Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hidden Heirloom Heralds History - Happy Hanukkah


Second Temple Era Seal Unveiled.

The Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled a rare ancient seal that underscores the bond of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.

Seems like another link identifying the Jewish People's right to the Makom HaMikdosh has been found.

A modern day Nes Chanukah.

This joins the recent find of a golden bell and many Mikvaos in the same area.

Sam Schmid Stumps Scientists


Coma patient wakes up, speaks after nearly being taken off life support following crash...

What puzzles me when I read stories like this is the double standard of many. On one hand, they are reluctant to support the Death Penalty, for the minute chance that they might kill an innocent person, yet they are quick to remove life support, even though there is a small percentage whom recover.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mafteach Manufacture Margin Muse

Feldheim is Marketing a new Mafteach for Shas.

Me wonders why the Market for Material Manufactured in Hebrew Merits Minimal price, while the Match Made in English Measures More?

In other words, the list price for the Hebrew version of the Mafteach sells for 25.00 dollars, while the English equivalent sells for 30.00?

Many Minds Might Merit Meaning.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Agudah Advocates Against Automation (Internet)

Rabbi Avrum Schorr made the following points at the Agudah convention:

1. The Tzibbur should be coming to the Rabbonim to ask how to stem the tide of losing Neshomos due to the new smart-phone/internet technologies.

2. A child said he would break an i-phone, being that his father was addicted to it and no longer had time for his children.

3. TXTing has destroyed Shabbos for many who become addicted to it.

4. People answer that they've been on the internet for years and have not seen any inappropriate content (ed. I find this hard to believe). Yet their children see them spending all day on the internet and the message they take away is how great the internet is. They don't differentiate between good and bad sites.

5. The anti-technology fight is war. One can't let up from fighting this war. For those who say it can't be won...look at Eretz Yisroel where Yeshiva people would be embarrassed to have a non-approved cellphone.

5b. Wonders how Mispallelim are not embarrassed to hand their i-phone to their Rav; when one button accesses Facebook, another button, Twitter.

6. Wants to create internet cafes in our neighborhoods, open 24x6 where filtered access will be available to all, and would remove the need to have internet in the homes.

7. Claims that i-phones are really for pleasure, not business.

8. Asked someone why they need i-phone, man responded that he can use the compass feature to show Mizrach...

9. Wondered aloud how one can be Mechanech a Bochur who has 150 movies on his i-phone.

10. Bemoaned the LH that is so prevalent in TXTing.

11. Related Moshol from Chofetz Chayim that a rich landowner once told his workers to only use filtered water in the day they had a fire and the house burned down because they filtered it before they would throw in on the fire...said that everyone nowadays is worthy of fighting the technology war...even dirty water can help put out this fire.

Personally, I think the Rav has made some very important observations, yet I wonder if it can really work here in the USA. Furthermore, I wonder if people would be willing to give up the convenience of having the internet in their homes. Imagine telling women that they can use washing machines, but must only do so at the laundromat. I realize that the 2 cases are not exactly similar, just food for thought.

On the other hand, if this is really war, then perhaps this is the price we must pay for maintaining the purity and Kedusha of our people.

Please keep comments respectful.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fiftythousand Free Folios Featured

Mazel Tov to on reaching the 50,000 plateau!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Top Ten Things to Thank (Artscroll)

Back in 1976, While America was celebrating her bicentennial, a new publishing phenomenon was born. Artscroll released a Shloshim commemoration volume on the Purim Megillah, a conglomeration of short commentaries and insights, culled from the classic Jewish commentators. Due to the unusual enthusiastic response, AS embarked on more and more exciting projects, as they realized there was a void in the market for classic Jewish literature, translated and annotated using the aforementioned Meforshim.

Emboldened by the early successes, AS took on other projects, building themselves a reputation for producing top quality books, both on the inside and the outside.

Recently, I've seen some AS bashing on other Jblogs, so I felt that on this day of Thanksgiving, I should express my appreciation towards the AS revolution. Below are 10 things that we owe AS, not in any particular order.

1. Aesthetics:

AS has raised the level of Jewish book publishing to a new plateau. There was a time when the term "Seforim Store" conjured up images in one's mind of dilapidated quarters on the Lower East Side, where the proprietor would wait for his disheveled customers to choose a Sefer from the overladen, decrepit bookshelves. Eichler's of Flatbush changed that image, in the early 80's, expanding from a one-storefront to a three-storefront superstore; clean and immaculate, with music playing in the background. In my opinion, much of Eichler's success was due to the new AS market, as the customer was now the typical Flatbush Baal Haabos, not the nerdy bespectacled scholar. AS's Seforim, in addition to the content, were produced to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, in addition to being well bound by their SeferCraft Inc. bookbinder.

2. The Shul Siddur:

In 1984, AS produced their first Siddur. It was a weekday/shabbos Siddur, yet it came with English translation, commentary on the bottom, contained every possible Tefilah one could ever need, and had easy instructions. In addition, they ensured that there would be minimal "flipping" around. They even produced an RCA edition, to satisfy the MO community that preferred the Prayer for the State of Israel and some other minor changes. Shortly thereafter they published the Siddur with a Russian translation, to ease the transition of Russian emigrants during the Glasnost and Perestroika era. AS also produced a children's edition, and finally an all Hebrew edition which has gradually taken over the Shul market, being cheap and sporting a superior binding. Additionally, their linear Siddurim, with bi-directional flow, have become favorites of many.

3. The Shul Chumash:

In 1993, they offered a Shul Chumash. This was a fantastic work, culling insights from a myriad of scholars over the centuries. Much thought went into it's production, even the height was altered so as to fit the average Shul shelf. A classic. In 2004, they initiated the all-Hebrew version, which is also slowly cornering the "Shul Chumash" market, being of long lasting quality binding and cheap in price.

4. Rashi/Ramban on Chumash:

Pure classics. Monumental works which required much research which clearly shows in the end-product. The old blue linear Rashi translations have been totally replaced by the AS Rashi (1995-1998). The notes are superior, explaining much of the French/Laaz and just about any question one could have on Rashi will be explained in those notes. The Ramban (2004-2010) is similarly a fabulous work, easily usable by the scholar and layman alike. Sure to become the definitive Ramban translation for anyone studying this work.

5. Machzorim:

Following on the successes of the Siddur, AS published the full set of Machzorim. RH, YK, Pesach, Shavuous and Sukkos. True to the AS tradition, these Machzorim provided easy instruction, simple translation, no flipping, and interesting footnotes. Also they complemented the works with a short summary of Halachos in the back. Upper end leatherbound editions were also marketed. In 2003 and 2004, they also introduced the bi-linear versions of the RH and YK Machzorim, to make it easier to know the meaning of what one is saying as one is saying it. Similar bi-linear versions of Tehillim, Selichos and Kinnos were also published.

Notable though, was an unheard of recall for the Sukkos Machzor. Due to a minor error, AS recalled the entire shipment of Machzorim, and replaced them with a brand new version. [Recently I've read how there are mistakes in the new Koren Machzorim, yet I have not heard of any such unprecedented recall as was done by AS.]

6. Font:

AS has produced their own fontpopularized a font , which is easy on the eye and has become easily recognizable world-wide as the AS font. My only complaint about this font, which is fine for adults, is that children who are learning to read would do better with a fuller version of the letters.

7. Daf Yomi:

A good portion of the Daf Yomi success can be claimed by AS. Their Shas project, begun in 1991 with the publication of Mesechta Megillah, and recently completed (2005), made learning the Daf something that anyone could do. While many may argue that it is a crutch, no one can deny that thousands have been added to the Daf Yomi rosters since the advent of the AS translation. Going from the Felt Forum to Madison Square Garden to dual arenas and now a stadium, AS can be proud to have had a hand in this Kiddush Hashem. Additionally, AS has produced a Hebrew version, French, and now they embark on the Yerushalmi. Heroic!

