Monday, December 29, 2008

Lakewood, Wherefore Art Thou?

Oh, my Rosh Yeshivas, where is your public statement after the Neturei Karta marched with Palestinian Terrorists here in NYC? Is this how the world should view the slaughter of Jews, with acceptance and silence, with only dummies with beards and hats out there to say a "Jewish/Yiddishe" view?! I see movements to publicly denounced remove ourselves from Madoff, but not these guys? We're only concerned when it's about money? Where is the leadership? Weather or not you support the government of Israel, by not speaking up PUBLICLY you are encouraging these actions. Silence implies consent. Remember the silence of the Holocaust (that right wing Yeshivas don't even teach about anymore). There were Kinnos written after the fact. Personally, I'd rather be saying Hallel for miracles. Let's show a bit of Achdus. I'm waiting...

Please Daven

I copied this from The Muqata.
Volunteer United Hatzala EMT in serious condition after this morning's terror attack in Kiryat Sefer. As Jameel is an EMT in the same organization, he notes there is going to be a nationwide prayer service for his fellow medic at 3:30 PM, Israel time. Please add Aryeh ben Varda to your prayers (as well as for the safety and security of IDF soldiers, going into battle in Gaza)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chumras I'd Like To See

Well, whether it's Chanukah or Pesach, every time of the year is good to make chumras. The newest one is separate shopping lines for men and women, which Mrs. LFD says reminds her of public bathrooms. The girls line will always be 10x as long. Anyway, this was interesting. While in shul last Shabbos, Gilmour points out to me that there are five people standing around the Bima. The Gabbi and the person standing opposite him, the Baal Korei, the person getting the aliya, and the person who got the last aliya. They were all "shuckleing" at vastly different rates, with minor variations on twists and bounces and head shakes. The Baal Korei was holding on to the Eitz Chaim and shuckeling at warp 8 and looked as if he was gong to increase to warp 9.9 soon. It was really quite dizzying, and also superhuman that he was able to keep the place. I thought he might actually pop the Torah off of the Bimah! Gilmour starts cracking up because it looked like a bizarre tribal dance gone wrong. It got me to thinking, why shouldn't the Chumrah Police make regulations to how people can shuckle? This would regulate what is a self stimulatory behavior, and decrease accidental bumping by at least 2% annually. Some more chumras I'd like to see:

1. When Davening in a particular Shul, one must use the pronunciation the masses use. (Elokei-nee, Booo-reeech, mandatory rolling of "Raish" is Sefardi shuls). It makes for Achdus!

2. Enforcers to throw rocks at people who don't answer "Good Shabbos" when the greeting is given. If Bain Adam L'chavairo is more important tha Bain Adam L'Makom, it should be a Mitzvah to throw rocks at obnoxious people.

3. A ban on shuls with no candyman.

4. A manditory Q&A session at the end of Shabbos Drashos. It would make Rabbeim think twice before introducing something to the masses if they know they will be hit up with 20 questions in a public forum.

5. The use of the word "Goyish". The excuse people give their kids many times is that "it's goyish". How smart our kids would be if we had to actually know why we do or don't do something.

6. Smoking (pet peeve-LOZ, I know it's been banned, but not by the heilige Chumara Police!).

That's it for now. feel free to add to the list!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Beginning to look too much like Christmas

It's Beginning to look too much like Christmas. While at a seforim store buying wicks, I found Round Jelled Olive Oil Chanukah Candles with colors. The colors are red, green, and yellow. Do we really want these "holiday colors" on our Menorah's? I sure don't. I hope to get a better picture soon!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LFD or Excuses, Excuses...

While reading this article on VIN about a Lakewood man being charged with armed robbery, I couldn't help but think of the times my parents had large bills, and I'd hear my mom say, "great, now all I have to do is rob a bank". Now, I'm not suggesting she ever would have, but the strain of frum living can be very great. So here are my Lakewood Falling Down's reason's the guy did it.

1. He wanted to learn, so he decided to support Torah in a proactive way.

2. He had to pay for part of his own wedding.

3. His sister went to Bais Faige, and he wanted her teacher to be paid.

4. He workred for AIG.

5. He has his Bar-Mitzvah presents invested with Bernard Madoff.

6. He wanted to ba able to eat out in a kosher restaurant, but couldn't afford the prices on the menu.

7. His parents owed back tuition.

8. He needed the money for a striemel.

9. He needed a shidduch.

10. He was planning a high steaks dreidle game.

Remember, always judge others favorably!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Artscroll Word of the Week

Well it's back to basics, so here we go. Page 69b2, explaining why Nechemia is sometimes (twice actually) referred to as Hatirshasa:
Note 15 : The Yerushalmi explains the basis of this cognomen.
Encarta- cognomen: a nickname or name that describes somebody, e.g. "Billy the Kid"
Have thesaurus will travel!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chanukah, The Almost Yom Tov (Menorah Upside Down On Purpose)

