Monthly Archives: April 2007

Doing with what I don’t enjoy doing

or The one thing I don’t enjoy about being a parent

Warning: Part one of this post deals with a not so pleasant subject matter. Please do not read before eating.

Part One
Throw up, vomit, barf, hurle, puke, or kyle (a euphemism I coined in the mid-eighties after working at a day camp with a camper named Kyle, who threw up a lot). Cleaning up my children’s vomit is the one thing I really don’t enjoy. I don’t like the way it looks or smells.

My 4 yr old was sick last week, really sick. She tried to make it to the bathroom (and did for the second round) but didn’t quiet make it on the first try. We have very little carpeting in our home, which worked to my advantage for clean up.

I really can’t stand the smell that results from the act of vomiting. In fact, I almost start throwing up myself (like in the movie “Stand By Me“), as was the case last week.

I’ve found over the years that it’s best to clean up this kind of mess with a “Chip Clip” plugging my nose. It hurts a bit, but it works for me. The clip on my nose and a can of Lysol works pretty well for me. I don’t smell a thing and can take care of what needs to be cleaned up. My daughter was really brave and actually got a good laugh at me with my chip clip on my nose.

In the end, my daughter went back to sleep (after a bath) and I got to work on clean up. It was really quite yucky. The floor outside the bathroom and the bathroom itself do smell great, though.

Part Two
I admit, despite the crutch of the chip clip, I did alright with a situation that I can’t stand. As I was driving to work two days later (I only have a 12 minute commute and I tend to think really fast after two cups of coffee in the morning) I asked myself, “Why is it that when push comes to shove, I can muster enough gusto to deal with throw up, but still can’t deal with other things in life that smell a whole lot better?”

Perhaps it’s has to do with the necessity of a situation. With vomit on a floor you really have no choice but to clean it up. Other things like: staying up way too late, wanting to sleep in, putting off a conversation with someone about something serious, changes in careers, dealing with the reality of your kids not being “A plus” students, taking on a more healthier lifestyle…can all be put off for a while. Or, at least, that what I tell myself.

If we can delay dealing with issues we don’t like, then we do. Scratch that! If I can delay dealing with issues that I don’t like, then I do.

In truth, my approach needs to be more like dealing with vomit. If it’s on the floor, then it needs to be cleaned up.

I read a great quote from Avi Shulman years ago. I, of course, wrote it down:
“Until the pain of staying the same become greater than the pain of change, we will never change.”

My Breslov Moment

Recently I moved in my office. It wasn’t a big move, just across my department from one desk to another. It did require me unplugging my computer and moving it, as well.

As I was underneath my new desk and hooking up all the plugs back into my computer tower I looked up and saw the underside of my desk. It was a perspective that I had not viewed things from before. It looked pretty much like the underside of a table, no big suprise.

I recalled playing under our dining room table when I was young and I have a destinctive memory of being 2 1/2 or 3 yrs old and eating pizza crust (I called them “pizza bones” under our dining room table in Baldwin, NY.

I, of course, remembered the classic Reb Nachman story, The Turkey Prince. If you are not familiar with it, please follow the link and then return to this posting.
After spending some time under my desk I realized that it’s easy to get caught up in having a limited perspective on things, especially if you’re under a table with a long tablecloth. I forget about things beyond my sight all too often.

When one only views things from their own vantage point (under a table) it’s easy to think that the sky ends at the top of the table. It’s easy to think that one is tall enough to touch the sky (top of the table) and one’s ego gets inflated with arrogance.

The truth is that the world beyond the underside of a table is what’s important. Whether it’s family or work. Plugging USB cords in a computer is only preparation to dealing with the work on top of my desk.

I now have a much better understanding of the wisdom of Reb Nachman.

For a deeper analysis of The Turkey Prince, I recommend reading Under the Table by Avraham Greenbaum.

Shadows of Slabodka in HTC

A few months ago marked the 80th yartzeit of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka. I was reading a publication emailed to me from The Alter on the Parsha and at the end was a list of the major talmidim of the Alter and where they went on to teach. As I read the list I noticed that three Slabodka students ended up in Beis HaMidrash LaTorah (Hebrew Theological College) here in the Chicago area.

Recently I happened to be working as a mashgiach at a chasunah, and I spoke with a someone who had received semicha from HTC. I casually asked him about one of the names listed: Rav Selig Starr, z’tl.

It turns out that the person I spoke with (and other members of his family) learned from Rav Starr. It was total hashgacha pratis (no pun intended). I, of course, asked if he had ever heard anything from Rav Starr about the Alter of Slabodka. Here is what I was told:
Rav Starr was , “A walking adverisement for Slabodka”.

He was famous for saying, “You should know what you know and know what you don’t know”.

Rav Starr once said in shiur that while in Slabodka he was part of a chabura lead by the Alter, that included Rabbis: Ruderman, Hutner, Kamenetsky, and Kotler.
The Alter once told them “I am supposed to teach you mussar. What can I teach you?
I’ll ask you a question: What happens if you kill someone with a gun?”
The talmidim answered that you are chiav misah.

The Alter then asked them, “What if you kill someone with a chair?”
The talmidim answered that you are chiav misah.
The Alter then asked them, “What if you kill someone with a Sefer Torah?”
Again, the talmidim answered that you are chiav misah.
The Alter then said, “You are the future of klal Yisroel. You will be the Rabbanim and Roshei Yeshiva of the next generation. Never ever kill anyone with a Sefer Torah.” With that the chabura ended.
I think the approach the Alter was trying to teach was the reason that Slabodka infuenced the creation and expansion of successful Yeshivas in America. Torah when properly taught is meant to bring someone up (part of the Slabodka philosophy). A sensitivity to the individual and they way we teach Torah to children is the yesod of successful chinuch, in my opinion.

