Archive for the Yeshiva Category

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?

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 Could Have It So Much Better

Posted in Girls, Israel, Rants, Sem, Yeshiva on October 29, 2008 by frumpunk

As a further sign I’m getting older, my sister is currently looking into seminaries for next year. (A different topic, but seriously, I remember dunking her in the laundry basket to make her giggle, and now she’s off to sem!?) The one she’s currently almost decided on happens to be the sister school to the Yeshiva I went to, so naturally I checked out the brochures she had to see how they differ.

Now guys are naturally a bit rougher so I was expecting their creature comforts to be a bit more flowered up, but seriously, this place sounds like a hotel: ” The apartments are pleasant and cozy, heated and air-conditioned” Air-conditioned!? I used to freeze a two liter bottle of Coke and put it under my pillow just to try and feel some semblance of cool. We had a fan that we hung from the ceiling using duct-tape. And they get bloody air-conditioning!?

“With American-style mattresses, living room suites, and full kitchen facilities (stove top, microwave, toaster oven, sandwich maker and hot water urn).” We had three American mattresses in yeshiva, and they were well fought over, with seniority or coolness usually managing to clinch them. You know what the rest of us had? Foam. Foam covered in some Israeli sandpaper sheets. If you were really lucky, you might get a second foam to make it a bit more comfortable. Living room suites? The closest we got to a living room suite was throwing some pillows on someones bed, ten guys squeezing on it so we could all watch a downloaded movie on someones laptop. Kitchen facilities? Maybe if you bought them yourself. Even then you might not be allowed to keep them (fire hazard).

“Well balanced nutritious meals are provided; vegetarian and other special needs can be met by prior arrangement”. We had nutritious meals too. Chicken-based substances are nutritious, right? Basically, we had whatever came out of a big bag, or the cook could easily make. Forget nutritious, it was of questionable edibility. And I can’t imagine the response to requesting special needs meals. Actually, I can. Laughter?

I could go on about creature comforts, but that would take all day, and I’m anxious to move on. Recreation. They have a choice of extra-curricular activities, including Art, Choir, Kickboxing, Aerobics, Pilates, Karate, Dancing, Choir (yes, they listed it twice), Challah Baking, Scrap-booking, Cake Decorating, Sewing, Jewelry making, and Basketball at an indoor gym. I can’t complain, we had activities too, like basketball a couple of times a week. And learning, you could always have extra-curricular learning. Basically, I’m jealous. How awesome would it have been to be able to do kickboxing in Yeshiva? This is why guys go to town at night, there’s nothing to do in Yeshiva to keep them there. And it annoys me how guys are all assumed to be sports and fitness obsessed. When we had reps scouting us in 12th grade we asked what amenities the Yeshivas offered, and almost all of them had nothing to offer but gym and a basketball court. I’m not exactly pushing for Yeshivas to offer challah making, but they could make an effort to take care of the guys as much as they do the girls.

I’ve also got the brochures accompaniment here, a course catalog. I’d like to review it but I can’t, its just too thick. They may not learn Gemorah, but to their benefit, as they get a course on almost everything else, in almost every area of interest. From hashgafa to history, from halachos in every practical area to more esoteric stuff. This is why girls tend to know more practical stuff than guys. They get the straight scoop. While Yeshvos are obsessed with plowing through mesechtos, one size fits all, the sems are offering the girls a choice of interests and they get to hear what to do while guys are pretty much trying to learn aramaic.

All I can say is, I’m going drag and enrolling in sem. Seems like a better post-high school experience.

Fond Memories

Posted in Me, Music, Yeshiva on June 1, 2008 by frumpunk

Check out a yeshiva memories post from Mike in Midwood.

Mine wasn’t that bad (I’m talking about my yeshiva high school here) but in one classroom the ceiling tiles always sagged because the pipes above leaked and it would build up until once a year the whole ceiling would collapse and we’d spend a gemora shiur with brooms cleaning. This went on for two years before they actually fixed the pipes. I guess it was cheaper just to replace the tiles and let them collect the water for a year.

Also our milk was infamous. One year the purim play had this bit which I always thought was great:

*Principal is on a game show*

Host: So Rabbi, for your final question to win the million dollars… “How long does milk take to spoil?”

Rabbi: “Hey, that’s a trick question. Milk never spoils. I once had some milk that was twenty years old! It was a little crunchy, but still good.”

Our school got all the food from the food bank. Every box of cereal was carefully opened and checked, because more often than not there were insects inside the bag. I don’t know how they got in there, I thought they’re all airtight? Most kids would just buy their own cereal. Breakfast fun also involved the occasional cockroach when someone at a table would see it scurry under and yell, causing everyone to jump up on the bench. After all, who wants a roach on their shoes?

On a different note, I feel stupid everytime I get an album that came out a few years ago that I didn’t bother to get until now. Jeremy Enigk’s second solo album, ‘World Waits’ is fantastic. Can’t wait for his third one which should be out this year. I’m listening to The Fire Thefts self titled right now. I love his solo stuff, but really wish they’d get back together for another band album. I need my SDRE fixes.

I’m starting a habit of uploading a song whenever I mention music I’m enjoying, seeing as most people will have never heard of these bands. This is ‘It’s Over’ by The Fire Theft. Just click the link to go to a page to stream the song.

It’s Over – The Fire Theft