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

Thursday, August 31, 2006


One of the nice things about my current job is that I get to reaquaint with a lot of people from my professional past. This week was a good example.

Last week I sent out a blast email to all the members of my association about a working group that I was forming. In response, I received an email from a lawyer who was a first year associate with me at Lord Day & Lord 26 years ago. In fact, we had shared an office and, more importantly, worked for the same partner.

While I left the firm after 3 years, he stayed on and became a partner himself, and still works closely with our original partner ("OP") albeit at a different firm. After noting that he wanted to join the working group, my old colleague suggested that we get together for lunch. I asked if he could also hook up OP. He did and we had a delightful lunch on Tuesday.

Life can be very random. Who you get assigned to in a large law firm can effect the rest of your professional life and having been assigned to OP certainly effected mine in many positive ways.

OP was a great young lawyer when I started to work for him. He was brilliant, careful, demanding and very hard working. He had a great sense of humor, never yelled, was a family man and managed to keep things in perspective. He was also very careful with his client's money. He billed them precicely and demanded that from us. Moreover, he had very interesting work (mainly film finance) and introduced me to the professional world that I still more or less inhabit (leveraged lending, not film finance).

I am very grateful for having had the chance to work with a skilled, smart, fair and funny man. That experience has left a lasting impresion and has guided how I've tried to manage younger lawyers.

So, a toast to OP, a real mench.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It Was Only A Matter of Time

Jawbone Valley

A heiligah voice from the Land of Our Fathers.


Aliyah III

Joe Schick and The Town Crier defend the Orthodox Jewish community saying that the number of people making aliyah, around 2500 - 3000 this year, is not that low. Everything is relative. While Nefesh B'Nefesh certainly deserves props, I think it's still a drop in the bucket.

But Joe makes a great point which is full of irony. The same schools that do a miserable job of promoting aliyah spiritually will probably be the biggest driver of aliyah in the years to come for entirely practical reasons. As it becomes increasingly more difficult for large families to deal with yeshiva tuition, the financial advantages of living in this country narrow relative to living in Israel where tuition is virtually free.


Aliyah II

It's actually not strange at all that so few young couples make aliyah. As many of the commentors to my last post pointed out, moving to Israel generally means leaving family and friends, a more difficult financial horizon, etc. It takes a lot of ideology to buy into all that and, regerttably, the institutions that are theoretically espousing that ideology (Zionism, yishuv Eretz Yisrael) do a miserable job of it. Indeed, they really can't be taken seriously at all.

As one commentor pointed out, even in the best of circumstances, kids learn from what they see, not what they hear. If you get up early to go to a shiur or a minyan, there is a chance that your son will follow suit. If you don't but simply tell your son that he has to go to minyan, you are wasting your breath.

Even if the schools and shuls did a better job of inculcating the concept of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, kids would be skeptical about such a message coming from people living in galus.

But the truth is that yishuv Eretz Yisrael simply isn't the goal of those institutions. They can say Shabbat Shalom instead of Good Shabbos and Shacharit instead of Shacharis all they want but that is pretty much the extent of their commitment to yishuv Eretz Yisrael. Talking about the "matzav" in Israel, raising money, and going to rallies are all well and good but they are very different from talking about kedushas Eretz Yisrael with passion. When was the last drasha you heard about that? How many shuls or schools have shiurim on the teachings of Rav Kook (for example)?

The shuls and schools are generally content with inculcating a love of Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael that is nationalistic, not really religious or spiritual. And, in the face of the relative luxuries of our galus, yishuv Eretz Yisrael has no chance.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Dov Bear invited me to guest post a couple of weeks ago but I waited until I had something interesting to write that did not involve two wheels. When I tried to post this today it didn't go through. I have apparently been voted off DovBear Island before I even arrived.

Our older son and family will be making aliyah to Jerusalem next week on the last Nefesh B'Nefesh flight of the summer. What strikes me is how rare an event it is for a 20-something family to be taking that step. Whlie Nefesh B' Nefesh has done a wonderful job facilitating North American aliyah, the numbers are, really, dismally low.

Just think about this: Among the 120 or so kids collectively in our older son and daughter-in-law's high school classes, how many have made aliyah? How many are even planning on it? 5? Certainly not more than 10. Why is that?

One might have thought that with our kids going to schools where Zionism supposedly plays such a prominent role, and to shuls where the Tefilah for the Medinah is sacrosanct and the Rabbis' sermons are as likely to be about Israeli politics as Torah, it would make an impression on them? But no. It doesn't seem to be happening.

Indeed, the kids who do make aliyah overwhelmingly get the bug during the year or two they spend in yeshiva or seminary in Israel, certainly not from their environments in galus.

Does anyone else find this strange?


Name Change: The Toddler Formerly Known As The Baby

The Baby is now taking her first tentative steps (very tentative). As she starts to walk and asserts her independence on a more frequent basis, it is getting increasingly more difficult to think of her as a baby. Therefore, I am officially changing her name to The Toddler Formerly Known as The Baby, or, The Toddler, for short.

The other day, for example, MHW was about to give the Toddler her nighttime bottle. MHW sat down on the den couch, put the Toddler on her lap and tried to feed her (as she had done since The Toddler was 10 weeks old). Fuggedabodit.

