Category Archives: personal

Have you found your purpose?

Pic found here

Last week I read a post from A Simple Jew based on a pasuk in Tehillim. He writes:

חיים שאל ממך נתתה לוLife he requested of You, You gave it to him. (Tehillim 21:5)
Hashem, You have given me life, but You keep the tachlis of why you sent my neshamah down into this world hidden from me!  How can you expect me to fulfill my mission if you don’t even tell me what that mission is?  What will I be accountable for once I return my neshamah to You?  What is my true potential that You want me to live up to?
Hashem, I am asking for life from You – but not the life of an animal who merely exists to fulfill its bodily desires.  I am asking for a life in which each day I can work to fulfill the tachlis of why You put me here in this world.

I posted the following comment:
When I was first married I spent “hisbodedus time” focused on this question.  It wasn’t until I heard a shiur on B’nai Machshava Tova (given by R Weinberger) that I, sort of, gave up this path of thinking. R Weinbeger mentioned the importance of realizing when to cheshbon and think about things.  The example he gave, I believe, was about greeting someone after minyan in the morning.  You can think to yourself, “I wonder how this person is?  I want to wish him a good day, but what if he had a bad morning or has a presentation at work in 2 two hours and is stressing out about.” The other option is just to say, “I hope you have a great day!”

Sometimes, we over think too many things.  I am often guilty of this.

I remember specifcally the Simchas Torah of 2001 and thinking about this.  The shul I was in was singing a song that I really didn’t like and not many people were dancing.  I started to chesbon that I wasn’t such a lebedik song to begin with and if I danced, I’d end up only being the 6th person in the circle.  I caught myself and realized that I was wasting an opportunity to show my love for the Torah and just jumped in and danced.

I have found, that if I am really plugged into my observant life as a Jew with davening, learning, doing what I am obligated to do on a daily basis, then eventually I get an idea for something or opportunities come up that I find ruchnius-rooted fullfilment in doing.

I think that we all are trying to figure out how we can fit our piece into the larger puzzle that makes up Hashem’s plan for us in this world.  We all want a purpose, a mission statement, or a compass that directs us.  Micha Berger found his mission statement, based on the introduction to the sefer Shaarei Yosher (you can read about this and his excellent plan of actualizing that statement here).

In an off-blog discussion with A Simple Jew we shared some ideas about the different ways of focusing on this mystery of tachlis, purpose.   I had tried the deep contemplation method and, for me, it didn’t work.  As I commented above, I find that when I’m following the path of the “regular” things an observant Jew is meant to do, there are time when “purpose” comes my way.  Sometimes not thinking too much about something yields results.  This is based on chapter 4 of Jewish Meditation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt’l, he describes the difference between being “locked on” a specific problem and another way to solve an issue.  He writes:

The appears to be, however another type of problem-solving consciousness.  The first time I became aware of this was when, in the course of Kabbalistic research, I was trying to figure out the properties of a five-dimentional hypercube.   The problem was extremely difficult, since it involved trying to visualize what would happen when the hypercube was rotated through five-dimensional space.  I had spent several afternoons sweating over the problem, without even coming close to a solution.

Then, one evening, I was relaxing in the bathtub, and mymind wandered to the problem, almost offandedly. Suddenly, every aspect of the problem seemed peferectly clear, and the relationships that had been impossibly complex were now easy to visualze and understand.  By the time I got out of the tub, I had worked out the problem completely.

Eventually, I began to realized that this was happening to me often.  Sitting in the tub was an excellent time to solve the most difficult problems.  But the expereince was very different from being locked on to problem. Quite to the contrary, the mind was free to wander wherever it watned, but it seemed tohit upon the right answers with surprising clarity. 

This method might not work for everyone, but focusing on the question of tachlis mostly directs me to the proverbial brick wall.  If you want to talk tachlis, then we all know that our neshama is happy when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing…following a life of Torah u’Mitzvos.   I know, on a very deep level, that there are certain actions and avodas Hashem that I can engage in where I feel energized (for years it was when I was involved in kiruv and informal education).  The reality is that, I currently spend the majority of my day working in my profession (which has opportunities for me to be m’kadesh Hashem).  However, I know that my identity isn’t based on my job, there’s more to who I am.  Since am I not learning full-time (ok, I haven’t really learned full-time since my 2 years in E”Y) and working, it is hard to find that real ruchniyus-type purpose while replying to work emails, dealing with traffic, taking phone calls, and attending meetings.

