Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday's Musings on Sports - Peyton Passes, Yawns, Goes Back to Work

Last night I followed what has become a recent Sunday Night habit of trying to watch some of the Sunday Night football game. Often I do not have an opportunity to watch live football on Sunday due to work, family or shul obligations or some other "pressing issue" which arises. When my Jets were worth watching, I would record the Jet game and watch it later on double speed. As the Jets are anything but good lately (and had already lost in a Thursday Night game which I could not watch as it was on YT), I was looking forward to catching some of the Sunday Night game, after a long day of family and work. It did not hurt that the teams playing (SF and Denver) were teams which I really enjoy watching.

Before I even turned the game on, I knew that Peyton was closing in on Brett Favre's record for touchdown passes in a career, but I thought that it would be unlikely that it would happen against a stout defense like the SF 49ers. Still, I thought the game was worth watching, if only because it was Peyton and Colin K - two talented and very different QBs.

Well, after watching some of the second and third quarters, the game was no longer worth watching. Peyton threw three TD passes to eclipse the Favre record and then added another for good measure. The SF defense had no answer for the master tactician and SF could not get out of its own way on offense. By the start of the 4th Quarter, Denver was playing Brock Osweiler at QB and there was no reason to watch the rest of the game, so I turned it off ... but turned it back on to watch the post game show and the interviews with Peyton and other team representatives.

In watching the post game show, I was struck by how humble Peyton was, despite this incredible lifetime achievement. For QBs, there is no greater accomplishment than throwing TD passes. In surpassing Brett Favre, Peyton stands alone as the NFL's most prolific QB of all time. Yet when Peyton addressed the team he commented about how there was a "great team effort" as if the game was just another game, or the feat had been accomplished by his team in one game, rather than over the course of a Hall of Fame career.

Peyton's humility in the face of this accomplishment made be think about the gemara expression about one who works at a task and succeeds vs one who did not work at the task and claims that he has succeeded. Every year there are players drafted out of college who are proclaimed "the next great" player at any given position. But often these players do not pan out on the professional level. Sometimes this is due to a lack of skill, but more often than not it is the player being unwilling to devote the time to study and prepare for the game.

While driving to work this morning, I heard a piece of an interview with one of the Denver WRs who when asked whether they should be taking Peyton out to celebrate, responded that Peyton would probably prefer that they sit down and study game film. This is the consummate professional, although he has now ascended to the top of the list, he chooses to prepare for the next game instead of celebrating the accomplishment.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Night Suds - New Belgium Tour De Fall Pale Ale

This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at New Belgium's Tour De Fall Pale Ale.

Picked this beer up at Binny's (Skokie) while visiting Chicago for Sukkos. Although the Tour De Fall was not included in the mix your own six pack section, the staff was nice enough to allow me to mix it into my six pack from the shelves.

The Tour De Fall poured a dark orange with incredible lacing on the glass. There was good citrus and pine in the first sip which continued all the way through to the aftertaste. This is not the strongest American Pale Ale which I have ever tried, but although the flavors are not extremely pronounced, the beer is quite tasty. I would recommend this beer for someone looking to ease into Pale Ales from lagers. 

I enjoyed my Tour De Fall with an Asian chicken vegetable soup. The beer would probably go better with spicier fare, but it did not clash with the ginger accented soup.

New Belgium Tour De Fall Pale Ale 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 Tour De Fall Pale Ale 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 Tour De Fall Pale Ale, please follow this link 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 to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Night Suds - Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale

This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Stegmaier's Pumpkin Ale.

When the weather gets crisp and the sukkahs go up, its time for fall beers. For me, the two fall styles that I most enjoy are the Pumpkin Ales and the Octoberfest lagers. 

For those unfamiliar with Stegmaier, it is a line produced by Lion, a Northeast Pennsylvania brewery. As Stegmaier/Lion is not available in the NY metro area, I personally had never heard of this brewery until I recently read that it was under the kosher supervision of the OU.  During our family trip to Scranton, I saw a few varieties of Stegmaier/Lion available at a Wegman's where you could mix your own six pack, so I picked a few up to try.

