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Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The Story Of The Guy Who Didn't Watch The Olympics

I have got to be weird, a geek, someone who just doesn’t get anything cool.
You see I’m totally disconnected from anything that has any relation to the Olympic games.
I don’t know what categories there are, who won and who flopped, heck I have no idea in which part of the world it’s taking place.
I know one thing though, it ain’t happening in my city and from what I’ve heard this is a good thing.
Wherever the Olympic games come, they bring along increased traffic, less parking availability and greater numbers of reported incident of all types.

Although it’s on every channel and in every paper I manage to remain ignorant, I am able to shift any conversation away from this topic, sure it backfires here and there but well, what would you do if someone conversed to you about a more tiresome subject than chemistry in high school?

I’m not anti-Olympic per se; I just don’t care at all.

I keep asking myself why so many (literally millions!) people do care? How come an otherwise perfectly normal man would cry because his favorite champion didn’t get the gold medal? Why on earth would that bother him? The potential champion wouldn’t even cry for his fan if he were hit by a car, yet there he goes and feels sad this stranger didn’t win?
Why is it that so many are fascinated by what’s going on so far away?

I wish the reason I was so uninterested was because I thought of it all as a terrible waste of precious time.
I can’t use that since I’m pretty good at killing time with lots of unproductive actions and non-actions (other Family Guy fans?).

A very effective punishment as a child was putting me in front of a Tennis game on TV.
I couldn’t imagine anything more boring, and I was a quiet child, not one that needed running around and frolicking to feel good.
I could sit on a couch for hours just accompanied by my thoughts, yet watching a ball swing one side an then the other , held the potential to make me promise never, ever to lie again.

Sports have never fascinated me, I enjoy practicing some sports, but viewing others, be it highly trained pros, always appears dull. I was even dragged to a live game once, pragmatic as ever I brought a good book along (true story)!

Being male this antipathy has proven to be a major problem throughout the years.
Thank G-D for reality shows. Although I dislike them a lot, at least I can stand through a few episodes before getting an urge to throw the TV set out of the window.
Before Big Brother and company literally every discussion in school and in college centered around sports and athletes.
I was always left out of the conversations, laughed at inappropriate comments , nodded when I was supposed to heavily disagree and said “oh too bad “when something apparently was fantastic news.

Fortunately I’ve improved my communication skills on subjects I have little knowledge about since then.

I found the other two guys I my school who didn’t care (as much as the others at least) about “big” (very important ) games and unfortunate losses (one bet $10 and was crushed for weeks!), and talked about other things.

In the last years I’ve been able to build a few friendships where the main topic of conversation is making fun of people who care more about sports than about their children!

Where does this fascination for teams, characters and sports come from? How come people from 5 to 75 are entangled by it? And what exactly is the satisfaction of having your (favorite) team win?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006




Ever read those sugar sweet tales in the Hamodia or in books? The ones where a grandfather is portrayed as wisdom incarnated, and the parents are both humble and kind souls whose kids are good but basically complete morons whose level of naiveté would render even Homer Simpson jealous.
Well I did and still do, and I noticed that a persistently recurring theme is a lesson in the art and importance of donating Tzedakkah.(charity)
The stories teach that donating with a smile and with patience is so much more of a Mitsvah.
That Tzedakkah given in a pleasant manner brings about salvation and wonderful Hasgacha Pratis instances.
The urgency with which this message is propagated in heimische papers and in Drashos reflects the hard times we’re living in, a decade in which so (too) many people are in dire need of financial assistance.

Those who pray in a Shul everyday morning, afternoon and evening know that people’s patience is often put to the test.
You’re about to put on Teffilin (phylacteries) and someone ask for Tzedakah, he thanks and goes, at the same time another person touches you on the shoulder from the other side, his cause is extremely important and would like just a second to explain why 5 dollars isn’t going to cut it.

From marrying off children to supporting the resulting offspring, sometimes you wonder if you’re really not much wealthier than you thought.

Some collectors come to our door with truly sad accounts that break our hearts and compels us to help them as much a possible, others are there to make sure their children’s simchos aren’t marred by immediate financial worries, and of course the representatives of various Yeshivahs and Kollels know to find their way to our homes an offices.

The sums they need or have a responsibility to accumulate are quite often staggering.
Yet they don’t let the odds deter them from traveling far and wide and do their utmost best.
Giving to these men, women and children forces us to extend our hand and open our hearts. Looking at it with this outlook it’s actually they who make us the favor; we become better spouses, better friends, simply better people, by giving to strangers.

Shnorrers as they are scornfully called sometimes can be found everywhere, from the Shul to the park, in the streets and in stores.

They can also be found at weddings and various Simchas.
I wonder if there are places where it would be inappropriate for collectors to show up.
It’s known that women who are alone at home prefer not to open the door to strange men, and in my opinion it’s a very safe and intelligent way to act.
Even assuming that most men are honest collectors and far from dangerous, children home alone should not open the door to strangers.

