combination of the two (and then some). But I do know one thing. I can't sit back and just let this happen without saying something. If there are blogs out there casting Judaism in a negative light, I will do my best to counterpoint that with positivity. that is my pledge.

I will not let people undermine my community, my family, and our belief system.

But don't get me wrong; I won't try to bully people into my way of thinking, either. I will try to bring readers all the facts that support my arguments; the other facts are out there as well, making more than a lopsided slant. people must make their own conclusions, otherwise, there won't be any conviction.

But I need help. If you blog, if you have any way to proliferate a positive message, then I implore you all to do so. We have an amazing power in our hands, let's not waste it. If you have ideas you want to share, you can post it here in the comments, or e mail it to me. If you want to collaborate, that's also cool...

Mi L'Hashem Eilai?

Originally posted Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Coming soon...

Well, Purim is very near, and like most folks I'm gearing up for it.

Purim is very special for many reasons, one of which is that it is a day of prayer that's basically unrivaled. The potency of the strength of our prayers on this day is increased. Friends and family alike have sent me e mails notifying me of various efforts worldwide being put into effect on Purim to capitalize on this special occasion. May all our prayers be answered, and may we all experience a truly uplifting Purim.

For those of you drinking, I'd like to suggest drinking a full glass of ( non skim ) milk beforehand. This will line the walls of your stomache, and it really helps later on.

I'd like to wish everybody a safe, happy, freilich Purim!

Also, I've set up a new e mail address exclusively for blog related things. Though I love seeing comments on the actual blog itself, if you have something more personal or private that you feel doesn't belong in an open forum, contact me at: jewmaican20@yahoo.com. Suggestions and critiques are welcome...

Oh yeah, and I just decided to put this in, because I really enjoyed it. These guys are Ta - Shma, and their debut album Come Listen (12 Tribes) is available in stores and iTunes alike. Enjoy!



Originally posted Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Some more introspection...

Note: As with the previous post, I'm bringing over the responses...
I know...don't worry, we'll get back to some more lightheaded stuff soon enough, but in the meantime, bear with me...

Last week was my grandmother's ( my father's mother ) yahrtzeit ( anniversary of death ). Last year, I was in the Holy Land, and I was able to be by the seudah my parents made, but this year I spent it with my relatives. Along with all the standard issue reminiscing, a point that kept coming up was that my grandmother suffered very much in her lifetime. First, she went through the Holocaust, which in and of itself was Hell on earth. But even afterwards, when she moved to the States to make a new life and build a family, because of my grandfather's line of work, they had to move to a literal spiritual desert, much more so than even what was going on in New York and such places. At least in the big cities, there was some semblance of observant Judaism. Where my grandparents lived, there was nothing. Singlehandedly, my grandparents built up their community, establishing a shul, building a mikvah, etc. That was the second big test that my grandmother went through. After all that, though, my grandmother had to go through years of sickness, battling a deteriorating disease until she finally succumbed a few years ago.

Through all that, her demeanor never changed, and though she suffered, we rarely heard a word of it. Always doing things, baking cakes, checking on every child and grandchild, you would never be able to tell that one woman had such pain in her life.

Now, I realize that though her personal details, her own struggles and hardships and hopes and successes were unique, the underlying theme of her story isn't.

I'm sure everyone has a relative from the "old" generation who had to sacrifice a lot. Who had to make terrible, difficult choices. Who saw unbelievable pain, and yes, unbelievable happiness. Even looking at my folks' generation, I see a difference between theirs and ours. My father also had to make sacrifices, and it completely changed his character and outlook on life.

And then I look at my generation, and more importantly, myself. And I'm not quite happy with what I see.

I don't now about the rest of you guys, but every once in a while, I look at myself and I'm disappointed and shocked. We have slipped into a mindset of complacency, and it's very dangerous. With the onset of new medicine, with the breakthroughs of modern technology every day, it would stand to reason that we would make more out of what we've been given. But, I find myself questioning: If I had been in my grandparent's place, or conversely, in my parent's place, would I make the same choices as they had? Would I have the moral fiber in myself to stand by my convictions and not budge when the whole world was telling me to move? For that matter, to stare them in the eye and reply "No, you move"?

I don't know, but I wouldn't hedge my bets.

I can't speak for you guys, but I know this: with everything seeemingly "better", when countless torah institutions are cropping up like clovers on a field, when - thank God - we live in a world where we are able to practice our religion freely, why aren't we doing more? With the advent of the internet, and the use of gadgets like the ShasPod, we appear to be living in a time of renassiance. And it may very well be such a time. However, on the other side of the coin, we are also experiencing a boom in the "phenomenon" of jewish youth dropping out of the fold, walking on the edge, living on the fringe, whatever you want to call it. As a whole, we've become spoiled in our good fortune, demanding instant gratification for all our needs.

Again, like the last post, I'm not bringing anything novel to the table. I am reiterating this idea, because whether we like it or not, this is something we need to realize, and work on. I don't know exactly what aesthetics should be practiced, or what there is to be done about it, but I do know that this is dangerous, and it hurts to see it in myself...

I'm open to suggestions..



Originally posted Monday, 19 February 2007

The responses:

trix made this comment,
I honestly think that with all the new technology there is more to sacrifice than ever. my great grandmother's generation didn't have to decide whether or not they were going to listen to the rabonim when tv's came out and how do you live without one. but I grew up just fine without a tv. now there is internet and it really isn't possible to survive the modern world without it, but there are people who are sacrificing for torah and not having it in their houses, even if it means that its harder to communicate with people far away or you have to spend more on a ticket. or the girls I know who don't go to college cause they don't want to risk their innocences when it means that they wont be able to get as good a job. or the families that have 10 kids in a world where 1 or 2 is accepted and have to pay what its needed for those extra kids. its true we don't struggle like that generation did (no walking to school in 10 feet of snow or climbing ten flights of stairs with the groceries, and cholov yisroel can be shipped and frozen wherever you live), we have to make different sacrifices for our families these days. and alot of people aren't making them, same as in the last generation alot of people didn't make the sacrafices. what and where will our children end up? like the comments on the last post, you can only see these stuff by looking back at history, but we never had these nisyonos before, so in a hundred years I would be glad to get back to you and let you know what the right decisions were and what we could have got away with. we'll know by which families are still frum. I hope mine is one of those.

karma dude made this comment,
We are so spoiled we don’t even know what a sacrifice is. We have everything handed to us on a silver platter; we don’t know what it means to fight for something. Being brought up with everything people start to believe that everything is owed to them, and when they don’t get it instead of going out and working and fighting for it, be it material or spiritual, they get angry and rebel against their parents, their teachers, and most often G-d. I think children need to be brought up aware and grateful for what they have. I speak to myself as well. I spent last night in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center with a friend who has the big C. A young guy with a wife and children fighting the ultimate fight with a smile. The whole hospital is full of smiling bald people struggling for life and grateful for every day. Maybe a struggle is what it takes to appreciate what you have. As I drifted off to sleep in my hard, uncomfortable, and wobbly chair, I thanked G-d with every fiber of my being that I was spending the night in this chair and not in that bed.

jjl made this comment,
its interesting that you piont this out when adar comes, because purim is about hesder punim. our grandparents lived in a generation of hesder punim with obvious threats all about. Purim is about hashems influence in the modern world, see mesechet migillah for the indepth explanation. The thing is by surviving physical threats we can see hashems hand in life. we live in a time of hesder hesder punim where the threats physically are hidden, and hashems influence is hidden on top of that. We dont even know that we are in trouble, that is the situation that existed before purim at the seudah and germany before the nazi rise where jews were calling berlin their jerusalem. now we have crown hieghts ir hakodesh, Sometimes its not enough to be frum, because even frumkite can be misdirected, and the goals of torah subverted for other things. At least here in Isreal we know the physical threats and where they are coming from. we have the ability to stand up and fight for ourselves, prevent the another destruction. that can help us direct the spiritual struggle to where it needs to be.

