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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Two More Stupid Things That Annoy Me

1. A few months ago, someone bought a satellite clock for the shul's bais medrash. This pleased me because I need to make a certain train in the morning and it's helpful to know the exact time.

Lately, someone has been turning the clock around for Shabbos so that it isn't visible. What is that supposed to mean? That we're not tied to the clock on Shabbos? That's totally not true. It's just silly and I wish they would stop.

2. The weather. Really. Enough already. I can't take it anymore.

In general, asking the Aibishter for nice weather is not among the requests that I throw into my Shema Koleinu. I have enough important things to ask for and I assume the Master of the Universe has more important issues to deal with. But, please, Hashem. Can you please throw me a bone? I'm getting older and the cold is getting to me. I haven't been on my bike since November (in Israel). I'm not asking for 75 degrees. 65 will do. Just enough to get rid of the chill. Thank You.


Reverse Discrimination

As readers of this space know, I have complained from time to time about Hagbah discrimination, to wit, the fact that, despite being in excellent physical shape, neither I, nor my sons are ever asked to do hagbah (lift the Torah after the reading). This hagbah discrimination is obviously related to the fact that we are all small. Thankfully, we've all learned to deal with hagbah discrimination and move on with our lives.

Yesterday, I was the victim of "Reverse Hagbah Discrimination".

Shabbos afternoon, for reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, I davened mincha at our local roving minyan (which I almost never do). The minyan takes place in people's homes, usually in their basements (as was the case yesterday). As soon as the Torah was removed from the Aron, the gabbai asked me to do hagbah. For a brief moment, I was surprised and excited. Then it hit me. I realized that the only reason he asked me to do hagbah was because I was probably the only one there who could lift the Torah without puncturing the 8 foot basement ceiling. D'oh!


Friday, March 28, 2008

Musical Mishnayos

Here. I have not had a chance to hear the music (except a few minutes of what is playing on the website). But what a cool idea and I know, through a good friend, that the guys who pulled the project together are chashuv and talented.

Hat Tip

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

You Say You Want A Revolution...

Support Rabbi Horowitz and his Yeshiva.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


The sound you hear is that of hundreds of lawyers in the City and around the country crying now that a certain litigation has been settled. This case (in which I was tangentially involved) and related cases has produced legal fees exceeding $100 million (perhaps many times that).

A retired business colleague of mine was recruited as an expert witness in one of the phases of the case. He called that gig "the gift that keeps on giving" and joked that he named his new boat "Enron".

The part of the case in which I was involved was actually quite fascinating and I, who had never, in almost 28 years of practicing law, had much at all to do with litigation, really enjoyed the experience. I dealt with some really sharp lawyers and I learned alot. Unfortunately, the case was settled while it was on appeal in connection with a very important legal ruling effecting my business. Now that issue will remain unresolved for now.

Ah, but the crying has suddenly stopped. I see a new stream of legal fees on the horizon.

This is what makes America a great country.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Last night and this morning I was presented with the type of situation that would usually drive me crazy. As a general rule, big things don't bother me or worry me, but little things (like, to cite one example, getting stuck behind a slow driver on a one-lane road) make me nuts.

Taking advantage of a rare lull at work, I hopped on an earlier train and got home in time for mincha/maariv. After davening, I slid into the front seat of my new, 2008 Camry XLE and pushed the electronic ignition button.


I tried again.


The battery was dead. 1500 miles on my new car and the battery was dead.

I called AAA. My membership had just expired. Oy.

I renewed my membership right there and then and called for a boost.

It was now 7:50 p.m. They guaranteed service within an hour. Forty minutes later they promised a car would be there by 9:25 p.m. The service man came at 9:35. After more than an hour and a half in a car without heat, I was frozen.

He connected the cables to my battery. The electronic stuff in the car came back to life. I pressed the ignition button.


I tried again.


I tried a few more times and sent the service man on his way. MHW picked me up and I tried to warm up at home. It was 10 p.m.

At 7:30 a.m. this morning I called Toyota. There was nothing they could do and I needed to have the car towed to their service station.

I called AAA again. This time I only had to wait ten minutes. A very nice man hooked up the front of the car, used a trick to put the car in neutral (which I couldn't figure out by myself) and towed the car to Toyota.

I signed some papers and went on my way.

So, instead of being on the 6:52 train, I made the 8:33.

As you can imagine, I'm very pleased that my brand new car's battery went dead after 1500 miles for no apparent reason and that I wasted about four hours getting it to the service station. I did my very best to remain calm and not flip out and, for the most part, I succeeded (stewing just under the surface).

I must be getting old.


