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BS”D Normally, I do not drink alcohol, wine or spirits, other than kiddush and havdala and sometimes a drink during a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal. And it has been quite a while since I last smoked marijuana. But today in honor of Hod of Malchut and the three days of Sephira prior to Shavuot and hearing Hashem say the words of the Ten Commandments, I took a glass of wine and made a l’chaim in the afternoon and it led to two more glassfuls which made me shicker. After it wore off three or four hours later, I realized the difference between an alcoholic and a pot head:
It always struck me as a bit odd that the U.S. under the Obama administration sent $1.3 billion in hard cash to Iran in three different shipments by air. Why cash? What if a plane went down? What then? Had the money transfer been handled through bank transfers, nothing would be lost. But after I read the tweet by the Iranian foreign minister threatening to blow the whistle on European politicians who were on the take concerning their part of the deal, I began to wonder: Who counted the cash that Obama sent? And when did they count it? I wonder if the entire Iran deal had little to do with nukes. Maybe it mostly had to do with corruption and greed on the part of the Obama administration and their familiars, both elected and non-elected swamp rats, water moccasins, and gators.
BS”D Two days ago, I reached my goal of losing 70 pounds, going from 232 pounds down to 162 pounds. It took a little over four years, and required a complete change of diet and lifestyle, but it was necessary. The ordeal began with a blood test that caused my doctor to tell me that I was a walking time bomb, with blood sugar at 178 and just about everything else, cholesterol and blood pressure, etc., just as bad. My doctor wanted to give me insulin and I balked. Instead, I went to work on myself, cutting out sugar completely, especially my beloved cake and chocolate and ice cream, and radically diminishing the amount of meat and chicken I ate. And began to walk, ending a 55 year non-stop record of sedentary non-activity, largely limited to sitting in one chair, getting up and moving to another chair. I started walking.
BS"D Perhaps the very first lesson in the Torah is that G-d created His world with Sefer, Safar and Sippur, text, number, and story, which is basically the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alef-Bet and the Ten Sephirot, the Divine Emanations, and the infinite number of stories in creation. All of existence is a story told by a Storyteller Who wants a happy ending. And this particular Storyteller always gets exactly what He wants.
BS"D I am considering shutting down Ger think tank because it has fulfilled its purpose, at least for me. My purpose in starting Ger Think Tank was to determine where Ger should go from here. And as the farmer said to the city slicker, “You can’t get there from here.”
King Solomon says: The fool says, “Let’s go forward.” And the wise man says, “Let’s go back.” This is said largely in reference to learning Torah, that is, when there is a choice between chazora (repeating what you just learned), and going ahead to the next verse or the next mishna, the fool says go ahead and the wise man says go back.
BS"D Got my matzah, G-d is in His heaven and all is right with the world. And I got it with ease this time, shalva. I get special matzah from Jerusalem, from Wechelstein matza bakery, the classic Yerushalmi matza bakery. And it has been difficult to get because the boxes are big and I cannot take them on the bus and I do not have a car. I once paid 600 shekels to take a taxi back to Tzfat from Jerusalem to bring the matzot. But for the past four years, Tzfat's only woman Rosh HaYeshiva, Judy Paikin, has picked up my matza and brought them back to Tzfat. She is a professional driver and a good one. But this year instead of my calling her, she called me and asked me if I wanted her to pick up my matzot. It turns out that she has come to look forward to going to that holy matza bakery to pick up the matzot as a pre-Passover ritual, and she loves it.
BS"D About 15 years ago, the Balcover Rebbe, z”l, suggested to me that I should start wearing a shtreiml for Shabbat. The idea had never occurred to me, particularly since I had been a Lubavitcher for most of my frum existence, and Lubavitchers do not wear shtreimlach. Besides, who had $2000.00 to buy one? I mentioned it to my chavruta at the time, Rabbi Yehuda Dov-Cohen, a Karliner Chossid, and he said, “I have two and one I don’t like. I will let you have it cheap.” I asked him, “How cheap?” And he said, “Give me a hundred dollars every now and then when you can, and I will tell you when it is enough.” “Deal,” I said, and that is how I got a shtreiml, the one in the photo. For the record, over the course of a year, I gave him four hundred dollars and he said, “Enough.”
BS"D One of the things Facebook has taught me to understand is that when you call a person out by name and show him or her to be deficient, you must do it via messenger. If you do it as a public comment, then you are a damager, and it shows that you are traif and therefore your Torah is traif and the source of your Torah is traif. Which has nothing to do with the content of the Torah, merely who you are. That being said, there are times when someone should be held up to public scrutiny on Facebook if they are perceived as a danger to the community. Then it remains a question who has the shoulders to decide that? As far back as the times of the Shulchan Arukh, the rabbonon no longer held the power to put someone in cherem (excommunication).
BS"D. You know, I look at the photo I took of one of the alleyways of my hometown Tzfat and I realize how Hashem has blessed me by placing me here where the makifim are stronger than any place on earth. At the end of the alleyway in the photo is the Abbu house, in which resides an old Tzfat family and a 600 year old Sefer Torah that leads the parade to Meron erev Lag B'Omer.
This evening, something I read made me realize that our job here is not to solve the Ger/Ger Toshav puzzle. Our job here is to find Ger a heritage from the Torah. A heritage for one's family. What does my Ger Torah house smell like Friday afternoon? What was my mother’s Ger Shabbat challah like? That is what binds the generations to the Torah. It is not the Torah learning or the mitzvoth that keeps the children connected. It’s the customs and the rituals and the food — the heritage. It is the customs and the rituals and the food and the way of life that takes the Torah learning and mitzvoth into the future, short range, medium range, long range. This is what I have been calling infrastructure. And to build the infrastructure, we need tools and resources. And to know which are the right tools and resources, we need wisdom. And I quote a talmid of Elazar ben Arakh, who said, “When the halacha comes in, the Chochmah goes out.”