Category Archives: Yom Tovim

Good links for Elul

So, it officially Elul.  Here are a few links you might like.

Rabbi Micha Berger just started writing about the sefer Shaarei Yosher by Rav Shi’mon Sh’kop (who was the rebbe of Reb Dovid Lifshitz).

Rabbi Revuen Brand, Rosh Kollel of the YU Torah MitzionKollel of Chicago has a great shiur available to listen to or download titled, The Character of Elul.

Also, Elul wouldn’t be Elul with posting a link to “Elul in Slabodka“.

Factoring in breakage

Photo from here

Part of my previous career involved working as a mashgiach for an “out-of-town” vaad ha’kashrus.  I logged many hours and late night checking and counting dishes and silverware.  I spent a good deal of time speaking with many caterers and learned a few things about the business.

Whenever you work with a caterer or a banquet hall and there are fees for “dish rental” involved, it’s the industry rule that the price for the dishes factors in the fact that there will be some breakage involved and subsequent replacement of the items.  Every caterer know that a dish, glass, or fork won’t make it back to it’s proper home at the end of the event.  The cost to the client for dish rental reflects the replacement of said items.

As we inch closer to Tisha B’Av it’s easy to forget that Hashem has factored in the breakage of the two most sacred buildings ever constructed and allows us each opportunities and avenues to replace what was lost.

Rough Drafts, Sloppy copies and Shavuos

In a discussion with my 5th grade son about a research paper he was completing I attempted to explain the importance of a rough draft, as a blueprint for what would be his final product. My 3rd grader, who was listening (and thinking her brother was getting a lecture) chimed in, “My teachers call it a sloppy copy.”

I have always enjoyed the origins of slang words/phrases that seem to make it into our general daily conversation. My fascination probably is rooted in some adolescent form of, as R Mordechai Torczyner would call it, “coolkeit”. Fortifying myself with the language of our youth makes me feel younger and it is less painful than dieting and exercising.

So, I have to wonder, when a “rough draft” start being called a “sloppy copy”?

I am not against the name change, just taken back. This is, again, an example of Niskatnu HaDoros, the diminishing of the generations. “Sloppy copy” seems so, well messy. “Rough draft” does sound abrasive, but it’s a draft. It implies putting in time and effort into making something. There is a feeling of a work ethic associated with a “rough draft”. To me a “sloppy copy” is when you photocopy something and pull the original off the copier glass at the last minute so that the far right side of your photocopy is all wavy and blurry.

Now, with any draft or copy (even this post, which had two drafts) the goal is a completed product that has a feeling of shlaymus (wholeness). The Torah, and both sets of luchos, is a perfect draft in its’ original form. No editing or revising needed. I hope I have used the past 49 days to fix up my, as the kids call it, “sloppy copy” and make myself ready to receive the Torah.

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The time of our freedom

Pesach is z’man cherusanu, the time of freedom.  Rav Hirsch explains that until the time of Hashem taking us out of Egypt, all cultures had slaves.  It was how the world worked back then.  B’nai Yisrael were the first “free people”.  The concept of freedom, prior to our Exodus was something that the world didn’t understand or couldn’t even comprehend. 

With this idea from Rav Hirsch in mind, I look upon the next week and especially the seder nights an opportunity to anchor myself to a freedom that is true.  The freedom to recall and bring to action the unique role of being both a child of Hashem and also a servant.

We are all tied down.  This can be both a positive and a negative.  Being tied down to the role of a spouse and a parent is a wonderful bracha.  Those responsibilities center us and become a lifeline to us.  Feeling tied down to one’s job or economic situation can have a terrible effect on a person.  True freedom is when we can decide what we want to put of strengths into.

We can look at someone who lives a carefree life as being the most “free” of all men.  However, making the choice not to play by any one’s rules and taking the “road less traveled” doesn’t always show true independence.  To rebel l’shem rebellion, just to say that you are your own person isn’t always an example of freedom (there are those that, mamesh, rebel against society or a culture, in the name of Heaven, but I’m not writing about this).

