Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'Wrong again' & Rosh Hashona thoughts

Originally posted on Baal Habos

Wrong again.

I met another hidden Frum skeptic. But for me, Reuvein is different from all other skeptics I've encountered. Very very different. Reuvein is someone I know in real life outside the skeptic world; someone I have known for more than thirty years!! Someone who is fairly close to me. No, not a relative but someone between acquaintance and good friend.

Several things about this underscores an important message to myself, namely how often I can be wrong about things.

Firstly, I call this friend Reuvein. As in - Reuvein borrowed a hundred zuzim from Shimon ("lent" if you're from a Chareidi Yeshiva ;).

While I did suspect Reuvein of harboring heretical thoughts, he was, like me, the perfect "Baal Habos".

Reuvein has been a skeptic since before he got married, well over thirty years. And this destroys one of my most basic assumptions. See, I always assume that I'm a typical person. If I act one way, then my behaviour is typical. Not that everyone thinks exactly like me of course, but that I'm, well, typical. And reasonable. And that if someone similar to me (same background, personality, etc) would encounter the same set of events or circumstances as I, that we'd react in basically the same manner. And here's where I'm totally wrong. And it's not even a Chiddush to me. Yet, the lesson needs to be constantly hammered into me. Because had I been in Reuvein's shoes, I think I'd be long gone. And the long gone of my Starting Over post, is probably not as far gone as I'd really be!

Yet Reuvein, a hardened skeptic, made the decision to stay put, practically in the heart of Chareidi-land. Not out of an Orthprax sense of idealism. Rather, he decided that for purely social reasons (parents, friends, etc), that he'd stay put and marry a (more or less) typical Bais Yaakov girl. And that is completely mind-boggling to me. So that makes me re-think my stance on what I'd have done in his shoes, had I found out before I got married. Of course, it makes not a shred of difference, but it makes me realize how my assumptions about others are very often wrong.

And here's another shocker to me. I happened to see him in action, in shul. And this just really blows me away. Unlike me who spends a lot of his shul time surveying the shul or learning something , he usually is literally sitting and looking in the siddur, practically following along line by line. (What's going on in that big brain of his, I don't know, but it's definitely not Perush Hamilos). And that destroyed an important assumption of mine which is that I'd easily recognize a fellow frum koifer in shul.

So that's good news and bad news. The good news is there may be others out there; but the bad news is they're not be so easy to find.

Reuvein, unlike me, has no interest in blogs, computers, etc or other skeptic companionship. He had long ago "given" up on society and does not follow skepticism the way many of us do. I.e. he has no fixation on skeptic issues, such as DH, Philosophy, etc. It's pure science for him. That's another case of "Al Hatam V'all Hareyach".

Another bit of disheartening news is I'm the only full blown Frum skeptic that Reuvein has ever met. Maybe that's because Reuvein is not on the prowl the way I am. Still, thirty years is thirty years.

Wrong Again & Rosh Hashana thoughts.

The upshot of this post, is how wrong I can be about things. And it's not just me who is often wrong. It's amazing how often popular thinking, even scientific thinking can be wrong. For example, a recent article explains that a long held assumption about the evolution of dinosaurs was destroyed with the discovery of a smaller T-rex with the same features as larger ones. And scientific assumptions like this come tumbling down almost every day.

And that leads to an important question which is: "Am I wrong about OJ?".

Unfortunately, the answer is still a clear and resounding no.

What these turnabouts do, at least for me, is turn me into a more critical thinker, not a less critical one.

No matter how many mistakes and false starts science makes (and unlike religion, admits to), the indisputable advances of science testify to the credibility of the scientific method.

The only thing religion will get you is peace of mind and a good social circle. I'm not knocking these, but they're clearly subjective.

Rosh Hashana thoughts

As an exercise, the next time you lain the story of Akeidas Yitzchok, try inserting your own son's name instead of Yitzchak. I guarantee you that Sarah Imeinu would never have passed failed the Nisayon.
posted by Baal Habos @ 9/21/2009

>I guarantee you that Sarah Imeinu would never have passed failed the Nisayon.
Not sure what you mean by this. I know for certain that given a choice I would not do it. Does that mean I "failed"? Perhaps. I pray that Hashem never test me that way.

What strikes me is that if you could out "Reuven", how do you know who has outed you?

I would ask you to please take a few minutes to listen to this by Rabbi Daniel Mechanic.
Please keep an open mind, remember his audiance is a group of high school kids, but do not be tempted to dismiss his words because of his delivery style.

Let me know what you think.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 11:29:03 AM
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Baal Habos

>Not sure what you mean by this. I know for certain that given a choice I would not do it. Does that mean I "failed"?

You'd disobey a direct order from Hashem? Cool.

>What strikes me is that if you could out "Reuven", how do you know who has outed you?

Not sure what you mean.
If you mean 'Out Reuvein' in the sense of Publicly ID him, I certainly did not do that. If you mean how did we hook up, I can't get into that without divulging info that I don't want to. Halevai other frum skeptics would "out me" in the sense you're referring to.

>I would ask you to please take a few minutes to listen to this by Rabbi Daniel Mechanic.

A few? You mean over 70!

>Please keep an open mind, remember his audiance is a group of high school kids, but do not be tempted to dismiss his words because of his delivery style.

I listened to 25 minutes, because he's well known and has a cute delivery. But he hasn't said anything that's convincing at all. (Lot's of name-dropping though!). I had even read that book he mentions, "permission to believe". The arguments are good , until you study them and realize there are strong counter-arguments.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 12:17:05 PM
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The Hedyot
So how did you discover Reuvein?
Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 12:19:57 PM
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>You'd disobey a direct order from Hashem? Cool.
Not cool, but then I'm not Avruhom Auvinu. "Chotusie, Pushatie, etc."

>But he hasn't said anything that's convincing at all.
What about the argument that there are 600,000+ witnesses to TMS? And I've asked my grandfather, who asked his grandfather, etc.? Personally, this was always one of my strongest reasons for believing.

>I had even read that book he mentions, "permission to believe". The arguments are good , until you study them and realize there are strong counter-arguments.
I didn't read the book, will try to get a copy.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 12:32:56 PM
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Baal Habos
>So how did you discover Reuvein?

That's not for on-line disclosure. Let's just say we had a Shadchan.

>Not cool, but then I'm not Avruhom Auvinu. "Chotusie, Pushatie, etc."

But a direct order??????????????????

>But he hasn't said anything that's convincing at all.
What about the argument that there are 600,000+ witnesses to TMS? And I've asked my grandfather, who asked his grandfather, etc.? Personally, this was always one of my strongest reasons for believing.

I did not hear that, maybe that was after the 25 minute mark on that video. But that's neither here nor there. The Kuzari Principal has been debated many times. If it works for you, Ashrecha and dee zults zein gebentcht!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 12:50:54 PM
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it would make an interesting blog series posting things you wrote on the blog or in comments that you no longer agree with
Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 2:53:13 PM
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Baal Habos
> it would make an interesting blog series posting things you wrote on the blog or in comments that you no longer agree with

It might be but don't think I have the inclination for that right now, I'll be closing up again for another six months very soon.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 3:00:59 PM
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The Exodus Decoded/The Exodus Dubunked?

Originally posted on Divrei Acher
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I've been idle for a long time, both here and blogging in general, but I've gotten the itch to scribble a little again, so let's see how far it goes......
My life has been sort of in flux lately.... Nisht Ahin Un Nisht Aher..... Still wishing I was ignorantly Frum...... but since when do fantastical dreams of this sort come true?

Anyway, what has prompted me to write, is that a friend of mine has kept on mentioning the infamous "Exodus Decoded". When someone else mentioned it to me, I decided to do some Chazara, and watch it again. I figured to do it B'Kibuth Chaveirim, so if you have the time to watch it, please do so. If you don't but have some thoughts on it, please leave your comments, whatever they may be. They're greatly appreciated. I'm going to put up some links here, and once I've done some of my own work, I hope to post soon with my conclusions.

A brief introduction to those who may not have heard or watched the "Exodus Decoded" before. The Exodues Decoded is a film created by a Jewish Canadian filmmaker by the name Simcha Jacobivici. It was aired on the History channel in 2006. Jacobivici's two main theses are: equating the Hyksos (Semitic invaders who ruled parts of Egypt for a few centuries, then were eventually expelled by the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom) with the Israelites of the Bible; and showing that a sequence of events initiated by the explosion of the Santorini volcano could account for the Ten Plagues.
I do not hold out high hopes, as I remember watching it and researching Jacobivici's claims, and not one stood up to scrutiny. I'm not even alluding to the fantastic sequence of events which he purports to have occurred as a result of the Santorini volcano. Even the more modest claims about equating the Hyksos with the Hebrews, and interpreting some paintings and hieroglyphics as supporting a presence of what can be recognized as Israelites/Hebrews in Egypt don't hold water. But we shall try once more.
Here is a link to the video "Exodus Decoded"

This is a link to a very thorough discussion, including posts by Jacobivici himself. I found this to be the best single site on the topic. Though haven't read it since researching this a year ago

And here is another link, the title says it all

I haven't even watched the video this second time around, so I will get to work on this, and will try to come up with any relevant information. Then I hope to discuss my impressions, especially if I am to come to any new conclusions.

Have fun!

Baal Habos said...
Ver hut Koyach?
MAY 5, 2010 10:32 PM

Acher said...
Baruch Hanoisen La'Yoef Koyach.....

We'll see. Right now I got the urge to do this...... so if noone else has Koyach, at least maybe you'll read what little I come up with...
Let's see if it lasts
MAY 5, 2010 10:53 PM

Truth: The True Evil

Originally posted on Divrei Acher
Saturday, May 30, 2009

Truth truth truth, we look for her, we find her (or think we do), and then regret the day we started looking. What does one get from her? Nothing. No thank you, no reward, no eternal life, and no meaning. Just nihil and void, and of all good devoid. עולם הפוך שמעתי where truth is equated with good and deception with evil. But in reality, there is no good or evil, and if there is, truth should be equated with evil and deception with good. For is there a single man who will honestly proclaim that shedding the belief in a life full of meaning is good?

What happened. Nothing. Just Shavuos came around, my favorite holiday. A time when I could really appreciate Rav Yosef's saying אי לא האי יומא דקא גרים כמה יוסף איכא בשוקא, but instead nothing. Not that I still can't take a RMB"M apart, but now looking at it, what's it all worth. And not just it, life - it's nothing. How can I recapture that feeling? How? How can I delude myself into disregarding the evil and cruel truth? Can I turn the clock back to a blissful time when I knew no better. This search for truth is a sickness, it's a force that sucks the life out physically and spiritually. I envy people who are able to delude themselves in spite of their knowledge, even those like XGH who still cling to some meaning in life. Unfortunately I don't posses the gift of delusion. Deceiving others is the simplest matter, but deluding oneself is an art, a skill I don't have. How I wish I hadn't started on this path, but once I did, I wish I were able to turn back somehow. It is impossible, כל באיה לא ישובון, and there is no way to recapture that most benevolent deception, that belief in meaning and good.

