The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Monday, November 22, 2004

Smarter Than the Average Bear

I have to admit that, notwithstanding his misguided politics, I am amused by the postings of DovBear, one of the more recent additions to the J Blogosphere.

It is one of the more refreshing sights and a welcome addition (particularly in light of the imminent and merciful plug-pulling on Protocols (It is hard to adequately describe the precipitous decline of that space; most particularly in the last couple of months. Steve: What took you so long?)

If DovBear plays his cards right, one day he will realize his dream of purchasing one of my franchises.
Fosterboy Commentor Responds...

Don't Feel Guilty

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Like Father, Like Son

For the nine-plus years that I have been going to my shul
one thing has been very constant. Every Shabbos afternoon, one of the old-timers sits directly across from the Rebbe during Seudah Shlishis and immediately falls asleep when the Rebbe starts to talk. Not sometimes. Not most times. Every week, mamash.

This week his son, who lives in Israel, came for Shabbos. His son sat next to his father during Seudah Shlishis. As soon as the Rebbe opened his mouth to speak, the two of them nodded out. A double-bobble-head-doll effect.

It was a beautiful thing.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Israel Ride X

Finally, By Popular Demand...A PICTURE of MoChassid!!

I'm the guy in the yellow bike jersey.
The Rebbe's Take on His 40th Birthday

I am talking about the Piaczezna Rebbe, HYD, not the one you may be thinking about.

Yesterday, Simcha had a screed on Birthdays, essentially saying that there seemed to be no makor in halacha to celebrate birthdays. He ended by saying:

I still don't get it. There are certain milestones that indicate significant achievement, such as reaching the age of mitzvos (12/13), the age beyond premature death (60; cf. Mo'ed Katan 28a), old age (70; cf. Responsa Havas Ya'ir no. 70) and strength (80). I can see celebrating those. But the age of 24, for example, why celebrate that birthday? Unless you are looking for reasons to have a party. That is not how I approach life.
I wrote in a comment that the Rebbe from Piaczezna wrote about his upcoming 40th birthday in his personal journal, Tzav V'ziruz.

Simcha dismissed my comment, saying that:

I'm not interested in rebbishe ma'aselakh about who celebrated what, like that silly melaveh malkah book. I'm interested in why.
I was obviously not trying to bring a halachic source for celbrating birthdays. Only to point out that the Rebbe used his upcoming fortieth birthday as an opportunity to engage in cheshbon hanefesh (personal introspection). I also pointed out how sad it was in light of the fact that the Rebbe was murdered by the Nazis, YS, in Treblinka at the age of 53.

This is chapter 19 of "To Heal the Soul", the English translation of the silly melavah malkah book, Tzav V'ziruz.

Thank God, I am already in my fortieth year of life and in a few months it will be my fortieth birthday. After that begins the decline of life, the beginnings of my old age. I am afraid. Very afraid. Not so much from the inevitable passing of my life but from the spiritual poverty of my years do I shudder: they are gone and past, empty and void, wasted on childish games.

"What will be with you, mortal creature," I tell myself. "Your prime of life is gone, and now, when you've reached your decline, when the inevitable process of dying has begun, only now you remember your creator?"

And even now, can I be sure of myself? How many periods of inspiration and improvement have I already had in my life, and what always happened to them? They passed like snow on a summer's day. This happened at previous transitions in life: before my bar mitzvah, before my wedding....I experienced then such a deep inspiration and I felt so firm in my convictions. I said to myself that from then on I was certain to be God's faithful servant. And who knows if even now, once I become accustomed to being past forty, that the past will not happen again: all the inspiration and aspiration will melt and disappear. As there is no trace left from my earlier inspirations, what will be left of this one?

But I dare not despair! My heart pounds from my impending fortieth birthday, my entire body shakes from my oncoming declining years. Still, I will try to muster all my strength to commit myself and my life to God. Perhaps, perhaps something will remain.

But to what shall I commit myself? To learn more? I think that as far as possible, I don't waste any time. To abstain from physical pleasures? If my own desires are not fooling me, thank God, I am not so attached to them. So what am I missing? Simply to be a Jew. I see myself as a self-portrait that shows all colors and features real to life. Just one thing is missing: the soul.

"God! Master of the World, Who sees my innermost secrets! Before you I confess. You I beseech! I feel so cast aside and distanced from You and from Your Holy
Presence! Help me - I want to become a simple Jew!

God! Save me from wasting the rest of my years chasing the illusions of life! Draw me closer and bring me into Your innermost Presence. Bind me to You forever and ever in wealth of spirit and soul."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Israel Ride IX

The End
Right Turn On Red

Why do people make right turns on red lights in the face of signs that say "No Right Turn on Red"? This has always intrigued me.

Legally, there is no difference between, on the one hand, passing a red light to go straight or make a left turn and, on the other, making a right where the sign says "No turn on Red". If you are caught, you will get a ticket whether you make a right turn or a left.

Yet, you don't routinely see people passing red lights except to make rights.

I've also noticed that it's overwhelmingly men who do this.

Obviously, it's easier to make a right on a red rather than a left. Drivers probably also think it's safer (but the sight lines are usually bad which is why the sign prohibitting a right turn is there in the first place).

Still, I don't really get it.
The Israel Ride VIII

Entering Jerusalem

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Israel Bike Ride VII

Climbing to Jerusalem

Monday, November 15, 2004

Non-Shiny Shoe Music at Aish Kodesh

Simply Tsfat will be playing at Aish Kodesh this motsai Shabbos, November 20th, at 8:30 p.m.. $15/$10 for students.

