Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'd give my right kidney

I really try to give blood as often as I can. I think I am really making a difference, and it's something which your body remakes anyway.
A few days ago I saw signs plastering Kingston about someone who desperately needs a kidney, in order to save his life, Rachmana L'Tzlan.
At first I thought- No way!
But then.... I mean, I have two, right? And obviously he has no family or close friends to donate, or else they wouldn't beg people on Kingston. If not me, then who?
What got me more curious was that all my friends I spoke to told me I was crazy.
I couldn't understand them. Why is it soooo crazy? I'd be saving this man's life, if my kidney matched.
This little kernel of uncertainty started to grow, and I spoke with Hanhalah members, about halachic issues, etc. Most agreed that I should first speak with my parents, who almost for sure would say no, so I wouldn't have the dilemma anyway. But all of them said how I wasn't crazy and how amazing it is to help someone in that way.
I just couldn't understand why all my friends thought it was 100% nuts. Like, couldn't they agree with me that it was only 80%, and maybe just maybe I should think more about it?
My father really surprised me by going through the difficulties someone with one kidney has to live with, in case I went through with it. He wasn't pleased, and later both my parents decided they didn't want me to do it, but he wasn't all, "No way. You are absolutely crazy," that my friends were. (I know I just used "he was all". It's okay.)
In the end I also decided that I for sure wasn't going to do it. Once I have a family, and that everyone I love has no problems, Chas V'shalom, that might warrant me to be glad I have one to give, then maybe I'll think about it.
I just really hope this person got his donation.
If he didn't... I'll be really heartbroken, I think.

A joke

What does an Arab terrorist sleep on at home?

A blow-up mattress


(hmmm. maybe not so funny.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Birthday Brachos

On my birthday I have the power to give brachos. So:
You all should be bentched with everything you davven for, in Gashmius and Ruchnius. You should be happy, and healthy, and successful in everything you attempt. You should find meaning in everything you do. You should give even more chassidishe nachas to your family, and the Rebbe. Hashem should grant all the desires of your heart, and ten-fold.
Everyone should be healthy, and everyone should know only revealed good, and hear only b'surois toivos.

(here is where you'd say: amen)

Monday, May 26, 2008

My Birthday

Tonight I am turning 20, IY"H.
That's right. Twenty.
Say it. Twenty.
See how it just rolls off your tongue?
It is a perfect word. (Almost like the word incognito, which is one of the best ever)
I mean, think about it. In five hours, if you were to ask me how old I am, I would answer, "Well, I'm twenty."
It's not that I've never thought I would get to twenty. It's just that when you are ten, twenty seems.... old.
Now it's 40.
But I'm halfway there.
Halfway to old.

My farbrengen will be tomorrow night, IY"H. It will also be for my brother, whose birthday falls out exactly the same day as mine this year.
I don't think my friends are getting me anything. Which is fine.
Last year they surprised me with a cake, and threw it in my face.
Yes, it sounds like good fun.
But trust me, when it is a frozen cake, and after smashing into your face, and the onto the floor, and still not making any dent into the cake whatsoever, well, it hurts.
A lot.
So you might also have gotten a teensy upset at your friends.
But then they brought me a normal cake, and we made up.
(Oh, they didn't mean for it to be frozen. If they had, I doubt I'd still be friends.)

Now I just need to practice answering, "I'm twenty," without smiling stupidly. And I could use a little deeper voice, in case the questioner has his doubts.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The "S" Word

It is a proven fact that every guy my age thinks about the "S" word every 10 seconds.
I am no exception.

The idea of Shlichus is consuming my waking thoughts, and some of my dreams.

It was only a few years ago that I even decided to go on Bochur Shlichus in the first place. As to Shlichus after marriage- I have no clue as to what I'll do. First I have to get through next year.

It is a very scary and daunting prospect.

Am I capable?

To be a shliach is not as simple as deciding to put on a new pair of socks you've never worn before. A shliach is a Shliach of the Rebbe!!!

