Friday, June 26, 2009

Sw*** Flu

I flew a red-eye last night/this morning to JFK.
First of all, I had an exit row, so more legroom. But it didn't recline.
Then, the person in the middle seat was gigantic! He needed a seat belt extension, even. So I was squished into my little window seat.
I cannot fall asleep on planes, unless I'm dead tired. I thought I'd at least try.
I asked the flight attendant for a blanket.
"Sorry," she said, smiling, "but because of the swine flu, we're not giving them out."
I was taken aback. The smile was confusing. "Are you joking?" I asked.
"No. We really don't have any blankets," she said, still smiling.
A woman a few seats above me sighed and said, "So probably that means no pillows, also."
"That's right," the flight attendant shrugged, still smiling.
"Wow. Swine flu. I'm surprised you kept the seats," I told her.

I'm going to add more prayers for our president Obama to be able to find the cure to swine flu.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

If you don't want to die

I heard on the radio an advertisement for a dental type place.
The guy was saying that if you don't check your teeth and dental hygene, problems could arise that may be serious and require professional attention.
Placque, he said, could build up on your teeth, and lead to clogged..something or others (it wasn't arteries), which could result in cardiac arrest.
"So if you don't want to drop dead, you better come see us!" the man stressed.
What a good advertising slogan for dentists!


The Rebbe asks many questions on the story of Korach and his band of followers. Here is a sampling:
  1. Why did Korach wait until after the spies come back to bring his complaint to Moshe? This was long after Moshe had appointed his own family members to serve as Kohanim, Kohen Gadol, and Elizaphan as tribal leader for Kehas?
  2. What really was Korach asking for? He didn't want Moshe and Aharon to have such high leadership roles, and said that every Jew is Kadosh. If so, why was he trying to become a Kohen (and not stay as a Levi)? This defeats his very argument that everyone should be equal?!?!?
  3. When Moshe answered that everyone should take a shovel, and bring an offering...that was only to prove that Moshe's appointments were from the Almighty, not to answer Korach's argument that everyone should be equal?

Moshe told everyone to wait until morning, and then Hashem will let it be known, who will be Kohanim, and who will be Leviim, etc. Rashi brings two reasons why Moshe wanted them to wait until morning. A)It would give them time for Tshuva, and B)he wanted to stress that just like Hashem created night and morning, and you cannot change it, so too, Hashem appointed who He wanted, and that's that.

4. The Rebbe asks on both of these reasons that Rashi brings: A)Tshuva can be done in one second. If it takes any longer, than there can be no amount of time given. Some will accomplish tshuva in one night, others may take longer! and B)If Moshe would wait until night, then he could still explain that Hashem set up Night and Day, and you cannot change it. Just like now it's night, and not morning....

The answer to all of these is based on figuring out exactly what Korach's argument was.

In a nutshell-

The spies had wanted to remain in the desert and learn Torah all day. They wanted to be involved in only ruchnius. Korach at this point before they came back, didn't have any reason to object to Moshe and Aharon being higher than everyone else. After all, they received the Torah before anyone else, and understood it on higher levels.

But after the spies came back, and caused the decree that they'd all be killed out in the desert, it was clear that HaMa'aseh Hu HaIkar-the action of Mitzvos is what is most important. Mitzvos, unlike Torah, are something in which everyone is equal in performing the action of the mitzvah. Moshe putting on Tefillin is exactly the same as any guy from the street.

It was at this point that Korach came forward. If for the Ikar of our connection to Hashem, the physical mitzvos, we are all equal, then why are you so much higher and exalted over us? It makes sense to have relative levels, like Leviim and Kohanim, since together with mitzvos, there is still the idea of torah, and how some people are higher and lower. Why, though, should Moshe be like a king over the Jewish people?

The connection between a student and Rav is only in that which the student receives and learns from his teacher. His private life has no connection. A king, however, makes a connection to the very essense of his citizen. Even the smallest detail of a person's life is under the rule of the king.

This is what Korach was asking: If for the main thing, we are all equal, and we don't need you, Moshe, then why can't we be under you for only the things we do need, like learning Torah? Our connection to you shouldn't be one of citizen and king.

Moshe's answer was as follows-

The spies got it wrong, and Korach got it wrong. You can't have only spiritual. Only Torah, or only the Kavanos Hamitzvos. You must have the actual, physical mitzvah, which is like a jewel. However, if the jewel is covered in mud, then it doesn't shine. Korach thought that as long as you have the mitzvah, the physical act, that is the important thing, and you've drawn down G-dliness. This is incorrect. If the jewel you have is covered over in dirt, then it is doing the very opposite of what it is meant to do. A jewel is supposed to shine. A mitzvah is supposed to light up the world around you, and help make you a better person.

How do you make a mitzvah shine? It's with having the right Kavanos during the mitzvah. It's through learning chassidus and working on Avodah Sheb'lev, which is davening. Since for Kavonos Hamitzvos, moshe and aharon are still higher, that's why we need them for this area, also.

This is what moshe was telling them when he said to wait until morning. The mitzvos you do need to be 'morning mitzvos''; they must be bright and shining.

In our lives, we get the chayos to perform shining mitzvos from the extension of moshe in our generation, which is the rebbeim.

Anyone connected to the Rebbe will have the Koach and ability to not only draw down G-dliness, but to make Him revealed down here. To make the mitzvos which we do shine and light up the world!

I guess it wasn't much of a nutshell. Sorry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yossi's Greatest Hits

Here are some old posts that I've found while I was looking back through my blog. You could say that this is a list of some of Yossi's greatest hits.
Click Here to read about how I saw a guy almost die.
Read this if you want a cool story of how much a heroic figure I am, donating blood, and all.
You can click on this guy if you want to read about another blood donation.
Here are some juicy stories about my dark past: this one and that one.
This is a poem I wrote. Others are in the label Shake It Like Shakespeare.
The post at this link is what I gave readers to do last summer, since I wouldn't be with them. It was a way for them to connect to their inner Yossi.

