Sunday, February 28, 2010

I'm stuck in the past

e is going to hate this post.
Probably due to making my blog private for a few days, it seems that on everyone's blogroll who had me listed, you're not picking up my new posts. I just wanted to point that out if you had me listed on your blog. If you would so kindly put my blog in again, that might do the trick.
Frelichin Purim.
UPDATE: I'm not stuck in the past anymore. It was just a mistake I made in my settings. I would take off this post, but it's still a post, and therefore is part of my blog.

Achashverosh's Party

I just got back from Achashverosh's Party. I mean the Crown Heights Lipa Bash. Whichever.
It was quite fun. I was a little disappointed when I saw The Lipa, though. On the thousands of posters in 770 on Shabbos, I noticed that Lipa was wearing those pinkish orange-ish glasses. I pointed them out to a friend, and reminded him that COL had written a story a while ago when Lipa picked those glasses out, right here, in our very own Shchuneh. So imagine my shock when Lipa tonight was wearing a different pair of glasses!!! I'm still not sure who I'm upset at more: Lipa, or COL for not updating the Lubavitch World on Lipa's spectacles.
Speaking of spectacles, there were some fun looking costumes at the Party. (I wasn't going to speak about the costumes, but I wanted to be able to say, "Speaking of spectacles", and that was the only connection I could find.)
Working backwards, before The Party, I read the megillah a few times at a Chabad House nearby. They had a beer tasting party, but this one Israeli dude must have started before all of us, because he was really tipsy. He started harassing me on the way I read the megillah. I didn't read it for people to understand the story, he said. I must not have understood it myself. When I assured him I understood every word I read (I purposely did not bring up the subject of how there is one word in the megillah which we do not know the translation of: achashdarpan, as in: achashdarpanei haMelech...), he told me that if I wanted to tell the story, I should have read the megillah in a tune as one would read a childrens' book. "And then Haman went to the store! And you know what else, kids??" You know, going higher and lower, keeping people interested. I tried explaining that I had to read according to the trup, and I couldn't make up cutesy storybookish tunes. My words fell on drunk deaf ears.

Next up, tomorrow I'll IY"H be going back to lein a few more times, in the afternoon. Until then, I might walk around a shtickel, looking for invalids and elderly who might need to hear megillah. Of course, they probably wouldn't be just sitting in the middle of a sidewalk for me to come across them, but you never know.

Ooooh. I forgot. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't been around the internet in the past eight years, but Shmais has their customary Purim Articles up throughout the weekend. I won't tell you which ones are mine, but I think four things I wrote with a friend are up there. If you've read them all, and didn't find any very funny, I'm with you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

That darned "tznius committee"....

They were just up to their latest tricks, it seems! Check out to find out what went down...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Goodbye for now

I have to close my blog for private reasons.
Before I do, I want you to know about a different blog I've been publishing from:
You can find out more information there.
I'm taking my basar bchalav test tomorrow so wish me luck.
Too bad this is darkening my adar mood. Oh well. Life throws you lemons, you squash 'em and beat the pulp out of them. Right?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A forest of hope

I wrote this up before Shabbos, but I wasn't blogging then, so here it is:
The parsha of Truma speaks in detail about the start of the mishkan's construction, and all the materials needed to be donated. A large supply of wood was needed, to build the beams and structure. Where did the Yidden get all this wood from, in the middle of a barren desert?
Rashi answers this by bringing Rabbi Tanchuma's explanation. Yaakov Avinu anticipated with Ruach Hakodesh the Jews' need for wood when building the mishkan. He therefore brought cedar trees with him, planted them in Egypt, and instructed his children to take these trees with them when they would leave the country.
Why couldn't Rashi simply explain that the source for the wood in the desert was from a forest which grew near Mt. Sinai, as other commentaries explain? Or the Jews could have purchased lumber from merchants along the way.
In a sicha in chelek Lamed Aleph, the Rebbe explains why Rashi was forced to explain it specifically in this manner, according to R' Tanchuma.
Now we must understand: Why takkeh did Yaakov do this? Over 200 years before they would need the wood, he made sure to bring trees with him and plant them in Egypt, and then get his children to agree to shlepp them out with them? It was hard enough for the Jews to walk with the matzahs drying on their backs, now they had to carry out huge trees??!! Did Yaakov really think he was doing his descendants a favor? Imagine having to shlep out tons of trees. "Oh, gee, Yaakov. Thanks a lot for your help...." Who is so obsessive and OCD over the planning of the minor details of a trip that wouldn't take place for another 200 years?!

