Category Archives: music

File Under: Overthinking music that I grew up with

A close friend of my sent me a message last week about a new album by Bob Mould, easily my favorite non-Jewish recording artist since 1984, along with a link to the album and track samples. I admit the last album I bought of this musician was back in 1996 and I’ll also admit that just last week I listened to his orignal band’s seminal work “Zen Arcade” while driving in the snow (hardcord punk seems to really go well with bad weather). I don’t often listen to his music these days, as it turns out, mostly by choice. Echos of Piamenta, Karduner, YBC, Carlebach, YHB (Yitzhak HaLevi Band) and some Diaspora tracks have a home in my iTunes (with a sprinkling of Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, and one Bad Religion song).

Well, as I looked at the names of the tracks on the album the last song’s title was familiar. I listened to the sample, and yep, I knew the song (rather well, it has been a favorite of mine for over 16 years via an accoustic concert bootleg). Those in the ‘know’ knew that it was originally slated to be on this artist’s first solo album but didn’t make the final cut.

I find it interesting that he chose now to put a song easily 20 years old on a new album…and from what I heard it’s exactly the same song . But then again, I have journal entries that are meaningful to me that I would not post on this blog. Call it ‘artistic license’, I suppose. There are things we reveal to many and many things we keep tightly in our ‘inner circle’. I guess, in this case, a musician’s choice to put a track ‘for the fans’ on an album is an added bonus for some. It’s sort of like telling that same family joke to your kids or wife, knowing that a smile will erupt.

It does give me food for thought about what things I keep to myself and what things should be revealed and the timing involved in both.

Looking for something else to read? I suggest these:
A Simple Jew: Another 40 Days – Reopening The Notebook – Part 1
Dixie Yid: A Special One Day Trip Down South (West)
Rechovot: The Mussar in messing with the Rabbi’s parking spot

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!

Jewish Rock 101

Note: The following was sent to me by Ruby Harris. While we are not related, we do share the same neighborhood.

The Inventors of Jewish Rock,one of the first modern Klezmer bands, Innovators at the turning point in the history of Jewish music,The band that started it all,The Diaspora Yeshiva Band

By Ruby Harris, Original member on Violin, Mandolin, Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals

Jewish music history can be divided into two periods: BD and AD, which stands for Before and After the Diaspora Yeshiva Band. The music before us was so different than the music after us. So many innovations and musical arrangements used daily in the Jewish music world are direct products of the influence of this band at the turning point. Most of your favorite music today is somehow a derivative of the DYB, the band that started it all. Several of today’s hottest acts are actually either composed of members of the original DYB or their children, and of course countless students, followers, and fans.

But it wasn’t always so…

If Rock n’ Roll was born in the 50s, and the 60s saw it be fruitful and multiply, then the 70s saw an interesting phenomenon when some of these musicians began to find that old time religion, and in the Holy Land of Israel in particular some of them gathered in a very musical and spiritual place on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, and formed a band that was called “The Diaspora Yeshiva Band”. From approximately 1976 to 1986 3 things occurred: 1) they became one of the most popular bands in Jewish music. 2) The Jewish music before this time was about to go through what can only be described as the same basic transformation that the world of popular music went through with the Beatles, and 3) The old Jewish/Yiddish music was re-discovered and became amalgamated with new worlds of music. Innovations, emulations, and revelations were suddenly overtaking the Jewish world, and the DYB can be viewed as either credited with or guilty of manifesting this transformation. Today of course, most Jewish music has some rock sounds incorporated within, but back then it was unheard of, and such a thing bordered on the taboo.

Almost parallel to the first Rock’n Roll stars and their society, the union of Rock with Jews didn’t come so smoothly, it was a rocky road at first, particularly in the years roughly from 1973-1982. Jewish music didn’t catch up with the rest of the world so fast. I remember one time we were doing a concert at the Jerusalem Theater and after the show someone comes up to us and emotionally expressed his disapproval of the Holy words being fused with rock sounds (Elvis and Ray Charles got the same reaction).

Also in that early gestation period, there was the sensation that the DYB caused at the Chassidic Song Festival. We won first place 2 years in a row, thus causing the voting committee to re-write the rules so that we don’t take over…

The great Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach was also a victim, in those years and even earlier, of the old problem of being an innovator: the public simply was not ready. But we’re in good company-Mozart, Benny Goodman, and Bob Dylan also met with resistance until the world came around. We played many concerts with Shlomo.

