Tag Archives: shul

Pesach is Coming

9 Apr

This pissed me off over pesach:

There’s a guy at shul who’s constantly giving mussar to everyone else. Like he thinks he’s everyone’s personal mashgiach. The guy barely knows other people in shul and he’ll go over, ‘So, you don’t believe in hats?’ Always with a smile of course, so you get caught off guard and don’t have your ‘go fuck yourself’ handy.

Now this guy’s obviously an idiot, probably a failed mashgiach or rebbi or something, but people do this all the time. Just dialed down. Or maybe it’s just frum people. People are constantly talking about everyone else, or just thinking, judging. And if it’s a religious thing, they can shut out the guilt by feeling all frum about themselves. Now they have full permission to, no, a Responsibility, to stop someone else from doing an aveirah.

And no matter how righteous they think they are, they’re usually full of shit. Like me right now. I want to think I’m doing the world a favor by pointing out this behavior, but I’m actually just pissed off at the guy in shul and didn’t get the chance to tell him off. Here’s a mashal I thought about during davening later:

Everyone has to clean and prepare for pesach. If you don’t turn your entire house upside down, you won’t have anywhere to go, or any thing to eat come yomtov. And you get kares.

Let’s say it’s a week before pesach and you haven’t done a thing. You also notice your neighbor hasn’t done a thing. At this point, you have 2 logical choices. You could either A) work on your own house, or B) you could work on your friend’s house. A real tzaddik might help out his friend before himself. Most normal people would obviously do their own houses. But who the fuck would ignore his own house and go make comments about the other guy’s mess?? It’s insane.

Unless you don’t really believe that pesach’s coming. Then you’d look at your own house, maybe try to clean it up a little, see how hard it is and give up. Then, you don’t want to look like a kofer so you don’t let anybody see into your house, pretend you’re cleaning, and divert their attention to other people’s messes. And if you’re really screwed up, you feel guilty, so you point out other people’s flaws to divert your OWN attention from your OWN mess. And maybe you do something because you still feel guilty deep down. Like pointing the mess out to your friend. (Or writing about it on a blog.)


Attention Rabbis: Stop With The Mussar Already

27 Sep

I can barely tolerate shul on the best of days, but Elul has got to be the worst. Every Rabbi (ok, 99%) tries to put you in the holiday spirit by telling you what’s wrong with yourself/the Jewish people/the world/etc.

Enough already! I don’t want to hear your guilt trips. Give me some encouragement, or, if you weren’t trained to do that, just a nice vort. I’ve got enough shame and guilt in my life already, I’m not interested in you finding more problems.

Look at this Rabbi, giving apples and honey out to strangers on the beach. That’s what I want. Set out a plate of apples in honey to put me in the mood for the High Holy days. That’s what they did in kindergarden, and I loved Rosh Hashanah then. Today, I dread it.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I was a kid then, and they made it nice for us, but who cares? Isn’t that what the Rabbi on the beach is doing? Making it nice for people? How come you only get that treatment when you’re starting out? Why are there apples and honey for “Outreach on the beach”, but when you get inside the “real thing”, all you get is preaching and crying?

It seems like Kiruv people have to work up a whole new religion. They use the same building blocks, but they leave off or downplay the nasty parts and put the focus on the positive things. Well, why can’t we do the same thing? Why can’t Rosh Hashanah be about apples and honey and getting in touch with our feelings and all that stuff? I think if we’d be able to do that, we’d actually have a Sweet New Year, instead of just saying it to each other and then trying to make ourselves scared enough to cry. I’m sick and I’m tired, and I just simply cannot take any more of this dark, depressing, fire and brimstone crap.

I’m starting the Rosh hashanah revolution. I’m gonna call it Rosh Hashanah: Days of Awesome. Tell your Rabbi, tell your friends. Are you with me?

JBlog Resurrector

14 Sep

I'm sorry.

There’s some great stuff out there on old defunct blogs. I’ve been saying for a while- mostly to myself- that someone who’s been active in the Jblogosphere since early on (I’m looking at you Baal Habos) should really make a collection of all the best posts so newcomers can read them. Maybe a few people can get together and bring up posts they generally agree are important/funny/historic etc, and post the results in one megablog.

Regardless of whether anything actually happens, I think I’m gonna start posting some of them here. (If you find anything you like, please send it in via email or comment.) Here’s a cute one from the now defunct MOChassid:

Like Father, Like Son

For the nine-plus years that I have been going to my shul one thing has been very constant. Every Shabbos afternoon, one of the old-timers sits directly across from the Rebbe during Seudah Shlishis and immediately falls asleep when the Rebbe starts to talk. Not sometimes. Not most times. Every week, mamash.

