Monday, November 30, 2009

Yud Daled Kislev

Tonight marks the wedding anniversary of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin. They married in the year Tof Reish Pey Tes, 81 years ago.
In a famous sicha in the year Tof Shin Yud Daled, the Rebbe explained that his marriage to the Freidiker Rebbe's daughter started his involvement in public works. The Rebbe also said that, "This is the day which connects me with you, and you with me," regarding us, the chassidim.

It is interesting to note another quote from the Rebbe, but about the Freidiker Rebbe's wedding. The Rebbe said in a farbrenegen on Tes Vov Cheshvan, Tof Shin Nun Aleph, that the Freidiker Rebbe's wedding brought forth the Third Generation, and therefore the possibility for Geulah.

What's the Third Generation? Starting from the Rebbe Rashab, the Freidiker Rebbe's children are the third generation. There are different sayings from our sages that say the Geulah will be in the third generation. There is a posuk that says: Lo Yamushu MePicha U'mepi Zaracha U'mepi zera zaracha may'atah va'ad olam. Another iss: Ateres Zkeinim ney Banim.
The Rebbe explains in that sicha how the starting of Tomchei Tmimim was connected with the Freidiker Rebbe's wedding (it was during the sheva brachos that it was announced...), because of the third generation's charge for bringing moshiach.

Anywho, IY"H I'll be farbrenging tonight, so it could be that at around 2 in the morning I'll come back and write anything good that I remember.

Oh, and of course, I want to bentch every bochur and meidel who is looking for his or her bashert, to get engaged and married in an auspicious time, in the zchus of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin's wedding tonight!

Win Thousands of YossiPoints!!!

The Background: There is a famous question that will arise soon, for which many classical commentaries offer answers for. This question is known also as: "The question to which there are 100 answers."

The Question: What is this famous question? And how many answers do you know?

The Points:
  • If you are the first person who can correctly guess which question I am referring to, you receive 800 YossiPoints!!
  • For every other person to have the correct question, you get 300 YossiPoints!!
  • For every [logical, correct, maybe said somewhere else than in your own head] answer, you will receive 100 YossiPoints!! (And it is said that there are 100 answers!!!)
  • If you are a Follower, you automatically receive a 500 YossiPoint Bonus!!
  • If you can explain how the Rebbe answers this question, you get an additional 400 YossiPoints!!
Time Limit: Until Hey Teves!! Lots of time to think of the question, and then find lots of answers!!
Maximum Number of YossiPoints Available: You do the math! 100 answers X 100 points per answer, plus the 500 Follower bonus, plus the 800(or 300) for the question itself, plus 400 for the Rebbe's answer... = A Ton Of YossiPoints!!!

If nobody is figuring out what I'm talking about, maybe I'll give a hint for what the question is regarding...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Guest Post: Dot

Here are some poems originally recited by Dot, from Animaniacs:

Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet
And what a big tuffet she had.
So if you're feeling insecure
Just stand next to her
And then you won't feel quite so bad.
Thank you.

The Shoe

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
And, boy, did it stink in there.
Thank you.

Ode to Jack

Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack jumped over
The candlestick
And burned his butt.
Thank you.

This Little Piggy

This little piggy went to market
This little piggy stayed home
And this little piggy got her own prime-time sitcom
And it really kills me because I'm so much more talented than she is.
Thank you.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
Humpty Dumpty retained a lawyer and settled out of court
For a lot of money and ownership of the wall.
Thank you.

Requiem for a Lamb

Mary had a little lamb
With mint jelly.
Thank you.

Jack Sprat

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
So he became macrobiotic and a giant pain in the neck.
Thank you.

Thirty Days

Thirty days hath September
April, June, and November
All the rest have thirty-one
Except for my Uncle Spit who was given thirty to life.
Thank you.

Old King Cole

Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he
He called for his pipe
And he called for his bowl
And he called Information for numbers he could've easily looked up in the phone book.
Thank you.

Ode to a Veggie

Beans, beans
The musical fruit
The more you eat
The more they kick you off the air if you finish this poem.
Thank you.

The Teapot

I'm a little teapot
Short and stout
Here is my handle
And here is a note from my shrink
He says I'm getting better!
Last week, I thought I was a toaster oven!!
Ah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!!!
Thank you.

Roses are Red

Roses are red
Violets are blue
That's what they say
But it just isn't true
Roses are red
And apples are, too
But violets are violet
Violets aren't blue
An orange is orange
But Greeland's not green
A pinky's not pink
So what does it mean?
To call something blue when it's not
We defile it
But, ah, what the heck
It's hard to rhyme violet.

hmmm. my comments are messed up

When I go back to older posts, and view the comments, they are sometimes mixed up in order.
Anyone know what's wrong or how I can fix it? I've already submitted my question to google's blogger forum..

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Poem

I was always a little sketchy on the history of Thanksgiving. After careful research, I was able to get all the facts straight. I wrote the following poem, so I never forget all the important details:

Columbus set sail on the Mayflower; it was a dark and cloudy day,
Lots of Pilgrims were with him, looking for a place they could freely pray.

When they finally hit land, they were in for quite a shock-
It wasn't India, they found, but good old Plymouth Rock.

The natives were nice, and Squanto taught them how to plant their seeds,
Pocahontas gave them Manhattan, for some shiny looking beads.

With Columbus at their head, the Pilgrims started fighting against Great Britain.
In 1620, they won the war, and had the Constitution written.

