Archive for the Frum Category

Dress For A Funeral (It’s A Frum Wedding)

Posted in Frum, Girls, Heimish, Me, Politics, Weddings on November 22, 2009 by frumpunk

While my brother and his fiancée (is it frum to say ‘fiancee’?) plan their wedding, I get to sit back and watch so I can learn to plan for my own someday. Sadly for my own laziness, I’ve had to be involved in a small way, coordinating my various relatives expectations of what they can expect and be expected to do at a frum wedding.

My father’s family are not frum at all. Never were, probably never will be. My brother and his betrothed are both recently-flipped-out-in-Israel frum. (Last week he bought a Borsalino. True story.) The only religious functions my dads family has ever had to attend were our bar mitzvas. which compared to a wedding are pretty low scale events. All they had to do was show up in the right section at shul and not wear anything cut too low on top or too high below.

So I was on the phone with my cousin, trying to explain to her what to wear to the wedding, as their idea of traditional wedding outfits wouldn’t quite cut it amongst my brothers new crowd. Until I hit the simplest solution and directed them to onlysimchas.com with the instructions to “just wear what those girls are wearing”. Thousands of frum girls at hundreds of weddings must give them some idea of the expected outfits, right?

They called me back in less than five minutes wanting to know why everyone seems to be wearing black. Cue a montage of the girls outfits at every wedding I’ve ever been to in my mind and I realized the obvious. “Just dress for a funeral”.

Because it’s true, black is not the new black for frum Jews, it’s all there ever was. And not just for the girls, black suits, black shoes, black hat… if not for the white shirts we’d be invisible at night. The most color I ever see on most frum girls is maybe a pink sash or bow, but only over her all black outfit. Maybe that’s why jean girls are the casual standard, because if formal wear limits you to one color, who wants to have to wear it during regular days too? Although that doesn’t explain why the GAP hoodies are always navy or black as well.

I don’t have a closing. I just have a request for the girls. Why the all black and who enforces it? Because someone must be directing this mono-fashion show.

I Can’t Eat This

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, Me, Yeshiva on November 15, 2009 by frumpunk

I’ve done time. Hard time. Yeshiva time. I went to yeshiva, post high school for multiple years. When it comes to food, I’m a tough battle-hardened son of a gun. I’ve had the month old cholent. And yes, I cooked that cholent in my dorm rooms George Forman. I’ve choked down my fair share of grease based meat substances.  I’ve got stories of rummaging through left over simcha food that could make your intestines curl up and beg for mercy. I once had milk that was four years old. It was a little crunchy, but still good.

Or so I thought.

One of the standout meals I had this past year was a shabbos lunch spent with a chassidic family in Jerusalem. When I say chassidish I mean Chassidish, capital C. The women ate in the kitchen. Everyone but me owned a streimel. Yiddish was flying haphazardly in all directions. The peyos  were swinging and the gartels were tight. For the appetizer, my host was brought a massive tray with about thirty hard boiled eggs and several whole onions. While we watched, he proceeded to shell the eggs and chop the onion, enrapturing us with what was presumably a chassidic tale from his rebbe about how generations before us had prepared their own egg and onion dishes at the shabbos table while the guests waited slavishly wondering if for the main course, he would be brought a live chicken and all the ingredients of a cholent, to prepare it in front of us and tell us more tales in yiddish, leading us to take mental bets on whether or not we would finally be eating by tuesday.

It’s not that I’m spoilt. I can appreciate different customs and foods. It’s that I’m squeamish. Very American, chicken-soup-and-brisket type. I can try new things, I just don’t like to eat them when they’ve been passed hand to hand to reach me. I was polite, I ate my eggs and fish and it wasn’t bad, but seeing it passed under all those beards made me choke it down. Something that was almost reversed when the next course was passed down – boiled cows hoof. They told me it was boiled for a full day until it was just a blob of wobbly gelatin. I can try new things, but not the part of the cow that spends it’s life wading through feces. And it looked… wrong. It doesn’t look like food, and watching people slap it on bread and eat it with a gusto made me reconsider my previous plans to digest my food rather than regurgitate it across the table. (I found out afterwards that it’s more common than I thought. My grandmother knows what it is, but I still don’t understand why you would eat that part of the cow unless forced to by poverty or some sadistic poretz.)

