Friday, March 31, 2006

Think Your Dog is Smart? Parshas / Sefer Vayikra

First of all, apologies for the lack of blogging in the last week – I am taking a pretty big standardized test on Monday that I have been studying (read: procrastinating) for.

Anyway, Parsha and Sefer Vayikra deal heavily with Karbanos, sacrifices. In the times of the temple, people would be sin-offerings, voluntary-offerings, Passover-offerings, etc. The animals were brought to the Mizbeach, to the altar, where they were sacrificed to Hashem. To some, this seems barbaric. To these people, they grapple with what will be in the times of Moshiach when sacrifices are again brought. I can only imagine the amount of cognitive dissonance that a Kohen that is a member of PETA would have when he is killing an animal. Well, the truth is, according to many, in the times of Moshiach, these PETA people won’t have much to worry about, as there will be no more Karbanos. The question is….why no more sacrificing?

Rav Kook dealt with this question is his commentary on the Siddur regarding the little paragraph said after Shemonah Estrai where we talk about the times of Moshiach – a paragraph that ends “…Then the Mincha offering of Yehuda and Yerushalayim will be pleasing to Hashem…”. Rav Kook wonders why this paragraph singles out the mincha (afternoon) sacrifice as the one that will be pleasing in the times of Moshiach. He answers that the Mincha sacrifice will be the only one that is around, which leads us to our same question…why no more sacrificing (except for the mincha)?

Rav Kook explains what exactly we’re doing when we bring a sacrifice, and through his explanation we can understand why there will be minimal sacrificing in the times of Moshiach. He says that when we bring an animal sacrifice, we are raising the status of this animal. What, 10 seconds ago, was a grass-eating cow, is now a holy utensil for strengthening the connection between man and Hashem. And why can’t an animal raise its own status to that of a higher level? Answers Rav Kook, because animals don’t have daas (wisdom). Animals, which lack daas, are sacrificed because they can only elevate in status as a result of our actions to them – however, humans, which have daas, are not brought on the alter, as we are able to do things to elevate our status and relationship with Hashem. So what will change in the times of Moshiach? Rav Kook says that daas/wisdom will be rampant in the Messianic era. No longer will humans be the only ones with this wisdom; animals will have it as well. Therefore, they will then be in a position to elevate their status and relationship with Hashem, and we will no longer need to elevate their status for them by sacrificing them.

This is precisely the reason that the wise elders chose to single out the mincha (afternoon) Korbon in the paragraph that discusses Messianic times following the Shemonah Esrai. This sacrifice was not an animal sacrifice. Therefore, we will still need to bring it to the altar to elevate its status.

While I already believe that certain human beings I have met are less intelligent than some animals that I am familiar with (both as a result of the level of intelligence of the person and the animal), it appears this phenomenon will become more and more common in the times of Moshiach. Good Shabbos.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yechi Adoneinu...

There was a time in history where Lubavitchers were held in high regard. It wasn’t always like it is today. To be a Lubavticher, at one time, meant being learned, well-respected Jew. For numerous reasons, things are totally different today. I’ve heard people on all ends of the spectrum call them “crackheads”, justify speaking Lashon Hara against them, and cast them all as idolators.

Let me make it clear – there are those Lubavitchers that believe the Rebbe, z”tl, is still alive (in fact, many will not attach z”tl to the end of his name). There are those that pray to him directly (there is a minyan in Baltimore like this – no, not Bais Lubavitch). These people are wrong; these people may even be idolaters in the true sense of the word. I do not want to make it seems like I agree with everything they say and/or believe. However, there are a good number of Lubavitchers that will admit the Rebbe is dead, and is not going to be Moshiach. Quoting Wikipedia, these people claim,

“…that Schneerson was the best candidate for messiah in his generation, but now say that people were mistaken to believe that he was the Messiah. Rather, he could have been the messiah if God willed it to be so, but it was not to be. As such, the Messiah will come nonetheless in the person of some other great leader.”

I have no problem with this claim. He, undoubtedly, was a massive Talmud Chacham – someone who was on an entirely different level. There is nothing wrong with a sect of Judaism continuing the legacy of their Rebbe after his death by continuing traditional styles of learning, dress, etc. In this sense, they are no different from any other Chasidic sect – they are die-hard followers of their Rebbe and take his word as the end-all-be-all.