If anybody wants to add, feel free.
And if you noticed, I tried to use different words for links each time. I sometimes get annoyed with repetition.

How to end a phone call

I don't know if there are any official phone call etiquette rules.
When winding down a conversation (especially one you may not be enjoying), you start looking for ways to wrap it up. You summarize, and say something like, "okay, so yeah. I'll do....and.....and we'll be in touch, I gotta go."
But what happens when the connection is dropped before you get to say that?
The easiest thing would be to not call back. You wanted to hang up anyway.
But what if the person on the other line wanted to say more? Or what if he is offended that you care so little about the conversation, you are okay with just dumping it at where it is?
So if these thoughts bother you, you find yourself calling back, just to hang up again.
"Hey, sorry, I think the problem was my phone. Anyway, so yeah, we'll be in touch, and thanks for calling, k? I gotta go, bye."
It's such a waste of a call, but for some reason my conscience demands it.

And you thought it was for one year, and that's that???

Did you seriously think my shlichus would be for the 5769 school year, and that all?
When I come to New York, I'll now be looking after one of the bochurim from this past year who will be all alone in Crown Heights, and take him to davening, and learning, and mivtzoim (if I can find a route-my old one was only a temporary hand-me-down), etc. The usual 'make sure he is doing positive things, and keep him company over shabbos'.

Do I mind?
Not really. I'm not going to be able to eat meals with him, so it just means getting together on Friday, and again Shabbos morning.
This is still my shlichus.
Once a shliach, always.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Buy Pepsi!

I once got an email that made me gulp, shudder, and review my street-fighting skills.
I didn't actually open it up. I was too afraid.
The subject read: Buy a 12-pack of Pepsi or die....

Have any of you been threatened and intimidated by these Pepsi Guerrillas?


For their trip, we needed to figure out something for the boys to do Motzei Shabbos. Walnut Creek didn't have too many cheap, frum-boy-friendly activities.
Pure Hashgacha Protis is all it took.
The gabai of the community had seen a basketball hoop that was left at the curb, perhaps by disgruntled Magic fans.
Motzei Shabbos, we pulled up, and with a few boys lugged the heavy hoop into the van. The house was hosting a party, and we heard triumphant yells of, "Hey, look! They're taking the basketball hoop!!"
We yelled our thanks, and brought this bad boy down to the Chabad House. It was a huge ten or eleven foot basket, and the hoop was bent badly, but the ball could still fit in.
For an hour the boys played some heavy hoops, and none of us could believe the amazing Hashgacha Protis. Seriously. We had nothing for them to do, and were worrying the whole trip.
Baruch Hashem!!

Thank You, President Obama

Thank you, sir, for the stimulus package.
I know that I had strong doubts about it, and may have even vocalized my concern, but now you have me a believer.
On the graduation trip that I took up from Los Angeles this past weekend, we went to visit the majestic Yosemite National Park.
Instead of paying $20 per car, we were allowed entry for free.
I asked the toll-booth guy if it was because it was Father's Day.
He said, no.
"Well, what's so special about today, then?"
"It's just the stimulus package."

So on behalf of the 11th grade boys of LA, thank you Mr. President for allowing us to visit the park for free, because they really didn't have the funds to afford it.

How to wash for bread

When I was in yeshiva in Pittsburgh, bagels in the morning were a big thing.
I had a friend who normally was up to standard on his following halacha. Chassidish, not so much.
Anyway, I saw him pick up his bagel, and not wanting to walk to the sink in the back of the room, he licked each of his hands a few times, made a bracha, and ate his bagel!!

Gimmel Tammuz Mivtza

As the end of our year of shlichus was winding down, I knew we needed a mivtza to end with a good chayos in zal, besides for making sure bochurim appreciate the importance of Gimmel Tammuz.
I had a few problems, though:
  1. We didn't really have so much money
  2. We didn't have 10 shluchim willing to work and put in a lot of effort
  3. I didn't want to pull any all-nighters and do most of it myself.

So for this reason, we opted for The Va'ad's mivtza. The vaad is for all lubavitch yeshivos, and they make mivtzas and programs for around the year. Their biggest thing that all yeshivas participate in is for Yud Shvat in Beis Rivka. That's them. They make mivtzas for yud shvat and other Yomei D'Pagra, but most yeshivas (ours included) normally do our own.

For gimmel tammuz, though, and for the abovementioned reasons, we used the Va'ad's mivtza.

When it came, I thought immediately: A Mivtza in a Box.

And that's what it was. The signs were already made, the kovztim printed, tests made, v'chulu.

Of course, in proper Vaad fashion, we received it all a week after the mivtza was supposed to start.... but still it made my life much much easier. So Shkoach to the Vaad!

Home again

I'm home again, in case you didn't bother to read the title of this post.
I must get ready for camp, and yeshiva next year, in the next few days, before I fly to NY for gimmel tammuz/shabbos.

Isn't it ironic that my luggage cost me almost as much as my actual ticket to fly here?

Anyway, I'll try hitting up my blog a few times, but no promises. Actually, I have a few minutes now, so maybe I'll have a quick go...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gut Voch!

I am posting now from a very cute little city, Walnut Creek.
Two other shluchim and I brought the shiur gimmel class on a graduation trip to San Francisco, and we are staying in WC, which is a half hour drive away.
We went paintball shooting on Thursday (maybe later I'll give you a rundown on how I did), and yesterday went into SF for Alcatraz, and the GG Bridge, and Lombard Street.
Going down Lombard Street with a 15P was not as scary as driving up the monstrous hill to get to the top.
Anyway, tomorrow is Yosemite.
The kids have been pretty good until now, let's hope everything continues to work out. We've had a great time, and when we get back, there's only one day of yeshiva left, which means hefker day when everyone packs and farbrengs.

