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

Monday, February 28, 2005


Last week I received the following communication from Rav Ari Waxman, shlit'a, the Mashgiach Ruchani of the Talmidim from Chutz La'Aretz of Yeshivat Sha'alvim. It related to one of the most beloved characters at the Yeshiva, a quiet, hard-working and dignified man whom (for reasons no one knew) everyone calls Gandhi. Gandhi has run the laundry service at Sha'alvim for as long as anyone can remember.

I had the zechus of meeting Gandhi a few years ago when I spent a week at the Yeshiva with my son. Although he barely said a word, for some reason I knew I was in the presence of a very special man. Rav Waxman's email only confirms what I felt.

Dear Talmidei Sha'alvim-

I'm not sure if the name Meir Gintzig will ring a bell, at the same time I am sure that the name which he is more commonly referred to, "Gandhi", will bring back many fond memories. Some of you may have heard that a couple of months ago Gandhi suffered a minor stroke and although he has been released from the hospital unfortunately he can longer continue his work in the yeshiva. Since you are very well aware of Gandhi's tremendous devotion to his work you can imagine that he finds this new situation a very difficult one.

We thought that this would be an appropriate time for talmidei Sha'alvim who are interested in wishing Gandhi well, expressing any kind of hakarat hatov, or "stam" writing Gandhi, to do so.... We are sure that hearing from you will bring Gandhi tremendous simcha!

While we are mentioning Gandhi let me take a minute to fill you in on some details of of his background which you were probably not aware of during your time at Sha'alvim. Gandhi, age 74 ba"h, grew up in in Krakow. During the years of the Holocaust his parents were taken away by the Germans and killed in front of his eyes. Gandhi managed to survive different forms of concentration camps, including Auschwitz for a few months, and came to Israel at age 15. He joined Tzahal and at age 17 fought in the War of Independence. During the fighting Gandhi was part of a unit that captured the neighborhood of Katamon in Yerushalayim. In 1950 Gandhi was placed on Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim as part of the Nachal program which combined army service with work on a kibbutz. In 1951, upon finishing his army service Gandhi joined the first settlers of Kibbutz Sha'alvim. At the time of Gandhi's initial arrival Sha'alvim was made up of three tents, 1) "Ohel Banim" with 14 men, 2) "Ohel Banot" with 9 woman and 3) a Cheder Ochel tent. It seems that Gandhi's incredible work ethic began already back then. The well known Rav of Kibbutz Chaim, Rav Kalman Kahana Zatz"l, knew Gandhi well from his work on Chafetz Chaim and Rav Kahana's visits to Sha'alvim. In 1956 Rav Kalman Kahana commented that if someone wants to learn what true hasmada is they should go to Gandhi. How did he get the name Ghandi? Also appropriate for these days. In Purim of 1957 Meir Gintzig came to the mesibat Purim dressed up as the Indian philosopher Gandhi and since then the name "Gandhi" stuck. In 1990 Gandhi married Grasia Amar who was also amongst the founders of Kibbutz Sha'alvim. Finally, with Siyum Daf HaYomi in the air we'll mention that Gandhi completed Sha"s twice!

We wish Gandhi a refuah shleimah and, once again, we ask you not to underestimate the joy that you will will bring Gandhi by writing to him, even if only a few words.

Tizku L'Mitzvot,
Ari Waxman
Baruch Hashem, Ghandi was inundated with emails from the talmidim. This morning Rav Waxman forwarded Gandhi's response:

Dear students, alumni, and all who have been inquiring about my health,

Thank you very, very much! I am so touched to have received so many letters from you especially now that I am sick and can't work.

Zvi Kaspi and his family reads me the letters that you send and together we laugh about the experiences that we have gone through and didn't even realize that we were experiencing.

At the moment I am sitting with Zvi Kaspi and I am trying to write a response to all of you. (Unfortunately I am still unable to write and my eyesight has also become weaker.)

I want to tell you how much ani ohev etchem and I want to let you know that all of the years that I worked for you in the laundry room brought me so much happiness. For me you are the finest youth of Am Yisrael. You left houses filled with plenty and came to a settlement out in the middle of nowhere to live in conditions that you were not accustomed to.

