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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010


As if they didn't have enough to worry about, HAFTR just lost an appeal by Nachum Brisman, a tenured teacher whom they had whacked, to the Appellate Division of the New York State court. Under an arbitration clause in his contract, Rabbi Brisman took HAFTR to a beis din and was reinstated (at $100,000 per year). HAFTR was also required to pay $50,000 into his pension plan.

Brisman went to court to have the arbitration award confirmed but, in December of 2008, Judge Balter vacated it in a controvertial decision. Brisman appealed (and was supported by the OU, Agudah and Torah U'Mesorah who, while avoiding the merits of the HAFTR/Brisman situation, argued that the court unconstitutionally ignored the ruling of the beis din).

Unsurprisingly, in a brief decision, the Appellate Division reinstated the award.

On one level, I feel HAFTR's pain. It is exceedingly difficult to get rid of even horrible teachers (not that I'm saying Rabbi Brisman was horrible; I have absolutely no knowledge of the underlying situation. For all I know, he could have been a superstar and they didn't like his beard). When I was co-chairman of HAFTR (in a previous gilgul before they decided to self-destruct), it took us years to get rid of a couple of truly terrible teachers who were truly terrible (and in one case, sadistic) when I was a student at HILI 25 years earlier.

On the other, the decision appears to be correct.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Hat Tip: Hirhurim


How I Really Felt About Mamshit

I wrote a running diary about all my Alyn Rides which I sent out to sponsors (and, in the case of my first two rides, which I posted). That allowed me to memorialize just how much I hated Mamshit, as you can see here.

That post also reminded me how everything is relative (the climb up Hamachtesh Hagadol which once seemed so daunting, is really no big deal at all even though a bunch of British sissy boys had to walk it up) and how much I hated waiting for the stragglers when I used to do the regular road ride.

These posts are also a reminder of how much fun I have on these rides and why I continue to look forward to them.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chaim Rubin Calls It A Day

Life of Rubin was one of the very early blogs devoted to Jewish music (one of the early Jewish blogs, period). Chaim is no longer feeling the love and, like so many others, who either officially called it a day or just disappeared, Chaim has had enough.

While I never shared his enthusiasm for Shiny Shoe Music, he did have an appreciation for Carlebach and post-Carlebach music as well and worked hard to showcase and critique J Music.

I wish him well.


Letting Go

This morning, on my way from shul to the train, I passed by a member of my shul who was walking in the other direction. Although we're not friends, I said good morning. He seemed to be looking straight at me but did not respond. I thought it was weird, but, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, just assumed he was distracted or did not hear me. (Incidentally, this is a guy whom, in ten years, I have literally never seen smile. Ever).

The only other alternative I can think of is that this guy is b'roigas with me. He wouldn't be the first and probably not the last. Serving as shul president for six years can have that effect on people (particularly when you get stuff done; you are much less likely to develop enemies if you are a do-nothing president).

Over the years, I've had a few such experiences. A couple of years after I resigned, just before Rosh Hashanah, MHW made me apologize to a former member whom I had, effectively, pushed out of the shul. Although I did not regret what I had done (he was like a malignant tumor that had to be removed), there is no question that my actions were rough and that an apology of sorts was warranted. During our meeting, after stating that he appreciated the gesture, he mentioned that there was another man who was closely associated with him and had also left the shul, who had tainas against me and that he thought speaking to the other guy would be a good idea.

Having barely said a word to the second guy, I couldn't imagine what I could have done to have made him so upset. Nevertheless, after reporting back to MHW, I was instructed to meet with the second guy. I told him that I wasn't sure why he was b'roigas with me but I apologized if there was anything I had done to hurt him. When he told me what it was, a single incident that had happened about four years earlier, it took all my willpower to stop myself from saying to the guy, "you've gotta be kidding me."

