28 February 2006

10,000 Hits!!!!

10,000 HITS!!!!!
Yay!!! I hit quintuple digits!!
In the words of Apu, "Thank you, come again."

Returning To New York City

While I had intended Sunday night to report on the rest of that day, then yesterday on the morning, and I ended up not meeting either of those objectives.... So, I will now type about my return to NYC, then at some point, type about those two time periods. Also, I may type up about some of my many thoughts that arose on my mind during my two days at the conference.
I was supposed to take an Amtrak train back up to The City, but as I was leaving the hotel, there was a YU student and a Stern student who were about to drive back up - so I hopped in the car with them, we only stopped once on the way up, then dropped her off in midtown, then went up to the Heights (props to the Aaron guy). More on the conference later....

26 February 2006

Arrival in DC & Starting Spitzer Forum

As mentioned in my previous posting, I am at the Spitzer Forum in DC. I left this morning from NYC, taking an Amtrak train down to Union Station in DC, a familiar place, as I was here a year ago, as well as once or twice in the spring of 2002. As to being here a year ago, when I took the Metro to the Omni Shoreham hotel, I recalled having been last year as well. I was here last year for the COEJL conference (which takes place every other year, apparently), which was taking place at the same time as the Hillel Spitzer Forum and the JCPA plenum. This year, it's just the latter two occurring. It's been interesting as I have already met a few people that I've known from both staffing BBYO international leadership summer programs in 2002, 2003, and 2004, as well as people from IUB. I saw Jen Gubitz from IU, as well as a Sara(h) girl also from IU; a fellow BBYO staffer, Zach; and two participants from ILTC from a couple of years back. I look forward to meeting some more people I already know again, as well as to some new people.
Oh, and btw, my room hasn't yet been ready, even though I've been here for almost two hours already - it's frustrating carrying my stuff around.
Oh, and, btw, I attended a session on speaking, which was rather quality stuff. More specifically, it was given by Ariel Halevi, an Israeli, who is a professional speaker and works with organizations, as well, and it was about persuasive speech.
Okay, I'm off for now....
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25 February 2006

This Weekend

view from the park with my buiiding in the background3 things about this weekend:

(1)Yesterday, when I came back from school, I noticed in the lot next to our building some wooden boards were being put up (potentially for building a building). A few months back, in a few day stretch, "they" cut down all of the trees there. It was rather sad and somewhat frustrating as I liked being able to look out of my window and see trees, especially as that lot is next to the tiny Gorman Park, which also has trees (for pics of the park). So, we'll see how the building progresses. (I wonder if my building-mate, Devorah, will blog about it....)view from my building
(2)Over shabbas, I was speaking with someone about going to the Seforim sale, and he mentioned something about me linking to his blog. I was surprised mainly because I wasn't aware of what he had to do with the blogs I linked. He then informed me which one was his blog, and as such, I have added it to my blogroll.
(3)Tomorrow, I leave for DC to attend the Spitzer Forum in order to promote YCT and will be gone until Monday night. :)
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23 February 2006

My Foray Into Talmud Textual Variants Begins to Begin

Okay, so I am in no way claiming that my scholarhood in this field is really beginning (though that'd be pretty cool), but today I took a look at a couple of statements of Shmuel's on sleep. I did so because in the course of my collecting data for my interest in sleep in the Talmud (part of my larger interest in sleep in the Jewish tradition), I came across a couple of somewhat puzzling statements made by him in Aramaic(!). While this may not seem strange, it's important to keep in mind that Shmuel and his cohort, Rav, almost always speak in middle Hebrew (the Hebrew of the Mishnah), at least in formal halakhic statements, whereas when they are quoted in other contexts, Aramaic sometimes creeps in (though one has to be careful that they are, indeed, their words). In any event, I had mentioned these two statements of Shmuel's to my teacher of Academic Talmud, which is being taught this semester at yeshiva, by Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Milgrom (I think I spelled his name correctly), and he had suggested to me that I check the Lieberman textual variants CD. So I did today.
While one of the texts (found on Yoma 78b) didn't have anything really much different from each of the others, the other (found on Berakhos 62b) did. There were only four texts, but each of them different(!):
The Vilna printed edition which we commonly use has the following:
אמר שמואל שינה בעמוד השחר כאסטמא לפרזלא יציאה בעמוד השחר כאסטמא לפרזלא
The Soncino printed edition (רמ"ד) has the following:
אמ' שמואל שינה בעמוד השחר כאסטמא לפרזלא יציאה בעמוד השחר כאסטמא לפרזלא
However, and this is where it gets exciting - in the manuscripts(!). There were only two on the CD and they are the Paris 671 ms and the Oxford (366) Opp. Add. Fol. 23 ms. The Paris ms has the following:
יציאה בעמוד השחר כסטומא לפרזלא
and the Oxford ms has
שינה בעמוד השחר כסטומא לפרזלא יציאה בעמוד השחר כסטומא לפרזלא

