Jul 31, 2015

When the Speaker is the Hero of His Story

I have listened to numerous speakers over the years of widely different backgrounds, levels of knowledge and personality.  Some often include material about themselves in their talks, some rarely or never do. 

As for those who do, there are different categories of personal information.  There is background information, where they came from, where they grew up, how their parents raised them, an anecdote that took place in their childhood, what their rosh yeshiva or teacher told them, sometimes a self-deprecating account, etc.

Then there are personal encounters that occurred, whether on an airplane, in shul, in a store, and what the person said and how the speaker responded.

There are hashgacha pratis stories, seeing the Yad Hashem intervene in their lives and direct them.

There are incidents that are related in which the speaker wants to illustrate a midda or good practice and they tell the audience how they do that which they are telling the audience to do. 

And then there are stories in which the speaker is the hero.

I like hearing personal accounts.  They are usually interesting.  What I find off-putting is when the speaker, who is the hero of his own story, comes across (to me) as tooting his own horn.  It's fine to tell an audience to do as he or she does, because it's encouraging to hear that the person telling us to do something, does it himself.  It's when the speaker comes across sounding very pleased with himself that he's crossed the line.  Some acknowledgment of Hashem providing them with the right words or the right approach, some expressions of humility, make a difference.

Jul 30, 2015

So Much for Feelings

I read an article recently by Yael Mermelstein.  She was doing renovations and was told that Mohammed, the second in command to the Jewish contractor, is actually Jewish himself.  His mother and her sisters all married Arabs. 

YM was told not to bother with outreach efforts since Mohammed grew up as a Muslim, married an Arab and has Arab children and is not interested in anything Jewish.

The author then tells us about Carrie who loves the Jewish people, married a Jew, feels Jewish, celebrates Jewish holidays, made bar mitzvas, and is very interested in Judaism, but ... her mother wasn't Jewish.  Carrie says, "I know you don't consider me Jewish but I know that I'm Jewish.  My husband considers me Jewish (after a Reform ceremony) and I feel Jewish.  I feel it all the way down to my bones and I love being Jewish."

Mohammed doesn't feel Jewish, but he is.
Carrie feels Jewish, but she isn't.

So much for feelings.

Jul 29, 2015

I Glow, You Glow

Hashem instructed Gavriel to write in ink the letter tav on the foreheads of the righteous so that the divinely appointed forces of destruction should not touch them.

The foreheads of the wicked people, however, were to be marked with the same letter written in blood, so that they would fall victim to the forces of destruction.
This Gemara, plus the Chanuka animated video called "Lights," probably explain where my Moshiach fantasy comes from.
When Moshiach comes, I'm hoping all Jews will have a glowing, golden letter yud on their foreheads while Amalekim will have a black ayin.  Considering the numerous Jews raised as Christians in Poland or in countries south of the border, who are unaware of their Jewishness, there are going to be a lot of surprised people with gold yuds on their foreheads.

You know that good feeling you have when you notice a fellow Jew when you're someplace not that Jewish like the subway or when you travel somewhere? And how sometimes you look at someone and wonder, is he/she Jewish?

Well, with glowing yuds, you need not wonder any longer!

Jul 23, 2015

The Pleasure Principle

In an article on parshas Pinchas that I read, an explanation was given about the Baal Peor idol and how it was worshipped.  It said that every constructive physical act is pleasurable.  Physical acts have a purpose, such as eating to sustain life.  In order to ensure that man does these important things, they come along with pleasure.

Pleasure just for its own sake is a corruption.  If we do something just for pleasure alone, it is devoid of anything good or holy.

In reading this, I was reminded of the frum world's obsession with food as seen in kosher food magazines, numerous cookbooks, articles about surgery for obesity, etc. It is claimed that the preoccupation with food is a good thing: here but I'm not convinced.  The shockingly crass ads I've posted about have not convinced me that the eating is l'sheim shomayim or just plain neutral.

I'm not claiming to eat every mouthful for the sake of heaven, and yet, pride in being a foodie, the eagerness to have yet another culinary experience, the weird combinations of ingredients for the sake of something new, is just too much.

Jul 17, 2015

Decorating Tips

In between trying or making the latest food craze, I thought it would be helpful to share with you "decorating tips from the pros" as published in a frum publication.  These tips are provided by frum decorators.

You need to know what is trendy and what is out of date - wallpaper is trendy (depending on the room and how it's used) and sconces and moldings are out of date

You need to know which colors are in and which are out.

Carpets are out, wooden floors are in.

I hope you held on to your area rugs because they were out, but now they're "making a comeback."

White bathroom fixtures are trendy.

Square spotlights are trendy now.

Don't use a bedroom or living set where everything is the same.  Mix and match pieces of furniture.  Each piece should look handpicked and make a statement.

