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

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Judah"'s Bar Mitzvah

It is hard to believe, but this Shabbos we will be celebrating Judah's bar mitzvah. We first met Judah when he was five year's old and have some wonderful and some difficult times. His combination of strength, determination and sensitivity never cease to amaze us and we are continuously inspired by him.

May he go from strength to strength but, mainly, May Hashem bless him with a permanent home and family b'karov.


Elul: A Time For Reflection and Calendars

I don't know about you, but yesterday's mail brought another two Jewish Year calendars, bringing my aggregate take for the Elul zman to about 14.

Public Service Announcement to Kollelim...

If you want to distinguish yourselves, think outside the box. Most of the calendars, and the attached letters, go right into the circular file.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Welcome to the Land of Narishkeit

Because of a recent article I wrote in the Five Towns Jewish Star, some of you might be visiting this site for the first time. Boy, are you in for a treat.

Deep thoughts are discussed here on a daily basis. Great chiddushim. Profundities abound. There is no limit to the intellectual stimulation that can be found at MoChassid.

You might find intriguing discussions on macaroons, bike riding, cleaning up after toddlers, Jewish music, fostering,chinuch, and, mainly, random thoughts on narishkeit.

So, welcome, and come back soon.


My Space

Not MySpace, my space.

This morning some big guy comes to shul and (10 minutes late) sits down next to me in the aisle! I have the aisle seat but this guy just puts his chair to the left of the table across the aisle and invades my space. Plus, he smelled like a cigarette butt.

I hate when people invade my space. Especially when they smell like cigarette butts.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I've Had Worse Days...

...than today.

We won the case!.



In the last week alone I have done three incredibly dumb and careless things. Last Monday, I lost my Blackberry, apparently on my seat on the Long Island railroad.

Last week I also lost the battery to my Bose headphones, I do not know where. $50. Ka-ching.

On motsai Shabbos, after the Fantasy Football draft, I inadvertently dropped perhaps my best defensive player when I meant to bench him. The always nimble Joe Schick swooped in and picked him up before you could bat an eyelash. Luckily for me, Joe is a very big mench and traded him back to me when I told him it had been a careless mistake. (Joe, this Bud's for you. Or a Sam Adams or other premium beer...The least I can do).

What is happening? Get a grip, MoC.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Bike to the Finish

Or else...


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Preparing For the Draft

There are two ways to prepare for the upcoming NFL Fantasy draft being run by my blogging buddy Joe Schick. One is to read all kinds of football magazines, scan the websites, listen to the radio, etc. The other is to go next door to my head of analytics, give him the scoring settings for our league and have him develop a "cheat sheet" with all kinds of valuations. Assuming I don't screw up the actual mechanics of the draft (not a small thing and something I did not avoid last year), I should come out with a fairly good team.

The two things my guy was able to do for me that I would not otherwise have been able to do are, first, value players based on our unique scoring system. It's easy to find player rankings on the web but not one that values players based on our system. Second, he explained the concept of relative value (which Joe put into use last year when he picked Payton Manning very early in the draft rather than a running back). I will share some of my guy's specific ha'arahs after the draft but his approach is quite interesting.

Our draft is motsai Shabbos. What could be better than a combination of melaveh malkah and fantasy football?


Gassing Up; the Story of My Life

On Monday night, as I was about to leave for mincha/maariv, MHW asked whether I'd mind taking her car since it was very low on gas. Why would she want me to take take the car that was very low on gas? Well, duh. To fill it up, obviously.

Since I love MHW very much and like to make her happy, it was my pleasure to take her car, drive it to shul and then fill it up (I actually was very pleased to see that gas prices were below $3.00 again).

Last night, I took "my" car to shul. I use that term loosely since, l'maisa, OOD has been using the car during the summer, first to drive to school and then to hang out and run errands. Shockingly, when I turned on the engine, the gas gage was very close to empty. What a surprise! So, after shul, I went back to the very same gas station and pumped up the car. In all, I bought over 40 gallons of gas in two nights, spending well over $100.