I have heard, read, and told myself that having a job and getting that set amount of money every two weeks is really for the purpose of supporting my family, paying tuition, buying food to enhance Shabbos Kodesh, and so forth.  This mindset is something that has to be a constant reminder and, I admit, I don’t think about it enough.   The popularity of Daf Yomi might, in fact, be due to the masses of those, like me, who are working and attempting to find a higher purpose in things.  Learning a daf or anything on a daily basis gives one a sense of direction, accomplishment, and purpose.  It’s the same thing if you have committed to attending a weekly shiur.  You know that for a specific amount of time you are accomplishing something in the realm of learning Torah.

However, and don’t hit me because I’m wearing glasses. just because one is learning on a regular basis, that doesn’t mean that you are exempt from finding a greater purpose.  I don’t think, and I can say this because I started the new daf yomi cycle, that the daf is all that Hashem wants me to do.  So find a mission statement, or dedicate 20 minutes a day to asking Hashem to give you insight into your purpose, or just take a bath.  If these ideas don’t work, then ask a close friend or people at a kiddush if they have found their purpose.  I can let you in on a little secret, when I ask myself this question, I can safely stay that it probably involves:

  • Being able to get up in the morning (I am not a morning person)
  • Trying to do things to help my wife and children (hard because, by nature, I am selfish)

I am sure there are more things that encompass big ideas like making observance more meaningful, breaking down stereotypes of observant Judaism, and teaching others why they are important to Judaism.  I suppose that just realizing we have a purpose is a good start, too.

My summer of mainstreaming

Image by me

It was pointed out very clearly to me in the beginning of the summer that I am not so “mainstream”.  What this really means, I still am trying to figure out, but I took it to imply that even though I might go to minyan, learn some, dress in a way that doesn’t draw too much attention to myself, look enough like everyone else on Shabbos Kodesh, I am, never the less, not so mainstream.  

So, I decided that this would be my summer of mainstreaming.  I tried, really, I did.  Away went the printouts that I would bring to shul in my tallis bag on Shabbos Kodesh.  I only learned seforim that could be bought on Amazon (BH, A Simple Jew’s sefer is available there), I stopped quoting sources that are not available in Artscroll translations, I only listened to music that Nahum Segal would play, I only ate foods from recipes in the “Kosher By Design” series, I didn’t eat salmon (because they swim upstream), and I only attempted to only use references that most people would get.

It has been, and still is, a challenge to be “mainstream’.  I’m just not a “top 40” type of guy.  I never was.  It has nothing to do with being b’davka counter-culture or anti-establishment.  I tried.  Even at the Siyum HaShas in Chicago, I found myself sitting next to a yid I didn’t know and I really tried to be just like everyone else and not get sucked into “stranger danger”, but I couldn’t hold out.  I had to say, “Hi, my name is Neil.  I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I didn’t find out your name. There’s no achdus in this whole event if I leave not knowing who I was sitting next to.”

Truth be told, most of those that I admire were not mainstream.  They went against the grain of their times:  Reb Nachman of Breslov, Rav Yisrael Salanter (and his talmidim), Rav Hirsch, Rav Dessler, Rav Shimon Schwab, Rav Moshe Weinberger.  Each gadol b’Torah has his own derech and machshavos that set him apart from those within his generation.  That’s just the Torah way.

In my contemplation about the importance of being mainstream, I kept on thinking of this teaching, related by Rav Shlomo Friefeld zt’l,  as printed in the book In Search of Greatness, (on page 14) quoting the Midrash, that “explains why Avraham was called Avraham the Ivri.  What is an Ivri?  The Midrash says that the term Ivri come from the word ever, which means a side.  It is often used for a riverbank.  Every river has two sides, this riverbank and the opposite one.  Avraham was called Avraham the Ivri, the “sider,” or one who stood on the side.  What does that mean?  The Gemara says that Avraham stood on one side and the entire world stood on the other.  He had his beliefs, and the entire world was opposed to them.

