Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back to Klipa'fornia

So, my little away time from yeshiva is finished. I fly back in a few hours.
I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't finish typing out for you the last days of my trip to Israel. If I'm at a computer with Internet, and I just happen to have my notebook with me, and I have nothing important to do, then I'll finish it up, bli neder.

I'm going back to yeshiva with a new, invigorating chayos in my Shlichus.
With Hashem's help, and the Rebbe's Koichos, we'll be Poy'el (that word looks funny, but say it fast and you'll know what I mean) a tremendous amount on the bochurim.

I hope to farbreng more with the other shluchim, and become a closer-knit group.
I hope to learn a lot more, and for more time, then what I had been doing before Tishrei. Not that it wasn't good, just it could always be better. I'm actually going to try a little Sicha Marathon. I had thought at one point that I could finish the whole Likkutei Sichos this year. I mean, for every parsha, that would mean around 20 sichos a week.
Yes, I actually thought I could, for a little bit. My mashpia just laughed.
So instead he suggested I take on 5 a week, to complete the whole K'rach from Tes-Vov until Chof. I tried bargaining up to 10. He insisted I stick with 5. There were weeks last year that I learned close to 10 a week, but then again, I was a lot less busy than I am now on Shlichus (outside of seder, I mean). So we'll see if I can pull it off, and win the $50 bucks from my mashpia... no, just kidding. we didn't bet any money, but oh, it's on!!!

Who am I?

I have thought about this question quite often. Usually, I consider this question as it would be posed to a friend of mine. How would he describe me? What kind of person does he think I am? What does he see when he looks at me?
I wonder how my different friends would answer that question. I feel confident, however, that any answer they gave would be incorrect. I do not think they could describe in two words. Or five. Or even ten. I also wonder what one word they would describe me with, if they could.
A friend might say I'm smart- no, I'm not. I make stupid mistakes, just like anybody else.
A friend might say I'm funny- not always. I know when I'm annoying someone.
Any description you could give, I'll wiggle my way around it, and prove that somehow you cannot figure me out. You cannot describe me, even in one hundred words. You cannot put me into this category or that one.
Even if someone does seem to describe me perfectly (I have as yet to hear it), then I know that I would go at great lengths just to prove him wrong.
If someone doesn't think I'm kind, I'll show him I can be. If someone thinks I am messy, I'll show him I can be clean and organized.

Why do I feel this way? Is it arrogance mixed with ignorance and naivety, to think that I'm so...undefinable? Why do I feel that there is so much more....me, that my friends do not see, and do not know about me, that I can disprove any assumptions they may have about me as a person?
I am not so sure.

But if I don't think my peers can correctly assess me, describe me, and categorize me, then how would I go about describing myself, if I know me so well, better than anyone else? Why should I be disappointed in them if I also fail at the very thing I'm asking for? So can I describe myself, and if so, how?

I think to answer that, I may need to delve deeper into what it is we can use do define ourselves.
In a certain movie, one character told the other, "It's not who you are on the inside, but what you do, that defines us." Or something like that.
Is this true?
Chassidus says it is; but only halfway. Only for when we do good. Not for when we do bad. For this, Chassidus gives us a valuable crutch.

The Alter Rebbe in Tanya brought forth a revolutionary concept about the way we look at our actions and conduct. He explained that the bad which one does, chas v'shalom, does not define him as a bad person. It is only a result of one's Nefesh HaBahamis, who is certainly not the real us. Before Chassidus, every sinner was a bad person, and cut himself from G-d with every sin he did. Chassidus teaches that no matter how far away we get from Hashem, we always have our Nefesh HaElokis, and therefore are always connected to the Essence of G-d Himself. Everyone, then, is a good person, it's just sometimes a person's Nefesh HaBahamis conceals this fact.
Therefore, our actions do not define us, at least when we do bad, chas v'shalom.
Our actions do define us when we do good, though. Any good thought or action we do is the real us.
Perhaps, the only definition and differentiation we can ascribe to people is according to how much good they do. How much of who they are do they reveal?

Which brings me back to almost where I started at the beginning of this post. The best way to describe me would be by how much of me comes out in what I do. So of course it is difficult to define me, because how is anyone supposed to know how big of a Yetzer Tov I have? Or how good of a person I can be if not for my evil inclination?