The Toddler squirmed off MHW's lap and sat on the couch herself. She took the bottle in her hands, leaned all the way back and sucked down the milk. It is now impossible to feed the Toddler her nighttime bottle any other way (although, curiously, she will let you feed her her morning bottle).

Her language is starting to develop (she is starting to call me Ah-bah and say Amen to Brachas (I hope this does not cause Dov Bear to call her a kofer based on some Rambam) and, in general, is showing a sense of independence and a strong will. This is no baby.

She is also learning fast. We had the good fortune to host the temporarily homeless OOS, OHDIL and the grandkids last week. A number of times MHW took Shmuel and the Toddler for walks in the new double stroller that we bought for the OOS family (I think it cost about as much as Lance Armstrong's time trial bike). MHW gave each of the kids a granola bar (what did you expect, a real candy bar?). After a few minutes, she heard a scream. Shmuel, who eats much faster than the Toddler, had finished his own granola bar and yanked the Toddler's out of her hand. The Toddler wasn't happy.

The next time MHW took them out for a walk, the Toddler held onto her granola bar for dear life. No one was depriving her of even one bite. No fool she.

So, mazel tov to The Toddler Formerly Known as the Baby on her graduation from babyhood. May we be privileged to share many more such milestones.


Monday, August 28, 2006

How I Met and Married MHW: Part II Scene III: Seven Weeks

Having decided that I would marry MHW, and, after an initial misstep, having succeeded in arranging a date, the question was, how do I get MHW, who had absolutely no inkling whatsoever that I was already thinking about where I was going to buy a ring, to agree to marry me in as short a time as possible.

Asking her to marry me during the first date was obviously a non-starter. Instead, I decided to try to act normal (ok, relatively normal), at least for the first few dates, and not let on that her future had already been determined - by me. The good news was that I had a car and some money (I was a first year associate at a Wall Street law firm making what I thought was an absolute fortune (and is just about what I pay now for one year of tuition at Stern College)). So, I employed what I refer to as the "Subtle Full Court Press Approach".

The truth is, I don't remember many specifics about our dates. All I remember is that we went out a lot during the first three weeks and it was all I could do to restrain myself from getting down on a knee and asking for her hand in marriage.

(The other thing I remember is that during this time, MHW's mom was cleaning for Pesach. We're talking late February. I remember thinking that this was just one of the many things I would have to adapt to when I married MHW. And, indeed, I am now forbidden from eating chametz anywhere in the house starting from about Memorial Day).

Gradually (I mean by the fourth week), my intentions became more clear. Thankfully, MHW seemed to be buying my goofy act even though we were very different in so many ways. At least so many ways on the outside. In truth, it was becoming apparent that we were on the same wavelength in many of the ways that actually matter.

(It is true that opposites often attract. However, opposites also often divorce. MHW and I were and are not opposites. There is a big difference between having different characteristics on the one hand and having different values and goals on the other. In marriage, the former is fine so long as each party makes adjustments and allowances; the latter is disasterous.)

The remaining obstacle was now how to break through MHW's cumbersome decision making process. Unlike me, who went almost entirely by the seat of his pants and winged it most of the time, MHW was always very careful and methodical. She actually thought her decisions through (with one other exception). What a strange concept.

Nevertheless, it was clear that the full court press was working. I had been a long distance runner and I was prepared to hang in as long as it took. I was hopelessly in love and certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that MHW was my bashert. What's a few more weeks?

Next: "You wanna get engaged? I dunno, you want to get engaged?"
Nuts or Bluetooth?

It used to be that one could be sure that when someone was walking down the street talking to himself, he was most probably nuts.

These days, however, it is almost impossible to tell. This morning, I was walking to work when I approach a woman from behind who appeared to be talking to herself. Not only was she talking to herself, but she was making various gestures. I was almost certain that she was loony.

Then it occured to me that she might have been talking on the phone. I didn't see a phone but nowadays, that doesn't mean anything. She could have been speaking into a Bluetooth receiver for all I know.

It's disconcerting when you can't even identify the locos anymore.


Friday, August 25, 2006

How I Met and Married MHW. Part II, Scene II. Seven Weeks

When we last left off, after falling in love with MHW in a case of love at second sight, and declaring, unbeknowst to MHW, that I was going to marry her, I called MHW to ask her out for the coming Saturday night.

To my shock and dismay, MHW, who initially thought I was calling her to get someone else's number!!! informed me that she was busy that night. I was momentarily speechless (a rare event indeed). Thankfully, MHW suggested that perhaps we could get together on a different night and we settled on Sunday.

While I hadn't been completely blown off, I was disappointed that MHW would be going out with someone else that Saturday night. She was supposed to be MY wife for goshsakes!

While sitting in my apartment on Wednesday evening, licking my wounds and resigned to the fact that some Bozo would be going out with my future wife on Saturday night, the phone rang. It was MHW. "My plans changed. I'm actually free this Saturday night if you would still like to get together."

Wow. Time to buy the tux.

In the event, MHW's plans hadn't exactly changed. She changed them. This was so totally uncharacteristic of MHW that, to this day, I can't believe she did it. And, it tests the disbelief of those who reject the concept of bashert.

Game plan back on. How long was it going to take me to convince this beautiful, amazing young lady that she wanted to marry me as much as I wanted to marry her?

