Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Well, Now You've Gone And Done It...

Yes, I did it. Perhaps it was time, perhaps it wasn't - and I still don't know the full impact of my decision just yet.

My 2-year Verizon plan concluded and I was up for renewal plus a new phone. After 2 years of frustration with a primitive touch-screen (in place of the "okay/select" and directional buttons), which rarely worked well, and in defiance of ASoG's warnings (she was worried I'd regret getting another touchscreen), I got totally touch screen smart phone instead of another phone which had an actual flip-up QWERTY keyboard.

So while I have now joined the thousands (probably more than that) of people who have these new-fangled devices, the real point of this post is that I also just downloaded the free siddur app. Some nice fellow decided to scan an entire siddur, and made up this fancy-schmancy interface where I can go immediately to Shacharis, Mincha, Ma'ariv, bentsching, brachos, etc.

For the longest time I have held a very negative view of people using their smart phones in the place of siddurim for davening. I think it is a nice convenience to have access to for bentsching, but while saying bikas hamazon takes only a few minutes, any of the three primary tefillos (or Mussaf for Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed) takes a considerable amount of time longer.

Hence, my suspicion is always aroused anytime I see someone using their smart phone in shul/at minyan. True, I should be dan lekaf zechus that they are just using their app instead of a siddur - particularly at Mincha/Ma'ariv in a non-shul location where this would be most helpful - but I can't even begin to count the number of times I've seen people goofing off, checking email, etc during Chazaras Hashatz, or other "downtime."

So why did I download the app, even though I totally agree with ASoG that I don't want to become one of those guys using his smart phone during davening? I view the app as a sort of added insurance fo sorts. I'm sure some instance will come up where it will be easier to use the smart phone or where I won't have my wallet with me and thus my pocket mini benstcher/Mincha-Ma'ariv as well. At the moment, I have three scenarios in my head:

1) The few times I end up davening Ma'ariv in an airport (which happens every now and then) where I will be a little less conspicuous if I'm just standing to the side with my phone instead of clutching my little siddur. I'm not afraid of being seen davening in an airport, or even fielding questions about it afterward, but I'd rather be as inconspicuous as possible.

2) As I have witnessed repeatedly, this app comes in handy at wedding minyanim. There have been more than a handful of instances where I get a ride to a wedding, don't take my wallet since I don't need any money, and later regret not remembering to bring my mini-siddur. I always have my phone on me and now I will have a siddur as well. In fact, I have been saved by several nice fellows who shared their smart phone with me at post chuppa/chosson's tisch minyanim.

3) If I'm in a situation of an impromtu minyan where there are no siddurim provided to the attendees and someone else doesn't have their own siddur. I can simply lend them mine and then use my phone for myself. This is also assuming I can fight off any yetzer hara I may have to check my email over the course of the minyan, which I hope I could.

At any rate, my typical modus operandi will still consist of using my well worn, yeshiva-in-Israel issued mini-siddur, while my new phone will be in my pocket (turned off, of course). Technology is wonderful, and I very much like the idea of having a siddur - or Shas, for example (I've seen a YU BMP rabbi learning off his smart phone on occasion) - but I'm not going to let that positive benefit suck me into a distraction that will ruin my davening experience.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

ASoG Says: A Reply To "Thank You"

Shades of Grey has been requesting now for a long time (even before we were engaged) that I make an appearance and when reading this post I figured it was a good opportunity. Even though this post was written from a husband’s perspective and Shades of Grey wrote that “the un-thanked wife/unappreciative husband model is by far the more common one,” nonetheless my husband is an amazing, wonderful, caring husband who equally deserves thanks from his wife. Yes, in a marriage the mundane things in life need to be taken care; the garbage and recycling need to be taken out, the dishes have to be done, dinner has to be prepared and cooked, the laundry has to be done, the floors have to be washed and the toilet has to be scrubbed, yet there is much more to a successful marriage. Having food to eat and a clean bed to sleep in won’t ensure a happy fulfilling marriage. So even though a wife may be more responsible in some households for all these day to day jobs, that doesn’t mean that a husband should hear the words “thank you” any less throughout the day than the wife hears.

