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Friday, October 31, 2008

Election 2008: The Shvartza vs. the Shiksa

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Election 2008: The Shvartza vs. the Shiksa

Rabboissai,

Oy, am I confused! I was looking forward to a calm fall season, a relaxing return to my routine schedule of learning Toirah, teaching talmidim, day trading, and arguing with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, about whether to drip the chrain directly into the gefilte fish or onto the side of the plate, if you know what I mean. But the Reboinoisheloilum clearly had other plans: What could have been an election season focused on a clear choice between two old white guys has now become a standoff between an over-educated, erudite shvartza whose name sounds like he plays running back for the Al Qaida football team, and a hot shiksa with a little mileage who looks like a cross between librarian and a retired porn star, Kenaiyna Harah.

And to top it all off, I think that I might be able to get away without paying off that mortgage for the Yeshiva’s private retreat facility in Maui.

Many of my talmidim have been calling me well into the night asking me how they should vote in this pivotal election. It was bad enough when it was Oibama vs. Hillary vs. McCain. But now with Sarah (Imainu) Palin, her blue collar husband, and her pregnant daughter in the race, what’s a Ben Toirah to do?

Ich Vais – Everyone in the United States is struggling with this issue, but lucky for Klal Yisroel, we received the Toirah, our guidebook for life decisions, and also a good pretext for declaring my house a Place of Worship and for taking my new 50 inch flat screen LCD TV as a tax deduction. (Indeed, I plan to use it every Moitzie Shabbos to get together with some of my Talmidim to watch documentaries on Hakadoshboruchhu’s commandment to be mekayaim the mitzvah of Pru Urvu.)

There is a very obscure Gemara in Makkois that tells us a Maiseh Shehoya about the selection of the Raish Gelusa. There once was a man named Hamnuna who wanted very badly to be the Raish Gelusa. The previous Raish Gelusa had been removed from the position by the Babylonian authorities after being caught… errr… having relations with his neighbor’s goat. Hamnuna approached all of the town leaders of Pumbedisa, and secured their support. However, the leaders of Sura supported Chisda as their candidate.

In the Second Raish Gelusa Debate between the two, held in the University of Tamuz, Chisda suggested that Hamnuna could not possibly be good for the Jews because he had the word “Ham” in his name. Hamnuna responded that Chisda was sympathetic to the Roman occupiers of Eretz Yisroel, and was also a Baal Keri. Chisda suggested that Hamnuna had his camel serviced in the same desert station as Augustine, the early Church Father and anti-Semite, and must therefore be a self-hating Jew. Hamnuna countered that Chisda was out of touch with the needs of the common Babylonian, given that he was married to the daughter of a wealthy mead merchant and had six tents in different parts of Babylon.

The night before the election, Chisda studied Toirah in the Yeshiva in Sura while Hamnuna went door to door, trying to win over any last undecided voters. In the election, Chisda won by a landslide. That night, Hamnuna prayed to Hakkadoshboruchhu, crying and beating his chest, and demanded to know why he was relegated to finishing second. Suddenly, a Bas Kol came down from Shamayim. “Hamnuna”, the Bas Kol said, “did you explain your positions on foreign policy to the people?”

“Yes, Aimishteh”, Hamnuna responded.

“Did you explain how much experience you have?” the Bas Kol asked.

“Yes, Hakkadoshboruchhu. I even sponsored an infomercial.”

“Then there must be only one reason you lost” the Bas Kol responded. “Clearly they did not like the idea that your skin is darker than your Tefillin and your Bris Milah is bigger than your Lulav. To tell you the truth, I am a little afraid of being alone in a Bais Medrish with you myself.”

In this Ma’aiseh Shehoyo, the Gemarrah tells us how much skin color affected the selection of the Raish Gelusa. But in our day, such issues are far less relevant. Instead, it is more important that we look at qualifications.

Barack HUSSEIN Oibama is an affirmed socialist and a confirmed Muslim. Were it not that he is committed to destroying Israel, supporting Iran, befriending terrorists, raising taxes, giving away my wealth, and providing healthcare to the sick, I might consider voting for him. But alas, even as an eight year old he joined the Weathermen domestic terrorist group. I mean, look who is supporting him: Jermiah Wright, Farrakhan, Colin Powell – all the shvartza radicals! And look at his endorsements: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Jose Mercury News, and the Hitler Daily Express.

On the other side of course, you have a serious Ben Toirah and an honorary Bas Yisroel. John McCain, or, rather, Yoichanan McCain, is a modern day version of Rabbi Shimoin Bar Yoichai. Just as Reb Shimoin Bar Yoichai studied Toirah while buried in a cave up to his neck for fourteen years, Yoichanan McCain studied Toirah in the six and a half years that he was locked in a box in Vietnam. He learned all of Shas, by the way, by studying Daf Yoimi in his cage, though he did not have access to the Yerushalmi. He sent all his seven children to Yeshiva, suffering through the high tuitions of the Yeshivas in Arizona. And his wife, Cindy McCain, has one of the best Shaytels in Washington, though it is suspected of coming from Indian hair sources (though there is a machloikess over whether the hair is Navajo or Apache).

Sarah (Imainu) Palin is, however, the more captivating figure on the ticket. She is the mother of five children, Kenaiyna Harah. And while her husband is a Groisse Shaygitz, we know that Sarah Palin is sympathetic to Klal Yisroel, given that her church in Alaska featured as a speaker David Brickner, the Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, who preached, while the Governor was in attendance, about the need to save all of the Yiddesheh Neshamas from Gehennim. Boruch Hashem someone is looking after your Nashama, you mamzer!