Klezmer? The old Hebrew-Yiddish word had not yet even begun to be re-discovered and re-used yet, and we were continuously toggling with what to call our new genre: Yiddish Jazz? Chassidic Rock? Country & Eastern Music, Rhythm & Jews, Jewgrass, who knows? We took an old Jewish wedding standard, added a rhythm section, a hot clarinet, a seething guitar solo, a devil-went-down-to-Georgia-type fiddle breakdown, and some extended Kabalistic jams and it wasn’t long before the listening public took notice that that old Jewish music wasn’t so out of date after all. I remember a phone call and a visit from David Grey, one of the members of the new-genre group “The Klezmorim”, who came to my home in Jerusalem for an interview, plus, an early wedding involved sitting-in for some tunes at the old legendary New York restaurant Lou G. Seigles with Hankus Netsky and Don Byron of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, both bands being the first of the new “klezmer” bands in those pre-natal years. At a concert in Philadelphia, our opening act was the newly formed Kapelye with Henry Sapoznik. An early meeting with Andy Statman also found him asking me all about Jewish music as well as Jewish philosophy, quite some time before he “returned” to the fold. I convinced him to check out some Breslov music, and a few years later we found ourselves on stage together at a sold-out concert at the Metropolitan Opera House. He had quite a beard by then…

While Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention and Jefferson Airplane were taking old English & Irish nigguns (folk melodies) and suffusing them with the blues, we were doing the same thing in this post-Woodstock world with Jewish standards Dreydle dreydle, Dayenu, and Chasen Kala Mazal Tov. Plus, as with our favorite beloved Anglo/American rock heroes, we were writing and performing our own originals, one of which can almost be called the Official Anthem of the Baal Tshuva (returnee) Movement, “Malchutcha”. We had some fun, oy vey, doing a Hendrixian Hatikva, the Shma ala Doors (hey, the mezuza goes on the Doors!), a David Melech Squaredance, a liturgical Beatles medley, endless Grateful Dead-style jams on Ketzad Merakdim, or Gesher Tzar Meod per Santana, and so on. Another funny thing, at first, as antique ‘78’ records of Bill Monroe, Howlin’ Wolf and Jellyroll Morton started catching our interest among the Jolson, Cantor, and Sophie Tuckers in our grandfather’s attic, we started paying attention to the funny green-labeled Yiddish ones too, that revealed a virtually hidden and buried world of dusty stars like Naftulie Brandwine, V. Belf, Dave Tarras, Abe Schwartz and Aaron Lebedeff, now looked at as the patriarchs of Klezmer recordings.

The Torah predicted that in the days before the Moshiach, there would be a return of the exiles, a great influx of converts, and a movement of returnees to Judaism. I’m happy to say I was there at the beginning of that movement, and the DYB provided the soundtrack. We traveled around the world playing for a remarkable cross section of the people that range from the roots to the fruits of the movement: Holocaust survivors, Israeli soldiers, Yeshiva students, Hebrew school children, Chassidic dynasties, Kibbutz & Moshav celebrations, and a thirsty generation searching for the answer.Every Saturday night we gave a now-legendary concert called “King David’s Melave Malka” post-Shabbat celebration at his actual tomb on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, a central Biblical historic site. Once, Broadway star Pearl Baily and her husband jazz legend Louie Belson were on a pilgrimage to this site and the nearby ‘Last Supper’ room, and she just happened to be at King David’s Tomb during my wedding, and she came in and sang “Hello Dolly” to the newlywed couple. People come up to me all the time recalling those concerts and how special they were, and so many of today’s musicians tell me things like “when we first saw you guys, we decided that, hey, we could do that too!” I even recently met a mother of ten who confessed that she was about to leave Judaism altogether when at a last ditch effort she came to one of our shows and she stayed in the fold, got married, and the rest is her-story.

