Monday, June 27, 2005

Don't Get Scared

I know this is extreme, but another dvar Torah. Don't worry I won't do this too often, it's just been a busy few weeks.

Some random person I've never met asked me to speak at Sheva berachos. Why not, I thought. Who's better at putting their foot in their mouth than me? And so the story begins...

The newlywed couple has certainly received their share of advice from numerous individuals. Some probably mentioned things that the husband shouldn't forget to do, and some probably mentioned things that he should forget to do. Bottom line, people realize that before getting into something big, it pays to have some idea of what you're getting into. We since this in Parshas Shelach, which deals with the story of the Meraglim, the spies that were sent to scout out the land of Israel before the Jewish people would settle there after leaving Egypt. But the Jewish people were punished for listening to the advice they received. If it is reasonable to scout out a deal before getting into it, and if heeding that advice is important, why were they punished?

There were two kinds of advice. The defeatist, petty advice of the majority, and the lofty, idealistic opinion of the minority. In order to succeed at a large scale mission, it is not the nitty gritty details that gets you through. It is the focusing on the large picture. Winning a war isn't based on whether a general decides to attack from the left or right flank. It is won when he inspires his troops to unite for a common cause. Gd saw that the Jewish people were engaging in petty behavior, and not uniting behind the new committment He had planned between Himself and His people in His land.

And this is the advice for the newlywed couple. People will come to you with all sorts of advice. But it is the focusing on your ultimate dreams together that will most strengthen your marriage, for that is the long term glue that has bound you together. You should be blessed with many years of uniting behind the ideals that brought you together.


By the way, for purposes of the blog, I pulled my foot out of my mouth.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I'd like to thank everybody who was in town last weekend. I know you came for a wedding, but really you did a chessed- bringing a smile to a deprived young man's face. The old friends and the new, the guys and the girls, it was just nice to be able to spend time with so many young people. I ate out at more restaurants this weekend than I have in Chicago in the past six months. It was really fun, even with all the non stop eating, driving, and lack of sleep. Dehydrating at the wedding was no fun either.

As they say in the south, "Come back soon, y'all."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Hanging out

I'm not a big fan of girls and guys hanging out. But I do take pride in hospitality. So when people are in from out of town, I like to make sure they enjoy themselves. And if that guest is a young, eligible lady, I'm not going to treat them any different. Should I leave somebody home alone because her relationship status is open? I don't discriminate. So I took a young woman out to some of the hot spots around town. Just the two of us. Boy did I get rocked by her friends. They said it was inappropriate. I say it was the friendly thing to do. Was I wrong?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bright Idea

There are a number of websites that provide crucial social outlets. However, none fully maximizes its potential. Leave it to me to connect the dots. Your feedback can help fine tune my ultimate proposal.

OnlySimchas has served to connect the Jewish community by providing an online bulletin board of individual special occasions. It draws a wide audience, is fairly interactive, and is updated regularly.

The Facebook serves as a casual place for a person to present themselves to others on the internet. It allows for basic personal information to be shared, and while it isn't updated regularly, allows personal networks of friends to be maintained.

FutureSimchas, the brain child of the OnlySimchas team, this site allows for singles to widen their potential dating pool by exploring others around the world. Each user maintains a profile with more personal information about themselves. Users can interact freely with each other. Many people are hesitant to use this site, as they fear being viewed as pathetic for needing to resort to such an "extreme" dating tactic. Alternatively, they fear the real nature of the people that may attempt to contact them.

I, therefore, have the perfect solution to creating the most perfect online dating site. Combine all three. OnlySimchas already has widespread use amongst the target audience, the 20-30 year old single. Use of the site comes with very little stigma. Add to that the ability to maintain and search user profiles, like FuturSimchas, would allow people to be exposed to a wider pool of people. Each user would have a basic profile with information such as age, location, education, and other general categories. Linked to the profile would be all the person's posts. They could also add links to pictures and other simchas. But the key would be duplicating the Facebook technique of creating friend networks. Users could link to their friends' profiles. This would allow interested parties to know who to ask about being set up with somebody, and more basically, to find out about whether a person is realistically a good match.

The site would pretty much operate as Onlysimchas does now. However, in the background would be the ability to look up information about users, and even to search them. Hopefully, the success of the Facebook would rub off on the site, and people would include more information on themselves because it is perceived as fun. Because it isn't overtly a dating site, people wouldn't avoid putting up their profile's. And direct contact could be discouraged between non-"friend" parties, thereby removing any fears of unwanted contact. But the essential profile would be a great source for getting a feel for a person and providing a contact circle.