I have learned many sichos about the different levels in shlichus, according to Halacha and Gemoroh. A shliach must be similar to the Mishaleach (sender), which is why a goy cannot be a Jew's shliach when it comes to mitvos which he must perform, like giving a get...

Then the levels come, which explain how much of the Mishaleach you actually become. Up until the point that you are the Mishaleach, and in everything that you do he is there.

Am I really up to that point as a Chossid that I can say the Rebbe can be seen in every single thing that I do???

Will I be able to be the Rebbe's shliach properly?

One of the most basic principles in teaching and influencing is that you can only give over something if you have it yourself.

Do I have it?
I look in the mirror and find it hard to say I do. I know myself, and I know what the students in the Yeshiva will need. It is disheartening and depressing. What is more disparaging is the thought that I obviously don't care about my Chassidishkeit as much as I should, or else I would have already changed to be at the level I want.
Won't the bochurim in the yeshiva be able to see that?

And of course, these are not my only concerns about Shlichus.
What first seemed an incredible concept, but now I am not so sure, is that in my Yeshiva we actually have a say in where we are sent. There are only 16 bochurim going on Shlichus, as opposed to Oholei Torah's 160.
So I am working around the clock to make sure I have the best group possible to go with me. The problem is that so is everyone else, and with the limited places, not everyone will be totally happy.
It is a very hard job for Hanhala to do- put every bochur in the group and place that is perfect for him.

And it takes a bit of Emunah now to believe that once the list comes out, it is all according to the Rebbe's wishes. Before Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe would give the final say, and look over all lists.
So where now I might be upset (at first) at hearing that someone I either don't get along with, or who I think might not do well on Shlichus is coming with me, but when you know the Rebbe looked at the list and gave you Brachos, and made a motion with his hands that said, "Go, Conquer!!" you have no doubt whatsoever.

The Rebbe should give me all the Brachos and Koichos I clearly need, in order to be the Rebbe's Shliach, and succeed.

A joke

Usually "I apologize" is the same thing as "I'm sorry".

Except when it comes to a funeral.

Clowning Around

For the parade on Friday, I was a clown. And naively thinking that Murphy's Law didn't apply to clowns, imagine our nightmare when.... well let me back up.

Everyone knows that there is a fine line which separates being a clown, and acting like a complete idiot. That fine line is the costume. And here's where our story continues- we didn't get costumes!!

And we had come so prepared, too!!

Because nothing gets you in the mood of a clown better than some distilled wheat grain (or whatever it is they use to make mashke).

So of course, the parade and rally continued on without us, leaving us miserable (if we had make-up, imagine our huge painted frowns we'd have).

But then we had an epiphany. We did have costumes, we just had to know where to look. We ended up wrapping caution tape and cardboard boxes around us, and we ran like idiots to the rally along the parade route.

When we got there, we succinctly told that these costumes were unwanted, but- The costumes were on their way!!!

So it worked out in the end.


More about that day:

When we arrived, we waited outside a school building, where all the little kids were screaming things at us, like "Bittul Torah" and "Is the Rebbe alive? Why isn't he here?" and stuff like that. We would've yelled back, but of course words can never hurt us. It was really funny when some of them started to sing Yechi. Because they vocalize differently, and it sounded like: Yuchi Adoniney, Moriney VeRabiney.

And at the rally, lots of kids would ask us if the lollipops were kosher (and please tell me why everyone has to call them Lollies??? It drives me nuts. Just say lollipop!!), and up to their standards. I wanted to say: look, kids. It's the most disgusting looking lollipop ever. Of course it's something you can eat. Only the highest kashrus for this nasty thing. Most just threw them on the ground, but it could have been just from the look of them, not the lack of a decent hechsure.

A lot of times, kids would ask me something in Yiddish, and so I just used my being a clown as an excuse not to answer (because for some reason, it just seems right that clowns don't speak, ya' know?)