Jewmaican20 made this comment,
Trix, while you are right, there are some people who do indeed still make sacrifices, I sadly believe they are an exeption to the rule of our generation. Karma Dude and I were talking the other day, and he expressed himself here as well, and I have to agree with his points. Back then, people were so busy trying to put food on the table, they didn't have time to think about their problems and complain. The sacrifices some of us may make today were the NORM back then. Something to think about...

malka made this comment,
That's excellent that you did some introspection. We all need to do that sometimes and think how we can improve.
You made a good point and it's true. When times are tough, we fight for what's ours and sacrafice for it. But when times are good, we become spoiled. What we need to do is stop and think about our great oppertunity. Yes we have our own battles nowadays but we should still take this oppertunity and not let is go by.

jjl made this comment,
see the tochicha and second paragraph of shema

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

An observation...

Note: This post got a lot of responses; therefore, unlike the other posts, I will try to bring over all the comments on this one, as I feel that they were very thoughtful, thought provoking, and meaningful...

Hey.

I've been reading Rabbi S.R. Hirsch's book, The Nineteen Letters lately, and I came upon an unsettling - and disheartening - realization...
You see, the book is presented as a fictional correspondence between a young rabbi and his childhood friend. this friend, after leaving his parents home and going out into the world, has basically shirked his religious observance. The "enlightened" friend maintains that Judaism does not tend to the needs of it's adherents in the way that a valid religion should. He writes that the customs and traditions are nothing but archaic hindrances to the people, and that it's aim is to keep it's people stuck in the past. By instituting a rigid code of theocratic law, it in effect holds back the Jew from embracing societies pleasures and culture as a whole. therefore, it should be left in the past in order that the Jew may take full advantage of the world's possibilities. In regard to the Reform Movement - which was rising at that time - he feels that since the whole movement is already so many steps away from traditional judaism, it should bee ignored and judaism should be dropped completely.

Rabbi Hirsch responds with all types of answers. From simple straightforward logic to emotional and spiritual reasoning, Rabbi Hirsch invites his friend - and the reader him/herself - to forget everything he knew ( or thought he did ) about Judaism, and look at it from a fresh perspective. By doing this, he will be able to understand and appreciate Judaism in a way he never did before.

Obviously, it's an amazing book. But here's the snag: In an introduction, an observer recounts a meeting between Rabbi Hirsch and Reb Yisroel Salanter. For those of you who don't know him, Reb Yisroel was - among many other things - the father of the Mussar Movement. Mussar is the study of morals and ethics, and is geared toward helping one perfect himself on a spiritual level in his day to day dealings. Reb Yisroel championed this cause, and nowadays every Yeshiva ( at least of the Lituanian [ Litvish ] school of thought ) has a period devoted to nothing but the study of various texts.

In any event, Reb yisroel traveled to frankfurt Am Main from his native Russia to see Rabbi Hirsch for advice on how to combat the emerging "enlightenment" happening in Russia; obviously, Rabbi Hirsh was familiar with the subject, as he spent most of his life combating it in his own Germany. The author continues to illustrate the various ideas they discussed, but he also makes a very important observation: Although Rabbi Hirsch and Reb Yisroel were coming from differents points on the spectrum of religious Judaism, and in fact had many hashkafic differences, the mutual admiration and respect they had for each other was outright. They may not have agreed on how things were supposed to be done, but they both recognized they had the same core values and goals, and gave each other the due honor.

Rabbi Hirsch was revolutionary in his time. at a time when religious Jews were very insular, Rabbi Hirsch recognized the problems facing jews who were exposed to the world. Why should a jew who is out in the world have to compromise his belief system? He maintained that a jew could have an absolutely rock solid foundation in his religious observance and still be able to interact with the world. He instituted schools where children were taught the fundamentals of Judaism, and then had a secular curriculum where they'd learn all manners of wordly things. It's hard to say how many jews were saved from shirking theire relious duties as a result of Rabbi Hirsch's idea, Torah Im Derech Eretz. Although many disagreed with his approach, and some even outright opposed him, we see from cases such as the meeting with Reb Yisroel that the respect was still there.

So, we arrive at my realization. Hopefully, I'm wrong. However, it seems to me, that if Rabbi Hirsch were here today -instead of back then - not only wouldn't he be accepted by us, he'd probably be vilified and labeled as a heretic.

I know, that seems harsh, right? But think about it for a second. Reb Yisroel, who was in many ways a paragon of Litvish values recognized what Rabbi Hirsch stood for. Would anybody today be able to see past all the rhetoric to see the truth? I understand that my point is a little paradoxical, because if Rabbi Hirsch hadn't existed then, the whole jewish world today would look different. However, I think my point is still intact: where's the respect?

Anyone who doesn't fit with our exact way of life is treated differently. According to some, "MO" jews are being merachek the geulah ( furthering the redemption ) because of certain things that don't fit with the way we do things. Honestly, I don't know. I do know that despite the way they do certain things, they have a fire for Judaism and God. I recognize among the "MO" people I know that they have the same core value as I do, and most of my friends as well.

It's not so black and white, people.

I can't stand this desire to label things, to put things into boxes. That alone contributes to the separation that goes on every day. To an extent, it exists, but the differences are just that: differences. As long as one is remaining within the guidelines of halacha, to me, that person is a Jew, and I will love him for it.

Maybe that's naive on my part. I don't care, and I don't think so. We make these walls around ourselves, cutting off our family, our blood. And yet, we embrace wordly values. the scruples we hold others up to don't always matter to us.

Where's the respect, people?

Part of love is mutual respect. You may not agree with someone or the way he's doing things, but at least respect him enough to see past the other crap.

I bless all of us that we should see past the outside stuff and realize what is essential to our survival: unity and love.

I've said my piece; what do you think? How can we go about working on this trait that we're lacking?

Originally posted Thursday, 8 February 2007

These are the responses:

jjl made this comment,
I never saw a problem with the MO world because i live in it, on the other hand what i do believe is that the MO world can divelop an immunity from gashmius because the MO world can sample it and learns ,when educated properly, when enough is enough. Its sort of like purim, we all know of people who only drink on purim and get very very very insanely drunk , because they dont know how to handle their booze. on the other hand those who drink regularly (myself included) know how to handle their booze and can drink constantly at a rate where they are inebraited enough not to drive but dont get sick for atleast two or three days straight.
One thing i must point out you may think you are in the yeshivish world but you grew up with cable tv, movies and novels. I am not even mentioning the internet. That all sounds like pretty modern stuff. Even the yeshivish world isnt in a box and no matter what you do you can't issolate yourselves from outside influences. You can learn how to operate the heavy machinery that is out in the world. Just need to know how not to do stupid things with it like lose a finger or damage your soul. For more on this type of conflict please read THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stevenson, you should get some of it when your done reading it.