Just thought I'd say hey!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yasher Koach!

A groisen yasher koach to Coffee Bean at this wonderfully late hour, for keeping your wifi on, and keeping your parking lot empty.

It's been real, but now I gotta go.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

An airplane joke

Two Pollaks (you can change this to whatever you need. Blondes, for example) were sitting on a plane, crossing the Atlantic, when they heard the pilot say, "Woah!! We've just lost an engine, but don't worry folks. We will still make it there, but it's going to take another hour than usual, to make up for the lost engine."

Soon after, they heard a blast, and saw an engine fall again.
"Okay, so that was the second engine," the pilot explained, "so now we're gonna have to put all the burn on these last two engines. Now the trip will be two hours longer than before."

One Pollack turned to the other, and said, "I hope these last two engines don't blow up, or we'll be up here forever!!"

(Take it or leave it.)

Ani Ma'amin Video

This is a video of us singing Ani Ma'amin on Har Hertzel, the military cemetery. It was after an intense visit to Yad Vashem, and after hearing a soldier with us tell about how his brother was killed, and after hearing a man who lost his son, and had come to visit the kever. Most of the soldiers killed were about 20-22 years old. We were so broken emotionally, and this was really the climax of all that emotion. I didn't zoom in, but there were many moist eyes at this point, mine included.

Not a Rayah

On Chanuka this year (can you tell I'm trying to catch up with my life? I try to keep my promises, or hints of future posts.), my favorite mivtzoim was doing bikkur bayis close to yeshiva, at mainly russian apartment buildings.

I also enjoyed the company of my chavrusa, a nice boy from shiur beis mesivta. (He is twice my size, just to get the picture a little less fuzzy, if you are trying to recreate this in your mind.)
As we walked along, I told him that A Kratzmach Tree Is Not A Rayah for the person not being Jewish. Many times I encountered a Jewish Russian couple, that had kratzmach decorations, and glowing santas, only to find out they were Jewish. One old couple a few years ago when I was in LA, cried when I lit with them, saying that this was the first time in many years they had lit the menorah.

The problem with bikkur bayis at the apartments between Fairfax and yeshiva is that I'm not the only one who loves them and lighting with over twenty people. The secret is out. There are turf battles every night.

I had heard a pair of bochurim had already done a certain block that I was now entering.
I saw in the window of one apartment, a huge kratzmach tree, lit up and glowing, and apparently telling everyone, "Only goyim inside!"

I looked at my chavrusa, and said Not A Rayah!! He smiled, and we went upstairs to this apartment, certain that the other bochurim had skipped it.

We walked up the stairs, and walked along the inside of the complex.
We came right up to a window looking into a bedroom, where two girls were sitting.

They and us were both startled to see each other, in such close proximity.

I asked through the window if anybody was Jewish. One girl smiled, and said she was!!!
It turned out that her roommate had put up the tree, but she was Jewish, and had lit the menorah already a night or two before with her father. I gave her a menorah she could keep, and lit it with her.
I didn't want to let the candles drip wax on the glass table, so she took out a piece of tin foil. It was the end of the roll. How appropriate to finish it off with. (At another house, the same thing happened! The woman had no more tin foil, besides for one piece she had used for something else, and could re-use for the menorah. In both cases, the last piece was saved for the Chanuka Licht...)

So from then on, my chavrusa was convinced, and we went with the motto- Not A Ra'yah, and had a pretty great Chanuka.

The Palm Of Doom

When I was in middle school, we went exploring in the woods on the property. I don't remember why we did this. Maybe it was to measure how much land there was, and we were making blueprints for a dream school we would build on the property. Or maybe I'm mixing up my school days.

Anyway, as we explored, I came up with names for different tree formations and landmarks.

One big tree that the top had snapped off, I named The Palm Of Doom.

A tree that had many smaller shoots/trees growing up out of it, I called The Fingerly Fingers.

A Dvar Torah for Shlach

Hey, it's never too early!

In the parsha of Shlach, there is the story of the Mekoshesh Eitzim. It comes after the story of the spies, and a piece about the prohibition of Idol Worship.
After the Jews were punished with not being allowed entry into Eretz Yisroel, and were forced to remain in the midbar, they assumed that they were not chayiv in mitvos anymore.
The Wood Gatherer did exactly what his name implies. He purposely went out on Shabbos and gathered wood (a shabbos no-no), in order to be killed, to show the Yidden that they were still chayiv in mitzvois.

To understand the connection between these sections, the Rebbe first explains what the problem with Avoda Zara is.

The main problem is in a person's thoughts. He is not allowed to think and give importance to anything besides for Hashem, especially as a god, chas v'shalom. So why then, the Rebbe asks, do we find that all Jews will quickly give up their lives in Mesiras Nefesh, even to not bow down to an idol, when in their hearts, they are still fully devoted and faithful to Hashem? There should be no problem with the act of idol worship, if the main issur is the actual thought and consideration as that idol as a god, chas v'shalom!
We see that Ma'aseh, actions, are extremely important, and a Yid doesn't want to do even an action that shows idol worship.

This is what the wood gatherer wanted to show, also. Many commentaries ask-why did he specifically transgress shabbos? Any other Aveirah would have sufficed to be punished for, especially in his self-interest, an aveirah that he would not be killed for?

The wood gatherer did not want to do a Chet. He didn't want to separate himself from Hashem. And the truth is, he did nothing wrong!! He was not deserving of death. You only get killed for doing a melacha for its intended purpose. Here, the Mekoshesh Eitzim did not want to desecrate shabbos. On the contrary, he wantedd to guard it and protect it more! The din is that a Melacha SheAina Tzricha Legufa is potur!!

