Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday Night Suds - Baderbrau Oktoberfest

This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Baderbrau Oktoberfest.

Once September turned into October the Sunday Nights are almost all YT, but not this week of the Aseres Yimei Teshuva as this is the only Sunday Night before the chagim end which is not a Jewish holiday. With that kind of narrow window, I had to squeeze one Oktoberfest in. So I chose Baderbrau - the local Chicago brewery which recently has gone kosher.

My Baderbrau Oktoberfest was poured from a 12 oz can (which had been chilling for about a week in my fridge) into a pint glass. But even with some angling, the beer had about an inch and half of foam on top of the glass. The first few sips were week toffee as I really needed to wait for the beer to settle before I could get a good appreciation for the brew. After the glass had sat for about fifteen minutes, the marzen started to come out and the malts took center stage.

An Oktoberfest is not a heavy beer and I would not attempt to pair this with a heavy, saucy or smoky dish. But it would go nicely with pizza, spaghetti and meatballs and other comfort food.

Baderbrau Oktoberfest is certified kosher by the CRC and there is a CRC logo on the label. To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about this brew, please follow this link

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).

Also, if you are reading this post more than six months after it was written, please note that it is possible that the product is no longer still certified kosher. To verify that the product is still certified kosher, please click on the kosher beers list link on the top left corner of the blog.

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The Second Half of the R' Frand Teshuva Derasha - 5777

The following is a continuation of the summary of some of the thoughts said by Rabbi Frand in his teshuva derasha played Thursday night in the NY area. The first half of the derasha can be found here 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.

R' Frand said that he gave this derasha in Lakewood to some Panamanians who had come up to be in Lakewood for three days. The shiur was attended by some Syrians from Flatbush who said that among their peer group they made a deal that they would leave their smartphones in the car and transfer their calls to a flip phone which would be brought into the house.

R' Frand talked about how during the summer he was part of a tour which went to Lithuania and Poland. They visited Ponovich which is now a bakery and cafe. They visited Telshe and while the building still stands on the outside, inside the building is falling apart.

They also visited concentration camps and R' Frand said that he was concerned about what reaction he would have, or whether there would be an impact on him. He said that the greatest reaction he had was when he went to the Kelem and visited the Kever Achim of Kelem.

R' Frand quoted a book from R' Dessler about Kelem which described it as a place with a concern for one's fellow man, an abhorrence of honor, a pursuit of truth and a place of menuchas hanefesh - serenity. This was the most prized of all spiritual achievements - always be calm and avoid anything that could lead to distraction or confusion. R' Frand that he envied that, although he said that he could not have lasted a day there. He said that a marching band once marched by the yeshiva and only one boy looked up - and he was chastised as it was not his concern.

R' Frand told the story of the end of the yeshiva - July 25, 1941. The boys from the yeshiva were told to march to a place in the forest and dig a massive grave. R' Schechter describes that the boys walked and sang Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu - a song of happiness, often sung on Simchas Torah. There was no panic or outbursts. The masghgiach -  R' Daniel Moshowitz asked for permission to address the boys and was granted permission. He told them that they were like the Asarah Harugei Malchu - a kaparah for the whole world so that it could continue to exist. The executioner was losing patience and told him to finish up. R' Moshowitz then told the people let us be neither confused or frightened, but rather let us accept on ourselves this awesome responsibility. He then turned to the executioner and said I have finished, now you can begin. He mowed them down and they fell into the pit. That was the end of the yeshiva. 

R' Frand remarked that was the result of a life born out of a purposeful existence. A life of being a good Jew. We need to avoid distractions and live a purposeful existence.

R' Frand noted that at the end of Yom Kippur we blow shofar. This connects back to Rosh Hashana and the shofar, but the laws of shofar on Rosh Hashana are learned from the laws of shofar of Yovel. The laws of something that is done every year was learned out of an event that took place every fifty years - an event which we have not even observed in 2000 years. Why? Because that is an event which is freedom - which frees us from the shackles which enslave us. R' Hai Gaon says the last shofar on Yom Kippur is meant to remind us of Yovel - of being free from our various yetzer hara. 

