Thursday, April 29, 2010

One Guy Named Ira

I don't know what it is about Young Israels, but there is always on guy with the name "Ira." Ira is usually not very loud, but can have a conversation with anyone about anything. You just have to find him. He won't just come over to you and start chatting.

Ira is generally well liked and doesn't cause much of a fuss in shul. However, once in a while, Ira will get upset about something and make a point. A point which everyone will consider wise simply because Ira made it, and Ira never speaks out unless it's important.

I thought the "Ira" tradition would die slowly within the next forty years or so, simply because the name is kind of outdated. However, I was recently at a bris where the child was given some name like Getzel. When the father was asked what they were actually going to call him, he replied, "We'll probably use his English name, Ira."

Awesome. The tradition lives! So if you are going to be in a Young Israel this Shabbos, make sure to go over and give your local Ira a great big "Good Shabbos." Then talk to him about anything you want. The man knows.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


In the past I have written about how I value friends. Today, I would like to write about one in particular. You have all heard about the guy who will do anything for a person. Well, this guy (who will now be know as Carp) goes well above and beyond the call of a true friend.

Take for example what happened today. I was leaving work in the downpour here in New York. I had no umbrella, raincoat, hat or any other protective wear. I asked around if anyone had anything to lend me. Carp did. He gave me what he called an "extra" umbrella. Later on, I received a text that Carp was walking to his car in his davening jacket. He had lent me his only umbrella. The irony is that I only needed it to walk to and from my car as well.

This wasn't the most amazing thing he has done for me in the last few months either. If you live in or around New York (or in Baltimore where it was worse), you can remember the absolutely insane blizzard we had this winter. Well, that night I attended a wedding in Brooklyn. I had no car available to me and even if I did, I had no intention of driving in the storm. I took the train. The subway ride was about an hour and a half from my house. The drive would have been 25 minutes. I arived at the wedding hoping to find a ride home, but knew my options were slim because most of those who drove had a full car. Carp was there and offered to drive me home. Carp lives in Brooklyn. He drove me and three others who were looking for a ride through the blizzard, back to queens.

Here's the kicker: he's not even a close friend. He doesn't consider me a really close friend, nor do I consider him one. We are just friends who would do regular friendly stuff for each other. He just considers this to be "regular friendly stuff."

Oh, and ladies, to answer your question, yes, he is single.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why Contraversy?

Yom Ha'atzmaut. Why must it be so controversial?

The purpose of this post is not to state my beliefs regarding the day, rather to bring up some random comentary on it.

1)Hashkafa - If it wasn't during Sefira, it would be a lot less controversial. Duh. People would be more likely to want to celebrate a holiday during Sefira that was not instituted by a universally accepted sanhdrin, especially if said holiday was crammed with music, dancing and celebration.

2) Halacha - As mentioned above, Yom Ha'atzmaut presents issues regarding Sefira and mixing it with celebrations. This wouldn't be a problem for those who actually believe the holiday to have the power to override Sefira on a regular year. However, this year specifically just rubs me the wrong way. Yom Ha'atzmaut fell out on a Monday this year, but the fact that people were going to be Mechalel Shabbos to set up for Yom Hazikaron (which falls out the day before) pushed both days off one day.

No other Chag has this halacha of being pushed off due to the fact that the prep on the day before will lead to Michalel Shabbos. In fact, we see that if any other Yom Tov falls out on Shabbos, we celebrate it on that day, minus certain key elements of the chag (i.e. Shofar on Rosh Hashana; Arba Minim on Succos). Other days like fast days get pushed off entirely.

Now I'm all for preventing chillul Shabbos, but you can't simply break the Halachos of Sefira because a holiday fell out inconveniently. Celebrate the holiday on the day that it was supposed to be celebrated. This is not an American holiday that we celebrate on a Monday or Thursday (and not a particular date) because we want a longer weekend. It's independence day. Even we Americans had the common sense to make that holiday on an actual date and not change it. Ever.

3) Strife - I hate the fact that this day, that is supposed to be a celebration of a great time in our nations history divides us more than it brings us together. Some say full Hallel with a b'racha; some say it without a b'racha; some just don't say Tachanun; some treat it as a regular day; some say selichos; some tear K'riyah (really). It's insane. This is not what this day should be about.

4) Confusion - The holiday is the commemoration of a nation gaining it's freedom. Why can't people acknowledge this? Charedim in America acknowledge July fourth as Independence Day. Why can't charedim in Israel at least acknowledge the day as an Independence Day without the Yom Tov part of it? There was a war. Somebody won. Against all odds. Hello!

