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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Trippin' With The Baby VII

We are back from Israel. The trip was great. I am extremely busy at work so I have no time to write now. I will blog more when things calm down.

I will leave you with a few tidbits:

The Baby slept 7 hours straight on the plane ride home. She rocks.

I arranged the second annual blogger's breakfast at Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem with Ben Chorin, Chayyei Sarah and Treppenwitz.

We met the Baby's aunt's. Extremely interesting.

Went scuba diving with our younger daughter. Very cool.

More later.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Trippin' With the Baby, VI

Greetings from Israel. We made it, BH.

The Baby was great. She slept about 5 hours altogether. First, she fell asleep in the bassinet but only slept for about an hour. Then, for another hour or so, she was loony, not knowing what to do with herself, very tired but unable to fall asleep. Finally, she fell back asleep on MHW's lap and after an hour we transferred her back into the bassinet. The good news is that when she was awake, she was very well behaved, smiling and playing most of the time.

All in all, a very manageable flight. (Having flown to Israel in business class the last couple of times, I am a totally spoiled brat at having to have sat in the back of the bus but I'll get over it.)

Last night we had dinner with Aron Razel, his wife, Efrat, and their three adorable boys (all 4 years old or younger). The food was great but the retaraunt was very noisy and it was difficult to have a conversation. Of course, the Baby and Aron's two older boys playing drums on the table with chopsticks or whatever else they could get their hands on may have had something to do with it.

The best news is that the Baby slept through the night (with one feeding). In fact, it's after 9 a.m. and she's still sleeping. This bodes well for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, MHW didn't sleep through the night. When the Baby got up at 4 a.m. that was it for MHW. She said that she couldn't get back to sleep because the guy next to her was snoring. I find that very difficult to believe but since, like George Washington, MHW would never tell a lie, it must be true.

We're about to go shopping for Shabbos so I will sign off for now. Good Shabbos to all.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Trippin' With the Baby V, The Passport is in the Building

MHW got a call from the firm that is expediting the passport process for the Baby. The passport has arrived. Now we just need to fetch it from Brooklyn. Once again, kudos to the people at OHEL who went above and beyond the call to get this done.

On another front, yesterday I purchased an umbrella stroller for 30 bucks so that we wouldn't have to carry the Baby all around the airport for a bunch of hours (she's no lightweight any more). We've already lined up a regular stroller and car seat in Israel so this will work out well since it's small and light.

Someone suggested that we give the Baby Benedryl on the flight so that she sleeps but we will pass on that suggestion. The flight is right at her bedtime so we're hoping she justs goes to sleep in the bassinet provided by the airline.

If she doesn't, I'll need the Benedryl!


Sunday, January 15, 2006

"She Must Be Teething"

Having helped (?) raise four children, and now having Hanimtzah Kazeh dropped in our laps, I have an observation to make about raising babies.

When you have absolutely no idea why your baby is cranky, and you've exhausted all other possibilities, you will, in all likelihood, default to the time tested, "the baby is probably teething".

The upside is that there is no one to refute you. Since the baby can't tell you what's really bothering her, teething is as good a guess as any.

Last night was a good example. MHW had to run out to do some errands. Our daughters were also out. It was me and the Baby. She started getting cranky almost immediately. I tried giving her a bottle. She wasn't interested. I tried playing with her. Nope. I tried feeding her some cheese. She ate it but as soon as she was done she reverted to her crankiness. I assumed she was tired and tried to put her to bed. She got insulted. I was out of options. Even holding her didn't work. I started thinking, "maybe we are too old to be doing this. What the heck were we thinking?"

Just then, our older daughter came back, and fortuitously, had brought back a bagel with cream cheese. I ripped a small piece off, put the Baby in the high chair and gave it to her. A mechaya.

The Baby gummed the bagel into submission with the kind of kavanah I wish I had for my own davening. Besides the fact that the gumming process took a long time, when she was done all the crankiness was gone. For the rest of the evening, until we put her to bed, she was in a good mood.

Clearly, she had been teething, right? What else could it have been?


Trippin' With The Baby, IV

T minus 4 and no passport yet.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Trippin With Baby, III: Good News/Bad News

My travel agent just told me that he was able to switch me to the same flight to Israel as the rest of the family including, of course, the Baby.

