Showing posts from June, 2008

A lesson in art, observation, history, and minhag

You can engage in an exercise we had at a tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a sample of how works of art are shown to policemen to sharpen their powers of observation. The picture below was not used in that tour, but I select it deliberately as one of the things policemen have to do is note objective rather than subjective facts. So think of what you see in this portrait. You can jot it down. Now, let me guess. You took this to be a representation of a family. And you would be correct. This portrait by Renoir is titled Madame Georges Charpentier (née Marguérite-Louise Lemonnier, 1848–1904) and Her Children.

Now, during the tour for policemen, we were instructed not to read any of the information posted next to the paintings. But I did give something away here. Now think about the title and what it gives away that you may not have thought of just from observing the picture itself. Would your title for the painting use a different word? If you know a bit about the…

Ordering a Miracle or Just a Shidduch

In my blog that got zapped, I had several posts about segulas that keep popping up, many innocuous, but some more of a "magical" mindset, like the women who follow a pregnant woman into the mikvah in the hopes of getting pregnant. As mentioned in the last post, you can see Josh's concerns about the rituals that many women participate in today like Shir Hashirim groups (I posted an invitation to join a new such group in the 5 Towns that illustrates his point in the comments) Read

Let me preface my essay on the issue with this caveat. I know that I may be perceived as a heretic (I do blog after all and, obviously, have been tainted by education in the secular environment of a university). But the views expressed here were also expressed by Rabbi Greenberg with no less than Lakewood credentials. In his Shabbos HaGadol drasha he expressed dismay at the ads he sees that promise whatever one wishes will…

Follow up on "wife"

Josh follows up:
where he raises the issues of segulah-centered rituals in which women participate today, excerpt here: But since this has developed into woman's work, and she is the one who does hafrashat challah, this has been changed into a ritual for a coven of women. They get together in groups made up of specific (in-)signicant numbers of people, have names of people who need a shidduch or a refuah sheleima, and have them in mind when they perform their ritual. And they come up with silly "fluff" about the mystical significance of the ingredients of challah, and so on.

Women's prayer groups are the efforts of feminists to practice rituals usually reserved just for men. But the "frum" variant is more problematic, in my opinion. They consider Amen to be a word of power, and they meet at the new moon.

Well, who wouldn't want a wife, I mean a Yiddeshe mother

Interesting that following my posting on quotes on successful marriages, I find the following. Josh allowed his blog to be used as a forum for one husband's defense of megirot. excerpt here:
My Chardei wife has been involved in megeriot for 4 years. It has absolutely changed her life and mine. She couldn't take care of our household of 8. I was washing dishes. I was doing alot of the cooking and I almost couldn't take anymore the non stop arguments between me and my wife. It was gehinnom. when I saw my wife changing, little by little, each month it was amazing. She became a Yiddeshe mother. No more anger. Her strength came back, and she does EVERYTHING in the house.

For the full post see:
Thanks to Mother in Israel for directing readers to this.

and to fully appreciate my title, see an essay included in many anthologies I used when teaching college composition and rhetoric:…

Making the right choice for marriage

The equivalent to the advice for successful stock trading to "buy low and sell high" for marriage is “Remember that a successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person” This seems to be a variation on “Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.” and then there is the Neitzsche quote I was searching for when I found the ones above:“When entering into a marriage one ought to ask oneself: do you believe you are going to enjoy talking with this woman up into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory, but most of the time you are together will be devoted to conversation.”and I just have to add this one: “Only choose in marriage a woman whom you would choose as a friend if she were a man” fromJoseph Joubert quotes (FrenchEssayist and moralist, 1754-1824)
You notice the last two address men in making the choice while the first two are universal.

See the …

Sounds like a joke, but I think they're serious

After all, good taste is not part of the equation of "reality" TV, or most TV today (another reason to get rid of it -- not just the sake of the kids). Anway here's the post:
Want to be on TV looking for an authentic New York/Long Island moth Posted by: "" lmechanick Thu Jun 19, 2008 1:55 pm (PDT)
Want to be on TV?

We have been asked to help find the ideal candidates for
a new reality show executive produced by
Ryan Seacrest that will air on NBC!

If you fit the profile below, contact me or the producer directly.

Are you a single guy looking for love?
Is your mother helping with the search?

If you have a no-nonsense Yenta for a mom who is
always trying to fix you up, give us a call. We are
looking for an authentic New York/Long Island
mother and son pair.

This is your chance to be on a dating show where moms
will try to find nice girls for their sons.

If interested, call the producer NOW at 310-270-7791.

Who's the fairest of them all?

Oh don't look to mirrors for answers! Consider yichus and the benefit to children. No, marry for the sake of Heaven and forget about vain beauty or connections. . . but do be sure to adorn the bride in jewelry.

