Monday, December 29, 2008

אבי-גדור קיבל תורה מיצחק

At the risk of sounding involved in Ashkenazi geneology or something (which I'm not!), I was just thinking after I mentioned Rabbi Yisrael "Salanter" here, how Rabbi Avigdor Miller could trace himself back to Rabbi Yisrael's teachings:

1. Avigdor Miller was a student of Isaac Sher,

2. Issac Sherr was a student of Natan Tzvi Finkel,

3. Natan Tzvi Finkel was a student of Simcha Zissel Ziv,

4. Simcha Zissel Ziv was a student of Yisrael "Salanter".

5. Yisrael "Salanter" was a student of Zundel "Salant",

6. Zundel "Salant" was a student of Chaim "Volozhin",

7. Chaim "Volozhin" was a student of the "Vilna Gaon"!

So any student of Rabbi Miller's is therefore (obviosly) able to trace back that tradition of teaching to the famed "Gaon" of Vilnius.








?המוסר דוחה את התלמוד

If one wishes their edifice to weather the external elements --both the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter-- the key is fortification. For what better method is there for ensuring the safety of ones foundations from any storm that may come? Yet without it, ones sanctuary can become filled with all the evil that may lurk from without.

[It's said that Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin (of Salantai) was approached by a man who had only half an hour a day to study (Torah), and wanted to know what subject to delve into. Rabbi Yisrael answered that he should study "מוסר", for it will inspire him to make more time for himself to study other things.]

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reality Addiction


It has become evident to me, upon verbal investigation (chatting) that the gentleman who sits next to me during English class leads a Rock-music band called “Reality Addiction”. Personally I quite fancy the name, being that it’s curiously taunting in a way, being that few people are "addicted" to reality (quite the opposite usually).

(He wouldn’t be the first musically inclined individual I’ve known though; I roomed once with a fellow named Spitz who also runs a band, and my friend Yosef Chaim Shweky (brother of Yaakov) is producing an album of his own)...


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Request! - Modesty

1. Sources

We find the Hebrew root “צ.נ.ע” twice in the Bible; once in Micha (6:8) and once in Proverbs (11:2):

1. הִגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם מַה טּוֹב; וּמָה ה' דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ, כִּי אִם-עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם אֱלֹהֶיךָ

2. בָּא-זָדוֹן וַיָּבֹא קָלוֹן; וְאֶת צְנוּעִים חָכְמָה

In both places it means to be secretive about ones good deeds, and not to be overly flamboyant. That meaning has lasted through to the Talmudic usage - much as the meaning of "modest" in English connotes the opposite of “proud”.

There has been somewhat of a change in the usage of the word in Midrashic, and later in Talmudic literature to mean modesty in an erotic sense. For example אלעזר בר צדוק is quoted as saying (in Sukkah 49b) that this verse (1.) explains three of the most important facets of Judaism, and in regards to “הצנע לכת עם אל-היך” says this part of the verse is really discussing the need to accompany the dead, and accompany a bride. He adds though “if the Torah tells us to act modestly for things which people usually do publicly, how much more so should we be ‘modest’ in regards to things that are done in private”.

It’s also important to remember though, that 1. Halakhah as we know it is somewhat of a "created" thing, being that the Halakhic codifiers had to sift through the entirety of the Tanach and Talmud and piece together little statements, and many times just inferences, and many times what we called in my yeshiva “unnecessary inferences” (inferences that aren’t the only possible thing that can be inferred). And 2. There’s no ‘מצווה’ of 'צניעות'. It’s something that’s (like I said about hair-covering for a woman) expected of women, and especially of a Jewish woman.

In Iraq, in the era in which the Talmud was written, there was honestly not much of a problem in regards to tzniut; the norms there were obviously much more "conservative" then they are now. So all you’re going to find in the Talmud are statements like “one should not pass by when women are washing clothes in the lake” or “one should not watch a woman weaving” etc. Most of what we 'know’ about the halakhot of tzniut come from statements like that.

2. Modesty in Dress

First of all, some parts of the body are usually covered anyway, so the main concerns among the Orthodox Jews are the covering of the upper arms, legs, and neckline (an issue less necessary of concern among Orthodox Jews are the back, cleavage and belly).

In regards to wearing a skirt instead of pants: 1. Some see it as a transgression of "No male article shall be on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman's garment", 2. The Talmud says it's better for a woman not to ride a horse (seemingly because it will cause the shape of her legs to become more evident when separated), so that could also translate to not wearing tight pants. Though in that case a tight skirt/dress is just as bad, and either way; it's unusual for a woman not to wear pants in most parts today. Either way; women who wear pants should obviously not be treated as if they're not part of the Jewish (or Orthodox) Community.

[I think the clearest example of learned and pious Jews who are somewhat lax in these areas (where the husband doesn't wear a head covering and the wife doesn't have a hair covering and wears pants) is Sefaradim in South American countries; I've met a lot of them, and many of them are just as 'pious' as any New York Kolel couple.. ]

About the covering of the upper legs and arms: Like I said, one of the major logical sources is that the Talmud says that washing clothing and weaving (by a woman) are seen as things which should be done in as private a setting as possible, being that parts of the upper arms and legs might become exposed in the process.

About head covering: There has always been somewhat of a difference of opinion about "פריעת הראש"; does it mean ‘untying’ or ‘uncovering’. For example it says "even an unmarried girl shouldn’t have her head ‘פרוע’ "; some strict opinions say this means even an unmarried girl should cover her hair, and some say it means her hair should usually be tied. (See Rambam source).

It’s important to note that according to these standards there’s nothing better about wearing a blouse and long skirt to a jeans skirt and tee-shirt (for example). There’s no source, therefore, for Orthodox girls to just dress really "fancy" or however one would term current ultra-orthodox dress. If anything there have been contemporary national-religious rabbis in Israel who say that sometimes “too much tzniut can lead to a lack of tzniut", something I see as very true. Not to mention concentrating on such things too much (instead of Torah and mitzvot) can lead to too great a concern for sexually oriented matters.

It should be mentioned that men must also practice modesty in clothing, and women must also not ‘gaze upon immodest men’, etc..

3. Other Interpretations

It should also be mentioned though that some (Reform and some Conservative Rabbinical authorities) see these Talmudic standards as having only been applicable to Jewish women when that is what the standards of the times were, but now that the standards have changed the Talmud would agree there’s nothing wrong with a Jewess in a short sleeveless dress when the weather makes it necessary, and such a thing is not seen by anyone as breaking any barriers (though the growth of the Muslim community as well as a new stress on modesty in dress among the Evangelical community could still change those standards again). (See Ritva source).

4. True Modesty
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According to all opinions though a real problem has developed in 'our' communities, which, in a way exists among females in the Ultra-Orthodox community just as much as it does with the males, and that is; "depending on your clothing to be religious for you". It’s not just about "women dressing modestly", it’s about "everyone being modest", not just in dress, but in action; in all areas of life. Women should obviously be a little more modest than men, but it is applicable to both sexes obviously).

Much of what "צניעות" should (still) be about is doing all actions in a refined, restrained, chaste and modest manner- even things like speaking and putting on ones shoes, and definitely things like how one walks, laughs or bends over (when necessary) in a public place (among a myriad of other examples).
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Some practical examples of this type of behavior:
It says in Genesis; "And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent", which shows Sarah didn’t go out for no reason. Similarly the pasuk in Psalms 45:14 "כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה, ממשבצות זהב לבושה" ("The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold") is used to suggest that a woman shouldn’t go out much. Though there's also the issue with the "אשת חיל" in משלי who seems to be very outdoorsy, so..it's complicated...still needs looking into...
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Also, it says that רות (and רבקה) bent in a restrained manner to pick things up.

Another example is is ישעיהו's rebuking Judean women for walking in 'too arousing' a manner (Isaiah 3): "Moreover the LOR"D saith, because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore the LOR"D will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LOR"D will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. and it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty." (Some even use the examples given in this verse to represent what shouldn't be worn by a woman).

It also says in the Talmud, for example, that a Roman soldier once took interest in a Judean girl because of her elegant manner of walking (so we see that one should refrain from such a mannerism).