Of course, even if this could be done, it only helps me to understand how to describe and put your finger on someone based on his actions of good or bad. What about being smart, funny, popular, organized, courageous, patient, or any other part of a person's character, that can't be labeled 'good' or 'bad'? 'Mitzvah' or 'Aveirah'? How do you determine if this is all the smarts he has, or whether he is a genius, but you don't see it? Can you say that since you don't see it, he doesn't deserve to be defined as such?

I don't know. And I don't really have an answer.

After everything I wrote, I think I can at least say that everyone deep down wishes others could look at them and see more, and everyone knows that it is all there inside of them, and looks for the time that they will be able to show the world who they really are...whatever that may be.

So if I hope others to look at me, and not judge me based on my faults, but to realize that there may be more they are not seeing, then for sure that is how I must look at others. I will admit, I often judge people when I shouldn't, and in ways that I shouldn't, and then I'll see how wrong I am later. I must not be too hasty in throwing around labels and adjectives about people, if I want to be treated in the same way.


I guess I'm ending with the theory that nobody is describable. Nobody is definable. We are all mysteries- to those around us, and sometimes also to ourselves.

Insanity

As I was casually perusing the freezer today, looking for a nutritious, yet satisfying meal for my lunch, the burritos automatically caught my eye.
Alright, I thought to myself, I'll have one.
As I was sifting through the different varieties our wonderful freezer offered, I quickly found the 'Cheese and Pizza' burrito. I smiled to myself, but at the same time swallowed back a tear. There are starving children in Africa, and here I am, about to enjoy such a delicacy. Many don't even have bread or water! I pushed these sad thoughts from my mind, and was about to close the freezer door, when something caught my attention.
It was a burrito. Not just any, though, oh, no. The flavor it proudly boasted was 'Red Hot Volcano' bean burrito.
I must have stood there, stunned, with my head in the freezer for quite some time, because when I finally came to my senses and shook my head clear of the confusing thoughts that were dancing around in my head, little flecks of ice were propelled off the ends of my hair.
RED HOT VOLCANO FLAVORED BEAN BURRITO???!!!!!
Who's stupid idea was that?

It's pure, 100% insanity.
I don't know why anyone would buy it or eat it. (Of course, it was in my freezer, but maybe we bought it just to help spread the wealth around, not that we actually intended to eat any of them)

Monday, October 20, 2008

I AM VICTORIOUS!! WORLD HEAR ME ROAAAAAAR!!!

That's right.
I made ravioli for lunch.
Not what you were expecting me to say?
Well, it was a small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind.
It was the first time I boiled water successfully, thank you very much.
Oh, and I don't mean 'first time successfully' meaning that there were other times I tried to boil water, but to no avail. This was my first attempt. And obviously I had the superior intellect and skills necessary to accomplish this daring and fantastic feat on my first try.

Have a good Yom Tov.
May we dance hakafos with the Rebbe, and in the Beis HaMikdash!!

Scoundrels and No-goodnicks...

What kind of people would go onto private property and destroy a sign showing a difference in opinion to them?
In this great country of ours, can't we let others have a different opinion, and respect them and their property for it?
Apparently, no.
Obama supporters finally could stand our McCain/Palin sign no longer. After six days of enduring raw, heart-wrenching pain and offense from driving by and seeing a sign standing in our yard, they could bear it no longer.
We found our poor sign folded up and thrown down the hill when we came back after a chol hamoed trip yesterday.
Of course, we put it back, and (don't tell them) we anticipated the attacks, and have an extra sign in our garage, just in case.

What has gotten into liberals these days?
Liberals are all about accepting others, like radical Islamists, or (not that I'm putting them in the same category) gay rights. But it seems that they cannot accept another's opinion, if it differs with their own. The hippies movement in the 60's was about free speech and especially students' rights to protest the war.
But now they don't care about free speech, if it's not their own.
It's too much to ask for respect for my own opinion. They must go out and destroy any signs they disagree with.

Now, in Crown Heights, people do a lot of sign-tearing, because a sign does or doesn't have Yechi on it, for example. Whether that's right or wrong, I don't know, but the signs in protest are on public property, like telephone wire poles.