8. Halacha:

Classics have been produced in many areas, inclusing Kashrus, Shabbos, Niddah and Aveilus. Their "Mourning in Halacha" is certainly a classic, enabling one to know what to do in the time of need. Rabbi Forst's Seforim are excellent references for one to be guided by.

9. Biographies:

Great for the youth to have role models. Reb Yaakov, Reb Moshe etc.and many of the Gedolim of yesteryear come to life in these well written books.

10. Shaar Press:

A new Label created primarily for Rabbi Berel Wein and now includes any publication that does not fit 100% Hashkafically under the AS umbrella. Notable is the History Trilogy begun by RBW in 1990 and completed in 1995. Shaar Press has a picture of a "gate", as their monogram, but sometimes I wonder if Shaar Press was named for the other meaning of in remainder, left-over.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Heimishe Habilitate Hemorrhaging Hospital (Revival of Peninsula)

In January of this year, Mishpacha Magazine printed an article which featured Rabbi Yaakov Spitzer, Holocaust survivor and founder of Revival Home Care.

Jewish people have long been involved in Healthcare. Many doctors, pharmacists, medical supply providers, EMT's, ambulance services...all prominently feature Jewish "blood".

Perhaps this is an outgrowth of our forefather, Avraham Avinu. Hospitality, Health, Hatzaloh, Humanities, Helping etc. are all part of the Jewish psyche.

Noteworthy is the news item that it was Orthodox investors, primarily comprised of Revival Home Care, who stepped in to save the Hospital from closure, saving many jobs. I wish them much Hatzlocho.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

(Reb) NossonTzvi's Normalcy, Niceness Noted

This past week saw the unfortunate passing of many of Klal Yisrael's best. Notable atop the list was the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, Reb Nosson Tzvi Finkel ZTL.

What is most gratifying is that this was a rare occasion where even the most acrimonious blogs had positive things to say.

RNTF had humble origins, growing up as an all-American boy in Chicago. Nevertheless, with perseverance he was able to rise to the prominent position of Rosh Yeshiva of the Yerushalayim Mirrer Yeshiva.

I only met RNTF several times, yet all times his perennial smile adorned his face.

Considering that he suffered constantly from many illnesses during his life, this is remarkable. Yet what I find even more amazing is that he built the Mir Yeshiva into one of the largest, if not the largest Yeshiva in the world. The Yeshiva debt has been estimated in the millions of dollars. This must have weighed heavily on him, as the burden for raising the necessary funds lay squarely on his shoulders. Yet his trademark smile never left his face.

I am reminded of a little known story regarding R' Meir Shapiro and his Yeshiva, Chachmei Lublin. RMS, in addition to creating Daf Yomi had grand ideas to found a Yeshiva which would attract the best Bochurim from all over the world. The entrance fee was to know several hundred Blatt by heart. The Yeshiva rivaled the amenities of the Yeshivos of our day. There was a huge library, dormitory and dining room all housed on the Yeshiva's premises.

Yet while it was difficult to find funds to erect the beautiful edifice, maintaining it proved to be a monumental task. Similar to the Roshei Yeshiva of our day, RMS was frequently forced to travel overseas to collect money for his institution. Perhaps it was the burden of maintaining YCL that eventually led to his demise, at 46 years of age.

In the biography on RMS, titled "A Blaze in the Darkening Gloom", a most fascinating story is told. It seems that the Prudential Insurance Company opened an office in Poland and the local representative figured it would make good business sense to offer a cheap policy to RMS as a publicity stunt. RMS named the Yeshiva as the beneficiary in the event of his death. It was this 50,000 dollars that staved off bankruptcy.

Similarly, RNTF may have been literaly Moser Nefesh for his Yeshiva. Perhaps his demise will be the catalyst for a successful emergency campaign to return the Mir to financial stability.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Prisoner's Pidyon Price Prohibitive (Gilad Shalit)

Several weeks ago, Samuel Freedman offered up this essay in the NYT.

The story of Abraham saving Lot represents the earliest of a series of examples of the concept of “pidyon shvuyim” — redeeming the captives, invariably at a cost — in Jewish Scripture, rabbinic commentaries and legal codes. That concept, absorbed into the secular culture of the Israeli state and the Zionist movement, helped validate the steep, indeed controversial, price of Sergeant Shalit’s liberation.

Interestingly, he makes note of the juxtaposition between the deal to free Gilad Shalit and Avrohom Avinu's pursuit to secure Lot's release during the War of the 4 vs.5 Kings.

Yet I heard in the name of Rabbi JD Bleich that surprisingly enough, the fact that AA engaged in this act of "Pidyon Shevuyim" still is not sourced anywhere as this being the Makor for the Mitzvah of PS, and is in fact incorrect. The source for PS is the Talmud BB 8a/b, codified in the Shulchan Aruch in Siman 252 of Yoreh Deah that deals with Tzedakah. It seems that the entire Mitzvah is predicated on the idea of altruism.

רבה רמא צדקה איתמי דבי בר מריון א"ל אביי והתני רב שמואל בר יהודה אין פוסקין צדקה על היתומים אפילו לפדיון שבוים א"ל אנא לאחשובינהו קא עבידנא איפרא הורמיז אימיה דשבור מלכא שדרה ארנקא דדינרי לקמיה דרב יוסף אמרה ליהוי למצוה רבה יתיב רב יוסף וקא מעיין בה מאי מצוה רבה א"ל אביי מדתני רב שמואל בר יהודה אין פוסקין צדקה על היתומים אפילו לפדיון שבוים שמע מינה פדיון
פדיון שבוים מצוה רבה היא אמר ליה רבא לרבה בר מרי מנא הא מילתא דאמור רבנן דפדיון שבוים מצוה רבה היא א"ל דכתיב והיה כי יאמרו אליך אנה נצא ואמרת אליהם כה אמר ה' אשר למות למות ואשר לחרב לחרב ואשר לרעב לרעב ואשר לשבי לשבי

So the question is: Why is the rescue of Lot not listed as the source, being that the Talmud endeavors to bring a source and only does so somewhat from the Navi Yermiyahu?

Answered RJDB, with a Medrash. The Medrash says that the "318" people that AA took with him, was really only his trusted servant Eliezer (which adds up to the Gematria of 318). What happened to all of AA's entourage? It seems that when they realized the danger of rescue, they slipped away one by one until only Eliezer remained. They reasoned correctly, that they were not obligated to rescue Lot by putting their own lives in danger.

Which could be why AA/Lot is not the source for PS. PS is perhaps using one's assets to secure release of another, but one needn't endanger his/her own well-being!

{Having an extra 1,000 terrorists on the streets is definitely, based on statistics, dangerous to one's population. Hence freeing GS is not necessarily PS, and is probably prohibited. I imagine that AA was able to rely on his Zechusim, but I don't think that Netanyahu is on the same Madrega.}

Disclaimer: This is only 2nd hand, so it is quite possible that the person who shared this thought with me heard/understood incorrectly.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Composer Carlebach Creates Chiddushim

I have posted several times on R' Shlomo Carlebach, one of the great pioneers of true Jewish music. This coming week will be the Yahrtzeit, consequently a new post is in order.

Recently, one of RSC's Talmidim has published some of his Chiddushim. I have not seen the Sefer, so I can't comment on it, although based on past experience I would imagine it will probably be of the Chassidic genre.

The best book I ever read about RSC is Holy Brother, by Yitti Halberstam. The stories are remarkable. It is in my opinion, one of the best books written in English for the Jewish public. What I find notable about the book, is that there are so many stories which portray his innate drive to help the unfortunate. It was typical of him to give away all his money, and when he passed away, it is said that all he had left were his daughters and 20,000 Seforim.

For some vintage RSC, see this.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kad Yasvin composed by the Chazon Ish?