To conclude, I should mention that רש"י on the first page of מסכת סוטה explains the גמרא as saying “The modest woman ends up with the ‘righteous’ husband, while the immodest woman ends up with the ‘wicked’ man as a husband”.
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5. Rabbinic Sources

Some surprising Rabbinic Sources I’m too lazy to translate in the meantime:


1. Rambam:

ואלו הן הדברים שאם עשת אחד מהן עברה על דת משה--יוצאה בשוק ושיער ראשה גלוי, או שנודרת או נשבעת ואינה מקיימת, או ששימשה מיטתה והיא נידה, או שאינה קוצה לה חלה; או שהאכילה את בעלה דברים אסורים...ואיזו היא דת יהודית הוא מנהג הצניעות שנהגו בנות ישראל ואלו הן הדברים שאם עשת אחד מהן עברה על דת יהודית: יוצאה לשוק או למבוי מפולש וראשה פרוע ואין עליה רדיד ככל הנשים אע"פ ששערה מכוסה במטפחת או שהייתה טווה בשוק וורד וכיוצא בו כנגד פניה על פדחתה או על לחיה, כדרך שעושות הגויות הפרוצות, או שטווה בשוק ומראה זרועותיה לבני אדם או שהייתה משחקת עם הבחורים או שהייתה תובעת התשמיש מבעלה בקול רם עד ששכנותיה שומעות אותה מדברת על עסקי תשמיש או שהייתה מקללת אבי בעלה בפני בעלה.


2. Ritva (kiddushin 81b):

דהכל כפי מה שאדם מכיר בעצמו אם ראוי לו לעשות הרחקה ליצרו עושה ואפילו להסתכל בבגדי צבעונין של אשה אסור. ואם מכיר בעצמו שיצרו נכנע וכפוף לו ואין מעלה טינא כלל, מותר לו להסתכל ולדבר עם הערוה ולשאול בשלום אשת איש…


3. Yichiel Mich’l Epstein (ערוך השולחן):

"מותר להתפלל ולברך נגד ראשיהן המגולות, [= של נשים נשואות] כיון שעתה רובן הולכות כך, והוה כמקומות המגולים בגופה"


4. Yichiel Yaakov Weinberg (שרידי אש):

"מ"מ הסכמנו כולנו, שבחירת הנשים היא נגד מנהג ישראל ונגד המוסר הישראלי בחיי הציבור, שהשתדלו תמיד לשמור על כבודה בת מלך פנימה, שהאשה הישראלית תשמור את ביתה ואת חינוך ילדי' ואל תהי' קולנית ויוצאנית, לפזר כוחה ולהרוס צניעותה, ולאבוד את חינה וטעמה על ידי ריב ומדנים פוליטיים וציבוריים"


5. Yoel Sirkish (ב"ח):

"אבל אם לובשין כדי להגן מפני החמה בימות החמה ובימות הגשמים מפני הגשמים אין שם איסור"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Between Christmas and Hannukah

[Here in the Judeo-Chrisian world] The dead of the winter somehow seems like a time when everybody gets closer to their peoples histories and ideologies: Both the Jews and the Christians celebrate holidays of identity in the winter, and in a way they're exact opposites, yet in a way they're actually kind of similar.

We Jews celebrate a holiday which in essence is a celebration of Jewish reconquest of Palestine from people who's ideologies were pretty much the opposite of the monotheistic ethic, as well as the rededication of our Temple upon the removal of Zeus-worship from within it.

European Christians celebrate a holiday which is supposedely commemorating the greatest manifestation of the Divine in our world, which was to become a beacon of light to Mankind hencefourth. In essence though the holiday is just 1. nordic winter celebrations, and 2. a late Christianisation of the Roman solstice holiday, which is obviously a form of worship to Jupiter, which in essence is just Latin for Zeus, who again, was the god who's removal from the Temple we're celebrating!
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What I ffind to be a very difficult subject, is: what aspects of "Greek" culture are objectivly positive, and what aspects are utterly rejected by the principles of Judaism? I mean, I know that public nudity, body-worshiping and infanticide are 'not cool', but the Greeks also brought almost every aspect of knowledge and science into the world, so...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lomo on Chanukah - '08


Sorry, my internet wasn't working for a few days, though there were a few things I wanted up here..another time perhaps. ...what was it I was supposed to write about? ..Oh yes, Hannukah.

One thing about Hanukkah which I think is clearly agreed upon across the spectrum of ways of understanding it, is that Hanukkah is ‘commemorating’ two things, and the amount of import one places on either reason classifies their understanding of it (in a way), though even within these two reasons for commemoration there is much disagreement as what exactly about these events is worth commemorating.

These two commemorations are obviously for either the great victories the Judeans wrought on the Seleucid Greek armies, and the subsequent liberation of Judea and of Judaic ethical monotheism from their hands, as well as the ritual and political purification of the Temple from foreign control, or the miracle of the oil for the Temple’s perpetual lamp (lighting more than physically possible) which ensued (huge run-on, I know). The Baraith’a, which primarily quotes the "oil miracle" is somewhat representative of the more Religious spectrum , while the Book of Maccabees, the "The Scroll of Antiochus" as well as the more well known prayer (“A’l Hanisim”) which all commemorate the military victory are usually the aspect more commemorated by the more ‘Nationalistic’ elements among us.

To me it is unquestionable that both extremes are somewhat erroneous; the significance of the ‘miracle of the oil’ aspect, and what it should mean to us should not be under-emphasized, yet the military/political victory should certainly not be understated.

If so, a very brief restatement:

‘Oil miracle’- I do not feel that stating something like “the menorah was nothing more than the Jewish nationalistic symbol” is unfounded, but for what reason was it our symbol if not for the elements of light and ritual purity inherent in it? I do not feel that anybody is of the opinion that the Priests felt it so overbearingly important to reconstruct and rekindle the Menorah with specifically ritually pure oil (which was not a halakhic necessity) only to replace some symbol of National unity. There is no question that to them the speedy relighting of the Menorah was representative of the ethical and cultural victory they had won against the Greeks. That could and should be a lesson to us today- for even those among us with the longest and blackest of coats, and the furriest of hats has the most despicable of Western/American ideals in their hearts (myself, obviously, very much among them). The lesson of the purpose of the Divine radiance shown to our ancestors at the Temple should serve to bring well needed ‘mind over matter’ ideals to our spiritually-starved souls.

The ‘War miracle’ as well, though, cannot be overlooked; yet for what did those agrarian Judean ancestors of ours fight, if not to cleanse our land –G-d’s land— from the most objectionable of Greek ideologies and practices being shipped into Judea. This victory created a situation the Judeans had not known in their recent past, and have not known since—full autonomy in their own land.

This is going on too long, is it not? ..not my style…it is not without need of editing though..

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Apartheid Occupation


From purely historical perspectives (not overly coherent):

First of all, the Dutch and British had no "legitimate" reason to be in South Africa, and therefore had no right to conquer the land and greatly mistreat the natives. They weren't "persecuted" in Europe, they were just colonizers. The Americans say their Puritan founders came to the New World as a result of English persecution, but the reality is that few Puritans came. The majority were just money hungry Northern Europeans (around 60% of American "Whites" are of German decent by the way).

The Israelis are not colonizers, but rather were actually the victims of real persecution, who were just returning to their home they were unjustly evicted from. It could be in the long run the logic behind that can be found to be a bit faulty, but it is a much better excuse than any other colonizing nations have. (If anything America has stood far more guilty than any other colonizing nation; the only reason they aren't criticized is because they are THE power at hand (and because most of their native victims are far too dead to criticise American policies).

This, I feel, is analogous to the plight of the bastard; he has no legitimate place in the world because he was created by an action that had no "right" being performed. So too situations created as a result of unjust activities cause turmoil. The Judeans should never have been exiled from Judea, and the Jews should never have been forced out of the (European) Diaspora by the nations. But both injustices have occurred, and that creates the unanswerable situation of us and the Native Arab people living in the same place (though honestly, such conflicts arise anyway between borders of rival states, but not to this degree).
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[I know, I know, I've restated points like these on this blog a million times already, I feel like Arafat talking to the UN! Whatever, another few times wouldn't hurt anyone!]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Only Di 'Lomo...

...smashes his head by biking directly into a gate..(may even need a bit of stitching)..

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fashion

Just one more thing!- It's unfortunate that the modes of dress for women (in the West) today have been influenced by fashion standards that see looking "sexy" as an ideal. For what is "sexy"? "Someone you'd consider having sex with"? Someone "sexable" (i.e. someone who embodies 'sex')? Is that at all any standard to be basing influences in dress?

Arab. Dress.

Oral Hygiene

יצה"ר בא לו לאדם בטענות שוא, והגיון שגוי. תמיד אומר הוא לו על כל מצוה או מעשה טוב כי קיימת אפשרות לעשותו "מחר" ו"מחר". כנגדו בא הלל ואומר "אם לא עכשיו אימתי?" י

ועוד בא לו יצה"ר לאדם בטענה שמעשים אשר יועילו לאדם לשמור על גופו באופן תקין וסביר לאורך זמן מומלצים, אבל אינם בגדר "מעשה טוב" או "מצוה". כנגדו בא הלל ואומר לגבי הליכתו למרחץ "הולך אני לגמול חסד לגופי". י

The 00's

There have been many decades in America (and the world for that matter) that were representative of certain eras and movements. The 'roaring twenties', the 'war years', the 'baby boom' and 'the 60's' for example. Sometimes I wonder what moods might one day become representative of the 00's (as in from 2000 to 2010). It is my opinion that this decade will stand out as one in which America has become more aware of Islam and the Middle East. It has also, therefore, inspired a much greater interest in religion in general than has been in previous decades.

