Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lone Ringer In Shul

I can't stand it!

It's bad enough when someone accidentally leaves his phone on during shul - or perhaps intentionally, but hoping not to get caught - and gets a call in the middle of shemonah esrei.

It's even worse when some guy's phone goes off, particularly with this annoying as all heck ring:

and the jerk is too absorbed in his kavana to turn the darn thing off.

Seriously, if you were really thinking about davening, you would have made sure to double-check that your cell phone was powered off in the first place! Now, that it's YOUR phone that's ringing, you pretend to be having such hailege concentration, breaking down the gates to shomayaim with your prayers, and distracting the rest of us with anger because you won't silence the stupid thing.

So while you're having a grand ol' time davening away, thinking we might not notice your phone ringing because we're also reaching such heights in our prayers, instead, everyone else in the room is silently cursing your disrespect for the shul/beis medrish, tefillah, and most importantly, G-d Himself.

At least when someone mistakenly forgets to turn the phone off and fumbles to silence an unwanted ring, we feel bad for the guy. Yes, we're a little perturbed, but we appreciate the effort to remove the distraction as soon as humanly possible.

But not you, Mr. Let It Ring Dude. Excuse us mere humans for being distracted by your unexpected and unattended phone ringing in your pocket, because we are but mere flesh and blood. You, on the other hand, must have some sort of spiritual level I've never heard of (over 9,000!?) that lets you completely disengage from your corporeal self while you ascend the 7 realms of the heavens and present your heart-felt requests at the very metaphorical feet of the Ruler of the Universe.

This crime is awful in and of itself, no matter where it happens to take place or what particular prayer service it rears its ugly head. However, allowing this to happen in the main Beis Medrish at YU (aka the Glueck Beis Midrash) while Rav Schachter is davening with us? For shame, man!

Mr. Dude, do some teshuva soon. By the way, this would include (according to the Rambam) not ever letting this happen again. However, we will find it in our hearts to forgive you if you accidentally leave the phone on and silence it immediately after it goes off and then proceed to apologize profusely to the congregation after davening is over as part of your penitence.


Every Other Person In The Shul

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Happy Birthday? This Year, Yes.

Birthdays are a rare thing. They only happen once a year after all. To many people birthdays are something quite special. For me, beginning at the end of high school and continuing into my time spent in Israel and at YU, my birthdays usually passed by with little fanfare. I’ve never been the type of guy who goes out with a big group of friends to a restaurant or whatever. I don’t think it’s something to fault my friends for, since we’ve all been quite busy and it always seemed to me to be rather difficult to gather everyone together with their disparate schedules to commemorate the relatively unimportant occasion of my birthday.

Of course, things change quite drastically when you’re married. Now, there is someone else you share a domicile – and more – with, and he/she intrinsically and very deeply cares about every little thing about you. As such, ASoG didn’t dare let my birthday go by without a card, two presents, and the most delicious surprise, her specialty birthday-food-item, cake bites!

Last year, ASoG and I had only recently begun dating when my birthday rolled around. As circumstances dictated, I missed hers, since I didn’t know her at the time, though I definitely made up for it this year. At any rate, even though we barely knew each other, she was enough of an observant individual that she noticed a certain book I had pointed out during our date at Barnes and Noble that she went to the same store and purchased that very copy for me (I knew it was the same book because I recognized some of the wear on the cover). She very sneakily delivered the book along with a tin of cake bites after our date on the evening of my birthday.

I had a very strong feeling at the time that ASoG could be THE ONE, because the book she spent her hard earned money on was a hardbound collection of a particular comic book series I enjoy. What normal girl would do such a thing? The cake bites I can understand, since all girls (hopefully) possess some degree of baking/cooking skills. But an expensive, fancy-bound comic book? That’s something else entirely.

Anyway, ASoG did a delightful repeat performance by buying me two similar hardbound books from the very same series this year – which I had also pointed out during a recent trip to Barnes and Noble as volumes I intended to purchase at some point.

