Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Worldwide Cooties Pandemic

-Yossi "A.B." Inlubavi, Reuters

As of the last week of October, the C1N1 virus, or 'cooties', has become the world's deadliest and most widespread pandemic since the Bubonic Plague, which nearly destroyed Europe over 600 years ago, in the middle of the 14th century.
Besides for the millions already fallen prey to the cold claws of the cooties, tens of millions are still at risk.
While the mildest cases produce flu-like symptoms, the C1N1 virus in its most lethal strain can cause organ failure and/or death.

Cooties are not something to be taken lightly.

Miranda Wells, the spokesperson for the U.S. Dept. of Health, announced Friday that scientists hope we've seen the worse of this epidemic. Still, she says, the public is urged to take all necessary precautions against the cooties.

In the past weeks, many schools have been closing, to avoid the co-mingling of the boys and girls-the easiest way of contracting the cooties.

The U.S. Government has already hinted at the possibility of forced vaccinations for all children and teens, as it is for some branches of the military already. This created a major storm in the public arena. Some radio talk-show hosts brought the fact to light that Mrs. Obama's own children were not vaccinated against the C1N1 virus.
While Mrs. Obama has not put out an official statement regarding this matter, it is purported that her Tweet said at one time: "I raised my kids better than that. There's no need for the vaccine."

The public hysteria over the cooties pandemic has brought Wall Street almost to a screeching halt. Banks and businesses are reporting all-time lows in their quarterly reports. Some environmentalists are pointing to the the alarmingly increasing rate of the ozone layer's depletion, and lay the blame of this directly onto the sheer number of tissues consumed from crying parents.

Contracting the Cooties
Any form of close contact between boys and girls could cause either of them to become infected. Close contact means within approximately 18 inches, depending on the city's elevation from sea level. While it is rare, there have been verified cases in which both the boy and girl become sick.

The Vaccine
The only sure way to vaccinate somebody from the C1N1 cooties virus, is to administer the Cootie Shot. While a fairly simple procedure: "Circle, circle, dot, dot. Now you've got the Cootie Shot.", doctors stress that children should not attempt this on their own, but rather see a medical professional.

Should the vaccine be taught in schools?
Some organizations argue that the Cootie Shot should not be taught to children in the schools.
"We are saying that it is okay to be near a girl, then! Everyone will just take the Shot, and that's that! Is that what you want? Not for my kids!" one mother told me.
Others argue that boys will be in close proximity to girls, regardless of what they are taught at home, and could be prime targets to become infected with cooties. It is the responsibility of the school to see to it the welfare of its students.

Cooties Myths:
Cootie Prevention: If you jump up and down 100 times after coming within a foot of the opposite gender, you can prevent the spread of cooties. This is false. The origins of this myth are unknown.
Detection of Cooties: If you eat an apple immediately before entering the doctor's office, the doctor will not be able to detect that you have cooties. This is false. It applies only to dentists.
If you put a penny under your tongue, your doctor will not be able to detect cooties. This is false as well. It is a myth about sobriety tests, which is also false.

Cooties Conspiracies:
Some conspiracy theorists blame the Jews for the current Cooties Pandemic. This is based on the astonishing low rate among Jews of those infected with the C1N1 virus. However, many point out in their defense that religious Jews, as it is widely known, do not come into contact with members of the opposite gender. Rabbi Shmuly Rokeach, author of the book Kosher Kooties, explains that Jews do in fact take the Cootie Shot, contrary to popular belief. The shot, coupled with the separation between genders, nearly guarantees their low infection rate.
There is an increasingly popular conspiracy that Cooties were brought over from aliens who crash landed and were then later detained in Area 51. I could not verify this from the U.S. Government as of the time of this publication.

Outlook for the future:
As stated above, many scientists seem optimistic for an end to this epidemic.
We must take all precautions not to become infected or spread this disease, to ensure our health and the health of our loved ones.

Many people around the globe are now wearing stickers, buttons, and other paraphernalia with the now commonplace slogan:
"Girls are icky"

Big Tatty Y

From my limited exposure to the grand world of rap, I've noticed that most rappers speak about how they're better than everyone else (richer, stronger, more girlfriends, more times shot, better rapper...). This got me thinking- what if a rapper would rap about how bad he was? This led me even further, to compose this rap for you guys:

Yo! It's me again: Big Tatty Y from the hood,
Sorry for makin' ya'll listen to my stuff- it ain't very good.

I mean, I'm a'ight, but some homeys are even bettuh,
Ask me 'bout my name, and I'll tell you it's a crooked lettuh!

I like to rap, but I ain't good at puttin' words togethuh,
I think I'll go down, as the "Worst Rapper Evuh".

