Monthly Archives: May 2009

Biking on LSD*

*Lake Shore Drive

I arrived at the starting point, Buckingham Fountain on Lake Shore Drive at 5:45 am and hit the pavement.  At that time there were not too may bikers on the road as we headed south towards the Museum of Science and Industry .  I really felt that my training had paid off because as I looked at those biking north, I saw that most of them were going slowly and already looked exhausted.

After turning around and heading back north towards Buckingham Fountain, I realized that it was windy, very windy.  It was only got more difficult as I and hundreds of others biked north on Lake Shore Drive.  Now I realized why everyone looked exhausted.  The wind was fierce.  Finally as the road turned at Soldier Field the wind gave way.  Things got a bit easier, but it took a lot out of me biking against the wind.  After three repeat trips up and down LSD I finally successfully reached my goal of biking 45 miles, 15 miles more than I biked last year.

After the bicycling event, Chai Lifeline had arranged a very nice breakfast at the Spertus Museum catered by Wolfgang Puck Catering for those, like me, who helped raise money for the organization.  Coming back home, I was greeted like a champion with awesome signs that my kids made and my 2 1/2 yr old daughter shouting, “It’s the Bike the Drive Abba!”

I feel that I am fortunate enough to have not only, thanks to my many sponsors, raised an impressive amount for Chai LIfeline , but I also was able to listen to three shiurim while Biking the Drive.  While listening, I had in mind that it was L’Zecher Nishmas the following: 

Rivka ben Chaim Yosef, Dan HaLevi ben Ovadia, Efraim ben Shlomo, Chaim ben Raizl, and Reuven HaLevi ben Devorah.

Also as a Refuah Shelayma for Reuven ben Tova Chaya and Shelomo Bat Yehudit

My playlist was:
Matan Torah Allows G-d To Penetrate Into Every Aspect Of Our Lives “- Rav Moshe Weinberger
Shavuot: Seeing Sound “- Rabbi Akiva Tatz
Shavuot – Moses, King David and The Baal Shem Tov ” – Rabbi Moshe New
“Gadlu”- Shalsheles
“Hafachta”- as covered by The Moshe Skier Band
“Dream Of Redemption”- Piamenta
“Anachnu Maaminim Medley”- Piamenta
“Hashem Malech”- Yosef Karduner
“Ashreinu”- Even Sh’Siyah
“V’lirusholayim”- The Yitzhak Halevi Band
“Pischu Li”- The Yitzhak Halevi Band
“Superman”- Goldfinger
“All Because of You”- U2
“Celebrated Summer”- Husker Du

I’m truly thankful to all who sponsored me.  Especially my wife, who is always my biggest sponsor.

As Sunday’s bike ride gets closer, I continue to train

Last night, very late, I went out and biked for half an hour.  It was very quite and I stayed within my neighborhood, but I was able to listen to a shiur from Rav Weinberger titled “Making Ourselves Into A Receptacle To Accept Torah “.  The shiur was great and as I listened I had in mind that it was in the zechus of a Refuah Shelaima for Rabbi Maryles ‘ grandson.

Wednesday night’s eight mile ride was good, but I had to deal with the wind that made Chicago famous.  It was a much harder ride thanks to the wind.  I started listening to a new series of shiurim given by Rabbi Yossi Michalowicz from Thornhill, Ontario, eh.  These shiurim are based on Mussar Vaadim given by Rav Avigdor Miller zt’l that were complied into a two volume set called “Shaarei Orah”.  I have read “Rejoice, O Youth” and “Torah Nation”, but the first two shiurim that I listened while biking were really uplifting.  The first idea that is discussed is that thinking about something is not the same as acting upon it.  For example, I can think about biking, but that is totally not the same as actually going out and biking.  You can think about drinking something if you are thirsty, but that will not quench your thirst.  The series is available for free right here .

Rav Miller’s view is that we need to move past that initial thought and make it something concrete.  In an attempt to accomplish this I will start thinking about how I really do wish people have a “good morning” before I wish them “Good Morning” (starting with those in my family).

As I listened to these shiurim base on Rav Miller’s Vaadim I had in mind that my friend’s wife was in need of a Refuah and that I was also listening in memory of both grandfathers a”h of two friends, the father a”h of a close friend, a mother-in-law a”h of a friend, and in memory of my in-laws a'”h.

With only four days left there’s still time to help out Chai Lifeline by sponsoring me.  Just click here and find my name in the pull-down menu.  No amount is too small (or too big).  Thanks for taking time to read this.

