Monday, January 30, 2006

Making Divisions in Orthodoxy

It seems that there's always some sort of "hock" going on in the frum world. For example, , the major hock over the past year or two has been about the "Metzitzah b'Peh" issue. It is only normal, and is perfectly healthy to discuss issues like this, especially when there are public health concerns. A couple of years ago, it seems to me that the major hock was the Techeiles hock - to wear them, to not wear them, muttar, assur? There's nothing wrong with the hock, I just hate when where you fall in the debate puts you on one side of the picket fence or the other in the frum world. Do you wear techeiles? You do? OK, go over to that side of the fence. No techeiles for you? OK, go to the other side. I don't think the Metzitzah b'Peh issue reached that of the techeiles issue, but it was still a hock.

Aside from the techeiles issue is the black hat issue. As previously stated, it is fine to discuss the issue: is one halachically required to wear a hat when davening, etc? But to make such a division based on what color strings you wear, or the hat you wear or don't wear(long brimmed vs. short brimmed, etc.) is silly. We should be judged based on our deeds and service of Hashem...and that's it.

The techeilis wearing crowd, along with the non-black hat wearing crowd is viewed as more left wing. Therefore, we expect less from them religiously. Is it wrong of me to look down upon a black hatter vs. a srugi wearing guy that I see getting plastered in a bar? No, they are both frum Jews. But the issue has created such a divide in the frum world that none of us are immue to these generalizations.

One topic that I hear more and more about by the month is saying "Baalas haBayis" in bentsching (linked to in previous post). It seems that throughout history, mentioned only "baal habayis" was the norm. But, for whatever reason, today is has become more popular to do so. Personally, I see no reason to change what was the case throughout frum history. But, because of its increased prevalence, women may expect or be offended if this insertion is omitted. Do we change what we do based on peoples' feelings? I think that as a general rule we don't; however, if it is certain that a woman would expect it to be inserted or become offended if not, I think we are forced to add it in. I pray that the "baalas habayis" issue doesn't become one that divides us like techeiles and black hats have done previously.

NOTE: JMIL1199 does, what I see to be, as the ideal. He says "birshus bal habayis u'bichvod baalas habayis", that way we are still admitting to the fact that the woman cannot lead bentsching, but while still mentioning her. Food for thought anyway...

Bentching Hock

No rant today - just wanted to recommend everyone read Hirhurim's latest post (which is a follow-up from a previous post) regarding whether or not to mention "Baalas haBayis" in bentsching. I do not say it, and my wife likes to get on my case (jokingly) about it. Even better than the posts themselves is the great hock in the comments.

Baalas haBayis II (newest)

Baalas haBayis I (older)

Danny, does this count as 1/2 for the week? I'm guessing not...

Friday, January 27, 2006

I am not a Nebster

So Friday night's I daven at what could be called the frummest minyan in town. I daven there for a couple of reasons:
  1. Most Friday night's I eat at my in-laws (shver and shvigger in Yiddish, damn shvigger is a great word), and this minyan is right around the corner.
  2. They have a nice davening
  3. The rabbi is a brilliant halachic mind and I like his Friday night halacha shiurim (as opposed to his Shabbos morning mussar shmuzzin)
  4. There's no talking and they don't emphasize Ameinei Chatufos

I like the minyan, but I clearly don't fit in there. I would say that out of 125 people there on a Friday night, there are 10 non-black hats. However, I am the only one ever in the entire minyan that doesn't wear a suit. No need to go into why, I just don't; not my thing. Anyway, needless to say that the dress slacks, banana republic shirt, black sruga and Naot's stick out.

What baffles me is that, despite my weekly attendance, nobody (aside from a few people that I know) recognizes me. Imagine a white guy in a room full of black's....they stick out. I am the white guy and they are the black guys...it doesn't make sense that they don't recognize me. Without a doubt, EVERY Shabbos someone will either a) ask where I am from b) ask where I live c) what brings me to this shul or d) do I need a meal. It doesn't cross their mind that a/b) I live in the same apartment complex as them, c) what brings me to this shul is the same thing that brings them to shul, to daven and d) I'm not a neb and I don't need a meal. I usually find a way to tell them that I'm married and baffle them even further.

The point here is don't look at someone (that freaking davens there every week!) and assume because they're dressed un-penguinesque they need a Shabbos meal, or that they need a good reason for davening at the shul. What baffles them even further is when I bring a sefer like the Aruch haShulchan or Sifsei Chaim - the astonishment that I can actually read and understand Hebrew, all while wearing Naots, makes me laugh everytime.

No, I don't wear a suit on Shabbos. Yes, I can read Hebrew. And for the love of Gd, no, I don't need a meal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Problem with Being a Ba'al Teshuva

I hope to explain my struggles with being a Ba'al Teshuva. I hope there are some people out there that can relate, but as per my explanation, I doubt many people can.