There was a group of "cool" 12 year olds at the rally, so me and another clown got into a dance-off with them, and of course we whooped 'em (is that how you spell whooped?).

Oh, yeah. There were a total of close to 5,000 kids there!!!!!

And at the end, we had to clean up. This guy comes over to me and asks, "Are you a climber?" I've never really gotten that question before. And if someone had to describe me, I'm sure that wouldn't be close to the top of the list. But I shrugged and said "sure".

He gave me an exacto knife, and told me to cut down the huge signs of the 12 psukim and Lag B'Omer banner, that were tied to the fence.

The fence was about 16 feet high.

I had to climb up, hold on, mostly with my hands, and the knife in between my teeth, and swing myself to get to other parts of the fence. Once, I was dangling at the highest point, with no support for my feet, and the top bar of the fence wasn't connected to the middle post, so it could have plunged downwards.... But baruch hashem I can now answer proudly that yes, I'm a climber.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Toothpaste

So I wanted a cheap way of whitening my teeth. I've used the white strips before, but I was sure that here on Kingston they'd be like thirty bucks.
That's when I finally read the small print on my tube of toothpaste.
It says: For Best Results, Squeeze Tube From Bottom and Flatten As You Go Up.

There it was!! The answer!! All I needed to do was squeeze from the bottom, and I'd get better results, which means whiter teeth!!!!
And I've never noticed whiter teeth, because I have never, ever, ever, squeezed from the bottom for the whole time!
Once I did try, I really did. It lasted about two days until I started just squeezing from the middle or even (gasp) the top!! It's just so much easier.
But now that I am determined, I will try to do the whole tube, from the bottom.
Have any of you found out if it helps your teeth or not?
Let me know, so I don't have to wait a whole month...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Saving Lubavitch

I saved all Lubavitch Yeshivos worldwide from closing down.
Sort of.
Here's what went down:
There may or may not be a group of guys that are modern orthodox and/or snags (I usually wouldn't use such terminology, but you'll see soon that I'll use even worse...) that decide whether a Yeshiva Gedola should be funded by the Government as a college, or something like that. And our Hanholoh explained to us that without the money, all yeshivos would close down!! (Note to Rohr or Leviav: If you guys are reading this, even though it is an amazing thing to give money for more and more chabad houses, don't forget the importance of education!!! Our yeshivos are constantly in lack of adequate funding!!!)
So for the whole Tomchei Tmimim system, they decided to visit Chovevei Torah (which, if you haven't guessed by now, is where I'm at).
Word on the street is that they went to Satmaar recently, supposedly intent on closing down their yeshivos, but weren't able to. And no matter how much they are against Satmaar, they absolutely despise Lubavitch, ('cause Anyone Who Is Anyone hates Lubavitch). These guys really wanted to close us down. (You didn't hear it from me, but someone even called one of them a Rasha MeRusha)
At least, that's what we were told. That this time it was really big, unlike other inspections they do. There sometimes are even Lubavitchers part of this group, but this time it was only one out of about 12(?).
So of course, we needed to tuck our shirts in and come to seder, in order to look like a normal yeshiva.
And this group walked around our yeshiva during a shiur, and then wanted to speak with some students.
They first were speaking with a bochur who didn't go on shlichus, but stayed to learn when he wants in zal. The actual student they got, in order to speak with, was none other than... me.
I didn't know this beforehand. Rabbi Weinfeld just called me out of shiur, sent me downstairs, and told me that I would be asked questions like: Where is the bathroom, where is your dormitory? to make sure I was really part of Yeshiva (they also thought about the idea of boosting our numbers a tad, but they didn't realize they wouldn't be given a bochur who doesn't go there...). It ended up being slightly more grueling, but how could he have known?
I'm not gonna say the guy's name, because if he ever googles himself (and with the way he walked and talked, I'm sure it's a few times daily), I don't want him seeing what I think about him.
Basically, I understood why a hanhala member calls him a Rasha. And it's why I called him a snag. You could tell he was extremely against Lubavitch. And maybe against all frum yeshivos. He himself is frum, and a professor of something.
He asked me basic enough questions, like about my seder for the whole day (I made sure to tell him I wake up at twenty to seven, to go to mikveh) and who my chavrusahs are, what shiurim I'm in, etc. He would ask about when I learn Rambam (and then say how it's impossible for anyone to finish a year and understand it). When I told him davvening could take an hour for shacharis, he was exasperated, and remarked that no wonder so many lubavitch bochurim go off the derech and into the streets. We spoke about my plans for shlichus, at which he went off on a tangent to express his concerns about shluchim in communities that barely learned anything in yeshivos... He asked me what, if any, papers my parents or I signed in order to come to yeshiva, and if I was registered still with L.A. He kept trying to trip me up, like asking if I signed papers here saying it was my third year in Chovevei, since it was my third year of Zal, but first year here....
But I was respectful, and showed a sense of humor when we spoke about my time in Los Angeles (he told me he's friends with the Rosh, and I should send my regards), and the difference in shiurim between the Rosh and R' Yisroel here.