A defining moment

Recently, in what started out as a casual (not that I really believe in these things) conversation with the head of local adult education program, I was asked what I’m my interests are in regard to learning.  I mentioned that I  ‘enjoy’ mussar and had for many years.  I was then asked how I got “into Mussar”?  I smiled and responded that it was more like mussar got into me.

This conversation brought me back to what I might loosely call a “defining moment” in my Yiddishkeit, while learning in Israel in 1990.  I had spent my freshman year at YU and now I had an opportunity to actually learn Torah “all day” for the upcoming year.  It was the end of my first day in a yeshiva in Israel, and our Rabbeim had left for evening, thus leaving about 40 fresh off the plane guys in the beis medresh with several of our madrichim and a few kollel-types.  On the schedule was something called “Night Seder”.

I’ll be honest, I had no clue what this was.  A nice amount of guys left our yeshiva (which back then was in Gilo) and took a bus into town.  The dozen or so left sort of just hung out.  I looked around and saw that a few people were learning b’chavrusah and some were just “reading”.   I decided to start checking out the books in the yeshiva’s small library.  I happened upon a small book called “The Path of the Just” .  I had never heard of it (not that I really had heard of much aside from Rashi, Rav Hirsch, and R Aryeh Kaplan) and decide to pick it up.

As most people, the first sentence hit me with its’ humility and deep insight into how to open up to someone:

“I have written this work not to teach men what they do not know, but to remind them of what they already know and is very evident to them, for you will find in most of my words only things which most people know, and concerning which they entertain no doubts.”

Wow.  I kept reading and reading and reading.  I quickly realized that I wasn’t one of those people who didn’t really know all the things the RAMCHAL expected me to know.  That was fine with me, I was willing to learn.

I had always been interested in psychology and why we do what we do.  That aspect of insight in the life of a Torah Jew was, as a 19 year old, something that I hadn’t formally come accross during my development in Torah observance.  The whole idea of becoming a better person was an area of Judaism that I had thought about but never really read anything about, until now.  I felt my world sort of opening up and I quickly began to see the “bigger picture” of a whole different aspect of Avodah.  It was a classic Peak Experience,  as Abraham Maslow would have put it.

Eventually when I reach the end of this sefer I was again, amazed.  It ends with this pasuk from Tehillim:

Let Israel be happy in its Maker, the sons of Zion rejoice in their King” (Psalms 149:2)

The end result of growth should be that we have a relationship of simcha with Hashem.  Simple, yet deep.  That evening and the subsequent ones spent reading and learning Mesillas Yesharim with several different people helped give me an anchor and a direction that I hadn’t thought possible. As I look back, it may have been a defining moment for me.

Bike the Drive training update

Armed with my helmet, some Powerade, and my mp3 player I ride at night along the bike path on McCormick.  With Bike the Drive happening this Sunday, it’s sort of crunch time.  It’s great to be biking again and getting some exercise that doesn’t involved shooting hoops with my son, chasing my daughter on equipment at the park, or letting her younger sister climb all over me and swing from my arms.

Knowing that people are helping me support Chai Lifeline and the great work they do is great motivation to keep pushing myself to literally go that extra mile each time I go out and train.

I have been listening to some great shiurim, as well.  This amazing shiur from Rav Weinberger given on Lag b’Omer is worth the cost of the FREE download.  I’ve actually listened to it twice while biking.  Another great download is Rabbi Shaya Cohen’s Keynote Address at the Priority-1 Parenting Expo that was recently held in Chicago (it’s the first item on the page).  Tonight I biked 12 miles and listened to Rabbi Akiva Tatz discuss the difference between the “Torah of Abraham, Torah of Shem v’Ever ” (you have to scroll down on the link to find the download).  I have been able to have the names of several people in mind while I have been listening to these and other shiurim, as an aliyah for their Neshamos.

Since it’s after the 33rd day of the Omer, I’ve also slipped in some Yosef Karduner, Piamenta, and Husker Du during the final stretch back home.  If you are interested in helping Chai Lifeline by sponsoring me, please click here and then chose my name from the pull-down menu.  Any amount would be great.  To those that have already sponsored me, thank you so much!!!

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz, the Alter of Novhardok

In wartime, the generals pore over maps to scrutinize tiny dots, each of which represents a river, a hill, or a valley.  In this way they decide where to advance and where to retreat, where to dig in and which places to avoid.  On the basis of the study of this map a battle is waged.  But an ignorant person who came into the map room would be amazed to see the chiefs of staff studying tiny dots and would think them foolish for doing so.

The map of life is the Torah.  Some ignorant people think the Torah contains insignificant points; they don’t understand that each point is critical.  Spiritual gains and conquests are impossible with deep study of every letter, tag, and hint in the Torah.

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik