Tuesday, January 31, 2006

i, Magnified

I remember hearing from a smart man many years ago that the reason teenagers cannot wait to get behind the wheel of a car is that a car “iz a groisser ich” the car becomes a “Big Me”.
It’s me, magnified.
When you get behind the wheel, suddenly you’re no longer that scrawny teenager fighting for attention. You’re just like everyone else on the road.
When one observes the world around it becomes obvious.
Jaguar has a new ad campaign called Gorgeous. It insinuates that if you drive a Jag then the car will represent you. You’ll be gorgeous, you’ll be desired, you’ll get all the girls. It talks to the heart of the mid-age crisis person who feels he’ll get a new lease on life, on fun, on desirability by donning a new skin made of steel.

Sometimes I see some of my fellow Frum people who will never be considered cool in the gentile world because of their obvious physical limitations. So they’ll got a Hummer or a Big SUV to represent the Me they so wish they could be.
After all while you’re sitting in your car, you’re equal to anyone else. You can cut people off just like the next guy can.

Soul comes down to this world
..dons clothes of flesh
..dons clothes of cloth
..dons clothes of steel.
But ultimately they all clothe the Soul.

Well, I’ll let you guys guess what I drive.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Monsters in our midst

Disclaimer: This post claims disturbing and explicit topics.

None of the tales are based on rumors. When I lived in Brooklyn a few years ago I got involved in an organization and I know these stories firsthand.

They look like anyone else..Yeshivish, Chassidish, Modern Orthodox. They are laymen, lawyers, neighbors, uncles, Rebbes and Fathers.

They are Monsters.

I am referring to Adults that molest girls under the age of 18. They fondle babysitters, seduce nieces, and rape daughters and it happens often.
And they get away with it EVERY TIME.
Could you imagine the guy sitting next to you in shul Raping his frightened 9 year old daughter every night? It happens..you just don’t know about it.
It is a horrific stain on our community and it’s about time something was done about it.
I am not a Posek but there must be times when it is permitted to call the police on one of our own. Let’s say there was a frum serial killer in Boro Park would it be wrong to call the police? These monsters are worse than murderers. Here is a snapshot of the damage they do..to the innocent victims.

Their victims are likely to to act out sexually themselves

They suffer their whole lives and most of them will attempt suicide at least once.

Their marriages always suffer (if they survive) and they never trust men again.

And yes the victims are innocent.
One of the molesters favorite defence is she wanted it. A young girl does not know what she wants. Even if her body reacts..that does not mean she wants it. Just like when you tickle someone they laugh. That doesn't mean they're happy.
How is it that in the “goyish” world if someone molests a minor they will end up in jail and away from children, while in our community they are free to continue?
How is it that we’re so concerned with the Internet and porn that our children might be exposed to when we have REAL LIVE perverts exposing REAL LIVE sex to minors and we do nothing about it?

And if Halacha would call me a Moser..I’ll be happy to walk through the gates of hell if it’ll save the life of one more little girl or boy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


It’s something you’re born with.

Something lurking deep inside your conscience.
It drives you, fuels you and takes you places.
I’ve always known I have it. During my teenage years I’d hop on a plane, train or boat and explore. Explore places, cultures and people. Connect with the past, with ancient tales and magical experiences.
Rome, Paris, Moscow, China, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Venice, Spain .....
ahhh was it me that was wandering those places with nary a worry in the world (except for where I was going to spend the night)?

I definitely have Wanderlust. My heart beats for excitement, for a moment in time and for a dash of danger. My senses are sensitive to History and Beauty. My ears hungry for a new language and music beat. My eyes hungry for a scenic valley, an ancient castle and bright primal colors.

That was then.
Every once in awhile I’ll pull out an album and reminisce. But it’s difficult to bring the senses back to that donkey ride through the hot desert. It’s impossible to smell the cacophony of scents in the marketplaces. With kids and a wife whose idea of vacation is a nice hotel room, I’ve adjusted to the mundane. But it’s never far from the surface. It’ll always be a part of me and I’ll always cherish those days when I explored the world.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Frumkeit..or Frumism – Religion or Culture?

There is this great misconception about our society. This misconception is both false and harmful and it has led many off the derech.
Have you ever asked yourself ...How can a frum person do that? How can a frum person behave that way?
Then you are under this false impression as well.

Frumism (anyone else have a better term?) is not a religion.. it’s a culture.
It is a culture that incubates a religion.
We dress a certain way, we listen to our own music, we have our own lingo, and we teach a certain lifestyle but we can’t force thousands of people to think a certain way and to believe in certain things.
Religion is strictly between God and the individual.

It just so happens to be..that of all the cultures in the world, it’s easiest to practice Frum Judaism in this Frum culture.