After opening the Pumpkin Ale, the first thing that I was struck by was the overwhelming smell of pumpkin and cinnamon spice. I shared some with Mrs KB and she thought it tasted like a pumpkin pie in a bottle. Although the beer claims to be 5.5% abv, I don't taste any alcohol in the brew. Although there is negligible hop flavor to this beer, I would really not consider this an ale. Instead, the beer is a sweet (but not cloyingly sweet) brew which would do well in the sukkah with stuffed cabbage, sweet chicken with raisins or possible honey cake type desserts.

Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale is certified kosher by the OU, and there is an OU on the label. For the experts take on the Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale, please click here

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).

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thursday's Thoughts on Teshuva - aka The Erev Yom Kippur Recap of R' Frand's Teshuva Derasha - 5775/2014

The following is a summary of some of the thoughts said by Rabbi Frand in his teshuva derasha which was recorded Tuesday Night, but played tonight in the NY area. Same rules as usual apply. I have attempted to summarize many of the thoughts to the best of my abilities. Any inconsistencies are the results of my transcription and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Rabbi Frand began by speaking about the extraordinary need for support for Just One Life. [The teshuva derasha is annually recorded in Brooklyn as a benefit for this great organization. For more on Just One Life, please click here

Rabbi Frand began the derasha by noting that there is always a search for what to speak about for the derasha, but based on the events of the summer there is a clear topic.

There is a debate in Israel as to whether there was any gain from what occurred this summer. Did they stop too soon or too late. Did they go too far or not far enough.

R Frand said that he is not qualified to speak on the political topic, but remarked that there is a gain because we saw the hand of Hashem exposed and how we can deepen our emunah in Hashem. 

The Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos lists the first mitzvah -- to believe in Hashem as it is written in the Aseres Hadibros as the first dibbur. But how can there be a mitzvah to believe? Those who believe don’t need a mitzvah and those who don’t believe wont follow anyway!

The Rambam answers this question in the Yad Hachazakah where he explains that the mitzvah of emunah is to turn faith into fact. Each one of us is born with a sense of faith in a higher power. It is as though we are hard wired for this from birth.

Some meforshim see this in a pasuk that man was created "yashar." But people get messed up because of their learning and desires. 

R’ Frand quoted a source from a secular publication which states that research has shown that faith is so deep that it cannot be expunged. He quoted the maxim – there are no atheists in a fox hole and then paraphrased "there are no atheists at Sloan Kettering." Even militant atheists will pray in a time of great stress. 

For Jews its in our spiritual DNA, because just as we have chesed in our DNA from Avraham which pervades all Jews even those who are secular and join the forefront of social movements to do chesed. But Avraham has also given us faith, but it must be cultivated or it will become dormant. 

How do we turn faith into fact? I don’t believe that I have five fingers, I know that I do and can count them. How do I do the same with faith? 

Rabbi Frand gave a number of suggestions - the first was to look for Hashem in history, nature and every day life. The Rabbeinu B’Chaya says that Olam (world) is connected to Ne’elam (hidden). Hashem hides himself in nature and it is our job to find him. 

By example, this past June 6th we commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Dwight David Eisenhower had millions of soldiers and sailors, seven thousand boats and twelve thousand planes. The invasion was supposed to be 6/5 but he changed it to 6/6 because of weather. The commander of the German force was to be Rommel – the desert fox. Historians say that he was greater in prowess than any other military leader. Rommel knew the weather was bad and thought that there would not be an invasion for a few days, so he went to spend the time with his wife … and missed D-Day. Should it be deemed as luck? 

Hitler yimach shemo had a custom to sleep at from 3 AM to noon, but he was personally put in charge of the tanks supporting the beach. D-Day occurred at 5 AM and no one had the audiacity to wake him, so he missed D-Day. Luck? Or something else - Hashem's hand hidden in nature.

Colonel Ofer Winter was the leader of the Givati force which was supposed to invade Gaza at night but he was delayed and he did not go forward at night. The next day there was fog instead of night. Luck? 

You can see a sunrise or sunset and say its nature…or you can see the hand of Hashem. 

R' Frand mentioned that Yuri Gargarin in 1961 was the first man to orbit the earth and sent down pictures from space and the leader of Russia said I saw G-d nowhere. R’ Gifter ztl looked at the pictures and said I saw Hashem everywhere. 

R’ Chazkel L kept a daily diary of how he saw Hashem in his life. This makes a person a real ma’amin. R' Chazkel said that the fact that the Mirrer yeshiva survived WWII intact (the only yeshiva to do so) was a greater miracle than the story of Purim. This was not his Megillas Esther, this was his Megillas Yechezkel. And there must be a Megillas each person. Each person needs to write down the miracles they saw and write their own personal megillah. 