The question is, why hasn't this already been done. I'll leave this up here until July 1st. Then I'm sending this to the OnlySimchas/Futuresimchas team to get their feedback. But you first. Help me fine tune this proposal.

Street Smarts

Some people have brains. And then there's me.

Check out this guy on OnlySimchas. He's got brains. If I would've tried to get engaged with a tshirt, it probably would've said, "I'm with Stupid ->" And that's where the laughs would end.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Apparently there are some poetic metaphors that women don't appreciate. Telling them they have PMS is one of them. You might just think that it's a fairly indirect way to hint that they are acting slightly irrational. It's a non-offensive way to point out behaviors more emotional than normal. I can see why telling a girl she seems to be having abnormal hormonal fluctuations would be hurtful. But to say she has PMS when she obviously doesn't? That's just a way of saying with exaggerated humor that she is not being herself.

But apparently I'm all wrong. It seems that the PMS line is like a slap in the face of a girl, no matter what the mood is. So whatever you do, don't tell a girl she has PMS. Even if it is the truth. In fact, just don't bring it up with a girl in any context. Probably also with just guys as well, to be safe.

Biblical Themes

I was reading through the Book of Ruth over the Shavuos Holiday, and I noticed an interesting lesson. Naomi, after returning penniless to her ancestral city, discovers that a relative exists in the community. She instructs her daughter-in-law Ruth to "get to know him better," if you know what I mean. What reason does she give? To paraphrase, he will be her "sugar daddy." The wealthy relative Boaz will come to her rescue, and provide her with comfort for life if she can succeed in arousing his interest. Needless to say, Ruth does, and Boaz does.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Jewish girls have learned their Bible lessons...

An Actual Dvar Torah

To break up the Skokie monotony, I sponsored a tish at a friends house. We got 12 guys to come from 10 to 1. Not too shabby. Amazing what a little cholent will do.

This is the Dvar Torah I gave, in highly condensed version.

The halacha is that somebody making a beracha should give people a chance to say amen to a beracha before moving on. However, he does not need to wait for people to say amen, he just needs to give them the opportunity. By Birchas Cohanim, this freedom does not exist. The Chazan, the Cohanim, and the Congregation must each wait until every last individual completes their response before continuing. Why is the Halacha different?

If we look at Parashas Nasso, we see that both the opening parsha and the closing both carry similar themes. They both deal with counting of a repetitive nature. The meforshim learn that these teach us the importance of each individual, that the torah spends so many extra words enumerating everything in detail. And these two parshiyos serve as "bookends" of 5 very integral short parshiyos in between. In addition to Birchas Cohanim, we learn about Sotah, Nazir, Meila, and Tzarua. These last four all deal with individuals and their conditions as part of the Congregation. Their importance as an individual within the larger context of the whole is strengthened by the Torah's guidelines here. The Torah wants to make sure that each person is able to maximize their impact on the community, and notes the proper way for these individuals to modify their behaviour so that, whether they were higher or lower spiritually then others, they will be able to integrate and contribute to the whole.

So too then is the lesson of Birchas Cohanim. The source of Beracha only comes when each individual can fully contribute to the community. It should therefore be no surprise that Halacha requires that the Chazan, Cohanim, and Kahal all wait for each other. No matter what a person's position is in the community, the community is not at it's peak unless every voice has its place. So we wait for every last individual to make their contribution before moving on with the rest of the blessing.

May we all merit to find our voices in Klal Yisroel, and merit to receive the divine blessing through the Cohanim in the rebuilt Bais Hamikdosh, B"V Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Women, Go Figure

Another post in a series, I guess.

I was at a married couple's house, and everybody was sitting around the table. The husband, who had gone to the kitchen to get something, returned to the table, and as he passed his wife, pressed his thumb against her nose in a cute little gesture. She looks at him as if she just caught him sleeping with another woman, sprays "Why did you do that?" in the most venomous tone of voice that I have ever heard hiss out of a person's mouth, and got up and stalked out of the room. She looked like she was going to cry. She returned after a minute, of course looking at her self in the mirror, giving her husband the stare of death, and then looked at her self in the mirror again.

Now either she just had her nose glued on and was afraid it was going to fall off, she was pregnant, or I really don't understand women. Apparently, though, I'm not alone. The husband played it so cool. I guess I still have a lot to learn. I would have been totally flustered. I'd feel so bad that my wife was hurt, but so confused and defensive at the same time. I wouldn't know what I did wrong, and I wouldn't think it's fair that my lovey-dovey behavior somehow ended up making her mad, not happy, as I intended.

