Monthly Archives: May 2007

It was 30 years ago today

Orginially planned for posting on 5/25/07

I could really pen multiple posts about Star Wars: A New Hope, but in truth, it was hard to pinpoint what to write about. There are many lessons to be learned from Star Wars. Almost as hard as it was for George Lucas to actually find a movie studio for the film.

Two different rejection letters from different studios are online. Here are some quotes…

“There is no metaphysical message that 2001 contained, no salvation offered for the youths of today in the future.”

“I do not see how this picture can be inexpensively made. Essentially, there are no starring roles for important action.”

“The decision has to be if you have enough faith in the director making an expensive family adventure film. I would not go with the project.”

“A risky project — one I would not do.”
“The question, in the end, is how much faith we have in Mr Lucas’s ability to pull it all off.”
As I start projects or set goals for myself I think about the fact Star Wars might never have been made if not for persistance and vision. Fairly good lessions.
Of course, Reb Nachman did teach us never to give up!
Also check this post by PsychoToddler.
The United Artists rejection letter is available here.
The Universal rejection letter is available
here.

At Risk…

(from fotosearch.com)

This morning I was pulling into work, and saw a pair of Canadian Geese with five new gooslings. They were walking in single file formation. There was one adult goose followed by four gooslings and another adult goose following behind. Then there was the the fifth little goosling, following a foot behind, still in formation. I thought to myself, “Can geese be ‘at-risk’?”

I don’t mean to make light the issue of our kids’ being ‘at-risk’. I have posted my thoughts and concerns about the issue in the form of comments on several other blogs. It’s an important issue.

Of course, it probably means very little that a goosling is walking behind the rest of the group. The scene did hit me pretty hard, though. Even though one goosling was behind, it was still walking in formation with its’ family. This, to me, is a powerful statement.

Sadly, once in a while, I catch myself talking to my kids about what they didn’t do right. Despite coming home after a day at work, a frustrating trip to the grocery store, or even several attempts to get someone to make their bed, my kids are, B”H, like the gosslings. They stay in formation and that’s what’s important. It’s a bracha.

A Kiruv lesson from Eeyore

“I’m telling you. People come and go in this Forest, and they say, ‘It’s only Eeyore, so it doesn’t count.’ They walk to and fro saying, ‘Ha ha!’ But do they know anything about A? They don’t. It’s just three sticks to them. But to the Educated – mark this, little Piglet- to the Educated, not meaning Poohs and Piglets, it’s a great and glorious A.” –Eeyore, summarized from The House at Pooh Corner (chapter 5)
I read this years ago and could never get it out of my mind (like most things that really are not that important).
As I get older, I find myself (at times) taking my Torah observant lifestyle for granted. Whether it’s aspect of hilchos Shabbos, which hechshers are acceptable, or events in Tanach it’s easy to forget that I also didn’t know the things I know today.
It behooves me to remember what Eeyore says. To those not blessed with the opportunities I’ve had, an ‘A’ is just three sticks.

Bullying- an impediment to Achdus

A Twelve year old at the ‘Shabbos park’ asks a group of boys if they want to play with him. He is rejected because because he has a slight behavioral disorder.

A third grader is threatened by a peer and is told that if he is tells anyone he will get his head put into a toilet.

A sixth grade girl walks out of a classroom and is rushed by classmates who start piling books into her empty backpack so that it will overfill and fall down, along with its’ owner.

A boy is shunned during recess and not allowed to play football with the other boys because he “doesn’t throw well”.

On the school bus home a child takes another child’s jacket, throws it on the ground and steps on it.

Bullying is a problem in any school. Even in our own day schools/cheders/yeshivas/girls-only-schools. It shows no bias regardless of the school’s hashkafa.

In our educational intitutions, where even three year olds learn about Rabbi Akiva and the mitzvah of Ve Ahavta Lera’eha Kamoha and six year olds understand that 24,000 students died because they didn’t show respect and kavod HaBre’os to each other, bullying has become an issue.