Monday, March 24, 2008


As a keen observer of the human condition (and one who walks 35 minutes a day between Penn Station and work), I have noticed that many women are wearing ridiculously high heals and wedges. (Why they subject themselves to this discomfort and ankle danger is beyond the scope of today's post, but, nevertheless, remains a pelah)

This fashion trend has apparently spread to a part of the MoC household, namely, to OYD. My diminutive younger daughter recently purchased a monstrous pair of wedges for Shabbos that she rolled out this past Friday evening. We live almost a mile from shul so, no dummy she, OYD brought with her a bag containing a pair of flat shoes to wear on the walk home (we drive to shul).

(As she left the house, I noted that, notwithstanding the four or so inches that the wedges add to her stature, she was still short).

After shul, as OOD, OYD and I were about to return home, OYD asked whether she could sleep over at a friend's house. I thought that was strange (since she hadn't mentioned it and had not brought any overnight stuff with her). I asked her why. She said that she had forgotten her flat shoes in the car and would not be able to manage the 9/10s of a mile in her wedges. D'oh!

(An aside. It is hard to understand how two girls that were brought up by the same parents,in the same house, in the same community, in the same schools, could be so different when it comes to style (and virtually everything else). OOD, equally diminutive, hates to wear heels (even when they are appropriate) and would never be caught dead in four inch wedges. Ailu, V'ailu).

I suppose I could have taught her a lesson and made her walk home anyway (either bear foot or in pain) but, being a nice guy, I let it slide and she slept over her at her friend's house which is a block or so from shul.

OYD was very pleased when I brought her another pair of flats to wear home on Shabbos.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The System

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first high school hockey game in about a year, since OYS played in the yeshiva league championship. Ahhh! Nothing like the aroma of a gym full of sweaty teenaged boys!

In any event, the Good Guys beat their crosstown rival by a score of 3 - 0 in the semi-final and now go on to play a rematch with the team that beat them in last year's final (the Good Guys' only loss of last season).

What I found striking is that although the players have changed, the Good Guys' style of play was virtually identical to last year's team. The formula is simple (if not so simple to execute):

* Find excellent Coaches whom the players like and respect.
* Pick lots of talented, athletic (but not great), team-oriented players who hustle.
* Use lots of those players and change lines frequently.
* Sprinkle in a few very talented players.
* Add a great goaltender.
* Build a gym with a very large court.
* Win enough games to gain home court advantage through the playoffs.
* Run like crazy and put relentless pressure on the opposition.
* Swarm on defense.

And, last night, the formula worked to perfection. After a scoreless first period, the Good Guys' took advantage of a power play and scored on a nifty shot from the point. Two more goals, both scored on beautiful long range slap shots (one a ridiculous backhander from the point) by one of the very talented guys sealed the win. The goalie did a great job of turning aside the few tough shots that went his way (and could, possibly turned the momentum around).

The third period was typical. The crosstown rivals would have been well-served by oxygen tanks on their bench. They were gassed. The Good Guys swarmed all over them and totally dominated the period.

A final word about the team (based on my keen observations of one game!). On the one hand, they are not quite as physically talented as last year's team. Amazingly, their goaltender is probably even better than last year's (and we are talking about a kid who won four championships in six years of school hockey and lost about six games through that entire period). But beyond that, they don't match up. For one, while their top defenseman is REALLY good and has an insane slap shot, they are missing OYS, a dominant defenseman (if I do say so myself) who played an entirely different, stylish kind of game. They also don't have the offensive firepower or creativity of last year's team. On the other hand, they are faster and more aggressive than last year's team. (Last year's team was beaten by a team that didn't match up with them talent-wise but out ran and out hustled them in the final; aggression, speed and hustle can make up for a lot of talent in this league).

So, next week, The Good Guys put it all on the line one more time. I like their chances.


Oh Bama

I find Barack Obama very scary. His speech yesterday, besides the racial angle, reflected tired old left wing ideology. Nothing "new" at all. As far as his relationship with the Reverand Wright, comparing his relationship to Wright to that of his white grandmother is completely disengenuous on many levels. One may have made a throwaway racist remarks privately; the other openly espouses a racist theology. One is related to him (you can't choose your grandparents); the other he chose to get and remain close to for over twenty years.

And his comparison of what Wright has said from the pulpit to what Geraldine Ferraro said about Obama's success is equally disengenuous. Wright, again, is espousing a philosophy. She simply stated an obvious truth (whether you like it or not).


Monday, March 17, 2008

Head Shake Day

Today can best be described as a "head shake day" in the financial markets. Friday was, too.

On Friday, I ran into a colleague from my previous firm (Blessed is the Lord who delivered me from there. Seriously). His firm has gotten crushed by the subprime mess. When we saw each other, neither of us said a word; we just shook our heads.