I have not managed to remember your names however even through someone's laundry number it is possible to note one's character and see what kind of person he is. I have interesting memories of different personalities which I associate with different laundry numbers. I remember many who would enter the laundry room with derech eretz and say hello, take or give his laundry in an orderly fashion with a glowing smile, always dressed neatly, and sometimes I identify a boy according to the color of his shirt.

Amongst the letters that I received some were particularly touching. True, I tried very hard to make sure that everything was clean, orderly, and ready on time because this is how a Jew is expected to go about his work. Chaza"l tell us great things about Rav Yochanon HaSandlar who would make shoes for a livelihood and at the same time was a tremendous lamdan and an upright and righteous person.

One of you wrote to me something like this: "A person is connected to his physical objects and Yakov Avinu also crossed the river for his pachim ktanim. And here I am, in a new place, running around trying to change dollars into shekels, I get a safety deposit box for my passport and ticket, they take a picture of me for my insurance policy, they give me a key to my room, a key to my safety deposit box, I run to the makolet to get a drink- everything is new and strange. And I walk into the laundry room and feel at home. The loud noise of the machines calms me down. Someone smiles and is taking care of me and once again I feel that everything is under control."

What can I tell you young Rabbotai. As Zvi Kaspi says, "We fulfilled a dream". We fought very hard for this land. We freed it and built a place of normal life here. How can we not be filled with joy for what we have here today?

And you, my young friends, have grown up and become men who are spread out all across the world, real bnei Torah with wonderful memories of Eretz Yisrael. I serve you with a love of the Torah and those who learn it and with the knowledge that you are the next generation of Am Yisrael.

The laundry number that you received in Yeshivat Sha'alvim is a small part of the tapestry of your great memories.

Yehi Ratzon that Eretz Yisrael will always hold a special place in your hearts. We rely on your zechuyot to bring a yeshua to Yisrael.

And I will BS"D become healthy again and continue to be of service to bnei Torah,

Chizku V'imtzu,

Meir Ginztig- Gandhi

Adar 5765
All I can say is that it is an honor to have simply met someone like Gandhi. May Hashem grant him a refuah shleimah b'karov and may we all be zoche to see him back at work soon.
Capital Idea

My friend forwarded the following email from a lovely 82-year-old woman from our shul who schedules many of the shiurim for women:

Conversation With A Teenaged Boy

Our Younger Son went on a ski-trip with his high school yesterday. I called him at around 5 p.m. He was on the bus, on his way home from Hunter Mountain.

This was our conversation.

Me: How're you doing?


Me: How was the ski trip?

OYS: Good.

Me: How were the conditions?

OYS: Good.

Me: How'd you ski?

OYS: Pretty good.

Me: How was the weather?

OYS: Good.

Me: You weren't too cold?

OYS: Nope.

Me: Did you eat dinner?

OYS: Nope.

Me: Would you like me to bring you anything? I'm going to Olympic Pita with OYD.

OYS: Sure.

Me: What would you like?

OYS: Steak.

Me: Ok, see you later.

OYS turns 16 next month. The good news, based on experience, is that he will probably resume talking in other-than-mono-syllabic-sentences in about three years.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Challah Shock

MHW is in Israel and left us bereft of homemade challah so this morning on my way to work I purchased a couple of challahs from a fancy restaurant/bakery in Midtown Manhattan.

Later in the morning I went on line to purchase a new Dell Home Computer to replace our current antiquated system.

They were about the same price.
More on Kraft Stadium

At Israelity
Foster Care in Israel

Interesting article in Ha'aretz.

Hat tip: The Holy Reb Elchanan

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Don't GET It

It is my policy never to blog on halachic issues. Being an am ha'aretz, I am in no position to post intelligently on these issues, so I don't. I leave the halachic blogging to Gil, following the discussions carefully but rarely commenting.

Recently he posted about Rav Elyashiv's apparent ruling against prenups. Although I may not be competent to understand his halachic reasoning, I must admit that I was alarmed by the result. Sadly, in this day and age it seems there are more and more horror stories about men withholding gets to extort money, obtain better custody arrangements or simply torture their wives. The prenup is a tool that has been relatively effective, as a practical matter, in preventing such abuses.