These come from two variants on the Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur dance in vineyard solution to the shidduch problem (apparently not a crisis at the time except for the tribe of Binyamin at one point in history). Stay tuned.

What justifies a yeshiva bachur's study at university?

I am certain that I posted this story at some point on the WordPress blog I had. But as that has been obliterated, I will beg the indulgence of those who remember it and repeat it here. My grandfather, Rabbi Dov Yehudah Schochet a"h, was a talmid in Telz in Lithuania. He wished to attend university and asked permission from the Rosh Yeshiva to do so. The Rosh Yeshiva granted his permission on the condition that he would leave as soon as he called upon him to do so. When my grandfather got to the end of his studies but was yet short of achieving the degree, the Rosh Yeshiva took him up on his promise. My grandfather asked why he was asked to break off at just that point. The Rosh Yeshiva answered that his permission was for the sake of learning the university subjects -- not the degree. Today, of course, we reverse this completely with numerous places offering frum people short cuts to degrees, as instanced by the program I mentioned in…

No mere tarrifs but an outright ban for NY

I find it astounding that in a world known for a global economy, New York state can impose a ban on advertising products just from out of state. You can read about the law that went into effect this month here: The restrictions apply not only to print forms of advertising but even websites. It seems online ads are acceptable but commissions paid on sales to the website owner who is based in NY would render the ads a form of direct solicitation that is prohibited to vendors that will not collect NY state sales tax.

Of course, many online vendors, such as Lands End, Barnes and Noble, and others add on the sales tax based on where you live. So I paid no sales tax on the clothes ordered when I lived in NJ but do have to pay the Nassau imposed tax now (see that explanation below). But if you order high ticket items from stores that are not registered as vendors in NY, your savings on sales tax, which runs close to 9% for New Yorkers …

I am not making this up

(as Dave Barry is wont to say) The following is lifted directly from the area email list 00 just the phone number has been eliminated.

"Hi I am looking to buy a house and I need to boost my credit.Can you
please put me on your citicard or at&t card as an additional user? You
don't have to give me the card just add me to it. If you are willing
to do this please call me @ 718 -------- or email me.Thank you"

The same person has another email asking for loans for a down payment, so you are looking at an individual who is lacking both credit and resources asking to be made a partner in your own credit.

Happy Fathers' Day!

to all the dads who deserve credit as great parents -- particularly to the very best dad I know, AKA the Divrei Chaim.

Miriam and Aharon

P' Beahalothcha includes the episode of Miriam that is included among the 6 zechiros some people say daily. As Miriam is the one who instigated the discussion with Aharon about Moshe's relationship with his wife, she is the one blamed for wrongdoing and is afflicted with tzara'as as punishment. So why did she bring this up to her brother? From Rashi's take on the text, it is because she knew that all three of them were prophets, yet only Moshe left off regular family life. But it occurred to me that it was logical to bring this up to Aharon, who not only was Moshe's elder brother, but also loved and respected by all as the one who restored harmony to married couples. It is for that reason that the mourning was even more extensive for Aharaon than it was for Moshe. Who better to turn to than the one recognized as successful marriage counselor? As Rashi quotes the Midrash of Tzipporah bemoaning the fate of the wives of the newly minted prophets, one can imag…

Seeing is not believing

I came across an ad for a site that shows how pictures can be made to show you 20, 30, even 50 pounds lighter. I found the photo enhancement very unimpressive. Really heavy people still looked heavy even with the photo lightening of 20 or more pounds. For others, it just smoothed out a tiny bit of bulge but didn't really make them look markedly more attractive. Apparently, this is marketed as a weight-loss motivational tool. But given where I found it, I would think some may use it to deliberate represent themselves as slimmer than they are. So much for demanding full length photos before agreeing to a date.

Signs of Bread

Yesterday in my travels through Boro Park I was struck by 2 different signs regarding bread. One was in a subs eatery. It said: "All bread is now Hamotzi." Well, the fact of the matter is that bread is alway Hamotzi by definition. That is why mezonos rolls and bagels are misnamed and lead astray the halachically ignorant. Another sign that surprised me was one in a takeout place that informed buyers that all the challahs sold there were baked in a meat oven. Now, among the halachos associated with bread is an edict to keep it parve. That is so no one should stumble by making a deli sandwich on dairy bread, for example. The meat bread is a more unusual situation, though I would imagine it should also not be considered permissible. The only way it is considered acceptable to have non-parve bread is if the bread is marked in some way. So butter croissant could be acceptable as they are distinctive in appearance and would not likely be mistaken for regular rolls. …

What every BY girl knows. . .