Back to my opening line – most birthdays happen once a year, but some – for a few (un)fortunate individuals, only have birthdays every few years. Of course, I’m talking about people like me, who were born in Adar Aleph, the extra/13th month of the Jewish calendar. It’s interesting that we used to tease a friend of mine in middle school that since he was born in Adar Bet that he belonged in pre-k. Later, I found out that Adar Aleph is actually the extra month, as evidenced by the fact that Purim takes place in the “real” Adar, which located next to Nissan and a month before Pesach. This also led to a later conflict when the same friend displaced me for my bar mitzvah parsha – since he was born earlier in Adar Bet than I was in Adar Aleph, he basically took my schedule layning.

For those interested in seeing when/how often Adar Aleph occurs during a Shana Meuberes, check out Wikipedia's entry here.

I want to share an interesting Dvar Torah that a rebbe of mine from Israel told us at an alumni shabbaton about those born in Adar Aleph. He found this Dvar Torah whiel looking at the end of an older printed sefer, where it was sort of tacked on fairly randomly. He explained that this was pretty common practice for early printers, since paper was quite expensive, and any leftover white space was basically wasted money. So, the author would just fill out the remaining blank section with a vort he had heard or come up with.

This particular Dvar Torah talked about the incident when Bnei Yisrael went to war with Midyan and Bilaam. Moshe chose 1,000 men from each of the twelve tribes to fight, but the selection was not done at random. Rather, he specifically picked out 1,000 men from each tribe who was born in Adar Aleph because of the month’s special status. As the 13th month in the Jewish calendar, it does not have a zodiac sign from among the twelve known constellations. Since Bilaam used magic and mazalos to fuel his powers, Moshe wanted soldiers who “have no mazal” and would remain unaffected by Bilaam’s efforts during the combat.

So in addition to rarely having a birthday, it seems I don’t have a mazal either. Pretty weird huh?

A lot has happened since my last birthday, the biggest thing is of course the fact that I got married to the lovely ASoG, which has changed my life in so many pleasant ways. I don’t really think I can write a list of things I’ve learned since last year, primarily because everything is so new right now that many lessons I learned in life as a single person have vastly differently (or irrelevant) applications to my new life as a husband. I also don’t want to drag out this post any longer, so I’ll leave it at that J

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Y U Don't Connect OR How NOT To Be Seen at Sinai

ASoG and I recently became official YUConnectors - AKA shadchanim/matchmakers for YU Connects. I know, too soon, right? Well, in the X months since we've gotten married, we've been bombarded with requests from friends - mostly ASoG's a la this post by Solely in Black and White for us to set them up. We figure this will be a more systematic and helpful way for us to assist friends and acquaintances in finding their soulmates.

However, we've already encountered a large number of profiles that are woefully ill-prepared and show a lack of either A) Common sense or B) Effort. I will be writing several posts that go through some general examples of very unhelpful/disastrous aspects of YU Connects/Saw You at Sinai profiles, with the hopes that some readers out there (especially the guys) will learn from their mistakes and present themselves in a manner that is far more appealing to prospective dates and help the Connectors do their job - after all, we're here to help YOU.

Tip Number 1: Pictures, pictures, pictures.

While this topic has been done to death, and I discussed it fairly extensively here, the point bears repeating and further insight.

YU Connects / SYAS gives you the opportunity to post 3 pictures of yourself. Our suggestion is, use all 3 in this format: 1 normal, 1 dressed up, 1 full body.

This will give the prospective dater a chance to see what you look like on a regular day, with normal clothes, be that white shirt black pants, polo and khakis, jean skirt and whatever (I don't know women's clothing so well, obviously). Additionally, they will see you all decked out in your finest, suit and tie, hat - if applicable, fancy dress or suit, makeup, hair perfectly arranged or straightened, etc. Any potentially interested party will then have some sense of the range of your appearance and dress styles. They can then mentally extrapolate variations between these two polar opposites, which is probably what they'll see on a date.

The reason a full body picture is a good idea is because people can easily lie when it comes to selection one of the labeled body types. This personally happened to me a few times when the girl only uploaded head shots and claimed she was a thin/slender, when she was actually "average" or perhaps "a few extra pounds." I'm not saying this to judge her based on her physical stature, but because the lying bit didn't help me in my decision making process after our first date.

Make sure you select good, clear pictures that show you in a presentable fashion with all your clothing properly arrayed, tucked in, buttoned, straightened, etc.

In only a short time I've seen so many awful pictures posted by guys that I really want to call each of them up and yell at them. Do they think girls LIKE seeing pictures that are fuzzy or blurry, feature half of the guy's face covered in shadow, or farshvitzed from dancing a wedding? The answer to all three is a resounding NO. The first thing ASoG and I analyze upon clicking on a profile is the picture, and ASoG has recoiled in horror at tons of pictures posted by guys, so a lot of the following is based on perspectives she shared with me.

Pictures that aren't clear help no one, if the person can't tell what you look like, don't post it. Regarding the atmospheric lighting shots - this isn't meant to be an art studio gallery of you as a supermodel, the person wants to see your features in as plain a fashion as possible to see if they find you attractive. He or she should not spend time discerning if you are a dark and mysterious type based on the fact that your eyes are entirely hidden.

Angled pictures are okay as long as they are not too extreme, such as a complete side view or a picture that mostly shows your ear and the back of your head. However, please include at least one normal front-on image.

NO GROUP SHOTS - unless they are skillfully cropped for a decent head shot of JUST YOU. What's the point of posting a picture from your friend's wedding with a dozen other guys? Even if it's cropped, but shows you with one or two friends, why do you want to risk A) Confusing the prospective date by making her figure our which guy you actually are or B) Letting her see your friend and possibly find him more attractive than you?

This isn't Facebook, for crying out loud!

The other person wants to see you and determine if they find you physically attractive per their standards. This means that only YOU need to be visible, and not you watching TV, playing a video game, reading a book, learning, or eating. There are sections describing your personality, likes and activities in writing, and that is more than adequate enough - no need to prove how much you learn by showing a picture of you and an open Gemara, or how fun and outdoorsy you are by posing with a fishing rod and your latest catch.

Lastly, if you don't know HOW to take or edit pictures, or if you have no clue if you've selected a decent shot of yourself, PLEASE get someone to help. Even if you don't know how to use the crop or resize functions in your computer's standard image editting softward, I'm willing to bet your sibling, parent, or friend does.

Don't post a picture that has a giant white space next to it, cuts off half your face (or features half of your friend's), and please don't resort to simpling drawing over the person next to you, blurring their face, or putting a big ol' black box over their head.

Yes, we've seen those, no joke. These sorts of pictures show little effort in preparing your profile, and are unflattering with regard to how little you think of a prospective date's analysis of your photographs.

UPDATE 2/19/2011 4:15 PM - From the department of don't EVER post this sort of picture: We just saw a guy who used a photograph of him with an arm around a girl at a party as one of his YU Connects pictures. Not to be judgemental about how frum or not frum he is vis a vis being shomer negiah, but why in the world would you want a prospective date to see you with another girl? Yeesh! Avoid this practice at all costs.

In summary: post 3 clear, normal pictures of just you in everyday clothes, dressed up, along with a full body shot. Your Connectors and potential dates will thank you.

Tune in next time for more helpful tips on finding that special someone by making your YU Connects or Saw You at Sinai profile as great as it can be.

Friday, February 18, 2011

He Didn't Like My What? That Insufferable Smellfungus!

As an English major, I've gotta love Merriam Webster's weekly lists of interesting words. The newest one is a compilation of "Top 10 Rare & Amusing Insults."

The title of this post comes from #3 Smellfungus: "An excessively faultfinding person." Sounds like a lot of overly picky shidduch daters I know... Maybe we can all start using smellfungus for all those head-in-the-clouds-looking-for-ms./mr. perfect and enter it into the shidduch lexicon.

Check out the list and let me know if you ever actually use one on a date!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dating - On Ice!

We find ourselves in the midst of one of the coldest, snowiest, iciest, and (in my opinion) most unpleasant winters in recent memory.

One traditional winter dating activity has always been ice skating.

In many ways, ice skating is a paradigmatic winter dating activity, since it takes advantage of a winter-only event that induces companionship, can spur conversation about memories of winters past, provides some decent exercise, not to mention that it’s one of few dating ideas that make you go outside instead of staying cramped indoors (a few of these points are to the exclusion of year-round indoor ice skating rinks, but the rest of the post will, keep reading). In the New York area, many guys will take dates to Rockefeller Center to indulge in this sport. One of ASoG’s friends once went on an ice skating date that lasted for 7 hours and enjoyed the experience the entire time.