Next: Full Court Press
Biking Friday: The North Fork Century

I interrupt my "How I Met and Married MHW" thread with a quick review of where I'm holding on the bike.

With just over two months to go before my annual Alyn Hospital charity ride in Israel, I am in very fine shape except for one thing. My lower back has been killing me. I think it's because I've been ratcheting up the resistance on the spin bike to ridiculous levels (the best way to train for the brutal climbs that I will be doing in Israel). No matter how much stretching I do, I just can't get it loose.

I am trying a deep tissue massage this afternoon. If that doesn't help, I will be sucking down Advil for the foreseeable future.

This Sunday I will be doing a 100 mile ride on the North Shore of Long Island. It's almost entirely flat, and therefore not particularly useful in terms of the Alyn Ride, but it's the only game in town. I will try to maintain a pace of about 18 or 19 miles an hour, depending on the headwinds. The good news is that riding on flat terrain will not hurt my back. I hope.
The New CD Cover



Thursday, August 24, 2006

Nature or Nurture: You Decide

Earlier this afternoon I was on the phone with MHW while she was taking something out of the freezer (probably tofu). The Baby was sitting on the floor next to MHW and noticed some chocolate bars on the bottom shelf. She quickly grabbed the bag, took out a frozen chocolate bar, unwrapped it and ate it. Frozen.

I'm so proud.

So the question is: Nature or nurture?

Did she learn this from me or is it in her bones?

(By the way, the Baby certainly did not learn it from MHW. Had she learned from MHW, she would have broken off one eighth of the choclate bar, put it back in its wrapper, and put it back in the freezer).


How I Met and Married MHW. Part II: Seven Weeks.

Scene I. The Ask.

Now that I had established that I would be marrying MHW, I had to figure out how to get MHW to reach the same conclusion.

(In retropect, especially when viewing pictures of the two of us from that time: beautiful, petite, radiant MHW and goofy looking, balding, bug-eyed-glasses-wearing me, it's a wonder how I could have been so certain - I am telling you, there was not a doubt in my mind - that I could convince MHW to marry me).

Those who know me, know that I am not one to beat around the bush. I decided not to waste any time and to go right after her, guns blazing.

I called her the first evening after she got back from Grossingers. (MHW told me later that she was surprised that I called. Apparently my stalking her for three hours on the ice skating rink at Grossingers was so subtle that she did not realize I was hitting on her). After some small talk, I popped the question (No, not THAT question, at least not yet). "Would you like to go out on Saturday night?"

"Um...Sorry I'm busy this Saturday night"

*Sound of air coming out of balloon*

Next: Part II., Scene II: How MoC Recovers From His Shock and MHW Saves the Day.
Ketchup Crisis

How OOS almost nixed aliyah for lack of Heinz.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

World Premiere

One of the songs from the CD that I am producing was played for the first time on Arutz Sheva Radio. It comes at the tail end of a live interview with Avraham Rosenblum, after about 56 minutes. You can find it here.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How I Met and Married MHW - Part I

On Friday, MHW and I celebrate our 25th anniversary. I thank G-d every day that He saw fit to allow this most improbable shidduch to occur. It just proves that the Aibishther has a sense of humor.

I will refrain from singing MHW's praises publicly because she reads this blog and will not be happy if I do. Unlike me, a loudmouth, she is very private and tznuah. So, suffice it to say that MHW rocks.

Instead, I will tell the story of how we met and married. While it may not compare to Robert and Karen Averech's story (I didn't even know MHW when I was ten, much less love her), and I am not a hundreth of the writer Robert is, it is still a pretty cool story.

Scene I. The First Round

I was a first-year law student when my sister in law (MSIL) proposed a "blind date" with MHW. MSIL and MHW had attended Brooklyn College and MSIL sang her praises. It turns out that MHW had gone to the same high school as I albeit a couple of years behind me. I quickly looked for a picture of her in one of my old yearbooks but the best I could find was a picture from ninth grade. Oh well.

In any event, we went out three times. I recall having very nice times but for reasons that are still unclear (probably the "commitment thing"), I stopped calling her. MHW will tell you that she didn't really care.

Scene II. "I'm Going to Marry That Girl".

Approximately three years later, during my first year working in a law firm, my parents asked me to drive them to Grossingers on the Sunday of Presidents' Day weekend (It may have still been called Washington's Birthday, I forget). They were going to be spending a few days there and didn't want to drive. I didn't mind because (a) it meant a free lunch for me, (ii) I could ice skate in the afternoon, and (iii) Grossingers was the site of a single's weekendand, well, you never know.

After getting my parents settled in their room, we went for lunch. I walked into the dining room and saw a table filled with familiar faces. Then I saw MHW.

Something hit me. Love at second sight. It immediately became clear to me that I had to marry MHW. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind. And, being the cocky sonofagun that I was, I had no doubt that I would marry her. None.

I moseyed over to MHW and engaged in some small talk. I asked her what she was planning to do that afternoon, and to my great good fortune, she said she would be ice skating. That's funny, so was I. See you there!

I went back to my parents' room. I was very pumped. I said to my mom: "Remember MHW? I went out with her a couple of years ago? I'm going to marry her". She laughed but, since she thought the sun revolved around me and that I could do no wrong (I'm her youngest child) probably didn't doubt that I would.

