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How’s My Dancing?
Published in Mishpacha Magazine http://www.mishpacha.com/
Not everyone loves to dance at chasunahs. For people to get up and dance in public without worrying the least bit about their dancing skills, they usually have to be quite confident. Or as some mental health professionals like to call it, “fully intoxicated.”
In an effort to enable more people to join in chasunah dancing, I’ve compiled the most common dances at weddings (on the men’s side), along with clear, step-by-step instructions how to master them.
The Happy Clappy Backwards Step
(best performed with both eyes closed).
This dance (done immediately after the kabbalas panim and the chuppah) is fairly simple, consisting of a constant happy clapping motion, while simultaneously stepping backwards away from the chassan. Prior to executing the actual stepping part, it’s best to make sure you’re fully aware of where there’s open space behind you and where there are feet. All clear? Perfect. Now, carefully step back on those feet.
Once you’ve stepped on a considerable number of feet, you can simply repeat the same exact steps over and over to your heart’s content. Unless, of course, the people behind you have chosen to improvise the HCBS (Happy Clappy Backwards Step) with the modern twist, most popular among all rows of dancers (sans the first row), and known as “The Almost Accidental Forward Kick.”
In the event you happen to wind up in the path of TAAFK your body will instinctively know what to do, and will begin moving effortlessly. While you’re engaged in this fluid-like motion, other dancers will appear slow and klutzy and even seem to stand still as you become one with the energy inside you. Most dance teachers haven’t been able to fully comprehend this freestyle dance move but are now referring to it with the term “Running for Dear Life.”
The Private Chassan Dance
(a personal dance of just you and the chassan, and 15 other people).
Since this dance involves two people (the chassan and the chasunah guest), each with a very different role (baal simchah and mesameiach), there are separate instructions for each person that may slightly vary.
If you’re the chassan, the actual dance you do with the wedding guest isn’t that important; you could briskly stroll with him, as long as he has no doubts that you’re fully aware you’re briskly strolling with him. And he instantly will, because wedding guests possess a very special ability to pick up on this feeling just by looking at your bright smile. This is pretty impressive, considering you never spelled it out, and your brain currently has the same discerning abilities as a wooden spatula and you honestly have no idea who he is. You’d smile just as brightly if you were sharing a private dance with a malnourished crocodile.
If you are the chasunah guest, it may be difficult but try not to get too emotional over the fact that although the chassan may have a few other things to think about today, all that’s on his mind right now is little ol’ you. You’ll need to stay strong and fight those tears. The chassan’s smile is only getting brighter.
As far as how long each personal dance should last, there’s no set time. It’s really up to the specific chassan, the specific guest, and the specific five other guests who joined the private dance exactly one second after it began.
Due to the chassan’s euphoric state he’s not usually cognizant of when he needs to take a rest or a drink; if it were up to him, he’d continue dancing to the point where he’d be blissfully unaware that both his legs would be best described as mostly knees. Thankfully, at least one person will intuitively know when the chassan needs to be hydrated and take a rest and they’ll distribute water and chairs accordingly.
The first cup will be given at the first sign of perspiration, otherwise known as when the chassan opens his mouth and the last cup is given when the chassan is well hydrated. Of course healthy breaks are allowed for the chassan’s glass to be refilled and for him to finish swallowing the first two drops of his previous glass.
The first chair is supplied from the very first sign of exhaustion, i.e. when there’s a clear space behind the chassan’s legs, and the last chair is given when he’s well rested meaning right before someone manages to confiscate every last chair. Healthy breaks are allowed to locate another chair and possibly while he’s still resting on the first one.
(“How to win friends fast and lose them even faster”)
There are three separate dances performed during circle dancing, formally known as the first, second, and third,dances.
First Dance: Up and Down
This consists of lifting your leg up into the air and then all the way down to the beat of the music. How hard you bring down your leg depends on your preference, energy level, and whether there are any feet nearby that look suspiciously similar to the ones that stepped on you during the HCBS.
Second Dance: The Hora
1) Take three steps to your right.
3) Swing your left leg to the right.
5) Swing your right leg to the left.