But nothing could have prepared me for the main course. Initially I breathed a sigh of relief when the cholent was served. Finally, something familiar. Meat, beans and potatoes. Nothing can go wrong with this, right? That was until the boy next to me shows me the special delicacy his mother puts in the cholent. A whole chickens foot. Bones, skin and all. The whole thing, sitting right there on his spoon, practically squawking at me a warning to consider what other delights might my cholent contain. I’ve never lost my appetite faster, especially as he described how she cooks it until the bones are soft so it doesn’t crunch that much in your mouth. I’ve nothing against chicken feet per say, but they don’t look like an appetizing part of this complete breakfast. I spent the rest of the meal picking the potatoes in my bowl, too grossed out to eat the meat, but trying not to appear rude.

I’ve never thought before that there were things I simply couldn’t stomach to try and eat. Years of yeshiva food is supposed to steel you for anything. By all rights I should be able to eat anything anywhere. But I learned there’s a difference between spoiled litvish food and properly cooked chassidish delicacies. And I’ll risk the infection of a piece of schnitzel from three months ago thats been sitting under my dorm mates bed, before I’ll attempt to eat a fresh chicken foot, cows hoof or even a fresh piece of salmon passed hand to hand to hand.

Curb Your Yichus

Posted in Frum, Me, Uncategorized, Yeshiva on October 19, 2009 by frumpunk

Yichus is a big deal. In shidduchim, it’s up there on the question list, right after what detergent you use to wash the shabbos tablecloth and whether she uses an electric or standard toothbrush. (Electric might indicate she’s careful about hygiene and health and therefore will be a good mother, but then again it might just mean she’s too lazy to move her hand in a circular motion and will be the kind of mother who sits on the couch and makes her infant children cook for her, whipping them with two belts tied together so she doesn’t have to get up from the couch. And you always thought those sort of questions had no value, didn’t you?)

The questions must be asked; is yichus a valid question? Is frum society valid in it’s assumptions that past ancestral performance indicates future decisions and abilities? Or is it just another way to marginalize and divide religious Jews further into social classes and castes? Is the very fact that I would bring it up an indicator of my own lack of worthy yichus? Some would say yes. Most people don’t read my blog (anymore) and therefore are caught between ignorance and apathy. So I’ll answer for those people too: yes.

During the off hours of my yeshiva summer this year I tried to research my genealogy. Armed with a folder full of scanned pictures from my fathers family and a three thousand credit international phone card I annoyed various relatives for hours attempting to put names to faces and put faces in order of marriage and children. Rather than finding a heimish genealogy to boast about in Brooklyn I found the exact opposite – I’m around a sixth to an eighth not even Jewish, ancestrally speaking.

I'm not Jewish. But I married one. Three cheers for matrilineal descent!

I'm not Jewish. But I married one. Three cheers for matrilineal descent!

A few days into my research my dorm-mate from across the hall came to check on my progress. Not yet realizing how shameful it was, I told him the facts of what I’d found. I thought it was interesting, learning about my family so many generations back. Luckily he put me straight. First he ascertained that no, I hadn’t found any great rabbis amongst my ancestors yet, then he explained how his father had hired a professional to go back to the old countries and plot their families illustrious line back hundreds of years, uncovering a great many rabbis and community leaders. I wasn’t jealous, because luckily it proved my point. Your yichus is nice for what it is, but it has no bearing on the type of person you might be. My friend for example, skipped afternoon seder regularly to play video games and find unsecured wi-fi. I’m no saint, but at least I know I don’t have a thousand years of rabbis staring down disapprovingly if I do it.

And I even managed to avoid the shidduch problems because I found a girl who is more interested in who I am than who my ancestors were. Me: 1 Society: 0.

(In fact, greatness is rarely passed down. Most gedolai yisroel of the past didn’t have grandchildren who followed in their footsteps to such great heights. I discussed this with one of my rabbis who theorized that maybe the shadow cast by most fathers was too large for their children to live up to. Our modern day lineages of rabbi fathers to rabbi sons is largely taken from the chassidim who were the first to create royal courts and dynasties.)