I'm no gangsta, every song on this cd is full of shiste,
I was never shot, I wasn't in jail, and I could never pull off a bank heist.

If ya'll bought my cd- you're a loser, yo! Demand your money back!
Ambition I got, B, it's just talent that I lack.

Here's the truth, do somethin bettuh than listen to me rap, dawg,
Like check out A Bochur In Lubavitch, that's one off-the-hizzel cool blog!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm SuperBeard, not Superman

I'm very stressed out as of recently.
I know most of you are thinking, "What? Yossi? He's so poised and composed. He's the epitome of awesome. He's the best thing that happened to the internet since ebay."
Not those last ones? Well, that's what I was thinking at least.
Anywho, until I can get my Unlimited Time To Waste Plan (UTTWP) with my texting plan, I cannot do everything.
I do Jnet and MyShliach, each once a week.
Monday nights I started going to Park Slope to learn with Ba'alei Batim. (Tonight the guy I learned with wasn't very knowledgeable, but didn't want to learn about the actual laws, so we instead learned the Ani Ma'amins of the Rambam, printed with some short explanations in the Artscroll Siddur. (These are summations of the Rambam's 13 Ikrim))
I wanted to do Friendship Circle, also.
So last night I met the father of a special needs child, for an interview, to see what kind of guy I am.
He started talking about tutoring his son for two hours a day!!
When he mentioned being paid, I told him I was volunteering. He just stared at me, and I told him that I thought I would be giving an hour a week, and that's it. Possibly two hours.
I said that I couldn't possibly work out giving two hours a day, but maybe an hour a night.
We agreed I would come over for one night, as my 'volunteer friendship circle' hour anyway, and see if I thought I could fit an hour a night into my schedule.

I don't know what I was thinking. I shouldn't have let my emotions take control of me.
Moach Shalit Al HaLev. The responsible thing was to be responsible with my time and realize that my life is stressed too much with my focus on learning smicha, and the other stuff I do. So now I have to call him and break it to him that I won't be coming every night. I hope he can find somebody to learn with his son for the time his son needs and deserves. He offered to pay me a ton, though, so I don't think it would be too hard for him to find another person.
(Obviously it wouldn't be somebody who is better than ebay, but there must be someone...)

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Square, New Square!

We spent most of today in New Square, at their slaughterhouse. We watched them go through the melicha process of kashering chickens.
We saw them roasting the livers, and we looked at all the gross parts of the inside of a chicken, like the spleen, bladder, and lungs.
The Rosh Av Beis Din of New Square came to the slaughterhouse to meet us and answer some shailos that we had while watching the kashering process. He actually intends to test us on melicha when we're ready, and he'll be another signature on our smicha.

Craziest part of the shlachthouse- the machines used to take off the feathers of the chicken. Imagine a car wash where the scrubbers were made of metal, and got way too close to you.
Dirtiest part of the shlachthouse- walking around in all the gross salt/blood/gooey/wet stuff on the floor.


It's too bad that Unlimited Texting plans do not come with Unlimited Time To Waste For Texting.

Lech Lecha Quiz

Okay, I'm giving you guys plenty of time for this week's quiz, and to come up with some good answers. Last week I needed to make a bonus quiz because nobody got the first one.
For some odd reason, you seem to do better when questions are based on factual items which you can research about, than when I'm asking you to read my mind about some game I once played 12 years ago. Huh.

The Question:
The parsha of Lech Lecha starts off with G-d appearing to Avraham (but of course when he was still called Avram). The Torah does not mention anything about Avraham's life prior to this time. After all, there were some great stories with Avraham, and ones that are meaningful for us. Like how he recognized the existence of G-d all on his own. Or how he had mesirus nefesh to be thrown into Nimrod's furnace for Kiddush Hashem. None of this is mentioned in the Torah. Why? Also, we see in regards to Noach, the Torah describes how righteous he was. The Torah does not say anything like this about Avraham to explain how he merited G-d's visit. Why not?

The Points:
Any good answer you give will get you 100 YossiPoints!
Of course, if you are a follower, you also get an automatic 50 Point Follower Bonus!

That's all. And remember: Shivim Panim L'Torah, so there is an unlimited amount of YossiPoints you can receive!!

Good luck, and the deadline is L'chura before Shabbos.

Modern Times...

Did you hear how Iraq is trying to become a hipper place, for businesses and tourism?

They're changing their name to: iRaq

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Answers to Bonus Noach Quiz

Congratulations to those who knew the right answers. The erudition of my readership is quite impressive.
There are many different answers, so I'll share a few and how the Rebbe explains things as well.
The question was:
What did the people who built the Tower Of Babel do so wrong that they were punished in such a huge way?