Rather than be upset that I seemed to always get stuck being the "go-to" gas guy, I actually was grateful to Hashem that I owned two cars and was able to fill them with gas without having to worry about the money. No small thing.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Man, I'm Rockin'

I am riding like a monster, if I do say so myself. I picked up some tips on pedaling technique and they have helped my road biking immensely. And, I've been an animal on the spin bike. My gaiva is telling me to do the challenge ride again. Har Tavor and Tzfat really look enticing. But I know better. As strong as I am now, I'm still a piker. And, come late October, after the chagim and two of my busiest months at work, I will not be as strong as I am today. I will get dropped like a hot potato by the strong riders and will kill myself to keep from being picked up by the bus.

But Har Tavor?


U Turns

What will it take for people to stop making U turns on Central Avenue? This morning, I almost got hit by some doofus who was too lazy to cross the street to get his bagel and coffee from Toddy's.



A compelling article about Floyd Landis in The New York Times Magazine.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Drawing A Blank

Sorry, I can't think of anything to write today.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Think I'll Work Late

Things are very leibidig at Chez MoC. We have three, count 'em, three, kiddies under the age of 2 1/2 hanging out, The Toddler and the two grandchildren. All Heck has broken loose.

The truth is the kids have been remarkably good. The two older kids are playing nicely together and are keeping their torture of the little one down to a minimum. The Toddler, for her part, is being extremely generous with her toys and her mother's attention (You would expect as much from our grandchildren's aunt).

All of this, by the way, is hearsay on my part. The volatile markets have given me an excuse to get to work early and leave late so that the heavy lifting has been done almost entirely by MHW and OOD, G-d bless 'em.

By the time I get back tonight, things will have returned to normal (or as normal as things get in Chez MoC), OOS and OHDIL will have returned from their short vacation and picked up the kiddies. At that point, MHW will need the vacation.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What Passes For Sports

I was cleaning out my backpack when I came upon a blurb from the sports section of a newspaper in some country I've recently been in. Here it is verbatim:

Matthew Hoggard moved into sixth place in England's list of Test wicket-tackers, surpassingAlwec Bedser's 236 victims, with an early breakthrough on the third morning of the fourth and final Test against West Indies at the riverside Ground in Durham.

Yorkshire's Hoggard removed all-rounder Dwayne Bravo in the fifth full over the day.

West Indies was bowled out for 287 in its first innings against England, forcing tea.

having sent down only 40.4 overs in the opening two days due to incessant rain, England's bid to dismiss the tourists cheaply got under way on time. The players were greeted with heavy cloud cover, but it was a misjudgment rather than a classic piece of swing bowling which accounted for Bravo, who chopped an attempted pull into off-stump, having added only a single to his overnight 43.

With Marlon Samuels the other wicket to fall in the first session, bowled by Ryan Sidebottom for 19, West Indies was 211 for six at lunch with Shivnarine Chanderpaul 92 not out and Denesh Ramdin seven not out.
(emphasis added)



The Wheels of Justice Turn Slowly

I attended a hearing in Family Court yesterday regarding The Toddler. This was the first time I got to meet the judge and all the lawyers involved in the case. The good news is that I think the judge really gets it and wants to do the right thing. The bad news is that the wheels of justice turn v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

I can't really say much more except that the status quo has been extended until at least February.

I previously posted that, when TT first came to us, my aunt called to say that she knew a young childless couple who was interested in adopting and asked about TT. I told her that I thought taking TT would be a terrible idea because it was by no means clear whether she would be up for adoption and how long such a process might take. Of course, at that time neither MHW nor I had any idea that we would even be in the parsha of adoption. We were 50-year-old foster parents, not pre-adoptive parents (at least I was 50; MHW is a few years younger). Twenty-five months later, we still don't know how long such a process might take.



I woke up before 5 a.m. this morning, davened b'yichidus (which I almost never do, certainly never on Rosh Chodesh) and got on a 6:06 a.m. train in order to make an important breakfast meeting at 7:30 in the city. I arrived 15 minutes early and waited for my colleagues to arrive. And waited, and waited.

