Archive for the Frum Category

The Final Countdown

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Yom Tov on July 12, 2010 by frumpunk

It’s getting late, down to the wire. It’s not about the food anymore – hasn’t been for longer than you can remember. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. How many spoonfuls has it been? Don’t know, don’t care. You have to keep going. Suddenly you regret all those supermarket trips. Did you need that much ground beef? Were you really going to use that chicken? Doesn’t matter now. There’s no time for regrets and there’s no time to ponder. You have to keep eating. Two more spoonfuls and half the plate of meatloaf is gone. Only three more trays and half a chicken. You can do it. You know you can because you must. You check the clock again. A bead of sweat drops by your plate, more evidence of your foolish overcooking. You question your zealotry. You promise to change, to be better, to learn how to portion and conserve. You’d promise anything to not have to keep eating meat; everything that won’t keep or freeze for the next nine days. You’d feel guilty for having the pain of over-consumption in a world where millions starve, but you can’t. You’re too bloated to think of anything but the inevitable bowel movement this will end in and the porcelain havoc it’s sure to wreak.

And there you are. You’re consumed with that odd blend of sickness and pride that comes from finishing all the meat in your fridge before the nine days. Like sushi in a bad restaurant it creates an awkward sensation in your stomach and one that you hope you don’t have to meet again later that night.

But for now, you’re done. Your mother will be so proud.

Why My Kids Will Be Frum

Posted in Frum, Me, Rants on May 23, 2010 by frumpunk

When I was growing up, my mother worked in a daycare center, which for a time was ran out of our house when they were between premises. So for about a year when I was in high school I would wake up to the sound of my mom regaling the kids with the classic songs, both secular and Jewish. The kids learned about Old McDonald along with songs teaching them how to count in Hebrew and how they celebrated shabbos. My mom still works with little children, but now it’s for a different daycare center catering to kids with down syndrome and other learning disabilities. The kids come from homes ranging from the more secular side of modern orthodox to chassidic, so the place is run according to the strictest rules. Certain things have changed. It’s no longer Old McDonald but Old McDovid, and he certainly doesn’t have any pigs that go ‘oink’ or any horses that go ‘neigh’. In fact, any non-kosher animals are even expunged from the picture books the kids read along with any mention of bacon, Christmas or people not named Shloimy. I asked my mom what the reason for that was and she explained that some parents don’t want their kids learning about anything not related to their tiny little corner of the world they’ve carved out for themselves, as though hearing that pigs exist will make them want to go eat some bacon and hearing about holidays celebrated by the wider world around them will plant the seeds for these kids to put on their best red hats and drop Chanukkah for Christmas first chance they get.

It reminded me of a time a few years ago when I was visiting somewhere with one of my cousins. When my uncle, his father, became religious he went all out, and this kid literally knew nothing outside of his parents house where he slept and the yeshiva down the street where he spent his days. Already a teenager, I wanted to go into a store to buy a drink and he refused to go with me. Why? Because “there were goyim in there who would try to beat him up”. I thought he was joking at first, but he was very serious. It wasn’t until later I thought about it and realized that I was dealing with someone for whom non-Jews are the people in the Holocaust biographies and stories from Poland where the evil Poretz throws the pious, but poor, Jewish family in his dungeon for not paying enough money. He’d never even been grocery shopping or to a theme park. For him, non-Jews were the villain and every last one of them was out to get him.

My kids aren’t going to grow up in a situation where their Judaism is true to them only because it’s all they know. They’re going to know people from different groups and backgrounds. They’re going to be educated and they’re going to be religious because they’ve studied the Torah and know it to be true, not because they’ve not been allowed to ever think for themselves lest they dare make a decision rather than follow what they’re told. They’ll be religious for the same reason I am; because having had the choice and seen the world the truth of the Torah that they’ve learned rings truer than the other options. They won’t be thrown into the world without being raised frum and having the reason for everything they do explained to them and shown to them, but neither will they be so sheltered that they’re frum because they’re too scared to think otherwise. Is it really a devotion to Hashem if you do something because it’s all you know, rather than doing it out of your own free will and coming to do that mitzvah for a love of Hashem and recognizing the truth in the commandments?