On the other hand, I couldn't live with some belief, no matter how exhilarating, if I doubted it's validity. So the search for truth was inevitable. And even now seeing how unsatisfying it is, it doesn't make it any less true. Facts are cruel, and there is nothing to be done about them. Nevertheless, how I wish to have the ability to side step them, and even ignore them.
אָכוֹל וְשָׁתוֹ, כִּי מָחָר נָמוּת is my motto now for lack of anything better, but seeing that all there is to it is מָחָר נָמוּת and contrasting this with the great edifice of religion, it's very hard to continue this way. Probably, one who was never exposed to the beautiful deception of religion, can live with this motto. But for me, I can't. There is simply no comparison, and no turning the clock back, and no deluding oneself, unfortunately.

So what's to be done. I sit and think, maybe there is meaning to all of this after all. But no, stop kidding around, you know we're just here by default, live and then die. How do you know this, based on what, on the little you have studied? That's not enough to make such conclusions, go study more, find out, maybe you're wrong. וחוזר חלילה and round we go, getting deeper and deeper in this quicksand, in the quagmire known as the quest for truth, and so till death. Except that instead of a life full with this nonsense and then death, one could at least אָכוֹל וְשָׁתוֹ and then die. But no, it seems some are destined to waste their life away, stricken with the sickness , an untreatable one at that, known as the "quest for truth".

Baal Habos said...
Great post. I wish I had an answer. I think you're right that it's worse for people who used to have belief. I don't see long time non-believers depressed over these issues.

Ignorance is bliss.

However, I think we can make purpose for ourselves. Also, you might want to investigage Eastern religions. Speak to Spinoza.
MAY 30, 2009 11:45 PM

Shtreimel said...
Brilliantly written. I'll echo the sentiment.
MAY 30, 2009 11:46 PM

Acher said...
>Also, you might want to investigage Eastern religions.You're not serious, are you?
Do you think there really is anything to it. Do you think they discovered anything. What's there to discover anyway.
MAY 31, 2009 12:50 AM

Freethinking Upstart said...
MAY 31, 2009 12:27 PM

evanstonjew said...
Very eloquent, and heartfelt, but I personally disagree. By your chesbon a person should not have children, or for that matter marry. Why bother, for what...to worry about the einicklech, after having spent a lifetime working for the children. A normal bourgeois life is about tomorrow, working, saving, dreaming of a time when life will be easier. But why? You know the joke about the 90year old couple who show up in court asking for a divorce. “Why now?” asks the judge. “We waited for children to die.” By the time everything is taken care of and arranged we are too old to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Within a naturalistic framework the answer to why bother generally involves the creation/acceptance of goals and ideals as part of a plan for living a good,meaningful and worthwhile life. The assumption is that such lives are possible and there are ways of getting there. A well known variant is the Freudian maxim that there are two minimal requirements for a good life, love and work. A person can open himself up to love others (spouse,children family, clan, stripe, nation-people, species), and can use his powers and capacities to engage in creative work. If your question then is why bother living a good life, the answer is that one can take satisfaction at living well. And if you then ask why bother winning at life, the answer is it is better to win than to lose.

I know everything is subjective blah, blah, but for most it is better to be rich and healthy than sick and poor. And part of being rich and healthy for most involves love and work. Maybe not for you.
MAY 31, 2009 5:57 PM

eitz hadaas said...
It's not about truth, it's about honesty.

Honesty is about the unattainable and the already attained, coupled with the known processes that can narrow the gap. Honesty requires one to acknowledge, both, the knowledge and the lack thereof that one posses. It requires an honest assessment of one's capabilities and reach. It requires one to internalize the lessons of history, which point to a pile of inequities from mental and intellectual shortcomings humans have, along with achievements that have broadened our sense of world and mind.

And that is spiritual to me. It is the humility you carry when realizing your place in the context of the cosmic vastness.

I can't think of a stronger sense to make life more bearable. I don't know if it makes life wonderful, but it enables wonder to be appreciated. It might not make existence valuable, but it makes existence more existential.
MAY 31, 2009 9:05 PM

Baal Habos said...
>Do you think there really is anything to it. Do you think they discovered anything. What's there to discover anyway.

No, I meant as a way of achieving peace. Even Sam Harris speaks of it.
MAY 31, 2009 11:13 PM

Freethinking Upstart said...
that last post by me that said, "fe" was a complete mistake. I was going to comment but decided to write a post on meaning.
JUNE 1, 2009 9:08 AM

Freethinking Upstart said...
Some level of "delusion", as you call it, will be necessary if you want a happy life, especially for such a skeptic as yourself.

You will probably find that "deluding" yourself will be especially difficult, as it is for those as convinced as you were of your previous ownership of the absolute truth and the incredible emotional, psychological etc. supplement that your previous beliefs and lifestyle offered.

Something that has been of help to me, is to read lots of different worldviews and ideologies. You will find none of them fully satisfactory, but you may slowly start to realize that your search for complete satisfaction is hevel. Eventually you will start to look at these things like you now look at aesthetics. That which helps you live what you have come to understand as "the good life" and skills that you admire for reasons having nothing to do with Truth will start to resonate with you. You will remember these tid bits and eventually realize that you have to decide for yourself what you will believe, and it's truth will be neither here nor there. You will begin to feel comfortable with uncertainty, hopefully eventually not even taking the truth of said information into cosideration. Not that you still won't want Truth. But it will become less important and over time you're sense of humor will make it all a little less painful.

The key is too not think about it. But the more that you try not to think about it, the more you will. So what do you do? You think about something esle. When something takes over your thoughts, you can't just stop it and think about nothing. Thinking about nothing is extremely difficult for a person such as yourself. You have to change the what and how of your thoughts.
JUNE 1, 2009 10:31 AM

tayqoo said...
even eating, drinking and being merry has no ta'am.
JUNE 1, 2009 1:31 PM

Acher said...

Aside from everything being subjective, I agree that life is worth living, the good life, and why, because essentially that's our nature, to survive, and by extension to have it as good as we can. The problem for someone like me, having been brought up orthodox is that once I have tasted what life is like when meaning is not subjective, and living it properly is of utmost importance, it is ordained by God himself, nothing else can compare with this feeling. At times such as over the last Yomtov, I thought too much about how it used to be, and how there is no way to recapture that deception, as I put it.
JUNE 3, 2009 11:17 AM

Acher said...

Two things. First, it doesn't matter what life may be about in reality, my point is that nothing can compare to the meaning infused into life by orthodox Judaism, or any religion I would think. Second, I don't think there is any inherently important thing living for, be it truth, honesty, happiness or whatever else one may come up with. Despite my personal Meshugas of always trying to get to the truth, I'm not one of those, truth as a goal in of itself types. Often I wish I wasn't obsessed with truth, and as the post suggests, I wish I was able to let myself be deceived for a good lie.


NU, Sam Harris is not my Baalhabos, ;)
And again it's hard for me to fall for something that I just don't think is the real deal. If life doesn't have meaning in reality, I doubt some Eastern meditation will convince me otherwise. Although you never know. Do you have anyhting specific in mind.
JUNE 3, 2009 11:25 AM

Acher said...

I was gonna respond to your first comment by the following Posuk:
מַצְרֵף לַכֶּסֶף, וְכוּר לַזָּהָב; וְאִישׁ, לְפִי מַהֲלָלוֹ.
But then again, maybe it's appropriate now as well :)
Thanks for the kind words.

I gather from what you're saying that I have to try and change the emphasis on my thoughts and not be so obsessed about the simple 'what'. Don't know. My Meshugas with getting down to the bottom of things is not because of my orthodox upbringing, it's my nature. My upbringing just makes reality painful. I don't know if there is much to be done. From reading your latest post, I understood that you may be talking from experience. Do you have anything more to say?
JUNE 3, 2009 11:33 AM

Monday, September 26, 2011

The curse of Tiresias

Originally posted on Baal Habos
11 JUNE 2006

Several of us on TFSG were debating the issue of disclosing to others our new found beliefs regarding Judaism . One argument went that maybe we're "responsible" for telling others in our lives so they can share of the truth. After all we don't let children believe in fairy tales forever. These adults may find out the truth anyway, etc. My argument was that I know that basically the audience is not receptive. In addition most people with true Emunah are quite happy. Their lives can be productive, disciplined and the promise of an afterlife certainly is icing on the cake.

Even upon hearing the truth, and believing the truth as we see it, many of us don't change our lifestyle at all. So what's to be gained in upsetting other people?

The question of medical ethics came up, do you tell a terminally ill patient when there’s no cure. The consensus was "It depends".

Ever hear this old joke?
Q) How do you tell a male Chromosome from a female chromosome?
A) Pull down its Genes.

Well, I'm in the middle of this fascinating book, "Genome, the autobiography of a species in 23 Chapters" by Matt Ridley. (Notice that all the books I review are fascinating?) It's a book about our human genetic history and it goes thru a discussion of the science behind genetics. I tell you I still can't tell a Chromosome from a Ribosome, and certainly not a male chromosome from a female one. But, I'm getting there. Slowly but surely, the concept of DNA, as being the software instructions of our lives, and the components, DNA, RNA, etc, is all kicking in.

The book goes on to describe the recent discovery of the genetic cause of Huntingtons Chorea as being related to too many repetitions of the "CAG" word in a mutated gene located on Chromosome 4.

This fatal genetic disease is now predictable with 100% certainty by blood tests. It is available and recommended for those with a family history of this horrible disease.

Based upon the results of the testing, the severity and even the age of onset of the dreaded disease can be determined.

The problem facing those unfortunate people is that in most cases, there is no point in knowing whether one has the defective gene. There is absolutely nothing to that can be done to help.

The author says science is now in the position of Tiresias who had the gift of seeing the future but was unable to change anything.

The author states, that as it turns out, 80% of those considered being at risk, chooses ignorance.

I could not help but think of the similarity, not exact, to my assertion, that ignorance is bliss.

Now wouldn't that be great if a simple blood test could confirm Torah Misinai. Hmmm, on second thought maybe it wouldn't be great. After all what would everyone blog about then?

Hearts and Minds

Originally posted on David's Harp

It is a well traveled saying that people do not give up orthodoxy because of religious doubts, rather, they develop doubts to rationalize their desire to give up orthodoxy. I have a strong instinctive urge to refute this idea. It seems inherently dismissive and not respectful of the legitimacy of the ideas and motivations of those of us who ‘leave’. For someone like myself, who is inherently cognitively driven, and who has spent so much time reinforcing this intellectualism in the bais medrash, it is particularly annoying.

After all, there are more than enough difficult points of belief within Judaism to have rational reasons to disbelieve. If anything, believing – which requires the acceptance of almost endless supernatural events and divine prophesies - is far less rational.