What bothers me is when people bash the entire sect of Chasidim based on a minority of wackos. True, it is known that R’ Shach, the old Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh, was vehemently against the movement; so, there is basis for being against the movement. That being said, it would be impossible for me to look down upon all Lubabs, strictly based on the interactions I have had with them throughout my years. Based on these interactions, which I will detail, I hold them in extremely high regard.

Exhibit A: At the University of Maryland, one of the Jewish staples of the campus is Rabbi Eli Backman – a Lubavticher. He and his wife are the heads of one of the most successful Chabad houses in the country. Every Shabbos the Backman’s have 100% free Shabbos meals. It is not uncommon for their meals to top over 100 students, faculty, etc. Every Shabbos, 52 weeks a year – I can only imagine how much each meal costs.

Exhibit B: I was going to Penn St. to visit some, well, let’s just say, non-Shomer Shabbos friends from high school. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best decision to go, but I knew that all I had to do was do a Google search on “Chabad Penn St.”, give them 10 minutes notice, and I knew I would have 2 Shabbos meals. Of course this is what I did, and I was surprised to find this oasis of frumkeit at the dregs of Penn St.

Exhibit C: My wife and I went to Puerto Rico for our honeymoon. Again, I knew all I needed to do to find an oasis of frumkeit was to do a Google search on “Chabad Puerto Rico” – I had minyanin, Shabbos meals, and kosher food at my disposal.

What is the common denominator between all of these examples? Personal sacrifice to spread Judaism, wherever it may be. Do you think there are mikvahs at Penn St. or Puerto Rico? The Rebbetzin at Penn St. probably had to drive to Harrisburg; the Rebbetzin in Puerto Rico probably had to take late-night trips to the ocean. Sounds like a big deal to us – but they just take it in stride. Do you think there are schools to send their children to in State College, PA or San Juan, Puerto Rico? No, these children are homeschooled – and they take it in stride. And where is the $$$ coming from for all of this? They receive little, if any money from Chabad International – they are completely dependent upon themselves to fundraise. The UMD Chabad needed to expand, as there was often no room for the numerous people that would come to their Shabbos table. This burden of financial responsibility fell entirely upon Rabbi Backman.

I believe there is something to be learned from everyone. Must we follow the Rebbe’s teachings or their “wacko” customs? No. We need to learn love for Yiddishkeit at all costs from them. If I had 50% of the dedication that these rabbeim have, I would be a better Jew 10 times over. Unfortunately, we let a minority of wackos cloud this reality.

PS - Interesting reading on the Mashichus viewpoint held by a minority of Lubavtichers.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Jewish Code of Law...Maybe

I recall a while back, Jewboy posted about the issue of drinking on Purim. A commenter noted that, often times, things get out of hand on Purim, and maybe certain actions need to be taken. Essentially, Jewboy’s response was that we cannot repeal a section of the Shulchan Aruch.

This Shulchan Aruch is commonly thought of as our Jewish Code of Law. To repeal a section of it would be to uproot tradition and law that has been practiced for thousands of years, right? This got me to thinking: if this is the case, why is it that there are laws that frum Jews of all ends of the spectrum do not heed? I’ve someone say many times, something along the lines of, “yeah, the mechaber or the Mishna Berura rules like that, but the minhag is not like that.” What laws are too sacred to touch, and which could be in the category of “the minhag is not like that…”?

Let me begin by saying that my intentions here are not to knock people who may not follow these laws of the Shulchan Aruch that many do not – rather just to ponder about what singles out certain things as “untouchable”, or on the other hand, subject to non-compliance.

One such law which comes to mind is one by Hilchos Tefillah, which basically says that when praying with the congregation, upon completion of the Amidah, it is forbidden to take the three steps forward until the leader reached Kedushah, or at the very least, the beginning of his repetition. As a side note, I do not wish to say that on the grand scheme of things, this is at the top of the “most important halachos” list. Clearly, if one finds this to be a burden, and also has other, more fundamental issues to deal with, one should deal with more fundamental things. That being said, I find it hard to believe that it’s a big deal to stand in place for another 2 minutes to fulfill this obligation of the Shuchan Aruch’s.

Whatever the reason is, this is a law that the masses do not seem to follow. There are some that do, but I would say that at least a majority do not. And I am not speaking of this majority as being the “Modern Orthodox”; rather, in any shul you go to, you are bound to see that the majority probably does not heed this rule. Again, there certainly is something to be said for “the way things are done”, but it was just curious to me: what makes this something where non-compliance is the norm, but we would scream for eternity if there were other parts of the Shulchan Aruch where the majority was non-compliant?