Granted, the two printed editions has no significant difference between them, but WOW are the mss different(!). Neither of them have Shmuel saying them, and in the Paris ms, sleep isn't mentioned.
Before jumping to conclusions about this text, I would like to see other manuscripts on this text. I see that Hebrew University has something up online, but I am having difficulty with it.
Oh well, I'm excited for more....
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My Last and Final Trip to this Year's Seforim Sale

Tonight, I went to the YU Seforim Sale for the last time of this year (for my previous two trips each of the last two Thursdays: trip #1 & trip #2).
This trip yielded me חידושי הרמב"ן על הש"ס (Novellae of Nahmanides on the Babylonian Talmud) in four volumes, ספר אגרות משה (Book of Letters of Moses) in seven volumes, the 1985 JPS translation of the Hebrew Bible in English, the ראב"ד's בעלי הנפש (the Ra'avad's Ba'alei Nefesh (I know I'm getting lazy with translation)), and the Da'at Mikra Atlas.
The Ra'avad work was the only work I was supposed to get for next year's books, though I also needed the Ramban on Niddah and figured I'll just get him on Shas. I figured Rav Moshe's teshuvos aren't going out of style just yet, so I copped that. As to the Biblical books, they're good reference works in general.
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21 February 2006

Motherly Dating Advice

Last night, while speaking with my mom on the phone, she had pointed out that I'm a lot like my father in that I'm not that talkative (ok, so a lot like a lot of other guys, too). Furthermore, she pointed out that gals are typically more talkative, but that they often can't really tell much about a guy by just talking with a guy (and that's assuming he does talk). However, by doing activities, especially more active ones, a guy's character can show more than they could just by sitting having coffee or ice cream.

I definitely agree with my mom on this point, and think guys should probably take their cue from this. Any thoughts?
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20 February 2006

3 Updates In Drew's Life (a/k/a 3 Things That You Wanted To Know About My Life At This Time)

Drew life updates:
  1. I've got roommates!!! They are two super-seniors at YU, one of whom will be moving out at the end of May, so I will be looking for a new roommate come June. (see previous posting on this topic)
  2. I finished watching the third season of "24" last week [on DVD], but I will be taking a brief hiatus before beginning the fourth season - 24 is very enjoyable, but now that the last season on DVD is all that's left for me, it'll be over so shortly (I don't know when the fifth season (which is currently on TV now) will be out on DVD, so that's not going to be for a while.). BTW, 24 has been my current main extra-curricular activity, taking the place of my researching-and-writing. (I have blogged about 24 previously, including my first posting about it, and two others (here and here).) Additionally, don't forget to check out Lipman's posting about 24 displaying an Ethics of Responsibility versus that of the Torah's Ethics of Ideology.
  3. I got health insurance! So, I may be jogging soon. And if I get hurt badly, I'll have health insurance! :) (for more, see my earlier postings on my knee: here and here)
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A Prayer before a Prayer

Rabbi Shmuel, son of Nahmani, said (yBerakhos 4.1) that
בשחר, צריך לאדם לומר: "מודה אני לפניך ה' אלהי ואלהי אבותי שהוצאתני מאפילה לאורה."
במנחה, צריך אדם לומר: "מודה אני לפניך ה' אלהי ואלהי אבותי כשם שזכיתני לראות החמה במזרח, כך זכיתי לראות במערב."
בערב, צריך לומר: "יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלהי ואלהי אבותי כשם שהייתי באפילה והוצאתני לאורה, כך תוציאני מאפילה לאורה
In the morning prayer, it is necessary for a man to say: "I admit before you, God, my Lord and the Lord of my fathers, that you took me out from darkness to light."
In the afternoon prayer, a man needs to say: "I admit before you, God, my Lord and the Lord of my fathers, just as you merited that I should see the sun in the east, such shall you cause me to merit to see in the west."
In the evening prayer, he needs to say, "May it be the will from before you, God, my Lord and the Lord of my fathers, just as I was in darkness and you took me out to light, such shall you take me out from darkness to light."
I try to say these sayings every day, but am not sure why they are not codified להלכה (as Jewish law).
While not mandating that one needs to say these things, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan wrote (in his באור הלכה, (in fact, the very first entry in that work(!)) on 1.1, s.v. שיהא הוא מעורר השחר) that
It is very proper to be careful to say before each of the three prayers a gratitude of the "May it be the will...", which is amplified in the Yerushalmi, chapter of tefillat hashahar.
I don't know why this is the furthest it's been "codified", but perhaps it's not so common because people didn't really learn the Yerushalmi all that much, or perhaps because no one thought to codify it. It's also possible that since there is a connection of this part of Rabbi Shmuel, son of Nahmani's statement with the first part that the three prayers each day are instituted because of the changing of the day. Perhaps because the final decision was that it was due to the offerings that prayer is done, his comment went by the wayside. Thus, Rabbi Kagan's position that it's very good to say them, refraining from using mandatory language, shows that, nevertheless, one ought to say them.

