Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chassidim and Misnagdim on Chanukah

The gap between Chassidim and Misnagdim is rapidly closing.
Litvishe Yeshivos already sing and say Kabbolas Shabbos
Chassidishe Yeshivos have adopted the Litvishe way of learning
Litvishe Roshei Yeshivos quote from Chassidishe sources
Chassidishe Rebbes quote the Vilna Gaon..

There is however one time a year when the contrast is highlighted and that's on Chanukah.
It's two entirely different events.
Chassidim spend a long time preparing the Menorah..spend a long time after lighting sitting by the candles.
Litvaks..say the brocho light it..sing Maoz Tzur..and leave
Chassidim are standing in the Beis Hamikdosh...bringing down the Ohr Hagonuz and the light of Moshiach
Litvaks are being MeKayem the Mitzvah MiDeRabonnon of Hadlokas Ner Chanuka..

Perhaps we'll have to wait awhile for the gap to close on Chanukah too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Lost in the past and future

Lying on the grass on a warm spring night
Sky so black
Stars so bright
gazing up..
losing myself
Barriers no more...
The lights I see are from years past
The lights I see from millions of miles away
Everything meets in a gaze..
My gaze

Sitting by my Menorah in the darkened room
Sky so black
Flames so bright
losing myself
Barriers no more..

These lights are from years past
and glorious days to come

These lights are from thousands of miles away

Everything comes together in my gaze..
Everything comes together..

On Chanukah

Monday, December 26, 2005


Ok. We kicked off the Chanukah Party circuit with a huge family party last night.
Among the colorful regulars is our very own Photo Kommandant.
I pay homage to her..

She's my aunt..
Usually so sweet..
But whenever we get together
more than 20 family members gathered
She goes on an intense mission.
Her metamorphasis has to be seen to be believed

It usually happens when everyone is finally settled and happy
The men have washed..and squished into their seats
the women are settling into their distracted conversations
the kids are finally getting along...
suddenly her voice..usually so sweet
takes on a shrill color as she yells "Pictures!"
"Everyone into the next room for pictures!"
Her focus is unnatural as she herds us
into a semblance of unorder and chaotic composition
breaking up families..tearing screaming children apart
the sound reaches a crescendo....but her voice is heard
above all others loud and clear.."OK EVERYONE LOOK AT ME"..
"yanky...sruli..esti..hindy..over here...get that out of your mouth..
whats your name?....OVER HERE..ok One more...Look AGAIN
One more...OK...That's it"
Somehow after that...we can never get back into that somewhat peaceful state we were in.
I'm already looking for my kids coats buried under 45 other similar looking coats that once inhabited that rack that once stood here.

Yet still I pay homage to you..
for....after all is shouted and done
It is your masterpiece that is proudly displayed
on my mantle year after year..

Thank you.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Chanukah with Zaidie....

I vividly remember Chanukah at my Grandfathers house. As a child I’d go there for a few nights a year as he lived close by.
It was a huge event. He would first sit down and prepare the Menorah fill the cups with golden olive oil. Then he’d pick out a piece of cotton from a box of cotton and roll it between his palms with a quiet tune on his lips lovingly forming the wicks. As we watched he’d place the thick cotton wicks in the oil.
The he’d put on his hat and gartel and go wash his hands.
By the time he was back the cotton wicks were saturated with oil. He then said the L’shem Yichud in a low voice and a lot of kavanah. He lit the shammes candle and with his eyes closed he’d make the brocho slowly and loudly with his heavy Polish accent..Burich Atu Hashem Eloikaini Meiloech Huoilum Asher Kidishuni B’mitzvoisov V’tzeevuni l’hadlik neir Chaniku....etc..
Then he’d slowly light each candle and sit down before the blazing Menora.
I’d peer into face ..his radiant face.. the orange flickering flames reflected in its lines.. I’d wonder and I still do.. what is he thinking?
These same twinkling blue eyes once celebrated Chanukah in a small Polish Village with his adorable lost siblings, the same eyes witnessed secret Chanukah lights in the freezing cold Bergen Belsen barracks. So many years, such a Jewish experience. He’d sing such beautiful haunting tunes as only that generation can.
After sitting for an hour or so, he'd reluctantly rise and walk away the same way one leaves a loved one to embark on a long journey.
He is my Zaidie and through him I can taste a bit of Chanukah.

