Read This First

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St. Louis, Missouri
I'm not grumpy all the time, just enough for people to think I am. I'm an almost frum, liberal, conservadox Jew who davens with Chabad. I love movies, music, chinese food, and working out. I'm training for a marathon and trying to quit smoking at the same time. Oh yeah, and on most days, I really hate my job.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

With a heavy heart

Two years ago today, Heather Lynn Brandow was wrapped in HaShem's eternal light.

We love and miss you Heather.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Jeez, I really do text like a 14 year old girl.....

But, maybe JDate came through for me for a change.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mitzvathon 2009

Marathon training is going great. Last night I did my first 7 mile trek. It was a lot of fun. My time was where I expected it to be, 1 hour 20 minutes, and at the end I felt like I could keep going for another hour. So, I'm right where I need to be with my training at this stage of the game. My legs are pretty spent today, so tonight I'm going to take it easy. 1 mile run, and a 1.5-2k swim.

Oh yeah, why is this post titled Mitzvathon 2009? Because I'm working to raise 36000.00 to be split between 2 different charities. If 770 people commit to sponsor me at $1.80/mile ran, then we will reach our goal. I already have 6 people on board and another person working on a website. I know that's not much, but it's a good start.

If you are interested in helping St. Louis Solomon Shechter Day School's tuition assistance program and Chabad of Chesterfield get their first Shul off the ground, please comment or email me, and I will be in touch with you about the specifics.

But, I am super excited today. At 11:30, I get to meet with the head of fundraising for Solomon Shechter to talk about the P.R. blitz we are going to do with this. Links and the new website will be posted as soon as they're available.

Peace out

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thought For The New Year

I have a JDate related post I'm working on for later, but for now.....

With Rosh Hashana coming up, I thought it would be cool if we all took ownership of a single mitzvah. By take ownership of, I mean, find a mitzvah that you really connect with and spend the year trying to perfect your practice of it. Make this mitzvah something that people know you by. For me, I've taken tzitzis as my own. Every time a friend tells somebody that doesn't know me something about me, it's always the same thing "you know, the really tall skinny guy with the tzitzis down to his knees?". "Oh yeah, I know who your talking about now..."

I'm not saying that I'm the only one who wears them in all of St. Louis, but outside of Kohn's Deli and U-City, it's kind of a rare sight.

But anyway, like I said, make this year about perfecting something that really speaks to you, be it tefillin, tzitzis, reading the Torah portion, making minyan, whatever it is that you think defines you as a person.

Oh, and last night, I swam 5k and weighed in at 215. Another swim tonight and tomorrow is running.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tznius, Tzedakah, Ahavat Yisrael, and Moshiach

Maybe you're like me and cry out for Moshiach ben David now, maybe you're like my reform friends who look towards a messianic age. Maybe you're like certain Rabbis that I know, who don't pretend to understand exactly what Moshiach will be or what will bring him, and instead focus on daily observances.

No matter what your outlook on Moshiach, we need to dig deeper in ourselves and our actions.

Tznius is more than skirts and long sleeves. Tzedakah is more than throwing a few coins in a pushkah. And ahavat yisrael is more than just words we say in shulls on Shabbos morning.

Dress with tznius, yes, but remember why we do it (men and women). It's not to reduce us to the most base and crude aspects of our bodies and sexuality, then cover it all up. It's to reflect the modesty in our hearts. Look modest to feel modest to be modest. Maybe we could replace "modest" with righteous. Like I said, it isn't about bickering over skirts being knee or ankle leingth, or if a sheitle is more or less tznius than a snood. It's about having respect for your body that Hashem gave to you, because your body is the clothing of your neshama.

Give Tzedakah yes, but remember that tzedakah means "doing righteousness", not "giving charity. Do your righteousness by helping a friend learn a bit of Torah even though you want to watch your favorite TV show, or maybe you let others give tzedakah in their own way to you. Yes giving financially is great and I fully support (and practice) the giving of money. But It's so much more than that.