19 February 2006

Seforim Sale Blog Roundup - One More Week To Go

The YU Seforim Sale has been going on for over two weeks, even getting mentioned in the Jewish Week and is one of the biggest Jewish events in the neighborhood (Washington Heights) of the year. Although I have already blogged about my trip there on its opening night and my subsequent return a week later, I thought - with its last week coming upon us - I would do a blog roundup of people who have also blogged about their seforim sale trips.
Similar to my postings, Natan at Ta Shma also blogged about his purchases, Romach about meeting some fellow bloggers, and Menachem about not only meeting some fellow bloggers, but also about the first day. Inmymind posted about how exciting it was for her, Tzvee posts about his gripes about the sale, even though he hasn't gone this year, and Ben posts about the popularity of niddah books. And, of course, Gil has been blogging about various books at the sale, one of which is his posting about the pricing there.
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What's Doin' In New Orleans?

My sister, who is spending her senior semester in college at Tulane University in New Orleans has the following to report on the situation in New Orleans:
Guest blogger: Sister

Let's say you're sitting around a Shabbos table... or any other
gathering of people. How often since September or October
has that conversation turned to talk of New Orleans? Okay, so
your world doesn't revolve around me (which would be kind of
cool - or creepy) or my life, but I want to, briefly, use my
brother's blog as a forum for just that.

Let me start by saying this: I'm lucky! I'm so fortunate that my first
floor apartment wasn't wiped out by the flooding brought on by
Katrina - it flooded 80% of the city, along with flooded nearby
areas. Even houses and apartments that didn't flood the
"traditional" way of water gushing into them from below had
their roofs torn off by the winds of the storm so that rainwater
could work it's magic. It's been half a year - why the hell should
you care?

Because so much of New Orleans has been damaged that this
city which is such a special and unique part of America is facing
ridiculous challenges (and not fully succeeding). If a general
appeal to tikkun olam doesn't do it for you - who cares? - isn't
what happens in some corner of the South in a traditionally Catholic
city someone else's problem? - minor detail that it's an American
city which the government at all levels failed to help or save in its
ongoing crisis.

Okay, so a nudge for the Jewish aspect of things. Over winter
break I volunteered through Chabad on Campus and we did lots
of things, including gut houses and a synagogue which had been
thoroughly flooded, molded, ruined. We had a book burial
ceremony which we buried perhaps thousands of seforim, along
with mezuzot (yes, it flooded that high) and a Torah from both the
shul and private homes. Videos, pictures, etc. here:

What can you, sitting around NYC (or in the area...who are we
kidding?), do? Since I've been here in mid-December I've been
overjoyed by meeting all of the individuals who take time out of
their life to come down here and get their hands dirty in cleaning
up and rebuilding. If you don't think that's for you, that's only
because you've never had the fun of ripping out molded dry wall
and smashing stuff with a mallet - great stress relief! People
from all over have come down here (including my brother and
other YCT guys), in fact, there are two high school students here
this Shabbos from Michigan who drove down on a whim to
volunteer for Habitat for Humanity this coming week while off of
school. Many of these aren't people with vested care for the city
of New Orleans and have never been here before, but understand
that this is an American city in her time of need.

Can't come down here? What about writing to your
Congress(wo)man to make sure to vote to spend more money
strengthening the levees around New Orleans - the flooding of the
city was a man-made disaster creating by shoddy levee
construction. Still too much to ask of you? Then go back to my
opening sentence. Next Shabbos dinner ask if anyone knows
how the city is doing, at Shabbos lunch ask if anyone has the
time and ability to help a crushed city. Next Shabbos is the
Shabbos before New Orleans first post-Katrina Mardi Gras, one
that already got off to a poor start with small parades this
weekend, and a probable lack of tourists (which has really
been hitting the city's economy hard!). Yes, even being a
tourist here is important for the money it brings into the city!