There are a myriad of little things that Shades of Grey does on a daily basis that I owe him thanks for. Having a husband who thinks the world of you, who appreciates both the good and the bad in you, who loves you for who you are, who is your number one supporter in life and who is there to hold your hand when life gets tough (especially when you’re first getting used to married life and all that it entails), and who is constantly thinking about how he can help you and what he can do for you, is the best feeling in the world and for that he deserves to hear “thank you” 24/7.

Being a wife may not be the easiest thing in life…there are plenty of nights when I’d rather not come home from a busy day at school and cook dinner and wish that it would magically appear on the table for use. But it is at these times that I take a step back and tell myself to remember all the little things that Shades of Grey has done for me during the day that I am thankful for. Whether it was taking out the garbage from last night, texting my during the day to see how I’m doing, buying groceries for dinner so they’re in the house by the time I come home, buying me flowers for Shabbos even on a rushed Friday Erev Shabbos afternoon, picking up the dry cleaning, mailing thank you notes for me, buying me a bag of my favorite candy just because he saw it and thought of me, or cleaning the dishes after dinner so I could relax…there are so many things during the day that he does that I am thankful for.

Even if there wasn’t any specific act that he did for me during the day (although I can’t think of one day that that happened since we were married) simply knowing that he is my husband and how much he loves and supports me is enough to thank him for. For the mere fact of knowing that despite whatever challenges Hashem may give us, I have a life partner to face them with who will stand by my side deserves a thank you. So to all the wives out there…even though it may seem that we are more in charge of the household things, our husbands really do a lot for us and equally deserve to hear “thank you.” Thank them for going through life with you, for laughing in the good times and giving you a shoulder to cry on when life gets tough, for thinking the world of you, and doing whatever they can to make you feel loved and respected.

So in conclusion: Thank you, SoG for all that you do and have done for me since the first day we met!

- Another Shade of Grey

New Maccabeats Music Video For Chanukah!

The Maccabeats and Uri Westrich have done it again - and totally outdone themselves. The new music video called "Candlelight," is absolutely fantastic!

It's the perfect thing to get into the mood for (and during) Chanukah!

Great job guys!!! It's worth watching and re-watching over and over.

Speaking of which... I'm going to click "play" just one more time...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thank You

It's funny how two little words have become the most repeated in my daily vocabulary.

"Thank you!"

Sure, those words often appear in some modified form, such as "Thank you, sweetheart!" "Wow, thank you SO much!" "Thank you, I really appreciate it." and "You're amazing, thank you!"

It's so easy to say them. Yet, we often have difficulty - dating back to our preschool days - in expressing gratitude for those who help us, give us something, or simply do something nice that we benefit from. I wonder why it is so hard for people's egos to simply let go and acknowledge that there are other people out there who genuinely think about you and want to make things better for you, even in the smallest fashion.

Of course, all of this is kal v'chomer X a bazillion when it comes to being married. There are so many things that can be taken for granted - ever so easily! The nightly dinner, the clean bathroom, the new and empty trash bag, the folded undershirts, the washed and dried cutlery and plates, among a thousand (and more) other things. And that's aside from all the "big" things a spouse can do, such as being emotionally supportive, helping with a major project, or doing favors that he/she does not find pleasant or worthwhile, but you happen to want/need.

Nowhere does halacha obligate a spouse to be the custodial staff/maid of the household. Yet, this other person is willingly making time to ensure that everything you come into contact with is in working order, clean, tastes good, or is otherwise pleasing according to your personal sensibility. Isn't it amazing? It certainly is, but don't you dare take it for granted. Treat him/her like a person, acknowledge that you have noticed all the wonderful things he/she has done for you, and do it with a smile.

Truthfully, merely saying "thank you" isn't enough to cover the debt of gratitude a spouse owes for all the little (and big things) his/her husband/wife does for him/her. More should certainly should be done to express gratitude, but making sure to say "thank you" at every single available opportunity - whether in person, in a cute little note, or on your little magnetized dry-erase board stuck to the fridge (a favorite with ASoG and I) - is an absolute must. Nothing should ever go un-thanked and nothing your spouse ever does should be taken for granted. Buying presents, extending yourself to help/please your spouse, and other things - which should be done with an attitude of wanting to give to your spouse rather than "Oh, I owe him/her one" - are also very appropriate.

