Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ignorant Comment about Chabad Lubavich EVEN IN VIEW of current events in Mumbai.

I was horrified this morning that in view of the horrible things that have happened to our friends in Mumbai, one of our own (a Jew) had the gall to do a search for the words "Chabad" and "cult" and post a comment on MY web site saying that Chabad was a cult because Jewish people (not necessarily even Lubavichers) moved in next to him and didn't befriend this Jew. I have pasted my response to his comment below.

It appears to me that you have found this web site by searching the terms Chabad and cult which is the first issue or that you are one of my personal friends who have had personal encounters with me and my peers. This is an old post, but it is still as true as the day I wrote it when I was in China in 2005.

I feel that your comment is uninformed because the whole purpose of Chabad is to teach people like yourself about who you are and to inform you of your obligation to practice the commandments that have been given to you. You might be a banker, a soldier, or a McDonalds burger-flipper, but you're still a Jew. Pardon your neighbors not coming over to your house to eat or for not joining you in your secular activities of which they have no interest or part -- the life of an orthodox Jew is a busy life with lots of responsibilities which you as a non-observant Jew either do not know about or have no interest in practicing.

I was studying with a close friend of mine who lived in Borough Park for many years -- a Jewish guy with a good heart, but limited observance. He means well, but I fear that his view of himself and his observance level is quite larger than is his actual practice. I learned Gemara with him shortly before he left to Iraq (at his request), and then before leaving, after me offering to provide his troops with Siddurim and reminding him to remember the Shabbat when he was abroad, he accused me of being a Lubavich missionary when I've been his been his best friend for over 10 years.

It is people like you who baffle me by allowing your egos to overcome your sense of sensibility and honesty about your level of observance of G-d's commandments. You think you are holier and mightier than the highest Rebbe, and you belittle religious people who actually know their place in the world and know how limited they are in their greatness in contrast to your own self-righteousness which convinces you that you are just as "religious" as they are. If only you knew how disastrous it is for you to pick up a phone or turn on a light on the Sabbath, you would never do so, but you do so unknowing the implications. That is where a fellow Jew comes in -- to remind you of who you are and to bring you closer to the truth which is Torah, mitzvos, and doing G-d's will.

As for your cult comment, forgive me for sneering at your ignorance. I am familiar with what certain Jewish organizations do, and I too believe some of their methods are creepy, but not Chabad. I've spent my entire life around them and now am part of them and I believe as one of them that their only interests are your best interests. Chos v'sholom you call a group of individuals who don't befriend your heiness (I spelled it that way on purpose) a cult.

Bottom line, the Chabad Lubavich movement is an outreach program where emissaries (shluchim) are sent to far parts of the world (and to local places like your local neighborhood) for the SOLE purpose of spreading Judaism to their own. The goal is to have fellow Jews recognize their role and identity in the world -- that there is a G-d, he created the world, he freed us from bondage in Egypt, and he gave us the Torah. As such, we have an obligation to be faithful to Him, and to do his commandments as he has asked of us.

I am saddened when people such as Anonymous post self-hating mumbo jumbo about certain groups (Chabad and otherwise) as being a cult. There is nothing asked of a Jew except to be a Jew and to perform G-d's commandments. There are no questionable tactics, but what I do see happen too often is that the ego of the other Jews are threatened when asked to put on Tefillin or to say a blessing (beracha), and are "turned off" to Judaism because some Chabad Rabbi asked them to do a mitzvah. Please spare me the idiocy. If you are offended because some Rabbi asks you to do a mitzvah, it is obviously because you are not doing it, or that you give off the message that you are not doing it. The rabbi has no benefit to asking you to do mitzvos except that you and him are bound together with all other Jews in one spiritual body known as Israel and every action of one Jew, religious or not, affects the body and soul of ALL OTHER JEWS around the planet. For this reason, there is no curiosity that shluchim will be sent around the world, even into dangerous places such as Mumbai to spread Judaism to visiting Jews because we are all of one body. On top of that, on a more secular level, obviously there is the motivation that you as a Jew will become more observant because you personally have a benefit of doing G-d's commandments, and obviously there is the not-so-exciting prospect that you'll give donations to further this shaliach's ability to affect other Jews to further his mission that he has been sent out to complete. There is nothing wrong with this.