I know, in my heart of hearts that the kuntz of being mainstream is that you are able to have a voice of individuality that is accepted by the majority of the kehillah.  That being written, I will end with two quotes to ponder.  One, from my copy of the Hirsch Siddur and the other from my very non-mainstream print-out of an article in Tradition. 

“Hillel would say: Do not separate yourself from the community.” 
Rav Hirsch zt’l: It is not to the individual, but to the community, Morasha Kellios Yaakov, that God entrusted His Torah as an inheritance for all the generations to come. For this reason every individual is duty bound to join forces with his community in thought, in word and in deed and loyally to share in its tasks and obligations, so long as that community proves to be a faithful guardian and supporter of the Torah. Indeed, it is essential in the discharge of his own life’s task that the individual be part of a larger community. For whatever he may be able to do on his own is inadequate and short-lived; it is only in conjunction with the achievements of others that his own actions can have importance.  Moreover, his good principles and convictions will gain considerable strength and support from the fact that he hold them in common with the whole of a genuinely Jewish community.

Rav Soloveitchik zt’l from “The Community”
The presonalistic unity and reality of a community, such as Knesset Israel, is due to the philosophy of existential complementary of individuals belonging to Knesset Israel.  The individuals belonging to the community compliment one another existentially.  Each individual possesses something unique, rare, which is unknown to the others; each individual has a unique message to communicate, a special color to add to the communal spectrum.  Hence, when lonely man joins the community, he adds a new dimension to the community awareness.  He contributes something which no one else could have contributed.  He enriches the community existentially; he is irreplaceable.  Judaism has always looked upon the individual as if he were a little world (microcosm); with the death of the individual, this little world come to an end.  A vacuum which other individuals cannot fill is left.

Reflection on Rejection

Picture from here
There are times when we put ourselves out there and the result is rejection.  I am not a big fan of being rejected or, while I’m at it, constructive feedback (which is now what people previously referred to as criticism).  I understand the whole, “message is really from Hashem” thing that we commonly associate with negative things that happen or are said to us.  Seeing how I gravitate towards mussar and self growth, you’d think that I’d be all about constructive feedback and, even, rejection. I’m not.  I’m sensitive and don’t like like it. I listen, process, accept and attempt to change course, but my natural reaction is usually one of resistance.  As an armchair analysis, this is probably, davka, why I like mussar, since growth sometimes comes after uncomfortable criticism.
My wife, in her infinite wisdom, thinks this is due to not being involved in organized sports when I was growing up (sadly rag-tag soccer games and skateboarding doesn’t really as “organized sports”).  Had I played baseball when I was growing up I would have dealt with the reality of striking out, missing catches, and losing games.  I grew up playing video games on Atari and a Franklin Ace 1000 (a clone of the Apple II+).  If you lost a game then you simply restarted or moved on to something else.  There isn’t any personal connection or a blow to the ego if you lose at a video game.  Your future success isn’t impeded by being defeated in Defender, Dig Dug, or any of the Zork adventure games.
A number of weeks ago I wrote something that I thought was worth sharing beyond this blog.  I contacted a national Jewish newspaper, a Jewish website, and an online Jewish journal.  Respectively, the feedback was:
  • A very well written piece, but it might be misinterpreted by more right wing elements
  • While we liked the essay, the writing on our website is focused on the not-yet-observant Jew
  • No reply
I got the message.  What I wrote either wasn’t meant for those platforms, or, simply, should just remain on this blog.  I am not sure what will become of this essay, but the whole rejection process reminded me of the snippets that I posted once from two rejection letters that Georger Lucas received after pitching Star Wars to different movie studios.  Sadly there is neither a a chapter on rejection in Orchos Tzaddikim nor a series of mp3 from Rav Weinberger that I can draw strength from.
Rejection, failure, or reassessing a situation is part of life.  In a panel discussion with Dr. David Pelcovitz and Mr. Moishe Bane there is a great lesson given.  Reb Moishe Bane mentions that one of the key life lessons he feels it’s important for people to learn is the “glory of failure” as he calls it.  He mentions that there have been countless times that a CEO or yeshiva administrator has had to deal with the reality of not being able to make payroll and has had to chose to find funds via unethical means or simply swallow their pride and admit failure. The latter choice is where the “glory of failure” come in. We learn from our mistakes and grow from the experience.
Thinking about this, I came up with a few examples that might be of comfort for anyone who feels beaten down, rejected, or is simply pushed up against the the wall.  Over course, were I to go through the many inspirational stories penned by R Paysach Krohn, R Yechiel Spero, or the “Small Miracles” books, we would be here forever.  I won’t even mention any of the amazing stories from Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust. 
Parshas Va’eschanan– Moshe’s plea to enter Eretz Yisrael and Hashem telling him that it wouldn’t happen.
Interestingly, in Likutei Moharan II, lesson 78, Reb Nachman taught: “Gevalt! Never give up. There is never a reason to give up.” This was said toward the end of Reb Nachman’s life on a Shabbos and is connected to the parsha listed above, actually. See Reb Nachman’s Wisdom #153 (pages 302-306 of this pdf).*
Reb Jonathan Rosenblum writes about the struggle of starting the Gatehead Kollel:

