"From Moshe till Moshe, there arose none like Moshe." (famous Jewish folk saying)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The bloating disappeared

My wife has returned after a 11 days of visiting friends and family in the US. As our good friend Emily said, “your two weeks as a woman are over.” Upon hearing that, my wife said, “you want to feel like a man.” I said, “Yes, please make me feel like a man.” My wife then responded, “Take out the garbage!” And the bloating disappeared, just like that!! I am off to the US for a week and will be off-line. Return next week for more Divrei Moshe. Blessings for a wonderful week.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Does G-d Play Baseball? This may not be what you think it is.

When I was in Yeshiva, I recall clearly the day our rebbe, told us of how G-d continues his active role in world events. G-d did not create the world in 6 days and then go on vacation. He created the world continues to be a part of every nuance in the universe. “Behind every blade of grass there is an angel," he would say. "And if you had the right type of telescope.” (yes, he did mean microscope, we all laughed) he continued, “you would be able to see them.” Behind every blade of grass, Wow, that’s a lot of angles. I used to get nervous mowing the lawn. (apologies for the stream on conciseness) But anyway, today across the globe, many newspaper headlines proclaim, “Red Sox fans prayers finally answered.” This bothers me. No it’s not that we shouldn’t have prayed for the sox to win. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Actually, I think many of us are bothered when we hear of an athlete who accepts too much credit for his talents and not give credit to the One Above, who gave him his/her skills and abilities. If the players recognize it, we can certainly pray for it. So then what bothers me? When I was growing up in our small town, the rabbi would often speak of people who would complain to him, “Rabbi, I prayed to G-d and G-d did not answer my prayers.” To this the rabbi would wisely respond, “That G-d always answers prayers, sometimes though, he gives us an answerer we don’t want and sometimes he says no.” To say that our prayers were finally answered, implies that they were not answered. For the last 86 years, our prayers have been answered; we just did not get the answer we wanted.

3 years ago, in October I came to Israel for business purposes. I also came to scout out some communities where we could live and opportunities for work prior to our aliya. Our trip was scheduled at the height of the intafada and there were unfortunately peguim, bus bombings, and sniper attacks on a frequent basis. It was terrible. My children (who at the time were 12, 10 and 9) were concerned about my safety. They listen to the news, understand and knew that going to Israel meant being in the place where all this was happening. They were scared. (They don’t feel at all scared living here now) Before I left, I told the children I would be going to the Kotel, the Western Wall and they could write a prayer on a piece of paper and I would put the paper in the Kotel. This is a tradition that goes back 100’s of years. They could in essence, write a letter to G-d. They each took a paper, pen and began to commit their personal prayers to print. When they were finished, I put them in my talis bag so I would not forget them.

Many hours and 6,000 miles later, I found myself standing in awesome Kotel plaza. A place unlike any other place on earth. A place replete with incredible history and palpable spirituality. After the vatikin (sunrise) minyan I made my way to the wall to say my own personal prayer and deliver the messages to G-d from my children. As I was about to put their kapitlach/messages in the wall, I suddenly had the urge to read what they had written. (I though for a second about invasion of privacy but that was about it) I wanted to know what do our kids think about, what do they pray for. How do they feel G-d plays a role in their lives, something my wife tries to impresses upon them each day. My girl’s kapitlach were beautiful.
“Please HaShem, let my Abba have a safe trip, let our family have a successful aliya. Help me to make new friends, let everyone in the family be healthy.”
My son kapitlach was equally impressive. “Please HaShem, let Abba have a safe trip, let our family have a successful aliya, help me to do well in my new school, help Abba find a job,” and then he concluded, “and if you can, please help the Red Sox win the world series.” I almost passed out. I’m not sure if it was because a sox victory was something he prayed for, or if it was how he wrote, “if you can.” At 12 years old my son understood that HaShem plays a role in world events, from the mundane to the sublime. What nachas! I delivered their messages and left the Kotel, deeply moved and inspired from the place and from this personal experience.

But the Sox lost the following year in the traditional anguishing fashion. Did HaShem not answer his prayers? Did He ignore the honest, sincere and passionate prayers of my 12-year-old son? My explanation to my tearful son was, HaShem absolutely answered your prayers! G-d always answers our prayers. But His answer must have been, there is always next year.

So this is next year! And the Sox won in a fashion that can only be explained by nothing less than Divine intervention. There really were angles in the outfield and this year they played for the red sox!