[I should mention, by the way, that my mother has an opinion about 'decade movements' in America during the past century which I have adopted; it is her opinion that the movements we associate with certain decades really started during the second half of the decade. For example 'the 60's' as we know them, 'really' started in the late 60's. Therefore 'Islamic awareness' as well really started already by the late 90's.]

בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד אָרֶץ

The longer I am confronted with this existence that I have been placed within, the longer I perceive evidenced the notion that there is nary a worthwhile engagement, or even pastime, that does not require a reasonable amount of 'learning' (in a 'modification of behavior' sense) in order for them to be properly performed. We must learn to do everything. Even the most instinctual and base necessities of Man as food consumption, sexual intercourse or even sleep involve much training for if one is to become successful at them. How much more tutelage is required for things of worth, such as those that require University attendance, and that may be beneficial in finding employment. From properly hunting and gathering, to riding bicycles to studying Accounting, our world is a world of activities that require practice to perfect, and that also necessitate one to be well informed.

It has always been my opinion that people are far too accustomed to the way the universe and the world seem to have been constructed, that they do not usually ponder the fact that in the G-d-model our souls could have been placed in any number of situations to surround us. And one aspect of the one that was chosen is one which reflects an emphasis in education for the sake of action, and an ethic that we see G-d considers as important in His saying in the first chapter of the Bible "אשר ברא אלו"הים לעשות".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

..a few more theses


Hello there peoples (...I don't know, sometimes I get the feeling like I need to say hello. ..I mean, if someone is reading it, they should be told 'hello', no? ..whatever..).

In order that it shouldn't pass from my mind as it came: I have two opinions about yeshiva reforms (in this context), one academic and one structural. One I pondered about many years ago, and one only a few years ago. One theologically reasonable and one a bit more questionable in a theological sense.

Firstly- it is my opinion that yeshivas are very much limiting themselves in regards to the diversity of classes that could be taught in such an institution, and that could be considered 'Torah' (or not far from it). Now, Yeshiva University and Stern College obviously have diverse classes, as well as the Jewish Theological Seminary (among others which are not quite worth mentioning in this context), but they are not 'yeshivot' in that sense, but rather Jewish Universities. I mean a place with 100 per cent religious studies; a place for a child and student of the West to go and find solace from the unG-dly elements which wish to contaminate their soul (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is a good idea, but not really what I'm getting at here).

To-day, obviously, not much is taught in yeshivot outside of Talmud. If it is it's usually on a very 'fluffy' (if I may) level. But there is such a broad range of subjects that comprises 'Torah' in the most staunch sense. Aside from the Five Books of the Torah, the Prophets and the Holy Writings (and the myriads of ways they can be approached), there can also be Mishna 'for Mishna's sake' (outside the subjects of Talmud). The study of Tamlud itself can and should be greatly reformed in yeshivas in my opinion. But there is also the evolution of and differing opinions within the philosophical and ethical works of the Medieval Jewish scholars and those who followed them. Let us not forget the all-important subject of halakha- it itself has an infinitude of different venues one can take in it's study; one can study only the Rambam or only the Shulhan Arukh, or the latter with emphasis on different commentators (Mishna b'rurah and Yalkut Yosef for example), or an emphasis on their Talmudic basis. And then there is a subject which most would not consider part of a yeshiva curriculum, but I do; the study and analysis of all the millenia that comprise 'Jewish History', and the many lessons we must learn from it.

And yet till today, even us, the descendants of the Sepharadim (as well as the descendants of the Ashkenazim) choose to mimic the faulty academic system that existed in Eastern Europe before the destruction of those communities during the Second World War, instead of following in the ways of the Jews of Moorish Spain, who had in their institutions of learning a refreshing synthesis of Talmud and ethics, halakha and poetry, prayer and meditation.

Secondly- I also believe that yeshivot are harming themselves by not introducing a full credit system. By credit system I mean of course gaining college credits that are fully acceptable in a normal university. Now, while that aspect of the credit system does already exist in many places, what I am suggesting is being graded for these points by tests, proving ones retaining of knowledge in these subjects. Now, while there are many disadvantages to the 'test system', and many academic advantages to the system currently in force in yeshivot, still feel that only through testing and accrediting would the students be fully interested in the subject matter, and would it become a real class.

Of course I am not suggesting that every 'shiur' must be graded. Just the opposite; it should be stressed that the study in yeshiva is quite different than that of the University. We believe that just the very action of studying religious subjects itself is the fulfillment of a religious duty. And with grading, students might overlook this religious aspect. But grading must be, for without it the subjects would never be retained, or taken seriously enough. And even if one fails, they have still fulfilled their duty.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

מימרא דרבי יהודה בן תימא

Oh yes, another thing; a lad stopped me yesterday on the street(!) asking about the Mishna in Avot "יהודה בן תימא אומר הוי עז כנמר וכו וכו". I answered him in a very simplistic way, but after walking on I came to realize how little I understand that statement; what does it mean one should be "brazen", "light", "quick" and "strong" in G-dly service? It really shouldn't be over-simplified. Also: the end of his statement is "עז פנים לגהינם ובוש פנים לגן עדן" (but he just said "הוי עז כנמר")?

אלא שדבר זה נצרך לעיון

Here's something from Rav Menahem Mendel Schneerson I found discussing this (for the meantime).

Age

Aging- Ones friend at first, later becoming a suspected acquaintance, and ultimately an enemy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

..sorry, I just had to!

!בסליחה מכבודכם; I'm sorry to be posting something quite so inane, but; Man, this trippy video is, like, one of those things which is awesome when you've been chain-smoking marijuana(!), but otherwise is the kind of thing you're afraid will get stuck in your mind or something! ...למעשה I've always wondered what German bunnies did in their little caves!

(There's a better version, but it involves (female) dancers, so I wouldn't use it!)

For babysitter: The English Version of the song!

Thank G-d, at least the Mexican bunnies are still industrious! ; )

חן הבתולות

בעבר, בתקופות בהם היה הנייר יקר יותר, כשהיו מדפיסי הסידורים נתקלים בתופעה שבסופו של דבר דף או שניים היו מיותרים בסוף כריכת הסידור, היו מדפיסים באותם הדפים דבר קצר "לזכות את הרבים" (כגון ברכת המזון הקצר) בטענתם "כדי לא להשאיר את הדף ריקם". ..אף אני בדרכיהם אלך ו"לא אשאיר את הדף ריקם"!י; I've gotten into the habit of writing fairly often here (if one were to compare my current pace with that of last years, I seem to be writing a lot more). In recent days I've contemplated many things worth putting attention to, but, alas, they merrily skipped from my mind as they entered.. But anyway, this blog, for me, is not as much about fleeting ideas as it is about things that are on my mind for somewhat of a significant period. ...one reason not much has been on my mind is of course due to the half-term exams at my University, and my perpetual depression (which at times affects my creative faculties in a negative way)..

One thing that's been trodding about in my mind in various forms now and then the past few days is something which takes up a great place in my mind, but very little in my speech or actions- and that is the nature of the relationship between males and females in our society..

One thing that originally came to my mind was the ..lack of logic entailed in the enchantment men have for women, and the ..interest women have in men. ..I recall Avigdor Miller once mentioning "to a male rat there's nothing more beautiful than a female rat". ..what I mean to say is that we give such a large amount of our strength and energy seeking the favor of members of the opposite sex, while in the meantime they're no different from ourselves, and the only reason we find any attraction in them is solely because of a few chemicals that flow through our bodies. ..we all know that.. and yet we perch these people (of the 'other gender') in such a pedestal in our minds that we let our minds and actions be affected by them. ..I say this with a bit of wonder because I myself used to care much less about peoples opinions abut myself, and now there's a part of my mind that always thinks "what will [whoever] think". ...*sigh*
(It's been a few days since I actually thought this, and the message I'm trying to convey might be a bit vague)...

Another idea I aprehended while crossing my mind was that any possible notion of 'romance' that we might have is a creation of our minds (and yet, again, much thought and emotion are sacrificed to this creation of ours. But, like a malevolent god, it is never quite appeased). I once quoted here psychological research to prove the opposite, but I don't believe it.. ..the whole concept is obviously just an extension of our imaginations, mimicking what we've seen from the American Film and Television industries.. ....is it not?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

'Cause Sephardic girls are just hotter!

