Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Wanted: A girl with Ooooomph

It's not so easy to put into words what I am looking for. I can tell you what it's not - not some "Yes" girl, a baby maker and house cleaner who will agree dutifully with everything hubby says.

What is "Oooooomph"? It's a combination of character, personality, edge, zest, passion, intelligence, street smarts, confidence, bite, balls, brains.

I need someone who will debate, argue, criticize and joust with me intellectually. Someone who won't let me dominate conversations, who is well read and well versed, yet not an intellectual snob. Opinionated yet capable of seeing the other side. Full of conviction and moral fiber. One who has so much to teach me in so many different areas of life in such a short space of time. Who will join me on my spiritual, emotional and intellectual quest for truth, love and G-d during this fleeting existence.

Is that too much to ask?


Monday, May 30, 2005

Modern Mussar

I remember watching as a kid (a real one, not just a Rabbi's one) an episode of the New Twilight Zone (Google has almost definitely established it was called "Take My Life ... Please!"). It was a long time ago, so I'll have to paraphrase.

A comedian finds himself suddenly back stage, and is ushered out onto the stage. He figures he should do as he always does, and reels off a list of one-liners. Silence. Pin-drop quiet. He can't see the audience due to the glaring spotlight. None of his jokes elicit a chuckle. Then a voice from the crowd calls out "Tell us about Frank". A chorus of voices shout "Yeah, tell us about Frank". So the comic hesitantly says "Frank was my best friend, he was away on business a lot and I had an affair with his wife". The crowd roar with laughter. "What about the hit and run?" "I clipped a young boy with my car once but didn't stop to help, just drove straight home" - the crowd are on the floor, rolling in the aisles. The comedian is forced to recount all his wrongdoings and the crowd laps it up, begs for more.

Beis Din Shel Maalah?


Sunday, May 22, 2005

I wanna make the world a better place

How do I make the world a better place? Discover a cure for cancer? Eradicate hunger? I don't have the tools, knowedge or finance for that.

Should I try and make my country a better place? Run for president? Institute a powerful new lobby? I don't know if I have the balls, guts or the ability to do that.

Maybe I can make my city a better place? Clean up the streets? Shelter the homeless? Cure the addicts? I don't think I can do that.

I'll have to start with myself. Every second of every day is filled with infinite possibilites. A good deed, a friendly butterfly smile can ripple across millions, through worlds upper and lower. Delving into Torah, carrying out G-d's Word can cause a chain reaction through the unfathomable spiritual realms.

If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Baseball and life

Sometimes your big hitter comes up with a huge home run at the bottom of the ninth to win. Often though you need to amass the runs, fly balls, walks, men on base early on in the innings. Both methods work, unless you are too many runs down in the ninth. What innings am I in? Is it too late? Are none of my hitters on form?

There is no "recover post" button in real life is there?


יושב בסלון מגרד ת'ביצים
בזמן שאח שלי טוחן אבנים בשטחים
ביחד נשרוד לחוד ניפול

Friday, May 13, 2005

For TwennyTwo - about Israel

Twenny asked:

"Are all Jewish people supposed to live in Israel? If so, are they supposed to live there permanently?"

Like everything else (esp. when it comes to us Jews!) it depends who you ask. Amongst Orthodox Jews (which is the grouping I know best) there is a spectrum of answers, ranging from the religious zionist belief that every Jew should live in Israel to the ultra-Orthodox point of view that states that Jews should not go en masse to live there until the coming of the Messiah, i.e. pro-zionist, a-zionist and anti-zionist.

There is a corpus of complex Halachic (Halachah = Jewish Sharia) debate as whether it is an actual commandment to live in Israel. Some say yes (religious zionists again) some say sort of (quite-ultra semi-zionists but not willing to admit to it in public) and some say no (full-on ultra orthodox, represented in the extreme by the Satmar grouping of Chassidim).

"If so, how are they supposed to fit?"

Good question. There are many areas in Southern Israel that are empty and undeveloped. Israel has already absorbed millions who have turned the dry arid marshlands and wastelands into beautiful lush green areas. Furthermore the truth is that, like many other religions, when it comes to religious belief or ideology the practical side of things doesn't seem to have too much influence.

"Can someone explain the whole 'go back to Israel if you are a Jew' concept to me, please? Is it like Hajj where you go for a certain pilgrimage and then leave?"