jjl

trix made this comment,
quiet possibly what you are saying is right, but they were much more into isolating themselves in those days. I'm sure there were others besides R' Yisroel who thought badly of R'Hirsh. now we look at the Basht and the Vilna Goan and think they were both tzadikim, but they were mortal enemies of each other (in the name of torah) the books now say stuff like "deep down they really respected each other but each felt he was doing the right thing for judiasm." I really think that whatever the situation today, it was the same situation in europe. I don't know who the MO gedolim are, as I am part of the yeshivish world, but in 100 years either MO will be not frum or they will be accepted the same way chassidus is accepted today, and the books will look back at now and write about how although the brisker rav put down MO, really he respected them (I made that stuff up, I have no clue if he really put them down, it was for example sake). History is just a cycle that keeps repeating itself. The best proof is that the rambam's books were burnt.
Although I do wish that people would stop putting each other down and just get along.

karma dude made this comment,
Sorry the layout got screwed up.
What does it take

To a good Jew make

There are different points of view

Just pick the one that’s best for you

Some think its settling the land

Others think its giving with an open hand

Some think its davening with a bren

Others say its learning, no matter where or when

There are those who say being happy is all it takes

But this is nuts and those people are fakes

Who ever heard of serving god with song and dance

All god wants is that you wear black pants

Lying, cheating, and feelings that are hurt

Don’t matter at all if you wear a white shirt

You don’t even need to follow the book

God only cares about how you look

Now this way seems pretty easy

Although the logic makes my stomach queasy

Still I thought this would be the one I would choose

Until something shocking caught my eye in the news

With Ahmadi-nejad and the KKK they sat

Neturai Karta- each with his beard, payis, jacket, and hat

They talked the talk and looked the look

Everyone was astonished, the whole world shook

Jews got up and were quick to explain

They’re not like us, they’re clearly insane

Although they each look, like a nice frum Jew

They have a warped, point of view

Now, this may sound a little crazy

But this logic is getting pretty hazy

What I don’t quite comprehend

Is where does this fine line bend

Does clothing, a good Jew make

Or does it a lot more then that take.

jjl made this comment,
Its a uniform thing, people assume that a guy in a police uniform is a cop, but like my purim a few years ago when i got pulled over by some dude from new york and he looked at shlomo katz's California licence and said have a good purim, it dont mean that their a cop. I have dealt with plenty of crooks dressed as penguins , and more than my share of tzadikim that look like hoods. So if a uniform is your basis for religion you are wrong.
for that fact the MO/frum wall is something artificailly created. What defines a religious jew? That is the question then we can start talking tachlis!

Please dont answer speaking yiddish and a striemel cause 1000 years ago no jew did either.

jjl

Doodlehead made this comment,
I love karma dudes poem.Wow. I'd like to add that if someone's idea of following in the ways of g-d is doing something that may not be considered by many even a small point in religion, however this person feels its essential cuz thats what this person was taught, or cuz it made sense when he thought about it, or when his friend thought about it, hes still being a good jew. So it can be anything- that a good jew makes.

trix made this comment,
nice poem. I actually liked it paragraph form better, makes it less formal.

Jewmaican20 made this comment,
JJ, just because I spent last Purim on our cousin's porch doesn't necessarily mean I can't handle my booze at other times. With that said, there are plenty of non MO jews (i.e. more yeshivish, or whatever ) who are able to maintain a good balance between their exposure to the world and their religious obligations; I think you know that as well as I do. Conversely, I don't think any one way is the "right" way to practice Judaism. I think you agree with this sentiment. as long as someone lives within the parameters and guidelnes of halacha, that person is deserving of my respect. The point I was trying to make - and you echoed it when you said " the ... wall is something artificially created.." - is that it is artificial. My question is: when will we learn to look past that? I know this question has been asked many times over; I'm not trying to beat a dead horse. We can be armchair analysts all we want, but if we want to affect change we have to be proactive, not reactive. As Bob Marley says "...it takes a revolution to make a solution." Once we've meditated on why this status is quo, we have to figure out a way to change it. I know that sounds terribly idealistic, but it's the truth. This is a part of our tikkun, don't you think? Karma Dude, thanks for the poem; you've got the right idea. I know you're not shallow like some of the opinions you injected into your poem. What will YOU do? Trix, you're right, in some ways. Over and over, history repeats it's pattern. But it's not supposed to be like this. If we can do something about it, don't you think we should?

trix made this comment,
yes I think we should do something, but there is nothing we can do except stay out of it and not put anyone down. cause once you get involved in a fight you are spreading the fight. what we would really need is a leader who could be accepted by everyone and accept everyone. I guess he will be Moshiach. Although I really don't think there was anyone who was ever accepted by everyone. even moshe had korach against him.

malka made this comment,
Yep, we can disagree and still respect each other. Something we should all work on

jjl made this comment,
it reminds me of what Rav Kook said" there are no charadim and no chilunim there are only jews who do these mitsvot and jews who do those mitzvot" it was similiarly echoed by Rabbi shlomo carlbach, and i was exposed to the notion three times, once in a nightclub in tel aviv by yehuda katz, another time in a bomb shelter in nachloat in an open beit medrish program, and finally when i understood it in the army. See shimshon (sefer shoftim) for clarification.

karma dude made this comment,
Trix: With all due respect, you are way wrong. History only repeats itself because we are too lazy to study it and learn from it. If we would learn from the mistakes of previous generations, maybe we can make a difference for our children. And even if we don’t change the world for children, at least we will have set precedence so our children can learn from our mistakes instead of sitting back and saying “there’s nothing we can do, history repeats itself”. HISTORY DOESN’T REPEAT ITSELF, WE REPEAT HISTORY. Peace, Karma Dude out

trix made this comment,
I dunno, we can always change ourselves but we can't change other people. true we can teach our children tolerance, and even if we don't, just living in America they will learn it, but there are so many people who feel that tolerance will lead to assimilation, so they teach intolerance, and that we are better than everyone else, and I don't know cause I'm not good at these things, so maybe its just me, but I think if I were to teach my kids to love everyone and there were people out there who they hang out with who are totally against that, they would either come to resent those people, spreading resentment and dislike, or they would go join them.

karma dude made this comment,
First of all there is a huge difference between tolerance and love. I hate most people, but I tolerate them. Secondly, you can respect someone’s opinion even if they’re dead wrong (like I did in my comment). Just because you respect someone it doesn’t mean they are always right, for that matter no one is always right and there’s got to be someone you tolerate and respect

trix made this comment,
so what you are saying is that you respect my opinion by not saying that I'm a stupid idiot for even coming up with that idea? by politely saying that you don't think the same way as me but we are all entitled to our own opinion?
Theoretically it is a beautiful idea, but it is hard to give the idea over to kids and say "the way they do thing is not the way we do things, and we are all serving hashem the way we each should be serving hashem, but you can't watch TV or wear that clothes or eat that food, although really they are doing nothing wrong." and have the kids want to do it the frumer way when there is no difference between the ways of doing things, and I know thats not exactly what you are saying, but how would you give the message to your kids?

although thanks for the food for thought cause is gives me new ideas and I really would like my kids to grow up with tolerance, yet frum and yeshivish.

jjl made this comment,
Lets seperate the tolerance into a few division
1 i'm ok your ok. complete moral equality

2 Im ok your not ok but i wont tell you cause impolite

3 im ok your intitled to your possition but that doenst mean i agree
4 im ok your a big stupid fool. Your a fool for disagreeing with me

5 Im ok and i dont care. Others oppionions mean nothing.

all of these have problems i go for # 3 as for civility. if you hold by one your a wishy washy guy and nothing can ever be wrong. number 2 is fake tolerence and being a push over 4 is a pigheaded person (most people who hold office and 4 year olds) 5 is a self centered person.

