Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Vacation Annotations

A few recollections and observations relating to my recent vacation, before any thoughts thereof fade entirely under the encroaching weight of mundanity:

8/24: The boys and I took in a Yankees game, a vacation kickoff I had promised them a while back. Unfortunately, as we went on-line to procure tickets, a minor glitch developed in this plan - the Yankees weren't playing at home that day! Luckily, they were playing against the Orioles, and thus in the only other American League venue that's still an achievable day trip from Central NJ. With some guidance from friend and native Baltimorean Soccer Dad, we navigated the Metro system and made it to beautiful Camden Yards in plenty of time. We had great seats, the game was fun, and the Yankees won. And I found myself wondering if we had ended up at a Yankee home game after all; based on visible paraphernalia and volume of cheering, we conservatively estimated that the Yankee rooters there actually outnumbered the Oriole ones by 60-40 or greater. Though we were of course part of that 60%, I felt kind of embarrassed for the hometown fans there in "Birdland".

8/25-26: Two days in the Lancaster PA, Pennsylvania Dutch ("Amish") area. A repeat trip there for us, but just as fascinating the second time around. The parallels between these folks and Orthodox Jews are striking: socially, culturally, and religiously - not to mention the parallel/converse scenes in The Frisco Kid and Witness! (Aficionados know whereof I speak!)

Couple of examples: Contrary to general belief, the Amish are allowed to use electricity, they just can't hook up their homes to the outside world's grid. So modern household appliances like refrigerators and washing machines are in common use, but are modified to utilize propane or gas motors. Reminded me very much of kashrus/shechita and similar halachos, in that the difference between the permitted and forbidden is often technical, not elemental. (Parenthetical joke: Did you hear about the trade between the Jewish and Amish fellas right before Pesach? The former told the latter, "You buy my chametz and I'll buy your electricity"!)

Also, in one of the presentations we attended, it was noted that Amish who work in the outside world often have trouble explaining all the "obscure" holidays they have to take, like Whit Monday. I hear ya' buddy, and so do all of us who get responses at work like "...what on earth is 'Shmini Atzeres' "?

But I noted one key - and unfortunate - difference between "us" and "them" as well. The Amish give their children, at age 16, a chance to drop all their special restrictions and taste the outside life, a practice called the "rumspringa" or "running wild". Each individual then decides whether to return to the fold and join the church as an adult. The number who do come back? About 95%! Halevia that our success rate of kids staying "on the derech" would achieve that level.

8/27: A day at Hershey Park. Rides for the kids, and shows - plus a few of what my son Shalom calls "wimpy rides" - for the parents. And just to make life easier, a kosher food stand right in the park, open year round. It was a lot cleaner and prettier than our local Great Adventure, too.

8/28: An afternoon in Atlantic City. My level of gambling is restricted to playing the quarter slots - I figure that way it'll take me a good hour or more to lose twenty bucks, which is more or less the budget I allow myself for gambling. Well this time, I actually came out a few bucks ahead! Way to defray ~.001% of the vacation costs!

8/29-30: Shabbos down the Jersey Shore. As relaxing as it can get.

8/31: Our annual Chai Lifeline day at Great Adventure. Yes, two amusement parks in four days. But we pretty much went for two reasons - one, to be honest of course, was that it was a sponsored (i.e., free) visit. But the other reason was the park's big live concert event that night to end their summer season - Foreigner! Wow, what a great time! Who cares that only Mick Jones remains from the original 70s-80s lineup? These guys rock like it's.. uh... 1977! My only regret is that they omitted my favorite Foreigner song, "Blue Morning, Blue Day", from their set.

9/1: To Lakewood to shop for new suits for the boys, then home to deal with our mountain of laundry, unpack suitcases, and pack school bags. Though the vacation was fun, Debbie and I were definitely suffering from "kids-underfoot-itis" by that point. I couldn't help channeling that commercial with the parents buying school supplies, dancing down the aisles and singing "It's the most wonderful time of the year"!!

That's it for the vacation summary. And meanwhile, back in blogland, Elie's Expositions hit three separate, yet amazingly related numerically, milestones:
1) My 50,000th visitor - tracked down by Soccer Dad, via Sitemeter, as Yitzchak.
2) My record number of comments on a single post - 49, for last week's Musical Monday. Just one short of 50! Of course, I could go add that 50th comment myself, but that would be cheating...
3) And now, as soon as I hit "Send", my 500th published post!!