Though I have been writing this as gender-neutral as I can, I am quite certain the un-thanked wife/unappreciative husband model is by far the more common one. So guys, be more mindful - and thankful!

And for all the single readers: it definitely pays to develop a sense of always saying thank you now, while you are still unmarried. No reason to wait until your spouse feels aggrieved because you fail to acknowledge the myriad wonderful things he/she does for you every day. We are supposed to have hakaras hatov as an ingrained part of our psyche, whether to HaShem, our parents, or anyone who does something for us. Learn the lesson now, and it will make your marriage that much richer and enjoyable.

So, in conclusion: Thank you ASoG for everything!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You Came In That Thing? You're Braver Than I Thought.

Guys are typically the ones that drive on dates.* They pick their date up at her house/apartment/dormitory, chauffeur her to their destination, and then take her back to where they started, hopefully after a productive outing.

The type of vehicle a guy drives depends on his background, including his personal (or family) income and style. Perhaps he owns his car, which could be a beaten up jalopy or a hand-me-down from an older sibling or parent. He could have borrowed his parent's or friend's car for the evening. Perhaps he even rented a car from the handy dandy Lakewood rent-a-car-for-shidduchim place or from Zipcar.

But let's say all those options aren't available, or for one reason or another, his usual source of wheels is unable to accommodate his schedule and he's strapped for an option. What would you do, dear female reader, if your gentleman caller arrived at your dwelling in one of these babies

Indeed, what would you do?

I recently overheard from a female relative that one of her friends couldn't find a ride or borrow a car to attend a wedding. Being too young to rent a car (the average age for car renting is 25 due to the increased risk of accidents in drivers below that age) she decided to rent a $19.95 small U-Haul truck. The friend and her fellow wedding goers made it to and from the wedding without issue.

While discussing the hilarious incident afterward, her mother joked that she might just create a new trend in shidduch dating for guys who don't have a car and are too young to rent one, namely: U-Haul daters. She even said this could revolutionize shidduchim. The friend replied that if a guy ever picked her up in a U-Haul, she'd propose on the spot. Her mother didn't think that was such a great idea, understandably.
Maybe she was taking a cue from the title of this post - bonus points to anyone who can cite the reference without Google.

At any rate, what do the female readers out there think about this interesting possibility?

*I say "typically" because I drove on 2 dates during my dating career (a large number of dates consisting of subway or taxis only), and actually was driven on far more dates than I can recall. I guess that's what happens when you're an out-of-towner scared to death of driving in New York. The dates where I drove took place in my hometown during a school break, and even after getting married I have yet to get behind the wheel anywhere near the city - so I owe a big debt of thanks to ASoG.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Do We Really Appreciate What We Have?

Judaism is full of rules and regulations. Often enough, we may be confronted with a halacha that we come to view as a stricture, as in "If only I wasn't prohibited to do X, then life would be that much more fun/interesting/care free/insert-other-adjective-here." But do we really appreciate what having some guidelines for life really does for us?

I just read an article about a rapper who converted to Judaism on the New York Times website (thanks to Hirhurim for the link) that is simply inspiring in my mind. Maybe it's just my background as a ba'al teshuva, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone in any of these sorts of articles (which seem become more and more common place - maybe the geulah is coming soon after all J) really talk about how Judaism provides a productive structure for living. Most of the time, the convert talks about find spiritual fulfillment, meaning in general, but not in the fact that Judaism places stringencies on your everyday conduct.

In high school, I saw many good, Jewish kids, who excelled in their Judaic and secular studies at our day school, veer off into paths of indulgence, partying, and involvement in things like underage drinking, smoking, and drugs. Thankfully, none (that I am aware of, though I know of other similar kids who attended my high school after I graduated) degenerated to the level that they needed to spend time in a rehab center or were arrested. One of the key things my parents noticed most about my transformation into a pretty straight-laced ba'al teshuva was that I never got into the trouble that many of my peers did (not that I want to be boastful about my behavior at all, I simply have my then-newfound devotion to learning and observance to thank for keeping me out of trouble). Because I knew being involved in a number of the activities my peers chose to partake of were problematic halachically, I avoided the greater conflicts that were present in doing what they did with their lives.

Anyway, I want to quote a few sections from the article that really emphasize this point, which I think many FFB people simply have no understanding of - not because they intellectually can't, but because their background doesn't provide the framework to wrap their minds around it.

