Thursday, September 25, 2008

Foot in my mouth

Reading the Jpost article posted by Lion of Zion, I felt it necessary to relate this story. Last week, one of the girls who works in my school building comes to ask me a question, as she needs help with a school assignment. FYI, she is a really nice and black girl from Jamaica. Her assignment was to write a report on, in her opinion, which Jew had the most impact on Israeli culture (attending Touro, why Stillwell Ave gave this assignment I don't know). Now I have a blanket rule because I wear my yarmulke and want to keep in a friendly environment. My rule is I refuse to talk about politics or religion at work. I ask her stupidly on my part if she means Jews or Israeli's. What I was thinking was historic Jews vs. contemporary Jews, but it just came out like that. She asked me if there was a difference between an Israeli and a Jew. I carefully back tracked and said I didn't want to talk politics, and she knows my rule. She was respectful about it, but I saw she understood I was uncomfortable talking about it. Articles like this are a part of the reason why.

A Fish Head for Rosh Hashonah

OK for those who remember the song...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


It seems that since the preschool and elementary school are in separate locations, it caused some confusion. Each family got a note sent home with one girl, so if you have daughters in two locations, you only received one note. That's why some girls got a note and other didn't. My apologies to the school on that note. But my wife definitely still has great toes!

The Mrs. Toes The Line (or are we tznius enuogh for you?)

A few weeks ago, a girl who was over at our house remarked to my wife "you're so cool, you wear flip-flops". Mrs. Lakewoodfallingdown took the comment as the compliment it was and life went on as usual. Until... One day this week my 5 year old daughter comes home with a note specifically addressed to the Mrs. Here it is:

I get home from work first. I open the letter and scan it. When the Mrs. Comes home, I ask her if she's been to drop off little-lakewood-falling-down at school while wearing her flip-flops. She doesn't recall one way or the other, so with a grin, I give her the letter. So even with the long sleeves, sheitel and floor sweeper skirts it seems there is a problem. Out of curiosity, I asked my neighbor, Mrs. Gilmour if she got the same letter. If this was a general statement, I'd take it better than a specific letter. Yup. Mrs. Gilmour got one too, and investigated via her friends that also have their daughters in the school. As it turns out, the letter only went to some parents. Like I say, Lakewood is falling down. I will make a point of asking if a woman's ankles are actually considered airvah, and I will follow up with an answer. But it does get better. We went to orientation night and the principal asked the moms not to dress the kids as if they are going to a wedding. School has arts & crafts, she says, so the kids will come home dirty at times (true of any good preschool program). So one mommy (possibly a "Hot Chanie") asks if her daughter can wear a short skirt... I have to give the principal kudos for not rolling her eyes. She gently explained that in school there is davening, parsha, etc.. and that the girls need to learn to dress approriately. I don't know if this mom got a letter home, but hey, she's not as hot as my wife's toes.

BTW- At my son's orientation, the tiny brand spanking new bais yaakov english teacher was saying to all of us parents how derech eretz must come first. I noticed a ripped piece of paper on the seat in front of me (all of us adults were squezed into 4th grade desk-chair combos) numbered 1-100 with one line written over and over - "I will not burp in English class. I will not burp in English class. I will not burp in English class....". I could barely contain my laughter, and of course passed the "note" around. Ah, yeshiva memories, they start so early in life!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Artscroll words an phrases of the week