One of the most beautiful and haunting Jewish melodies is Kad Yasvin Yisroel. I recall this song from the David Werdyger album pictured above. The jacket claims that the song was composed by the Chazon Ish, and the words are from the Zohar, yet both claims seem to be incorrect. Also making that claim is the following website:

There is a beautiful phrase recorded in the Zohar about the
greatness of Torah learning. When the Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avrohom Yeshayah
Karelitz zt'l) read the words, he went into a secluded room and composed
a song out of it: "Kad yasvin Yisroel v'askin b'simchas haTorah Kudsha
Brich Hu omer l'famalya dilay: chazu chazu banay chaveevay d'mishatkchin
b'tzarah dilan v'askin b'chedvasah dili- When Klal Yisroel are sitting
and engaging in Torah study, the Holy One, blessed is He, says to his
heavenly army: 'See! See! My beloved children who forget about their
personal problems and engage in My delight'."

In October of last year, Gruntig posted the song along with the following...

Thursday, October 07, 2010
Oldie of the Week ~ Kad Yasvin - 1969

The ninth song in this series features the song "Kad Yasvin" from the album "Cantor David Werdyger sings Melodies of Camp Kol-Ree-Nah" accompanied by the orchestra and the camp choir. Musical director, Yaakov Goldstein. The album was released in 1969.

Soloists are, Mordechi Werdyger AKA MBD (pictured left, early 1970's), his brother child soloist Mendy Werdyger and their father David Werdyger, Tzum Langer Yuhren.

Popular belief is that these words are from the Zohar and the Tune is from the Chazon Ish.

In the words written on the album cover:

"Words of the Zohar Hakodosh set to the music by the sainted Chazon Ish, who fittingly portrayed its deep meaning."

However I've heard that many have failed to find these exact words written in the Zohar. Some are adamant that it is in the Zohar, perhaps in the Hahsmatos, while others says only its concept is form the Zohar (זהר במדבר דף קיח ע"א).

Also regarding the composition of the song, some say that it actually was not composed by the Chazon Ish himself but rather by someone else and the Chazon Ish liked it very much so it became known as his song. Similar to some Negunim of Rebbes.

They sang this song at the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Farbrengen in Tishrei, (i think Simchas Torah) 5722 (1961) and i heard from someone who was there that the Rebbe was very serious and Fardveikut.

כד יתבון ישראל ועוסקין בשמחת התורה
קודשא ברוך הוא אומר לפמליא דיליה
חזו בני חביבי
דמשתכחין בצערא דילהון ועוסקין בחדותא דילי
[Zohar Hakodosh (see above)]

English Translation:
When the Jewish people immerse themselves in the joy of stydying Torah , the the Holy One Blessed is He, Says to all His heavenly hosts: Look! look at at my beloved children as they forget their own sufferings and immerse themselvs in my loving Torah.

This past week, Mishpacha magazine published the following:

Lyrics and Legends

Kad Yasvin

1980. The lecture hall was filled to capacity, as a varied group of scholars gathered for the Jerusalem Yarchei Kallah. An esteemed rosh yeshivah from Yerushalayim took his place at the speaker’s podium and introduced his topic — the analysis of an ancient song, sung by Jews across the globe, whose source is hazy: “Kad Yasvin Yisrael.”

The stirring song is sung at several occasions on the Jewish calendar, most prominently on Shavuos and Simchas Torah. It’s famous not only because of its potent lyrics, but also because of its emotive melody. But its history is filled with question marks. Who composed its famed lyrics and melody? When was it first shared with the public?

During that Yarchei Kallah conference three decades ago, the rosh yeshivah quoted the words of this exceptional niggun. At the end of his speech, he challenged his audience to uncover the roots of this song. “Whoever manages to do so, I’ll address with the title of ‘Mori v’Rabi,’” he added.

Sitting in the audience was Jerusalemite researcher Yisrael Gellis, who resolved to accept the challenge. Following five years of research, Gellis finally unearthed an ancient machzor called “Machzor Vilna HaRishon — The First Vilna Machzor.” Beneath the text of hakafos for Simchas Torah, he discovered the words of this famous song: “Kad yasvin Yisrael — When Yisrael engages in the joy of the Torah, HaKadosh Baruch Hu tells His heavenly court, ‘Look and see My dear children who forget their tribulations and engage in my beloved [Torah].’” The inscription was followed by a comment that the lyrics had been created by none other than the Vilna Gaon. According to the notes in the machzor, the Vilna Gaon sang these words each and every year during the third hakafah on Simchas Torah.

Throughout the course of his research, Gellis also encountered a Yerushalmi talmid chacham named Rav Kalman Landau, a rosh yeshivah in Tchebin, who had heard the same song sung by the Chazon Ish ztz”l. The Chazon Ish recalled this song from his small hometown of Karelitz, located between Vilna and Eishyshok on the border of Belarus and Lithuania.

It has been reported that Kad Yasvin was a favorite of Rav Yitzchak Hutner. Also, according to Lubavitch sources, it seems like the Chabad Rebbe also enjoyed this Nigun. Lubavitch

שיחות קודש תשכ"ב - מנחם מנדל שניאורסאהן

בם״ד. כ״ט תשרי היתשכ״ב. צאתכם לשלום להאורחים שהגיעו מארץ ישראל.
הנחה פרסית בלתי מוגה
(ניגנו אידה ניגון ואח״כ אמר כ״ק אדמו״ר שלים״א: דא איז דא לידר מסתמא,
גערעדט וועגו א נייעם ניגוו, האסם עפעס אויסגעלעדגט דא? נו, איז קלייב צו־זאמען
די תלמידים און זינגס מיט אלעמען פון זיי. וניגן את הניגון "כד יתבון" עם כל הקהל,
וכשסיימו אמר כ״ק אדמו״ר שליט״א: ...וועסטו זאגן דעם הושיעה איצטער. וניגן עם כל
הקהל ניגון "הושיעה את עמר״).

בס״ד. שיחת יום ב׳ פ׳ נח, כ״ט תשרי, ה׳תשכ״ב.
— התוועדות ״צאתכם לשלום״ להאורחים שיחיו —
בלתי מוגה
[כ״ק אדמו״ר שליט״א צוה לא׳ האורחים שלימד ניגון חדש, לחזור
ולנגנו, וניגן את הניגון ״כד יתבון ישראל כו׳״. ואח״כ צוה כ״ק אדמו״ר
שליט״א שינגן הניגון ״הושיעה את עמך״].

Perhaps Mississippi Fred can dig up the above mentioned Machzor.

You can listen to the song on the Gruntig link above or it can be found along with 58 other Aderet compositions at Florida Atlantic University Music.

Update: 5/27/2013

I have been noticing a lot of traffic to this post lately.  If you arrived here via some link that I am unaware about, please note it in the comments section. Thank you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

CholHamoed CommonSense: Canoeing, Camping.

When I began writing this blog two years ago, I wasn't sure which direction the blog would take me. This is somewhat reminiscent of a book I read when I was a child titled "Little Bunny Follows His Nose". Sometimes you just need to follow your instincts wherever they may lead.

Many posts have focused on how technology has changed the Jewish world - for better or worse.

Another topic that frequently arises is the huge gap in generations...particularly this one and the one that preceded it. It is mind boggling to me how some of today's children never saw a phone with a cord, never saw a vinyl record, never had their hat get ruined in the Shabbos rain, never had to call a librarian for information - and never experienced a quiet walk in the woods without a connection to the outside world.

What pains me even more, and what prompted this post, was the new downloadable pdf's that announce all the available Chol HaMoed trips. Hershey Park, Dorney Park, concerts, trips to Florida, Canada, Eretz Yisroel...the list is endless.

Whatever happened to some good old fashioned fun? What is wrong with a father taking his sons to play baseball in the park? What about mothers taking their daughters rowing?. What is wrong with a family picnic in the park, or better yet camping and building a makeshift Sukkah?