When we scheduled the trip, we didn't know whether we would get permission to take her with us so I planned to fly a day later and MHW planned to fly back a day earlier (thereby reducing the number of days the Baby would have to be with strangers). When we got permission, I was able to switch MHW but not me.

It took me three weeks and a fair amount of Vitamin P to get switched, but it finally happened. That's the good news. It's also the bad news.

I'm really excited to be flying with my family rather than alone. On the other hand, I had been planning on taking an ambien and sleeping about 8 hours. Now I will have to be on baby duty and probably won't get much sleep at all.



I have been working until 11 p.m. all week (and part of last week) and expect to be working that late again tonight. Among other things, I am writing a lot of technical stuff and editing a chapter in a book (which is turning out to be an incredibly brutal exercise). I thought I would take a break by writing something on my blog.

Then I realized that I have absolutely nothing interesting to write. Nothing. Zero. I am incapable of thinking about anything other than the obscure legal issues I have been dealing with 15 hours a day.

How dull.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Folliclely Challenged

The one good thing about having as little hair as I is that haircuts don't take very long.

I have been working until past 11 p.m. every day for the past week. In fact, I'm so busy that I've been staying in a hotel in the City since Tuesday. I have little time for a haircut (why I have time to blog, even as little as I've been doing is a question for another time).

But, my head was a mess, I have a major presentation tomorrow and I desperately needed a haircut.

Well, my man Peter just cleaned me up in less than ten minutes. No fuss, no muss. I'm not saying I'm the GQ man but at least I no longer look like a shloomp.


Ice Cream

MHW took the Baby to the doctor today. BH, all seems to be well. She is no longer near the 90th percentile in weight, probably because she has the good sense to refuse all baby foods. She has started to eat real food though, like Cheerios, and the doctor has given us the go ahead to feed her some new stuff including ice cream.

I told MHW that I want to be the one to feed her her first ice cream. I can't wait to see her expression. "What the hell have you been feeding me until now? This is what I'M talkin' about!!"

The Baby continues to be way above average height, a continuing source of amusement for the diminutive Mr. and Mrs. MoC.

On the trip front, still no passport. T minus 7.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Trippin With the Baby, II

In the category of no good deed goes unpunished:

Getting a passport for an 8 month old baby when you aren't the biological parents and neither of the biological parents is available is proving to be a daunting task, even with the incredible efforts of the Baby's social worker from OHEL. One week to go, still no passport.

I wonder whether we are going to get grief at Israeli customs or coming back to the US?


Monday, January 09, 2006

The Morning Chaburah

For the past five and a half years, I have been attending a morning Chaburah given by my Rebbe at my shul. The chaburah meets at 6 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays. (On Fridays there are two different chaburahs; one that meets at 6 and learns the teachings of the Rebbe of Piaczezna, the Aish Kodesh, HYD, after whom our shul is named, and a second, for the late sleepers, meets at 8 to learn Oros Hateshuva by Rav A.Y. Kook Hakohen, ZTL).

Until a couple of weeks ago we had been learning a sefer called Imri Yaakov which is a peirush on Choshen Mishpat of the Shulchan Aruch of the Rav (Ba'al Hatanya) (DOV BEAR OPPORTUNITY TO SCOFF). It took us five and a half years to complete because we would spend months at a time on each sugya (topic) going through many different sources (from the relevant Gemarah to the rishoonim, etc.) and shitas (approaches). Last week we began an examination of each of the taryag (613) mitzvos as enumerated by the RAMBAM in his classic sefer, Sefer Hamitzvos. This undertaking is likely not to end (in the forseeable future).

Starting my day with an hour of learning followed by davening (and having the discipline to get up at 5:20 a.m. no matter how tired I am) has been a life altering experience. No matter what else happens during my day, at least I know I put in an hour of learning. And, as a lawyer in the financial services business, studying Choshen Mispat has been particularly eye-opening (It should be required learning in all yeshivas, IMHO).

The chaburah is also not for the feint of heart. The Chaburah started with about 25 guys and ended with about 25 guys. But not the same 25. About 20 dropped out somewhere along the way. I am, BH, one of a handful that made it through to the siyyum.

