Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yisroel Shemtov has a big heart, II

Quick recap: Yisroel Shemtov and I had made up that I would take the Rebbe's kapote to Milwaukee, and TRS called the rabbi to cancel.

Meanwhile, I was at my sister's house doing laundry. I figured, even without the kapote it still makes sense to rent a car. Otherwise we'll need to pay a fortune to take taxis to and from the airport and to and from the wedding. I figured I would need a car for two days, which would cost around $100. I called all the bochurim who were flying from New York, and they all agreed to chip in for a car if I drove everyone to the airport. I made my reservation, and moved on.

A few hours later I get a call from TRS. He had left Yisroel Shemtov a voicemail saying that he regretfully would be married without the kapote. Yisroel Shemtov called him back and refused to hear of it. The good rabbi would pay for the car, and TRS would need only to pay the $100. I told TRS that Yisroel's paying for the car wasn't really necessary, because that bochurim had all agreed to pay for it. We decided to tell the bochurim the whole story, and ask them to please give what they had pledged towards the car to cover the kapote.

At 3:25 I stood in front of the Shemtov residence and called Yisroel's cell phone. A minute later he stood at the door.
"What time is your flight?" he asked.
"7:00," I replied.
"So why are you here so early?"
"Well, I want to take public transportation, so I need to be on the train at 4:00."
"You can't take public transportation. The kapote might get lost."
"Fine," I acquiesced, "I'll take a taxi."
"If you're driving, you can sleep for another few hours. Come inside."

So, he showed me a bed in the back of his house, which I joyfully inhabited until 5:10, when he woke me up to go to mikveh. After mikveh, it seemed that everything was settled besides for one small issue. "I don't have enough cash to pay for a taxi... Perhaps you can lend me..." I stammered.
"What taxi?" Yisroel retorted, "I have my own limo."

So we drove to the airport, while Yisroel regaled me with tales of how the kapote was almost lost and how I better watch myself. When we arrived, he gave me $20 "just in case," and told me that he would pay for my taxi back from the airport. Because of me, he now has a new rule for kapote carriers: no public transportation!

The trip to Milwaukee was lovely. It was nice to be back in the Midwest where people are friendly and the roads are drivable. The five bochurim each contributed $20, and TRS got his kapote for free. We checked out the Chabad house in Mequon (freaking huge!), the Miller Beer factory (free beer!) and some Art Museum on the lakefront (shaped like a boat, right off of Wisconsin Ave.). The wedding was even better. We danced our hearts out, and only knocked over the mechitzah three or four times. But whatever. Back to the main thread of our story.

Upon arriving in Crown Heights (driven by the Moshe, the most reliable and cheapest taxi driver out there--call him at 917.951.1973) I immediately went to Yisroel Shemtov's office, to give him the kapote. I felt pretty horrible asking him to pay for my taxi from the airport. After all, even without the kapote, I'd need to get myself back from the airport. I figured I'd have him pay only half that ride and tell him that there was another bochur with me in the car.
Here was my cheshbon:
$100 --kaopte fee
-$58 --car rental
-$15 --taxi
So I'd give him $27 bucks, plus the $20 he had lent me.

I gave him the kapote, safe and sound, together with $47.
"Are you giving me too much money? Don't mess with me. By me, a deal is a deal. I said I'd pay for the taxi. How much do you really owe me?"

All plans about saying there was another guy with me in the car flew out of my head. I let him give me back $15.
"Don't forget about the other part of our deal [i.e. the scrupulous behavior I gotta do tomorrow]. If you cheat me and do more than we made up, I'll only love you more. No. It's not possible for me to love you any more than I already do. Just you'll make me very happy.

As Zaphod Beebblebrox would say, Yisroel Shemtov is one hell of a guy. Normally he'd enjoy some pleasant banter with a bochur, give him the kaopte the morning of the wedding, and get $100. For this particular customer, he first farbrenged for around an hour. Then got up at 3:20, let a bochur sleep in his house, got up again at 5:10, gave the bochur a ride the airport--after attempting to give him a cup of coffee--leaving the precious kapote in the hands of an unscrupulous young man. And for all this, he made a grand total of $12--and refused to take a penny more.

Of course the wedding was stupendous, but this post is already too long to squeeze in any more. Mazal Tov TRS and Le7! Many happy years together!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yisroel Shemtov has a big heart

A word of background for the snags among us: Chassanim wear the Rebbe's kapote at their chupah. Some guys also wear the Rebbe's shirt, as a kittel. Rabbi Yisroel Shemtov has a kapote and a shirt of the Rebbe's, which he lends to chassanim.

A couple weeks ago, TRS asked me to take the Rebbe's kopote to Milwaukee for him. The day before the wedding, I was a bit concerned that TRS hadn't mentioned the kapote to me when he saw me over Shabbos, but I figured that he had enough on his mind as it is, so I didn't call to confirm that he still wanted my services. I called Yisroel Shemtov and asked to arrange to take the kapote. As is his wont, he asked to meet me before forking over the kapote.

I met him in his shop and he continued the discussion exactly where we left it off at the TRS-le7 l'chaim, with the scintillating topic of my beard or lack thereof. This quickly segued into a discussion of my general lack of scruples, and a mutual outpouring of hearts.

While we were pouring out our hearts to each other, I happened to learn some of Rabbi Shemtov's kapote-related rules:

A member of the wedding party cannot take the kapote, as he'll be too busy with other stuff to worry about the kapote.