THE LATE SUMMER OF 1941 found Rabbi Dessler in Chesham in Buckinghamshire along with other Jewish refugees from the constant German bombing of London. He was once again separated from his entire family. His son Nachum Velvel was learning in Telshe Yeshiva in the United States; his wife Bluma and daughter Hennie were trapped in Kelm at the outbreak of the War and were fortunate to be able to wend their way to Australia for the duration.
Rabbi Dessler was then in his fifty-first year, and had but 12 years left to live. Though many of his classic essays had already been formulated, not one word had been published except in stencils for his talmidim. Had Rabbi Dessler passed away then his name and thought would have been lost to posterity.

That summer a letter arrived at his lodgings from Rabbi Dovid Dryan, the mohel of Gateshead and founder of the fledgling Gateshead Yeshiva. Reb Dovid proposed the establishment of a kollel of outstanding young kollel scholars in Gateshead. Unbeknownst to Rabbi Dessler, Reb Dovid had sent the same letter to 21 other rabbis. Also unbeknownst to him, every other rabbi responded negatively to Reb Dovid’s suggestion: 18 did not bother to answer at all; another 3 commended the idea but decided it was impracticable under the wartime circumstances. The naysayers might have added that the number of those who appreciated the importance of Torah learning, much less the concept of Torah lishma, in England in those days in were few indeed. The few yeshivos that existed were small in size, and the idea of Kollel learning was unknown.
Rabbi Dessler alone replied positively to Reb Dovid’s letter: “My heart sees a great light in the matter which Your Honor suggested – your merit is very great.” He replied as he did not because he saw success as guaranteed, but because he viewed the matter as too important not to try.With Rabbi Dessler’s encouraging response to Reb Dovid Dryan’s letter, the face of English and all European Jewry was changed forever. By early 1942, the first group of young scholars was already in place.

If R Dovid Dryan had not written 22 letters initially we would ever have had what became Gatehead.
Learning in yeshiva I often heard a story about the Rav zt’l that I sort of thought was an urban legend. However, it was told over by Dr. Norman Lamm at a hesped he gave for the Rav.

It was my second year in his sheur, and I was intimidated and in awe of him as was every other talmid-that is, almost everyone else. There was one student, the youngest and one of the brightest, who was clearly the least frightened or awed. The Rav had been developing one line of thought for two or three weeks, when this talmid casually said, “But Rebbe, the Hiddushei Ha-Ran says such-and-such which contradicts your whole argument.” The Rav was stunned, held his head in his hands for three agonizingly long minutes while all of us were silent, then pulled out a sheaf of papers from his breast pocket, crossed out page after page, said that we should forget everything he had said, and announced that the sheur was over and he would see us the next day.
I Iearned two things from this remarkable episode. First, we were overwhelmed by his astounding intellectual honesty. With his mind, he could easily have wormed his way out of the dilemma, manipulated a text here and an argument there, maybe insulted an obstreperous student, and rescued his theory and his ego. But the Rav did nothingof the sort! He taught, by example, the overarching goal of all Torah study as the search for Truth. That search for Truth was of the essence of his activity in Torah, and we witnessed it in action. He encouraged independent thinking by his pupils as a way to ensure his own search for the truth of Torah. The Rav was authoritative, but not authoritarian. No “musar shmuess” no lecture in ethics-could have so successfully inculcated in us respect for the truth at all costs.

