Archive for the Me Category

The Purest

Posted in Food, Funny?, Kashrus, Me, Yom Tov on May 6, 2011 by frumpunk

If my calculations are correct, and I have no reason to assume otherwise, this is the fourth article I’ve written concerning my Pesach experiences to date. The first was silly, a pithy piece using found photos to illustrate the madness involved in Pesach cleaning by displaying an apartment completely clothed in aluminum foil. The second was personal, and involved my ill fated seder when I tried to actually drink four cups of wine. Sweet red wine, as recommended by my cousin, whom I love very much but is sadly, somewhat of an imbecile. The third post conveyed my further dissatisfaction with the four cups motif when I felt sick to my stomach purely as the result of big cups of grape juice; a sacramental drink (seriously, check the label) that apparently contains enough sugar to power a small factory, or at the very least, to fuel the dreams of every kid in Ramat Beit Shemesh of running from one end of the town to the other, screaming continuously. While the sugar attacking my system didn’t make me scream, it was enough to inspire a short lived superhero based on me named Sucrose Man. He had the power to vomit crime off the streets. Okay, down the drain. Whatever.

This one however, comes neither to damn wine nor praise it. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. My body refuses to tolerate fermented grapes, I can accept that. I get through the seder with grape juice, but just a bit. Whoever once fed me the line about having to drink the whole cup to fulfill the mitzvah can go pleasure themselves with a rusty car door. Try a Ford Focus, the rounded sides will make a world of difference. This year I managed to get bothered by the side products, the things we buy kosher for Pesach despite the ingredients list being exactly the same as normal, ie, they didn’t contain wheat in the first place. You know, the chocolates, the cheese, the mayonnaise. Our mayo this year came courtesy of a brand called ‘Goodies’, which I’d never heard of and assumed to be a Geffen product at first glance. I recommend you never hear of it either, unless you want mayo that instantly separates into semi-liquified egg bits and warm oil when exposed to any temperature warmer than a polar bears waterbed. You know what else I only just realized this year? Kosher for Pesach Coke and Pepsi are a crock. Oh sure, it makes sense in America where any beverage with more ingredients than water is pumped full of corn syrup, but in the civilized world it’s always contained cane sugar anyway. You know what they do at Coke bottling plants in Israel for Pesach? Print out a new label. Then laugh a maniacal laugh that they spent the rest of the year practicing (one assumes) as they export it all over Europe at a markup that makes the price of bread in post World War One Germany seem an absolute bargain.

The best thing we had this year though? The water. Pure Spring Water, absolutitious, and 100% Kosher for Pesach. It had three hechshars and a PI rating of 67, which I think means it gets to insult lesser waters on the supermarket shelf while it waits for that special balabusta to scoop it up, the one that has to make sure that the water her family drinks this Pesach contains absolutely no bread, wheat, flour or thrift. I read the label during a particularly strenuous bout of “Ha Lachma Anya”. Turns out it gets filtered naturally at the source. Which simply means they don’t do a single thing to it before feeding it into their own bottling plants, other than using their own filtration systems, because while everyone likes the idea of drinking from a pure babbling brook in the mountains, those pure babbling brooks contain plenty of pure babbling insects. Insects who pee and fornicate in your water. Where do you think they do it?

I’ve worked kosher supervision before. It’s one of the better unskilled jobs, if one of the more boring, and I really like to imagine somewhere out there is a rabbi. He’s standing by a natural stream of freshwater, somewhere in the mountains. He’s thinking of all the relevant halachas that could be involved in making sure the water people drink this year will be Kosher for Pesach. People who trust him enough to cast the fate of their Pesach in his hands. His eyes are closed in concentration. He opens them, just wide enough to see a figure. A figure on the other side of the water. With a loaf of bread. Feeding the ducks.

It’s Not Always Anti-Semitism

Posted in Me, Politics, Rants, Zombie Nazis! on March 4, 2011 by frumpunk

Two police officers knocked on my door yesterday. Apparently they’d had a call about suspicious activity at my house, something about someone calling in that they didn’t recognize my car. They said there had been some break-ins in the area recently. They checked my license against the car registration, got confirmation that I did indeed live here and own the car, apologized and left. The whole thing was very cordial.

I told my friend about it after and his response was “I guess you have an anti-Semite for a neighbor”, which really annoyed me. Whats the origin of this knee-jerk reaction that any seemingly negative thing involving a Jew is a product of someone with a deep-seated hatred of Jews? Based on what the cops said, it’s safe to assume I have a skittish neighbor, probably an older person with the free time to observe the neighborhood and worry about things, especially if there have indeed been burglaries in the area.

I’m halfway curious and halfway disturbed at the idea that I have friends who apparently view the world through the prism of “he hates me, she probably hates me, I think I saw her smirk at my yarmulka when she handed me my coffee…” I can recognize the origins somewhat. My generation grew up with a plethora of holocaust literature and stories from the shtetl, all of which can reinforce the idea that you live in a dark world where your local barista is just waiting for an Austrian dictator to ship you off so he can loot your house and take your stuff. I’m mocking a bit, sure, but I’d rather think that I have an overly cautious person on my street who’s suspicious of youngins, than someone shaking a fist at that damn Jew while thumbing a dog-eared copy of Mein Kampf.