Well, next week, we will be very close to “the festival of lights”. Working as a frum Jew in a mostly Non Jewish atmosphere, I’m always amazed at how Chanukah, which really is a series of great miracles done for us, gets for lack of a better term “Christmasized”. What’s even weirder is how I’ve let myself get sucked into the mentality, and maybe sadly, I enjoy it a little. Here is what I mean. First, I have to (and want to, with a great staff) give presents. Now, I know how many Christians hate that the Heysuess (pronounced Jesus) has been taken out of the holiday. I don’t want to come across as a “politically correct” nerd, so I give them actual Christmas cards with a little $ (none of your business how much) and a lottery ticket. They are extremely appreciative, and want to reciprocate, and they do. Have I jumped on board the exchanging gifts at the holiday season bandwagon? The answer is yes. The other part of me that is always irked is how my co-workers will compare the two. Let me tell you, there ain’t no such thing as Hannukah Harry, but I laugh when they ask all the same. And the I feel guilty for minimizing our great miracles to silliness. That’s the “irked” part. Also (guiltily) I enjoy seeing them being able to “relate” to me just a bit. I think that Chanukah does get the short end of the stick by us, the religious. This lets other religions pull at it and make it something it’s not, and this is why. On every other Yom Tov, we are actively involved in it and it is outside of the workplace. On Purim, you wouldn’t give Shelach Manot to a non Jew, and you are busy. The other Yom Tovim keep you busy in shul, or away from work. You usually don’t bring your lulav and esrog to shul on Chol Hamoed, so the holiday is more of a private thing. Not so with Chanukah. Every store from Path Mark, to CVS has the obligatory Chanukah stuff. At least one (usually non religious) co-worker will bring in sufganiot or left over oily latkes. A staff that eats together can share the “holiday spirit” together. There is always the obligatory electric menorah at the holiday party that you feel obligated to be at, especially since the boss ordered kosher food just for you. Yes, I get a little sucked in, and it’s not a good thing. I just have one non breakable rule. No mistletoe in the classroom.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nachas or Someone Knows How to Write

Surprise! Well this is always a point that I think of and miss, and I hope you take the time to read this and prepare yourselves if you have kids in school.
I was very proud of my son's report card. He got mostly A's. The thing I liked most about it was the teacher wrote a thoughtful and individual message. I was very impressed. Many teachers write generic messages like "your son is a sweet boy and a joy to have in class" (yes I do this in public school, but my students are profoundly retarded, so it's true). They don't really think about the impact the comments can make on your child, not to mention their Chanukah tip! Here is the part where I say prepare yourselves. Mrs. LFD and I have noticed when we go to PTA there is not a lot the teachers have to say unless there is a problem. So arm yourselves with some pointed questions that will draw out the best about qualities of your child. This is good for you, and the teacher too. I know that I forgot to prepare for our daughters PTA, and the teachers told us "She is very smart and funny, she talks with an 8th grader's vocabulary" (She's 5 years old). They gave us a bag of corn chips with a sticker on it for her, and after 30 seconds, we were done. It was a waste of time (other than showing we care about our daughter). I believe they would have had more to say if we asked them some questions. Here is one Mrs. LFD always leads in with:
1. "Hi, please tell me something positive about my son." Not that there is too much negative, but it reorients the thinking.
2. Who is my child's best friend? This will help you gauge if the teacher is aware of social dynamics in the class.
3. What is your recommended bed time? This gives the impression that you value your kid's teachers opinion of what goes on in the home. And good teachers really do know a thing or two about bed time.
4. How is my child coming in in the morning? This will help you gauge if the teacher is looking at the kids moods. Everyone has good and bad days, and teacher need to be aware of this, especially Rabbaim.
Well, if you have any other suggestions, feel free to add to the list, and good luck!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime? or The Best Pictures are Always on Shabbos

This past Shabbos, the economic crisis came with it's hands out to Boro Park and Flatbush. The Roshei Yeshiva from Lakewood graced us with their presence, and came collecting for their Yeshiva. Very good, we should support Torah. In this climate, should unskilled workers en mass apply for jobs, it would be for naught anyway. Fine. The particular Rosh who I went to hear at an unnamed shul gave a devar torah (I wished him a Good Shabbos, I wish I had a picture of Lakewood meets LakewoodFallingDown!). Now, I understand pulpit speaking is different from giving a shiur, but I do think you need to know your audience.
The Rosh gave a dvar torah asking why Rivkah told Yaakov to hide from Esav in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. Esav, knowing his brothers nature would, and I quote, "look for Yaakov first in Yerushalayim, or maybe Lakewood". (Audience chuckles)...
One of the main points of humor is that if it doesn't have a bit of truth to it, it won't be funny. I think in some ways they do equate Lakewood with Yerushalyim. I would like to see the mitzvah of yishuv promoted the same way not speaking loshon horah, or keeping Shabbos is pushed. To send your base to Yerushalaim would hasten the end of our Galus, but if we do that, where would Lakewood be?
Getting back tothe Dvar Torah, the Rosh focused on how learning Torah creating "Ohelot". Since learning Torah insulates you so much, Yaakov was protected from Esav because he was on a "different world, insulated from outside influence, not like the NEBUCH college man, who has an understanding of the outside world, and is distracted".
Isn't the NEBUCH college man exactly who Lakewood is extending their hand to? In what way should Lakewood be Falling Down?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yes. I caved in.

As you may know, I am teacher. I write many adaptive books, and have refused to write a Kwanzaa book. I don't write fiction. However, when I was the online company I work for asked me to pleeeeaaaasssse, I caved in. Point of fact, I wrote a song two years ago about how the holidays are smushed together. I wrote the lyrics and hummed out the tune, and my friend Vinny was nice enough to listen to me and bang it out acoustically. I did the animation in a specialized program so I had to capture using my digital camera and re edit the soundtrack to post it. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

See you next time

I was learning about a story where Moshe "sees" Hashem attaching the crowns to the letters of the Torah. He asks Hashem what he is doing and what they are. Hashem tells Moshe that there will be a man named Rabbi Akiva who will learn out many halochos from the crowns. Hashem tells Moshe to "turn around" and Moshe is in Rabbi Akiva's shiur. He gets upset because he doesn't understand the shiur, until he hears Rabbi Akiva say that he knew the halachos from Moshe from Sinai. Now, all of the other questions aside, I want to know, did moshe hear the shiur, or did he actually time travel?