Before the 6 Day War, Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Goldstein started the Diaspora Yeshiva which was the first Baal Tshuva Yeshiva. The location was Mt. Zion where King David is buried (down below in ancient catacombs). When David was a young shepherd from his home town of Bethlehem just south of Jerusalem, he used to take his sheep and graze them, and where would he go? A prophet and spiritual master of the highest caliber, he naturally was attracted to the center of the universe, the Temple Mount where his son Solomon was later to build the Holy Temple. He took his Harp and composed the most famous music in history, the Psalms as he, in symbolic parallel to G-d watching over his people, shepherded his sheep daily between his home and Mt. Moriah, the Temple Mount, the place where his ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had their prophetic revelations and grazed their flocks.His music, which is soaked into the architecture and the very earth of this location, drew people like us to David’s Holy Mt. Zion, which is the neighboring mountain to the Temple Mount. We played and sang and expressed the hope of the returning of Jerusalem, and the simcha (joy) of Torah learning. The mystical possibilities were incalculably inspiring. The music wasn’t so bad at first either, and it kept getting better, and with a few savvy people and some smart moves, we got some sound equipment and started recording, and we actually managed to not only lay down some extremely original material, but also expressed the lofty spiritual feeling of the moment.

From 1973 to 1976 can be called the early period, with many changes in personnel ranging from a few guys jamming to a big band, at which point in June of 1977 the actual “DYB” was formed and solidified, with the original 6 members being: Avraham Rosenblum on guitar, Ben Zion Solomon on fiddle and banjo, Simcha Abramson on Saxaphone and Clarinet, Ruby Harris (this writer) on Violin, Mandolin, Guitar, and Harmonica, Adam Wexler on Bass, and Gedalia Goldstein on Drums. Before and after this, many great and illustrious people came and went, such as Rabbi Moshe Shur, Chaim David, Rabbi Shimon Green, Menachem Herman, Beryl and Ted Glazer, Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig, Yochanan Lederman, and Rabbi Tzvi Miller. We played in a 2000 year old building resembling the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Getting electricity into these Byzantine and Crusader edifices was no small endeavor. The acoustics were amazing, though.

Our history of performances is incomparable: Wartime shows for troops from Sinai to Lebanon, concerts and events for such public figures as Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres and many other VIPs and statesmen, parties and banquets with Isaac Stern, Shlomo Carlebach, Abba Eban, President Herzog, (and later President Clinton & Mayors Giulianni and Daley), an early MTV video performance and interview featured in the Bob Dylan tour with Tom Petty, and ultimately, concerts at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Opera House. Somehow, Lynard Skynard’s drummer Artemis Pyle even played with us and donated his awesome drum set to the yeshiva!

The band broke up in the mid 80s and the members have all gone off in different directions, most notably: BZ Solomon does extensive recording and performances worldwide, Rabbi Shur is an executive with the Hillel Organization and also records and performs, Rabbi Green is the head of a Seminary in Jerusalem, Avraham Rosenblum keeps the Diaspora flame burning with his new band, Chaim David has become a Jewish music superstar, and I perform and record extensively in an eclectic range of styles from Jewish Rock and Klezmer to Blues, Jazz and Country, including other notable relationships, such as a series of recordings with members of the original Sun Records rhythm section, who’ve made history as players in the bands of Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison. Adam Wexler is a member of Reva L’Sheva, one of today’s finest Jewish rock groups, and finally, Simcha, Gedalia, Beryl, Ted, and Menachem have all advanced to the higher original goals of scholarship, spiritual mastery, and various lofty musical projects and endeavors.

But most charmingly, is the fact that many of the children of the original members of the DYB are among today’s hottest stars, as members of Soulfarm, Moshav Band, and oodles of other contemporary projects ranging from some of New York’s top wedding bands to fine art music recordings. Occasionally several of the guys get together for projects, such as 2 recent DYB reunion shows on Long Island and at the Catskills Homowack Hotel, and there are some real tasty dishes simmering in the musical kitchen. If you’re looking for the original members to perform these days, they all do so, emphasizing their newer compositions and styles, but most of the guys are still happy to give you the old tunes if you really bug ‘em. Keep listening!
Ruby Harris is an original member of the Diaspora Yeshiva Band, and since the close of that primordial period in the history of Jewish Rock, Ruby has been seen opening for Ray Charles, Marshall Tucker Band, and Little Feat, and he’s performed with Peter Yarrow, Mordechai Ben David, Buddy Miles, Avraham Fried, Pinetop Perkins, and members Jefferson Airplane, Klezmatics and Grateful Dead. He lives in West Rogers Park, Chicago and presently performs in concert, on recordings, and at someone-you-know’s wedding. His website is where, along with and, his latest CD “For Heaven’s Sake” is available, as is his CD “Almost Home”, featuring Pine Top Perkins and Sugar Blue. For recordings of any of the artists mentioned, see your local Jewish music store or look them up on line.
This article is the exclusive (copyright 2006) property of Ruby Harris

Samples of Ruby’s latest CD are available here.