So why was he killed? The reason is that Hashem gave us clear instructions in the Torah on how to judge a case. We must judge based on what actions we see. We cannot guess into his mind. We have to rely on Hashem for taking care of somebody who did tshuva, or didn't have in mind to desecrate shabbos, but we don't know about it.

The Wood Gatherer wanted to show this exact point. Action is everything. It's what we judge according to. It's what is so important about mitzvos.

Now we'll understand what the Jews were even thinking when it says that they thought after being dumped in the desert for another forty years, they were potur from mitvos.

In the desert, life was grand. They could learn Torah all day. They had the Clouds of Glory. Entering Eretz Yisroel meant working the land, and all other mitzvos that meant much more Ma'aseh. Once that plan got ruined, they figured Ma'aseh was not their duty. Back to learning Torah, and connecting to Hashem only through intellect.

The wood gatherer (I know, I know, here I didn't capitalize him) proved to them all that for the mitzvos that they still had, Ma'aseh was still the key, and the most important aspect to the mitzvos.

(Sicha in Chelek Chof Ches)

Ants all over

In our shluchim office, we sometimes get an influx in ants, coming through the crack near the window, and marching in straight lines, all across our office.

Sometimes, I'll be typing, and feel something on my hand, or neck, or cheek. The ants our extremely friendly, it seems.
Of course, I freak out, and give a huge shudder, and from then on imagine things crawling on me, and in my hair, the rest of the time I'm there.

One thing I won't miss when I leave next week.

Facebook Frustrations

Okay, I'm here at last. Facebook. Or, Sefer HaPanim, as the kids here call it, to make sure nobody knows what they are talking about.

First of all, there needs to be a whole classification system instituted for my friends. Because not all of them are really my friends. There should be "Acquaintance" or "He's only my friend on Facebook, but I've never spoken more than three words to him while we were in Yeshiva together" options. Most of my real friends don't even have facebook.

Second, there should be an age limit. I'm sorry, but there's an older guy who I accepted as a friend, and now I regret it. I'm always being forced to read about every single thing he does, so I finally hid him from my page.

Third, and this is close to the second, if not an age limit than at least an interest limit. Facebook should only be for those of us who only casually care about it. I don't want my friends all biting me to turn me into vampires, or challenging me on the stupidest quizzes ever. If you want to find out which drug you are most like, fine, but don't intrude on my life, hoping to find out if I'm also a Weed Guy.

Fourth, Facebook is dangerously close to turning me into a real moron. I was perusing different groups that my friends were in, or that seemed interesting and relevant to me and my life. I'm embarrassed to reveal, that I actually considered joining the group- "I think my cell phone is vibrating in my pocket when it's really not". I mean, I do, so I belong then in this group, right?
See how close I came to being a real loser?

That's it, for now. I'll add more later, when I'm bored.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Goodbye Shluchim

Tonight we are having a Tzeischem L'shalom, since one shliach is already leaving tomorrow night.

This is supposed to be our big night. We are all waiting to hear what the different members of Hanhala will say about us.

What is my speech about?
It's really just a small little something about shlichus, and the great zchus bochurim have, v'chulu v'chulu. I hope it turns out well.

A few l'chaims for the shluchim in our room before we start should help things run smoothly, as well!


For my MyShliach learning sessions with young Mendel, we talk a lot about different things, besides for learning the actual sicha. Many times, we share jokes (as you should be aware of by now).
It was high time that I delivered some jokes, this past week, and I really didn't have any. Or rather, I didn't have any funny ones I could repeat to someone under....16?
So I cheated.
I went to the Rosh's office, near the copy machine, and sifted through the laffy taffy's, reading as many jokes as I could. I tried to commit about four or five to memory.
Later that day:

"Hey, so Mendel, I have a joke for you!"
"Alright, Yossi, let me hear it."
"Which is a faster runner, hot or cold?"
"Hot. Everyone can catch a cold. But Yossi, that's just a Laffy Taffy joke!!!"

I was busted. Big time.
I tried backpedaling.
"Oh, really? I didn't know...someone just told it to me..."

I'm not sure he bought it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Israel Video, Tzfas

Video from Israel

This was outside Ben Gurion's gravesite and museum. We met a few groups of soldiers, and of course, since we are chabadnikim, we got them to dance with us. It first started when I ran up to a bunch of them who were sitting on benches, and I took a picture with them all. Then another few guys came to take pictures, and the chayolim were loving it. A skinny friend of mine was picked up for a picture!
The chayolim loved the attention and respect we gave them, wherever we went.
Of course, we got most of them to put on tefillin.

Chanuka Mivtzoim

Because of course it's that time of year again....

Here's a cute story that happened to me on chanuka mivtzoim one time:

Sometimes the best mivtzoim is the Bikkur Bayis variety. You go house to house, in the (usually cold) night, looking for houses that look like they may have Jewish inhabitants.

I was in Calabasas, and my chavrusa and I were going up the street, trying our luck at different houses. While our friends worked the other side of the street, my chavrusa and I walked up to a certain house that we picked.

It was very dark, there were no lights on.

As I rang the doorbell, bright flood lights came on. We were slightly blinded, but continued to wait for someone to come out. In the meantime, we heard laughing from the guys behind us. We weren't going to let them deter us from our precious mission of spreading the light of the menorah to all Yidden.
A woman answered, smiled, and told us that she wasn't Jewish.

As we walked down the walk back to the street, we realized why the other guys were laughing.

We had totally missed the HUGE Kratzmach display, that when we rang the doorbell, it lit up.
This display was gigantic, though. There were moving reindeer, and lights flashing, and a whole scene about Yushkeh. I mean, this probably could be seen from space!

Videos from Israel!!

This video speaks for itself. This guy was hilarious.

more birthright

This was outside Ben Yehuda Street. I have no idea what it's supposed to mean, but it sounded really cool.
I love this picture. I'm no photographer, but I absolutely loved the whole "Breaking of Dawn over the Kosel" idea.