Since the saying goes, "sarcasm doesn't work on the web," let me assure you that I this advice is nonsensical.  It's simply a way to keep people decorating and redecorating, and the winners are the interior decorators, those who sell furniture, those who sell flooring, painters, those who sell household accessories.  And yet, this is presented to frum readers in all seriousness.  For shame!

Jul 14, 2015

Live and Learn

The Yiddish expression, "nisht geshtoygen, nisht gefloygen" - literally: did not go up, did not fly, is used to dismiss a report as totally without foundation, like when we say "baloney!"
It occurred to me to google it and I discovered that the origin seems to be a reference to Yoshke, that he neither rose up from the grave (alternatively, he neither ascended the cross) nor did he fly to heaven.  Live and learn!

Jul 12, 2015

R' David Forhman's Animated Torah Videos

I've mentioned R' David Fohrman's lectures before in connection with Tisha B'Av here.  Now I'd like to tell you about his intriguing parsha animated videos and his website.

I first saw his parsha videos on Aish here.  I had watched many of them last year but occasionally ran into difficulties if the video, rather than being shown on Aish, was shown on his website https://www.alephbeta.org/.  On the website, you can only watch for a limited amount of time per month unless you subscribe.

So before Pesach this year, I subscribed and I've been keeping up with the parsha, whatever I missed from last year, and this year's, as well as holiday videos.  I paid $9 a month, a total of $90 and got a year's subscription. 

R' Fohrman looks for patterns in the Torah, parallels, and comes up with interesting theories based on a close reading of the text.  This is presented in cute, animation form.  I like the way he also shows the pesuskim that he is talking about so you can see the words in the text.  Give the free ones a try and see for yourself.

Jul 8, 2015

Heavenly Accounts

From an article by Mrs. Krohn:

An elderly man who had kept Shabbos in the early 20th century was interviewed by his grandchildren about the challenges he faced.

"Zeidy, it must have been so hard for you to keep Shabbos in those years," said a grandson.

The grandfather smiled and said, "It wasn't difficult to keep Shabbos; it was difficult to earn a parnassa."

Since the grandfather did not view Shabbos as a hardship, this enabled him to merit to raise generations of frum descendents, for as R' Moshe Feinstein would say, the reason earlier generations lost their children even though they were shomer Shabbos was because the parents would complain, "It's hard to be a Jew," when they lost their jobs yet again in order to keep Shabbos.

Interestingly, in the same article, R' Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg z'l is quoted as saying that the money a person spends on any mitzvah will not be deducted from the amount that is granted to him for his yearly expenses (source: Ritva, Shita Mekubetzes Beitza 16a).

Jul 7, 2015

More Lies

It was widely reported that Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of one of the three murdered teenagers last year, told a group of teenaged girls at the Kosel, after the kidnappings that “God is not our servant,” and “Prayer is worthy, no matter what the outcome.”

It turns out that she was preparing them for what she already knew to be true, that her son was dead.  It has been reported that "the parents knew with near certainty from the start of their ordeal last year, that their sons had been murdered, and yet they held themselves together and presented faces of hope, as if to strengthen the rest of us, until their sons were found," writes Jonathan Rosenblum.

Last year, I wrote here about being lied to, but now there is the additional point that the parents themselves knew the truth.  I feel even more used than before, when I thought the IDF was hiding the information, even from the parents.

All the prayers and mitzvah commitments were misdirected toward finding the boys alive, and the parents were part of the deception.  Mrs. Fraenkel's statement to the girls was based on knowledge that she had, and the girls did not.  The Washington Post quoted her as saying, "“We believe the children are alive, that they will be brought back to us.  We believe they’re hiding them someplace. I don’t like to think about that, where they’re hiding them. I like to think about them coming home.”  But according to Rosenblum this was not true.

Jul 3, 2015

The Sin of Worrying

Here is a vort that I heard in the name of R' Boruch of Mezhibuzh on the words in the pasuk in Tehillim 38:19 "כי עוני אגיד, אדאג מחטאתי" -

The simple meaning of the pasuk is, "For I relate my iniquity, I worry about my sin." The vort reads the pasuk like this: "For I relate my iniquity, worry is one of my sins."

Why? Because worrying is useless.  Action is where it's at.  It has been noted that the word for worry in Hebrew, דאגה, has four out of the first five letters of the alef-beis.  It is missing the letter ב which stands for bitachon, because that is what worry is about, a lack of bitachon.

Jul 2, 2015

Do We Care About Jewish Life?

One year ago, on June 30th, the bodies of the three teenaged boys abducted in Israel were found.  This has been mentioned in the news, of course, the past week or two.

Question: What about the tens of thousands (that's tens of thousands) of abortions that take place in Israel every year?

Numerous articles have been written about the three boys, and rightly so.  But where are the numerous articles about Jewish babies killed day after day, month after month, year after year in the State of Israel?