Whatever you do don’t forget the 7th unspoken step;
7)Periodically check that you haven’t collapsed on the dance floor.
Third Dance: The Run
This is done simply by holding hands in a circle and running. This dance has the most history, dating all the way back to when the first person who began running was dancing the hora and got a sudden spark of inspiration to quicken his pace when he noticed the last potato kugel tray being wheeled out.
If you feel like you have a fairly good handle on the previous three dances, you can add a new spin by implementing these alternate ways of clasping your partners’ hands:
The Honey-Bottle Hold — When holding your partners’ hands imagine they were two bottles of honey. Now imagine those bottles of honey were practically empty and you needed to make a big pan of honey cake. That’s right! Squeeze! With all your might! Every last drop! This method is a great way to instill a sudden burst of energy into your dancing, giving both you and your partners a more interactive experience. As both will agree, once Hatzolah manages to get their heart rate back to normal.
Small Children — Small children aren’t entirely sure how to dance, let alone what the exact function of feet is. If you happen to find yourself holding a small child’s hand, you’ll need to clearly show them how to circle dance. You’ll be forced to be more involved in each movement as you teach them the art of dancing, and as they teach you the art of dragging.
The Serious Adjustor — Although circle dancing already has its established set of movements, the following new moves will be automatically added by your action of pulling away your hand to adjust your hat or jacket. A movement of pulling away your hand, adjusting your clothing, re-clasping your partners’ hands, and if you pull your hand away often enough, two tight honey-bottle holds by both your partners.
Musical Hands — Why hold the same persons hands the whole dance? Change it up a little. Developing a steady pattern of leaving the circle every ten seconds to find different hands is sure to give you a fresh perspective on circle dancing. And, a fresh set of enemies.
(“Juggling/Break-dancing/Whatever it’s called when that guy twists both his legs behind his right ear”)
The best part about wedding shtick is that you can do practically anything and no one will judge you. You could show the chassan how you can tie your shoes and almost touch your toes; you and your buddy could run back and forth in front of the chassan with your arms around each other; you could juggle fire and toast the kallah’s gown; you could dress up as a bear or a person wearing a large brown rug with very small or zero eyeholes or as a person wearing a shirt that says “I’M SUPPOSED TO BE DRESSED UP AS A BEAR” on it and everyone will clap along and let you do your thing for as long as it takes you. Everyone except the 355 performers breathing down your neck, that is.
One shtick becoming more and more popular is break-dancing. There are two ways to learn to breakdance; through observation and through practice. Observation requires you to intently study another break-dancer at the wedding closely enough, that you can mimic his moves, such as crouching down on the floor and rapidly spinning one leg under your body in a circle. Because it’s your very first time performing this move, you might not have a good sense of when to stop and it may be helpful to give yourself signs for how long the move should be performed. For example, if you’re rapidly spinning your leg, the sign to stop is when your leg snaps.
Next time you attend a chasunah, there’s no need to shy away from the dancing. Sure, there will always be those cool guys who voluntarily dance by themselves in the inner circle but by now I have taught you enough moves to compete with them. Beginning with the simplest and most graceful one of all: “Hiding all the bourbon.”
“Have You Seen My Bunk?”
Published in Mishpacha Magazine
Some people have been quoted as saying, “A day camp counselor is one of the easiest jobs in the world.” Of course, these people were all later identified as professional lion tamers.
The following are a few excerpts from actual day camp counselors’ experiences, spanning all the way from Day 1 until the counselors were finished with their job (which sometimes turned out to be Day 3.)
(“Hi, everyone, I’m your—, GET AWAY FROM THAT WINDOW!”)
The first day of camp is usually when you meet all your 28 campers and junior counselors and learn interesting and useful information about them. For instance, you might learn that you have 48 campers and that your junior counselors don’t exist. It seems impossible, but within the first three minutes you’ll be able to guess all their names, just by observing their behavior and they will all surprisingly share the same first name: STOP MOVING!
(“Don’t you guys want naptime?”)
Typically, you’ll be supplied with a carefully planned-out schedule that looks like the following:
Basketball: The first sport of the day is usually difficult to organize because there’s a general lack of interest, general lack of basketball, and general lack of knowledge of exact location of any campers.