Scene III. The Skating Rink

Fortunately, I was a very good skater so I was able to stalk MHW around the rink all afternoon long. I put on my best hock. I was laying the groundwork. MHW seemed receptive to my hock and didn't seem to mind (or notice) that I was stalking her. After a couple of hours I said goodbye and drove back to Manhattan.

NEXT: Part II: Seven Weeks
Two Rooms

On our last trip to Israel, the MoC family visited, among other places, Ben Gurion's home in Sde Boker and the Begin Museum in Jerusalem. What made a huge impression on us was the simple way in which the two leaders lived. Although they were bitter enemies, they were both men of passion and ideology who devoted their lives to a cause with apparently no thoughts of personal gain or enrichment.

This comes to mind in these days of such overwhelming incompetence, scandal and cynicism among the Israeli elite. As opposed to Ben Gurion's tiny house in the Negev, or Begin's tiny apartment, Sharon owns a large farm with lots of stolen antiquities, Olmert, a life-long politician as far as I know, somehow has the money to purchase an apartment (worth $1.6MM) for $1.2MM. The chief of staff sells off his stock portfolio before commencing a war. And so on. It's enough to make you sick.


Monday, August 21, 2006

OOS Pulls the Trigger

On aliyah.
"That's SO Sad"

Years ago, I worked at an investment bank where one of my internal clients was a derivatives trader who was a devote Mormon. He had a passel of kids, never swore (a chiddush for a trader), never drank anything stronger than ginger ale (no alcohol, no caffeine), and conducted himself in a very balibatish manner. I liked and respected him alot.

One day we were talking and, to my astonsihment, I discovered that he was a fanatic follower of the Rolling Stones. He had gone to countless Rolling Stones concerts and would travel for many miles to see them. How random and incongruous.

I am reminded of my Mormon trader colleague because of what's been happening to OOD over the summer. OOD is very frum. She davens three times a day with much more kavanah than I could ever muster. She dresses in a very tznius manner. She is very careful about lashon harah. She can teitch up any peirush on Tanach that's out there. You get the picture. So, it was with a sense of surprise not experienced by me since hearing my Mormon trader friend was a Stones freak that I watched as she became a rabid Yankees fan over the course of the summer. She is not just casually following the Yankees. She is studying the game of baseball. We discuss strategy and sabermetrics. She understands the difference between statistics like average and OBP and the importance of slugging percentages. She understands that sacrifice bunts are almost always stupid.

I can't account for OOD's sudden interest in baseball but I have to admit that I get tremndous hana'ah.

Of course, OOD still has much to learn. The other night, when the Red Sox - Yankees game was delayed because of rain, OOD asked me what happens if the game can't continue. I explained that the results of the game are cancelled and they replay it from the beginning if the game is called before five innings. Apparently feeling bad for the players who had worked so hard to build a lead, she responded: "That's so sad". You have to admit she has a point.

What more could a father ask for: A beautiful, lovely and shtark daughter who can also explain why Bobby Abreu's high on base percentage makes him a perfect fit for the Yankees.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

FosterBoy Turns Twelve

It is hard to believe, but FosterBoy turns twelve tomorrow. What's equally hard to belive is that our relationship with him started over 6 years ago, just before his 6th birthday.

For those of you who are new to this space, let me give you a tiny bit of background. Fosterboy was taken out of his parents' home when he was almost 5 (his biological parents' parental rights have since been terminated after many years of litigation). He has been in at least 5 foster homes (probably more, but I can't remember them all), and three institutions. He has spent the last 2.5 years in institutions. He has seen his three siblings either adopted or pre-adopted while he languishes in a residence with his chances of being adopted fading with every passing year. He is the only Jewish (let alone Orthodox) child in his current residence. He can engage you in a conversation of more depth than most 12 year-olds yet can't make change for a dollar because of severe learning disabilities. He has not had formal Jewish schooling in almost three years yet he says brachas, benches and recites asher yatzar after going to the bathroom. He is the sweetest kid you will ever meet but you will be wiped out tired after spending one day with him. He has psychiatric issues that countless doctors and professionals have still not figured out or diagnosed properly. He is an enigma.

The mumchim at his current residence have decided that since the MoC family is unable to foster Fosterboy on a permanent basis (long story, but we've tried twice, for a total period of almost two years and it simply isn't going to work) they will not permit him to spend any substantial amount of time with us. They have limited his visits to one day a month and have forbidden overnights of Shabbosos. I understand their reasoning but I think they are simply wrong. I think that Fosterboy has processed the fact that he will not be coming to us permanently and accepts it. He also understands that we love him and will always care for him (and take care of him). But, as MHW and I have found out, foster parents have very little to say and ex-foster parents have absolutely nothing to say about the cases they are involved in.

In any event, the monthly visit was today. We jampacked as much as we could to try to make the day special. Batting range, miniature golf, pizza, swimming, BBQ, birthday cake, lots of presents from those who love Fosterboy, including my in-laws, my brother and sister-in-law and Fosterboy's former "big brother", Eric, a young tzadik who has been involved with Fosterboy even longer than we and also gets a once-a-month visit. He had a great day and, as usual, put up an amazingly strong front when it was time to leave. Fosterboy is a gibor.