In a simply beautiful pirush, the Rebbe explains exactly what Yaakov intended.

Do you think Yaakov was really that concerned for where they'd get wood to build the mishkan? There were too few mass-polluting humans on the planet to be worried about a tree shortage. What Yaakov was doing was planting for them a Forest of Hope.

Sure the Jews knew that eventually they would be redeemed from the miserable slavery and exile they were in; Hashem had promised their ancestors, hadn't He? But what would keep them going through thick and thin? How and from where would they draw the necessary strength to overcome the smothering darkness surrounding them?
When Yaakov planted these trees, and told his children to take them out with when they would be redeemed, he was associating these trees with the redemption. Especially since these trees were not originally grown in Egypt. Yaakov brought them from the land of Israel. These would be a source of hope and comfort. (Remember the name of the person Rashi quoted for this explanation? R' Tanchuma, which comes from the word meaning comfort!!)
Every time the Jews walked past this huge forest, they saw these trees as symbols of their royal heritage and noble destiny.

The Rebbe goes on to explain that tzadikkim are sometimes described as cedar trees: 'tzaddik ktamar yifrach, kerez balvanon yisgeh...". Yaakov planting these 'cedar trees' represents planting tzaddikim in every generation. Not just tzaddikim, but n'si'im: leaders of the generation, Rabbeim. The word Nasi stands for Nitzutoi Shel Yaakov Avinu.
Yaakov 'planted' these Rabbeim in every generation to carry out the same purpose as his original cedar trees in Egypt. These leaders give hope and comfort to the Jews who are suffering in exile.

The Rebbe finishes by saying that in this bitter, supremely dark and exhaustively long exile, the only true comfort for us is the coming of the Moshiach, may he come speedily in our days, and we will build the Third Beis HaMikdash!

Have a great shabbos!

*When it says that Yaakov planted cedar trees, even though we know that it was acacia wood used in the mishkan, the term 'cedar tree' is actually very general and sometimes can refer to up to ten unique species.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What was it like?

My inbox has been flooded (snort) with good wishes from my fans and stalkers, asking me, "Yossi, what was it like, not blogging on ABIL for so long?" in a hushed whisper. I imagine it was hushed, anyway. These were emails (and fake ones, if you didn't understand what the snort meant.).

The first 48 hours were definitely the hardest. The uncontrollable tremors were to be expected, based on the detox books I've read. What I wasn't ready for were the frequent migraines and occasional munchies.

But I'm good now, baruch Hashem. If you don't know why I stopped blogging, let's just say that I gave in to terrorism. My friends helped me see the bigger picture, so I'm back.

Since there could be eyes reading this who I don't trust, I won't exactly tell you what I was up to in the meantime, if you don't know already...

It's good to be back


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Costume Ideas

A friend of mine asked me what he should dress up as for Purim.
"Should I dress up as an inmate?" he asked.
"Wait, aren't you doing Aleph for Purim?" (Aleph is the program for Jewish prisoners)
"Yes, that's why I thought it would be funny..."
"Yaaaaah, I'm not sure 'bout that."

3 Words

Don't get me wrong. (Those ain't the three. Keep reading.)
The snowfall last night was beautiful and therapeutic to watch. The way the flakes gently clung to my beard was tickling and flattering.

But after this latest delivery of snow we've received, I really only have three words:
Return To Sender!


I told my friend a line, and he really liked it. Maybe you will, too.
He was asking me what I plan to do next year, after smicha.
I told him that I obviously wanted to continue to learn, but that I'd also like to find some tutoring jobs or some form of work, as well.
I said that I need to work and save up so I can afford Kollel.

