Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Re: A Second Look At The IDF

I just finished reading this great guest contribution to Cross-Currents, titled "A Second Look at the IDF." The article is written by Eli Julian, a young married man who wanted a better means to support his wife and family and decided to join the IDF's new Shachar group, which caters toward Charedim. I was very pleasantly surprised by his positive experience, as well as the encouragement he has received from a rabbinic leader like Rabbi Yitzchok Zilbershtein of Cholon.

Arguably, this is one of the most encouraging parts of the article:

At one point during the time I spent there, Rav Zilbershtein was coming to Yerushalayim to speak at the Agudas Yisroel Yarchei Kallah, so I got approval from my commander to go to the speech instead of going to the kollel that day. Being that I was only traveling locally, I decided to come in a hat and jacket as opposed to my army uniform that I wore daily to the kollel. The next day Rav Zilbershtein called me over. “Why didn’t you wear your uniform yesterday?” He asked me. “I was only traveling locally. I felt more comfortable in my hat and jacket,” I replied. “I think you should have come in your uniform,” he responded. When I seemed puzzled, he continued, “Do you know what a Limud Zechus you are on the Medina? Here the Medina pays you a salary and tells you ‘Make sure to keep your religious lifestyle, make sure that you learn Torah.’ You need to publicize that! I think that whenever you go to a public place of learning, you should wear your uniform.”

I'm very pleased to see that the divide between secular and religious is showing some signs, however small, of being broken down along with growth of achdus and acceptance.

Who knows, if we can all work together in earnest ahavas chinam, maybe next Tisha B'Av we will all gather together in Yerushalayim to celebrate the mo'ed that it is meant to be?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Life Is Hard - But Not As Bad As That Guy

I'm been pondering something and I want to get the readers' opinions. Hopefully this will turn into a meaningful discussion.

Everyone has tzaros (difficulties) in life, and no one really understands how hard/bad it may be for another person unless we've been "in their shoes" and experienced the exact same thing, such as, lo aleinu, the death of a parent, broken engagement, life-threatening illness/injury, etc. And even then, circumstances are never exactly the same, so while there may be some similarity and identification/empathy, everyone's experiences are still unique.

It doesn't really serve us well to compare ourselves to people we know, especially in areas where they find success and we struggle. We can become jealous, and the relationship can fester in many vile ways as we attempt to regain some positive self-worth belief in ourselves.

But what about the flip side of the coin?

I have a friend I've known since high school, but haven't really seen in a long time, and they happened to friend me on Facebook right after I joined during my first year at YU. We don't really ever interact, but I've noticed consistently from their status updates/notes in the past several years that their life seems to always be falling apart due one disaster after another on a fairly regular basis. Some crises are brought on by obviously bad decisions that could have been avoided and others unexpected and uncontrolled. I often wonder why they won't ever learn from their mistakes, whether it is related to relationships, family, school or otherwise - and I also feel bad for the suffering they experience, regardless if it is self-fulfilled or not.

There really isn't anything I can do for the person - and I've tried to contact them on an occasion or two, but nothing can be accomplished. They also live far away and have basically cut themselves off from the Jewish community they grew up in and their family. So here I am, watching this train wreck go on and on - and on and on - and I can only feel pity for them.

In times when I think I'm having a bad day, when school is tough, my learning isn't so good, I wake up late for davening, or procrastinate too much on my work (or anything else you can think of), I am often confronted with another one of this friend's disastrous life events as soon as I sign onto Facebook. I immediately take a mental step back and think to myself, "Wow, my life really isn't so bad after all." I will think about the abundance of brachos that HaShem has showered upon ASoG and I and feel how truly fortunate we are in the major areas in life, realizing that the things that are "bad" are actually pretty insignificant in the overall big picture.

But is this a proper thing to do?

I'm not aggrandizing myself over my forlorn friend, like pointing and haughtily turning my nose up at the guy who came 20 minutes late to Shacharis when I arrived 15 minutes late, thinking "I still beat that guy, look how late he got here!" That's obviously a tactic of the yetzer hara to get us accustomed to our improper practices by making us feel better because we've put someone down.

I don't look at this person and say to myself, "Boy, at least I never made that mistake! How stupid are they?" I just read these sad stories and turn inward, recognizing the Yad HaShem and the gifts I'm given on a daily basis.

While the end result, which I feel is a proper mussar lesson - being thankful for all the HaShem has given me while being uplifted when I'm troubled - I feel like I got there by taking a dirty alleyway. Instead of reading a mussar sefer, I hear about this nebach person and receive inspiration, which just feels wrong.

So, what do you think?

Monday, August 15, 2011

National Council Of Young Israel Singles Shabbaton

I received this in my email and I figure it's worth passing on for anyone single who fits the bill. Sorry I posted this past the early bird date. It's for this upcoming weekend, so hurry up and apply!

