Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Window: an Addendum

My last post was about Ahavas Chinum, loving another for no reason other than the fact of their existence. This poem symbolizes one of the times in my life that I was able to live with the Ahavas Yisroel that I know we are supposed to have. I had been planning on posting this poem with that, but at the end it didn't fit. So, here it is:

You're looking out the window
Pain heavy on your heart
People going on their way
While your life just fell apart

People with their regular lives
Not knowing what had been
Just going on with what they do
Not knowing what's within

They see your face, tears in your eyes
And know not what to say
They fumble with their clumsy words
While you wish they'd go away

I know I can't properly express
The words that are in me
But know one thing -
Where you need me, I'll be

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reflections on Tisha B'Av

The second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed by one thing: Sinas Chinam, baseless hatred. The opposite of Sinas Chinum is Ahavas Chinum – loving another for no reason beyond the fact that he or she is your brother. Like darkness and light, Sinah can only come where there is a lack of Ahava.

This year, like every year for the past two thousand years, we mourn. We are mourning for the Beis Hamikdash, for the unity that comes from the certainty that we are all doing the right thing – together. When we are able to look past the hats and coats, past the places we live, past anything that divides us, when we can see the pintele yid (Jewish spark) in every neshoma, only then will we be zocheh to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash. It should happen speedily, in our days.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Parshas Devarim

Sorry no post for such a long time. I haven't been feeling so well this week, and it's been pretty busy. Anyway, here's the weekly(ish) dvar torah.

From Parsha Potpourri by R' Oizer Alpert:

Why did Eisav merit receiving Mount Seir as his inheritance immediately and without any hardship (2:5) while Yaakov and his descendants were forced to descend to Egypt and suffer centuries of backbreaking slavery before they were finally able to receive the land of Israel as their inheritance? (Rav Aharon Bakst quoted in Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha)

Rav Aharon Bakst notes that baby animals are capable of walking and caring for themselves a short period of time after their births. Human babies, on the other hand, are literally helpless and completely dependent upon their parents for survival for years. He explains that the greater the spiritual potential something possesses, the more time is required for it to develop and prepare itself to accomplish its mission. Because animals have little to accomplish in the spiritual realm, they are able to mature and fulfill their roles quite quickly, whereas humans, who are the pinnacle of the Creation, need much more time to develop and prepare themselves to fulfill their spiritual potential. Similarly, Eisav’s descendants have much less to accomplish relative to the Jewish people, and they were able to immediately receive their inheritance. The Jews, on the other hand, required 210 years of purification in Egypt before they were able to emerge to receive the Torah and fulfill their lofty spiritual mission.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Anyone recognize the title? In case you didn't, those are the letters of the home row on the qwerty keyboard. Those who type correctly keep their fingers on those letters and move them around as needed. My elementary school had typing class since 3rd grade (I think), so I learned to type correctly.

This method of typing is supposed to improve speed and accuracy because the typist doesn't have to actually look at the keyboard in order to type. Things get interesting, however, when the typist doesn't look where she puts her fingers. Do you know how many times I've started typing, only to realize a few words later that they came out all wrong. For example, I tried to type Musing Maidel, and it came out z,idomh z,sfor;? or j8w8ht jq8e3o? If you accidentally shift your hands one inch to the left or to the top of the keyboard, you're going to get gibberish.

The inventor of the modern keyboard was actually very smart. I don't know how many of you noticed, but on the f and j keys, where the index fingers of the left and right hands, respectively, are supposed to go, there's a little something sticking up to let your fingers find their proper place. But, as I've said, I still sometimes make mistakes.

It struck me today (after this happened yet again) that there is profound meaning to this. We see life through the myopic lens of our mortality. The picture it makes is confusing and unclear, and there's so much we can't understand, now or anytime in this world. So much pain and tragedy. So much agony. It's hard to keep faith.

