Friday, August 13, 2010

The Big News...

Ok, here it is! I just purchased a local kosher bakery! Thank God, and with God's help, all the pieces fell into place this week and my boss, the previous owner, was an incredible help in making this happen. So, now I get to work VERY hard and feed people!

So there you have it!

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Big News Coming...

I'm about to have some big news. It'll come in the next couple of days. Can't wait to share! :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Renewal of Sorts

I know I've blogging on a very irregular basis. It's been an interesting time for me. I think I'm finally starting to settle into who I am as a Jew. As I've stated before, I don't like to be niched. But at this point, I think the best way to describe me is as a Religious Zionist in Galut.

I have developed a deep desire to return home, to Eretz Yisrael. I lived there as a I child. My family (parents and myself) left just before I turned 14 (which is good because that would make me a Katin Chozer, eligible for Aliyah rights... I think). When we left, it was with the understanding we'd be returning once I finished high school in the US, since, growing up as a Lubavitcher, it was unthinkable to go to a Mamlachti Dati school and receive a secular education alongside the religious one.

Unfortunately, returning home kind of got forgotten. But over the last year or so, that desire has reawakened with in me. I know living in Israel is difficult, at best, especially for someone who is not of means (um, like me!) :). However, it IS possible. I am finally developing skills as a baker at the local kosher bakery here. My boss is actually taking his family to Israel for a year for a test run (if it works out, he'll stay). Since he's been unable to sell the business, he's leaving me pretty much in charge of production. In other words, I'm currently doing about 90%-95% of the baking. I'll be doing 100% of it before long.

I plan to continue to develop these skills for at least another year+. At that point, I'll be an experienced baker, and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find a job in Israel baking, which would be a thrill for me. Another option would be translating, though I'm not sure what the market is there for that industry. I spent three years translating for the Shoah Foundation in LA and great references who are more than ready to give me glowing recommendations.

My desire to return home is not just a pipe dream. I am actually becoming frightened of living in Chutz La'Aretz at this point. I don't think things are moving in a positive directions for us as Jews.

My wife and I have begun, tentatively, discussing the prospect of Aliyah. There are a few of things holding her back. First, of course, is parnassah. But I think, once I've fine-tuned my baking skills on a mass level, we'll be OK there. There are plenty of bakeries and bake shops there, so I don't think finding a job will be difficult for me. And I'm hoping once we're there and I'm working, my wife might find the opportunity to return to school (for which Nefesh b'Nefesh pays through a Master's degree) and get a Master's in something useful.

Another concern, more for her than for me since I'm fluent in the language, is being uncomfortable around non-English speakers. Again, if we live in a town with a sizable American population, I don't think it'll be much of a problem. Nefesh b'Nefesh is currently running its Go North program, in which they are actually giving monetary incentive (more than normal Aliyah incentives) to people willing to settle in and develop the Galil, which more Americans are moving there now. And yes, since living in or near Yerushalayim is not an option (first, there's the cost; second, I think the friction with the crazy chareidim would drive me nuts), my second choice is the Galil. There are also Anglo neighborhoods in other areas, such as Neve Aliza in Karnei Shomron. Options to keep open.

A third concern is education for the kids. We need to live in a place where the schools are good. Not mediocre. Good. But I'm pretty sure that, staying away from Chareidi schools (of the types I was forced to attend), the kids will do well in Mamlachti Dati schools. And they're free. :)

A final real concern: My wife's parents. They are aging, and not well. Living where currently live, about 2000 miles away from them in a climate not suitable for them in the winter is already very difficult for them. Us living in Israel would weigh terribly on them, since they would not be able to see the children very often, if at all. What's ironic is they insist they MUST live in LA because of the weather. The irony? Much of Israel has a nearly identical climate to LA. Their best friends on the planet live in Haifa, which is just south of and easily accessible from the Galil. But, at this time, they wouldn't even consider the option, despite the fact that with their combined pensions, Social Security, and investments, they could live quite well there. For this concern, I guess we'll just have to see how things play out.

In any case, here's to hoping we can take this step sometime in the next year or two, maybe three.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Matzas Mitzvah...