However, there remains one major problem with this particular dating activity: What do you do if your date falls?

Gentlemanly Behavior 101 dictates that the guy should offer his date a hand and help her to her feet. The issur of having physical contact known as shemiras negiah says otherwise. Is this enough of a “dangerous” situation or one that lacks chiba (emotional closeness) that would give reason to permit such assistance? Or is the inconvenience of asking the nearest female skater a mandated course of action – wherein the girl (assuming she’s properly mitzvah-observant) would understand the need to forgo acting in as a gentleman in according to halachic standards?

One friend, while recently planning an ice skating date asked Rav Simon here at YU, citing the teshuva from Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 2:14, for those who want to check it out) about riding on subways despite the almost unavoidable contact physical with women as a possible source to be lenient. Rav Simon suggested it was probably better to avoid ice skating for this reason. The friend replied, “Well, what else can you do on a date in the winter?” Which drew a smile from Rav Simon.

As much as this is usually posed as a guy standing/girl fallen scenario, I’m sure the reverse could easily happen if the girl is the more experienced skater and the guy is a newbie, perhaps combined with some clumsiness thrown in for good measure. The only question that would make a real difference is if she were substantially shorter/smaller or weaker than the guy, thus preventing her from attempting to help him up unless she too wanted to join him sprawled out on the ice.

After discussing this with my friend, I remembered something I had learned in Rav Simon’s hilchos niddah shiur regarding harchakos. Among the rabbinically problematic activities for the husband and wife while she is a niddah, such as passing and throwing things (the latter for Ashkenazim only), is holding an object together. However, none of this applies to a man and woman who aren’t married.

Parenthetically, I remember first learning the details of these harchakos with Rav Simon during our one-on-one chosson classes. Afterward, I thought about what I had learned and came to a startling dilemma, wondering if I should have been observing these sorts of distancing behaviors to prevent further emotional closeness while engaged. I frantically asked Rav Simon the next time I saw him, and he replied that the harchakos apply only to a married couple, thankfully.

So, the good news is that I think I’ve figured out a solution to the falling-while-ice-skating conundrum. Namely, the guy should carry some sort of rod or grabber that would allow him to reach out and offer a means of support for the girl to get up. This indirect manner of contact would be totally permissible for a dating couple.

Then I recalled that there is already a jokey video about a fictional product called the Shomer Negiah Stick:

While the intentions of such a product are focused on finding a loophole to conduct some rather hashkafically (though not exactly) anti-halachic behavior, my idea would have a far more noble purpose and fulfill a practical need. The actual device would have to be modified a bit from the standard “grabber,” with reinforced construction that could support a person’s weight without bending or breaking – I know I went through a few of them in my younger years, presuming that they were stronger than they actually were.

Perhaps the device would come with a hand-like attachment and look similar to this:
Or better, it could be a wearable hand/arm extension akin to this:

I used to have one of these - they are SO much cooler than the pole-type grabber.

Anyway, back to reality for a moment. Has anyone gone on ice skating dates before, and if so, what did you do? I’d love to hear from both guys and girls on the subject. My aforementioned friend told me one practical solution, he inquired about his date’s skating abilities/experience before agreeing to go on the date. Turns out she is a veteran and has very little issues with falling or getting up on her own. I’m sure that not everyone lucks out like that.

Please tell me your stories in the comments!

Note: While this post is ostensibly practical , it was written from a theoretical perspective since I’ve never gone ice skating on a date before or since I got married - yes, married folks go out on dates, too, just with their spouses ;-) Aside from that, I'm quite bad at it, which probably explains why I never tried an ice skating date in the first place.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Time's Almost Up

If anyone was interested in participating in the Star-K's "shidduch rewards program" (that's my term, kind of like cash-back on certain credit cards), the whole incentive program is ending next month.