Anyway, I'm sorry this came out so late, but I just wonder things like this all the time, and I figured better late than never.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shaving During Sefira

There is a common question about shaving during Sefira and its shaving implications. Obviously, this is only in regards to those of us who are male and don't already have a reason to shave for Sefira (i.e. job, etc.). After making keen observations and consulting Rabbinic authorities, here is what I have learned so far:

1) If you are not dating someone prior to entering Sefira, DON'T! It's too much of a hassle. Do I shave? Don't I shave? What about finals? Tax season? Its all too much! If you are a guy, just don't start it.

2)If you must date, then you have to consider some things. If she is the type of girl that will be put off by the fact that you didn't shave, then you may shave.
- Even if you have been dating for some time, this rule applies. There is no statute of limitations on the shaving rule.
- If it is the first date, you might want to assume that she's the type of girl who cares.

3) The rules of shaving during Sefira are not the same as the rules for shaving during the Three Weeks. This is because the Aveilus for the Three Weeks is equivalent to that of Shloshim and the Aveilus for Sefira is equivalent to that of Yud Beis Chodesh.

4) If you are a girl, please don't care about whether or not your date shaves. It's easier not to shave and it would really cut down on our prep time. But you should still take your regular six and a half hours of prep. We deserve it.

5) Not all of these opinions are shared by every Rabbinic source. Please consult your LOR for these and all other shaylas. And please, when you reach the end of your 120, and you show up in heaven and they ask you why you shaved during Sefira, do not say yo read that this was the halacha that you read on a blog and therefore you thought it was mutar. I take no responsibilty for your other world repercussions.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Yek

Every Young Israel has a Yek. It's a fact. The person doesn't even have to be an actual Yeckie to qualify. There is generally one main qualification:

On Friday afternoon, at 7:14, the Yek will run into the lobby shouting "ONE MINUTE TO MINCHA! LET'S GO! EVERYBODY INTO THE POOL!"

There are other things the Yek of the Young Israel will do, like when the guy who is davening Pesukei D'Zimra is going a little slow and will probably not make it in time for Z'man K'riyas Sh'ma, the Yek will go over to him and quietly (but with a lot of grandiose arm motions) implore him to go faster.

He will also generally be the one to first correct the Ba'al K'riyah when he makes a mistake. It's not that he wants the credit for it, he just doesn't want to wait any longer than absolutely necessary to get through leining.

A quick shout out to all the Yeks out there. This one's for you!

Monday, April 12, 2010

NYPD - A Work in Progress

Today I got pulled over by a cop. Before I continue, I would like to confess that I was guilty as sin. I disobeyed the amazingly logical law of New York State - one of the ten states with such a law - but a law nonetheless - one that I violated - outright - no excuses.

Here's what happened: I was driving my mini van (the same mini van I have been driving for three years) in Queens (the same Queens I have lived in for said three years (and then some)). Of course, I hear and see the dreaded Lights and Sirens of Doom. I look at my chest where my seat belt was. I look in my hand where my cell phone was not. I look at my speedometer to see that I was well below the limit (was that the problem?) of a normal street.

He asked to see my license, registration and proof of insurance, which I handed over.

"Sir, I pulled you over because it's illegal in New York State to drive a car with tinted windows."

"Oh," I responded.

"Sir, are you aware that this is illegal," he asked as the steady line of unlicensed, unregistered illegal immigrant drivers sped past us, hoping that the police officers wouldn't see them stashing the heroine into the barrels of their assault rifles with the hand that wasn't holding the half-full bottle of Colt 45 (not that I'm bitter).

"No, I have been driving this car for three years, and it's a 2001 model so it has been on the road for 10 years."

"Yeah, well it's legal to have these in 90% of the states, but not in New York."

It turns out that he was right, I know this because when I told my father what happened, he was as shocked as I was, but in a more - let's call it 'colorful' - way. When he was done being colorful, he called the local precinct to be colorful with them as well, and he found out that the officer was, in fact correct, and that other officers until now were ignoring it, i.e. not bored enough, i.e. did not need to fill their WORD HAS BEEN REMOVED BY NYPD.* Did I ever mention how much I love New York?

In the end, all we need to do is take off the tint (it peels right off) and then take the van down to the precinct and have a little show and tell. Then we get the ticket off. I plan on coming with a tarp so I can cover the van until the right moment and then unveil the illegality-free mini van! Wish me luck.

*Motto: "Ignoring the 5th amendment one blog at a time."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Text Message Song

In case you're new to this blog and you do not know that I am vehemently anti-texting, I am vehemently anti-text messaging. I have posted this song elsewhere in the past, but it is time to bring it into this blog. It doesn't explain everything that is wrong with text messaging, but it does do a lot.

