Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chanukah 2010

Below are two videos that are done completely in A Capella for Chanukah.

The first one is done by Six13 in conjunction with NCSY. I've included the lyrics below the second video.

The next is done by The Macabeats


You know I love it, when you spin
But I love you better, when I win
My heart is twirling, like a top
I hope it’s never ever ever gonna stop

You’ve got four letters, that tell the story
Of how my people survived and fought for glory
You know I made you, out of clay
And when you’re dry and ready dreidel I will play

I’ll be like dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, oh (3x)
Twirlin’ around and around
Keep on spinnin’ dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, oh (3x)
Come on and show me that gimmel now


It was December, I was hangin’ with my meidel
Eating gelt and spinnin’ up some dreidel
Tryin’ to win but I was not so nimble
I got the nuns and she got all the gimmels
It was Ma’oz Tzur that I was hearin’
As my coins continued disappearin’
Suddenly my nose starts to twitchin’
From the aroma comin’ from the kitchen

So we’re playin’ this game, just like I told ya
By the light of the Chanukah menorah
We had to finish the round, I couldn’t wait though –
I knew my mom was fryin’ up potatoes
They were latkes, fresh and delicious
My girl got up and I got suspicious
She said “relax, now don’t be a hater,
I’m just gon’ help her put away the grater”

In the night, we lit the lights
Like maccabees of days of old
But I can’t believe my girl has gone and stole… all my Chanukah latkes
How could she eat those latkes
All my Chanukah latkes

I Light It

Maccabees, excuse me if I’m lighting this too fast
I get so excited thinking how you got that oil to last
The candles melting down, burning low, low, low
It’s a Chanukah tradition that is never getting old, no-oh-oh… oh-oh…
It’s not a fire hazard, just a healthy Jewish glow, oh-oh-oh… oh-oh…
Light the lights, left to right, eat sufganiyot

Baby, I light it -- the Chanukah menorah
Baby, I light it -- the candles in my Chanukiah
Oh yes, I light it -- new one on every night
Baby, I light it, I-I-I light it

I’m lighting… the shamash… it’s kislev, my chevra…

Go Rabbi, that’s my Rabbi
The man who gave the d'var torah at NCSY
I spun a dreidel like a thousand times and I
Got some gelt, so good… now I’m flyin’ high
With all my friends at the Shabbaton
Singin’ z’mirot so loud, everyone knows that it's on
Wish I could do this every day
And soon, summer, Kollel and TJJ
Sayin’ what’s your chapter? What’s your region?
While other people singin’ “tis the season”
We're feelin' warm while the weather gets colder
‘Cause we're gettin’ presents eight times over
Six13, getting lyrical
We're lightin’ candles and we celebratin’ miracles
So Chag Sameach, chaverim
From NCSY and Six13

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Need to Feel Judaism - UPDATED

I grew up in a Yeshiva setting. I went to an all boys elementary school, followed by an all boys Ultra-Orthodox High School. In High School, we got out at 6:30 on the early days and at 8:15 on late days when we had Mishmar. Upon finishing my stay in High School I went to Bais Medrash where the day started at 7:30 AM with Shacharis, and finished with the completion of Maariv at 10:45 PM. Needless to say, the days were packed with learning. On top of all that learning, there was a strong push to learn during breaks. The average boy (while in Bais Medrash) learned anywhere between 13 and 16 hours a day, with the top boys learning even more at times.

Over the years I noticed a common theme. The amount of boys in this environment that read from the Torah (lain) or volunteer and enjoy davening from the amud are few and far in between.

On an average out-shabbos in Bais Medrash, coming on time to Kabllas Shabbos (Friday night davening) at a random Shul in the community was a dreaded activity. That’s because we knew that the gabbia would see black hats and say “OK, which one of you yeshiva boys want to daven?” Heads start turning, and if you are lucky you have some sucker there who will actually go up. Other times, after no one volunteers, the gabbai will say, “OK, we have 2 minutes before we start anyways, so you guys figure it out in the meantime.”

I never understood that. Why is it our job to appoint someone to daven? That’s the gabbai’s job. Just because we are wearing black hats doesn’t mean that we want or frankly have the ability to daven from the amud. But the out-shabbos moment that boggles my mind the most is when Mincha comes around and the baal koreah is late. The gabbai comes up to the group of black hatters and says “which one of you wants to lain?” Which one of us? How about none of us? Did it even occur to him that we don’t know how to lain because most of us haven’t even thought about laining since our Bar-Mitzvah? And even if we did, do we just know every parsha off the cuff without practicing? There is a reason people charge for laining. When the gabbai finally figures out that he’s not getting anywhere, you’ll hear him mumble under his breath, “If these guys can’t lain and can’t daven, what are they doing in Yeshiva?” Or the age old classic, “What does the Yeshiva teach you already if not for laining?” I remember one guy telling me how he feels that a person shouldn’t be able to be admitted into Yeshiva unless he can lain fluently. Comments like that make me wonder what they think actually goes on in Yeshiva. Does he also think baseball players shouldn’t be allowed to play ball unless they can hit the high-note in the star spangled banner?
Not so long ago, I was in the Young Israel of North Miami Beach. It was time for Kabbalas Shabbos. Friday night was an out-meal at the Yeshiva here, and there were a bunch of Bais Medrash guys davening at shul. The gabbai walked up to the group to try to find a baal-tefila. After completely striking out  (no pun intended) with all the guys, he then walked over to a local high school kid who goes to the Hebrew Academy (the local co-ed day school) and asks him if he would like to daven. He immediately takes the tallis and walks up to the Amud. I was standing and talking to a Rebbe, and we both watched this take place. He turned to me and said, “It’s such a shame. We have ten or fifteen Yeshiva guys here and the only person that will daven is the Hebrew Academy kid?”

