Category Archives: Punk

Why aren’t books like these being written for Jews?

The books Dharma Punx and Hardcore Zen are real. I have seen them, flipped through both of them, and marveled at the way they were written. They are geared towards a specific demographic, those looking for something in Buddhism that fits into their lifestyle. Aside from reading Letters to a Buddhist Jew by Rabbi Akiva Tatz and David Gottleib, I don’t know much at all about Buddhism. I do know that these two authors and many within the non-Jewish religious publishing world realize that speaking a generation in their language is important when it comes to getting your message out there.

So, why aren’t books or e-books like these being written for the not-yet-observant Jewish Gen Xer and Millennials? There are, as I see it, two reasons.

  1. It’s exactly the same reason punk music isn’t popular in the Jewish music world. Any BT with a punk music background or FFB who is into punk would rather use their talent towards more “mainstream” music, rather than create any frum punk rock. Once you create something that sounds clearly like non-Jewish music, the odds are that those nice boys (and girls) who listen to it will want to check out the original sources of the music. So, in essence, the frum musician would be indirectly responsible for frum kids listening to non-Jewish music and no one wants to deal with that on Yom Kippur.
  2. They just haven’t been written, yet. They are probably in the hearts, minds and hard drives of slackers who “sold-out” in order to pay tuition for their kids to learn in yeshivos and day schools. When I use the term “sold-out”, what I mean is that they realized that they can be just as individualistic, independent, and iconoclastic without having to look that way externally. Many (and I’d like to include myself) haven’t given up any core values, they have just focused than punk energy into things like Torah, Avodah, G’milus Chassadim, family, work, and community.

Those involved in kiruv know that that Torah needs given over in a way that is customized for each generation. The success of both “campus kiruv” and Chabad on the university level is proof that you have to know how to market to your demographic. NCSY‘s initial success in the, in part, was due to their leadership realizing that teens had a tendency to rebel. They simply give teens the option of focusing their rebellion against the prevailing culture of the 1960 and towards Torah u’Mitzvos. Chabad‘s success, on a family level, is partially due to having excellent pre-school programs and providing amazing day camp experiences for both children and their parents. Ohr Someach and Aish HaTorah have capitalized on providing opportunities for college-aged young adults to get a “yeshiva experience” that give them a taste for more learning.

These alternative sub-culture styled religious books, tend to take punk ethos in one hand and religion in the other and attempt to make the two fit together. With Yiddishkeit, the two can fit, but you have to be willing to accept that the priority is Torah.  The Torah is a constant.  It was around before the world was created and will always be here. I think there’s a whole segment of Jews that we are not reaching.  It’s not because their music is too loud, or their noise-reducing earbuds are to effective.  It is because we have yet to figure out a way to successfully communicate the idea that being mevatar yourself (withdrawing from your ego) or demonstrating bittul (nullifying your will) is probably the most hardcore punk thing there is.

My disdain of hipsters

DIY shirt inspired by this

I used the word “disdain” with a smile.  I don’t hate anyone (except for the nation of Amalek), but I really don’t like hipsters.  They have always rubbed me the wrong way.  No, this isn’t a rant.  Just take a breath and give your eyes another 1.5  minutes to read this post.

The main reason I disdain hipsters is, ironically, because I was a hipster before there were even hipsters, yet I (and my contemporaries) don’t get any credit.  My issue with hipsters is that they are coasting down a road that was paved by the punks and alternative-types in the 80s, yet they think being so anti-establishment is completely their chiddush.  It’s smacks of coolkeit (a termed coined by The Rebbetzin’s Husband in this post).  It’s a lack of hakoras hatov, on their part.  There are always people in every culture and subculture that go against the grain and do their own thing.  There’s the guy that loves to quote lines from obscure movies, the girl that can throw out a song lyric that seem apropos in any given situation, and the dude who is learning a sefer that most people have never heard of.  Now some people do this because they want to be noticed, while others are just into doing “their own thing”.  Then there is are the hipsters, who have skillfully jumped on every bandwagon, yet pretentiously figured out a way to do it while seeming to be original.