So many things happen in our lives and in the world today that are way beyond explanation and our limited human comprehension. That HaShem controls the world is obvious to some and questioned by others. It is not 86 years of baseball history that reveals this! Life itself reveals this each and every day. Why have we struggled for so many years, why the long wait? Do these questions sound like they have been asked before? Could these same questions and pleas apply to something else we have been yearning for? Have we not been yearning for a lot longer than 86 years? Lessons can be taught in very subtle ways. We need to pay attention to the sometimes subtle, sometimes bang over the head lessons that are sent our way. We have to be sure our priorities are in check and that we express and pray with the same enthusiasm for what is really important in life. Mazal Tov to Red Sox Nation! My we take from this, that our prayers are indeed always answered.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Clearing her throat, lets hope!

This is not a sports blog, just a blog written by someone who is a big sports fan. In Red Sox universe, (no longer nation) we know more than anyone that it aint over until it's over. We have only been able to dream about the fat lady. Yes, people we dream about the fat lady. In our real life nightmares, we thought we had heard her in the distance, only to learn that she was preparing to sing for someone else. Sniff, sniff. Yes, those are real tears. Sox fans, we have not heard the fat lady sing to us for a very, very long time. It seems as if she is about to clear her throat and sing us a happy tune. All those who are concerned about kol isha from the fat lady, the Seridei Eish should address your concern. But why the fat lady? Click here.

At least I think I'm funny

Zahava, the strength and better half of famed blogger Treppenwitz, posted a message that she passionately supported my post that fathers don’t baby-sit their own kids. She, like so many graciously offered to lend a hand while the Mrs. is away. I thought my response to her was funny, so I'll share it with you:

Hi Zahava,
Thanks for the positive feedback. I think we'll make it. IY"H, The Mrs. will be home before Shabbat. The only real casualty is an empty fridge. I can by milk eggs, MEAT, but that's about it. The fridge is so empty, I think I'll go clean it......, but first I must finish my mending. I'm feeling a bit bloated. AHHHHH what has happened to me :)


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Lets hope it's in the Cards!

From a friend who is actually a Cardinals fan....

Twas the night to beat the Yankees,
And all through the nation,
Not a single sole was thinking,
Of 85 years of damnation....
Cause this is the year,
To end our bad luck,
And even if it don't,
The YANKEES STILL SUCK!!!
On Damon! On Nixon! On Manny and Kap-lah!
On V-tek! On Meuller! On Ortiz and Mill-ah!
Carry this team and make some noise,
Cause everyone knows A-rods a sissy and Jeter Likes Boys!
To the TRUE fans of BOSTON,
Get a beer and a cup,
And say it again boys,
COWBOY UP!!

!!!GO SOX!!!

The Power of the Cloth

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I travel quite a bit. Over the course of the last 10 months, I have traveled to almost 60 cities across the US and Canada. I was even sent to Paris for 3 days (Paris is way overrated). The travel is hard on me and the family, but the way we look at it, is that we are better off than about 10% of the Israeli society who are unemployed. When traveling you meet interesting people, on the plane, in the terminals, rest stops and at the mall. You see the contrast of how people live, their different attitudes, their friendliness, the way people drive, from the West Coast, the Mid West, New England, etc. It is quite fascinating. And there is always a travel story, yes, always a story.

On my last trip, in a week I had meetings in 16 cities, 4 states and 2 Canadian Provinces. I began my trip on a Sunday morning in NY and my plan was to be in Halifax, NS for shabbos. During the week I traveled by car to communities in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, I was in Portland (stopping in Freeport on the way) and Bangor Maine on Thursday. I drove over 1,000 miles that week. Friday morning I had a reservation on the Cat Ferry which was scheduled to leave at 8:00am for the 3 hour journey to Falmouth, NS. From Falmouth, I would drive 180 miles to Halifax. I arrived at the Cat Ferry terminal gate at 7:45am and the gate was closed. I went into the office, proceeded to the desk and exclaimed, “I have a reservation on the 8am ferry.” The clerk looked at me and said, “I’m sorry sir, the boarding ramp has been raised, I’m afraid you’ll have to take the next ferry.” The next ferry I said, When is that? “Tomorrow morning sir.” Tomorrow morning wont work for me, I said. “Well,” continued the clerk, “you can drive to Halifax.” Drive, how long is the drive? “Well if you leave now, and you drive straight, you can make it to Halifax in 10 hours.” 10 hours! I though for a moment…Shabbos was at about 5:45pm. I would never make it. I needed to be in Halifax for shabbos. That was the plan.
So, I took off my Red Sox hat, which is my travel hat, and said with respect and conviction, “Miss, I am a Rabbi. I need to be in Halifax for the Sabbath. The Sabbath begins at sundown today. Taking the ferry tomorrow morning wont work for me, and driving 10 hours wont work either. I need to be on THAT Ferry. She looked at me for a moment, a moment that seemed like forever. She picked up her two-way radio, pressed the button and said, “Stan, this is the front desk. Stan do you copy?" Stan replied, "Copy." The clerk continued, "Stan, we have a Rabbi here. Can you bring the down the loading ramp?