After all, they share so many similarities. This culture has you going to shul anyhow ...and it has you refraining from work on Shabbos.

But ultimately it’s up to all individuals to decide whether or not they choose to do so. Sometimes a person will go through the motions and go daven for an entire year and will only have kavannah once or twice. There’s the example of how the culture is an incubator for the religion. In order for our religion to survive in America a Culture had to be created to surround it. To keep us going through the motions during our weak moments and generational lapses.

However our Education System does not focus enough on the individual, on every persons relationship with Hashem as an individual..and instead it allows us a glimpse of Hashem through the prism of the community. This is something that I believe should change..

If one realizes this he will not become disoriented by “Frum” Jews not utilizing their personal choice of tapping in to the Religion within.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A walk through Midtown..with my iPod

Walking through Times Sq.
Hustling and bustling
Dazzling display of neon light
Flock of pigeons takes flight
Chestnuts roasting..breezy caress
All the worlds a Concert Place..
Perfectly choreographed
Dancing ..swaying
To the strains of Dvoraks New World..
Is that a baton waving in my direction..?
Never mind..
It’s the middle finger
of some babbling cabbie
Defending his yellow box seat

Picking up the tempo a tad
Track 2
All is good again..
Ahh The Beatles.
Accompanying..this grand cast
All the lonely people..
And yellow submarines..
Blending.. grooving..
I’m sorry..did I bump you with my bag?
The look in your eyes..
Your jawing angry mouth
Sends me one feed..
But all I hear is
Love is all you really need...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

How The Computer Helped Me Comprehend Our World - Part II

If one truly internalizes the above mentioned analogy then many things become clear..
For instance. The Gemara says..whoever says that Yehuda (referring to the story of Yehuda and Tamar) sinned is mistaken. If this is the case so why bring down the story in a manner that portrays him in a vulgar light?
The answer is.. What “actually” took place..we have no idea...but whatever Yehuda did according to his spiritual level ..caused the same cosmic effect as if he’d done it with all the vulgarity described in the narrative. Just like the Torah says Einei Hashem..when Hashem has no eyes..The Torah narrates the story in this fashion because it happened this way..just not the way we think it did.
That’s what the Gemara says ..whoever (one of us) says Yehuda sinned..(using our imagination and playing out the scenes the way we can grasp it) is mistaken. Sure the final outcome and the effect was the same, the document was opened but it wasn’t caused by double clicking the icon..instead it was achieved through writing code.

This is why the much talked about “contradiction” between Torah and Science regarding creation to me is a no starter because science is discussing the screen..and the pixels..and the Torah is discussing the chip. The Torah is not a science book just like it’s not a History book and is not interested in recording historical dates and science that is irrelevant to the spiritual growth of the Jewish people. Chazal is even bothered by the fact that the Torah doesn’t just start from the First Mitzvah.
Whatever happened during Creation..Hashem wants us to understand it as happening in 6 days. Whether it’s six days the way we experience six days is irrelevant. Our day of 24 hours is how we’re used to knowing the concept of Day. It is the only way our mind comprehends it in our Graphic User Interface (the screen). What’s the difference if you open the file by double clicking the icon or by pressing control O or by typing in code using DOS? It’s all the same thing.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How the Computer helped me comprehend Our World. - Part I

A few months ago I had a revelation. I was fixing my computer and had the chance to peek into the labyrinth of chips and wires that inhabit the innards of the machine. It was then that it hit me..the computer is a perfect microcosm of the world. For this alone, I believe, the computer was worth inventing (and for posting it on the blog ..of course).
This world and all that inhabit it are like the screen. The world is the arena of action, this is where we can work within the dimensions of time of and space..but nothing is really happening here. While our “Chomer” (matter) is here in this universe everything is happening on an entirely different plane. This other world is so close..its not a geographical place it’s a heartbeat away.
The computer is exactly the same thing. Nothing is happening on the screen, even though that’s our field of action and that’s all we’ll ever know. But, in reality nothing is happening on the screen. It’s just a manifestation of what’s happening inside the chip. It’s just that we cannot go into a chip and work there so we have a screen which has the dimension of space to operate in.
The Torah and Judaism is mainly interested in this hidden world and it's manifestation in this world.
For instance Chazal say “Whoever embarrasses another person it’s as if he killed them”. They weren’t just saying that to dramatize the act of embarrassing someone. They meant it quite literally. Just like there are many ways of accomplishing tasks in the chip of a computer through different actions on the screen (ie. You can open a file by double clicking on the icon..or by typing in code that will do it) there are different ways of accomplishing the act of murder (or the cosmic impression that murder causes) in the metaphysical world, one of them is by embarrassing the victim. (However there are different levels and degrees of this..so obviously a person won’t get the same punishment).
Another example. The Torah sometimes speaks of Hashems attributes allegorically, like Einei Hashem (the eyes of God) or Yad Hashem (the hand of God), although of course we cannot envision Hashem with any of these actual blood and flesh body parts..it’s more than just allegory. However eyes and hands manifest themselves in other worlds, manifestations, that’s what Hashem is accomplishing in those circumstances.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Honor Hashem with your Voice...