But, if we notice the little marks on the keyboard, the little pointers Hashem gives us, we'll be able to look at life from the right perspective. If we look around with our fingers on the right keys, with the right views and hashkafos, life becomes meaningful.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Two Cooks, One Kitchen

My mother and I share a kitchen. We both cook, especially when it comes to Shabbos. The problem is that we often don't communicate about what we're cooking. For example, I like to have one kugel side and one non-kugel side for the Friday night meal. I had already made a kugel and was planning the other side. I left the kitchen for a while, and when I came back, my mother was pulling another kugel out of the oven. Communication – it just doesn't happen.

The same thing happened this week. My mother usually makes the cholent Thursday night and puts it up on Friday morning. She soaks the beans in a certain container, and then puts it all into the pot. She had a very hard week this week, so when I saw on Thursday night that there were no beans soaking, I decided that if my mother didn't put up the cholent by the time I got up on Friday, I would make it.

I got up on Friday – no beans soaking on the counter, nothing in the cholent pot. So, I got down to making it. I washed some beans (no time to really soak them, but whatever), peeled potatoes, and then looked for the meat. My mother wasn't home, so I called her to ask which meat to use. In the course of our conversation, she asked me if I had used the beans that she had put in the fridge. My reaction ("what beans?") gave her all the answer she needed. I had not used them. Then we got into one of our mother-daughter squabbles. I hadn't asked her, she hadn't left me a note, well why didn't I look, but why should I think to look since she hadn't used her regular utensils … You get the picture.

I was thinking about our little tiff later, and I realized that it reminded me of a famous Rashi in בראשית. (One of my high school teachers used to say that a Meforash is only famous because she has heard of it.) Rashi there (א:יד) brings down a מדרש: שוים נבראוץ ונתמעטה הלבנה על שקטרגה ואמרה אי אפשר לשני מלאכים שישתמשו בכתר אחד. For those of you less familiar with the Hebrew, it says that the sun and moon were created equal. However, the moon complained that it is not possible for two kings to share one crown. In reaction to her words, Hashem made her smaller.

The concept of two people fighting over one crown is obviously an old one, all the way from the beginning of time. It's no wonder that in my house there are two cooks fighting over one kitchen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Parshas Mattos-Masei

This is one question I always had. Oizer Alpert addresses it in points to ponder this week.

The Gemora in Sanhedrin (106b) teaches that Bilaam was executed (31:8) by means of all four forms of death used by the Sanhedrin: stoning, fire, sword, and strangulation. How was it possible to kill one person using all four forms of execution? (Rashi, Yad Ramah, and Maharsha Sanhedrin 106b; Ayeles HaShachar)

Rashi writes that they hanged Bilaam from a tree and lit a fire under him. They then cut off his head and his body fell into the fire. Hanging him from the tree was considered strangulation, cutting off his head was dead by the sword, his body falling to the ground was stoning, and falling into the fire was burning. The Maharsha challenges this explanation, as the stoning and burning occurred after his head was cut off and he was already dead. Additionally, somebody who is to be executed by fire is killed through a burning piece of lead being place into his mouth, which is different than the form of burning described by Rashi. Therefore, he suggests that they first threw rocks on Bilaam, but not to the point of killing him. They then partially placed a burning piece of lead into his mouth, but not enough to kill him. They then strangled him somewhat, but kept him alive until they finally killed him by cutting off his head with a sword. Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman questions this, as he was only truly killed by the sword and not by the other methods. The Yad Ramah explains that Bilaam was killed by four people, each of whom simultaneously performed on him one of the methods of execution.

© 2009 by Oizer Alport. To subscribe or send comments, write to oalport@optonline.net

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is There Something Wrong with this Picture?

I get a lot of forwarded emails. Some of them are funny, some not so much, but sometimes I think I'm the only one who actually reads them. Take this one for example. It's entitled "Jewish Version of the Bachelor." Personally, I've never heard of "The Bachelor," but in context I can figure out what it's referring to.