I see those hipsters sitting in front of their MacBooks or brainstorming about social networking and it strikes a cord.  They remind me that I still can get anchored to accomplishments of the past.  I see them and it takes me back to high school and my freshman year at college, when I was more idealistic and hung out with same-minded people who helped fuel my creativity.  When late nights out with friends revolved around coffee, watching people get drunk, and pseudo-philosophical discussions about Albert Camus, Ayn Rand, Jack Keroauc, and why bands should not sign with major labels.  Hipsters, by their nature, gravitate toward the past and seeing them totally blinds me from being grateful for my own present and envisioning the many simchos in my own future.  I’m not anti-the past, but if you keep looking back, then you can never look forward (as told to me by my brother-in-law many years ago).  Eventually the hipsters will get older and a newer breed will take their retro-throne.

It’s a well know teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that when we see deficiencies in others, it’s really a reflection of the deficiencies in ourselves.  With this in mind, I find myself wondering why do I actually care?  Why do I feel that I (and those who are in their late thirties and early forties) need recognition for doing something before someone else did it?  That’s the heart of the matter.  It’s guyvah, arrogance, and pure ego to think, “Hey, I did that first.”  I am guilty of it more often than I’d like to admit.  I don’t try to be the first person to eat a new restaurant (I’ll wait two weeks until the buzz dies down) or attempt to be the first of my friends to get the newest iPhone, just to say, “I got it first.”  However, I do find that I’ll read something and share it with someone and then get upset when that person shares the same thing without giving me the credit.  It’s a lacking on my part, I know.

Of course, my own frumkeit says that it’s because I remember that the 48th way to acquire the Torah is to say something in the name of the person who said it.  As the 6th mishna in the 6th chapter of Pirkei Avos concludes:  “One who says something in the name of its speaker brings redemption to the world, as is stated (Esther 2:22), “And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai.”  As I wrote, it’s ego.  If I had stronger Emuna and Bitachon, then I’d be more secure in not needing recognition from others.  I think that’s the point.  It’s not that Morechai had a desire to be quoted by Esther.  It’s Esther (it’s always the woman) who knew it was derech eretz to tell Achashverosh.  Bringing the geulah means being mevatar your ego.

The middah of chillaxing and coffee

I have always looked for places to recharge, to think, to read, to relax.  Not so much because my life is so chaotic, but because I value the middah of chillaxing (which falls somewhere between yeshuv hadaas and menucha).    This is probably a leftover habit from my high school days.  I loved hanging out in used book stores and pretty much anywhere that offered bottomless cups of coffee.  After high school when I lived NYC,  I also sought outdoors/nature type locations where I could just sit for a while and think/meditate/hisbodedus (of course that can be done anywhere).  When trying to chillax, the constant was always coffee.  I inherited from my father a’h a love of good coffee and the joy of searching for off-the-beaten-derech places.  It’s the slacker in me that loves sitting with a cup of something caffeinated and a sefer.   
Speaking of coffee, I know I’m in the minority among bloggers, but the cRc’s “Starbucks beverage guidelines” have only helped me in my search for a great place to chill-out with an iced beverage.  For me, it only really means giving up iced coffee at some places and I’m fairly open to their recommendations. 

When I lived in NYC I had a close friend and we would trek all over Manhattan checking out coffee joints.  For me, places that we liked fell into one of two categories:  spots I would recommend to others and those few places that I’d keep to myself and not even take a date to until I knew that I’d marry her (for fear that if we stopped dating she would tell her friends about the coffee bar and then it would become frequented by other frum people).

My most recent search in Chicago has brought me to a cross-roads that I often think about.  Allegiance to the spirit of the independent coffee bar versus  the consistency of a corporation.  The inner post-punk in me loves the feel and look of an independent  store.  However, it only takes one bad drink to realize and appreciate the uniformity and reliability that is offered by a “chain” of big green Starbucks locations.  I am all for non-chain places, but there’s a comfort and reassuring feeling of going to a big green.  Sort of like when you enter a new shul and find a familiar siddur or chumash, you feel more at ease.    Chicago happens to fit both bills.  With some web-base hunting, I’ve found some interesting locations to grab an iced latte.  That’s the good news.  The bad news, is that a majority of the places with high reviews are not open past 8 pm.  Granted, being married with kids, if I am out past 9PM it usually means I’m grocery shopping or at minyan, but late hours is key for a coffee bar.  Chicago, being the first city outside of Seattle to have Starbucks locations, also has plenty of locations all over open until, at least, 9 PM. 