A Great Shabbaton August 19-21, 2011

singlemingleYoung Israel of Vacation Village & National Council of Young Israel present

“Single Mingle” A Shabbaton for Modern/Machmir Orthodox Singles

Vacation Village, Loch Sheldrake, NY Ages 25-38; Early Bird Special: $175 per person (by August 10); $195 (after August 10)
PLEASE NOTE: Admission to Shabbaton contingent on acceptance by Vacation Village Singles Committee Review.
For more information, contact:
or Rebbetzin Judi Steinig:
212-929-1525 x112 or fax 212-727-9526

Shabbaton Features Home hospitality in beautiful Loch Sheldrake’s Vacation Village
  • Speed Dating and other fun activities
  • Gourmet Shabbat meals at Bonnie’s Place
  • Motzai Shabbat Entertainment
  • Melava Malka at Star-Gelt Cafe, an outdoor/lakeside cafe
  • Sunday morning brunch
Limited Housing available
Don’t Delay -- Past Shabbatonim have been closed out in advance.


Dancing In The Vineyards

How many of our single female readers out their have their borrowed white dresses ready?

Maybe you'll find the right guy and you'll end up married in a vineyard, too!

Original photo credit.

Anybody up for planning a Vineyard Discotec for next Tu B'Av?

P.S. It's really hard to find a picture of a modest wedding gown that isn't from an Orthodox Jewish wedding... what's the point of showing off the bride like that, anyway?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Who's Ready For Some Football!?

Yeshiva Unviersity recently posted a particularly clever video on youtube that advertises their upcoming homecoming event that will take place on Sunday, September 18th, starting at 9:30 AM.

I remember seeing someone post a picture of grass quadrangle (the only legitimate grassy area on campus) a few weeks ago on Facebook. I thought it was a prank of some sort, but this turned out to be quite cute.

For those readers who didn't attend a secular high school with a football team, homecoming is generally a big get-together event shortly after the school year starts in the fall where alumni, students, teachers, and their families visit their alma mater and attend a big Friday night home game. Sufficed to say, I never went to one in high school, but the notion that YU is trying to live up to the hype of a stereotypical homecoming is pretty darn funny.

The entire event looks like it's going to be a lot of fun, and a great opportunity to hear shiurim as well as visit the campus for anyone who hasn't been around in a while. More information, including a schedule of events, can be found here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tisha B'av Thoughts

Here we are again, another Tisha B'Av is upon us.

We weren't strong enough, good enough, righteous enough...

We didn't do enough mitzvos, learn enough Torah, daven enough tefillos, or do enough teshuva...

We harbored too much resentment of our neighbors and friends, we didn't forgive enough, we didn't try to make peace enough, we didn't look for enough opportunities to help another...

Our chessed wasn't enough, our tzedaka wasn't enough, our kavana for brachos wasn't enough...

Bottom line: we didn't care enough, want it enough, beg for it enough, cry for it enough...

And now another Tisha B'Av is here - a fast day, and not a mo'ed. No Moshiach, no rebuilt Yerushalayim, Beis Hamikdash, no shirei levi'im, no kohanim performing the avodah...

Just nothing.


Why can't we be better, care enough about each other and about the Beis Hamikdash to have it rebuilt in our lifetime?

We haven't derserved it almost 2,000 years... so how can we merit to properly deserve its return to our lives?

We don't even know what we're missing. As my Rav said, it's like asking a blind man if he missing seeing the world - there is simply no comprehension of the loss we choose to live with each and every day of our lives - in galus and in Eretz Yisrael, because we're all in this together.

I was reading the YU Tisha B'Av To-Go packet for 5771 (find past years here) and something Rabbi Kenneth Brander quoted in his introductory remarks struck a deep chord with me:

Rav Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin explains in his introduction to Sefer Bereshiet that the calamity of the Diaspora occurred when those involved with Torah study were not willing to recognize that there are multiple gateways of service to God. “The pious, the righteous and those steeped in Torah study were not virtuous in their interactions with others. They had baseless hatred of others in their hearts. They looked askance at those who served Hashem differently … thinking that they were zadukim and apikorsim, apostates and heretics. It is for this reason that death and civil unrest [came to our people], and all the evils that happened in the world culminating with the destruction of the [second] Temple occurred.”

It's as true nowadays as it was then that it's scary - and it's keeping the Beis Hamikdash from being rebuilt.

Too many "frum" Jews look down upon their brethren, whether they are very right wing looking down on their more modern brethren, chassidish looking down upon yeshivish, or shomrei Torah u'mitzvot of any banner looking down upon their less religious brothers and sisters with disdain. It's horrible, simply outrageous, and it shouldn't happen, ever.

Enough is enough.

Enough with the sinas chinam.

Bring on the ahavas chinam.

Bring on the Moshiach.

And bring back the Beis Hamikdash - amein, kein yehi ratzon.