Maybe it's just me, but, aside from the terrible grammar and egregious spelling errors, this "joke" sickens me. While I know humor is one of the best ways of coping with problems, some humor is just not funny. The superficiality that this demonstrates … can these people really be frum yidden? I don't even know how to express the frustration and disillusionment that I got from reading this. Am I wrong?

Do you love the idea of The Bach elor , but are too frum to watch it? Then you'll love the new show, " The Bachur ." The concept is the same: 25 girls vying for the heart of one guy. The twist? They're all frum!

Our Bachur this season is Avraham Yitzchak Greenbergsteinkowitz from the holy city of Coffeeneck. He has studied in some of the best yeshivas, is over 5'6" and is a lawyer, doctor AND an accountant. You might ask why such an =2 0 exceptional Bachur would choose such an unusual method for meeting his bashert. "Well," says the Bachur, "I have been dating for over 6 months now and still have not been able to find my bashert. After consulting with all 17 of my rabbeim, I felt that this intense approach would be the best way for me to do so."

The creator of the show is none other than Perry Charshady, who is the mastermind behind other reality TV hits such as "I'm a Rebbe…Get Me Out of Here" and "So You Think You Can Shteig."

"The premise of the show is the same as that of The Bachelor ," Charshady explains, "except with some minor differences to make it more appealing to a frum, heimishe, audience.." For example, the bachurettes will face-off with challenges such as the Challah Bake-Off. The bachurette with the worst tasting challah will be sent home. And who will be the judge of something so crucial20to building a bayis neeman b'yisrael? "My =2 0 Imma!" ex claims the Bachur. "She makes the best challah ever, so who better to judge?" Additionally, while on The Bachelor the bachelorettes go home to meet the guy's family, our bachurettes will have to have a meeting with the Bachur's favorite Rebbe.

And who are these bachurettes? Well, they are all no larger than a size 4 and went to Strict College for Women where they studied to be a therapist of any type. They also all come from wealthy homes in the Metropolitan area. "I just don't feel comfortable with out-of-towners" The Bachur explains, "No one really knows what goes on in those places. At least where I'm from, everyone knows each others business so I can really get to know what a girl is like by askin g, you know, her neighbors and kindergarten teachers about her."

From the very first episode, it is clear that these girls are top-notch. After being the first bachurette to be sent home, Chana Shprintza Cohenbaumosky cries "How could he reject me? I mean, I went to NNI – the best seminary in all of Israel!" Later in the show, the second rejected bachurette sobs "Doesn't he even know who my father is?!" But, not all the bachurettes are so sincerely committed to their seeming "Chesed Each Day" lifestyle. In one episode late in the season, The Bachur gets his first big shock: "I don't always20wear tights," confesses one bachurette.

Who is this shiksa20posing as an accomplished bachurette? Is she the same one concealing the fact that she has Facebook? Or is more than one bachurette hiding a dark side? "It just bothers me when someone isn't honest with me," The Bachur says disappointedly. "I mean, if you talk to other boys or don't have a white tablecloth on your shabbas table then clearly you're not frum enough for me, and if you're not frum enough to be here, then what are you even doing here?"

So what's the next project for Charshad y? A season of The Bachurette , perhaps? "No," says Charshady. " The Bachurette would be almost impossible to create." Why? He explains: "This is a reality show and if we were to portray 25 buchrim trying to win over one girl, it would not be an accurate representation of reality." He then adds "And, on a technical note, the process of finding 25 eligible buchrim would be an almost impossible feat."

Well, this season promises to be one filled with scandals: bare legs, Facebook and even (gasp!) Law School? "It's always been a secret dream of mine," reveals a teary-eyed bachurette. But, it also will be packed with fun: hotel lobbies and exotic trips to Chevron! And fear not, there will also be plenty of Tehillim said through bouts of sobbing. So tune in every motzei shabbas!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Are You Still There?