It has been my experience, while being involved with NCSY from about age 10-17, that this organization produces many Baalei Teshuva, and as a general rule, they do good work. Many kids that come in to NCSY from public school often graduate from Jewish Day Schools - an amazing accomplishment. However, I believe that these kids are drawn away from public schools by more than NCSY - namely, being already unhappy with public school. As my sister alludes to in her post, being cool is of utmost importance in the middle/high school years. I would bet oodles of money that if I polled BT's that graduate from Jewish day schools, an overwhelming majority would respond that they were not in the "cool" or "popular" crowd in public school. Therefore, they are not leaving much behind when an organization like NCSY turns them on to the idea of a Jewish Day School. This leads me to my conclusion #1 - that in the middle/high school years, BT's are dorks. Sure there are exceptions, but I do believe this is the rule.

This was not my experience in public school. I give myself no credit, but for whatever reason (could be playing varsity sports, or being overly sociable) I did not have any problems in public school. I always seemed to have plenty of friends, and what to do on the weekends. In high school I was heavily involved with a plethora of extracurricular activities, went to parties; I suppose you could have labeled me a "cool" or "popular" kid. However, not even I was immune to the NCSY magnet. I went to a Jewish day school for the start of my 10th grade year. While I enjoyed the experience, and some of my closest friends to this day were met during this time, I missed public school. I dreaded the 3-hour round trip commute, and missed playing competitive baseball. Therefore, my stint at HAGWASH lasted one year - I was back in public school. Already this differs from most BT's - they would never consider going back to public school.

Now, I will readily admit that there are people that I viewed as being "dorky" or "not popular" that have changed since their middle/high school days - and many of these people are funny, normal people. I am sure that some of my friends now were in this group in their yesteryear. However, I don't know why - maybe BT's are different - but BT's never seem to shake their dorky selves. I say that I can spot a BT from a mile away. Something is just different about them. This is conclusion #2 - that BT's retain their dorkiness into their adult lives.

Of course, however, there are more BT's than the NCSY-related BT's. There are those people that become BTs post-college, and even later in life. While these people may have been normal, popular kids in middle/high school, and may be normal, even-keeled people in their adulthood, I believe this changes when they become BTs at a later point in life. People that become frum later in life have obviously lived many more years in a non-frum lifestyle than those people who make the switch during high school. So, to compensate for their immersion in non-frum life, I find that often, these people swing very far to the right wing. You all know these people. They're the ones who you see reading a bracha under the chupah at a wedding you went to, with the long beards, black hats, and trouble reading hebrew (ever heard a BT try to read the Bracha of Sameach Tisamach?). Conclusion #3 - Later-in-life BTs often tend to be very "frum", ultra right wingers (see Yeshivat Ohr Someyach in Yerushalayim for about 150 examples...the ones who can mussar you for holding of the eruv there, but can't read Kiddush).

Basically, I don't like being labeled a BT. To someone that wouldn't know me, they would assume that I am either an ultra-right winger or a dork. BTs , as a general rule. are either dorks that I can't associate with, or "formerly cool, but now overly frum people". I wish I could meet a BT that wears dress slacks, Banana Republic shirt, Naot's and a Black Knit Srugi on Shabbos.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Stories from Shul

So normally I daven at a minyan which takes a 45-minute break before mussaf to have a learning seder. Now that I am a working man I appreciate this learning time much more than before. But, this week, a scholar in residence was speaking, so I chose not to go (supposedly he was fabulous...oh well). Anyway, a kiddush club buddy of mine and I went to the 7:00 hashkama minyan. This isn't the frummest shul in the world, but I would certainly consider it right-wingish modern orthodox. The shul has their minhagim, and any deviation from them is frowned upon. So, someone that I am close with (overly frum) was asked to daven mussaf, and he accepted. However, 15 seconds before he was to begin mussaf, he comes over to my buddy and I and says that his back is bothering him and he cannot do it. He puts us both on the spot, essentially forcing one of us to do it. Now, my stomach was in no condition to be davening for myself, let alone lead the prayer services. I put it on my buddy and he reluctantly agreed.

At this point, it should be noted that I very rarely wear a suit on Shabbos. It just isn't my thing. This was a modern-type shul, so we didn't look rediculously out of place...but, nevertheless we weren't wearing jackets. The minhag of the shul is that as Sheliach Tzibbur, one is required to wear a jacket. This was set in stone a couple of months ago after I was asked to daven shacharis at my regular minyan (more frum than the hashkama). I did so without a folly, however, there were those at the minyan that was upset that I was not wearing a jacket. The gabbai then spoke to the Rav who said that it would be best if the Shatz wore a jacket. So, there was a hock.

The best part, however, has yet to come. As my friend approaches the bimah to lead the service, one schmendrik (who ows a local pizza shop) says to his buddy, too loudly, "I hope this guy knows how to read Hebrew", to which my friend replied "I hope you know how to make pizzas". Classic.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Alcohol and Marijuana Stigmas in the Frum Community

I am not scared to admit that I am part of a Kiddush Club. We meet once or twice a month, after shul (as opposed to a majority of KC's that meet during haftorah) and it is a good time to catch up with friends, eat some food, and drink some fine scotch. Additionally, it is a good opportunity for our wives, who are busy with school/work, to get together and schmooze as well. This KC started at UMD and we have kept it going for the guys that have made aliyah to Baltimore. Camaraderie is a key part, and so is the alcohol. I'll say it flat out: Kiddush Club would not be the same, and we would not make it out to be the holy ritual we think it is, were it not for the alcohol.

