Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday's Musings on Sports - Unwritten Rules

On Sunday a story broke about Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis, who lost his cool after Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus laid down a bunt when the shift was on. Lewis explained afterwards that Rasmus has broken one of the "unwritten rules of baseball" but no one seems to have bought it.

In addition to the overstuffed official rule book of baseball, there are certain "unwritten rules" which have developed over time. Some of these rules are gentlemanly, such as don't bunt to try to break up a no-hitter. Others are more like rules of engagement - if you hit one of our guys with a pitch, we will hit one of yours. Still others are superstitious, such as - don't mention a no-hitter while it is still in progress.

While the above mentioned rules are well known, the Colby Lewis rule of not bunting to the opposite side while a shift is in process is simply foreign to me. If a team is going to put all or most of its fielders on one side of the infield because the hitter has a tendency to hit to that side, why shouldn't the hitter force the issue by bunting the ball the other way.

I can recall how when my daughter Yael was in little league, she would hit everything to the left of the outfield. The coach of our rival team began to deploy all his fielders on the left side from the edge of the outfield grass and back a good forty feet. Although Yael and I practiced directional hitting, they were able to contain her by keeping the fielders on the left side...until the championship game when she hit the ball to the right and easily scored.

Its ironic to me that in a sport where the rule book is so thick and is constantly updated when players try to bend the rules, there is such high regard for the unwritten rules. To draw a parallel to Torah, there are halachos (laws) and there are minhagim which are customs that developed over time. The minhagim are not biblical or rabbinic laws, but people seem to honor the customs almost more than the laws themselves. Indeed, there is a statement which I have heard attributed to more than one Rabbi that if "Do not steal" was a custom, it would be more widely kept...

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Night Suds - Big Eddy Imperial IPA


This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Big Eddy Imperial IPA.

As I have written before, the name Big Eddy does not conjure images of class or refinement, yet this is the name chosen by Leinenkugel for their premium line of beers. I know that it may seem that I am fixated with this topic, but its tough to take a beer seriously when it makes me think of a bald old bus driver I had, but I digress...

I picked up this beer in the Total Wine store in Delaware. Total Wine is one the better national chain beer/liquor stores as they have a fantastic selection with decent prices, no matter which state that you shop in. When leaving Baltimore on a Sunday I could not stop in my Total Wine store of choice (Towson) as they observe blue laws and do not open on Sundays. But since my GPS informed me that the Claymont, Delaware store was not far off I-95, I made a stop in and loaded up on quality beer at excellent prices.

The Big Eddy Imperial IPA poured a very dark orange with a decent amount of lacing. The hops were present and they melded well with the complex alcohol flavor that comes with a beer which is 8.2 abv. The beer is not the kind of brew that you would drink quickly as it is meant to be savored. I tried mine with Andrew S. (aka the Tzaddik of Camp M from prior years' posts) on a Shabbos afternoon. As we had this after a post lunch shiur, there was no accompanying food, but I could see pairing this with a good steak.

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Imperial IPA is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, and has an OU on the label. To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about this beer, please follow this link http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/710/35806

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable). 

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click http://www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Matos

Normally, the Thursday night parsha post on this blog slot contains a thought said over by R' Frand in his Thursday Night shiur. Since the shiur is now on hiatus through Elul, I have reprinted my summary of a prior year's shiur that R' Frand gave on Parshas Matos. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Parsha Matos begins with Moshe telling the heads of the tribes about nedarim. This is out of the ordinary as a parsha usually begins "and Hashem told Moshe to say [to the Jews]." However in this parsha Moshe speaks directly to the roshei matos without the Torah specifying that the source was from Hashem. The language of roshei hamatos is also unique as the Torah usually describes the people as nesi'im, not as roshei hamatos.

Rabbi Frand quoted R' Alpert who cited the Rashbam in Chukas about the maa'aseh meriva. In this parsha, Moshe is told to pick up the mateh and then later told to talk to the rock. Ultimately, Moshe is punished for using the staff, rather than speaking to the rock. But why is he told to pick up the staff in the first place? The answer Rabbi Frand gave is that Hashem was trying to teach Moshe a lesson about how to interact with the Jewish people. Hashem instructs - there are two ways to interact and influence the Jews, either by speaking to them or by hitting them. This time, the lesson is that the pen (or in this case the spoken word) is mightier than the sword.