They commemorated it with a long weekend, and the Black Friday shopping craze,
And guess what? A miracle happened. Their turkey lasted for eight days!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The miracle of childbirth

I am a Friend with a wonderful 16 year old boy with Down Syndrome.
We were speaking about Toldos, and Vayetzei, and Yakov and Eisav. I told him I was a twin, and that Yakov and Eisav were twins.
He asked me how the baby comes out of the mother's stomach. I told him that sometimes they make an operation, and take the baby out from the stomach.
And the other times?

........awkward silence on my part.....

"I think we should continue with this Mishna!"

Monday, November 23, 2009



Help! I'm in a self-imposed pickle!

Vision, part 2

I had started to write about our vision in an earlier post, but I got sidetracked with a great sicha.
What I wanted to show was that the possuk says that Yitzchak was old, and his eyes weakened. Instead of saying that Yitzchak's deteriorated vision was a result of his old age, Rashi instead brings three explanations. The Rebbe explained in the sicha that it did not make sense for Yitzchak's old age to naturally cause his eyesight to diminish, for he had received a direct Bracha from Hashem. A blessing from the Al-mighty certainly wouldn't allow for the natural deterioration of the body. Besides, it might not have even been a natural event, to go blind as one nears the end of his life, for the Torah doesn't tell us of any other person who this happens to.

That's from the sicha.

I always thought that our vision is a funny thing.
As soon as we get a good handle on it, we start to lose it. Go into any kindergarten today, and most kids will be wearing glasses, or need to be wearing glasses.
I was the oldest of my family, for the age at which I needed corrective lenses. I was 14. Everyone else got glasses earlier in life.

When do our other senses start to fail us or deteriorate? Do people start losing their hearing as a teenager? In our hypothetical kindergarten, are there some boys that have started to bald?

It doesn't make sense to me how Hashem could give us the beautiful power of sight, but we start losing it so early. We never have a chance to appreciate it, before we're stuck in the doctor's office, hearing things like, "Now, hold still. This might come a little close," and "A? Or B?"

Also, how do you think people lived before the advent of glasses?
Before the 8th century, people really didn't have a permanent way of seeing with clarity. They would just hold up buckets of water, or use other methods of magnification.

How would soldiers fight? How would kings govern?
Would only those with decent eyesight be given positions of power?

How did anyone live back then, without having the clarity which we have now? Imagine living in a very fuzzy and dark world.

It's very possible that our bodies have changed over time.
We see from Yitzchak, that not necessarily was it the natural thing which came with old age, to lose your eyesight.

I wonder if it is true that we have changed, and if so, what the reason is.
What happened in the last thousand years, that our bodies start rejecting the magnificent gift Hashem has given us, so soon after we are born?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Free kasha for life?

They say that if a baby is born on an airplane, he gets free flights for life.

If a baby is born in front of Tomchei Tmimim, would he get free kasha?

It's not just a hypothetical question anymore.

Today, a woman gave birth in a car outside of our yeshiva, mazal tov.

I didn't know what was happening- I was learning. Bochurim saw lots of cops with blue gloves on, and were gossiping about a drug bust.

An all-knowing bochur told me what really happened.

I don't think the mother and baby are Jewish....yet! (I'm kidding with the 'yet'.)

The 'Bloggers Amplification Effect'

It has been proven scientifically that the more bloggers together in one room, the exponentially greater their individual powers become.

On shabbos, I broke bread with several other bloggers, some of whom I met for the first time.
I had my preconceptions about what happens when many bloggers join for one meal, but I was surprised. Here's what DID NOT happen:

  1. Not once was Dungeons and Dragons referenced.
  2. They didn't call each other by their blogger names.
  3. They didn't have a derogatory term for a non-blogger, like 'muggle' is used by wizards. They also didn't make fun of non-bloggers, and explain their silly behavior with the one word: Humans! and all laugh.
  4. They didn't speak about how they planned to rule the planet. (Although, it was only my first time. I'm not naive enough to think they would actually let me into their inner circles so early. Isn't everything only revealed at the 18th degree, anyway?)
  5. When someone at the table told a story or a Dvar Torah, a blogger who wanted to share his thoughts on that didn't first raise his hand and say, "I want to comment. Mendy says...."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A thief and a prostitute

We learn things from all sorts of people and events.
Reb Zusha M'Anipoli is quoted in the Hayom Yom for famously bringing 7 lessons we can learn from a thief. (Reb Mendal Futerfas once said, after having served a sentence in a Siberian prison, that Reb Zusha obviously had not been in prison. If he had, he would have learned thousands of things from a thief!)

In the gemara in Avoda Zara, a prostitute dramatically changes a man's life.
It is the famous story of Elazar Ben Durdaya (who, by the way, is one of the Rosh's most beloved characters from history. Possibly only topped by The Snake from Genesis), the worst sinner ever. The gemara recounts how he had made it his mission to visit every zonah in the world, and how he managed to accomplish just that. Finally, he heard stories of a woman so beautiful, and so expensive, that he crossed seven rivers with a pocket full of gold, just for her. When this woman was with Elazar, she blew some air (to put it nicely), and said, "Just like this air cannot return to its place, so too, Elazar Ben Durdaya cannot return with Tshuva."
This woman was not that much of a better person that Elazar was. Yet she brought him to the painful realization of how far he had gone from the right path.
The rest of the story tells how Elazar Ben Durdaya ran away, and begged the mountains and hills, then the sun and moon, and finally the planets, all to beg for mercy on his behalf. They all replied that they had themselves to ask for, and couldn't bother asking for him, as well. Finally, Elazar Ben Durdaya, broken and alone, uttered, "Ein Hadavar Taluy Eleh Bi"-It is only up to me. He put his head between his knees, and wept so bitterly, that he passed away.
A Heavenly Voice cried out and proclaimed: Reb Elazar Ben Durdaya has a place in the World To Come".