From about the time they are kindergarten, BY girls are taught the midrash about Ruth's exemplary tznius. The source is Shabbos 113b. But it is actually only the second suggestion. The first one points out Ruth's outstanding midda as chochma. Here's the Talmudic analysis on Boaz's aking about the young girl he sees: "Is is it the manner of Boaz to ask about a young girl? [the pas nisht is implicit here]R' Elazar explains that he saw a "davar chochma" in her, two stalk she would gather, but three she would leave [in compliance with the laws of leket]. In a collection (of teachings) is was taught – He saw "davar tznius" in her. She picked standing stalks in an upright posture but she sat down to pick up the fallen ones [she did not bend down to take on a position that may be seen as lacking in modesty].
Of course this is the source for Rashi's comment on that verse of Ruth 2: 5, but, intersetingly, he reverse the order and ment…

Taking the Spiritual Advantage Rather than the Material -- Lesson from Megilas Ruth

"Business is business"is the saying incurred, usually when people are acting in a manner that does not quite measure up to to standards other than "business" ones. So considerations kindness, and sometimes even basic decency, go out the window if such would appear advantageous to the business. That is the way many think, as we see illustrated by the Everyman of the Megillah, Ploni Almoni (who was actually named Tov, according to some commentators, but failed to live up to his name). When Boaz presented a business proposition -- the purchase of a field -- Ploni Almoni was ready to deal. But when Boaz added that Ruth was part of the deal, Ploni Almoni backed out. "Business is business," he was in effect saying when declining on the basis of "pen ashchit es nachalasi." Ploni Almoni's only object was securing his material advantage; all he could see in the deal was a risk to his estate. Boaz, on the other hand, saw the opportunity to gai…

Expectations and Actions

Here's my approach to paying bills. Yesterday, the appliance repairman came while I was not home. I had told my son to let him in. (He's a frum man, BTW). So he fixed the problem and left the bill. When I got home that evening, I called him immediately to ask if he was going to be in the area to pick up payment or if I should get it to him. He opted for the latter. So first thing this morning, I brought the check right to his house.

That is why I rally do not appreciate being given the runaround by people who owe me money. I do not enjoy calling, emailing, and faxing countless reminder - 2 weeks later, then 30 days later, then even 60, 90, and over 120 days later. It is just wrong to delay payment from someone who doesn't have the means to tack on fees like your mortgage company does or interest like your credit card company does; or shut your utilities like the phone, gas, and electric companies do for tardy payment. That is really a violation of halacha even if…

Isn't that one of the things money is for?

Today I put out copies of the summer issue of Kallah Magazine in Flatbush. One of the places I stopped in was a store for frames and paintings. The propieter said he almost never pays for advertising but would consider a barter. I pointed out that, aside from not being in great need, or any need for that matter, of frames and paitings, the prices on his wares likely exceed my own by far. He did not deny that and pointed out a huge picture that sold for $18,000. [that is not a typo]. So he proceeded to tell me about an innovative idea -- three way bartering.

Back in primitve times it would probably work as follows: if the chicken farmer wants flour, but the miller wants milk rather than eggs, they would find someone with milk who wants eggs to make the exchange work. In this situation, he wants the ad, and I don't want the picture frames, so we find a third person who offers something I could possibly use who wants the frame. But you see, already thousands of years ago alr…

kollel experience translated into resume jargon

Positional Gift Wrap

One of the concepts I recall from economics is that of a "positional good." The value of such an item is not intrinsic but based on its exclusivity -- the fact that there aren't too many others around with the same. That is the appeal of limited editions and a slot in the "in" group, whether it is a school, neighborhood, or country club. The concept also applies to a quality that marks something as more desirable. Consequently, I would apply it to a type of gift wrap that has become popular in recent years -- the type that does not conceal the gift within colored paper but puts it on display with clear plastic and artificial flowers as trim. I first encountered this style of gift wrap at a particular Brooklyn store, which made it a type of signature of theirs. Gift buyers opted for this type of wrapping because it made their gifts so conspicuous when on display at vorts and such where people have reverted to the tradition of publicly exhibiting their gift…

Secrets of the Mishkan (Un)Revealed

I once brought up the popular use of titles with the word "secret" in them to create the illusion of giving some special insight. But what I have in mind here is literally keeping secret in the sense of concealed. The Kohanim were enjoined to cover the keylim of the kodesh kedashim. Even though the Leviim were responsible for packing up the rest of the Mishkan, they were not supposed to carry the aron, menorah, etc. until they had been packed up by the kohanim. The Abarbanel brings up the point of kavod Elokim haster davar [the honor of G-d, keep concealed] in connection to this directive. Obviously, there is a practical consideration, as the Torah warns, that the Leviim should not come in danger of their lives by contact with these holy objects while uncovered. However, I believe there is another lesson in this. Just as we learn of tznius from the inclusion of pants among the priestly garments so that there should be no erva shown to the mute stones, likewise the co…