Snack: The camp will send along something easy to pour and pass out and, as the kids will soon figure out, easy to discard on the grass.
More sports: Surprisingly enough, even though no one wanted to play earlier, the more aggressive campers will actually take the ball, pass it to their friends, and use it in a creative new game that is lovingly called: Tear the camp building to shreds.
Indoor activities: Included in these indoor activities are pleasant calm games like Hangman and Charades, synonyms for: Ways to ensure some of the building remains intact.
Swimming: This is the activity that will excite most of your campers. The excitement will last all the way until they remember one (or more) of the following three things: They forgot their bathing suit or lifejacket or the fact that they can’t swim.
If you haven’t managed to misplace any campers yet, now is your chance. Although, there is the proven Say, “Here!” method. This system of yelling out a kid’s name and waiting for his response of “Here!” is 100% guaranteed to work. It is normal, however, that there is the slight chance it will prove unhelpful either because:
1) The kid doesn’t know his name.
2) Some other kid yells “I’m here” for the kid you are trying to find.
3)The kid thinks you’ve lost your mind and are saying, “Say, hair!” in which case he’s trying to ignore you until your fit of madness passes.
4) You’re on the wrong bus.
Many times, in the event a camper becomes uninterested in the trip, he will decide then and there he is going home and will begin walking away. Often, he will still be on the bus.
Here is a list of things you will actually hear yourself saying on trips:
“Don’t touch that beehive!”
“Get out of that boa constrictor exhibit! Yes, right now!”
“Listen up! We are about to leave! Everyone make sure they are no longer holding any bowling balls!”
“I’m sure your right shoe will turn up some day.”
“What do you mean your buddy went with that other camp?”
Shows, Plays and Grand Banquets
(“Do you want to be in my bunk?”)
This free entertainment will give you a nice break that allows you the freedom to proudly watch your campers sitting quietly in front of you and suddenly realize they are not your campers. Due to the fact that you haven’t really had a chance to get to know your kids, you only know two facts about them. They are kids, which can apply to the whole camp. And, they are usually missing (which unfortunately won’t help you.)
Look around, do you see that bunk close to the stage, the right side of the stage near the back door? Good. Your campers just slipped out that door.
So remember, no matter where you are, if you ever need to locate a missing camper just peer into the distance, look around thoroughly, and proclaim, “Say, ‘Here!’ ”
Five Relaxing Summer Ideas for the Saver (Relaxation not necessarily included)
Published in Ami magazine
Our ideal summer vacation would be to fly away to our vacation home on that nice, quiet, private beach but we always manage to run into a tiny setback. We don’t own a vacation home.
Luckily for us and others similarly vacation home challenged, there are some amazing, economical alternatives for a great relaxing summer.
Call any sort of outing a trip and it will instantly transform into a magical adventure. You could be strolling through the produce aisle in your grocery store on a day trip and before you know it, it can get wild and crazy. You never know if they will stack the apples stem up or down on any given day. Whatever you do, don’t forget that camera.
One very popular place to go on a day trip is a large state park. They are free and all you need to bring are your feet and an endless water supply for when you get lost. Then of course, there are the hotspots with more activities; bowling, arcades, mini golf, the zoo, which often also have a large quantity what you are trying to run away from-namely other human beings. The major benefit of a day trip is that you are so exhausted at the end, no matter how lumpy your bed actually is, it will feel like a soft bed of earth. Especially, if you are still at the park.
The Weekend Getaway
This option has the potential to give you everything you wanted from that weeklong stay at the beach house, condensed into two days. If you do your research you could possibly find a hotel stay that includes free use of the nearby attractions. And if you do your research extremely well, you will notice that these fun-filled places qualify as “nearby” your hotel as long as you remember to bring along your personal rocket ship. Before you arrive, you dream of visiting every attraction and retiring after a fun-filled day to your 5 star flat. Once you unpack, settle in, rest up, eat and rest up some more, you will be able to finally realize something totally unbelievable; it’s time for check out.
