Monthly Archives: July 2006


With temps in the near 100s, sometimes a blog freeze isn’t a bad idea. Didn’t really check my blog, or anyone else’s since erev Shabbos. It’s good to know that I still have will power. I’ll be continuting with Midah # 7 shortly. Thanks for reading.

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos- #6

Gentleness: The wise speak in a gentle manner; always try to speak softly

I heard a great line once: You attract just as many bees with honey as you do with vinegar. It’s true. The way I say things has a positive effect if done properly. If you look at the midos I’ve written about so far, it’s interesting that they are all positive things. Midah # 1 is Emes not Sheker. The “wise speak in a gentle manner”, they speak in the positive. My best friend told me that to get respect you’ve got to give respect. Speaking to others with derech eretz, in a “gentle manner” makes you wise.

When I’m not speaking in a “gentle manner” everything erupts. That’s just how most people are. If I yell or raise my voice at you, then you’ll do it right back at me. If I type like THIS THEN I’M YELLING! I find that I easily get carried away when someone won’t hear my side of the story. Someone who thinks before they speak will speak softly.

Look, I’ve yelled before. It doesn’t accomplish much except that you sound louder and it’s embarrassing. This is why midah #4 was Tranquility. I need to behave in a calm fashion before I even open my mouth. What Rav Yisrael is telling me is that my words are powerful. Everyone has been hurt by something that someone has said. While physical abuse is outwardly more apparent, verbal abuse hurts us on the inside. Sharp words hurt, soft words don’t.

Which came first? Bracha or Ban

My neighbor emailed this to me. I hadn’t seen it before, but begs the question: Which came first…the Bracha or the Banning of the Net?

Pragmatian, who is nice enough to read my blog, had a great post yesterday. If you didn’t see it, please click here. Thinking is a good thing.

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos – #5

Tranquility: Find an inner calmness; do not be overwhelmed; always act with deliberation

Ah, finally peace and quiet…or at least menucha, as Rav Yisrael would like to call it. I should keep this in mind at work when I feel overloaded, or better yet…erev Shabbos Kodesh (when the Yetzer Hora number one plan is to attack Shalom Bayis). This “inner calmness” is probably more that just chilling out. I think, for me, it means being “b’seder” with things, knowing that things will be fine. Even if a job interview doesn’t work out, or you get a dent in your car, or you kids spill paint on the floor, or decide to use a permanent marker on your computer monitor and several keys on your keyboard (this really happened once). Don’t lose that “inner calmness”. You can be vocally upset, but it need to be external. Rav Yisrael use to say to himself, “External anger, only” before rebuking others.

I, personally, know that there are times when I get overwhelmed and it seems like there’s just too much to do. As you can tell, the three phrases listed above are all connected. If I start out with a sense of balance within me, then it’s easier to keep my equilibrium. It could also mean some form of meditation. I won’t go into that, although Rav Salatner had several techiques he used. (I found Rabbi Kaplan’s Jewish Mediation to be rather user-friendly book on the subject. The last chapter actually is based on some mussar techniques.) Rav Yisrael was quoted as saying:
All worries are forbidden, except when one worries about his worrying.
From this I realized that when we get overwhelmed or panic stricken, I need to figure out what is the root cause of the lack of menucha. What am I really worried about? Once that is isolated, then it’s easier to go forward.

If I’m overwhelmed and my head is going in a thousand directions (which happens at times) how can I “always act with deliberation”? I can’t. Most people can’t. I must have that calmness and clarity when making decisions. The big decisions in life shouldn’t be made in haste, nor should I speak in haste. Whenever I do that, I tend to get in trouble with someone. Once again, these techniques are best exercised within the home. If you’ve got kids, they record, file, and cross-index everything they see you do. There are times when my kids, whom I love, seem to push the wrong buttons. I’ve been working on not getting too upset to quickly with them. This world operates on a Midah K’neged Midah basis.

The Lighter Side of Being Uberdox

One of the things I enjoy most about using an eruv is walking to shul Shabbos morning with a cup of iced coffee. I’ve found it to be rather hot in Chicago, even when I go to a hashkama minyan. The iced coffee makes the walk all that much better. The minyan starts at 7:30 in the morning, but I’ll be honest, I usually get there by 7:49. So, I’m walking to shul, coffee in hand, and I see an older woman in her 60s-70s walking towards me on the sidewalk wearing a sweat-suit and a sun hat. As we get closer to each other I say, “Good morning,” expecting a similar response. Instead I get, in a thick russian accent, “Good Shabbos.” Beautiful!! The Berditchever would have loved this lady.

We’ve only been in Chicago since the beginning of March, and I really oscillate between two different shuls on a regular basis. I (and my family) really haven’t found our shul. There are plenty of places (B”H) to daven in West Rogers Park, but it’s hard to choose a makom where we want to daven. More often than not, I attend this hashkama minyan that is housed in a rather large congregation. The minyan is great. 50-70 men, a few women, d’var Torah after mussaf, and a great kiddush. Everyone is really friendly.