We had a big kiddush in our Shul this past week. One of the relatives of the Baal Simcha is a Chazzen of some sorts and was asked to daven Shacharis.
As soon as he started..Shoikhen Ad..in his beautiful voice half the place groaned their dissapproval.
There's nothing I like more than a nice Ba'al Tefillah.
As I was listening and enjoying I thought of a Vort..The Gemara says Kabeid es Hashem B'Gronkha Honor Hashem with your Voice. Garon is Voice.. G'R'N is Guf (body) Ruach (spirit) Neshama (soul). A beautiful voice has the power to move you..to inspire.
But I'm part of a shrinking breed it seems.

If I were to take a poll in most shteeblich."Would you rather have a terrible chazzen...or a beautiful chazzen and finish 10 minutes later?" I'm sure the quicker.. tone deaf guy would win in a landslide.

Come to think of it.. Hashem can abolish heaven and hell. All he has to do is have a chazzen get up and shlep. For those that enjoy it..it's heaven..and for most others it's pure hell.

Why is that?

If you travel to Europe (and ignore the Anti-Semitism) you will see such magnificant Shuls..from Vienna to Florence from Moscow to Rome. Contrast this to the chop-plop* design and architecture of the modern shul and shteeble. What happened to this appreciation..of glorifying Hashem through beauty?
Is there a strain here?...
Are they connected?

* anyone with a good translation?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Nittel Nacht

Tonight is Nittel.

Nittel is the night of Christmas according to the Eastern Orthodox Churches, January 6th, and has traditionally been a night that has been marked by Jews through the popular custom of Not Learning. This has mistakenly been thought of as a Chassidic custom but in truth it precedes Chassidism.

There are many kabbalistic reasons given that have to do with the winter solstice and the birth of Jesus, that give this night a dark element.

I want to focus on the practical reason given. It was simply too dangerous for Jews to be out on Christmas, therefore public learning was abolished. Therefore I'd like to reflect on how truly lucky we are in America. We cannot understand the level of fear in those days. My Grandparent tell me stories of how after the Priest would give his Midnight Mass...you had to to barricade your doors, as the masses would be out in a frenzy seeking revenge from the Jews.

If you ever want to feel a small measure of how lucky we are...jump onto a flight to any Central/Eastern European city in full Jewish garb. Walk down the main streets of Berlin, Warsaw, Vilna in your hat and jacket...see how they stare..laugh...watch the contempt on the faces. I've been there and felt it.

Just last week my wife was complaining at how she can't take all the noise our neighbors make, playing music shabbos afternoon..etc. All I could think was..I'll take this over a pogrom ..any day.

Now I have to go find something to read tonight :-)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Lipa's new album...

I just spent the last week or so in the car shuttling from one party to another and I got the opportunity to listen to Lipa Schmeltzers new album BliAinHora.
First of all I have to say he is definitely talented and he deserves alot of credit for "thinking outside the box". The box of course is the music that Jewish music has been stuck to for the past 20 years. The predictable strings, brass, drums coming after the first time singing the low part of a slow song, electric guitar intro (before the strings) to satisfy our craving for "taboo" rock n roll.

However Lipa to me is like a kid in a candy shop...with all these "goyish" music styles before him..jazz..technorock...broadway rock..etc.
Listening to the CD reminds me of driving through Las Vegas..passing by New York, Venice and Paris (the hotels). Sure it's impressive and nice..but it's far removed from the real thing.

Luck for him..most of his listening audience is in the same candy shop....hungry...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Chanukah..short lived reprieve

A few weeks ago I watched Oliver Stone's Alexander. The movie starring Colin Farrel was not that great but I thought the battle scenes were magnificant.
We're so used to reading and mentioning the Chanukah miracle in passing, a sort of G rated version of events. But if one studies the History of the Chashmonoim ..one finds a dramatically different picture. The bloody battles of those times (elephants and all) left thousands of Jews dead in the most greusome fashion.
After the miracle..the Jews lived in peace for just a few years before a long succession of Hellenized and corrupt Chashmonai Kings ascended the thrones. Many, like Antygonys, had tens of thousands of Chachomim killed in horrific bloodbaths.

And yet we see the power of a miracle...a moment of time when some light shone through the darkness.

A moment of short lived hope that lasts until today.

May the spirit of Chanukah always give us hope.