“What are the laws?” he said, explaining his decision to adhere to the Orthodox level of observance. “I want to know the laws. I don’t want to know the leniencies. I never look for the leniencies because of all of the terrible things I’ve done in my life, all of the mistakes I’ve made.”

As one of my rabbeim once told me, we live in a chumra-obsessed society. People want to take on every chumra (stringency) to be frummer than the next guy - it's nothing but a competition lacking the soul. Do people honestly take on chumros for the purpose of having greater order in their life - to prevent the chance of making a mistake, because being lenient might give them, personally, a greater leeway to commit an aveirah?

“What I do get is boundaries,” he said. “Definition and form. And that is what Shabbat is. You can’t just do whatever you want to do. You have to set limits for yourself.

“All these rules, rules, rules,” he said with his hand on an open page of the Talmud. “But you know what you have if you don’t have rules? You end up with a bunch of pills in your stomach. When you don’t know when to say when and no one tells you no, you go off the deep.”

It's so true, so very, very true, at least from what I've seen with friends and acquaintances. Good, decent kids, who lacked a continuing adherance to even the more minimal observance of Judaism which they had pre-high school just go totally off, not off the derech, but off the entire map altogether, ending up who knows where with a boatload of problems. It's very true that a major part of all this was a laxity in parenting that didn't encourage rules in general, but kal v'chomer who didn't encourage their children to continue to find meaning within the bounds of Torah study and mitzvah observance. I know of a few very good kids who have since gone off and intermarried because of this sort of free-for-all with regard to rules.

Everyone, on their own level, needs to come to terms with what it means to live a Torah-observant lifestyle, and find meaning in the "do nots" and "shall nots." Hopefully, it won't take a prison sentence to open our eyes to the Emes of the gift that has been given to us by birth - or the gift we recognized as True and chose to accept - in our Jewishness. If so many people, including those from not-so-great backgrounds, can discover real meaning, not just in the spiritual highs, but the seemingly "monotonous" rules as well - then maybe we can bring the geulah that much closer to fruition.

*As a caveat, I do not necessarily agree with Shyne/Moses Levi's hashkafic views that since there's nothing mentioned in the Chumash about driving fancy cars or living "the lifestyle that I live," that it's okay to be totally extravagant. The second bit may be slightly out of context, considering the article doesn't really depict him as living the gangsta rapper lifestyle anymore. We should still live modestly, comfortably, but not necessarily with total indulgence just because we have boatloads of money. If you're able to live very confortably, why not put the extra money to better uses like philanthropy or visiting Israel? But that's just my short critique.

Additionally, I am not in any way in favor of super-observance to the point of driving kids off the derech. Mindless observance without meaning gets you nowhere good. Finding the depth of meaning, and applying it to our lives is the key.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Post Wedding Report - Part 4

Don't forget Parts 1, 2 and 3.

I will say that it is darn hard to figure out how to stay smiling so long during that march to the chuppah, as well as how to configure your facial expressions during the time you’re up there. The second issue is more relevant to the chosson who is up there during the entire procession of the kallah’s family, though the walk-down is something they both must confront. Smiling the entire way down, without moving a muscle above the neck is very difficult, not to mention somewhat painful - particularly after having exercised those cheeks, lips, and eyebrows for several hours beforehand. While I did smile the whole way down the aisle, I didn’t just stare ahead like a zombie, I looked to the side (the men’s side that is) and saw family, friends, and rabbeim standing and beaming with anticipation.

While the whole day felt so surreal, that particular aura was compounded dozens, if not hundreds of times over the minute I stepped through that door. Everyone, and I mean everyone was looking right at me. Man was that intense, to say the least.

My mind was racing, a million questions flying through my head, most wondering if this, in fact, reality.

Was this really happening?

Was this day finally here?

After all the trials and tribulations of two and a half years of dating, the ups and downs, disappointments and triumphs, was I really walking toward my own chuppah, holding the hands of the two people who gave birth to me and raised me to be the man I have become?

Was I really about to start my own family, to have someone I love and care about take on my last name and align herself with me over her own parents and siblings?

Was I really ready to be a husband; did I have what it takes to be loving, understanding, patient, considerate, respectful –and a hundred other things – to truly fulfill the role as it should be?

Was I mature enough, responsible enough, and grown enough to take upon the responsibilities required of me?

In short: Was I really ready?

The answer to all those questions, at that moment, and certainly now (at least I hope) was simply: yes.

Once we ascended the few steps to the chuppah, we had a little bit of a break as the band began to sing Mi Adir. The wedding coordinator told my parents to dress me in the kittel, to which Mom replied, “I have no idea how to do that!” Dad stepped in, very nonchalantly, and offered his services. Dad helped me into the white robe – which was to remind me of the personal Yom Kippur I had endured all day until this moment, the purity that my soul had attained in being forgiven of all of my sins, the holiness of the day, as well as the day of death, since one day (G-d willing not anytime soon) I will also don a white robe, but for the last time.

Standing up there is a bit nerve-wracking. I had my list of things to daven for, primarily thanks to this wonderful article on Aish.com. I printed that list out and read it probably 5 or 6 times over the course of the day that I had practically memorized it. I also davened for all the single friends I knew, both those present and elsewhere. The one tefillah that I kept repeating over and over again, almost mantra-like was that “ASoG and I should be always be as happy and fulfilled in our lives together as we are at this most sacred and elevated moment.”

I very distinctly remember my Mother commenting to me after my graduation from our local Jewish day school in 8th grade that I never smiled or seemed happy while I was up on stage with my classmates. I replied that I wasn’t happy at all, it was a very serious moment and I was in fact a bit sad, since I knew we were all never going to be in the same class together again, with different kids going to one of six different schools. Because of this incident, I told myself I wouldn’t be stone faced under the chuppah, despite the gravity of the occasion.

As I alternatively watched ASoG’s relatives walk down, scanned the crowd, and closed my eyes in prayer, I made sure to vary my facial expressions, going from smiley happy, to serious concentration, and optimistic longing for ASoG – as well as many other emotions that were swirling through me.

The moment ASoG appeared was absolutely magical.

The band did a stupendous job at creating just the right atmosphere with each walk-down theme - particularly when ASoG was escorted down the aisle toward me –I was almost in tears. Yom Chuppah L’Chatan mentions that it is particularly important for a chosson to shed tears under the chuppah as part of the overall teshuva process of the day. Although no tears flowed down my cheeks, I was darn close. I remember one chosson who married a friend of mine had both tears and mucus from his nose running down his face to the point where I really wanted to announce “won’t someone get the poor boy a tissue!?!” Perhaps that memory kept me in check…

When ASoG was within a few feet of the chuppah, I descended the steps to go greet her, as it were. Her parents released her hands, and we walked side-by-side up to the chuppah – the first act of leaving her parents’ home to join me in forming our own.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Post Wedding Report - Part 3

Don't forget Part 1 and Part 2.

The wedding hall coordinator thrust a single rose into my hand. I had bought a bouquet earlier in the day with my shomer. I intended to give ASoG the rest of the roses later, but they mysteriously vanished from my dressing room. The guys were going crazy singing and jumping up and down as we made our way down the hall to the shmorg area. I felt very strange (in an almost out-of-body-experience way) to be the center of attention instead of one of the young men clamoring to get to the front of the group. There was the usual squeeze for space, with some guys getting pushed out of the way as we went through a set of double doors – after which they ran back around to rejoin everyone once we entered the hall where ASoG was holding court.

The women waiting for our arrival whipped out their cameras and flash bulbs went off all over the place. Oh my, there were a lot of cameras – most of the pictures we have of the badeken, even the official ones, feature at least four or five women holding a camera. My father and ASoG’s released my hands, and I there I was, just standing there holding the rose, amidst the cheering and flashing cameras, because no one told me what to do.

To be honest, I had never heard of the whole flower giving thing before ASoG casually mentioned it during our engagement. In all the marriage books I read, I don’t think I ever saw this practice referenced once. ASoG insisted, and after I surveyed a number of friends who gave a flower at the badeken (several of whom had also not heard of doing so before their fiancĂ©es told them), I saw no real objection to it and acquiesced to her request.

Anyway, I handed ASoG the flower, after which she and I exchanged confused expressions and I asked her what I was supposed to do exactly. I had recently read that the kallah’s father was supposed to do the veil, and in my own experience, I had never been close enough to the badeken to actually see what the procedure was. So she beckoned me over, bowed forward slightly, and I reached up and over to gently pull the veil down over her face.