Anyway, I've predicted your comments. Either:
A) Lol
B) You're obsessed with getting married! (Which I'm not. That's just what you think)
C) Get a segway
D) I found this great investment opportunity at www......

Monday, February 15, 2010


Last summer in camp we had a big learning mivtzah. That makes it sound more chassidish. Really it's the same Tzivos Hashem booklets that every CGI has.
We printed our own CGI Dollars on cardstock, and this was the currency used to buy lots of goodies throughout the summer. There were $1, $5, $20, and $100 bills.

One morning a boy in one of the younger bunks brings in CGI Dollars that look a little suspicious. You know how little kids will tell you anything? This boy nonchalantly told us that his mother made them. In all the years of camp, this was the first counterfeiting crime that we had seen.

A Purim Question

Why did Mordechai save Achashverosh's life? He was a pretty rotten goy who hated the Yidden. Why save his life and rat out on Bigsan and Seresh's plans?

Because by saving one goy he was able to kill two!!

(This answer was provided by R' Yonasan Eibishitz as a child)

Proofs In Nigleh

I never got around to answering the quiz question I asked a while ago.
The questions were: Where do we find in nigleh sources for the often-brought ideas in Chassidus for A) Moach Shalit Al HaLev, and B) Hashgacha Pratis?

A) Moach shalit al halev can be seen through the halacha about a soldier going out to battle. There are many disqualifications for a Jewish soldier. One of these is fear. Someone who will become fearful during battle may not take part. How could it possibly be possible to not be afraid during wartime?!!! The Rambam explains how this can be achieved. One must remove all thoughts from his head about his wife, family, house, etc., and concentrate only on doing the will of G-d... This is the idea of the mind controlling the heart.

B) Hashgacha Pratis can be seen in the gemara's interpretation of the possuk, "Umishpatecha Tehoim Rabah"- Your judgment reaches the great deep [of the ocean]. The gemara says that the fish which a bird will eat has been destined from Above to be killed, for whatever reason. So we see that Hashem cares for, guides, and directs all living things on an extremely specific level. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Harder than it looks

On Shabbos in 770, after a chassan gets an Aliyah for his ufruf, bags of chips and candy are hurled at him from all directions.
I normally shy away from participating. Those bags are awfully light, and it is always embarrassing when you miss by a long shot.
Last week I took a break from my chassan-bag-of-pretzels-throwing hiatus and tossed one up onto the bima. It didn't go as far as I would have hoped. I surmised that instead of throwing it underhand, throwing it overhand next time might project it farther.
Today was the 'next time' that I would have the chance to experiment with the overhand technique. I wound up, and threw it overhand. Waaaay overhand. Too overhand, in fact, for the bag to go anywhere other than hitting the fellow sitting down directly in front of me. Hard. In the head. With a resounding whack.
About twenty fellow worshipers saw what I had done. I sunk low in my seat, and quickly thought about possible escape routes. I asked my friend sitting next to me if he could switch places with me. He refused. At least give me your glasses, I asked him. My victim still had not turned around to look at me. If only he would see me now in disguise, I wouldn't have to duck into alleyways or never sit in his vicinity again. My friend refused to lend me his glasses.
Instead I leaned forward, and apologized from the bottom of my heart. He told me it was fine, just "don't do it again!" That's obvious. I'm bli neder going on a break from throwing bags. A retirement.

I have no witty last line for this post, so there you go.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I can't believe they didn't consult anyone who can spell before putting this up on Kingston.

On the topic of Tznius, I know it's old news, but remember a few weeks ago there was that Tznius Campaign business? made them out to be terrorists? There were petitions people were signing saying they wouldn't go to a store if there weren't only tznius workers? The store owners were signing petitions saying they wouldn't allow anyone who wasn't tznius to enter their stores? Really funny comments? Any of this ring a bell?
Okay, well that last one can't help you remember because all of the comments on or COL are normally laughable and pathetic. And the second to last one I think I may have made up.
Anyway, here's one comment I liked:
tuck your shirts in and comb your hair wrote:

"I am gathering a petition to have all the guys in crown heights tuck their shirts in, comb their hair and generally make me less nautious...