So there is just a little sampling of my hatred for texting. I loath the day that I will be forced to succumb to the pressures of the world and get unlimited, but until then, I can complain.

(I will complain even when that day comes.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Avoiding Explaining

In case you haven't noticed, most of my posts lately have not been about the shidduch dating scene. That's because my mind just hasn't been focused on that recently. I generally post on what's on my mind. However, a friend of mine just brought something up that happened to him and it brought me back to a time when I was going through the exact same thing.

It is so difficult to explain the way i date to a non-frum relative.

How do you explain to them the reason that you don't ask girls out and wait for them to be set up with me?
How do you make it make sense that you can date three girls in a month (let alone a week) and it's completely normal?
How could I explain to them that I had to break up with someone because she's on a different "level" of Judaism? "Orthodox is Orthodox, right?"

Now, this issue is complicated enough, but I remember the first time I had this conversation with my uncle. I had just gotten out of a relationship with a girl that I had liked, but because of halachic complications (I am a kohen), we had to break up. My uncle was beside himself.

"Wait a minute," he said. "You liked her?"


"She liked you?"

"I think so."

"And she was Jewish enough for you?"


"What do you mean 'well?'"

"She is Jewish enough, but I just can't marry her, so i won't date her and she won't date me. Period."

"Whatever. I don't understand you guys."

You see, I know it's not my responsibility to educate my non-frum relatives, but it just gets frustrating when it comes to something like this, where I need to find someone whom to relate and it can't be someone to whom I relate.

This discussion led to another discussion about what I am looking for in a girl.

"Well," started my uncle. "I guess the first thing is that she has to be Jewish."

I had thought that this was obvious from the conversation that segued us into this conversation, but I went with it. Now I had never thought of that as something I am looking for. It was more of a prerequisite. I guess most of the other stuff wouldn't exactly work if she wasn't Jewish. It was just never an option for me like it was for him. "Yes. That is the first thing. I will try to not date a non-Jew."

It usually gets frustrating trying to explain my lifestyle to my non-frum relatives. Difficulties include Shabbos, Tzitzis and Shomer Negiyah, but dating is by far the most difficult.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ba'al Kriyah Assistant or actually, Assistant to the Ba'al k'riyah

It's Thursday again so it's time for the another PITYI. Today's PITYI is another that made an appearance on Pesach. He is the Assistant to the Ba'al K'riyah. It is his job to assist the Ba'al Kriyah when he gets up to the parts that anyone who has been attending a minyan for the last 35 years should be able to lein, regardless of any leining abilities, background or training.

His favorite pesukim include (but are not limited to):
Esther 6:9, 6:11
Bamidbar 28:24
The entirety of the leinings for a Ta'anis or Rosh Chodesh

He of course does not only choose specific pesukim to help out with, but likes to show his knowledge of leining by the end of each alliyah.

Now, I do jest about certain things on this blog, but this actually has Halachic ramifications. The Kehilah is required to hear leining from someone reading from a kosher Sefer Torah (i.e. The Ba'al K'riyah) and when someone overpowers the aforementioned Ba'al K'riyah by leining any part of the k'riyah oput loud, it can be a serious problem for those who heard the Assistant louder than the actual Ba'al K'riyah or even simply could not discern between the two. I have not figured out a solution to this yet. Ask your LOR.

Anyway, back to the post. The Assistant to the Ba'al K'riyah may leave his mark elsewhere in davening as well. His favorite part is on a chag or when Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos. He loves to be the one to remind the chazan that the nusach changes after kedusha. He is louder at that time than anybody else and to tell you the truth, it has been helpful to me as a ba'al tefilah, so I don't complain about it...much. It's still annoying.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Enough is Enough

Is there anything more anticlimactic than the last two days of Pesach? I mean, there really should be some more oomph to it. Think about it. On Succos, the last few days are heavily anticipated. There's Hoshana Rabah, Shmini Atzeres and we end off with the huge bang of Simchas Torah. Shavuos is two days, so there is no real let down. But it just seems that by the last few days of Pesach, we just seem to be thinking "can we just get this over with already?"

Even the shiurim change. All of the between mincha and ma'ariv speeches were about s'firah; its halachos, origin, etc. I get it. Those things are very important, but it is still Pesach! Why are we overlooking that fact?

I don't know a solution, but Pesach should not be over before it's over. There should be some sort of minhag on the second days that people should look forward to; something grander than davening Az Yashir out loud in a sing-song, responsive way. It's nice and all, but not something I look forward to.