The second lesson came with the anti-climax to the story. The very next day, it was a Wednesday, the Rav walked into class with a broad, happy grin on his face, held out his copy of the Hiddushei Ha-Ran, and said to the talmid, “Here-now read it correctly? The Rav had been right all along…. 

That willingness to change course is also a source of inspiration.  The Alter of Slabodka totally switched his own derech ha mussar and the result was a focus on the greatness of man and not on the weakness of humanity, as posted here.
I have heard and read stories of both Chassidim, especially Lubavitchers, and Novardok yeshiva students and the terrible conditions in Sibera that they went through.  Many fought long and hard and survived, while others didn’t.  The end result is that we have to keep plugging.  For me, this means that while my first official attempt at getting an essay published didn’t quite work out how I wanted it to, I haven’t given up.

* Thanks to A Simple Jew for pointing me to the lesson of Prostuk

Fifty shades of Frum

Really low-tech graphic by me

For the past two months I have been trying to figure out a way to write this post without it seeming like I am: ranting, being hypocritical, ignorant, preachy, or being non-tzenu’ah (immodest).

There’s a line that we all have an option of crossing.  What and where that line is is usually based on our upbringing, education, spouse, acceptable standard within the community, Rabbonim, media (even Jewish newspapers/websites), and friends.  The term “fifty shades” refers to, from what filter-based-internet research I have done, the complexities and layers of a person.  No, I haven’t read any of the books, but I’ve heard about them.  They are in the news, on the radio and in the hands of people who are reading them, for a multitude of reasons.  That isn’t the point of this post, however.

Judaism may seems to be black and white, but grey does exist (although “grey” usually means that there are several opinions about something, thus giving you other options besides “A” and “B”).  Most people, well, at least this person, love being in the grey area.  Not because it exists in the form of a reshus, (something that isn’t an outright mitzvah, yet isn’t assur), but because I pick and define my own grey area.  I feel a sense of ownership of my self-defined grey areas.  Something a person may grey as reading a secular newspaper, listening or watching sports, listening to music of their youth, watching a movie with language that we would be shocked to hear from our children’s mouths, reading a magazine with articles that we would never let our daughters read, or spending our free time with friends doing things that we wouldn’t want to share on Facebook.  Grey may be the words we say, the things we smoke, the books we read, the liquids drink, things we wear, or the websites we go to when we fool ourselves into thinking that no is watching.  Grey is what we make it.

Grey is the new pareve, or so we chesbonize.  We wouldn’t ever think of mixing meat and milk, yet we all are big fans of pareve soy milk, creamer, margarine, dark chocolate, and pareve ice cream.  Pareve has as the luxury of not being milchig or fleishig.  I, all too often ascribe my grey areas the distinction of pareve.  Sometimes, though, they are not.  Heck, just this past Sunday on my bike ride I listened to three secular songs that are as clean as my kittel, yet they lacked the kedusha of that garment (on the level of why my kittel was manufactured and also in how my kittel has been used).  Grey is totally how we see it.

Many years ago I sold over 80 CDs and cassettes (when people still bought them).  I did this for mostly two reasons.  I wanted to “m’kadesh them, by selling them and using the money to buy seforim and also because I didn’t want them in my home, due to some of the lyrics (not necessarily profanity, but more based on the sub-culture of hardcore punk music).  Don’t fret, we still have a big handful of secular stuff sandwiched between Uncle Moishy CD, HASC Concerts, and Piamenta.  Most of it is grey music, of course (written with a smile).