No. The idea is to live there. There was a religious concept of making a pilgramage to Jerusalem/the Temple area during the three festivals of Pesach (just finished) Shavuot and Succot, aka Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (as if that helps!). Nowadays (due to lack of said Temple) it is a nice idea but not generally held to be any sort of religious obligation.

Twenny, thanks for asking. Feel free to ask more. If anyone has a problem with you asking questions I'll bitch slap them so hard they'll be eating through the back of their head.

Thanks for listening, and if anyone disagrees with what how I portrayed things (in a brief, concise yet scholarly manner) they can comment - but watch out for my jabs and uppercuts.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

A brief message for G-d

I'm not a perfect person
There's many things I wish I didn't do
But I continue learning
I never meant to do those things to You
And so I have to say before I go
That I just want You to know

I've found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
and the reason is You

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Is Israel really that important?

Some of you Jews already consider Israel a crucial part of your religious life. The State, the place, the people, the government. Others hold by neo-Satmar ideologies or Leibovitzian viewpoints. This is not for you (nor my non-Jewish readers, though I always welcome your input).

But I've discovered that for many religious diaspora Jews, Israel does not occupy a central place. A nice holiday location. Somewhere to go to Yeshiva for a year or two.

The return of our people to its homeland after 2000 years is a momentous event. We control our destiny. Ein bein olam hazeh leyemot hamashiach elah shibud malchoiyot bilvad. If you follow the Kuzari, you should see G-d's hand in history, guiding His people back to the place they prayed for during the millenia of exile. With all the problems, issues and schisms that arise from having Jews run a country, it is still OUR country.

We must thank Hashem for the bounty He has bestowed upon us. I will leave you good people with a quote from a former Chief Rabbi of Israel: "We must end this submission and fear of argument. Surely these very people that we are afraid to argue with do not recognize the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate and its decisions and they disagree with everything we say ... On these days (YH and YY) occured a great victory, a wonderous miracle of liberation."

Good holy day.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Fleeting recollections of fallen heroes

Where are you, my memories of the saintly ones, the holy ones?
My mind wishes to encompass your totality, now that you are gone.
You gave up your life, I can no longer grab you, grasp you, clasp you close to me.
You are merely a number engraved on the forearm of Israel, nothing more.
Your face, smile, warmth and love have all dissipated into the sacred air.
The earth sheds tears for you, the soil that now nurtures you, foetus-like.
What have I sacrificed for you, O martyr? I feel despair envelop me.
There is no siren song, no sweet tune, just a poignant alarm sounding in our hearts.
The only air-raid is inside us, but there is no shelter, no safe place to hide.
Your spirit lives on, ever-lasting, ever-present, ever-calling us to a higher goal.
I stand still for a minute, while you remain still for eternity.

I shall remember you.


Monday, May 09, 2005

To my sister the tsfoni - an open letter

Note: Please read both this and the previous post together. This is not a pro or anti disengagement post (I can appreciate both sides of the argument), please keep the comments off that angle if you can.

(A tsfoni is a name generally used for an Ashkenazi Secular North Tel Aviv person)

You sit there in your salons in Savyon sipping on Uzi Landau's wine and cheese. As they say, salvation comes from the most unlikely source, your old arch-enemy, the hated Arik Sharon, demagogue supreme, butcher of Sabra and Shatilla, the settler idealogue, has agreed to turf settlers out of their home. A good start. If Peres, Beilin, Sarid et al could get their act together, we'd be able to recreate the spirit of Oslo, the good times, those heady days when the world loved Israel.

Those 8,000 settlers in Gush Katif needed thousands of soldiers to protect them. Many of our finest boys gave their lives there. That particular nightmare is nearly over. But what happens next? Will the rockets stop falling on Sederot? Will they develop stronger rockets that can reach Ashkelon, Ashdod, Rechovot? Maybe even Tel Aviv? Well, Southern Tel Aviv wouldn't be too bad, it would clear more parking spaces. As long as they miss Susan Dellal.

Would you expect with similar equanimity a decision to forcibly remove 8,000 Arabs from their home? Wouldn't Haaretz, Peace Now and their cohorts be up in arms, filing Bagatsim to their man on the inside Barak, following it up in the European Court of Human Rights, the UN, the ICJ, maybe even bring the Belgians in again - they seem to like this stuff?