It is hard to imagine what his daily existence must be like. (Don't get me wrong, the people in the residence are very nice. The place is benign; it is just that culturally it is an entirely different world from the one (even the unstable one) that he is used to).

The main hope for Fosterboy is that there is a couple out there somewhere that has grown children, who can focus entirely on Fosterboy and who are interested in saving a Jewish boy. Short of that, MHW and I just don't know.
A Jew Goes Home

OOS has joined the Jblogosphere. He will be posting periodically about his experiences as he and HHW and their two little kids make Aliyah. Their flight leaves on September 5th but their journey has already begun.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Biking Friday I: The iPod Menace

Since even fewer people than normal read this blog on Fridays, I have decided to devote Fridays to biking posts. That way the people who find these posts tedious can either make a note not to pass by on Fridays or already don't drop in on Fridays.

More and more, I find people riding their bikes while listening to their iPods. In addition to being illegal, it is a fantastically stupid practice. Riding in traffic in inherently dangerous and diminishing one's ability to hear cars, other bikers or pedestrians makes it that much more dangerous.

Unfortunately, this trend is increasing because, unlike cassette and CD players, iPods are tiny and the bouncing of bikes doesn't effect them at all.

A number of riders wore iPods during last year's Alyn Ride. Last year's ride was a particularly dangerous one because we rode in some serious traffic at times. I am very concerned that even more riders will try it this year (despite the fact that the organizers of the ride prohibit their use).

One scenario in particular scares me. On the first day of the ride, we will be descending for almost 18 miles from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The gradient of these descents is very steep and one can reach very high speeds without even pedalling. There will be around 400 riders flying down these hills. Very treacherous, in my opinion. Add on iPods and I can't even imagine what could happen.

(I have not decided how to ride on the first day. I am considering either riding at the very front of the pack, away from the inexperienced riders, or waiting to the very end, after everyone has left, and riding last. What I won't do is ride in the middle of the pack.)

I fear that riding with an iPod is an accident waiting to happen and I just hope the accident, when it does come, is not too serious.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

MoC Earns His Share in Olam Habah

I took a day off today to drive the two older female members of my family to the Woodbury Common Outlet Mall. Neither relishes the thought of highway driving so I volunteered.

To say that I hate to shop is the understatement of the year. My tastes in cloths are very simple; I am not likely to be mistaken for the GQ Man anytime in the near future. Every day at work I wear a pair of navy or black khakis from the Gap (which I buy on line), with a blue, button down Oxford shirt from Macys (a few of which I pick up a couple of times a year on my way to Penn Station). I have three black suits and a few white shirts. Other than my biking clothes (virtually all of which I buy on line) that's about it.

So, it was with a sense of trepidation that I set out this morning to spend a number of hours at the mall.

I survived, but it wasn't easy.

A few random observations:

* We took the Baby. Her main job was to act as a counterweight to all of the packages that we hung on the carriage. In retrospect, we should have brought a double stroller.

* The Baby's second main purpose was to make me look good. She was apparently even less interested in hanging out at a mall for almost five hours than I but, unlike me, was unable to conceal her displeasure.

* MHW did the wildest thing she's done since being suspended in 9th grade for eating a fruit in class. She removed a sweater from a mannequin!! After seeing a sweater that she wanted to purchase and unsuccessfully trying to flag down someone to help her, she looked left, looked right, unbuttoned the sweater and brought it the register. She was feeling pretty giddy after that!

* I was not the only loser acting as driver for his wife. It was obvious that there were a fair number of similarly situated nebs like me. However, there is no comfort in numbers.

* It's a good thing I drive an SUV. After spending a day shopping at the mall in a bunch of stores named Anne, it felt good to step into a massive, gas-guzzling vehicle, with a Bose sound system, Onstar and steering wheel controls to assert my manliness again.

* The good news: I get to drive to Phillidelphia tomorrow to watch the Mets game at Citizens Bank Park.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why MoC Drives an SUV

DovBear on the men who own SUVs:

It's long been my opinion that a man who lives on a cul-de-sac only purchases a giant car for ego and image purposes. In the suburbs they serve no other purpose.
He then equates the use of tables in shuls with the ownership of SUVs (I don't get it either):

In a shul full of tables a yeshiva alum who hasn't read a word of Aramic in 20 years can pretend that he's unmarried, unruined and immersed in the study of Torah; behind the wheel of an SUV, its owner can pretend that he's something other than overweight, middle-aged and far less virol then he once was.
Finally, he guesses which bloggers 'certainly don't drive SUVs' and includes me in that category (while throwing in that he thinks I probably do daven in a shul with tables). Well, DB, wrong and wrong.

I bought a 2006 GMC Envoy last year. I plead guilty to everything DB charges about SUV owners except the overweight and less virol part.

After owning 5 Dodge Caravans over a 20 year period while our four kids were growing up, I simply had enough. I was 50 years old and I was not buying another minivan. Wasn't happening. I would have just bought a full size car but then the Baby appeared on the scene and we needed a bigger vehicle.

I know it's idiotic to own an SUV in the Five Towns. I admit it. But, I have to say, it's a very cool car. Bose stereo. Steering wheel controls. Onstar and everything. The fact that it costs me $80 to fill up and that I need to stop for gas every ten minutes is annoying, for sure. But it's a very cool car. So sue me.