There’s more to this than just raising young children to be overly sheltered or not. One of my rabbis at Ohr Someach coined a term for people who are practising but non-believing Jewish adults. He calls them ‘Culturally Frum’. The all too common situation of someone who has a shabbos meal and put on tefillin without believing a G-d even exists. He might even consider himself an atheist, yet he continues to live as part of a frum community, and not just because he’s married or has other commitments keeping him there. These are people who live a frum lifestyle without any of the religious belief that should be driving it simply because they’re comfortable there. It’s all they know and they don’t even feel a pull to throw off the pretence and live a secular lifestyle. They’re frum externally because that’s what everyone else around them is. They come from frum families and they have frum friends. They want to marry a frum girl and keep the pretence going because they couldn’t even relate to a secular girl or don’t want to complicate their parents with that situation. In my opinion it’s no different than being devoutly frum while believing that given the chance the next non-Jew you encounter will throw you in his dungeon. It’s only being halfway there.

I’m frum because I’ve studied and learned and given thought to it. Blind observance isn’t a mitzvah and being an inward atheist isn’t doing frum people any favors. Both are a form of self-delusion. I want to give my kids the chance to know why they must to or not do certain things and I want them to reach marriageable age with the intellectual honesty that lets them do it because they believe in it, not simply because I made them do it growing up. And definitely not because I didn’t let them know the existence of Old McDonald and his farm of oinks, neighs and barks.

All Yomtoved Out

Posted in Frum, Kashrus, Me, Rants, Yom Tov on April 16, 2010 by frumpunk

Yes, it took me that long to recover from Pesach 2010. I’m a procrastinator by nature so I spent the last few days before doing all my cleaning and shopping according to halacha, then of course doing the modern post-halachic practices of checking my fruit for chometz, installing a grain filter to my pipes so no chometz would be pumped in through my tapwater and shooting all the pigeons on my roof because they’re notorious for eating grain and you can’t be too careful these days.

Of course, I also had to make sure all my paper plates and toilet paper had enough hechsharim on. Three different ones is considered the machmir standard but most poskim hold you’re not really doing your histadlus unless you have at least five hechsharim from three different countries. I think the worse part of pre-pesach preperations are the laxatives you have to take these days, to make sure your system is completely flushed out of chometz. I don’t enjoy it, but who am I to argue against halacha?

Also, it’s official. I can’t drink any wine without getting a stomach-ache. It’s even worse than Purim, because you don’t eat for hours before the seder, then you drink two cups of red wine. I don’t know what it is, but I usually spend half the seder on the couch groaning while the middle bits of the seder pass me by. I had mostly grape juice the second night, but even the light kedem is so sugary and sweet I feel ill. Maybe I just have a week stomach? All I know is, I need to talk to someone for next year. It’s hardly celebrating yomtov in the proper spirit when what you’re obligated to do by halacha ruins the rest of the stuff you’re meant to do.

It’s always a little jarring when a long yom tov ends. The previous eight days all start to run into each other in a steady routine of put on suit, go to shul, come home and eat, take a nap/read/walk/hang out go back to shul, eat again, go to sleep, repeat. It becomes a week of shul/eat/shul/eat and having shabbos take up most of chol hamoed didn’t help. It’s the one time of year I wish I lived in Israel where I hear rumors that they just have one seder, five days of chol hamoed and then one day of yomtov which sounds like the way it should be. The first seder is nice. When you start to do it all again the second night it begins to get tiresome, especially for me with my wine issues, and the kids questions switch from “why is this night different”, to “why is this night the same as last night?”

Well, now that I got my Pesach post typed up it’s smooth sailing from here until Rosh Hashonah. Although, now that I think about it I’m not sure the lettuce I used for my marror had enough hechsharim. Do I need to do it all over again just to make sure?

Ugh, better safe than sorry. See you in eight days.

A Steaming Bowl of Heimishness

Posted in Food, Frum, Heimish on March 18, 2010 by frumpunk

If you ever need to explain to someone what makes cholent so cholenty, start with this pic.

Spotting The Greenhorn

Posted in Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, New York on March 7, 2010 by frumpunk

So there he was, spotted as soon as I entered the shul. Couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d been wrapped in neon and fitted with the bass system from a riced out Honda Civic. He eyed me the same and proffered an Ashkanazi siddur, one of the rare ones in this little nusach Sefard chassidic place. I accepted the siddur and sat down next to him. He asked where I was from, I told him. He apologized for not recognizing me, offering by way of explanation, “I’ve been in yeshiva for the past few months, this is my first time back since Elul.” I smiled at him. “I know,” I said. “I know.”