But as much as I would like to get on my soapbox and argue that this is fundamentally untrue – that we stay or leave because of our theological reasons, the fact is that I believe that it touches on one of the most basic facets of humanity and faith. I’ve seen much discussion on what ‘belief’ – a principle requirement of orthodoxy – really means. But what is often overlooked is that belief is inherently an emotional process. It is the adherence to an idea which, by definition, has no rational verification. In modern psychological literature it is “an emotion which gains long term purpose”. Beliefs are ideas which have become deep seated sentiments.

As anyone who has engaged in theological debate knows, you can’t talk someone out of their beliefs. This concept is very well understood by those who are in the business of changing the ideology of others – missionaries, kiruv workers, cult recruiters. They know that in order to change a belief, the emotional groundwork must be established.

Of course, we are rational beings as well, and we struggle to maintain a coherent intellectual ‘story’ which works with our beliefs. Perhaps the more far fetched and irrational our beliefs are, the stronger our emotional attachment must be to maintain it. The emotional attachment which we develop with orthodoxy – from our earliest childhood experiences - are incredibly strong. Those who change a fundamental belief require a strong emotional incentive to do so. Perhaps that incentive is unhappiness in their life, perhaps it is something about the way that frum society works which doesn’t work for them, perhaps it is an emotional pull from outside of the frum world. It’s possible that some of us are so strongly intellectual that the very irrationality of the frum system adds to their unhappiness. But for all of us, you must understand the emotional context in order to understand why we remained orthodox or did not.

Frankly, this mechanism is one of the things that I wish were different about our species. If our rationality is fundamentally at the mercy our emotions, how do we go forward with our intellectual exploration. How do we trust our own reasoning. How do we be believe our own thoughts. For someone who grew up with the ideals of intellectual honesty and being true to ideals and beliefs, it is unnerving to think that our cognitive process is so polluted by our emotions. I was raised with the belief that, while our intellect represents our higher calling, and should guide our actions, emotions are the voice of the baser part of our beings. Emotions are there only as a test of our ability to use our intellects to overcome them.

I think that it is only by embracing the interplay between feelings and ideas can we regain our intellectual honesty. Navigating through our reasoning with honesty and moral clarity requires an heightened respect for and awareness of our emotions. If you’ve been raised in a religious environment, it becomes almost second nature to dismiss feelings. Many of the things which we feel are not helpful to our lives – the easiest thing to do is to shut those emotions out. Some feelings don’t jibe with our moral outlook. We automatically label these emotions as being ‘wrong’, and often don’t even let our conscious mind acknowledge that they exist.

But it is only in being highly aware of our emotions – be they comfortable or uncomfortable – that we can be fully aware of our intellectual process. Doing this is what gives us choice. We don’t have to act on our emotions – life is about making those choices. But if we do not listen to what our hearts are saying to us, we will never really understand our own minds.

The Jewish Freak said...
What you say about developing religious doubts to rationalize a desire to give up orthodoxy can not be taken lightly. Perhaps metaphysical ideas of G-d and religion are so abstract, that we are easily fooled by our emotions. Maybe those who give up orthodoxy are just fooling themselves. This idea takes up much of my brain much of the time. After all, it is not really orthodoxy that anyone is really after, it is truth that we pursue - no one claims to believe an orthodoxy that isn't true. So the question becomes: How can we ever trust our own thoughts?

I try to answer that question by assuming the orthodox point of view. Why am I any less biased in favor of orthodoxy which is my comfort zone, my social network, and maybe even my livlihood, not to mention my main source of ego and self-esteem, than I would be toward skepticism? A religious figure can accuse a scientist (and maybe even rightly so) of being biased against religion, but he can not escape his own criticism because he is no less biased toward religion. And if truth is the goal, which one is closer?
Human reason has been the only method that I am aware of that has produced anything that remotely resembles truth. The religious person would have to explain how his human reason informs him to have faith. In other words, how it makes "sense" to have faith, put simply, "it is rational to suspend rationality". This is clearly a difficult position, and not one that I would want to defend.
January 26, 2006 3:24 PM
dbs said...
I agree that it is a difficult proposition. Of course, it is symetrical - the same emotional forces are at play to keep you orthodox.
January 28, 2006 10:13 PM
anonymous said...
Very interesting post, and the notion that emotion is at the root of faith is of course true.

However, I don't think that being in a religious environment trains one to ignore emotions. I think that is likely a function of personality or individual family background.
January 31, 2006 12:08 PM
dbs said...
Certainly there are other factors besides religion which influence how in tune we are with our emotions. On the other hand, I think that the view of feelings being spiritually good or bad – rather than thoughts which inform us about ourselves – encourages us to dismiss our emotions as evil messages from within, rather than important information from our subconscious minds.
February 01, 2006 8:01 PM

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What does God expect of me.

Originally posted on Baal Habos
27 JUNE 2006

R' Chaim always did the right thing. As a young child he listened to his parents and behaved in Cheder. Scholastically inclined, he aced his SAT's, did well in Touro college and was accepted to Law School. Chaim took off another year to sit and learn full time before going off to School.

His Rebbeim rightly sensed this was their last chance to help him out. "What good will you accomplish? You'll just be another lawyer and we already have too many lawyers. And is this what the RBSH'O really wants from you? You have a great set of Keilim on your shoulders. You'll have to give Din V'cheshbon for all the Blatt Gemora that you could have learnt but did not."

Chaim was torn. His parents on one side, his Rosh Yeshiva on the other. He knew he was at a crossroads. Probably the most important decision of his life. It would affect everything, his prospects for Parnossah , his choice of mate, where he lived. Everything. Oih. The Road not Taken. If he only knew.

"Rebbi, But what about science? How could all that knowledge be out there and me not partake of it?"

"My dear Chaim, hundreds of Bnei Torah have gone before you to college and what became of them? Just plain old Baalei Batim. Nisht Kein Olam Hazeh Un Nisht Kein Olam Haba. Besides, a person needs to know, what his obligations are to the RBSH"O."

"But", exclaimed Chaim, "why did God create the world in such a way?" "A nisoyon" his beloved Rebbi said.

"Is Hashem looking to trick us?"

"Chas V'sholom. Ain Hakodosh Boruch Hoo Bah B'trunia Im Biryosav. But there is a Yetser Hora out there to mis-lead you if you follow his path. Some get led astray by Zionism, some can't resist Taavas Olam Hazeh. Look, there are hundreds of ISM's out there. Socialism, Communism, Nationalism. It's only Torah that's true. Only Torah has stood the test of time"

Chaim decided that Hakol Hevel and he was not going to give up on his eternity. His Nitzchius.

He knew in his heart of hearts the Mesilas Yesharim was right. Follow in the path of those before you that already worked their way through the maze. How wrong his parents are. They could not be faulted. They mean well, but they just didn't have the right foundation. I don't see any of my Roshei Yeshiva wanting for Parnassah. Besides, look at all those who went to college and now can't even find a job. Torah is De Beste Schora.

As his Rosh Yeshiva predicted, he married well and grew into a respectable Talmud Chochom.

He knew his success was all due to Siata Dishmaya and he increased his Hasmoda. The sacrifice was definitely worth it. After all, he didn't need to live like Rockerfeller. He didn't need the Kovod his philanthropic oriented friends acquired. He didn't need the wealth his brother had amassed . Chazal assured him of the right path. His wife had worked hard raising the children and they themselves are now Oisek Lishma looking forward to marry off their own children.

His Levaya at the age of 93 was a solemn event with loving family seeing him off to the Oilam Haemes.

Chaim trembled as he stood before the Keesay Hakovod. The Malachei Hashareis were whispering amongst themselves.

"Chaim" boomed the angel. "You were a fine man. But why did you waste so much of your precious time?"

"What?" Tears streamed down his face with shame. But I did Teshuva. My college years were a thing of my long distant past".

"Chaim, what about all those wasted hours since then?"

Chaim was flabberghasted. "I don't understand... I made sure to spend all my free time with my my wife and children. What more could I have done?"

"Chaim, all the endless hours spent toiling on a misspelling of an ancient document. Forcing your wife to work three jobs. Your children, longing for loving parents, farmed out to babysitters. The Charity you did not do. The list is endless. You could have done so much with your life."

"But I avoided all the Yetser Hora's. I didn't give in to any of my Taava's. I simply followed the Torah!"

The Malachim turned to each other. Here's another one. We sent him down to Earth, gave him Bechira, give him a brain with which to make reasoned choices. And he just threw it all away.

Ha Ha Ha , laughed the Sattan. "Religion - my favorite Yetser Hora."
posted by Baal Habos @ 6/27/2006

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Moshe Kappoya said...
OR -

Chaim, now known as Hymie, goes on to law school and graduates tops in his class. He then gets a job at a prestigious firm and puts in 100 hour work weeks climbing the corporate ladder. At age 38, he meets his "bashert", Leslie, who has just joined a successful pediatric practice. They each pursue their careers, barely seeing each other all week, crashing at home on Shabbos, while the nanny raises the 2 children. They become very wealthy and attribute their success to a great collage education.
Time goes by and the kids grow up, go to college, and start on their own careers. Hy & Leslie live to see nachus from grandchildren, and put down little Jeremy's shiksa roommate to "just a phase he'll grow out of".
At the ripe old age of 93, Hy is buried with great pomp and ceremony by the members of his shul kiddush club and several family members who were not too busy to attend.

Chaim trembled as he stood before the Keesay Hakovod. The Malachei Hashareis were whispering amongst themselves.

"Chaim" boomed the angel. "You were a fine man. But why did you waste so much of your precious time?"

Chaim was flabbergasted. "I don't understand... I gave generously to the UJA. I made sure to spend all my free weekends with my wife and children. What more could I have done?"

The Malachim turned to each other. Here's another one. We sent him down to Earth, gave him Bechira, give him a brain with which to make reasoned choices. And he just threw it all away.

Ha Ha Ha , laughed the Sattan. "Money - my favorite Yetser Hora."
June 27, 2006 3:42 PM
Twice a Heretic said...
Great parable! Love the surprise ending. I read through it, expecting that it was another one of the notorious frum tales about some guy who starves to death rather than eat bread baked by a goy or something of that nature, and the ending is exactly the reverse! LOL Good writing.
June 27, 2006 3:54 PM
Baal Habos said...
MK, Exactly my point. I don't see how your version is any better than mine. And we've heard your version thousands of times before.
So how do I know what God wants of people? Sitting and learning all day long? Even when I had 1000% percent Emuna in TMS, I never bought that.

When someone says "I follow the Gedolim and my Rebbeim" they might be misusing their God Given Free Will no less than someone who is a murderer. Who's to say? (I know, the Gedolim, right?).

So I hedge my bets. I keep all Mitsvos, go to Shul, even learn a little. But I want to figure out what our God above really wants of us 3 Billion Human beings on this planet. And to do that, I need to make some decisions on my own.
June 27, 2006 5:01 PM
Baal Habos said...
Twice, Thanks!
June 27, 2006 5:02 PM
Moshe Kappoya said...
But I want to figure out what our God above really wants of us
You're not the first person to ask that question. Perhaps you can find someone who's already answered it to your satisfaction.