Thus, your comment is unfounded and is wrong. Please do some inner searching before blaming some Rabbi for you not going to synagogue or for your lack of Jewish observance. You probably even owe this Rabbi an apology.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

US involvement in Iraq / Afghanistan from a Torah perspective?

To my female friend in the Israeli army from whom's e-mail I "lifted" the contents of this blog entry as fodder for conversation, I was curious what others would say about the US' involvement in foreign affairs particularly from a Torah perspective, and so I've pasted a snippet of the e-mail below. Please forgive me for my intrusion; I've done my best to edit out any identifying information that can be traced back to you.

Wow, I'm reading what you're writing about your group helping out in Afghanistan and it seems like the excitement level must be through the roof! As an answer to your question, it is widely believed in the US that the Afghanistan culture needs US intervention if the US is ever going to benefit from them and overthrow those who perpetuate terror from being in power. There are a lot of things we need to do that just don't make sense at first, but the thing that first comes to mind is the US' involvement in Afghanistan back in the 1980's through the efforts of Congressman Wilson of TX, and how the US did so much to help the Afghanistans arm themselves to defend themselves against the Soviet invasions, only to cause the emergence of the Taliban and the Muslim extremists who are plaguing the US with fear and terror today. While the benefit of arming the Afghanistans back in the '80s was that we were able to get them to fight our war for us, the end of the story is that we caused the problems we face today by not taking the final needed step of funding schools for the children of Afghanistan who were indoctrinated with hate and disgust for Americans and for western culture in general. By the time that became a necessity, Congress was so fed up with all the money we spent overseas that they just wanted to shut down operations abroad which is exactly what they did.

In short, my understanding is that it is the US' decision to get involved proactively in foreign countries to urge them to adopt western ways of life. We're not doing it because we want them to be like us, but as far as I understand, we're doing all this for peace and so that they won't attack us and cause a world war. My Rav said to me when we first met in a conversation never to underestimate the mind of the Arabs. He said they are far smarter than us, and their indoctrination to an extremist belief system is something to be feared to the utmost degree. He said this back in 2001 before the 9/11 attacks, and being fully aware of the terrorist attacks they have been doing for years within the state of Israel, he told me that it was only a matter of time before they attack Israel's allies, namely us. Thus, your inquiring of me about US efforts that don't necessarily make sense likely have a higher calling where the US is doing things on multiple levels to stop terrorism 1) by fighting it outright, but by 2) building THEIR infrastructure up so that they can learn to be educated and to promote peace in the world.'s a different discussion whether or not I think this will work, and Torah has its own opinion of what approach to take with issues such as this one although I never took the time to learn the detailed halachas of war and how to approach and/or to confront enemies of various kinds. Off the top of my head, Rambam has a whole book about it in his Sefer HaYad, Hilchot Milchamot.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Zoe Strickman, the jerk husband. Learn from my mistakes and don't repeat them.

Okay, now for the good juicy stuff. Yes, I am a jerk, and highly imperfect and all of that. I don't mean to be bad, but I just am.

In short, with the time change, as I've done in previous years, I continued to wake up at the same time without changing MY clock. That way, I wake up at 5:45am instead of at 4:45am; I get to minyan at 7:30am instead of at 6:30am; I get to work at 10am instead of at 9am. Why? All because I didn't change my clocks when everyone else did.

However, this year, I was trying to enroll and to convince my wife to do the same thing. When she objected about the baby waking up at 5am, I told her I would watch him. I didn't realize that meant that I'll be babysitting from 5am until 7:30am as is what happened this morning while my wife slept. Hence, I felt my wife tricked me into this and so we had a fight upon me getting to work. Pasted below is the resolution IM, but in truth, it just shows what an jerk I can be for trying to maintain the status quo.