Remember how I mentioned there were certain times when I was basically ignored back in post two? This was one of them. As soon as I veiled ASoG, it was like I didn’t exist. ASoG was blessed by her father, my Father, her grandfather and great uncle – and the entire time everyone was singing and taking pictures, and I was just standing there alone. After a few minutes of feeling awkward, I decided to dance by myself in place, since there wasn’t much else I could do.

Following her great uncle’s bracha, I turned around with our fathers and a friend rushed over to give me the obligatory ride on the shoulders to the pre-chuppah ready room. I say obligatory, because that seems to be the case in the most every wedding I’ve been to. However, recently I went to a Lakewood/Ner Yisrael wedding wherein they didn’t do this, which seemed odd to me (and several other guests made similar remarks to me).

At any rate, I am not so much scared of heights as I am about the possibility of being dropped from a height that could injure me. I once saw a chosson lifted onto a table (yes, one of the round ones in the wedding hall) who fell flat onto the table, but thankfully was injured, as well as a relative who raised up on a serving tray (yes, the little round ones the servers put dirty dishes on) and rhythmically danced without incident.

Regardless, for anyone who has ever been lifted on someone else’s shoulders before – and I’m guessing only the male readers have any inkling of what it is like since no one else can be like Rav Acha (from Kesubos 17A) and hoist the bride on his shoulders for wedding shtick – it can be a little worrisome. In order to make sure I didn’t tilt too much and fall off, I immediately (and repeatedly, as we danced along) called out to nearby friends and grabbed their hands for balance and support. This worked out nicely, since I prevented myself from having an awkward confrontation with the floor thanks to gravity, and I got to “dance” with guys instead of merely hitching a ride.

Thankfully, we made it to the pre-chuppah ready room without incident – though ducking under the door getting out into the hallway was, as always, a bit of a close call. I slid down from my perch and as soon as my feet hit the floor all the guys exploded with singing and dancing, to the point where the wedding hall coordinator guy had to make two or three attempts to get the guys to head to their seats so we could get on with the show. Just as I was about to close the door, they burst into one final niggun so they could triumphantly get “the last word in,” much to my delight as well as the chagrin of the wedding hall coordinator.

Finally the door was shut, leaving just my immediate family alone for a few minutes of peace and unity before everything really began. Earlier in the day, while temporarily making a detour to my shomer’s house, I had translated a wonderful tefillah/bracha from Yom Chuppah L’Chatan for my parents to say, which they read aloud together. It was a very emotionally impactful moment – the last time we would share our status as the nuclear Grey family without the soon-to-be daughter-in-law added to the mix. I think Mom wiped back a tear or two, but for the most part we were overwhelmed with excitement and nervous about the tremendous change that was about to take place. I would no longer be their little boy, playing with my action figures and annoying them when I wouldn’t turn the volume down on my videogames.

After a round of hugs, everyone but my parents and I were called out to begin the procession. My parents and I waited a big longer, then stepped out into the hallway, doing our best to remain carefully out of sight as the doors opened and closed for the others walking down before us. The wedding coordinator handed my parents their candles, which Mom was nervous about carrying, since she didn’t want to drop it and burn the hall down. He then made sure to emphatically instruct us that we were to walk to the edge of the doorway, stop, and then proceed with our right foot forward. I had read about this in Yom Chupa L’Chatan – it’s a significant omen that the wedding should start off “on the right foot,” with the proper intention and with good mazal.

My walk-down theme began to sound from the nearby chuppah room, and we cautiously crept forward and stood still by the door. After a deep breath, all three of us took that all-too-important and life changing right step into the next phase of our lives.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shimshon The Super Saiyan?

I recently came across the Gemara in Masechta Sotah 9B about Shimshon that struck a cord in my memory. The Gemara quotes a posuk that the Artscroll Tanach translates as “The spirit of Hashem began to resound in him in the camp of Dan, between Zora and Eshtaol” (Shoftim 13:25) and then says:

"R. Isaac of the School of R. Ammi said: This teaches that the Shechinah kept ringing in front of him like a bell;42 it is written here to move him [lefa'amo] (note: Artscroll is "resound") in Mahaneh-Dan, and it is written elsewhere A golden bell [pa'amon] and a pomegranate.43"

As soon as I read these few lines, an image from one of my favorite TV shows (or more accurately, Anime) in high school popped into my head – none other than Dragon Ball Z.