So I sit at my laptop, knowing that in twenty-four hours, I’ll be at my own seder with my wife, that I love and still have no clue how she puts up with me, my three children, that are each different and still all peas in the same pad, and my brother, who has traveled from NY to be with us, with family.  I hope that they will have nice memories of our sederim and I will try to explain that the real freedom is to choose how you want to live your life.  For me, based on my traditions, what I learned in yeshiva, from rabbis, and what I have read, it’s a freedom that boils down to what is my purpose and how can stay on track every moment of my lfe.

Next time you lose it, read this

Poser, hypocrite, mussar-Marrano, wannabe.  These are few labels that linger in my head right now, regarding myself.  Assessment that one blew it is part of the risk of having “free choice”.  Like my Hoover vacuum, I just suck it up and sometimes change the bag.
I attempt to be a “good Yid”.  I make it minyan at least twice a day (working on 3 times), I think about my brachos when I make them, I learn (although not as much I should), yet I fall short.  Part of, if not the real attraction I’ve always had to Mussar is that I’m not always a nice person.  I usually keep myself in check but some days are easier than others.  I am a so-so husband and am OK Abba most of the time.  Usually I’m fairly patient with people (family included) but yesterday wasn’t one of those days.  I was a creep.  Lost it big time.  There’s not much to say or write when all of the effort you make to treat others as betzlem Elokeim seems to fly out the window when you are in a bad mood.

“I’m sorry,” only goes so far, which is why I’m thankful that I have the Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuva to give me real steps, especially the whole until-you-are-in-the-same-place-and-don’t-make-the-same-mistake-you-haven’t-really-done-teshuva step.  When it come to relationships, especially with those we love, there is constant retooling and recalibration, so those opportunities to see if you really did teshuva are plenty.
I get it.  Chometz is akin to the Yetzer Hora.  So, I guess I’ve been deep frying Jason’s Flavored bread crumbs in Japanese bread crumbs and then just breaking them for the heck of it, b/c I feel like my Yetzer is on overdrive.  Time to turn of the engine and coast into the service station.
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R Moshe Weinberger on how to save this generation

Picture available for purchase here

Rav Moshe Weinberger’s Shabbos Shuva drasha (given after Shabbos) “The Mystery Of Shabbos And Yom Kippur – Whispers Of Existence” (available here for purchase/downloading) was great.  I purchased it last Sunday after Rosh HaShana and have listened to it about 8 times.  What follows is my own transcription of two minutes of drasha, starting at the last 12 minutes.  The two minutes that I’m typing up really show exactly what we need to do to keep Yiddishkeit alive.  I take all responsibility for any mistakes in my transcription and hope that you will purchase the actual mp3.  It’s good to listen to any time of the year and the message is of the upmost importance as we enter Zman Simchasanu and spend three days not tethered to email and cell phones.

The only thing that will save this generation, the secret to saving our generation is not how we can pull out more plugs from more machines. They’re always ahead of us. They always have other machines. And just when you though you could control what the kid is sending with text messages, someone told me last year that the kid can go to the store and get a disposable cell phone, that nobody even knows about. There’s no bill that is ever is ever sent to the house. There’s always some other way. When a person is in this world, there’s always a way.

So they can have a thousand conferences and meetings about “How can you take away the pleasures of the children of this generation?” And if we can take away all their pleasures and make new yeshivas where there’s no sports, no smiling, “Smiling is not allowed”. No laughing, no happiness, no recess. Anybody that is caught wearing or with a smile in the “Kingdom of Sadness” will be banished from the school forever. Which also means that all of the sisters and brothers will never get shiduchim. They think of new way of how to save this generation. There’s only on way. The only way to save this generation, and it’s our responsibility, is to show them that Yiddishkeit is so geschmack, to lift them up to a place that is called “Al Cheit”- higher than that stuff.

R Hillel Goldberg on the true meaning of Shavuos

The Intermountain Jewish News has a great essay by R Hillel Goldberg, titled “Shauvuot-Something Real, But Not Concrete” available here.

An excerpt:

Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah. If one does not delve into the Torah, its meaning is meaningless. One may approach many Jewish holidays at the last minute. Not Shavuot. One must live with the Torah, breathe it, find joy in it, be troubled by its sometimes seemingly inaccessible teachings. One must occupy oneself with the Torah, struggle with it, let it color one’s mind and soul, in order to grasp it.