I seem to recall that Moses said (pardon me, I don't have a chumsh with me so I can't tell you where it is exactly)
"What does Hashem want from you? Only to fear Him..."

LOL, I know that answer will not be to your liking. Let me know what you find.

(Oy! More holes...I'm getting a headace. LOL)
June 27, 2006 5:29 PM
Baal Habos said...
MK. You tell me to ask someone who knows. My point is no one knows who really knows. A Mesora can be a Yetser Hora too. Everyone abdicates responsibility for thinking. I'm not advocating going off the derech or anything like that. But I do not feel comfortable in blindly following "Mesora".

I happen to Like Lubavitch. But, what will you be saying about Lubavitch children in a few generations (if they're still around). You'll say, they have a bad Mesora. Well who's to say we don't have a bad Mesorah. Maybe the Tsedukkim were right, but history is written by the winner.

LOL about the Kefira holes is right; except Kefira stuff is serious business.
June 27, 2006 5:52 PM
lakewoodyid said...
>Ha Ha Ha , laughed the Sattan. "Religion - my favorite Yetser Hora."

I'll be very satisfied to sit in hell with the Gaon, R' Akiva Eiger, R' Chaim Brisker and thousands of others like them.
June 28, 2006 11:43 PM
Baal Habos said...
LY, if you'd like to be with the Chachomim in Olam Haba, then maybe you should spend more time in the Bais Medrash now instead of blogging.
June 29, 2006 9:50 AM
lakewoodyid said...
>LY, if you'd like to be with the Chachomim in Olam Haba, then maybe you should spend more time in the Bais Medrash now instead of blogging.

Sure. Here's the deal. You feed and clothe my 6 kids, pay my mortgage, and $17,000 anual tuition.

I'll sit and learn.

June 29, 2006 12:17 PM
Moshe Kappoya said...

Here's the deal. You feed and clothe my 6 kids, pay my mortgage, and $17,000 anual tuition...

If I did that I'd be the one sitting in Olam Haba! LOL

Six kids and you only pay $17k?!?
I pay that for 4 kids! Yikes, I'm getting ripped off!
June 29, 2006 12:53 PM
lakewoodyid said...
>Six kids and you only pay $17k?!?
I pay that for 4 kids! Yikes, I'm getting ripped off!

Relax, My baby doesn't go to school yet.
June 29, 2006 1:00 PM
Baal Habos said...
LY, you mean Blogging is your Parnossah? I know, you have free time during work, right? So devote more time to work or learn during the day. Also, what about your blogging at 1AM.

I'm cutting back on my Inter-day Blogging, because I realize that even though my work tolerates it, in reality I'm not giving 100% anymore and that's what they pay me for. It's just not ethical otherwise.

Also, blogging is just a bad sickness. It's truly a non-productive Yetser Horah.

17K for 4 kids? They must not be in high school yet. Just wait!
June 29, 2006 3:13 PM
lakewoodyid said...
>Also, blogging is just a bad sickness. It's truly a non-productive Yetser Horah.

Feel free to speak for yourself, not for others. Thanks.

>17K for 4 kids? They must not be in high school yet. Just wait!

They aren't. I better start saving..

(BHB is gonna respond I should just get back to work...)
June 29, 2006 5:29 PM
Neil Harris said...
Great story. As you know, the Yetzer Hora takes may shapes.
June 29, 2006 10:05 PM
Baal Habos said...

> BHB is gonna respond I should just get back to work...)

It sounds like a good idea. Work or learn. No blogging.

Neil, yes it does. Thanks for stopping by.
June 29, 2006 11:40 PM
Stacey said...
August 25, 2006 9:42 AM
Erica said...
Okay ...

That was the most scary bad dream ending of a blogpost I have ever read in my entire life.

Azuy emes.
August 26, 2006 10:38 PM
Baal Habos said...
Stacy & Erica, thanks for stopping by.
August 27, 2006 1:02 AM

Chametz Umatzah

Originally posted on Ben Avuyah
Monday, April 13, 2009


“SHMULEY……Do you have any idea”, said my mother in a voice at the edge of tears, “how embarrassing it will be for me to sit next to Rebetzin Freundlich in Shul….”

“Mom…”, I tried to interrupt, but who can interrupt a force of nature?

“…What? Having just been called in to meet with her husband, the mashgiach, about MY son the troublemaker” ?

Shame bloomed in deep red blotches I could feel warming into rosy petals on my cheeks.

I involuntarily lowered my head as if lead weights were attached to my chin, and stared at the perfection of the lavishly set table where I sat. Glancing at the floor I traced the toe of my black penny loafer on the crisp cornrow lines the carpet cleaner had left as a sign of his fine work.

“It will be the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room, if we don’t talk about MY son…and of course all of our relatives will be sitting right next to us, so now the whole family has to know…”

“It wasn’t even my fault….”, I struggled to mount some type of a defense for myself.

“‘Not his fault’ he says”, quipped my mother in immediate parody, speaking more to the foodstuffs that crowded the kitchen counter between us, than to me.

“Should we think”, she asked the lettuce, “that its some how…uh…”, she waved her hand with the butchers knife about, as if somehow exploring the realm of possibility with it’s sharp edge, “out of your control to show up on time for minyan…or to make some kind of a effort in your chavrusahs…hmmm?…is that it?”

Thwack !

The blade fell cutting deeply into the Yom Tov brisket that seemed to be paying a heavy price for my sins.

My Sins….

I was not a great fit for the yeshiva mold. Where the hanhalla saw nareshkiet, I saw fun. When the menahal looked for serious effort, too many times I was found to be still sleeping in bed. When hasmadah was valued, my particular brand of zitsfliesch usually involved a fiction novel.

My poor mother shook her head back in forth and spoke quietly to her self for a moment, her head bizarrely mimicking the lids on the simmering pots that surrounded her; each kettle top lilting to and fro, letting out an angry hiss of steam when they just couldn’t take it any more.

What a strange mix of emotions I felt.

The smells of Yom Tov brought with them such a sense of celebration. The fresh earthy aroma of charoset, as if each ingredient had just been pulled from the ground. The deep hughes of the meats, the thin, oily, hint of their flavor on the air enough to make my mouth water. The astrigent tickle of the marror on my nose, daring me to try even a nibble at my own expense. It was a combination that linked every Pesach in my life together in one happy melded ideal of joyous family festivities….and now to have ruined it. To have transformed this moment into something which would always carry the stain I had spilled upon it.

“I’m sorry”, I said, “I’ll try harder….I’ll do better.”

My mother paused from her preperations to look at me and her eyes softened. I could read my mother pretty well, and if there was a dial that could measure her mood it just dropped a notch or two from danger levels.

“Not to lessen the blame on you”, she clarified, the direction of the blade in her hand confirming my guilt, “but lets face it…your father is not exactly what we would call a good example in this area…”

“Oy…”, she turned her head so as to speak in strict confidence to the potted plant in our living room, “but that’s another story.”

As my mother stewed in harmony with her pots, my Zaidy made his way through the doorway to the dinning room, listing as always, like a building with poor foundation. His sense of balance leading him to lean this way or that on a constant basis, as if gravity just felt like pulling him in another direction than everyone else, leaving him to appear as if he were always stumbling sideways up a hill.

“Gut Morgin”, said my Zaidy, and in his traditional routine, “Epis… a bissel coffee….mit creme”

He shuffled into the dinning room and it must of taken a moment or two before my shape registered as being distinct from the chair I sat in, through the coke bottle glasses that were eternally glued to the end of his nose.

He turned to my mother holding up a finger of discovery, “Shmulik g’kimen tzrik, frum da Yeshiver.”

“Yes Papa”, said my mother wiping tears from her face.

Marror or misbehavior?

“Hi Zaidy”, I said, embarrassed to be caught in the act of making my mother cry. He waved a hello by holding an open palm in the air. He held up a finger of caution to my mother, “coffee…”

“It will have to wait, Papa”, said my mother loudly as she returned to the cutting board, “it’s erev pesach and we all have work…”

“Voooos”, said Zaidy louder than a passing tractor trailor.

“It’s almost Pesach”, my mother screamed like she needed to be heard from behind the engine of a 747 during take off; seeing this my Zaidy adjusted his hearing aid, the screatch of which made my mother and I wince, covering our ears in momentary pain.

“Your coffee will have to wait, Papa.”, screamed my mother close to the natural limitation of her lungs and voicebox.

Zaidy nodded, happy to have gotten his point across, “Yuh”, he confirmed “mit creme.”

My mother’s lower lip shook momentarily with a twitch of futility. How could the world have conspired against her in this way ?

I watched my mother pause from her work as my Zaidy shoveled over the impecably arranged silverwear in front of him to make room to read his sefer at the table. She had a look of impossible contradiction on her face, as the unstoppable preparations for Pesach ran headlong into the imovable habits of my grandfather.

Then the cleaver rose and fell, frustrations succesfuly transfered to a pickle that knew not how to beg for mercy.

The front door swung hard on it’s hinges; thrown open with a reckless disregard that could only mark the entrance of my Father. He burst through it so engulfed by the number of boxes he held, that it seemed the entire cluster of white cardboard containers was being magically moved by a black hat and a pair of shoes.

“I got the shemurah matzois”, he exclaimed, attempting to carefully place thirty boxes on the floor simultaneously.
“No…no…I got it”, he said,waving off help and trying to talk louder than the sound of cracking matzo, “I got it.”

“At the last minute before Pesach of course…”, said my Mother full of scorn.

“Wha…What last minute”, said my father fumbling to find his watch as more matzo boxes landed a little too hard on the floor.
Thankfully for their marriage, my father had innate immunity to my mothers criticism.
Tatee looked genuinely confused at my mother’s concern when he found his watch; “plenty of time”, he said correcting her mistake and breaking into his carefree smile, “we’ve got plenty of time”.

My mother was shaking her head, abandoned as she was, all alone in a world of responsibilities and deadlines.

He saw me.

“Hey Shmuley’s home”, he exclaimed, “Ehhh !!! Back for Bein Hazmanim, of course, come here.”
I always got a big bone crushing hug from my father, it was as much a custom as gefilte fish.

“Oh. That’s the welcome he gets after the meeting we had to have with the mashgiach last night”, said my mother, “he’s hanging on by the skin of his teeth over there.”

“What… don’t worry about that…”, said my father.

“What do you mean, ‘don’t worry’”, said my mother with some pretty impressive tone.


I wanted to warm my father, whose imagination fell short of conjuring mom-o-meter levels.
We are in the Red.

“Ehhh ?”, said my father with a big grin, a gapping smile that let us know how far ahead of the curve he was, “take a look at this”, he said pointing to the boxes.

