Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My modest proposal for a yeshiva to raise funds

My son's yeshiva sent out a notice as follows:
Dear Parents,

Due to the economic downturn, the Yeshiva is forced to entertain different methods to cover our payroll expenses for our dedicated Rebbeim and staff.

At this time the Yeshiva is participating in a raffle campaign with the Grand Prize being $100,000. The drawing will be on Lag B’Omer, May 12th. The price of a ticket is $100.
We are asking all bochurim, and friends of the Yeshiva to participate in this project by buying and selling raffle tickets. Incentives are being offered to those who feel they can help the Yeshiva with this. We are asking all parents to please try to help out in any way possible (example: giving your son a list of family and friends who they could approach) and to encourage your sons to sell a lot of tickets. It is only with a partnership between the Yeshiva and the parent body that we will be able to pull through these tough financial times.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please call the Yeshiva office at -------

I told my son that every school does raffles and Chinese auctions, and the like. They don't really motivate me because if I wish to donate, then I am not thinking about the prize. I've read of research on thought processes that indicate that selfish motivations --i.e. winning a prize -- are actually incompatible with selfless motivations -- i.e. thinking of the benefit to others, or, in this case, the school.

My son shot down my own modest proposal because it would take up too much time of the same bochurim who have been asked to solicit raffle sales. I know they would not go for it, but I thought I would share it with the blog audience in any case. During the many days off from yeshiva -- their vacation for Pesach begins this week -- the boys could offer services ranging from running errands to yard work and even babysitting. With so many people pressed with their own Pesach preparations and with young children off from school, a little extra help should be appreciated. The boys could then askthat this appreciation be expressed through a donation to the yeshiva rather than in direct payment. True, it does take longer to do such work than to simply accost someone and ask for $100 a ticket, but I think it would be a very refreshing approach to those of us who are absolutely bombarded by requests for funds from various (many truly worthy) tzedakas to instead have someone who represents the yeshiva really put his own time and effort into the cause rather than merely demand money. And in truth, though my son will spend just about all his time off learning, most boys do spend a lot of their time off just bored, idle, or hanging out -- and those are the good ones.

Kallah Magazine spring issue now online

You can access it by clicking the link to the spring9 PDF on the Home page. It's right near the top between the wine glasses (4 in all for Pesach).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Shidduch Resumes

I don't think these existed way back when I was in "the parsha" of shidduchim. But I have had the experience of receiving shidduch resumes (AKA "profiles") of girls on 2 occasions now. So I am wondering, does every single put together one of these upon entering the fray? Or is it something put together only a few years in to expedite the process of answering the standard questions of "Where did you go to school? What are your interests? What are you looking for?" not to mention height and age. If it standard practice to produce these, I wonder if anyone has latched onto the idea of resume writing services for shidduchim. After all, people in the job market sometimes pay for professional resume editing or even writing. I can certainly see the possibility of it in the shidduch market, particularly, if people wish for expertise on particular audiences to customize the resume for specific segments of the population.

The 8 days that stretch to a month

It gets me every year. The stores are so intent on Pesach stock that a customer finds it difficult to find regular non-Pesach food. For example, last week, I wanted to pick up some drinks for my girls to pack for school. In Brach's the strategy is to have Pesach foods take over all the main aisles and squeeze all the other stuff into the back. I could deal with that. But they also managed to pile a wall of boxes right in front of the drinks. I had to ask for help for someone to climb up and reach behind the boxes. I was not going to attempt such a climb myself. I have stood on shelves just to reach high up, but reach up and behind boxes was more than I cared to venture on.

Now for those who clear everything out of their homes to be ready for Pesach a solid 2 weeks in advance, it is fine to have only Pesach foods available. But as my kids do not want to be on meat and potatoes and are restricted from matza due to the minhag of not eating it during Nissan, we still are on regular food, at least until next week. Stretching the Pesach diet to weeks before actually increases the food bill. The options then are limited to Pesach certified at Pesach prices or eating out in restaurants, which adds up to a lot of money, even for the cheapest option of pizza. It also percludes the easy option of boiling up a pot of pasta, one of the cheapest foods around and a perenniel favorite for my children. They could happily eat it for lunch or supper, though we do try to avoid having it for both meals on the same day. That is why I bought several boxes even with Pesach looming on the horizon.

In any case, this Pesach will likely be stretched to the Shabbos following given the Thursday end. My children have already grumbled about that. So a stetch of even more time before is not welcome to them.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not just 4 questions

See the video on shidduchim that Mother in Israel posted here:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Pesach Shopping for Girls' Clothes

I took my girls to Flatbush on Sunday in search of Pesach clothes. I was rather disappointed. The store I started going to two years ago had almost nothing in their size and still had much winter stuff --not much reduced if at all-- interspersed with the new line. I noticed the same thing in another store we went to. I think they are hoping to pass off some of the older stock as current, but you can see the difference in the deeper shades of gray and heavier fabrics for black even if those 2 colors are still "very in" as one saleswoman insisted. I observed that "black is the new black." Remember, we are talking about clothes for girls 7-13 here. My impression, which was confirmed by the owner of the third store, was that owners were afraid to be stuck with unsold stock. They see they have a lot of winter things left over, which means they are out the money on those items. Plus they don't even have room for new things with so many leftovers cramming up the floor space. So they are really hesitant to shell out a lot for a substantial selection. Hence, slim pickings. Oh, you can still find adorable things for 3 year-olds, but why pay $70 for those when you can pick up really cute dresses for them in regular stores for $20?

Anyway, I did manage to pick up some stuff after going to 3 stores, though none of it is very, very dressy. That stuff is all priced at about $90 an outfit even for the 7 year-old. I settled for the not top-of-the-line and not names like Zoe for outfits they will wear not just to show off in shul. But I want to share this for those of you who have not yet gone shopping.

Today I was in Queens (without the daughters) and stopped into the store on Main that carries girls' dresses. In truth, they had a better selection for the bigger sizes than the first store we went to in Flatbush where I was only able to find a chol hamoed to weekday dress for my youngest. The Queens store had the very same dress for less. It was $30 at the store I bought it in, and $39 at the store where I bought other things. Another outfit I bought for 2 of the girls was $45 on Coney Island Ave (and at that point I was happy to find any complete outfit in that price range when so many skirts alone topped $50) was only $39.99 in Queens! These are the exact same outfits, not just similar ones.

So my advice to those who have not yet set out on the exasperating treck of clothes shopping is to go to Queens first. I'll bear that in mind myself before the next round.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Having trouble getting a shidduch?

Just cross the shadchan's palm with silver to conjure up bachurim ready to date. That's right, a trip to the ATM will be repaid with names of those ready, willing, and able to date. These names are exclusive to those with cash in hand. So don't miss out! Send in your money today to secure your shidduch tomorrow! How's that for an ad? Too outlandish? But it is true. Check out Orthonomics

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I've accepted the fact that Pesach is approaching

Today I picked up my first free 5 lb. box of matzos. Believe me, that is no simple thing at Stop and Shop, which was out of stock on the advertised free boxes. Getting them to substitute the Streit's ($2.99 with coupon and $50 purchase) for the Yehuda (Free with coupone and $50 purchase) was actualy the manager's suggestion but took 2 visits to the courtesy counter with a line of other customers (not buying matzos) each time. I bought a lot of bottles of grape juice, but they have them at the lowest price around and they are useful even before and will keep past Pesach.

I also have begun the Pesach cleaning with the car. With kids in the house it is just frustrating to try to clear rooms out too early, as they, inevitably, carry snacks around with them. All thewarnings to eat only in the kitchen seem to have no effect.

Friday, March 13, 2009

not serious Purim thought

I was struck by an ad for wigs advertising "pure virgin" hair. So here we have the answer to the question of why the Megillah references a second gathering of bethulos after Achashverosh had already selected Esther as his queen. Of course, a sheitel fit for a queen would have to be made of the best hair, which seems to have to come from bethulos.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Purim thoughts

I am working from memory, which is why I am not providing source citations. Unfortunately, there was levaya in town today. In his hesped, the rabbi of the shul mentioned the machatzit hashekel that was given equally by all. So I thought of Chazal's comment on Haman's chagrin when he realized that the machatzit hashekel given collectively by Klal Yisrael outweighed all the silver he offered the king in return for the lives of all the Jews. The half shkalim all connect together in way that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. It is the same with the entity that is Klal Yisrael. Mordechai's name alludes to the morr dachya, a component of the ketores that is actually foul on its own but blends in with the other spices to produce a pleasing fragrance. So, too, even the unworthy among the Jews contribute to the people as whole and so can be counted among Klal Yisrael. Purim is the celebration of the second acceptance of the Torah. The MaHaRaL says that the Torah was not given to 600,000 plus separate souls but the single entity of klal Yisrael. (You can look forward to a piece that makes a somewhat parallel observation on the Jews' deliverence at the Yam Suf written by Rabbi Chaim Brown for the spring issue of Kallah Magazine.) So, too, at Purim, all the Jews came together to achieve the type of unity required for the acceptance of Torah, and kiyumu vekiblu. This acceptance was considered even greater than the first, which may have been only intneded to encompass Torah shebichtab and not sheba'al peh and had an elment of duress implied in Chazal interpretation of the people standing at the foot of or under the mountain.

Further thoughts on the greatness of the machatzis hashekel: It struck me as ironic that shuls, yeshivas, and such rely on the base middos of kavod and kina to stimulate people to donate. Think of the listings of names of donors; the biggest donrs have the most prominent position, and the smallest donors get mentioned at the bottom of the list. So those who want pride of place will give more. But there is no such hierarchy for the machatzis hashekel, which functions as the ultimate equalizer. Whether you are rich or poor, proud or humble, you give the same amount and cannot get any greater recognition than your neighbor. So it is fitting that such a pure form of donation, unblemished by self-aggrandizement or jealousy, would be the saving force for the Jews. Haman was completely motivated by kina and kavod, as we see from his self-promotion and his inability to tolerate anyone not giving him the form of recognition he believed to be his due. He had the position and the wealth that should have made all his aspirations come true. But the Jews, bound together with no self-serving motive or jealousy, together, triumphed over his machinations. The half shekel, and all it representes, is a key to Jewish victory.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pillow Talk Take 2

Now this post really is about pillows and what they may signify. The mattress store owner told me that he wanted to run an ad in one of the chareidi newspapers which featured a picture of a bed with 2 pillows on it. They refused to run it unless the picture showed a second bed. One bed with 2 pillows, they said, suggested 2 people sharing a bed, an image they found inappropriate for their paper. Obviously, there were no people in the picture; it is the presence of the pillows that suggested their presence. Was it Freud who said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar? Well, he was obviously lacking in proper pillow perspective.`

Pillow Talk

What were you expecting from this title? It would have been more accurate to call this post " mattresses talk" or "what your bed says about you." Today I was talking with a mattress store owner who sells both in Borough Park and Cedarhurst. In the Cedarhurst store, he introduced a type of bed that he says would not appeal to his Brooklyn clientele; it is a system that locks two twin beds into place to form the equivalent of a king size.

A few weeks back, there was some discussion in the blogger comments on Orthonomics about the frum bed size of 48". But in certain circles, that is actually a sign of not being so frum. The mattress store owner confirms that about 80% of customers do ask for them. But, he also says, that the real Chassidim request a covert delivery. For them, anything wider than twin is too suggestive of sensual indulgence. So while some give into the indulgence, they do not want their neighbors to know of it. He also remarked that some of the parents buying these wider beds for their engaged children decry the decline of the younger generations who do not stick to the single width beds as they do. On the other hand, he has the more modern customers who openly say that they want a wide bed for the together times. He said one woman even wanted a Queen and a twin as second bed for her husband.

And if you are wondering what my beds say, think of the Ricardo bedroom. No custom sized bedding needed.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Mishloach Manos Theme

Some people really put themselves out to put together themed mishloach manos. My daughters reported that a woman they saw in the candy store was very proud of having come up with wedding theme for hers. My daughter thought she was drawing on the fact that Esther married Achashverosh. But as that is not something Esther would have been happy about, I don't think it's an ideal Purim connection. Really mishloach manos are already "themed." They are meant to establish connections through sharing food, much like breaking bread together does. While we do not all gather together to establish that unity, sending off portions of food to be used in the celebratory meal of Purim is a way in which we join together. So there is the theme, and all the connections to movies, pirates, soldiers, or what have you is just shtick.

Shtick is OK, but it is only secondary to the essence of the mitzvah. I wonder at people who end up putting together mishloach manos that do not meet the halachic requirements because they are more concerned with putting out a cute package than an edible one. I once got a glass bowl filled with gumballs. It was set up in a way to look like a gumball machine. So, yes, it was cute. But gumballs may not count as food at all. Afterall, you are not supposed to swallow the gum. Water bottles, while commonly consumed, also may not count in a halachic way to make up mishloach manos.

Another thing that really amazes me is the number of pre-packed mishloach manos available. These are always beautifully arranged but often include very little to eat. You have to buy one of those premium baskets that cost $35 and up just to get something beyond some hard cookies, candies, and some groggers or masks thrown in. These started to go on sale last month already, so really only nonperishables would hold up. Personally, I prefer to offer something that could, at least in theory, be served at the seudah. And I find the little bottles of grapejuice that cost about half what a bottle that holds 3 times the volume costs to be rather pointless. The same holds for those tiny bottles of ketchup, mustard, etc. No one said that mishloach manos have to feature all dimunitive things. Even if you are designating one particular person as your recipient, s/he likely has a family to share with. And those single serve things work out to such astronmical amounts when you calculate what they cost per pound or ounce.

nyway, here is my modest proposal for a themed mishloach manos. While everyone else is giving out the candy that endangers teetch, someone can come up with a tooth-friendly mishloach manos. It can include carrots, celery, popcorn, and, possibly, chocolate, which can be beneficial to teeth. For a bit of cuteness, they can throw in a toothbrush -- more useful than the little plastic toys that accompany some fo the candies -- and even a little tube of toothpaste -- but remember that does not count as food. But my kids who insist that we really should be buying more candy for mishloach manos would not go for this.