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
~Alexis :)

Tags: New Orleans, Mardi Gras, Hurricane Katrina, Katrina Relief, tikkun olam,
Alexis Kaplan, Habitat for Humanity, Chabad, tourism

Nishma: Web Radio For Jewish Teens

Last night, I hung out with a few people, including which was Yehudis Isenberg, who, for the last two weeks, has been working for the new webstream radio station Nishma. She just wanted me to promote the webstream. It's targeted mainly towards Jewish teenagers. As it's located out of NJ, I'm not sure whether it's targeted mainly for the metropolitan NYC area or for North America and beyond.
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17 February 2006

How's School Going 2 - Being Mindful About It

As one goes through life, one grows accustomed to daily life within one's milieu of quotidian activity, mainly within the loci of work or school. One "goes with the flow" of the daily ups and downs, ins and outs - which makes sense as adaptation to one's schedule or expectations provides for one to better be able to handle their daily occurrences. This is for better or for worse, however. Not only does it ease one's life, but also, perhaps, one's mind. It is such that due to this lack of thinking about one's activities, especially on a daily basis, that one falls into habits and routines (again, these help one along in their daily living, but also detract from one's thinking about their acitivities (again, for better or for worse)).
I have long experienced such "flows" of living, whether in elementary school, middle school, high school, college(s), yeshiva during college, yeshiva after college, or even (to some extent) working for BBYO during a few summers. And, of course, now in rabbinical school, as well (why should it be any different?).
However, vacations, especially travelling, offer a break from the quotidian, which serves as a mark for a different schedule, different activities, not only different from day-to-day, but from parts each day from another. I imagine this is what I like about travelling - a different schedule, different experiences, different milieus/milieux - it's different.
Perhaps to get a good result, should I mix it up every day and see it as different from the next?
I think, however, that there's more to this than as such. Rather, I also lack כוונה (mindfulness) about what I'm doing - I'm going through school, thinking, "Okay, I gotta get through this Tosafos," or "I gotta get through these simanim of the Shulhan Arukh," etc. I realized within the past week or two that I'm not applying much (I imagine some amount - I realize, especially on weekends (particularly on שבת (shabbas)), that I appreciate that I'm a rabbinical student and not involved in business or some other, to me, mundane activity (I say "to me", because I really do value working, it's just that for me that it doesn't really draw my interest as much as Jewish stuff.).
So, I think this is the task upon me now: To consider my position in school, whether it be in classes, or in seder time, etc. what it is that I'm doing, and, here's the difficult part, seeing it within a long-term perspective. This last point is particularly poignant as I know that when I'll be in the field, I will hearken fondly upon my rabbinical school years, so I have to think what is it about them that is so good. Moreover, I have to appreciate what I'm learning and why I'm learning it, too.
Much mental shifting is to come on this topic....שבת שלום Have a good, happy, and whole shabbas.
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April Travelling

In April, I will be returning home to Gahanna, OH to visit my parents from the 7th-11th and to New Orleans to visit my sister and to be a tourist from the 16th-23rd.
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16 February 2006

The Yerushalmi is In My Apartment (Yes, in its entirety)

Unlike my first trip to the YU seforim sale, I successfully purchased a set of the Yerushalmi (yay!). In addition to that, I got myself the acronym book (אוצר ראשי תיבות by אשכנזי and ירדן), in addition to two books that I may find myself referencing next year in English (we have a suggested reading list for next year, but most of the works are in Hebrew): Goldberg's "Mourning in Halachah" and Forst's two volume "The Laws of Niddah" (if you can't yet tell, we're doing niddah (menstrual impurity (I refuse to call it טהרת המשפחה, as per ITLOTW (who says there, "I refuse to call it taharat hamishpacha...you are being purified to a limited extent, not your family, they are not dipping in any mikvahs or counting any days."))) and avelut (mourning)).
I wonder when I will return to the Seforim Sale and what I will allow myself to procure....
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Shuffle Meme

Reading the title, a quizzical expression may overtake your face. It's fine, this expression is not common. A shuffle meme is (at least in this current phase) where one turns their iPod onto shuffle and lists the first 15 songs to play. I didn't invent this, nor come up with this on my own. Lab Rab tagged me with it (who, in turn, got it from LamedZayin, who got it from KrumasaBagel, who I'm suspecting started it), and now I continue it. Oh, and before I forget, I hereby tag the following of my fellow bloggers: Devora (of course, you lent me your iPod that one time), Arona, Esther, and SG (no, I don't have a reasonable explanation why they are all females).
Please do keep in mind that I have some albums on my iPod which have a good number of songs to which I don't listen (look for the asterisked songs). But when you have a lot of space on your iPod like I do, it doesn't matter (except when you're shuffling, d'oh!)
/On 23 May, I removed the titles of the songs and the artists/performers/composers of the songs -see my posting on music of that same date./
1 - ----------...
2 -
3 -
---------- ..."----------"
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -

Similarly to Steg's sentiments on this topic, (aside from the huqot ha'akum concern) that this sort of thing can lead to skewed views on one's musical tastes.
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15 February 2006

Summer 2006/תשס"ו - What To Do?