I know I'm guilty of not always feeling ahavat yisrael, especially to those that I view as having misguided priorities. But, I try to love them for who they are. Jews who are trying to live a higher calling for the benefit of the world. We must not just say we love all Jews, but we must actually love them. We don't have to like them. We don't have to want to go to shull with them. But we must love them. You got a gay cousin who participates in pride parades wearing pink bike shorts and rollerblades? Love him. You got a nutty uncle who ran off to Israel, moved into Mea Sharim and refuses to talk to you anymore? Love him. Remember that girl that cheated on you, then had the nerve to say that you were to jealous and broke up with you? Yeah, you need to love her too.

Maybe if we all practiced true tznius, honest tzedakah, and deeper ahavat yisrael, then just maybe, we wouldn't have to worry as much about when Moshiach will get here. We could just be ready when he does.

A Music Hechscher?

So, this latest chumra is absolutely absurd. The Cheradim's desire to put a hechsher on music has crossed the last line of decency in my book. Don't get me wrong. The sexist and xenophobic statements made by many Cheradi Rabbis are completely unacceptable, and I would never liken the ban of music without a hechsher to the oppression of women in these areas. But, I'm just so stunned that the Cheradi community has decided to flex it's muscle to force people support its bans on music.

You may be thinking, OK they wont listen to it and that's fine. They weren't listening to it in the first place. But, that's only part of the story. The rest is that they will boycott anybody or any venue that does not bend to their rulings on music. You own a wedding hall? Better not AKA-Pella perform there, or the Cheradi community will boycott. Do you own a Jewish book store? Better not get caught selling a Moshav Band CD, or you will be boycotted.

The Cheradi boycotts also go deeper than the economic issue. How many acts of violence have Cheradi Jews perpitrated on people as they try to force others to participate in their boycotts, or participate in their Chumrot? I do remember all the news reports from not to long ago about women being attacked on buses for not sitting in the back, and stones being thrown at un tznius women walking on public roads that just happen to be in neighborhoods the Cheradi moved into after the norms of the neighborhood were already set by the current residents.

It's no secret that I think that cheradic chumrot are a load of horse crap, but to ban music for it's style and not it's message is ridiculous. Don't these people know that the regge beats of Matisyahu brought more people into teshuvah? Or that the rap/rock of Ta-Shma allowed young people to see the mitzvoth as more than just actions and prohibitions? Or maybe they need to ask how many people enhanced their tefillah through listing to Y-Love.

All of these artists, and so many more that I didn't name, are observant, Torah loving, G-d fearing Jews and you will deny them their ability to express themselves in a public setting because you don't like the style of their music? The chillul Hashem is your attitude, not this music.

If you want to live your lives to a higher purpose, then go for it. I have no problems with that. But, quit making sweeping chumrot on things that are perfectly acceptable in Torah based Judaism just because you don't like it.

Here's a short list of chumrot that are especially ridiculous

Strawberries - assur
Miami (the whole city) - assur
The color red - assur
Shetil ads in newspapers and storefronts - assur
and now music with pop or disco beats, or any song that uses any holy themes in a "frivolous" manner - assur

The list is much much longer, but I just wanted to give a few examples of the absurd levels that these chumrot go to.

Have fun being assuridox Jews, maybe you should just not do something if you don't like it instead of trying to force your views on everyone else. You keep on fighting the evils of strawberries and saxophones, I'll be busy fighting child abuse, domestic violence, poverty, illiteracy, government corruption, and hunger. But hey, worst case scenario, I'll move to Miami. Since the whole city is assur, you wont be there to enforce your asinine chumrot.

Last Night's Training Session

So, I weighed in last night. I'm just under 213 lbs soaking wet.
I also swam over 4k as opposed to the 1.5 I was planning on.
Now I have to get my suit and tie on and go to work.