The need to spend time alone and without seeing people that I know is something that I tend to value.  Don’t get me wrong, I love people and can pretty much talk to anyone, but being by myself (with something to read) every once in a while is something that I appreciate it.   I know many people who “veg out” in front of the TV or unwind by going online (I’m guilty of this, too), but I find more of a lasting value in sitting in the shade at a park, biking, or inside somewhere drinking an iced beverage and turning pages every few minutes. 

Years ago, I dreamt of opening up a slick coffee bar (under an acceptable hechshar, of course).  It would have various sefrei machshava available for the customers, offer a retreat from the hectic daily routine, be semi-family friendly, double as a performance space, be an acceptable location for high school aged kids to hang out, be “Jewish” enough for non-orthodox Jews, but not too “Jewish”, and offer informal learning in a laid back environment.   The floor would be unfinished, there would be a minimum of one wall with exposed brick, the ceiling would have pipes and free hanging lighting, Reb Shomo playing softly over the sound system , and if you opened the front door for someone, you be paid with a “Thank you”.

Alas, I’m happy these days to find someplace with free parking and no annoying music.

The need to spend time alone and without seeing people that I know is something that I tend to value.  Don’t get me wrong, I love people and can pretty much talk to anyone, but being by myself (with something to read) every once in a while is something that I appreciate it.   I know many people who “veg out” in front of the TV or unwind by going online (I’m guilty of this, too), but I find more of a lasting value in sitting in the shade at a park, biking, or in this case,  inside somewhere drinking an iced beverage and turning pages every few minutes.  A throwback to my more carefree days, probably.  I look at it like a retreat, like Shabbos or being in a Sukkah.  A temporary recharge.

J-Music and my angst

Four years ago, I blogged about my search for the type of Jewish music I would love to hear and I know that I’m not alone in my search for a “fresh sound” (see this post by the Rebbetzen’s Husband or this classic by A Simple Jew).
For me, the Jewish music I crave would combine the musical sensibility and passion of Carlebach, Diaspora, Yosef Karduner, Yitzhak HaLevi, Ruby Harris, Piamenta, and the Rabbis’ Sons. If you really want, slip some Blue Fringe, C Lanzbom, or Yeshiva Boys Choir in there, as well.  Now take that list and throw in the power and edge of Husker Du/Bob Mould, Bad Religion, Black Flag, or even a little Green Day or Foo Fighters and a pinch of R.E.M, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, or The Police… just to balance things out.

It will probably never happen. In my humble opinion, the reason isn’t because of lack of musicianship, lack of now Observant Jews with a musical background, or lack of money to put out a CD (these days people record albums in their basement and simply sell MP3’s online). The reason is because of the stigma that is attached to rock and in-your-face-obviously-non-Jewish-music.

Were four frum college students to record acapella versions of the songs of the Ramones and replace the lyrics with “oy” and “neiy”, making niggunim, then put out a CD a week before Pesach and call themselves the Rimonim, I’m sure it would be the biggest hit ever. Why? Because for some reason acapella has became a somewhat acceptable heter for completely goyishe music that many b’nai Torah would never listen to.

So, what’s a guy like me to do. I’ve got my kids, finally, getting hip to “Hafachta” (Diaspora) and “Hashem Melech” (Yosef Karduner). I constantly play Piamenta’s “Mitzvah” album and find myself humming everything from the Offspring to They Might Be Giants. There’s no middle ground. I get it, it’s like Havdallah (hmm… good name for a band. I should have them record my little niggun). It’s that separation between kodesh and chol. However, part of internalizing Havdallah is that we take that kedusha and infuse it into our six days of chol. It’s funny. Musicians have been banned, black(hat)listed, and looked down upon because they have chosen to mimic or base their songs on non-Jewish music. I can hear it (no pun intended).

