Monthly Archives: July 2007

The dreaded eight things about me tag

I was tagged, like eons ago. I often get tagged. I usually don’t play these games. The truth is I have several post that I’ve written that are pretty serious and might or might not get posted in the future. This meme seemed like the calm before the storm.

Eight things about me…

1. I love BBQ beef sanwiches
2. I can make sushi
3. In junior high and high school I sang in the school choir
4. The first 45 single my parents ever got me was “Hey Jude” (I had heard the song in the car when I was, like, 5 or 6 yrs old) with “Revolution” as the B side. I was blown away
5. I have composed a niggun, that to this day, I only sing with my Uberkids
6. I was born in Dallas, Tx and lived there for about 3 years
7. Prior to my current job, I detested powdered coffee creamer. I have grown to actually like it and now miss it when it’s not available

8. I’m really not a big fan of memes based on the fact that the last one I did only proved to me that most readers really don’t care about the personal details of my life. That being said, I am not ‘passing this meme’ to anyone. If you do feel like being ‘tagged’ than go ahead.

The above items don’t really tell anything about me (5 and 7 reveal a bit), therefore I will add the following annotations to the above eight listed items.

1. This is one of those foods that I’ve always loved.. It tastes just as good regardless of one’s level of kashrus observance
2. I haven’t rolled any sushi since we moved to a city where it can be bought
3. While I never had an outstanding voice, going from 5 hours of instructional singing to maybe 20 minutes a week of singing in yeshiva (zemiros) never really helped me or my vocal cords
4. It was a total surprise to come home from school and hear the record playing in my living room. It was one of the most memorable moments in my childhood
5. The niggun came to me in 1997 and it’s been stuck in my head since then. It goes great with the words, “Kol haolam Kulo”
6. I grew up in Kansas

7. This topic is among those to be included in the future as “rejected blog topics”
8. I am often perplexed as to why anyone would read this blog. What is even more perplexing is that even though I get emails from readers asking me questions, rarely are the questions of a personal nature…thus my belief that people really are more concerned with content vs. who is behind the content

Parshas Va’etchanan

Rav Schwab on Prayer discusses the idea that the large ד in echod is meant to remind us not to read the words as acher, as in the pasuk “For you shall not prostrate yourselves to an alien god (Shemos 34:14).

Rav Schwab then quotes Rav Hirsch from Devarim 6:4: “The ר of the polytheistic thought is accommodatingly rounded, while the ד of the Jewish truth is sharply angular. With the loss of a little sharpness, the אחד becomes אחר . The meaning is quite clear: Hashem Echod is a sharply defined concept, it is this way, and there are no other possibilites.
It’s when I try to cut corners that I see myself go off target in my Avodas Hashem. Halacha is th “sharply angular” clearly defined parameters that we need to work in between.

Jewish Music this weekend in Chicago

There are two great shows taking place this weekend.
THIS SATURDAY NIGHT at the Young Israel of West Rogers Park:
featuring the amazing Carlebach Combo of
Ely Cooper~Ruby Harris~Matt Kanter~David Margulis
Shlomo tunes, Chassidic niggunim, and more!
Bring friends and family!
FREE ice cream FREE drinks FREE chips
Pizza available for purchase
July 28th at 10:00 PM
2706 W. Touhy Ave.
$10 donation requested. A portion of proceeds will go to Families of Gush Katif
Or on Sunday spend the afternoon here :

312 427-7710 for info

Guest post by Bob Miller, plus bonus links

I recently asked blog commenter/poster Bob Miller about the intersection between Chassidus and Mussar. His comments follow:

Any valid form of Judaism has to deal with our motivations. Better motivation combined with factual knowledge leads to better behavior. Motivation can be based on factors like love, fear, and curiosity. All Orthodox approaches to motivation seem to be based on a combination of these factors, but the stress varies. Chassidus tends to stress love (related to HaShem’s immanence), while Mussar tends to stress fear (related to HaShem’s transcendence). Yeshivas today, regardless of which “wing” or “camp” they are in, tend to stress intellectual curiosity.

Some everyday Jewish communities seem to neglect these motivational factors, being more like large social clubs or extended families that maintain their particular ways mainly through inertia and shared experiences and not conscious thought. This situation can give their youth and even adults the spiritual blahs, leading to laxity and decline.

I think Chassidus and Mussar are complementary as each concentrates on a different primary aspect of reality. One fills in what the other largely leaves out. Joy and honest introspection may work best in combination. Of course, much depends on our personalities, too. If we’re tilted too much in one direction, a dose of something else can give us better balance (as in Rambam’s application of the golden mean).

We don’t have to be a card-carrying member of one given Orthodox faction to benefit from the truth within its approach. We also don’t have to justify the sometimes negative aspects of any faction’s behavior, including that of the one we’re in. Instead, we can draw strength from learning, internalizing, and practicing their combined Torah ideals, as appropriate, in an integrated way.

Thank you for your thoughful answer, Bob.
Maybe this blending of hashkafos is a product of living in a melting pot?