But don't expect me not to pull out a gun if you step onto my property with ill-intentions of taking away my first amendment.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ensuring the future of democracy...

That's right. I just voted. Or rather, my family did. And even Sarah Palin came to make sure we voted her way.
I won't say how I voted, though.
In California, we get to vote on a whole slew of issues and propositions.
Like abortion and gay marriage, to name the biggies on the ballot.
I'm against both, by the way.
Everyone make sure to vote, McCain needs our support!
I mean, that is, if I did vote republican...
But seriously, don't me misguided by all the polls. A certain outspoken rightist political commentator says that most people lie to pollsters, just to seem cool, and vote Obama like everyone else, and also so as not to appear racist....
I've got a lot to say about politics, but there are quite enough news sites and blogs to bore you, you don't need my help.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Random Tidbits of Useless Knowledge of My Life, Currently

  • I got a flu shot (I'm fine. You don't need to panic. It didn't even hurt. That much. Gosh. Does someone have a tissue? No...no. I'll be fine. Just give me a sec, okay? I've just got something in my eye...)
  • I went to a birthday farby at a friend's house. (Ha! Got you there, you liar. You have no friends where you live!!! And you'd be right. Nobody my age in this great city of mine who I could have a farbrengen with. But I could drive twenty minutes away to the craziest liberal city ever, didn't think of that, did you?)
  • I've been contemplating messing with my family's digital picture frame which usually they turn on for shabbos, yom tov, etc. Now, it's filled with a bunch of pictures of a whole bunch of random occasions and trips. I was thinking I would take really funny pics of myself, making faces, etc., and put them on instead. Imagine reading a book, and looking up to see me making a huge monkey face at you!! My sib's are down with it, too. We just need to get going before Shabbos, and not raise my parent's suspicions...
  • I went to the eye doctor for a regular exam. Of course, it wasn't good enough just to give me a higher prescription, she's got to check my eyes out for horrible diseases (Baruch Hashem, Kenaina Hara, I'm good, (pu pu pu (It would be indecent for me to write that as poo poo poo.))) (Hey, look, I just did the triple parentheses!!! I'm unstoppable!!), at which my eyes after being doused in chemicals, got blurry and I couldn't read or see a darn thing without getting a headache. I asked her if it was safe for me to drive home. "Sure", she said.
Wrong. It was quite an experience to get back home.

Comment to previous post

I once read something this guy wrote. It went as follows:
When I was 18, I couldn't believe how stupid my father was.
When I was 23, I couldn't believe how much smarter he became in five short years.

If you don't get it, then sheesh!!

I love my parents

I do. I really do. Just some things they do....
Something that I'm talking about is how they'll just throw out personal information to the most random people.
The cashier starts hearing about my flu shot later, and the pharmacist learns how three of us have dentist appointments later, since we're all only home for such-and-such amount of time, and we have to fit in all of our appointments...
These people don't care that I go to school in Los Angeles, and that I've been there before. They just want to know how we'll be paying for the dry cleaning; cash or credit.
Oh well. I find it pretty funny. And I guess it shows how my parents are proud of us, and want to tell even the banker and the gas station attendant when my next haircut is.
Does this happen to anyone else?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sukkos Poem

On this Holiday of Huts,
We serve lots of cold cuts,
Eating outside of the sukka is absurd-

Hold the esrog very soft,
Lest the Pitam fall off,
and I'll have my Lulav shaken, please, not stirred!

Poor cute little furry woods creatures.

Poor cute little furry woods creatures!
On our way back from shul, we saw a squirrel that was run over by a car, in the middle of the street. It was so sad.
What I noticed right away, however, was that there was a big nut behind him (I want to assume it was a 'he', and not a 'she', because then maybe it was a 'mommy', and that's saaaad.) and he was curled around a nut he was holding to his tummy ('stomach' is not as befitting a P.C.L.F.W.C. as 'tummy' is).
Which teaches you one thing, ladies and gents:
Don't go after your Taivos.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Trip To Israel, Part 6