NOw no one defined frum or yeshivish yet

trix made this comment,
I'll attmept to define frum the way I think it is. frum: you keep the mitzvos in the torah. since most people have trouble always keeping every mitzvah in the torah (as we all do aveiros),you will be considered frum by most people if you keep the three biggest mitzvos. the more mitzvos you are careful to keep, the frummer you will be considered. it gets kinda gray when I keep this mitzvah more carefully and you keep that mitzvah more carefully. and you have to believe in the 13 principals of faith I think.
yeshivish is a lifestyle. It comes with a mode of dress. it also comes with a certain outlook on life. the mode of dress is black and white for men and whatever the current tznius fad is for women (or an a-line skirt and button down shirt). the outlook on life is that torah is the center of your life and everything revolves around torah. because most people can't tell by looking at you how much your life revolves around torah, they will judge how yeshivish you are based on the other factor (dress), which although the less important factor in the sceme of things, it is still a factor, and the more obvious one. like if you really don't go for saving the whales but wear a save the whales t-shirt just because you got it free people will think you want to save the whales. so you would have to dress how you would like to be percieved (my own 2 cents)

jjl made this comment,
so which are the three biguns shabbas and kashrus i know , whats the third diffiner (married people know the third one, im wondering about for buchrim) that means that the frum pretty much includes the mo world, which the frum world doesnt quite think is frum.
One of the most problematic problems of uniforms is that people make assumption about the wearer. You see some one in scrubs they are thought to be a doctor(atleast a nurse). For a yeshivish dresser one assumes a higher moral credibility, which doesn't always fit with reality. Then we get into the world of chilul hashem. When someone who uses the uniform and does not fit the assumed moral code, it degrades the entire community of the uniform. Its like in high school when me and my friends would be smoking we do the kippa palm move , so the goyim wouldnt think good jewish boys partake in that nasty habit. NOw the real problem is that the uniform also includes a superiority complex. It differenciates, and whenever some one is different than another it must be for a reason. Any yeshiva bocher knows that there exist the frummer than G_D personality. Where someone assumes because they hold by this or that chumra they are frummer than the next person. the problem with that is we start slipping into baal tosiph issues. When you hold a chumra you need to know whether it is a minhag, recent stus, derabunun , or from the torah. Once you lock halacha all into one bag then you are making a minhag the level of a deuriasa, and thats baal tosiph. I remember way back when i was telling a person i was going to eat at a resteraunt which had a hechsher, and he said that place is traif and i dont eat there. He didnt reply i hold by a chumra that i only eat bdatz(fill in blank) and i dont hold by that hashgucha. I know he never learnt chulin or any of the machlokot that are involved in each hechsher. but he said something that is considered kosher by rov haam is traif. SO what should happen is the yeshivish uniform should be aquired only after you earn it by passing a midos and halacha test that shows you know what your talking about and what your doing. Then you can be like a doctor and use your uniform as an identifier.

jjl

karma dude made this comment,
My 2 year old nephew has a pair of pajamas that that look like a medi-vac jumpsuit with a big star of life that says “my daddy is a paramedic”. I think they should start marketing white shirt black pants outfits (memo to self: why they, me) that say something like “the home I was raised in has the hashkafa this uniform represents” just to avoid confusion.

Jewmaican20 made this comment,
Wow. I'm pretty sure this is the biggest response i've ever gotten to one of my posts... First of all, a big thanks to everybody who put their opinions and suggestions forth. while I was hoping to give us all some food for thought, you guys, in turn gave me some as well. While nothing being said here is particularily groundbreaking ( I think we're all well aware of the arguments on all sides ), it's still heartwarming to see the differing perspectives, and to see that other people think about this stuff. Again, thank you all. I'd like to point out, though, one thing: throughout this thread, the arguments have been clear, passionate, and lucid, but above all, the arguments were very civilized. As I know some of the people who responded here in real life, and I know that they are from different ends of the spectrum of religious Judaism, this impressed me very much. In ways, this thread was a template of sorts, one in which we see that mutual respect is a possibility. Who knows? Maybe because of the anonymity of the internet this was possible; if i can't see you, why should I judge you? However, I believe that this non judgemental approach does not exist solely in cyberspace. We can do this in the real world as well; it will take time, as we're already so caught up in the hubris that comes along with the externalities with which we identify ourselves and others. But, this thread can serve as a reminder to us all. In the police force ( especially when things were racially charged, with African Americans and other minorities struggling in the ranks) they had attempted to achieve a mentality thatthe only color they saw was blue. Not white, not black, etc. A cop was a cop. We can do the same; it'll take time, but so does anything else that we're trying to do. why should this be different? Trix, you brought up a good point when you asked how can we maintain a balance, especially when teaching our kids values. That is a very strong point you make, and I don't know if I'm equipped to answer that. However, if I may make a suggestion: the best way to teach your kids is to lead by example. If they see that although you do things differently than the other guy, yet you treat them with respect, they might follow your lead. How do you answer their questions when they ask why you don't do things that they do? It's a good question. You can try to explain to them that you're taking certain chumros upon yourself, and not everybody does that. Whatever you do, don't let them hear disdain in your voice. Oh yeah, and JJ? Bochurim do know what the third big commandment is...

New music video from Rav Shmuel.

Hey everybody. Check out this video from rav Shmuel's album Protocols.

I know that this guy is legit, and I happen to know one of his sons.

Enjoy, and you can find his albums on iTunes, among other places...



The only thing that bugs me is that it appears as if Hertzl was a bassist....

While we're posting videos, this one is very cool. Percussion group breaks into someone's house...

Originally posted Saturday, 3 February 2007

Baruch Dayan Haemes

My grandmother passed away last night. I came in early this morning for the levaya ( funeral). I'll be sticking around the midwest until after Shabbos.

Besurot Tovot...

Originally posted Friday, 2 February 2007

It's either one thing or another....

Okay, so here's the scoop: this has been one hell of a week.

Basically, I've been dating this one girl pretty "heavily", which means in real world speak that I dated her five times as of this post. I took her out on Motzei shabbos ( our fourth date ); it was a casual date, and we went to a game room type of place. Arcades, etc. A lot of fun, and I really enjoyed myself.

On Sunday, my folks give me a call, that I have to start talking "Tachlis". Again, in real world speak, this means that now that we have established that we are comfortable in each other's company - for what it's worth, after only a short period of time - it's time to see if we are compatible on the important issues. That is, on a general hashkafic level, and specifically speaking, where we see ourselves at this point, and our goals in where we want to be in the future in matters of spirituality and actuality. How we want our house to look, etc. etc. etc.

Obviously, the discussion doesn't involve the royal "we", so it's kind of akward to speak from an abstract point of view, just discussing your own personal self, but the intent is to see whether or not you're holding on the same wavelength...

Now, generally speaking, I don't know about anybody else, but this whole process is extremely exhausting for me, both physically and emotionally. Obviously, there's a lot of time and thought invested into this, and as a result, I am utterly zonked.

Now, talking tachlis is okay with me; I feel like this very well may go somewhere, and I definitely feel that it's better to do it sooner rather than drag everything out until much much later and then possibly find out that the two of us don't fit, making it much harder to stop without somebody getting it hurt in the process.

Problem: I don't know how to broach the topic, and I'm not sure exactly what to discuss...