Today I had the amazing and very rare (at least for me) opportunity to not only participate in the making of matza mitzvah, but in getting to take quite a bit of it home with me. My chavrusa this morning told me a certain other rabbi who teaches at the school was going to be baking not only shmura matza, but SOFT, pita-like shmura matza, the type the Teimanim eat, the type that quite likely was what the Jews ate coming out of Egypt and through much of history (as we know, the constipatory cracker was Ashkenazim are forced to ingest on a yearly basis is simply NOT what the Jews ate in the Beit HaMikdash as the Matza then was a wrap, like Laffa bread).

The experience was amazing and very spiritual. I had a fantastic time, I got to shmooze about many topics with the rabbi, including getting some real chizuk about Yiddishkeit, and best of all, I get, for the first time in my life this year for the Sedarim, to eat Matzas Mitzvah. I can't wait. What a Pesach. I'm really very excited, for the first time in a long time, to go into Pesach this year. Thanks to my chavrusa for sending me to this experience, and to Rabbi U. for making it so special.

Friday, March 26, 2010

DovBear: My approach to Kitniyot

Interesting, but, IMHO very wrong, blog post by a guest blogger on DovBear's blog: My approach to Kitniyot. I commented there, and copied that comment here:

RbbC, the reason I do not agree with your opinion is all these chumrot and minhagim were invented because at the time of their invention they were relevant. It's all a question of relevancy. The chumrah of kitniyot became relevant in medieval Europe because of how they grew and stored crops. Interestingly, it was not a relevancy in Spain or the Middle East. Just the regions of Europe east of Spain. Had there been no relevancy to this chumrah, it never would have been invented. Or, had the relevancy gone away during that same generation or one or two that followed, the rabbis simply would have rescinded it. In fact, Reb Yaakov Emden and the Chacham Tzvi objected strenuously to this chumrah (see here an article about it posted on my blog with a link to the original article).

Take another silly chumrah: Second day of yom tov shel Galuyot. It's just stupid, but because of "minhag Avoteinu b'yadeinu," we keep it. Why? It's simply no longer relevant. It wasn't 1500 years ago when Hillel HaKatan set the calendar. Further, had they had better modes of communication back in the days of the Second Bet HaMikdash (even something as simple as a telegraph), the idea would never have been invented. I don't think, and have never thought, that keeping idiotic chumrot and Minhagim are honoring our ancestors, who I'm sure would gladly have not kept them if they had that option. Their lives would have been much easier. In fact, I think quite the opposite. I think if we DIDN'T have to keep these chumrot any longer, THAT would be honoring our ancestors, who I'm quite sure would be happy to know we don't have to live under the idiocies under which they lived from necessity. In fact, I'm pretty sure they'd be horrified to learn we still have chumrot that are completely irrelevant to our lives today.

And yes. I do hold by second day of Yom Tov (I live in the States) simply because if I didn't, I wouldn't be considered a frum Jew and no one would eat in my house. But most people who know me, including my rav, who is also my chavrusa, know of my objections.
Today, 7:50:06 AM EDT – Reply – Delete

Monday, March 08, 2010


So, I've been working at a local bakery for the last (nearly) seven months. I LOVE the work. I enjoy putting the food together, baking it, and seeing a finished product. I love getting compliments from people (friends and passing acquaintances alike).

But it's been rough. I make very little money. It probably wouldn't bother me so much if I was in my 20s and single. But I'm 37. It's been really depressing me lately that I'm 37 years old and making the tiny salary I make. I don't blame my boss. I blame myself, my upbringing, and people who influenced me in a bad way to make very bad decisions.

The other problem is, my boss is very controlling. He tries to control pretty much everything that goes on at the bakery, not really giving me the chance to prove I can handle the job. When I'm about to something, he doesn't even give me the chance to do it and jumps on telling me to do it, thereby not even letting me prove to him I can do it without being told. When cutting pastries, I can NEVER seem to get the sizes right. They're always either too big or too small, too thin or too thick.

In theory, I was hired to take over management of the back of the store (the prep, the baking, and learning, and least in a rudimentary way, how to cake decorate - and boy, do I SUCK at that!). The problem is, he can't let go and let me do the work. Another problem I've been having is the constant, non-stop criticism. It's just never ending, no matter how hard I work, how fast, or much I try. And compliments are extremely rare. To be fair, he did reward me after Purim with a nice bonus and a card saying he values working with me. But the words and most of the actions don't match that. And then there's the constant, vigilant watching, waiting, it seems, to catch me making a mistake. The problem is, the more he does that, the more I know he's doing that, and I get nervous and DO make mistakes. And his dad, who works there too, at least in the mornings, loves to to jump on the criticizing me bandwagon, which drives me even battier. And then they want to know why I'm in a bad mood.