So, while summer isn't yet here, planning for it has begun. My initial thought (which has been around since at least this past summer) was that I would go to Boston and spend most of my summer at the Summer Beit Midrash, run by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper. My thinking was that this would help me in my career and knowledge as both a rabbinical student and future rabbi (not to mention my textual skills).
However, my mom has disagreed heavily with me on this. Not on the specific program, but because I have only three summers left before I become a rabbi, and I spend most of my year in a similar environment - that of a beis midrash (study hall, for lack of better translation) - along with similar people (Orthodox Jews). She would like to see me do things that I wouldn't normally do and interact with the general populace. She encouraged me to do similarly last summer when I had been thinking of heading to Israel for the whole summer to both study and travel, and I ended up taking a graduate course at Columbia University (which was good), along with a couple of other activities, but I mainly stayed in NYC.
I must first point out that I'm neither financially dependent on my parents (though they are very welcome to give me money :)), nor am I a momma's boy, but it is good to maintain some sense of relation with my mom and parents, in general. However, it is still important to maintain a sense of independence, as well.
I'm not sure what to do. I only have three summers left before I begin my being a rabbi, and I'm sure that each of these summers, I will be doing things that will be resume builders that will be used to further my experience and knowledge in the field of Judaism and rabbinics.
I do see her point that I can do things that I would like to do, plus I can probably do the Summer Beit Midrash next summer. Additionally, it would be great to get out of the beit midrash and doing different thigns that I wouldn't normally do - I enjoyed the physical labor during our Katrina relief trip as well as during my trip down to El Salvador, through AJWS last year, and I also like travelling and seeing new places. In addition to these things, I would also like some time to research and write, both for just סתם (the heck of it) and to work on the various articles I want to write and publish.
However, I also should try to find some way of procuring money. Although I will be getting a stipend for June, I will be getting none for either July or August - not that the stipend is much anyways. I might be able to take up another researching job, like I did last year, but I don't know how I would come across that, but also, maybe I would like to take up some sort of job doing something totally different, maybe working in construction, or working outside of New York.
So, in sum, I would like to travel, research & write, [blog (but I didn't think I needed to specify that),] and work. Lord help me.
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14 February 2006

Canfei Nesharim Shabbaton Coming Up

Canfei Nesharim, the Orthodox Jewish environmental group, is having their 3rd annual shabbaton coming up in a month on March 10-12 in Hillside, NJ. It's entitled "Spring Forward in Hillside: A Fresh Look at the Environment through the Lens of Halacha". I'm thinking of going again (I attended last year's in Maryland). More information can be found here.
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Praying & Imitatio Dei

Yesterday, I had a meeting with one of the rabbis here as part of an evaluation process that we do, I think, every year in the middle of the year. One of the questions that came up was about my davenning (praying) - how much kavvanah did I have and/or how good was it. I thought about it and realized I just pray as it is הלכה (the Jewish thing to do) to do so, but without any further conception as to what I was doing (aside from thinking about the wording of the prayers sometimes). I realized that I was still, in this regard, stuck in my old way of thinking about following הלכה and not thinking about my עבודת השם (service of the Name [of God]), which is ultimately striving to become as God (concept of imitatio dei) (for more on this, see my earlier posting on trying to follow in the ways of Hashem) .
So, now that I got thinking on the subject, I've been trying, whenever I daven (and even outside of davenning) to think about how it relates to being like God.
The main source for prayer is Berakhos 26b, where there are two main ideas presented there: one that prayer was established by the forefathers (Avraham, Yizhak, and Ya'akov), while the other is that it was in place of the Divinely-commanded sacrifice offerings. The conclusion of the redactor (as there are contradictory texts) is that the forefathers initiated them, and that the sacrifice offerings were attached to them (When I first read it, I was skeptical, but when one looks at the wording of the ברייתות (teachings) closely, one sees that there is a language of instituting used with the forefathers and a post facto language used with the offerings (e.g. "Because of what did they say...?"), thus, it makes sense to conclude like the redactor (though it does kind of leave out Rabbi Yehoshua, son of Levi's opinion as to when/how they were established).).
However, I'm thinking that as it was established by man (or men, I suppose), there is more of an element of developing a relationship with God, such that God is a separate entity - one of which we can try to have a greater awareness, as opposed to directives found in תנ"ך (the Hebrew Bible), where there is more of an imperative to follow in the ways of God.
I've long liked the simple historical view proposed by Rabbi Yehoshua, son of Levi, that it is a rabbinic replacement to sacrificial offerings, which would then make it an interesting discussion as the sacrificial offerings are the original intention and will of God, and that it's our physical service to God which is the עיקר (main point), but as we can no longer offer sacrifices, we can now only offer it with our lips (so to speak (pardon the pun)). However, instead of fully being able to do God's will, we can now only offer up words. However, Maimonides would totally disagree with this (see the Guide to the Perplexed, 3.32), as he would say that sacrificial offerings were only a Divine concession to the milieu of the time of the Bible, but that God really wanted prayer. I kind of like that approach, but not totally - inasmuch as the historical contextualizing of the רמב"ם (Maimonides) speaks to me, I'm not sure how that really jives with my understanding of the Divinity of the five books of Moses.
So, I'm still pondering....
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12 February 2006