Well over 20 years ago, I once joked with someone and said, “I’m a baal teshuva.  There isn’t any grey with me, only black and white.”  Relax, it’s not as harsh as it sounds.  What I then explained was that my view on things was simply either something is kosher (acceptable) or it isn’t.  Either it has value/k’dusha or it doesn’t.  Rabbi Yosef Yozel Hurwitz, the Alter of Novardok said it like this:  A utensil can be either michlig, fleishig, or pareve.  A person can’t be pareve, he must be one or the other.

I can try to make things as grey as I want them to be, but it is me who is making them grey and the world doesn’t really run based on the biased meanings and values that I give things.  Sometimes, I find myself taking what is clearly dark-dark grey and slowly rationalizing it.  With each thought, action, excuse or indulgence slowly dark-dark grey becomes, dark grey, then not-so dark grey, which becomes grey, which then becomes light-grey, which become light-light grey, which is really almost white.  Grey exists, and I’m cool with that.  Either what I may view as grey can be used to get me closer to Hashem and my mission as a Jew in this world or it simply diverts me from that goal.

Well, I biked the forest…

I have to thank all of my sponsors who donated over $2,000.00 for Chai Lifeline.  Seriously, you’re amazing!  What, feeling guilty that you didn’t sponsor me?  Don’t fret, you still have time by clicking here.

I have read that a common motto in exercise is, “Feel the pain”.  After Sunday’s bike ride with Chai Lifeline, I totally understand what this means.  “Biking the forest” pushed me to the limit.  Biking 54 miles last year on Lake Shore Drive was a piece of fat-free cake compared with Sunday’s 34 mile bike ride at Linne Woods.  I found the hills to be much more challenging than I expected and to say that I pushed myself, is not an exaggeration.  Of course, it was for a great cause and if I am a little sore and sunburned, then so be it.  It was TOTALLY worth it!

Our ride started at a picnic grove where Chai Lifeline had fruit, Granola Bars, and water waiting for us.  The trail we took went north for 10 miles to the beautiful Chicago Botanical Gardens, at which point, people could turn around and return to the picnic grove.  However, I wanted to get in my 34 miles, so once I got the the Botanical Gardens, I then went back 7 miles and returned to Gardens.  All along the way Chai Lifeline had volunteers stationed with nice cold bottles of water for everyone.  After refilling my water and catching my breath, I biked back to join the group.  For those that wanted, a nice brunch was served, sponsored by Bagel Country after the event.  I was simply happy to drink some water in the shade. 

When I got home I was greeted with hugs, high-fives, and a cold drink and something to eat.  Seeing how proud my wife and kids were of what I accomplished in memory of my father a”h, made it all worth it.  As I wrote above, this was quite a challenge, but it was also a opportunity to really push myself and see the effort pay off!  I am pleased that I not only biked the furthest of anyone on Sunday, but I also brought in the second highest amount of sponsorship this year.  To know that I was able to help Chai Lifeline with your support and encouragement is a great feeling and I am so glad you were able to help me.

For the first 3 hours of my 3.5 hour bike ride I listened to some amazing shiurim from Rav Reuven Leuchter, who is a very close student of Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt’l.  Two of the shiurim were about “Chinuch on Gadlus Ha’Adom” and the third was about the first few lines of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s Iggeres HaMussar (totally blew my mind how he he explains R Yisrael Salanter’s view of imagination/dimyon).  His understanding of Gadlus Ha’Adom (as being conscious that we are involved in a higher madrega of avodah than just mitzvah observance, but serving Hashem) fits so nicely with the concept of D’veykus (attachment to God) as brought down in the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim.  The 30 minutes of my ride was spent listening to Yosef Karduner, Piamaneta, Diaspora, Yitzhak HaLevi, Even Sh’shiya, Bob Mould, and a Russian band called Selo N Ludy and their cover of Bon Jovi’s “It’s my life” (funniest thing ever).

Chai Lifeline is still excepting your sponsorship of my ride.  That’s right, you have until Thursday morning to still make a donation.  Any amount would be great.  I’ll be honest, for the past three years I have raised more for Chai Lifeline’s bike event in Chicago than anyone else.  This year I am only short $591.00 of keeping that record.