Just some food for thought…

Also, it should be noted that R’ Menashe Klein, in his question and answer set, “Mishneh Halachos” defends what the masses do, by saying that when one is in a crowded shul where people are constantly passing in front of daveners, it is possible to say that this is OK. He is not saying that this is the preferred method, rather, he is just being melameid zechus.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's $1 Buck Man

Anyone that davens in a relatively large shul, no matter what time of day, knows that at a given minyan there are always a number of mishulachim (poor people) that come around collecting. I would say most peoples’ MO is to give a dollar – I have rarely seen anyone give more. This $1 practice simply seems to be the way things are done and I am not here to decry the fact that we are only giving them a measly $1.

I have a special place in my heart for poor people. It doesn’t matter who: black, white, frum, not-frum; my heart cries when I see a poor person. Some people are poor as a result of some bad luck; some are destitute due to poor decisions. Whatever the reason is, I still feel the same way. Therefore, when I see someone in shul study the poor person’s “R’ Heinemann” letter up and down, I can only imagine how embarrassed the mishulach must be. Is it not enough that this person is so poor that he needs to go around begging others for money? – Why the need to make him feel even worse by reading what his problems are? I get SO angry when I see people read the letters. Sure, I understand that there may be crooks out there – however, that is why the “R’ Heinemann” letters exist. The person must go through the trouble of seeking out R’ Heinemann, telling him their life story, only to be given the right to collect in town. It is my understanding that only about 1/3 of the people that come to R’ Heinemann are supplied letters. What does this tell us? It tells us that these people are really poor and they really need our help. Is it not enough that R’ Heinemann feels these people are in need? I do not feel the need to know why this guy needs my $1.

I understand if the meshulach is coming to your house, where it is customary to give more than $1. Many people do not have a lot of maiser (tithing) money to give; therefore, there is a necessity for some to look at their letters in this case and give accordingly. But $1? Come on man. You scan the letter up and down, only to come to the conclusion that he is poor enough for your lousy $1, and then you scrounge around in your pocket to begrudgingly give it to him. R’ Berger, in his Shabbos Teshuva drasha was discussing how we allot our money. R’ Berger is a very soft spoken man, and when he discussed mishulachim, he was screaming and practically in tears about the way we treat poor people. “THESE PEOPLE ARE OUR TICKET TO SHEMAYIM!!”, he screamed. And what do you do?; you give him your $1 only after deeming this person to be poor enough for your liking. Unbelievable.

If you are too poor to give these people money, please get in touch with me and I will give you $25 a month to be allotted to these poor people. I am not joking.

On a final note, there is one guy that I have seen a couple of times read a person’s letter up and down, and then refuse to give money. This man is going to burn in hell; I am sure of that. If I ever see you in shul reading someone’s letter and not give the person money, I will personally berate you. I don’t care if I’m in the middle of Shemonah Esrai or Sh’ma. Put yourself in his shoes: would you want someone knowing how you messed up in life, only to be deemed “not poor enough” for your buck?

These people are our tickets to heaven. Give them money and say “Hatzlacha” with a smile. Otherwise, you may face my wrath, but more importantly, the wrath of the man above.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Los Cabos - Come on!

OK, I’ve gotta say it. Sorry to any of my College Park friends that this may offend or cause significant amounts of cognitive dissonance to develop.

Going to a bar is a ridiculous way of spending your Purim night. Horrible.

I often use the word “ridiculous” as a good thing, as in, “that was a ridiculous movie.” However, in this instance, there’s not an ounce of positive. Do you know that the Arizal said “Yom haKipurrim K’Purim?” – that Yom Kippur is like Purim? We’re not asking you to take this day as seriously as Yom Kippur, but a drunken bar fest? You can do better than that. Get drunk, please. But do it with Rabbi Backman at Chabad, not with the trashy, drunk, coeds at Los Cabos.

Do you know that in the times of Moshiach, Purim is going to be the only holiday still left? No more Pesach, Sukkot, etc. Just Purim. Does that not tell you the level that Purim is on?