Aron Razel will be playing at Aish Kodesh on motsai Shabbos, December 4th at 8:30 p.m. Details to follow.

Shlomo Katz will be playing at Aish Kodesh on motsai Shabbos, December 18th at 8:30 p.m. Details to follow.

Aish Kodesh is located at 894 Woodmere Boulevard in Woodmere.

Simcha, now that we know you're a closet Carlebachian, we expect to see you.
My Sister in Law Asks...

What will become of Fosterboy?
The Israel Ride VI - MoC climbs....

...Mitzukei Dragot

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Israel Ride V...

...The third day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The israel Ride IV...

....The Second Day
What's P'shat? III

This morning as I walked to work, I noticed a cab with a decal that said, "Working Dogs Welcome".

Working dogs, it turns out, is PC for 'seeing-eye' dogs. My first thought was, if you are going to go PC, shouldn't you go all the way? Shouldn't the sign have read, "Working Canine American's Welcome"? But then I realized that might cause a ruckus with French poodles and German Shepards. But we digress.

My main question is, who, exactly, is going to read the sign on the cab? A blind person walking with his or her 'working dog' certainly can't read it and although I understand seeing-eye dogs are amazingly well trained, I don't think they've been trained to read. I could be wrong.

So, what's up with the sign?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Israel Ride III...

...The First Day

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Israel Ride II...

...The First Night
Fosterboy and His Brother...

At our house for Shabbos
Modern technology in the Service of the Lord

On the night before the final day of the bike tour in Israel, we were trying to figure out what to do about davening (praying) the following morning. Most of the bike group was in Almog, but about 40 of us were in the Kalya Guest House, near the Dead Sea, about 13 kilometers short of Almog. We had the option of riding to Almog (which would take between 35 minutes and an hour, depending on one's riding skills) or taking a bus and having our bikes trucked over.

Consequently, we needed to get up particularly early and daven as early as possible. Ideally, we would have awoken at 4:30 and davened at 5:00 a.m.

A discussion ensued about how early one could put on tallis and tefillin. Everyone guessed but no one really knew. At about 11 p.m. Israel time, I used my Blackberry to email a friend in New York. I asked him to go on line and find out the facts. Five minutes later he emailed back that the earliest tallis and tefillin in Jerusalem (we were about 25 miles south at the time) was 5:03 a.m.

Davening was then set for 5:03 a.m. We all davened and made it to the Almog meeting point in plenty of time.

Mi K'amcha Yisrael.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Ride I...

.... the Prologue

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Snore Denial

One of the challenges of my recently completed bike trip in Israel was sleeping in the face of incessant snoring on the part of roommates, both chosen and assigned.

The organizers, anticipating this problem, included ear plugs in the welcome bag that was given to each rider on the first night. A nice try, but ear plugs were no match for the snoring hordes that made up this bunch of riders.

And, of course, there was the denial aspect best illustrated in the following story.

We spent the third evening in a faux Bedouin tent in Mamshit (in the Negev). This tourist trap was actually owned and operated by a decidedly non-Bedouin Israeli who hired just enough local bedouins as to give the place an air of semi-authenticity.

Everyone had to sleep in tents in sleeping bags placed on uncomfortable mats that laid on the ground. There were no more than six inches separating each mat. Consequently, there were scores of men (and women, in the women's tent) sleeping in close proximity. Virtually all of these men and women had completed a very long and difficult day of bike riding and were very, very tired. It isn't hard to imagine the symphony of snoring that soon followed 'lights out'.

The fellow lying next to me, a Brit, fell asleep immediately and began his snoring concert without delay. Luckily for me, I am a very strong sleeper and it would have taken a brass band to keep me awake after 65 miles of riding in desert heat. Nevertheless, I did wake up twice during the course of the evening for the calls of nature. Each time, Mr. Brit was playing a different movement of his concerto.

In the morning, my alarm went off and, again, I awoke to the strains of my neighbor's tunes.

A few minutes later he awoke and I overheard the following conversation:

Fellow Brit to my neighbor: "How did you sleep?"

My Neighbor: "I didn't sleep a wink".

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A Poignant Moment

This morning I attended a bris where the Sandik (a great honor given to a person who holds the baby while the bris is being performed) was the baby's alter Zaide (great grandfather). This fact alone made the bris special but what was even more meaningful was that the Sandik was a survivor of Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

I remember that when the couple got married a few years ago, there was barely a dry eye in the hall when the grandfather and his wife (also a survivor) walked down the aisle. The Sandik is a man of very few words but great dignity and grace. On the day of the wedding, he told his son that if anyone had told him, while he was at Auschwitz, that he would be standing, 60 years later, under the chupah (wedding canopy) of a granddaughter, he would have thought the person completely meshugah (crazy). I am sure the same would have held if someone had told him he would be the Sandik at the bris of his great grandson.

...In the life of FosterBoy.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Almost Home

I haven't had access to a computer in two weeks (and then only for a couple of hours). Can't say that I missed it.

After more than two weeks on the road (literally and figuratively), I finally get back tonight. While I was sad to leave Israel, I can't wait to see MHW and the mishpacha.

The bike ride was awesome, beyond even my highest expectations. For an alter kocker, I did very well (actually, I have to say that I did pretty well for any age). I will write about the ride over the next few days here.

Riding a bike 310 miles over 5 days gives one a lot of time to think so I did a lot of thinking. I'll try to write a little bit over the next few days (weeks?).

Time to start training for next year.