R’ Frand then quoted facts from the war in Gaza which show the hand of Hashem. Hamas had plans that terrorists would pop up from the terror tunnels and kidnap and kill hundreds of people on Rosh Hashanah. Had they been successful the Jewish world would have been in mourning. In perspective, they got so much in exchange for Gilad Shalit, they could have asked for so much more in exchange for the potential hundreds. 

Why was this thwarted? Three yeshiva boys were kidnapped. Israel arrested Hamas operatives. Hamas sent hundreds of rockets into Israel and Israel responded with airstrikes. They were offered many cease fires and turned them all down. If they had sense, they would have accepted the cease fire and waited. But Hamas then defied logic by using the terror tunnels which exposed them to Israel and forced Israel to invade – how could they be so stupid and expose their secret weapon? Was it luck? Were they stupid? 

Why does Hitler sleep, why does Rommel sing Happy Birthday to his wife, why does fog descend on Gaza and why does Hamas use their secret weapon? Luck or the hand of Hashem? 

Hamas shot 4,000 rockets into Israel but there were only six civilian fatalities - a miracle. Yes there was the iron dome, but how effective could it be? It only had a 90% success rate. Do the math – only six fatalities? This is greater than the miracle of Purim.

When the Jews of Purim were saved they had a renewed acceptance of the Torah. What can be our reaction to the exposing of the Yad Hashem. This was clearly Lo Yanum V'Lo Yishan. Look for Hashem in history, nature and every day life.

Chazal gave us other tools to become bigger ma’aminim. They said think about Hashem 100 x a day and you will become a greater believer. How? I email 100x a day. I txt 100x a day. How do we do it? Make 100 berachos a day as we learn from the gemara "Mah Hashem Elochecha Shoel" – we learn  from this to make meah - 100 - berachos. 

You will say - I make 100 berachos but it does nothing for me. How do we learn and appreciate the brochos? R' Frand remarked - what is the first berocha that we make in the morning after the birchas hashcahr? The shekahol on the coffee. Taste the coffee, smell the coffee, who gave you the ability to do so? Feel the brocha. 

How about the bracha of asher yatzar, the lowest of berachos. The language of the bracha is a description of how the body functions. But as noted by Dr Prager at Columbia Presbyterian that when he was young he thought the beracha was funny, but after seeing patients with colostomy bags and dialysis, he learned the value of the ability to do this. 

Dr.  Prager told a story of Josh who was 20 and injured in a car accident. He recovered some use of limbs, but it took a while before he could stop needing a catheter. When Josh stopped using the catheter, he told Josh to make Asher Yatzar. He agreed and when he recited the beracha tears welled up in his eyes, as Josh was his son. 

R’ Frand said that he was stopped on his way out of a shiur and was told a story by a man whose mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (lo aleinu) and the family accepted on themselves to say the beracha standing still. 

R’ Shimon Schwab when he left the hospital after visiting the sick would ask whether there was a Simon Schwab in the hospital. They would check and say no. He said are you sure and they would say yes. He would walk out of the hospital and say Baruch Hashem, I am healthy. 

R’ Frand noted that there is a less formal way to make Hashem real. He quoted Chassidim who say He’emanti Ki Adaber – the more I talk about Hashem it becomes real. He quoted his daughter who works in a Bobov Cheder and had to learn a Chassidish Yiddish. In the course of therapy for a child she said to the child – don’t lose the pieces from the game because I will be sad. The child responded – why be sad – gam zo l’tovah. 

R' Frand observed that if we were bigger ma’aminim it would change our lives. The gemara in Shabbos says that after 120 years there will be a test – the "final, final." There are six questions, but four of them are the fundamentals of being a Jew – did you make time to learn, try to have kids, find time to learn Torah daily and did you believe in Moshiach. But one of the questions is – did you cheat in business? Why is this one of the questions?

R' Frand answered that the question is Hashem's way of asking – do you believe in me, because if so, you would not cheat in business. This is true faith.

R’ Frand quoted a story from R’ Reich who heard it from his father in law R’ Schneir Kotler. When R’ Kotler was young he spent a shabbos with Slonim Chassidim. He was blown away by their hislahavus for Shabbos and the ruach and deveikus. He returned on Sunday and told his father about his incredible Shabbos. His father asked – tell me one thing - will they be more honest in their business on Sunday? If yes, then I am impressed. If not, then it does not mean much.