When I get home, I give my wife a copy of the Likutei Peshatim (Rafi and Zev will know what this is). It’s a fantastic weekly publication put out by the Hebrew Theological College (as I call it. Everyone else says “Skokie Yeshiva”) and contains several d’vrai Torah, a Halachic Corner, and several questions on the parsha. I think for most people the highlight is that it is really is the source for community announcements and mazal tovs. As I play with my kids my wife asks me, “Neil, where are your cuff-links that belonged to my grandfather?”
Good question. I wasn’t wearing them, but did wear them last Shabbos. “Why do you ask,” I answered.
My wife then quotes an annoucement in the Likutei Peshatim: “If anyone found a square shaped while gold cufflink with diamonds, lost this past Shabbos in West Rogers Park, please call 773-619-7875.”
Again, “Where are your cuff-links?”
I go to the bed room and look in my wife’s jewelry box. I grab both of them, and head back toward the living room. I stop and open the closet, then say, “Well, let me check my rain coat. I think I wore them the last time it rained.”
My wife then said, “Your rain coat? The one you left in shul for, like, a month?”
“Do you think I lost my cuff-links?” I asked with a smile. “And if I did, why wouldn’t I list our phone number,” I said as I handed her my cuff-links. As stated in a previous post or two, my wife is, more often than not, right about most things. This past Shabbos was the exception.

The rest of Shabbos Kodesh was just as great. After lunch, with the bribe of brownies and a trip to the park, my kids took a nap. A true rarity. Everyone had a great time at the park. My kids played, and I finished (for the second time) RABBI FREIFELD SPEAKS. It’s awesome. I never learned in Sh’or Yoshuv, but I’m close with people who do. BTW, I’ve been blessed to spend the Yorim Noraim there for the past two years and it’s an unbelievable experience.

Sunday night we made what my kids call “Abba Pizza”. It’s their fancy name for homemade pizza. One of the realities of moving from New York to Indianapolis was that for 7 1/2 years we were without a pizza shop (imagine that). Of course, whenever we were in NY or Chicago we’d eat pizza out, but my kids (girl 4 and boy 6 1/2) grew up with homemade pizza. When we moved to Chicago I kind of decided that we’d stick with making our own pizza (most of the time). I want my kids to grow up appreciating what they have. Just because there are places to get kosher pizza doesn’t mean that you have to go to them all the time.

I’ve got to start preparing for Midah #5, but I’ll end off with a quote from the Rav Freifeld book:

Our problem is not that we don’t have the opportunities
to grow. It is that we don’t have the proper will and desire to grow. In all
circumstances, there are always excuses. The kids were sick. The boiler broke. I
had to work overtime. I was so tired when I came home and had to spend time with
the family. We know the excuses, and they’re all valid excuses. But they don’t
really explain our failures.

We fail because we despair of being successful. We fail
because we do not belive that we have it within us to succeed. It is not the
interposition of obstacles that prevents us from succeeding, but our own lack of
confidence and determination and sheer will.

We fail because we are making a
mistake. Because the truth is that we do have it within us to succeed. Because
the truth is that each of us possesses the most incredible divinely-empowered
instrument that can help us smash all obstacles and scale all peaks. It is
called the human will. (Page 25)

This is pure Slaboka, passed down from the Alter (Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel) to Rav Hunter to Rav Freifeld. It’s how I humorously define Modern Uberdox… rising above what you think you can do.

Parade Cancelled in Jerusalem

The came up in my “google alerts” last night:
Parade Cancelled

Hashem listens. I usually leave the social commentary to other bloggers, but obviously someone heard our tefillas. May our davening, tehillem, and tears bring and an to the current matzav.

BTW: Bloggers’ spell check doesn’t recognize the word “google”. Didn’t Google buy Blogger? Gotta love spell check!!

Some Postings Need No Title

I write not because I have the strength to write, but because I do not have the strength to remain silent.”
-Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook zt’l

I came across the quote last night. I had copied it from somewhere and scribbled it in a journal way back in 1994. I wasn’t planning on posting, but I decided that consistency is a good thing, even if it means writing when I don’t feel like it.
It’s been a long week. Primarily due to the matzav in Eretz Yisrael. I’m worried, just like everyone else. Then, there’s the shadow of the Three Weeks hanging over Klal Yisrael. Finally it’s been a long week for for me blog-wise. I read over all of my postings and I feel that I probably take myself too seriously. That was not my intent. There is a more casual side to me.
Ever see the Beatles’ movie HELP? It’s great. The best part is the blurb on the back of the box about the flick. It states that the Beatles made the movie at a period of their life when they didn’t take themselves too seriously. While I enjoying posting about Rav Yisrael’s 13 Midos, it’s taken a toll on me. It’s like Elul in July.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole Ir Miklat-unintentional murder deal that we’ll hear in shul this Shabbos. Like most people, I try to relate the parshios to my life. As I’ve gotten older I think some of my core-personality has gotten misplaced. Maybe I’ve unintentionally “killed” my fun-loving-humorous-go-with-the-flow self, and I’ve been exiled to an Ir Miklat of my own design. I hope that’s not the case.
If I killed someone by accident, and retreated to an Ir Miklat, I’d never sleep. How could I when I know that my freedom would be dependant on the death of one person… the Kohen Gadol? Who would sleep?

When a man learns that just as he broods over himself so does G-d yearn for him, he is at the beginning of a higher level of consciousness” (Rabbi Steinsaltz). This quote appears at the end of an article written by Rav Moshe Weinberger. You can read the entire article here. It’s well worth it.

Good Shabbos