Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where's The Baldie?

I've heard of a few people who recently discovered that their grandparents or great-grandparents were chassidim. And even though these guys came from a modern-orthodox background, they've decided to "go back to their roots," so to speak, and started wearing a bekeshe on shabbos.

I don't get the whole thing. First of all, chassidus is only 300 years old. So if you wanna go back to your roots and emuate the ways of old times, why stop there? Why not try to emulate your ancestors of the 1600's (when chassidus was just a thought, at best)? Why not try to follow the culture and garb of the rishonim, the geonim, or the amoraim?

And even if you wanna say that they've decided they feel a connection to chassidus, perhaps more so than other groups that their ancestors associated with, so why do they draw the line at putting on a bekeshe? Go all the way! Get the zero haircuts, the Egyptian peyos, and try to go to tish every Friday night. Learn the Sfas Emes, Reb Tazdok, and other chassidish classics. I wouldn't expect these guys to dunk in the mikva every morning (it can be a hassle), but that should be an eventual goal. If they're trying to give their great-grandfather nachas, they've gotta go all the way. What, they think the guy's a moron? They think if he peers down from heaven and sees his great-grandkid in a bekeshe, he'll think his kid has truly gone back to his roots? Come on guys, don't insult the man's intelligence.

Now, some may argue that the guy isn't comfortable changing his entire look and lifestyle, so when it comes to being chassidish, this is where he draws the line. But what does wearing a bekeshe mean? To me, it's a very insignificant change. So shkoyach, Friday night the guy sticks out in shul. But aside from shabbos, the guy looks like every other person walking through Midtown Manhattan! Part of chassidus (before you even get into the hashkofo aspects) was developing a unique identity and a unique look. So I don't see the significance of wearing a bekeshe for a few hours on shabbos. What does it mean?

But in a society that is often obsessed with image and appearance, such antics don't surprise me. And as I've written about before, sometimes, it seems that even many "genuine" chassidim have only a skin-deep connection to chassidus, rather than feeling the dveykus that the Besht intended.

- When I was in Israel, I met a former chareidi-lite guy who became chassidish. But to his credit, the guy got the look down to a T. He grew a beard, peyos, cut his hair short, and even had the 3/4 length underwear going. And he started hitting the mikva daily. That's how it's gotta be done. As the old cliche goes: when you do something, do it right.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Selig's Second-Worst Moment

My take on Bonds breaking the record is very similar to my analysis of the Kolko fiasco. While Kolko was certainly at fault, I said that Margulies deserved to bear the brunt of the blame for not nipping the problem in the bud and getting Kolko the hell out there years ago. So too with Selig. I hate Bonds as much as the next guy, but Selig is the real villain here.

And years from now, when we assess Selig's legacy, the #1 low point is easily that day in September 1994, when he cancelled the World Series. As a Yankee fan, I couldn't bear to watch. A great season with Donnie, Buck, O'Neill and Jimmy Key was shattered. And baseball died in Montreal.

But Bonds breaking the record is easily second on the list. Bonds' milestone homer is a sad coda to the steroids era, and the commissioner's inaction in dealing with the issue. (And McGwire's homer in '98 is on the list as well.)

I give the guy credit for finally addressing the issue a few years ago and setting up a disciplinary system, but it was too little, too late. And what's he doing to address HGH and other designer drugs that BALCO cooks up? Is he staying a step ahead of the cheaters?

In a way, I can't totally kill Selig for what he did, because perhaps looking at where baseball was in '95, he had no choice. The game was still reeling from the strike, and maybe a steroids scandal in 1996, which would've involved big names like McGwire and Juan Gonzalez, would've killed the game, making it about as relevant as the NHL come 2007.

But to me, that's Selig's legacy in a nutshell. From a business standpoint, the game is in its best shape ever, with lots of new ballpark and record-breaking revenue. But the price has been the integrity of the game. Steroids, interleague play, ads all over - this is not the game we had in 1988.

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