R' Frand said that we can take a step towards that freedom by controlling our smartphones and not to become enslaved. And when we hear the shofar on Yom Kippur we can say - I am not a slave to the master in my pocket and can take steps towards freeing ourselves from our various and difficult yetzer haras.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursday's Thoughts on Teshuva aka Recap of the R' Frand Teshuva Derasha 5777 - Part I

The following is a summary of some of the thoughts said by Rabbi Frand in his teshuva derasha 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.

R Frand prefaced the shiur by stating that the derasha would be unlike any conventional teshuva derasha in that it was not quoting or resolving issues in the Rambam Hilchos Teshuva or the Sha'are Teshuva. Instead he likened it to a statement by Rav Huttner who said that Teshuva does not merely mean becoming better, its about changing one's behavior. He said that he hoped that by hearing this shiur we can change our behavior.

R' Frand then introduced the shiur as being about the danger of smartphones. Not because of the content or the epidemic of smartphone use in shuls. But what smartphones are doing to our daily lives.

R' Frand hypothesized about what a person who went off to a desert island in 2000 would think when he returned in 2016. Not that the person was unaware of phones or the internet, but about the ubiquitous nature of cell phones and what they do to our daily lives.

R' Frand talked about how he and his wife would take a daily 45 minute walk during the summer. Since Baltimore is so hot and humid during the summer, they walked at the mall. Each floor takes approximately ten minutes to walk so they were able to get their walk in every day when the mall was quiet and had just opened. Except when they passed a particular store where people are lined up with a twenty five minute from the time that the store opened - the Apple store.

R' Frand said that research has shown that people check their phones every 6 minutes. There was an experiment where people were told that they would be isolated and could give themselves electro shocks if they were bored. They then had their cell phones taken away. And within seven minutes a sizable number of people shocked themselves. All because they did not have their cell phones.

R' Frand remarked that this did not begin overnight, but it did happen over a few years.

R' Frand quoted an op ed from the NY Times written by a Major who talked about the military and the Band of Brothers mentality. He wrote about the difference between his time in Iraq in 2003 and 2008. In 2003 they walked together and talked together and discussed everything. Contact with the outside world was infrequent and was mostly letters and occasional phone calls. 

When he returned in 2008, Iraq was a completely different mentality. The men all had cell phones and internet access. They spent their free time in the base's internet lab, updating their Facebook walls and accounts. The men who previously were tight and together were fighting over decisions. He remarked - we went from being a band of brothers to a band of tweeters.

R' Frand said that this problem manifests in the Yeshiva world too. A mashgiach remarked that its harder to reach boys because they require instant gratification - they are all interested in their screens. He asked a boy - do you discuss your problems with your friends on Facebook. The boy responded that he was not interested in other people's problems, he just wanted to know what was going on.

R' Frand spoke of another mashgiach who said that he would take in boys from any form of background who wanted to do teshuva - as long as they did not bring their cell phones. He remarked that if they bring their phones, then he can't reach them because he can't talk to them.

R' Frand talked about speaking with a man from Manhattan who had a son and daughter in Yeshivos in Israel. The son had a good year and made close friends, the daughter did not. The boys' school banned cell phones, but the girl's school allowed them.

R' Frand noted that we are not surprised by this, because we adjust and get used to things. He quoted the Rav who called it the people's ability or middah to adjust. But this is not necessarily a good thing.

R' Frand quoted the Brisker Rav on Nitzvaim (29:16) - which talks about the repugnant avodah zarah, wood and stone and gold and silver. The Brisker Rav asked - which one was it? Was it disgusting, or wood and stone or gold and silver? He answered that initially people were repulsed and found it disgusting, but then it became tolerable like wood and stone and eventually, desirable.