I have recently received mussar from a couple of people regarding this. These individuals question why we need to drink to have fun, etc. They seriously think because we get together 1 or 2 times a month, we have alcohol problems. I'll be the first to admit that alcoholism is a serious problem, one that does exist in the frum community; however, not all members of Kiddush Clubs are alcoholics. Even though their mussar is clearly out of line, it made me think: why are these people obsessed with giving me mussar?

All of this led to the main focus of this post: explaining the stigma in the frum community surrounding alcohol and marijuana. It needs to be explained why this stigma exists much more so in the frum community than it did, let's say, in my hometown (small, somewhat rural town in MD). In the frum community, all of the kids that smoke marijuana and drink alcohol are bad kids. They are not bad as a result of their drinking; rather, they are the kids that are simultaneously skipping school, rebelling in their frumkeit, etc. It's just a fact; teenagers in the frum community that drink and smoke are the lowlifes; they are the kids that are going nowhere fast. These are the kids that go to the local yeshivas that bribe them to come to shiur with cigarettes (because, as they say, it’s the lesser of the evils).

This is not so in the non-frum, non-Jewish, secular communities. I am not ashamed of the fact that I spent all but 1 of my high school years in a public school, a school with a mere 10-15 Jews. I have said it many times, but if I had to do it all over again, I'm not sure I would change anything. I'm not sure if I had the power I would make myself a FFB that went to a yeshiva high school and spent 4 years learning in Israel. I am quite happy with the education and life experiences that I got in public school, and am quite happy with my level of frumkeit, and the level of frumkeit I wish upon my family one day, IY"H. Therefore, with my knowledge of what goes on in the secular community, I will shed some light for all of you.

Drinking is a problem in secular communities. People that are lowlifes and are going nowhere, are probably also drinking and smoking marijuana. What then, you ask, is the different between secular and frum communities? The difference is that in secular communities, just because you drink and smoke marijuana, it isn't a GIVEN that you are a lowlife; it isn't a given that you aren't going to go anywhere with your life (which, I posit, IS the case in the frum communities - at least that is the path that he/she is leading themselves on). It's no secret, and I am not ashamed of the fact that throughout high school, I drank alcohol (sometimes excessively) on the weekends. I am not ashamed of the fact that *(edited on the advice of legal counsel)*. Why am I not ashamed? I am not ashamed because my friends and I, that lived this routine for most of our 11th and 12th grade years, were GOOD KIDS. I was by far the dumbest of my friends, and I graduated high school with a 3.6 (unweighted) GPA and over 1200 on my SAT's. Most of my friends were valedictorians/salutatorians. The fact is that while we drank on the weekends, we took care of business. We made sure to get good grades; we were always respectful to our parents; we participated in school athletics. We were good kids.

The stigma in the frum world is that drinking turns individuals into bad people. This is why I receive mussar from people for my membership to a Kiddush Club - they assume that because I enjoy drinking alcohol, I must also be a bad person. If they were to understand that this is just a phenomenon in the frum community, they would understand that it is not the alcohol that turns teens into bad people, but other factors.

It is for this reason that I will not forbid my children from drinking alcohol. My parents raised me in a way that made me understand the consequences for my actions. It is because of this upbringing they trusted me around alcohol. Whenever I had friends over, they made sure (and still do when I go home and have friends over) that nobody was driving home after drinking, that everyone was in control. I believe it is the attitude in the frum community that leans toward outlawing or banning problematic things that causes kids to go off the derech. If a kid's parents tell him never to drink, and refuse to admit that sometimes this is just what kids do, they will have no guidance if they do actually experiment with alcohol. I plan on raising my children to know the difference between right and wrong; to know to take responsibility for their actions; to understand that there are consequences for actions. It is with this upbringing that Gd willing they will understand how to drink responsibly.

Onlysimchas.com Pet Peeve

I admit it. I check http://www.onlysimchas.com daily. Sometimes, when there's not much to be done at work, numerous times daily. So, after becoming somewhat of an onlysimchas.com pro, I will explain a couple of my peeves about the site. I will give examples from the current front page (as of 9:55am).

Example 1: BENI SCHATZ & NECHAMA LEAH BEN SHALOM - dude, chill out, we're happy your friend got engaged, but put in some lower case letters - it's much easier to read if written "Beni Schatz & Nechama Leah Ben Shalom"

Example 2:Avraham-Rodi Nirski & Shevi Bertman-pic from ur vort - this person has the lower case letters down, but the title of the post is not the place to write "pic from ur vort". If you want to get this message across, title the pictures themselves "VortPic1", etc. If you want to tell the engaged friend that these are the pics from "ur" vort, send them an e-mail, don't post in the title. Oh yeah, and it's "your", not "ur"

Example 3: L'chaim pics!!!!!!! Shoshana Steinmetz & Aaron Rosenzweig - ok we already established this isn't the place to show which of the 26 pre-wedding "events" the pics are from. Additionally, we all know you're glad that your friend got engaged because now you get to go to the vort, lechaim, wedding, and Sheva brachos - all places where you may find your potential suitor. But, we don't really care about that. Save us the !!!!!!!!!! and put that extra spunk in your smile, maybe it will find you your Beshert.