  • Rashi brings two reasons: They made the tower to fight with Hashem/ And he brings a medrash that says they were afraid that since the flood took place in the year 1656, perhaps this was part of a natural cycle, and in 1656 years, the sky would fall apart again! Therefore they wanted to build four huge support towers to hold up the sky from falling again. They only managed to build the first one before Hashem stopped their silly plans.
(About this opinion from the medrash, I learned that this fits in with how the possuk says their reason was "To make for ourselves a name". They wanted to be remembered as the greatest humanitarians and scientists. They were so concerned with natural disasters (and climate change...) that they put all their efforts and time into saving the environment and world. This would surely cause their names to be remembered and lauded for all time. Especially considering how selfless they were, caring about generations thousands of years later, when it had no immediate effect on their own generation.)
  • Another opinion of the medrash is that "To make for ourselves a name" means Avoda Zara.
(In the famous ma'amer "Vayadata Moskow" (which it's said about this ma'amer that anyone who doesn't learn it is an apikores. Meaning that only through learning this ma'amer can you understand how Hashem creates the world, and through which levels, and what levels of G-dliness are here...), the Rebbe Rashab explains that "V'Na'aseh Lanu Shem" meant they thought there was a difference between the name Yud Key Vov Key, and Elokim. They thought Hashem chas v'shalom left this world to be run by nature, which fits with the medrash saying it was Avoda Zara...)
  • The Rebbe explains that the main problem with what they did was when they did it. What they did was simply all get together and have a grand plan for something meaningless and arrogant. The problem was that this was after the Flood wiped everyone off the face of the Earth!
This was supposed to be a sobering lesson for the survivors. Their purposes in life should have been more meaningful in order to make sure what happened to their predecessors would not happen to them. Instead, they tried being remembered in history as having built the biggest tower, and lived in the biggest city.

I really don't have time now to explain the rest of the sicha, but basically the Rebbe says that the way to eternalize your name is to be involved with Kedusha which is eternal. Building Holy towers and cities, which are the shuls and yeshivas of a community, is what brings you fame and what eternalizes your name, if that is what you are looking for. The biggest reward, of course, is your dedication to G-d's desires.

We, the generation after the Flood of the Holocaust, are the survivors, and we must dedicate and devote ourselves to sanctifying G-d's holy Name, and living purposeful and meaningful lives, not lives devoid of meaning.

Being Chassidish

If you want to be chassidish, the first step is to start acting chassidish!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Raining on Noach

As Charlie Buttons was heard this morning in 770:
"Does it ever not rain like this on Parshas Noach?"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bonus Noach Quiz

Since nobody won the 200 YossiPoints from the Quiz earlier this week, I have decided to give a limited time edition Bonus Noach Quiz.

But since this is a Bonus Quiz already, there are no Bonus points. Not even for being a follower! Gosh!Gasp!Gulp!

You get 5o YossiPoints for any plausible answer, but 100 for the answer I'm looking for.

The Question:
At the end of the Parsha, the people decide to build one big city in the valley of Shinar, and a tower to go with it.
G-d sees this and punishes them by dispersing them throughout the lands, and changing the language they spoke into many different languages.

What was so bad with what they did? Why did the Tower Of Babel ignite Hashem's fury so much, to be punished in such an extreme manner?
The Torah says that they said at the time of building, "So that we will make for ourselves a name, lest we be spread across the land"- which happened anyway as a punishment. But what was so bad?

Good luck, and I'll try to post the answer before Shabbos, so you can have something to say on shabbos and impress your friends.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Legalizing Marijuana

Hakdama: Before I begin the bulk of this post, I want to share a story with you. I'll wait while you put on a sweater, change into loafers, and feed your fish. (...!!)

I was on a train recently, in California.
A young woman came over to me and asked if I was a registered voter in that county.
I was, so I told her I was! (Come on, Yos, get on with your story....)
She was trying to get signatures on two different petitions to get onto the November ballot.
The first was something that I still didn't understand even after reading the text of the proposition.
It was something about the following: Currently, the government owned different electric utilities, but they were being privatized. This was a petition to not allow the government to take public tax money to continue to fund these now private enterprises.
It wasn't really exactly that. It somehow only applied to territories not incorporated in cities, or something....
Anyway, the second thing she was getting signatures on was a proposition to legalize marijuana.
She told me that should I be against legalizing pot, I could still sign my name and address, because even if it got onto the ballot for a state-wide vote, I could always vote against it. With my address, she told me I had no worries of them sending me any brownies or green flowers. I forgot to mention also that there were a couple of young hoodlums on the train, who I was positive were doing drugs during the ride. I don't know what they were snorting, but I don't think it was anything a doctor would prescribe for clearing sinuses.