You can spot them everywhere at certain times of the year. Many greenhorn spotters (or “grotters” as we prefer to be known) will tell you that chanukah is the best time for this widely practiced, yet little talked about sport. Others, the ones with less finesse, you might say, will dig out the binoculars and set up camp only at pesach time. Not to be too arrogant, but they’re amateurs. My preferred game is the unexpected. It takes more skill to find them, but when you do they’re unawares and therefore easier prey. I tag the species and the location in my little book and release them back into the wild. Just this past week I saw a fantastic example of a Medrash at J2. Perfect specimen, a prize catch. He was talking about how he’s just recently started to buckle down and work on himself. It really made my week. I eschew the obviousness of catching them when they come back for yom tov in favor of spotting the ones who trickle in here and there for the family bris or wedding. It makes them more of a catch because you never know if there will be many, if any at all.

They’re an interesting species to be sure. This time last year they were just another batch of seniors obsessed with pog cards and their hippety-hop music (I think. I have no idea what the kids are into these days), totally unaware of the evolution that would soon transform them. They head off to Israel to their chosen (or not so chosen) yeshivas and then, I wait. When they start to trickle back, the season begins.

 There are certain signs to start your hunt with. My favorite is the linear siddur. You know the one, the hebrew is on one line with the english below it so the words match up rather than the block of english text being on the opposite side of the block of hebrew text. These siddurim are used by only two people; those becoming frum who are trying to learn hebrew, and newly minted yeshiva guys trying to learn the meaning of all those words they’ve been mumbling daily since they were eight. You could also look for the copy of Pathway to Prayer, that little book where it goes into detail about one part of the davening (the greenhorns tend to prefer the shemonai esrei one), but I think that’s too easy. Other things to note: the white shirt. Is it crisp, like it’s new to him and he still takes pride in his appearance? A favorite tactic of mine is to check the collar if it’s on shabbos. Is it buttoned up to the neck, with the tie properly done? See, if it looks like it fits correctly, then he’s new to this. Look at the ex-yeshiva guys in their late twenties and thirties. They’ve been wearing it for so long that the neck hasn’t fit in years, so they simply go to the second button and pull the tie up partly, for comfort. If he’s more Mad Men than Hocker, you’ve got a greenhorn on your hands, my friend. Other things to look for are shoes, belt, glasses and type and frequency of chumash used for leining, but this has become a wall of text so those, my friends, are for the next installment.

How To Chanukkah Correctly

Posted in Chanukah, Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Yom Tov on December 16, 2009 by frumpunk

Chanukkah is here, and frankly, I can’t think of a better time to be celebrating it, seeing as Chanukkah is basically just an eight day celebration of fuel savings and conservation. I mean, eight days of oil from one small jug? When can I get that technology in my Buick? (Hey-oh!) Maybe we wouldn’t need carbon offset charges if the maccabis were running Chevron. I mean, eight days of continuous fuel from a jug that small? Are we sure that menorah wasn’t hybrid? Please, settle down. I’ve got a million of ’em.

But more important than jokes about gas savings is making sure the holiday is celebrated correctly. A quick summary for those who may be in the dark; Chanukkah is a festival where the Jews, after taking back the Beis Hamikdash, managed to light the menorah for eight days with only one small jug of oil. This is so they could use the rest of the oil to fry things. Ever since then it’s been a mitzvah to fry things in oil on Chanukkah. What most people don’t realize is that it’s actually an aveirah to eat things that aren’t fried on Chanukkah. I recently had to grab my sister to stop her eating an apple when she came home from school. Remember, as Jews we have to watch out for each other. If your neighbor sins the blame is on the whole congregation for not stopping and helping him. That’s why I threw that sucker in the deep fryer, then made her eat it. She may be mad at me now, but she’ll thank me later when she doesn’t go to gehenom for her sinful unfried-fruit eating ways.