MONDAY, DAY 6

We met 5 Israeli soldiers who would join us for the rest of our trip.
Then we went to Nachal David, near Ein Gedi, and hiked up to some waterfalls. It was deathly hot outside. I must have drunk 10 liters of water!
Then we went to the Yam HaMelach (a guys-only part) where you can float! I did, too. The salty water started burning my body all over when I stayed in for a long time. What kills, though, is to get the water in your eyes, let me tell ya'.
After not properly washing off the nasty water (feeling, not looking. the Sea was gorgeous.) and sweat from earlier, we went to the famous fortress- Matzada. We took the cable car up to the top, walked around a bit, got a tour, then walked down, since the area was closing. It is an incredible story about what happened there.
On to the Bedouins!!
In case you missed a nice sandy hard desert floor from home, here was your chance! Our tent was the "jordanian tent", far far away from the other tents, where other Birthright groups were also experiencing the Bedouins. (we were far from them for tznius reasons.) The ceiling of the tents are made from goat hair, and could cost $80,000!! We ate on cushions on the ground. We had special kosher food. It was basically shwarma on the ground. They spoke to us about their origins, customs, etc. A friend of mine pointed out that we could also make a ton of money, by inviting goyim to our houses and showing them how we make kiddush, blow shofar, do lulav, etc.
Late in the night they had a big drum circle, but we didn't really participate since guys and girls from the other (fry) groups were dancing together in the middle. But later, we kind of had a special time for us guys to drum. I didn't really sleep that night. Let's just say that the Bed-o-uins aren't exactly a Bed-o-roses! We had a small bonfire, next to our tent, and we sang some songs. Inside the tent, it was boiling hot, but outside it was the cold desert air, and freezing. The mattresses we had were two inches thick.
Most of the other groups seemed to enjoy the experience. It's a shame that they only bring them to goyish bedouins, and not to some Jewish hippie type place with drums, and the exact same thing, just a Jewish feeling and experience, but with the same camp-out/drum circle/shwarma from the ground.

My Trip To Israel, Part 5

SUNDAY, DAY 5

Sunday morning, we left the North to go visit and explore the many other lands Israel has to offer. We went 1st to the holy city of Tzfas, high in the mountains. Tzfas is an ancient city, with shuls and houses from many famous Kabalists and rabbis. We visited one shul (which legend has it that it was sent in a hurricane from Italy) where there is a Sefer Torah that when taken out not in its proper to time to read, the person dies within that year!!
Even the air is special. Our tour guide said that we should take a big whiff of the holy air when we got off the bus. I was in the back of the bus, so when I got off and walked behind the bus, I took a big long whiff. But it was right in the bus's exhaust!!!
Not cool.
Oh, and there are a ton of steps! We visited the art galleries and candle factory. I walked to the 'Tzfati headquarters'. We had lunch in a restaurant where the tables were sliding downhill! I went into the huge Breslov Shul.
Then we went down towards the ancient cemetery. First, of course, I took a ritual dip in the Arizal's mikveh. It says that anyone who toivels there won't die without first doing Tshuva. It wasn't as terribly cold as people said it might be. But then again, it was midday and in the summer.
I walked around the cemetery, seeing many famous kvarim, like Chana and her 7 sons, the Beis Yosef, the Ari, and R' Pinchas ben Yair. His is a large circular plot, with a big tree in the middle, surrounded by a low wall. Again, you are supposed to walk around it seven times, and say Kapitel Aleph, at least according to a a local walker I found.

