Posted by: gruvenreuven | May 24, 2012

DrawSomething Real

ImageDrawSomething is the latest iOS/Android addictive game. Like the game Pictionary, you are presented with 3 words and must draw one of them. Your opponent must guess what you drew. It gets tricky especially if you are using a smartphone as your drawing device. My fat fingers coupled with the small screen real estate leads to some challenging efforts. It’s fun as it gives you a window as to how your friends “think”.


The cool thing about DrawSomething is after your friend sends you their drawing, you watch it being drawn in real time on your device. It doesn’t just show you the completed picture. You get to watch the drawing being drawn in progress. (Mistakes and erases and all.)


The word that my Friend got to draw was “Rocket”. Rocket is one of the easier words. The game presents you with three levels of words; Easy, Medium & Hard. You earn 1, 2 or 3 points respectively for guessing the word.


Now for rocket, I would draw an Apollo type rocket either taking off or flying through space.


My friend started off by drawing what looked like a town with houses and buildings. She then drew a little Israeli flag.  At this point I couldn’t really guess what she was drawing as it was a 6 letter word, so it wasn’t town or city. Next she drew in coming red streaked lines, followed by what looked like an explosion on the ground.


My dear friend lives in the town of Ashdod Israel. This is daily life for her……

Posted by: gruvenreuven | January 9, 2012

Rav Soloveitchik Audio Archive

Joseph Ber Soloveitchik (1903–1993) was an American Orthodox rabbi, Talmudist and modern Jewish philosopher. He was a descendant of the Lithuanian Jewish Soloveitchik rabbinic dynasty.

As Rosh Yeshiva of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University in New York City, The Rav (as he came to be known), ordained close to 2,000 rabbis over the course of almost half a century. He is widely viewed as having advocated a synthesis between Torah scholarship and Western, secular scholarship as well as positive involvement with the broader community.

He served as an advisor, guide, mentor, and role-model for tens of thousands of Jews, both as a Talmudic scholar and as a religious leader. He is regarded as a seminal figure by Modern Orthodox Judaism.

I received the following invitation on twitter today from @TheRavzatzal:

I have recently posted 164 of Rav Soloveitchik’s English audio shiurim, Please retweet the link to the archive!

Posted by: gruvenreuven | December 21, 2011

Just a little light

Last night we began the mitzvah of lighting the menorah as we ushered in the yom tov of Chanukah. As always we start by lighting one single light. Not many lights, not glaring lights strewn across our front lawn or wound around a tree, but one solitary light which can drive away the darkness. The Gemarah instructs us that in time of peace, light the menorah outside, but in times of danger set the menorah inside your home. Some explain the danger referred to in the Gemarah is not of the physical kind, but rather a spiritual danger allowing the darkness to seep into our homes. Therefore we must put the ohr (the light), inside in order to expel that darkness. The mitzvah is “ner ish u’beiso” (Each family member lighting their own menorah). This stresses the point that the light is there as protection to our homes and the influences that can affect us there.

What is light? It is of course the light of Torah. With the light of Torah in our homes, adding Torah study into our daily and weekly schedule, discussing Torah thoughts at our tables, and praising Torah values, we can protect ourselves and our families from the spiritual dangers that threaten to darken our lives and existence. Only light can expel darkness. Only Torah can enlighten us to see the proper road to take to make the right decisions in life.

Posted by: gruvenreuven | December 15, 2011

The Chanukah Story (Sort of)

Tired of those Matisyahu Shaved his beard blog posts? Well, here’s something completely different……..

A friend a work gave me a Starbucks gift card enclosed in a Hallmark card with the below text. Typically I don’t use the words “Hallmark” and “ LOL humor” in the same sentence, but in this case I had to make an exception.