"Six years ago, STAR-K undertook the goal of trying to solve the Baltimore singles situation, typical of many Orthodox communities throughout the U.S. Offering a cash incentive for a period of one year to anyone who successfully arranged a shidduch for a woman in Baltimore’s Orthodox community, STAR-K hoped that its gift would act as a dual incentive: first, for professional shadchanim worldwide in order to put Baltimore women on the top of their singles lists, and second for “would-be shadchanim” and acquaintances to keep Baltimore women in mind.

STAR-K has since renewed this Shidduch Incentive Program annually, raising the initial gift from $2,000 to $2,500. We are pleased to announce that this program has been a great success, as well as an inspiration for other cities to help their singles. To date (no pun intended!), STAR-K has paid out $320,000 for a total of 134 matches. Regretfully, STAR-K will no longer be able to fund this program. However, all shidduchim made before Purim 5771 (March 20, 2011) will be honored."

Check the above link for more info.

Out of curiosity: Did anyone you know benefit from this incentive program?

Hat-tip: Frum Satire (I claim no responsibility for the language and content found there)

Excuse Me - OR - Thanks Honey!

A Marriage Quickie for all newlywed wives and aspiring wives-to-be (engaged or not):

When a husband belches after a delicious home cooked meal, even if it is several hours later, his wife should not take offence.

The belch signifies the husband's satisfaction with the recently consumed delicacies. The louder, more forceful, and larger number of accompanying belches directly relates to the level of enjoyment the wife has given her soul mate.

Upon belching, he fondly recalls the mouth-watering flavors of the carefully and expertly crafted dishes his beloved so gladly prepared for him, as well as the pleasure he received ingesting the aforementioned food. This is indicated by his warm, happy "mmmm" vocalization, which is often accompanied by that handsome smile she fell in love with.

However, the same cannot neccessarily be said in regard to other gastrointestinal expressions.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Winner In The Toilet Paper Hanging Debate?!

After discussing in a recent post how some folks have issues with pet peeves as minor as how a roll of toilet paper is hung, a friend pointed out the rather extensive Wikipedia entry on the subject.

Aside from the copious history of the debate (which makes this worth a read in and of itself), the entry cites two different published studies that make the claim that "Toilet paper orientation is often mentioned as a hurdle for married couples."

Interestingly enough, however, almost all of the surveys conducted on public preference for toilet paper orientation favors the over-hand method that I personally support. The debate has never been totally settled, despite the fairly conclusive data this presents.

At any rate, another rather fascinating concept presented is the fact that there are products out there called Tilt-a-Roll that actually features the ability to simply change the orientation of the roll quickly and easily.

Though the design is copyrighted, perhaps the inventors of Kosher Lamp, etc could come up with a way to market a Jewish Shalom Bayis-themed packaging.

After all, Tilt-a-Roll's company motto happens to be: "Let Tilt-A-Roll save your marriage!"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Things I've Learned Since I Got Married #2

I enjoy doing the dishes.

While that may sound surprising, it’s totally true. As I mentioned in the previous post, ASoG does most of the cooking in our apartment. This is our primary arrangement because she likes to cook, and is certainly the more experienced of the two of us. To be fair, I started off our marriage by volunteering to be the official dish washer and dryer (our apartment does not have any dish washing apparatus). While ASoG does often help by partnering up with me to do the drying, as well as doing dishes herself if I’m not around, or simply because she is ever so nice and does it in a sneaky fashion before I get a chance to, I honestly enjoy standing there getting our plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery spotless and clean.

I’m not sure what I like so much about this particular chore, considering I’ve heard complaints from almost everyone I know about having to do the dishes, whether that means newly married male friends or single people of both genders pitching in around the house. For me, the task is somewhat meditative in nature. As long as I can turn on our iHome and get some fast Jewish music pumping, I’m ready to go.

I’m always experimenting with slightly different variations of how to clean the dishes, whether putting soap on the scrubber/sponge, or sometimes adding the soap to a dish and creating sudsy water that I spread around the other dishes. One cool thing I figured out was to put soap in a cup, fill it with hot water, and allow it to overflow into a nearby cup/bowl, spreading the soapy cleaning solution to multiple items.

Anyway, call me weird if you’d like (I’m more than expecting it in the comments), but washing dishes is actually, dare I say it... fun.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I'm Macca-Famous?!?! Oh Dear...