I’m all for getting drunk. Hell, I used to frequent the bars myself. But wait an extra day. Spend Purim the way it is meant…drinking alcohol and taking it to a higher level; not drinking alcohol and dancing at Los Cabos. Ahh jeez. Unbelievable. Maybe I've become too frum since getting married and living in Jewland, but jeez, that just sounds like a bad way to spend Purim.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Purim Torah

For all of you who are like I usually am, and have waited until the last minute to get your Purim Torah together, I have pasted all of mine below. For some odd reason, I took the initiative this year and spent 2 hours tonight typing it up. I hope there are some of you that can use these ideas at your seudahs - the application may need to be re-worked depending on what kind of seudah you are eating by. By the way, most of these ideas were from the Sifsei Chaim (I'm a big fan), and I intertwined them with my thoughts as well (the non-coherent thoughts are probably mine...).

That being said, if you are eating at my seudah and even think of stealing one of these and saying it at our seudah, let's just say I'll shecht you like R' Zeira shechted Rabbah...except I can't bring you back to life like they did. OK OK. Just joking.

Purim Torah 2006

The gemara in Megillah says:
" אסתר פרק ג

וְכָל עַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ כֹּרְעִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהָמָן כִּי כֵן צִוָּה לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ וּמָרְדֳּכַי לֹא יִכְרַע וְלֹא יִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה:

Basically it says when Hamen came through, on this occasion, everyone bowed to him, but Mordechai did not. Sifsei Chaim asks an interesting grammatical question on this pasuk: This pasuk is talking about one specific time…if this is the case, why say "Yichra" and "Yishtachaveh" in the future tense. If the Megilla is written in past tense, use past tense. If there are parts written in present tense, use present tense. But to use future tense needs some clarification.

Answers the Sifsei Chaim: the Megillah uses future tense to tell us that this was not the only time when this happened; there were others in "the future" of this specific instance. Continues the Sifsei Chaim: it wasn't just in this one case where Hamen happened to be coming by, and Mordechai did not. Rather, Mordechai would find out wherever Hamen was traveling and would go there, and dafka go out of his way to sit and not show him Kavod. Very powerful.

There are a lot of problems in life and in the frum community to which it would be very easy to ignore. We learn from Mordechai that we don't accomplish anything by merely ignoring these problems: we tackle them head on. We seek out Hamen (our problems) and we are defiant (deal with them head on).

Alcohol is one of these problems. There are those that want to ignoring the fact that there are members of the frum community that suffer from alcoholism. Sadly, we are not immune to these problems. There are those that are aware of these problems and would say that we need to abstain from alcohol, especially on Purim, where people tend to drink excessively. This, in my opinion would be equivalent to ignoring the problem; it would be the easy thing to do. On top of that, wine and alcohol has been associated with Judaism for thousands of years, and to recommend an abstention from it would be to uproot Jewish minhagim – things that we value dearly.

Our job this Purim is to attack the problems that alcohol can bring. We drink responsibly and l'shaym shemayim and show the future generations that alcohol, when used correctly, can even be a valuable religious tool on Purim.

Megillas Esther

We all know of the commandment on Purim to read Megillas Esther. Certainly Esther was a major part of the stories and miracles of Purim, but why do we need to call it Megillas Esther specifically? Certainly one could make the case just as much for Megillas Mordechai, or Megillas Mordechai v’Esther, as it says in Al haNissim, “B’Yimei Mordechai v’Ester”.

When we analyze the story of Purim, it becomes clear why we call it “Esther” specifically. This was not the first time in history that Gd had done miracles for us. Certainly Krias Yam Suf and the receiving of the Man were great miracles. However, these miracles were so mind-bogging that it would’ve been impossible for someone to attribute these miracles to anyone other than hashem. However, the miracles of Purim worked in a different fasion; a way that had not been revealed to the Jews until this time. The name Esther comes from the root “Hester”, meaning hidden. This is exactly how Gd carried out the miracles of Purim – in a hidden manor. The Torah fails to mention Hashems name once, and an innocent bystander would look at the story and say that there was nothing mind-boggling that happened, just that things seemed to fall into place for the Jews. This was the first time G-d worked within the framework of nature. Says the Sifsei Chaim, a nes nistar, a hidden miracle, is one of a much higher level. Any dummy can look at the splitting of the sea and realize that Gd did it. It takes a person of a higher level that Gd doesn’t only do those things – he controls the day to day runnings of the world – he controls nature.