Happy Tree New Year :)

After spending today in my apartment, doing some reading, but mainly watching "24" and napping, I finally got out into the snow-infested streets of New York City (yeah, there was a lot - not that you can really tell from the photo from my room, but there was alot of snow) to go to a Tu b'Shevat seder. While the seder, per se, did not really happen, there were people and food, which is all one needs to have a gathering. It was a nice time, though, like every year, it gave me pause to think about the day (check Lipman's blog for the liturgical or custom differences of this day)
So what is the New Year for Trees about? The first mention of the Tree New Year is m Rosh haShana 1.1, where there is a debate between the academies of Shammai and Hillel, the former saying that it occurs on the first of Shevat, while the latter saying it occurs on the fifteenth of Shevat. The reason given for this dating is given by Rabbi Eleazar quoting Rabbi Hoshea, "הואיל ויצאו רוב גשמי שנה ועדיין רוב תקופה מבחוץ Since most of the rains of the year have gone forth and still most of the season is outside" (bRH 14a). (See also yRH 1.2, where the exact same two amoraim are quoted, albeit through another amora Rabbi Ilai, whereas Rabbi Zeira who quotes them saying it's because of "עד כאן הן חיין ממי השנה שעבר מיכן והילך הן חיין ממי השנה הבאה Until here, they are nourished by the waters of the year that's passed; from henceforth, they are nourished by the waters of the coming year.") (For the various understandings of this tree new year, see Bloghead.)
I was internally struggling at the gathering to figure out my thoughts on the calendrical event of tu b'shevat - because that's really what it is. The date is set up as dealing with agricultural laws, not any sort of environmental/ecological pro-tree event. To do otherwise would be to betray the intent of the establishment of the date.

However, when I realized that while the original intent of it was for agricultural reasons (more specifically, for counting of orlah), it would not betray it to take it to an environmental understanding. This is all the more so true when one understands that the world of חז"ל (the rabbis) was one more involved in nature, whereas ours is not, and that it is special for us to connect to trees, as a part of God's creations (the midrash in Koheles Rabbah pops to mind (in chapter 7): At the moment that The Holy One Blessed be He created the first human, He put him down and reviewed all the trees of Gan Eden and said to him: "Look at My work! How beautiful! How fine! Everything I created, I created for you. Apply your mind in order that you ruin and destroy My world, for if you do ruin it, there will be no one to come after you to repair it.").
While looking at the rabbinic literature, I don't know where one would see the need to celebrate trees, but I understand that it is significant and meaningful for us to do so.

Oh, and unrelated to trees, I had let my guinea pigs out into the kitchen to roam around last Friday (the 3rd), and managed to put one of them back in the cage on Friday afternoon (the 10th), amounting to a whole week of them going around the kitchen, but I wasn't able to get the other one in until tonight (yippee!).

I Need Roommates

I need roommates. After my roommate posted to Maalot Washington (and he posted to his blog) and receiving some phone calls, but nobody really expressing interest (plus, I didn't really know any of them), I'm going to my blog. While I would prefer to have people moving in who I already know, March is coming up quickly.
I am looking for two roommates to move in and pay rent, starting March 1st. The rent will be $400 a month, utilities not included. They will be splitting a living room (pictured) (its dimensions are 18'9" x 11'7.5"), which has a big window. As one can tell, it is nice and new, as it was recently renovated and we moved in in October. There is also a little foyer (or whatever) - it's a little walk-in area (also pictured), there's a bathroom, a kitchen and kitchenette, a closet, a linen's closet, and, of course,
my bedroom (and I have my own closet). Also, it is located in-between the YU side and the Bennett side of the Heights in 666 188th Street at the corner of Wadsworth Terrace. The building has around ten units of frum young people and, at some point in the future, there should be a little shtiebel in the basement (according to our landlord (who's also frum)).
If you are interested and/or you would like to take a personal look at the apartment, please e-mail me (Drew Kaplan) at drewkaplanis@yahoo.com.