This was brought home this past week by an ad and front page article I read in the local Jewish newspaper. The article was a glowing testimony to a certain Shiny Shoe music promoter who was putting together a benefit concert featuring the self-proclaimed "King of Jewish Music" and two other performers (one of whom, by the way, was recently arrested for doing drugs with and sexually abusing teen-aged girls in Jerusalem). What the article failed to mention, but what is well-known, is that this promoter has been torturing his wife for the past few years by withholding a get.

I sent an email to the editor of the newspaper asking how he could write such an article about someone like this and he passed the buck, telling me to take up the issue with the organizers of the concert. While I have not spoken to the organizers, it is not possible that they are unaware of the situation.

Unfortunately, this is the velt in which we live. So long as the promoter can make money for the musicians and raise money for the tzedakah (and provide ad income to the newspaper), rather than being ostracized and shunned, he is heralded as a hero and treated as a shayner Yid. Treated this way, why should he give his wife a get?

Perhaps if his wife had the benefit of a prenup, she would not be at his mercy today.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Kehilas Ishei Yisrael: Like A Phoenix Rising From The Ashes

This Shabbos, in Kew Gardens Hills, a new/old minyan, Kehilas Ishei Yisrael, will celebrate its first Shabbos in its new home.

This minyan was started about two years ago (with a different name) by a handful of young-married-twenty-somethings who were looking for something different. In their own words:

Kehilas Ishei Yisrael is based fundamentally on a serious davening in a warm atmosphere - a kiddush Hashem with regard to bein adam l’makom and bein adam l’chaveiro. Kehilas Ishei Yisrael aims to daven together as a kehilah with kavanah in a quiet makom tefillah. Our primary interest is creating an environment where people feel welcome and have a sense of belonging; where people want to participate in creating an inspiring communal tefillah.

Our mission is to follow the advice of Shimon Hatzadik in the first perek of Pirkei Avos and center our efforts around three pillars: (1) Torah (2) Avodah and (3) Gemilas Chasadim. We strive to create a forum which will cultivate and nurture individuals' passion and excitement of Torah Judaism through (1) shiurim and chaburas for men and women (2) hartzig davening and (3) a warm kehilah/community of chesed and achdus.
This mission statement apparently resonated with many young people because the minyan grew way beyond anyone's expectations, from a very small chevra that met at various homes to a group of well over 100 that rented out a room in a local school. They have also hosted wonderful shiurim, melaveh malkas and other musical events.

For reasons that remain a mystery, and without warning or explanation, the minyan was shut down, their lease terminated and their bank account closed. After unsuccessfully trying to reverse these actions the kehilah decided to take matters into their own hands. Despite being homeless and penniless, they kept the kehilah together, raised some money (they can use a lot more), and found a new place.

This Shabbos they start again. Having weathered the storm, they will be stronger than ever. I wish them great success. In fact, I think their biggest problem will be that they will grow so quickly they will run out of room in their new home.
If You Live Long Enough You Get To See Some Strange Things

Apropos of my recent post about reaching a certain age milestone, I saw something today that I had not seen previously in my almost 50 years.

At our mincha minyan we pass around an envelope to collect tzedakah. Most people put in a dollar bill while others throw in quarters.

It is not uncommon for one or two individuals to make change with the collections in the envelope. For example, someone may have a 5 dollar bill. He will typically put it in the envelope and take out 4 singles, leaving one single for tzedakah.

Today I saw a guy put in a single dollar and take out FOUR quarters. "That's strange", I thought. He then took out his wallet, and I thought, "OK, he just needed some quarters". He removed a five dollar bill and inserted it in the envelope. So far so good. He then proceeded to count out FIVE single dollar bills and put them in his wallet.

There is nothing wrong with what he did but I'd never seen it in all my life.
Kraft Rocks UPDATED

I have just become a Patriot's Fan.


(Hat Tip: Joe Schick)
Speed Minyan

Long before there was speed dating there were speed minyanim. The organizers of these minyanim make no bones about it. They dispense with the formalities of Karbanos and fly through the davening. The Rav never attends so there is no waiting for him to finish Shema or shemonah esrai (These minyanim are usually very early and the Rav is either subtly discouraged from attending or knows better). I call these minyanim the 1010 WINS News minyanim; "You give us 22 minutes, we give you the davening".

