Sunday, April 29, 2007

The real reason we got out of there part II

Right Here

Over the past week I have found that a serious fringe benefit of Aliya is not having to listen to countless mindless morons spewing endless nonsense about the NFL draft.

For those of the female persuasion let me explain what this event is. The NFL Draft is basically a competition between over sized, girlfriend beating drug addicts to see who can have the most money thrown their way in order to buy the biggest and most blinged out Lincoln Navigator one can possibly imagine.

In order to explain to us poor fools what is going on behind the scenes in the "war rooms," legions of illiterate "insiders" continuously break down each players performance since 3rd grade.

The fact that they are middle age men scrutinizing 2o year old kids doesn't seem to phase them. The fact that only 25% of the drafted players will still be playing in three years doesn't seem to phase them either. And, amazingly, the fact that spending all of this time on such a wasteful endeavor is a clear sign of how far our society has fallen seems to be lost on them as well.

My favorite draft story: When I was in high school I was watching one of these draft specials. One of the segments was a feed from the home of a college tight end who was expected to be drafted at the end of the first round. When he was drafted there was a big celebration. Immediately after all of the hugs and kisses he said to his mother (who seemed to be wearing dollar sign contact lenses), "O.K., lets go get the car." And off they went to their local Lincoln dealer and bought the requisite blinged out Navigator. As this young man stepped into the car he said to the camera, "This is the reward for all of my hard work."

What?!?

Hard work?!?

Sorry buddy, cheating your way to a 2.45 GPA is not what I call hard work. Getting free cars and other expensive toys from psychotic boosters is not hard work. Hard work is the guy who gets up at 5:30 in order to learn for a few hours before catching the 8:02. Hard work is the kollel guy putting in 18 hour days in the beis medrash for 500 bucks a month. Hard work was that guy sitting next to you in Survey of European History who delivered pizza in his spare time in order to put himself through college.

Playing a game for millions of dollars will never be hard work in my book no matter how much you sweat.

But now I am here-- I don't have to deal with that anymore.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

OOS makes a big announcment

The OOS blog has been waaaaaaaaaaaaay too serious over the past few days. It is time to get back to our bread and butter, i.e. nonsense.

Anyway, if you can remember back before we made Aliya I wrote about my love for Heinz ketchup, and wondered if I would be able to live without it.

Well, I have an announcement to make:

OOS officially sanctions OSEM brand ketchup.

It happened over Pesach when we had to take a break from Heinz. I know it is a shocker, but it's true.

A musar haskil: We can all make changes in life. Sometimes we just need the right circumstances.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Is Aliya the only way? Part II

Note: In order to fully "get" this post you must read this one first.

Now that you have seen it you have read about my distaste for Oleh Self Righteousness Syndrome, and its product-- guilt.

It is abundantly clear that not everyone is chayav to move to Israel. There are innumerable factors that must be weighed before making the decision to go, and those that do not weigh them do an enormous disservice to themselves and their families.

However, this has a flip side too.

The problem is that most people never reach this first step of even considering whether to move. Despite whatever lip service they might pay, most American Jews-- orthodox Jews-- view Eretz Yisrael as a cross between a nice tourist destination and fodder for interesting debate at the Shabbos table.

I am not pulling a J. Kerry here. I still believe every word of what I wrote a few days ago. America is not a warehouse of evil, and nobody should feel guilty about living in the States. But Israel is where Jews belong. How can it be that for so many Jews Israel is not an option?

There are many factors that have caused the current state of affairs, but I think that the core issue at hand is a lack of understanding, and perhaps a lack of belief.

A core theme in the sifrei chassidus is that if Hashem's presence was with us at all times we would be unable to stray from His derech. It is only because His presence is not felt at all times that we act the way we do. We can rectify this situation by striving to achieve a truer understanding of Him, and how He impacts every second of our existence.

I would like to connect this to the matter at hand. There are many Jews who feel that Israel is important and they do many good things for it congruent with where they stand politically. Some donate, some volunteer, some learn etc. But the importance of the land is to so many people skin deep. People who live here will tell you that this place penetrates the soul like nothing else can. Israel is not just a place, and when you get that understanding it does not leave you-- and not considering aliya becomes inconceivable.

Israel is not a blue and white cupcake.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I cannot condemn those who don't consider moving. I think it is unfortunate and I think that parents and schools have failed miserably in teaching its importance, but I do understand where this failure stems from. A true love of Israel-- the type that makes one consider moving here-- is something you either do have or you don't.

P.S. I know I sound self- righteous. Never said I wasn't a hypocrite.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Yom Hazikaron

Having been here less than a year there is very little that I can say about this day. In many ways Yom Hazikaron makes me feel more like an American than ever. However, there is something that I would like to share.