Next scene. A couple of weeks ago, after Friday night davening upon my return from Israel, I went over to a third man and gave him regards from an acquaintance of his whom I had met in Israel. He gave me a stare, mumbled something I couldn't understand, and walked away (I have a witness who saw the whole thing; I'm not exaggerating). For some reason, this guy is apparently b'roigas with me for a non-shul-related incident that happened more than two years ago that I had nothing to do with. Since that time, the guy has avoided me to the point where he will try hard not to even make eye contact. (About a year ago, we were in close proximity for about three hours and he refused to say anything to me, including a return good morning). I thought that perhaps my reaching out to him with regards from a friend would break the ice. I was wrong.

I felt like grabbing him by the lapels and shaking him and saying, "GET OVER IT!! LIFE's TOO SHORT!! But I didn't. The only thing left to do is to have yet another conversation where I ask for mechila for whatever it is that I did.

My mom always reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously. I think that was good advice.


Pitchers and Catchers Report

All is good


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alyn 2010

IYH, after taking a year off, I will be doing the Alyn Ride again in October.

The preliminary itinerary just came out. We start in Mitzpeh Ramon and tool around in the Negev for four days until we climb back up to Jerusalem, via the Judean Hills. Some details: We will climb into and out of both HaMachtech Ramon (Ramon Crater) and HaMachtesh Hagadol (The Great Crater). We will also climb Mt. Harif.

I've stayed in Mitzpeh Ramon during the ride twice, including the first night of my first ride (when I could barely sleep I was so excited). I've done the two craters (Hagadol twice) but I don't recall whether I've done Har Harif. I'm not sure which route they are going to take up to J'lem but I'm assuming it may be Nes Harim or Ramat Raziel. In any event it will certainly include a climb to Ein Kerem which is very close to the Alyn Hospital.

(This will be my sixth ride but my fourth time in the South. The country ain't that big so you're bound to repeat once you've done the ride more than twice.)

(Speaking of which, I'm davening that they don't return to stay overnight at the Mamshit Bedouin tent. Been there (twice). Done that. It's great if you're seventeen, not when you are more than three times seventeen. Cold showers. Bad food. No place to get a beer or a decent cup of coffee. Sleeping on a cot three inches from other riders who snore the night away after riding 80 miles. It doesn't get any better. PsycleSteve really misses that place.)

In any event, I'm pumped. With pitchers and catchers reporting in the next couple of days, how long can it be before we're back on the road.


More America Gonnif

Inspired by my buddy Ben, I finally took the plunge and bought a Kindle.

Way cool. (So cool, in fact, that the e-books I bought on Amazon while the Kindle was in shipment had already been uploaded when the Kindle arrived).

I never thought that I could get used to the idea of an e-book. Well, it took me about 30 seconds. The thing weighs nothing, is about as wide as a pencil, and fits easily into my backpack; great for travelling.

I fully expect the Kindle to join my ipod and my Bose headphones in the High-Tech Trilogy of awesome, life-impacting devices.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

No Sweat

This morning I took a spin class. Not only that, but I actually got to my bike more than 20 minutes early so I ended up riding for 67 minutes. And, I really pounded the bike today. Top HR was 179; average was high 140s.

The instructor is great; my favorite at my new gym. (Unfortunately, she only teaches on Mondays and Fridays at 9:30 so the only time I get to take her class is when I'm off or work from home.) She also recognizes that I am a serious rider (not saying much compared to most of the chevra that attends this class) and often encourages me to let it rip during particularly difficult segments. And, at the end of each ride she walks around the class and challenges each rider to really let loose for about 30 seconds.

When she walked by me this morning, she said, "Gee, if I worked as hard as you, I'd have a pool of sweat around me."

Until she said that, it hadn't really occurred to me. But, now that she mentioned it, I have to agree that it's true; I don't really sweat much any more. I don't know why. Two possible explanations. The room is pretty cool and I wear a bandana that catches some of the sweat.