Oh my.

I didn't think my recent little joke-post about the Maccabeats with the cutesy availability picture I whipped up would turn into such a big deal.

Well, now I'm linked, along with the now-infamous picture, on the Jerusalem Post's regular pop-culture segment called The Weekly Schmooze.

Um, hello world?

And here I was wistfully wondering when I'd surpass 40,000 hits, knowing that I went to sleep last night about 500 short. I was also pondering the notion of having a contest with a prize for the 40,000th hit, but I guess that'd be pretty moot at this point. Maybe I'll do it when Shades of Grey reaches 50,000 hits? That is a little more monumental anyway.

I guess it's a good thing I'm married, cuz I have no doubt that this is Bad for Shidduchim.

UPDATE 2/10/11 - Now the post is linked on Frum Satire...

Things I’ve Learned Since I Got Married #1

The point of this series is not going to feature me arrogantly pontificating about the general knowledge that seems to instantly beam into the minds of newly married people. Rather my own personal revelations from my married life.

I really like Wacky Mac.

I’m not sure exactly why, but I never liked macaroni and cheese (of any sort) growing up. For some reason, my mind had defined a triumvirate of pasta, cheese and tomato sauce, such as ravioli, tortellini, or spaghetti with cheese sprinkled on top. Pasta could also be eaten with tomato sauce alone, but the alternative coupling of noodles and cheese by themselves simply wasn’t appealing. I avoided it at every opportunity wherein such a dish presented itself, most notably at the lunches served by our local Jewish day school.

Then came marriage, where often enough there isn’t necessarily time to prepare a full meal with assorted courses included a main and sides. Sometimes we’re too tired (or more emphatically, ASoG, since she does most of the cooking – more on that in another post) to cook up anything significant, and a quick, satisfying meal is in order.

Enter the magical food known as "Wacky Mac."

I was quite reluctant to try the stuff at first, based on my prior aversion to anything resembling macaroni and cheese. However, I noticed that the finished product looked nothing like the chunky, blocky, yellow-white, crunchy-on-top substance that was presented to us innocent middle school students way back when. The consistency seemed more akin to regular pasta, which made trying to eat it seem more appetizing. In the end, I really liked it, and Wacky Mac has become a regular staple of our meals, whenever we need to quick-fix, delicious dinner.

It’s so simple to prepare, even I have added it to my limited repertoire of things I can make, in addition to pizza, ramen cups (which I don’t eat so much anymore), cereal, cheese toast, and assorted pasta (frozen ravioli and tortellini). Aside from making pizza, I’m not much of a cook, as you can tell.

At any rate, Wacky Mac is now one of my favorite quickie-dinners. It’s easy to make and easy to clean up – more on that in the next segment of “Things I’ve Learned Since I Got Married.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

YU Connects Singles Shabbaton In Washington Heights

I don't often post Public Service Announcements - unless I feel the event/cause is very worthwhile and something to consider attending. In this case, I really hope people make an effort to be a part of what is going to be an amazing singles Shabbaton here on/near the YU campus (the wording is a little awkward, but it's not mine):

Come join the Yeshiva Community Shul and YU Connects for an inspiring and entertaining Shabbos!

Join Community families for dinner with other great singles, an Oneg and then a lunch with facilitators from the Community and Rabbanim, followed by the Motzei Shabbos Shenk Saturday Night Live Comedy Evening.

A great Shabbos, with great friends, and even better food!

WHEN: Shabbos Vayakhel 25th Feburary 22nd Adar I

WHO: Modern Orthodox Machmir Singles Aged between 21 and 31

HOW: Members $35 Non-Members $45 RSVP to by February 15th Also: Shabbaton sign up form can be found here.

All profiles will be reviewed by Shadchanim Who will help you meet that someone special!

UPDATE (2/2/11) I've been told that women's spots are now full, but there are still room for guys to sign up.

As an incentive, I will announce that ASoG and I will be participating as meal hosts (and maybe connectors - we're working on getting approved by YU Connects).

No guarantees you'll spend Friday night dinner with us at Grey Castle, nor will I really discuss the blog at the table, but it's still kind of fun knowing I'll be around, right...? Or not :p