Unfortunately, my Blackberry wasn't working this morning. The phone worked but not the email.

By 7:40 I knew something was up. (Brilliant deduction, I must say).

I called one of the guys I was supposed to meet and he told me he'd be there at 8, didn't I get the email?

Had I known the meeting had been rescheduled, I would have davened vasikin and made the 6:52. I hate when this happens.

(Of course, I got the email in the middle of the 8 a.m. meeting).


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Speaking Lashon Harah About Another Jew

It's never good to speak Lashon Harah about another Jew and particularly not on Rosh Chodesh Elul, but Shawn Green really must go.

What is Willie thinking? He may be Jewish, but the dude is a lead-footed, terrible outfielder, no longer has any power and can barely hit. It's time to play Lastings. (The " numbers mumchim" estimate that Lastings will be worth ten more runs over the course of the remainder of the year, equivalent to about one win. That doesn't even touch on the improvement on defense that he would represent. One win may mean the difference between winning the division and going home.

It's time for Green to join Hoffman's.


The Cover of the New CD



Weird Sight of the Day

On my way to work this morning I saw someone wearing a yellow Livestrong bracelet while smoking a cigarette. Huh?


Barry Bonds Rookie Card For Sale

A friend forwarded me an email with an offer to bid on this card. However, since I was out of the office, I didn't open the attachment on my Blackberry.

While I'm not a baseball card collector, I know someone who is a very serious collector. (Any cards of value that I once had were unceremoniously thrown out by my dad, z'l, a devoted thrower-outer of junk, when I moved out). I forwarded the email to him. He replied that he only focuses on old baseball cards, generally nothing later than the 1960's.

Imagine my embarrassment when, this morning, I read the email on my computer and realized it was joke. I wonder if my collector friend bothered to open the attachment?


Monday, August 13, 2007

Burger's Bar Rules

In my never ending quest to save mankind from itself, and based on my keen powers of observation, I offer the following tips to anyone who decides to eat at the Cedarhurst branch of Burger's Bar:

1. Since you generally have to wait at least 5 minutes until you get to order, and since the menu posted on the wall is literally staring you in the face, please know what you are going to order when your turn comes up. Starting to think about your order only when you reach the cash register is not helpful.

2. If your receipt is number 106 and they have just called 62, please stay away from the counter; if you do the math, you'll realize there are about 44 people ahead of you.

3. When number 106 does finally come up, please know what dressings and fixings you are going to have put on your order. All the dressings are also listed on the wall menu.

Perhaps if everyone followed MoC's simple rules, it would take less than 45 minutes to get a burger.


Reverse Bad Influence

Recently, I bemoaned the difficulty of raising a two year old when said two year old is influenced by her older nephew. To wit, The Toddler started turning on the dishwasher and playing in the shower.

I am now told by MHDIL that bad influences work two ways.

According to MHDIL, after a visit to our home, Shmuel started pulling off his diaper, a trick he could only have learned from his aunt, the Toddler.

In that vein, a story.

A couple of Shabboses ago, we were eating lunch when TT, who was running around the living room, blurted out, "Big Doody".

Since TT generally only says this when it's true, I left the table to check her. I picked her up and smelled her tushy through her dress. I didn't smell anything but I figured it was probably time to change her anyway. I took her to the den, placed her on the changing mat, picked up her dress and discovered....Nothing!! No diaper, no nothing.

I cleaned her up and put on a new diaper.

Then came the search.

Where was the diaper and what was in it?

A moment later, the discovery. TT had pulled off the diaper and left it in the living room with, you guessed it, a Big Doody.

We now make sure TT is wearing a onesy whenever we put on a dress.


A Sad Day For Cycling

This past Friday, the best cycling team in the world, the Discovery Channel Team, called it quits.

This is very sad for cycling and, especially for American cycling. The team leaders, including Lance Armstrong, explained that with all the uncertainty surrounding the sport, they could not in good concience bring in a new sponsor (Discovery had decided not to renew its sponsoship) for $15MM a year. Too many things, they explained, were out of their control.