I often wonder whether our generation had it better than the current one. I suppose our parents felt the same way. Their parents kashered chickens and lived in tenements without washing machines...their parents lived without television...their parents lived without horseless carriages etc. etc.

What is all boils down to is that everyone loves his own environment the best. People often prefer to live where they spent their childhood. Those who grew up without potato peelers prefer the knife, and those who grew up prior to the i-revolution prefer those old 33's, 45's and even 78's!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Jobs, Jibs, Jabs, Jubs

Jobs: Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc.; tasks.
Jibs: refuse to comply.
Jabs: pokes.
Jubs: vessels.

A world pioneer in the computer revolution passed away prior to Yom Kippur. Another notable news story from the Aseres Yemei Teshuva is that the New York Yankees lost their playoff series.

Although I am not a Navi nor the son of one, one can speculate that the juxtaposition of these events to the AYT is one of divine intent.

The common denominator being that the Yankees are a billion dollar enterprise, yet all the money in the world does not automatically create a winner. Steve Jobs may have been one of the richest self-made men in the world; but all his money could not thwart the pancreatic disease that was visited upon him.

Steve Jobs (jobs) was an amazing entrepeneur. He built many companies (jobs), filed many patents and made the world a better place for many. We can learn perseverance (jabs) from him, as he was fired from the very company he created. Yet he went on to found other companies and eventually returned to Apple Inc. to lead the iRevolution. He refused to concede (jibs) when others saw defeat, instead creating vessels (jubs) to contain the world's apps and songs.

Although the Yankees pale in comparison, they still do offer a modicum of entertainment and keep many a youngster busy and out of trouble while they are in session. They also don't wither after being beaten, as they will be back again in the spring.

The lesson of Yom Kippur is that we seek Teshuva, we try our hardest, and in the event we fail, for most of us, there will always be next year.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

TeXTing Targets Tardy Transports

As with all new technology, there are pros and cons.

Whereas teenagers have flocked to the powers of SMS from the outset, it seems that their parents are now catching up and implementing the power of texting.

Often I wonder if I could have survived Yeshiva had the cell phone been invented in my day. I don't see how it is possible to properly learn while being attached to a leash.

Amar Abaye...PLS PU SHTS FRM CLNRS. TX XXX...Yiush Shelo Midas...SHIUR TONITE 9PM...Yaal Kigam...WASSUP. LNCH @ MENDY?...

Yet slowly we are all forced into the technology rat race. Who can survive today without a mobile phone? A decade ago they were only for the rich and famous.

So I was quite amused yesterday to see two news stories. The first announced that BMG has institued a new policy that for the new Zman, Bachurim will not be allowed to have internet or Texting capacity on their phones. The second story announced that several Mosdos in Boro Park have enabled parents to be notified via TXT MSG that their children's bus is X minutes away, or X stops away.

Imaginge not having to wait 30 minutes in the cold weather if the bus is late. You can now know exactly when it will arrive. You can know if it is stuck somewhere via the GPS signal.

So technology is a mixed blessing. As much as we are against the internet, we are for it. All I can say is that I am glad that I am not a teenager anymore.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Klal "Kindles" Kosher Kaleidoscope

I am gratified to see another new Kosher journal. Klal Perspectives has been launched via electronic media.

I believe this is a first in several regards.

First Orthodox journal that is entirely electronic. First kosher journal that is entirely focused on how to envision and preempt the challenges of the future. First to join a broad range of writer's perspectives to fulfill this endeavor.

Many current journals focus on how to follow Halacha in today's modern era. Klal serves more as a "think tank" in identifying the current issues and finding solutions for the future.

It is a pleasure to read the articles, as all the writer's are tops in their fields. Additionally, they are all writer's of eloquence.

Rabbi Zwiebel shares a profound thought of Rabbi Chaim Kohn regarding "Roeh Es HaNolad". Rabbi Bane points out an interesting insight regarding how the "father" job has been replaced by the Yeshiva Rebbe. Rabbi Adlerstein laments the "stifled individual creative thinking" that has become part and parcel of our Yeshiva system. Rabbi Hauer points our how principals used to beg for children to come to Yeshiva, whereas now you need to beg them. Rabbi Y. Rosenblum is concerned with role-reversal, in that the father used to be responsible for Parnassah, not the mother. He is also concerned with fitting all boys into the same mold.

Tuition, paying for Mehadrin Mitzvos, Setting Takanos to save the Klall money, how the internet has bettered and worsened our lives, Kosher LePesach Cheerios, book bannings and child abuse. It is all in the premier issue of Klal.

Available here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Google Giant 's Global Growth

Can one imagine a world without Google? It is astoundingly amazing to think that a mere 13 years ago they did not exist!

Yet this month Google celebrates their Bar Mitzvah. Our world has changed so much in these past few years that it is worthy of note.

Web searches were primitive. There were no Google Earth satellite images. People used maps from the AAA before MapQuest was launched. If you wanted an image for your document, you needed the primitive ClipArt. Now we have Google Images. How-to videos abound on YouTube. There are non-stop news feeds. There is Gmail. There is Google Translate. Google has it's own Toolbar. Google has it's own browser (Chrome). There is Google Scholar for academics. There is Picasa for pictures. There are Google Groups. Google Docs. Droid. Code snippets. Google Books. Of course there is Blogger...and much, much more.

What boggles the mind is that each of these applications would require resources of a giant corporation (in fact many of them were), yet Google incorporates all these aspects and continues to monopolize and grow.

Yet 99% of their revenue comes from advertisements!

It is worth noting that storing and locating information is what drives the internet. I've mentioned in the past how technology has enhanced our Emunah, making it easy to believe that all our actions are recorded in an everlasting book. Computers and the internet have made it easy. It is perhaps no strange coincidence that the first 2 letter of God and Google coincide.

Kesiva V'Chasima Tova!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Marvelous Musical Memories Megasite

The electronic age has brought us the fabulous website, where close to 50,000 Seforim are now available for free download, or simply to look up a source. No longer does one need to visit a brick-and-mortar Shul, Yeshiva, Seforim store or library to find a necessary Sefer.

The good folks at Florida Atlantic University have now brought us the beginnings of a musical equivalent. One may search for old phonograph recordings which are no longer available.

There are over 1,000 albums to choose from. One may choose from either Cantorial, Chassidic, Children, Comedy, Holiday, Israeli, Sephardic or Yiddish. Several albums/performers that I was familiar with were: Neginah, David Werdyger, Safam, Rosenblatt, Jo Amar, Ben Zion Shenker, Ben Zion Miller, The Rabbis Sons and Kol Salonika.

One can listen to the entire recording in order, or one can skip around. One can view the back and front covers of the albums, to see who composed the songs and who sang them. It is a fantastic trip down memory lane to view the names in Jewish music of yesteryear.

We are moving closer and closer to the day when every possible bit of information will be at our fingertips. What was once lacking due to funds or resources is now only lacking due to time. So many records. So little time. As mentioned before on this blog, this should cause us to reflect, especially in these days of Tishrei, on how we can better make use of our time.

Hat Tip: RYGB

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jaded Jokes Jar Judgement

In my youth I heard the following joke:

Q: What are the names of the three cowboys featured in Adon Olam?
A: Billy Raishis, Billy Sachlis and ................................... Kid Ruchie.

Some years later one of the Jewish parody recordings saw fit to make fun of the Silent Prayer (Hinneni Heani) offered by the Chazan on the High Holidays before Musaf.

It took a while for me to shake these funny thoughts of cowboys, when Davening every morning. It took some time for me to appreciate the somberness of the Chazan's Tefilah prior to Musaf, without conjuring up images of cows lowing in the fields.

My feeling is that there are certain parts of Judaism, particularly the liturgy that should remain off-limits to parody.

What prompted me to write this is the now viral post of Aish's Rosh HaShana break-dancers. While it may succeed in showing that Jews can be hip and religious, I feel that it is sacreligious to portray Judgement Day in such light.