Can you totally accept the "Transfer" of thousands of fellow Jews who settled there with the blessing of every Israeli government, Likud and Labour? Is this as part of a final stategy of overall peace? At least Chamberlain's detente had a piece of paper, which he could frame or show his grandkids. What did Sharon get?

You are asking these people to leave everything valuable to them, their homes, sentiments, land and to hand them over to the very people who have been trying to kill them? You have no compunction in doing so? You want to win me over to your cause? Show some compassion. Have some feeling.

I understand you. I want you to understand others.


To my sister the settler - an open letter

Note: Please read both this and the next post together. This is not a pro or anti disengagement post (I can appreciate both sides of the argument), please keep the comments off that angle if you can.

You are part of what has been a pivotal movement in Israeli society. You accomplished things and made sacrifices that the original Chalutsim would be proud of. Maybe had the rest of Am Yisrael followed you things would be very different. But they didn't. And they aren't.

You feel betrayed by the government, screwed by your former idealist, abandoned by your people by an undemocratic decision. You have been demonized and de-humanized by the press, both in Israel and abroad. Portayed as monsters whose life is worth less than other humans, you have suffered unspeakable terror.

I understand and appreciate all of that. You wish to revolt, to upheave the goverment, to cause destruction until the decree is overruled. I appreciate your desire for civil unrest, though you also have to accept the response of tghe legal system to your actions. You can burn tires on the Ayalon, but drivers who have sat in an office all day and want to get home to their spouses may be justifiably angry with you.

You may express passive resistance to someone throwing you out of your home. But remember that these are the same soldiers and policeman who put their lives on the line for many years to protect you. They are comporting with the principle of discipline and it is not personal. I know that the police, like in every country, are very heavy handed. Policemen have to deal with troublesome people daily and would rather use excessive force to restrain them than daily be involved in a tussle to control someone. So please do not take it out on the police or soldiers.

You wish to persuade the people of Israel and the outside world of the erroneousness of the plan and how it caves to terror. Threats to the Prime Minister or Mr. Basi will not win you supporters. Suggesting wearing orange stars will drive people away from your cause. Sabotaging army equipment that tax payers must pay to fix will not help. Pictures of thousands of wild, payot wearing, hippy-looking indoctrinated youth fighting soldiers who have come to demolish an ILLEGAL outpost do not serve your cause. Use every democratic tool available, protest, publish, demonstrate, argue, debate. But realize that there is a line.

I understand you. I want you to understand others.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Where to bring my kids up

One of my posts got sidetracked onto an interesting and important subject of where to bring kids up. I don't wanna get into specific places or towns though.I shall put forward my own personal philosophy and let the mud slinging begin.

I have very deep-seated issues with people bringing kids up in a homogeneous area of like-minded people. It goes against my religious weltanschauung (world-view). I believe in the totality of the Jewish people. The Tsibur is the Tsadik, Beynoni and the Rashah.

This problem is greatly exacerbated in Israel. Many Yishuvim have strict religious acceptance criteria now, Charedim live in their own towns and communities (though most non-Charedim probably don't want to live with them - a mutual separation). This will just get worse and has already caused major damage (especially to settlers, a different post topic)

The damage caused by living with people who have the same outlook is huge. We are never challenged in our views. We can easily demonize the Other, those to our right and to our left, the Black-hatters and the Shabbas Mechalelers (© new word). And as for the Goyim and especially the Arabs, well, Esav Soneh Es Yaakov. Davar Yadua. Muvan Me'eylov. Self-evident axiom. Therefore we should hate them right back.

I was fortunate that the Good Rabbi (aka Pa) lived in a mixed area, which exposed me to different people and different viewpoints. Yes, some of the local yokels weren't too friendly to the Yarmulke-wearing kid walking down the street. Most of the Yidden in the area weren't frummer yidden, shomrey shabbos, they were probably boaley niddah and didn't check for tolaim. But they were decent, honest, hard-working folk, who respected the Rabbi, did their bit, weren't fortunate to be the recipients of a strong Jewish education and probably didn't know better. I have more respect for them than much of the hypocritical crap, yenta system, blatant Losh and incredible intolerance I was exposed to in the frummy area nearby.