Someone better get on top of this sport and bring it under control. It's a very bad sign when the best team in the world just calls it a day.


The Faucet Is Officially Open UPDATED

There's a lot of crying going on around chez MoC, most of it by MHW. It started, officially, on Friday, when MHW was saying the "Yehi Ratzon" that she usually says when making challah. OYS, who is leaving tonight for a year of learning in Israel, happened to be around so MHW asked him to listen so he could say amen. Well, whatever pent up emotion was being held back by MHW at the thought of OYS's imminent departure could be held back no longer. It was all MHW could do to simply get through the tefilah.

Things continued over Shabbos in moderation with an occasional weepy-eyed look.

Then, yesterday, fuggedabodit.

OYS made a siyyum, surrounded by family, friends and his awesome 11th grade Rebbe. The truth is that I had a very difficult time myself controlling my emotions as I introduced OYS. So many things went through my head and heart. Love, respect, pride, excitement, anticipation, loneliness. It was all that I could do to get through the introduction.

And, later today, the airport scene. Try as she might, there is simply no way that MHW will be able to hold back the tears. I will do the best I can.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Mazel Tov to OYS

On Monday, OYS leaves for Israel for the year to study at the Mother Ship. But, before leaving, he will make a siyum in Masheches Kiddushin this Sunday.

While OYS and I learned a mesechta for his bar mitzvah, it was a small one and, sadly, since I, a confirmed am ha'aretz, was his "teacher", I'm not sure how much he got out of it. This is different.

This past year, 15 boys from his grade completed Kiddushin on their own. OYS decided, a little late, that he wanted to attain that same goal. During the second half of the school year he went back to the school's bais medrash for an hour or so almost every night. If he had hockey practice, he came home, showered, and went right back to school. Then, as a counselor in camp this summer, he diligently completed the task.

If someone had suggested to me, as a MO high school senior back in 1973, that I should finish a mesechta, my response would have been, "Yes, just as soon as I return from my lunar mission". If someone had suggested even two years ago that OYS would do so, I would have been very skeptical. He has grown up a lot in the last two years.

So, I express my tremendous hakoras hatov to his great Rebbeim, his great Rosh Yeshiva and his absolutely wonderful friends. And, of course, to MHW, the light of my life, who quietly serves as a role model of how to be fiercely frum yet remain normal.

Finally, to OYS himself, the one who was as determined to finish the meshechta as he was to win hockey games (l'havdil), mazel tov and chazak v'yamatz. May you continue to finish masechtas, to learn and grow, to have an absolutely fabulous year in Israel and to remain as normal as you are today.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Manhattan Rules

It's bad enough that every summer the streets of Manhattan get clogged up with tourists. What makes it worse is that these tourists don't know the Manhattan Rules.

For example:

You cannot walk three abreast holding hands.

You cannot walk slowly.

You must cross the street when no cars are coming whether the light is green or red.

Manhattan isn't the beach. Dress accordingly.

I'm sure there are more but I can't think of them right now.

It's all good that tourists spend a lot of money in New York but, at what price?


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Song From The New CD

Chaim posts a link to a song, Borei Olam, from my forthcoming CD, K'Shoshsana.

Two points. First, when I say "my" new CD, I use that term very, very loosely. I had virtually nothing to do with it except to raise the money and approve the songs selected by Aron Razel, Shlomo Katz and Chaim Dovid (not that I did anything on that front other than say yes). I wasn't even in the studio once this time.

Second, you may be wondering why Chaim is posting the link and not me. Answer: Because I'm technologically challenged and even though some very nice fellow bloggers tried to direct me, I found it much easier to punt this over to Chaim.

In any event, I hope you enjoy. If all goes well the CD in its entirety should be out around the time of the Yomim Noraim.


