Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lamed Tes Melachos

You know these books?

(Image from

I'm not sure they were meant to be read... as a book. More of a reference guide you can check in.
I need to create some model lessons, based on Mishnayos Shabbos, and reading through these melachos one after the other needs to be done while sitting at a table in 770, not lounging in bed!
I've gotten through the first two melachos, but I've got a lot more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


One small step in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn is making for one giant leap in podiatrists' office visits statewide.

Crown Heights, Brooklyn- On the busy Eastern Parkway thoroughfare, near the Brooklyn Children's Museum and the we've-got-a-really-huge-plastic-challah Jewish Children's Museum, is the World Lubavitch Headquarters. Known warmly as just "770" by its parishioners, the synagogue and office complex is the bustling hub and boiler room for the international Chabad movement.

"Although large in size, the synagogue is always overfilled to capacity and beyond, with crowds as sometimes as large as in the thousands," one member and spokesman of the CHJCC told us.

The synagogue has no cushioned pews or leather seats. Rather, hard wooden benches stretch from wall to wall. And these benches are used for more than just sitting: "Some people sleep on them!" one teenage boy with a scruffy beard told us enthusiastically. He explained why there needs to be something so hard and uncomfortable to sit on: "When you're in shul (editor: synagogue), you have to know that you're praying to G-d! You're not worried about your own essence. The best way for the G-dliness to permeate yourself is to not have your own existence in the way. It's all about Bitul (editor: a process of self-nullification, and state of submissiveness sought by those wishing to adhere to G-d (as explained by"

Coming off the bench

When worshipers desire to leave their seat, problems arise.
Because of the size of the crowd, and the lack of exit rows, the only way most can leave their seat is by stepping up onto the top of the bench, and jumping down near the bookcases. Yes, walking on top of the bench!

Leap of faith

With benches averaging at 40.2 inches high, this hop down and landing causes tremendous stress on the ankle. Dr. Rudolph Turgosdapolis described the trauma, using the following diagram:

(Image taken from

The stress from the landing causes duress in the lateral malleolus area of the ankle, near the peronial muscles and tendons.


At the recent PCP annual conference (Podiatrists for Chasidic Patients), this new pain condition was given significant focus and attention. Representatives from the patient group of survivors came forward to give testimony to the hardships they faced, living with either S.A.S.S. or S.A.S.S.! - the street names for this medical malady (Severe Ankle Stress Syndrome is how doctors in Flatbush who see patients from 770 commonly call it, while citizens of Crown Heights call it Syndrome Ankle Seven Seventy!)

Future looks exceptionally bright

We sat down with the Gabboys, or temple menservants, of the synagogue. Although these Rabbis said they had no intentions of changing the seating conditions, they delighted in telling us that this problem, however unfortunate, would be resolved quickly:
"The Messiah is coming today, and all the sick will be healed, and there will be world peace!"


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Levels of descriptive madness

One of my courses from the Teacher Training Program was a two lesson course on psychology, with a focus in child psychology. They were entitled Origins of Emotion, and Irrational Beliefs, by Rabbi Meir Mark. Thinking about emotion, I was thinking about how we describe the way we deal with our anger, and here's a little list I came up with:

  1. Suppressed rage
  2. Controlled fury
  3. Bottled anger
  4. Contained irritation
  5. Withheld annoyance
I may have come up with some of my own...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shikur Dialing

Bochurim know what I'm talking about: you come back from a farbrengen shikur, and start dialing your friends. Normally, the only person listening to you at 2 in the morning is Mr. Answering Machine.
Last night, while trying to sleep, I heard from the hallway a bochur farbrenging into somebody's answering machine. When you don't want to wake up your roommates, you of course walk down the hall to stand outside someone else's room.
Well when I'm the someone else, I don't like it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thumbs up!

The .gif in my smicha announcement of everyone clapping was to show your reaction.
Here's what I was feeling:

Two jokes

1. There's so much snow here in Chicago, there's nothing to do. My wife has been staring at the window for hours. I guess it's time to let her in.
2. "We came to you because my wife and I are arguing and cannot decide where to go for vacation!"      
"Well where do you want to go?"
"To Florida!"
"And where does your wife want to go?"
"With me to Florida!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not yet ordained

For those keeping track at home, today was the third time my Smicha test was pushed off due to lack of interest by my Masmich.
It's now set for this Monday.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Forest of Hope

Here's a copy/pasted dvar Torah I wrote last year:
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!

You can see the actual post with some comments about it, here.