Even more pictures from Israel, and even more not to be outdone

Hiking. Obviously.

Camels. Again obviously.

Eating dinner, Bedouin style.

Coming down from Matzada.
Hiking up, somewhere...

Pictures from Birthright, or: Not to be outdone

This is the classic soldier/rabbi at the kosel pic, that I tried getting.

We went to a winery, and had a blast at the wine-testing.

This was on a boat on the Kinneret, that was a huge floating dancefloor. Here is a drum session led by this crazy stoner guy who was there.

Listening to Aryeh, at the border to....Syria, maybe? I don't remember now....

Our digs for the first half of our trip. It is a yeshiva/motel/hostel in Chispin, in the North.

Finally, a Dvar Torah BEFORE SHABBOS

(A quick vort from a sicha of the Rebbe, from L'kuttei sichos, chelek daled, parshas b'haloscha)

There are two types of bread; from heaven and from the earth.
Earthly bread takes toil and sweat to produce anything edible, and even then, not all of it can be digested.
Mun, though, came from Heaven. It is true that some Rshaim had to venture forth into the desert to receive it, nonetheless the Mun, in all its Supernal Glory, came to them as well. Mun from Shomayim also had no Psoles, it was all digested. Even for a Rasha Gamur, the Mun became part of his flesh and blood, and retained its holiness. The Mun also caused a small purification in the Rasha, which will become evident when he finally does Tshuva.

The reason there are two types of physical bread is because Torah, from which everything in this world comes from, is called 'bread', and also has two levels.

Nigleh is like Earthly Bread. There are questions, and machlokesin, etc, just like it takes work to make bread.
Chassidus is Heavenly Bread. There are no kushyas or machlokesin in Chassidus as there are in Nigleh.

And just like the Mun fell down even for a Rasha, so too, Chassidus is meant for every single person. Furthermore, just like the Mun still retained its Ma'alos, and also had a positive effect on the Rasha, so too with Chassidus. Some claim that if one has not made the proper preparations and hachanos, he shouldn't be taught chassidus. Chassidus not only won't hurt chas v'shalom a person, rather chassidus will help a person eventually do tshuva.

The Rebbe says we must defeat this argument against teaching everyone chassidus, and then the Yetzer Hara will remove the very concealments he himself placed, when he sees that they just strengthen our resolve to teach and spread chassidus.

Moshiach himself said, that when we spread out the wellsprings of Chassidus, he will come! So let's get going, and may we merit the Ultimate Geulah!

Slug or Spider?

I'm not sure which one I'd rather be compared to.

Allow myself to explain myself.

I have different belongings scattered across the United States.
Some clothes and seforim are in New York.
A lot of my stuff is here with me in Los Angeles.
Some stuff is at home, plus lots of sforim.
Now I also have stuff in Berkeley, for various reasons.

So here is my question- slug or spider?

On the one hand, I feel like a slug. You know, like those big, gross, ugly, cartoonish ones that leaves his sluggy goo wherever he crawls along. So that's me-leaving a trail wherever I've lived, been in Yeshiva, etc.
......Or, I'm like a spider, with its eight legs spread far apart, so too, I've got my legs touching lots of places.

Either way, I feel pulled and stretched. If I had everything with me in one place, first of all, I'd have no room. Second of all, I think I'd feel more at ease. Everything would be Kolul B'ma'or.

Now that you've finished smicha...

Most days I daven mincha with the smicha guys.
Yesterday I saw a book lying on a table, called: How to find your spouse in 30 days.

How appropriate for bochurim finishing up smicha...

Did I read it?
Nooooooo. Of course not. Why would I find anything like that interesting?

Of course I skimmed through it (there was a lot of time before mincha started, to wait until the dudes here stopped talking and got their act together to daven, and then before chazaras hashas)!

It was basically saying the following throughout the entire book:

Don't look to marry the best man, most handsome, for money, for looks, for height, for anything.
Seriously, most of the book was just saying how you shouldn't look for what you think you want. She doesn't need to be pretty. He doesn't need to learn Torah all day, but could have a job. He doesn't have to have the same skin color as you...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Facial Hair

If you or a loved one has facial hair, or is planning on getting, then please be aware of the following:

Beard + Syrupy Pancakes = Worst morning ever

Monday, June 8, 2009

I feel so appreciated, I wish I could express it

Every month, the shluchim are supposed to meet with Hanhala.
We discuss upcoming projects they want us to undertake, problems or suggestions we have or they have, about making yeshiva better, v'chulu. A lot of times, we'll speak about bochurim, and problems we may have with learning with them, etc.

The running joke, although we don't find it so funny, is that they never serve us food. The very first monthly meeting, they got us pizza. It was good. But the thought was even better. After that, we only got food sometimes, and usually it was a piece of cake, or some vegetable platters.

At these meetings, we have heard a certain Hanhala member (it's either Rabbi Thaler or Rabbi Farkash, since they are the ones we meet with. You have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right. If you are family, and call me, I'll tell you which one) says how bad he feels that the whole year, he is not able to express to us how much hanhala appreciates us.
The shluchim also feel that most times, we are told to do this or that, without much thanks and appreciation. But we go on, anyway, doing the Rebbe's Shlichus, even if we are not treated with the respect or thanks that comes with it.

At the most recent meeting a few weeks ago, this Rabbi told us how he speaks with other mesivtas, and is poshut jealous of them, for knowing how to express their appreciation to their shluchim. He said he doesn't know how, and we should just know that.

We had a good time speaking it over afterwards, in our habitual post-meeting, where we go over what hanhala told us, and how much we agree or disagree with them.

What kind of excuse is that? We also wish yeshiva could know how to express how much they need us and appreciate us....