It must be against the torah to dress like a slob! This tznius campaign is all one sided."

Questions for Discussion

I was pretty preoccupied this week, studying for a test I didn't take. I didn't learn a whole slew of sichas this week. Just two for purim, and one from mishpatim about the possuk "Lo s'vashel g'di bchalev emo"- the very source for the prohibition of Basar B'chalav, what I'm learning for smicha at the moment.
I won't bore you with nitty gritty details of the halachos. Instead, I'll simplify it all for you in a quote from everyone's favorite song: "...'cause we will never, ever, ever, mix milk and meat together! So come on, and sing the Kosher Song! Bada badadadada! Uptown, downtown..."

I can't very well review the sichas for purim, since it's not even Adar yet. You'll have to wait for the week before purim if you want to hear any divrei Torah on that topic.

So if you must have something from this blog to discuss at the Shabbos table this evening or tomorrow, and you've already completely covered this fascinating topic, I compiled some chatt-able and conversational questions:

  1. Do you think Bilaam's donkey had Eddie Murphy's voice?
  2. Why do we get the urge to hug anyone we see who's wearing a sweater?
  3. Were you really that stunned or surprised when Iran's 'big announcement' was that they were a nuclear state?
  4. Why as kids did we think it fun to say, "Think fast!" and chuck a baseball at someone?
  5. What tzedaka do you think R' Meir Ba'al HaNeis gave to when he wanted to find something he lost?
  6. If Future Sam came back ten years and visited Present Sam, and someone then killed Present Sam, would Future Sam disappear, or continue to exist in this Present?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Zippity Do Dah!

You know me. I take life in stride. I try to find fun in the little things.
When walking through the snow, I'll very likely jump and hop my way over and around the little mounds of snow and icy puddles.
But earlier today, I was walking, minding my own business, when out of nowhere I saw this little icy puddle in the street I was crossing, close to the sidewalk. I hiked up my pants, gritted my teeth, set my jaw, and jumped.
It was truly spectacular. And, and, I was coming back from Mr. Clean It (or is it just Mr. Clean? Or is he the paper towel guy? hmmmm...) with my recently dry-cleaned suit, all covered in plastic, which I was holding high in my hand as I jumped.
Thank goodness my suit was plasticked.
Where I landed (and it would have been a beautiful dismount had it been on firm ground. (Woops! I just gave it away!)) instead of the solid piece of snow and sidewalk I thought it to be, was really about a five foot deep hole of icy sludge.
Well, not five feet. But it did splash everywhere, and it went up past my knees!
Anyone else surely would have blurted out an obscenity. Instead, echoes of my: "Oh, boy!" reverberated throughout Albany Avenue, causing many to turn and stare.
My suit came out unscathed, due to its plasticky exterior.
I either need to plastic-up myself when I walk outside, or stop trying acrobatic stunts while walking.

What's with the smart bochurim these days?

The whole story with the Yid who is sentenced to get killed, nebach, R"L, HYL"S, is terrible, and I daven for Hashem to have rachmanus on him.
The issue has come up in my yeshiva about whether or not the government killing him is going against Halacha.
Two extremely smart bochurim have made it clear to me that the halacha of Dina D'Malchusa Dina does not apply when it goes against Torah. Does it go against Torah to kill a goy? No, so the government can enact a law saying you are not allowed to kill someone. If the government says that if you kill someone, you could be killed yourself, does this go against Torah? Yes. According to Halacha, a Jew does not get killed for killing a goy. Therefore, Since the government says he could be killed, this is going against the Torah, and any time the Dina D'malchusa goes against Torah, it does not apply.

No matter how much I tried to argue with them, they were set in their minds on how they defined the parameters of Dina D'malchusa Dina.

I wanted to be sure, myself, instead of just assuming my opinion was correct, and I spoke to some knowledgeable Rabbinic figures. I am correct. Of course the government can decide to enact laws, and follow through with whatever punishments they see fit. As long as the law itself does not make you go against Torah, that is. If you don't say this, than any punishment of the government for sure does not follow to detail the Jewish Laws about Eidim and Beis Din and so forth.

