Monthly Archives: May 2008

Rav Schwab quote from "These and Those"

Over Shabbos I had an opportunity to re-read the essay know as “These and Those” aka “E’ilu v’Eilu”, published in SELECTED ESSAYS. Several sentences that made up paragraph blew me away and then after letting a close friend browse through the sefer, he also pointed out the quote to me (with me even bringing up the quote).

He who is strong in his conviction is even strengthened by the clear exposition of the opposite viewpoint. He who is strong in his conviction will welcome an open discussion based on mutual respect for the opponent’s opinion. Mutual intolerance betrays mutual weakness. Only he who is fully convinced can afford to be fully tolerant towards his opponent and yet remain adamant and stand his ground.

As I think about how easily we, as an Am Kodesh, can draw lines in the sand and fracture our Achdus it’s really a miracle that we, as one people, were able to receive the Torah.

At a shopping mall near you: The Mussar Kisok

A few weeks ago I went to a big shopping mall in a suburb of Chicago with my family. Among the many kiosks there I found a “Kabbalah Kiosk”. Like any given kiosk you see in a mall these days, this one was run by several citizens from Israel who had come to America to attempt to make some money.
This one has lots of charms, mezzuzah covers, earrings, necklesses, rings, pictures, ect depicting things like the Ten Sefirot, several Hebrew phrases, and other such Kabbalah items (although they didn’t sell these albums). The young adults selling the items were from Tel Aviv and Yerushalyim, both of them seemed nice. After walking away I thought of that article in the Forward, titled “The Path of the Just: Is Mussar the new Kabbalah?”.
Would there ever be such a thing as a “Mussar Kiosk” in a shopping mall? I doubt it, but if there was, then the kiosk would probably be very hard to find in the mall, as most Baalei Mussar tended to stay away from the spot-light and not reveal themselves. It would be in a place that you might have to walk past once or twice before noticing it.
They would most likely sell all of the products from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, such as bookmarks, posters, tapes and cds.
You would be able to by cool things like micro-sized copies of Mesillas Yesharim and Orchos Tzadikim with keychains attached to them. Or even MP3s and ebooks of Mussar seforim.
You could buy jewlery with silver blades of grass attached to them to remind your wifes and daughters of this: There is no blade of grass below that does not have a malach on high that smites it and says to it: Grow! (Bereishis Rabbah 10:6-7)
They might have small “Tefillin mirrors” with the words “Mussar starts here” printed on them.
Paperweights that look like buckets of water to remind people the story about when the Chofetz Chaim was a boy and while other kids thought it would be funny to freeze the water in the buckets for the local water carrier, young Yisrael Meir would empty the buckets as chessed to the water carrier.
Hot coffee and latkes would be available to remind visitors that when Rav Dessler was little boy he use to get up early on Shabbos to learn with his Rebbe before davening. His mother would have hot coffee and tasty latkes (probably small cakes) waiting for him when he got out of bed. While the ikar of getting up was to learn, he himself writes that because of what his mother had waiting for he, he “got out of bed quicker”. This was an example of “Sh’lo lishma, bo lishma”.
They would, for sure, sell the trash can that I have dreamed about, based on the awesome trash cans they had in the Alter of Kelm’s Talmud Torah. These trash cans were designed to be very narrow at the bottom and wide at the top (sort of like an inverted cone). If you were not careful in how you put your trash into it, it would tip over. They were designed to teach the talmidim that each action, even throwing garbage away, has an effect.
You could buy bumperstickers that would say: “I break for Midos Tovos”, “Bein Adom L’Chavero on board”, “If I’m driving to slow, then you might want to work on your Savlanut”, “My other car is a Beis HaMussar”, “Honk if you did Teshuva”, and “If I’m driving too fast, it’s becuase I’m working on the midah of Zerizus”.
Again, I doubt if items a kiosk like this would ever end up in a mall, but I’d love to work there and I’d be smiling big time if someone came over to ask if we sold hammers, as a reference to this Mussar exercise.

Reflections on Biking the Drive

(The victory cake that my wife surprised
me with at a BBQ that afternoon)

Firstly, thanks to everyone who sponsored me and donated to Chai Lifeline. I’ve been told that they will actually still accept biker sponsorship until May 28 (donate here).

Training was great. I’ve been biking with my friend (who suggested the whole Bike the Drive thing to me in the first place from Devon up McCormick to Golf and back and forth several times (if you’re from Chicago this will mean something).

Sunday morning was awesome. If you’re interested in seeing the map for Bike the Drive, click here. I’ll took the southern route (it’s got less hills and the road is better paved) starting at Buckingham Fountain and going to the Museum of Science and Industry and then back to the Fountain, for a total of 15 miles. We started off at 5:40am and the weather was great.