This week his son, who lives in Israel, came for Shabbos. His son sat next to his father during Seudah Shlishis. As soon as the Rebbe opened his mouth to speak, the two of them nodded out. A double-bobble-head-doll effect.

It was a beautiful thing.

Frum Thoughts

31 Aug

What does cholent mean?

It has come to my attention that some Baalei Teshuvah still feel embarrassed about their ignorance of Judaism when talking to FFB’s. Please! There’s no reason to be embarrassed about anything. I’m not asking you how lobster tastes to quiz you on the bad things you’ve done. I’m just trying to fantasize vicariously.

And stop feeling guilty over your thoughts. You’re just as frum as most of the FFB’s you meet. Here’s a few of the things I still wonder about after practicing the religion all my 20- odd years (and I paid attention in Yeshiva):

What exactly is an angel?
Can you drink water without washing negel vasser when you get up in the middle of the night?
The Rebbetzin’s daughter is looking pretty hot today.
Why do I have to go to shul so early?
Does the Rabbi believe in God?
Does God really interact with us how we think He does?
How come the Jews during times of the Prophets seem so non-Jewish?
Why can’t I have a chicken mozzarella sandwich now?
Are we going to really have to slaughter thousands of animals for karbanos when Moshiach comes?
Who is moshiach anyhow?
Wouldn’t it be crazy if it’s that dirty, weird, smelly guy who always sits in the back like in those Chassidishe stories?
Why do I always think about these things during shmoneh esrei?

So stop worrying, you’re not going to hell for thinking whatever you’re thinking. Or maybe you are. But at least you’ll see a lot of familiar faces there.

Bottlecap Baseball News

26 Jul

“Hey, that’s home!” a fat kid yelled from the other end of the room. “Can you sit somewhere else?” He looked like he was almost Bar Mitzvah, and I wondered how he got away with skipping Mincha. His white shirt was half tucked in and his shoelaces were untied.

“Uh, sure,” I said, and closed my sefer. I thought I’d be able to watch safely from a distance, but apparently I was in their way.

A short and skinny redhead shouted that he didn’t want Yudi on his team. A tall boy, who until then had seemed focused on his own game of kugelach, got up quietly and walked out. Above us, I could hear the floor boards creaking in unison with “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh,” and I thought of shaleshudes. Mayonnaisey tuna salad floated by inside my mind and somehow got stuck there. I wasn’t a regular here, only dropped in becuase my editor called me into his office and said he wanted a piece on bottlecap baseball.

“Bottlecap baseball?” I asked.

“Shtiebel baseball, whatever,” he said. “You know the game — you flick the soda caps?”

I knew the game.

“Find out how the new Pepsi bottlecap design is affecting game play,” he said.

I figured shaleshudes would be the best time to catch a live game, so I’d stopped into this dinky shul at the corner – “Eisenman’s,” everyone called it, although it probably had a real name you could make out a check to — and settled into a chair in the downstairs social hall.

There was a small kitchen area off to the side, with a few half-eaten plastic plates of chulent — leftovers from the morning kiddush, I presumed — piled high in the trashcan. The rest of the space was wide open, aside from three metal beams down the center.

I got up and walked over to the fat kid at the other end of the hall.

“Hey, listen, can I talk to you for a minute? What’s your name?”

“Dovid Katz.”

“You guys playing baseball here?”

“Yeah. Uh, I need to go. They’re choosing teams.”

“Well, I hear there’s a new bottlecap on the market now. How’s it affecting your playing strategy?”

Long pause.

“Are you a pedophile?”

“No. No. Ha ha. Actually, I work for a newspaper, and we’re doing a piece on this.”

“Ha! On bottlecap baseball?” His face brightened. “Cool.”

The place got a little quieter and Dovid turned around. “What team am I on?”

“Hitting,” came the response.

Dovid went to speak to another kid, who then walked over with him to where I was sitting.

“This is Yossi.”

“Hi, Yossi. I’m Mr. Dicker. I report for–”

“I told him already. Yossi’s the best player here. You could talk to both of us when we’re not up.”

Yossi smiled. “What’s going on?”

He was a little shorter than Dovid, but looked more athletic. I asked him about the new Pepsi cap.

“Well, you know, it’s harder and smaller, which some guys think will make a difference. Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Hitting, definitely not. I mean, you just smack it with your hand, you know? Pitching, though, it’s a tiny bit faster on the fastball. Goes in real hard. You could really break something with it though, so you have to be careful at home. I tried to dent the metal door upstairs in the back of the shul, but I couldn’t.”

Dovid piped in here. “There are a few dents in it. Shloime Becher, see him–” he nodded at a skinny kid playing first base. “His brother Yankie, who’s in high school, said there was a kid here when he was our age who put those dents in it.”