And my personal favorite (AKA: biggest pet peeve) , Example 4: Leah Shadpour & I don't know - like we've established: we're happy your pal Leah got engaged. But do us all a favor and wait 4 more minutes until you've called your little friends and found out what his name is. I'm waiting for the day I see a combination of all of them. That would look something like this:
BERYL!!!!!! SCHMENDRICK!!!!!!! and I DON'T KNOW!!! (UR VORT PICS!!!)

Example of a good post: James McCrady & Lillian Bowers - while there isn't a shot in hell that these people are Jewish, let alone frum, we can clearly read that they are the ones getting engaged.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Standing for Birkas haTorah

So, you can always tell the absolute frummies at shul - the ones that stand for the entire Krias haTorah (clearly not me). But is there an obligation to stand during any part of Krias haTorah (namely, during the brachos themselves)? You always see different approaches to this:

  1. The sitting during the entire laining approach (which, as we will see, is not the worst thing in the world).
  2. The "waiting to hear Barchu then stand until after Nosain haTorah" approach.
  3. The "standing from before Barchu until after Nosain haTorah" approach.
  4. The half-hearted "lean forward to make it look like I'm attempting to stand for a millisecond approach".

I will outline a number of popular halachic sources, then return to reevaluate these various approaches.

The Shulchan Aruch (146) discusses whether one has to stand for the entire laining. A note in the Mishna Berura states that according to all one must stand during Barchu and "Baruch Hashem Hamvorach L'olam Vaed". The implication from this MB is that one need not stand during the brachos of Asher Bachar Banu and Asher Nassan Lanu. But, then, what is the Makor for those who take either approach #2 or #3 above?

The Magen Avraham and the Taz both put their two cents in on this issue. Both agree that one must stand for all "Dvarim Shebi'kedusha". However, they disagree as to which parts of this ritual constitute a Dvarim Shebi'kedusha. The Taz takes the approach of the MB and says that one must only stand for Barchu and Baruch Hashem Hamvorach L'olam Vaed. But, the Magen Avraham takes the approach that all Brachos on the torah constitute Dvarim Shebi'kedusha (even Asher Nassan Lanu!! - which I have never seen anyone go out of their way to stand for). Additionally, the Beir Haitaiv sides with the Magen Avraham while the Aruch haShulchan quotes only the opinion of the Taz.

So far, according to everyone, one must stand for Barchu and Baruch Hashem Hamvorach L'olam Vaed. But I'm sure we have seen frum yidden that are not strict in this. Why is this? The Piskei Teshuvos (modern) brings up exactly this point, and says that the Makor for not standing for anything comes from R' Chaim Vital, who said about his Rebbe (the Arizal) that he would sit from the beginning of Krias haTorah until the end, without standing for anything. In light of this, the Piskei Teshuvos says that there may be in an inyun of specifically sitting during laining. In light of this idea from R' Chaim Vital and the Arizal, it is interesting to note that the Chayei Adam uses the lashon of "Raui laamod"; that it is merely PROPER to stand for Barchu, etc., and NOT a chiyuv. Finally, R' Chaim Kinievsky wrote to the author of Ishei Yisrael that he views Barchu, etc., as equivalent to the Kriah itself and does not require standing (I have heard from a reliable source that R' Chaim takes approach #4 above (although, clearly with more Kavana than I am implying above).

So, let's take a look at the four approaches.

  1. The sitting during the entire laining approach - this is in accordance with R' Chaim Vital (not to be confused with Dick Vitale), the Arizal, and R' Chaim Kinievsky - although I would say this is a minority view nowadays.
  2. The "waiting to hear Barchu then stand until after Nosain haTorah" approach - this seems by far to be the worst approach to take. According to everyone that holds standing is required, including in this requirement is Barchu itself - so waiting to hear Barchu before standing does not seem in accordance with halacha.
  3. The "standing from before Barchu until after Nosain haTorah" approach - this is widely held approach - what is interesting is that according to MA's approach, standing for Asher Nassan Lanu is also required - something which nobody does.
  4. The half-hearted "lean forward to make it look like I'm attempting to stand for a millisecond approach" - I have not seen this shita brought down lahalacha, but like previously said, I have heard this is what R' Chaim Kinievsky does.

Cheers.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Amein Chatufah

Let me start out by addressing a side issue. I am generally against the epidemic of banning things in the orthodox community. However, I'm going to play Rabbi for a moment and make a ban for all of my readers. It is hereby assur (FORBIDDEN!) to read the following blog: http://www.yeshivaworld.blogspot.com . He is a Ba'al Lashon Hara that masks himself as "yeshivishly orthodox" person. Now I realize that whenever books get banned, their sales increase exponentially. I realize that all of you will go and read this blog. But hopefully it will lead you to the same conclusions as mine. Now, on to the juicy stuff...

This post will piggy back my last post as another reason I will not go back to the aforementioned minyan until I forget about the events of this past shabbos.

In halacha there is a concept of an Amein Chatufah (shoresh is Ches Tes Pay = steal, stolen). An Amein Chatufah is something we are warned against, and it generally defined as when the congregations answers Amein before the Sheliach Tzibur is finished with his prayer (See Shulchan Aruch 124 and MB there). We are also warned about an Amein Yesoma (lit. orphan); an Amein in which is said too long after the Shatz completed the bracha or has started the next bracha. Now, I'm a halacha guy, so I'll be the first to admit that these halachos are certainly valid, applicable, and lemaisa. However, if I were to rank the Amein Chatufah issue on the list of issues that need to be addressed at shuls (and certainly this shul), it would be way down on the list. One day I hope to stumble upon a shul that is so holy that this problem is the biggest of its' worries, however, I have yet to find this hayliga shul.