This got me thinking. Why was it that the Hebrew Academy kid was so eager to daven and the Yeshiva guys weren’t? It then hit me that this isn’t an uncommon theme, and thinking about it, I see this happen time and time again. Many times in Yeshiva, it’s the kids with the more modern backgrounds who are much more eager to daven for the Amud. Not only that, how many times have you seen a Yeshiva teen Minyan actually work out with the teens laining? I don’t really know of any, but I can tell you I know of a few that failed. The yeshiva that I work for has a teen Minyan (a.k.a the High School Minyan) where they even resorted to paying the students to lain. Yet, regardless, it’s still impossible to find someone to lain Yeshiva. However, the teen Minyan that I sometimes frequent in Hollywood (which is a much more modern community) has no problem finding guys to lain. All they do is get up after laining and ask who is available for an aliyah for the following week. Within minutes the entire parsha is taken. At the (now nonexistent) teen Minyan in Miami Beach, which was a mix of Yeshiva kids and more modern kids, it was a little harder. But it was always the non-Yeshiva kids who took the majority of the parsha. Why is that the case?

I think I may have the answer. I’m not sure if it’s true and it may offend some, but I’m going to throw it out there anyways. When a person is in a “sub-par” Judaism environment, or at least feels deep down that he is in a sub-par Judaism environment, he naturally will want to do more outwardly and publicly for Judaism. We know the concept of a Pintele Yid- that little spark inside every Jew that will pull him or her back to the source through a yearning for spirituality only fulfilled by Judaism, even when he or she is the furthest away. I believe the concept can be true even when a person is religious and not in a “sub-par” Judaism environment. If the person feels deep down that although he is religious he could be doing more, he has that pintele yid that’s driving him to practice more Judaism. The mere fact that he is an Orthodox Jew doesn’t fill that need, as he feels deep down he should be doing more. This leads to participating in public Jewish activities like davening and laining. It fills the void. By going up and davening from the amud or laining from the Torah, he feeds that inherent hunger for Judaism and it makes him feel that he is more spiritual due to this public form of practicing Judaism.

The concept of proving one’s Judaism through public display to justify the lack of internal feeling might explain why non-religious Jews occasionally throw lavish Bar or Bat Mitzvah parties, or their need to tell Orthodox Jews about the traditions they actually follow. That is the extent of their Judaism and they need to show (mostly to themselves) that they really are Jewish. This might also explain why the Hebrew Academy kid was so quick to say yes in front of a large group of Yeshiva guys.

On the other hand, someone who is in Yeshiva all day doesn’t feel any need to increase his level of spirituality by going down those paths and participating in public forms of Judiasm. He is swimming in Judaism and constantly growing through learning all day. That’s more than enough to make him satisfied with his Judiasm. He doesn’t need to look for outward manifestations of his religiosity to make himself feel better about what he does not have. When the opportunity to daven for the amud or to lain arises, he shuns it because he doesn’t feel the pull towards it.

It’s the same reason that Young Israels can get away with 3 hour davening on Shabbos but if Yeshivos go over two hours, the daveners rebel. Yeshiva guys don’t feel the importance of a long davening and don’t get the satisfaction out of it that a non-yeshiva person would. He would rather have a faster shabbos davening and sit down to learn afterwards.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just something I noticed.

A number of people pointed out that there are many yeshiva guys who like davening and laining and asked if I was implying that they were doing it because they also needed to fill a gap in their Judiasm. Obviously there are many Yeshiva guys who lain and daven. I in no sense of the matter mean to say that this is the only reason why someone would in his right mind want to daven or lain. It just seemed odd too me that the numbers were disproportionate when it came to Yeshiva guys vs. non-yeshiva guys. I think my reason can help us understand why some of the daveners and lainers want to lain; and why it's more common for a Hebrew Academy student to want to lain and daven than for a Yeshiva guy.

One of my family members was insulted for my father's sake. For those that don't know my father, he is a big lainer and davener. On the side he is a posek (should be fairly obvious by the title of this blog). I told them that my father is actually a poster child for this post. He didn't grow up a posek. He was in a coed school through eight grade (past his bar mitzvah). He grew up in a small, not at all yeshivish, modern community. He was looking for something more so he started laining right after his bar mitzvah (he ended up a posek). While not necessarily true, it's very possible that this post details the exact reason my father picked up laining and davening. The fact that he still does it isn't a question, because it's become a part of his life. Just because he doesn't NEED it anymore doesn't mean he will just drop it.