I have a proposition. It will be the crowning moment of Pesach if on the eighth day, after mincha, everyone in the town will gather in some predetermined location and light a fire (sort of like we did before Pesach) and all together throw their unfinished macaroons into the fire. Then we could have a kumzitz and not have to look at a macaroon again for another year. I would then look forward to the last days of Pesach, because as of now, the last two days are just the only thing between me and and everything bagel with an egg, cheese and fried onion omelet.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Generic Sheva Brachos/ Auf Ruf D'var Torah

I randomly heard the following d'var torah between Mincha and Ma'ariv this Shabbos Chol Hamoed. It's from R' Mendel Kaufman of the Young Israel of Briarwood and I have no idea why he chose to speak about this on Shabbos Chol Hamoed, but I do appreciate the brand new back pocket d'var Torah that it's always good to have.

We know that there is a mitzvah to be M'sameach Choson V'kallah. This has always been a mystery to me.

1) This is supposedly the happiest day in the lives of a choson and a kallah. Why do they need someone to be m'sameach them?

2) Why is it my job to bring the simcha to them? Who am I? Why should I dress up in a costume, dump packing peanuts on a confused couple or try to rack my brains to entertain them?

The answer is that there is a lesson you are teaching the choson and kallah about sharing. Yes, they are happy, but they need to share that simcha with others. They are about to enter a time when they are going from being alone to gaining a partner (i.e. someone with whom to share things). Up until now, it's been all about me me me. Now it needs to be about us us us.

In fact, this idea is brought out more clearly in sheva brachos. We go through seven brachos without mentioning a key blessing for the newlyweds. The brachos mention the creation of man, simcha for the bride and groom and a number of different types of joy. However there is no mention of the greatest bracha a person can receive-children! Why not? After all, it is the reason we get married, to start a family, right?

Even the bracha of M'sameach Tzion B'vaneha, which mentions children in it is only speaking of the children of Yerushalayim rejoicing in the streets. Why do we not bless the chosson and kallah with beautiful, healthy children in the sheva b'rachos (bayis ne'eman b'Yisrael)?

The answer is that the new couple is not there yet. In their first moments as husband and wife, they cannot yet focus on starting a family. They must first learn to coexist with each other and learn to share with one another. Once they are comfortable sharing, they can spread that middah to their children, but as for now, we don't want the choson and kallah to focus on anything but each other.

As a person who never shies away from bringing in wedding shtick, I had never thought of why I do it. I had assumed that (for the most part) it was something that people enjoyed. But after I heard this, I came to the realization that I don't really do all that stuff for them. I do it for me. I do it because I enjoy seeing people happy. Being m'sameach the choson and kallah isn't only for them. It's for you, too. You help them in learning about sharing; they help you become happy.

Friday, April 2, 2010

On a Plane

The following conversation took place on an airplane between a Rebbe and his talmid:

Talmid: Rebbe, two years ago I ordered the Rosh HaYeshiva a beer on a flight and he drank it. If I order Rebbe one now, would he drink it, too?

Rebbe: Not if it's going to be a story in two years from now.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Cool Kid

So I wasn't sure which PITYI I was going to write about in honor of Pesach, but one ended up sticking out over the first days of Yom Tov.

The Cool Kid.

The Cool Kid is the teenager to which every elementary school kid looks up. There is usually a female Cool Kid and a male Cool Kid for each group respectively, but not necessarily. We all had that Cool Kid in shul to whom we looked up. My Cool Kid was actually my first Youth leader, and is now married with a number of children of his own. I still envy him.

But what makes the Cool Kid cool?

For one thing, his initials are CK. Automatic coolness, but other cool factors possessed by the CK are:

  • A teenager; usually a Sophomore or a Junior in High School.
  • A strong following; especially of kids at least 3 years younger.
  • A reputation for taking on the Scary Man.
  • Perpetually hanging out in the shul's stairwell.
  • Has an "in" with the Kiddush Committee; may be seen servin,g chullent.
  • May lead a youth group such as "Junior Congregation," "Pirchei" or other youth activites, but will always do it lazily.
  • Does not daven with his/her father/mother; rather attends the hashkama minyan.
I was reminded of this PITYI because the most recent one in my shul returned from Eretz Yisrael for Pesach. He didn't miss a beatas the Cool Kid, but was surprised to learn that nobody had taken his spot. He went right back to wowing his audience with tails of adventure from the Middle East.

If you believe yourself to be a Cool kid and are looking for some impressionable, young minds to corrupt, there is a vacancy at your position in my shul. Boys and girls younger than 15 or older than 18 need not apply.