This weeks gemarah has a large chunk of aggadatah. The Maggid shiur asked not to ask to many questions, as he didn’t know the specifics of why each story was being presented, and Daf Yomi has to move. There are also a whole daf of medical cures that were for the times of the gemarah. We did pester him a little, and he gives a great and interesting shiur! That aside, the story of Shlomo Hamelech an the capture of the Demon King Ashmodai is interesting and held my attention a little better than some other gemarah’s that can be a little…dry for lack of a better term. One of the questions I was curious about is where exactly was the Royal Jewish King’s palace? Was it in Yerushalaim, or near the Bais Hamikdash? Just a curious thing. O.K. And on to the Artscroll fun translation. Now I’m no expert on birds or the Aramaic language, but the story in brief was that Shlomo HaMelech needed the shamir worm and sent Benayahu (the head of the Sanhedrin)to get it. Benayahu captures the King of the Demons, Ashmodai, and he tells King Shlomo & Benayahu how to find a certain bird that is entrusted with the shamir worm that Shlomo needs to quarry stones w/o using metal tools. Benayahu puts a glass cover on the nest so when the bird comes back from wherever, it will try to feed this shamir worm to it’s young. It puts the worm on the glass and Benayahu gets takes the worm. The bird who lets this happen then gets so upset that it chokes itself to death. The word the gemarah uses for this bird is Tarnigola (Aleph at the end) Bara, which Artscroll translates as a wild cock. I called a friend who is studying ornithology and asked if the word cock is ever used in relation to female birds, thinking that it is usually mother birds who feed their young. He said cock in reference to birds is always male. I don’t know who came up with the translation, but I guess he didn’t fully realize the gender issue. My friend also mentioned that between my wife’s melons and the wild cock, my posts are getting to raunchy. Hey, I’m not the guy with the thesaurus! Here are some more of this week’s weird phrase (in my opinion).
68b1 note 12: The shamir cleaves asunder to any hard object it comes in contact with. Asunder: Encarta-into separate parts, pieces, or places
69A1 The Gemarah is listing illnesses, one being blindness. The note translates blindness into heralopia, of which I can find no definition!
69B1 I just love this due the alliteration. Instead of saying an alternate text, the note reads “a variant version of text”.
Have Thesaurus, will travel!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The End of an Era (or my car died)

So as my Rov told me, baruch dayon ha’emes. My ’97 Bonneville finally died. It was a long time in coming, and it was the worst investment we ever made. The sad part is that someone in my immediate family has owned a Pontiac for the last 40 years. So goes the end of an era. I was really lucky to be able to get a 2001 Camry. Driving a Japanese car is definitely a different experience. First, even though it’s a used car, nothing rattles. It was always something I looked forward to in an American car, getting used to the sounds. Every GM I ever owned had its own unique sounds at different RPM’s, and I could tell if something was going wrong by different rattles. Not in this car, everything feels like one solid piece. It also doesn’t have unwieldy pieces of non functional molding that fall off. This falling off of pieces of car is a way us American car owners gauged how much longer our cars would last, as well as how “Yeshivish” our cars looked. It also would help us keep our wardrobes current, because you’d be likely to rip your pants on a stray bracket that used to hold on a piece of molding, so then you’d need new pants. The new shirt would come from the invariable grease stains you’d get while jumping your car because a light was left on and the battery got drained. Japanese cars tend to shut the lights out after an allotted time. GM cars as a rule also have bizarre electrical problems. My Bonneville had a short that caused the engine to die right in the middle of normal driving. I’d be halfway down the street and everything would shut off. It would refuse to start up again. My mechanic charged me $400.00 to change a module. The same problem happened a week later when I had a day off and decided to take my daughter to the Children’s Museum in Staten Island. AAA charged me for tolls, and I was panicked because I had no idea where I was specifically, and it was at that point in time when my daughter was toilet training. No bathrooms in the middle of unknown residential neighborhoods! The problem persisted so many times that my mechanic eventually ripped out many parts of the electrical system, and as a result the domino effect of things not working properly took place. (BTW, my mechanic never charged me more than the original $400.00 and worked on the problem four separate times). What finally got me in the end was the fuel and break lines corroding through. So goodbye Bonneville and hello a used car in our price range. A non-descript plain gray Toyota Camry with a plain gray interior. My wife said we should just put a black hat on it and pronounce it Jewish.
Anyway, I got to thinking about Japanese cars. Do sales drop on Pearl Harbor Day? And just how did the Japanese start making better cars than us? The obvious answer is that we bombed them! Let’s just take a look at history. Bomb the Japanese, get Honda and Toyota. Bomb Korea, get a Kia. Bomb Germany and get Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz. Now I finally know why we’re at war with Iraq! We need better made Iraqi cars! Now if Mr. Bush could only bomb Detroit…

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why we're still in galus

It's things like this that push normal people away from being religious. I think it's so bad it speaks for itself. Gilmour thought it was funny to tape it to my front door!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Do you like it?