-I'm not going to tell you whether I signed it or not until the end of this post. Try to guess as you work you way through it-

There has been in the news recently how the current federal administration is relaxing the previous administration's policies on how the government should view state laws regarding medical marijuana.
And as you read in my story (unless you skipped it. I suggest you go back and read it. I'll wait.), many in California are trying to legalize it for the state, regardless of needing it for medicinal reasons.

I learned part of a farbrengen recently where the Rebbe said the following about Government (and this was not about legalizing any drugs. I'm just applying it, as you'll see):
Many people are of the opinion that what a person decides to do in his own private life is his own decision. If what he does is harmful to others, then the government needs to step in and protect its citizens. However, the government cannot interfere in a person's private affairs and decisions. If he chooses to do something that can be harmful for him, that is up to him. He has free choice.
The government, should it interfere, cannot be deemed a democracy, but is a dictatorship! The people that say this claim that these rights of the people are from the constitution, and those who advocate this, the Rebbe says, are the ones who receive medals for saving the people's rights, etc.

The Rebbe says that this is incorrect.
A normal government is one which protects its citizens, not just from harming each other, but from harming themselves, as well!!
(I'm using the old editor on blogger, which does not have underlining. The new editor does not have spell check. I figured that this was the better choice, so I'm sorry for the italics.)

Would you try to disagree with this? The Rebbe points out that from our government, which most would agree is built as a normal and democratic one, we can see this very idea.

The Food and Drug Administration is an organization that sees to it that different products on the market are safe to be consumed. If they feel that eating or drinking something could cause adverse side effects, they force companies to print labels on the container, making the person aware of these effects. Sometimes if it is too harmful for a person, the FDA will ban it completely. The U.S. spends lots of money to make sure this organization runs properly, and helps keep people safe.

The Rebbe brings yet another example for how really, deep down, the government and public do care to make sure a citizen does not do something harmful, even if only to himself.

When the people get wind of a situation where a person is standing on a bridge, thinking about jumping off into the river and committing suicide, chas v'shalom, nobody says, "Well, he can do what he wants with his life. Who are we to interfere with his own decisions?"
Instead, the police are mobilized, helicopters are sent out, and lots of money spent, all to convince this guy not to jump.
And when the police do successfully bring him down, they get medals!
So you see that people essentially do want and take an active role, in preventing harmful decisions that a person may make.

That, the Rebbe says, is what this government and any normal government is all about.
It should be the people that are advocating these ideas who receive medals, not those who preach for private lives and personal rights.

The Rebbe said this all regarding a different topic, but I feel that it can very well be used to speak about the topic at hand- legalizing marijuana.

There are those who claim that if somebody wants to take drugs, who are we to stop him, and why should we?

It is clearly up to the government to prevent this.

Normally, the liberal-minded mentality is for bigger government.
I wonder, though, if what's even more in the agenda of a liberal thinking person is to allow anyone who wants to lead his life exactly as he wants, as long as it does not interfere with those around him. So this would take precedence over the idea of bigger government. Government should stay out of this one.

But from the Rebbe's views, I think we can say that it is up to the government to keep narcotics illegal.

Epilogue: I did not sign her petition

Answer to Pointless Quiz

The Question was:
Which game gives me the most anxiety, and stresses me out the most?

Your answers:
Boggle, bananagrams, ping pong, buck buck, the wind, shidduchim, the game of life, any team game, monopoly and minesweeper on a laptop.

The real answer:
The game with the crocodile teeth where you switch off with your opponent guessing which tooth won't cause the crocodile to snap down on your fingers.

I hate that game the most.

Nobody got the 200 YossiPoints, but some of you got points for being odd numbered comments. There were no odd comments, and I don't know all of you, but some may receive the 10 points for being odd, in general. Followers, of course, received the automatic 50 YossiPoint bonus.

Thanks for playing. Add up your points, and watch for the next chance to win big!

Cholov Ackum

"Anonymous" asked me: "Does Chabad hold that Cholov Stam is treif? A Rabbi paskened that is okay, so then we cannot hold it's treif, right?"


Yes. We hold that cholov stam is treif.
What this means is that if milk that was not cholov yisroel cooked in your pot, you would have to kasher it (There is a Tshuva from the Tzemach Tzedek about a goy who was in a Jew's house without the owner present for a certain amount of time, where he had to Kasher his dishes.). It is not kosher to eat.

This is a Halacha in Shulchan Aruch. It is stated clearly that milk that was milked by a non-Jew is Assur.

Now, there is the famous Heter is from R' Moshe Feinstein.
This Heter is taken and used by many Orthodox non-Lubavitchers.
For people listening to these rabbanim, we do not say that they are eating treif.

Here's where the problems come in:

The famous Heter that R' Moshe gave was only for babies who needed it for health reasons, and no Cholov Yisroel was available. He says that we can rely on this heter, because anyway, the reason for the issur was that maybe a goy would add milk from a nonkosher animal, and since nowadays, the government makes sure that the milk is regulated, vechulu, you can be matir the milk.

