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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Oh! Bama

Last Sunday morning, I saw Barak Obama's victory speech after the trouncing he put on Hillary in South Carolina. It was electrifying. (What a contrast to the Charmless Hillary, one of the worst speakers I have ever had the misfortune to hear).

I have to admit, his inspiring speech almost gave me goosebumps.

The problem is, the actual content of his speech was downright scary. In a nutshell, he said that the federal government can solve every domestic problem, large and small and that we should abandon Iraq as soon as possible.

Of course, the federal government can't solve every problem large and small. In fact, more often than not, the government screws things up with goofy regulations, wasteful spending and actions that result in unintended consequences.

So, while his argument for change is compelling (can anyone even bear the thought of having to deal with the Philandering ex-Boy President for four or eight more years (to say nothing of the Charmless Hillary)), the change he is seeking is not exactly what I had in mind.


Why I Will Vote Republican

I am sitting in the British Air lounge, waiting for my flight back home. I have been away a long time and am looking forward to getting back. On my way to the airport, I experienced something that reminded me why I will vote Republican come November.

I was riding in a cab when suddenly motorcycle cops stopped traffic in all directions. We waited while a few cars, themselves led by motorcycle cops, passed by. The driver told me that it was, to borrow a term from Ben, the charmless Prince Charles.

This is why I won't vote for a Democrat.

If Obama wins, or, much worse, if the charmless Hillary wins, they will, no doubt, frequently visit New York City, looking for liberal money or to hang out with the liberal elite. A Republican, on the other hand, generally won't bother.

As someone who works in New York City and remembers how frequently the Philandering Boy President used to come to the City, and how it used to mess me up, I'm going Republican all the way.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Backup Plan

After 120 years, when I get to the bais din shel ma'aleh, I will plead my case and hope that the Almighty Dayan will let use the up elevator based on the balance of my good deeds and bad.

Not one to leave things to chance, I also have a backup plan.

If I feel that things are not going so well, I will remind them that I was happily married to MHW for many, many years. I am confident that that will put me over the top.



Two events occurred last week that I find absolutely shocking.

First, a junior trader at SocGen managed to lose $7 billion dollars (to be fair, he only lost $3 billion; the bank lost the rest of the money closing out his positions). As someone who's worked at four investment banks for a total of over 22 years, it's hard to even imagine how that could happen without being discovered. I follow the story with interest.

Second, and equally shocking, is that, at a tish last Friday evening in Yerushalayim, the boys (virtually all DRS alumni learning at Yeshivas in Israel), overwhelmingly preferred the white part of two Brooklyn Bakery "black and white" cakes to the black part. How can this be? Where did we go wrong in our educational system? Vanilla frosting over chocolate? Say it ain't so!

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Tu B'Shvat Higiah

Sue me, but I'm not a big fan of dates or figs. In fact, I doubt that I've ever finished one in my entire life and, to this day, I'm still not sure which is which. Here I am at the source on Tu B'Shvat and I'm eating Chinese tonight. Go figure.


Mike's Morsels

You're nuts if you think the Giants are going to win three road games. They'll be lucky if they can win one!
Mike Francesca, During week 17 of the NFL season.

Now I'm not saying I expected the Giants to get to the Superbowl. Indeed, no one did. But I still love when blowhards like Mike Francesa are so emphatic and are so wrong. I don't get paid to prognosticate. He does.

Last night's game (which I watched much of on Mideast TV from 2:45 until about 5 a.m.), was very compelling, even for a non-Giants fan like me. It has been amazing to watch Eli Manning mature, as if overnight, but that is what it looks like. The Giants' defense was heroic. It was also crazy watching the effects of the ridiculously cold weather.

I still can't see them beating the Patriots, but who expected them to beat the Cowboys and Packers?


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Just Another Bar Mitzvah

Today, MHW and I attended a bar mitzvah of the son of good friends.

This couple were the role models who inspired us to become foster parents about 9 years ago. And the bar mitzvah was of a boy who they first fostered and then adopted. And, the fact that, knowing how this story started, today's bar mitzvah was like any other bar mitzvah, is one of the most remarkable stories that I have ever had the privilege of witnessing.