That was sunday. On Monday, my mom calls me to tell me that the girl wants me to pick her up at a certain time, and that she wants to go somewhere that is conducive to have a discussion. Sounds like she has an agenda to me. The advantage is, she'll have to bring up the subject of talking tachlis. Problem is, once it's brought up, I'm not quite sure what to bring to the table. what do I tell her? I do I articulate properly what I feel I need. How much of myself do I need to let her know about, if anything? I mean, I don't want her to think she's marrying ( if it goes that far ) type A, and then find out I'm type B. On the other hand, what would be TMI?

I have shown her bits of myself, but not the complete, multifaceted, exuberantly colored individual that I am ( not trying to boast of be egotistical here - just practical ). What's appropos and what isn't?

I decide I'll take a drive north to visit my sister and brother in law. They're pretty insightful; maybe they have some suggestions...

Right before I'm about to head up to them, my mother calls me. My grandmother's been sick for quite some time, and recently she took a turn for the worst, my mom tells me. The doctors are keeping her comfortable, but they think that she's nearing the end.

Not cool, to say the least.

I tell her I want to come home, to say goodbye, and my mom flat out refuses. "You have a date coming up. Short of a funeral, you're not coming home, and you're not canceling the date, either. You will go out, and you will be normal on the date. Understand?"

Jeez. Okay, ma.

So, now I have my grandmother on my mind as well as this other issue. I go to my sister's house, hoping for some clarity, and all they manage to do is confuse me even more. they set me back and made me sort of unsure of myself in terms of where I see this going.

After several hours of back and forth between us, I leave, feeling even more at a loss than before...

One of the things they told me was that I have to look for something that could push me either way, saomething she does or says that makes me go "that's it. This is the one!" Basically, a clincher. This isn't freaking baseball! Ah, hell.

That was monday. On Tuesday, I get a call that the girl wants me to pick her up that night, as opposed to Wednesday night, as we had originally planned. Now, with the confusion from my siblings, I'm less than enthusiastic about going out on a date. coupled with what's going on with my grandmother, I don't really feel in any shape to date, let alone talk serious issues.

But, it has to be done, so in spite of myself, i got dressed up nicely and went to take her out.

In the end, the talk went a little bit awkward, and we definitly haven't finished talking, but for the most part, I think we accomplished a little. We're basically on the same page, and I returned to yeshiva that night feeling pretty good about the situation.

To make matters interesting, though, my parents expect to bring me home very soon. I have a bag packed and ready to go at any moment.

Not cool...



Originally posted Thursday, 1 February 2007

So far, not off to a good start...

Well, if the beginning of this week is any indication, the rest of the week is gonna be a little left of center.

On motzei shabbos, to start things off, my father called me up and told me to throw out one of my credit cards. Apparently, somehow the card number was swiped by somebody, and they tried to make several ATM withdrawals in London, of all places. Luckily, the security alert rejected the thiefs' attempts, and my dad was able to cancel the card before serious damage was done. Of course, that left me without one method of payment, and that has set me back several times this week. As a direct consequence of my losing that card, I cleaned myself out of my cash that night after buying food from places that only accepted either cash or Mastercard, which I no longer have, for the moment.

To make things a little worse, I returned to yeshiva that night. Way back when, I used to come back to yeshiva early to make a ganja getaway. I don't do that anymore ( for over a year now, people!), but I still like to come back early when no one is around. This way, I can sit in peace and quiet and work or read. Anyway, I had bought my food right before hitting the road, so I decided I would it in the dorm when I got back. As I was getting out of my car, I guess I wasn't holding the box right, and all my food came tumbling out into the mud. And it wouldn't wash off under the sink, either. Talk about a bummer.

On sunday, I accidentally erased my entire book. That is, all my work right up until where I had gotten up to before stepping out for a minute.

Thankfully, the first 25 chapters are backed up on a CD and they're printed out somewhere. The next five after that are also on a CD, but not where I can get to it soon enough. The most recent two and a half chapters, though, are gone. Unless my friend's data recovery software can pull it up, I'll have to write it all over again. I know, it's not as bad as it could have been, but when I first realized what i had done, I almost killed myself...

Anyway, I have a date tonight, so everybody can keep me in their prayers if they like. I'd be much obliged...

Originally posted Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Update...

I originally meant to make a very large post today, taking full advantage of my time off. However, due to the fact that I am among the ranks of Those With Vehicles, I was recruited to do many errands, and as such, do not have the time now.

On short, the trip last week to Montreal was uneventful. The wedding was small, but nice, and I'm happy that I went as a representative of my yeshiva, along with the other guys who made the trip up.

This past motzei shabbos I started dating a new girl, and we're waiting to go on a third date this coming week. More on that subject later. I won't give too much away, but I will declare that I am still the undefeated champion of Magic Eye.

Good shabbos everybody!

Oh yeah, and this is a little bit belated, but in memoriam:



Rest In Peace, MLK. Your endeavors will not be forgotten...

Originally posted Saturday, 20 January 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Shovavim.

Hey guys.

I'm going out of town tomorrow, so I don't know if I'll have time to post later this week, so I'm posting now.

This past Motzei Shabbos marked the beginning of this years' period of Shovavim. Shovavim is the six weeks or so in which we read the first portions of the second book in the Torah, the book of Exodus ( what we call Shemos ). The word Shovavim is an acronym for the first portions: Shemos, Vaera, Bo, Beshalach, Yisro, and Mishpatim. In Hebrew, the first letters are Shin, Vav, Yud, Beis, Beis, and Mem. On jewish leap years, the next two portions ( Teruma and Tetzaveh ) are added to the period ( making it Shovavim-Tat ).

Shovavim is known as a special time for us, a time when we can really make strides to fix ouseleves and achieve a higher level of tikkun and teshuvah. There are certain specific sins for which this period is an especially potent time for making amends, but I believe that it goes for anythin that you are trying to fix up. There are many different suggestions that are given for this period of time in order to take full advantage of the special segula that these weeks hold for us. Those include fasting and prayer, of course ( note: the sefer Yesod V'Shoresh HaAvoda warns people to use discretion and to keep their individual physiologies in mind in regard to fasting and other aesthetics that affect people's health. Be smart about it, people...). Many say that to take upon yourself a certain goal, one in which you try to correct something in which you may be lacking ( even if it's a small thing ) is a good way to make tikkun.

I'd like to bless everybody that they should utilize this special time to really help fix things, and that their endeavors should bear fruit. With the merit of this time, and, hopefully, the success of our individual tikkunim, may we bring some light to the world and bring Moshiach even closer...

Originally posted Wednesday, 10 January 2007

A rather disturbing turn of events...

I know, I know. The past few posts have been about dating, and maybe some of you are sick of it. Still, I have to post this, as this story is one for the books.

Hopefully, I'll be going out with another girl in the very near future. In preparation for this, I decided to give the shadchan from the original date ( my first girl ) a call. My idea was to discern if - unbeknownst to myself - I had messed up at all on that date, and said or did anything wrong and/or inappropriate. This way, armed with that information, I could make sure not to mess up again by making the same mistakes.

I called her up, and the conversation went like this:

Her: what can I do for you?

Me: well, I was wondering if you could help me. I'm going out again soon, and I was wondering if the girl pointed anything out to you from our date that I had done wrong.

Her: ( very hastily) No, no! God forbid! You didn't do anything wrong! There's was just something wrong with her.

Me: No, I'm not asking you for a reason why the girl said "no". I just want to know if I flubbed something or did something wrong by accident.

Her: I'm telling you, you didn't. Don't worry. It was all her. You couldn't have been better. (sighs) We had to yell at yher a little. She needs to take a break from dating, I think..."

Me: Um..

Her: She needs to take a look at herself. ( another sigh) I don't know, to be honest. I've never seen such a strong reaction like hers was. It was just so...so negative.