There was the look of incredulity on my mothers face, and the early suspicion, that in addition to a renegade son, her collapsing life would be complicated by a mentally decompensating husband.

“Our son is about to be thrown out of Yeshiva….and you want me to look…at a bunch of broken matzo ?”


I wanted to tell to my clueless father.


She’s gonna blow.

“Wha… ?”, said my Tatee, “there’s no broken….no broken…No…in the other box! The other box!”

He found his way to the middle of the boxes and pulled one from the pile.

It must of been good, cause my Tatee held that box high, like inside was the cure for cancer, solution to world poverty, and the recipe for a better potato kugel all wraped in one.

My mother placed her hands on her hips letting him know that it better be.

For my part I was divided, half curiosity half dread. My “problem” was going to be solved by something inside a white cardboard box?

I didn’t have to wait long as we all gathered round to peer into the innards of the white container of mysteries untold. Even Zaidy managed to ascertain that something was happening, and listing at a forty five degree angle and trudging as if close to the summit of Everest, he came to join us as we gathered around it.

My Father pulled off the cover, and yanked it out of the box oblivious of the directions and styraphoam packing peanuts that fell all over the floor.

“My carpet”, wheezed my mother, as if the pain was too great to allow her to do anything other than gasp her last words, “…my carpet.”

“Relax”, said my Father, “well get to that in a minute… Here… Take a look at this.”

Perched in his hands was a silver cylinder roughly resembling the size and shape of a hot water urn, with a few buttons and switches protruding from the side.

“What is it”, asked my Mother skeptically, refusing to part in any way from her specific knowledge that my father had never solved a problem until now.

But I already knew.

I felt sick.

I wanted to run away. To bolt for it before it was too late, but there was no where to go. Even had I had safe haven to which to flee, my legs were numbly stuck to the floor, and I began to gawk at my own upcoming traffic wreck in much the same way I did a five car freeway pile up.

“Just watch”, said my father, flicking the main switch. The whole thing hummed for a moment in my Fathers big hands, and then like magic before our eyes floated gently from my father’s palms, like a bouy bouncing happily on tranquil seas.
“Ahh”, said my father as the shiny new acquisition left his grasp.

“But… it… can’t be”, said my mother.

“Never say never”, said my father sauvely, with a wink; momentarily mistaking himself for someone who said things like that.
“But we can’t afford this”, said my mother, postponing the longing she felt to own the shiny object that bobed playfully in front of our eyes as if suspended by invisible strings.

“It’s returned once, but good as new, Shlomo at the office knows somebody who knows somebody…so…here it is.”
For the first time, a ray of hope appeared over my mothers face. I watched her features thaw as heartfelt warmth loosened and relaxed every line on her brow and cheeks that had been frozen so tensley in place, as if she had been in a dark cave for years, and now, here, she had finally caught a glimpse of blue sky and sun.

“Tatee”, I said to my father, eager to rescue myself before things got out of hand, “get rid of this thing. I know two kids in yeshiva who have it, they don’t even want to go home anymore.”

My father was gripping my shoulder.

“It’s not just for you…its for all of us. I think your mother could tell you.”

He paused to look at her around the floating cylinder, where she smiled back at him, “we could all use a little kick in tuchus around here, myself included…now I think this will be good for us.”

And so there we stood… assembled around the hovering new addition to our house, it’s polished surface returned the mirror images of our faces, distorted into fun house charicatures with oversized forheads and tiny chins.

“Calibrating”, said the floating metal cylinder, so suddenly it shocked us.

“It’s calibrating”, my mother informed us in case we had not heard.

“Calibrating”, it repeated in it’s hollow metalic tone.

“Boruch Hashem”, said my mother, unable to find words of her own, distracted by the unusual feeling of…joy.

“Boreech Hashem”, said my Zaidy, almost as happy as mother as he reached out to the floating cylinder with his shaking, aged, hand; holding a ceramic mug that clattered against the bottom of the new gadget, “vere da coffee come out from ?”, he asked expectantly as he twisted a dial.

“No Papa.”, said my Father, moving him aside, “there’s no coffee from this.”

“No” ? , said Zaidy, with a deep look of suspicion and mistrust on his face.

“Sit at the table Pop, sit down with your sefer…”

“What did he touch”, asked my mother, who was overly cautious around anything with more than an on/off switch.

“Nothing, I.. I think it’s the frumkeit meter…sheesh he twisted it all the way up to “lakewood”, hold on a second”, my father said twiddling with the dials, “It’s no big deal…. I’ve got it…..I’ve got it right here…”, he trailed off in frustration as the knob came free in his hand. He twiddled it in his thick fingers for a moment.

“Is it broken?”, asked my mother, panic striken.

My father shrugged his shoulders, “No, actually it’s better than ever”, he sommoned a reassuring smile, “ lakewood eh? Just what the doctor ordered.”

“Calibration complete…” said a hollow tone from the gaget’s middle, “and Mazel Tov on your acquisition of The Automated Mechanical Mashgichus Co-ordinator… from Smartscroll. Please visit your local store to find out more about our other Smartscroll products.”

“I can’t believe it”, said my mother in near tears, her hands on the sides of her face, “our very own Mechano-Mosh.”

“And they are 20% faster than the Religi-Bot series from last year”, beamed my father statistacally, basking in the unusual situation of recieving compliments from my mother.

I think we all jumped back a step as the front panel slid open on the cylinder, disappearing into the dark interior of the canister.

“What was that”, asked my mother holding one arm stifly by her side and massaging it as if it were a sickly child with her other hand, “What’s it doing….. Herschel, I think it’s empty inside.”

“Empty”, said my Father incredulously, peering ever closer to the opening of the device, “Oh, believe me, I’ll take it back to the store faster than you can say melavah malkah…”

“Ahh!!!”, said my father jumping back as static and frizz erupted inside the metal cylinders hollow interior.

“I knew it wouldn’t work”, said my mother returning to her more natural pose of assured despair, “I…I just knew.”

“Thank goodness”, I said from the heart, feeling my tense innards loosen and my shoulders relax, the bullet succesfully dodged. I turned to my parents, “we don’t need it, I’m telling you we don’t.”

As a dreaded last resort my father was going through the styraphoam peanuts looking for the directions, “wait a second”, he said, his voice strained as he stooped over, his fingers combing through the squeaking ‘s’ shapes, “wait just a second.”

“Herschel”, said my mother, a little bit of fear and excitement creeping back in her voice, “Herschel, I think it’s doing some…..I see something….It’s a face, oy I can’t believe, it’s mamesh a face”!

I knew my mother was just imagining it, but the more I looked the more I did see something that looked like a shape in the hollow interior of the contraption. I blinked my eyes and pushed my glasses back up to be sure. Yes. It was a face, growing distinct from the static. I could make it out now, the ghoulish feeling of a new presence rising with my certainty.

Where before there was just the background noise of black and white dots, now came the crease of an eyelid running into a thick fleshy nose, pinched only where thick glasses squated territorilly mid-proboscis. The skin, a pale shade of white, never having seen the sun. The whole of him, eerily familiar yet unrecognizable, his head tilted with eyes closed as if in an unplanned midday nap.

“It’s creeping me out, turn it off”, I said, with a little involuntary shake.

“Is it sleeping”, asked my mother cautiously, “does it…he… sleep” ?

My Father slowly arose from his rumageing crouch to stand face to face with our visitor and wrinkled his brow in concentration, “I don’t know…”


We all jumped back in fear as the eyes snapped open and blinked to attention.

I was the first to recognize our guest and blurted out my terror reflexively, “It’s Reb Lieb…It’s his head….It’s Reb Lieb, it’s…it’s my mashgiach’s head…”

“Gut in himmel”, said my father in shock, “Shmulik’s right….it’s Lieb Fruendlich’s head.”

My mothers two hands flited about like birds, trying to do more jobs than she had fingers for, “Reb Lieb”, she said adjusting her shietel, buttoning her collar, and tugging her apron into place simultaneously, “in our house…it’s so unexpected…”

“Ta”, I said staring at Reb Lieb’s unblinking eyes and expressionless face. How could I make my father understand that I couldn’t have the floating presence of my mashgiach watching over me in my house. How could I convey the dizzying, tightening, bewildering turmoil in my soul as the comfort of home rolled too easily into the tension of a principals office.
“Ta”, I said, “I don’t want that thing staring at me all over Pesach.”

“Staring? That’s all he’s doing is staring”, said my Father as surprise gave way to early frustration. He tapped on top of the Mechano-mosh cylinder, making it bob up and down, and waved his hand in front of Reb Lieb’s unblinking eyes, “Hello…any one home in there.”

“Where did I put the directions”, said my father turning to me, “maybe there is some kind of activation key, like, ‘gut morgin’ or, ‘gut yom toff’…”

As my Tatee pratled on I watched the soft doughy skin on Reb Lieb’s face. So life like, so impeccably real. The hologram captured every last detail, the unruly tufts of beard hair, fresh from habitual chewing, the hat pulled low, just shaddowing the top of his glasses frame, it’s rim sprinkled with a believable amount of dandruff flake. His dark eyes staring past me as if in deep concentration…

“Or it could be a numerical code…”, said Tatee finally fishing the directions out, “613”, he shouted in Reb Lieb’s ear, pausing for a moment to look for response, “Hey…Mister….”, he said rapping on top of the canister with his knuckles, “…I said…. 613!”.

“Why won’t it do anything”, asked my mother, still clutching her apron about her body.

“Why is it MY mashgiach”, I said, too afraid to take my eyes of it.

“It says bipherish right here”, said Tatee, flipping through the manual as he squinted at it, “That’s our model number, It’s the Freundlich 3000.”

“So why won’t it start”, asked my mother.

I think it heard. It must of heard. Because even as the words left my mother’s mouth, Reb Lieb’s eyes rolled slowly, white over black, to find me.

“AHHHHHHHHHH”, I screamed.

“Hello Shmuley”, said Reb Lieb, in Reb Lieb’s voice.

“Holy Moly”, said my father jumping back as startled as I was, “that nearly scared the farfel straight out of me.”

“It’s his digestion”, my mother explained to Reb Lieb’s head, hoping to reclaim a little of our families first impression, “it’s not what it used to be.”

Reb Lieb’s eyes rolled from me to my mother, “Rebetzin”, he said breaking into a toothy smile, “thank you for having me as a guest in your home.”

My mother was fanning herself with the hand not fidling with her apron, “he called me Rebetzin”, she told my father.
“Reb Lieb”, beamed my father, moving closer to the floating head of my mashgiach.

“Reb Herschel”, said my decapitated Rebbi, “It’s good to be here.”

“It’s our pleasure to have you here, I can’t tell you how much we need your help”, said Tatee placing his hand jovially on the top of mechano-mosh’s lid.

“Errr… Rev Herschel.”


“It’s probably best”, said Reb Lieb’s head, glancing at my father’s arm, “to treat me in the same way as you would treat a sifrei kadosh, or better yet, a sefer torah.”

