Sunday, December 9, 2012

Eskimo Chassidim!!!

I know your reaction, we have never heard of chassidim living near the north pole, and what kind of chassidim are they, and how did the Baal Shem Tov's teachings reach the far northern part of our planet.

Indeed you're right, I have never heard of any Eskimo chassidim either, and was surprised seeing them in the middle of BP, in groups of 10-20 marching down the street as if it belonged to them.

It is a beautiful Shabbat morning right at the beginning of December, the winter is starting to make its marks on the trees, the fog is undeniable, and people with bone injuries are predicting heavy rain. As a precaution I decide to take along my rain coat, and leave my head gear at home, while running to shul, after all it is late, and I expect to make it just in time for borchu.

The davening is long, did I mention it is shabbat mevorchim? of course it is. The chazon enjoyed every minute of it, The following Musaf was a feast by itself. I guess at least someone left shull with his stomach full.

By the time we finished rain droplets were already noticeable on the windows, one can tell that this will be a heavy rain. I start to compliment myself for the precautions I took, and wondered how those who don't carry with the eruv will deal with this one.

As I am heading home and the rain is bouncing off my forehead I noticed a group talking very loud, they seemed happy not minding the rain at all, they were discussing the Weberman trial with ferver, but the way they dressed was weird, they dressed like Eskimos, head to toe covered in black, it looked like a misconfigured commercial garbage bag.

This incident brought back some memories of the days I was in yeshivah, how amazing was it to sacrifice day and night learning the depths of the torah, discussing and debating the word of god, trying to understand every word our sages wrote, after all their words were measured with great accuracy, every word the Rambam wrote meant something, and trying to reconcile a conflicting statement of his was  a personal satisfaction, as the mashgiach used to motivate us daily "how could you go to sleep while there is a conflicting Rambam" no wonder the pleasure one got by reconciling it eventually.

I guess you're wondering what's the relation between the Eskimo suit and my days back in yeshivah, The relation takes me back to the first day of the zeman, every first creates a memory slot in our brains which is marked "important" people have vivid memories of their 'firsts' it was the first time I saw a person wearing a sheet like suit, all black no design, no resemblance of anything I ever saw, the best I can compare it to is a bed sheet with carved out holes for the hands, my heart was crying for this kid, how poor does a person need to be to make a suit out of a bed sheet, but suddenly I noticed another bochur wearing the same, and then another one, eventually i realized the commonality between them all was, they were chassidim, in the course of time i learned it was called a 'Challat'.

Were all chassidim poor? why are they all wearing this sheet like Challat, i can understand the theological reasons why one wears respective clothing while studying gods word, as it was explained to me, but this poor sheet (shit) of a thing!!!???? can't they afford something more presentable??? it took me many years to understand this phenomenon and eventually ended up explaining this Eskimo garbage bag as well.

Chassidim and equality.
I am not talking about the the theological equality known as "midos hishtavos" where one is expected to accept pain and joy with the same pleasure, I am referring to the hidden not so well known agenda of chassidus to make everyone feel the same, shedding all class differences within society, to the point where one can not tell the difference between rich and poor, most drive the same car, wear the same cloths, make the same style of simchas, Takonos, in other words there is no other value system besides being in the Rebbes family, or in his close circle.

Hence the Eskimo coat, which is a direct evolution of the chalet, it developed qualities which nature preferred, it grew a hood to cover the head gear, it is also water proofed to protect from rain, and has been adopted by rich and poor. You can see 2 friends walking the street on shabbat, one a millionaire, while his friend a well known beggar, both scouting proudly the evolved Challat, called  me'ill.

Equality is an amazing trait, but why do they have to make the level of equality that everyone feels equally worthless, when it could of been just the opposite. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tefillin Anxiety!!!

Tefillin, a square black box a few cm by a few cm, made out of a kosher animal's skin, very little in dimension indeed, but its meaning is beyond comprehension, its place in Jewish life and culture, it is paralleled  to no other commandment only to its counterpart in  prohibitions, like chilul Shabbos, and Chazir, in the order of significance.

It is not its exterior shape or feel that makes it an integral part of Jewish life, nor is it the strings attached to it, which legend attributes its color and length to no other than Moshe Rabeinu, and it is one of the few details that God didn't even commit to writing, but only verbally said it to Moshe on mount Sinai, to pass on from generation to generation. Sheeeesh Moshe, listen up this is important and mighty secretive, this is how you should do the Tefillin thingy…….

If its not its exterior that makes it so special, then what is? Tefillin has scrolls inside describing the greatness of God, it has the exclusivity Jews gave to God, the expression of God being the one and only, and the fact that he has chosen us as a nation, the covenant of God and the Jews in short.

This is still not the full story, us putting the Tefillin on our head is just half of the story, as the Gemoro in Brochos 6a exclaims God also wears them Tefillin, yeah he does, and what does his Tefillin contain? How the Jewish nation is one in the world, and that God chose us as his people, in short, God's Tefillin has our exclusiveness from a godly point of view.

To explain this as a more modern technological concept, imagine God and his Tefillin like the master antenna orbiting in space broadcasting its signals to all the Jewish people, and our small little antennas on the head, as little cell phones (kosher ones that is) connecting to the master antenna via which the 2 are interconnected with an everlasting bond.

How can such a beautiful phenomena result into anxiety one wonders? how can such an interlocking connection make a person watch over their back as if they are committing murder? How can an act that you are doing since your early teens be so challenging?