09 February 2006

YU's Seforim Sale & Drew: Day One

After my Elman class ended this evening, I could not pass up going to the YU Seforim Sale, as it was not only the first night of said event, but also it was only a block away and I would have felt silly passing up such an opportunity. For those of you who don't know what's so significant about this event, it's North America's largest Jewish book sale, and occurs every February. There they have some of the best prices on Hebrew seforim (books, though often used to denote more holy books, or whatever), in fact, there are people out there that look forward to it (see, for instance, BangItOut's blog mentioned it (don't forget to check out their top ten lists related to this event, such as this one and this one) and even some conservative rabbi mentioned it).
So, I went. I ended up purchasing (this time around) three sets: one is that of the Torat Hayyim set of Humash, a set of the Tur's Arba'ah Turim , and what I thought was a set of the Talmud Yerushalmi. What I didn't realize until after I had been identifying the individual books as mine was that it was merely a set of Seder Zera'im of the Talmud Yerushalmi. D'oh! What was so voluminous about this set was that there's a lot of commentary in this edition.
Oh well, Berakhos is cool, though. So I went back with them. Fortunately, it was only eight blocks back to my apartment, as it's in my neighborhood (yay!).
While there, I saw my fellow Gahannian (def. "One who comes from, or lives in, Gahanna"), Aaryn Rubin, as well as someone I had known from Derech, who's now at YU, Ya'akov Gormezano, in addition to two fellow bloggers, Steg and
Menachem Butler, the latter of whom was helping work the seforim sale.

New Washington Heights Blog

Yeah, that's right, a new Heights blog. While it's audience and aim is different as the one I had tried with my failed Heights blog at which I had tried my hand and had failed in November, we'll see how it goes as it has nearly a dozen contributors.

For You Harry Potter Readers out there

I know I don't like to pimp other people's stuff, but there comes along the rare breakdown. A schoolmate of mine, Michael Schultz, asked me to inform the world about his father's new work, a Harry Potter spoiler. You can find it at harrypotterspoiler.com. While I'm not one who's into fiction, nor Harry Potter, so I "don't know from such things", but maybe it's your thing. Enjoy.

New Kosher Cafe Opens At Columbia Hillel

It's been a week since Cafe Nana has been open on the second floor of the Kraft Center, the building of the Columbia Hillel. It's worth a look-see. For us, it's really great, because it's only four floors down from our beis midrash (study hall). The food aims to be middle eastern and I have found the food to be good. While it's nothing out-of-this-world, it is fairly tasty and rather fine. The pricing is good for a cafe. However, what really makes it cool is the ambiance - the decorating of the place is neat, along with Israeli music playing and/or Israel television, as well. While I don't think I can afford to eat there every day as I have been this week, I definitely recommend checking it out. While I might go there from time to time, I don't plan on heading there every day due to my previously expressed budgetary concerns.

07 February 2006

"The Host Breaks [Bread]..."

This past shabbas, I was at someone's apartment (I would post her name here, but I don't know how she feels about being mentioned.) where there were three guys and five gals: the kiddush cup was given to one of the guys, with the bread being pushed to another guy, leaving me to lead the זימון (zimmun; preparatory blessing call for the Grace After Meals). As to me leading the זימון, I was totally fine, due to the statement of Rabbi Yohanan's, which he says in the name of Rabbi Shim'on, son of Yohanan that, "The host breaks [the bread] and the guest blesses [the Grace After Meals]. The host breaks so that he can give out a lot (lit., with a pretty eye), and the guest blesses, so that he can bless the host" (bBerakhot 46a) (for more on this guest blessing, see the recent posting on the Bentsching blog). While the kiddush issue received much discussion on an earlier posting back in the fall, the issue of breaking bread concerned me.
As Lab Rab had commented there,
since the owner of the home traditionally makes Hamotzi (as recorded in the Talmud (Brachot 46a), בעל הבית בוצע ואורח מברך), when a woman is hosting she should make Hamotzi.
I find myself agreeing with him. The only exception to this of which I can think might be when the person who brought the חלה (hallah) is given it to make "haMozi" rather than the host/hostess, as they brought the bread, themselves.
So I asked one of my fellow diners, Margueya Novick (you made it onto my blog (and I spelled your
name correctly, too)!) as to why the young ladies at this meal, perhaps in general, even, were taking no interest in making these blessings and giving them over to guys. She responded that at one time she actually used to be at all girl meals and she, or other girls, used to make blessings, but feel kind of on-the-spot. However, once she started attending meals with guys, it made it easier for her that guys would be taking care of that. (Margueya, I hope I got that right. :))
I'm not quite sure I understand that line of thinking, but I guess it is what it is and people do that. While I very much like the statement in the Talmud mentioned above (and for which I try to be מקפיד (careful)), I would suppose that in cases where the person doling out the bread at the meal is doing it as a שליח (proxy) of the host or hostess, they will hopefully give it out with good quantity to their fellow diners.
***As with all of my posts, this is not a פסק הלכה (judgement of Jewish law), as I am only in rabbinic
school, and not yet an ordained rabbi.***

06 February 2006

My Knee: An Easy Excuse For Not Jogging?