Man, this stuff is the sh-t! I know there've been many 'ביצועים' of this song, but you gotta' admit ain't nobody do 'שחרחורת' like Shlomo Bar! (..he looks really young in that video, no?)

I personally grew up with this stuff, but haven't heard this particular song in quite a while..I looked it up in Green Bay, but it seemed like at the time nobody downloaded that particular video to 'YouTube', but it seems like someone added it recently, ...and anyway I a) have nothing to post, and b) haven't posted a video in a while, so...

About the song: It turns out it's actually a Hebrew translation (same tune though) of an old Ladino folk 'Romance'. It was translated by משה אלימלך, and I suppose became part of Israeli Music in the 60's and 70's because of people like Esther Ofarim, and because there was somewhat of a Ashkenazi movement to 'beautify middle easternism'.

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שחרחורת - לדינו עממי

שחרחורת יקראוני צח היה עורי

ומלהט שמש קיץ בא לי שחורי

שחרחורת יפיפית כל כך

בעינייך אש בוערת ליבי כולו שלך

שחרחורת יקראוני כל יורדי הים

אם עוד פעם יקראוני שוב אלך איתם

שחרחורת יקראני בן לאב מוֹלך

אם עוד פעם יקראני אחריו אלך

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For the Babysitter!:

שיר השירים, פרק א

Song of Solomon, Chapter 1

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Two New Book Reviews

Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization's Greatest Minds

First off is a new book by Joel Kraemer about the Rambam; "Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization's Greatest Minds ". I looked through some of it and find it much more readable than, say, some of the books that were written about Maimonides early in the previous century. I mean first of all, that style is a bit stale, second of all a good book about Maimonides hasn't really come out in a little while. Not to mention this book is a lot better than the others because the author brings in a lot of the information about the rivalry and peer-environment that one of the greatest thinkers of Judaism lived in and around (..I obviously should like getting around to reading the whole thing).

The Rambam is one of the main people whom my thought pattern of Judaism is based on. That being so, it would be a good idea to find out as much about him and his motives as I can. For example, it seems like there were a few Spanish Jews in his time who converted to Islam, and even authored philosophical works about why Judaism became obsolete with the coming of Islam. ..reading those, and understanding what the Rambam wrote with that sort of backdrop in mind might prove interesting...
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All about the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America
OK, now this is one black guy I not only respect, but who I kind of even look to for rational opinions and judgments about things. And he, of course, is John McWhorter. I don't know what it is about him, but he seems to have extremely well thought out opinions about many of the realities of our times (aside from his illuminating research on language of course).

His new book "All about the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America", has somewhat to do with what I see as the potential for an "Obama phenomenon" in Black America. The phenomenon I'm envisioning is African Americans looking at Barack Obama, and at his success, and how he earned it, and see a new potential in 'normative' ways of gaining wealth and prestige, as opposed to the 'gangster oriented' way that's being preached so much in Black media today.

I was on a train recently, and in walked a large, muscular black man with a 'do-rag' on his head, who looked like he wanted to start some trouble. He sat down...took out his text book, and studiously plugged away at it, while referring to his notes at times, until his stop came. : ). I'm not saying that that's at all uncommon, but with Barack Obama as a role model for American 'Blacks', that image might become a formidable opponent to the 'gangster' definition of what's cool in Black America.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Green Grass...

.דבר ידוע שאהובה את שאינו בהשג. שנאמר "וְעֵינֵי כְסִיל בִּקְצֵה-אָרֶץ" (משלי) י

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ברוך אובמה


And for G-ds sake people!- Obama isn't Hitler, ok?! Nothing much can really be changed from the White House in the American system anyway. ...the Jews are still just wary from the Holocaust I guess..
I mean look, now he took Rahm Emanuel to be his Chief of Staff (Jewish lobbying is back baby! Yes ladies and gentlemen; four more years of killing and plundering innocent Palestinian men, women and children, while deying the humanitarian right for a Palestinian state!).
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I wanted to mention that his speeches, especially his 'yes we can' ones (the victory speech for example) are of the same refrain as some of our ancient prayers, such as "הודו לה כי טוב- כי לעולם חסדו".
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And one other thing! One reason I'm happy Obama won is because he's a tall thin guy, who's not black, and not white. Which makes people like me (tall thinguys who aren' black or what) more acceptable in the eyes of the American public!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

ק ברכות

I know this is a comparatively trivial point, but I was just doing a little count of how the 'brakhot' we say really add up to 100 every day (it says in the Talmud you should say 100 brakhot every day..the Rambam in hil. Tefilah 7:14 counts them up..but this is the only time I really did it of my own accord):

21-ברכות השחר
57-תפילת ה"עמידה" שלוש פעמים ביום
2-ברכת טלית ותפילין
7-ברכות ק"ש שחרית וערבית
1-ק"ש שעל המיטה
1-ברוך מקדש שמו
2-ברכת "אשר יצר" לפחות פעמיים ליום
4-ברכת המזון
5-ולפחות שלוש ברכות ראשונות ושתי ברכות אחרונות על מיני אוכלים

So we see if one just actually says the minimum prayers that must be said, and a few of the regular blessings throughout the day it usually comes to a hundred anyway. But still, it's good to be at least somewhat conscious of it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

גדולים וקטנים

Sometimes I ponder how it's sort of interesting how all different kinds of people are living in the same world, and the same time..and sometimes in the same place..

Take the "פני יהושוע" for example (Jacob Joshua Falk), one of the most popular Talmudic commentators of the early acharonim period, and someone very suspect for being perceived as living in some sort of vacum, was a contemporary, for example, of (Gottfried) Leibniz (I know, not the most shocking thing in the world, but not often thought of). In fact, it turns out that "the pne yehoshua" was kicked out of a Rabbinical post in Berlin (during only his third year there) because he displeased 'Veitel-Heine Ephraim' by making a judgment against him. And this Ephraim guy is the same dude who was in charge of depreciating the Prussian currency during the Seven Years' War.

The same time Yisrael Meir Kagan ("the חפץ חיים") was putting together a yeshiva in Raduń, Linclon was "freeing the slaves" in America. When he died things like the Hindenburg were flying around Germany (there's actually a brand new 'Zeppelin' blimp starting flights in California right now- the height of innovation!).

And the "שונה הלכות", or the "דרך אמונה" (works by Chaim Kanievsky that might one day be named after him) and the "יחוה דעת" (Ovadia Yosef) are living not far from Shiri Maimon(!), and in the same world as Paris Hilton! ..I don't know why, I just think that's a little funny!

There are obviously infinitely more examples than these, but you get the picture...

(By the way, the links are in case someone doesn't know what the hell I'm talking about.)

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And while I'm already mentioning European conlficts of the last couple of centuries I want to mention that I think it's ironic that the Western Europeans and their descendants make light of the struggle over the future of "دار الإسلام " ('dar al-Islam') taking place on many fronts today, by asking "how anyone in todays' modern world could act so barbaric?". While in the meantime their own ('enlightened', European) conflicts of the past few centuries were only about money and power- and the only reason they're not fighting now is because they've lost all they had!

Monday, October 27, 2008

הערותיו של יעקוב שטיין על הפרשה

Also: If you would like, see Jacob Steins' blog this week for some novel ideas in an attempt to prove the possibility of the events recorded in Genesis 6-8 as having occurred in reality.
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It seems his positions were challanged by "Wolfish Musings" and "Frum Heretic" (citing the book "Before the Flood: The Biblical Flood as a Real Event and How It Changed the Course of Civilization" as being the most logical approach to things. I gotta look into that).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

תורה ודעת

One realization I just came to (although it's really quite obvious), which is the kind of thing I would have expected to be mentioned in "Jews G-d and History", is that it seems one of the reasons Jews have risen to prominence in the countries they have reached is due to the Talmud. What is usually mentioned though, is that the reason for this is that their minds were sharpened in the sharp, penetrating and analytical arguments and give-and-takes of the Talmud. One thing I think worth considering though, is that their minds were undoubtedly sharpened by the breadth of subject matter that the laws of the Mishna and the Talmud cover as well.

This thought came to me as I was involved in reading Mishna, Tractate Kilayim (though the same is true for any other tractate, and definitely for the Talmud); one must have a firm grounding in botony if one is to ever fully comprehend the underlying principles of that tractate, as well as for parts of Tractate Berakhot and other tractates. But then again, one must be proficient in the realities of real estate interactions to fully comprehend the principles behind Tractate Bava Batra (of Nezikin). One too must have a firm grip on mathematics and geometry for one to understand the more technical discussions in parts of the Talmud.