What peeved me about this shul was the overemphasis on the "Amein Chatufah Problem". Posted on the walls of the shul (I counted 4 of them) are these Amein Chatufah signs quoting the aforementioned halachos from the SA and MB in bold letters. I believe that there are only a certain number of things that a Rav and a shul can emphasize at one time for all issues to be addressed. If a Rav of a shul is to stretch himself to thin on a plethora of issues, all will fail. Therefore, it would make sense to work from the top down, and when the Amein Chatufah issue is reached, it should be tackled. But, unfortunately, this shul is not on this level.

This is a shul that is known for its' outrageous amount of talking. This is a shul that 65% of its' attendees arrive more than 20 minutes after davening (Friday night) have arrived. This is a shul where simple Kavod Beis haKnesses issues need to be addressed (ie, cleanliness, smell, upkeep, etc.) It is my belief that if talking were 100% outlawed at this shul, a large % of its' congregation would opt to go to a shul where it was acceptable to talk. Therefore, I do not deem this shul holy enough to make an Amein Chatufah problem a reachable goal. By tackling this problem, we have a shul that is kosher in it's Aniyas Ameinem, but is not kosher in giving kavod or decorum. I'd much rather go to a shul that was a talk-free environment that had a bit of an Amein Chatufah problem...but that's just me...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Think People, THINK!!

When I first decided to blog, I was worried that I wouldn't have enough to rant about. This worry was alleviated when I realized how many things in life actually piss me off. I almost made it the whole Shabbos without anything bothering me...until Maariv tonight.

So there's a shul that is about a 42 second walk from my apartment. I rarely go there. About once every 3-4 months I go there, only to realize exactly why it's bee 3-4 months since I've been. This following blog is the reason it will be another 3-4 months until I attend again (the amount of time it will take for me to forget this).

So I show up for a 5:50 maariv at about 5:49. The Rav is still in the middle of his Shalosh Seudos speech, so instead of sitting down and shmoozing like the majority of the people waiting for Maariv (disrespectful), I choose the seat I will sit in, and stand over the chair while pretending to listen. At this point, there is no question this seat is mine. I am basically standing on top of the chair, with my foot around of the legs of the chair. Many people pass and do not sit there, realizing it is my chair....until one guy sits down. OK, maybe he just needed to shmooze with this guy for a second...but he must see that it is my seat, right? He shmoozes for a minute, and another minute, and I finally realize that he isn't getting up.

Unbelievable. People just don't think. Myself, or any normal minded individual, would use our mental capacities to make the logical inference that the person standing by the chair (in an already crowded place, nonetheless) is going to sit in the chair. It just boggles me that people refuse to use their brains. It took so much self-control to not strangle the guy. And, the best part is yet to come...

This idiot vacates the seat for approximately 4.3 seconds to get a siddur. In that time, someone did the same thing to him that he did to me. He lost his seat like that. He was visibly peeved that he lost his seat. Maybe his losing of his seat will prevent him from taking my chair next time. I won't be so nice next time...although, like I said, it's gonna be about 3-4 months till I go out. Greasers...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Tachanun at Night

I'm trying to make this somewhat of a diverse blog, therefore every now and again I will post a very specific halachic topic and try to tackle it. Sorry if you're not into this stuff...but most know that I certainly am.

Today's topic: saying tachanun at "night" (we will discuss what night means). I was in College Park this past semester davening mincha and Chazaras haShatz finished after shkiya (sunset), and they did not say tachanun. This did not pass the smell test for me, so I did a bit of research. Here are my findings.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (which I will refer to as RSZA) says in his work Halichos Shlomo, that the minhag of Jerusalem was not to say Tachanun "balailah". The footnote says it is because of some sort of Kabbalistic danger. However, the footnotes at the bottom quote the Taz and the Shulchan Aruch harav which state that it may be said at night...so what gives?

The Mishna Berurah (MB) seems to reconcile these two views by saying that neflias apayim may be be said during Bein hashmashos (safeik lailah) but not after tzeis (vadai lailah).

However, the question that arises from this is: when the MB says that nefilas apayim may be said during bein hashmashos, does that mean that the entire nusach could be said WITH the nefila, or maybe just the words of tachanun could be said, with no nefila.

Sefer Ishei Yisrael seems to clear this up by saying "one cannot say tachanun bnflias apaim at night, but one is able to say the mizmor of tachanun without nefilas apaim, and bein hashmashom one is able to be yipol al panav, therefore if they didnt finish mincha before shkiya one is able to say tachanun with neflias apaim until tzeis..."

Therefore:
according to everyone (at least that i have seen), tachanun can be said after shkiya WITH nefliah
according to most, even AFTER TZEIS!!! tachanun could be said WITHOUT nefila
when RSZA says that the minhag yerushalayim was not to say tachanun at night, he was referring to night as tzeis.

Let me know if you disagree, or are privy to other sources on the matter...