It is Erev Rosh Hashonah, I am woken by my son only 1 hour after I went to sleep, I ask him, wh wha what is the matter? its only 4:45am, are you having a bad dream? he replies Dad selichos, and soon I realize I am the one having the bad dream, the kid is right, it is erev Rosh Hashono, and as tradition has it we wake up early and go to shul to say selichos, and all the ritual that follow, in addition this will be the first time in a year that I will have to Daven shachris on a weekday, which means I'll have to put on Tefillin!!!

Tefillin comes along with many rituals like brochos and it has to be placed on a specific spot on the hand and head, it follows a specific sequence, first comes the hand and then the head, it is the only ritual that uses the left hand as the main object, and here I stand after an entire year of not even looking at them, I don't even know their physical state, are they sun burned? do they have a note from anyone in it saying gotcha, i knew you have not been using them for a while now? For all I know it may have a beehive in it, and the minute I open the zipper the whole shul will be filled with bees, and everyone will realize that I have been living like a Marano for all this time.

The chazen is already at Borchu, I have delayed my Tefillin episode till later when the people are already engrossed in their prayers, I inch closer I brace myself, you can do it, the worse that can happen you may get a few bee bites, I look to my left its clear, I look to my right, its clear, i decide to do it.

Their were no bees no notes, but no connecting to the master antenna either, i guess they turned off the signal after 30 days of idle.

May it rest in peace for another year, and may we all be inscribed in the book of life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Disappointing Tashlich Experience.

I have been sinning all year, always trying to find new pleasures, new ideas, new transgressions, but after a long summer I ran out of new exciting ideas, I mean I have done it all, or at least I know others that did, the feeling of vacuity became a constant, after all I need adventure to wake in the morning, don’t we all? As the autumn inroads our summer peace, it is an alarming reminder of the inevitable winter looming.

Where do I find excitement, I am sure people have good reason to wake, and sometimes I can even see them smile like they are up to something, hmmm, shall I say something no good, but they will never share with me their inner feelings let alone the sins they have been committing, I am not really interested to know names, or the people involved, all I need from them is ideas.

As the famous vort from the Slonemer goes, how did Yidden do Gemilas Chasodim in the desert, they were all equals they all ate the same Mon? But we know chazal say that every person could think of any food they wanted and the Mon tasted like it, now the poor people were thinking of bread and water, because that’s all they were exposed to, came the rich man and thought them to think about steak, Kugel, etc.

Waking up erev Rosh Hashonah early for selichos, and then spending an awful long time in shul, listening to the chazen trying to wake the dead, a thought struck me like lightening, Tashlich!!! How can such a simple word like Tashlich makes me smile? How can a simple word like Tashlich add a jump to my step? How can a simple word like Tashlich be my savior? Tashlich is a ritual it takes place at a lake preferably where there are fish, Jews go there on their New Years, to throw in the sins they committed all year long.

The thought that I will be able to pick up all the sins of the community was elating, I was certain to find some new Ideas, new transgressions I have never thought about, I finished my prayers early, ate the lunch meal with fervor knowing that soon thereafter I will be handed over a prized possession.

First came the Yekes, I had little hope for them from the beginning but nonetheless was expecting a few tidbits, I started monitoring the stream of sins being disowned by the crowd, to my disappointment the sins amounted to a mere krias shemah not at the zeman, eating in beis haknesses, and speaking while the chazen was reciting the shemonah esrei. Then the heavy loaders arrived, my heart started racing, here is the load I was looking for, but they released some tax evasions, and some minor illegalities, and some heretic thoughts who was bigger the Chasam Sofer, or the Besht (Baal Shem Tov), I didn’t expect much from this flock, so the disappointment was not that big.

Then came the Lutvaks, I started rubbing my hands with excitement, this must be good, I mean after all they were never told about Chatois Neurim, they have no clue that this sin is unforgivable, they must have some interesting stuff to offload. I am totally tuned in, my eyes and thoughts are focused, I can’t wait for the chazon to start, anxious I hear the cry from the chazon, and the stream of sins started to flow. Huh???? Am I having a bad dream? Is this all they got? Are they kidding me or Hashem? I see Zeman Tefilo, Loshen Horah, Dinah Demalchiso Dinah, Copying Music CD’s, Bitul Torah, Elbon Chavero, bless their souls, but this is not what I was looking for.

My hope is not dashed, I can see from afar some shtrimels in the horizon, some of them sing, some speak loud, and some are just happy to greet the police while they are strolling down the parkway, I think to myself this is the real deal, hey there must be a reason Moshiach didn’t come yet, I think, the other 2 groups had miner dents, I highly doubt god will keep us in Diaspora just for that. My enthusiasm reaches new highs when they start making their way to the lake, The Rabbi gives a barf, and the sins start pouring, it looks promising at first glance, Some sex with the wife not according to Takones (Gur) calling girl employees by the first name, Watching an edited movie, looking at porn online, looking at women on the subway, but then to my dismay, that was the maximum I got on this sector, many missing Mincha, or davening after Chatzos, learning the Daf (Kanoyim) not dressing Tznius.

I am in total shock, total disarray, disappointed, is it me that was assuming wrong that people actually do the heavy duty sins? If so why didn’t Moshiach come yet, and besides I have met many Shiksas that knew frum people by their names, and they told me numerous stories.

 There can only be 2 options:

1          1)      The people who sin don’t go for Tashlich.
2          2)      People don’t repent on the “good” sins; they plan to continue doing it next year as well.

All-in-all a ritual that was suppose to supply me with fresh new concepts let me at least to understand that those who have to repent, don’t, and for the rest of the bunch it’s just feel good ritual.