Yossi, a terrorist? A racial profiling story

Recently, on a trip back to Los Angeles, I was walking through security, as I normally do.
When I walked through the metal detector, the woman stopped me, and motioned to a male worker at security, to come forward. I knew what was coming next.
I was wrong, actually. No frisking. As the guy came forward, the woman pointed to my yarmulka, and the man asked me to follow him.
Now, I didn't need to go into a whole interrogation room just to show him I had no TNT under my head covering, so I lifted up my yarmulka, and asked, "You need to see this?"
He looked really relieved, and said that yes, that was fine, when I picked it off my head.
I was clear to go.

That's it. That was the story. Nothing huge. What were you expecting? He was concerned about breaking any religious or legal laws about taking off my yarmulka, so he was considerate and thought I'd rather go somewhere private, in case it was against my religion to fix my yarmulka.

Listen, not every story of mine is super-important and incredible. I know, none of my stories are, but at least some I can dress up into something semi-huge. With this one, I can't even do that. So take it or leave it.


Earlier this year, a boy in shiur aleph (14 years old) was put into cherem by most of his class. I told the boys not to sign the cherem, but some did.

This boy is a sweet kid, but not so cool, and not so popular. He was not getting along with his roommates, and something happened in the dorm, and he snitched on one or two boys, who were very popular.
So his class gave him the silent treatment, and showed him the paper some boys had signed, casting him into cherem.
He became withdrawn, and after he started getting teary at random times in the day, I asked around and found out about the episode.
On the one hand, it was kind of funny, but I knew that it could cause serious traumatic damage to a young kid a flight away from his family, with no friends, and lots of enemies. I made sure to be even more friendly to him, and smiled at him whenever I got the chance.l
That Friday night, after our seuda, I took him to a corner, and had a real heart-to-heart. Sometimes it was a little difficult to keep from smiling, since at times it felt silly. But I knew it was very serious for him, and chas v'shalom you hear stories about what happens to boys who think everyone hates them....
So I spoke to him for a long time, telling the usual. Don't care about what they say. He still has friends, and maybe he doesn't want those kids to be his friends, anyway. He deserves better. Boys that will respect him and like for who he is. I told him they were just being immature, and that he b'chlal is a lot more mature than his class, and probably they tease him out of jealousy....
I was trying to boost him up, and he was agreeing that he was taking it too much to heart.

It was quite a long conversation, and at the end, he had some tears in his eyes, and I just had something in my eye, okay? It was itching, that's all.
For the parting words, I put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eye, and said, "R., I just want you to know that you always have me as your friend."
"I know, Yossi. I know."

I like to think I helped pull him out of a dangerous downward spiral of depression.

In case you are wondering, now he's friends with lots more of his class, including his old roommate who had started the whole cherem after he had snitched on him...

Sardines and Math

Once we are on the topic of sardines....
Also in my first year of zal, I had another sardines encounter.

So there I was, eating my lunch, minding my own business, speaking with another bochur about something or other. For some reason, I mentioned triangles, maybe? Or fractions? I don't remember, but this older guy (we'll discuss him soon) rushed forward from where he was sitting, and asked, "Did you just mention fractions? Are you good at math?"
When somebody asks you something like that, it's pretty clear they want some sort of favor. They need help with something. It's usually not that he just loves math, and wants to stir up a good ol' fractions conversation.
So I answered with some caution, "Um, yeah, I'm okay with math."
Then the guy, Shmuel (who I called Shmuel Sardines (to myself)) asked to speak with me later, when he told me he wanted me to tutor him in math.
Now, this guy hung around yeshiva, and was always eating sardines. Not that I judge people based on whether or not they get pleasure from eating the most disgusting foods imaginable. I'm just letting you in on the reasons going through my head about deciding whether I'd tutor him. His breath always stank of sardines. So I had to consider that.
He told me his story. He got divorced, and needs to get a degree for his job in order to make enough money to be able to start looking to get married again. (He was pretty much a nebach case. I felt sorry for him.) He has passed all the subjects he needs, but to graduate, he must pass this math test, and he hates math.
Oh, yeah. The most math he knew was fractions, and barely. He needed to know stats and pre-calculus to pass this test. I almost laughed when he told me. Most students learn fractions in third grade, and pre cal. in maybe tenth or eleventh grade. It takes eight years for a reason.
So why would I seriously consider the challenge?
Firstly, for just that. It would be quite a challenge to see if I could get someone up to college level math from nothing, in eight months.
Secondly, he offered to pay me twenty dollars an hour, and he wanted to learn with me for as many hours as possible. In New York, for example, twenty is the going rate for tutoring, but for Los Angeles, most parents pay fifteen.
Dollar signs were rolling past my eyes as I considered the small fortune I would make. I could have gotten two hundred dollars a week, if he was serious about using every opportunity I was willing to give him, to tutor.
Before I made my decision, I asked to see his test he needed to pass. After perusing that, I saw how big of a challenge it would actually be.

Then he asked me about graphing calculators that he heard might be able to help him get answers. I asked him if he was allowed that on the test, and he told me no, but don't worry about it. So I looked at the practice test, and said about three of the questions (out of twenty something) could be put right into a graphing calculator to get the answer.
A few days later, again before we had decided if we were going to go through with the tutoring, he showed up and gave me the calculator he had bought. He told me it was a gift, and that he wouldn't need me to teach him. He had come up with a plan.
The practice book came with three practice tests. He'll just study those, and memorize the answers, so he'll know the answers for the test, since it said that the test had similar questions taken from the practice tests.
I was taken aback, and thanked him for the calculator, and told him goodbye.
His plan was so...improbable. He had no idea what the math even meant, so he had no idea what any question was even asking. There was just no way it would work.
I called him the next day, my conscience biting at me that I shouldn't have let him go off with the stupidest idea in his head ever. I told him I really didn't think it would work. He thanked me for caring, but told me he also had other ideas, and not to worry.