We sit here today trying to reach that higher level that Purim is all about – realizing that Gd is the man regardless of whether he is splitting seas or whether he is allowing children to be born. We should have this proper mindset and use the alcohol in front of us to help reach attain that higher level.

Switching meals

The gemara in Megilla (7b) relates an episode of two indigent Amoraim (who were brothers) who could not afford to send mishloach manos. Instead, they swapped the meals they were planning to eat. Though this appears to be the simple reading, Rashi offers an alternative one. According to Rashi, they did not switch meals, but rather invited each other to Purim se'uda during consecutive years. This would, on alternating years, spare each brother extra expense.

We are left asking an obvious question according to Rashi's interpretation: if only one family made a meal each year, how was the other family yotzei their mitzvah of mishloach manos on the year that they were not cooking?

I think the answer to this question can be answered by taking a look at how we view halacha and mitzvos today. A lot of people, myself (especially) included, get very caught up in intricacies and pratim of halacha and mitzvos. When does it apply? Who does it apply to? Can one use a sheliach? Etc. There is a tendency to view halacha as the end-all-be-all.

I do not think this is what Chazal had in mind when halacha was codified. We should not view halacha as the end-all-be-all, rather, we should view halacha as a means to an end. I believe that Chazal wanted us to increase peace, unity, brotherhood, etc among Jews (the main reason given for Mishloach Manos) on Purim. Therefore, they learn out from a pasuk in the Megilla that we should give Shaloch Manos. SM in this case is the vehicle to reaching our destination – being marbeh rayus.

True, these Amaroim were not using our vehicle of shaloch manos as it is codified in Jewish law. But if we look at halachos as a means to an end, we see that these Amaroim still ended up at the same conclusion, being marbeh rayus; same destination, different vehicle. As we approach Purim, we're bound to ask the following questions:
  • When do I give mechatzis hashekel?
  • When can I start/end the Purim seudah?
  • Do I really have to get drunk at the meal?
  • How much is mechatzis hashekel/matanos l'evyonim in US currency?
These are important questions to ask. However, take a step back. Realize that these mitzvos are only a vehicle to getting to a destination. If you get caught up in the details of these mitzvos and never make it to the destination, I believe you have wasted your time. Purim is about being with your friends, creating unity (achdus) and brotherhood amongst fellow Jews. Let's not forget that. Now go get drunk.

“Yom haKipurrim K’Purim”
This interesting thought is brought down by the Arizal, essentially saying that Yom Kippur and Purim correspond to each other in its spiritual level. Some even want to go as far as to say that Purim is the ideal, as we can see by the words of the Arizal that are translated as “YHK is like Purim”. If I were to say to you that “he looks like a monkey”, the real thing here is the monkey, and the boy is only similar looking to that monkey. So too here, Purim is the real thing, and only the other thing, YHK looks similar to Purim – we see that Purim, according to some is a greater holiday that YHK.

Besides for this, what makes Purim on a higher level than YHK? On both of these events we accepted the Torah in some fashion. It is brought down that when we were about to receive the Torah and the mountain was held over our heads, it was YK. Also, by Purim, we reaccepted the torah as it says in the Megillah “Kaimu v’Kiblu haYehudim”, and Chazal darshin this as “Kaimu ma she’Kiblu Kvar” – they accepted that which they had already received (at Har Sinai”. So what was the different between these two “acceptings” of the Torah. When we look at the circumstances, this becomes clear. What happened at Har Sinai? Essentially, we were forced into it. Hashem held a mountain over our heads and basically said “accept it or you’ll die.” While it turned out to be a good decision for them, we were still, to an extent, forced. But by Purim, Rashi notes on the phrase of “Kaimu v’Kiblu…” that we accepted the torah from the “love of the miracle that happened to them”.

So, we can say that kabbalas hatorah (Yom Kippur), we accepted it out of fear, but by Purim we accepted it out of love. Obviously, love is a higher level. It’s a lot easier to clean our rooms when we’re afraid of potential punishment – it takes someone on a higher level to make their bed because out of love for their parents. It is important we emphasize the miracles that Gd did for us on this day and rejoice accordingly.