The other day I walked into a store and for a moment was thinking of buying those snap-off ready made Chanukah glasses, instead I continued on and bought a box of cotton....

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Chanukah do list..

While the women are busy cooking, making salads and latkes there is plenty for us guys to do to prepare for the coming barrage of parties.
It’s deja vu all over again. It seems every year, you end up sitting next to the same cousins, talking about the same things, which makes the preparation a lot easier.
Here’s my list..of things to do.
1. Getting my finances in order and getting a full report of profit/loss of this past year for my "inquisitive" cousins from Boro Park.

2.Reading up on the latest sports scores, trades and opinions for my cousins from The Five Towns.

3.Start paying more attention during my shiurim so that when my Yeshivishe Lakewood uncles want to know what I’m learning I’ll be able to answer something that sounds somewhat intelligent.

4.Buy a new cellphone so that halfway through the party when everyone around me starts pulling out and comparing their assortment of gadgets I don’t look like a caveman.

I admit, I’m not a big socialite and I’m amazed at how I can be talking to the cousin that I once used to be so close to, and used to sleep over by, wrestle with, and suddenly I feel so awkward with, as if I’m on a first interview for a job.

I do think the party is necessary and important. Even if it means sitting through the annual Grandpa speech while breathlessly awaiting our gelt allotment. Family is our blood. It’s sad when families drift apart. I think it’s important for a child that his life be put into a frame, a context.
So time to put myself through the inevitable embarrassing situations and questions (Me: “oh my, Yossi has grown so much since last years party..” Cousin Leah: “Yossi wasn’t at the party last year”) and to bond with family (and enjoy the latkes, while I'm at it).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ooops wrong blog..

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On Strike..

I've decided to go on a one day strike to show solidarity with the 33,000 Transit workers that only get paid between $47,000 and $55,000( and have been promised a 10% raise within the next 3 years) and get to retire at 55 with a full pension.
I think their human rights are being violated in the worst possible way. I can relate to them since no one had ever paid me that much before I went out and started my own firm.
To my 7 million readers..find another blog for the next day or so...

Monday, December 19, 2005

In a perfect world....

After observing and listening and experiencing the complaints married people have about each other I’ve come to an elementary solution.
It seems the answer to most complaints my wife and other spouses have is..I’m just too exhausted!
I don’t know about you but at 11:00 when we both finally stop and catch our breath all I want to do is conk..conk in a very big way.
So I think the work day should be rearranged.
The day should start earlier. After spending the morning with your kids you send them off to school at about 10:00AM. Then you spend the best hours of the day with your spouse when you have energy..when you’re in a good mood. Why should your secretary see that smiling, energetic, charming side of you?
Then after an early supper we get into our cars, trains and busses and go to work at about 4:00PM.
You’ll have a seven hour workday from 4PM to 11:00PM or whenever you conk at your desk.
Let your boss complain that you’re falling asleep on him.
Let your secretary whine about the lack of attention your giving her....

Ahhh in a perfect world...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Shabbos Nap Blues

The Shabbos nap is a very Jewish phenomena. What other Cultural/Religious group in the US just stops the world in its tracks and takes a nap?
The Shabbos nap is like a 3 day Yom Tov packed into 2-3 hours. You enter feeling come out feeling down, itchy, tired, suffering from heartburn and just blah.
The only way of describing it is..take a glass bottle ..stuff in bread, matjas and shmaltz herring, a few shots of scotch, chopped liver, eggs with lots of onions, ptcha, hot chulent (beans, barley, meat, kishke) and kugel...seal the bottle and store it in a hot, dark, damp place for a few hours.
For awhile I’ve been toying with the idea of skipping this black hole in Shabbos..but the temptation is just too great.
However, after much observation and experimenting I’ve come up with a few tips to taking the blues out of the Zzzs.
1.Room temperature. The temperature should be a drop cooler than what you usually keep it at. If you wake up in a stuffy room..yuck. If you wake up in a room that’s too cold you’ll be too dependant on your cover and chances are you’ll be shvitzing a little, under the down cocoon.
2.Limit your nap to 1 1/2 hours. If you sleep for less than an hour you’ll just feel rotten and if you sleep for more than 2-3 hours you’ll feel even worse.
3.Have natural light coming into your room. The only thing worse than waking up to a stuffy room is waking up to dark stuffy room.
4.Don’t linger in bed too long. Get a window..wash your hands and face..and then unlock your door so your kids can come piling in (for those of us with kids).