Trying to find an outlet

It was two days before Sukkos. It was one of those mornings. I had been up late the night before (not blogging) and had not gotten too much sleep during the night at all. My morning cup of coffee wasn’t doing the trick. Then I had a thought…music. Not just any music, but two CDs by the most powerful energetic band I had loved during my formative teenage days…Husker Du.

Husker what? Please don’t bother doing a wiki search. Husker Du is Danish board game and means “Do you remember?”. It was a popular ‘memory’ game in the sixties, so I’ve been told.

Husker Du was also the name of one of the most influential Hardcore Punk bands from the early eighties, known for powerfully emotional lyrics filtered through their musical trademark, a ‘wall of sound’.

Now, over the years I have greatly cut down the amount secular music that I listen to. I have a strong taiyvah for music, specifically the genre I came of age with between 1985-1989, Punk/Alternative. I can proudly say that 99.5% of what I listen to in a given month is Jewish Music. On long car trips when the kids are asleep, we’ll listen to some classic rock tunes (along with some more current tunes), but that’s where I try to limit it.
That morning I felt that I needed an extra musical ‘kick start’ today. I stared at the two CDs most of the day. They sat on my desk between the Rabbis’ Sons, a C. Lanzbom, and several Piamenta CDs. I looked at them, heard the music in my head, visualized the lyrics in front of me, and struggled.

OK, what’s the problem? Just play the CD!. It bothered me that I felt a ‘need’ to listen to it. This has nothing to do with halacha /hashkafa / or frumkeit. I was debating if I needed to listen to it, or if I can find stimulation elsewhere. I was (am) troubled that I felt I needed to resort to non-Jewish music to get my day going. I can see a theme here concerning outside stimulation and our retreat into a Sukkah, where we control our own stimulation. I actually blogged about it when this struggle crept its’ way into my head. You can read, if you haven’t already, about that here.

When I became frum, I found it rather easy over time to change certain aspects of my lifestyle. To stop going out on Friday nights or eating treif was never really too difficult. These were never big issues for me. These, of course, are halachic issues. While certain aspects of character development were challenging (and still are), concepts like emunah, chessed, davening make sense. The urge to make a witty remark at some else’s expense is, at times, still a struggle.

What was, and still is, not so easy for me, was to get into Jewish music. (Please note, I didn’t write “stop listening to non-Jewish music”.) The first few power cords on an electric guitar, the overpowering base, the fasth drums…these elements were missing in Jewish music when I was becoming frum. For the most part they are still missing. I have a theory about that, but we’ll save it for the comments section, if there are comments.

This issue is a constant hashkafic struggle for me and I’ll explain why.

What we eat or the parameters of what we can do on Shabbos are clearly defined within Halacha. It’s the ‘grey areas’ like music that are at times an issue. I real issue for me had nothing to do with the style of music, or the lyrics (I was always careful about lyrics).

For me this issue is that once I get a taste for the music, it’s a challenge for me to stop listening. I simply want more. When I do stop, then I’m constantly left wondering why can’t I find a Jewish version of punk? Where’s the musical energy? Where was the intesity of a punk rock show? There are some options to listen to (see my blogger profile), but not too many.

At the end of day I made a choice. I chose to indulge in 2 minutes and 38 seconds of auditory memories. I picked a song that was about not wasting time and making the most out of life. A very positive message, I think. And I was impressed that I didn’t ‘cave in’ and actually play both disks. The idea crossed my mind all day.

I was (am) plagued by fact that I felt I needed to resort to non-Jewish music to get me going, as I entered Sukkos. The first night, while sitting in my sukkah I was truly happy. It was freezing, but also great singing and listening to other families sing in the neighborhood. The block behind us has 4 or 5 frum families and each family was singing. It was like an unplugged battle of the bands!!

During the week I went to two Simchas Beis HaSho’evos, “How could I go wrong, I thought?” Live music…a singer…a drummer…an electric guitar!! It was fun, loud, but it really didn’t give me the fix I needed. Something was missing.

