Tag Archives: advice

Just Be.

24 Jan

One of the most fascinating people in Judaism has to be Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. R’ Nachman was a manic depressive genius chassidic Rebbe who lived about 200 years ago, at the beginning of the haskalah period, and was the closest thing to a frum existentialist I can imagine. Of course, I don’t exactly know what an existentialist is, being that Wikipedia is boring, but I assume it means to simply exist. To just be. No fate, or divine plan, or purpose to concern yourself with. Just being.  You might be catching the contradiction with the frum part here.  

His stories use all the classic Jewish archetypes, like Kings, princes, children, animals, forests, but they don’t match up to any Jewish morals. The king, who normally would play God, makes mistakes in these stories, or even dies. The prince isn’t having any sudden einfal to figure things out. The characters mix together and wander around, lost, with decidedly un-cosmic, human problems, and the answers given are fragmented and cryptic. Some parts of the story obviously have a point. Other parts seem to be put in randomly. Sometimes the most fascinating, fantastically described characters tell you a trivial detail about themselves and then just leave the story. It feels like the taste of an awesome fairy tale, with no main course to lose yourself in. 

R’ Nachman said, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing to do is not to fear at all.” No explanation of where the bridge is going, or why we’re on the bridge. The bridge is here, and we’re on it. That’s it. Just walk. Do you want to stay in the middle of the bridge forever? No? Then what’s holding you back? A question about the purpose of walking? That’s insane. The only thing in your power is to walk across the bridge. Worrying about why or where is pointless. And it’s just harmful if it stops you from walking. Just let it go and walk. 

Where God comes in in all of this, I have no idea. But I’m starting to try it.


Career Rabbis Should Stick With What They Know

12 Oct
shmuli shmueli advice

(Ahh, don't read into my choice of pictures too much.)

My friend in Edison yeshiva told me a story about his Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Yosef Eichenstein, which I really liked. At a yeshiva dinner, R’ Eichenstein got up and said that parents complain to him sometimes that when their boys go home for bein hazmanim (sukkos, pesach, summer vacation, off shabbasim, etc.) they don’t learn. They sleep late, schmooze, stay up late. Why aren’t their sons more serious about learning if they go to yeshiva?

R’ Eichenstein answered from the dais like this: You ever watch a duck swimming in a lake? On the surface the duck looks calm, floating there without a care in the world. But when you look underneath the water, “he’s paddling like hell”. (Exact quote.)

He was saying: Parents simply don’t understand what it’s like to be a teenager in yeshiva. Do you know how much effort it takes to come off as a passable human being in a high-pressured 7AM-11PM+ environment that you’re forced to go to? No, you have no idea. So you make demands on another person on top of everything they’re doing to stay afloat.

It’s the same story with so many things in life. People in totally different positions judging others based on their own reality. The pretty, skinny girl judging the fat girl for acting slutty to get attention. The young Modern Orthodox doctor berating kollel families to just get a job and stay off food stamps. The straight person telling the gay guy to control his yetzer hora. You just sit on your high horse and turn your nose up at the dirty peasants.

I went to a shul in a certain frum town and heard the Rabbi (a 60 year old married posek) tell everybody that it’s assur to wear your skirt any higher than 4 inches below the knee and he’s shocked to see bais yaakov girls wearing it just below the knee. In the same speech, he told everybody that the internet is assur except at work and filtered, and that everybody should learn in shul during all their free time. “Why am I the only one here sometimes- besides for the parents who have to learn with their kids?” Then he spent the next 5 minutes speaking about humility and how everyone has ga’avah and has to learn mesilas yesharim many times to even understand that they have it.

I have to admit, he was self-deprecating by the mussar part, which took some of the edge off, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. The problem with him, and really, with most Rabbonim is that they are sheltered from the real world. In the real world, you need to use the internet. If you’re a girl, you need to compete with not only movies and internet porn, but regular women on the street who can dress in much more revealing clothing, and still be attractive (or it it attracting? I forget the exact hairsplitting chakira just now). And why is the Rabbi the only one there on Sundays and Shabbos afternoons? Maybe because it’s his job. Maybe because you’ve been rewarded your entire life for being such a talmid chochom, and you’ve never had to get off the gravy train and pull the wagon with everyone else. That part really ticked me off.

Before you look down at everyone else for “running around” doing other things, imagine what it might be like to not be the fair-haired champion of the Party-approved game and have to run around to find an arena you’re actually good at before you can feel halfway decent (yet still guilty for not learning) about yourself. You want to learn a real mussar lesson about life? Maybe the guy in the back who spends all his time selling mortgages yet still can’t make ends meet, who always comes to shul late with his tie half on, who still brings his son to shul to learn chumash on Shabbos afternoon, and is embarrassed by you and other people because it’s the only topic he’s good at and enjoys learning; maybe he can teach you what humility feels like.

Ask An Old Jewish Man

28 Aug

Harry Krupnik, aka “Old Jewish Man”, answers your questions:

Dear Old Jewish Man,

Why do you never see baby seagulls?

Bensonhurst Birdwatcher

Dear Bensonhurst,

Excellent question. Baby seagulls live on seagull island, a secret place full of wonder and poop that no human being has ever returned from. We only know about it’s existence through a sea turtle that was taught to use sign language.

Dear OJM,

Why is Kedem wine so delicious?

Anonymous Alcy

Dear Alcy,

Kedem wine company has a long and storied history going back to over 100 years ago when it was owned by Baron Herzog in Hungary and produced wine for the king. To answer your question more precisely, massive amounts of sugar plus alcohol.

Dear OJM,

What’s your secret to a long and happy life?

Depressed in Denver

Dear Depressed,

It’s no secret- it’s the little things in life that’ll kill you. They just gather and gather until one day they explode. So find out what’s eating you and deal with it.

On a personal note, my brother always used to put things down and forget them. One day he couldn’t find his coffee until it had gotten ice cold and he drank it. He made an aweful face and dropped like a stone. My mother, may she rest in peace, could never find the cordless until it stopped ringing. She got so fed up that she threw out all the cordless phones and replaced them with corded ones. Unfortunately, she could never get used to them and one time, when she was busy cooking and cleaning, she answered the phone and hung herself.

I’ve since trained myself to drink ice coffee and given up talking altogether. I couldn’t be happier. I also inject heroin intravenously.

Yeshiva Bathroom Tips

13 Jun

Read this post here: Yeshiva Bathroom…