Have a meaningful New Year!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bob Beats Barack's Buddy

The election for Anthony Weiner's seat in the NY 9th congressional district has been decided in favor of Bob Turner.

I believe that the electorate of this district made a huge Kiddush Hashem by defying the Democrat machine and voted in conservative Republican Bob Turner.

Several months ago it had been unthinkable that a Republican would be able to win in this heavily Democratic district, considering that the Dems hold a 3 to 1 margin over Republicans in registered voters. This is the district that voted in Chuck Schumer and his protege, Anthony Weiner. Not since the 1920's has a Republican taken this seat in Congress.

Yet in the interim, David Weprin, a self-declared Orthodox Jew, voted in favor of same-gender marriage, and proudly marched in the parade which promoted this agenda.

While many Jews typically vote Democratic because of their concern for social ills, and also because they are often the recipient of social programs, I was proud to see that many voted their conscience even though it may conflict with their pocketbooks.

In an election that was seen by many nationally as a referendum on Barack Obama's policies, the way he is handling the economy and foreign policy regarding Israel, I was doubly proud to see this clear message sent to Washington that we will not be silent regarding the above mentioned issues.

Kudos to the many Rabbonim, Askonim, Bloggers and Websites who supported the Bob Turner candidacy.

Update: I would also like to mention that we have a Mesorah that Morality protects from destruction. Sodom was done in for breaches in morality. Many have noted that Vermont, which bore the brunt of the recent hurricane Irene was the first state to legislate in favor of same-gender marriage. Let us hope that the rejection of candidates who support SSM will serve as a protection for our great state of NY.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Twin Towers Three Thousand






Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hurricane "Hype" Hits Hard

In the not so recent past, meteorologists left much to be desired. Weather reports were usually 50/50, and one wondered why even pay these scientists when the layman could also produce such a round-robin score. It was not far from reality to find someone shoveling several inches of "the partly cloudy".

Yet this age of computer directed weather models has been strikingly accurate in recent years. They will tell you a blizzard is coming, they will tell you which hour it will start falling, and they will even tell you the final inch count, depending on which part of the city you live in.

It was noteworthy that the recent hurricane Irene was predicted with great accuracy. The weathermen were able to tell you when the rain would start to fall, the path of the storm, and the rate at which the hurricane would move on.

The irksome part was the incessant warnings of the newscasters. No other news story even had a chance. Harping and Hyping the Hurricane was deemed a necessity of the media.

For most of us, the hurricane caused little damage and we might have wondered why all the hype was necessary. Yet in reality, over 40 people lost their lives, and that is even though thousands of people were evacuated from their homes. Many lost power, many roads were washed away in Vermont and upstate New York. Travel back from camps was difficult to impossible for some.

Yet all in all, most of us emerged unscathed. Even so, we should heed the recent earthquake in the Northeast and the recent Hurricane as a wakeup call to do Teshuva. Elul time is always a time to reflect on world events as a reminder to us that Hashem runs the world. It is probably no accident that the 2 lives lost in NY unfortunately were members of the tribe.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rebbe Restores Rustic Relic - (Woodbourne Shul Revived by Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis)

A century ago, Jews flocked to the Catskill Mountains, not merely for the summer months, but to live year-round.

One of the primary reasons for the move, was the farming profession, which allowed Jews to keep the Shabbos. Corporate jobs in the city, required working six days a week, with Sunday as the only day of rest.

Monticello, Liberty, Hurleyville, Glen Wild, Woodridge, South Fallsburg, Ellenville, Livingston Manor and Woodbourne, to name a few, built beautiful town Shuls which remain standing to this day.

One of the pleasures of Davening in one of these rustic relics of the past is to admire the artwork on the walls, the high domed ceilings, the stained glass windows, the ancient radiators, the musty basements and the simplistic, yet endearing architecture of the Aronei Kodesh.

Although a few of these Shuls still operate year round, others gather dust until they are revived by their summer guests.

Several years ago, the Nikolsberger Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, embarked on a plan to restore the Woodbourne Shul to it's former glory. Although Woodbourne hosted a Seforim store, the city was more famous for it's pizza, ice cream and pool tables, not to mention as serving as a meeting place for teenagers.

Rabbi Jungreis instituted round the clock Davening, provides hot food, cake and drinks as well as a listening ear for countless youngsters looking for guidance. The 93 year old Shul now serves as a bustling meeting place for Ruchniyus.

Kol HaKavod to the Rebbe.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Borscht Belt Bungalow Bygones - I Remember When II - Catskills Edition

Some of my best memories occurred during various summers spent in the Catskill Mountains. As the summer draws to a close, I compiled a list of memories that will take the reader down memory lane - and hopefully inspire some nostalgic comments.

I remember when

Jamesway, Ames, Shopright, Sullivan's, Great American.
Mom's famous Woodbourne Pizza Knish.
4 corners waterfall and hitch-hiking.
Browns, Pines, Nevele, Raleigh, Homowack, Grossingers.
Kiamesha, Ellenville and Liberty bowling.
GL1-2121 Billboards.
Lucky Dip, Pizza, pool at Woodbourne.
Tomsco Falls.
Moped renting.
Produce and hayride at Taivail Farm, Woodbourne.
Ice Caves Mountain.

Orange County Fair.
Catskill Game Farm.
Apollo Mall.
Farmers Market.
Mountain Fruit.
MBD, Fried, Shlomo Carlebach concerts.
Bears, deer, skunk, raccoons.
Washing machine shortage after the 9 days.
Blueberry picking.
Candle in the bottle for Eicha.

Arts and Crafts.
Shabbos Nachamu.
Mountaindale Lions.
Hakol B'Sefer Schlep it sale.
Cocoa Club.
Mosquito bites.
Color War.
Camp Munk circus.
Canoeing at Morning Side, Liberty, Loch Sheldrake, White Lake.
Old Town Shuls.
Neversink river and reservoir.
Yeshiva South Fallsburgh.

Route 17, 42, 52.
Harris and Ellenville hospitals.
Frogs, toads, salamanders.
Camp Fires Kumzitz.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Senator Sings Shabbos Songs - Joe Lieberman: The Gift of Rest

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman has recently published a book which describes the beauty and serenity of Shabbos, and his attempt to follow it's laws while serving as a public servant.

I think that it is very notable that such a high ranking official of the United States saw fit to write a book, geared to all Americans, that promotes the idea of a Day of Rest.

Joe serves as an important role model in asking that people turn off their electronic gadgets for one day a week. If a US senator is able to shut off his blackberry for 24 hours, certainly teenagers can be persuaded to give up TXTing for a day.

Aside from the Shabbos lessons that Joe is teaching fellow Americans, I especially appreciated the personal vignettes. His meeting with Sarah Palin, his Shabbos spent with Al and Tipper Gore, his conversation with George Bush II; these stories add a historic flair to a topic that I and most of my readers are fluently familiar with.

Notable is his explanation for publicly criticizing Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky matter, while still voting against impeachment. Also remarkable is his recounting of a Brocha his mother received from a Chassidic Rebbe, that he would grow up to be a "leader of people". Also noteworthy are his mentions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson and Rabbi Johnathan Sacks.

The language is surprisingly simple. I would expect a Senator to use a rich vocabulary, yet I imagine that the simplicity is due to his genuine regard to teach the reader what Shabbos is, and why it is important.

As often mentioned on this blog, the messianic era is dawning. As our rabbis have taught us, if we all would keep 2 Shabbosos in a row, Moshiach would arrive. Perhaps having a high ranking official author such a book is a necessary step in reaching this goal.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blood Bares Biblical Belief

It has been in the news recently that a simple blood test can now determine whether an embryo is male or female. What is interesting, though, is that the determination can be made at a mere six weeks into pregnancy with 99% accuracy.