It is hard for Jews to be awed by numbers, because we are inundated with one big one: 6,000,000. Quantities lose meaning, and therefore seeing the number 22,500 really doesn't hit me.

There are three ways that I can connect to this day.

The first is watching videos like this in order to gain an understanding of what those 22,500 lives meant.

The second is a point that I heard this morning from a friend who pointed out the irony of the day. It is a day of remembrance, and for far too many families, a day of sadness. However, at the same time it is an incredible day of achdus. I know that the "real" Yeshivas are not doing anything practical to commemorate the day and I have no taina with them. But, unfortunately, their is no concept that brings people together like nonexistence. Death somehow has a way of making us forget our shtuyot. And that is why I get ticked off when I hear small minded people complaining one way or another about the practices of the day. This Yeshiva had a commemoration, this one didn't. Who cares. Get over yourselves and realize that what we do is not the point-- its where we are at. Today, other than a few psychos, we are all in the same place. And that is special.

The third way that I connect is through the understanding of what I have done to my family as a result of making aliya. At this point I cannot have a true understanding of what Yom Hazikaron is. But I will. Hopefully in as distant a way as possible.

The things we do for this crazy place.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Is Aliya the only way?

A little while ago my dad posted about the difficulty of making aliya with teenagers. Someone named Gabi responded with this. An I added my two cents:

Careful Gabi, you seem to be suffering from an acute case of Oleh- Self- Righteousness Syndrome. To begin with I would ask you why there is a need for an organization like this or this... (ayen sham for
the rest)
I feel I must elaborate-- not only regarding the notion of moving with teenagers (which, by the way, I recently heard from a member of the NBN social services department is being unofficially discouraged by her organization), but the concept of Aliya.

Allow me to be more specific. The real question that I would like to deal with is this: Is Aliya for every Jew?

Truthfully, for me to address the issue is somewhat disingenuous. It is a halachic question and, as anyone who has read this blog can likely tell, I am very much unqualified. However, as a recent oleh I believe that I do have insight into this topic that I would like to share.

Let me start by saying this. Aliya is great, and many, perhaps most olim make it work. Making Aliya has changed my life for the better in more ways than I can articulate and I am grateful to the Ribbono Shel Olam for placing me in the position to make it happen. The timeless words of the Kuzari seem appropriate here.
It is not difficult to accept the assumption that one land is set aside from all other lands. Do you not see with your own eyes that a place is better than all other places for a specific plant, a specific mineral, and a specific animal... The Chosen People are not able to cleave to the Godly matter in any land but this one. (Kuzari, B: 10- 12) (My own very poor translation)

Jews belong here. The Land of Israel is where we thrive. As my friend Hooie (once again name changed to protect the innocent (actually this time it really is changed. Oh well.)) succinctly put it, "Israel is a really, really great place."

That being said I think it is preposterous to posit that every Jew must make aliya, or even that every Jew should make aliya. Moving here is hard, and it is not for everyone. My wife and I did it by the book-- we moved while we were young, arranged our schooling around the assumption of moving, etc., etc. etc. It has still been difficult in ways we could not have anticipated (more on that later).

To most people the notion that aliya should be a cautious decision is not a chidush. But there is something that I detect in the voices of Americans who wish to make Aliya that distresses me because I am fairly certain of what its source is. That something is guilt, and its source is us- and by us I mean olim.

During the few times when I dragged my lazy, anti- social behind out of Yeshiva for Shabbos, I had the pleasure of staying at the houses of various olim, new and old. What I remember most about these visits was returning to Yeshiva feeling guilty. Guilty that I was still an American, and that somehow, without a teudat zehut I was living a meaningless life. This was not my experience with the most of the olim I stayed by, mind you-- but too many.

Guilt should not be a factor in aliya, and those who don't make it should not feel guilty. Yet, the self- righteousness of so many olim is enough to make one sick.

Let's make two things clear, despite the fact that they are not points that should need clarification.

1. It is entirely possible to live a meaningful life outside the Land of Israel.
2. It is entirely possible to waste one's life inside the Land of Israel.

Making aliya is not a free pass, nor is staying in the States a death sentence.

Reasonable people act reasonably when making big decisions. One would be hard pressed to find a much bigger decision than whether or not to make aliya. To ask people to turn off their intellect and make rash decisions regarding aliya, is to me, unconscionable.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A weird place

I am always struck by the absurdities of this strange place that seem to fly right over the average Israeli's head. I am sure that if I sat and thought I would be able to come up with a list of over one hundred odd things that go on in this wacky place, which the average Joe misses because it is so, well... normal.

For now let's settle for one such topic: Motor scooters. Yes, these contraptions are everywhere in Yerushalayim- which makes sense considering the abundance of simtaot (alleyways), one way streets, and roads leading to nowhere that are a staple of Jerusalem life, and which can only be navigated by these nifty machines.