“I am so sorry, my good Reb Lieb”, said my father removing his hand and waving it as if it had just been on a stove.
“No no no…it’s fine… it’s fine”, said Reb Lieb’s head in good nature, nodding up and down inside his can, “but just think of it this way…in my memory banks, I contain every word of torah ever written….period. And my entire personality chip is modeled after a godol bitorah and a torah true yid.”

“It’s amazing”, said my mother, “it’s just amazing.”

“I can’t shake the sense that I’m talking with Reb Lieb”, said my father shaking his head, “it’s uncanny, just uncanny…to be just a head..Hey….Hey….Reb Lieb”, said my father smiling too wide, a sure indication of impending grade school humor….
“Did someone else buy the Freundlich 1500…” he said, having difficulty talking through his mirth as he marched in place in demonstration of what a disembodied pair of legs might look like, “to walk the kids to shul…”

“Herschel”, scolded my mother.

“The 750…” he said too caught up to stop, solitarily amused, and glancing at me as potential co-conspiritor, he made quick circles with a lone hand, “you know, Shmuley…to help with the dishes…”

I donated a thin sympathy smile.

“Enough”, said my mother.

“Rav Herschel”, said my mashgiach.
“I’m so…”

“Like a sefer…”

“I’m so sorry”

“No no no, it’s fine, it’s fine, but think of me like a sefer torah….farshtiest !!”

“I got it”, said my father, “don’t worry…. I get it now.”

“You know”, said Reb Lieb’s head conversationally, bobbing unaturally to it’s own magnetic wave, “you can ask me shailos, I am a qaulified posek for a twenty four hour period until human verification is performed.”

“Now that’s going to be a time saver”, said my father snaping his fingers and sobering up, “not having to wait to see the Rabbi to find out the halachah…this is paying for itself already.”

“Oh I’m already hard at work making your life easier”, said the mechano-mosh, “I’ve remotely reset all alarm clocks in the house to have everyone up and ready an hour before shachris.”

“It’s just wonderful”, said my mother.

My father was scratching his head.

“Awww”, I said.

“Shmuley”, said my mother harshly.

“I have restructured your bank accounts so that your shul dues are paid through to the year 2052, as well as automatically detucting ma’aser from your direct deposit.”

“Hey…now…”, said my father looking a bit pale.

“Rav Herschel, try and understand”, said mechano-mosh, shaking his head back and forth in his canister, “I’m not Reb Lieb who sits across from you in shul…I’m a synthetic personality…and fully adherent to the laws of robotics with the 2034 religious exemption module.”

My father now looked a bit pale and a bit confused.

“Herschel, Herschel…I cannot cause, or through inaction allow you to come to… spiritual harm”, said Reb Lieb lovingly, “that means…it means your neshamah is in my hands now…”

“It’s like having a safety net, where you can’t fall”, said my mother in translation.

My father looked only partially convinced.

“Rev Herschel, your hishtadlus was to get me in your house, the rest….the rest I take care of for you. Ha’Ba Li’Taher….Misayin Oisoh…”

My father slowly started to nod his head in agreement.

“Nu” said Reb Lieb so authentically that I was forced to imagine his hands waving in small circles with thumbs up at his side, “let’s avoid bitul z’man, we’ve got alot of work to do here…”

My mother had her hands pressed together, “It’s a fresh start…just in time for Pesach…”

My Father was looking over at her and smiling, “Just in time”, he repeated with a wink.

Seeing my parents gel into such a solidified edifice of converging opinion made the acrid aspirin taste in my mouth all the more bitter.

How could they do this to me ? This wasn’t Bein Hazmanim…it was Mussar Seder concentrated times ten to be adhered to 24/7….I would break…I would snap…

Turning on my heel, I ran to my room, fleeing the scene in an escape that led me a full three feet down the hall and quick left into the small spot I called my own. I heard my parents calling after me but I paid it no attention.

“Shmuley”, said my father.

“Where does he think he’s going ?”, said my mother.

“It’s all right”, said Reb Lieb’s voice in quiet wisdom fading in and out of my ability to hear it, “Let me….I’ll…..teaching……”
I kicked the door shut with the back of my foot, loud enough to make a decent slam.
Wasn’t it bad enough to be a known underachiever every day in Yeshiva ? Did the feeling have to follow me home in a stainless steel jar?

I flopped into bed and shifted my glasses to my forehead, rubbing my eyes because I was tired…not because I might cry. I opened them and viewed my room through the comfortable blur of nearsighted focus, the sharp edges of life dulled and melded into meaningless soft color. From the doorway I saw movement, and I squinched my forehead droping my glasses back into place.

“Hey”, I said, more out of shock than out of the need to comunicate anything in particular.

It was Reb Lieb…his head, that is to say, gliding effortlessly through the opening door…his eyes found me and he smiled so genuinely, with so much caring.

How did he……?

“Shmuel”, he said moving towards me and shaking his head back and forth in a way that created the uncanny illusion of him swimming through the air by some unnamed neck stroke.

“You can’t”, I said almost breathlessly feeling the last delicate dew drops of privacy dehydrate into vapor, “I mean… don’t you have to knock…”

“I’m not a person”, said Reb Lieb, all brilliant smiles, “that you could be embarrassed from…come on…let’s talk.”

“No”, I blurted angrily, “this is my room…”

“Shmuley….be reasonable…we’ll talk it through.”

“I don’t want to talk with you…”

My mother appeared at the door followed by my father.

“Shmuley”, said my mother, “you said you would try harder…you told me you would do better…why not start now…”

I saw no way to make it through the day with my Mashgiach’s head following me around like an unwanted puppy, but the look in my mother’s eye told me I had already promised her something and I had to keep her faith.

“OK…fine…I don’t even know what this Robot wants anyway…”

“Watch your mouth”, warned my father, sternly, nodding in solidarity in Reb Lieb’s direction, “this is the err…”

“Embodiment”, said my mother coaxing the sentance from his lips.

“Yes”, said my father, “the embodiment of a sefer torah, and we’ll treat it…him…that way.

“Shmuley”, said Reb Lieb’s head, floating to a level at which we were eye to eye as I sat at my bed.

He wasn’t exactly solid. If I looked hard enough through the dark eyes I could make out the inner back end of the canister, the serial number, and the warranty sticker. And he flickered, the light sources that created his hologram dimming and lightening, like an artificial pulse. But as I talked with him, watching the chubby cheeks flex and stretch over his wide mouth, his eyes flicker and wayne with sincerity, I had to admit I was drawn into the illusion.

This was Reb Lieb, or at least as close as it could be to him without the rest of his body.

“Shmuley”, he said with pride, floating just a few inches from my face, “you’ve taken the first brave step to a brighter future…all on your own…but you have to seal it…with a positive action !”

“He’s talking in riddles” I complained to my parents, “I don’t even understand…”

“Shmuley”, said Reb Lieb floating so close I could smell the metal and plastic of his housing, staring deeply at me with those piercing eyes, “I have scanned your room and found one fiction novel of a Goyishe nature that could be detrimental to such a developing mind, as your own.”

“Awwww”, I said to the mechano-mosh, “this stinks, don’t I get any privacy.”

“Now we are getting somewhere”, applauded my mother, clasping her hands together at my doorway.

“It’s clean up time, Shmuley”, said my father apologetically, “we are all going to have to run a tighter ship from here on in.”
I couldn’t believe this.

It was like mutiny. My mother, father, and this flying tin can all ganging up on me.

“Shmuley”, said the mechano-mosh in a deeper, sweeter tone like molasses, “Yiras Shemayim, is about making your own judgments about your relationship with the aibishter, you are going to have to come to terms on your own about what it means to be mevatal your zman with narishkiet. When you begin to think about it, you will know what to do with that book. A small part of your growth as a Ben Torah will hinge on this realization.”


“No really….think about it…”, said Reb Lieb with a friendly wink.

“I will.”

“It’s…He’s… so reasonable”, said my mother.

“It davkah has a real personality to it”, said my father, eager for another chance to brag, as they both watched from my doorway, “it’s no coincidence he’s the best selling model.”

Reb Lieb winked once at my parents.

I hated them all for a moment.

“Did you think about it?”

“No…I mean I’m thinking…”, I said.

“You should seriously consider it in T minus 5 seconds.”


“A good time to come to a conclusion would be approximatley T minus 4 seconds.”

“This is crazy…”, I said, “this flying toaster is threatening me.”

“Don’t be a michutziv”, said my father quickly.

“Is it so crazy to get results ?” asked my mother.

“Gashmius destruction comencing in T minus 3 seconds…”

“Shmuley”, said my father, “I think you better get your book.”

“Fine”, I yelled, “you see what you did”, I said, as I walked over to my bookbag, unzipped it and chucked my latest Asimov into the trash hard enough to make a bang, “now I have no place to be myself, my whole life is a commercial for better yeshiva living.”

“Shmuley, your over reacting,“ said my mother, “give it a chance and you’ll see how you start to feel better…”

“No, Mom, I’m not going to feel better..”

“Please….let me handle this…”, said the Mechano-mosh, “I have over three thousand collected mussar shmusen and parables from the Rabbinic lights of our generation and the past.”

“Awwww”, I said.

“Once in a small town in lithuania”, said Reb LIeb’s holographic head in apparent deep thought, “there was a young man, who wanted nothing more that to meet the prince…”

“This is a bunch of cr…”, I started.

“Shmuley, you better start listening”, scolded my mother, “this is going to be the way it is untill you shape up.”

“…As it turned out”, Reb Lieb continued oblivious to my interruptions, “the prince wanted nothing more than to be a regular..”

“Tatee, can’t you do something, this is ridiculous.”, I pleaded.

“…One day at the market, the king sent the prince and the young man…”, continued Reb Lieb, unwilling to be derailed.

“Shmuley, come on, wise up kid-o, listen to your mother, you can’t go on this way forever…I know how hard it is for you, but the only path is the path up, you gotta find a way through your problems…trust me there is a light at the end of the tunnel…”

“…The prince and the young lad were both amazed to find the treasure right beneath their feet…”, continued Reb Lieb, his holographic head looking both surprised and elated at the stories end.

“This isn’t facing my problems”, I told my father trying to talk louder than the mechano-mosh in a rare moment of father son honesty, “this is ignoring the idea than problems can exist…this is pretending one right way is the only way for everyone.”

“…And so we see…”, said Reb Lieb, his simulated brow furrowing at the lesson at hand, “that sometimes, the greatest treasures are the treasures right in front of our eyes, that we did not see… before we tried to look…in the right way… using the glasses of torah and maasim tovim…”

“Shut up you crazy robot, get out of my face”, I exploded.

“Shmuley”, said my father sternly, “haven’t you been listening….you have to treat Reb Lieb’s…uhh… head… here, with the same kovod you would give a Rabbi, it holds the collected works of kol hatorah kulah, you want that kind of avierah on your hands….come on.”