Not that there's anything wrong with them. You just need to be mentally and physically prepared. You absolutely have to be there five minutes early because even if you arrive on time, by the time you get your tefillin on they're holding by barchu. As for the davening itself, you cannot afford to be distracted. You have to keep your face in the siddur and just go with the flow. There is actually something to be said for the intensity.

I bring this up now because MHW is off to see our older daughter in Israel and I am home alone trying to get our two younger ones out the door in time for school. In these situations, starting davening at 5:50 a.m. and finishing at 6:15 is a big help.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


In a matter of weeks I will officially cross the dreaded age boundary. The Big Five Oh approaches. As if I needed a reminder, I received a mailing from the American Association of Retired People inviting me to sign up as a member. Gee, thanks, guys.

I was thinking that many people who reach this milestone suffer mid life crises. Some satisfy it with one of these. Others with one of these. All I want is one of these.
Literally Speaking II - A Response From Rav Mirsky

I received the following email from R. Yehudah Mirsky, author of the poignant YU Commentator article that was the subject of my recent post on the use of the word 'literally'.

Dear MoChassid -- Thanks for taking the care to keep us on the grammatical straight and narrow. As it turns out, my grandfather did indeed finish his work on the Sheiltot on his deathbed, i.e. he finished the manuscript as he lay in bed and lapsed into his final coma a few hours later.

As for people who gave their lives for YU, when I wrote that line I chiefly had in mind Dr. Revel, whose early death seems very much to have been at the least abetted by overwork, as well as Dr. Belkin, who also worked himself very very hard, as well as other very hard-working people I knew over the years.

Feel free to post this on your blog.

Shavua tov,
Yehudah Mirsky
So half an apology to R. Mirsky. His use of the term literally when describing his grandfather literally finishing his manuscript on his death bed was indeed correct. His use of the term literally when describing those who gave their lives for YU was, however, incorrect.

Oh well. A .500 batting average in baseball gets you into the Hall of Fame.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Diminishing Marginal Blogturns

I rarely check my Site Meter because I write this blog 'Lishma', not to shamelessly attract hits like some other bloggers we know. But I did check the other day only to discover that I just that day surpassed thirty thousand hits. Intrigued that so many people would waste so much time reading this goofy blog, I did some further research. It turns out that although I started it in March, 2004, almost no one read it until June, 2004. Looking back in the archives, I realized that I wrote some of my most compelling stuff (okay, other than the macaroon thread) in those early days when no one was watching. I have to admit that since then, most of my stuff has been drivel. (Indeed, I even took a one-month hiatus in August because I had lost my edge).

I find that this happens with most bloggers. They come out of the blocks with a head of steam and quickly peter out. Many stink from the beginning but others start with interesting takes but stop being interesting shortly after debuting. Ironically, since many bloggers are driven by their desire for hits but peak in hits only after having written everything interesting that they will ever write, most readers are drawn to them only after they descend to mediocrity.

That's pretty much what's happened here. The only really interesting things that I have to say relate to Fosterboy (which I can no longer write) and my bike riding (which you will find interesting only if you are a whacked out fitness freak or really have nothing to do).

The good news is that as lousy as this blog is there are many that are far worse. So the hits keep coming.

Not that I care. I'm only doing this lishma.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Literally Speaking UPDATED

I know I irk people with stuff like this (I have been driving MHW crazy for 23 + years and my kids roll their eyes when I bring up the topic) but PEOPLE, PLEASE!!!!

'Literally' does not mean 'figuratively' so stop using it that way!

Case in point: In an otherwise fine article printed in the YU Commentator (via Back Row of the Bais) Yehudah Mirsky writes:.

This essay is dedicated to all the people, remembered and forgotten, who literally gave their lives for the idea that Yeshiva, however imperfectly, represents (emphasis added).
I could be wrong but I don't think the author means that anyone literally gave his life for YU. I think he means the people who figuratively gave their lives. Had the author written "Dedicated to those who gave their lives for the idea...", Dayeinu.

Later in the article, the author reverts to the term 'literally' in a very sketchy manner. He writes:

My grandfather passed away in 1967, finishing his decades-long work on the Sheiltot literally on his deathbed.
The phrase "on his deathbed" is itself a figure of speech, generally not to be taken literally. Thus, if his grandfather actually finished his work in the very bed in which he died one could argue, b'dieved, that it is appropriate to use the phrase "literally on his deathbed." If, as is more likely the case, the author meant that his grandfather finished his work just before he died, he would have made the exact same point by simply writing, "My grandfather passed away in 1967, finishing his decades-long work on the Sheilot on his deathbed".