R' Frand quoted a book by Professor Sherry Turkel (sp) at MIT who talked about how cell phones are destroying humanity. The cell phone takes away our ability to empathize as people text and email and don't see others face to face - making it impossible to empathize. This manifests itself in job interviews - where employers report that the post smartphone era candidates don't know how to converse in the interview.

But R' Frand posed a question near and dear to parents - how on Earth are these people going to get married? If you don't know how to talk to the other person how can you get married? The basis of marriage is communication!

R' Frand quoted the Professor who discussed the impact of smartphones on parenting. At the park, parents aren't watching their kids, they are looking at their smartphones. 

R' Frand mentioned a conversation with a man from New Jersey who was taking his son to his hockey game and realized that he had left his cell phone at home. He said to the boy - "for the first time in 15 years I left my phone at home." The boy responded - "then maybe this time you will watch my game." R' Frand remarked that this event had more of an impact on the man than fifteen shmoozes.

R' Frand again quoted the Professor who stated that the most frightening aspect of the cell phone was stated by her co-worker who called the cellphone her "tiny God.". R' Frand compared this to a Gemara in Shabbos which discussed Gidon's destruction of all the avodah zarahs. The people then made tiny idols in the form of flies and kept them in their pockets and took them out to kiss and hug.

R' Frand said that we don't view the cell phone as a G-d, but we do feel enslaved to our cell phones. Perhaps we should think of this when we say the Beracha "Shelo Asani Aved" - because we need to ask ourselves - can we find a moment of peace? Or do we need to constantly check our phone and be enslaved to it..

[This reminded me how R' Meir Goldvicht used to joke that a Blackberry in Hebrew is Eved Ivri].

R' Frand said that this was why he wanted to give a shiur about this topic - because as a Jew we are a nation of modest people, a kind and giving and emphasizing people. And if cell phones make us less able to empathize and less able to understand and be compassionate, then they are destroying our spiritual DNA.

The Torah states that Hashem chose Avraham, because He knew that Avraham would give over to his children and grandchildren the Mesorah. And if we as parents are only half involved, because our children's needs are secondary to our email or text messages or other things on our cell phones, then we are failing in this role and damaging our relationships.

R' Frand quoted R' Yaakov Kaminetzky who remarked on the Gemara -- which states that Yosef refrained from being with the wife of Potiphar because he saw the image of his father in the window and said to himself - how can I do this to my father? R' Kaminetsky observed that this will only work if there is a relationship and a love between the father and son or mother and daughter.

R' Frand told a story about a man who came to Israel with nothing and became one of the greatest ba'alei batim in a shul in Petach Tikva. They asked the man how he rose to this level and how he raised children who were talmidei chachamim, even though he came after WWII with nothing.

The man explained that he had been on a kinder transport from Austria. When his father brought him to the station early in the morning, they sat in mostly silence. But when his father put him on the train he said to him in yiddish (translated) "be a good Jew".  And when the train was leaving the station, the man walked along the platform and repeated again "be a good Jew." And as the train picked up speed, the man ran alongside and shouted the same phrase...until he tripped and fell and landed on his face. And from the ground, the last words he yelled to his son were "be a good Jew." The man said that these words were always in his head and that he lived that life so that he would not let his father down. But we can only do that if we have a relationship with our children.

R' Frand added that we as Jews also need to be concerned that smartphones are having an impact on our primary role - to live a meaningful and purposeful life. And while the cell phones are not a source of the problem, they are emblematic of how we trivialize things and chase the unimportant tangents.

R' Frand remarked that the difference between Esav and Yaakov was how Esav was a man of the field and Yaakov sat in the tent. The Targum explained that Esav was a Gvar Nachshiran -engaged in idle pursuits - having a good time. R' Frand said that in our day and age its Pokemon Go - where in Baltimore someone drove into a police car while chasing a non-existent character. Meanwhile, Yaakov was in the tent learning, seeking direction from Hashem. This can even be seen in their names as Esav was Asui - considering himself accomplished with no need to grow, but Yaakov was Akev - crooked and needing direction from Hashem. As the heirs of Yaakov its our job not to lose sight of what's important in life, not to be distracted.