Please feel free to forward this page to anyone that can help.  Every little bit helps.
You can sponsor me by going here.  Seriously, this is for Chai Lifeline, they do great work.  Thanks!!!

A lesson from Eeyore (rebooted)

This week, finally, I had my initial “session” with my Partner in Torah.  The person I’m learning with is semi-local, so I decided that our first learning experience should be in person.  It was great.  He’s a really friendly guy.  Partner’s in Torah even supplied us with a curriculum, which made things much easier than the pressure of trying to figure out what to learn.

As we were learning, I admit, I felt rather grateful for my own Jewish education that I was able to receive after finishing public high school.  It’s funny how there are so many things I think of as givens within Jewish thought and law that, in fact, were so foreign to me years ago.  On the drive back I thought about an idea I learned from Eeyore many year ago.

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)

How each of us sees things is based on our own background and knowledge.  It’s very easy to live a traditional Jewish life and forget that to those not blessed with the same opportunites you’ve had, ‘A’ is just three sticks.

If you can give 30 minutes a week on the phone to learn with someone who wants to grow in their Jewish knowledge, give a call to 800-STUDY-4-2.

Note: This idea about Eeyore and kiruv is something I posted in 2007. After learning with my partner it popped back into my mind.

The one time of the year it’s ok to be "the Jews with the crumbs"

From here

This phrase, “the Jews with the crumbs” is one that I use in a semi-joking way with my family and close friends. It’s sort of my version of the speech that kids get when they go on a school field trip or their camp goes off-site for an activity.  You know the speech, it always starts off, “Now kids, we’re going to a place where they don’t usually see a group of Jews like you. Jews who love Hashem and follow his Torah.”
As a general rule, I dislike going to recreational places on a Sunday (or during Chol HaMoed) where there are tons of other observant Jews, because, more often than not, we all bring our own snacks with us.  That’s all find and dandy, but often I, sadly, find that many of my brothers and sisters will not pick up their trash and leave a huge mess of litter, heimishe food wrappers and juice boxes…thus giving those of us who accept Torah mi’Sinai a bad name.  So, I tell my family that I don’t want us to be known as, “the Jews with the crumbs.”
Call me extreme, fanatical, and over-sensitive. I don’t mind. I think that every time we are at home or in public we have an opportunity m’kadesh Hashem.
That being written, I sat at my desk today during work and ate my shmura matza with jelly, carefull not to let too many crumbs escape the plate.  I had flashbacks to my favorite lunches when I was in public school from K-12.  Hands down, the best lunches of the year were my kosher for Passover lunches.  Corned beef on matza, lox on matza, brisket on matza, margarine and jelly on matza, a hard boiled egg, a fruit, and usually some type of small chocolate or the every popular jelly fruit slices.  Not only were those lunches yummy, but they also were a very visable way to seperate myself from everyone else eating lunch.  There was no way to hid the fact that I was Jewish.
I am not a fan of leaving messes around.  However, for all of the children and famlies that have always gone to school within the day school and yeshiva system, I think Pesach outings allow us to really remember that we are different than everyone else.  Eating your matza sandwich in a park, designated eating area at a museum, or a zoo means that you’re out in public and other see that we are different.  As the tile of this post indicates, this might be only time in the year when it’s ok to be “the Jews with the crumbs.”

There’s nothing wrong with being different, looking different, or eating different, just try not to make a mess.

Where MO might need to be headed

Find this here

Dr. Rabbi Alan Brill has a great post about a recent discussion with Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn here.  The observations by both Dr. Brill and Rabbi Einhorn are revealing and seem to be very on target towards my generation.  Here are a few great quotes:

Einhorn describes the need for his age group, the younger gen x and older gen y rabbis to seek the experiential. They grew up with a strict halakhic diet and a rationalist worldview which did not sustain their cravings for religious experience that they were taught to value in Israel.

Rabbi Einhorn is absolutely sold on Tony Robbins’s program for fire-walking to be transformed and to release the potential within.

I commented on the actual blog post and recommend you check it out what Dr. Brill posted and some of the comments.