Forget all the hotel deals you can find online and cheap tickets you can get with miles! It’s your vacation so you might as well design it yourself! Spending quality time in a long car ride with your entire family will quickly teach you more about your children than you ever knew (or wanted to know) and will enable you to divide them into two, separate categories. 1) The ones you should have left at home and 2) The ones your contemplating putting up for adoption at the next rest stop. Because you were smart enough to know that the sturdy tent you bought, is just as good (if not better) than a room with walls that won’t disappear when you sneeze, you have some money saved, waiting very patiently for just the right opportunity to spend it. Maybe the opportunity will arise when you stumble across a great tent sale or maybe for that distant point of time in the future, when you are forced to book an actual hotel room, because your family soon decides they prefer sleeping in the great indoors. “Soon” being in one mosquito bite worth of time.
Deal of a Lifetime
There are always cheaper ways for travel and lodging with the right mindset and flexibility. For example; if you want to go from New York to California, for a very minimal fee you can fly directly…..to Florida with only one stopover in London (getting in some free international travel too!) eventually land in Baltimore, catch a connecting flight to Mexico and then fly directly to California….with a stopover in NY (home sweet home!) in between. Bon Voyage!
There are a number of helpful web sites that can come in handy when you are looking for that perfect but affordable hotel room. Priceline offers you the capability of viewing three nice hotels in your price range, putting down very little money and walking away with a brand new fourth option you never looked into-a nice crouch in-closet. Groupon is an exciting website that lets you pay considerably less for your preferred hotel room and simultaneously gives you a free mystery case to solve, titled; “Am I getting scammed?”
Some people have actually found that, although they initially thought staying at home might be dreadful, it’s actually more like something they wouldn’t ever wish on their worst enemy. You can try to look as comfortable as you can lounging on that folding chair, you can put your feet up on that cozy milk crate or amid the large plastic bags surrounding your feet, and you can exude a “my mind is dipping it’s mental feet in the ocean” vibe and pretend you aren’t doing any work. But we both know the truth. Your’e in the middle of unloading your groceries.
As you can see there is no need to worry. It only takes three simple steps to relax this summer. Lie down, take a deep breath and buy that beach house.
“Anything Means Anything”
Published in Ami magazine http://www.amimagazine.org/
“STRINGS, you’re washing the windows on the 99th floor. Get moving!”
Five years earlier, I would never have believed that sentence would be directed at me. Especially not the esteemed title of “Strings.” My name is Zechariah, most of the time I attempt to keep both feet on the ground, and I successfully control the urge to wash other people’s windows.
But I found myself on the receiving end of a command to head skyward armed with a squeegee, through the utterance of a single sentence five years ago.
I had been in a hotel lobby on a third date, seated across from a girl, expressing to her all kinds of passionate things. Amid these fiery proclamations that shot from my brain onto my tongue and out into the world was one phrase that would cause a shocking chain of events. “Anything,” I told her. “I would do anything.”
Why would these four words have such an impact on my life? Because they were prompted by one important question.
“What would you do to stay in kollel?”
“Anything. I would do anything.”
Five years later, I made good on that promise when I saw an intriguing sign in my yeshivah: Help old man cross street. Great pay. 1:30-3:30. Requirements: Must have both arms and most fingers.
The last part sounded strange, and I wondered why it would take two hours to help this man cross the street. But all I saw was great pay, so I took the job. (After carefully checking both arms, fingers and toes, obviously. You can’t be too careful.)
Determined to make a good impression, I showed up ten minutes early and caught a good look at the street. It looked like any other street: paved, with yellow lines and of average size. The only thing that caught my eye was the school on one side and the busy intersection on the other.
Oh, yeah, and the old man directing traffic in the middle.
Ten minutes later, despite my efforts to pretend I only had one arm, I was standing in full gear where the old man had been.
I tried to do my best, I really did, but I had no idea where I was supposed to put those two arms and most fingers. The only words the old man had told me before packing off were “I really appreciate your help,” which I later learned meant “I really appreciate your free help.” The sign “Great pay” had originally read “great pal.”