Black and White Cookies: Deep Thoughts From MoC

If you are like me, you like either the chocolate part or the vanilla part of black and white cookies but not both. I happen to be partial to the black but have no use for the white.

This, of course, presents a problem since I am not in the habit of buying things I only half like. So, unless I happen to be with someone who prefers the white part of the cookie, I generally pass on black and whites.

There must be millions of people like me (billions, perhaps). Wouldn't it be a good idea for bakeries to produce separate blacks and separate whites? Don't you think overall sales would go up dramatically?

In America we tend to have efficient markets. Why is the market not filling this untapped demand?

That is my deep thought of the day.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Low Blow

I have been engaged in a cordial email correspondence with Orthomom. She was none-too-pleased with my recent nasty and sarcastic post calling her latest post about Lawrence School District 15 the most tedious post in the history of J-Blogging.

I apologized privately but I also think that it would be right to apologize publicly in the same forum in which I dissed her.

So, here goes:

I apologize for the low blow. I let my general sense of sarcasm go too far. Obviously, the post was not the most tedious in the history of Jblogging. In fact, most of my biking posts are far more tedious.

Most importantly, I should have explained what I meant and not just put it in one nasty sentence.

Ironically, I have been a big supporter of the efforts to take over SB 15. I am very close to many of the people who led the effort to take control of SB 15 and I actually helped coordinate the effort at my shul and helped persuade the Rav to lend his strong support.

Having said that, I have been very concerned about the hubris and lack of tznius that seems to have resulted from the victory (The most egregious example of which was the idiotic effort to run for the sanitation seat). The board, and the community, IMHO, should now keep a very low profile and just do its work.

In terms of the vote for the sale of the No 1. school, I have a few thoughts. First, I am very skeptical that the sale will ever happen. I have been a lawyer for traders for the last 20 years. When the cover bid is so much lower than the winning bid, as I understand it was in this case, it usually means the winner mispriced its bid.

Second, I am actually somewhat sympathetic to the idea of keeping the school as a school. Clearly, there is a screaming need for the yeshivas in the neighborhood for those buildings.

Third, I think that there was virtually no chance the vote would go down.

Finally, I made my sarcastic comment about the post in the context of what is going on in Israel. Put in that perspective, all the arguments about SB 15 seemed to me silly and, yes, tedious.

Nevertheless, OM was correct that my post was a low blow and for that I apologize. I am a regular reader of her blog and, in spite of my few nasty comments, generally an admirer. I just think she should drop the SD 15 posts already and move on to something more interesting, like, for example, biking.

The good news is that OM accepted my apology and we are now blogging buddies. She also responded to my individual points but, since it was a private conversation, I leave it for her to respond publicly, either in the comment section or on her own blog.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Seven Bikes, Four Baby Carriages...

....In our garage. That pretty much sums up my life.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Law of Unintended Consequences - Baby Version II

Soemtimes we do things for one reason, with certain expectations, and the actual consequences are totally different from what we imagined.

In my recent post, I set out to make the chicks happy by writing a simple post about how leibidik it is around our house on account of the presence of a gagle of babies. For reasons I can't really fathom, the veibe are tired of reading about biking and would rather hear about the babies. And MoC is nothing if not responsive to his vast readership (numbering in the scores these days).

In passing, I mentioned that OOD was teaching the Baby a bunch of "frum baby tricks", including kissing a bencher and pointing to the sky when OOD asks her "Where's Hashem?". That was my first mistake.

No sooner did I post this thread than the inimitable Dov Bear, a great Cuban, decided to lose his mind, essentially accusing our daughter, OOD, of kefirah (heresy) for suggesting to the Baby that G-d has physical attributes.

Amazingly, the Bear's post, which I first thought was meant tongue in cheek, attracted 138 comments, most of them serious. Krum As A Bagel was so worked up by the Bear's post that he convinced Dovie to let him write a guest post that pummeled Dov Bear's position. Dov came back with yet another post complaining that Krum stabbed him in the back and that I admonished him to "lighten up". This post, as of now, has 65 comments, including a few from moreinu and blogainu Gil Student, shlit'a. Most recently Godol Hador wrote a guest post on Dovbear related to this string of posts entitled "Believing in G-d IS Kefirah". Ich kenesht.

The good news is that my hits have gone up over the last few days.

But guys, SERIOUSLY, enough already....We're talking about a baby trick with a 15 month old whose vocabulary consists of zero words. And, no, Dov Bear, we will not be teaching the Baby any tricks involving ingesting pork. I promise. So do lighten up.
Hockey Game of The Milenium

Just got off the phone with OYS. He's in Israel for the week with JOLT II after spending a few weeks in a summer camp for unaffliated Jewish kids in Ukraine. Because of the war, their original plans were scrapped and they ended up staying in Jerusalem all week, making day trips to places south.

Tomorrow was meant to be a free day in Jerusalem but a couple of kids got together to arrange the hockey game of the milenium, JOLT II vs. NCSY Kollel. Although it's a home game for Kollel, and even though they've been playing hockey all summer and the Jolters haven't, I will put my money on JOLT for two reasons. First, all that learning by the Kollel guys is sure to have messed up their muscle tone. Second, OYS is on JOLT. Yes, he's that good.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Girl's Camp

My blogging friend Sarah posted about her excursion to a water park in Israel that has separate hours for men and women.