You Can Take It With You

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, Uncategorized on August 7, 2009 by frumpunk

It’s an odd time of the year to write this, considering now is the time when the fresh crop is heading to Israel, but I’ve just left my summer inspiration tour, so deal with it. In fact, you should probably print this out and tape it up in your dorm room so you know what to do when you get back home. How do you take the holiness and heimishness of your year in Israel back with you? Here’s what to do when you get homesick:

Burn A Trash Can

Thursday night schwarma just isn’t the same without the sweet smell of burning plastic in the air. Bring a little back with you by tossing your lighter into the first dumpster you see. Crowd around, bring the marshmallows. If someone asks you what you’re doing, simply yell “free the yenta!”, give the black power salute, and run away.

Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

Bring the art of negotiating the price of everything back as a keepsake. Before taking the subway, go up to one of the booths and offer them fifteen cents to take you to Long Island. Go as high as forty if you have to. If you reach a standstill just walk away. They’ll call you back.

Bring Some Penguins

You might get sick of seeing colors other than black, white and cholent everywhere. In fact, a leading cause of post Israel hospitalizations is stress shock brought on by depriving the brain of vivid colors for a year and then going to the village (or wherever it is the kids hang out these days. On that note, gettoff my lawn).

Am I saying you should rob a zoo? No. I’m just suggesting you populate the streets with a life form that walks upright and wears only yeshivish colors. I might also be handing you a map of the best back entrances to a zoo, but if you get caught, you never knew me. You can also try pandas, but since they’re not upright you might find yourself more accurately recreating purim.

Add Some Grease

Lets face it. What you’re eating isn’t really food unless you find that when you wrap it in a laffa you have a puddle of grease on your plate from the residue dripping out the bottom. Otherwise, what you have there might be more appropriately be termed “quasi food. Semi food. The Diet Coke of food.”

Furthermore, Israel is widely considered to be the second most heimish place in the world (right after Brooklyn). As you know, I’m something of a heimishologist and while the subject requires further research, I firmly believe that the addition of grease raises the heimish in your average foodstuff by several thousand percent. And heimish means frum. And don’t we all want to be frummer?

Why People Leave

Posted in Frum, Girls, Israel, Politics on July 4, 2009 by frumpunk

Before I get to the post, let me ask a question: Is there any point in life in which you’re old enough to be around girls? I just had a great shabbos, and at shalos seudos I jokingly asked if we could come back every week. They laughed and said they’d love to, but their house is usually filled with seminary girls at shabbos. I said that was fine. I’m taken, and my friend needs to get married anyway. And they laughed again.

But seriously, those girls are going to be dating when they get back to New York anyway. It’s July, which means they’re probably only a few weeks away from being in a hotel lounge with Yanky for the first time. My point being, doesn’t it make sense to let yeshiva boys and sem girls meet each other if they’re both dating anyway? A shabbos table with a family seems as kosher a place to start as any other. (Incidentally, I’m not kidding when I said my friend needs to get married. Anyone interes ted? He’s 5’10, athletic, dresses well, polite, likes to learn. But he’s 26, yet looks 21. Which means if you’re a beard lover, you’re out of luck. He’s in Israel through July and will be back next September.)

The family I stayed at made aliyah for the second time a few years ago. They originally lived here through yeshiva and sem and stayed when they got married. They said they lived in Neve Yaakov and Ramat Beit Shemesh in the mid nineties. They said they left when they sensed that the religious communities were becoming polarized beyond what they considered comfortable. The first straw was when his wife was told that if she continued to wear denim skirts and tennis shoes, noone would want to be friends with her. The second was that the kids started coming home from school with stories about violence that their friends were involved in (stone throwing, protests, tzniyus patrol…). The last straw, so he said, was when someone wanted to open up a trade school for wayward teenagers. Get them involved in metal and woodwork, as he described it. The community rabbis forbade it, out of concern that the kids would enjoy it too much, and therefore never return to learning.