Awesome Argument

The oral argument that took place yesterday afternoon was even better than I had expected. The judge was amazingly well prepared. Frightening, in fact. She knew and had notes on every single case that was cited and pressed counsel for each side very hard. The lawyers, in turn, especially ours, responded very articulately and confidently.

(Fifteen Minutes of Fame Moment: I was sitting in the back of the courtroom listening intently and taking notes. At one point during the opponent's argument, they characterized the contract at issue in a certain way and the judge seemed to go along with it. I quickly scribbled some notes explaining why that argument was, factually, incorrect (my point was based on my knowledge of the market, not any great legal insights), and handed them to an associate of the lawyer doing our argument. Our guy used those notes to rebut the point made by the opponent. So, unexpectedly, I had some small role in the argument.)

I am actually quite hopeful that we will prevail, an outcome that was absolutely discounted when I persuaded our board to join this case two years ago. If we do prevail, it will be Good For The Jews (at least THIS Jew).


Surprise at Oral Argument

After almost 27 years of practicing law, I attended my first appellate oral arguments. My firm had filed a "friend of the court" brief in an important bankruptcy case that had been appealed to the Federal District Court in New York.

The argument itself was fascinating and I will have more to say about it later when I have more time. But what happened before the argument was an unexpected treat.

The argument was scheduled for 5 p.m. but I got there about 45 minutes early in order to meet, one last time, with my team (we would be presenting at the oral argument as amicus curie).

When I got to the courtroom, I noticed a bunch of guys in long ponytails and lots of tattoos. In Hell's Angels jackets. And I noticed another guy with a long pony tail, in a suit. It was Ron Kuby. He was defending the Hell's Angels in a drug case.

The issue was whether the search warrant was legal and Mr. Kuby put on quite an entertaining show. I suspect the warrant will be thrown out (for ridiculously technical reasons) and that these drug offenders will go free. Justice prevails!


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Are You Feeling OK?"

In about a week, at my current pace, I will be getting that question from a number of my colleagues and friends. August is my main training month and this year is no exception. So my weight goes down. And down. And I start looking gaunt. And the questions come.

No, Thank G-d, I am fine. I am just in training.

In fact, I've lost so much weight that I am seriously thinking about having a couple of hot dogs at Mendy's. So far, I have not been able to fahrgin myself, but the time is coming soon. I can feel it in my bones.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Too Big

Almost 500 riders have started the registration process for the Alyn Bike Ride.

I am starting to get the feeling that it's getting too big. I'm sure that's how many of the earlier riders felt on my first ride when it grew to around 300 riders. There are now 4 differen sections in the ride including the challenge ride for lunatics, the on road ride, the off road ride and the sissy ride.

Based on last year's experience, I opted out of the challenge ride because I found it too intense. I managed to hang in for the most part but did not really enjoy the high level of testosterone and the fact that you literally could not stop to take a picture or you'd be dropped like a hot potato. And, although I am training very hard now, I know that my training will drop in September and October; two of my busiest months.

The problem that presents is that, with so many more riders, it is almost certain that the regular on road ride will have many lousy riders. This creates two problems. Safety and time. Inexperienced riders can be a hazard to your health (not that challenge riders can't; the challenge ride goes at a much faster speed and bad things can happen at speed). Second, lousy riders can be brutally slow. That means a lot of waiting around.

The other thing that worries me is iPods, the scourge of this ride. For some reason, the ride organizers are not serious in their enforcement of the prohibition of iPods. One day, I don't know when, this will have catastrophic results.

The other issue is the social aspect. A huge ride like this tends to get cliquei; veteran riders tend to stick with the people they've met over the years making it harder for new riders to get comfortable. And the sheer size is intimidating.

When will this ride get too big for me? The organization itself is great and I would hate to stop being involved (I'm in the top ten fundraisers every year) but I don't know if I'm cut out for this. I get to Israel enough to be able to ride there on my own quite a few times each year.

Let's see how this year goes.


Sock It To Me

I don't ask much.

Will guests of my shul please humor me on this one?

I know you come from Israel. Or you once spent a year in Israel. Or you thought about moving to Israel. But please. Can't you wear socks to shul on Shabbos? Would it kill you?