And, Amshinover, while I'm at it, 'separate' has two 'a's and two 'e's, not three 'e's.

UPDATE: It must be Adar because while spelling my name incorrectly, Josh points out a "venehapech hu". He cites to an on-line dictionary that suggests that a permissible usage of 'literally' is as an 'intensive' (like 'mamash', e.g.) so that, contrary to my rant, the author was within his rights to use literally to mean figuratively. Another sign that we are in the era of Ikvasa d'meshicha.

According to my Site Meter, MoC received its 30,000th visit sometime yesterday.

Wow. People must really be desperate for things to do.
J Scholastic Sports III - The Hockey Fa'hair

One Sunday afternoon, when our younger son was in 8th grade, his elementary school's floor hockey team played a game at the high school gym. (The high school and elementary schools are affiliated but are at different locations). The Menahel of the high school, having just finished his Sunday morning duties, stopped in to watch a few minutes of the first period.

I love the Menahel. While he is a shtark KBY/YU Litvak, he also understands the need to inspire the boys on a more spiritual, emotional level from time to time. He also appreciates the importance of scholastic sports and other extra-curricular activities in creating a certain 'avira' in the school. Furthermore, he likes to win.

As it happened, OYS (who played offense during elementary school) scored a natural three goal hat trick during the ten minutes that the Menahel was watching the game. Coincidentally, the very next day the Menahel was scheduled to go to the elementary school to 'fa'hair' (loosely translated, orally test in Talmud) the 8th grade boys as part of the admission process for the high school.

Immediately after the period ended I approached the Menahel and said, "Rebbe, why bother with the fa'hair of OYS tomorrow. Three goals in one period? You know you're accepting him." He looked at me and smiled.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Blogger Regret

After MHW and I attended a meeting today with some extremely dedicated and competent professionals, I realized how stupid one of my recent posts was. I have consequently updated it.
YU's Gambling Problem?

Via Miriam.

The problem, as I recently noted, starts much earlier than college.
J Scholastic Sports II - Women and Men

As with most other issues, when it comes to scholastic sports, women and men often have very different perspectives. Two recent examples come to mind.

I noted that in Sunday's JV hockey game, our younger son (OYS) and his good camp buddy went at each other like cats and dogs. After smacking each other around (OYS and his friend each had two penalties; in the case of OYS, they were only the second and third of the entire season) for 36 minutes, they were shmoozing and laughing as if there had been no game. One of the mothers in attendance, noticing this, said that girls would never have done that, that they would have taken the game much more personally. I don't know; could be.

The second example happened in our home. One of the boys in OYS's class did not make the team. He was a sophomore and, in the opinion of OYS, was equally as talented as a few of the freshman. This boy's mother was all upset and felt that it was not fair that her son was not chosen over the freshmen. She felt that it was his last chance to participate in scholastic sports and that he should have been chosen over equally talented freshmen. While we both sympathized with the boy, MHW tended to agree with his mother; I did not.

Scholastic sports is the ultimate meritocracy (assuming the selection process is not corrupted by wealthy or influential parents which, in this case, it was not). The coach has to deal with the future as well as this year. Had he taken our friend's son, he would not have played much (except for scrub time) and would not have done anything for next year's team. On the other hand, when a freshman plays in scrub time, it is training and experience for next year. From my perspective, the coach has a responsibility to field the best team possible and he made the right choice. From MHW's perspective, the coach's responsibilities go deeper.

Perhaps I would feel differently if OYS was in that position. But I doubt it.
Pitchers and Catchers Report


It can't be long before I'm back on my bike.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

J Scholastic Sports I

I've always loved scholastic sports. In my day, the main sport in the MO yeshivas was hoops. Today hoops plays second fiddle to floor hockey (in most of the Metro area schools).

On Sunday, our younger son (OYS) played a JV hockey game that reinforced my love of scholastic sports. In the final regular-season game of the year, his team, with one loss (which it later avenged), was playing a school that was undefeated. The winner of this game would be the regular season champion and, more importantly, would have a much easier road in the playoffs, virtually assured of a spot in the championship game.