I find this interesting, because precisely 40 days into pregnancy is a significant milestone in the Talmud. The Talmud states in Berachos 54A

היתה אשתו מעוברת ואומר יהי רצון שתלד אשתי זכר הרי זו תפלת שוא

"If one's wife is pregnant and he says let it be thy will that my wife bears a son, this is a prayer in vain.”

Yet this is qualified by the codifiers that one may pray up until the 40th day after conception: See the Tur in Orach Chaim 230.

The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 230:1) explains that this is because until 40 days, the embryo is not “formed” yet.

The source for this observation might be the Talmud in Menachos 99B

ר' יוחנן ור' אלעזר דאמרי תרוייהו תורה ניתנה בארבעים ונשמה נוצרה בארבעים

“Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar both say that Torah is given at 'forty', and the soul is formed at 'forty'.”

All in all, I find this more than coincidental.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Reminiscing Remembering Reminding Reflecting

These dog days of summer invariably lead one to reflect on the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh. These are the days when tragedy crouches around the corner, waiting to rear it's ugly head.

Unfortunately, this year the beast was unleashed early. Chazal say that when destruction is visited upon us, we need to reflect on our deeds. While no one really knows what cause effects which affect, we can certainly speculate.

In my popular I remember when post, readers and I lamented on how simple life was years ago. One could drink orange juice made from concentrate, one could drive a yeshivishe car and one could attend Yeshiva Gedolah outside of Lakewood and still get married. One could even dwell in a bungalow with no telephone for 10 weeks.

Children did not get debilitating diseases and die, Jews did not molest and kill and no one felt the need to install security cameras. Meeting a Jew with a Yarmulka meant you were doing business with someone trustworthy.

Yet, as if to fulfill some macabre [deleted] dream, we have sadly tried to become a nation like all others. Perhaps we need to do a little more Avodas HaLev and make ourselves aware of our innate-difference so that our beacon once more shines on the other nations of the world and subsequently - ourselves.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Frum Fear Facebook Fraternizing

Elsewhere on the internet it is being debated whether Rabbis should maintain a Facebook presence. I see both sides of this debate. On the one hand, a rabbi should be on a different plateau than his congregants, yet on the other hand, perhaps having the rabbi on FB makes him more hip and approachable by the younger generation.

As noted previously on this blog, all technology takes a certain amount of time to get used to. Most rabbis were not the first to carry cell phones and buy computers. Yet in just a few short years the cell phone and computer has become a vitual necessity.

Although we live amidst a secular culture and deem these gadgets necessities, it is commendable, though, for those who can manage without them. I recently heard the following thought conceived by Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz.

The midrash tells us that when Ya'akob's family took his coffin to the Me'arat Hamachpelah to bury him, Esav appeared and protested that the last spot in the cave belongs to him, Esav, and not to Ya'akob. The sons of Ya'akob began to argue with Esav, trying to prove that the right to burial in that cave was sold to their father with the birthright. Esav argues that this was not included, so they decided to send Naftali, who was as swift as a deer, to Egypt to bring the original document. Ya'akob had a grandson named Hushim (the son of Dan) who was deaf, and didn't hear all the give and take. When Hushim saw that Ya'akob was not being buried he asked (in some form of sign language), "Why is there a delay?" When he was told that Esav was blocking the burial, he took a weapon and chopped Esav's head off, saying, "How could we leave our grandfather, Ya'akob, lying in disgrace while we wait for a document?"

The Rabbis ask why only Hushim, the grandson of Ya'akob, had the inspiration to do such a courageous act. Where were all the sons of Ya'akob themselves? Surely they loved and respected their father at least as much as Hushim ben Dan!

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz says that we see from here what happens when we get used to something. The brothers were already involved in the negotiations with Esav so they didn't perceive it as such a disgrace for Ya'akob to be lying around since they were already somewhat accustomed to the situation. Hushim, however, was deaf, and didn't hear all that was going on. He therefore saw the situation in all of its stark reality, and reacted by killing Esav.

The lesson to be derived from this is that we all too often get accustomed to situations. Many times this is beneficial, so that we wouldn't always be shocked by things. Sometimes, however, being used to certain situations, we don't react the way we are supposed to. We become too accepting of things which should be corrected or spoken about. We should try to talk things over with an outsider who will see the situation from a fresh point of view, thereby getting an objective opinion. Sometimes, our spouse can be objective enough when he or she is not involved too deeply in whatever is bothering us. One way or another we should try to look at situations from a new, fresh perspective, which will help us in doing the right thing.

from here

So for those who can keep their Neshomos FB free, Kol HaKavod to them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Little Leiby's Lesson Learned

The beat towards Moshiach is growing louder and louder.

In my first-ever post, I discussed how technology is making the era of Moshiach that much more believeable. In a bygone era, those with Emunah Peshutah believed that there is an eye that sees, an ear that hears, a scribe that writes and that all our actions are recorded for infinity. Yet those with little Emunah, or none at all were puzzled how this is at all possible.

So along comes the telegraph, the phone, the radio, the television and the internet. Security cameras record our every move, TXT messages record our every word, CHAT records our instant message conversations. Big Brother is here.

For those who are skeptical of the arrival of the messianic era, this is all an invasion of privacy. But for those of us who have predicted his coming for several millenia, each new advance in technology brings him one step closer. One who truly fears God does not fear Big Brother, as a Yarei Shamayim is already cognizant of the fact that all his actions are scrutinized above.

I think that this is the lesson that we must learn from Leiby Kletzky HYD. It is not just by chance that security cameras caught the killer with him on tape. God is reinforcing this idea that "The King is Watching".

FBI agents will now be able to trace every web site the killer ever visited, every phone call he made in the last 10 years, every toll booth that he ever passed, and every aspect of his social life, as they comb his facebook account.

It is unfortunate that so great a lesson must be reinforced in such a tragic manner, but we should not squander the opportunity to do so.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seers State Slaying's Source

As members of the Chosen People, we believe that we were put on this earth to be a light unto the nations. That light burned brightly this past week as all segments of Jewry combined to assist in locating the missing child, and subsequently, the perpetrator.

What puzzles me is how various Rabbis are privy to the cause of such tragic events. Of course we know that there is a master running the world, with a master plan that eludes us, yet how does one pinpoint the cause unless he has a direct hotline to the heavens?

Is it because of Tzniyus? Is it because of same-gender marriage approval? Is it because of cell phones and TXTing? Or perhaps the Internet caused it. I guess we'll never know until we meet Leiby HY"D.

In any case, let me don my Seer's hat and look into my crystal ball.

Aha! I see it! It is because we have become news junkies. Up until a decade ago, we perhaps purchased a newspaper once in a while, or turned on the radio here and there. Nowadays, we insist on having news alerts and email all forwarded to our I-devices. We don't check in "two, three, four times a day". We check in constantly. We have a panic attack if we leave our I-device at home.

This sickness might be what brought about such a punishment. We were thrown into the limelight; our community made page one headlines around the country and the world. Every few hours were new updates and yet it was all for naught. We did not emerge unscathed.

I sometimes wonder how Beis Medrash Bochurim are able to learn nowadays in the TXTing age.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Community Could Create Cops

Many years ago, when someone needed emergency medical assistance, they would need to call 911. Unfortunately, the response time of EMS all too often was not timely enough. One Williamsburg Jew cared enough to change all that, and Hatzoloh was born.

Some years ago, a new organization was formed, called Chaveirim. This group will come and unlock your house, your car and assist in many other non life-threatening situations.

Another organization that has burst onto the scene is Misaskim. In just a few short years they have gone from an obscure group to being THE people to call for any death related issues. Accident scenes, Shiva houses, loudspeakers for a Levaya, preventing autopsies, and many other related issues are all handled by this wonderful organization.

Which brings to mind that it may be time for another one. Ever since the Jblogosphere has been in infancy, there has been an ongoing battle between the Rabbonim and many Jbloggers regarding reporting potential molesters. Rabbonim are mindful of Halachos of Mesirah and possibly ruining a man's good reputation based on false rumors, and the Jbloggers are quick to say "Go to the Police!"