However, look at the consumer food industry. Baruch Hashem we have many non-Jewish owned companies that are producing warehouses and truckloads of products with hechsharim on them. Ketchup, canned beans, sugar, pasta, soda, oven bags (we call them chullent bags), salsa, and the list goes on. Now, if I can buy those items, many which have been influenced by non-Jewish food trends, and I’m making a bracha on them (before and after), then it’s ok. I’ll go step further. Let’s say that a frum company in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Toronto (for those readers in the Great White North) decides to make (we’ll really they co-producing and co-packaging, they are not “making” the items themselves) their own brand’s salsa, canned beans, dishwashing soap, or chocolate chips. What makes that ok?

I know. Because it’s important for us, the consumers, to helps support frum people and companies. If I can buy a heimishe packaged product instead of a non-Jewish owned product or a “store brand”, then I’m helping to complete the circle of life (the Yidden make/package the food and then other Yidden buy/consume the food). It’s part of what makes America great… free enterprise. I’m all for it.

That being written, we know that many Torah observant Jews are listening to non-Jewish music. Why not quench their thirst with music made and sold by frum Yidden? We do the same thing with everything from orange juice to chocolate syrup. There is a possible light at the end of the tunnel, though. But, first you’ll have to let me reminisce about my high school days.

I grew up in a city that didn’t always have concerts featuring band that I liked in high school. Wichita, Kansas was only three hours from Kansas City, so many of the bigger names would play there. We did get our share of smaller bands on independent labels come through, but it wasn’t a concert destination. The lack of punk/alternative shows helped produce a semi-thriving local band scene. With everything from folky-R.E.M.esque bands to bands that played faster that the speed of light, were were consantly looking forward to watching them play everywhere from bowling alleys to “under 21” clubs to living rooms. It was great. These bands combined the sounds of “our music” with local references and kept us happy and buying cassette tapes.

The aforementioned light at the end of the tunnel may be in the many observant communities that are home to fantastic day schools, excellent yeshivas/girls schools, innovative chessed programs, and effective kollels and outreach programs. Call it the “out-of-town-sound”, if you will. It’s the local Jewish bands. These are bands where you have FFBs and BTs getting together to create music that they want to play. Often these band have blended several styles of music into something that sounds a little familiar to our favorite “non-Jewish” music, but distinctively original and interlaced with pasukim that are just as familiar to us. They may rock hard and have a dedicated following that spans a generation, but their success and popularity still is under the radar. There are many of these bands out there in many of our communities, I think.

Baruch Hashem, there are a few fairly local bands in my neck of the woods that I enjoy listening to. They are both comprised of skilled musicians who have various professions. In Chicago there’s Even Sh’siyah, Ruby Harris, and a little further away in Milwaukee you can find The Moshe Skier Band. All are solid and passionate about their music. If you are looking for something “new” and not a low-toner-produced-photocopy-of-bad-non-Jewish music, then check them out.

But, there have to be more bands out there. If you know of local bands in your area, please let me know by way of commenting or simply emailing me.

Ease of Access to Lifestyles

Graphic found here

Maybe I’m just getting older, but I often find myself thinking, “I remember when…” about a great many things.  Consumer demand, the internet, and mainstream acceptance have made it easier for today’s teens and young adults to become:

1. More observant and knowledgeable about their Yiddishkeit
2. Buy into and feel part of “punk” culture

When I was becoming observant (the thinking, reading, exposure period was between 1985-1987) web wasn’t even around.  This alone allows people searching to get legit information and have a virtual library at their fingertips.  Back in my time, Artscroll was figuring out how to build up their catalogue.  The OU/NCSY publications written by R Aryeh Kaplan zt’l was about all there was to read.  Today, even without living in a large Jewish community, you can read experts from books, e-books (Artscroll actually just rolled out several titles available in the iBook format), order seforim, read Chumash w/ /Rashi online, or even “Ask Moses“.  I mean, come on, today you can even purchase challah covers and washing cups on!  It’s a whole new world and it’s great.