Making matters more interesting was the fact that one of OYS's best friends from camp was the star player on the other team (indeed, the leading scorer in the league)and OYS the best position player on his (and probably the best defenseman in the league, IIDSSM). The fact that OYS plays defense and his friend offense made it even more intriguing.

The game was very intense and very physical, indeed more like a varsity game than JV. OYS and his friend each played over half the game and were at each other all game long. In the second period OYS took a penalty as he and his friend crashed into the boards (at least OYS got his money's worth!). In the third period, OYS's friend mugged him but they were both tossed with coincidental minor penalties.

The good news is that OYS's team won, 3 - 1. The better news is that after the game, OYS and his friend, wiped out and sore after going at each other for 36 minutes, were still best of friends, shmoozing and laughing and looking forward to the next time they get together.
My Very Own Jose Canseco Story

I really couldn't care less about the ongoing steroids kerfuffle that has been further fueled by the publication of Jose Canseco's new tell-all book, "Juiced". But it does remind me of my very own Jose Conseco story.

A number of years ago, I used to travel to Toronto at least once a month. Being a big baseball fan and having nothing else to do, I would, during my visits, often attend a Blue Jays game. At the time the Canadian dollar was like Monopoly money and it was worth spending a few cents just to see the wonderous Sky Dome.

One year, I was invited to attend a Yankees game with a couple of local lawyers I worked with. Our seats were in the very first row behind on the visitor's dugout. David Cone was pitching for the Yankees. With two outs, he struck out the batter with a pitch in the dirt. As Joe Girardi, the catcher, walked to the dugout, he motioned to the umpire that the ball was damaged. I stood up, yelled "Hey Joe!" and extended my hands, and he threw the ball right to me as my Canadian colleagues looked on. They were pretty impressed.

A year later, the three of us attended another Yankees-Blue Jays game. Same seats. This time Jose Canseco was batting for the Blue Jays. With two outs, he walloped the ball to the deepest part of center field. Bernie Williams went all the way to the warning track and made a routine catch. As they ran towards the dugout, the left fielder, Chad Curtis, cut in front of Bernie. Bernie flipped him the ball. Chad ran all the way in and motioned to the umpire that the ball was damaged. I stood up and yelled, "Hey Chad!" and extended my hands. Chad threw the ball right to me. My colleagues looked on in amazement.

When I examined the ball, I saw the most remarkable thing. The mirror-image of the name "Jose" was imprinted on the ball! Canseco had hit the ball so hard, right where his name was located on the bat, that it actually became embedded in the ball.

I guess that's the power of the Juice!
Rose's Story

Mark Skier transcribes his mother's amazing story of survival.
Funnier Than The Average Bear

What do we make of our ursavusian friend? He is far and away the most shameless self-promoter in the J-Blogosphere. His left wing rants are often incoherent. He has gotten under the skin of those far more stable and coherent.

Yet, it is undeniable that he is very funny.

His description of my shul as the Nassau Community College of minyanim was priceless. I was laughing all night.
Noa and Bryan Have Engagement Eye

Monday, February 14, 2005

Foster Bureaucrats UPDATED

I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about. I will not write posts when I don't know what I'm talking about.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Oxymoronic Lateness

There were about 12 people at yesterday's hashkamah minyan when it started. Twenty minutes later there were about 30.

There is nothing more lame than coming late to a hashkamah minyan. It's ridiculous.

If you can't get up on time for the hashkamah minyan, have a cup of coffee, learn some mishnayos and come on time for the regular minyan. They don't call it hashkamah for nothing.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Avoiding Challah Yeridah

When MHW came to Israel a few weeks ago, she brought a bunch of her own awesome home-baked challahs. Because we were invited out for one of the meals, we ended up with two extra challahs.

MHW suggested that I bring them home tonight, but I can't bear the thought. It would be a terrible yeridah for challahs that were earmarked for consumption in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh to be returned to galus and eaten in Woodmere.