When Hashem tells Moshe to take the staff, Hashem is saying take the staff, but then go and talk to the Jews. Hashem attempts to teach Moshe a lesson that every leader and Rebbi or Rov must know - you don't need the stick. You can have as much impact by speaking.

Matos is a parsha about speech - nedarim. A person can have a Rabbinically certified kosher meat sandwich, but if he has sworn that that he will not eat meat, then it is as great a sin to eat the sandwich as if he has eaten not kosher food. This is the power of speech. Therefore the parsha begins with Moshe telling the roshei hamatos, because Moshe has learned the power of speech and he can then instruct the leaders of sticks that they can lead with power or with speech, but leading with speech is much more effective.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday's Musings on Sports - If James is a King, is Melo Gold?

For the last two weeks, basketball fans were waiting to see which way the ball would bounce. Two all world players - Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony had become free agents and the potential suitors were lining up. Meanwhile, there were many other good players who had also become free agents, but teams were not jumping to sign them as the league was waiting to see where James and Melo would land.

On late Friday afternoon, James announced that he had decided to go back to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, even though he was "leaving money on the table" since the Miami Heat could have paid him more money had he stayed in Miami. But for Lebron, this was not about the money alone. In announcing his decision to return to Cleveland, Lebron penned an article for Sports Illustrated wherein he explained his need to return to his hometown. One of the more poignant statements he made was:

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

In sharp contrast to Lebron James is the story of the ultimate me first player, Carmelo Anthony (why do the Knicks seem to be a magnet for these types of players). Melo has never won a championship and has not even gotten out of the second round in the three years that he has been a Knick. Yet when faced with a chance to leave for the Chicago Bulls, a team with a real possibility of reaching the NBA Finals, Anthony opted to take the team offering the most money (the NY Knicks) even though they may not even make the playoffs next year.

The idea of making choices based on ideals vs money is hardly a new concept. But at some point, one needs to ask - when is it enough money? When can the player make a sacrifice in order to join a team which has a chance to win the ultimate prize?

The concept of making tough choices, even with the possibility of losing financial status is a central concept in Torah thought. I recently heard a shiur from R' Mansour on learntorah.com wherein he observed that Yocheved had the most nachas (loosely translated as pride in the acts of one's children) of anyone in the Torah. Indeed, Yocheved saw her children become the leader of the Jews, the Kohain Gadol and a significant prophetess. Why did Yocheved merit this reward? Because she risked her life to deliver babies in Egypt. But the question can be asked - what kind of life could the children have if they were born into slavery? The answer could be that even though the life ahead for these children was tough, the selfless act of delivering the children in the face of certain punishment and giving the children the chance to live as Jews and do Hashem's will merited a great reward.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Night Suds - New Belgium Summer Helles Lager


This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at New Belgium's Summer Helles Lager.

As has mentioned here before, the style of beer known as Helles is actually short for Munich Helles Lager. The experts at BA explain that Helles arose:

When the golden and clean lagers of Plzen (Bohemia) became all the rage in the mid-1800's, M√ľnchen brewers feared that Germans would start drinking the Czech beer vs. their own. Munich Helles Lager was their answer to meet the demand. A bit more malty, they often share the same spicy hop characters of Czech Pils, but are a bit more subdued and in balance with malts. "Helles" is German for "bright."

The American Summer Helles which I have tried have uniformly lacked the hop character of a Czech Pils, but do have some other similarities to pilsners as they are bright yellow in color with a crispness which cleanses the palate. The New Belgium Summer Helles Lager follow along this track as it poured a pale yellow, almost straw in color. The beer lacked much in the way of bite (hop and/or alcohol) but was crisp and refreshing.

I enjoyed the New Belgium Summer Helles with a bag of NoTatoes Cassava Tortilla Chips. The beer meshed well with the salty cassava chips and provided the perfect late snack following an intense zimriyah at Camp M.