I just get on edge when people start making up their own Torah, and believing they are correct, without consulting someone.

Now, in our case with the poor Yid, obviously we want the government to remove the death sentence, for even in the government's own laws, a person deserves a fair trial and fair punishment, etc.
But it is incorrect to say that if the government does chas v'shalom go ahead and mete out the death penalty, this is going against Halacha.

Also about smart bochurim not being so smart, there is a bochur in the mesivta in Los Angeles who is exceptionally gifted. He is incredibly bright and fanatically (in a good way) chassidish; one of the top bochurim in the Yeshiva. He was asking again and again over Yud Shvat when he was here, for me to be his mashpia.
For a smart kid, what a foolish request.

*Okay, so one of the bochurim with whom I was speaking told me he looked up the inyan of Dina D'malchusa in the Talmudic Encyclopedia. He says that the laws of Dina... only apply for Diney Mammanus. Meaning monetary transgressions, not for Diney Nefashos: capital crimes.
This Svara makes a lot more sense. This I can swallow. His first Boich Svara of Dina D'malchusa not applying for the punishments, since they don't match Torah, which therefore goes against Torah, wasn't so easy to accept. Anyway, I was glad to see that this bochur realized to ask the rabannim and do some research. Definitely a smarter mode of travel. Or wiser. Whichever.
We're still finding out if this chiluk of nefashos/mammon is correct.

I'm sorry I made fun of you

I'm sorry I made fun of you, Thursday. You are an excellent day.
Alas, our test was pushed off. Now the earliest it will be is probably next Thursday!!!
It's so unnerving. I was totally prepared to take the test. Obviously with the extra days to learn, I have a chance to enhance my knowledge and potentially do better on my test, but I'd much rather take it tomorrow and get a lower mark.
Oh well.
Everything is b'hashgacha pratis.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Buzz is not the new word, sorry folks

In case you missed my opinion on Facebook, Buzz, Gchat, etc., here it is on Blogger.
I tried Buzz for five minutes, and then it was too much for me. I turned it off.
Sorry, Google.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thursday, February 11th is Doomsday

And not just for what Iran is claiming.
It's the tentative date for my Basar B'Chalav Test.
For those keeping score at home, my Smicha Syllabus is azoy:
3 Big Tests: Melicha, Basar B'Chalav, Ta'aruvois
1 small test: Ma'achalei Akum, Hilchos Krias HaTorah
1 Medium test: In the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, from Siman 158 in Orach Chayim until the end of the first volume, including Seder Birchas HaNe'enin.

At the fairly fast pace we are going, the whole learning and testing should take a total of about 9.5 months. After this test, I have 4.5 months left, scheduled to finish IY"H around Tishrei time.

Anyways, about what Iran is babbling about, we don't know if they plan something big against us, or against their own people who rebel against them, but either way Iran says it will stun the West. So if they're admitting they're gonna do something on Thursday that we don't like, then I say that on Wednesday we should nuke 'em. What say you?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Start planning now for the eventual takeover

If we are to learn anything from Science Fiction, it is this: a computer or collection of computers with near-human intelligence, designed by humans, will eventually turn against us and takeover the planet. Take HAL, for example. Or the matrix.

The future is here. We already have created a computer program that is a collective of all human knowledge.
We must start to plan now as to the methods we should have available in order to shut him down. Hackers should begin to design fail-switches and viruses, for example.

It is only a matter of time before we will have to deal with Evil Wikipedia.

A Unified Nation

Everything in this world appears disconnected and as separate entities.
This is true especially among people. Physically, we are all unique, and do not look exactly alike. More so, in our minds and intellect we are very different from one another, as the sages say, "Ein Dayosehen Shavos", our opinions and thought processes are far from equal.
There are two causes that can transcend these limiting factors, and unite a people. They can do this since they are higher than the world itself.
Which two things are on a higher level than the world? Well, which things came before the world, and are the purpose for its creation?
Rashi on the first words of the Torah explains that the world was created for Yisroel and for Torah.