So are women just unpredictable? Do they have it in for men? I think I'm just doomed for life. I might as well put a comfortable couch in the doghouse.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Book Recommendations

A good book is hard to find. So when you get a good recommendation, you can't pass it up. And if that recommendation comes from a girl you are going out with, it's great. And if's from a girl you went out with in the past, you also can't ignore it. And just because you forgot the title and author, it still doesn't mean you can let a good read go by. So after heading to the library, and finding nothing to check out, I went home empty-handed. But not to be defeated, I resolved to get this book. So I checked with the Shadchan, got an ok, and called the girl up. I think she got a good laugh, but more importantly, I (hopefully) got a good book. I'll let you know how the read goes once I actually finish it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Lessons Learned

Apparently, the Dating "Rules" aren't just some made up fake-frumkeit nonsense. I always figured they were just a bunch of rigid formalities perpetuated by individuals afraid of incurring the wrath of the community. But apparently, they are also put in place to protect people's feelings.

I tried to set up a girl. Now, according to the Rules, you're not supposed to say anything to the girl until the boy has said yes and is ready to call her. I kind of figured that was just a norm based more in sexism than actual sense. Since I knew the girl here, and was looking for a guy for her (as opposed to the other way around), I mentioned that I had somebody for her. I also mentioned that I thought it was a great idea, that he was perfect for her, and that he would for sure say yes. He said no. Yeah, she was hurt. I really set her up for it. I felt like the worst person. I was trying to show her how much I cared by finding somebody for her. Instead I made her feel bad. Only me. One more night on the couch...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Uh, Oh!

i think some guys should have a warning label attached to them especially ones from chicago -- watch out!

I'm an idiot. Hallmark should make a whole line of cards for me. They could call it, "The-Moron-With-Good-Intentions-is-Still-a-Moron Line."

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Without getting into theology, I just want to lend my reaction to a recent conference by Edah - The courage to be modern and orthodox, in Skokie. Rabbi Saul Berman spoke at Congregation Or Torah on Shabbos. Without even addressing what he said, I wanted to share a little background to this organization so that you can understand my reaction to this event. Edah started about three years ago, after deciding that most of the rest of Modern Orthodoxy was too much to the ideological right. No biggie there. But it seems to me that the real reason they were able to find a niche is not ideologically, but practically. All I could think of as I saw this conference was, why can't Yeshiva University do this? The only reason Edah is around is because the beauracrats at YU can't get their heads together to produce any original discourse on religion in America. So other groups pop up and with it spin the discussion in different directions.

But all that YU needs to do is stand up and be active. It will stay in the shadows as long as it chooses to play second fiddle to these upstarts. And letting these radicals grab the empty pulpit doesn't fare well for the moderates. So all that remains to be seen is how long it will take for YU to stir from its slumber to share its resources with the world at large.

Lo Tisgodedu

Generally speaking, in Judaism there is an idea of Lo Tisgodedu - Not to divide up into subgroups. One of the derivations of this commandment is not to have more than one synagogue in a city. There are very specific terms delegating the conditions under which a new synagogue can be opened.

Where am I going with this? There is a new synagogue opening near me. Currently, Skokie basically consists of four synagogues on one block. The entire community basically rendevous at the same intersection every Shabbos morning, and then split off into their distinct congregations. The new synagogue, however, wants to set up shop half a mile North. While this definitely brings it closer to many homes, it definitely eliminates the common bond that all Skokie orthodox Jews currently have in the central religious district. While the main argument of the new synagogues founders has been the necessity of a sanctuary closer to where those families live, I have reason to believe this is an outright lie. Currently, every Friday night and Saturday afternoon the main synagogue in Skokie sponsors services two blocks away from my house to cater to the families living in my neighborhood. Last year, one of the families involved in the new congregation began sponsoring services at his home - one block away from the other service. Kind of hard to believe that this new synagogue is really about convenience and not about politics. All indications show that this new group is just a cliquish clan looking to control their own scene. Just the kind of reason that Lo Tisgodedu was commanded.

Brooklyn Shadchan

Some stories are too good to be true. Then again, some are true anyways.

A friend called me up, and told me that his 28 year old recently engaged sister just received a call from her Shadchan. The Shadchan was irate and threatening. Apparently, the sister had given the Shadchan a $1,000 prize for the fix up. And the Shadchan demanded $2,000. This was apparently an injustice for the Shadchan to tell the sister that the Shadchan would call the Chasson and tell his family that the Kallah was a liar. And of course, at 28, the Kallah is petrified of losing her beloved. So the extortion works.

Only in Brooklyn.

A Hairy Beast

A frequent question I get is, What's with the beard (and Payos)? What better place to answer a serious question then on a blog where I regularly make myself look rediculous? Many would say the beard makes me look rediculous, so maybe it is appropriate.