I had the mp3 player going and really got into the biking. In fact, after completing the first 15 miles I decided to go another 15, for a total of 30 miles! I finished biking (with a few breaks) at 9:00am. The weather, as I said, was perfect and the view of Lake Michigan was excellent. I am not one to push myself physically, but I was so into the groove of biking that I wanted to go beyond my original plan (a good lesson for me in every aspect of life).
My playlist of MP3s also helped:
Getting To Know Me (2) What’s In It For Me? The Purpose Of The Sefer – Rav Moshe Weinberger
Hashem Melech – Yosef Karduner
Hashivenu- Yosef Karduner
Ki Ish HaIsraeli- Yosef Karduner
Ki Lo Chalu- Yosef Karduner
Kume Roni- Yosef Karduner
Mikimi- YosefKarduner
Mizmor L’David- Yosef Karduner
Shir La’maalot- Yosef Karduner
Tismach- Yosef Karduner
Tzadik- Yosef Karduner
V’Taher Libenu- Yosef Karduner
Ze Hoshienu- Yosef Karduner
Anachnu Maaminim Medley- Piamenta
Dream of Redemption- Piamenta
Getting To Know Me (3) Getting Real – Uncovering And Discovering Our Inner World – Rav Moshe Weinberger

Having not listened to music during my bike training, it was excellent to listen to Hashem Melach (a song that is constantly in my head). The shiurim by Rav Weinberger are well worth the small fee to download.

After the ride, representatives from Chai Lifeline were waiting for us with a boxed breakfast from BBs’ Bagels. As great as the biking was, the welcome I got from my family when I came home was even better. I won’t get into the details of what Mrs. Uberdox did, but in did include: Victory music, streamers, signs made by the kids, and a true breakfast of champions. I has happy to have helped raised money for Chai Lifeline and my family was proud of me.

In terms of “going beyond my original plan”, the extra 15 miles were an added plus. It felt like the right thing to do and there really wasn’t any reason not to do it. It is rather satisfying to know that being in the right environment, finding internal motivation, and acknowledgement of the benefits to doing something were factors that added to a personal success. Of course, these are also factors in the opportunities that are presented to me for growth as a Torah observant Jew. If only it was as “easy as riding a bike”…

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin of Salant
The head of a large company turned to R’ Yisrael with the following question. He had only one hour free a day to learn. What should he learn during that time? “Spend the hour learning Mussar,” answered R’ Yisrael. “If you do so, then you will discover many more free hours in the day.”

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Whatever you are doing at that moment

I have heard the following story from several people. In fact, twice, from R Moshe Weinberger (once on a tape and once while attending a shiur from him):

A chossid of Rav Moshele Kabriner pnce went to see the Kotzker. Rav Menachen Mendel of Kotzk asked to hear what the greatest inun, character trait, of this chossid’s rebbe, Rav Moshele Kabriner. Was it chessed? Tefilah?
The chossid answered, my rebbe’s greatest inun is whatever he is doing at that moment. Whatever we do at this moment, who we are married to, who are children are, where we are living, we have to serve Hashem at this time, at this moment. Whatever is happening to us is from Hashem.

While some aspects of my life have been hectic lately and there have been several ups and downs within the past year, this gevaldik story always pops in my head. Hopefully it will remain at the forefront of my head and not as an afterthought.

If America runs on Dunkin, then I must…

bike on Crystal Light . It happens to be what I drink in my water bottle when I bike. I happen to like Sunrise Classic Orange. The idea that America runs on Dunkin” sort of cracks me up. When I think of jogging or any exercise, rarely do I think of Dunkin Donuts. Perhaps what they mean is that after Pesach, Yidden run to their local dunkin that is under a local hechshar? My son will never forget when he was 5 yrs old after spending the final days of Pesach in Chicago that as we drove past the Dunkin on Devon Ave (1 hour after havdala) the line was out the door with Torah observant Jews waiting for a donut (this image would have made a great posting about what our priorites are, but the moshul is way to obvious to the average reader).

I don’t necessarily think that I really run on Crystal Light. The marketing team for Dunkin Donuts must believe that “running on something” probably refers to what ‘motives’ or ‘energizes’ someone. That being said, I have been wondering what I do actually “run on”?

The obvious answers would be: family, love of Hashem, need to provide for the people I love, etc.
I guess, in theory, I “run” on Shabbos. Not that I actually go running on Shabbos, but Shabbos, in theory, should energize those who keep it, as Shabbos really is the focal point of the entire week and of creation. Again, I wrote the words, “in theory”. I admit that I don’t really think about this important idea as much as I should.

As I sit and type, I realize that even those things that ‘motive’ or ‘energize’ me only get me so far and I have the ability to push myself much further than I do. There is no need to comment, but if you are reading this, it might be worth a minute or two to think about what you run on?

One of several reasons I haven’t been blogging too much

The Bike the Drive for Chai Lifeline training has been keeping me a bit busy these days. Family, work, little league, along with general life also takes time. Of course, the truth is ,that a post such as this is being writing with only two goals in mind:
a) To let those who actually take time out to read this blog know that I’m still out there and
b) to get more sponsors for the Chai Lifeline fund raiser. The twist I have on raising funds is, as I’ve been told, rather unique. As mentioned previously, I wil actually listen to a shiur while training/ Biking the Drive in memory or as a z’chus for someone. All that YOU need to do is be willing to donate to Chail Lifeline, here, and find my name in the sponsor list. Imagine, even if you donate, say, $5.00, I will have someone in mind when I listen to a shiur. I think it’s a rather good deal.

I found out two things last week while training.
a) I’m really out of shape, but that isn’t stopping me. My wife and kids are behind me!
b) The Rav Moshe Weinberger shiur “Hamavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol (5) The Upheaval Of Moving From Shabbos To Chol (Everyday)” available as a free download, has totally changed what I think about when I make Havdalah.