Even today; one cannot come to a decision about whether pasteurized grape juice if fitting for the blessing recited upon wine if one does not comprehend the physical and chemical reality of pasteurization. And so on and so fourth, with all the laws. The 'artist' must know what is going on on 'Wall street'. The 'banker' has to know what is happening in the 'art world'.

Therefore one must have a great storehouse of many different branches of wisdom in order to understand 'The Torah'. But for these studies the knowledge one gains in the process is not mundane- for it being a means to understand G-d's word sanctifies it to a level of purpose and import that it otherwise would not have had.

And in my mind, it is this 'worldliness' that the Mishna and Talmud (not to mention The Tanakh) afford the Jew that has made him intellectually a step above the rest, and has given him prominence in the countries he has travelled.

(Sorry about having so many pictures- I just couldn't part with them!)

[לאפוקי מדעת המתנגדים לעיון ב"ספרים חיצונים", וסוברים דכל מה שאפשר לדעת כבר נמצא בתורה]

Friday, October 24, 2008

תזכורת

הינו דבר ידוע, אבל נצרך להזכרה, שכפרת יום הכיפורים וקבלת הא"לוהים את תשובתו של האדם ביום ההוא תלויים ממש בשינוי מעשיו היום-יומיים של האדם מרעה לטובה, ובשיעור עמדתו נגד לחץ ניסיון הרגלו. י

יהי רצון שנזכה להתגבר על יצרינו בכל יום תמיד אמן! י

Monday, October 20, 2008

מתנוצץ, גדל, פורח ועולה בי השקפת עתיד חשוך יותר משהיה לי אי-פעם.י

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Discipline

In my mind it is clear that at least one of the lessons of the Divine laws restricting certain types of eating on פסח and סוכות (i.e. eating only unleavened bread/bread products on פסח, and not eating meals outside of a סוכה on סוכות, and the ensuing inconviniences in eating they create) is general self-discipline.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The President

[Well, this is a bit risky for a post, but ..I feel like.. I must..]

My father has a very ..different..way to say things in English than most people. ..in fact not only have I never heard the type of pronunciation of English he has anywhere else, I've never heard a lexicon like his, or word-usages such as his elsewhere. ..for example(!): For some reason(?) every time he has to use the restroom he tells everyone "I have to go see George Bush" (well, that's what he's been saying the past eight years anyway..). When looking for reading material to take in he says "I can't go in without my files"(!) etc...
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I happened to be passing the Waldorf hotel tonight just when I was frantically looking for a restroom, and I saw all the Television film crews, so in passing I asked them what was going on. They informed me that presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama were attending a dinner there (they were just leaving actually. I saw McCain!). But I was in such a hurry I told him "who cares about McCain or Obama, I have to see George Bush!

..I didn't really tell them, but, ; )

(Cardinal Edward Egan was also there, ..he asked me if I was doing anything tonight, but he lost interest when I told him I'm not Catholic..).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Succot supporting naturalistic lifestyle

I haven't given it much thought yet, but it obviously seems the Commandments of סוכות have (beyond the sense of being transient) some preference to 'naturalistic' sort of ideals (which needs looking into. i.e.- סכך that is not a plant is מקבל טומאה.. It has to be disconnected.. ארבעת המינים have to be fresh.. ניסוך המים has to come from a stream.. יום חיבוט ערבה במקדש..etc...).

Monday, October 13, 2008

צילא דמהימנותא


Well, we got our Succah up (wasn't too difficult, being that it's principles of engineering were the same as those of Lego(!)), and what is perhaps my most beloved holiday begins tonight. I always liked Succot more than others holidays because there are just so many interesting actions and thoughts to ponder, and in my opinion the main purpose for the commandment of these actions is to cause one to ponder.

So ponder I shall! One particular nuance that I enjoy reminding myself of, and one that I think plays a central role in this festival, is what some of the sixteenth century Kabalists said about the Succah; that it is a holy place due to the fact that in a kabalistic sense the aura of G-d (שכינה) is there, and therefore one's level of respect and awe while in the Succah should be the same as it would in a place of worship (דינה כדין בית הכנסת). A 'Succah' (דבר שמסכך) is defined only by the 'סכך' itself (by the 'shade' itself). It is defined as being under the shade and protection of this temporary roof, commemorating G-d's protecting cover over our ancestors in the wilderness, and known in kabalah as 'צילא דמהימנותא' (the shade of belief').

But then again, we know that that which it says in the Torah "בסוכות תשבו שבעת ימים" means that one should live in the Succah as one lives in their house. The Mishna and the Talmud explain that every aspect of living should be transferred to the Succah, from eating to drinking to sleeping! From enjoying one's idle time in good conversation to writing blog posts using the neighbors wi-fi (well, the Gemara didn't actually mention that, but..)!

So we therefore are faced with a paradox of sorts; one the one hand we have the injunction to live in the Succah in the most mundane of ways, being instructed to bring all of our daily squalor into the Succah, and on the other hand we have this idea that one must be in the same awe of the place (due to G-d's presence there) as we would in a house of prayer (it's known for example that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn didn't feel comfortable sleeping in his Succah at all due to it's holiness)-?-

But that itself is obviously the lesson. That after seven days of feeling that "well, I can't fully 'let my hair down here because 'G-d is here' ", we then return to our actual bedrooms. And the obvious dawns on us; is G-d not also present in my bedroom?!
I was once by the kotel (I was doing that whole '40 day thing' once) and on Shabbat, a not religious guy asked me what I thought was a legitimate question; isn't praying by the kotel a type of idol worship? I thought the question was "how can we say G-d is in the Temple as opposed to other places?", but I soon realized he didn't know there was ever a Jewish Tmple there, and thought everyone was praying to the wall (*sigh*, Israeli public schools!). But in essence it's a good question; how can we suppose G-d was 'more' in the beit hamikdash than outside of it? Without all the discussion, one answer is "He isn't! It's all about our perception of it!

Which also reminds me of all the times I have had to sleep in Synagogues; I would say to myself "I'm so self-conscious now- then why not when I sleep in a bed?" Is G-d not as 'present' in the Succah as in the bedroom?! In the house of worship as in the night club?! Before a Rabbi as before a comedian?! By the Kotel as on Ben Yehudah st.?! We have to reshape some perceptions, friends, as we sit 'בצילא דמהימנותא'.

חג שמח

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

לכפור בכפיית כופר הכפרות


A bit of Background:

There were two men who lived in the same era, knew each other and one's son even married the other's daughter. They both had very strong influences on the Jewish people, but they took different perspectives based on their differing traditions, backgrounds and leanings.

I'm discussing of course the 'Beit Yosef' (Joseph Caro) and the Ari(za"l)(Isaac Luria). Just one example out of quite a few is that which the Jews take for themselves an 'atonement' in chickens (or money..or plants(?)) on the eve of the day of Atonement. They both were raised seeing this phenomenon. Rabbi Caro, in following the tradition of many of the Spanish halakhist scholars, did not even omit this practice (which would be expected) but frowned heavily upon it in his 'Shulkhan Arukh'. Rabbi Luria, in the tradition of the European Rabbis (a community from which he descended), and based on 'great hidden meaning' associated with it, not only encouraged, but added stringencies and guidelines in the practice of this 'taking of chickens'.

We (Jews of the Orient) have been directed to follow the halakhic guidelines of Rabbi Caro (as opposed to his contemporaries or those who came after him who might argue), but in this case his words are abandoned by even the most Oriental Jew in preference to the teachings of his contemporaries, or those that came after him.

There's much more to it than that, but that's what I feel is really the main point, and all I wish to mention on that note at the moment.

My Perspective:

Well, unfortunately abandoning many an injunction -as those I just discussed-, and relying on the rulings of the more contemporary Rabbinic leaders, I personally prefer to indulge in the practice of 'kaparot' before yom kippur when it makes itself available to me. I see in it a reasonable amount of psychological and ethical significance, for the entirety of the process is of acute irony for a sound mind; a bird is taken, a white chicken who has obviously very few 'sins' to atone for, if any, as it stands. We then proceed to declare upon the chicken that it is "in our place", "our redemption", our "atonement", and then kill it, feeling that some level of our 'responsibility' has been transferred to the chicken. On face value it obviously seems a bit absurd, but this is the essence of the sacred sacrificial ceremony performed in the Temple in Jerusalem (which is one of the main reasons many opposed it).
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To me this utter irony is the most important aspect of the whole process; it is invariably us who should "לשחיטה ילך", and the chickens who should be going "לחיים טובים ולשלום", and yet we're changing this preferable arrangement so that we should feel we must run back in protest, exclaiming that an error has mistakenly occurred; "we should stay and the chickens should go home"!
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...I feel bad writing about such an insignificant issue though, on the eve of this ever-important day...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

נהנה ומצתער

My mother made an interesting statement last week:

"Pain is the extention of pleasure"

(..in regards to nerve endings at least...but it can be found true for other kinds of pain and pleasure as well...)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Journal Idea

As an even deeper revelation into myself: I just finished going through Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" (actually at the advice of my mother, being that I've often been "down and out" in weird places). It did actually make me somewhat reminisent of some of my past experiences.. which kind of got me thinking- I should write about some of my experiences (experiences that usually end up omitted from this blog even if they occured while I've had it up, being that I cannot usually be found by a computer at those times, and don't feel to write about them later), for at least my own reading- lest I totally forget them in the future (I'm quite forgetful). But then again, making a blog of them would be questionable, being that every blog I've tried to write besides this one has ended in utter disuse (for some reason I 'create' them, but never 'get around' to writing in them). (?) ...representative of my life; lost potential! ברכה לבטלה!