Chayav Ish L’vasumay BaPurya

The simple meaning of the word L’vasumay is equivalent to L’hishtakair – to become drunk. This is certainly how most learn it out. It is interesting to note, however, that other places in shas L’vasumay is translated as a synonym for L’hamtik – to make sweet. It is important to understand the quote from the gemara of “Chayav Inish L’vasumay…” within this framework. When plugged into this phrase, the understanding of the phrase is that one is obligated to sweeten the difference between the evil Haman and the blessed Mordechai – basically telling us that we have to find a way to “sweeten” the bad. This begs further explanation. Basically, our rejoicing in the downfall of evil Haman shouldn’t just be for the fact that we killed them. We need to understand that this downfall is just a tool for us to be M’kadeish Hashem. It is only when we “sweeten” our understanding of the downfall of Haman that we will realize the real reason the Mapala. We should use the mapalah of Hamen as a means to an end to be M’kadesh Shaim Shemayim, not a mere end in of it’s self.

Why through Hesach haDaas?

If this is true, that we are using the evilness to serve as a tool to a Kiddush hashem, why do we do this with a hesach hadaas – when being drunk? If anything, in order to properly use it as a tool, we should be stone sober, Ad D’Yada, and not Ad D’Lo Yada – this way we can properly pick out what is the negative and use it as the tool. (?)

The reason is because if we were to come to this recognition through D’yada, there would be a great danger; that of giving importance/value to the negative. When analyzing exactly what is bad, we may come to find some good it in…something we certainly don’t want to do when dealing with Amalek. It is only when we are drunk that this worry goes away…we aren’t worried that when drunk one may attribute something good to the evilness of Haman. It is said that R’ Yisrael Salanter would say over very deep things at his Purim Seudah when he was drunk; things that when sober he would not say.

Mi Hu Zeh…

When Esther went to dine with the King and Hamen, they asked her what her request was for them, up to half the kingdom. She replied that basically there was a decree out there to kill the Jews, and she wanted them to be spared. King Achashverosh responded “Mi hu zeh v’aizeh hu? – who was the one who wanted to do this?” However, King Achashverosh had already given the word to Hamen to kill all of the Jews. How could he asked “who was the one…” when he knew that he and Hamen were the ones that did it?!

It is interesting to note that the Megillah uses four lashonos of killing the Jews “L’hashmid, L’abeid, Laharog, and “Shlalam Lavoz”. The Gra comments that each of these represents a different sort of “killing” that Hamen wanted to do; one for each the Neshama, Ruach, Guf, and extermination of the Jews. When Hamen went with his proposal to Achashverosh, he only used the lashon of “L’abdam”, which was the killing of the Guf because they were not of the same religion. It was Achashverosh’s understanding that if they were to convert, their lives were to be spared. This is why, when Esther came to Achashverosh and told him of the plan to kill them, using the lashonos of “L’hashmid, v’laharog, o’l’abeid” – he was astonished. The added lashonos of L’hashmid, v’laharog were Hamen’s hidden plan – to kill the Jews regardless of whether they converted or not. Thus, when Esther came to Achashverosh with the extra lashonos, he was astonished, and he thus wanted to know “Mi hu zeh v’aizeh hu”.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Am I a Product of my Environment?

I realized another weird phenomenon this morning (which some would consider late last night) during my drive into work.

Anyone that knows me probably knows that I have a bit of a heavy foot when it comes to the gas pedal of the car. Most would agree this is not an anomaly knowing my personality. I’ve had my fair share of speeding tickets, but none in the past year or so, B”H, Bli Ayin Hara. Due to my previous driving record and the fact that I do 100 miles of highway driving a day, I would consider my fear of getting pulled over somewhat rational. However, I realized a certain trick my brain likes to play on me when I drive.

So, for those of you that don’t do much highway driving, there are these little breaks in the median on highways which signs say are for “emergency personnel only.” Basically, what the sign means is they’re only used for prick State Troopers that have nothing better to do or bigger problems in the state to attend to than point a radar gun at people and make their lives miserable. Usually, due to the reflective paint on the cop cars, when one has their headlights on, it is easy to discern if a cop is there. Sometimes, by the time you realize it’s a cop, it’s too late, but a lot of times not. For the longest time I knew which of these “prick stops” people were most likely to have a cop, and I would be extra careful around them.