I don't want someone looking over my shoulder checking my clothing, judging me on my music or my tablecloth-style, my wife's choice of headwear (or even lack of choice?). These minhagim and chumrot are not their business, including this guy, though he is honest enough to admit it.

I spent a while in Israel in an area that was mixed religious and secular. I don't know what the percentages were, it's always difficult to gauge these things. There was a decent shabbat atmosphere, people didn't seem to drive their cars too much, though no streets were closed and no one forced them into anything. No loud music, no BBQs on fast days (you really gotta hate that one! Lo Tachsom Shor Bedisho). It meant a lot to me. If I wanted to wear a sleeveless top, shorts and sandals for my trip to the beach, no one cared.

I want my kids to see other people, other lives. PG they will live in a Jewish community, with a shul, decent school etc, but I will not bubble-wrap them to the extent that they never meet the Other.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Mrs. TRK - if you are reading this and you are from Limerick

I know you are out there, a bit like the truth,
Don't you know that I'm looking for you?
Please stay strong,
I'm coming right along,
When we meet I need it as Plato would do.

Like a bull in a china shop,
I don't know when to stop.
Libidous astray,
Will lead me away,
And I'll hate you for it too.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Thick skinned and proud of it

For those who are feeling BAD:

I used to be quite sensitive to things. Human nature I guess. We all are to some degree. Trawling for compliments, fishing for adulation.

R' Dessler wrote that a person who has a healthy appreciation of their self-worth, that they are a good person ("Bishvili Nivra Haolam", the world was created for ME) will not require the approbation of others. Nor should insults or disparagement affect them (sticks and stones). R' Twersky talks about this a lot as well.

I think I've internalized this idea over the course of time. I know I am basically a good person. Heck, you are too. You are kind, generous, friendly, you don't murder, molest anyone or swindle millions of dollars. So what if some stupid fat-headed ignorant runt calls you chubby, or smelly, or doesn't like your new haircut, or is jealous of the new boyf. SCREW THEM. You are bigger and better than them, and their opinion holds no sway with you.

Hope it helps.


I am sheltered - am I normal?

I realised that I've been incredibly lucky. My parents are still alive thank G-d. None of my close friends have been through a divorce, nor have their parents been through a divorce. Only a couple of them have had parents pass away.

No one I know has been raped, sexually abused or molested, G-d forbid, that I know of. No vicious attacks that I can think of, no savage mutilation. A couple of relatives of friends have died in piguim, one good friend died of a heart attack, a couple of acquaintances passed away in their twenties.

Am I the odd one out? Is it happening all around me and I am not privy to it, not aware of the reality? Have many of you, the readers, have had to face these things?

Open my eyes, broaden my mind, enlighten my soul. Slap me with the reality, dis-abuse me of my foolish naivete with your stories, drag me kicking and screaming out of the ivory tower I grew up in and my cotton-wool wrap with your heart wrenching stories, grind my rose-tinted glasses into the dirt with the heel of your pain.

Please. For me and for others like me.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Yom Hashoah - why bother

I'm from the MTV generation. Generation Y bother. What does it mean to me? I don't feel. I don't want to remember. If I feel something, then I do. But if I don't, then no amount of memorials or Claude Lanzmann films will evoke feelings in me. They don't come on demand. Like a tap. I could imitate Joe in friends and stick a tweezer into my leg to make myself cry. But I don't want to cry. What is left to cry about? Who are we fooling?

Too many Jews base their identity on the negativity of the shoah. Did Judaism not exist before AH came along? Do we forget Avraham till the Chofetz Chaim, Mesopotamia to Minsk? Have we elevated Fackenheim's 614th commandment to the detriment of the other 613? Would half of American Jewry still identify as Jews if it hadn't been for the final solution? As the Jew-cum-Nazi says in "The Believer" "we should love the Jews to death". If we didn't have the Arab countries trying to inflict a second holocaust on us, many American Jews would've assimilated by now. Every time someone insults a Jew, or makes some reference to the war without referring to us, or suggests that other Holocausts may take/have taken place (Armenia/Darfur) Jews get defensive. ENOUGH. Move on. Who are you fooling?