About ראש השנה

I can't beleive it, I just posted about not taking Rosh Hashana too lightly, and there I was on Rosh Hashana; looking to put together enough money to put up hotels on Illinois and Indiana ave's, and trying to sell Boardwalk for triple it's price (in other words; playing 'Monopoly'! ...we spent the חג by my (now married) brothers' new place in Queens. ..he was set on playing Monopoly..?).

Monday, September 29, 2008

לעמל יולד

If repetition is hated by Man, then how much more so is it hated by G-d when Man is in perpetual folly.

לפום גמלא שחנא תנן. י

ריש שתא טבתא לכולי עלמא. ( : י

Sunday, September 28, 2008

מורא

זה שאמרנו שמכבסין ומסתפרים בער"ה (תקפא-ד), ועליו אומרים "להראות שאנו בטוחין בחסדו יתברך שיוציא לצדק משפטינו", אינו בא להגיד שר"ה חג ככל החגים (ח"ו), ושלא (ח"ו) כמו שעושים כמה אנשים קלות-ראש יתירה בסימנים. אלא אדרבא- זה שאנו מלובשים בבגדי החג וכו, נעשה לטעם מסויים, ואינו בא לשנות בכלל את מהות היום, שהיא יראת יום הדין ממש. והדברים פשוטים, ואין צורך באמירתם...י

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

תמליכו חברכם עליכם

Very concisely- there was a girl I went out with in Miami two years ago (someone who has been specifically mentioned here quite a few times), but who I wish to mention now in a different context) who ultimately felt I was lacking in certain elemental interpersonal traits. She wrote me an email of lessons and teachings for myself improvement upon the commencing of our short tenure together. I would like to quote a small piece of it and comment a bit- this is just a sampling of it:

"As a mother raises her child, she usually teaches him how to act. She lavishes him with care and in return demands/expects gratitude. All people need appreciation, usually more than “thank-you” but a genuine empathy and appreciation. Of course it is impossible to re-raise a grown person.

But a good exercise in learning to think this way could be to get in the habit of thinking about and vocalizing one nice thing about each person you meet.
At first it might seem forced or artificial but soon it will become a permanent habit in life.

Tell the bagboy at the grocery that you appreciate what a nice job he his doing for you.

Another important character trait is empathy. When you see another human being, think about what it is like to be them. What is it like to be the Janitor cleaning the bathrooms?

How can you improve his day?

What could you do to help make his job easier? after all, without the proper circumstances in life, you could spend YOUR life cleaning toilets. How would you like to be treated as you were cleaning toilets?

...So much so that we as Jews who were created in and should behave in a manner that is in accordance with Hashem’s image, should lavish kindness upon every person we meet, Jew, Gentile, brilliant or retarded. And as we treat others, Hashem judges and treats us. This is just basic Judaism.

...Observing that someone is serving you and getting up to help is along the same vein. Not just in a home, but even in a restaurant."

I was thinking last night (in Starbucks Coffee) when my thank you was a bit lacking to the one who made the coffee for me about what it says here- namely that even a thank you is not good enough, you have to 1. Really feel that he's doing you an unnecessary favor that you don't deserve, and 2. You have to make him feel appreciated.I was thinking, that when it says "תמליכו חברכם עליכם", does that mean just to people who are older than you? Just to Rabbis? Just to Jews? It means everybody. Would a king make you coffee? Well he is! The least you can do is be thankful for it!

Another thing that came to my mind was that when I worked in a restaurant there were obviously people who said things that made me happier than others. I personally enjoyed when people were playful, but it's hard to say everyone enjoys that. One thing I think most people enjoy is (like I said) to seem very appreciative of the service being done. Now, of course there's no need to be gay about it (I use "gay" to mean "overly nice", or unusually friendly), but I was thinking you can say something like "oh man! You're a lifesaver!", or "ahh, this is really good! You da man!", or something along those lines (of course the exact wording would have to change based on apparent "cultural preferences"/gender of the person serving you).

But then again, it must be stated that people have vastly differing personalities, and different people are more or less comfortable saying certain things, and different people are more or less happy to hear certain things. Example: the girl I'm speaking of lived in an upscale part of Miami where there was a guarded gate at the entrance. She smiled and waved at the guard every time she came in our out (in her car). I on the other hand don't feel I would really have the 'audacity' to do that kind of thing every time (not to mention the 'gay-ness' involved!).

So I still don't think it's a set science how you should act or what you should tell 'service providers', but as long as one sticks to the guidelines initially laid out, it would be well-alright.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

עיטוש

Man, my chest bruises are getting better, but my chest anyway was one of my most frail and sensitive parts (I was born with a hole in my heart for example...or so I was told רחמנא לשיזבן), but now I've even got a cold because of the change in seasons...so I'm coughing and sneezing all the time now. But every time I sneeze (even when I hold it in-which I've obviously had to start learning to do recentely..although I almost never did in the past-it's a Moroccan thing!), it feels like a bomb is going off in my chest! ..but it's getting better!

...why am I mentioning this here again..? Oh yes, because I can! ; )

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

ציצית

י"ל דאפילו למאני דלא סברי דמצוה ללבוש ציצית כל היום כדברי האר"י, היכא דשכיח הזקא יש ללובשם קודם שילך בדרך משום שמירה. י

Sunday, September 14, 2008

101- New f--king post already- yay!


Finally, a new post! Well, aside from my summer, I had something fairly interesting happen to me (which I believe is actually a 'mitzva' to discuss in public to some extent). I bought a car in Green Bay with the intention of driving it to New York (with a stop for Shabbat in Cincinnati by my uncle). ...only problem is I'm not the best driver.. Anyway, I had already driven most of the way pretty quickly and successfully, and then 10 minutes out of Cincinnati, on a downhill sharp turn (not to mention the roads were slippery because it was heavily raining) I see a (stopped) car in front of me stretched out sideways blocking my lane! So I had to take a sharp turn to maneuver around it, but I lost control hit another car, and slammed into the rail. But it wasn't so bad! ..but then I realized my car didn't stop yet! It turned around again then slammed head on into the wall. But thank G-d, for he protected me and those around me, for besides some heavy chest bruises I left unscathed, and so did the girl in the car blocking me (who initially lost control there), as well as the woman I hit, and another woman who crashed after me! I tried to introduce G-d's name to them (who were most likely believers) when they were all talking together I said "let's thank G-d none of us got hurt".
הודו לה כי טוב- כי לעולם חסדו
ברוך הגומל לחייבים-טובות, שגמלני כל טוב

Ultimately my insurance just has to pay the lady and I'm hoping I can get some money out of the girls insurance company for causing my crash. But I should also be very thankful that not only did the police there not put me in jail for driving without a license, they even drove me into the city. Once there I ordered a taxi, and the one I found was very interesting; some attractive young 'black' woman who covered her hair and closely affiliated herself and her kids with some form of Judaism. In fact her name was 'Yocheved', her son was 'misha-el', daughter- 'yerusha-ya', son- 'el-hanan'. Very cool. But she did say the recently she has been attracted to a form of religion that feels that the main objective is to keep true at least to what seems proper for us according what is manifest in nature (I told her she might find some form of theological backing in the works of Spinoza...I don't know if that's true! ..but..whatever).

So it was too bad losing the car I just got..but I'm very happy to be OK coming out of such a forceful collision, and happy I have wi-fi Internet connection here in the Dayton airport!
עוד חזון להינתן- בחסדי הא"ל הנותן

Thursday, July 10, 2008

100th Post- ומצליח

Well, I started this blog a little before I went to Orlando (to work as a Mashgiach), and here I am again, at the 100th post going off again, this time to the Green Bay (Wisconsin) meat plant to work as a Mashgiach.

..I don't know, I guess it's so easy for me to go be alone in strange places for long periods of time 1. Because I'm naturally a loner! 2. Because I haven't really got anything keeping me in Brooklyn, and 3. Because I'm a travel addict...