And it’s not only online.  Many libraries now have fairly impressive Jewish book sections and allow books to be ordered from other libraries across the country.  You can even purchase some Artscroll titles at Barnes and Noble.  This still blows my mind.  The availability of programs like Partners in Torah and Jewish Pathways have allowed those in even very remote areas to grow in the Jewish knowledge.  The ease of access to such storehouses of Jewish knowledge have made it much easier for those seeking answers about Yiddishkeit to truly grown from within.

Contrast this with the ease of those teens or young adults who yearn to be “so punk it hurts”.  Back in my day, you had to actually stay up really late and position your radio just right to catch various music programs on the local college radio station.  That’s were the bands I “grew up with” were being played.  Or, if you had cable, you could figure out a way to stay up late on Sunday nights to watch MTV’s “120 Minutes” a show that aired “underground” music videos and had interviews with non-top 40 musicians.  Both options involved drinking some coffee around 7pm at night.  If you wanted a cool band merch you had to use something called “mail-order” and wait for weeks until your shirt, button, or patch showed up at your door.  You had to hunt down the albums, cassettes, or CDs you wanted.

Today, if you want to be punk, you really just need to go your local mall and enter the chain of stores known as “Hot Topic”.  I walked in once, a few months ago.  They have the clothes, the band t-shirts, CD, vinyl albums, and even a slick kiosk that allows one to order additional band merch and music from a website then get it delivered to the store.  Amazing.  I was impressed, and I admit that I felt a bit nostalgic, when I saw t-shirt for sale from the Ramones, the Clash, and Black Flag.  I won’t even get into things like file sharing (to get the entire discography of most bands for free) and any punk history lessons you want from various Wiki articles.  The commercialism of the punk scene had made it to the masses.  Now everyone could look the part.

And that’s just it.  You can look the part today.  Accessibility for those seeking Yiddishkeit has resulted in an internal growth of Torah knowledge and availability of a few “necessary” items that can enhance your observance.  It is mostly, in my opinion, something that happens from within and then sprouts up to a blossom of Torah observance.

With the “punk” thing (and most cultures/sub-cultures) its almost completely the opposite.  You can adorn yourself with shirts, bracelets, rings (for your finger, ear, or nose), and fill you ears with music that was difficult to acquire even 30 years ago.  However, it’s mostly just a anchor to externally identify with a sub-culture.  Its’ easy of access most not something that moves on from within.


Photo from here

(continued from here)

I have listened to music for years for years. My first 45 that I owned was “Hey Jude” with “Revolution” as the B side. I heard the song on the radio when I was like in pre-school or kindergarter and a few days later my parents got me the single. It was so cool. The first cassette (ask your parents, if you don’t know what one is) I owned was the Gene Simmons Kiss solo album. It was glorious. Then came hours upon hours of making mix tapes, finding bands to listen to and making music into a lifestyle and as a way to relate to the world.

The point is I have lyrics and tunes stuck in my head. It makes no difference how much MBD, Piamenta or Uncle Moishy I listen too, these songs from my past are still floating around my skull.  Since my father a”h  died, the lack of listening to music has sort of brought out audio fashbacks.  For a while on Facebook I would post what combinations of songs (sort of an aveilus mega-mix) were going through my head on any given day. This got even more of a problem when I would go biking at night.  I’d mentally play, hum and sing songs in my head, because I just didn’t get that jumpstart of energy listening to shiurim.  I’ve come to realized that you can’t quite the music, even if you’re not listening to it.

Most of us can’t help it if we have music in our heads. A random phrase said at work will trigger a song lyric in my head. That’s how it is. A number of months ago I had oral surgery before Shabbos. I was on some fine pain killers and when walking to shul Shabbos morning several songs from my punk past popped in my head. I couldn’t get rid of them. Maybe it was the pain pills, maybe it was the several l’chaims after shul, but eventually they left my head. That’s one type of flashback.

