Saturday, December 23, 2006

Erev Shabbos Madness

This past Erev Shabbos is one that will be hard to forget. The first thing that was on my mind is that I had to go to my mother in law for shabbos. This is something that I always dread and I don't know of anyone that ever wants to go to their MIL. Because of how early Shabbos starts, things are always in a rush. Because of this rush things need to be scheduled to make it to Shabbos in time. One thing that I do every week before Shabbos is go to the mikveh. The mikveh I go to is a small one that not to many people know about. When I arrived at the Mikvah, I put my money in the box and then went inside. Once inside, I saw that the filter was broken and that I would have to go to the other mikveh. I never go to the other mikveh because it is always crowded, and the people that go there act like they are in a swimming pool or some sort of club. When I got to this mikveh, because of DWO and a car parked in the middle of the street, I had to park down the block because I did not want to get a ticket by parking too far from the curb like the other car which prevents one from parallel parking correctly. Once in the mikveh I had to wait on line for the shower. Just common sense should tell you that if it is ever shabbos during the winter everyone is in a rush, so why would you take a 20 minute shower when there is a long line of people waiting for the shower? I do not have an answer to this question so maybe someone can enlighten me with one. Once I finally got in the shower, I proceeded to the mikveh and put my towel in a place where I would know it is mine and where nobody else's towel was. What did not surprise we was that when I came out of the mikveh, my towel was gone. Not only do people take long showers when there is a line of people who are all in a rush,but people take other peoples towels as well. Is this the behavior that someone should have if they are going to the mikveh to purify or become more spiritual? You could have fooled me. I had to walk all the way to the other side to get a towel which isn't a pleasant experience when you are dripping wet and naked. I can say that at least this time when I was there, there were no Israelis playing rat tail. After the whole mikveh experience, when I was on the way to the MIL for shabbos, she calls to make sure that I brought a menorah and oil since they lit already and did not have one for us. Nice to give some warning or to wait and just light with us when we get there like the halacha states if you are lodging elsewhere for the evening. After going back home and getting a menorah and oil I was able to get back, set up, and light before the 18 minutes were up. I am lucky that I work for a Jewish company and we had an early Mincha in the office just in case anybody would be in a similar situation.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When Chanukah isn't Jewish

One of the things that is very unique about Chanukah is that Jewish people of all denominations and even unaffilliated can relate to. There is a few reasons why I think this is the case. Chanukah is something that is simple and doesn't take much to celebrate. All you really have to do is light a menorah which everyone is capable of doing. Chanukah is not like a YomTov where you have to be in shul and you cannot do any work or Shabbos. Purim you have obligations as well but on Chanukah all you have to do is light the menorah. Another reason why every Jew can relate to Chanukah is because of Christmas. Many Jews feel left out, even if they are completely secular because they do not celebrate Christmas so they look to Chanukah to fill that void so they can have something to celebrate during the American holiday season.

With that said, the shul I davened in this past Shabbos had the following in front of the shul. A menorah several feet tall, with big wrapped presents around the base of the menorah and a big paper mache dreidel as well. To me this looked the same as a decorated Christmas tree. Did this shul take the idea of Chanukah a little too far?? Especially since there is no obligation to give or receive any gifts on Chanukah. I was disturbed by this display and thought that is went a little too far.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Conservative Movement and their Decision Last Week

As anyone who reads a newspaper now probably knows, the Conservative Movement last week voted to allow for openly gay and lesbians to be Rabbis and to allow for same sex marriages. I remember commenting on someone's blog that I would not take the time to comment but I have held it in long enough that I am going to say something. I first want to point someone in the direction of a beautiful article written in the World Jewish Review here by Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudah. After reading the article you can read the actual "Teshuvas" that the Conservative Movement voted on here.

My first comment has to do with what Rabbi Shafran said. In an article he wrote in Moment magazine, he said that the Conservative movement is no longer going to be recognized as a Halachic movement. My opinion is that it wasn't a Halachic movement 5 years ago when he wrote this article and it hasn't been since the times of Avraham Yehoshua Heschel and maybe even up to the time in 1983 when JTS ordained the first women Rabbi. In last weeks Jewish Week in this article, Rabbi Roth said the following, " The non-egalitarian minyan “survived 10 years until the upstairs egalitarian minyan claimed that any Conservative Jew who was not egalitarian was immoral and [therefore] delegitimate. The student body to this day virtually reviles students who go to the non-egalitarian minyan, and if it was up to most of them, it would not exist because it is [considered] immoral.”

When I was at JTS I can affirm that this was the case. Since i would not daven in the Egalitarian minyan I was looked upon as a sexist as well as viewed as an extremist. There are some great Op Ed and articles on JTA on this issue as well. After reading through briefly the "Teshuvot", the wording of the one that was accepted did nosurprisese me. AS typical Rabbi Dorff style, Science and Opinion come before Torah and its laws and commentary. An experience I had with him was when he came to our dorm for "Dorm Talks". The topic of this talk was Sex, which is something that shouldn'surprisese anyone. He mentioned some ideas about pre marital relations and masturbation. Of course I was shocked by what he said, so I asked him about his source about being OK to spill your seed with a Tanya in my hand showing him what the Alter Rebbe said and his reply was that imedievalal Times it was thought that seminal discharge had a spirit with it which is why the Tanya mentions it the way it does. Now since we know that there are no spirits it is ok to spill your seed.

Rabbi Dorff is the future of the Conservative Movement. An Rabbi who cared at all about Halacha resigned from the Committee and it would nosurprisese me if they join Rabbi Halivni at UTJ with all of the other Rabbis who left the Conservative movement. IS it worth staying at JTS even if they pay a lot of money. Even while I was there I never felt comfortable in that environment and I don't know how anybody who follows halacha can. Gil over at Hirhurim had a post here as well as a few others these past couple of weeks as this issue was publicized. On his post he links the RCA statement on the decision.

When I left the Conservative Movement, I questioned why any Rabbi who was Halachikly observant continued to be involved. Maybe it is the money, I don't know. Many graduates from JTS from the past as well as many former members of USY and RAMAH are not happy with the decision and this decision might just be the icing on the cake for this movement. After speaking to a cousin who is a member of a Reconstructionist Shul, I was trying to figure out what the difference between, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist are. If anyone has read the book Jew Vs Jew can see that everyday we come closer to what the author predicted about that there would be three types of Jews. Secular, Reformative, and Orthodox. Are we at that stage yet? I think we are.


It has been a while since I have been able to post. I wanted to update my Blog Roll to add some of the new friends I have made. I will continue to add names to the blogroll as time goes on. If someone wants me to put them on my blogroll or I left you off let me know. I think this is the first time since I put up the Blogroll that I have changed anything. As things calm down I will continue to post more frequently again. I wanted to make sure I updated my Blogroll because there was a virus when you clicked on the old link for VOS IS NEIAS and I wanted to make sure no one got any problems because of this. There is controversy on what happened to this blog. It can be read about here and here if anyone wants to know what happened. Who knows if its true but it would not surprise me if the site was really hacked onto because people were upset about what was reported. I plan on posting more about Music in the future as well as discuss the current situation with El AL and the Charedim.