He said that he figured their kids could go one of two ways. They could stay and be over is issur of sinas chinam, or leave and risk the possibility of them being over giluy arayos. They returned to America and later made aliyah to a settlement where all types come together without polarization of any kind. And they couldn’t be happier.

How To Throw Stones

Posted in Frum, Funny?, Israel on June 21, 2009 by frumpunk

One thing that becomes immediately obvious being in Israel is the line drawn between those who keep shabbos and those who don’t. Religious neighborhoods do everything they can to keep cars from driving through on shabbos. Some places have fixed gates that swing shut come Friday eve. The more ghetto places have stolen police barriers, plastic fencing, and I’ve even seen uprooted trees and road signs dragged into the road for the sake of shabbos.

The most interesting fixture to me though is the screams of the Israeli kids (and by kids I mean, people into their early twenties) of “SHHHHAAAABBBBBBOOOOSSSSS”  at the passing cars. I’m not sure what the purpose of this is. I have yet to see a car stop, it’s driver get out apologetically explaining how he had no idea, and how grateful he is to them for informing him of this fact. I’m fairly certain they can’t even hear the shouts, what with the engine, the radio and the thrust of a diesel engine moving them past the screams at speeds of thirty miles per hour. Really, all they’re doing is annoying me. Some of those kids can shriek.

Luckily, the shabbos patrol has hit upon another method of carrying out their duties as modern day town criers. The hurling of small blunt objects, such as rocks or unruly children. This makes far more sense to me and heeding the commandment to keep the shabbos day holy, I eagerly join in the launching of these airborne kiruv minerals. Of course, I asked about the proper way to go about this.

For starters, you have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If you see someone driving on shabbos, you have to assume that his wife is having a baby or someones ill and it’s a matter of life and death. That’s why before shabbos I write “Mazel Tov!” on one side of the rock, and “Get well soon” on the other. Only then do I feel comfortable delivering my message of goodwill right through their windshield.

You also have to keep in mind that not everyone is Jewish. Israel is also populated by Arabs and various Christian groups. That’s why I also wrap a few printouts of Noachide shirum around the rocks with rubber bands before launching my gift of kiruv into the driver.

Don’t call me a hero, I’m just trying to make the world a better place. Okay, you can call me a hero. Just once. Maybe twice. You know I can’t resist adulation from you.

Positively Pesach

Posted in Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Me, Yom Tov on May 4, 2009 by frumpunk

Before I begin, let me point out that I’m not late in posting about Pesach this year. I’m just really early in posting about how my Pesach was next year. 🙂

This Pesach was the first time my brother came home since going off to Israel. In seven months he’s completely frummed out, which is fantastic, at least if you’re always looking for blogging material. I mean frummed out as in, making my sister cringe when he took her to a college interview and while they were waiting, asking any Jewish-looking passing students if they want to learn some Pirkei Avos.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the seder, while I was pouring out my grape juice-with-a-bit-of-wine, he looked over and remarks that while he’s sure what I’m doing is halachically correct, he’s going to do things the correct way and drink four cups of wine. To emphasize the hilarity of this situation let me mention two things; our seder cups are massive and noone in my family drinks alcohol because we’re genetically lightweights.

My mother, who’s always quick to jump on a bandwagon of anything that seems frummer followed his lead with filling up her cup to the brim with wine (because he also said it has to be a full cup no matter how big the cup. I asked him what about if I brought a giant novelty ten liter wine glass to the table. He didn’t answer). So as I expected, by the time shulchan orech came around, my brother was wasted and my mother was on the couch with a headache.

So ironically, my brother was trying to be so frum that he got himself drunk to the point where he collapsed into bed and was snoring after soup, so he didn’t even say hallel or have the last two cups. Also, from seven months in Israel his hebrew pronunciation has picked up an Israeli twinge on the accent that is frankly, hilarious.

As for me, I left the seder with a stomachache from drinking all that kedem grape juice that is probably more of a laboratory experiment in bowel movements than an actual beverage. So sickly sweet. And I remember reminding myself of the post I wrote last Pesach complaining about the same thing and getting some comments on the right kind of wine to buy. Maybe next year I’ll remember in time.

Hope yours was as much fun.