Most days, recently, I have been waking up with my knee feeling pretty fine (it began hurting a few weeks back). I walk to and around school, and feel pretty fine in my knee. So, I wonder to myself, "How come I'm not jogging?" While it's kind of nice not jogging - y'know, being lazy - I can feel my cardiovascular system suffering, which makes me feel kind of bad (a little bit physically - I have a little more trouble breathing than when I jog, not to mention gaining a little weight (for more on this, see my previous posting on this topic); and a little bit mentally, as I feel kind of guilty for being lazy). So, I was thinking today, while I was walking around rather ably, "Why not jog tonight?" Well, on my way back from school tonight, my knee was feeling not so great - thus my answer(!). We'll see if I get around to jogging in the next few weeks or not, I'm just waiting on my health insurance policy to being on 1 March. (Yeah, being on my parents' policy ended on 31 December, so I've been insuranceless this calendar year. The funny thing is that I haven't needed to see a doctor in many months, and less than three weeks of having no insurance, I need to see a doctor....)

05 February 2006

What I Learned Over Shabbas

Over lunch yesterday, someone sitting next to me informed us in her general vicinity that one is not to put anything bigger than an elbow in one's ear. While that didn't mean much to me, she said that includes fingers and even q-tips (no, not Q-Tip, the rapper)! So, here I am, thinking, "What's the use of q-tips, anyway?" But I checked the package and, indeed, it proscribes use for inside one's ear canal. Oh well - I mean it's frustrating, because I had gotten used tot he post-shower ritual of wiping inside my ear with a q-tip and feeling cleaner. Alas, life changes.
(Someone else's blog post discusses a similar situation.)

03 February 2006

How Much Water Does One Need To Wash?

Ever since reading Ora Sheinson's article ("The Halachos of Netilas Yadayim and Water Conservation," in Compendium of Sources in Halacha and the Environment תשס"ו, ed. Ora Sheinson and Shai Spetgang [Jerusalem: Canfei Nesharim, 2005], 45-46), I have been thinking about every time I wash (especially on שבתות (shabbasos)) for bread (this is separate from the washing in the morning post) about how much water I use. I do try to use a minimal amount of water and not waste it (yes, because of בל תשחית (rabbinic prohibition of not wasting), even though there really isn't a need מעיקר הדין (from the letter of the law), but it's something I see as important) (even though the following article in the volume ("Water Conservation and Halacha: An Unorthodox Approach," written by Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz, pp. 47-53) seems to advocate for washing one's hands בשפע (in abundance), also advocates for being more careful in the rest of one's water usage throughout one's day).
So, here's what's important from the article (I will include the footnotes in parentheses):
The Rambam (n. 2: Hilchot Mikvaot, Chapter 11, Halacha 8) states that each person needs only a revies (n. 3: The opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein is that a rivies is 3.3 - 4.42 fluid ounces. ...) in the cup to fulfill the mitzvah of washing hands. The Gemarah (n. 4: Chulin 107a) notes that once the cup contains a revies before a person washes, another person may wash after from what remains in the cup. The Shulchan Aruch (n. 5: Orach Chaim 160:15) further states that a rivies is only required when washing for the purposes of seudah (bread). (p. 45)
The plastic washing cups sold in local Judaica stores, which can be found in many homes, shuls, and schools in the religious community, can hold approximately 32 ounces of water. According to the halachos noted above, one need only fill up 1/8 of the cup to fulfill the mitzvah of washing hands. If filled to the brim, eight people can wash from one cup, according to the minimum requirements set out to us by the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch. In other words, filling and using the entire cup for one person is utilizing three and a half more cups than required. (p. 46)

In light of the actual minimum halachic requirements for netilas yadayim it is also worthy to re-evaluate some of the common practices seen before and after hand-washing: practices such as allowing the water in the cup to overflow while waiting for the next person in line and the emptying of the water remaining in the cup after the last user. (p. 46)

In addition to the practical benefits of the conserved water while performing netilas yadayim, using less water for this mitzvah can also lead to a deeper spiritual understanding and higher level of consciousness about the value and importance of water, and our responsibility to protect all of Hashem's creations. Ideally the new thinking process can lead us to perform other environmentally relevant tasks and help us achieve greater kavanah and consciousness of our reliance on Hashem and His world. (p. 46)

I hope others also come to this realization.
שבת שלום

02 February 2006

New Class

Today, I attended my first out of fifteen class sessions of Introduction to Amoraic Literature with Professor Yaakov Elman at the Revel (YU) Graduate School.
However, I am only auditing it, so I will not be getting any credit for it. As such, I am really only getting out of it the readings and, more importantly for me, the classroom time. Of course, there's also getting to know and making a contact with Professor Elman, as well. However, there's not the paper writing, which I'm fine with, trust me (however, some people had suggested to me that I take it as a proper class in order to write the paper, as his help on preparing a paper would be good).
So, for $250 as an auditor, I will be taking fifteen classes, which amounts to about $16.67 per class, which isn't too bad.
This is actually the first class in my life that I've audited - I've only ever taken classes for credit. hmmm
Oh, and, yeah, the class was good, and I knew four of the other seven students in the class already (all of them were young women, and two of them are wives of YCT guys).