R' Frand quoted the Chovos HaLivavos who cited a Chassid whose prayer was - Hashem save me from a life of distraction! Because being distracted causes a person to lose their direction and focus in life.

R' Frand quoted a secular quote which he said was so profound that it needed to be repeated and emphasized - "Distraction is the only thing that consoles us from our miseries, and yet in itself it is the greatest of our miseries."

R' Frand said that we have so many roles - jobs, sometimes more than one. And we are parents and we have commitments in shuls and schools - we are so all over the map and harried. But we need to be saved from our distractions.

R' Frand quoted the Ba'al Shem Tov on the words "V'avaditem Miheira" who said a chassidish vort - we need to lose our miheira - our running from thing to thing to thing.

R' Frand offered some suggestions for improvement based on this shiur:

1. Don't sleep with your cell phone nearby;
2. Don't let your children sleep with the cell phone in the room - they will spend half the night texting;
3. When learning with your children, don't have a cell phone nearby;
4. Don't allow the use of cellphones at meals;
5. Don't daven with your smartphone siddur.

On the last suggestion, R' Frand remarked that the siddur is a thousand year old and he can't understand why it is no longer en vogue. A siddur does not beep or interrupt you when you are davening. So unless you are in a location that has no siddur, why daven from a siddur.

I hope to b'n finish the summary in a post over the weekend.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thursday's Torah (but not parsha) Tidbits - a Vort on Yom Kippur

The following is a brief summary of some of thoughts said over by R' Frand this evening. As indicated in the title above, the post halacha portion of tonight's shiur was solely about Yom Kippur so there will be no Nitzavim thoughts this week. Still, 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.

R' Frand began the vort by quoting from the famous mishna in Yoma which discussed the training given by the rabbis to the Kohain Gadol before Yom Kippur. The mishna recites that at the end of the training they would make him swear that he would not deviate from the instructions. After he swore the oath, he would leave and cry and they would walk away crying. They would cry because they suspected an innocent and he would cry because he was suspected of being a Tziduki.

R' Frand next quoted the Rambam on Hilchos Yom HaKippurim which recited the entire story again, including the crying by both sides.

R' Frand asked on the Rambam - this is not a historical book - its a book of halachos. Why does the Rambam tell a story, and then tell us about the crying? This is not a halachic question!

R' Frand next quoted a mishna in Meseches Derech Eretz which instructs that when a guest comes to your house you should treat him finely and give him food and drink like you would be hosting Raban Gamliel, but also suspect that he might steal from you. The mishna tells a story about a guest who visited R' Yehoshua. He was hosted and given fine food and then was given lodging on the second floor. At night the man began to steal items from the second floor, but when he wanted to come down from the second floor he fell and broke his leg as R' Yehoshua had removed the ladder at night in case he was a thief. In the morning, R' Yehoshua found him on the floor with a broken leg and a bag of R' Yehoshua's possessions.

Based on this story, the Rishonim asked - why did the Rabbis cry after they suspected the Kohain Gadol? They had an obligation to suspect him because there was a real problem at that time with the Tzidukim. So why did they cry?

R' Frand answered the questions by quoting the Tolner Rebbi who cited the Sfas Emes in explaining a story in the gemara Yoma. The gemara tells that Rav was giving a shiur and people kept coming in late and he would restart the shiur. When R' Chanina, who was the 4th late comer, came in - Rav did not restart the shiur. R' Chanina got upset about this and felt that he was being disrespected. Rav then went to him for 13 Yom Kippurim to ask forgiveness, but was turned down each time.

The Sfas Emes asked - why did not Rav need to go and apologize? Rav was in the right, he did not need to restart the shiur for a fourth time, merely because another person came in very late. If someone does something wrong to you and your Rav agrees that he was wrong, why should you ask mechila?