An inspiring story, to say the least. The Rosh loves to bring this story, and explain why Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi cried after this episode, and what it meant, and how they called him 'Reb' Elazar, at the end...

But anyway, we see how the words of a zonah had such a profound effect on our protagonist. Furthermore, it was the person Elazar was directly involved with, the person he was sinning with, who woke Elazar up to the awful person he had become.

Why am I speaking about this?
Because I had a similar experience.

No, I don't chas v'shalom have any connection to any zonah, besides for her, of course. And no, I'm not as big a sinner as Elazar Ben Durdaya.

Let's just say it could have been similar to the following fictitious story: I'm with a group of friends who are smoking, and after asking them for a cigarette, a friend tells me that I'm better than they are, and shouldn't start to smoke.
This didn't happen, but what did occur recently, could be considered similar, I think.

It's important we all have people who believe in us, and see who we really are, what we are involved with, and what we can be.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Best Sicha Ever, on Parshas Toldos

Before I begin, there are a few things you must know.
  1. I didn't know if I should write this, since it could very well be my Dvar Torah at my Shabbos Day meal. Then I realized it's selfish, because most of my readers will not be eating with me, so why deny them a great sicha, just so I can wow a few others?
  2. This may not in fact be the best sicha ever on Parshas Toldos. I love it, and it is definitely high up there. I titled my post that just so you would open up the link from google reader.
  3. It's pretty late at night, and I only just finished learning it over the phone (with someone who reads my blog, by the way). I really should spend more time thinking about the best way to summarize it, and decide which points to emphasize, but I'm not, and I haven't.
  4. This is one of my 'tradition sichas'. No matter how busy I am in the week, there are some special sichos scattered throughout the year that I must learn, year after year. This is one of those.
  5. Whatever I write on the sicha, it's not doing it justice.
  6. I'm getting carried away with this numbering thing.
  7. See what I mean?

Rivkah was pregnant, and there was a bitter battle taking place inside her. Yakov and Eisav were fighting over their inheritance.
What did they stand to inherit? Everything. This entire physical world, and the infinite World To Come.
The Rebbe asks, "What was the fight about? Eisav wanted this world, and Yakov wanted the next. Simple."
(This question is the most beautiful critique of the classical commentaries on this episode. If you don't appreciate the subtlety and beauty of this: sigh. It's not you. It must be me. I haven't transmitted it to you properly. It is my fault, for which I'm truly sorry. It is the most magnificent piece of art, and with my feeble description of it, you are not appreciating it.)

Here's another question the Rebbe poses: How can it be that Eisav was a wicked person? Okay, after he was born, he made some wrong decisions in his life, and left the path his righteous father and grandfather led him on. But in the womb??? It says he was drawn towards places of Avoda Zara, before he was even born! How could the holy Yitchak beget a child who has the nature and inclinations, from birth to be an evil person?
Besides for this problem, if we say Eisav was drawn towards evil as a baby, that he had an innate tendency for bad, how could this possibly be fair? What ever happened to free choice? Can we really say that someone is a bad person B'Etzem? Essentially he is evil, and therefore he makes decisions to do bad things??

The Rebbe explains that there are two types of Avoda: the Chassid HaMeula, and the Kovesh Es Yitzroi. Someone involved with only Kedusha, and then the person who is involved with the world, overcoming both the bad around him, and the bad within him. Included in the Avoda of the Kovesh Es Yitzroi is the avoda of Tshuva. Not only does a person subdue his inclination when thoughts and desires to do bad arise, but even if a person acts on those passions, and transgresses, he can right his ways, and through tshuva regain control of his Yetzer.

Everything we do, it is only because the possiblity for it was given to us by our Avos.
So where do we get the strength to do Tshuva? We cannot possibly say that the Avos acted on bad desires, or even if they had any bad desires at all!
The Rebbe explains that although the Avos had no internal conflicts with which to overcome, they most definitely had external struggles with the world around them. The reason they were able to overcome obstacles around them was because of their strong connection to Hashem. That is what gave them the strength. This strong connection was bequeathed to us, that even if we fall so low and do Aveiros, our connection to Hashem is strong enough to shine through, and help us do Tshuva.

Let's now take a look at Yitzchak. As on of the Avos, he had both ways for Avoda: Chassid HaMeula and Kovesh Es Yitzroi. When he had children, however, each one became the epitome and poster child for one of the two avodos.

Now guess which of the twins had the purpose of dealing with the world and with all the bad and cleaning it all up, to make a dwelling place for Hashem here?
It was Eisav, of course.

(Here's where the Rebbe comes in with an astounding chiddush. A fresh, new way of looking at things.)
When the Torah tells us that Eisav was drawn towards Avoda Zara, even as a baby, this is a compliment! It is not bad! He was not bad! He had a tendency for bad; not for doing bad things, but for overcoming and refining the bad things.
Of course, because of free choice, he messed himself over, and got too sunken into the very world he was supposed to refine.

So why did he want Olam Haba as well, and Yakov want Olam Hazeh as well?
First Yakov: If your goal is to reach the highest elevations for yourself, part of doing that is to work with the world. Working to refine the world actually helps you get to higher levels in Kedusha.
Now Eisav: If your goal is to refine the world and overcome the bad, you must also 'visit Olam Haba' from time to time. You must get the power and strength of Torah, of spirituality, and of Yiddishkeit, in order to properly refine the world.