Bonus links to make you think:
A Simple Jews asks about Yerida L’Tzorich Aliya
Actions, Values, and Education by Rabbi Doron Beckerman


In no particular order here are a few of my heroes:

A boy who moved communities in 8th grade and rather than go to public school made the choice to finish the year in a completely new day school not knowing a single person
An adult who left a successful 20 year career with the same company to move from the Midwest to the East coast and start a new job so that his children could attend a yeshiva high school
A couple who gave up their ‘dream house’ for an apartment in the eruv
A man who decided to visit his children for Pesach by car instead of by airplane, because he could listen to more Torah tapes on a car ride than in the air
The parents who daven that their children should be shomer Torah u’Mitzvos and never forget that they are children of the King of Kings

Who are your heroes?
(A comment is nice, but just thinking about the questions is nicer)

Tisha B’Av- another Zman Charusanu

I’ve been thinking over the past few days about certain similarities between Pesach and Tisha B’Av.
This all started because I really wasn’t so sure if I wanted to even post prior to Tisha B’Av this year. I have written about the day here and also here. I felt that I really didn’t have much else to write. We all agree that it’s the saddest day in our history. The events that took place are, in essence, the source for our state of Golus today. I think most of us get the idea. And if we don’t then that’s part of the problem.
I then realized that if I had taken this attitude towards other days, for example, Pesach, then I would have been very disconnected to Torah Judaism on a very personal level. I then began to think about several connections between Pesach and Tishah B’Av. I’ll list a few minor ones and then the major connection that has been plaguing me. These are all pretty basic ideas…

  • Eating- On Pesach we have postive mitzvos to eat certain foods, to help bring our guf to an elevated level. On Tishah B’Av it’s the mitzvah not to eat that only reminds us that we cannot enjoy eating an karbonos due to not having a Beis HaMikdash.
  • How we carry ourselves- On Pesach we sit at the seder like royalty. We emphasis the idea that we are ‘free’ people. On Tishah B’Av we are broken. We sit on the floor, we don’t really worry about our appearance.
  • Formulated readings- On Pesach we have our Haggadah that pretty much gives us a structured dialogue for the evening(s). On Tishah B’Av we filter our feelings through the reading of Kinnos.
  • National expression- On Pesach, we celebrate the birth of becoming a nation. We left Mitzrayim as a nation in order to receive the Torah as a nation, with the hope of fullfilling that Torah in our national homeland. On Tishah B’Av we mourn our national tragidies. The loss of our nation’s Holy Temples and our nationwide exile.
  • Personal expression- On Pesach we are to feel as if we ourselves left Egypt. On Tishah B’Av we must feel a personal loss and responsibility for doing our upmost to end our Golus.

Lastly, there is the concept that Pesach is our Zman Charusanu-our time of freedom. We were taken out of slavery so that we could chose to follow Hashem. It is that same freedom of choice (bechira) that our own downfall.
Our Sages, of blessed memory, state (Yoma 9b): “Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of the follow three sins that occurred there: idol worship, immorality, and murder. Yet, in the period of the Second Temple, they were involved in Torah study, mitzvos, and acts of kindness-so why was it destroyed? As a result of the baseless hatred that was there. Rebbi Yochanan and Rebbi Eliezer both said, ‘Since concerning the First Temple, their trangressions were revealed-their time of redemption was revealed. In the Second Temple, where their sins were not revealed-their time of redemption was not revealed.’”
It was us. Plain and simple. This power of choice, this freedom to serve Hashem only works if we want it to. Hashem’s connection to us is based on how close we want it to be. It’s the three Big Ones and Sinas Chinom that distanced us and ultimately sent us into Golus.
I see it in myself. When I choose to really attach myself to a vibrant active relationship with Hashem I am a much happier person. When I chose not to, well, I end up being not so happy.
In the end, it’s all about the choices we each make. May this be the last year we sit close to the ground on Tishah B’Av.

A Sweet Deal on Sefrei Kodesh

(Photo from

In Rebbetzin Jungreis’ book LIFE IS A TEST there is story on page 117 about Piazeczna Rebbe, Harav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro, zt”l. The story tells about how after the Holocaust a manuscript of the Rebbe’s D’vrei Torah was found in among the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto by “a young Polish boy who sold it to an American soldier for a bar of chocolate. The soldier was not Jewish, but he recognized the Hebrew writing, and he handed it over to the Jewish chaplain of his unit.”*

The Piazecnza’s manuscripts were written during the war. They are some of the only collected works that survived. For sure, they were worth more that a bar of chocolate.

We tend to put a value on things based on our needs at the time. There are time that I choose what I want to do over what I need to do.
For some, papers or books written in Hebrew seem to hold less importance than the “Great American Chocolate Bar”. Others put work over family, or family over work. If we only knew the value of what we each have? If only we could recognize what value Hashem places in each of us?

I believe it was the Vilna Gaon who said that for the cost of a few coins one can purchase tzitzis and have the zechus to constantly serve Hashem.

* Rabbi Polen has a slightly different version of the story in The Holy Fire.

Community Internet Safety Program in Chicago

This Sunday the Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago are sponsoring an internet awareness program this Sunday, July 8, at Congregation KINS in West Rogers Park. Discover strategies to set up a safe environment for internet use. The program starts at 7:45 PM. Mincha will be at 7:30 PM.
For more information feel free to contact the ATT at (773) 973-2828.

Totally seperate note:
A Simple Jew asks himself an important question.