Then there’s the opposite type.  It can happen when in shul during Mussaf of Yom Kippur or during a “stam” Shabbos.  I’ll hear the chazzen/baal tefillah start singing a particular tune and it will automatically bring me back to my high school days, as well.  I’ll instantly be sent to a Shabbos afternoon spent keeping Shabbos with 100 other teens at an NCSY Shabbaton.  I will recall how much I hated, and I usually don’t use or write this word, the idea of Shabbos ending, amid a medly of emotional songs composed by Abie Rotenberg and Avraham Fried. 

I’ve also seen in myself, how easy it is to let music help express or direct what mood you are in. That’s probably a heathy side-effect of not listening to music during various times in the Jewish calendar and while mourning. It’s easy to get out of a bad funk by simply clicking a song in your iTunes. It’s a crutch, especially when you don’t really want to deal/express/accept certain feelings.  Not having that niggun or guitar solo to listen to forces you to relate and express yourself.  I’m sure that given some time I could come up with a slick song lyric it quote from someone as far removed from our religion as possible, but I’ll turn to what’s currently in my head written by Shlomo HaMelech, sung by D’veykus:
Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter under the heaven. (Koheles 3:1)

A Punk lesson in Chizonius and Penimius

Looking back on some of the bands I listened to in high school, I learned a valuable lesson in the importance of chizonius (external emphasis) and penimius (internal emphasis) in regard to who I am. It was, however, a lesson that I really didn’t absorb until I graduated back in ’89.

I was fully entrenched in the whole hardcore punk/alternative music scene during my younger years. I, ironically, showed my individuality by dressing mostly in black (like everyone else). That was what most of us did. How we presented ourselves was a reflection of what we listened to, it was the external reflecting the internal. There were, of course, those who expressed what I can call now “punk frumkeit”. They looked the part, had the right band t-shirts, had their hair the right way, yet were much more into the fashion that the philosophy. Back then we called them “posers”.

Some of the musicians that made up the soundtrack of my youth such as Bob Mould, Henry Rollins, and Greg Graffin held by a different philosophy. They were all in some of the fastest and loudest band out there at the time. They also dressed like your average person in their early years. I was struck, even then, that they were so “hardcore” without looking like they were. That was much more impressive than my closet of black clothing and a jacket with band names written on it. They had mastered the art of making a statement by not making a statement (interestingly the trend among some Torah observant Jews to wear ‘white shirts’ is basically the same statement).

A few years after high school I read an interview with Lee Ranaldo (from Sonic Youth) and he was quoted as saying, “Sometimes the most radical people or ideas outwardly seem very conservative”. That made sense to me. An emphasis on the internal, what’s below the surface, requires more than a casual glance.  That what I aim for these days.  I can’t help but be identified as a Torah observant Jew, but I try to be tzinius in my actions.  Is that punk?  It doesn’t matter, this is who I have chosen to be.

If you’ve stopped reading my posts, check these out…

Lack of blogging usually results in several things, one of them being that people are more likely not to read your blog if you don’t post regularly (although I get several hits daily for people searching for “safety-pin punk”).  The upside, for me, is that lack of blogging allows me to read a few more blogs than usual.  Here are some that recently caught my eye…

NY’s Funniest Rabbi:  On Middot 

The Rebbitzin’s Husband:  And Leave the House of your Father

A Frum Punk:  You Could Have It So Much Better

Little Frum House on the Prairie:  Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall

A Simple Jew:  Anticipating His Arrival Every Single Day?


HaMakir es Mekomo, Pesach, and blogging

Hamakir es Mekomo, knowing or recognizing one’s place is listed in Pirkei Avos (chapter 6 mishna 6) as one of the 48 ways to “acquire the Torah”.

When I first started learning, I always defined this trait as knowing when to speak up and when to keep my mouth closed. I really only thought of this concept in regard to my relationships with people. In the most simple terms, there is a time “climb into the driver’s seat” and a time to sit in the back seat, if you will. As I’ve grown in age, learned a bit more, experience things in life, and matured (well, gotten married, worked, had three kids-“matured” is really a subjective term) my working definition of Hamakir es Mekomo has changed.