Next we went on the road towards... Yerushalaim!!
I was so excited, and everyone was singing as we neared the city. Any song we knew with the word Yerushalaim in it- we sang it! We drove alongside an Egged bus for a while (egged does not mean vandalized. It's pronounced egg-ed) and these kids saw us waving to them, so we started a funny- faces/faces -pressed -up -against -the -glass war with them. Because we were tourists, our whole time in Israel we kept going up to random people, and asking to take their picture, or just high-fiving their kids, or randomly putting their little boys on our shoulders.
As we got closer to Yerushalaim, my heart was beating faster and faster. I was so giddy with excitement, it was hard to contain. I don't remember the last time I really felt that way.
Yerushalaim has a big new bridge that you cross under to enter the city. It looks like a giant splinter. Seriously.
We drove to the King Solomon Hotel. The rooms weren't the grandest, but the food was good. After dinner, we headed out, to walk towards the Old City, and of course- The Kosel.
We had circle time first (we do that a lot), and had an opening ceremony for Yerushalaim.
When we entered the old city, we started singing niggunim. Everyone we passed seemed surprised and amused. We were definitely making a scene. (But a good one.) But we didn't care. We had one goal in mind. We finally got to the last corner before we would be able to turn and see the Kosel. We singing Prazos Taishev Yerushalaim. I was so excited. I wish there was a better word than excited! I finally saw from the distance, the Kosel. But first we had to pass through security, which seemed like a splash of cold water for our enthusiasm. we continued singing, while standing impatiently in line for the metal detector. After we all finally got through (this one kid carries around like four pocket knives), Shloime G. started singing Yehi Ratzon, and we sang Sheyibaneh Beis HaMikdash as loudly as possible and with tons of Chayos, as we danced and marched our way down to the Kosel. We were only 40 guys, and there were hundreds of people there, but everyone turned to stop, stare, and clap with us as we made our way down.
I kissed the wall and pressed my palms and body up against it. It's hard to hug a wall. I put my note in a crack, and stared up at the holiest place we have. I couldn't help but think that it was smaller than I had assumed.
We had a guided tour under the Muslim houses, in the famous archaeological tunnels. Pretty amazing stuff.

My Trip To Israel, Part 4

SHABBOS, DAY 4
I'm writing this Tuesday evening, so I hope I can remember most of the details.
For shabbos we stayed at Chispin. The shul's lights were basically off, so there was minimal light to daven by. The dancing and singing at L'Cha Doidi was very moving.
Friday night I went to sleep around 11:00 or 12:00, so I got a good sleep that night, finally.
Shabbos day, during the meal, we had a guest speaker. He works for N'siv (orNtziv) which is an organization that tries to teach Yiddishkeit to (mainly Russian) goyim in the army, and try to convince them to convert. I know! We all had our suspicions about this group, but the frum guy who spoke to us explained the reasoning of the Rabbanim in Israel.
  1. The idea that we don't try to get people to convert isn't so Pashut. It itself is a machlokes.
  2. These people, many are from Jewish grandparents, etc, and are in fact Jewish
  3. It is dangerous for the Israeli public, since everyone assumes they are Jewish, but really they aren't. This is a big problem for marriage.
Do I agree then? I'm not sure.
Later in the day, a teacher and head of some sort of Yeshiva organization gave us a 'shiur' about...we're not really sure what. He is a big Zionist, and basically they have a problem since they kind of ran out of goals now. They can't promote more settling the land of Israel, because of the border problems, etc., and giving away land. His speech was about how the hard times now are part of the Geulah (and how Medinat Yisroel is the start of Moshiach...) That's basically the most I understood, or cared to pay attention to.
(My friends developed the tried and true method to listening to Birthright speakers:
  1. Nod.
  2. Smile.
  3. And clap.)
Motzei Shabbos, we drove to Tiveria, on the beautiful Kineret. We visited the Rambam's kever, where nearby are the Sh'la and the Rambam's father, and some Tanaim and Amaroim.
The boardwalk in Tiveria is a cool, hip, place, and we took a cruise on a boat that was basically a floating dancefloor. There were huge speakers, and our DJ was Eric Shlita, or something like that. We moved and grooved to some pumping Jewish music. There were a bunch of bongo drums, which this stoner from the crew led us in a drum circle.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Home!!

I made it! Back home for the yom tovim. I have completed 40 days of my shlichus so far in los Angeles. No, I'm not counting. That would be immature. It's just really easy to figure out, since I started the first day of elul, and through Yom Kippur= 40. That's all.
I've got a lot to do now that I'm home. And now that I have internet. But I'll try to be faithful to ya'll and post when I get the chance, or get in the mood.
So keep a watch on my blog, 'cause I'll definitely be posting more often than I did the last month and a half... and of course, if you know anyone who would enjoy reading my stuff, 7 readers would totally be a landmark and goal I could really be proud of. (I already got the sixth, a fellow shliach of mine. Everybody say hi)
Good Shabbos.
Good Yom Tov.

Oh. Today is called "G-d's day". We were supposed to get up early and learn Torah. I got up early and flew.