She writes:

The park has separate hours for men and women, so we could all walk around in our bathing suits, disturbing neither our religious sensibilities nor any "body image" issues. I know it sounds quite Victorian to a lot of people to have separate swimming hours, but you know what? It was so comfortable. There were women and girls in all manner of swimwear: some in bikinis, some in one-piece suits, some with a t-shirt over the bathing suit, some in dressrobes or swimdresses that almost completely covered them. And no one cared. It couldn't have mattered less to anyone. You don't have to be religious at all to sense how much easier it is for women to completely relax when there are no men around, especially when they are in bathing suits. You'd be surprised by how many non-religious women take advantage of women's hours at beaches and pools.
Coincidentally, I had been thinking about writing a similar post, about all girls camps, since visiting OYD at Camp Sternberg this past Sunday.

Although this was OYD's fourth year at the camp, it was the first time we had a visiting day (camp sessions had been only three weeks until this year). MHW and I came away very impressed and very pleased with our decision to send OYD to an all girls camp.

I don't think you can compare how much less stressful it is for a 14-year-old girl to go to a girls camp rather than a coed camp. Instead of worrying about how their hair looks and getting dolled up every night to impress the awkward, goofy, hormone laden 14-year-old boys, the girls can just relax and have fun.

And, I don't mean this in any religious sense at all (that is a parallel discussion, not for now). I just think girls, any girls, are better off at this age not having to deal with coed relationships that they can't really understand or process. Bottom line: I think the girls at all-girls camps are happier and much more relaxed.


A Question for Dov Bear

I assume that you do not say the tefilah for Medinat Yisrael since it begins, "Avinu Shebashamayim" (Our Father in Heaven (or, more literally, Our Father in the Sky)).

That would be kefirah, no?


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Is It Me?

Or is this the most tedious post in the history of J-Blogging. Enough already. Who cares? Especially now.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Baby Week at Chez MoC

We are privileged this week to be hosting three babies under the age of 17 months, namely, our two grandchildren and the Baby. Very calm around here these days.

Shmuel is running around the house non-stop, saying "no" to everything. He thought it was very funny when I imitated the voices of Burt and Ernie even though he's probably never seen either Burt nor Ernie on TV. The Baby, who isn't walking yet, is starting to imitate sounds and actions. OOD, who is very shtark, is teaching the Baby frum baby tricks, like pointing to the sky when someone asks her, "Where's Hashem?" or kissing a bencher. I taught her a non-frum trick tonight, i.e., ah-bah, ah-bah, ah-bah.

Atara, who is only five weeks old is making strange noises, sleeping, eating and hanging out. The 'older' babies more or less ignore her (which, I guess is a good thing).

The best news is that as long as I get home at a reasonable hour, I get to play with them for about an hour before they go to sleep (which, sad to say, is probably the limit of my patience).

I will try to put down my thoughts on Floyd Landis tomorrow before this blog turns into too much of a chick's blog.


Lunch Was Great...

But, boy do I need a nap!



All of the tunes that will be included on the CD that I am producing in my dad's memory have been completed. I received the last tune by email this morning, a tune recorded by Avraham Rosenblum (and arranged and mixed by Avraham and his son, yedid nafshi, Moe) that was composed more than 30 years ago but never recorded.

I am so excited by this last tune, I have shpilkis. The tune itself, put to the words Im Eshkochech, is awesome. But the arrangement, mix and the virtuosity of the musicians left me with a stupid smile on my face. The musicians include Avraham Rosenblum on accoustic guitar (three separate tracks), Andy Statman on Madolin, Shaya Leiber on percussion, Zev Zions on accordian and Moe on drums. The playing is so amazing, it's ridiculous.

If all goes well, we will complete the mastering, printing and pressing in the next few weeks.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I am pleased to report that I spent 7 minutes and 54 seconds on the phone with OYS tonight. This is about 7 minutes longer than any previous telephone discussion that did not involve OYS asking me to buy something for him or a discussion on sports (I did give him an update on baseball but that didn't take long). He was about as animated as he's ever been since he entered the dreaded teen years.

OYS had just arrived in Israel from Ukraine with his JOLT II group and was on his way to the Kotel for vasikin davening. Is it JOLT or is he just growing up? I have no idea but whatever it is I'm not complaining.


Baby or Biking?

The feedback has been running about 10 - 1 in favor of more posts about the Baby and fewer about biking (with me being the "1"). Two problems. First, it's my blog and I'll write what I wanna write (hear that Shevs?) and second, I have to be careful what I write about the Baby (for confidentiality reasons), so much of what I have to write isn't as interesting as it could be.

Nevertheless, once I write one more post about my take on the scoundrel, Floyd Landis, and his disasterous impact on the TDF and biking in general, I will turn my attention away from my beloved sport for a while.

For now, let me tell you that the Baby is becoming ridiculously cute and funny and is really starting to 'get it'. It won't be long before she has me even more wrapped around her little finger than she already has now.

Friday, August 04, 2006


A number of years ago, on a Friday morning, I got a call from an old schoolmate whom I hadn't seen or spoken with in 20 years. I had heard that he'd moved to L.A. and had become very active in the Happy Minyan out there.