Me: what?

Her: Yeah. She called me, and she was like, "I hate that guy..

Me: What?

Her: Yeah, I had the same reaction. It was weird. She just couldn't stand you.

Me: whoa.

Her: At first, I thought "oh no... what did he do?" but then we went through every minute detail of the date, and everything that she pointed out that you did was perfect. You couldn't have been any better. Really. You were polite, a true gentleman.

Me: that is weird.

Her: Well, I yelled at her, but I still can't figure it out. The only thing I can think of is that she somehow associated you with some other guy, one who she really hated. And then, once that notion was in her head, she couldn't get past it.

Me: ...

Her: anyway, she's taking a break from dating for a bit. But you did fine. It was all her.

Me: Thanks.

Her: good luck, and keep doing what you're doing, and it'll be fine!

Isn't that weird? During the date, I saw absolutely no indication that she didn't like me, let alone hate me. The conversation flowed, and she was all smiles and joking. I could have sworn it was authentic. Maybe she's psycho. But that freaks me out. Now, how am I gonna know if some girl I take out is into me or really hates me? What if she's as nuts as the first?

To be honest, I'm a little freaked out...

Originally posted Friday, 5 January 2007

If they made a book, it would weigh too much...

Apparently, there are many rules - both unspoken and outright - in the jewish dating game. The seasoned veterans ( siblings, relatives of various connection and friends, both married and non ) have each taken turns sitting me down and giving me a rundown on the rules and regulations that come as an integral part to dating. If you wish to be successful, it seems, you must adhere to these guidelines with the tenacity of a rabid wolverine, no matter how conflicting or contradictory one rule may seem when held up against another rule.

Here are some of the rules. You'll see that some make sense, while others don't seem to be relevant in the slightest. I can't write them all, because we'd be here for quite some time, to say the least.

Rule #1: Always smile.

Rule #2: Never disagree with the girl's father, no matter how stupid the comment he made was. At least not while you're still dating the girl.

Rule#3: Never refer to the girl by her name, even to her when you are conversing. It's immodest.

Rule #4: Contrary to Tiffany's Guide to Etiquette, you should not hold the door for her, and then enter the room behind her. It's immodest.

Rule #5: Along the same lines, but for more complex reasons than #4, don't wait by the car door for her to get in. It's immodest.

Rule #6: Never reveal any shortcomings you have. If this becomes a long term relationship, she'll figure it out herself, without your help. If it doesn't become a long term relationship, no harm, no foul.

Rule #7: First date must be formal attire ( in our cases, suits and ties ), but a lounge is preferable to a restaurant, being that a restaurant is too formal.

Rule #8: Do not drink alcohol on the date.

Rule #9: If all else fails in your effort to keep conversation flowing without getting into heavy topics, bring up Seminary and/or Israel.

And the final most important rule of them all:

Rule #10: You do not talk about Fight Club. Fight Club does not exist...



Originally posted Friday, 29 December 2006

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

I've been really busy as of late.

First and foremost, at the beginning of this past week, I went out on my first date. As the time approached, I was really nervous, but thankfully when it came to crunch time, all the worries evaporated. I'm telling you, I was smooth as silk. The charm was turned up to "eleven". But seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I think the girl had a good time as well. She said no to a second round, but what can you do? I don't think here's was anything personal; maybe she just felt it wasn't meant to be. Either way, I had a good time, and tried my hardest to ensure she had a good time too.

I did lean one thing from the experience: take what the shadchan ( the matchmaker ) has to say with a serious helping of salt. Apparently, in today's day and age, if a girl isn't a size 0 or whatever, she's considered to be fat. Before I said yes to the shidduch in the first place, my mom calls me up and asks me if I have any problem with dating a big girl. When I ask her to clearly define what "big" means, she can't. Trying to put things in perspective - the shadchan herself is a very petite woman - I told my mom to tell me everything else about the girl. Obviously, everything sounded really good. I told my mom I'd think about it.

In the end, I decided that I definitely can't be so shallow as to say no based on something I heard about the girl's physique. Personally, I don't find myself attracted to really thin chicks. Fit is one thing, but below a certain point? Not for me. On the other hand, if the girl is too big, she's too big. I called my mom and told her to give the go-ahead to the shadchan; I would have to see the girl myself to decide.

Meanwhile, throughout the days leading up to the date I had two songs constantly floating through my head: "Fat Bottomed Girls" by Queen, and "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Zero hour came, soon enough, and I found myself sitting in my car in front of the house where the girl was staying ( she's not from New York ). I got out of the car, made my tie, put my jacket on, and pumped myself up. A lot of guys say that the worst moment is walking up the front walk and knocking on the door. I took a deep breath, muttered "okay, let's sweep this chick off her feet" and before I knew it, I was up the walk and in the front door.

After a minute, the girl came into her room. Relief flooded through me; not only wasn't she horribly fat, I didn't even think she was all that overweight. Not to mention that she was very pretty. The rest of the date went smoothly.

What the hell was the shadchan talking about? This girl wasn't fat; I'm scared to see what this particular shadchan thinks thin is! I think I learned a valuable lesson from my first experience. Of course, it's possible that it's better this way; the more they up-play something like weight, the lower your expectations are, allowing you to be pleasantly surprised...

Originally posted Friday, 22 December 2006

In the game...

Hey everybody. So, as Channuka approaches, my mother's been taking names, and we're working on one right now. I had a little bit of fun the other day, though.

My friend's wife is trying to make it in the Shidduch business as a shadchan. My friend e mailed me a resume of sorts, one that was lifted off of frumster or some site along those lines, and then she tweaked it a bit. I answered most of the questions seriously, and mailed it back to them. But one question stuck in my craw a bit. the last question was "What are you looking for in a mate?" I answered that one as best as possible without giving the impression that I had specifications that were exlusive.

I don't really dig the whole "shopping list" idea that the frum community - for the most part - has cooked up. I realize that there is a certain amount of hishtadlus that we must do, but if one is specific, how do they know that they're not messing with what is supposed to happen? Let's say I declare that I want a, b, and c in a girl, and my folks or the shadchanim therefore turn down anyone who don't fit that list. What if God wants something that is the polar opposite of everything that I said I wanted? What if what I specified isn't the best thing for me? I don't want to curtail myself because of some silly thing, so how do you maintain a balance?

I decided that whenever I give someone my "list" I straight out tell tham that the criteria therin is not by any means exclusive; it's just a startibng point as opposed to saying "he wants a female. Who looks like one, too."

Hopefully that'll lend some clarity and cover all the bases.

Now, getting back to that question at the end of the list, I wish they used a different word than "mate". Mate sounds so National Geographic. Think about it.....

( Tribal drumbeats in the background as the narrarator intones:) Swiftly ascending the tree, the young Jewish male beats his chest and lets out his mating call:

"OHHHHHHHHYOYOYOOYOYOYYYYYY!"

( scene cuts to a gathering of jewish males surrounding two larger ones ) The smaller males cluster around the two bull males as they prepare to determine who will take the Jewish female. ( The watchers make noises as the two square off with each other, letting out grunts as they advance)


Or, better yet, imagine if Steve Irwin (RIP) had a segment on it?

( rustling of underbrush. Steve is creeping through a dense forest and turns to the camera ) "All right now. Remember, the Jewish tribe keep together in large groups, so don't be surprised when you see the size of the gathering. They may look disheveled and unshaven, but they're really gentle souls who like to sit around and read all day. And some have mastered the art of renting cars and scamming cell phone companies! Ready? No worries, then..." ( Steve pushes through the foliage to reveal a clearing where many males are lounging around, smoking cigarettes and arguing with each other....)