First the short answer. 1) It is halachicly prefereable for a Jewish man to grow a beard. See the Chofetz Chaim's work, Tiferes HaAdom. 2) There are benefits in preserving a distinct Jewish looking, both in affecting your personal behavior, as well as influencing other's behavior towards you.

Now the long answer.

I went to Solomon Schechter, growing up kind of frum. In Eighth Grade, right around my Bar Mitzvah, I decided to take a more active role in my religious affairs, beginning to wear Tzitzis at school. Knowing I was going to be attending an Orthodox high school the next year, I felt it would be hypocritical to hold off following religious laws only once they became academic dictates. I started to wear only pants, knowing that was part of the religious dress code that would be enforced.

Once I got to high school, let's just say I was disappointed with the caliber of the religious fervor of my peers. It hit me all at once at the after party following the annual formal. Let's just say that the behavior of my classmates was highly unorthodox. After that experience, I set aside my classmates from being role models and began to develop an independent standard of what it meant to be religious. Having a subpar religious education forced me to adapt more reactionary than knowledgeably. I starting growing Payos to set me apart. I chose this specifically as I knew it was not some religious symbol that I could hide or bury when it wasn't convenient, as I saw my peers doing with their religious background. And I couldn't grow facial hair at that point.

That started a personal trend, and I moved toward many other personal strictures that assured that my behaviors withstood the many tests of my surroundings. As I became more learned, or at least slightly more educated, I learned, thanks to a Lubavitch chavrusa, the real Halachic import of a beard (although the Payos would not find such solid support). Additionally, as I watched my friends rise and fall religiously, I saw that having my decision strengthened me in many situations where I might otherwise have failed. My look forces me to consider the impression I give to others, and the duty I have to maintain the dignity and honor of the religious people. I can't sneak into a bar without raising eyebrows. I can't swear without disappointing. And no girl will touch me. And that doesn't even touch on the bonus points I can earn when I do things right.

A lot of people ask if I'll shave it all off for a girl. I would trim it down for a job. Halacha clearly maintains the ability to fall back to a lower standard for the sake of earning a living. But for a girl, I fail to see the purpose. The non-Jews at work might not understand or appreciate the religious significance, thereby necessitating a lower standard. But a girl I want to marry? I shouldn't expect her to appreciate religious significance? I mean, I understand that I will have to expect a wife to change many things about me. But I assume that sharing an appreciation and passion for religious committment should be a commonality. So as flexible as I am prepared to be, I don't know why I'd expect this to change.

Hopefully, this gives you a better overview of my thought process. Feel free to ask on any points I may not have (fully) addressed.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Girls and Weddings

Apparently girls take weddings seriously. I know I don't. One of the hallmarks of an orthodox wedding is the festive entertaining done to maximize the joy of the bride and groom. In that spirit, one of the only aspects of weddings that I enjoy is the ability to bring my creative spirit to this practice. But apparently that can sometimes clash with what the bride envisions in her fantasy wedding. It seems the grooms jokes don't always bring a smile to the bride's face. Something to do with men having a different type of humor than women. That may or may not be the case. Obviously not everyone is entertained in cookie-cutter ways, so I understand the need to concentrate on what will be funny for the bride and groom, not just on what makes the guest laugh.

But what bothers me is the attitude of brides. They plan their wedding's out as if it is important. A wedding is a ceremony that leads to marriage. Marriage is important, the wedding is just the means to that end. Get your priorities straight. I once heard a story of a couple that had been married for a few years. They were looking back at their wedding album, and the husband asked the wife if after all the ensuing years she felt any differently about all the expense that had been spent on the details of the wedding. Without blinking, the wife replied that she wouldn't have sacrificed anything if she had the opportunity. The memories had been what she had always dreamed. The moral of the story teller had been to prove that guys should really understand that girls find this stuff important. I'd like to turn that lesson on its head. I'm sorry, but that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. That any expense should be spent on a passing event is the utmost in materialistic waste. Spending money on a ceremony before ensuring the needs of a new couple, like a home to live in or tuition for future children's private school tuition, is the epitome of waste. Any person who's goal's are so shallow that one fairy tale wedding provides satisfaction for their life might want to reconsider their worth in this world. They obviously have a warped sense of contribution.

I'm not saying what my wedding will be like. I understand that I probably fall to one extreme. But I don't think my logic is that flawed. Practicing what you preach is one of the most important things in life. So while I'm not too dumb to ignore what a woman wants, I'd like to think that some modicum of rationality will prevail at the lifecycle events that I'm part of (especially if I'm paying for them). While only time will tell, I sure hope that the way a choose to celebrate will be a positive example for other's in the religious community. And don't get me started on diamond rings...

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