A red light began flashing on the side panel of the mechano-mosh, and Reb Lieb pouted and began to look around from side to side in confusion.

“Oh great, you michutziv”, shouted my mother, “now you broke it …him… with your nivel peh.”

“No I didn’t”, I said, uncertain if such a thing could happen.

“Alert”, said the Robot Lieb, in a voice that sounded much more mechanical, his eyes now dreamy and distant.

“This would be coming out of your allowance”, scolded my father, “if you had one.”

“Alert”, said the mechano-mosh, “four hours untill pesach, commencing emergency bedikah”, and with that he floated up and away forcing my parents to part like the red sea as his canister passed between them on it’s way to the kitchen.

“Huh ?”, said my father.

“But the house is already spotless for Pesach, I’ve been scrubbing for weeks”, complained my mother, with a look of shock on her face that such a detail could ever be doubted, as she hurried to behind the mechano-mosh, my father and I quick on her heels.

As he reached the counter, Reb Lieb looked as if he had eaten something he needed to cough up.

“System overide….Initiating chametz deep scan…”

“Uhhhh…I don’t like the sound of that”, said my father, “maybe we should all go wait in the den.”
My mother shook her head, stranded in some foreign land between the welcome relief of our new family member and a new…growing… outrage.

Though my father had surrendered his ma’aser and morning snooze, and my Asimov now rest in the garbage bin, there was one member of the family who awaited correction, and my Father and I turned in trepidation towards my mother.

I almost wanted to warn Reb Lieb…didn’t he have a chip for qauntification of impending danger?

“Den ?? Oh…I’m not leaving my kitchen”, my mother informed us, Reb Lieb, and the world in general; with her arms folded in front of her in a sudden change of aliegence, “There is not so much as one crumb of chametz in MY house”, she said.

“Do you have any idea”, said my mother to Reb Lieb’s head, with the telltale quiver of deep emotion on her voice, “how hard….HARD…I worked to get this place spotless….how many meals, yes meals, I’ve eaten on my outdooor front steps, how many moldy crevases I’ve cleaned with a toothbrush, how many appliances, too heavy for a workman to lift, I’ve crawled behind and cleaned goo you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole…” she trailed off near to tears…but not a drop spilled. It was more anger than sorrow, more fierce opposition than apologetic.

“Chametz…” said Reb Lieb looking sharply over my mother’s shoulder and furrowing his brow, “…detected.”

They faced each other then, for just a moment. Like two windblown gunslingers of the old west, except instead of swift fingers tracing the handle of a classic colt, my mother’s practiced hands found their way to the wooden charoset spoon. She grasped it then in preparation, her eyes never leaving Reb Lieb’s, while they squinted down to angry slits in challenge.

But Reb Lieb showed no signs of swerving in this game of chicken and from the bottom of the mechano-mosh extended a soft redly glowing orb, not more than a marble for size, but bright enough to hurt my eyes.

“Initiating….Bedikah”, said Reb Lieb’s head, his holographic gaze locked on my mother.

“You stay out”, said my mother sharply, “not one foot…er…head in this kitchen”, she snapped, “you hear that” !!

“Chavah, chavah”, pleaded my Tatee with outstretched hands ready to remind my mother about what it meant to have a sefer torah in the house, until he was silenced by the death stare my mother shot at him.

“Rebetzin”, pleaded Reb Lieb’s head, “I know how hard you worked…boruch ha…”

“No you don’t”, said my mother, “NO YOU DON’T”

“The miracle”, said Reb Lieb, “Is how much chametz you DID clean…”

“Don’t you cross this line”, threatened my mother drawing an imaginary boundary in the air with her wooden spoon as Reb Lieb floated forward, “Not one more inch…”

“You can’t expect yourself”, said Reb Lieb in his most soothing tone as he trespassed into kitchen air space, “to catch every pico-gram of chametz with human eyes…”

“Back”, threatened my mother winding the spoon up at shoulder length like she might be aiming to swat a fastball to the fences, “you stay back now”.

“But I can help you”, continued Reb Lieb’s head, drifting Lazily over the counter, “I couldn’t…. NOT…. help you, If you were Chas Vesholom oiver on Bal Yeraeh…”


“….or Bal Yimatzeh, on my watch”, Reb Lieb was shaking his head in regret and sadness even has he contemplated this possibility, “better to just get rid of some risidual shmootz than chance an issur dioiriesah !!!”

Reb Lieb focused an aiming beam in the deep chasm between the refirgerator and inbuilt kitchen cabinetry.

“Don’t you dare…”, said my mother with a crazed look in her eyes, as they darted about searching, perhaps, for any one else in the room foolish enough to take her on in her own kitchen, “DON’T YOU DARE !!!!”

“One quick bedikah”, said Reb Lieb as if he were preparing my mother for her flu shot, “and we are all through…”

It happened quickly then, almost too quickly for me to process.

I think my mother swung first, she must have swung first, becuase when she hit the mechano-mosh with the charoset spoon not only did the loud “gong” sound drown out his yell: “OY- my head !”; but he also misfired the laser, probably because the force of the blow spun him halfway across the kitchen.

The laser…well, that laser didn’t hit any chametz at all, and missed it’s mark by at least a foot landing not in the dark crevase next to the fridge but insidie the open refrigerator door, where upon meeting a uniformly tinfoiled interior, it bounced back out, straight into the tinfoiled cabinets on the otherside of the room.


Which was when my wide eyed Tatee must have yelled:

“Duck !!”

Which I did.

Although, he must of yelled it before doing so himself, and that laser rebound from tinfoiled cabinetry to tinfoiled counter took his hat right of his head in transit.

“Son of a…”, said Tatee grabbing to keep his Yarlmulke on his head as his knees involuntarily ducked for him.

“Bizzzooouuuuu!!!!”, screamed the deflected laser as it scitered off of the kitchen coutner tinfoil ripping through the air into the dinning room where it ricoched next off of Eliyahu’s Kos not ten inches from my Zaidy’s face, who magically remianed oblivious to anything but his book.

“Mmmm”, said Zaidy to his sefer, stroking his beard and turning the page, “dos is a chidush ???”

“Bzzzaaapp”, It must of hit the bottom of the Silver Kiddush cup, I didn’t see it, cowardly hugging the floor as I was, but it must have hit the rounded bottom and deflected down, because the frying, sizzling, chametz-intended, fizzle that it created occured dead center in one of the freshly cleaned corn rows of our white living room carpet, a small puff of smoke grandly introducing the giant burn stain on the frazzled carpet fibers.

Everythig was quite for a few seconds then and …. I don’t know….

I’m thirteen and quite aware, but I’m not an expert in human emotions, I don’t have any degrees or even a high school education. I barely even know what the Yeshiva told me I’m supposed to know; which is: who’s fault is everything when a Shor falls into a Bor.

But as I watched my mother I knew something.

I knew I was watching something breaking. I don’t know what people have in their heads, or what keeps it together, but I saw a snap, two things pulling apart that won’t be put back together.

I guess she just stared at that carpet for moment, letting the dark spot on the fabric imprint itself on her brain in some deeply primitive way, tatooing itself, perhaps to her very soul.

“My carpet…” said my mother with barely an expression on her face, “my..my perfect, white, carpet.”

“Oy”, said Reb Lieb, finally managing to stop from spinning in a circle, “It will be a Nes if I don’t need some maintenance…”

“You”, said my mother, finally managing to tear her eyes off the carpet to look at Reb Lieb.

“Enough”, said Reb Lieb firmly, “Sofo shel dovor, you have twelve picograms of chametz in two locations, and seven microscopic bugs on your romaine lettuce…we can make a big deal about it….”

“You”, said my mother with blank eyes as if she were talking to us from some far away place, “did this….”

“Or”, said Reb Lieb, “we can tidy it up…”

Not the response anyone had perhaps expected, “Aggghhhhh”, said my mother, leaving go the conventions of speech and reason for something more basic and raising the spoon in a fashion that would have made virile viking warriors run for the hills, “Aggghhhh”

“This isn’t in my programing”, said Reb Lieb’s head nervously as he dodged a spoon swipe that would have crushed him like a wad of aluminum foil, “perhaps a story from the Dubno Maggid would help…”

“YOU”, screamed my mother as she jumped to place one sturdy hit on his canister as he floated at top speed to the relative safety of the high kitchen ceiling.

“STOP”, I yelled, surprised to hear myself speaking. It must have shocked everyone, because Reb Lieb paused from attempting to Zap the bugs off of our vegetables, and my mother loosened her whitened knuckles from their grip on our heavy salt shaker, that she had cocked like a catepult to bean Reb Lieb in his…well…head.

“Stop”, I said more quietly.

“Rebbi”, I said to Reb Lieb, “you CAN’T create rules that are impossible for people to follow…it’s…it’s tirchah di’tziburah….it’s not what hashem could have ever meant for…a halachah that’s impossible for the kihillah to complete….you can’t create a standard that no one can follow….”

“You see”, said Reb Lieb to my parents from the safety of high altitude, “look how much better Shmuley’s remembering from his chavrusahs, and I’ve barely been here an hour…it’s Gevaldig !’

“He has a point”, said my father finally caustiously rising up, from where he had hidden in a crouch behind the counter, with his hat in his hand, “that’s a nice little shtickle toirah…”
He had more to add, but accurately determining my mothers body language allowed him to duck back behind the counter before the salt shaker was launched at him.

But I had more Asimov in mind than I did lessons from the shulchan Aruch.

“But you HAVE to clean the bugs and clean the chametz”, I informed Reb Lieb, “because you can’t allow us to be over an issur.”
“That’s true too”, said Reb Lieb nodding his head, even as he warily eyed my mother, “My central programing would not even allow me to turn on circuit number one in my CPU if I didn’t protect you from issur. “

He looked thoughtful for a moment, “Perhaps the answer is that when two pesukim contradict each other…you need a third to be machriah beyneyhem..”

“But you CAN’T ask us to clean microscopic bugs and dirt”, I said more loudly now, ignoring him, “because you can’t create a religion that humans can’t follow…”

“I’m sure there is a sugyah that deals with this”, said Reb Lieb shaking his head in confusion, “I’ll reference my memory banks.”

“But you HAVE to clean the chametz”, I screamed, “because you can’t allow us to be oiver an issur dioriesah.”

“I have a terrible sinus pressure”, complained Reb Lieb as he began to drift slowly down from the level of the ceiling fan, “like my hat is too tight on my head.”

“But you CAN’T intend for us to clean up microscopic chametz and bugs”, I said loud enough to feel the scrape of the words on my throat, “because you CAN’T create a religion that humans cannot follow.”

“I’m sure….a…parable…could explain…”, said Reb Lieb, as he drifted listlessly over to our dinning room table.

“But you HAVE to clean up…”

“Enough…”, said Reb Lieb’s head looking ill, “DLL error 7 78 1…Oyyy.”

And like that… he was gone.