Today, in the wake of the sudden disintegration of Bear, there is a huge amount of head shaking going on. We all have friends and colleagues at Bear who, in a week, have lost a lot of their net worth and whose jobs are not secure. It is very sad. And scary. We are all thinking, "where does this end?"


Ducks Are Not As Stupid As They Look

This past Shabbos afternoon, TT asked me to take her to the "Duck Pond", a little stream of water that separates Woodmere from North Woodmere (and serves as Tashlich Central for my area).

TT is fascinated by all things animal, especially dogs, so she likes hanging out with the ducks. She also likes to feed them but I explained to her that we couldn't do it that day because it was Shabbos.

As it happens, there was another couple with a young girl around TT's age. They did bring "food" for the ducks. Rice cakes.

In my experience feeding ducks through the years, I have never once seen a piece of bread go uneaten. In fact, many skirmishes have broken out among the ducks vying for the pieces of bread.

On Shabbos, however, the ducks were completely unimpressed with the rice cakes. Many of them pecked at the bits of rice cake and swam away. Others took small bites and swam away.

Apparently ducks know instinctively what I've been saying all along:

Rice Cakes are a cruel joke on humankind.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

"That's Not Shlomo Katz...

Further to the previous post.

OYD just related the following story.

The Toddler was riding in the car with MHW and OYD. She said, "I want to listen to Shlomo Katz." MHW dutifully forwarded the CD player to the next CD (not knowing where in the order Shlomo was to be found). As it happened, the next CD was Yonatan Razel's fabulous CD. TT immediately said, "That's not Shlomo Katz, that's Karduner!"

Close, but still, you can't make this stuff up.

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He Has A Funny Hat

This afternoon, I was working on the computer and listening to music on my iTunes library. The Toddler walked in as I was playing the Krembo Song from Aaron Razel.She immediately said, "That's Aron R'zel. He's Funny. He has a funny hat." I guess she didn't see the ad.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Watch Out For The Moon Walking Bears

Count the passes, here.


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Lost in my trip overseas last week was the fact that March 8th represented my fourth anniversary of blogging. That makes me one of the longest-running Jblogs out there. Amazing how much narishkeit one man can produce.


He Had A Good Ride

Richard "Dick" Burke, founder of the Trek Bicycle Company, died Monday at the age of 73. The Times writes:

Mr. Burke was the owner of an appliance distributorship in Milwaukee before turning to making bicycles. At the time, European models dominated the market, and there were few luxury American brands. But in the mid-'70s, as American biking boomed beyond the tricycle and the single-speed Schwinn, Mr. Burke saw potential profit in the high-end bike.

That first year in the barn, the Trek company produced 805 handmade, finely detailed road bikes and earned $161,000. Last year, the company manufactured 1.5 million bikes and had revenue of $670 million.
My first somewhat upscale bike was the Trek 1500, a solid bike that served me well for two years and is now OOS's ride (Pictured is the Trek 1500 from 2007; mine is a 2004). So, here's a toast to Dick Burke, a great American success story.


Words of the Week

Winner: Schadenfreude.

Runner up: Peccadillo


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Adar in Efrat

Last Thursday night, as I waited for my flight to Israel in the British Airways lounge, I heard (and saw) the horrible news unfold about the terrorist attack at Merkaz HaRav. From my cab ride into Jerusalem Friday morning until the time I left on Sunday night, I sensed a heaviness around me that I hadn't felt in many years. Even friends who are normally optimistic were very shaken.

For much of the weekend (even though I was there to celebrate a very joyous occasion in our family) I thought about the juxtaposition of the month of Adar with the unspeakable tragedy that had befallen eight families (and so many others who are connected). How can one celebrate Adar under such circumstances?

Then, two things happened that put this question into even more focus. First, I read this post from David Bogner about how one of the young men murdered in Merkaz HaRav was a family friend from Efrat. Then, late on motsai Shabbos, I met Chaim Dovid for tea and he told me that he, Aron Razel and Shlomo Katz were scheduled to give a concert (one of a series of concerts that they are doing around K'shoshanah, the CD I recently produced) in Efrat next motsai Shabbos.

Efrat, at the end of the day, is a small town. No doubt that the murder of this young man has cast a terrible pall over everyone in town. So how do you have an Adar concert ten days later? Do you have a concert?

Waiting for my flight home on Sunday in the El Al lounge, I took comfort from this post from Jameel. Money quote:

No one ignores the pain of the terror, no one forgets the mourning.

But we can't forget the message of Adar. We survived our enemies back then on Purim and we will continue to survive and flourish, today, and in the future.

A Joyous Month of Adar to all of Israel.
Indeed, a joyous month of Adar to all.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Interesting Times"

I received the following email tonight from a good chaver from Israel. (Names have been changed in respect of their privacy).