Next halachic topic to be dealt with: A Megilla (Esther) on Shabbos: Muktzah or not?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Amalek and Duke

There is a mitzvah incumbent on Jews (machlokes Sefer haChinuch and the Minchas Chinuch as to whether it applies to women) to remember and kill any member of the nation of Amalek. If there is anyone who doesn't know what Amalek is, it is basically a nation who has been a thorn in our side for thousands of years, who hates us as Jews and everything that we believe it. Howerver, nowadays, it is unclear who is considered Amalek; therefore we don't go around killing all the bad people in the world assuming they are Amalekites. However, after hours (not really) of tireless research, I have discovered today's Amalek and therefore I hold the mitzvah to kill (or at least beat them in basketball) is incumbent upon every Jew (or Maryland Terrapin). Below I will outline my reasons that Duke is the true Amalek.

I. Before Amalek, there were two schools of thought regarding G-d. One school was that of Abraham and his descendents - Judaism, a monotheistic religion. The opposite was that of Abraham's father - one of idolatry. While their beliefs are in stark contrast to the Jews, both give credit to someone or something(s) for the way this world works. However, once Amalek came into the picture, they brought with them a new school of thought - one of non-belief. Amalek exists not to get closer to G-d - they simply exist to be a pain in the @#@# to everyone else. So too by Duke. Every regular season they overachieve, only to be taken out in the NCAA tourney (made it past sweet 16 1 time in JJ Reddick's career). They exist not to win championships (MD has won one more recently), but rather to be a thorn in the side of other holier schools on their road to basketball heaven (championships).

II. "For the hand is on the throne of God: God maintains a war against Amalek..." (Exodus 17:16). The world commonly used for throne (or seat in Modern Hebrew) is Keesay, spelled in Hebrew: Kaf, Samech, Aleph. However, in this verse, it is lacking the Aleph, leaving only the Kaf and Samech. Simple knowledge of Hebrew would tell you that Kaf Samech is the two-letter root for words having to do with “covering” (in Hebrew, Keesui). Because of the aberrant spelling, there must be a connection between these verses of Amalek and “covering”. Rabbi Zev Leff in a speech given for Aish hatorah says that when Amalek is around, they “cover up” reality about what G-d is…even for the believers! So too by Duke, when Duke is around, they “cover up” the pure intentions of many other basketball programs. This is obvious if any of you have ever listened to Jay Bilas or Dick Vitale. All they talk about is Duke Duke Puke Duke Duke. Their existence “covers up” commentary that would be spent on other worth universities (Maryland) and their quest for getting closer to a national championship.

III. The Midrash compares Amalek to a dog. See Sheldon Williams, Shavlick Randolph and Nick Horvath. ENOUGH SAID.

Finally, the Gematria (numerical value) of Amalek is equal to that of the Hebrew word “doubt” – Safek. That is the essence of Amalek; to doubt everything that Jewish people everywhere stand for. In a Torah commandment, with Zechiras Amalek is, we poskin that “Safek D’oraisa le’chumra”. Let’s be machmir with Duke tonight. No holding back. May zechus of our prayers, learning, and my bittul zman writing that bring us to the day (tonight) when we can rid ourselves of this modern day Safek, and this modern day Amalek, which is certainly DUKE.

Going to a Bar

I've heard many reasons why frum Jews shouldn't go to a bar. Some would say there is an halachic problem in drinking with non-Jews. Some would say its just not what we do as frum people. Fine, if you want to take either of those schools of thought, great. However, one reason given, which came to mind while writng a a previous post, just doesn't sit right with me.

Presumably, as frum people, we wear kippas. As mentioned before, this (according to me) is a mechitza of sorts between Jews and the non-Jews. I would assume that many frum Jews would not compromise their head covering, even in a bar. If you would, I recommend you read my rant on that. Anyway, as I stated previously, I do not recommend going into a bar with a kippa on, as there is likely to be a redneck to two there that has had one too many and is willing to tell you that he hates Jews because our parents make more than his lifelong construction-work father, or something like that. My advice for someone that wishes to go to bar would be to wear a hat. (However, many bars, in order to eliminate "thugs and gangstas" have no-hat policy.)Anyway, I've heard the argument that says something like, "well why would you want to go to a place that you don't feel comfortable wearing a kippa." I don't buy that at all. Obviously, to put yourself in a dangerous situation is prohibited, but I would assume that there would be nothing more than a few off-color comments (of course, wearing a hat would alleviate this problem entirely). Jews, throughout history, have been hated and forced to go many place. From Israel to Bavel, back to Israel, to being dispersed throughout Europe, to being dispersed all over the world (even Puerto Rico thanks to Chabad), we've been everywhere. Why do we move around? It's not because we have ADHD and feel the need for a change of scenery; rather, its because of the simple fact that whereever we go, there is going to be those (sometimes the majority) that don't want us there. When one is born a Jew, they are accepting under the "other duties as assigned" clause on the "contract". It happens to be that nowadays we live in a society where we are more accepted than Jews were 65 years ago. But we can't forget who we are - we are Jews that prevail even though there are those everywhere that don't like us. I'm not suggest that we all run to the nearest bar tzitzis and kippa clad to show ourselves what it is like to be Jewish, but I am also not suggesting running away from the essence of what it is to be Jewish.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Rabbi Kosman Stories

I meant to add these two stories to the end of the last post, but I forgot:

Story #1 - Rabbi Kosman was in Baltimore for my nephew's Pidyon haBen and while pulling into my sister's court, a yeshiva bachur hit his car. As they get out of their vehicles, the young lad is clearly upset. Rabbi Kosman approaches, approaches some more until they are face to face. He doesn't spit in his face (like Sean Taylor of the Redskins yesterday), or yell, rather, he leans over and embraces the lad with a hug, and that was the end of it. No $$, no rebuke, just love.