I never saw him again.
I hope that wherever you are, Shmuel Sardines, that you got that degree, you got the money from your job, you married the girl of your dreams, that you finally have a love for math and numbers, and that you are not reading this blog.


Okay, so this story takes us back to my first year of zal.
My room was 223, the one before the corner room.
So there I was, minding my own business (.....), when my roommates and I noticed over time a distinctly awful odor. We couldn't figure out what it was.
But let me tell you, it was the worst smell I could ever remember smelling, and I had a feeling I knew what it was, and why.
The room in the corner had a guy who always ate sardines.
I hate sardines.
Never actually ate them, of course, but how could I ever swallow one of those, especially if it smells so gross. If I had to choose between sardines and herring, I'd quickly eat a whole plate of herring before getting anywhere near a can of sardines.
So there always was this bad smell, because of the sardines he ate in his room.
But this one afternoon, the smell had exponentially increased. It was thousand of times worse. And I'm really not making it up. We couldn't stay in our room, even with the window open.
I ran into the corner room, rolling up my sleeves in case the sardine-loving bochur was gonna put up a fight with what I had decided to do.
Right away, I saw that the problem was the garbage. Basically, he had poured out the disgusting sardine juice (I'm getting nauseous just typing this) into his trash can, and hadn't taken out the trash in oh, about three or four days!! It was rotting in there, and he had realized this, and put a fan in the window, to blow out the smell. So his room actually smelled better than mine!! Our room was getting all the fumes, since the airconditioning pipe went from his room to mine.
I was left with one option.
I ran out of the room, backed up against the hallway wall, and took a huge, deep breath. I would need as much air in my lungs as possible.
After I focused my thoughts, I ran back into his room, grabbed the whole trash can, and, screaming at the top of my lungs, I raced down the hall to where we were supposed to dump our trash if the janitors didn't get to it, and threw the whole trash can into the closet, and raced back.
Of course, when somebody yells as if he was being chased by an invading army, heads poke out of rooms, and some boys bring out brooms, in defensive stances.
Being the bochur most of the others looked up to in times of danger and trouble (you can go ahead and snort), I tried easing their worries, and told them I took care of everything.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mob Mentality

Working with mesivta kids, you learn a lot.
At breakfast, for example, when somebody gets into an argument with Aviva, the cook, somebody will start hooting and making loud noises. All the kids will then start hooting and shouting, and get into this mob mentality.
Like seriously, they will all go nuts, loving the fact that not one kid in particular can get in trouble.

It makes me not doubt anymore the story in Lord of the Flies, (by william golding, I believe.)


Here are the three weirdest people I have seen/met in Ralph's, over all my years here in LA:

  1. The Gas Mask guy. Picture this. I am walking down the aisle, checking out the prices for Arrowhead Water, minding my own business, when I continue strolling down the aisle, and all of a sudden, this guy turns the corner and walks into my aisle. He was wearing the scariest looking gasmask type thing over his face. My heart stopped beating, and I thought for a second he was some alien. Seriously. It looked totally freaky. I thought he might have a laser gun, or brain sucking helmet device. Apparently he frequents Ralphs often (is that repetitious?).
  2. The Garbage Bag Lady- While I'm waiting to do the self check-out, which b'chlal, they should only let people use it who know how...So the lady in front of me was wearing twenty different white garbage bags wrapped around her ankles, wrists, neck, you name it. Her fingers were like taped up, also. And guess what she was buying? That's right, more white garbage bags. She had bags over her fingers, or something, and she was having trouble touching the box of bags that she was buying. It was very weird. I'm not sure if she had just gotten plastic surgery (it's LA, remember), or she was just really OCD about not touching anything. I'm not sure, but it was strange....
  3. The transvestite prostitute-Okay, this is a whole story. Maybe grab a cup of coffee for this. I'll wait. Go ahead.
Okay, so I was waiting outside Ralph's, with my purchases in my cart, waiting for my pickup (this was Shiur gimmel zal, maybe shiur beis?). And of course, I was minding my own business (that is how all my stories go, have you noticed?).
This guy on a bike came up, with a woman, and he left the bike parked. The woman sat down at a table, and the guy started to go into the store. He turned back, and told her to make sure to watch his bike. She answered, "Me and the Rabbi will watch it!", referring to me.
"Oh, I'm not a Rabbi," I told her, and turned back to watching the street.
She then started talking to me about being a Rabbi, and basically if this was something I wanted, or was being forced into. I answered politely, not wanting to draw out the conversation.
She then came closer, and I had quite a shock. This large woman was actually a man!!!!!
I mean, I could tell pretty much that she was a guy!! And big!! So when she stood and walked towards my cart, I got really nervous. Because guys who dress like women, in my opinion, aren't too normal, and if somebody is crazy, you never know what they'll pull.
But since this guy/girl was crazy, I had to be careful not to offend her. She/he was a big guy, and could easily beat me to a pulp if I couldn't get back inside the store in time.
She offered me her hand, as in, for me to shake.
I didn't know what to do!!
Her hands were huge, and manly. I could see some weird tattoo, too.
Now, I obviously don't touch women. So technically this was a guy, and I could shake his hand, but I don't shake with really creepy strangers, either!!!
And I didn't want to tell her I don't shake hands with women, because she wasn't! She was a guy! I definitely did not want to give him the satisfaction of me admitting he was a woman. Because he wasn't!!
So I just said, "Oh, um, I don't...." and I didn't continue.
She tried to continue for me, (like, bending her head low, and coming up, as if to come up with what I was trying to say) "You mean, you don't...."
"Exactly," I said, hoping for my ride to come.
But then when she realized I didn't shake women's hands, she started talking to me about shomer negiah, b'chlal, and guys and girlfriends....
So I tried to politely end the conversation and answer her questions as minimally as I could. I explained about how a man only will touch his wife, and boys and girls don't come into contact before that...
Then a friend of mine came out, and at the best time!!!! I was so creeped out, and just wanted to go back to Yeshiva. It was past midnight, and I was speaking to a transvestite interested in Halachic prohibitions about physical contact between the sexes.
My friend, though, realized this guy was weird, didn't say anything, and walked far, far away from us. Thanks a lot!!
So this guy continued talking to me, and this time asked me about if I thought prostitution was wrong. "Oh, please, why can't she just leave!!!" I kept hoping. But I thought maybe I was there for a reason, and I could convince her out of her awful lifestyle of being a transvestite who charged for his time. I said I thought prostitution was very wrong. The conversation continued, and I forget most of it. Basically she said that some girls had no choice but to enter that specific profession. I said no, it's wrong and extremely bad, and McDonald's could give them a job, they don't have to live with that lifestyle. She tried saying that prostitutes were doing a very noble job, for being with men who were too ugly, etc., to get married and ever be with a woman.
Finally, finally, the guy he came with came back outside, and got his bike. The guy/woman hopped on the back, giving the guy a squeeze and a smile (I almost puked). She called out goodbye to me, and said goodbye to my friend who hadn't said a word, but moved far away, and said, "Goodbye, quiet one."
That's what I called him for a while after, as punishment for not helping me get out of the huge hole I had dug for myself in that conversation.