After all is said and done there is a strong Jewish tradition for the Shabbos nap. The AriZal mentions that he would be zoche to visit gan eden during his shabbos naps. He must’ve followed these guidelines because it sure can be hell....

DISCLAIMER: Picture above is not me.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Yantchie finds a Shidduch!....

Sometimes a joke can be so on the mark and such a reflection of truth that it straddles the fence between joke and parable.

There was once a older bochur in Vilna, we’ll call him Yantchie. Like most Yeshiva bochurim 100 years ago he had a very hard time with a Shidduch. No girl wanted to marry a boy sitting and learning, so most boys in yeshiva ended up single into their 30s.

Back to Yantchie...
He was sitting and learning in Shul by himself one morning when the door creaks open and in shuffles the local Shadchan Beryk. Beryk sits down next to Yantchie and with a glint in his eye bellows out the often heard and caricatured line...”Yantchie, have I got a shidduch for you.”

Yantchie wearily turns to Beryk and fully expecting to hear of another blind, elderly or intern prospect mutters ..”nu..”

Beryk pauses for dramatic effect and replies “Anastasia, the Czars daughter”.

Yantchie grabs Beryks lapel an shouts timidly, “have you come here to torment me?”
“Leave me alone..please. I’m really not in the joking mood..”

Beryk turns to him in all seriousness and sounding a bit hurt says “I’m not joking Yantchie”.
“I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and it’s perfect.”

“But she’s not even Jewish”, an exasperated Yantchie spit out.
“Ahhh I know..but I know through back channels that she has a strong affinity to Judaism and she would be willing to convert.”
“And....”,he quickly added anticipating Yantchies next question, “she is a champion of the poor and oppressed I think she’ll be able to relate to you perfectly, as a matter of fact I think she’ll be very attracted to you.”
Yantchies face soften a bit, “I don’t know, it just sounds so crazy..”
Beryk moves in closer “I’ve never felt this strongly about a shidduch before..just imagine how happy you’ll be. Her teachers, her tutors, all that know her are crazy about her”.
Yantchies face registered a flicker of excitement as he asked..”so nu...what are we waiting for?”
Beryk leaned back and stared ahead and whispered, “we just have to get the Czar to agree..”

I love this little tale.
I few weeks ago I was about to conclude a huge deal. In my mind it was perfect, I knew exactly what I was going to do with the money...and was on cloud 9. I had it all figured out. Well, except one thing, I didn’t get the “Czar” to agree.

How often do we feel like that? In reality we’re like poor Yantchie, who is so not in control of his shidduch that’s it’s a joke.

We work so hard on our end but we don’t really do anything. I find that to be a humbling and comforting thought.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What's that on my ear?..goodness I've been tagged

FrumGirl and Eshet thanks for tagging me...

Here are 5 simple pleasures that popped into my head. I typed them without going back to change any. My definition of a simple pleasure is a pleasure obtained without much cost or exertion..

That moment when the book slips from your hand and your strength ebbs away as the day and the world slips away and you drift off into la la land.

My morning coffee during my favorite time of day, early morning. To me that first coffee is a total experience..the aroma..the taste..the warmth and the quiet, freshness of a new day

When I give my young kids a hug at night after a really good day and instead of the usual quick hug...sometimes they’ll squeeze just a little harder and longer as if to say..I really love you...Totty.

Getting a compliment from my shvigger (mother in law). For some reason I get a thrill out of her compliments.

Hearing live music from unexpected sources. Sometimes I’ll take the subway and I’ll be treated to a beautiful interlude while waiting for the train. I’ll walk down the street and hear the soft chords of a piano wafting down from a window..and I’ll stop and listen for awhile...

A 6th little pleasure that I've discovered these past few writing something in my blog..and coming back a few hours later to find 6-7 intelligent comments..that always puts a smile on my face. But I can't say that it comes without exertion ;-)

I tag Pearl of Toronto..

My Shower Life...

Ok I admit shower life has been pretty dull for a pretty long time now. Just a boring shower head with boring soap and shampoo and since I shower early in the morning I don’t even get to sing anymore. For awhile now I’ve been suspecting that my wife has a far more exciting shower experience with all those scrunchy pink things and scrubs lying around.