Instead, I gave them to my daughter who is learning in seminary. Even though she won't be able to use them on Shabbos since she goes to people's houses every week, I would rather the challahs be eaten for melaveh malkah in Yerushalayim than on Shabbos in galus.
Being Late

Rabbis often give mussar about being late for davening by making analogies to the business world, "Would you come late to a meeting with your boss? Well, Hashem is the boss of bosses", or the Royalty trip: "Would you be late for a meeting with the King? Well, Hashem is the King of all kings." While there is truth to these guilt-trips, I find that they are almost entirely ineffective. They don't resonate and most people don't relate.

This morning, my last in Israel, I davened at the 6:15 minyan in the shul in Yemin Moshe. At 6:20, the shaliach tzibbur reached the point where kaddish is said. Unfortunately, there were only 9 men in shul. The tenth walked in at 6:25. I missed saying kaddish twice because someone was ten minutes late to shul.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Nice Welcome Back UPDATED

[Usually a story or a joke is not worth if it needs Rashi and Tosvos to be understood. This post falls into that category. It occurred to me that many people who are not privileged to work in corporate America might not undertand this post. So, I've added a footnote]

I have now been in Israel for over three weeks, my longest stay since I spent a year at Hebrew University 30 years ago. The first 13 days were vacation and I've been working in our Tel Aviv office since last Tuesday.

On Monday I received an invitation (i.e., summons) to attend breakfast on Friday morning with the new president and CEO of my firm's US operation. Since I was scheduled to arrive in the U.S. on Friday morning, this necessitated changing my flight from the 1 a.m. into JFK to the 12 a.m. into Newark. I will take a car directly into the city, find a minyan so that I can say Kaddish and get to the breakfast.

I have no idea what the breakfast is about. I sent an email to my direct boss asking him if he knew what the breakfast was about and whether he knew anyone else who would be attending. He responded, "No idea, but if you get there and Cathy _______ (the head of human resources) is sitting at the table with him, keep walking."***


***When one gets fired in corporate America these days (lo aleinu), he gets called into a meeting with his boss and someone from human resources. The boss does the firing in two minutes then leaves. The HR person takes over and gives the corporate shpeil (severance, outplacement, COBRA, etc). This is done to avoid fistfights between the fired employee and the boss and to prevent the boss from saying really stupid things that will end up in a deposition in a lawsuit filed by the fired employee against the company. Walking into such a meeting is like being told by the NFL assistant football coach that "Coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook."

My dad, z'l, would be proud.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to a recording studio with Chaim Dovid and Shlomo Katz. I am attempting to produce a music CD in memory of my father featuring original music by a number of artists with whom I am close, many of whom knew my dad (all proceeds to support musical gigs at my shul). So far, Chaim Dovid, Shlomo and Aron Razel have signed on formally (others have expressed a keen interest) and I have identified 5 of the 10-12 songs that I am looking for. I am hoping to finish the project by my dad's first yahrtzeit, next November.

(An aside: On the subject of mesiras nefesh and kiddush Hashem, Aron Razel, his wife Efrat and their two little sons left on Monday to spend a month in India searching for the souls of Israelis who are themselves searching for spiritual fulfillment in the East. Aron is a very special, if wacky, piece of work. But I digress.)

The goal of the recording session was to put down the rhythm and perhaps the vocals for three songs, including one by CD, one by Shlomo and one a collaboration. We started with the third, a niggun without words that they had written at my home (inspired by MHW's chesed) almost two years ago. CD put down the rhythm on his accoustic guitar and then Shlomo and CD did the vocals together.

I've never been to a studio before and was fascinated by the process. Everything is computerized and digital. If you make a mistake, you can erase it like a typo in a document. In any event, after a number of takes they had produced the foundation of the song. (The rest of the production will be done in the US with some of my US-based musician friends).

On to the next tune....

Or so I thought. CD and Shlomo urged me to record the harmony. I said, "you must be joking". They said no, persuading me that I had a good voice and that my father would be very proud if I participated.

Now, all modesty aside, I do have a decent voice. I'm not giving up my day job anytime soon to go on the road, but I can sing a little. And, more importantly, I have been blessed with a very good ear. Finally, I grew up at a Shabbos table where my dad had us singing in three-part harmony all the time. Harmony has always come easily to me. It is a bracha.

So, I went into the studio, put on the headphones and, not knowing exactly what to do and worried that I would make a fool of myself, began to sing.

