Thursday, June 28, 2012

Urgent Tzeddaka Opportunity

This post appeared yesterday on Reb Ally's blog:

Today was the BIGGEST day in our kollel's history. A very very fine and generous baal tzedaka asked me to publicize on the blog that if I can raise 20 thousand dollars in the next week HE WILL MATCH IT!!!
This is the salvation I was waiting for and Hashem brought it via his faithful messenger who asked to remain nameless.
I love you guys too.... To get me to love you a donation is not necessary.
Reb Ally has been working tirelessly here in galut trying to raise finds for his wonderful kollel; by contributing, you are becoming a partner in Torah, as well as helping provide sustenance for brethren in the Holy Land.

For stateside donors (emphases mine):

The address is 326 Kingston Ave. Brooklyn NY 11213. Checks can be made out to Ohr David Outreach and next to memo write either "iyun hanefesh" or my name (Rabbi Elchanan Ehrman).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Changing direction

Since starting school in Manhattan a few weeks ago, I've already come up with a set route from Penn Station to the campus, and back. My thinking is along the lines of "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line", and so my walk matches that sentiment; I walk straight until the street that I have to make a turn, and then I continue straight yet again.

An interesting thing happened the other day, though: we experienced a tremendous heat wave in the Tri-State area over the past few days, with temperature rising into the high nineties. My ten block, two avenue walk now held the potential of being a really unpleasant trek, and so I developed a meandering route that brought me into as much shade as possible, taking breaks at storefronts that had their doors open to catch a whiff of nice, cold canned air.

At one point, I moved with the crossing traffic to the other side of the avenue and decided to keep my momentum going by just continuing down the street, several blocks before I usually make my turn. As I approached the next cross street, I noticed a branch of our bank that I had never seen before, despite the fact that I pass it every single time I return to the train station.

It's amazing how something can be right in front of our faces for the longest time, and we won't notice it until we approach it from a different angle, a new perspective. Sometimes, you just have to look up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of participating as a graduate in Touro College's Commencement Exercises, where I received my BA in Psychology, cum laude. All cynical comments about Touro's quality aside, I allowed myself a tinge of pride and more importantly, a sense of accomplishment that my hard work (not to mention several nights a week's absence from my family) paid off in a step towards making the proper hishtadlut in providing sustenance for my family and qualified help for my community. The truth is, I don't need the recognition from others but to have something tangible that validates that hard work does feel good.

The ceremony itself was very interesting, as well as ironic on many levels. Much of the decorated faculty at Touro graced the stage in all their academic glory, with colorful hoods and ostentatious robes that made them look more like the faculty of Hogwarts than of a modern, liberal arts institution. Moreover, the pomp and circumstance of the actual ceremonies had a contrived, inorganic quality to it, one of the last vestiges of an ages old tradition in academia. It's interesting to see this; we typically associate higher education with liberal agendas and attempts to dismantle tradition and throw off the yoke of earlier generations, yet they cling so tenaciously to these few hours of reveling in their scholastic achievements, with forced rituals that convey their reverence to the acquisition of knowledge.

This is compounded by the dichotomy of an institution that tries to distinguish itself as a place that remains faithful to both the principles of Torah Judaism as well as secular scholarship. To hear speeches about Torah values from people dressed in the regalia of what is essentially a manifestation of Greek culture is a relatively unique experience for this writer.

This irony extended to the student body, as well: one of the female valedictorians gave a lengthy address about different personalities who had profound impact on Jewry in the past century, mentioning Chiune Sugihara and Rav Aharon Kotler in the same sentence, unwittingly equating their importance in the survival of Jewry. One wonders what Rav Kotler (who was vehemently opposed to secular education) would have thought about his likeness being used as a positive contributor to the advancement of Jewish continuity as it relates to the secular world, in the halls of academia...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Reb Shlomo Radomsker on living in the past.

It's Good To Be A Yid: The Biggest Sin = Stuck in the Past:

Love this fella's look!

Free shiur from Rav Moshe Weinberger

A tip of the hat to Neil Harris, who clues us in about a "must hear" shiur from Rav Moshe Weinberger. The generous folks over at the download site are offering it for free, which is always good in my book (although I would buy it anyway).

Modern Uberdox: Free shiur from Rav Moshe Weinberger: has is offering a free shiur for a limited time.  I have heard half of it alreay and it's amazing and, even more t...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

This blog hasn't taken a departure from Judaism related topics in a long time, but since this particular author had a profound influence on my life, I would like to make an exception.

Ray Bradbury - author of the science fiction series The Martian Chronicles and works like Fahrenheit 451, his most renowned writings - died last night at the age of ninety-one. Acknowledged as the one most responsible for opening science fiction to broader audiences, Bradbury's writings have inspired the myriads of science fiction writers who followed him, not to mention writers of other genres of fiction and non-fiction alike.

Years ago I stumbled upon a seriously modified, child friendly version of one of the original Martian Chronicles tales, and its subtle twist at the end of the story (a twist that completely changed the perception of the whole story in retrospect within one simple sentence) drew me into his world. While my father was partial to Heinlein's work, for the most part his writing didn't speak to me, probably because much of the subtext was over my head at the time. But Bradbury was different - even though his writing could be read at multiple levels, there was still the essential element of the wide eyed wonder when contemplating the world around us, and the possibilities beyond our terrestrial existence. While I will read almost anything that I get my hands on, science fiction has always filled a certain niche in my heart; in a sense my love for science fiction and its cousin fantasy was a catalyst for my introduction to chassidut in the first place, but I digress...

Bradbury's perseverance in the face of numerous rejections is a lesson we can all learn; despite being rebuffed on many occasions from various magazines and monthlies, Bradbury continued writing and bettering himself, submitting articles, essays, and short stories until he achieved his goal. That is an encouraging thought for anyone trying to break into a profession, not just writing.