Later that night, Rabbi Weinfeld told me the rest of the story.
After speaking to me and leaving yeshiva, he went to ULY's main office, near 770, to speak with Rabbi Glukowski, the head of the tomchei tmimim system. The first thing he asked was to see my grades. He had asked Weinfeld earlier, after speaking with me, and Rabbi Weinfeld had already memorized everyone's grades two weeks earlier in preparation for the inspection. This snag kept asking to see the documentation of everything that was told to him, to see if there were any holes in anyone's story. But Weinfeld was right, he found out, and he saw that my grades were indeed good. He asked what my father does for a living (to see if Weinfeld lied about that), also.
Rabbi Weinfeld was beaming when he told me all this. He said that this guy was extremely impressed with me, and they way I came off.
You can guess the rest- Yeshiva got the nod, and the funding, and all Yeshivas are safe for the time being..... all in a day's work.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pesach Sheini

Today is Pesach Sheini.
If you want to know more about the spiritual significance, go to chabad.org, I guess.
There is a famous saying about what Chabad Chassidus accomplished, brought attention to, or was m'chadesh- three things:
Nefesh Sheini, Pesach Sheini, and Cheder Sheini.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Whatever The Rebbe Wants

There are signs downstairs in my yeshiva for the mesivta about a new shiur during their breakfast break, about Moshiach. At the bottom of every sign, it says:
GIVE THE REBBE NACHOS.
That cracks me up, because of course they meant to write Nachas.
But who doesn't like nachos every now and then??

Brain Cells

Even though I was planning to write something else in one of my last posts, it totally slipped my mine when I was actually typing. I wanted to clarify that when I gave blood, the reason they put a blanket over someone was because he got hypothermia from giving blood. I don't think I mentioned that in the post.
I think I forgot to write that because I must have lost too many brain cells over the years by puffing out my cheeks and holding my breath....
Oh, and nobody seemed to notice my joke in the post about Lag B'omer, that I called Boro Park a borough. It's not. And the real borough is even spelled differently, duh!! I guess my audience isn't as smart as I had assumed...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lag B'Omer

This lag b'omer, since there's no parade here in the heights (only when it's Sunday), the yeshivos are all helping out with the Chabad-run parade in Boro Park.
Which just happens to be the biggest in the world (although someplace in Israel they claim that title, really it's our fellow borough who can brag).
There will be an estimated 8,000 kids (!!!!) who will be there. And these next days we'll be working after seder to make banners, v'chulu. And of course we'll each be a counselor for a bunk of 40 kids who have never seen each other before. There will be close to 200 bunks!!! And the kids aren't coming with their schools, but just dropped off, or whatever.
"Hectic" won't even come close.