In Israel it's called Yom Hashoah Vehagevurah. Day of remeberance for the Holocaust and Heroism. HEROISM? A lot of the focus in Israel is on Mordechai Anieliwicz and the Warsaw ghetto uprising. One story of heroism in an era of lambs to the slaughter. Kivney Maron. Only themselves and their kids. HEROISM! Trying to find the Israeli angle, the big strong modern Jew who isn't afraid of the big bad anti-semites. Holocaust revisionism at its finest. Who are those Israelis fooling?

I feel empty on Yom Hashoah. Emptyof all feeling. Barren of thoughts. The tears have run dry. There is nothing left to cry for.

Who am I fooling?


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Morning has broken

A better way to start the day.

"Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head."

"It's 9 o clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in ... Sing us a song you're the Minyan man, sing us a song tonight."

"I'm gonna run to you" or "We gotta get out while we’re young 'cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run" or even better "Jaws was never my scene and I don't like Star Wars."

"How come you're always such a fussy young man. Don't want no Captain Crunch, don't want no Raison Bran. Well, don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan."

Tefilla betsibur, venishmartem meod nafshotechem and pas shacharis. That's how I should be starting my day.

Prize for anyone who can name all the artists.


Poster child for modern religious world

That was me once. The David Beckham and Michael Jordan of the modern religious world. Scion of two great religious families. Heir to an ancient Rabbinic tradition. Alumnus of some of the best Yeshivot, top in his shiur at every location. Able to converse freely about Gemara Kant and Nietzche, Hashkafah Madonna and Clancy.

I was determined to show my UO friends that one can take part fully in the modern world and yet be as observant and knowledgeable as the rest of them.

I succeeded at that role for a few years, inspiring and learning with people through college, being involved in education in the community.

But it's all gone horribly wrong.

I write this post to myself, to remind me what it is I should be striving for.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Absence makes the heart wonder

People must think we religious Jews are crazy (mental image of Obelix tapping his thick meaty finger against his head holding a pile of Roman helmets). Not eating bread or anything leavened for 8 days and clearing it out of our house. Waiting three hours after steak for a coffee. Not sleeping with or touching our wives for 10-14 days a month. Not touching members of the opposite sex until we are married (that really is crazy - who does that??).

I'm not gonna try and explain it. Not yet. But having to engage in self-discipline and control is an important attribute. Not only does it distance us from our animalistic selves, it also gives us a greater appreciation for the good things in life. That first fresh post-Pesach piece of piping hot bread. The post-chuppah excitement, releasing the pent-up frustration of love that has no outlet.

A friend of mine who owned a swimming pool once described his after shabbat swim as "Niddah-like". Hameyvin Yavin. I just hope that I get to experience that soon - the swimming pool, silly!


My Chag

The peaks and troughs, the highs and lows.

I always find Shabbat and Yomtov spiritually uplifting. Tranquil. I'm a voracious reader and I love the long afternoons with nothing else to do but read a great book, eat, drink, pee and sleep. A simple life for a simple man. I can get through a book a day over chag no sweat. It's incredibly relaxing, lying back reading Siddharta, The Name of the Rose, Fermat's Last Theorem (a couple of good Divrey Torah I'll share later), a book about Caeser's youth, some Dershowitz which depresses me (isn't it obvious to the world that Israel is a liberal democracy with an overly activist Supreme Court and not a pariah state with the worst record of human rights?). I also do some shteiging which inspires me, but then comes the dreaded motsey shabbat.

My neshomo yeterah (extra soul for the Shabbat) seems to tear off pieces off my soul every time it leaves. I feel a great vacuum on Saturday nights, a need to fill my life. Some of my lowest spiritual moments have occured on Saturday nights/Sundays and it's not directly due to existential boredom.

Otherwise, Chag was spent out and about experiencing life, eating wayyyyyyyyy too much (I never want to see another Matzah again - Moshiach please come!). I find Yom tov to be a cycle of daven eat sleep, daven eat sleep. Back to the daily grind.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Two trailer park girls go round the outside"

Guess who's back? Back again. The kids back. Tell a friend.

Miss me?

I wish I could lift Rawls' veil of anonymity so I could reveal what a wild and wonderful ride I've been having, but I can't. I'll just have to reveal one amah and conceal two, keep the details murky.

Get ready for many more posts from the kid.

Who were the three cowboys in Adon Olam?

Billy Reishit, Billy Tachlit and Kid Ruchi.