Thank you for making this all possible - and keep reading! I'll try my best to make it worth your while.


At 9/4/08, 11:24 AM, Blogger Elie said...

And now that MM #58 post is at 50 comments! Thanks, TRN!

At 9/4/08, 1:57 PM, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Mazal tov! One of these years, I'll learn to read my stats.

At 9/4/08, 3:24 PM, Anonymous Miriam said...

RE: the Amish - my dad once told a Mennonite man (in Ontario) that on Saturdays we can't drive. The guy looked at him as if he was completely mad and said: 'not even a buggy???'

At 9/4/08, 3:45 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Speaking of Mennonites, the other fascinating parallel is Amish / Mennonites and Right Wing / Modern Orthodox. The Amish and Mennonites both have the same basic religious beliefs, but what distinguishes them is that the latter believe in engaging with the real-world - e.g., they dress in American styles, go to college, etc. Very similar.

At 9/4/08, 5:43 PM, Blogger Jack said...

Mazal Tov on your 500th post. Here is to many more.

At 9/5/08, 3:10 PM, Blogger trn said...

Aw, you are welcome, Elie. I hadn't yet seen this new post when I posted the 50th comment. Hahaha, in that comment, I actually asked how your vacation was.

You went all over the place! Sounds like it all was a blast. Thanks for telling us about it, and especially for sharing your observations. And I like the wordplay of the title of the post.

So, if the Amish aren't restricted from using electricity, what is the actual prohibition? What is it about the public grid that is forbidden?

Yes, many people cannot grasp that the technicalities involved in how we accomplish things make a halakhic difference, that it isn't the case that if the end result is the same the procedure doesn't matter, that it might be part of the standard procedure and not the end result that is not permitted.

I recently read reactions on some public forums about Sabbath-mode appliances that really annoyed me. The commenters were saying nasty things about cheating and us not fooling God and the like instead of trying to learn. The problem was that they had no understanding of halakhah -- not of what the actual laws are, not of how new situations cause halakhic dilemmas, and not of how such dilemmas are addressed.

Rumspringa brings to mind many thoughts of a possible other kind of difference between the Amish and us, but I'll leave that for another time, as this comment is already quite long.

Welcome back, mazel tov on the cool 50*10^x milestones, and thank you for continuing to post your wonderful posts.

At 9/5/08, 3:25 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Thanks as always TRN for the nice words!

On your electricity question, I am certainly not an expert, but from what was explained during our tour, they are not permitted to hook up to the public electrical grid because it would connect them to the outside world. By the same token they can use life-enhancing and labor-saving mechanical devices like refrigerators and sewing machines, but not televisions and computers which bring the outside world into their homes. However as I noted, the rules are complex and I hate to oversimplify.

Don't know what other difference you have in mind, but one that struck me is that they refuse any government financial help, yet they pay all taxes and other required fees. Again, some segments of our own community would not compare favorably.

At 9/5/08, 5:22 PM, Blogger trn said...

Ah, thank you.

At 9/6/08, 4:02 PM, Blogger Baila said...

Congratulations on all your milestones.

Being here in Israel, I miss going to Yankee games. We used to buy $5.00 seats to four or five games a season. I always loved the sounds and sights that hit you as soon you went through the corridor into the ball park.

I haven't followed them as much since we made Aliyah, so I was shocked to see them 10 GAMES OUT so late in the season. What's happened to them? I've only been gone a year, do they need to come back and give them some kind of pep talk?

At 9/7/08, 8:12 PM, Blogger Elie said...

$5.00 seats - wow! Now you barely get $5.00 sodas there!

Yes, the Yanks have dug themselves a rather deep hole, and their chances of a 14th consecutive post-season appearence are rapidly approaching zero. They seem far beyond pep talks at any rate, though thanks for the offer. An ironic and sad final sendoff for the current Yankee stadium.

At 9/22/08, 9:28 PM, Blogger rebecca said...

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do.


Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all

Over the countryside


Till I look down on the garden green

Down on the roof so brown
Up in the air I go flying again

Up in the air and down!

-----by runescape money


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