Monday, October 27, 2008

Gettin' on a jet plane...

(I think that's an old song. Sounds like one.)

Well, another Cheshvan, another trip back to the Golah. The cycle will break next year, please God. Still, it was a wonderful time here. Last night with the Molchos was particularly nice, as it always is. More details to come, I hope.

This line:
However, during the court sitting, several policemen testified that Federman was
hand-cuffed at the time when he allegedly assaulted and injured their
reminded me of this Monty Python routine:
Usher: He can't hold the Bible m'lud.

Judge: Well screw the Bible! Let's get on with this bleeding trial,
I've got a Gay Lib meeting at 6 o'clock. Superintendent Lufthansa will you
please read the charge.

Superintendent: Is a charge strictly necessary, m'lud?

Judge: (heavy aside) The press is here.

Superintendent: Oh sorry! Right, here we go. You are hereby charged.
One, that you did, on or about 1126, conspire to publicize a London Borough in
the course of a BBC saga; two, that you were wilfully and persistently a
foreigner; three, that you conspired to do things not normally considered
illegal; four, that you were caught in possession of an offensive weapon, viz,
the big brown table down at the police station.

Judge: The big brown table down at the police station?

Superintendent: It's the best we could find, m'lud ... and five... all
together now...

The whole court shout together.

Court: Assaulting a police officer!

Prosecuting Counsel: Call Police Constable Pan-Am. (Pan-Am runs
into court and starts beating Njorl with a truncheon)
Into the witness box,
constable ... there'll be plenty of time for that later on. (the policeman
gets into box hitting at anyone within range; his colleagues restrain him)

Now, you are Police Constable Pan-Am?

Constable: No, I shall deny that to the last breath in my body. (superintendent nods) Oh. Sorry, yes.

Prosecuting Counsel: Police constable, do you recognize the

Constable: No. Never seen him before in my life. (superintendent
Oh , yes, yes he's the one. He done it. I'd recognize him anywhere,
sorry, super. (the superintendent looks embarrassed)

Prosecuting Counsel: Constable, will you please tell the court in your
own words what happened?

Constable: Oh yes! (refers to his notebook) I was proceeding in a
northerly direction up Alitalia
Street when I saw the deceased (points at Njorl) standing at an
upstairs window, baring her bosom at the general public. She then took off her
... wait a tick. Wrong story. (refers to his notebook) Ho yes! There
were three nuns in a railway compartment and the ticket inspector says to one of
them. (the superintendent shakes his head) No, anyway I clearly saw the

Clerk: Defendant.

Constable: Defendant! Sorry. Sorry, super. I clearly saw the defendant
... doing whatever he's accused of...Red-handed. When kicked... he said: 'It's a
fair ... cop, I done it all ... Right... no doubt about... that'. Then, bound as
he was to the chair, he assaulted myself and three other constables while
bouncing around the cell. The end.

Spontaneous applause from the court. Shouts of 'more! more!'.
Pan-am raises his hands and the clapping and shouting dies down.

Constable: Thank you, thank you... and for my next piece of

Superintendent: I think you'd better leave it there, constable.

Prosecuting Counsel: Excellent evidence, constable (the constable
is removed, flailing his truncheon the while) ...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The rule is that when something is changed in tefillah, you have to say it a month before you can be sure, in a doubtful case, that you've really said it. Funny thing is, nine days into the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, I still have to consciously remember to add and change things for that period. The day after Yom Kippur, I have to consciously remember not to say or change them. Seems like ten days is the limit for me, at least here. I'll have to remember to notice where I am at the end of Chanukkah.

Well, Christopher Buckley has endorsed Mr. Obama. I have a few thoughts:

1. Uncharitable of me, I don't doubt for a second that he (or those like him) would never have done it had Obama not been in the lead. (Although I still have much hope.)

2. Like his old man, he seems well insulated from things most conservatives are knowledgable of. Internet? Blogs? Huh? Also like his old man, he seems to crave leftist acceptance, or at least not mind when it's heaped on him. Uncharitable again, but I don't feel like being charitable to his type. (Speaking of his father, I think it's just plain unseemly for a grown man to use the words "mum" and "pup" in referring to his parents. Above the age of, say, ten, "mother" and "father" should be used in the third person unless some personal point is being made, and a few years past that, second person should be restricted to something not so childish, like "mom" and "dad." But I digress.)