(front of card)
The Hanukkah Story (Sort of)
So there was this Mensch, Judah MacCabee (Who was a total badass). He was like a Hebrew Rambo. He Just hated King Antiochus who was a Royal Schmuck because he took away Judah’s temple and turned it into some sort of Goyim Strip Mall. (He couldn’t have at least turned it into a Chinese Restaurant?) Judah led an untrained army (most of them were accountants, doctors, and lawyers-Little know fact) to defeat the evil King. They were armed with nothing but their faith. (And probably a few rocks and sticks… Oh, and their mothers.) Judah kicked butt, and the temple belonged to the Jews again. After cleaning up the place and some tasteful redecorating by Judah’s wife (She took an interior-decorating class at the local JCC)-The Menorah was made ready for the temple’s dedication. And the Hebrew word for dedication is? You guessed it! Hanukkah

(Inside card)
But Oy! There was only enough oil to light the menorah for one day! Someone really dropped the ball on that one. Then something wonderful happened. The lights of the menorah burned for eight days and eight nights! This was way before smart phones, so people were easily impressed. It was a Miracle! Not as cool as “Parting-of-the-sea” but still not bad. And now we celebrate with grateful hearts every year by lighting a candle for each of the eight night and spinning a small clay block (and eating out weight in latkes)

Happy Hanukkah

Posted by: gruvenreuven | December 2, 2011

Shabbat Shalom

There are times as an Orthodox Jew that you have to sit something out as it falls on Shabbos; A concert, a reunion, or even a convention. Even though you love, appreciate and even thank Hashem for Shabbos, Missing out on things sometimes can be a bit of a “bummer”.

Then there is the flip side. That Hellacious week at work… Pulling double shifts and all nighters…. Work that just never stops, and work that will certainly be there Sunday as the forecast for next week is much of the same.

It is then when one truly thanks Hashem for giving us Shabbos. 25hours where all my work is done… 25hours where I can daven unrushed… 25hours where I can catch up on sleep and spend time with family. 25hours of simply being one with Shabbos and Hashem.

But how can my work really be done when next week looks like it’s more of the same? My milestones/deadlines are still are not been met, all open tasks do not have a check next time them. There is still much to think about, tasks that are outstanding, tasks that still are on my critical path. But my work IS done. The work that Hashem has allocated for me to do this week is done. Yes there is more to do next week, but this week is DONE. With that realization, I can take pride that my work is done and go into Shabbos with a clean to-do list, getting some well deserved rest.

On weeks like this week, that Friday night concert or that Saturday convention, that’s not going to give me the reset I need to go into a very busy next week. It’s not going to recharge my batteries. It’s not going to set me up to tackle the upcoming week with full gusto. That’s because you never truly unplug. And that’s what’s so special about Shabbos. It’s a time to truly unplug.

B.H.I.S!!! (Baruch Hashem Its Shabbos!!!) Now to finish a few things up before Shabbos…. Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos

Posted by: gruvenreuven | May 23, 2011

A Jewish Moon Knight

I guess you can call this another installment of Gruven Reuven’s look at Jews in Comics. This time I’ve come across Marvel’s Moon Knight #1, which hit your local comic book stores the week of 4-May-2011.

The Story is about Marc Spector (aka Moon Knight) a Television producer who is recruited by members of the Avengers to set up a crime fighting outpost on the West coast. The below panel is taken from a “opening” party for Marc’s new Television show.

What immediately struck me when I first saw this panel was the guy in a Kippah!! Were they serving Kosher wine at this affair? I don’t know… Maybe… The Moon Knight is Jewish! Apparently Marc Spector, is one of the most overtly religious super-heroes in the Marvel Universe.

When Marc Spector was first created, he was not envisioned as a Jewish character. Later writers thought his name “sounded Jewish,” and subsequently introduced a Jewish childhood for the character. In the 1984 series Moon Knight #37, the book provides details about Marc Spector’s Jewish religious background. Marc Spector’s father was a Jewish rabbi, but unfortunately Marc does not practice his Judaism. As an adult, Marc Spector is not known to have been an observant Jew in any meaningful religious sense. He is a convert to a unique form of ancient Egyptian classical religion centering on the moon god Khonshu. (Hence his moniker) Another example of a nice Jewish Boy gone meshuggah by avodah zorah.

Also of note is the writer/creator for this 2011 Moon Knight series: Brian Michael Bendis. Mr. Bendis was born in Cleveland to a Jewish American family. Despite rebelling against a religious upbringing, he attended a Torah Day School in his youth. This may explain the Jewish Cameos that pop up from time to time in his books. Be it Spiderman’s occasional use of Yiddish or the Scene above, Brian Michael Bendis has a way of sneaking a little yiddishkite into his comics that always give me a chuckle.