That is not what's funny. What makes me laugh is that one can find every type of person riding. Young or old, chiloni or charedi, male or female, it does not matter. Everyone and their grandmother rides them-- and I use that phrase very literally. Grandmothers do ride motorbikes here in Israel.

The first time I saw this phenomenon I was stunned. Walking down Rechov Yaffo I see a woman dressed in the usual motor biking attire: leather biking jacket, leather pants, a helmet painted in wildly clashing colors. She pulls off the helmet and... Is that you Bubbe?!? Well, not mine but surely someone's . I look around to snicker with my fellow pedestrians who must also be astounded by this absurd sight, but no, everyone else seems to think that it is perfectly normal.

Experience would tell me that it was normal. And I too have learned to keep a straight face.

But inside I am still smiling.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dov Bear misses the point

A few days ago my dad wrote this:
2. OOS called from Yerushalayim on Acharon shel Pesach to rub it in. He left a message on our phone that he and HHW were eating both pizza and falafel (Shalom's falafel, at that) at the same time. I guess we deserve it.

To which DB responded with this:
What's so hot about chometz? I never understood the rush to fres.
To which I must respond:
DB you just don't get it. It's not actually eating chametz (although chometz is pretty hot after seven days of matzah with cream cheese) it's the fact that we can eat chametz if we so desire. When I called I was actually lying about eating both pizza and falafel at once-- although I did eat both in due time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

People I want to kill

Lets start with the guy from the following story:

This morning, as is my minhag, I went to the 6:45 minyan in the shul across the street. This shul is, hmmm... how should I put it?... interesting (Yes, interesting is a nice word for a shul that is in a bunker, and which gets over 100 people for kabbolos shabbos, yet struggles mightily to get a minyan for shacharis on a weekday. But I digress).

We are almost always able to get a minyan, but unfortunately today was an unlucky day, and at 7:15, with only eight men the decision was made to daven b'yichidus. At 7:25 a ninth man entered. At 7:35, yes SEVEN- THIRTY FIVE!!! No you are not reading that incorrectly a full FIFTY MINUTES!!! after davening was scheduled our asiri (tenth man) (lets call him @&%*) entered (this is not strange for @!*&, he never comes before 7:15).

Seething, I ripped off my tallis and tefillin, and headed for the exit. As I left, @#^% turned to me, and in a reproachful voice says, "Ma zeh? Yeish lanu minyan. Assur lecha la'azov." (What is this? We have a minyan. It is forbidden for you to leave)

A word of advice Mr. @#$%--- watch your back.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Biur Chametz-- Israel Style

The Mishna in Pesachim (21a) brings down a machlokes regarding whether biur chametz min hatorah may be done only through sreifa (burning) or if it can also be accomplished through mefarer v'zoreh laruach oh matil layam (crumbling and throwing to the wind or dropping into the sea).

It seems that here in Yerushalayim a fourth method has been invented: zorek lachatulim (throwing to the cats).

Throughout the month of Nisan Yerushalmi felines feast on the discarded chametz of Yerushalmi Jews, enjoying the benefits of our labor. Anyone who has ever lived in the holy city knows that when throwing out trash one must be wary of these small creatures jumping out of the dumpsters as the garbage gets thrown in. However, before Pesach extra caution is necessary, as one bag of trash can cause the hasty retreat of five to six mangy cats. Helping their cause is the minhag in Israel not to sell chametz gamur.

Cats benefit after Pesach as well. There is a kindhearted soul living on my block who takes it upon himself to feed the cats that call it home. In the mornings he puts out cat food, a tin full of milk, and four or five opened yogurts for his little friends to dine on. It must be that this Pesach he miscalculated his matzah consumption and bought too much because this morning, in addition to their regular meal, the cats were given a tin full of crumpled up matzah. Now, I cannot claim to have any knowledge regarding the inner workings of the feline digestive system, but if matzah has the same effect on their stomachs as it does on mine than I think I will be forced to reassess how kindhearted this man really is.

As an aside: If anyone has any idea of the history of the cat epidemic in Israel please enlighten me in the comments section. I have heard that cats were specifically brought in to take care of the mice, but I don't know that for sure.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How quickly things change

One year ago yesterday I was celebrating the second day of yom tov in America. And that seemed normal and good to me. After all, yom tov is synonomous with two days, isn't it?

When we decided to move to the holy land I was struck by how weird it would be to celebrate only one day from now on. After all, yom tov is synonymous with two days isn't it?

Yesterday, while still getting over the, um, excretion system predicament that comes with drinking four cups of wine and 781 kzeisim of matzah in a single night, I thought to myself, "My God I can't imagine doing this again tonight. How are my parents going to get through it? After all, any idiot knows that yom tov is only one day. Right?"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007