“Yankie’s a liar,” Yossi cut in. “I tried for a half hour after kiddush last week and I couldn’t do anything.”

“I’m just saying-”

“Anyhow, the main thing is the curve, and the change-up.”

“You can throw a change-up?” I asked.

Dovid cut in. “I can too. It’s shmicks.”

“Wow. Not bad, I want to see that,” I said.

“I’ll do one, ok?” Yossi said. “I’ll look at you before I throw it.”


“Anyhow, the curve is worse with the new cap. Let me show you.” He walked over to the fridge and pulled off a Pepsi cap leaving the bottle open. He showed it to me together with a regular white one.

“You get much less drag with it because it’s heavier and thinner. There’s not enough to get a good throw in.”

“You want to hear about Shmuel Duvid?” Dovid asked me.

“Uh, sure.”

“Don’t tell him,” Yossi said. “It’s not nice. It’s loshenhora.”

Dovid was too excited. “Shmuel Duvid was a Chassidishe kid who used to daven here, and he taught us all how to throw the curve ball. He was, like, a big vilde chaya.”


“What? His father called him that in front of all of us! And Mr. Greenspan called him a maniac!”


“So Shmuel Duvid once grabbed the cake plate at kiddush and it fell on the floor. And his father yelled at him and pulled him away from the table, and made him sit at the door of the shul. But when he was leaving, he took a cap off the table, and he shot it all the way from the chair and curved it around the Rav’s head and it hit his father in the face. And his father went crazy and they never came back here.”

I must have had the wrong expression on my face, because Dovid tried to clear it up.

“No, like, cause his father couldn’t see him, so he kept on saying it wasn’t him. But everyone knew.”

I laughed. “That’s a pretty crazy story.”

“What’s the matter with you?” Yossi said to Dovid, “Can’t you keep your mouth shut ever? I’m going to play baseball.”

I watched them play for a little. Yossi did throw an awesome change-up, but he didn’t look at me first. I left after a few minutes to wash before it got totally dark. As I was leaving, Yossi ran over to me and asked me not to print the story about Shmuel Duvid, just “the baseball stuff.”

“Nu, nu,” I said, motioning with my hands and nodding. What a sweet kid. Too bad loyalty to 12-year-olds doesn’t give you business desk promotions.

Cross-posted on Unpious.com

Harsh Tales of the Wandering Jew

10 May

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in shul on Shabbos at around 10:45, smelling the cholent, listening to the Rabbi’s beautiful drasha, thinking shut the fuck up already shut the fuck up shut the fuck up shut the fuck up, as I always do, when my neighbor poked me in the ribs. I’d gotten distracted and apparently started speaking out loud. That was going to be hard to face up to, so I decided to just make the difficult decision and never talk to anyone in that shul ever again.

Of course, this left me without a place to go on Shabbos mornings- not to mention losing the remainder of my $350 membership. Well, it was tzedakah after all, so I figured I’d just steal a couple of dollars from the pushka until about next Sukkos to be even.

Back to my shul problem, though. The next week I decided to try out the shtiebel a few blocks down. I’d been there a few times for simchos, and the cholent – a homemade version by the Rebbetzin- was very good. Oddly, it tasted a bit like Gold Bond, but in a good way. Anyhow, I sat through a cramped, hot davening, but the smell of the cholent did not disappoint. The Rav did not speak before Musaf, which gave major points for the place, and I sat down to the decked-out kiddush waiting for some of that delicious cholent heaped up in huge clear bowls all along the table. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. The Rabbi had tricked us! He didn’t intend to speak during kiddush, but before it, keeping us prisoner to his droning on, before we were allowed to eat.

I was outraged, and covertly poured some cholent into a bowl, grabbed some stella dora cookies, and slipped out the back. And damn, that cholent was as good as I remembered it. Better even, if you can believe it. There was an extra spice in there that week besides the Gold Bond. Was it Victory?

That was last week. This week, I decided to try the Young Israel 20 minutes away. I’d never gone there, because it was modern, and started at the brazenly modernishe hour of 8:00, but frankly, I was running out of options.

As soon as I got there at Chamishi, I felt something was wrong. No, it wasn’t the dragged out singing of Hodo al eretz v’shamaim, or the stained glass mechitzah, or even the boring speech- which I could swear had the word ‘dikduk’ in it. No, I was ready for that. It was something deeper, some unconscious, visceral fear. But I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Then came the kiddush, and I knew instantly. There was no smell of cholent. It was a cold kiddush! Plus, the Rabbi had started to speak again! Well, “Fuck this!” I said out loud, and stormed out. What can I tell you? Life is hard for the Wandering Jew.