Story #2 - A friend of mine told me that he met Rabbi Kosman in Hawaii at a wedding. I am discussing this with Rabbi Kosman yesterday and I say to him "It's such a small world." His response was priceless, "No, Avraham, it's a big world, and G-d is making us butt heads for a reason..."

Rabbi Kosman, you are a holy, holy man.

Shul Politics

Most of my quality time spent at Beth Sholom Congregation in Frederick was as a child. It was only later in life, when I became involved with shuls in Baltimore that I realized that not even shuls are exempt from politics. However, it never struck me until recently that Beth Sholom has been, or at least is now plagued with them.

Most people reading this know about the shul in Frederick. Here's the short story: unaffiliated charter, Rabbi comes 40 some years ago as a kiruv stop on the way up the rabbinical ladder, falls in love with town, never leaves. Rabbi (Kosman) is Orthodox, service is Conservative, and most of the people would fall under the Reform categorization.

I believe that everything was status quo for the majority of his 40 some odd years in Frederick. He brought warm Judaism to a place that may have been without it otherwise, and over the years has seen many of his congregants make Aliyah from Frederick to Baltimore as a result of their climb up the Jewish ladder (obviously, all thanks to Rabbi Kosman). However, recently there have been suggestions that have affected Beth Sholom. First, there was a push for a reform synagogue. Being that Rabbi Kosman comes from a Ner Israel background, he does not allow women to read from the Torah or the lead services. There were those on the left that felt left out, and wanted to break off to form a reform synagogue (which, to the best of my knowledge, meets in a church). Fine, no big deal. There was some chutzpah involved, but all in all, that doesn’t bother me too much. What bothers me greatly is a suggestion by a couple of Beth Sholom old-schoolers: forcing Rabbi Kosman to retire. They have their reasons: decline in membership, time for a change, Rabbi Kosman’s age, etc. Similar to the tear-filled speech I gave at my own Sheva Brachos in Frederick where many of the big-whigs of Beth Sholom were present, here is my rant against you, Mr. “I want Rabbi Kosman to retire” man:

You, your kids are Jewish. They probably want to marry someone Jewish, right? Ever stopped to think why that is? Is that because of the in-depth Jewish education that you gave your children at home? I bet not. Is it because it just happened to be like that? I know not. The intermarriage rate in this country ridiculously high and I bet if we did a study of that intermarriage rate of the children that Rabbi Kosman has taught, it would be significantly lower. The reason your children want to marry Jewish is because of the love and respect for Judaism that Rabbi and Morah Kosman have taught your children. Rabbi Kosman realized that he could only do so much; this is why with the help of a couple of Finkelsteins, he started Shoresh - A summer a camp; a place which could reinforce the love for Judaism instilled in the Frederick Kinderlach during the year by the Kosmans. This camp has grown from 10 children, to over 300. 300!!! In the history of Shoresh (25 years), there have been only a handful of intermarriages. Do you want your children to be susceptible to the same intermarriage rate as the rest of the country? Go ahead…your ancestors, some of which are probably holocaust survivors, would be so ashamed. Leaving your families susceptible to the end of the Jewish lineage…this is exactly what you are doing. Shame, shame on you.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Article on the Kippa Hock

Danny The Manny points to an article on this subject from this morning.

It can be seen here.

Yarmulke/Kippa Wearing

I've never heard a GREAT reason to wear a kippa. It's a minhag, albeit a strong one, so there must be some reason to do it. Growing up, I was told that it was to remind oneself that G-d is above you. I never got that one... If someone at work asks me why do Jewish people wear kippas, I generally say that it is a physical separation between man and G-d; that there are things in life that are spiritual, and there are things in life are physical. But recently this argument hasn't been doing it for me in my head, because G-d doesn't simply exist in a spiritual realm; we believe there are physical manifestations of his being on earth. Also, saying that it is a separation would be like saying "from my kippa down is my territory, from my kippa up, it's G-d's"...but according to the song "Hashem is here (below the kippa), Hashem is there (above the kippa), Hashem is truly everywhere!" So over the past couple of years I have reassessed why I wear a kippa, and have come a conclusion, which is the basis for this rant.

I have come to the conclusion that kippas don't exist to be a separation for MYSELF or to remind MYSELF that G-d is around. I don't wear a kippa for myself. I don't need a kippa to remind me that I'm Jewish and that I need to act a certain way. I wear a kippa as a reminder to others that I am a Jew. While mainstream orthodoxy has certainly integrated aspects of American society into it, us as Jews have always prided ourselves in being different; the kippa is the physical manifestation of being different (in my opinion). It is the kippa that tells people that the way they talk to regular Joe Shmoe is not the way they should talk to Yankel Goldberg. It is the kippa that lets others know that the kippa wearer is Jewish, and that he is representing how a Jew acts. Again, it is not for me that I wear a kippa, but for others.