The bochur who takes the kapote must go to mikveh beforehand.

Nobody is allowed to touch the kapote besides for the bochur to whom it was given. The bochur puts it on the chosson before the chuppah and takes it off after the chuppah. The rest of the time, the kapote sits in the trunk of a car to which only the bochur has the keys.

There are a bunch of other rules, but here's the most important one: if you lose the kapote, you owe Yisroel Shemtov $50,000. There's some impoverished Jew who owns another one of the Rebbe's kaptoes, and he's willing to sell it for $50,000. So if you lose Yisroel's, he wants you to give him money to get a replacement.

It goes without saying that among the rules is the requirement that the kapote carrier be a scrupulous, G-d-fearing young man, which I plainly told Reb Yisroel that I am not. For reasons I shan't disclose in public, he decided to give me the kapote anyways, with the condition that I engage in certain scrupulous behaviors this coming weekend.

He only gives the bochur to kapote on the way to the airport, so we made up to meet at his house at 3:20, when he would give me the keys to the mikveh near his house, I would dunk, get the kapote, and hop off to the airport.

It was an interesting conversation, and I was rather excited about the whole business. I hopped over to my sister's house to do some laundry, borrowed my sister's laptop to check the car-rental prices in Milwaukee, and was settling down to check my email, when I saw the following line at the end of an email from TRS:

Also, don't worry about the kapote from shemtov, because I'm not getting it.

I called TRS, and he basically said that he wasn't getting the kapote because it was just too expensive. Yisroel charges $100, plus he'd need to pay for me to rent a car to keep the kapote safe in. And with all the bajillions of other expenses, he just can't afford it.

I said, "Oh well. At least I had an interesting chit-chat with the rabbi. N'nu." In truth, I was a tad pissed. It's no big deal when poverty keeps you from buying sushi or taking a taxi. But wearing the Rebbe's kapote is a big deal. It's horrible that somebody should miss out just because he's a hundred dollars short.

But... The story gets more interesting and cheerful. Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I don't like to post twice in one day, but extreme news requires extreme measures. Everyone's favorite shegetz is now JEWISH!!!!!!

Welcome to the clan, Yonatan Yisrael!

What is Chabad?

Check out this wasome video about Chabad of my beautiful hometown. Who can spot the two bloggers in this video? (I will remove the link in a few days for confidentiality reasons, so make sure to watch it now!)

I'm sure TRS and le7 are gonna post about the wedding, so I won't tell you the whole story from my perspective (in brief, we came, we drank, we danced). But I hope to post later about the saga of the Rebbe's Kapote. So stay tuned!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Two Misconceptions and a Shout Out for the New Blog on the Block (or the Basement)

During hi-how-are-you conversations (which I HATE, as many of you already know), people often say:

"You're studying in City College? Is that a community college?"

I don't know why this is, or which dumbell invented these terms, but "community college" means "two-year college." People asking this question probably don't even know that there are two-year and four-year colleges. They really mean to ask, "Is City college a public college?"

For the record:
The opposite of a private college is a public college.
The opposite of a community college is a senior college.

The other misconception is harder to clear up. People say, "Oh! You're studying math. So what are you gonna be? An accountant?"

AURGH!! All the math you need to do accounting is addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Do accountants ever plumb the mysteries of derivatives, integrals, transcendental functions, vectors, or three-dimensional surfaces? This I doubt. To quote the second greatest computer of all time and space, "Molest me not with this pocket-calculator stuff."

And now the shout out: Big N8t's latest post is good shtuff. Reminds me of my yeshiva days.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Money really makes a difference in people's lives. All the guys in my apartment are pretty much unemployed. And we sit around all day and talk about how poor we are and how impossible it is to find work. Then when something fun comes up, we obsess about how much money it'll cost. WTF? Can't we just enjoy life? If we could each have work for only a few hours a day, we'd have enough money to do whatever we want and not obsess about bloody money all day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Matisyahu: Credo Quia Absurdum

Jane: Oh, my boss is so mean! I hate his guts!
John: Don't you ever feel down, thinking how you're always gonna be stuck with this jerk?
Jane: Nope, I know that I'm gonna be his boss one of these days.
Jack: How do you know that?
Jane: Well, since the day I've been hired, I've been waiting and praying for a promotion.

Mark: I'm so damn broke! There's no way I can pay next month's rent.
Mary: What's your plan for the future? Are you maybe gonna get off your butt and start working?
[Mary and Mark are truckers, so pardon the indelicate expressions.]
Mark: Nah, I'm winning the lottery soon.
Mary: Are you certain of that, young man?
Mark: Well, all my live I've been waiting and praying to win the lottery.

Mark and Jane are being stupid. They're saying, "X is true, because I've always thought it to be true." Need I prove the fallacy of this statement?

Matisyahu does the same thing in "One Day":
sometimes in my tears I drown
but I never let it get me down
so when negativity surrounds
I know some day it'll all turn around
all my live I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
for the people to say
that we don't wanna fight no more
there'll be no more wars
and our children will play

In general, in matters of religious faith, people are allowed to believe things simply because that's what they believe.

John: Why do y'all read the Talmud instead of just reading God's word?
Yochanan: Well, we believe that the Talmud contains God's will and wisdom.

Shabbat Shalom to all, and remember, if you don't eat any cholent, you're a heretic!