And I have no idea why this font is messing up on me... sorry about the huge letters

Giving blood again

That's right, for the fifth time this year, my buddies and I put on a stoic and macho grimace, and walked into the donation center.
What was really cool this time was that they gave out free bags, too, along with the free dinner (but this time it was only for Mermelsteins. I know.). I'll for sure use this duffel bag, mainly because it says Maimonidies... Blood Donation Center, or something like that. If the hospital had a name like: The St. John's Baptist Episcopalian Hospital for Good Christians, like I've seen some that do, than I wouldn't have been too keen to walk around with a bag like that.
What scared the Bajeebees out of me was this person who was on the recliner, giving blood, and I saw doctors lifting a white blanket up over him. I couldn't see that they stopped it at his neck. I really thought they put it completely over his head, and you know what that means, chas v'shalom!!! I was like, "yeah, maybe not anymore...."
When I went to sit down on a recliner, I saw the one my doc wanted me in had the arm thingee for my right arm. I told him that I'd rather do my left, because it's easier. He says he'll just first try my right arm. I said that they did that once, and didn't find any blood. He just shrugged. Like it was so much easier for him to just stab me with a huge needle a bunch of times in case there might be a good vein, as opposed to getting me a different chair. Somehow I disagreed, and thought I'd help look for a different chair for him.
He saw I was agitated, and asked me what day it was.
Tuesday, I told him.
"Exactly," he answered me.
OOOOhhhhhh!! Of course. It was Tuesday. How could I be so stupid??!!!
But it seemed to him that that really did answer my questions and qualms. I didn't get it at all, until he told me that it was a different day, so maybe they'd have different luck.
And it turned out to be just fine, bh.
When I was getting up to go, my doctor told me, "Thank you for coming."
And of course, being the well-mannered gentleman I am, I replied with a smile, "Thanks for having me."

Monday, May 12, 2008

A P'tor from Mother's Day

That's right. A p'tor. An exemption. Every year I apply for one from Hallmark, but I'm never accepted. They must have too many applications.
Usually I use my "I'm in Yeshiva so I don't have time to buy a present" excuse. And usually it's true.
So instead every year I just give a phone call, and tell my sisters to add my name to whatever they bought.
So I'll be ready for next year. I think I'll try applying even earlier, by around Yud Shvat time, to Hallmark.
It was very cute, I should mention, how everyone on Kingston was carrying flowers, even old dudes with flowing white beards. And old here means about 40. Sorry everybody that age, but you're kinda old, in my opinion. Although, maybe I shouldn't be talking, with my birthday coming up...

Okay, okay. I obviously was joking about if you are 40, then you are incredibly old. 45, maybe. 40, no.

Speaking of rain...

It was rainy out on Friday night, also. I brought my overcoat home, so all I really had to wear to shul was.... my poncho.
Right now I can envision everyone cringing.
I know, I know.
But I had no choice. Most people I asked in my dorm said it didn't look too pathetic. They did tell me to take it off as soon as I got indoors, though.
I mean, come on, though, what comes first, comfort or looks?
Obviously looks.
Which is why it took me a long time to finally decide just to wear it.
My decision was totally justified, though, in my opinion, when I saw that none other than Charlie Buttons himself was also wearing a poncho.
Of course, we were the only two.... but still. It must still be in style, right? Or did they truly die in the 1990's?
On the bright side, all my friends were able to pick me out from a crowd...

When it rains on my parade

I know I already said how I don't like walking around with an umbrella when other people are different heights, but on Friday on mivtzoim, it really was the last straw. It was pouring out, so of course we all had umbrellas.
What really made me just lose it was the scaffolding above sidewalks, where the sidewalk becomes like a one-and-a-half way walkway. It would be hard enough without umbrellas, but it was nearly impossible with.
The trick is too jump on your tiptoes and hold your umbrella as high as you can, or suddenly squat to your knees and bring your umbrella to other people's waist level, so the umbrellas don't get caught in one another.
Somebody watching from the other side of the street must have thought it looked like a weird dance of some sort.
I am thinking now about putting spikes at the end of my umbrella, and carrying it at normal height. Let everyone duck and swerve and spin if they don't want their faces cut or their umbrellas mauled.
I think in the end, I have decided this: I'll just get wet. It's not worth it to be dry.

