Monday, October 26, 2009


A few days ago, at the most ridiculous Shabbos table, someone mentioned that she didn't know what 'the metascruple' is. The circumstances then did not allow we to explain, but here, where you all come to hear me hold forth, I figured I can do this topic justice.

We encounter all sorts of things in life (e.g. pork, MOTOGs, rainbows, etc.) Scruples are principles that help us relate to the things we encounter (don't eat it, don't talk to it, say some Hebrew words but don't stare at it).

We encounter all sorts of scruples when going through life. A frum Jew, who is subject to a constant barrage of scruples, may find him or herself with a bunch of contradictory scruples (the tefillin daters) or lots of scruples which he or she cannot implement (e.g. stay up all Thursday night AND go on mivtzoim all Friday afternoon AND farbreng Friday night AND say tehillim Shabbos mevorchim morning AND learn Chassidus before davening AND daven b'avoda AND farbreng Shabbos afternoon AND go on tahalucha AND learn Chitas Rambam AND meseches Sota [if it happens to be shabbos mevorchim Iyar]) or one especially difficult-to-implement scruple which he or she breaks regularly (e.g. not listening to non-Jewish music, not talking to MOTOGs, and not killing millions of unborn and unconceived children).

A metascruple is a principle that allows us relate to the scruples we encounter. "I'll act the way I was raised," WWJD, and "let me call my mashpia" are all examples of metascruples. I think the Rebbe believed that for people coming closer to Judaism, a good metascruple would be not worry too much about the consistency between one's scruples; rather one should focus on making as many of one's actions as possible fit with as many of the Torah's scruples as possible.

If one is completely metascupleless, a common affliction is guilt: without a metascruple to sort through your different scruples, how can you avoid breaking some of them now and then?

My personal metascruple, which I often inaccurately refer to as 'the metascruple' is good at eliminating guilt. It is: If you will have a scruple, then implement it; if you won't implement a scruple, then don't have it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is Facebook Messed or is it Me?

For the past couple days, I keep on getting error messages when I try logging into facebook. Is anyone else having these problems, or is there something wrong with my account?

Update: Facebook does not want you to contact them. This discussion would be funny, if it wasn't so serious.

The Hyperbolic Poet

So there we were, at the poetry slam, and everyone was having a fun time pressuring everyone else to go up and perform. So I decided to write a poem on the spot, to express my deep, innermost feelings, which were evoked by the assemblage of the greatest poetic minds of the heights.

The Hyperbolic Poet

by e

Walking down the lane
Treading towards
His domicile, his abode
Inhaling the heady scent
Of the blood-red bloom
Its tender tendrils
To the rough wooden grid
Climbing towards light and life

And now in English...

On his way home, he smelled a rose growing on a trellis.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Look Ma: I'm a Big Boy!

Apparently, is big enough that spammers thought it worthwhile to steal their logo!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Anecdotal Evidence: Seductive but Unreliable

As I was in the car heading back from the airport after the TRS-LE7 wedding, I had the following conversation with Meir, the driver:

M: Would you like to put your suit bag in the back?
E: No.
M: (surprised)
E: I have the Rebbe's kapote in here. I can't let go of it.
M: Oh wow! Can I touch it.
E: No.
M: (surprised)
E: Actually, go ahead. Touch it. I don't think it'll get ruined if you just take a peek and give a pat.
(This was followed by a discussion of Reb Yisroel's kapote-related scruples.)
M: Well, maybe this will help me get a shidduch. The Rebbe gave me his beracha twenty years ago, and I'm still waiting.

And then the conversation turned to other things, such as the super-cool symbolism of the number 5770, and my mathematics studies. (The guy remembers that I'm a math major from when he drove me to the airport before Pesach!)

In unrelated news, as Reb Yisroel was deciding to make an exception and send the kapote with me, he told me the story of the only other exception he ever made to his kapote-related scruples: The son-in-law of the shluchim to Cleveland needed a lung transplant. After six months of waiting, the doctors said that if the young man doesn't receive a lung transplant within 24 hours, he will need to spend the rest of his life on a respirator. The Shlucha to Cleveland frantically called Reb Yisrel, and asked him to send them the Rebbe's shirt. They tried to find someone driving from New York to Cleveland, but couldn't. So Reb Yisroel UPSed the shirt (and insured it for $10,000 I think. maybe I forgot the amount). Meanwhile, some dude got killed in a motorcycle crash. As the shirt was going to Cleveland from one direction, the dead guy's lung was heading to Cleveland from the other direction. Needless to say, the son-in-law lived happily ever after. He was hoping that the second time he violated his scruples (and sent the kapote with me) another miracle would happen. It didn't

Last story: a yungerman was sent on shlichus to California in 1951. As Chassidim are wont to do, he consulted with the Rebbe before every move. He followed the Rebbe's advice to the letter... and everything turned out for the worst. For example, there was a building which he had wanted to buy--and he had ba'al habatim ready to pay for it--but the Rebbe told him not to, because it would be too risky. Shortly afterwards, the government bought the building to make a road there. Had Chabad bought it, they could have sold it for a huge profit. I don't remember what other disasters happened, but the point is that the the shliach soon came back East, and spend the rest of his life bouncing around, teaching in Talmud Torahs, shechting animals, and doing nothing too spectacular, while some other young shluchim went to California, did lots of risky things and had tremendous success. He is still mekushar to the Rebbe, but is bitter and confused why the Rebbe didn't let him have success in California. His story is not well known, but I know it because I am related to him.

Do you see a pattern here? The Rebbe gives a guy a beracha and it's fulfilled after twenty years, and it's published in Kfar Chabad magazine and everywhere else. The Rebbe gives a different guy a beracha, and it's never fulfilled, and no one hears about it.
A shliach follows the Rebbe's advice and sees miracles, and the whole world knows about it. A shliach follows the Rebbe's advice and fails, and his own family barely knows about it.
The Rebbe's shirt wreaks a miracle, and Yisroel Shemtov tells and retells the story. The Rebbe's kapote wreaks nothing, and nobody hears about it.

I'm not saying people should start publicizing non-miracles. Who would want to hear the exciting story about the time the Rebbe's kapote didn't make the heretic repent or about the time when the guy didn't find a shidduch? I'm just saying that you should be wary of accepting anecdotes as proof of anything, because you can be sure that there are lots of less exciting anecdotes that you aren't hearing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We Miss You, TRS!

I understand you're married and all that, but don't you have time for the important shtuff?