While reading today’s NY Post, I became very disheartened by the article about a transgender professor at YU. (sighted by VIN) I felt it was necessary for me to point out some definitions.
Tolerance: the acceptance of the differing views of other people, e.g. in religious or political matters, and fairness toward the people who hold these different views
Acceptance: the realization of a fact or truth and the process of coming to terms with it
Now I'm a pretty tolerant guy, but if I choose to send my child to an institution that has frum jewish ideas, then I expect the staff will be supportive of those ideas both in and out of the class. So what if it's a poetry class. And just because you have the convictions of your faith doesn't mean you are a whacko. Do I have friends who are religious that are shall we say different? yes. But once you come out in public, it's like slapping people across the face. If I were to decide I can openly eat treif, and still be frum, would you want me as your role model? I'll tolerate this guys decision, but to make it seem as if there is no problem is a problem within itself. To accept it without comment is ridiculous.

Virtual Mechilah

So who’s ready to stay up until1:00 AM next Motzei Shabbos for selichos? Not me, but I’ll be there anyway. I understand that it’s better to say selichos early in the morning, and this shows a level of dedication and tesuvah, but I just get tired. I find selichos very difficult because I don’t really know what most of it means (even with the Artscroll)! Do any of you feel that selichos would be better if there were brief classes of comments on it the way my Rov explains select kinnos? Yeah, it would take forever, but would it be better that just blowing through it?
Also, I am granting a virtual mechilah to anyone I offend. If you still don’t like the blog, simply click elsewhere.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Self Promotion

Why shouldn't I use my blog to help myself a little? I am a special ed. teacher by profession. Here is a link to the website I work for. I know there is non Jewish stuff there, but I'm interested in feed back. Have fun! Mightybook

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The minyan factory.

With all due respect to Frum Satire, I feel I’m entitled to make some observations about things in Flatbush. I have a lot of Hakoras Hatov to Landau’s minyan factory for being there, especially for mincha, but I don’t particularly enjoy the experience. I wonder if g-d looks down and sees a virtual turnstile of people running in and out, davening as they do, and popping back out. It just doesn’t feel “spiritual” to me, more like an obligation. There is dourness to the individuals there, a hollowness to their eyes. I think it has to do with the “factory” not being a community but an open door place of worship. As if to say, come in, get accosted by tzedakah collectors, and get out. It also has a certain odor that many bais hamedreshes have, the combined smell of lots of people’s breath, and it bothers me. Turn down the A/C and open the windows, will you? I particularly like to see the groups I put people into. There are always the 50-65 year old Flatbush guys, black hat, white shirt, and a short gray/white beard. These are the people who moved in 25 years ago, and are wondering when their houses appreciated to a million dollars. They still can’t keep up with the bills, and have sons and/or daughters who are still expecting them to foot the bill for kollel, tuition, large weddings, or a house. They are not afforded the opportunity to think about retirement, and as a result have a haggard/haunted look on their faces. Then there are the hockers in white shirts, no jacket. You can almost always find them in a group toward the exit close to the coffee machine. The blackberrys going off by “accident” are a clear giveaway. There are the handy man/mechanic type guys in their coveralls, covered with flecks of paint, and grease on their hands that have dropped everything to find a quorum. There are the Chassidim who are chuckling away. A note about the Chassidim, you usually don’t find them in groups at Landaus. Two streimle guys here, a few “up hats” there and a smattering of other denominations in various corners. For some reason, there is always one guy in a large sefardic yarmulke, but only one. There is always a weirdo (I use the term loosely) talking out loud to himself while pacing back and forth across the entire shul. The YU guys are easy to spot, they don’t come all that much. When they do come, you see them in a white shirt and hat, clean shaven, not quite preppy, and never rumpled. 2-3 times a day, a group home councilor will come in with clients, and you get to hear the inspiring but slightly ill timed “amen”. There is me (no hat and jacket, suede yarmulke, sneakers), and a few more like me. Then there are the tzedakah collectors. Some come with letters, others are just waving stacks of bills in your face and expecting you to add to the pile. There are the ladies outside, and they guys collecting for Israel, Hacnosas Kallah, or hold overs from those who lost their shirts in the stock market. There are the guys who bring their kids with pushkas so elicit pity and nachas as you slowly loose your preciously horded quarters you needed for the parking meters on Ave J. All this for a 15 minute mincha makes it a unique experience.
What kind of experience is entirely up to you.