Shabbos in Halifax was beautiful.


Monday, October 25, 2004

4 minutes, 17 seconds

I love bath time. I always have. It’s the best bonding time. When the kids are all soaped up, slippery, screaming about water in their eyes and in their ears and they’re squeaky clean, I just love it! I have been the primary bather for our children since they were babies. Actually, I only take over after the belly button thing falls off. The thing is that when it comes to bathing kids, you only get a certain number of years to enjoy this privilege. For obvious reasons, as the children get older, they gain their sense of modesty and this is a good thing.

You can get very dirty in around here, especially in school. The kids play in the dirt, there is lots of sand and the cats are there, ugg, it drives me crazy. The worst is when they climb into “my bed” with their sandy feet! That puts me over the edge. So after a hard day playing bath time is an end of the day mandatory ritual for our almost 5 year old. Last night as I was taking her out of the tub, my cell phone rang. I quickly wrapped her in her towel, “nice and tight” the way she likes it and put her on my bed and on Abba’s special pillow, one of those temperpedic types. I answered the call. I can’t even remember who it was. But 4 minutes, 17 seconds (on the call timer) later my daughter was snoring away. Because of this call that I can’t even remember, I missed out on reading Go-Dog-Go and Clifford for the 700th time! I’ll have to think about that the next time my phone rings.

Fathers Do Not baby-sit their children

So my wife has been away in the US for the last week. One week and 14 hours to be exact! Only 5 more days until she returns and I think I can hold the fort until then. This is her first trip to the US in over a year and the longest time that she has been away from the family since we have been married. I travel all the time and with my new job, I have traveled overseas almost every month since January. So now you’re thinking (if anyone else is reading this) now you know what it’s like to be a single parent. Now you know what it is like when you leave your wife with the kids and all the family responsibility, gallivanting across the planet. (I’ll describe my gallivanting another time) But I’m not sure why this is really so bad. Let me explain.

Over the last week, I have received countless of calls each day from former students and neighbors asking if everything is OK, and if we need anything. People have stopped me in the street and asked me if we have enough food? Do I need help with the cooking, laundry, shopping, etc? When I was at the makolet, (mini market) the other day, looking dazed and confused, someone actually offered to shop for me! “Just call and let me know what you need. Milk, eggs, anything you need, I’ll pick it up for you.” People here have been surprised when I said that everything is fine. I have done the laundry, grilled dinner almost every night, cooked and grilled for shabbat and remembered my daughters ballet shoes (Yes, a friend called to remind me to put them in my daughters back pack today) I have made lunches every day, made sure the kids showered, helped with the homework, (did I say that I grilled dinner?) set up a few play dates, and I brought treats to my daughters Gan (kindergarten) on Friday because she was the Ima shel Shabbat, The Shabbos Mommy!

But this comment was the kicker, “So your wife is away… and you’re babysitting?” To this I responded, “Fathers don’t baby-sit their own children.” Being a father is the greatest joy. Having to do it alone for a short period of time, has given me an even greater appreciation of what my wife, a professional stay at home Mom’s has to contend with each day when I am away. Well maybe. I’m sure that when I am traveling, she does not get the calls and wonderful offers from friends and neighbors. She’ll shop, cook, do the laundry and deal with all the wonders of motherhood until I return to share these (well most of these) responsibilities together. We make a great team.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Keeping things in perspective