A few weeks ago I decided to spice up my time under the spray. I went out and splurged on a new super shower head for $200. Wow, my shower time has increased by 50% and I just get lost under the hot super spray of that huge head.
After a few days I started playing around with the different settings.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t get most of them. First there’s the limp “we’re almost out of water” setting...why would anyone choose that? Then there’s the painful setting that feels like thousands of needles shooting into you at once...sort of what it must feel like in the Braveheart battle with all the arrows coming down at once. Then there’s the “massage” setting.... I mean my 3 year old son gives better and stronger massages than that. Well the one I like and use, is the strong, wide and steady rainlike spray with the center pulsing a little harder..mmmm

On to the soap and shampoo. I don’t shop much so I’m sort of out of the loop when it comes to what’s out there. I’ve been using Irish Spring soap and a mixture of Pert, VO and a few other shampoos.
I had an eye opening experience last week when I went to my sister for shabbos. I’m taking a shower and there on the windowsill is about 30 types of shampoo. For a second I thought I was standing naked in aisle 14!
When did Snapple start making Shampoo?
There’s Strawberry, Raspberry, Strawberry Kiwi, Strawberry Banana, Chamomile, Vanilla, Green Apple, Apple Cinnamon...yum to name a few.
Now I know where my grandmothers ever present scent comes from, she must use Onion Garlic shampoo.
Then there’s shampoo for oily hair, dry hair (how do you lather it in?), damaged hair, oily damaged hair, very oily hair, oily hair with dandruff, healthy hair and damaged dry healthy hair with oily dandruff. And then there was one copy of each in conditioner. What I don't get is sister covers her hair and my brother in law is bald.
I felt real deprived. The shower experience has evolved and I’ve been left behind.
I’ve got some serious catching up to do.
After all is said and done..the shower is one of the last places on earth where you can truly get away from it cell emails..just you... the steam..and the cleansing cascade of water....

No there’s no hidden message here..just a frivolous sketch of my shower world.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I'll huff..and I'll puff...and blow your brick facade down..

Growing up, it seemed things were simpler. There were Brick houses and stucco houses, there were vynil and aluminum side houses and wood slat houses. I’m not sure when I started noticing this, but suddenly I’m seeing more and more homes with fake brick fronts.
Now as an artist and as someone with a strong aesthetic sensitivity I find these very unnerving.

In Art there is this concept of form = function = beauty. An apple is a beautiful’s an apple, it fills its function perfectly. You turn it around, and it’s an apple every way you look at it. It has functional integrity, truth and beauty. A brick house or a stucco house or a siding house is, even in a dilapidated state is beautiful in that its form meets its function and it’s a home.

When I walk down the street and see a home with a fake brick front, I’m thinking... who are you kidding? If I happen to stand across the street at a 45 degree angle and look at your house I might be fooled into thinking it’s brick? You couldn’t even fool the Big Bag Wolf with that false front. Sometimes I walk down certain streets and I feel like I’m on a Hollywood set with all the false fronts.

But then I think back to my simpler childhood and I find that the people reflected this phenomenon as well. People were true to themselves. There were those that wore grey hats, and those that wore black hats, those that wore straw hats and those that wore none. The “grey hatters” wore grey hats and the “black hatters” guessed hats.
Today the “grey,straw and hatless” all wear black hats. They all put up false fronts.

There is a quote from the Chozeh of Lublin...
A Rosha (wicked person) that knows he’s a far better than a Tzaddik (righteous person) that knows he’s a Tzaddik.

Friday, December 09, 2005

All non-essential humans ..stay home..

You know when you wake up in the morning and after a few seconds of catching your bearings you suddenly remember ..hey, it's supposed to be snowing now.
That's what happened to me this morning. I jolted up, opened the blinds and its...raining?
So here I am..all stocked up with piles of firewood, bags of chestnuts, 3 new sleds and a new pair of gloves...and this storm is a no show.
I turn on the radio and although I've heard this announcement many times in the past, it suddenly struck me as a little bizarre. "All non-essential workers..please stay off the roads today". exactly do you know if you're non-essential or not? Imagine working at a firm for 10 years just to find out you're "non-essential"? I mean if you view yourself as non essential why bother coming in on a sunny day?
That got me thinking..How many of us are essential in our every day life?
How essential am I to my kids?
How can I make myself an essential person to as many people as possible?