It was very cool. I sang the harmony for the entire 5 minute song, never stopping once. To my own ear, coming through the headphones, it sounded ok and I didn't think I went flat at all.

Amazingly, when we listened to the 'tape', it was, indeed, spot on. We were done. One take. The technician was blown away and CD and Shlomo were laughing.

I don't know the difference between a major and a minor key, can't play one chord on a guitar or any other instrument, but, when it comes to harmony, my dad, z'l, apparently trained me well!
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on 50 Year-Old Lawyers

I wrote my previous post after having been awake and extremely busy for 36 straight hours (with a 45 minute nap at the 24 hour mark).

As some of the commenters pointed out, it was pretty mean-spirited. I apologize to Matisyahu. I was trying to make a point about the ability of simple people to be mekadesh Shem Hashem all the time through simple acts and I needlessly dragged him into it.

Amazing what six hours of sleep will do.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Matisyahu's Kiddush Hashem

I am way too busy for this but I've slept only forty-five minutes since Sunday morning and I need a break, so here goes.

I promised a while ago that I would give my in depth views on Matisyahu and his music. I changed my mind because I decided it would be too late and too boring.

Instead, I will give my definitive few-sentence version and then focus on something that has been bugging me for a while.

Here goes. Matisyahu is the real deal (whether or not you like his type of music, which I certainly don't, you cannot ignore his talent). Matisyahu is trying to be a holy Jew. Maybe he is one. He's Jewish so his music is Jewish (The entire 'issue' of whether music is Jewish is one of the most irrelevant things that people can waste their time arguing about. Whether music is 'Jewish' or not is not the point; the point is whether the music is appropriate under the circumstances). I don't think his music is holy and I don't think his act is holy. There. You can agree or disagree. I don't really care. It's just my opinion.

Now, on to the thing that's been bugging me.

Many bloggers have been making a big deal about the great "kiddush Hashem" that occurred when Matt decried on national TV that he would not accept a gig on Shabbos even for a million dollars.

I agree that on some simplistic level it was a kiddush Hashem. But when you drill down you realize that to 99.9% of the people who watched the show, his statement was completely abstract. The viewers might have thought about it for a second and thought, "wow, far out" (or the current equivalent used by people not born in the 'Fiftys), and then moved on to the next stupid dog trick or other narishkeit that followed.

And, when you think about it, what's the great mesiras nefesh of Matisyahu not playing on Shabbos. Of course he's not playing on Shabbos. If he is an observant Jew, he doesn't play on Shabbos. And, just like no one is offering me $1MM to eat chazer, no one is actually offering him $1MM to perform on Shabbos.

Then I thought about how so many of the people I know perform concrete acts of kiddush Hashem every day in their workplaces. When a trader under tremendous pressure or a lawyer under deadline still manage to treat people with respect and greet them with a smile, that is a real kiddush Hashem. When everyone around you is telling disgusting jokes or cursing like marines and you conduct yourself like a ben melech, that is a kiddush Hashem. When you leave work early on Erev Shabbos with your stomach in your mouth because you are in the middle of a crucial deal and have run out of time, that is mesiras (and agmas) nefesh and a Kiddush Hashem. And so on.

So, no knock against Matisyahu, but a little perspective is called for.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

MoC's Big Brunch

Tomorrow morning I hook up with three of my favorite Israeli bloggers, the Trepmeister, Ben Chorin and Shabbaton Sarah. Another favorite, the newly-engaged Noa (who got engaged steps from where I am staying; I was getting poisoned by rancid chicken at a fancy and expensive Jerusalem restaurant when the maisa actually took place) has a test and can't make it. I will be meeting her on Sunday.

Meeting bloggers for the first time can be a little weird but I've already had the pleasure of meeting quite a few and I've had fun each time.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Computer Access, At Last

I am still in Artzeinu Hakedosha. My vacation is over and I'm working in Tel Aviv.

No time to blog. Quick highlights: Dinner with Sarah and lots of friends and family, awesome weather (until yesterday, my first day of work), great fun with the family, particularly in the Negev, lots and lots of food, including KFC in Mivaseret.

Lowlights: No Kaddish on the plane ride in (my first and only missed Kaddish) and some tichoni goon spitting on my car window in the Mivaseret parking lot. Gross.

I will try to blog one of these days soon.