It is for this reason that I am not especially strict in wearing a kippa in the privacy in my own home. Because the kippa is b'etzem for other people, if nobody else is around, the message of the kippa is temporarily lost. (It should be noted at this point that there are commentaries who take this approach to be the law, that one need not wear a kippa inside, only outside - interestingly enough, one commentary, the Melamed Liohel took this position, and only the editor chose to delete the position - leaving a blank page instead) While being lenient in kippa wearing is something that is cerainly looked down upon in the yeshivish world, not all hope is lost for me yet. While I am lenient about wearing inside, I am extremely for wearing a kippa at all times when in public. It bothers me so much when people take off their kippas in public, for any number of reasons. I have seen very "frum" people take off their kippas when playing basketball, working out, going to a bar (I would not suggest wearing a kippa to a bar, rather, to wear a hat). If the whole reason (according to me) we wear kippas is to tell others that we are Jews and that we are different, what are we telling them when they see us chucking our kippas on the sideline, putting our kippas away before we get on the treadmill, and tucking the kippa away before going into a bar? (I was recently guilty of this, and I felt horrible for days - I had brought a hat, but the rule in the bar was no hat - I should've either left, or worn the kippa) We are telling them that we are Jews, and we are different when it is convenient for us....but when it comes to working out, playing ball, or going to a bar, we are no different. Zeh lo tov.

What's your opinion? Let me know...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My Priorities in Life

So I realized that I have priorities in life. First, of course, is my wife (and extended family). Then I realized, there are 3 things that I take very seriously, things that almost nothing would take me away from, except of course, my wife or extended family. These 3 things are, in no particular order: my learning, my working out (staying under 200 pounds), and my Maryland basketball.

While it sounds ridiculous, it is true. Now, this rant is against some mucho frummies (not all, but some), like a previous chavrusa of mine. To him, its baffling that I view my learning on the same level as MD basketball, therefore, to him, I could be classified as a bum, shaygetz, etc. However, when I say I'm serous about all 3 of these things, that means I am serious. That means, that if I have a chavrusa time from 7-8, i am there from 7 until 8. Not 705 or 710 (of course, sometimes things happen and people run late, however, I always schedule to get there at 7). However, to frummies, that learn alot, learnning is the one thing during the day that they won't feel bad shaving time off of. This chavrusa would never be there before 7:10, and that's when he wouldn't cancel, or say that he needs to leave early. He always tried to push back the chavrusa, which of course I couldn't do, because I usually work out from 815-930; like I said, I take all 3 of those activities seriously. While a frummie could be baffled that I hold MD B-Ball on the same level as learning, it is a high level. However, to him, the thing which he holds highest (learning) is precisely the one thing that he finds dispensable. I believe that this approach is a better approach then not holding Maryland BBall on the same level, but not taking my learning as seriously as I do ( e.g. in my opinion, this chavrusa's approach). In summary, taking things very seriously, even if one of those things is viewed upon negatively by the frum community (assuming it is halachically permissable) is better then not holding that extra thing on the same level, but holding the other things on a lower level.

What do you think? Let me know....

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Door Holding: Common Courtesy or a Pain the #@$%!....?

There is a well-established tradition in American society which I have come to despise: door holding. While most would say it is a common courtesy, I postulate that, by the laws of science, it is au contraire.:

Usually people want to go out of their way to hold a door for you, so they'll stand there and wait for you until you approach door, and then they'll walk away once they have fulfilled this bogus obligation. Most people on the receiving end would be grateful; I would not (read on).

Presumably, the door has began to shut by now. Simple physics tells usthat we exert MORE work when door is closing, then we would if the door was shut (similar to why a head on crash is more devastating than hitting a parked car - 2 opposite velocities). Now, I don't know if you've ever had to push open a door in Building 10 at the NIH campus, but those doors are heeeeavy. Were the person to just have ignored me, I would've had to open the door....OK, no big deal. But now that this kind soul has held it open just long enough for it to slam in my face, I am exerting far too much effort...This leads me to my conclusion that door holding, unless held ENTIRELY, is, in fact, rude.

Quoting my sister on this topic: "Oh and good luck convincing any girl that it's chivalrous to shut a door inher face." Girls ruin all the fun.

Come One, Come None!

Welcome all. I'm sure this will become a thoroughly unread blog, and that's fine with me. (Due to advice from a pal, this part of the rant has been removed...get in touch with me if you were curious what it said) Well, to start out, everyday feels like everyday. I have run this idea by my wife, and she thinks it's a dumb concept. Hear me out. You often hear people say "it seems like just yesterday that....", or "it feels like it was just Friday!". Therefore, if today is Wednesday, and it seems like just yesterday was Wednesday, then, in reality, everyday feels like Wednesday. But tomorrow, the same thing will happen. I will say to myself "it musta just been Thursday yesterday". Therefore, if tomorrow is Thursday, but it seems like it had just been Thursday, everyday is ALSO Thursday. Do the rest in your head, and that will lead to my conclusion....everyday is everyday. Until next time...