Namely, whenever Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Trunks, or any other character who is a full or half-blood Saiyan transforms into a Super Saiyan, there is a distinctive sound which “resounds” around/before him. For those unfamiliar with what the heck I’m talking about, or if you are and want a blast from the past, please check out this clip from Youtube:

See what I’m talking about?

Not only that, but a Super-Saiyan’s hair turns golden and raises upward to defy gravity, and in Super-Saiyan 3 mode, grows long and down the person’s back. Powering up to Super-Saiyan also greatly increases the person’s strength many times over, and for anyone who knows the show, it would certainly be easy enough for Goku or Vegeta to kill 1,000 men with a donkey’s jawbone (15:15) or rip giant gates from a city off their hinges and carry them up a mountain (16:3).

So was Shimshon the first Super-Saiyan and the possible (partial) inspiration for the power-up as seen in the Anime/Manga?

While that may be a bit farfetched (and I’m have to ask Akira Toriyama if my conjecture is correct), the whole Super-Saiyan “resounding” noise seems to be a pretty accurate representation of what happened with Shimshon. Pretty cool eh?

Parenthetically, I’m quite glad I can totally geek out with posts like these and not worry if they’re Bad For Shidduchim – thanks ASoG!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

To Ring Or Not To Ring? That Is The Question.

Should married guys wear rings?

The topic has been hotly debated several times on in the Jewish blog-o-sphere. Many single women decry the inability to distinguish single males from those already taken in wedlock at social events, which creates awkward conversational situation such as:

Looking-to-wed woman approaching seemingly available guy: “My, what a handsome devil you are!”

Man who was hit on unwanted-ly:
“Why, thank you, my wife thinks so too!” waves “Hi, honey!”

In preparation for my nuptials, I began taking a mental survey of my recently, and not-so-recently, married friends to determine what percentage of them decided to wear a wedding band. As it turned out, a large number of them actually did sport the token bit of jewelry on their left hand. In fact, it seemed like the majority of them, particularly those who married within the last year or so, had chosen to show off their commitment with a ring.

Styles and metals varied. Many chose a simple, slender, white gold band – seemingly to match their bride’s own wedding band which they had presented under the chuppah. Very few were yellow gold. It seems that the standard gold color has fallen out of favor among those of our younger generation. Upon observing many men in my shul who represent my father’s generation, yellow gold is by far the most popular choice among those who wear wedding bands. Another popular metal was tungsten, a near-indestructible, scratch-proof, very mirror-like material that looks quite attractive. After trying one particular friend’s tungsten ring, I noticed the metal has quite a nice heft to it as well.

One friend also has a titanium ring, primarily because it was quite cheap and manly sounding. He wanted to use a titanium ring to mekadesh his wife under the chuppah as well, but it turns out titanium is so inexpensive, he told me it cost around $70 per ton, which made the value of the ring actually less than a sheva pruta (I’m not working out the math, especially since I’m sure it cost more than that to buy his ring, but it sounded funny anyway).

At any rate, I asked around to see what the current hashkafic trend is regarding wearing a ring. Many said the reason they want to wear a ring is to avoid unwanted advances by women, and a few quoted Rav Mordechai Willig as a source for this idea. One friend reported that Rav Willig was a big fan of wedding bands for guys who are out in the workforce, or in law/medical/dental school and thus could come into contact with women who would otherwise get a little too friendly, if not for the shiny reminder on their ring finger.

After discussing this with another friend, he quoted a different, though humorous Rav Willig story. The issue of men wearing wedding rings had been discussed at a YU event my friend attended wherein Rav Willig served as one of the panelists. After someone quoted the above reasoning, Rav Willig replied that if married men need to wear rings to avoid undesired female attention, then single men should wear them too!

There were definitely a number of friends who remarked that they chose to wear rings because they wanted to have a public symbol of their dedication and fidelity to their wives. I personally like this idea just as much, if not more so than simply using the ring as a charm to ward off preying women-folk, though there is definitely overlap between the two concepts.