What happened in the end, though?
Eisav became a Rasha, and it was Yakov who received Yitzchak's brachos.
The only way to refine the world, and not get pulled in too deep from the bad influences you are working on to overcome, is if your main priority is Torah. Like Yakov. You can't have the 'olam haba' as your secondary goal. First you must be a Yoshev Ohel, and learn lots of Torah and become steeped in spirituality. Only then will you have the strength to work with the world, and stay above it, at the same time.

Yakov therefore received the brachos, and took upon himself the responsibility for both types of avoda, in both of the worlds.

This sicha can be found in chelek chof, sicha beis, page 108. I encourage you to learn it for yourself. You'll see that I didn't do it justice, and there are some more points I didn't include here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vision, part 1

First of all, I must say that Toldos is a powerhouse parsha with tons of great sichas and talking points. I won't be able to get through all of them this week for you, but trust me that it's a favorite of pulpit Rabbis everywhere. Two of the greatest sichas of all time (a personal list of approximately 20 sichas from Likkutei Sichos (and no, I didn't actually compile a list, though maybe I should) are right here in our very own Parshas Toldos.

The Torah tells us that Yitzchak, in his old age, had lost the strength of his eyesight. Although he was 123, he still lived for another 57 years. A blind person is considered like dead, and it probably brought with it hardships and pain for Yitzchak. The flip side was of course the wonderful opportunity for our forefather Yaakov to take Eisav's blessings for himself. All he needed to do was to put on a furry coat, and have his mother cook up some goat just the way Yitzchak likes his deer.

Rashi gives three explanations for why Yitzchak became blind:
  1. From the smoke of the incense burning that Eisav's idol-worshipping wives
  2. During the Akeida, the heavens opened up, and angels saw the sacrifice about to take place. Their tears fell from their eyes into Yitzchak's, blinding him.
  3. To give Yakov the blessings.
In a great sicha, the Rebbe explains why all three are needed, and why this explanation is the first one, why this is the second, and why this is the third one. It's pure genius how the Rebbe rips this Rashi apart, down to its core.
At the end of the sicha, the Rebbe points out a powerful lesson we can take from the third explanation. Hashem chose to blind Yitzchak for the last 57 years of his life, instead of simply telling him that his son Eisav was a Rasha. This wouldn't have been a total surprise to Yitzchak, either. Hashem wouldn't have needed to say, "Yitzchak, you better sit down for this...". Yitchak already knew Eisav's wives served Avoda Zara, and that Eisav spoke coarsely and didn't mention G-d, which is why Yitchak remarked that it sounded like Yakov speaking.
So too, we must distance ourselves from speaking any sort of Loshon Hara about another Jew.

That's the sicha in a nutshell, but not the main point of this post. Well, fine. There are two main points, and that was the first.

The sicha can be found in chelek Tes Vov, the third sicha.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Becoming Rabbi Yossi

Drumroll... I passed my test! I'm part Rabbi.
Six of us were crammed into the little room at the back of 770, and for two hours we were questioned on all sorts of cases and halachas from Hilchos Melicha. We were all extremely nervous. We tried making it a friendlier atmosphere, so we stuck in some jokes here and there. For example, R' Labkowski was asking me a detailed question, and he told me, "I'm coming to you, asking you how I do _______". I said, "Well, you shouldn't be coming to me, because I don't have smicha yet."
We all laughed.

In the end, he told us we could have known it better. We could have told him that also. We learned everything on our own, and had very few shiurim.
He passed our group, with everyone getting a Memutza, which means average.
Two of us got Lemaila M'Memutza, which means better than average. I was on of those. (pssssh).
Next test is on Basar B'Chalav, which baruch hashem won't be for another two or two and a half months from now.

I was stressing out majorly before the test.

There are some times I wish I smoked. Last year on shlichus, there were a few times that I just needed a smoke, and I was jealous of guys that could take a cigarette and clear their minds and relax. Last night was the best time ever to start smoking, if any. I was pulling out my hair, trying to cram in hours of study.
Of course, I didn't take a smoke, and I ended up doing fine on my test.

So I'm gonna take a nap. I think I deserve one. I'll talk to ya'll fine folk some other time.
Peace out, trouts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Holtzbergs, A"H, H"YK"D

I wish I could sit down, clear my thoughts, and write about the Holtzbergs, and the tragedy that occurred last year.
I can't, though. I have a really important test tomorrow morning that I need to study for, all day and all night.
Maybe after the test, tomorrow afternoon, I'll write something if I have time.

Although I've written nothing about it, you can still read very inspiring posts on the subject, from other bloggers.
Especially here, but also this one, and this one. And now this one (it has no title, so I linked to the blog itself. Look for the post from wednesday nov. 18).

Monday, November 16, 2009


"To slam? Or not to slam? That is the question."

-Hamlet, and Yossi

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't Worry: Yad HaChassidim Al HaElyonah!

Even after the guilty verdict, we have to remember that Yad HaChassidim Al HaElyonah!
We must not give up hope. Like the gemara in Brachos says:
"Even when a sharp knife in downward motion has reached your neck, do not give up hope to receive Hashem's mercy!"

Rivkah Got Gezhe

Rivkah married up. Big time. Yitchak was the biggest gezhe around. I mean, the Ivri name was legendary. Everyone knew how Yitzchak's dad was G-d's favorite, and miracles were always being wrought for the entire family. Yitzchak's father, along with his trusty sidekick Eliezer, beat into submission the most powerful and treacherous army of the era, the infamous "Four Kings Army", which had defeated opponents larger in number (the Five Kings Army).
Yitzchak was also known throughout the land as the holiest person alive, coming mere millimeters away from being a sacrifice, and showing an amazing level of Mesirus Nefesh.
What's more, the Ivri name brought with it incredible amounts of wealth. They were loaded, even after their refusal of Malki Tzedek's offer of spoils from the war.

