Archive for the Rants Category

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.

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.

The Other Side

Posted in Funny?, Girls, Rants, shidduch, Shidduchim, Yeshiva on March 17, 2010 by frumpunk

In my estimitation, there are over eleventy million blogs out there written by single girls about dating. In fact, studies show that blogging about dates (or lack thereof) has overtaken tzedaka-based square dancing to become the number one pre-marriage activity for frum single girls. But while they’re writing (complaining) about how hard it is to know how to act around boys, people don’t get to see a date from a boys perspective.

Where does she want to go?

You can’t just ask her. The onus is on you to make sure it’s interesting, not too showy, not too boring and leads to a good first impression of the type of person you are. And this is when you know very little about her. You can end up trying too hard. If she’s described as “outdoorsy” that doesn’t mean a five mile nature hike was a good idea. She might be described as “quirky” but taking her for a walk through the markolet just makes her think you have an unusual attachment to the smell of fish, rather than the intended impression that you want to look at interesting things while talking. She might be a reader, but used bookstores don’t smell very nice, not to mention they don’t facilitate much conversation when other people are trying to read their vintage copies of ‘Simple Truths’. You could take her to a hotel lobby, but then you’re just boring and conventional. I know someone who tried a boat ride for a first date. The lesson he learned was, boats can capsize and so can relationships. Can you take her bowling, or will she think you just want to see her from behind? If you offer to go for a walk around a mall does that mean she thinks you’ll spend money on her, or will she appreciate having an air-conditioned place to walk through with a food court?

What should you wear?

This is an easy one if you’re yeshivish or chareidi. Black, white, black, black. (Yarmulka, shirt, pants, shoes). But what if you’re frum yet not yeshivish? What if you want her to understand that you don’t dress a certain way, yet are a certain type? Wearing a white shirt on the first date might lead to a surprise if you wear a colored shirt on the second. Do you wear a bright shirt on the first date to make it clear you like having choice in your wardrobe or will that scare her off by making her think you’re a loud hippy type? Is a suit too formal? Is just a shirt and pants too casual? Will a polo make you look underdressed or will it make you look neat, confident and relaxed? Tzitzis out or in? What if you planned on taking her on a picnic? Do you wear older pants that can get dirty, or will you shock her by looking sloppy? What if it’s the summer? Black wool in the Israeli sun in July? White pants after labor day?

How much can you spend?

Do you spend a lot to show you’re a good provider or will she take that as you being a show-off? Do you spend a little to show you’re thoughtful with money or does that make you look cheap? Do you take out cash to show you can spend money on her, or do you use a card to show you’re careful and possibly have a good line of credit? Do you take her to a nice restaurant or are you trying too hard? Do you take her out to pizza because it’s just a first date or does that make you seem like an inconsiderate schmuck? Can you offer to split the bill so that she doesn’t feel she owes you anything or is that ungentlemanly of you? If it is a nice place do you surprise her and run the risk she already ate, or do you spoil the surprise by telling her what’s happening? What if you do tell her and you get the impression you made the wrong choice? Is it then alright to switch on her to something you think she’d like better, or does that make you appear indecisive? What if you don’t tell her and she feels bad that she either overdressed for pizza or underdressed for steak? Should you ask about food allergies on the first phone call just in case? What if she’s vegan? (Happened to me once at a shabbos table when the brisket was served. Awk-ward.)

Where to look?

You know what I mean. Can you let her know you find her attractive? Will she be flattered and more likely to warm to you, or will she take you as a creep because it’s too early for you to be looking at her like that? (Pro-tip for girls: we’re looking at you like that from the first second. We’re visual creatures and attractiveness is important. We just have to pretend like it isn’t.) When can you compliment her on her appearance? End of the first date? Beginning of the third? (Tip: Compliment the shoes. She’ll think you’re gay and let down her guard.) Is it a faux-pas to have your silk heart boxers peeking out? What if they’re cotton? (Polyester is a no-no. Poly-blend is only okay if the ratio is 30-70 or less.)

Music in the car?

This obviously only applies if you’re driving. Will playing Jewish music while you drive give her the impression that you only listen to that or are a certain “type”? Will she be turned off if you play secular music, thereby not even giving you a chance on the rest of the date? Is speed metal a bad idea in any circumstance (Answer: yes). Will talk radio bring out her strange political views or reveal her as a simpleton who has no idea what’s going on in the world? Which is better? Will no radio create an awkward silence? Should you play Weird Al on the chance that she likes him and therefore solidifies her in your mind as the woman you better marry, pronto?

What do you talk about?

If you give a devar torah are you being preachy? If you talk about college are you being a show-off? (If you attend anything at Landers or any other Touro affiliate, don’t worry about the last one. Knock yourselves out.) What if you get so nervous you forget the ending to the devar torah? Do you flub it and hope she doesn’t notice? (Really? That pasuk is referring to how we should try to be like the chocolate chip and not like the cookie?) Do you try to have topics written beforehand or is that trying too hard? I know someone who went with a whole list in his pocket of conversational topics that people had recommended. Do you want to be the guy who during a moment of silence fishes a crumpled up piece of paper from his pocket and asks “so tell me about your fascism. I mean, famine? Sorry, family!”

This was a long post, wasn’t it? And you know what? We’ve barely covered half the things to think about when planning a date. So next time you’re fussing about what shoes to wear based on how tall he’s expected to be, please, spare a thought for the boys. It’s no picnic either. Do you want to go on a picnic? Can we sit on the same blanket or will you take that the wrong way?

Be Considerate

Posted in Food, Heimish, Me, Rants on August 13, 2009 by frumpunk

You know why you can’t park on certain roads? It’s not because the city is hoping you will park there and make some money off of you, (although I’m not discounting that that’s a bonus for the bean counters at city hall). It’s because it’s dangerous to park there.