(12:23:33 PM) You feel a disturbance in the force...
(12:23:33 PM) Wife: see me now
(12:23:37 PM) Zoe Strickman: yup, hi. :)
(12:23:41 PM) Wife: hi
(12:23:45 PM) Zoe Strickman: Did you vote?
(12:23:47 PM) Wife: i am getting ready to go vote
(12:23:53 PM) Zoe Strickman: cool.
(12:23:54 PM) Wife: not yet
(12:24:05 PM) Zoe Strickman: Listen, I was thinking about it and I owe you a big apology.
(12:24:17 PM) Wife: WOW

(12:24:21 PM) Wife: im listening
(12:24:25 PM) Wife: and flowers
(12:24:38 PM) Zoe Strickman: I thought yesterday was SO nice and today took me by surprise.
(12:24:44 PM) Zoe Strickman: Yes, I owe you flowers.
(12:24:51 PM) Zoe Strickman: And then some.
(12:25:01 PM) Zoe Strickman: Here's the apology:
(12:25:04 PM) Wife: k
(12:27:39 PM) Zoe Strickman: You've been so wonderful to me and to our son lately and I know you've been working soooooooooooo hard and I've been less than cooperative with you. There was no reason to get upset at you and link all past hurts to this one misunderstanding we had this morning -- and I did say what you thought I said, but I misunderstood the details of that statemtent that I would take care of our son in the mornings so that we can stay on the old clock system, and I didn't realize that it would mean that you would be sleeping in in the mornings because that doesn't work for me. [more]
(12:31:24 PM) Zoe Strickman: ...and I felt taken advantage of because of the misunderstanding. Really, I should have been more helpful and understanding rather than throwing a pissy attitude. I am sorry for my reaction and for saying and thinking the things that I thought and the things that I said. We will need to re-discuss the benefits of staying on the old clock because our understandings of the conversation were different. Please forgive me for my attitude this morning, and my accusations over the IM as well.
(12:33:12 PM) Zoe Strickman: I love you very much and I don't always get a chance to show you that I appreciate what you're doing, and although I disagree often with the way you approach and execute certain goals, I give you space to see whether that approach will work or not. I guess I was feeling hurt that I thought you broke our deal, that you took advantage of me, and that you were doing things on your own that I should have been a part of (an older issue where I felt that you didn't respect my opinions).
(12:33:33 PM) Zoe Strickman: [more]
(12:34:52 PM) Zoe Strickman: Instead, I should have identified that we had a misunderstanding this morning, and that I should have calmly discussed it with you rather than getting upset. I shouldn't have even gotten upset -- this whole issue could have been resolved with a cheerful supportive attitude and a smile.
(12:37:40 PM) Zoe Strickman: Additionally, I could have / should have taken a more active role in your attempts to get our son sleeping in his own bed, but under the surface, I was and still am slightly hurt by your approach so I've let you figure it out on your own without participating. My idea of being helpful was the almost 8-10 times (I'm not kidding) I went to get him last night. It was literally every few minutes to every half an hour and I thought I was being very helpful by jumping to get him last night while I let you sleep. Then when you didn't immediately wake up this morning, I was hurt and felt unappreciated.
(12:40:40 PM) Zoe Strickman: So the problem about the sleep issue was not whether I was helpful last night, but it was whether I was taking a more helpful, supportive, and active role more generally with the issue -- and the answer was that I was totally insupportive (meaning not unsupportive, but not caring about the outcome to help or not help) when I really should have taken a more sensitive and active role. I'm sure there are probably many more areas which haven't even crossed my mind where this also applies and I am just the selfish husband who only cares about his own routine.
(12:41:00 PM) Zoe Strickman: So for *ALL THIS* and then some, will you please forgive me?
(12:41:45 PM) Zoe Strickman: PS - When you vote, make sure to get an "I Voted" sticker so that you can get free coffee today at Starbucks on the way home.
(12:42:27 PM) Wife: yes, I forgive you. And thank you for being sensitive enough to see where you were being unreasonable.
(12:43:06 PM) Wife: and when you get home we can talk about the fact that you felt i didnt involve you in changing his sleeping habits
(12:43:35 PM) Wife: and how we can change that cause he still doesnt have good sleeping habits
(12:44:08 PM) Wife: and i cant have starbucks today cause i had my coffee and you sent me this post about not over doing caffiene
(12:47:07 PM) Zoe Strickman: [I thought you were still typing.]
(12:47:19 PM) Wife: oh no that was it
(12:47:34 PM) Zoe Strickman: ok, good so we'll talk when I get home tonight.
(12:47:47 PM) Wife: ok.
(12:47:59 PM) Wife: i feel much happier now thank you
(12:48:07 PM) Wife: i was in a rotten mood this whole time
(12:50:00 PM) Wife: also dont forget to fax the letter and email the rabbi.
(12:50:29 PM) Wife: k going to vote
(12:50:44 PM) Zoe Strickman: ok phone
(12:53:34 PM) Zoe Strickman: I'm so so sorry you were in a rotten mood. Totally my fault.
(12:54:18 PM) Zoe Strickman: I'm glad this conversation put you at ease. It must be terrible not feeling appreciated, especially after all the incessant work you do.
(12:54:52 PM) Zoe Strickman: I'll fax the letter and write Rabbi Teitelbaum right now. I mailed the other letter this morning.
(12:55:04 PM) Wife: great thanks
(12:55:09 PM) Zoe Strickman: Good luck voting! I'm sure it will be a great experience.
(12:55:17 PM) Zoe Strickman: I'll see you tonight.
(12:55:26 PM) Wife: i decided to walk there
(12:55:37 PM) Wife: it is at the public school on jones and main st
(12:56:28 PM) Zoe Strickman: cool! Enjoy the walk. I've been saddened by the shortened daylight hours.
(12:57:13 PM) Zoe Strickman: Apparently I'll have to readjust to being a creature of the night.
(12:57:16 PM) Zoe Strickman: See you soon!