The Sfas Emes explains that all year long if someone is wrong and you are right, you are not obligated to ask mechila. But that is for all year long. But Yom Kippur is different. R' Frand quoted the Tanna Dvei Eliyahu on the words "Vlo Echad Meyhem" in Tehillim 139 - there is one day a year that the Satan does not have impact on us - that is Yom Kippur. But on that day we need to be different by building achdus.

This is the reason why Rav only went to ask mechila on Erev Yom Kippur, and he did it every year in that day. Rav was right and he was wrong. But on Yom Kippur we must make shalom - not because Rav was wrong, but because its a day of achdus.

Similarly, this is the reason that the Rabbis cried after suspecting Kohain Gadol. They did their job exactly the way that they were required to. But still, it causes dissension and that's why they cried.

This is also why the Rambam tells the story - because if one causes pirud on Yom Kippur its not good - it is antithetical to the sense of achdus. The mission on Yom Kippur is to try to make shalom, even if you did nothing wrong, do what you can to bring the Jews together on this day.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Bava Kamma 119

I have not really found the time lately to write much, but I did not want the mesechta to close without at least one Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf post. And when I was preparing the daf, I remembered a thought said by Rabbi Frand a few weeks ago which did not make it into a TPT post, so it gave me the perfect opportunity.

On Bava Kamma 119 there is a discussion as to whether a person can destroy the property of a "Moser" - someone who turns over Jews and/or the property to the government for being Jewish. The gemara offers two alternatives - that since there is a mitzva to kill a moser to prevent him from turning a Jew in to the government, then there certainly it is permitted to destroy his property. The second view is that his property should be taken as he might have children who are not evil in nature and they should not be deprived of support, merely because their father is evil.

I was reminded of a vort said by R' Frand on the concept of Ir Miklat - the city of refuge. He noted that during the first fourteen years after the Jews entered the land of Israel there were no Jews sent to Ir Miklat. But why?

R' Frand quoted the Meshech Chachma who explained that the concept of Ir Miklat existed for Jews who killed accidentally to seek refuge there until the death of the Kohain Gadol. However, during the first years that the Jews were conquering and dividing the land, Elazar the Kohain Gadol was involved in the division. Since it was certain that Elazar would not die until his mission was fufilled, no Jews were sent to Ir Miklat because they would have no hope of ever leaving.

R' Frand explained that a Jew must always have hope and that without hope it is difficult to continue. However, there is an exception. As explained by R' Shlomo Zalman, the moser should have no hope. If these people are driven to give over Jews to the government for being Jewish, there is no hope for them.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Night Suds - Coney Island Brewery Mermaid Pilsner

This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Coney Island Brewery Mermaid Pilsner.

To first answer the questions which I am sure you are dying to ask, no they don't make this beer out of real mermaids and no, I don't have a clue why Coney Island has linked mermaids with pilsners.

Having gotten that out of the way, I can tell you that as pilsners go, this is a pretty good version. The beer poured a full golden yellow with decent carbonation and some lacing which faded quickly.

As opposed to most pilsners, this beer did have some floral hops which I appreciated and enjoyed. There was even a bit of a sharpness to the brew, although I would chalk that up to the rye malts.

This beer would be a decent pairing with most foods - the flavor is not strong enough to say that it would mesh well with any food, but it would not clash either. Call it a parve brew.

The Coney Island Brewery Mermaid Pilsner is certified kosher by the Star-K, although not every beer brewed by Coney Island is currently on the LOC. To view and download the LOC for Boston Beer which includes Coney Island (as well as Angry Orchard) click here

To see what the experts at BA think about this brew, click here

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

If you are reading this post more than six months after it was written, please note that it is possible that the product is no longer still certified kosher. To verify that the product is still certified kosher, please click on the kosher beers list link on the top left corner of the blog.

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