New Belgium Helles is under the Kosher Supervision of the Scroll-K of Colorado. Although the beer does not bear the kosher symbol on the label, I have verified its kashruth with the Scroll-K and it is listed on the LOC. Often times, a kosher symbol can be found on the bottom of the six pack holder for New Belgium products. Unfortunately, I did not buy a six pack of this beer, so I could not verify that it is found on the bottom of the Helles Lager six pack holder.

Please note that not every brew produced by New Belgium is under kosher supervision. For a list of the New Belgium brews currently under supervision, please click on the link on the left side of my home page for my latest Kosher Beer List.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about New Belgium Helles Lager, please follow this link beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/192/116586. As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

Finally, if you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Pinchas

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Those who are familiar with the general format of R' Frand's Thursday Night Shiur are aware that there is usually a 40 minute halacha portion followed by 20 minutes of parsha vorts. Tonight R' Frand began his shiur with the 40 minutes of halacha, but then introduced two stories from the shiva for Naftali Frankel o'h before R' Frand spoke about the parsha. I have summarized the stories below following the parsha vort.

R Frand quotes Bamidbar 25:17 which states that the Jews should take revenge against the Midyanim. The Medrash observes that a person who causes a person to sin is worse than killing him. A person who kills causes the victim to lose his life in this world, but the victim keeps his reward in Olam Haba. A person who leads another to sin hurts the victim both in this world and in Olam Haba.

The Medrash observes that there are two sets of enemies who are treated differently. Egypt and Edom are subjected to punishment but are not banned because they attacked the Jews physically, but there is no requirement to hate them. However, Amon and Moab are on the permanent enemies list and they are rejected by Hashem because they attempted to seduce the Jews.

The Medrash then says that a person who has mercy on an Amoni or Moabi will be pained and suffer as a result. (R' Frand remarked - don't be frummer than the Torah). The Medrash notes that David went against the rule and was mencachem aveil by Chanan ben Nachash, an Amoni. David was later punished and his emissaries attacked by Amoni. The lesson was - don't make your own decisions to go further than the Torah.

R' Frand closed this part of the vort by making reference to a story a told in Otzros HaTorah about when R' Moshe Feinstein ztl was living in Luban in Russia. There was a man in the city who was a moser and would routinely turn Jews over to the communist government. When the man died, he left a letter which contained a request that the burial society not give him a proper Jewish burial. He wrote that he felt bad about how he acted during his lifetime and that the lack of proper burial would be a way to atone for his acts.

The members of the burial society came to R' Moshe and asked what they should do. He responded that the Torah requires that all Jews receive a proper burial. The members of the society protested that this man was evil and that he did not deserve the burial and that if he wanted this to be an atonement they should do as he requested. R' Moshe stood firm and said that you cannot go against the Torah.

A few days after the burial, the Russian government sent representatives to the cemetery and asked to have the man exhumed. The cemetery complied and the man's body was removed, studied and then reburied. 

It was later learned that the man had left a letter for the Russian government wherein he wrote that the Jews have no respect for the government and that they would be punishing the man by not giving him a proper burial.

But R' Moshe prevented this action by following the tried and true rule - you don't go against halacha. 

The levaya stories follow below:

R' Frand read an email that he received from someone who had been present at the shiva and heard  the following story. When the boys were still missing, someone suggested that they perform the Goral Ha'Gra in order to locate the boys. A Rav Elyashiv (possibly R' Elyashiv's grandson) was selected and he performed the goral and it landed on Sefer Shoftim 15:9. The pasuk there says that the Philistines came up to the land of Judah and they spread out in a place called Lechi.

Now that they had the location they needed to find the place called Lechi. Unfortunately, no one knew where Lechi was. Mr. Frankel contacted a tanach authority - R' Yoel Ben Nun. Rabbi Ben Nun said that he checked his tanach and he had a question mark next to the place Lechi, and that he did not know where it was. Mr. Frankel then said, "now sadly we know where Lechi was."

R' Frand also told a story which was heard from Mrs Frankel during the shiva. Mrs Frankel related that their son had always been vigilant to daven daily and to always wear proper tefillin. Mrs. Frankel said that during the 18 day period that the boys were missing she was very upset. Once the boys had been found and she learned that the boys had been killed immediately, she had a nechama as her son died without missing a day of davening with tefillin.

Hashem Yinkom Dameihim.

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