We disagree with the Rabbanim who use this heter to permit drinking cholov stam (unless you are a two-week old baby, and live somewhere that you cannot ship milk to...).
These are knowledgeable Rabbis, though, so we cannot say that they are 100% wrong, and their constituents are eating Treif. We must judge everyone L'Kaf Zchus.

But we do not agree with how they have taken this heter and extended it for everybody and anytime.
Of course, everyone agrees that Cholov Yisroel is better, and I'm sure the Rabbanim that permit Chalav Akum say that it should be only if necessary...

Here's another problem:

There are two types of decrees.
A decree that is made because of a certain reason, and a decree that is made that has no reason now, but is given one later.
And even the decree that is made because of a certain reason, many times we hold that the decree is still in effect even if the reason is not present anymore.

The decree against drinking Cholov Akum is the second type.
Only years later (in the times of the gemara? Before then? I'm not sure when, but it was a long time ago) did the Rabbanim add a reason to this decree. The reason that goyim may add their own milk if you aren't looking.

R' Moshe's Heter was based mainly on the idea that now the government regulates our country's milk, so you know where I'm heading with this. The reason only came after, to give someone a simple explanation for the decree, but the decree existed before, whether for a different reason or for none at all.

In short: We hold it's treif. We don't think that those who listen to their Rabbanim that permit it are eating treif, but halachically we do find many problems with their logic. We think they are not learning R' Moshe's Heter correctly.

Here's a question for you: If we hold that this milk is treif and you have to kasher your pots, and so on, then if this milk would come into contact with meat, would you have a problem of milk and meat? The Halacha for the prohibition of milk and meat is only for Kosher meat and Kosher milk....
The answer is: of course it is still considered milk and meat. From the Torah, remember, that this milk is 100% kosher as long as it came from a Kosher animal. The Rabbinic Sages were the ones to prohibit Cholov Akum. They did this to be stricter. So you wouldn't use their decree to make a Biblical Prohibition more lenient.

And finally: The Rebbe said that eating Cholov Stam is Metameh the person's mochin, his chachma, bina, and da'as.

I hope that answers your question.

A little somethin' somethin' for the Shabbos Tish

I'm about to give you a quick summary of a sicha for this week's parsha, Noach.
Because it's 12:01 as I'm typing this, that means it's Wednesday. Wednesday is the start of the end of the week, and the beginning of our preparations for shabbos.
I really want to share a Dvar Torah from an incredible couple of sichas I learned in which the Rebbe discusses ____________. I don't want to give it away, because then you'd just look it up yourself, and I would be useless. Don't worry, though, the following is good, too. And some more good stuff is on the way. Probably tomorrow-ish.

Parshas Noach

In a famous sicha in cheleck Yud, the Rebbe explains that from our Parsha we can take out two very important lessons.
  1. Watch your mouth
  2. Be careful with how you look at things
From the fact that the Torah says how Noach took the animals which were Tahor, and the animals which were Not Tahor, instead of simply saying Tamey, is proof to the distance one must take in order not to speak something inappropriate, impolite, immodest, or hurtful.
Just like Hand In Hand- instead of saying 'bad', say 'not good'!

When Noach got drunk and lay naked, his son Cham saw this and told his brothers. (The medrash tells of something horrible that he also did, but I'd rather not mention it...) Noach's other sons, Shem and Yefes, went to cover their father, with their faces turned away. The possuk says that their faces were turned, and they didn't see the nakedness of their father.

Obviously if they had their faces turned, they wouldn't see anything!? The Rebbe says we can learn a powerful lesson.
First, though, is the following teaching of the Ba'al Shem Tov:
If you see bad in your friend, it really means you have that in yourself. If you would not have that problem, you would not see it in your friend.

The Rebbe asks, "Is that really always the case? Maybe the reason you are seeing a problem is so you can help him! Who says you have this bad, also?"
The Rebbe answers that the only thing you should be seeing when you look at your friend is the need for you to help him. That's all. How you can set him back on track.
The very fact that you also are focusing on how he is a bad person, means there is something wrong with you. A person who is perfect (or at least in this area your friend is failing in) would only see how the situation can be fixed.

This is what the Torah means when Shem and Yefes didn't see their father's nakedness. All they saw was what was required of them to help, not the bad in their father.

May we see only the good in others, and how we can help those who need it, and may we speak only in the most polite and courteous way!