Recent events have shown that it was some good old fashioned detective work that solved the tragic murder in our community. It was some simple Jewish people who cared and doggedly pursued video footage and others who subsequently located the perpetrator's car.

If we have such dedicated and analytical people in our community, why not form a group trained by the NYPD who can be mindful of the laws of Loshon Hora and yet can pursue any and all leads regarding possible molestors in our midst?

Amidst all the sadness in this tragic epic is the Achdus which was once again shown by hundreds of volunteers. So many community leaders and lay persons put aside their summer plans and stayed up for hours on end to assist in a hunt for someone who most of them didn't even know.

May Hashem comfort the Kletzky family.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mekimi Meets Mayor Mike

There are many organizations that serve the Jewish community. One of the lesser known is Mekimi. Mekimi's mission is to provide happiness to sick children and their families. To raise one up from the deepest depths of sadness is the epitome of selflessness and to what the organization aspires.

I have seen some of their fabulous work in past press releases, yet this past July 4th one of my neighbors shared with me the family's experience, and since I could not find any mention of this in the media, I will share it with my readers.

I received a call from Mekimi that they had a viewing area for the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks display, was I interested? Sure, I said. I figured that my chances of getting a viewing area suitable to see the show were greater with a group than had I simply taken the train and fought the crowds on my own.

I arrived at Mekimi headquarters in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn and was astounded to see a coach bus waiting to ferry us to our location. I was somewhat concerned that we would miss the entire show, because the fireworks were designated to begin at darkness, 9:20 PM, and I was fearful of NYC traffic which is notorious for slowing to a crawl, even on highways during past fireworks shows.

What I hadn't known is that the Mayor/NYPD's office had provided a squad car with two officers who were to be our escort! The bus navigated the Boro Park streets until Ocean Parkway where we then zipped into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. We emerged on the West Side Highway where I had never seen so many policemen in one area. Yet as if the Parting of the Sea was being reenacted, police barriers were removed to allow access solely for our escort and our bus.

We proceeded until 24th street. There we were amazed to be situated in an area reserved for the dignitaries and all the major television and cable channels. We were escorted out on the 24th street pier, where Mekimi had prepared sushi and deli sandwiches and drinks. The view was amazing on this picture-perfect, weather-perfect evening.

The grandstand was situated directly behind us. Soon we noticed a caravan of 6 SUV's with their cherries flashing stopping at 24th street. The Mayor emerged and proceeded past us, briefly stopping to shake hands with some and wishing well to others.

All in all, it was a wonderful sight. I had never seen fireworks so close. They were shot into the air from six barges sitting on the Hudson river. The coordination was stupendous. The colors were electrifying. This experience will stay with me and my children for a lifetime.

Thank you Mekimi.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Addiction Alters Appropriate Appreciation

Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky said that he forgave everyone except the Bochur who introduced him to cigarettes. Everyone who was familiar with RYK knows that he was of the softest demeanor, yet he still felt strongly and was not Mochel the person who he believed was responsible for hooking him on smoke (prior to his quitting).

Whereas nowadays we know how evil smoking is, and how it is the root cause of so many diseases, surprisingly RYK harbored ill will against someone who may not have realized the seriousness of his action.

Today many innocent Yeshiva Bochurim are being ensnared by friends via the ills of the Ipod. The average black-hat Yeshiva Bochur is not familiar with the current shows on television, the music videos of MTV and the decadent movies in the theaters. Yet many a "friend" feel the need to ensnare them into the current secular viewing culture.

I would venture to say that RYK would be more upset about a friend that introduces another to decadent culture, even more so than smoking - for the simple reason that as Jews we should be careful not to sully our Neshomo even more than our bodies.

I recall the powerful story shared by Rav Matisyahu Salomon at one of the first gatherings to alert parents to the dangers of the Internet. A parent complained to RMS that his son was ensnared by the world wide web and was uninterested in learning anymore. The father was afraid that when his time came to leave the world, he would not be reunited with his son, as the father assumed that he would ascend to Heaven while the son was doomed for elsewhere. RMS thundered at him "What makes you think that you will go to Olam Habaah if you were the one who gave him access to the internet?"

Recent articles about Half-Shabbos are what prompted this post. Studies show that teens are sending on average hundreds of TXT messages a day! TXTing has become second nature to most teens, to be viewed almost as talking, walking and eating. It is no wonder then that some are unable to remove the addiction for the 25 hours of Shabbos. Added to that one can easily rationalize that there are those who permitted electricity on Shabbos before the consensus to prohibit carried the day.

It is not easy for those of us who grew up in a generation without Ipods to understand how difficult it may be to forego TXTing for a day. Yet we must show our children the beauty and serenity of Shabbos, as many a businessman has realized that unplugging themselves from their leash is the proven way to regain their sanity. Let us follow their lead to regain our sanctity.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Solomon Serves Sumptuous Smells

Way back in the days when kosher food was scarcely available outside the home, I went to the circus. I remember the excitement, the fun, the flying trapeze, the lions and tigers and the elephants, but what is most memorable is the smell of all the non-kosher food. The cotton-candy, the buttered popcorn, the snow-cones and the hot-dogs.

Years later I went with day camp to the Orange County Fair. The smashing car derby, the rides, the animals, the races - all remain seared in my memory. But perhaps the most powerful memory that lingers is the smell of the shish-ke-bob as it barbecued on the grill.

Fast forward to this past week, and those aromas were once again filling my nostrils. I had taken the opportunity of the mini-vacation that avails itself during when school ends and camp begins. Central Park was the destination, and those olfactory senses were reawakened as I passed the Victorian Gardens amusement park, which doubles as the Wollman Skating Rink during the winter.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the entire park had been rented out by some Chai Lifeline philanthropists to mark the Yahrtzeit of one of their donors, Shlomo (Solomon) Obstfeld ZTL.

Instead of tragically marking the year since his passing in a doleful way, the family and business of Shlomo paid for the entire park to be reserved for families of sick children. All the rides were free, snow cones were distributed, cotton candy was available, an entire array of barbecued food was provided, a Dee-Jay played all the current Jewish tunes, drinks flowed freely, popcorn popped, street vendor salted pretzels were available with all the amenities and hundreds of children forgot for a day that they were sick.

As I viewed this spectacle from a distance, I couldn't help but think Mi KiAmcha Yisrael! - How great are the People of Israel!

Monday, June 27, 2011

HoChiMinh, Hagiography, Humor, Heroics

The new Artscroll biography on Rav Mordechai Gifter is now available and I am impressed. Whereas most other biographies unfortunately are similar in nature, this book is refreshingly different. Many Gedolim knew Chumash by heart when they were five years old, knew Seder Nezikin before their Bar Mitzvah and finished Shas by the time they were 16. Yet what is so remarkable about Rav Gifter is that he knew only one Blatt Gemoro by the time of his Bar Mitzvah.

Yet through hard work, dedication and perseverance, Rav Gifter was able to make something of himself. He further decided that the prime location for persuing a Talmudic education lay across the ocean, and that is where he journeyed to. Ultimately he married into the family of the Telzer Rosh Yeshiva and went on to become Rosh Yeshiva himself.

Yet Rav Gifter did not lose sight of his humble origins. He understood that American Bochurim need to play ball; Americans needed the Artscroll Shas. Rav Gifter was not afraid to support his views, even when they opposed those of some of the leading rabbis of his generation.

Another Artscroll biography of note is that of Reb Shlomo Freifeld. Reb Shlomo also did not fit the mold of most AS biographies, also strongly advocated for his Bochurim and did not cower in the face of opposition.