Because, of course, it wasn't anything like any other bar mitzvah at all. But you wouldn't have known it unless you already knew it. That is my point. That is the greatness of this couple.

May they continue to change the world.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Important Post By The Bear

Dov Bear names names.


TT Gems

The Toddler, who is now 32 months old (and has been with us for more than 2 and a half years) is really developing her language skills at a rapid pace.

But sometimes she cracks us up.

For example, when we take her up to bed she will say "Abba takeyou" or "Imma takeyou", not realizing that when we said "Abba will take you to bed", the "you" was a pronoun, instead thinking that the verb is "takeyou".

Last night, MHW gave TT a hug and said, "I love you TT". TT responded, "I love you too Barney".

You can't make this stuff up.


"You Have to Compete!"

Last night, the University of North Carolina's undefeated and top ranked men's basketball team played Georgia Tech, a mediocre divisional opponent. GT played hard but ended up losing by a single point, 83-82.

The commentator made the following observation:

I said that the only way to beat North Carolina is to compete and, tonight, Georgia Tech really competed!"


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

More January Effect

I get three newspapers delivered to my door each morning, the Wall Street Journal, FT and the New York Sun. In December, all three were coming before 6 a.m. which is when I leave my house. Since the turn of the year, two of the three have routinely been showing up late (or not at all).

Could this have something to do with the fact that tips are given at the end of December?


Giant Day

I was greatly disappointed last week by the Giants' unexpected and impressive victory. Not because I dislike the Giants, I don't. Rather, because had they lost, talk radio would have been vastly more entertaining last week with talk of firing the coach and the Eli Manning "mistake". Further, had they lost yesterday (in anything other than a blowout), the calls for the coach's scalp would have been toned down since no one expected the Giants to win

However, with the Giants' win yesterday in Dallas, sports radio promises to be even more entertaining. First, it is great to see so-called experts like Mike Francesca revealed as the dopes they really are . Second, it is extremely amusing to hear the messianic telephone calls from fans whose very chiyus is tied to whether or not the Giants win.

(And, as an additional benefit, it's not as mean-spirited of me to get my kicks from other people's suffering)


Another Comet Kohoutek Morning

When I went to sleep last nigh, I was assured that a whole bunch of snow would greet me in the morning. As we know, no such accumulation accumulated.

Instead, there was a trace snowfall that my windshield wipers were able to disperse with one swipe. (This lack of snow, of course, did not prevent the Long Island Railroad's 6:52 out of Woodmere from breaking down, causing a 20 minute delay in my morning commute).

This was yet another Comet Kohoutek moment. I am convinced that the local news reporters hype the weather (like New York reporters hype the towns sports "prospects") just so they will have something to talk about on the 6 o'clock news.

You can see the disappointment in their eyes when a big storm misses the target and that was yet again the case this morning.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

What Does Shabbos Have To Do With Halacha?

Gil Student, the learned Kalta Litvak of the JBlogosphere, left me bewildered this morning.

He referred to a column by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz (Full Disclosure: My first cousin) called "Elevator Pitch". The gist of the article was that the essence of Shabbos was summarized in a 30 second conversation that Rabbi Horowitz overheard in an elevator.

Speaking to a non-Jewish colleague, an obviously frum woman said:

You know, the nicest thing about being Jewish is our Shabbos. For 25 hours, I get to turn off my cell phone and email. I just enjoy my husband and children, unwind from the week – and try my best to get closer to God.
Reb Gil wrote:

I believe that only two of these three reasons have support from medieval authorities.
Gil went on to state that enjoying one's spouse and family is not a reason supported by medieval sources. He ends by saying:

Be that as it may, I prefer to stick to the reasons for the mitzvos found in the sources.
Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Honestly, I can't even fathom the point Gil is trying to make. To even raise it in the context of Rabbi Horowitz's article suggests a tin-ear of Biblical proportions.

Rabbi Horowitz's whole point is that in order to battle "Walmart" (Rabbi Horowitz's mashal for the internet) we need to make Shabbos warmer, more peaceful and more attractive to our children. With all due respect, having these kinds of intellectual discussions about reasons for Shabbos is the LAST thing we should be doing.