..to be honest I always tried to use travel as a way of recharging my "spiritual batteries", and of starting things anew, from a new perspective. ..to be honest, many a time it did work pretty well(!), but I should have definitely have come back to New York and got settled down quite a while ago...I was just always afraid of lowering my spirituality by leaving "the yeshiva".. Well, too late now..

As an aside: I went to Ari Nestlebaums wedding tonight! Yay! We haven't really 'chilled' in quite a while though...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

שתי ספקות



ספקות אלו וכיוצא בהם, לא שבאמת תלויים בלא תשובה, אלא שצריכים עיון חדש, מבחינת ראייה חדשה. י

ספק ראשון(1)- כתוב באבות "עשה לך רב והסתלק מן הספק", אבל איך אפשר לסמוך במילי דארעא על בשר ודם, אשר איננו יכולים ליבחן מה הולך בין שבילי רעיוניו ודרכיו, או לוודא שכנים דעותיו (בפרט ש"כשם שפרצופיהם אינם דומים, כך דעותיהם אינם דומים")? י

ספק שני(2)- כתוב בסוף מיכה "והצנע לכת עם אלו-הך", אבל מובן שמוסב על האישיות והתנהגות המעשית של האדם, אם כן איך היינו מתרגמים את הפסוק הזה לענין צניעות בביגוד- ובפרט ביומנו, שהשתנו המזגים בענינים האלו. י
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(1) הספק הראשון נתעוררה אצלי כתגובה אל מה שכתבה הצברית (שאגב אינה צברית באמת) בבלוג שלה על ספר חדש על הרבי מחב"ד שהיה לפני האחרון, והתרשמותו עליה. בין היתר כתבה שקצת היה מוזר בעיניה ש"הרבי הרגיש פחד", אבל בסופו של דבר עשתה שלום עם תשתעבדותה אל ה"רבי" בכותבה ש"לא ניתנה התורה למלאכי השרת", ושזה מוכיח על היות הרבי "בר-נש" כמונו. בעוברי בין שוריה לא יכולתי בקלות לכסות על אי-נוחותי עם אמונתם התמים-תמימה של חסידי חב"ד אל רבם. י

(2) הספק השני נתעורר אצלי כי בכלל ימי הקיץ באים עלינו,ואיתם כל מחלוקות ה"אורתודוקסיים" וה"מסורתיים" וכיוצא בהם בסוגיא של הצניעות אצל קהילתינו הקדושה מתפרץ עוד הפעם. הייתי מסכים שדברים כמו פריסת רגלים באשה, וכיסוי שערה יסודם בהררי קודש בתלמוד, אבל איך אפשר לבסס את ההגדרות הכלליות של הצניעות ככיסוי חלקים העליונים של הזרועות והרגלים בפסוק הזה לחוד? י

Also: comments about whether the pictures spoil or enhance the effect would be appreciated.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Un-overlook-able family events: Brothers wedding and sheva brakhot


Well, it's mostly over now- the festivities of the marriage of my brother...as for some of my personal experiences of it (as I see them now, a few days later) that will be the topic of my writing:

Well, the wedding was a nice wedding, there were though a few flaws; like the fact that me and my half sister, as well as the brides brothers weren't really sure when or in what way to 'walk down the aisle', partially because not only was there no preparation of it beforehand, there was no talk of it. Another thing that is unfortunately spoken of little, not only by the wedding of my brother, but by any wedding for that matter is 1. hilkhot kiddushin before doing it, 2. hilkhot k'tubot and the requirements of the spouses to one another (among other things), hopefully I'll have more time to read that kind of stuff if and when I get married. Another flaw would have been that my brothers wife seemed to have filled all her tables with friends quite nicely, while my brother left a good few tables totally unoccupied (and my brother is quite liked by people...in that case I think, it would be a struggle to fill but one table at my own wedding!

My (religious- mostly young) cousins came in from Cincinnati (though my (irreligious- mostly older) cousins from New York did not). I was happy there were able to attend this religious event as opposed to the last time they came to New York, where they had to attend a wedding of said irreligious cousins. I got to speak to them a bit by the meals on Shabbat, though not all that much- I feel bad because I always seem to be a bit deprived of socialization with them before they have to go again. A short summation of them:

[David- Five years of age. Quite the agreeable lad. Quite intelligent too..

Yonatan- Of nine years. Was a wild little one the last time I saw him (as well as the times before that), though now he seems much more 'tamed', and much brighter than last I saw him.

Naomi- Of eleven (almost twelve) years of age. To me one of the more interesting ones, being that she is in the middle between two boys younger than her, and two girls older than her, who in all likeliness probably tries to socialize with the girls more but always ends up with the boys, due to her unusually petite size for her age (she's shorter than her nine year old brother). ..though in essence her siblings would be considered 'large' for their age, in comparison with the average Ashkenazi Jewish Americans..

Adina- Fourteen years old. Second to oldest, though much more extroverted than the oldest one (the opposite situation existed with me and my older brother). I noticed on Shabbat that she really does have quite a stereotypical old-time Moroccan girl appearance. Her personality makes her presence fun and exiting for those around her.

Michelle- Sixteen(?). Oldest. I suppose that makes her very responsible, but not necessarily overly outgoing...but not introverted either..we were lucky to have her because she seems to being going on an NCSY trip to Israel quite soon.]

We all had the sheva brachot in Queens (the place where my brothers wife has lived for many years, and the place of their new apartment). There were many people, but no doubt 90% of them were from her side of the social spectrum. One thing I felt bad about was that I was meant to give a 'dvar torah' by seudah shlishit but my brother never showed (I stayed up all afternoon preparing it- I wasn't expecting to speak any time, so I had nothing prepared from beforehand...and I had to stay up with my cousins for the first half of the afternoon). I ended up giving it by a brunch the next day, but I partly forgot it, it was unexpected, and there were many more people who were more spread out which created a great challenge for my naturally quite weak voice (I was actually taken aback a bit when my brothers wife spoke after me, and her voice is 50 times louder than mine, with 50 times less effort from her).

[Just the basic idea of what I was trying to say, in Hebrew:]

וכה תורף דברי: חזינן בכמה דוכתי בתורה איסורי ביאה עם ישראלית כגון "לא יבוא עמוני ומואבי בקהל ה" ו"לא יבוא ממזר בקהל ה", ופירש"י "לא יבוא בקהל ה" היינו "לא ישא ישראלית". אז ראינו שהנושא ישראלית נקרא "בא בקהל ה". ובדברי קבלה כתוב "נאום ה אהיה להם לאלו"הים לכל משפחות ישראל","לאיש ישראל" לא נאמר, אלא לכל "משפחות" ישראל. ופירוש "משפחה" הוא לכל הפחות איש ואישתו". י

אם כן פשוט הוא ששכינה שורה אצל הנשוי, לסיבה זאת מצווים אנו לשמח חתן וכלה, כי הרי כתיב "אין השכינה שורה אלא מתוך שמחה". גם ידעינן דשמו של הקב"ה שלום. אם כן חובה על הנשוי אשה להרבות בשלום, שיהיו שניהם כגוף אחד, שלם, ולא להיחלק ע"י המחלוקת כלל וכלל. י

אבל הרי איפה כתוב בשלהי פרשת השבוע "על כן יאמר בספר מלחמות ה, את והב בסופה, ואת הנחלים ארנון", ופירשו רבותינו בקידושין (לא:) "אפילו האב ובנו והרב ותלמידו שרבים על דברי תורה, אינם זזים משם עד שנעשו אוהבים זה לזה דכתיב את והב בסופה- אל תקרי בסופה אלא בסופה". אם כן ראינו שהמחלוקת לא רק שהיא אינה נאסרת לגמרי, אלא שיש בידה לחזק הדידידות- אז השאלה פשוטה: איזה מין מחלוקת מביאה לידי אהבה? י

הוי אומר מחלוקת רבי יוחנן וריש לקיש, דכתיב בהו דכד הוה נח נפשיה דריש לקיש התאבל רבי יוחנן ואמר בכולא זמנא דאמרנן שמעתתא קמיה דריש לקיש הוה מקשיה עלי כ"ד קושיות. למה אהב רבי יוחנן את קושיותיו של ריש לקיש? שעל ידם זכה לראות את הדברים בפנים חדשות. י

שלום בא כששני בני הזוג יכולים לראות את הדברים כמו שנראים לצד השני ממש. אני בעניי הייתי מפרש "שלום" לאופן מעשי- "לסבול בעין יפה מה שמובן כאי-צדק". כי הרי אנשי צדק אנו בטבענו, ומצטערים רבות על חסרונה. אבל לא כולנו רואים את העולם בסאספקלריה אחת: לפעמים אחד מבני הזוג רוצה או מבקש דבר הנראה לשני כאי-צדק מוחלט, אבל החכמה הוא לראות תמיד את הדברים כפי שנראים בעיני השני. והדברים כה פשוטים שאין צורך באמירתם- אבל הלוואי שנזכה לזה- אמן. י

I found I got sort of inwardly depressed after a while. I think the reason was that 1. That's partly just what happens to me after a while of viewing so much merriment, 2. The 'dvar torah' incident, 3. The fact that all those people I liked being with left so abruptly, and 4. 'Big issues' at the job I'm at..

