Monthly Archives: October 2010

Sunday’s Salanter Selection

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says:
Persons who are in economic or other trouble will energetically seek to improve their lot.  Why should people, who are in one kind of moral trouble or another, likewise seek to extricate themselves from evil and pursue the path of morality?

From Ohr Yisrael (the collected letters of RYS complied by R Yitzchak Blazer)
Available in Hebrew or English

A local favorite

(Photo from here)

Growing up, I thought it was normal to have a 44 foot tall sculpture of an Indian warrior in your city.  Above is the structure known to all as the Keeper of the Plains, located in Wichita, Kansas at the point where the Little Arkansas (pronounced in Kansas as Ar-kansas) and the Big Arkansas rivers merge.  During a short visit to Wichita last week I stopped by to see the Keeper.  It’s still there, standing tall.  A symbol of the greatness of Native American culture that existed long before Kansas was even a state.  Oops, I almost got policital for a second, sorry.

The scupture was designed by a Native American artist named  Blackbear Bosin and it happens to be a local landmark.  It also happens to a bit on the unusual side, I admit.  It just stands there, being proud and facing the point where the two rivers meet.  My parents took me there several times when I as younger.  It was always a destination when relatives came to visit.  It’s name defines it, it symbolically stands guard over the land, keeping it safe and allowing residents to use the plains as they see fit.  To plant, grow, build, to make the plains their home.  Hmm… I think I’m waxing lyrical a bit too much.

Really, it’s only cool if you’re from Wichita, because it’s local.  Like the local sports team that everyone follows.  Like the local bands in any given music scene that only you have heard of.  Like the local Rav that does more outreach in a week than most people do in a year.  Like the local restaurant that makes that one item that you can’t get anywhere on either coast.  Like the local one guy in shul who seems to know all the answers in every halacha shiur.  Like the local short-cut that will get you home faster than the main streets.
It’s all of those little things that make us feel comfortable when we are “home”.  Having that bond of “common knowledge” can bring people closer together.

We are all, in some ways, locals.  However, we are also just visiting.

Writer looking for gerim inspired by chassidish teachings

Pic from

 The Breslov Center has posted a message from someone looking to collect stories.  The message reads:

I am putting together a book about Gerim and plan to include stories of Gerim who became Chassidim and those who were inspired by Chassidic teachings.

Please contact me if you are interested to have your story included. I am particularly interested to include stories about how Gerim first discovered Yiddishkeit, overcame obstacles during the geirus process, and what attracted them to Chasssidic teachings.

Dov ben Avraham


Every Day, Holy Day: 365 Days of Teachings and Practices from the Jewish Tradition of Mussar  is a recently published book by Alan Morinis (assisted by Rabbi Micha Berger). This book, Alan Morinis’ follow-up to Everyday Holiness, is designed to help one work on various character traits using an extensive collection on inspiriational and insightful quotes for each day of the year. I can’t even imagine all the work that went into collecting the quotes, but I can tell you that there are very few books written in English that give you such teachings at your fingertips.

The book unlocks the teachings of mussar in an easy to use and practical way. I’ve seen improvement in myself from just using it for the past two months.  Each page has a saying that relates to the given character trait of the week, a phrase that summarizes the idea and a practice to help you make each character trait part of your daily life. In addition, each page has space for you to write notes or keep a small journal.  Using the full year cycle, as suggested in the book, one will go through 26 (yes 26) different middos twice and there isn’t a quote/teaching repeated.
In Alan’s first book, Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, he took us on his own personal journey towards mussar that eventually lead him to Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchok Perr, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Far Rockaway and personal examples of what he learned while spending time with Rabbi Perr.  Alan’s second book, Everyday Holiness, allowed readers to grow from mussar teaching and focus on “soul traits” (just the collection of footnotes in the book makes it worthwhile reading).  In Every Day, Holy Day Alan has moved from the arena of writing about his own growth and giving over those teachings to the reader.  He has now given his many students and readers an opportunity to work on making themselves better people and make the tradition of Mussar their own!

For the price this book is selling for on Amazon, this is a worthwhile investment for yourself or a great “just because” gift for a friend.

A number of pages are available currenltly on google books, here.
It’s available for puchase here, here, and here.

When the needle hits E

Monday morning my car wouldn’t start. I know, great way to start my week, right?

There was power in the battery, but the engine just wouldn’t turn over and rev. I called my good friends at AAA and they said that they would be out “as soon as possible”. In the meantime, a friend of mine came by to see if all I needed was a jump. The jump didn’t really do a thing.

After what seemed like forever, a nice new AAA flatbed tow truck pulled up onto my street in Chicago. I had been dreading this, because my thinking was that it was going to be the transmission, alternator, or starter…all fairly top dollar repairs. The driver asked for my keys and got into my vehicle to attempt to start it. After getting the same results that I got, he looked at the gas guage and asked it there was gas in the tank, since the needle was on E. I knew my car had two gallons of gas in it when I parked it. The AAA guy suggested that because my car was parked at the curb on a big slant, it might have been tilted just enough that the fuel pump wasn’t able to to actually pump gas into the engine. AAA had a gallon of gas on them, so they poured it into my tank and, Baruch Hashem, the car started.

This whole episode got me thinking about my Avodash Hashem. A person can have all of the right kavanah, the right seforim, daven every day, learn at set times during the day, fullfull many mitzvos both Bein Adam l’Makom and Bein Adam l”Chavero and still feel that they are not going anywhere. Why? Because just like my car, if everything isn’t balanced the right way, then you don’t get the proper fuel into your engine. This is why we need close friends and a Rabbi, or two, to give us the insight and information that we just don’t have. Sometimes, AAA can also help.