Enter Simchas Torah. For me, this year was great. Mostly because I enjoy dancing with my kids and seeing my wife smile and enjoy the scene I make. Going to a few different shuls on Simchas Torah is kind of like a full day music festival with different stage locations. Each shul has their own flavor of hakafos. Every one sings slightly different songs, different niggunim, and the intensity of dancing varies from place to place. Back in high school. we use to dance, ok slam dance, in a circle…just the guys. It was a feather in one’s cap if you knocked over someone. Now, when I dance with guys (like on Simchas Torah) and I bump into someone I say, “I’m sorry. I hope you’re alright”.

Memories of concerts, cassettes, and CDs (most of them sold) are replaced with other memories: Singing V’li Yerushalyim (the D’veykus version) with friends in the Old City one Motzei Shabbos, hearing Hafachta by the Diaspera Yeshiva Band for the first time, the first time I saw Yosi Piamenta play at the Knitting Factory (before they moved Downtown), watching my kids sing and dance the last time we saw everyone’s favorite uncle…Uncle Moishy.
Gone are the combat boots (still in the closet until the first snow) and on is the black Shabbos hat. I choose to prove my independence and free-thinking though Torah, Avodah, and Gelimus Chasadim, rather than with safety pins, a can of Aqua-Net, and an in-your-face aversion to authority.

A good niggun, for me, does the trick 99.5% of the time. I often sing during day and always on my way home from shul. But, it’s that other tiny .5% of the time that gets me. For me, there’s still something that I have not found in Jewish Music. I’m just waiting for the amplifier to be plugged in. I’m trying to find an outlet.

This posting was partially inspired by fellow blogger A Simple Jew and, his now, classic posting, Trapped in the Lower Levels.

Skateboarding, reflecting, and Rosh Hashanah

A few weeks ago, on Labor Day, my family met up with a few other families for a barbeque at a park in the northern suburbs of Chicago. This park has plenty of room to run, a baseball diamond, and great climbing equipment. If that wasn’t enough, this park also had, as an added bonus,a skateboard park. I couldn’t resist bring my old skateboard with me (along with my helmet, which is a must for chinuch purposes).
After eating, I decided to bring out my old skateboard. Now, I’m not a big-time skateboarder. In high school I skated a few pools, but mostly I sticked to parking lots and the street. I mastered the ollie and a few other basic moves, but now I’m happy just pushing myself around a bit. With all this said, I proceed to skate over to the park. It wasn’t too crowded. Only half a dozen real skaters. I was, for sure, the oldest one around. I was also the only guy who brought his kids. I pushed around a little and thought about going down a steep ramp. I was all hyped up to skate. I remembered the thrill, the rush, the adrenaline of going down a ramp. I use to find it exhilarating. As I stood atop a ramp, skateboard under my feet, I stopped. I also remembered seeing (and feeling) the battle wounds of skateboarding.
I got off the ramp. I couldn’t do it. I looked at the other skaters and jumped off. I choose a tiny ramp (more of a metal foothill) and went down, ending with a perfect 360 (balancing on the back wheels and spining in circle). The potenial injury from a big ramp seemed more important that recapturing my youth or looking cool to my children. What if something happened? My family couldn’t afford for me to get hurt. I have responsibilities. It just wasn’t shiach (germane or pertainent) for me. I realized that I had outgrown the thrill. I remembered the thrill of learning the first Rashi on Chumash when I was 18. Now, that was a real rush!
What was part of my youth held no real interest for me anymore. I had outgrown it. I had exercised my free will. The urge to skateboard really wasn’t a component in who I really am, or where I need to headed. I have more important responsibilites to my family, to myself, and to my creator. I was never such a great skater to begin with. I thought about what things excite me now, and how my children will model my behavior. I began to think about other behaviors and habits that have stuck with me over the years. Maybe, with Hashem’s help, I’ll be able to realize that it’s time to outgrow a few more things.
Shabbos night, later that week I attended a tish by Rabbi Michel Twerski (from Milwaukee). It was amazing! Rav Michel had beautiful things to say which helped clarify my thoughts about responsibilites and choices. I’ll share two ideas of the Rabbi’s:
1) He spoke about how important it is that we show true simcha shel mitzvah. Even if you can’t If not for for our own neshamas, then for the sake of our children. Memories of parents who loved performing mitzvos are images that will last a lifetime.
2) Rav Michel also spoke about Elul and Rosh Hashanah. Rav Michel said that usually we are concentrating on what we’ve been doing wrong all year and how to improve ourselves. The ikar (main point) might be that we need to look at all of the brachos that our creator has given us. He said that we each have talents (music, art, writing, etc.) and we need to remember that those talents are brachos from Hashem and should be regarded as such. In truth, we have a responsibiltiy to access those talents for Avodas Hashem. This is what we need to think about when we approach judgement on Rosh Hashanah.
Then I heard what Rabbi David Orlofsky said last week in Chicago, as part of an Ohr Somayach Yom Iyun (along with Rabbi Akiva Tatz and Rabbi Berel Wein). My wife was fortunate enought to attend. She came home with tapes of the event for me to listen to (thanks, Mrs. Uberdox). The following was something that Rabbi Orlofsky said that also tied into what Rav Michel had mentioned:
We often think of Rosh Hashanah as the Day of Judgement, when Hashem opens up the books of life and death. When Hashem, who knows everything will examine our deeds. There is only one reason that we have a day of judgement, because Hashem knows that we are capable of greatness. If we set the bar really low then we don’t expect that much from ourselves. Hashem says to us each Rosh Hashanah, “You are someone great. You are capable of greatness.”Tonight, thanks to the Chicago Community Kollel, I heard Rabbi Frand speak. Thanks to my wife for letting me go. The title of his drasha was “Painting your masterpiece.” His message was very similar to that of Rav Michel and Rabbi Orlofsky (do you see a theme here)…find your potential and mission in life. I took some notes and will post what he said very soon. One thing I’ll share now is that:
At Neilah the last thing we ask mehilah for is stealing? The Ger Rebbe says Hashem gave us assets and talents and if we don’t use them we’re stealing.
I hope that over the Yomin Noraim I am able to break free of my own limitations and attempt to walk a little closer to my potential using the talents that Hashem has given me.
Kesiva V’Chasima Tova and my we all have a year of bracha, shalom, and simcha!