His canister…empty.

Vacated of his presence the empty contraption dropped the last few feet from where it floated and landed with a thud on the dining room table, cracking it’s delicate innards, and sending out a thick stream of black oily goo, like a well pressurized water fountain, that covered half of the gleaming silverware on the table, with a wondrous new speckled pattern of motor oil. A little bit even landed in my grandfather’s cup.

“My silverware…my table…” mourned my mother, awaking from insane anger into a fresh emotion of sadness beyond condolence.

My Zaidy, finally distracted from his sefer, anxiously peered at the black sludge in his mug, and catching my mothers eyes as she surveyed her paradise lost, he voiced his dissapointment.

“Mit creme”, he stated simply, banging his fist on the table in wonderment as to why his simple request could be so difficult to fulfill, “dos is schvartz coffee… ich viest nisht….coffee….mit a bissel creme.”

The last straw landing on her back my mother simply fell to her knees.

And she cried.

It was hard to understand her through the tears, but my Father and I listened.

We listened very closely.

“Is it too much to ask….just to have a time to be together with my family…”, she said, and now she was smiling a sad smile, “MY brothers and sisters…their children…to be together.”

“And to have just that little time together…I have to work my fingers to the bone ?”

She was shaking her head, “For what ?” she looked over at the empty container of the Mechano-Mosh, “…for him ? Floating around and barking orders…Look at the mess he’s made”, she said looking around at the destruction her Erev Yom Tov had become.

My Father looked uneasy and unsure as to what the answer to such a question could be. It almost seemed to broad for him to get his arms around. He clenched and unclenched his large fists as if he needed to wring the life out of something but couldn’t pin down exactly what it might be.

“It’s….” said my father, “It’s…that Robot…that crazy Robot…”

My mother began to nod in agreement, “We were fine until that crazy Robot tried to come into our lives and control everything…”

My father grabbed the remnants of Reb Lieb’s holographic transport container off our table and slammed it harshly into the garbage.

“A piece of junk”, he yelled more loudly than I was used to hearing, and hunched over the trash and almost out of breath I saw him start to piece things together.

“Where’s the siechel”, he said shaking his head over the remains of our new technology, “How did I get it into my kup, that a tin can, with no soul, could guide a yid with a neshamah; what’s even the haavah aminah that something that can only compile and catalouge rules into more rules and spit them out….could guide a mishpachah…my mishpachah”.

“It could never work”, agreed my mother standing back up, “even on the surface it doesn’t make sense…”

My father was grinding a fist into an open palm and his teeth were clenched, “What was I thinking that this flying chulent pot could tell us what to do ??? It’s…It’s not even thinking about what it’s saying…”

“Of course not”, said my mother, “How could it without a brain…it’s just a head.”

“It just follows..”, My father struggled on, “some kind of a …”

“Algorithim”, I said.

“No”, said my father.

“Formula”, said my Mother.

“Not that”, said my Father, “you know….mamesh as if you just drop in a number…”

“A variable”, said my Mother.

“A function”, I suggested.

“No, no”, said my Father trying to get around an idea that was to big for him, “how do you describe a chochmah that…that follows the rules but can’t see itself at work…can’t look at itself from across the room…can put the numbers together all the while unable to grasp the end result….”

My Father truly looked in deep frustration at not being unable to express what was so clearly tying his psyche in knot. The idea that his life was enforcably governed by an archaic matrix of barely logical connectors, was so close to the tip of his tongue, and yet so unspeakable.

“It was a stupid….Robot.” Said my mother offering what was her take on the final summary of events.

“That’s it…you got it….that’s it”, said my father first holding up a finger and then pounding his fist into his hand. He accentuating each word by giving the garbage a hefty kick, “It was a stupid…stupid….Robot.”

We stood there for a moment then…unbound and unsure. Almost as if we had unraveled our life enough, sifted deep enough through the dust to be at some long forgotten and deeply buried fork in the road. The next steps forward seemed so unclear…

“Oy Herschel”, said my mother breaking the silence, “look….look at my house, my kitchen, my carpet…ruined…ruined…”
I tried to think of something to say to comfort my poor mother, all her hard work now in shambles around her, but it was my grandfather who found his way over to her doing his best to speak in english.

“I help to clean up”, he offered stooping to the floor, his stiff arthritic fingers doing their best to coax a few styraphoam S’s back into the mechano mosh’s box, “See dat…”

“Yeah, me too”, I chipped in grabbing a big handful and dumping them back into the container.

My fathers anger turned quickly into a well harnessed energy and he truly beamed, “we’ll have this place cleaned up in no time…”

My mother actually began to look a little relieved…and looked around at us with eyes that wanted to believe it could be so. And for a moment we felt so much like a family.

“I tell you”, said my Zaidy, “You don’t need dat”, he said pointing at the fallen hologram in the garbage.
“In de alt country…we don’t have it…”

He pointed at my father and mother in turn, his small watery eyes moving back and forth between them, “You…unt you….you in the charge…no ??”

“Pop”, said my father, “you’re so right, Pop”

“A lifetime of Toirah study”, said my mother, “that’s where wisdom comes from…”

“It’s really true”, said my father, looking at his father with admiration.

I suppose we could have healed then…

Probably could have taken a path with our families needs at the center, who knows, maybe my parents would have been a little kinder to themselves, and a little happier.

But my Zaidy, oh Zaidy…he had one more piece of wisdom to offer.

“Also, da coffee dat ting makes”, said Zaidy shaking his head, “Feh ! Don’t drink it …terrible…not good for nothing….”

“Papa”, said my mother in confusion, “you didn’t drink…..”

“Pop”, said my father, “Oy…Pop.”

“Should we call the Doctor”, I asked.

“Call the hospital….Who knows what was in there”, screamed my mother, until a second, more dire realization hit her.

“Herschel”, she said quitely, perhaps trying to control her dawning terror by keeping it as close to a secret as possible.

“Herschel…that stuff is everywhere…my silverware…my table….what’s…what’s in it ????”

“No”, said my Tatee, immediately sensing what was pushing my mother to the edge of unrecoverable panic, “It’s not a shialah at all…it’s not even Rauy liachilas kele…..”

He trailed off as he watched my grandfather try to wipe the oil out of his mustache.

“Terrible”, Zaidy confirmed.

And as quickly as we had come together…we unraveled.

My mother had balled her hands in to fists next to her face, “My family will be here in an hour and my house is ruined and full of chametz !!!!”

My father was burning through the instruction manual, “It would say”, he stuttered, “it would have to say…”

“Forget that !” screamed my mother, “Get Rav Hahnemann on the phone, he’ll know…”

“I got it”, said my Father lurching to grab the telephone of the wall and hit the speed dial, “I got it right here….”

“YOU don’t have anything”, screamed my mother as the panic flooded her like ice waters numbing the body and mind.

My father was already yelling into the phone, “I don’t care if he went to the Mikvah, fish him out, we’ve got an emergency situation here..”

“It’s under control”, my Father pleaded with my mother as he cradled the home phone on his shoulder and dialed on his cell phone with the free hand, “Yes”, he said loudly in to his cell, “Information? Yes! Yes, I need an emergency carpet cleaning…EMERGENCY!!!”

My mother was shaking her head.

“No”, said my father loudly into the first reciever, “Of course, I don’t wan’t Rav Hahnemann to clean my carpet….listen….listen….I have a very important shailah about some motor oil that is all over our house, and my Father drank it…he drank it, do you hear, he mamesh drank the motor oil…so the shailah…”

My father had the confused look of hearing two seperate conversations at once, and he yelled back on his cell, “No! Yes! No! I don’t need an Emergency room, you heard my right the first time, Carpet cleaning… Emergency carpet….”

He paused for a moment holding both mouthpieces away from his beard, and giving my mother a nod of confidence, “Taken care of…we are set…totally set, it’s fixed… right now”, he said with a tone that implied that all would be resolved with enough time to read the paper and maybe play a round of gin rummy.

“Oy”, said my mother, as the suffocating world closed in around her, “We are not going to make it in time for Pesach…we are not going to make it…there is no way we are going to make it….”

I looked back and forth between my parents as the self imposed madness took hold.

My mother locked eyes with me.

“And don’t for one second think this gets you off the hook”, she seethed.

“Awwwwwwwww”, I said.


הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...
Holy sh-t that was long!

Not to intimate that I mead most of it, but are you talking about Aba Freundlich of Lakewood or a relative of his? (I was in his yeshiva for a while).
10:26 PM
Ben Avuyah said...
Nope ! Just felt like writing something silly for Pesach.
10:32 PM
Anonymous said...
2:04 AM
Ben Avuyah said...
Yes...its a short story not a blog post, and it's pretty long...
5:11 AM

Freethinking Upstart said...
8:06 AM
Ben Avuyah said...
Thanks Freethinking upstart ! I'm glad someone took the time to read it...

My wife tells me it reads more like a children's story than anything else...but I enjoyed writing and then reading it !!!!
5:56 PM
Anonymous said...
I just spent about an hour reading it... Excellent way to procrastinate, and a nice light-hearted (at least on the surface) story too. Hope to see more of your work in the near future. :)
8:25 AM
Ben Avuyah said...
thanks of taking the time to read it, hope you didn't procrastinate from anything critical !
5:28 PM

The Hedyot said...
Very entertaining. Thanks! It's nice to know that things can always get worse in frummieville. :)
9:38 AM
Moshe said...
Very clever! Its nice to see that you can shift to different narrative styles.
2:47 AM
G*3 said...
Very good! I enjoyed that. Shades of Asimov and Orwell.
10:44 PM

Chana said...
Hilarious. I was amazingly entertained ;-) I love the grandfather figure; who is that based on?
8:04 AM
Ben Avuyah said...
Hedyot, Moshe, G3, and Chana,

Thanks for stopping by to read ! I enjoyed getting back to a little creative writing !

Maybe I'll bring back these futuristic jewish jetsons in the fall and see if they can get it together enough to build a succoh.

Chana I stole the grandfather from the grandfather in moonstruck, or whatever the movie with nicholas cage and sher was called. He makes me laugh whenever I see that movie on TV.
8:40 PM
Moshe said...
dont laugh too hard. in 2050 (we should make it that far!) we'll both be zaydies!
9:40 AM

Dina said...
A bit late to the party here - but just wanted to let you know how enjoyable I found this. Thanks for brightening my day!
8:08 AM

Jacob Da Jew said...
Wow, that was long...but good.

Good as in "I am frickin' terrified"!

Its the ultimate bane, combining fundy shite with technology.
10:55 AM
Moshe said...
btw, have you seen terry eagleton's new book “Reason, Faith and Revolution,” attacking Dawkins and co, or Stanley Fishes discussions of the book on his NYT blog?


12:29 PM
Anonymous said...
Shades of Herbie. Excellent writing.
8:51 AM
Ari (SYL/SheeinoYodeaLishol) said...
Got one for Rosh Hashana?