Where, oh where, have my commentors gone?
Oh where, oh where can they be?
I have kept writing faithfully
But where, oh where can they be?

I know no one really likes to comment, but can you please make an exception this time? The blogosphere is feeling so empty. Do you agree with what I'm saying, disagree, have no opinion? Whichever it is, please let me know. I feel like I'm writing to no one (not that it really matters, but I'd like to know), so if you're there, can you say hello? Pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top?

I miss you all, please write again!

Friday, July 10, 2009

In Tribute to an Amazing Teacher

Every so often, a person comes across one teacher who makes a real difference in his or her life. These teachers are rare and few between, but when they come … This particular teacher was my Chumash teacher in 12th grade. She lives in my neighborhood, so I've seen her often since seminary.

This teacher is a shining example of someone who doesn't consider her job done when her students graduate high school. After we all got back from sem, we felt bereft – no more shiurim on a regular basis. Someone, I'm not sure who, came up with the idea to ask this teacher to give us a shiur in Sichos Mussar every Shabbos. This teacher being who she is, she agreed immediately. The shiur not only became the highlight of my week, but that of everyone else involved.

Now we've stopped for the summer. I miss her smile so much; I miss the simchas ha'chayim that everything she did was infused with. And I can't wait to start again in the fall. We bought her the book With Hearts Full of Love by R' Mattisyahu Soloman as a goodbye present. This was the inscription we wrote:

One Simchas Torah evening
Some girls started to shmuz
"We're just back from Israel
And we need a shiur," they mused

"Shabbos would be perfect
Night or maybe day
Let's ask Mrs. Teacher
It'll be great either way"

They called up their מחנכת
She enthusiastically agreed
She couldn't wait to share with them
Life lessons that they'll need

And every shabbos since then
A pilgrimage is made
To 123rd street
And the greatest shiur ever gave

Your simcha, Mrs. Teacher,
In life and all you do,
Gives us life to face our week
And your shiur is the how-to

We come to you for help,
For advice and just to cry
You pat us on the shoulder
And tell us how to try

Your interest in each of us
Is always so sincere
It makes you perfect for
Either choice of your career

A simple gift cannot convey
The impact that you've made
You've changed the pattern of our lives
In ways that will never fade

With Hearts Full of Love,
Your Talmidos

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Cookbook that Every Maidel Needs

I just can't get enough of blogging. A few months ago, who'd have thought I'd even start one blog, let alone two? That's right, ladies and gents (this one is more for you ladies), I have officially started a second blog. This one is not one based on my thoughts; rather, it is a compilation of my favorite recipes that I have put together starting from when I was in seminary. If you would like to contribute your own recipes, email me at MusingMaidel@gmail.com and I'll add you as an author.

Keep in mind that it's still under construction and it might take a while until the colors work out. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

HP Daily

I'm learning the book Praying with Fire by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman with a friend. Last night, we read a section that talked about how if we see Hashem in our daily lives, in the minutiae that are always with us, we'll have a much easier time knowing to Whom we daven. We decided then and there to start a new nightly ritual. Right after we learn, we are each going to share one story of Hashgacha Pratis - it doesn't matter if it's a big one or a small one, as long as we saw Hashem's Hand in it.

Tuesday: I did not get a single red light when I went to pick my father up from Yeshiva.
Wednesday: (This actually happened yesterday also) I got to school a drop before 11 (when alternate side for the streets around Touro is over), so I basically got the best spot available.

You make think these HP stories are a little petty. They're nothing earth-shattering. But everyone, I'm sure, has heard the story of the woman looking for a parking spot in downtown Manhattan. She bargains with Hashem, offering the world if He would only find her a parking spot. While she still has her prayer on her lips, a miracle occurs - a perfectly legal spot (without a meter) opens up right in front of her. Mid-sentence, she tells Hashem "Oh, forget it. I already found one."

I don't want to be like that. Every little thing that happens is the Hand of Hashem showing us His love. It's there; we just have to open our eyes to see it.
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