Artscroll words of the week

Today’s Artsrcoll words are dedicated to one of my favorite super heroes, the Incredible Hulk. The Gemara is talking about things that become Orlah, and do items that change (like being crushed or ground intoother things)become batul. The larger context is also talking about paying back debt with forbidden things (Orlah, Piggul, Maser whatever..)mixed in. Note 4 on page 54b1 “regarding Orlah and expensive nuts, the smasher is held liable even if the nuts are smashed, and they do not become batul” I’m reading this and hearing in my head “Hulk Smash”! Nice to know that even in biblical times, there were those who in order to get out of debt would smash their own and other peoples nuts.

Also, I’m getting sick of the words inasmuch and usufruct. I’m thinking of banning their use in scrabble and boggle.
Usufruct- legal right to use another's property: the legal right to use and enjoy the advantages or profits of another person's property
Early 17th century. Latin usufructus, variant of ususfructus "use (and) enjoyment" usus (see use) + fructus "enjoyment"-Encarta
Smasher-not listed in any source I could find!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Looking over my shoulder & Who do you love?

OK, a post about my Mrs. first, she thanks all of those who enjoy her carving skills. She is a speech pathologist, and hates when rabbaim strain their voices when giving sermons. She just yelled (read spoke to me lovingly)at me again because she enjoys reading over my shoulder (she is currently forbidding me from writing various things). She likes to cook lasagna for people, and hates when I bug her. She (and I) both like rotissere chicken that stands up (see photo) We're going on 11 years. She enjoys pointing out and taking credit for my gray hairs. We did not meet through a shadchun. She enjoys when I look at her when attempting to sing Eishes Chayil, because I always loose the place and she cracks up. Jacob Da Jew used to live downstairs from us, and got me into this blogging thing. My wife doesn't want her own blog, so she lives vicariously over my shoulder.

Playing House

So I'm reading this article on YWNews about the high cost of seminary and what Rabbaim can do about the cost and the "situation". Now I must admit, my daughter is only 5 and I only recently have been complaining about tuition-BUT-my mother in law always warned us, if you are old enough to play house, you are old enough to PAY house. Would I make my kids take out student loans to pay for that kind of thing? I think so. Life isn't free. Segway into who is responsible to pay... Guys have the obligation in their Kesuba to support the wife. The kollel wife supporting the husband is a volunteer thing. I think that the proliferation of this lifestyle gives us all a bad impression that there is such a thing as a free ride, until it's your turn to pay.

First day back

Well, today was the day the students came back to public school. My class has 4 "crisis" students, all with their own behavior management paras. My staff is overall very good this year, and I am told that one of my most difficult "crisis" kids is not coming back. My new principal is an interesting lady. She painted her office bright purple. I have not had any direct dealings with her to make a decision if I like her or not. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 1, 2008

My Wife's Melons (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

For those of you that are married, I'm sure your wives have hobbies or interests that really are fun and interesting. My wife likes to be creative in the kitchen, but because I have a lighter work schedule, I get to do most of the cooking, and I am boring. My kids eat the same things over and over again, and for Shabbos, I always make the same thing. One day, my wife came home with this book called "Aristocratic Fruit" (Tammy Polatsek). She started to make fruit platters and is pretty darned good at it. She then "graduated" to carving melons. She did the D one for our niece's birthday, the ARA one for an engagement, the bird one, which was very time consuming has the hieroglyphic initials of a chosson and kallah in the fan. What can I say, I'm very proud of her melo...I mean ...skills.