Well, maybe not. But you get the idea, right?

Originally posted Friday, 8 December 2006

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tikkun and stuff...in the shower

Hey everybody.

The past few weeks have been packed with simchas and echoings of good news abounding. The first two weddings in a series ( so far, six) of weddings of contemporaries of mine happened, and they were amazing. Way back when I posted about how I had some sort of mental block regarding weddings; I couldn't - no matter how hard I tried - make myself get into the spirit of the moment. Thankfully, though, I was able to really throw down at these past two events. Who knows? Maybe it's because these are not only friends of mine, but they're my age, and we came up together in yeshiva and whatnot; maybe it's the subliminal realization that it's almost my time, and I'm constantly on display....

In other news, one of the post Israel guys who is back in yeshiva in Jersey with me just got engaged, and it looks like my roommate is next, God willing. As for me? My mom's taking names, but I told her that Chanuka is the starting point unless it's something too good to pass up.

So, last night was one of the weddings. After we returned, sweaty and exhausted, the line for the shower formed. I take very quick showers, but last night was a doozy.

I stepped in to the shower, and turned the water on. After a quick rinse, I grab my shampoo bottle and flick it open with my thumb. Because I didn't shield it with my hand, a tiny blob of shampoo went flying straight into my right eye. I didn't realize what had happened at first; all of a sudden, my vision got blurry. Then, the pain started. I swear, I've never felt such pain in my life. The burning sensation was at a maddening intensity as I struggled not to panic and rub my eye. When such things happen, you have to keep your eye open and flush it out with water, which wasn't easy at all. Every time I closed my eye, it would hurt more, and when I immediately opened it, it hurt even worse!

I realized after a few minutes that my lips were trembling and little sobs were escaping. I was crying! I don't remember the last time I cried from pain. It took me several minutes to compose myself and stumble from the shower. I bumped into things because I couldn't see, and I now have a big bruise on my shin. To add insult to injury, when I staggered out of the bathroom, everybody just laughed ( I did, too, but only much, much later...).

Laying in bed, with the puffiness still there, and my eye throbbing, I thought about the event. Nothing happens by chance; not even something as seemingly inane as this. God was sending me something to use as a tikkun; obviously, I've used my eyes to do sins. Maybe this was God's way of helping me atone in this world.

That is one of the reasons for pain, isn't it?

I felt comforted by that thought. It helps to have a reminder of His presence.

If only it didn't hurt as much, though....

Originally posted Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Love Is The Motive...

Okay, so by now most of you had noticed that I changed my greeting from Ziontrain Is Coming Our Way! to Love Is The Motive.... If it didn't seem clear why before, now, with the new addition to the header, I hope things make a little more sense. Love Is The Motive... are the first three words of my credo, and I have spent many hours thinking about how to finish that sentence. Now, I'm sharing it with the readers, so that they may, in turn, meditate on Love Is The Motive... and come up with their own mission statement.

I would like to hear how people are interpreting the phrase and using it. Please share in the comments section what the phrase means to you, and how does it give you the resolve to do whatever it is you're trying to do.

Many thanks to Karma Dude, as usual. Aside from being my biggest fan, he also happens to be a prominent muse, constantly giving me food for thought. Sometimes just talking to him offers me a certain clarity that talking to myself doesn't . Karma Dude, I love you, man!

Good shabbos everyone!

Originally posted Saturday, 18 November 2006

Back in my old stomping grounds...

So, most of my fans are probably ready to kill me by this time, as I haven't posted in who knows how long. So, let's bring everybody back up to speed.

I am back in my pre Israel yeshiva in central Jersey, and thank God every day that I didn't go to Baltimore. Mind you, I have nothing against Baltimore, but to be honest, the day I went for my interview was a cold dark damp morning, I wasn't feeling well, and i just overall didn't have a good vibe from the place.

The yeshiva there is large (not on the Mir scale, but still...), and not one guy came over to me to say hello or ask my name. In preparation to even be allowed to come for an interview, I had to do a whole song and dance when speaking with the head honcho in charge of screening applicants over the phone. I have respect for people whom respect is required, but this kind of thing really goes against my entire ethos. Whatever. I get there, and the guy tells me to prepare a page of gemara with all the relevant commentaries. After a short time, he calls me into his office and proceeds to grill me on it. Once we're done with that, he starts asking me all kinds of seemingly irrelevant questions, and I just couldn't get the nagging sensation out of my head that maybe I was making a mistake in even taking an interview.

I returned home that night, and the whole next day, the honcho kept stringing me along, telling me to call back later, he still hasn't decided yet. My parents are by now getting nervous, getting on my case about not having a back up plan if I don't get in, etc. I myself felt at a loss.

Many people were telling me not to go back to my old yeshiva because I would have the wrong attitude about returning. That is, I would expect the place to have stayed the same, and meanwhile not only had I changed, but the yeshiva had as well. To a degree, I shared the same concerns as them. Until someone I trust and respect called me up and told me to stop being ridiculous, and go back to my rebbe. He warned about having the right attitude, but told that 100%, I should go.

I'm glad I listened to him.

It feels great to be back in a place that has such fond memories; a lot of guys who I was here with originally have also come back, and I think that the new group of guys are good ones. Hearing people tell me that they were so excited to hear that I was coming back has been totally amazing, and I'm even enjoying the responsibilty of being an older guy. Don't worry- I'm not one of those holier than thou types, either.

Anyhoo, that's what's been going on. I decided with my parents that I won't start dating til around Chanuka time, which gives me time to reestablish myself into the yeshiva structure. After that? Lock your doors!

On a side - but no less important - note, I'd like to call everybodies' attention to a new book that should be hitting stores near you soon. The title of the book is "Wisdom From The Batcave" and it's written by a close personal friend of mine, Cary A. Friedman. An orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Friedman has been a prison chaplain in North Carolina ( he was study partners with Jonathan Pollard for a while), and worked as an outreach rabbi in Duke University. After moving to New Jersey, he took the pulpit in an Orthodox shul, and also began lecturing for the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit's Moral and Ethics course in the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia. he's the author of several judaism and religious themed books, including two on marriage and one on spiritual survival in law enforcement.

Without giving too much away, Rabbi Friedman grew up with an obsession with Batman, which extended into the amassing of all kinds of paraphenalia. When studying for his rabbinical ordination, he had the epiphany that a lot of things he was learning regarding values and morality he'd already gleaned - sometimes on a subliminal level, sometimes overtly - from the pages of Batman comics. Later, as an outreach rabbi and a lecturer, he found that incorporating his knowledge and love for the Batman into his work helped him make connections to people who would otherwise be less receptive.

"Wisdom From The Batcave" goes through the mythology of the Batman, taking out profound lessons from a seemingly ( especially to any philistine who never read a comic book) unlikely source. Even if you've never heard of the Batman ( perish the thought), this book is a wonderful read, with anecdotes and powerful lessons. I should know; I contributed to it after reading the original manuscript.

So, go to his website at www.batwisdom.com and check it out. You can order it online, or request it at your local bookstore. But please, try it out. You won't be sorry after reading it....

Originally posted Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Movin' on...

Hey everybody. Sorry I haven't posted in so long but things have been even more hectic than usual.

For various reasons, I will be returning to the States at the end of this week. I know that it may seem as if this is very short notice and even spur of the moment, but to be honest, it's not. Believe me, I've been agonizing about this for weeks, debating the pros and cons, and deciding what is the most necessary thing to do. In the end, it appears that this is the smartest choice.