Hope you enjoyed your visit here. I have to share this story with you, a rather wild incident that took place tonight.

After Ma'ariv I went out to (a town) to learn with my son. So there we are in the middle of the Tichon (High School) Beis Midrash and all of a sudden we hear what sounds like gun shots coming from the hall. Suddenly one of the boys comes running into the Beis Midrash screaming "Terrorist, terrorist" and turns off the lights. As soon as this happens the boys in the Beis Midrash dive to the floor and are silent. As I'm crouching down to the floor I reach for my gun at which point my son, Yitzchak, grabs my arm and yells - "Abba, I'm sorry. I forgot to tell you about the drill!" ..... "Interesting" times.

Shenishma bsurot tovot,



The Wall Street Journal weighs in on Spitzer.

Money quote: "One might call his story Shakespearian if there were nobleness in it. There is none."

And, Front Page wars between the Post and the Daily News. Post in a knockout.


Monday, March 10, 2008

How Have The Mighty Fallen?

I am having a hard time processing the news about Elliot Spitzer. As readers of this space know, I am not, and never have been a fan. But that isn't my point.

What drives a smart and powerful man, who has a lovely, accomplished wife and three children, to do something so stupendously self destructive as to throw away his entire political career in return for an hour of pleasure?

How incredibly reckless. Did he not consider the consequences? Did he think he was indestructible? It is really very difficult to understand.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Random Thoughts From the Road

I am about to return to galus after spending a few days on business in Londonistan and then the weekend in Jerusalem.

1. The dollar. As one of my colleagues said about London, "If I can't eat it, I don't buy it". Even eating is painful. One night, after being blown off by one of my other colleagues, I ate by myself at a well known restaurant in the West End.

Fifty quid for a meal consisting of soup, a main (lamb), one glass of wine, dessert and tea. Fifty quid, as in one hundred dollars. The same meal at Wolf & Lamb would have been $40. (It was equivalent in quality, at best, to W&L, certainly not comporable to the higher end restaurants in New York.)

And, for that matter, it's no better with the shekel. 3.58 to the dollar today.

And, the prospects for it to get any better anytime soon are slim.

2. The Lipa Ban. Blogin Dm has done a great job focusing on the issue and providing excellent links. (None better than the fabulous article by Dr. Schick which was featured in a post by Hirhurim last Wednesday.)

If I had to summarize Dr. Schick's impassioned plea, it would be "Whatever happened to 'Dracheha Darchei Noam'" (The paths of the Torah are pleasant). I was thinking about that all week, even before I read his article. What I kept thinking about was how meanspirited the ban was, without any regard chosen mishpat or issues "bain adam l'chaveiroh". It was a nasty power play, short and simple, and the Rabbanim who participated were either picked off by madmen (inexcusable, as Gil pointed out) or, worse, complicit.

3. Today was our grandson's upsheirin. I am blessed to have been here in person for this wonderful, sweet occasion. I am indebted to MHW, my hero, who could not make it but deserves to be here much more than I.

4. I arrived the morning after the murderous attack by one of our evil and demented enemies on Mercaz Harav. I got to watch it unfold at the British Airways lounge. It is difficult to understand events like these and difficult to understand the depravity of a people that would organize attacks like these and then celebrate them publicly in the streets. I daven that the leadership of this country (and the US, for that matter) comes to its senses and finally recognizes the Pera adam with which it is dealing.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Give Rabbi Horowitz a Break

Full Disclpsure: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is my first cousin and soulmate

I am about to hop on a plane and really don't have time to do this post justice but I am chagrined by the negative reaction to Rabbi Horowitz's recent post.

I think part of the negative reaction is because people have come to expect alot from him as a spokesman for "normal Chareidihood". I think some people think he's punting here.

I can assure you he is not. I've spoken to him about the Lipa incident and he is heartbroken. As he notes, he will, after a bit of reflection, address the ban itself.

But remember. His main gig is as an expert in parenting. THAT'S WHAT THE POST IS ABOUT; NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS. And the message is correct. He is not apologizing for the gedolim. He is recognizing that there is a tremendous disconnect as a result of this horrible ban and he is admonishing parents who are troubled by it to remain calm and reasoned in front of their children despite their disappointment or anger. That is wise advice.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008


Nary a day goes by where The Toddler doesn't say something that makes us laugh. Keeping in mind that there is no one in the house less than 13 years her elder, and it isn't surprising that she often speaks like someone many times her age.

Two recent examples. Last Thursday, shopping with MHW, TT was walking down the aisle at CVS, putting things she liked in the wagon when suddenly, out of the blue, she said, "this is ridiculous!"

This morning, I came home with bagels. She ran over to me asked me what I had. I said, "I brought some bagels." She said, "Yay! Bagels! I'm so proud of you Abba!"