Was Yitzchak the type of guy who was humble about his gezhe background?
Absolutely not. Eliezer carried with him the documents proving his Yichus and rights of inheritance to the whole Ivri dynasty.

And who did Yitzchak go for?


Rivkah was a rose among thorns. A 'diamond in the rough', if you will.
Her family was a bunch of no-goodnicks, and very far removed from G-dliness.
Yet Rivkah was a G-d-fearing tzadekes. She was Chassidish, and even though her last name brought murmurs and whispers, Yitzchak didn't care.
The gemara says that you must investigate into the girl's brothers. Rivkah's brother was a monster of a man. But Yitzchak didn't care.

He was gezhe, and made sure everyone knew it. But he looked past Rivkah's background, and into her heart.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chayei Sarah

In this week's parsha, we read about the story of Eliezer, Avraham's faithful servant, and how he found a wife for Avraham's son, Yitzchak.
Eliezer created a whole system for him to know if the girl he would meet was the Divinely intended wife for Yitzchak. He davened to Hashem that his system would work.
The possuk tells us that before he finished his prayers, "behold! Rivkah approaches".

Question: Why was Eliezer answered right away? This doesn't happen to just anyone!! The Medrash actually says that there were three who were answered immediately: Eliezer, Moshe, and Shlomo.
Question: How could he be included with the great Moshe and Shlomo? There were no other tzadikkim who could compare to Moshe and Shlomo? Only Eliezer is included in this elite group??!

To understand these questions, we must first understand another question.

Question: What does it show if you are answered right away when you daven for something?

To understand this question, we must first understand another question.

Question: Why does Eliezer's story get told three times? First he tells Hashem exactly what should happen. Then we read about it actually taking place. Then, if you still aren't bored with the story, we have to hear it again as Eliezer recounts it to Rivkah's family. Why didn't Hashem just take some of this stuff out when it came to the final draft? (I'm joking, of course. Hashem wrote the Torah, without any drafts first.)

To understand this question, we must first understand another question.

Question: What is so special about the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivkah?

Time to get some answers, don't you think? We'll work backwards.

Answer: The marriage of Yitzchak and Rivkah represented...everything.
The whole reason for the world's existence. It represented the reason why Jews are here, and what we have to accomplish. It wasn't just a representation, either. It was the catalyst. It was the preparation for Matan Torah, which on the one hand changed mankind and the world forever, and on the other hand, was the sole reason for Hashem to create the world in the first place.
As it is explained in many places in Chassidus, the change Torah brought about was that Holiness and Mundane could unite. Before the Torah was given, physicality and spirituality were two different realms entirely, and were exclusive. When Hashem "came down" to Har Sinai, and Moshe ascended, this represented what was happening to the world around them.
The exclusivity of spiritual and physical, of Heaven and Earth, was broken. After the Torah was given to us, the world changed in a way that it could elevate and become one with G-dliness.
Also, it says that the whole existence of the world depended on the Torah being given.
And not only did the world change through Torah, but the Jews did, also. It says that the Torah the Jews and G-d are all one. Through the Torah, we can connect to Hashem in ways which were impossible before

The ability for Matan Torah to do this, must have come from the Avos. After all, "Ma'ase Avos Siman L'Banim". The power for anything we do. comes from our Avos.

The union of Yitzchak and Rivkah was exactly this. It gave the ability for the Highest levels to unite with the Lowest.
Yitzchak was the highest level possible for a person to be. After he was brought on the altar, even though he was not actually sacrificed, our sages tell us that Yitzchak acquired the status of an "Olah Temimah", an offering that is totally for Hashem. For all other types of karbanos, the Kohanim were able to eat different parts of the animal. The olah offering, however, was entirely consumed by the fire. No part was allowed to be eaten, for it was entirely for Hashem. Yitzchak was then too holy to even leave Eretz Yisroel.
Yitzchak also had the high quality of being circumcised at 8 days old, and also of growing up in the righteous house of his parents, Avraham and Sarah.

If Yitzchak represented everything spiritual, and the highest levels, then Rivkah was the exact opposite.
Rivkah is called, "A rose among thorns", and for good reason. She lived outside of Eretz Yisroel, in Padan Aram. Her family was literally: evil. Her father Besual tried to poison Eliezer, and we all know how her brother Lavan treated her future son, Yaakov.

.....Now we can start answering some other questions!
Answer: Now it's very obvious why the story of their shidduch is stressed so much, in the Torah.
Answer: We can also understand why Eliezer was answered immediately, like Moshe and Shlomo HaMelech. It didn't really have to do with who was davening, rather what they were davening for.

The closer you are to a person, the less space there is in between. If you are receiving something from him, then less space also equals less time for the transfer to take place.

The closer you are to G-d, the faster your prayers are answered. Eliezer was not as holy and as G-dly as Moshe and Shlomo, but he didn't have to be in order to be answered immediately. What mattered was the subject matter of his prayers.

What were all three of these Tzadikim praying for? (I know, I know, another question. Just bear with me...)
They were praying for a revelation of G-dliness to unite with with the physical realm:
Moshe was praying for Hashem to create a new creation to destroy Korach's rebellion. Moshe was praying for Hashem to create a sign that everything Moshe did, was because Hashem had told him so. It would prove that Moshe was a Prophet. That he was united with G-d. That G-d unites with Man.
Shlomo was praying for Hashem to reside in the Beis Hamikdash that he had built for Him. After he prayed, G-d sent a Heavenly fire down onto the mizbeich. The Beis Hamikdash was a revelation of G-dliness, uniting with the World. The physical area of the Beis Hamikdash forever changed, and to this day carries its Kedusha.

