Monday, October 30, 2006

Horns? They Are Under My Hat.

Today I was invited to speak about Judaism to the seventh grade class at the local school. They invited me because in the area where we live I am THE JEW. Not that I am the only one of the chosen people around here, but the others are deep undercover. So I was prepared to get the usual questions about why we don't celebrate "the other holiday" and why don't we believe in "the rabbi from palestine." But I was surprised by some of the others. "Do women have to wear Peyoes?" No they don't. "If horses had split hooves would you eat them?" If horses had split hooves and chewed the cud then we could eat them, but they don't so we don't. "If you went out somewhere would you have to bring your own food?" Yes you would, and yes we do unless we wanted to drive 240 miles for a snack. This reminded me of Disneyworld on Chol HaMoed which is full of families standing in line for the rides while holding enormous shopping bags of food, usually with the long suffering zadie muttering "bittul Torah" over and over again. A big concern seemed to be over the age of the animals brought for sacrifice in the Beis Hamikdash. I must have been asked that one three times. Why I'm not sure.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Can You See the Real Me?

Along with preparing physically for the trip, I am preparing spiritually as well. To keep myself on track and to give myself a paced framework, so that I don't try to do everything at once and have a religious melt down of some sort, I decided to follow the steps outlined in "A Day in the Life of a Breslover Chasid," by Rav Yitzchok Breiter ztl. He gives 27 chronological activities that a Breslover should be doing daily. I figure since I have 12 months, I can do two or three a month, adding something new or fine tuning something I'm already doing, and have them all under some sort of control by next R.H..
So I'm almost done with the first month, which was: 1. Binding yourself to the Tzaddik; and 2. Davening Mariv. Now number two wasn't an issue since Mariv is the service that I seem to have the most connection with and am best able to hold my focus through. Number one, however, required more effort. Not that it was difficult to say the four lines or so that comprise the oath, but the psychic weight of responsibility that came with it was another matter. What a way to instill Yirat Shemayim. In "The Palm Tree of Devorah," Rav Moshe Cordovero states that as our life originates with Hashem and it is constantly sustained and renewed by him, any action we perform we are in essence compelling Hashem to perform also, so when we sin we are forcing Hashem to sin along with us, since he is supplying the life energy that we are using improperly. Now knowing this should be enough to keep us in the best of behavior, but the truth is that understanding something intellectually isn't always the same as carrying it into physical practice. But by physically speaking the words "I hereby bind myself in my every thought, word, and action all through the day to the true Tzaddikim....," I have not only externalized my thought but have given my word as to a course of action, and tied that action to the merits of the Tzaddikim. So if I blow it, I'm now impacting way more than just myself and my own soul.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Government that Works

The physical preperations for the trip begin with the unpleasant discovery that my passport has expired and must be renewed. I fill out the required forms and prepare to have a, probably very unflattering, photograph taken. Then I notice the fine print, no head covering may be worn in the picture unless you submit a signed and notarized affivdavit explaining that it is necessary for religous purposes. While I didn't have a problem with wearing my kippah for the passport photo, I find that I do have a problem with telling some government agency that I am a Hasidic Jew. Why is this? I don't have any problem wearing my kippah when traveling in places where it is unsafe to do so. In fact I live in one of the new strongholds for the arayan nations and wear my kippah and my tzitzit out all the time ( of course I also figure that those folks aren't intelligent enough to know what the funny strings and beanie really are). Anyway the whole government affivdavit really knocks me on my butt and I end up whipping the kippah off right before the flash. Yes, it was a beautiful picture, it said potential terrorist all over it. So I head to the Post Office to mail off application, check, old passport, and photos; the clerk asks "do I want to send it registered mail" I reply, "No, I trust that one government agency can get it to another government agency ok." The clerk replies, "Oh no, you really should send it registered!"