My advice? Let's gather 'round our table on Friday night and sing a few niggunim. You don't even have to bang the table.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Fostering PSA

If anyone out there is considering becoming an Ohel foster parent, now's the time to strike. The next MAPP training (the training required to get certified) starts at the end of January. If you are interested, call Shulamit Marcus at 718 851 6300.


Shul Musings

1. Friday Night Lights.

One of the things that makes my shul special is the Friday night davening. Each week, well over 300 men (and about 50 young women, mostly high school and post-seminary girls) join us for Kabbalas Shabbos. (Many of the men are freeloaders; they come each and every week but are not members or associate members and don't give us a dime; but I digress).

Our Kabbalas Shabbos is not nusach Carlebach. The nusach is the regular ashkenazi nusach. What separates our davening is the intense L'cha Dodi, which is usually put to one of many popular Carlebach niggunim. L'cha Dodi is usually done to two different niggunim, with the first 6 stanzas done to a heartzige, slow niggun and the last four, starting with Lo Siavoshi, to a much more upbeat tune.

The place really rocks, especially towards the end, and even after the last four stanzas, when we usually sing the niggun without words, three or four more times.

In two of the last three weeks, the ba'alei tefilah, decided that rather than a Carlebach tune, they would employ complicated shinny shoe niggunim that about ten mispallimim knew. Talk about taking the air out of a balloon. This is especially disappointing because many of us, who have very intense work weeks, look forward to the L'cha Dodi which serves as a transformation of sorts from the chol to the kedusha of Shabbos.

As I like to say, Ich Kenesht.

So please. If you're going to take the amud at our shul, please stick to the basics. It's not about shlugging up the shul to show them how clever you are that you were able to put L'Cha Dodi to the latest Shweki tune. It's about rocking the olam. In as simple a way as possible.

2. The Schnorrer Problem.

Sunday morning shachris was inundated by 8 schnorrers. I felt as though I was davening at the Kotel. Our shul has not adopted a "no schnorrer in the sanctuary" rule and it is becoming more and more of a problem. Besides the issue that many of the schnorrers are probably outright frauds, it is getting more difficult to concentrate on davening because the schnorrers do not have the courtesy to wait until after the amidah and, instead, collect during all parts of the davening, including kriyas Shema.

As I like to say, Ich Kenesht.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

The January Effect...

....Kicks in again (See point 4).

I will be away for the last two weeks of January. By the time I get back, things will be back to normal.


The Train Wreck That is the Knicks

Last night I went to my first Knick game of the year. I only went because "Judah" asked me to take him and I got court side seats (6th row) for free from a very kind Jew.

(Once again, Judah didn't disappoint. In the fourth quarter he walked up to the very front row where there was an empty seat, asked the guy sitting next to the empty seat if he minded, and sat down. Within 30 seconds he was chatting up the guys on either side of him).

The Knicks were blown out (the final score, a 10 point loss, does not reflect the actual nastiness of the game; the Knicks made a surge in the last few minutes but were down by 20 for much of the game) by a team that came into the game with a record of 11-18 and was missing 66 points of scoring due to injuries. (I can honestly say that I had never even heard of any of the players who played last night for the Kings, either in college or the pros).

They are beyond dreadful. Eddie Curry is 75 pounds overweight and plays no defense. Very few others hustle at all. It was painful to watch.

As I have said earlier, in no other company that I know would a chief executive who has had as dismal a performance as Isaiah survive. (And, as a friend pointed out, add the fact that he lost a sexual harassment suit at the cost of $11MM and huge embarrassment to the organization and it's even more mystifying that he's still around).

So what gives?

I thought about it last night. Despite the fact that it was brutally cold outside, the Knicks stink and they were playing a lousy team, the Garden was full. I'm not saying that's how I would measure success for a basketball team but the Dolans apparently continue to rake in the dough despite the dreadfulness of he team so how motivated are they to make any changes?

Go Celtics.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

UPDATE: Reviews on the New CD

Arutz Sheva (in Hebrew)


You can purchase it here.

Hope you enjoy.