I even asked Rabbi Gil Student of Hirhurrim if he could do a post on men wearing rings. Though he was intrigued by the idea, he replied that there really wasn’t much halachic substance to the topic other than not having any sort of double-ring ceremony at the chuppah. Other than that notion of exchanging rings, there was no real issue with men wearing wedding bands.

So, I am proud to say that I have joined the ring wearing crowd of my peers. After viewing an article that compared the various different kinds of men’s wedding bands, I purchased a pretty plain, though very shiny tungsten ring online. The only downside (seemingly) to tungsten is that if dropped/impacted at the right (or is that wrong?) angle, the whole ring could snap in half. But, the good news about is the website I used offers a lifetime warranty, which none of the local/mall-based jewelers could offer, despite their acknowledgement of the rare possibility of breaking the ring.

Of course, having never really warn a ring before in any serious fashion – my senior year ring from high school sits collecting dust in a desk drawer back home, and I don’t think any of the super-hero related rings from my childhood count – I have made some mistakes. Most tend to involve me taking off the ring for some activity, such as washing my hands, taking a shower, preparing food, and simply forgetting to put it back on. Most of the time, the ring is very close in proximity to where I am located, such as tucked into the breast pocket of my button-down shirt, or on the counter next to the sink.

However, I did actually lose my ring once (so far), and bli ayin hara, I won’t lose it ever again!

Upon arriving at the airport security line for our return flight following the last few days of sheva brachos in my hometown, I foolishly (or so I was later told*) took off my ring before going through the metal detector. I placed it within an inside pocket of my jacket, which I then took off and carefully put it into one of those plastic bins. After exiting the scanner, I pulled my jacket on, reached into my pocket, and discovered to my horror that the ring was gone.

After frantically looking through the empty bin and turning the pocket inside out, I discovered that the “pocket” was not a pocket at all, but rather the physical “bag” that composed a pocket that entered from the outside of my jacket. This meant that the bottom edges of the “pocket” were not entirely sewn to the inside of the jacket, and thus there was a large gap between two corners – one that was wide enough to fit two fingers through with ease.

I ran over to the nearby security agents and told them my story. They agreed to help and proceeded to re-view the x-rays of my jacket, look in, around, and under the conveyer belt (one guy even used a little black light flashlight to inspect between the rollers on part of the belt). They even re-scanned all my stuff – but to no avail. The fact that the initial x-ray of the jacket failed to show the ring in the “pocket” meant it had fallen out and rolled who-knows-where before I even went through security. I kept imagining all the trajectories the little thing could have sailed off to – particularly since it is pretty wide (6 mm to be precise) and could have easily built up speed to go quite the distance in almost any direction.

Disheartened that I lost the darn thing so soon after I started wearing it – though my parents told me it was merely tradition, since my own father lost his wedding band during the first year of marriage, too – I gave them a written description along with my contact information, and boarded my plane. The entire day went by without any word from the airport security, so I went ahead (with ASoG’s permission) and ordered a second, identical ring.

Less than an hour later, I get a phone call from a sibling who happened to be travelling with us at the time. It turns out, pilei ployim (to borrow Rav Goldvicht’s signature catchphrase) that the ring somehow ended up in their carryon. I still have no clue how this is even possible, but considering the probabilities that had to line up just right for that to happen – my working theory is that I lifted the jacket over their bins when I picked up my own, causing the ring to fall through the corner hole, into their bin, into a “conveniently” opened zipper or tear (the carryon had one or two such tears), after which it somehow moved into an entirely different compartment of the bag, stayed there as it was schlepped down the terminal, loaded onto the plane, survived the entire flight, the trip through the terminal and airport at our destination, and finally the long cab ride back to their dorm room, all without ever falling out – is utterly mind boggling.

Clearly, HaShem was trying to teach me a lesson with this whole incident.

I will definitely do my best to be far more aware of my ring, and make sure not to take it off unnecessarily – and of course to show it off proudly, advertising my married status.

Sorry ladies, but this young man is taken J

*ASoG told me after we settled into our seats on the plane that there is no need to remove jewelry at all for the metal detectors. I wondered what she did with her rings (engagement and wedding) when she went on our flights together, and had never noticed her taking them off or putting them back on before. I guess it all makes sense now, and I have committed this little factoid to memory.