Moshiach now!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Something magical in the air

Isn't it just the best when you are standing outside your house (or dorm) at 1:00 in the morning, and you hear strands of niggunim, wafting toward you?
You strain your ears, close your eyes, and try to pinpoint where the farbrengen is located.
Tonight wasn't too difficult to determine.
The first reason was that the singing was coming from across the street, so I knew it was from my yeshiva.
The second reason I knew where the farbrengen was was because it was announced after seder.

So I did the Bochur's Veni Vidi Vici:
I came. I had some shots. I conquered my yetzer hara.

Or instead of Truss's book "Eats, shoots, and leaves":
Drinks topples over and leaves

In Los Angeles, at the Raichik's old house, the yeshiva bochurim farbrengened there a few times throughout the year. I will always remember walking down the street, done for the night (or rather morning...), but leaving a good amount of farbrengers to continue without me. Even a few blocks away, I could hear the niggunim...!

Monday, October 19, 2009


At about 9:30 this evening I was approached by three young lads, sporting yarmulkas and fringes, who asked for a few minutes of my time.
They were from Chanoch Lana'ar and wanted to take a video of me.
Well, I've heard that one before!
But it was true, they produced a camera, and informed me of their purely innocent and curiosity-driven desire to interview me on camera about American History. (You know, just random people on the street. I had noticed, though, that they had let a few people walk by before stopping me. Perhaps they wanted somebody who wouldn't pose a security risk, if you know what I mean.)
I immediately thought of all the videos I've seen of idiots who don't know jack about Abe (as in Lincoln...).
They assured me that it wouldn't be posted anywhere, and if I didn't like the video afterward, they could erase it.
Fair enough, I exclaimed. Let the games begin!
  1. What year did the American Revolution start? I first was a little hesitant, thinking about 1776 for a second, but quickly remembered that it was 1775. Phew! (1776 was when they wrote the Declaration! Duh!)
  2. Who was the first president? Washington, I told them, without batting an eye.
  3. Who was the president before Clinton? Bush Senior!
  4. What years were the Civil War? This was my embarrassing moment. I told them it ended in 1861. In fact, that's when it started!
  5. Name the first three presidents: I quickly told them Washington and Adams, but I was stuck on the third. I kept thinking, "Madison? No, there was somebody before...maybe Jefferson? No..." But it was in fact Jefferson. Oh well. (Madison came fourth.)
  6. Finally they asked me: Who burnt down the White House? The British, of course, in the War of 1812!
To this last answer, despite all my confidence, they told me I was wrong.
I know, right!!!????
They said it was the Canadians!
I know, right!!!???
They said that Canadian colonies or something or other had helped the British fight the war, and it was them who actually burnt down the White House.
Well. Which army was it, though, my friends? Obviously the British!!! So I think I should have gotten that one right.

Okay, I just did a little research. ('Research' normally means Google, Wiki, and ChaCha, by the way) Most say that it was the British who burnt the White House. The Royal Navy had stopped in Halifax first, and picked up more men and supplies, but any fighting between Canadians and us was done on the border between our countries.
But remember, that Canada only became a country in 1867! So of course it couldn't have been Canada!

I rest my case.

Back to the story: I think they were a little disappointed with my interview, but they thanked me for it, and I let them keep the footage.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Head

felt ready to explode today.
I was learning for lots of hours, and not making as much progress as my Chavrusa and I had hoped.
I was also running only on five hours of sleep.
We were trying to figure out how the Shach and Taz would each explain how the Rama and the Maharshal would each learn the din, and more importantly the reasoning behind, a huge number of cases.
The problems and complications for our task started piling up.
First, there seemed to be contradictions in what the Shach had already explained concerning the Maharshal's opinion.
Most distressing, though, was the amount of variations in the cases that could change the din.

The basic case we are learning about right now is- if a piece of salted meat fell onto a piece of meat already salted.
Sounds simple, right?
Wrong. (And if you've read my earliest posts, you'll remember I have rules for such questions...)
It depends on:
  1. If the first piece has finished excreting its blood, and moved on to its juice (Tzir)
  2. If the second piece is secreting (I looked it up. Excreting and secreting can pretty much be used interchangeably if the object we are speaking about is an organic body (then 'excrete' is good)) blood or juice
  3. If the meat is in an open-bottomed vessel or closed
  4. If the pieces of meat touched each other for less than 18 minutes, the time for soaking (or pickling, whatever the translation of Kavush is)
  5. If they were in contact for 18 minutes
  6. If they were in contact within 12 hours of their salting
  7. If they were in contact within 24 hours of their salting
  8. If the piece of meat was washed before it fell onto the other piece of meat
And these could depend on how you hold the following:
  1. Does washing the meat close up the holes of excretion?
  2. If meat is giving out juice, will it still absorb other meat's blood?
  3. If meat is giving out juice, will it still absorb other meat's juice?
  4. If it does absorb the blood or juice, will it then excrete it when it excretes its own blood or juice?
It gets confusing. And this was all just in a day's learning. Tomorrow promises even more twists and turns!