The Red Sox beat the Yankees. Yes, it is an exciting time for those of us in Red Sox Nation. I have waited many years to finally see this happen. I have vivid memories from my childhood, when the Red Sox were oh, so close including 75, 78, 86, 2003. Growing up a Red Sox fan meant having to endure the diatribes of Yankee fans when we would go to summer camp, trips and away to Grossinger’s for Passover. Yankee fans were relentless and when invoking 86 years of history, they were mean. I am not sure if the greatest vindication for a Sox fan is that the Sox came back to win in historic fashion or if the Yankees lost and choked in even greater historic fashion. We still have 3 games left to win and as a Sox fan, you know that the game is not over until that fat lady sings. Who is that fat lady anyway? She must have great self-esteem! Anyway, I will certainly not celebrate (completely) until the last strike and that long waited, last out. Things can take a turn very fast, and I like to tell my son; there is a lot of game left to be played.
But why the rivalry, why all the years of denigration and nastiness?
My grandfather and his brother used to share a story with us that he had heard from his hometown Rav, Rabbi Osher Kahn many years ago. Rabbi Kahn used to tell the story of envy. He would say that envy is healthy and can be used for good. You can envy someone’s scholarship; you can envy someone’s good fortune. If this envy makes you want to learn more and achieve more, you can take this negative character trait and use it to motivate yourself. But then Rabbi Kahn would relate the following story: There was once a farmer. This farmer did very well. He had a good crop and was reasonably successful at his trade. One day a wealthy man came to him. The wealthy man offered the farmer a deal. He said, if you want one million dollars, I’ll give you a million dollars. If you want another 1000 acres of land, I’ll give you another 1000 acres. But there is one condition. The rich man then related his one condition. He said to the farmer, what ever you want, what ever you request, just know that what ever I give to you, I will give your competitor up the street, DOUBLE! If you ask for a million dollars, I’ll be giving him two million. If you ask for another 1000 acres, I'll be giving your competitor 2000 acres. The farmer thought for a moment and responded to the wealthy man, “poke out one of my eyes!” This Rabbi Kahn said is real envy. It’s not that you want it. That is normal and human nature. It’s that you don’t want the other guy to have it. That is wrong. That is envy. Yankee fans are full of bad envy. After all these years as Sox fans we may have some bad envy in us as well. It’s negative and unhealthy energy, even if it is fun. Yankees lost and Yes, we can chant Yankees SUCK! OK, I’m guilty and at least for now, it feels good. But we have to move on because healthy envy will better serve the Sox in their next triumph.
My wife’s family is originally from St. Louis, so now we have a real family conflict. I have no conflict! But my son, the mentch and his great-grandfather solved the conflict in the following way. In a discussion before the series (ironically, they had the same discussion before the Patriots-Rams Super Bowl two years ago) my son said, “if the Cardinals win, I’d be happy for you.” His great-grandfather responded, “and if the Red Sox win I’ll be happy for you!” After the Pat's won the super bowl, Grampa (a Rams fan) called our son and said, “We, won!” May the best (Red Sox) team win.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Hello and welcome to my blog

Hello and welcome to my blog. This is very uncharacteristic of me to have a blog. I have started to notice that many people have blogs. My wife just started one. She is a great writer and is not afraid to put herself out there. She has no problem expressing and “sharing” her thoughts, feelings, etc. with the rest of the world. This is very healthy for her. I on the other hand, do not consider myself such a great writer. I am a terrible speller, on the level of embarrassing. I am scared to death of expression. Well not scared to death but it’s just not for me…. Ok, scared to death! What is in my head should probably just stay there. I often say that I have done a very good job at suppressing my childhood, and that is probably a good thing. Denial can sometimes be the safest place to be. Some people out there have no one who will listen to them. They yell, scream, write and they are ignored. A blog is a great creation for people. Kol haKavod -Honor to the people who have developed this technology. Anyone can publish one. It’s free and walah, the world can now hear your voice or experience your quill. Although I have noticed that this can also be dangerous. In this environment where free speech is protected, sometimes it is not used responsibly. Maybe certain people are ignored for good reason. A blog gives them a forum or better yet, a podium. Maybe for this reason a blog is not such a good thing. Well as with most things, we have the choice to use what we have been given for good and or not good. I have never had a problem with people listening to me. This is not an egotistical statement. I have somehow always found myself in leadership positions. Whether in business or in my work with the Jewish community, I have held very public positions with great responsibility. Getting people to listen has never been a problem for me. So why am I venturing into a world of expression that I so often try to avoid? Do I have something to say? Do I have something I need people to hear? Maybe I’m just writing for myself. Well, I could say that my wife is having a good influence on me. She always does or at least tries to. We have been married for 16 years. She is my greatest critic and yet, I would say that she is also my self-esteem. What I mean is that the ideal marriage is not one of total agreement in all matters. We don’t agree of most things. It’s funny sometimes. But she is doing her job! Often it is the wife’s responsibility to appose her husband and prevent him from acting impulsively, or to help him to achieve a common goal by questioning, criticizing and discussion. The verse in the Torah, when G-d creates a wife for Adam (Genesis 2:18) I will make an, ezer k’negdo, a helper corresponding to him. This means literally, that there are times a wife can best be a support to her husband by being against him. But only if the man is worthy….. (Talmud yevomos 63a;Rashi) So I guess I am worthy because with this, she is the best and I love her for it. So I have written enough here for my first blog post. I hope to write often but I travel a lot and sometimes I don’t have so much time to write. I’ll try because my head is full.

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