For more information about Rav Starr, including his famous “Ten Commandments” click here.

The Lonely Blogger of Faith

As I wrote previously, I had intended to, and did, finish The Lonely Man of Faith during Chol Hamoed, in time for Rav Soloveitchik’s yarteitz. I wasn’t planning on blogging about it, but the one year anniversary of this blog just passed last week (April 12th) and I got to thinking and reflecting on things.

I first read LMoF during several afternoons in Gilo Park. It was a quite open space to read and think about if I really got it or not. That was 17 years ago. I really didn’t get the whole essay, I admit. The two Adams, community, lack of connection to a greater whole…if you’ve read it you know what I’m talking about.

So there I was this past Pesach reading it again. This time I was in a friends’ home, with my six month old on my lap, my 4 yr. old daughter singing some song she made up about “matzah, butterflies, and Polly Pockets” and my 7 yr. old son and two friends engaged in a high intensity game of Celebrity Kugelach Yom Tov Showdown! A far cry from Gilo Park. And a far cry from being lonely.

My Blogoversary came and went and I still hadn’t posted. Something I had read in LMoF kept creeping back in my mind. It was the last two sentences of chapter four. The Rav write about Adam’s (the second) need for a community.

His quest is for a new kind of fellowship, which one finds in the existential community. There, not only are hands joined, but experiences as well; there, one hears not only the rhythmic sound of the production line, but also the rhythmic beats of hearts starved for existenial companionship and all-embracing sympathy and experiencing the grandeur of the faith commitment; there, one lonely soul finds another soul tormented by loneliness and solitued yet unqalifiedly committed.

I started this blog a year ago for several reasons. The main on was to get back into the regular habit of writing. Another reason was to try express some thoughts and ideas in a format that would be readable and maybe interesting to others.

Along the way I’ve learned a lot about myself and my relationship with those I care for and for Hashem. I’ve also learned that the posts I’m most proud of are the ones I’ve written (most of which get few if any comments). I also learned that the one time I wrote a post for the ‘people’, it wasn’t in the spirit of what I’m all about.

Interstingly, I found other out there who have very important, deep, and humorous things to say. The JBlogosphere is a community very similar, IMHO, to what is described by the Rav in the quote above. I suppose that on some level, I was in a way lonely and was looking for a ‘community’, abeit a virutal one when I started blogging.

The truth is that I really own a tremendous thanks to my Uberwife, who not only has listened to me talk about ‘blog related things’, but as has encourage me to continue writing.

I would like to thank one blogger that I reguarly exchange emails, links, and ideas with. If he is reading this, he knows who he is.

Deepest thanks to those who link my blog and to Ezzie and Rafi G, who were the first people to actually link one of my posts.

I’d like to also think a rather popular Chicago Blogger who was kind enough to reply to an email sent by a newcomer in Chicago. His kindness to answer an email from a stranger is indicative of the truth that most Jbloggers out there are nice people.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Pre-Pesach Post

A Story:
Five years ago on erev Pesach I came into our kitchen found my wife soakng the Romain lettuce before checking it for bugs.

I noticed that she was soaking the lettuce in the sink insert that we use for the ‘dairy’ side of our sink.

I, of course, over-reacted and freaked out on the spot!! I was in a complete panic.
Several questions exploded in my brain at once:
What are we going to do? What’s the status of our lettuce? Milchig or Fleishig? Could we use it? Would we be able to get more romaine in time? Should I even be worried?

I decided to call a well know posek (in Chicago) and ask about our lettuce.
B’H, he answered his phone. I explained what had happened and he asked, “When was the last time we used the Pesach sink bin?”

Not since last year, I answered.

The he calmly told me, “It’s not a mitzvah to make your wife crazy before Yom Tov. Your lettuce is fine and enjoy your Pesach.”

A Quote:
From my earliest youth, I remember that the children would ask each other on the first morning of Pesach, “How long did your Seder last?”
This was true in my youth, and it is still the case today. If the children were to ask me this now, I would answer them, “I made sure to eat the afikoman before chatzos (midnight).”
-Rav Shimon Schwab (from Rav Schwab on Prayer-page 541)

A Thought:
The word Pesach doesn’t only mean to “pass over”, it can also mean the “mouth speaks”. This, of course, fits nicely into the mitzvah of telling the story of our exodus from Mitzrayim. It is a verbal mitzvah. The whole evening we read, ask questions, sing, and discuss things pertaining to the Seder.

The minhaggim we have on Pesach have been passed down to us (either from our own families or we have taken upon the minhaggim ourselves over the years) in the oral tradition.

I find it interesting that most Jewish families have some sort of Seder on Pesach. While they may be unaffiliated or association themselves with camps outside of Torah Judasim, they connect on some level with the Pesach experience. An experience involving a Haggadah rooted in Torah sh’bechsav. A Haggadah that is based on Midrash, Mishna, and Gemorah- the main elements of our Oral Torah.

When we open our mouths at the Seder we are not only attaching ourselves to a powerful mitzvah, but we are connecting with previous generations and building memories for future generations, as well.

A Request:
My wife mentioned to me that I should blog about this issue of ona’as devarim (hurtful words) and Pesach. A seemingly casual question like, “Have you turned over yet?” might be a sore topic for some couples.
While one may be proud that they “turned over for Pesach” five days or even a week before yom tov, it only makes those who have yet to turn over or got a late start feel bad. The same could be said for telling friends what delicious food one ate at the Seder or what plans you have for Chol Hamoed.


A Link:
Run, don’t walk, to read A compass for a journey by Rafi G. In fact, if you have time take a look at some of this other postings.

Chag Kasher V’Sameach!