I remember being all alone when a guy kept ringing the bell, deducing someone was home from the noise or light. I didn’t want to open yet he didn’t stop ringing and I got scared. I called my neighbor from upstairs to come down, fortunately he came and the guy left.

At Simchahs is it proper for them to show up? (Uninvited might I add) . On the other hand they have a chance of encountering people from other cities and countries which they might not meet somewhere else.

In Shul if a big number of charity seekers are present does it keep the congregation from praying with sufficient Kavanah(concentration) ?

Do you think there are times and places when asking for Tzedakkah would be inappropriate? Where and When?

Monday, February 20, 2006



Long before any controversy surrounded any of his books, I was an avid reader of Nosson Slifkin’s books.
At the time I was trying to build a respectable library of Jewish books, focusing on the Artscroll and Felheim/Targum catalogues.
I needed some seforim (Jewish books) with D’var Torahs (words on the Torah) and while browsing I encountered only few titles that seemed very interesting.
I wanted another perspective, a different genre of D’var Torah than the ones that are used continually and without much originality at Sheva Brachos (feast after wedding) and Shabbes tables.
That’s when I came across “Second Focus” by a then little known Nosson Slifkin.
The cover was simple and the title left something to the imagination. It was a refreshing change from standard titles like “the … on Chumash” or one using the word ‘light”.
I promptly ordered a copy online and when looking up the Parsha (weekly Torah portion) of the week, I went ahead and read the entire book.
For once I saw an author who attempted to see the events unfolding with a very contemporary perspective, his anecdotes to illustrate a point didn’t involved Rebbes from another era, but Baal Teshuvahs, actual events and even pop stars.
Imaginative headings such as “BT Extraterrestrial” or intriguing ones as for e.g. “Cover Up at Roswell” make the anticipation of reading Nosson Sliflin’s take on the Parshah almost more enjoyable than the reading itself.
He tackles some hard questions and answers them frankly, leaving cliché apologetics aside.
“Yes women are discriminated”, he writes. But don’t take that at face value, read the entire article and see how he develops his ideas and thoughts intelligently, often citing sources one wouldn’t associate to the issues at hand if the sources hit them on the head. But then the table unfolds and you’ve gained a magnificent insight on the Torah.

This book originated on a weekly email list, and on some Parshah’s , right along Nosson’s D’var Torah are responses and criticisms from readers. It’s mighty refreshing to see an author who doesn’t mind publishing disagreements on his work in his own book!

Second Focus, follows “Focus”, the first volume, but this last one has been out of print for years. Fortunately while browsing in Boro Park a while ago I finally got my hands on a copy.
Last Shabbes I reread Second Focus, and as the previous times I enjoyed it immensely and found some great ideas to base my D’var Torah’s on.

I have bought every book Mr. Slifkin had written and they always made for fascinating, stimulating reads.
“Nature’s Song” remains one of my favorite Judaic books to his day.
It’s an elucidation on Perek Shirah, a little known medrash recited by some people every day.
The book explores the meaning and relation every element and animal has to its attributed passuk (verse).
It’s truly a fascinating book uncovering mysteries an insights about life and nature.

I don’t have sufficient scientific, nor Torah, knowledge and understanding to judge whether a ban on the more controversial books was necessary or not.
I do however find the manner it was decreed and carried out to be unjust.
As Mr. Slifkin writes on his website, when the ban was announced none of the signers gave him a chance to explain and didn’t deign to take his calls.

My interest in blogging has started with seeking information about the whole affair.

Then it was a hot topic and every Blogger had something to say.

I reread “Second Focus” Shabbes, and suddenly I have the urge to read “Nature’s Song” again as well.

Friday, February 17, 2006



Actual Sentences Found on Patients' Hospital Charts (Proves that those medical folks are right on top of things. When you're pushed for time, it is so easy to write a note and not take the time to reread and correct.)

1. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states that she was very hot in bed last night.
2. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
3. On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.
4. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
5. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.
6. Discharge status: Alive but without my permission.
7. Healthy appearing decrepit 69 year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.
8. The patient refused autopsy.
9. The patient has no previous history of suicides.
10. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.
11. Patient's medical history has been remarkably insignificant, with only 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.
12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.
13. Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant.
14. Since she can't get pregnant with her husband, I thought you might like to work her up.
15. She is numb from her toes down.
16. While in ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.
17. The skin was moist and dry.
18. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.
19. Patient was alert and unresponsive.
20. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.
21. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.
22. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.
23. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.
24. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.
25. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.
26. The patient was to have a bowel resection. However, he took a job as a stockbroker instead.
27. Skin: somewhat pale but present.
28. The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.
29. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Blank, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree.
30. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.
31. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

Thursday, February 16, 2006



Lvnsm has come up with a fun idea, she started a novel entitled “The Trip” on her blog. It tells the story of a few youngsters going on a trip.
The idea is for every Blogger to develop his/her own take on the story.
You can add characters, delete (i.e. kill tem off) them, change weather conditions and physical locations, you decide!
Just make an effort to make sure there is some continuity to the story and the characters.
Lvnsm ha started (read 1st chapter) the novel on her blog, and I’m continuing here.
Now it’s up to another Blogger to pick where I stopped and add a few lines and developments to “The Trip”.