Moon Knight #1 –
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Cory Petit

Posted by: gruvenreuven | May 22, 2011

A Jewish Thing 2

I had to chuckle reading The Amazing Spider-man #661 (On sale at your Local Comic Shop 18-May-2011). As suspected in a previous blog post of mine, Ben Grimm (Aka The Thing) is in fact Jewish. Reading the below panel, it is sad to see that The Thing got kicked out of Hebrew School.

Not to sound like a commercial, but I think The Thing would have had better luck if his parents sent him to a Chabad Hebrew School. Chabad is open to all branches and levels of Judaism. Their Hebrew School is top notch. Growing up, my Hebrew school was more or less a Bar Mitzvah mill. We got very little outside of learning to read Hebrew like a parrot. We didn’t know what we were reading, we only knew how to read. I hated it. My Kids, who go to our Chabad Hebrew school really love it. I don’t think they ever pleaded with me not to go (As I did when I was a kid). Yes, At Chabad you learn to read Hebrew through their excellent Aleph Champs system, but the kids get exposure to all “Things” Jewish. Torah, Holidays, History, Jewish Life, Cooking & Chassidic Stories (Just to name a few). Chabad Hebrew Schools make being Jewish seem cool & relevant in Today’s day and age.

I also laughed when I saw the blew panel. Rabbi Leibowitz helped me learn my Bar-mitzvah Haftorah. Apparently I never gave him the trouble that The Thing did 🙂

Of course this is only my personal experience attending Hebrew School in the 1970’s… Your mileage my vary (as they Say)

Posted by: gruvenreuven | May 15, 2011


“What If “ is the title of a comic book series published by Marvel Comics that explore “the road not traveled” by its various Marvel characters. Events in the “What If” series are considered separate from mainstream continuity in the Marvel Universe.

Joe Kubert’s book “Yossel” is essentially a hard hitting powerful “What if” original graphic novel published by DC comics. Joe “Yossel” Kubert in his graphic novel explores his life in a “What if the Kubert family didn’t reapply for immigration from Poland to the United States after they were turned down in 1926” style.

“Yossel” is a gripping story about a 15year old boy living in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. Yossel, like Kubert discovers cartoon drawing at an early age. It is his passion. It is his dream. It’s what keeps him going. As quoted from the book: “If I could not draw, I could not survive”

To mentally escape, Yossel sketches super heroes. His art is discovered by his Nazi guards, and provides entertainment for the guards as they watch him sketch for them. This earns Yossel favors in the way of scrapes of bread or a bit of strudel. Back in his cramped ghetto room, Yossel’s sketches turn from comic super heroes to the grim reality around him as he watches death and despair.

Separated from his family who is deported to Auschwitz, it doesn’t take Yossel long to join a resistance movement headed by the young Mordechai. Although the book does not call out Mordechai’s last name, one can infer that Kubert is chronicling the life of Mordechai “The Little Angel” Anielewicz, the leader of the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Combat Organization), during the Warsaw Uprising.

The book’s subtitle is Yossel, April 19, 1943… The date the Warsaw Uprising started, the second night of Passover. Yossel details the Warsaw uprising in Mr. Kubert’s compelling art style.

Kubert’s heartfelt story of the horrors of the Nazi era is hammered home with his raw artwork. The art in Yossel is phenomenal. Mr. Kubert does not ink his sketches, but rather leaves them as raw penciled sketches. This, combined with the greyish darkened paper really gives you the feeling that these are Yossel’s Warsaw ghetto sketches. The manner in which Mr. Kubert draws facial expressions, will leave the reader breathless.

One can’t help comparing Yossel with Maus (another original graphic novel detailing the Holocaust by Art Spiegelman). Where Maus is a non-fictional account of a survivor’s tale, the fictional account of Yossel isn’t any less gut wrenching. Maybe more so because of Mr. Kubert’s art. Yossel’s story is no different then countless number of Jews who were subjected to the horrors of the Holocaust. In Yossel, I saw my father in-law’s story, as did I find my Grandfather’s escape from Bergen Belsen.