But it’s not enough to simply fry everything you eat. You have to eat the right things. Just yesterday I organized a protest outside my local bakery after I witnessed them selling doughnuts on Channukah that weren’t jelly. Sadly, in our modern days this is just another commandment that people seem to think is optional, like not having a haircut before the age of three or not owning a kosherlamp. We have a mesorah to only eat jellified doughnuts on chanukkah, just like the maccabis did right after they conserved that gas, just like Yehudah did when at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopened Beis Hamikdah, just like moshe rabbeinu did right after he defeated Voldemort by throwing his streimel over his eyes, then squirted the jelly in them, blinding the dark lord, as so often happens to us when we bite into a doughnut from a Brooklyn bakery. Point is, these traditions have kept us alive as a people through a long a dark exile, and to abandon them now is to ensure our death as a nation.

So light your menorah and shine a blaze into that ever darkening night. Preferably with your kosher lamp.

Frum Punk Rates Your Humor Column

Posted in Frum, Funny?, Reviews on December 14, 2009 by frumpunk

We are fortunate to live in an age of variety in frum reading material. Whether you want to hear about right-wing opinions, or the even further to the right opinions, everyone is catered for. There’s such a push to provide a frum equivalent for mainstream newspapers and journals that much of our literature even has a resident humor columnist. Just like Newsweek and Time!

With so many choices, how do you know what to spend your valuable time on? Normally I would recommend simply reading my archives over and over but I’ll accept that many of you don’t have internet with you everywhere you go, so you get a pass. So if you must look for a weekly chuckle in a frum paper, let me tell you which are worth a guffaw and which are worth a guff-don’t.

Seriously Speaking – Michpacha:

Let me summarize this one with a peek into the authors mind during brainstorming: “Israeli service is slow! Obama is a liberal! Frum Jews don’t like Obama! Bibi! Israeli politics! Obama! Hahahaha, amirite people? What’s that? My column is due in two minutes? Hang on, let me just mention how this institution could be giving me the prize money instead! In shekels! Cause I live in Israel! Hahaha, amirite? Comedy gold!”

Hamodeia – Mordechai Shmutter:

I haven’t read the Hamodia in so long that I can’t remember the title of this column, but it’s easy to remember the content. Lets see; start off with a mention of something that happened to you recently then… steal one of Dave Barry’s bits from a decade ago. I understand the appeal, you write for a frum paper. Even if someone recognizes the source they won’t say anything because that’s an admission of reading secular material, which means you’re no longer frum. It’s the same way that Lev Tahor can rip off an entire Scorpions song for their second album. If you say anything, you’re a shaygetz. Problem is when I was in yeshiva Dave Barry’s anthologies were passed around like a crack pipe in a ghetto. He’s clean and hilarious. I don’t know how he gets away with plagiarizing him, but it irritates me.

Your Local Jewish Weekly:

“Oh boy, we Jews sure like to eat food and do Jewish things don’t we? Goyim, they don’t do these Jewish things, not like we do!” Oh Jackie Mason, you devil. Curse you for what you’ve spawned upon the world. Here’s a Jackie Mason joke, “Jews do this, Goyim don’t do it like this, and then the Jewish woman complains in this Brooklyn accent”. Trust me, I once did improv where I just made up Jackie Mason jokes on the spot with that formula. As long as you do the voice, you’ve got a punchline. I did it just to prove the point that that’s all there is to it. My dad loves Jackie Mason. I heard enough of it in the car to last a lifetime. Even when I was ten I saw the formula. Problem is it’s so simple that when your local Jewish Times wants a humor column, that’s all they print every week. It’s the law of the lowest common denominator.

The Coffee Room – Yeshiva World News:

Yes, while not strictly a column, I’d like to include a review of it. If only to get to my word count to appease my editor. From topics asking if it’s okay to date someone wearing an off-white shirt, to rants about how women in tight shirts are causing tsunamis in Asia, this is the best humor going in the Jewish world today. Find out if you can eat ice cream on a shidduch date, or does it run the risk of not being tzniyus. Your question will be answered by “numberonetzaddik” who assures you he’s a posek and fluent in all areas of halacha and gemora. And why would he lie?

Watch this space for a how-to on how to write and publish your own frum paper! (Hint: it involves simply printing random articles from AP News that week. Add in a columnist, letters page and some puzzles from the internet for the kids page and you’re good to go. Rinse and repeat weekly.)