I did what anyone would do to save precious human lives: I threw myself at any cars in motion heading towards any pedestrian. I don’t know who was more surprised at the chaos that ensued, I or the cars I was attempting to direct. Towards the end of my shift, my friend Shloime drove by and exclaimed. “I didn’t know you became a crossing guard!” “Yeah,” I thought. “Me neither.”
My next adventure happened a few weeks later, when I got a text message from a friend who knew I was looking for a side job.
Friend: I know this might be a little weird for you, but would you babysit two little kids in the afternoon?
Me: Do I have to help them cross the street after school?
Friend: No. Why?
Me: Great! I’ll take it.
I got the address and pulled up at the house, 15 minutes early this time. Nothing struck me as out of the ordinary, but I saw no toys outside, just a few bones and ripped-up flower beds. I punched in the combination and tiptoed into the hallway. Lying on the mantel was a short list of simple instructions.
1) Feed Little Fishel.
2) Feed Little Genendel.
3) Don’t let Little Genendel see Little Fishel.
4) If she does see Little Fishel, you won’t have to feed her for a long time. LOL!
No matter how many times I read that line, I did not get the joke. The whole feeding thing was disturbing. Were these babies? What was the worst that could happen if Little Genendel saw Little Fishel? And who would be so cruel to name their kid Genendel? I texted the friend who had notified me of the job. Me: Are they babies? Friend: I don’t know. The sign didn’t say. Me: But you said they were kids? Friend: The sign said Little Fishel and Little Genendel. What else could it mean? I calmed down a little, poured myself a drink of water and looked around their kitchen. A large photograph on the fridge caught my eye. A couple posed next to a fish tank with a little goldfish swimming inside, with the words “Fishel’s first steps” in big blue letters right above the picture. I almost choked on my water. Ironically, on the opposite side of the fridge was a photo of a smiling German Shepherd with something white between its teeth. Above this photo was a lovely pink inscription: “Genendel’s first fish.” And in parentheses: “Don’t tell Fishel!” Don’t let Genendel see Fishel! Alas, before I could even begin my search for Litte Genendel, I heard a growl, a splash and well…I didn’t have to feed Genendel. The owners were not amused. The owners weren’t very amused when I tried repeating the LOL joke and were horrified that, in their own words, “I would make a joke when Fishel was still cold.” An hour later, I received a text message from my friend: “I just remembered that there was something on the sign about making sure to have your rabies shots up-to-date. That’s odd.”
The next job offer seemed innocent. This was suggested in a text from a different friend: A guy who owns an apartment building needs a little cleaning done. Are you interested?
Me: Can it cross the street by itself?
Me: Never mind. Are there any German Shepherds named Genendel living in the building?
Friend: Not to my knowledge.
The first day I showed up an hour early and parked outside the building to scout out any trouble. It was at least 105 degrees that day. A half hour later, a painting crew came, then a window-washing crew. I felt bad for those guys who had to work outside all day.
At the agreed-upon time, I got out of my car and asked for Eddie, my new boss. The worker pointed to a tall, muscled, dark-skinned man with a large mustache, wearing a t-shirt with the friendly inscription “You won’t like me when I’m angry.”
Eddie turned around and stared at me. “Name?” he barked.
“Zechariah,” I whimpered.
He looked at me and my white shirt, stared at my tzitzis and corrected me. “No, your name is ‘Strings.”
I wasn’t sure how to argue with that. Why “Strings” ? There were a lot of things that made me stand out from the rest of the crew. I could have been “Full set of teeth,” “Un-tattooed,” or even “Shirt.” But because I didn’t want to make Eddie angry and thus not like me, I said yes. Which brings us full circle.
“Strings, you’re washing the windows on the 99th floor. Get moving!”
As I climbed the scaffold, I reflected on all the jobs I had agreed to do to be able to stay in learning. When I said I would do anything to stay in kollel, I didn’t think I would end up throwing myself between trucks to keep small children alive, or spending an afternoon in the company of a fish and a killing machine whose favorite food happened to be its owner’s other favorite pet. And I definitely never imagined I would look into the 99th floor of an apartment building while hanging in mid-air.
Yet this is exactly what doing anything entails. And as I swung from window to window, I resolved to continue living my life by this philosophy and never to look back. And, of course to never look down.