Yossel is an emotional book, and one that (along with Maus) should be required reading.

Yossel is Joe Kubert at his finest.

Posted by: gruvenreuven | March 25, 2011

My Shabbos Sweet Spot

For me, Shabbos candle lighting at 7:00pm is my sweet spot. Not too early, not eating too late… Just like Goldilocks… it’s just right. Mincha at 7:00, Kabbalat Shabbat to follow, Home and ready to make Kiddush by 8:30.

If you take Shabbos in on time during the summer months, many times you are looking at having your Shabbos meal at 10pm. Personally, I’m OK with that, but with young kids, That is less then optimal.

Last year, our Shul took Shabbos in “On-time”. Turnout for Friday night was visibly down. I mean, we didn’t have problems making a minyan, but you could see a number of “regulars” opted to Daven at one of the neighborhood shuls that take Shabbos in early. Two years ago, Our Shul took Shabbos in at 6:30. Although just shy of my sweet spot, 6:30 allowed me just enough of time to work a full day and still make it home to help out a little getting the house ready for Shabbos before shuffling off to Mincha.

Early this week, our Rabbi went around taking an informal poll after Shachris to get a feel if we should take Shabbos in early this year. I had no preference. I should of asked how early is early. The early birds won the vote, this year early (at least for now) is 5:45. OY! That’s a bit too early for me. Sure in the dead of winter, I can make those 4:20 Minyanim. But working an Hour from shul, I typically have to swing my work hours. As a Manager, my job is to manage the folks on my team. So being in work when they are in work is optimal. My company supports me shifting my hours in the winter due to Shabbos, but I do not feel comfortable shifting my hours when I really do not have to.

So, no biggie… Our community is large enough that I can catch another Minyan at another Shul. The blessing of living in a medium-large community. Actually, I think I’m looking forward to it…. Always wanted to checkout our neighborhood Young Israel. It’s actually a shorter walk to me too.

Early, late, it doesn’t matter…. Just as long as you have a Good Shabbos! Good Shabbos!!!

The following is posted from Daily and details (some of) the Halacha of taking Shabbos in early on Firday night. If you are not familiar with this website/mailing list, do yourself a favor an check them out.

Praying Arbit Early on Friday Night – Authored by Rabbi Eli J. Mansour (3/23/2011)

The Gemara in Masechet Berachot records a debate as to when the day ends with respect to the prayers of Minha and Arbit. Rabbi Yehuda held that the day ends at the point of Pelag Ha’minha – approximately one and a quarter hours before sundown – and thus Minha must be recited by that time, and Arbit may be recited already at that time. The Hachamim (majority of the Sages), however, maintained that the day ends at sundown. According to their view, one may recite Minha until sundown, and may not recite Arbit until after sundown.

The Gemara, after trying to determine which of these views should be followed, concludes, “De’abid Ka’mor Abid, De’abid Ke’mor Abid” – meaning, one may follow whichever opinion he chooses. One can choose to consider Pelag Ha’minha the end of the day, and begin reciting Arbit already at that time, or consider sundown the end of the day, and recite Minha until sundown.

The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 233) codifies the Gemara’s conclusion, but adds that the accepted custom is in accordance with the view of the Hachamim. It is thus customary to allow reciting Minha until sundown, and to ensure not to recite Arbit until after sundown.

There are, however, several exceptions to this general rule. One such exception is a Halacha presented by the Shulhan Aruch himself (Orah Haim 267) regarding the Arbit service on Friday night. The Shulhan Aruch writes that it is customary to recite Arbit on Friday night before sundown. The obligation of “Tosefet Shabbat” requires accepting Shabbat several moments before the formal onset of Shabbat, which occurs at sundown, in order to extend the period of Shabbat observance. This requirement suffices as a “Halachic dispensation,” as it were, to allow following Rabbi Yehuda’s position, and reciting Arbit before sundown on Friday evening. Of course, Arbit may not be recited before Pelag Ha’minha, which is considered the end of the day, and thus the earliest time for Arbit, according to Rabbi Yehuda’s view.