ועוד חזון למועד

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

השם- ב "ה" הידיעה

מסופקני באומר "השם" בכוונה עליו יתברך, בתפילות קצרות ובקשות, אם נחשב שנאמר כלפי השם. י

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fat Black Girls

I appreciate everything G-d does and has done for me, I just think it's a little...funny..that for the past year every job I had involved me working under some dark, aggressive, control freak girl, who, if I don't obey and impress, might get me fired; last summer in LA it was a short Iranian-Californian girl, this winter it was a half black/half Jewish(?) girl who was twice my size, and now it's an actual fat black girl from Queens- kind of like "Jen" from the "Hell's Kitchen" television series but times 5!

....I see one thing that has pissed people off about me in general has always been that I tend to respond to criticisms while smiling...I don't know why...probably some 'deep psychological thing'...but, I can't help it...

Is anyone else following 'Hell's Kitchen' by the way? They're down to the last two, so exiting! ..It's honestly the first TV series I've followed since I was fourteen! ....some things I did find a bit unbelievable though...mostly that they kicked out Ben and Bobby and kept Matt and Rosanne for so long...especially Matt!..

...watching it actually reminds me of my time in Orlando; the 'quiet-build up-climax-anticlimax' sequence; the stress, the rush, the pleasure of having a proper dinner service...not too many other jobs are so fulfilling and so much fun...I also had pretty good relationships with the people there..(except the bosses of course..but they left a lot, so..). I can honestly say that the relationship I had with the waitress was by far the best I've had with any female (though she was Catholic and from Honduras..). After spending the days with her I looked at the 'JAP' ("Jewish American Princess") type girls who showed up there sometimes and thought "I have to end up marrying a girl like one of these snobby, whiny, pampered Jewish girls?!"...but Jewish girls are obviously far from all the same...

Man, I've gone on a lot about myself here! A little unlike me....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Aggressiveness" in dating


צ"ע

By April Masini- Featured on the 'Yahoo' homepage:

"Have you suffered from hearing the words, "You're a really nice guy, but I only like you as a friend," from a woman who you would do (or may, in fact, have already done) just about anything and everything for -- only to turn around and watch her date (or even chase) a guy who treats her like she's nothing special?...

First, "nice" equates with boring and predictable. Look up "nice" in the dictionary and you find: pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory. In other words, average -- not exceptional, not exciting, and not sexy....

To illustrate what I mean: The answer to the question, "Why does the guy who doesn't appear to care as much about the girl get the girl?" is simple: The nice guy cares too much, too soon. He has made the woman too important and too valuable and it shows in everything he says and does. He is too available, too eager to please, too accommodating, and he gives too much -- all without getting anything in return. By doing so, he has made himself appear desperate, insecure, needy of this woman's attention, affection, and approval -- and he has stripped himself of any value in her eyes...

It works like this: Once you need something, or you want it too badly, you forfeit your strength and lose all power of negotiation. You are in a position of weakness and you are perceived as weak..

Translation: Things that are easily acquired, obtained, or maintained, without any effort or sacrifice, lack value... it's human nature.

The secret to why the cocky guy wins with women, over the nice guy, is that he is perceived as being a stronger, more confident guy with more value. How? He never invests everything -- his entire being, ego, and self-worth in what one woman's response or reaction to him is. He doesn't gush with compliments; he isn't always available; he doesn't give too much; and he knows he isn't going to die if a woman says "no" to him..."

הנני מצרף דברים אלו פה למען ישמעו החסרים במידות אלו- ויקחו מוסר...י

Friday, June 20, 2008

בעת ליל- רבי שלמה אבן גבירול

Well, I must say; I'm really starting to question di 'lomo's nocturnal orientation. Di 'lomo just started trying out a night-shift-office-job, and just after explaining how night jobs are a good thing for him- di 'lomo falls asleep a few hours in! ....ahh, what a 'lomo....
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Actually, once I'm talking about night, I wanted to print here the פויוט of one of the greatest Spanish פייטנים to share my name (רבי שלמה אבן גבירול) about something which I also feel passionately at times; night!


בעת ליל והשחק נקי כף--- והסהר טהור לבב וברו

נהגני עלי ארחי תבונות---והורני באור הגו והרו

וחמלתי בפחדי מתלאות---עלי אורו כאב על בן בכורו

ורוח שלחה בי מפרשי עב---תפרש על פני סהר אפרו

כאלו אותה זרם גשמים---ותשען לעב עד כי תקירו

ושחק העטה קדרות וסהר---כאלו מת והענן קברו

ובל אוחיל ידידי ואקוה---לאור סהר אשון חשך המירו

ואשקיף עת יגל פניו ואגיל---כגיל עבד אשר אדון זכרו

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Hallelujah" lyrics- Leonard Cohen

First time I checked them out- very spiritual, very emotional...but there's one line that I can't be sure about- but it seems like it's either talking about a 'spiritual relationship' or sex! Any ideas?

Some books on the Torah

Some books on the Torah I also saw that are worth taking interest in (that I didn't know of before)

- Torah Commentary for Our Times by Harvey J. Fields (and Giora Carmi).

- Understanding Genesis (The Heritage of Biblical Israel) by Nahum M. Sarna (...as well as the other books by Sarna).

[I also found Judaism And the Environment by Jeremy Benstein to seem in surprizing sync with Orthodox modes of thought, and found the books of (Lawrence) Schiffman on second temple times to be pretty extensive and worth looking into.]

Some Book Reviwes and Thoughts on Sefaradim

As usual, I 'reviewed' a number of books in my visit to 'Barnes and Noble', only this time I feel like writing about it..

I saw two books about Sefaradim, one called "Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th-20th Centuries by Esther Benbassa (the same lady who wrote "The Jews of France"). I don't see why she titled it 'Sephardi' Jewry- the whole thing concentrates on these somewhat obscure communities in the Balkans (and Turkey).

And then I checked out "Foundations of Sephardic Spirituality by Marc D. Angel (the Rav from the Spanish/Portuguese shul on 70th street). It was also just about Turkish Jews...and mostly from his own recollection, so...

One book I think is really good (which I took out from the library) and I'd recommend to anyone is "Ashkenazim and Sephardim: Their Relations, Differences, and Problems As Reflected in the Rabbinical Responsa by H. J. Zimmels. Very Rabbinically oriented. Very clear and concise. ..I mean like, you can use that as a 'מפתח' or 'מורה דרך' for תשובות הראשונים.
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About Sefardim actually (in that case) I wanted to lay out that I personally was never really so keen on the term Sefaradim- being that there is such a large amount of diversity in the group, it's very imprecise to give us all one homogeneous title. To me there are five very different and distinct groups divided by time and geography.

1. The first (ideological) group was obviously the Jews in Muslim Spain and the Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia area. 'תור הזהב בספרד'. i

2. The Jews who were expelled from Spain and went to other countries with Jewish communities on the Mediterranean. 'מגורשי ספרד בארצות האסלם'. i

3. The Jews who were in those Muslim counties the entire time (the Jews of Morocco, Alegia, Tunisia, Lybia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Greece, and Turkey) which pretty much culturally 'swallowed' the Spanish Jews after a while, though they (Spanish Jews) did leave a lot of their legacy. 'קהילות התושבים'. i

4. The Jews of the countries of the 'eastern block' of Muslim counties; Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan- who were never really racially or culturally influenced by Spanish Jews first hand. 'יהודי המזרח'. i

5. The Spanish Jews who ended up in Western or Christian states (like the Balkans Italy, England, Germany and the Americas).

And today all Sefaradim associate themselves with at least one one of these groups. For instance I personally take pride in the spiritual and literary accomplishments my ancestors made in Muslim Spain, but also feel much more at home among the Jews from Morocco than Jews from, say; Bulgaria...

..But yet we are all called Sefaradim! Example: Once in a camp I was teaching in, there were only two Sefaradim; me, and a guy who's father was from Afghanistan. Am I of the same cultural heritage of people from Afghanistan?!

Between each of these groups there were great halakhic and ideological differences (for example between the Spanish Jews and the Jews native the Muslim countries). Even within the groups there were differences (like the difference between the Spanish 'Kabalists' and 'Philosophists'). So....I'm personally fond of the term 'יהודים מארצות האסלם' for example.