R' Frand observed that the Aseres HaDibros begins with a high level of theology – I am Hashem, but it ends with don’t be jealous – his car, his house, his wife, his salary. This is emunah – don’t be jealous of the neighbors' new car or kitchen or vacation.

The Rikanti (a Rishon) says that all of the mitzvos in the Torah can be found in two words – Lo Sachmod – don’t be jealous.

R’ Frand said that with more faith, people would be less angry and less frustrated, because living with real emunah means accepting that this is what Hashem wants. If you want a great example, just look at Mrs Frankel – the mother of Naftali o’h. Because the way that she acted and her faith is one of the greatest example of how to show faith and to live with emunah.

We know now in retrospect how things were. The Israeli authorities knew that the boys must have been killed and she must have assumed that they were gone. But throughout the time that the boys were missing, she was serene and expressed faith. When Mrs Frankel was approached by little girls at the Kotel and she said to them – I want you to promise me that no matter what, don’t be crushed by what happens. Hashem is not our employee, He does not always do what we wish. But she was serene throughout and that comes from emunah.

We are able to live with emunah when all is going well, but in every life there are difficulties and we need to turn to Him. If we have faith when all is well, we can turn to Him when times are dark.

R' Frand made reference to a story involving R’ Yeruchum Lebovits. He was in a hotel in Warsaw and there was a sudden blackout and he had to walk down four flights of stairs in the dark and he made it down by holding onto the banister. He gave a shmooze - emunah is like a banister - when it is dark you need to walk down holding onto the banister.

There is a gemara in the end of Makkos which states that the manhigim of generations distilled the Torah down to principles – David to 11, Yechezkel to 6 and Chababkuk to 1 – Tzaddik B’Emunaso Yichyeh.

If I was a bigger ma’amin I would be less angry, less frustrated, because Hashem is right there. The same way that a person would not be angry in public, because people will see, our emunah would be different and our actions would be different.

R’ Frand told a story from Ner Israel in the 60s/70s. There was a boy in the Yeshiva on the Saturday night of Shabbos Shuva who went to shoot pool. R' Frand quipped that shooting pool is not a great sin, but on the Saturday night of Shabbos Shuva? The boy was called into the office of the mashgiach (R' DovidK.) who asked the boy – do you believe in Hashem, because if you do, how can you go shoot pool on the Saturday Night of Shabbos Shuva? For him this was real and Hashem was there.

Everything should change if you saw what happened in Gaza. A soldier on an iron dome battery saw a missile heading towards the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv. They fired a missile at the rocket and it missed. A second missile fired at the rocket missed. He called emergency services and told them – there is going to be a tragedy. Then the rocket went off course on its own and into the Mediterranean. He yelled out – yesh Elokim, yesh Elokim - there is Hashem. That should have been our reaction.

R' Frand closed by observing that we saw this summer how alone the Jewish people are. We saw the riots in France and demonstrations in England. R' Frand said that he was in Central Europe and saw that they needed armed guards to protect kosher restaurants. Europe will become Eurabia. And the US State department criticized Israel for firing at a school from which rockets were fired and said they are appalled. They are appalled, but what would they do if 4000 rockets were fired from Mexico – would they use restraint? Can this happen here in America? What is the answer - the geulah.

Chazal say that the Jews only came out of Egypt because of their emunah. Yitziat Mitzrayim is the paradigm and template of all future geulos. And it all came because of emunah and that is what we must work on.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday's Musings on Mussar - An Aseres Yimei Teshuva Thought

While the Monday Night post usually reflects a Sports/Torah crossover, I occasionally deviate from the format during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva (10 days of repentance) to discuss a derasha or thought that I had read which I found inspiring. Here is a brief summary of one such thought.

On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, there is a custom to eat foods which have symbolic significance including fish, carrots, pomegranates, celery (my sister claimed that it should be eaten with raisins as a segulah for parnasah), dates, beets and of course apples dipped in honey.

When eating the carrots/pomegranates there is a prayer which is said that Hashem should increase our zechuyus (loosely translated as good deeds). The Sefer "Shalal Rav" asks  - how can we pray that our good deeds should increase if its within our hands? On a similar note, the prayers during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva ask that we should be inscribed in the book of good deeds. But again, isn't this in our hands?