So there you have it. Zoe Strickman, the jerk husband. Learn from my mistakes and don't repeat them.

Yes, I am ignorant, etc.

There has been so much talk about how much I am ignorant, and how unpolitical and incorrect my Jewish-centered point of view is on issues of politics, race, religious, and relationships with those around me.

The truth is that every "free thinker" is brainwashed to some point of view, ideology, or creed. The difference between a free thinker and a ignorant pundit is that a free thinker chooses who or what will form their thoughts and opinions, and ignorant individuals just go with whatever is programmed into their head.

When it comes to religion, there is halacha and then there is minhag (custom)... then there is what everyone around them does, thinks, or believes. For the most part, those who have read my blog for many years know that I have questioned all things, including minhagim and the things that many people do which make no sense at all, including uniform style of dress, elevated kashrut standards (e.g. "I only hold by X, but not Y although nobody will disagree that Y is kosher and/or halachically permissible," etc.) To many of these issues, I have fought against the ignorant base of "we do it this way" without reason. However, on other issues such as certain standards, if one wants to be part of the "in" crowd, e.g. be considered Lubavich, or be considered a certain level of frumkeit versus being thrown into the "modern" crowd, then certain things need to be followed.

In my circles, if people know that I have questioned the possibility of eating Triangle-K hechured food as kosher AT the level of kashrus we hold by (and Ahuva, thank you for your clarification about the oil issue as being an ongoing question -- I will check that out and learn what they do or don't do), they wouldn't eat at our homes. Further, they wouldn't let their kids come over and play with our kids (when we have them), and down the line, our reputation as being a certain level of observance of Jewish law might come into question. For these reasons, there are certain things that I just have to go along with, even though I know what is the mainstream belief might not necessarily be true.

For other topics, e.g. politics, beliefs and world views, obviously I have shaped my mind from a Torah perspective, and so I have (and will continue to work on this for the rest of my life) trained my eyes to see things from a Torah perspective, namely the perspective of a Jew, and often this will SEVERELY clash with the world views of what is politically correct or with what is accepted within our liberal "free thinking" American society. Topics such as whether goyim have free will, etc. are topics which will upset most individuals, especially ignorant ones who don't take the time to understand how G-d creates and controls EVERY DETAIL of the world's functioning and how everything happens according to G-d's plan. I won't apologize for these, and I have adopted them as truths which will make many see me as ignorant.

So be it.