The Magen Abraham (Rabbi Abraham Gombiner, Poland, 1637-1683) adds another reason for this custom. The Arbit prayer service corresponds to the burning of the limbs and fats of the animal sacrifices in the Bet Ha’mikdash, which took place during the nighttime hours. On Friday night, however, this nighttime ritual was not performed. Accordingly, even the Hachamim would likely agree that on Friday night, Arbit may be recited even before sundown. Since the sacrificial limbs and fats were not offered on the altar during the nighttime hours on Friday night, the Arbit service may be recited even before the night.

It should be emphasized that the Shulhan Aruch presents this Halacha as “Le’chatehila,” meaning, as applying even on the optimal standard of Halachic observance. It is perfectly acceptable to pray Arbit before sundown on Friday evening, even under normal circumstances. This ruling appears as well in the Kaf Ha’haim (work by Rav Yaakob Haim Sofer, Baghdad-Israel, 1870-1939), and it appears that this was also the view of the Arizal (Rav Yishak Luria of Safed, 1534-1572).

Summary: Generally speaking, Halacha considers sundown as the end of the day with regard to the daily prayer services, and therefore Minha may be recited until sundown, and Arbit may not be recited until after sundown. An exception to this rule is Friday night, when one is allowed to recite Arbit already from the point of Pelag Ha’minha (approximately one and a quarter hours before sundown), as is commonly done during the spring and summer.

Posted by: gruvenreuven | March 22, 2011

A Purim Wave

Purim is like a large wave in the ocean. We see it coming, we anticipate its arrival, but then it crashes to the shore and is no more. Part of me laments that Purim is a one day holiday. Another part of me is grateful. I don’t know if I can handle two days of intense fun. This year I determined that “Mondays” after a Sunday Purim are are worst “Mondays” there are. Still, last year I was sick for Purim, this year B”H we were all healthy and able to enjoy ourselves to the fullest.

My 5 year old was looking forward to Purim for a good solid month. He would ask almost daily “Is it Purim yet… when is Purim”. I guess that was fuled by his school activities. They made a awesome graggers from a cans and dried beans. He made his own Megillah, and even helped in the creation of the Mishloach Manot bags. All that aside, I think his greatest joy was dressing up as Batman this year. (Despite losing his cape after the 1st Megillah reading. It was found in time for his Shushan Purim party at school). We got his costume about a month ago and I had to hide is to insure it would still be intact in time for Purim.

This year, my 12 year old is at that stage where he is too cool for a little Purim Cosplay. (despite me trying to convince him that dressing up is a fundamental aspect of Purim) We hide ourselves to commemorate Hashem’s hidden miracle. A reason some say that Hashem’s name is not found in the Megillah.

As far as my costume, I went the easy route. With a hat I bought years ago in Lancaster, pair of suspenders and a blue shirt, I went from Hasid to Amish Guy. It’s always my favorite Purim costume as it still holds to my level of Tznius.

We also went (Unexpectedly) the easy route with our Mishloach Manot delivery. I was getting in some yard work, and folks kept stopping buy our house delivering Mishloach Manot, I reciprocated, but after my work was done, all our bags were gone. Normally I’m out running around with the kids delivering Mishloach Manot. This year by the time we were ready to run out to make our deliveries, we had already given them out.

It was our first Purim that both my sons were able to sit quietly with me for 2 Megillah readings at Shul, and even had the chance to follow along from a real Megillah. My oldest heard the Megillah 3 times this Purim as he participated in a Retirement Home Purim party for the residents.

For our Purim seduah, we attended our Shul’s Purim party. “A taste of Asia”. The food was catered by Max & David’s a local restaurant here in the Philly area. We had way too much tasty food. Totally over ate. Not to mention the food, but our wait staff kept our table from every being without wine. My wife an I had a blast, The kids had a blast. Always a great time dancing with friends, seeing friends in costumes and generally Purim Silliness.

My youngest woke up Monday morning asking if “Today was still Purim”. No… like a wave crashing on the shore it’s gone. But I see Pesach on the Horizon!

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