The Shalal Rav answers by making reference to the story of how King Shaul utilized a necromancer to raise the spirit of the Navi Shmuel in order to ask him a question. When Shmuel came "up" he was scared and the meforshim explains that the reason he was scared was that he was concerned about facing a judgment day. The meforshim ask - but wasn't he already judged when he died? They answer that every year after a person dies, he is judged as to the results of his actions - if he inspired others to do mitzvos he will receive reward. But if he inspired others to sin the results are not so positive. Shmuel was afraid that he was facing this judgment.

The Shalal Rav explains that when we ask to have our zechuyus increased, we are asking that those who we inspired should be given opportunities to utilize what they learned from us so that our zechuyus will increase.

The concept actually ties into a gemara in Chagigah 22a (last Tuesday's daf yomi!) which discusses how a tzaddik can have places in two worlds and a rosha could as well. The gemara explains that a tzaddik who inspires others to do good earns his place in the world to come, as well as piece of those who he has inspired. Similarly, the rasha picks up his place below and a piece of those who he inspires.

The concept ties into a story that I heard from R' Zev Cohen of Adas Yeshurun. when I was in Chicago over Pesach. The story involved R' Meir Shapiro, the formulator of the daf yomi cycle. As related by R' Cohen, soon after the Rosh Hashanah when the first daf yomi cycle began, R' Shapiro received a letter from his sister. She wrote that she had a dream the first night of Rosh Hashanah that their mother was being honored in shamayim and was wearing a crown. The obvious correlation that the sister drew was that because R' Shapiro had initiated the daf yomi cycle that Rosh Hashanah, whereby many people would become a system of learning gemara, their mother was being honored for his actions.

However, R' Cohen explained that there was more to the story. When R' Shapiro was a seven year old boy, his mother hired a tutor to come and learn with him because he was so far ahead of his classmates. 

One day, his family moved from one city to another and his mother arranged to have a new tutor come to their house in the new city on the day that they arrived. After unpacking, the mother sat with young R' Meir waiting for the tutor. As the hours wore on R' Shapiro's mother broke down and started crying. When he asked her why she was crying, she explained - "it's a day without Torah, its a day without learning."

It was this lesson which R' Cohen believed was the motivation for R' Shapiro to begin the daf yomi program so that no day would be without Torah. Is it any wonder that his mother was honored in shamayim because she had inspired her son to create a daily learning program?

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Belated Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Ginger Pale Ale

This week's belated Sunday Night Suds looks at Saranac's Ginger Pale Ale (aka GPA).

Although the Sunday night post is always reserved for a beer review, I just could not contemplate opening a beer last night as our Sunday night dinner was the break fast for the Jewish fast day of Tzom Gedalyah.

As  I have detailed in past posts, when I was younger I used to be able to eat a meat meal after a fast, but I am finding as I get older that I just can't stomach that anymore (no pun...well maybe pun intended). As such, we have been making it a habit of having dairy meals for the breakfast. Even with this lighter fare, I admit that I was not up to beering last night, so the SNS post is making a belated appearance on Monday.

But enough about my digestive proclivities, since the average reader not related to the KB family does not come to this blog to read about my eating habits.

The Saranac Ginger Pale Ale is another of  the beers included in this past summer's "12 Beers of Summer" variety pack. The other beers included in this box were the Wild Hop Pils (reviewed here; Cloud Splitter (reviewed here; Jugglernaut (reviewed here; Kolsch (reviewed here and Session IPA.

Although I put off drinking the GPA until tonight due to my concerns coming out of the fast, there really was no reason to worry. The GPA is first and foremost a ginger beverage and I was unable to finish my drink this evening due to the strong ajax/floor cleanser flavor emanating from the brew. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy ginger flavored beers (see my review of the Shiner Ruby Redbird here - However, the strong ginger flavor makes this beer undrinkable in anything other than small sips. At least there is only one other bottle of it in the mix box, so I can try to pass it off on some unsuspecting soul...

Saranac GPA is under the Kosher Supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit as is every other beer produced at the Matt Brewery plant in Utica, NY. Keep in mind, Saranac brews some of its High Peaks series off site and these bottles do not have kosher certification from the Va'ad of Detroit.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about the GPA, please follow this link

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 to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!