Please leave me a note when a chapter is added!


Dessert was being served, hot chocolate cake for Eric, and ice cream for the rest of the clan, when the girls thought that they had been patient enough.
“Ok, so we know there’s a surprise, you’ve hinted at that many times, now dish up, what is it”?
Eric started to talk but he was rudely cut off by Alex.
“No, you’ll just have to wait a little longer”!
Grudgingly the girls agreed not to insist anymore.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Josh, Eric’s cousin, came over.
“Hey Josh, what are you doing here”? Asked Eric.
“I’m dining with Dina, you know I’m counting on you to make our wedding a lively one, don’t you”?
“You bet I do”, answered Eric, “and you can count on me”.
“By the way”, Josh interjected just before leaving, “was Uncle Morris able to get you suites at the hotel for the price of regular rooms”?

The girls exploded in a symphony oh oohs and aahs, at the unexpected discovery of the surprise and even more so now they knew they were going to stay in suites!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


When I started The Pragmatician, no one was reading it, at the very least nobody let me know they were reading my posts. So I have no qualms about recycling an old post today. Why today you ask? Read and you’ll find out.
It was originally posted in August of 2005


As if it wasn’t bad enough that music is prohibited during the three weeks from Sunday on, it is meat’s turn to become the forbidden fruit.I won’t get into how excessively hard this is for me, for fear of repeating myself.

These are positively the hardest times of the year, almost no simchas take place, and even Bar Mitzvahs are sad affairs with the real celebration taking place sometime after Tisha Be’Av.

Luckily after these trying weeks, it’s vacation time. And about a week after fasting, it’s Tu Be’Av a.k.a. Yom Ahavah, which seems to be a vague equivalent of valentine’s day.Yep for those who are surprised even valentine’s day is inspired from something Jewish. (Like everything else)

This concept dates back to the times of Shaul Hamelech.(or Shloime not sure now).It was the custom on that day to let the unmarried women run loose and for bachelors to go and grab the girl who pleased him the most.It’s actually mentioned in the Gemarah(Talmud, Taanit 31a).

“The daughters of Jerusalem would go out... and dance in the vineyards" and "whoever did not have a wife would go there".

It is considered a very joyous day and despite it’s obscurity a very spiritual and important one.The actual relative significance of the day can better be understood by means of this quote in the last Mishnah of Masechet Taanit.

“Rabi Shimon ben Gamliel said "Israel has no days as festive as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur”

Just as on Tisha Be’Av a number of unfortunate events came over the Jews at different times and places so too a number of auspicious events happened on Tu Be’Av.

It is great to know that when the three weeks are over there’s a day like that coming up.Just to lift our spirits and remind us that being Jewish isn’t all about sadness and mourning it’s equally about celebration, joy and simchas of all kinds.I remain with one question; my wife pressured me to make an effort last valentine. Although I wasn’t enthusiastic about participating in a non-Jewish holiday, I caved in and bought her a nice gift, which I otherwise wouldn’t have for no particular occasion. Now on Yom Ahavah which is a Jewish festivity, am I supposed to ‘make an effort‘ again?

Information about TU Be'Av gathered from general knowledge and

Torah Tots,Zipple,Chabad Magazine

Friday, February 10, 2006


Nothing to me is as cute as a small child using big words. Ever heard a 3 year old pronounce ‘extravagant’ flawlessly, or ‘I’d rather not’ instead of simply no?
Less cute are kids who pick up certain big (meaning nr 2) words from their parents when the latter ones are feeling sad, angry or frustrated.
You may think kids don’t pick up words that are never addressed directly to them, but if everytime you’re angry you swear in the kitchen, sooner or later little one will associate that word with being angry an before you know it little one comes home with a note from school.
A few years ago I was working somewhere and there was this room full of boorish men that used swear words regardless of what mood they were in, it was simply remarkable how they managed to fit in a big word in whatever sentence they uttered.
Weirdly they were quite friendly and very hearty people, I regularly got a hug and they greeted me every morning in a very welcoming manner, only the wording was chosen oh so poorly.

After they got to know me, quiet persona careful to speak pleasant language, they didn’t change their language, but after each curse word they apologized, one went as far as to apologize beforehand.