I felt extremely light-headed at the end of our learning. At least by the end of it all, we had come to some answers to all these questions, and I made a nifty chart to keep track of all the different opinions.

I have to study hard for my test, if I want to remember exactly how the Shach learns the Rama both to fit with what he says in the Toras Chatas, and what it sounds like he learns in the Shulchan Aruch itself, in a case of meat that is secreting juice that comes in contact with other juice....

Another Pointless Quiz!!

The Question:
Which game gives you the most anxiety while playing? And not musical chairs, although that is a close second.

The Rules:
Remember, that you must supply the correct answer, according to my opinion. Not yours. That is what you are trying to guess.

The Points:
For the correct answer.................200 YossiPoints!!
If your comment is an odd numbered comment............10 YossiPoints!!
If your comment is just plain odd................................10 YossiPoints!!
If you are just plain odd................................................10 YossiPoints!!

If you are a public Follower before or right after you comment.....................50 YossiPoints!!

So total points allowed for this quiz: 280!!!

Good Luck!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Let There Be Light

Spoiler Disclaimer: If you plan to eat a meal with me this shabbos, this may be a spoiler of a possible Dvar Torah you may hear. Continue at your own risk.

The first of the creations was Light.
(Although some maintain that "Bereishis" is a Ma'amer of creation, so it comes before "Yehi Ohr", it is not one of the Asara Ma'amaros of the particulars of creations, it is the general Ma'amer...see footnotes to sicha in Chelek Yud.)
But this Light was taken away lest Evildoers benefit from it. Hashem will bring this Light back for Tzadikim to enjoy in the World To Come.

What is the point of creating something, just to take it away?
Obviously this was important for the world to have. It was, after all, the very first creation.
Also, why create it first? There were no people yet who needed to see anything.

We read that by every creation, Hashem said, "It was good." (But not every day. Only when the creation was completed. The waters on the second day were only completed on Day Three. See Rashi.)

The first time G-d uses the description 'good' is for the Light. He called it Good.
So every time the Torah says that Hashem saw the creations as Good, it is also [really] referring to the Light He had created already.

So this Light was created before anything else. And every day of creation it was there, at least in a hidden aspect.

The Rebbe explains that everything on this world is the way it is because of how things started in the Spiritual Realms. Therefore, the way a building developer plans and builds is actually because this is how He Who Built The World (this moniker for The Alm-ghty is not from the text of the sicha (you see how this post is built around disclaimers?)) built the world.

A person who builds anything does so for a purpose. He has a goal in mind, and intends to follow through with this purpose until the building is complete, and the goal is actualized.

Hashem created this world for one purpose: La'asois Lo Yisbarech Dirah B'Tachtoinim, to make this world a holier world. To make this world a World Of Light. For humans (and Jews in particular) to change the darkness and concealments of this physical world into Light.

That's why the Light was created and shown (and shone, also) at the beginning. This is the ultimate purpose. Throughout the rest of creation, the purpose is only hinted to, with Hashem calling each one Good.
Only when we finish our mission here, and reveal the world's ultimate purpose of creation, will the Light come back, and give enjoyment to Tzadikim.
And it's not only that Hashem will bring back the Light, but more so that we will have revealed it here the whole time.

Finally, this is why the Hebrew word for light: Ohr, is the gematria of "Raz" meaning secret.
Seemingly, 'light' and 'secret' not only have different meanings, but are opposites. A secret is something hidden, concealed, and dark.
Now it is understood. Throughout the world's existence, Light is secret. It is hidden in creation.

It is up to us to learn as much Torah as possible, and do as many Mitzvos as possible, to make this world a Dirah B'Tachtoinim for Hashem.

It's time we finished our job and let the 'secret' out!!


The Cold Weather

It bites.

Get it?!!!

My Williamsburg Homey

That's right. I've got a homey in Wo'burg.
I call him up, and he tells me right off the bat whether a suit I bought has shatnez in it.
He's tested thousands of garments, and knows whether a suit is likely to have shatnez or not.
His advice about my suit:
I haven't had any problems with that brand from that country. Only if it was made in Italy, then sometimes it has problems. Listen, wear it and enjoy it, and if you get a chance, it's always a good idea to get it checked sometime later.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Today I very much celebrated my old age. And six months late, too.
First, I visited Hagafen Winery in Napa Valley. I had visited a winery in Israel, before I was twenty one, but this was the first time after becoming a full-fledged adult.
Second, I visited a casino for the first time!
I really wanted to try the poker tables, but they had lots of chips out, and I didn't see any signs for a $4 dollar table.
Instead, I used the slots. It was very confusing, and I found it difficult to find a slot machine that I actually understood how the game worked. There were lots of flashing buttons you had to press, apparently at random, and/or in frustration.
Finally, I found my slot. And I won about twenty dollars at one point, and I walked away with fifteen bucks in my pocket that weren't there while I walked in.