But most spin classes are held in cool rooms and I've been wearing a shmata for years so that doesn't explain it.

The only other difference from before is that I'm 7 pounds lighter than I was before my recent surgery. Why would that be so significant? It wasn't that I was heavy before and now I'm light. I've been very thin for years; just not this skinny.

Any doctors out there care to venture an explanation? I'm stumped.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I Am Not Worthy

I have been working on an important matter for the past few months (at least it's important if you're a vulture fund). The final act (for now) took place last Friday when I testified before a Judicial Rules Committee (It was pretty cool, although I was so nervous I could barely eat the day before).

I'm having dinner tonight with two of the law firm partners with whom I worked on this project. They are bringing along two other partners whom they want to introduce.

I looked them all up on their firm website. One of the partners I worked with is a piker like me. Among the other three, there are two Supreme Court clerkships, three Federal Court of Appeals clerkships and one Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review. I am not worthy.

On the other hand, as I've noted before, it's not all about brains.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

It's Just Wrong

I went to a spin class at 6 a.m. this morning.

A rider nearby clearly had had something for dinner last night with a lot of garlic and had not done an adequate job of getting it out of his mouth.

Every time he let out a big breath, I got hit with a blast of garlic.

It's just wrong.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Endless Day

This has been a long, weird day.

It started at 2:30 a.m. in Tokyo (12:30 p.m. New York time, Monday). This trip has completely wreaked havoc on me and I am completely off. I woke up after only a few hours of sleep. I worked the rest of the night until the gym opened at 6.

I crashed for an hour from 11 a.m. to 12 and then gave my presentation at 1:45. I left for the airport at 3:30 and got there just before 5.

Because I had changed my flight from Wednesday, the best I could do was a flight to Chicago with a connection to New York. (It would have cost about $2,000 to get a direct flight). I was really looking forward to that.

(Again, the wisdom of traveling about 40 hours to make a one hour presentation to a bunch of Japanese businessmen is something I am not convinced of).

The flight was scheduled to leave at 7. As I was walking out of the Admiral's Club lounge, I decided to ask the guy at the counter if he could put me on the direct flight to New York. To my surprise, he said, sure, no problem. I even got an aisle seat (although I had to give up my kosher meals; that's why I always travel with a few chocolate bars).

So, my flight left Tokyo at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and I was in my house before 7 p.m. Tuesday. Crazy.

Right now my body clock is so confused I don't know what to do. I think I'll go to sleep.


Monday, February 01, 2010


This is my third trip to Tokyo in four years. In my previous two trips I stayed no more than 2 1/2 days. This trip will be no different. I arrived at 11 p.m. on Sunday evening and will be departing my hotel for the airport at 3:30 Tuesday, right after the presentation I'm giving, for on a 7 p.m. flight.

In my previous trips, I never strayed more than one block from my hotel; I might as well have been in Chicago. I am thinking of getting up at 4 a.m. tomorrow to go to the Fish Market which I hear is very cool. Chances are I will be awake anyway since this trip wreaks havoc on me.

It took me 21 hours, door to door, to get to my hotel in Tokyo from Ramat Shiloh. I flew El Al to Hong Kong (10.5 hours) and, after a 2 hour layover, went the rest of the way to Tokyo (a four hour flight). The bus ride from the airport to the hotel took over an hour and a half on a Sunday evening when there was no traffic. The bus ride back is scheduled to take over 2 hours. (Taking a cab from the airport costs around $250).

The saving grace is that I flew business class and that the hotel I'm staying at is first class (The Four Seasons at Chinzan-So). Nevertheless, this trip wipes me out and it takes me a long time to recover. It's very hard for me to reconcile spending all this time traveling, and getting so messed up, for, effectively, a one-hour presentation. But, that's the way it is.

The only reason I'm posting now is because it is delaying me from having to prepare my notes for tomorrow's presentation. I've procrastinated long enough. I have to do some work.