Surrounding the break in the median where the cops sit are, in most cases, a bunch of reflectors. They’re there for people that are morons to realize where exactly the road ends and the grass starts – apparently the MD State Police thinks its troopers are a bunch of morons and won’t realize the distinction between the two when they’re doing radar. Lately, my brain (keep in mind this is 5:45am) sees the reflection of my headlights’ illumination off of the reflector and magically pieces together a police car, where there often isn’t one. As previously mentioned, when a cop is sitting there, one can usually tell this is the case due to the reflective paint on the side of the car. For whatever reason, my brain always pieces together these dumb reflectors on the side of the median as being in the shape of a cop car which usually causes me to hit the breaks, people to get pissed off and stick random (or not so random) fingers in my direction. Does this happen to any of you?

I think I can either blame this on the amount that I drive, or the fact that I work with individuals with schizophrenia on a daily basis. I also find that I talk to myself more than before I started working here. Am I going crazy?

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Supposedly, a link to my blog was sent to some administrators at Rambam, and they felt that a comment left by one of their students, who is a buddy of mine, is "bad PR" for the school. Therefore, I have removed his comment from the comments section. His comment, essentially, was that he believes the "hooking-up" rate to be higher at Y-Rambam than at the other schools in the community. My question is: If Rambam really is trying to segregate their curriculum and take a small turn to the right, aren't they buying into this notion as well? I assume they are - although, maybe they don't want one of their students coming out and letting everyone know that. I have spoken with many people and received confirmed and unconfirmed reports that the rate of "hooking up" (and worse) in Baltimore's Jewish schools is equal or greater to that of at YRambam.

I agree with a commenter on a previous post who says that, while he is not opposed to the impeding changes, he believes the whole "co-ed schooling hock" is blown way out of proportion. I certainly hope that this is the case, as I want my children to have interactions with girls (whether that be in a co-ed school, or youth groups - B'nei Akiva). I understand this view to be a minority in the Jewish Blogosphere, however, I guess I am not far enough removed from my public high school days - where I learned healthy, normal interactions with girls, blacks, rednecks, etc.

The bottom line is that I want my children, one day, to be serious about: Torah, education, Israel, middos, and normalcy. I hope all of these things aren't too much to ask - if they aren't, my children will be going to the school that most adequately emphasizes all of these things - co-ed or not.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I often do my best thinking during my daily one-hour commute to work. Usually I am too tired to think about anything too usually I just conjure up far-fetched money-making schemes. This morning, however, I realized something: Powerade is the best invention EVER. I realized this the morning after having laid in bed all day sick - drinking Powerade the entire day. OK, no big deal, there are a lot of things that make me feel better when I'm got the stomach bug: Ginger Ale, rice cakes, saltines, etc. However, the chances of catching me eating/drinking any of the aforementioned items when healthy is slim to none.

I realized, though, that Powerade is a multi-faceted beverage. First of all, I like the fact there are only a couple of flavors (well, colors, as I refer to them as the "Red Powerade" or "Blue Powerade", never the flavors they are associated with). Gatorade, besides not being kosher, has a billion flavors and it's hardly possible that they're all good. Powerade sticks to a few flavors, and they do them well (however, as I will explain later, there is a flavor that I cannot drink).

Here's the true glory of Powerade, besides having amazing commercials:
  • Powerade can be consumed with breakfast
  • Powerade can be consumed with lunch
  • Powerade can be consumed with dinner
  • Powerade can be consumed 3 minutes before bed without leaving one with indigestion
  • Powerade can be consumed before, during, or after a workout
  • Powerade tastes good the way it is
  • Powerade tastes good when diluted with water
  • Powerade tastes good when mixed with alcohol (my experiences have been limited to Vodka)
  • Powerade cures nausea (usually best when watered down)
  • Powerade can help a hangover go away

If anyone can name a product for me that is as multi-faceted as this drink, I'll be very surprised.

Also, I said before that there is one flavor of Powerade which I cannot (well, I can, I just try to avoid if possible) drink. Also mentioned before, Powerade tastes good when mixed with alcohol. Essentially, many Saturday nights in high school consisted of us baseball jocks getting together, buying red Powerade and mixing in with vodka. We called it drinking 'ades (no, not AIDS). Therefore, to this day, I have a bit of a taste aversion to red Powerade. When I taste it, my brain thinks that there is vodka in the Powerade and even though there is no vodka hitting my taste buds, my brain thinks there is. I would assume someone that is a heavy "screwdriver" would have trouble tasting OJ at 5 a.m. Rock on Powerade.

Wow, I can't believe I just posted about Powerade.