As we were walking into the casino from the parking lot, a woman was walking out carrying a gray bag, and escorted by two security guards. They were obviously making sure she got to her car safely after winning a big payload. I heard her say she was going straight to CostCo to spend it. After claiming my winnings, I wistfully looked for some security guards to accompany me to my car. Especially after my 4 cent last big win. Later, I wondered if she was just an actor, and came around the parking lot every twenty minutes or so, to get the gamblers excited when they saw her....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blessed Waffles and Houses.

A few nights ago I went to a friend's birthday farbrengen.
And not just because I remembered the great waffles from last year.

I gave him all the brachos in my arsenal, and since on your birthday you have a special mazal, I asked him to lay a good one on me.
He bentched me with this:

May you do well in smicha this year.
May you build a beis ne'eman b'yisroel, at the right time.
May you find that right someone to build it with.
And may you know what you are going to do for how to support that bayis.

Woah. For a bracha like that, it was worth the drive, even without the reason of great waffles.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What I learn in Yeshiva

Lots of people have a misconception about what Bochurim learn in Yeshiva.
A common example of this is Krias HaTorah.
Every time I would lein, when I came home from Yeshiva, people in my shul would come over and say, "Wow! You learned that in Yeshiva! Good for you.."
My "Well, no, actually they don't teach us that in Yeshiva" would always fall on deaf ears.

And you know what else they don't teach us in Yeshiva?
Obscure Israeli folk songs.

There is an Israeli man in my shul who always starts different songs in Hebrew, and looks to me to sing along.
I think my Israeli Song Repertoire is comprised of:
  • Mipee Kel
  • U'Shavtem Mayim B"Sasson, and
  • Yesh Lanu Tayish
"Don't they teach you anything in Yeshiva?"

My Dark Past: A Simchas Torah Story

With the festive holiday of Simchas Torah coming up, here is a little story that takes place about four years ago, when I was a bochur in the zal in Los Angeles.

It was the new zman after Tishrei, and I was sitting with some friends around a table.
There was a calendar, printed by one of the local shluchim in the area.
I was flipping through it, examining the different dates for the coming year.
"Oh, no!" I said, drawing attention from my friend Levi sitting beside me.
"What? What's wrong?" he asked.
"Well, look. Next Simchas Torah is a third day Yom Tov. It goes Shmini Atzeres, and then Simchas Torah, and then Shabbos. With all the sweaty dancing, and no chance to shower for all that's gonna be gross and nasty!"
Levi just looked at me for a long moment. Finally, he said, "Yossi. You are worrying about one shower a year from now!!!"

What else are friends for?

Some Sukkah Secrets

Here's a little nifty kabbalastic lesson for you:

It says "B'Keseh L'Yom Chageinu", which is interpreted to mean that what is hidden at the beginning of Tishrei is revealed at the end of the month.
Meaning that on Sukkos is a revelation of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

On Rosh HaShana, the mitzva of the day is Shofar. The high level of Shofar comes down on Sukkos.
How do we see the Shofar on Sukkos?
In the Schach, of course!!
"Schach" is spelled with a samech and two chofs. The samech=60 times you blow tekiah, and the two chofs each are the 20 sounds of shvarim and truah.

And how through the schach do we see anything from Yom Kippur, you might ask?
Well, the Schach represents the cloud of smoke made from the ktores, or incense burning, from Yom Kippur.

Now you know.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cell Phone

Before I begin, there is a joke:
How are bochurim similar to cell phones?
They both are free after nine.
How are bochurim and cell phones different?
One of them comes with a plan.

Anyway, my phone is very uneducated.
When most guys get a new phone, the first thing they do is teach it how to curse. And how to spell names like mendel and yossi.
I cannot teach my phone anything. He cannot and does not want to learn any new words for texting. It's time I replaced him with something with a bigger brain.
A phone is a man's best friend.
And is it too much to ask for my phone to know my name?

Stop Voldemort

On a Stop sign in my neighborhood.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Diabetic Cookbook

I saw an ad for some medicine, or program or something, and they were offering a Diabetic Cookbook as a gift for signing up.


It must be such a tough life to live, being a Diabetic Cookbook. I didn't even know cookbooks could be diabetic until today.
Humans aren't the only ones with hardships to deal with. Poor guy.

Stop You-Know-Who

There is a stop sign near my house, that somebody decided to add their own touch.
Under the word STOP, it has stenciled in white paint, the word VOLDEMORT.

I guess that means he is still out hiding, waiting for his return.