I recently heard a vignette that Reb Shlomo was present at a meeting of the Yeshiva when they were discussing who to honor at their forthcoming dinner. Reb Shlomo puzzlingly suggested Ho Chi Minh. When asked why he responded something to the effect of ... "He has done more than anyone else in this generation to get Bochurim to come to Yeshiva!" [This blog even has visitors from Ho Chi Minh City.]

This reminds me of the difficult Vietnam War era when Rabbi Avigdor Miller scolded latecomers to the Yeshiva "You'll wear Tefillin at 8 AM here, or Khaki's at 6 AM at Fort Dix!"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gainful Gathering Galvanizes Graduates

It is not my habit to attend High School graduations, but familial obligations found me last night in the heart of Midwood, at Yeshiva Chaim Berlin to attend commencement exercises for my nephew.

I was in for somewhat of a surprise. There were no rows of chairs, no organ playing Pomp and Circumstance, and no processional of the graduates. Rather, there were tables set up Chasunah style, and participants were treated to a complementary full course dinner. The entire festive occasion was re-titled Siyum HaChaburah, as many of the boys completed the Masechta Baba Metzia during the course of the year.

The Yeshiva building is worthy of a post of its own. No longer is the stereotypical picture of dilapidated quarters a true picture of the modern day Yeshiva. The beautiful, spacious and immaculate edifice is truly worthy of accolade. If I had to relive my Yeshiva career, this would be my choice. Now I understand why Artscroll mentions Yeshiva’s president Avrohom Fruchthandler for placing learning on a higher plateau.

The Menahel spoke about Gadlus HaAdam. This is a legacy that the former Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yitzchak Hutner ZTL learned from the Alter of Slabodka, and instilled in his students. The Menahel explained that out of the sixty plus graduates, some will be attending Beis HaMedrash in institutions other than Chaim Berlin. As long as they go for the correct reason, that is fine. Yet if they are going to another Yeshiva just to conform, to be like everyone else – in “cookie-cutter” fashion, that would be incorrect. Rav Hutner was a master in finding the unique qualities of each person, and nurturing their potential to the fullest. This helped me understand why so many graduates of this Yeshiva have gone on to become famous in their own right.

The highlight of the evening was when Avrohom Fruchthandler, who had been invited up to the stage to bestow the awards (several of his relatives were graduating), gave a brief, off-the-cuff, highly inspiring speech. He championed the time that one spends in Yeshiva. He mentioned that he spends “seven days a week” in Yeshiva. He cautioned the graduates not to leave the hallowed halls of the Yeshiva until they are absolutely forced to. I find this very notable. Imagine Donald Trump telling graduates to pursue higher education rather that jump into the business world.

I imagine this is why Chaim Berlin is so successful, where the lay leadership is so strongly subservient to the Roshei Yeshiva. AF described himself as a “Junior Partner” in the Yeshiva. I am proud of my nephew, proud of his choice of Yeshiva and proud as a member of the People of the Book.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Idyllic Innocence Is "IN"

Serendipity led me to, a now defunct blog that so eloquently describes the day to day vignettes of living life as an American Yeshiva Bochur, learning in Eretz Yisroel.

It is the rare occasion when one encounters a heretofore little known blog that has merit, and one begins to engorge the mind on reams and realms of precious thought. It is as if one had discovered a new vein of gold that can’t be mined fast enough. I hope you don’t mind if I indulge in some mined treasures therein.

One particular post that caught my attention was titled Seclusion and discussed the innate beauty of children who grow up in a secluded environment. Although one can argue that these children will never receive the life-tools they need to navigate the world as adults, there is much to be appreciated in those who can prolong the age of innocence as long as possible. I recall the first time I set eyes on Boro Park. I was amazed to find hundreds of children, peyos flying playing on stoops with Spaldine balls, playing tag and other street games, noshing on some new-fangled Kosher treats. The cherubic faces made me yearn for such an idyllic childhood. A vision of seclusion and beauty and innocence. In the eloquent words of the Baal HaBlog…

Beautifully so, I think. Have you ever taken a walk in peaceful Meah Shearim on a Friday night? Watched the boys and girls of eight or nine play in the streets? The poetic innocence on the faces of the Yerushalmi kids twinkles in the twilit alleyways. Freshly scrubbed and bathed, they play with joyful, carefree abandon. Abandoning the yokes of a society gone insane on them, they are, in a word,
children. When was the last time you met up with a nine year old who was only
nine years old? We say, “oh, what a smart child you are”, chap a knip, and move
on, subconsciously silencing the screams of our own childhood… itself so much
more innocent. Children are meant to be children, not adults. In frightening
irony, however, adults behave childishly and attempt to shortcut their
children’s most vital experience- their youth. They nuke their progenies’ time
growing up, and nuclear is nothing short of the result.

This came to mind recently as I was disturbed by news coming out of New Square. Of course there are problems with insulation, as so vividly depicted by the must-read article by Rabbi AHARON HERSH FRIED. But one must not throw out the baby with the bath water. One must try to find the middle ground in all of life’s challenges. As Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky said...

I’ll tell you. I’m often asked here in Monsey and especially
regarding girls, “How much should we or can we shut
them off to protect them from the culture at large?” I
always tell them, “You can’t! Unless, that is, you live in
Squaretown.” Now especially; I understand they have their
own hospital and their own cemetery, one can be born
there, live ones life there, and be buried there. To those
who can do that, ‘Tavo aleihem brachah’ (may they be
blessed). Most of us, however, do not live in Squaretown
and cannot live in Squaretown. So what will you do? Not
tell a young boy about evolution and then wait until at age
16 or 17 he reads in the New York Times, which he ‘knows’
prints only ‘verified facts,’ that the bones of a person 2 or
3 million years old were found!?? And the Times will print
this without any mention of detracting opinions or
controversy. What will this young man do? He’ll be
completely lost! This would not happen if he had been
taught at an earlier time in school by his rabbei’im and
teachers that there are people who believe such and such,
what their mistaken beliefs are based on, where their error is, what it is we believe about such events, and how we believers deal with these

Monday, June 13, 2011

Popular Personalities Publish Posthumously

One of the advantages of the Internet Age is the capacity to be Mechaye Meisim. I've written about it before how the web allows one to view events of the past decades. Another aspect of this new age is the proliferation of posthumous publishing. Whereas years ago publishing was a difficult proposition, push-button publishing of the modern era makes it as simple as pie.

With regard to Seforim, the computers and online research capabilities allow one to easily find new manuscripts that were heretofore hidden away in the recesses of obscure libraries, and bring them to print. Word processing also greatly frees one from the burden of typing by hand and correcting mistakes (no longer does one need to mind their p's and q's). Copy and Paste is another feature that eases the birth of new Seforim. Computers further aid in the deciphering of ancient manuscripts.

One of the first Rabbis to harness technology to aid and distribute his Torah discourses was Rabbi Avigdor Miller. Thousand of his tapes have been circulating around the globe for half a century. Recent advertisements advise that his tapes have been migrated digitally, and can be accessed now on one's Ipod.

But the real proliferation seems to be in the written word. Although Rabbi Miller published many books in his lifetime, many new books are being published nowadays based on his discourses.

It seems that many people do not publish during their lifetimes for a variety of reasons. Most probable is the lack of time. Important people are so busy helping others, that they have no time left for personal needs. Reb Chaim Brisker is famous for stating that the orphans and widows he cares for will be his legacy. However, the current trend has ensured that Reb Chaim's Shiurim be available to the public.

This is perhaps the meaning of the Talmudic dictum: Chullin 7B

גדולים צדיקים במיתתן יותר מבחייהן

Tzadikim are more proliferate in death than in life.

I am reminded of several witticism's of Rabbi Miller. He once was asked by a man of color: "Why do you people wear black shoes, a black hat, a black coat and black pants?" To which Rabbi Miller replied: "Because black is beautiful!". Another time he was accosted by an irate individual who hurled insults at the rabbi and finally uttered "Drop dead!". To which Rabbi Miller casually replied "God willing, that will be the last thing I ever do!".

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