As the Jews camped near Mt. Sinai, about to receive the Torah, Rashi says (based on the wording in the verse) that the Jews were completely unified, "K'Ish Echad B'Lev Echad", as one man with one heart. This was before the Torah was given, so we know it couldn't have been Torah which united the Jews. With only one option left, it is obvious that the Jews' own Jewish identity was the factor in unifying them all. All Jews share a common G-dly spark in their soul. The Jewish people can be very divided at times. However, they can also reach such a lofty level of unity that they appear as just one man with one heart.

The Egyptians also were unified during the same period of time. As they were chasing after the Jews toward the Sea of Reeds, Rashi explains (also based on the wording in the verse) that they were of one heart, as one person. Notice the subtle difference as to the wording describing their unity to that of the Jews'.
Only because of their common hatred of the Jewish people, could they be united.
Jews, on the other hand, became united for the simple fact of who they were. That caused them to be one of heart in their desire to receive the Torah. Their unification into one man caused their singular emotion at the base of Mt. Sinai.

If you are a gentile, have no fear! After the Torah was given, the capability for at least a similar unity was also given to the rest of the world. For as we said before, Torah is also something which gives the power to unite.

May we see the coming of Moshiach and the "ingathering of the exiles" when we'll all be reunited with all Jews, past and present, in Eretz Yisroel!

Based on sicha aleph in chelek chof aleph on parshas Yisro

Welcome to the Shchuna

To all High School Meidelach,

As long as you start to the follow these simple rules, we will all have a wonderful weekend:

  1. Do not congregate in groups larger than 60 in number at various spots on Kingston, Albany, etc. These human roadblocks make it hard for pedestrians and especially bochurim to navigate their way to such locations as 770 and Kahn's. Personally, I feel like the ball in a game of Pong, being bounced back and forth to either side of the street to weave around and bypass these gatherings.
  2. No shrieking. I cannot make it any simpler than that. No shrieking. 
  3. Don't hang around in a store if you are not planning on buying anything.
  4. Similar to Rule Number 2, do not converse on the phone loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear.
Thank you, and enjoy your stay!

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Turn your frown upside down

    I cannot frown.
    Weird, huh? I physically cannot frown. I can't get anything frownier than a straight face.
    And if I'm trying? Fuh-gettabout it. If I'm trying, I can't even make a straight face. I just start to laugh and crack up.
    I don't necessarily mind this facial physiological oddity. I have bigger issues and problems to deal with. ("You've got that right!...")

    Check out the poll

    Check out the poll and vote. You know you want to.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Picks for Yisro

    Before I begin, I want to begin with (huh?) a story from when I was a bochur in Pittsburgh. R' Choni Friedman was farbrenging with us Shabbos Yisro, and his three year old son came into the room. The boy related how his Morah said the parsha was Yisro, but he told her she was wrong; it's Yisroy. (Because that's how we pronounce it...) Then when R' Friedman asked what happened when Yisroy came and met with Moshe, his son answered that they sat down and farbrenged together!

    Anyway, here are my sicha picks:

    Hebrew Sicha: Lamed Vov, sicha Beis (page 90)- It's about Kibbud Av V'Em. I heard from my sister that some girls like to skip brackets while learning a sicha. I would discourage that method bch'lal (there's no good place for my apostrophe there, huh?), and especially for this sicha. In the second set of brackets, the Rebbe discusses how Gentiles are able to give birth. (If you're interested in a dissertation, I once wrote up a Ha'arah regarding this point. The Rebbe Rashab famously wrote and then took out of the final draft of a ma'amer how goyim really should have bodies like animals, if not for Bechira. The Rebbe in another sicha explains this for things like the heat in the summer, and the existence of gold... But here in this sicha, the Rebbe describes the reason for Bechira differently... Anywho.)

    Yiddish Sicha: Chof Aleph, sicha aleph, about Vayichan Sham Yisroel Neged HaHar*. If memory serves, the Rebbe makes a distinction between what unites goyim, and what unites the Jewish People. Very powerful sicha.

    *I am doomed that whenever I say or even think the words Vayichan Sham Yisroel Neged HaHar, the song with the same name by Shoime Dachs starts to play in my head. Seriously, every single time. It's not a blessing. Only a curse.