There are schools that have anti-bullying programs in place. Some school have their special committees to deal with the issue. The school my children attend even has an actual curriculum that starts before first grade and includes a list of required books for summer reading that deal with bullying.

I didn’t attend a yeshiva until I was eighteen. I attended public schools and was not at all athletic or considered ‘gifted’. I was, until the end of eighth grade, rather nerdy. Then things changed. I started listening to some different music and adopted a particular style of dress. My hair went through different styles, shades, and lengths. The summer before eleventh grade I attended a summer program in Israel and returned Torah observant sporting a yarmulka and tzitzis.

For those prone to bullying, I certainly gave them ample opportunity. I was a great target. The only Torah observant teen in a midwestern city with a population of 350,000. I listened to everything but top 40 music, and dressed mostly in black. However, due to the ‘no tolerance’ policies in the schools I attended, I was never really bothered by anyone.

So I wonder, why is bullying an issue in our schools?

It can’t be solely because these bullies have parents who are bullies.
It can’t be solely because our schools are afraid to discipline bullies for fear of potentially turning the bully into an ‘at-risk child’.
It can’t be solely because kids today are never told “no”.
It can’t be solely because today chutzpa is about as common as the flu.

No, not solely, but I believe these are all factors. Like most really important issues, there are no easy answers or band-aid remedies.

Bullying is an impediment to the value of achdus that we hold in such high esteem.

If you have kids, talk with them. If you can get involved in your school, give it a try.

Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead
Just walk beside me and be my friend
And together we will walk in the way of Hashem

While doing research for this post I came across a pretty interesting site called, Stop Bullying Now. Comments, suggestions, and solutions are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Boys Night Out

Motzai Shabbos my son and I went out. We went to a Mesibas Lag B’Omer hosted by the Chicago Center for Torah & Chessed, which is under the leadership of Rav Yehoshua Eichenstein.

We both had a great time. The bonfire was awesome, as was the Diet Mountain Dew. There was plenty of dancing and my son ran into some friends from his class (which is always nice). We danced and sang together around the fire, with other yidden in West Rogers Park. It was beautiful to see my 7 yr old son having such a great time just enjoying the pure simcha of the moment!
We really didn’t know that many people there (we did go there with very good friends, though), and the majority of the kids there were not from the school we send our kids to, but together we danced and remembered Rabbi Akiva, Shimon Bar Yochi and their Torah.

As we walked home, I asked my son if he had a good time. He said the bonfire rocked! He then said, “Abba, the best part was when you said the we should dance. Then you asked me if you thought I could keep up with everyone. But, I was the one going faster than you. I was pulling you and you had to keep up with me!”
We put effort, time, and tefillah into our kids to follow a certain path. In the end, it’s the children, at times, who end up leading us.

Parshas Emor

וְכִי-תִזְבְּחוּ זֶבַח-תּוֹדָה, לַיהוָה–לִרְצֹנְכֶם, תִּזְבָּחוּ. ל בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יֵאָכֵל, לֹא-תוֹתִירוּ מִמֶּנּוּ עַד-בֹּקֶר: אֲנִי, יְהוָה. לא וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, מִצְו‍ֹתַי, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֹתָם: אֲנִי, יְהוָה. לב וְלֹא תְחַלְּלוּ, אֶת-שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי, וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי, בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: אֲנִי יְהוָה, מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם. לג הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים: אֲנִי, יְהוָה. (from here)

And when you slaughter a thanksgiving offering to the Lord, you shall slaughter it so that it should be acceptable for you. It shall be eaten on that day; do not leave it over until morning. I am the Lord. You shall keep My commandments and perform them. I am the Lord. You shall not desecrate My Holy Name. I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel. I am the Lord Who sanctifies you, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be a God to you. I am the Lord. (Vayikra 22: 29-33, from here)

These pasukim contain a key concepts in the life a Torah observant Jew. We are told that our offering to Hashem is not to be left over until the morning. This shows a lack of zerizus. We should complete a mitzvah that we start. If we need a reason then look at the end of verse 30: I am Hashem. If the king command us to do something, then we should do it.