Some thoughts to ponder while I shovel the slush....

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

God is One

A few weeks ago I took my kids to the Liberty Science Center.
There was an interesting exhibit there. It was basically a large screen with a short film.
It begins with a wide angle shot of our entire universe then zooms in again and again through the cosmos to the milky our solar system earth...North a park on the shores of Lake a napping sun bather...zooming into his body through his skin..into his organs....cells...further and further through the maze of DNA, chromosomes...until all you see are atoms (and quarks..but we’ll stop at the atom) dancing around. Right there at the closest you can possibly zoom ..just thousands of atoms. What struck me is that if you were to pan the camera over a little to the grass and zoomed in that much, you’d see the same thing. Everything in this universe can be broken down to it’s common denominator the atom. If the atom would suddenly disappear everything would just cease to exist. What an amazing concept!
Jewish literature is full of the idea that the physical world mirrors the meta-physical. Now take this concept and we can appreciate the idea that everything in this world is a manifestation of Godliness. Rabbenu Bechaya says Hashem Echad..God is One... Everything is god and god is hidden in everything. Take the number one and expand it, no matter how large and complex the number will become, in reality it’s just a bunch of ones. If one were to take away the number one, every number in the world would cease to exist! At the moment of creation there was Yesh M’eyin “something from nothing”..pure godliness and the purest act of love. Everything that was to be formed and created until the end of time was compacted into that first thing.. As it unfolded it became more difficult to see the love and godliness with our limited vision and perception, but the number one is there hidden. Hashem Echad!
I hope you guys see the atom connection.
Our job is to seek out Godliness in everything and everywhere...and to believe that everything God does is pure love and good.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Let it snow...Let it snow...Let it snow...

It's been awhile since I've enjoyed my morning coffee as much as I have this morning. Sitting at the bay windows looking out to the backyard during that wonderful hour we call dawn.
Those unraked leaves are not there to taunt me anymore, that unfinished paving project nowhere to be seen. All the blemishes that bear witness to my procastinating nature neatly tucked away under 6 inches of fresh snow. Overnight, everything so surreal, so beautifully bathed in the pink early morning light.

Slowly sipping...watching a family of deer running through the woods in the distance....everything so silent..

mmm life is good...

until the snow melts.

"...Im yihyu chatoeichem k'shonim..k'sheleg yalbin..."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ode to the weekend....

I will never understand what it means to be a workaholic.
I cannot relate to the desire to work..
I look at people rich enough to support 4 generations
who shlep everyday to work into their 70s and 80s
reveling in Adams curse..

Can anyone enlighten me?
Is anyone out there afflicted
with this strange malady?

Until then I'll sigh..
over another weekend gone by....

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dude..what's that on your hubcap?? I am in the back seat of a minivan spacing out and staring out the window after a long day. Cruising along in moderate traffic my eyes jumping from one car to another watching people who are oblivious to the fact that they're being watched.... when a cute green Volkswagen Beetle slowly enters my view..traveling a few mphs slower than we were. Suddenly something catches my eye and my vision reluctantly moved down from the pretty hipster singing to herself down to the hubcaps..and lo and behold spinning around happily in the center of the hubcap is a Swastika! No..I was not seeing things. I jolted up..and started looking around for other Volkswagens but most were going to fast or slow. There was only one very disturbing conclusion..
The Volkswagen logo was designed to become a swastika when it's spun at 30-40 miles per hour.
Am I the only person on earth that knows this??

When I got home I did a google search and..there was one mention of it online on someone else's blog a few years ago...and that's it. But I began reading into the history of VW and it makes sense. Volkswagen was the brainchild of Hitler that wanted every German family to afford a car. Volks-Wagen means The Nation's or People's car.
Isn't it ironic that the Fuehrers car should..20 years later be adopted by the left wing hippy movement?
The maximum speed back then was about 40 miles per hour so everything makes sense. I'm just surprised that no one seems to know about this. Actually the guy that designed the VW logo is alive and suing VW at this moment for not being compensated so I guess..we can find old Nikolai Borg and ask him himself.

Next time you're out driving keep your eyes out for a VW.....