Elizer was praying for the greatest revelation of G-d's unity in creation: that which was accomplished through Matan Torah, but started with the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivkah.

One last question: Why was Eliezer answered before he actually finished davening? Moshe and Shlomo were indeed answered immediately, but only once they had finished davening!

Answer: The unity caused by Torah is the greatest of the three that Eliezer, Moshe, and Shlomo were davening for. We see this clearly: although a prophet is connected with G-d, it is only for certain amounts of time that he sees the prophecy. The prophet has his own existence outside of the prophecy, etc. The Beis Hamikdash, although its Kedusha remains forever on the Har HaBayis, was destroyed.
Torah, however, is eternal. The Rambam writes how the Torah will never change. Nothing will be added or removed, chas v'shalom.
The connection between man and G-d effected by Torah is also much deeper than without the Torah.

That is why Eliezer was answered even before he finished. The subject matter at hand was so one with G-d, there was no delay whatsoever.

This was all freely adapted from the Rebbe's sicha, printed in Likkutei Sichos, Chelek Chof, on Parshas Chayei Sara, Sicha Gimmel. Printed by Kehos.

Train Tracks

There are some things that bochurim will say, that if you're not 'in the know', you'll be very confused. I made a list of some words and phrases that come to mind. If I think of more, I'll post them. I suggest you print this out and and stick a copy to your fridge. At home and at work. This way you can be prepared.

  • "Train Tracks": If you hear a bochur say he could see train tracks on another bochur's arm, this does not mean that he could see signs of drug abuse through needles. Instead, he is merely explaining that he saw marks from tefillin that the bochur put on for shacharis that morning.
  • Tank: This refers to an RV. We all know the true story of a bochur who called up Enterprise asking if they had any tanks.
  • "My building": A bochur who refers to 'his building' is not referring to any buildings he actually owns. It just means that he visits the doorman every friday and slips a Lchaim under the door of an office with the name Goldberg on the door.
  • "I see the light!": Calm down. Nobody got high, and everyone is still in their right state of mind. If you hear this, just skip tachanun in davening. It means somebody tall was able to see over the heads of the people in 770 and see that the light near the shtender at the front was on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Before Midnight

Last night I went to sleep at about 10:30. Well, I was in bed by then. Probably fell asleep closer to 11.
I know what you're all thinking: This isn't twitter, Yossi. It's a blog. Get on with something funny or we're leaving!

What's incredible, and what you're clearly missing if you thought what I said you did (that sounds a little gibberish and confusing, but it's not. Just read it slowly, and you'll see it makes sense), is that this was the first time this yeshiva year that I went to sleep before 12. Besides for Friday nights, k'muvan u'k'pashut.

I had a friend take over my dorm counselor duties, and as simple as that, I was able to get about 7.5 hours of sleep!!

You have to be able to appreciate the little things in life. Or at least, you have to be able to appreciate the little things in my life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A hard bochurish quiz

Here's a harder quiz than last time. Try to figure out which answer a bochur would choose.

1. It's 1 AM, and you must get up for Chassidus the next morning. Your bed is being used, however, to hold your huge pile of cleaned (and wrinkled) clothes that you finally took out of the dryer. It's dark in the room, since your roommates are sleeping already. What do you do?
A) Try to stuff as much of the laundry into your drawers, and carefully lay the rest of the clothes on a clean spot on the floor near your bed.
B) Turn on the light. Your roommates are heavy sleepers. Spend the next hour and a half to lazily and tiredly sort, fold and put your laundry away.
C) "Accidentally" fall asleep in your friend's bed. Hey, he should be back in the dorm, anyway, by now. It's his fault he fell asleep learning rambam, in zal.
D) Make sure there are no lumpy areas that would be hard for your back, and go to sleep surrounded/over/under your clean clothes.

2. It's 1 PM, Friday afternoon. You woke up quite recently, after a heavy farbrengen the night before, Leil Shishi. Shabbos starts at 4:15 PM. Your chavrusa is waiting impatiently for you, because your mivtzoim route takes about 2-2.5 hours to finish. When do you daven?
A) Do Rashi's on the subway ride, and Rabbeinu Tam's at 4:05 PM after mikveh (you get back to Crown Heights around 3:55)
B) Daven shacharis in Rashi's before you go on mivtzoim, and Rabbeinu Tam's on the subway, if you remember to bring them with you.
C) Cut your mivtzoim time, to finish and be back by 3:30 PM. Plenty of time then to daven shacharis in Rashi's and Rabbeinu Tam's.
D) How can you go on mivtzoim without chassidus? Learn an hour chassidus, then daven. Do mivtzoim on Kingston Ave. Let your chavrusa take care of the route himself.

Happy Half Birthday and 400th Post Day!

That's right! Today is my half birthday. I'm now 21 and a half. Or 20 and six quarters.
And look! How coincidental is it that this is also my 400th post!!????

....Okay, so not very coincidental. I was trying for it a little bit, but it wasn't a hard stretch for me.

For my sister's half birthday last week, I got her flowers, candy and balloons.
Today for mine, she gave me a gift bag cut in half, and in it was: half of a cookie, half a candy bar, a half full can of pringles, half a bag of popcorn.... you get the idea.
And to receive it I had to walk halfway to meet her.

Cute, or pathetic?

(and since you can't comment, I'll assume you all would have said Adorable)

And make sure to read the post before this one about Guest Posting!

*Okay, so, um, for some reason I thought this was my 400th post. Now blogger is telling me that this was the 401st. Oh well.