Let me set this up. I go for my Thursday night store run to get some beef shin to add some heimishness to my cholent experience. This store is on a main road, but there is a parking lot at the side. Let me emphasize that – at the side –  not even all the way around the back. Literally a right turn from the front door. And there’s plenty of parking. I know, because I saw the empty spaces next to my car. So I try to make the turn onto the main road, because I need to get home and get this baby in the crock pot, because we all know that your cholent meat loses a bit of heimishness as soon as it leaves the heimish store, heimishness that can only be restored by placing it back into that most heimish of environments, the cholent pot. But I can’t see around the corner, because you idiots had to park both your minivans, illegally, in front of the doors. Five feet away from the corner where the parking lot begins. With the empty spaces next to my car.

I guess because when you have to make that trip, you have to save every second. No matter the price. If I hit another car or yours, that’s just collateral damage.

Bugging Out

Posted in Israel, Me, Rants on June 9, 2009 by frumpunk
It’s never quiet here. It’s summer and it’s hot so we sleep with the window open. Last night at around 3am I hear a loudspeaker announcing something. I couldn’t tell if it was hebrew or arabic but I couldn’t decide what the tradeoff should be. Do I close the window for quiet or keep it open for the breeze? I’ve decided Israel is a second world country, by the way. First world technology, third world culture. Maybe thats a bit harsh, but the Israeli mentality definitely grates on me a little.
And the insects. I don’t like bugs. I’m not scared of bugs, I’m just protective of my body and when I see something that looks like it could sample my leg while I’m sleeping, I step on it. Israel must be a haven for ectomologists, because the sheer variety of creepy crawlies could make one shiver with glee. On shabbos we had ants crawling out of both sinks. This is doubly annoying, because it means you can’t wash your hands without someone shouting at you that you’re going to hell for killing on shabbos. Plus these little suckers had wings. WINGS. All of them, not just the queen. And last night I went to take a shower to find out they’d migrated and I was exposing myself to thousands of little friends. I hope none of them were female, or I might have been over an issur of yichud, not to mention indecency. I took a close look, but it’s so hard to tell, and I didn’t feel like trying to flip them upside down. 
I did the honorable thing of  course, and aimed the shower nozzle at the walls, giving them both the waterpark ride of their lives and a viking funeral. 

 

It’s never quiet here. It’s summer and it’s hot so we sleep with the window open. Last night at around 3am I hear a loudspeaker announcing something. I couldn’t tell if it was Hebrew or Arabic but I couldn’t decide what the trade-off should be. Do I close the window for quiet or keep it open for the breeze? I’ve decided Israel is a second world country, by the way. First world technology, third world culture. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but the Israeli mentality definitely grates on me a little.

And the insects. I don’t like bugs. I’m not scared of bugs, I’m just protective of my body and when I see something that looks like it could sample my leg while I’m sleeping, I step on it. Israel must be a haven for ectomologists, because the sheer variety of creepy crawlies could make one shiver with glee. On shabbos we had ants crawling out of both sinks. This is doubly annoying, because it means you can’t wash your hands without someone shouting at you that you’re going to hell for killing on shabbos. Plus these little suckers had wings. WINGS. All of them, not just the queen. And last night I went to take a shower to find out they’d migrated and I was exposing myself to thousands of little friends. I hope none of them were female, or I might have been over an issur of yichud, not to mention indecency. I took a close look, but it’s so hard to tell, and I didn’t feel like trying to flip them upside down. 

I did the honorable thing of  course, and aimed the shower nozzle at the walls, giving them both the waterpark ride of their lives and a viking funeral.

Pesach Hotels Are For Hookups

Posted in Girls, Rants, Yom Tov on April 8, 2009 by frumpunk

I know, I’ve been a bad blogger. It’s okay to go on hiatus, but then to hardly post when you’re supposedly back is just mean. (How arrogant is that?) Well it’s the busiest time of year, Purim took some time to recover from, and the weather is just getting nice, so who wants to stay inside on a computer?

It’s Pesach tonight, the culmination of weeks of scraping chocolate off the car seats (I love Reeses while driving). But for some, today is check-in day at your hotel. Pesach hotels have never quite sat right with me. A big part of yom tov is the preparation, and nothing embodies that more than Pesach. You’re supposed to clean ever scrap of chometz, and the loophole of simply “selling” your house and checking into a hotel seems not to be embracing the spirit of the yom tov. Plus, you’re supposed to be a king in your house, not a guest at your assigned table. Not to mention the fact that often you have to rush the Pesach bit of the seder to get to the meal by a certain time, because waiters don’t work at 2am. But whatever, I believe in free choice after all. I don’t like the idea, but who am I to begrudge you your hotel Pesach?

The one thing I’ve always found funny though, is how the hotels are dressed up in frumkeit. “Shlomie Dachs in residence!” / “Rabbi Goldblassersteinowitz giving shiur daily!” / “Glatt Uber-Kosher cake! You won’t believe it’s not flour!” Its the letter of the law but not the spirit. And also the hidden hook-up scene. Kids go to pesach hotels to hook up. It’s the semi-secret that everyone knows. I remember, I was there. It’s the perfect storm. The parents are off being pampered or getting their moneys worth at the endless buffet. Every boy working there for minimum wave plus tips has a comped hotel room to take them back to. And the girls are bored and somewhere where few people know them. Plus there’s endless leisure time. I was there as a babysitter for the playgroup, and we only had four hours of work a day.

For further reading, Stacys comment on this post. Oh, and this Craigslist ad suggests it’s not just for the kids…