When we're bored...

This past Thursday night, I did something that I regret now. I wasted two whole hours on it. First it was just me and another, but then more and more guys joined us. We finished at 1:30 in the morning!! I feel embarrassed just saying what we did, but I'll tell you anyways:
We played the question game.
That's right. For two whole hours.
There are a few different variations that you could play, but our game was the most basic: Everything you said had to be a question.
Rules? The rules are: There are no rules!!! (We were playing the question game as they do on the streets, yo)
So even the word "pizza" could be a question, as long as you ended off on a really high note. And it does make sense as a question like if you were told you'd be eating dinner, so you asked, "Pizza??".
For all of you out there, always know that the most dangerous question to ever ask anyone is: "Wanna play the question game?"
The guy you asked could say simply, "no". Or he could ask you back, "Why, do you want to?" and it goes from there.
The way it happened with us was slightly different. I asked my friend if he wanted to play chess, and then he asked me if I really wanted to. And then I uttered the words that I now regret, "Are we playing the question game??" And it started.
The game got sooooo annoying. It gave everyone a headache. But it eventually spread to our entire floor. Some continued to play it in Zal the next morning (But even I wasn't that loserish).
And nobody really gets out, either. Because let's say someone said something you thought was a statement, or he added the "What do you think, Yossi?" part after too long of a pause, so you'll ask him and everyone around you, "Didn't you just get out?" But nobody wants to say, "Yes he did" because then they'd be out. So you get a question back as your answer, "No, are you out?"
Those two hours were seriously a nightmare, and I fully regret ever asking, "are we playing the question game?"

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Aftermath

Last night's farbrengen was pretty good.
To recap just one or two points for you:
Tiferes ShebiTiferes means that your external beauty reflects your internal beauty. That means a lot to me, but I'll talk about it some other time. Maybe.
Another thing that was driven home last night was that it doesn't matter why you are farbrenging or what day it is for, the point of every farbrengen is: That tomorrow you should be a better Jew.
That's it.
That's all I wanted to share, really. So- so long and good shabbos.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Beis Iyar

Today is the Rebbe Maharash's birthday. He was born in either 1834, or 1833 (I'm a little confused. In Hayom Yom it says Tzadik Gimmel, but in Y'mei Chabad it says Tzadik Daled...).
In the Sfiras Haomer, today is Tiferes Shb'tiferes. Which means the ultimate beauty.
His motto was always: "Lechatchilah Ariber", that when encountering an obstacle, the best way around or through it, is in fact to just jump over it.
We'll be farbrenging tonight, of course, in honor of the day. If I hear anything good, you'll be the first to know. Maybe. If I get here tomorrow. You might need to just wait until after Shabbos.

Monday, May 5, 2008

100

Yep. This is the 100th post.
And it nicely fits in with my four month anniversary of this blog.
Which makes it doubly momentous!!
So therefore this will be my Plutonium Anniversary.
I'm sure all of you are thinking the same thing: I never thought Yossi would really have that much to say to continue blogging for four months.
Well, in your face, so there, boo-yah, etc. Oh, and the snapping left of my face, then right, then down while smirking, and then after go "Chhhh!!" (try it out, you'll see what I'm trying to describe).
But four months is an incredibly long time!!
I mean, to put it into perspective, in just two more months, it will be a whole half of a year!!
And I'm not planning on slowing down. Except this summer, when I'll be busy. Oh, and maybe next year, too. But until then, you can continue to follow my struggles against adversity, or whatever I wrote in the poll that most of you would describe this blog as. And don't worry, I'll try to keep it as least amusing as possible.
Most people hate when humor gets in the way of fine writing, correct?