And to top all that off, I've been told by others there to dream on if I think I'll ever get a raise. So, what? I'm supposed to run all the production, work my ass off, and make all of $10 an hour?! That's just insane. But, I just don't have a choice. This is the only job available to me here utilizing my skill set. I can't get a job at a non-kosher bakery. First, I can't bake non-kosher food. Second, I'd likely be expected to work on Shabbos. Those are two pretty good reasons. I'm non-union, so I couldn't even get a job at the other local kosher bakery. Not that I would want to work for the guy. He's a real crook, and ass, and just plain mean. I have a friend who worked there last year. Came Purim, and he let her go home for the Seudah for 30 minutes. Wasn't that generous of him? So yeah, I wouldn't work for the guy even if I could.

So, to recap. I'm stuck in a low-paying (not likely to go up), job where I'm made to feel incompetent. And then people want to know why I'm depressed.

The other thing that's been on my mind lately is Israel. I have not been there in 19 years. That's an awful long time. I miss it terribly. I think about it all the time. I know it's not easy to live there. I used the live there myself and I'm aware of the difficulties. My wife, at this point, has no desire to move there. Aside from the difference in culture, her parents live here and would never consider moving to Israel, which is a shame, because with their savings and what they get from social security, they'd live quite well there. The problem is, what would my wife and I do? As I've stated before, I will absolutely NOT make the mistakes my father made and just pick up and go. That did not work out well for him, for my mom, my sister, or myself. It completely screwed up my education, and it is the root cause of why I'm in the financial situation I'm in today. All the moving around, especially between countries, really screwed me up. Badly.

I have a useless BA in English. No tech skills or education. No money to get either. No money to further our educations (my wife's and mine), neither here nor in Israel. And, as I mentioned earlier, my wife simply won't consider it, at least as long as her parents live in the good ol' USA.

So, bottom line, I've been very depressed (and no, I don't want to take Prozac, the "life's really crappy, but I don't give a damn because I'm on Prozac" drug).

Oh, well. I guess I just gotta trudge on, no matter how hard it is to do so.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nishmat in the News

Fantastic, concise article about Yoatzot Halacha. All those frummie objections are just dumb.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

On Blogging

Well, It's been a while since my last blog post. It's not that I don't have what to say. It's that I'm not sure WHAT to say. There's tons to blog about, but much of it other bloggers have already said ad nauseum. There's Eternal Jew dude Tropper. There's Solomon Dwek. There's the ridiculous kol koreh prohibiting even Chareidi sites (talk about cutting off your nose to spite you face!). There's Rabbi Yosef Blau's absolutely amazing (in a very GOOD way) forum on homosexuality which so many not only in the chareidi world have misinterpreted, but that many in the YU world have misinterpreted as well.

As I've mentioned before, I've divorced myself from the ridiculous Chareidi/Yeshivish/Frummie world. It really and truly just has nothing to do with legitimate Judaism.

I've mentioned the possibility of Aliyah, but that's just not happening anytime in the near or foreseeable future. There are just too many factors keeping us here for now. Top of that list, is not screwing up my kids the my father screwed up his. If I go, it'll be AFTER my kids get the best education I can get them and let THEM make the choice, should my wife at that time agree to go, whether to join us.

Then there's politics. Oy.

So, I'm taking a short break while I try to decide where to go with this blog. I'm not gonna stop, that's for sure. But I do have to figure out my direction. Perhaps I'll do a weekly post on Choshen Mishpat, which I'm currently learning with a wonderful Chavrusa once a week. Maybe something original on the Parsha. Perhaps even something on Navi. I just completed Sefer Shoftim on Chanukah and have started Sefer Shmuel (OK, to be honest, I'm only in the introduction in the Mosad HaRav Kook publication, an introduction that's rather long, but very informative). We'll see.

In other news, work is still going great! I'm learning new things, and have started multi-tasking (not just preparing the doughs, pastries, and breads, but also baking them!). I'm also, and I'm still not quite clear how or why this happened, the Gabbai Sheini at my minyan on Shabbos. I'm loving that too! :)

More soon.