More on Cholov Stam

I had written up a lengthy explanation about Chabad's view on non-Cholov Yisroel dairy products. You can read it here.

I wanted to add something interesting and actually extraordinary about R' Moshe's Heter for drinking Cholov Stam.

The Issur of eating Cholov Stam was made a long time ago by very competent Rabbanim. The only way to change this would be to make a Beis Din of Rabbis with even greater knowledge than the ones who started the Issur. This is pretty much impossible to do.

What R' Moshe Feinstein did was really an act of genius. Instead of saying that Cholov Akum is mutar (which most people assume was his Heter), he said that because of the government's tight regulations and restrictions on dairy products, with the Heter we can assume that the milk is like Cholov Yisroel (or stam. Just not Cholov Akum..)!!!! So he wasn't saying Cholov Akum is Kosher, he was saying that today's milk is not Cholov Akum. Genius!

(Of course, read my earlier post for why we don't hold of this heter. And I didn't mention it the first time, but R' Moshe said because of the possible financial fines from the government, this is enough to believe a dairy company would not substitute anything inside the milk. The problem is that the fine then was $25, and the possible profits even back then was much more....)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fort Hood

I know I don't normally delve into current events so much, presuming that my blog is not your first stop on the internet when you're roaming for news.
I would like to comment just a shtickel about the massacre in Ft. Hood, if you'll bear with me.
Really I just wanted to point out one idea which struck me as very sad and depressing. This is besides, of course, the shm*ck's killing 13 people and wounding 31 others. (What letter is supposed to be substituted, Yossi??? I don't get it!)

I've been on military bases before. The feeling you get is a singular, overwhelmingly strong sense of American pride. The soldiers and officers are all there to serve one purpose: to protect America, including its citizens and ideals.
There could be evil tyrants and anti-Americans outside, in the world at large, but on the base, it was exactly that: a base. Just like in a game of tag. Base is where you are safe. Nobody can get you. You are with your allies.
A military base is where all the good guys huddle together, preparing to go fight wars against America's enemies. You didn't need to be scared of the enemy inside. Only from the outside.

Now that's changed. There are no longer clearly cut definitions of ally and foe. Even in their own military base, soldiers must watch their backs, and judge every word and action of their colleagues with suspicion.

The recognition that bases are possible targets has been around since December 7th, The Day That Will Live In Infamy, but now the threat could be from the inside.

That is what is saddening the most, in my opinion. The camaraderie and shared patriotism among the soldiers on any base has been shattered.

The Wayward Spittle

Reader discretion advised. Some material not suitable for anyone without the XY chromosome.

At a point in the Aleinu prayer, we spit. We do this in order to not benefit at all from saliva created from saying how idol worshipers bow to Hevel and Rik (meaning nothingness and emptiness. These are not names of Avoda Zara).
It should be noted, that if you see a bochur knocking off mincha, for example, no matter how fast he skips the words, he would never dare to skip the spit. Therefore, his Aleinu is automatically time-bound to the amount of time it takes to spit.
But back to the point. (What point, Yossi?)
When it gets squishy in 770, for Aleinu you really have to take care to aim your spittle properly so that it lands a milimeter away from the guy's shoe on your left, and then quickly lean back so he doesn't hit you. (At this point, did anyone else think: Hit! you sunk my battleship! ???)
So bochurim over the years develop dead-on aim.

Every so often, though, there comes a time that a bochur might not see the familiar wet spot in front of him, after he spat.
Uh oh!!
This means trouble. Trouble with a capital T!

The bochur then must casually search his body for signs of this wayward spittle, to brush off. He must do in it a natural-looking way, also, to not arouse the suspicions of his neighboring prayer-partners.

The wayward spittle is feared throughout the land by bochurim and balei batim alike.

The Office

I always thought that there should be a tv show made about the office in the yeshiva in Los Angeles.
The Yoec office is really crazy, with the Rosh and Marsha arguing and screaming with each other, with their huge personalities...
On shlichus, I was always in that office, making copies, stapling, putting together kovtzim and pamphlets, and stuff. If you would just stand there silently for about 20 minutes, working at the copy machine, you would for sure be smiling to yourself by the time you left, after hearing all the action that goes on every day.
It really is a hilarious place.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Almost 400!

In just a few posts, I'll have published 400 posts on this blog.
That's quite a milestone, and possibly quite an achievement. I mean, 400 super-important and cleverly crafted posts that both inspire and entertain?
To be frank about it, maybe one or two of them aren't so crucial. Like this one. Or this guy. Or him. Or this one over here. Or this post. I could go on like this for a while. Okay, just one more.
But most of the 400 are.

For those of you who started this journey with me, you'll remember I used to celebrate my blog's monthly anniversaries. After time, I stopped. I explained so in the following post:

Monday, June 2, 2008

I didn't forget

Just so you know, I didn't forget my blog anniversary. I'm just not celebrating anymore. I mean, come on. I'm twenty years old. I'm way too mature.

But 400 is a big one.
What's special about it also is that it seems that it could come dangerously close to coinciding exactly with my half birthday. In just a few days, I will be 21 and a half.
But being the half-full type guy I am, I like to say: almost 22, instead.

Almost 40!

A close friend of mine turned 22 today. He's one of the oldest of my classmates.
It's mind-numbing to think: In 18 years, he'll be 40!!!! 40!!!
Happy Birthday, Shaya! All the brachos.

My google mashpia

Quote of the Day - Robert H. Schuller - "Tough times never last, but tough people do."

That's what my gmail told me late last night.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How Bochurish Are You?