Finally, I have the greatest respect and hakoras hatov for my Rebbe. Despite being inundated with all kinds of general shul narishkeit, despite handling countless phone calls till late in the night (morning!) from desperate people from all over the world, despite having to prepare many other shiurim and shmuezin, and despite getting a tiny amount of sleep, he is there every morning, teaching with insight, humor and patience. May we continue to learn together for the next 120.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Deep Thoughts Before Shabbos

I have been writing for work all day. My mind sometimes wanders and I think deep thoughts.

Today I was wondering, "What is the point of potato chips with no salt added?"


Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Baby Gets Even Cuter

Last night we hosted a siyum to celebrate the completion by my shul's morning chaburah, after 5.5 years, of Choshen Mishpat, a part of the Shulchan Aruch of the Rav. I will write about the morning chaburah and what it means to me in my next post, IYH.

In any event, we had more than 30 men in our dining room/living room. My Rebbe gave over some Torah and Shlomo Katz played some music.

Unfortunately (in a way) the music woke up the Baby at about 9:30 p.m.. Usually when she wakes up at night we give her a bottle and she goes right back to sleep. Wasn't happening last night. Way too stimulated. (Maybe she was excited about it being her 8-month birthday?)

So, I got to hang out with her until 12:30 a.m.

Having slept for a couple of hours before being woken up, the Baby was in a great mood, smiling and laughing and, get this, clapping her hands for the first time. There's nothing cuter than that. And, when she finally got tired, she strectched with her hands clasped right behind her neck. Where did she learn that move?

Even though I had to get up a little after 5 the next morning, I wasn't in the least bit grumpy about having to stay up with her. I must be getting mellower in my old age.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Loyal to a Fault

I haven't written about school sports in a while. I have been thinking about it a lot but have been reluctant to write for reasons that will become obvious.

Our younger son, a junior, plays defense for his high school floor hockey team. He is quite good; actually very good. Perhaps one of the better defensemen in the yeshiva league (if you don't believe me, ask around!).

Of the 11 players who plays regularly (besides the goalie) he is one of only three juniors who gets significant playing time. Therein lies the problem.

Although I don't purport to know everything about floor hockey, I have been a keen observer for over ten years, ever since our older son (also a very accomplished player) began to play. I never miss one of our sons' games unless I am away on business (pretty infrequently) so I have seen countless games over the years.

It seems to me that there are three juniors on the bench who are better than three of the seniors currently playing. The team is doing ok but is really not sharp. I believe that they could be doing much better with a few personnel adjustments.

(Remember, I have no personal dog in this fight. My son probably plays more minutes than anyone on the team. Also, this is me speaking; my son will not discuss this issue with me).

So what's the problem?

I think the problem is simple. The coach, whom I admire and respect (actually, as I have written before, I believe he is one of the best influences on my son in the entire school), is tremendously loyal to his players. Keep in mind that he is also the coach of the junior varsity so he has been with these players for four straight years. I believe that he believes in his seniors and is giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Is this a good thing? Certainly, the midah of loyalty is important. And, there is no doubt that the players recognize this and learn from it. But can loyalty be taken too far? Do you sacrifice the season for loyalty?

I don't know the answer.

(And, as a final caveat, it could be that the coach totally disagrees with my assessment of the talent, that this has nothing to do with loyalty and that I am totally off base).


Sunday, January 01, 2006


Mazal Tov! This morning in shul we gave the Baby a proper Jewish name.

After it became clear that the Baby would be staying with us for a while, we started asking about her Jewish name. It turned out that she had none. We asked our Rav about it and he felt that it was importnat that she be named properly as soon as possible but understood the constraints. We certainly could not do anything without the consent of the biological parents.

MHW has developed an excellent relationship with the Baby's mother. That is how she was able to get permission for us to take the Baby with us on our forthcoming trip to Israel. Last week MHW broached the topic of a Jewish name. Thankfully, the mother was very receptive to the idea; indeed, she seemed happy about it.

The two women agreed on a name and this morning, with the light of Rosh Chodesh and the seventh day of Chanukah shining, I was zoche (privileged) to be able to give her her beautiful name.

It have been six months since the Baby flew into our lives. May she continue to bring light into our lives.