When I returned to the Holy Land, I knew that my decision would be at least partially dependant on how the most recent zman went. At that time, the only thing that was debatable about working out was the halacha chabura, which, thankfully did end up working out. The problem was with everything else. As soon as that got smoothed out, every other aspect of my day fell apart, in rapid succesion. First was the night seder thing, with my chavrusa and I having to stop learning together for certain reasons. After that, I learned that the Mir was going to be learning a mesechta (tractate) that I had already learned several times, and certainly wasn't interested in learning it again. So, I started looking into other options both within and without the Mir, thinking that at least I still had my morning chavrusa, and that he would come along with me. Until I found out that he didn't want to continue learning with me after the holidays, because we'd already learnt for over a year, and he wanted to try something else out. On top of all that, besides not being able to find any programs that appealed to me, I also realized that everyone in my apartment was leaving to other places, leaving me without anybody else to move in, and without a clue as to where I would stay were I to leave my place as well.

Aside for that, to be completely honest, I am starting to get more and more interested in dating, with every passing day. Someone tried matching me to an american Israeli girl here, but my mom told me that if I want to start dating, I must come home. She said to think about it and make a decision.

So I made one. I think God is giving me a hint, and I'd be a fool not to take it.

The only snag is that I'm not quite sure where I'll be learning in the States. I'm currently working on getting into Ner Israel in Baltimore, but I heard it's difficult to get in there, so I'm praying that all will work out. And, almost everybody that I speak with immediately tries second guessing me. "Are you sure you want to do this?" "I don't think you've spent enough time in Israel. a year and a half isn't enough time..." etc. I'm happy that they're all concerned but I do wish they'd see that I didn't just make a rash decision....oh, well.

Originally posted Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Bein Hazmanim is here!

So, with the two major high holy days over, it's time to kick back a little....

But first, we have to start the preparations for the next big one: Succos.

My parents aren't coming this year, so I have to make a succah by my own place. Last year, we were supposed to build one, but everybody kept procrastinating and waiting 'til it was to late. This time, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

After waking at the crack of noon ( not to worry, I davened t sunrise and then went to sleep), I got dressed and began. Firt, I had to get measuring tape. Then, I had to take all the measurements for the succha. After determining the height and lengths of all the walls, I was ready to get the materials. Luckily, the wooden frame was still up from two years ago, so I didn't need to start hammering planks of wood together; all I needed was some sheeting for the walls and palm branches for the roof.

The search for the best sheeting took some time, not only to find the right type, but the best price. Not to sound cheap, but at this point, I have laid out for everything. On top of all that, it has to be reasonable enough for everyone to chip in willingly afterwards. Finally, I got the stuff, and hauled it all back to my apartment. I began attaching the sheets to the frames, and it was harder than expected. After about an hour and a half, I was finished, and I stepped back to survey my work. The sheets were really nice, with designs and pictures on it, and everything.

Much to my chagrin, I realized that I had put the sheets on upside down.

Screw it. I had come this far, there was no turning back. I set off to find branches for the roof. A few blocks from my apartment, there was a kid selling branches at five shekel a pop. I bought fifteen, because I wasn't exactly sure how much I would need, but this was definitely going to be used. I figured if I needed to, I could come back and get more.

Now came the ordeal of dragging them back to my place, and they were very heavy. I had to cross one of the busier streets, and almost got hit in the process. Then, when I got to my building, I had to shlep it up four flights of stairs. My God...I thought I was going to have a hernia. But I finally got it up, and set to work putting them on to of the succah. By eight in the evening, our succah was done, and I did it all bu myself! Granted, if I had had help, it probably wouldn't have upside down designs on the walls, and a sagging roof, but who cares, right? I did it myself, and I'm not the handiest of people. 'm the guy who the pointedly keep away from the power tools....

Anyway, I hope everybody enjoys their holidays!

Originally posted Thursday, 5 October 2006

This doesn't really need a title, does it?




I'm sure everyone has been asked this question before: do you remember where you were when the planes hit the Twin Towers?

I do.

The first one hit while I was sitting at the breakfast table, finishing up. At first, I thought it was another story of a drunk pilot ( after all, this was shortly after the whole Delta Airline's scandal involving drunk pilots ). I went out for my cigarette and coffee and headed upstairs to the Beis Medrash. The second plane hit just a few minutes after first seder started. The Beis Medrash was, needless to say, quite empty. Everybody was squeezed into the nearest laundromat, glued to the TV, waiting for tidbits of recycled information, because, after all, nobody at the time really knew what was happening. Rumors were flying about the White House being blown up, people were running and dust and debris were flying, there was just a complete incoherence during those first terrifying hours.

And where was I?

About a half hour after the towers collapsed, I found myself in my dorm room, sweatily packing a bag. I put all the things that I felt were important into this bag, in case I needed to leave shortly.

You see, I believed completely that Moshiach ( the messiah ) was coming. And I was scared shitless.

I was a high school senior then, just short of seventeen. I was going through an especially difficult time, having been disillusioned by the general ways of the yeshivish society. A sort of apathy had set in, and I found myself floundering as I struggled to maintain a delicate balance between my recreational activities and my personal feelings, and the pressures I felt of being a yeshiva student, and thus, on a larger level, a religious jew.

So, I wasn't doing too well on the spiritual side ( or at least, I could have been doing considerably better), and now it seemed like the day had finally come. And I knew I had a lot of shit to account for.

What didn't occur to me at the time, though, was how despite whatever misgivings about judasim and general theology I had, all the went out the door when the shit hit the fan. Immediately, I reverted to an almost instinctive reaction and line of thought. Moshiach is coming now! I am in such big trouble...

Moshiach didn't come that day. And there were many things that followed in the aftermath of that fateful day in 2001. The general disposition of American society was somber and - if anything - wary and fearful. Many rabbonim spoke about the events of 9/11, and how we should approach it, and what lessons to take from it. I wasn't listening, and if I was at any point, it was only with half an ear, anyway. My personal issues were only deepening as the year wore on, and I found myself really descending into a funk that lasted for quite a while.

I'd have philosophical battles with myself on a constant basis; at any other time, I'd either be lost in the comfort of my headphones or the hallucinogenic bliss of a ganja getaway. At that point, the side of me that wanted to cut out all things jewish was pretty dominant, and slowly, my daily routines started to wane. But one firm rebuttal that I couldn't seem to get around was the fact of how quickly I had reverted back to the thought of Moshiach coming. It was a proof that after all was said and done, my jewishness was a part of me as intrinsic as my internal organs; whether it was a product of being taught things at an early age or not ( what some call brainwashing, and is erroneous; I spoke spanish as a child before I could speak english, and now I can't speak a word... ) wasn't necessarily the point - the fact that it came so naturally meant that it could happen - and most likely would happen - again. And again and again and again, no matter what I did. Being a jew was a part of me that I'd never be able to escape.

It still took time for my other side to win, though....and that was when I was given another chance after leaving my old school. But that's not for now.

September 11, 2001 is etched into my mind for a number of reasons. It gave me a feeling of being part of history; I was now able to understand and relate when someone older than I was able to repeat a date of a certain event in history that had been burned into their mind, how such a thing was possible.

But the foremost reason I remember it is because it reminded me on a personal level of who I am at my core. Of what I am and how I can never escape that fact. Thank God, I'm at that point where I don't feel like I have to anymore.

Originally posted Tuesday, 12 September 2006