My defintion of Hamakir es Mekomo is now more based on one’s location in life (including hashkafa-based, situational, and geographic). Each of us is truly where we need to be, as I’ve come to accept. The trick is to understand why were are in a given situation, relationship, or location. There have been, for sure, places where I have lived that were good for a certain time frame, and then I was directed elsewhere. The idea of “recognizing one’s place” can mean that I have an achrai’us (responsibility) to reach my potential in any given situation. While the “grass may be more haimesh” in another shul or community, Hashem really does put us where we need to be. This is not always an easy cup of coffee to drink, I admit.

Accepting a given situation as Hashgach Patis is probably the first step in recognizing that Hashem has put us in our particular ‘hakom”. This doesn’t mean that we can’t try to change our station in life (via danening or extra effort), but where we are, who we are married to, the children we have, all part of Hashem’s ultimate plan for us.

With this in mind, I have been thinking lately about the role we play at our Seder table. We are, on hand, told to feel like we are “free”. We recline, as royalty. We eat like royalty, wash like royalty, and drink like royalty. While all the foods of the seder are important, the Haggadah itself seems to center around the Arba Kosos. The mizvah of the four cups is singular in the sense that while we are required to drink them, we shouldn’t pour for ourselves. We go back and forth, like Tony Hawk on a half-pipe, between being the free person and the servant. I think that Hamakir es Mekomo, knowing one’s place fits in nicely. Each of us are, indeed free…free to chose to be an Eved Hashem.

It’s interesting to note that in the Mishna, right after Hamakir es Mekomo comes Sameach b’Chelko” – one who is happy with his portion. It seems, IMHO, that If you can’t accept that you are where you need to be and what you have been given, how can you be happy?

A few days ago was my 2nd blogaversary. Tonight I went for my pre-Pesach haircut, which was were my first posting idea started. Although my barber didn’t wax the mussar with me, he did say that I “looked better than when I came in”. He had a point.

I’ve always tried to be myself and be happy with who I am. It doesn’t matter if I’m learning the Bilvavi between alyios in my minyan on Shabbos, or cleaning for Pesach listening to Rav Weinberger’s Shabbos HaGadol drasha and then cranking up the Carelbach, Karduner, and Husker Du on iTunes, I am who I am. This blog didn’t really start out being as personal as it has become, but that’s what happened. Nor did I plan of becoming part of a “community” and actually connecting with people whom I have become friends with, that also just happened. For now, this is where Hashem whats me to be. I am thankful for having the ability to take time to actually write out ideas and things that I think about from time to time. While my posting hasn’t been as frequent as I would like recently, I thank all of you how have, for whatever reason, taken time out to read every so often.

May we have a Pesach this year that will help us discover who we are and where our priorities should be.

The waxless candle

Recently while shopping I saw this item, a wickless candle. It sort of threw me for a loop. The box stated that it was safe for pet and children (which I guess is nice) and that it was made out of real wax. Still, it’s an imitation of the original. The whole concept of the wickless candle brought be back to my post about Obervabots and Deceptijews.

I know that I, at times, give the impression of being a real candle, with a real wick and real fire. There are days when I feel like I’m wickless, days when I’m an imitation of what I can be.

A flame should be real. Our soul is like a flame and we need to keep it lit. Oddly, I first learned this from Greg Graffin in the fall of 1989 when I heard these words on a Bad Religion album:
How fragile is the flame that burns within us all, to light each passing day?” (two points if you can name the album w/o searching the web).
R Simon Jacobson says it like this, in Towards A Meaningful Life, “Look closely at a candle, and you will see an approximation of your soul-the flame licking the air, reaching upward, as if towards G-d. And yet the wick pulls it back to earth. Similarly, your soul is constantly reaching upward, while your body holds you back with its insistent demands for physical sustenance or gratification. The question for each of us is, Do we chose to be the flame that rises upward or the wick that holds us down?”

“The spirit of man is the lamp of Hashem, searching all the innermost parts.” -Mishley 20:27
Batteries in a wickless candle eventually run out. A true candle’s flame can pass from one wick to another.