Election Day

Posted in Me, Politics, Uncategorized on November 10, 2010 by frumpunk

The first time I was old enough to vote was during the 2004 showdown of Bush Vs Kerry. I was in yeshiva at the time and I remember a few weeks before the election the rosh yeshiva giving an address to the entire beis medrash informing us that the gedolim had instructed everyone who was old enough to vote for George Bush. At the time I didn’t question it, mainly because I didn’t really care about politics, but I do remember there was one guy in the entire yeshiva who was planning to vote democrat, and surprisingly, was actually “out of the closet” about it. He would debate anyone who was willing about his reasons to vote for Kerry, which if I remember correctly were based around the idea that he would be good for the economy and had better policies. I remember there was no real reason given for why we were all supposed to vote republican, probably because I suspect it was to do with gay marriage and other issues that were best not talked about. Fact was we didn’t care about politics anyway and if the gedolim told us to vote republican then that’s what we would do, and who was going to question daas torah?

Today I feel qualified to make up my own mind on whom to vote for. I tend to vote Democrat and not just because I’m a filthy socialist who wants to see America brought down from the inside. I can’t front, it’s because I pretty much see Republicans as hippocrites who use the family values platform to gain the votes of the poor and religious and then slash taxes for the rich and big business to get the votes of everyone else, at least everyone else above the wealth line. Though I do think Republicans have their uses. Christine O’Donnell alone filled comedy show scripts for weeks.

One of my teachers in high school was a fantastically wealthy guy who taught school simply because he didn’t have to work anymore. I personally, would have spent that time building a lair under a volcano and investing in pinky rings and cats, but that was his choice. I remember right after Bush was elected for the first time, he came into class, sat in his chair, leaned far back with his hands behind his head and said “Bush… that’s my guy. I’m buying three cars this year because of this tax cut they’re passing.”

I guess the connection between Republicans and wealthy was made for me when I was that young. Or maybe I’m wrong and still have to figure out where I really fit into politics.

Check back with me in ten years.

I’m Not Israeli

Posted in Israel, Me on August 1, 2010 by frumpunk

I’m not Israeli, I’m Jewish. I don’t have a middle eastern culture, I don’t like humus or tahina, heck, I don’t even like falafel. How do I feel about israel? Well I’m certainly not against it. I absolutely recognize israel in it’s historical context as far as the history and traditions of Judaism go and I also recognize the cultural and religious ties to the land inherent in Judaism. What I don’t feel though, is any obligation to have to automatically defend, argue or debate the current political landscape or recent history of the land of israel under it’s modern government and it’s policies or decisions. I’m not some sort of anti-Zionist or neturai karta, I just don’t feel that simply being Jewish makes me some sort of expert on how other Jews thousands of miles away feel about things and certainly I don’t feel any insight to explain or defend the decisions of a government in a country that I don’t hold citizenship in.

I’ve been mulling this fact over for a fair few years now, basically ever since I entered secular society and the workforce and realized that people seemed to decide my opinion on issues related to the middle east automatically, based on my act of wearing a yarmulke.

Let me be clear. I’ve visited israel and I support the right of my fellow Jews to have their home, but I barely manage to have time to keep up with what congress or parliament are doing, never mind the Knesset.

(Post written on my phone at 4am. Please excuse the spelling or grammatical errors.)

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.

Mi Scusi

Posted in Funny?, Me, Vanish, Weddings on March 5, 2010 by frumpunk

I’m sorry. So so sorry. This has been a very difficult time for all of you, I imagine. This long without a Frum Punk post? With no warning or hints as to my sudden disappearance? Sure, there were signs here and there. You knew my brother was getting married. You all know about my exploits and celebrity romances. I’m sure you’ve all seen the tabloids and that embarrassing video that a certain paparazzi website that shall remain nameless had up. I’m a very busy man, what can I say?

Well you’re partially right. It’s not that I didn’t want to post, far from it. But between the familial obligations that a simcha magnifies, the test taking obligations that midterms throughout December don’t deny, and the travelling obligations that I can’t deny myself, I simply havent been near enough to a computer in the past two months or so to give you what you want. Nay, need.

Yes, I got to do a bit of travelling. Spain, Italy, France… if there was a cheap flight there, an available list of kosher eateries and/or the promise that it would be sunny and potentially blizzard-free, I was there, tried to be there, or at least suggestively fondled a map of the place. But do you think I had fun? No! Picture me in Madrid, tanned and sun-blessed, holding a cup of coffee and trying my darndest to look European. It’s a pretty picture, but you couldn’t see the tormented man behind the curtain, racked with guilt, knowing the pleasure of the moment for me was at the cost of giving you, the people, what you want. Because you want me, you need me. I lift your spirits and tickle that special spot beneath your chin with my words, anecdotes, stories and terrible metaphors. You need me like an ant needs a wheel of cheese. Like a rebbetzin needs to model her husbands streimel when he leaves the house. Like a kosher lamp needs a shabbos clock to talk to at night when you go to sleep. (What, you don’t think they come alive at night?)

So I’m going to give it to you. Sure, I’ve missed the pre-purim season which is the best time of the year for bloggers to write all those things that don’t fit the rest of the year, but you’re getting it anyway. This is going to be some hot bloggeration. Shield the kids eyes.

In conclusion; thank you, thank you. You’re the best readers ever. Thank you for your support and patience. You’re the real winners here. These roses are for you. Thank you again, and good night. *Exit stage left*