What I think about when I’m feeling down…

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The picture to the left will be explained soon…

First, this posting is really an expansion of something I wrote here about things not working out the way you want them to. I’m, B”H, in a great mood. But, I’ll be honest, there are times when I’m not. This happens to all of us at one time or another. It’s sad, but true. Sadness, or atzvus, at times gets the best of us. We fall into a funk, or get depressed. That’s the worst. Rabbi Akiva Tatz once defined depression as “the despair of falling into an inability to act.”

To fall into the pit of thinking that we have no choices left is a terrible yeter hara. In a way, it’s the opposite of having free will. The truth is we can control how we choose to react to any given situation. It’s just, sometimes, we forget the we have a choice. Of the road in front of us seems too long and dark.

When I do feel down, I look that the picture that you see on your screen. I did the design and layout several years ago. I keep a framed copy of this picture on the bookshelf. Most people don’t look at it twice. Occasionally, a curious guest will ask me about it. It’s actually based on something I heard during my high school years, said in the name of Rav Yitzchok Hutner z”tl.

Rav Hutner, based on the Maharal, took a look at the words “adam” meaning man and “meod” mean very or more. Rav Hutner explains that after man was created on the sixth day, it says in Beraishis 1:31: And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good, and it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day.
Not just “good” but “very good.” The word “meod” seem to imply that something is beyond measurement. For example, most cars can only go to a predetermined top speed. The size of a house is based on the number of square feet in a lot and also how much money one uses to build the house. A computer is capable of holding only have so much memory (although that seems to change every other week). Rav Hutner said that people are not like this. We can grow beyond what we even imagine. When it comes to a person, our potential for greatness is limitless. It’s “meod“.
When I’m feeling down this is what I think about. My potential is beyond measurement. I just need to push myself.
Once, while taking the subway to Brooklyn on an erev Shabbos I stood in front of someone wearing a T-shirt made by “Champion” (the company is really know for their sweatshirts). The back of the T-Shirt had the following printed on it: IT TAKES A LITTLE MORE EFFORT TO MAKE A CHAMPION. What mussar!!! I think of this T-shirt at times, as well.

Music also cheers me up. Especially the Moshe Skier Band’s treatment on the classic Hafachta.
Speaking of Jewish music, blogger buddy, A SIMPLE JEW, had a great posting up yesterday. Take a few minutes and check it out, here.
Have a happy day and a great Shabbos Kodesh!!