3. He betrays a real negative attitude toward hoi polloi. Sarah Palin, case in point.

4. I don't like his use of "Sanhedrin" to describe conservative thinkers who, well, disagree with him. I've noticed his use of such terms in the past. It's troubling, especially in light of the left's obssession with (ahem) "neo-cons."

5. Good thing I didn't buy his latest book. Or the one before that. The last one I did buy was no good anyway. (His writing tends not to be conservative at all, by the way, just cyncial.) Fortunately the NR crew seems a lot more level headed than him, or I'd chuck them too.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mea Culpa

An appropriate title for a post about Yom Kippur, I think...

I'll be honest- I don't have much patience for long tefillot. I once read that the maximum time a human being can sit still (so to speak; I often walk about during tefilla) is about two hours; even Shakespeare's plays lasted that long (as he writes in some of them), as do most movies today. Shacharit on Shabbat should be about that long if not less; I prefer a short drasha if there's one at all, no extra Mi Sheberachs, and so on.

Of course, my patience is most sorely tested at the worst time of the year- the Yamim Noraim season. The last few years (as this year) I've been in Israel, and among the many wonderful things you can say about Israel is that its view of tefillah meshes with mine. The typical Shabbat morning starts a lot earlier than the US and takes a lot less time. I still haven't found a Simchat Torah minyan of the type we used to have in Queens ("hakafah" means once around, only five aliyot, out in less than two hours), but when you're starting at 6:30 AM, what's the rush?

That last point, of course, is important for the actual Yamim Noraim itself. Where are you going, especially on Yom Kippur? I guess that's important to bear in mind, as I daven those days with my family in the Yeshurun Synagogue, which (unlike most places in the US, as the Jerusalem Post [impossible to find articles there] reminds us) has real cantors, who like to perform. (Hey, they get paid for it- why not? It's like why Dickens wrote the way he did.) I don't like ay-yay-yays. I'd like a chazzan who reads the words.

Or so I thought. Erev Yom Kippur I heard part of a shiur on YU Torah (which seems to be down as I write this) by the Chazzan of Yeshurun, Asher Heinowitz, in which he described how the chazzan can get people into the mood of tefilla. For Kol Nidrei, after a the usual terrific meal at my cousins' place, I went to the Inbal hotel, where there was a small minyan being set up (by, it seemed, some American tourists) in a room in the basement. (The same room where my brother-in-law had his "tisch." The main room, where my sister's wedding meal was, was occupied by a service for hundreds and hundreds of French people, olim I suppose.)

The email posting for the minyan looked interesting- "serious, YU style" (nothing quicker than usual) was how it was described. And it was nice- nice people, no mucking about, and so on. But it suddenly hit me that, yes, a grand looking shul does help. And a chazzan who knows his way around the nusach does help as well. A lot. God bless the Inbal people, but the next morning I was back at Yeshurun. (It started much earlier and I was up anyway.)

Like I said, where are you going on Yom Kippur anyway? They started at seven and were done with Musaf around 1:30. I couldn't really go anywhere, so I sat (and stood) and read and talked until three, when Mincha began. I even got kohen, because things are always a little sparse at the beginning of Mincha. And, thanks to Israel's daylight time policies, the fast was over before six, and we even got in another Birkat Kohanim during Neilah. All in all, a good Yom Kippur.

Of course, the important question was, did I accomplish what Yom Kippur is intended for? Well, that's the toughie. At least I can say I tried a bit- we all try a bit. Something struck me toward the end: The bracha for Yom Kippur in the Amida ends "Maavir ashmotenu b'chol shana v'shana"- he removes our sins every single year. It's sort of saying, "Yeah, we're not going to be perfect in the coming year either, and God is going to have to forgive us again. (And thanks for doing it last year and this, too.) But we're trying- thanks for the opportunity."

So a big "thanks" goes to God himself. But let's also include the whole crew at Yeshurun, including, of course, Chazzan Heinowitz, but also Chazzan Brilliant (the Shacharit and Mincha chazzan), the gabbaim, the officers, and the Chief Rabbi, who davens there. Chazzan Heinowitz is a kohen, by the way, and as the day went on, and as I saw him (and duchaned with him, and complimented him) during, in between, and after prayers- he's a wonderful person off the bimah too- I couldn't help but be struck how the piyut "Mareh Kohen" which he sings so beautifully is quite applicable to him as well.

A good and healthy year to everyone out there.