Inappropriate joke?

Once a week, I learn over the phone with a young boy on shlichus in Colorado. He turned eleven not too long ago.
Besides for just learning, we also tell each other jokes, and stories, and talk about his school....
So he told me this joke tonight:
There was once a very rich Jew living in a city, and he would give tzedaka to many people. NonJews wanted to get money, too, so one day a goy walked into the rich guy's house.
The Yid saw that this man didn't really look Jewish.
"Are you sure you are Jewish", he asked.
"oh, yes," the goy answered.
A little skeptical, the rich man asked, "Well, if you are Jewish, then where are your tzitzis?"
This goy didn't know so much about Jewish traditional garments, so he just answered, "At the dry cleaners".
This was an unusual answer, but it made sense a little bit, so the rich guy gave him tzedaka.
This goy went home and told all his friends.
The next day, another goy came to get tzedaka.
The rich guy again asked for proof that this man was Jewish, "if you are Jewish, then where is your bris?' he asked.
"At the dry cleaners!"

So that was the joke Mendel told me. Sort of funny, so I graciously chuckled for his amusement. But right then, I heard his father's voice on the line, asking Mendel to switch to a different line and to call me back.
How much had his father heard? Had he been listening, and waited until the end to interrupt?
Was he upset his son told such jokes? Should I have not laughed, and instead reprimanded young Mendel that such inappropriate jokes shouldn't be repeated?

I may never find out the answer to these haunting questions.

This is something serious!

Please, please, please, please:

Say tehillim and keep in mind during your davening- Lidor Ben Michal.

He is eight years old, and was my camper last summer.
He got his leg run over by a lawn mower.
I called and finally got through to him, earlier today.
He has been in the hospital for over two weeks already. He told me he still had seventeen more surgeries to go. I was told that they needed to put animal parts into his leg, and the doctors are hoping they will grow, and that way he won't need an amputation, chas v'shalom.
Lidor was whispering to me as we spoke, since he was so drugged (I assume).
He kept wimpering and crying to me, "Yossi, why did this have to happen to me?"

It broke my heart.
So please, please, please, say some extra tehillim for him!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I have good news and bad news

A friend of mine always says that when asked, "Which do you want to hear, the good news or the bad news first?" you should always hear the good news first. The reason is that G-dwilling, by the time you are supposed to hear the bad news, something will have changed, and it won't be true.

So I won't ask you which you want to hear, and I'll go straight to:

The Good News- From my sitemeter, I saw that somebody found my blog by googling, "Cute Lubavitcher Guys". Pretty good, right?

The Bad News- The visit duration was 00:00 seconds. They didn't even wait for my whole page to load before clicking Back. The chutzpa.
They had no idea what they were missing...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sfira finished

So why am I still talking about it?
I don't know. Maybe because it's really late at night. Who knows?

There were two Ba'al Tshukas who went out together.

She introduced herself as Baskah.
He smiled, and said she could call him, Keli-yaku (or maybe it was Keli-ka-ku. I wasn't there. I don't know how he pronounced his own name.).

They knew it was a match made in heaven, that they had each found someone who was just as frum as the other.

One night after they had gotten married, Keli-yaku asked his wife, "What's for dinner?"
She answered, "Last night was chicken."

I bought a computer, mazel tov

And there is no way I'm telling you what model it was, how much I paid for it, or what its spec's are. (I say 'its' because I'm not sure if it is male or female yet. For now, I call it "Computer", which I feel is very unisex.)

In mesechta ksubos there is a piece called, "Keitzad Merakdin Lifnei HaKallah", where Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai argue as to whether you should tell the chosson how beautiful his wife really is, or make it up, to keep him happy.
Beis Hillel says you lie if you have to, and we learn it out from Me SheLakoch Mekach Ra BaShuk, and since transliteration sucks, I'll give you the english version from now on. Someone who buys a bad object, his friend is supposed to support his purchase, and not bash the deal. So too, says Beis Hillel, one should lie straight through his teeth and tell the chosson he got the most beautiful maiden in the land.

L'feechach- (I know, I know. But I had to here...) If I buy a computer, don't start shteching me out that I could have gotten a better deal here, or a better computer there.

A fellow shliach of mine gave me heck when I told him that I bought my computer. He went at me saying I should've gotten at CostCo and returned it later, gotten these dimensions....

So I'm not telling you anything about it, other than- it's a beauty.

Fashionably Late

Of course I'm late, as usual.

But I have to give a shoutout to my friend TRS on his engagement to le7.
Mazel Tov.
Binyan Adei Ad.

May you two make many beautiful posts together.