I know it shouldn't bother me so much but, what can I say, it does. It's our minhag to wear socks. I'll even bring a few extra pairs.


Camp Shiny Shoe

Yesterday was visiting day at Camp Sternberg/Heller. This is OYD's fifth year at that wonderful camp. She loves it and MHW and I love it. (Where else can a 15 year old girl go the entire summer without blow drying here hair and not give a hoot?) The shtick and narishkeit that attend so many other camps don't seem to infect Sternberg.

On the other hand, the music.

From the moment we got there, we were bombarded with Shiny Shoe Music (TM). This choir; that choir; MBD, Shwekey, Fried. All day. And loud. Ich kenesht.

Luckily, I brought some Advil with me. Even more fortunate, we've managed to raise a strong daughter who is able to distinguish between the wheat and the chafe and maintain her sense of music despite this summer long assault.

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Going to Town

Last Thursday I took a day off to babysit The Toddler. MHW had to attend a completely useless continuing education program in order to maintain her licence. (The problem is that after 26 years of experience as a speech and language pathologist, there is very little that practitioners with half MHW's experience can teach her. But I digress).

I spent the morning frying in my backyard as TT, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was about 95 degrees with 98% humidity, scampered about. Thankfully, she then took a nap. So, I might add, did I.

When she awoke, I asked her if she wanted to go "to town". She enthusiastically said yes. Normally, I would have asked if she wanted to go for pizza but, since she had eaten three pieces of cheese in the morning, I thought we might go for a burger instead.

When we got to town, it was apparent that TT didn't know what town was. I asked if she wanted a burger. She said "town". I asked if she wanted pizza. She replied, "town". She started getting agitated. Clearly, she though that town was something to eat. I just had no idea what.

Desperate, I walked into the pizza store and ordered a slice and spicy fries. TT was happy. She simply can't resist pizza even if it isn't "town".

I still have no clue what TT thought "town" meant but by the end of the afternoon, after walking around town, TT figured out that it was a place.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's More Annoying?

Barney or The Wiggles?


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Who's More Annoying?

John Sterling or Steve Sommers?

(Now THAT's a tough one).

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OOS Has Parenting Issues

He can't wait to get back to work.


Music Ban

With all due respect, maybe the Gedolim should concentrate their bully pulpits on the rampant institutional poverty of their systems rather than on this.


WOW! "The Looming Chareidi Disaster"

Must read from Isi Liebler in the Jerusalem Post.

My commentary will follow when I have time.


More On Talent

I attribute much of whatever success I've had to an ability to realistically assess my own talents and, more importantly, shortcomings. I believe that the importance of self assessment cannot be overstated. For example, I knew early on that I didn't have the zitsfleish necessary to become a successful law firm partner so I made the switch to in-house were my skills were better suited.

Yesterday, two things happened that reminded me of the importance of self awareness.

A few days ago I emailed Rivka Farkas, the talented young graphic designer from Efrat who did the work on U'Shmuel B'Korei Sh'mo, with a couple of ideas for the cover of the new CD. Yesterday, I got a reply that said, in a very nice and polite way, "you're idea is dopey." Rather than pout and get insulted, I conceded that as a graphic designer I make a good lawyer; that Rivka did a stunning job on the first CD; and that I would be well served by letting her do her thing on the new one. So, my reply: "Rivka, you're the boss. Whatever you say goes."

Earlier, I spent a magical evening working with a bunch of brilliant appellate lawyers preparing for an important oral argument that is scheduled to take place next week. While I'm no genius, I'm also no dope, so it is rare that I am in a room with a bunch of professionals where I am demonstrably the dumbest guy there. But that was the case last night.

What does this have to do with self-assessment? I also knew early on in my career that I was not cut out to be a litigator. While I have no problem speaking in front of 1,000 people, I would be awful in one on one exchanges with a judge in court. The guys I was with last night, on the other hand, are scary smart and nimble. I am looking forward to the actual oral argument.