After exchanging pleasantries, he asked: "There's a young lady in your neighborhood who is looking for a place to stay for Shabbos. Can you host her? She's a ba'alas teshuva." I called MHW, got the nod, and called the young lady. I picked her up on my way home from work that afternoon.

The young lady, let's call her "Leah", had grown up in a secular Jewish home that was completely unaffiliated. Growing up, she didn't even know that there was such a thing as Shabbos. Amazingly, she was first attracted to Judaism when she attended a Friday night seudah in Japan, of all places, where she was studying as an exchange student.

Leah became very attached to our family after that Shabbos. After a number of months, we helped raise some money to get her over to seminary in Israel. To make a very long story short, Leah is now married to a kollel yungerleit and lives happily in Mattesdorf.

The reason I'm relating this story is because it reflects one of the main messages of a DVD that I watched yesterday, "Inspired". Inspired is a documentary video about ba'alei teshuva. It consists of interviews with a number of ba'alei teshuva that weaves their personal stories (some of which are fascinating) with a number of specific kiruv-related questions.

The central message of Inspired is that we can all be involved in Kiruv. Kiruv opportunities abound and you don't need to be a "kiruv professional" to participate. Someone who is obviously frum can make passive kiruv gestures simply by being a mensch or a stand up, honest person in business. By smiling at someone at the checkout line. By exercising good manners. One can sometimes change a person's life simply by inviting her to Shabbos seudah. As my Rebbe often says, kiruv starts with a chulent and a kugel and a smile. We saw that first hand with Leah.

I have always tried to be a mensch at work and act honestly both because that is how my parents raised me and because I have a very high profile job where I interact with many people and I am known to be frum. How I conduct myself can easily result in kiddush Hashem or a chillul Hashem.

On the other hand, I have done virtually nothing to actively engage people at work. I suppose I have always been afraid to mix my personal life with my business life. One of the other main points of Inspired is that this attitude is a mistake. The theme that permiates the video is that an overt act, sometimes as little as inviting someone for a meal, can change a person's life and that, contrary to what frum people think, most secular Jews would be receptive to these gestures.

I have been thinking about this last point a lot since I saw the video. I have some more thinking to do.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Libi Bamizrach

Dov Bear laments the absence of brilliant writers like R. Yehuda Halevi:

My heart is in the east, and I am in the furthermost west--
How can I enjoy food? Can it be sweet to me?

How shall I make vows and honor bonds, while yet
Zion is held by Edom, and I by Arab chains?

Shouldn't it be easy for me to leave all the good things of Spain --
Seeing how precious it is to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.
Says the Bear:

[I]n our day Shiny Shoe Music(c) passes for brilliance.

That, too, is something to mourn as we, again, come to Tisha B'av.
I agree that this is very sad.

I am also reminded of a story about one of the remaining brilliant poets in the (non Shiny Shoe) Jewish music world, Aron Razel.

The first time I met Aron, I picked him up at his cousin's house in Manhattan on an Erev Shabbos. Aron and his wife were going to stay with us for Shabbos and perform at my shul motzai Shabbos.

Aron rode shotgun and Efrat was in the back with Aron's guitar. As we were riding on the Van Wyck, Aron turned around and asked Efrat to pass him his guitar. He started to compose a song on the spot, strumming his guitar (whose neck was lodged in my shoulder).

Aron hadn't been out of Israel in a very long time and was moved to put music to the words, "Libi Bamizrach...". "My Heart is in the East..." He played the lovely song that motsai Shabbos but I don't think he's ever recorded it.

(For a taste of Aron's own poetry, listen to the words of his songs "Mincha" and "Chagigah")


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Steak on Monday

I have had business lunches the last two days at fine kosher restaurants in Manhattan. Of course, because of the nine days, I had to order fish each time. Don't get me wrong, the dishes were great, but they were fish.

I have yet another business lunch scheduled for Monday. I am so ordering steak.


The Curious State of Jblogging.

The Jblogosphere is mainly reacting in a couple of ways to the events in Israel. One is to blog about the war. There are a number of blogs that are doing a spectacular job, none better than my seraphic friend, Robert Avrech. Others, such as Jameel and Aussie Dave, are providing enlightening "live blogging" from Israel. And, of course, David B is providing his usual keen focus on events political and military. Ben Chorin, on the other hand, is acting as resident prophet. Dov Bear, as usual, is being provocative.

Most everyone else is lame, including yours truly. It is amazing to see the silence of the Jblogs. Most Jbloggers, especially those of us in galus, are having a very difficult time posting anything meaningful (other than, of course, in my case, biking related posts which are immensely important). Many are simply not posting or are posting at a very reduced rate (and with very low quality and relevance levels).

I wonder how long this will last?


Bad News For Bikers

No, not Floyd...

I read this morning in the Wall Street Journal that the prices of the raw materials that are used in most premium bikes (carbon fiber and titanium) are skyrocketing because of the huge demands by the airline and aerospace business.

Since bike makers use only a tiny fraction of all these materials, they are hard pressed to obtain them without paying up. The increased costs of the raw materials (some going up as much as 25%), will, of course, be passed on to consumers. So, expect the prices of top of the line bikes to jump over the next few months.

My new bike is primarily titanium with some carbon fiber. I'm glad I'm done with bike buying for the next couple of years (until the next bout of bike-envy kicks in).