I've always heard this type of language, albeit in a more moderated dosages, here and there.
But then it was completely new to me to meet people who use these words as adjectives, verbs and superlatives.
Whose English is not about yes’s and no’s but saturated with very unoriginal alternatives.
Who’s to blame?
I met the father of one and he seemed much more refined, he spoke Hebrew with me so perhaps that may have been a reason?
If it’s not education, is it TV that is to blame?

Although shocked, I wasn’t very alarmed then.
Now I am concerned however, kids know these words, some even know the underlying meaning of the words.
A Jewish child is supposed to speak as a child and their vocabulary shouldn’t include words that they can’t say in front of adults for fear of punishment.
I watch TV, but there’s no questions it’s a bad influence on kids, generally speaking but equally religiously.
Has it also become nefarious for their language?

When I was small we picked u interesting words from TV shows, words when used would make our parents marvel at the knowledge of them, today the marvel is turning into frowning.
Have you been taken aback by the language of little ones? What can be done to prevent further deterioration?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

PARENTS AND KIDS, who really has reason to complain?


1. You spend the first two years of their life teaching them to walk and
talk. Then you spend the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut

2. Grandchildren are G-d's reward for not killing your own children.

3. Mothers of teens now know why some animals eat their young.

4. Children seldom misquote you.

In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said.

5. The main purpose of holding children's parties is to remind yourself
that there are children more awful than your own.

6. We childproofed our homes, but they are still getting in.


Be nice to your kids.
They will choose your nursing home one day.




cartoon from http://www.babyblues.com/

Thursday, February 02, 2006



Do you know people who always smile at you, who think it’s wonderful to encounter you in the street, to see you, too speak to you, to irk you to death?
Overly friendly people, perhaps simply obnoxious, perhaps fake and totally oblivious to the fact that you’re in a hurry?
Sounds familiar?
I’m aware this sounds strange but I love them.

When studying marketing and management a couple of years ago, we were taught that some shopping centers and exclusive boutiques hire a person, usually male, and put them in front of the entrance for the sole purpose of smiling to the incoming clientele; this to put them in a pleasant mood, which lowers buying resistance.
Apparently research has proven this to be an effective method.

I wasn’t so much taken aback that people, who feel welcome and are smiled at, would be more susceptible to cunning marketing strategies lying all over the place. Rather what amazed me was that with a simple smile, genuine or otherwise, a person’s mood could be significantly influenced for the better.

At weddings they tell the family that everything was wonderful even though the food was cold, late and served in tiny portions (and the music way too loud).
In the store they’ll start chatting with you and anyone else, even if you barely know them.
In a strange shul, they’ll invite you to sit next to them and will want to know everything there is to know about you, from braces to grandchildren.

I wish I were an optimist. I would always believe that everything would be alright, that all people are essentially good, and that there actually is a purpose in living this life.
Unfortunately for me, I can’t. I’m too realistic, too pragmatic if you will, to think like that. I’m too busy contemplating about questions that are better left unasked.
I can’t be an absolute optimist.
And it shows.
I’m usually friendly, greet everyone in the street, socialize occasionally and have guests over.
But I’m not the life of a party, I won’t start a long chat with a person I don’t know or for whom I have no patience.
In shul I’ll ignore the stranger and let others take care of him, at most I’ll offer a Siddur(prayer book) .
I don’t walk around smiling right and left, I often have a serious disposition and I’m so terribly bad at cheering someone up.

But I’m not pessimistic either. I can feel truly happy at times and believe in a better future. Sometimes I feel Moshiach to be so close that I experience a moment of immense hopefulness, and that’s a priceless emotion.
But I would never be hired to be put in front of entrances. I just don’t fit that profile.

To all of you who do have the patience, the innate kindness, the getting involved bug, to you I say thank you.
Unbeknownst to us when you smile or when you ask how we’ve been you make us feel good, at the very least better.
It often appears we have no patience and are annoyed by your interference but deep down we’re looking forward to the next we'll meet you on the street!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006




A man was sitting on the edge of the bed, observing his wife turning back and forth, looking at herself in the mirror.
Since her birthday was not far off, he asked what she'd like to have for her Birthday.
I'd like to be six again, she replied, still looking in the mirror.

On the morning of her Birthday, he arose early, made her a nice big bowl of Lucky Charms, and then took her to Six Flags theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park; the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Monster Roller Coaster... everything there was.

Five hours later they staggered out of the theme park. Her head was reeling and her stomach felt upside down ..

He then took her to a Kosher Delight where he ordered her a burger with extra fries and a coke.

Then it was off to a movie, popcorn, a soda , and her favorite candy, Hershey's. What a fabulous adventure! Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed exhausted.

He leaned over his wife with a big smile and lovingly asked, Well Dear, what was it like being six again ??
Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed.

I meant my DRESS SIZE, you dumb ass!!

The moral of the story: Even when a man IS listening, he is going to get it wrong!

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