Okay so I had a fun little idea for a post, but I got kind of lazy and impatient with it. I was thinking to not post it at all, but how selfish of me not to at least share the little bit I did write. Right?

Here's a test I put together, to see how Bochurish you are. Try to guess which answers a bochur would answer.

1. What makes your morning grand, and you just know it will be a great day?
A)You are not in the garbage.
B)You got a big fluffy towel at the mikveh.
C)Your driver was already waiting for you outside the estate.
D)Sleepy and Dopey brought you breakfast in bed.

2. Where do you keep cups?
A) Inside you.
B) In the refrigerator near the orange juice carton.
C) The maid always brings your drink in a glass.
D) Mrs. Potts and Lumiere keep Chip in the cupboard.

3. When do you know you've had too much to drink?
A) When you start to flatten out.
B) When you drunk dial your parents, and try hard to sound sober long enough to end the conversation.
C) When the butler complains the next morning about washing the master bathroom.
D) When you bang your head on the window, trying to let down your hair.

That's really what I had before losing interest on this earlier in the week.
Basically, I was going to put the answers in a different post that I'd link to. I don't know how to put text upside down in here. I have no clue if I can even do that with html.
But you would click on the link, and go to an old post of mine, and at the bottom it would say something like:
If you chose mostly A's, then you are a cardboard box.
If you chose mostly B's, then congratulations, you are very Bochurish.
If you chose mostly C's, most likely you are a millionaire.
If you chose mostly D's, then you are a Disney Princess, and you're taking the wrong quiz. The right one would be on Facebook: Which Disney Princess are you?

So that would've been the whole thing. Take what you can get, because I'm not planning to finish this.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Has Chivalry Died?

I say, no!
Today it was necessary for me to deliver flowers to someone who deserved them.
Since I don't grow my own flowers, I was required to purchase some.
I left (mimulo) with a slight emptier wallet, but carrying very pretty purple flowers.
As I walked down Albany, I was quite innocently emanating powerful waves of debonair-ishness.
Allow me to explain:
Today was laundry day (if you didn't yet read the last post). For most people, Laundry Day means that they wear their least favorite, most worn out clothes. While this is usually true, it didn't apply to me this week, at least for pants. You see, I don't feel the need to walk into zal every day like I'm on the catwalk. I'd rather wear nice looking comfortable pants than dressy ones that I'm worried about creases and spills.
So today I was wearing dressy pants. And once I'm wearing fancier pants, you think I wouldn't accessorize with nicer looking shoes? And once I'm wearing nicer pants and shoes, why wouldn't I make sure my shirt is tucked in?
So I did the Albany Walk (very similar to the Kingston Walk, yet still unique), with flowers in hand, and my dashing looks causing waves of energy to roll right off me, bending signposts and telephone polls.
Many a beholder stared with wide eyes, wondering who could possibly be the recipient of my favor.
It was fun, but I wasn't relishing the attention that much. I'm a shy guy, really.

And you know when you see someone carrying a present, or especially flowers, you just wonder- maybe it's for me?
I hated to see the dejection in all the eyes of the passerby as I continued to walk to my destination.

That's it. Story's over. I need to go learn now, so tootles.

Umbrellas Indoors

There is a superstition that you should not open an umbrella indoors.

I hope this does not apply for when it's raining indoors.
Especially for when it's raining nasty water from leaking pipes.
Especially when the dripping water is in the laundry room right near the washer and dryer.
It's so horrible when you do laundry, but your clothes get dirty again, a second after they are clean.

Therefore, I hid under an umbrella while trying with one hand to successfully launder my clothes, and then dry them.
If I had one of those umbrella hats, it could have been easier, with the free use of both hands.
It would cause more problems, however, if I would bend my head down, and then all the dirty water falling onto the umbrella would just roll off right onto my body.

Henceforth- it would not necessarily have been easier if I had an umbrella hat.
But that's not the moral. The moral is that I had to hold up an umbrella to do my laundry.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


It's also important to have such great bubbies.
Today I went with my sister to visit our grandparents, in Philly.
Here are some sample conversations between us:
"So you think you're going to go to college, Yossi?" she asked me sweetly, both of us knowing quite well this was the hundredth time asking me.
"Oh, I'm not sure. Maybe."
"But this is your last year [of Yeshiva], right?" This was a valid question, because the past few years have already been my last years. Shiur Daled was my last year as a bochur in yeshiva. Shlichus was my last year in a yeshiva. This year smicha is my last year learning to get my ordination. Next year in 770 (if that's where I go) will be my last year learning before.... (ahem).
"Yes, this is my last year."
"So are you going to college next year?"
"I don't know if I'll even be going to college. I may become a Rabbi somewhere."
"Like where? You're not talking about someplace far, like Australia?"
"Australia would be really nice, actually. It could be somewhere like Cambodia, actually. Or the former Soviet Union. Or," I quickly added, to stop a storm from brewing, "I may go to college, but probably after I get married."
She liked the new change in direction, and asked me, "So what do you think you would study?"
"I don't know really. Possibly law," I told her, knowing with the college thing I just made it back onto her good side.
"Oh. There are lots of lawyers, you know..."
I laughed. Now even that wasn't good enough.

Before we left her house:
"Yossi, you're not going to put on your sweater?"
"We're just going out to the car, and it's not very cold out."
"It is cold. Put on your sweater."

That makes my heart smile every time. My grandmother telling me to put on a sweater because it's cold. If that's not the most classic bubby line....


It's important to have good friends.
They can hold up a mirror to you when you haven't looked at yourself in a while.
Baruch Hashem, it only takes one good friend.
I hope everyone else is as lucky.