What is the reason that the mitzvah of not deserating Hashem’s name (Chillul Hashem) is introducted now?
I believe that by leaving over an offering or not following through on a mitzvah we are creating a Chillul Hashem. The only way to counter-act an act of Chillul Hashem is with mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, which is why that mitzvah is introduced in the next pasuk. If we need a reason why we are obligated with a mitzvah to sanctify Hashem’s name, then look to the next pasuk… I am the Lord Who sanctifies you, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be a God to you.
Hashem brought us out of Egypt to receive the Torah and be a Kiddush Hashem.

The way we serve Hashem and the zerizus we show makes an impact on ourselves and we come in contact with.

Today I went to my children’s school to purchase some pizza tickets. Outside the school I saw a group of 6th grade boys cleaning up and working in the garden in front of the day school. They were happily working with pride

Those boys are learning that they should take pride in their school and that beautification of the school is not only an aspect of Kavod haTorah but a Kiddush Hashem to those who pass by and see kids gardening. How appropriate that I saw this as the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem falls out in Parshas Emor.

Music in my head

Well, it’s almost Log B’Omer and for me that means basically two major things: I can trim my beard and start listening to music again.

This year during sefira I did something I had not done before. Several years ago I heard an interview with Stephen King on NPR. He mentioned that he often makes a list of what CDs or songs he listens to on a monthly basis and sees if it influences what he writes. I thought that was a pretty cool idea at the time, but left it at that.

This year I tried to write down on, when I could, what songs popped into my head and what triggered them. Silence, or in my case, lack of listening to anything besides some acapella tracks and shiurim, tends to clean out my mind.

Certain songs kept popping in my head during the past few weeks. Lot of niggunim from Songs of the Rebbes by Piamenta and several instrumental songs also from Strings of my Heart. Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s songs got constant air-play in my mind, as did D’vekus.
I find it interesting that although I listen to more “modern” Jewish music, it was these older classics that I found myself humming.
Now, for the secular non-Jewish music..
As I mentioned, I tried to keep track of what triggered the music that came in my head. Here’s a random list and what prompted me to think of the song or lyrics:
“Driver 8” (R.E.M)- I was driving home from work as saw a kite stuck in a phone/power line and thought of the lyrics “powerlines have floaters so the airplanes won’t get snagged”.

“I am a Rock”” (Simon and Garfunkel)- As I was thinking isolation and The Lonely Man of Faith one day and this just crept in my brain.

“De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” (The Police)- playing with the 7 month old babyUberdox and listening to her babble.
“Until the End of the World” (U2)- My son told me that his baseball card collection would be around until the end of the world and automatically this song started up.

“I Don’t Know What You’re Talking About” (Husker Du)- One night after the kids had gone to bed I was thinking about Rabbi Akiva’s lost talmidim that we are mourning and these profoundly simple lyrics, “There’s more to life than being right and wrong. There’s something in between called getting along,” came to mind.

Finally, several songs by a certain seminal Brittish punk band- I heard a commercial on the radio for Virgin Atlantic Airways with a testimonial by guitarist Steve Jones.
What’s the point of all this? Well, even though most of these songs I haven’t listened to in almost a decade (with the exception of the Husker Du track), have stayed stuck in my head. It’s kind of scary when I think about it. A song tune or lyrics can re-surface in my brain after staying dormant for years, yet I have trouble memorizing pasukim from Chumash or Tehillim. As I wrote, it’s scary. I find this to be pretty good mussar for myself.

By the way, as I was thinking of a title for this posting the original choice was “What’s Going On (Inside My Head)”, but that is the title of a Husker Du track. Then I thought about “iPod of the Mind”, as a reference the poetry book “Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Then it became “An iPod in my Mind”, but then the song “Carolina in my Mind” by James Tayor popped in my head and I don’t really even know all of the lyrics. Oy Vey!