Indeed, Sarah Palin is much like her namesake in the Toirah. In Parshas Lech Lecha and Parshas Vayeira, Sarah Imainu presents herself as Avraham Avinu’s sister, so that no harm will come to Avraham during their sojourn. So too, Sarah Palin has positioned herself to support a much older running mate. Indeed, she might be willing to mother a child for Yoichanan McCain, a Ben LiZkunuv, if only Bob Dole were willing to share a little of his Viagra.

In fact, I believe that the Talmud foreshadows the arrival of Sarah Palin on the scene. There is a Beraisah in Maseches Nidah that suggests that a true Aishess Chayil should wear her hair up in a bee hive hairdo, to enable simple loosening prior to entering a Mikvah or a hot tub. According to Rava, the halacha of entering a hot tub or the mikvah is the same in a cold climate, such as Provence or Alaska, but would differ in Eretz Yisroel. However, according to Abaya, there is no difference, whatever the climate.

You might think that this is an obscure discussion about Taharas Hamishpachah and fashion sense. But you are a complete ignoramus who thinks that an Apatropis is a form of mountain goat. No, this Gemarrah speaks directly to the impact that Sarah McCain could have in Washington. According to Rava, the gevaldik impact that Governor Palin had in Alaska, overthrowing the corrupt elites, taking on the oil companies, and defending the United states against Russian and Canadian invasion, will not necessarily translate into success in Washington, which is ruled by an entrenched cadre of self-serving politicians, as well as elected members of the Democratic Party. However, Abaya holds that Sarah (Imainu) Palin will be just as effective in Washington as she was in Alaska.

I would like to suggest that neither candidate combination, Oibama/ Biden or McCain/ Palin, truly has Klal Yisroel’s interests at heart. In what areas do they agree? Koolay Alma Lo Pligi, they all hold, that government should intervene in Wall Street. They all believe in denying me and my talmidim great real estate opportunities… err… that the government should protect mortgage holders from default. They all believe that government should take an equity stake in financial companies. And they all believe that compensation limits should be placed on Wall Street executives. Clearly, all the candidates are Communists!

Similarly, they all “claim” to support Eretz Yisroel… yet they also all support the establishment of a Palestinian State. If I am not mistaken, that involves negotiations with the Arabs, Chass V’Sholom. They all commit to defending the State of Israel, and to supporting Israel in the face of an Iranian nuclear threat. But what does that mean? As we are all painfully aware from the actions of both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the road to Gehennim is paved with the best of intentions. Look at Oslo, Iraq, elections is the West Bank and Gaza, and the current toothless American stance against Iran.

Most importantly, both the presidential and vice presidential candidates subscribe to a belief set that is anathema to Klal Yisroel: They all believe in Yushka. Yushka Pandra: The man who abandoned our great faith in order to found a new movement and come up with worldwide franchise success and a popular Broadway musical. Yushka: The symbol who inspired historical persecutions against Klal Yisroel, and who amongst Evangelicals inspires a vision of either mass conversion or destruction of Klal Yisroel in the “End of Days”. These are your candidates, you minuvals, so I suggest you not get too excited about any of them.

So in answer to the question of who you should vote for: I say go move to France and vote for Sarkozy – At least his father was a Jew. And his wife is a smoking hot shiksa, sort of like a Palin, but without the Evangelical Hashkafa or the pregnant teenage daughter.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Simchas Toirah Drasha

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Simchas Toirah Drasha

Rabboisai,

This week we celebrate the conclusion of Sukkois and the completion of the annual cycle of Kriyas HaToirah by getting stinking drunk and dancing with members of the same gender.

Rav Moishe Chaim Luzzato asks: Why do we dance with other men, which is a clear violation of Lifnei Iver for Mishkav Zachor, an unacceptable temptation that may lead to playing “bury my Sukkah pole in your Schach,” if you know what I mean?

There is a famous machloikess that addresses this question. Reb Yisroel Salanter comments that the completion of the Toirah cycle is meant as an Ois, a microcosm, of Oilum Habbah. With the completion of the Chamishei Chumshei Toirah, we experience a moment that is a foreshadowing of Biyas HaMashiach and Oilum Habbah, the dawning of the Messianic era and the World to Come. As such, we know that when Moshiach comes, many of the Halachic restrictions of Oilum Hazeh will fall away. Just as Tisha Ba’Av will shift from being a day of somber mourning to our greatest day of celebration, Biyuh SheLo KeDarko with another man will shift from being an “abomination” to a “Mitzvas Asei SheHazman Grummah.” It will also be a great way to reward your Chavrusa for knowing all the latest dance steps to “Zara Chaya VeKayama.”

Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov proposes a similar approach. He suggests that we do not dance in celebration of completing the annual cycle of reading the Toirah, since in ancient times much of Klal Yisroel followed a triennial cycle, completing the Toirah in three years. Rather, Rebbe Nachman states that we dance with other men to signal the end of the long holiday season. He writes in his famous treatise Likutei MoHaran that “Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Toirah clarify the essential differences between men and women. At this time of year, while men are busy trying to eke out a living without being fired for missing work, building the Sukkah, preparing the Arba Minim, etc., their wives are constantly calling them with requests, such as:

-- ‘Reuvain, can you please pick up bok choi on your way home from work’

-- ‘Shimoin, I don’t think we have enough dessert for the fourth meal we are hosting; can you pick up some brownie mix?’

-- ‘Layvee, I have to stay late at the office; can you come home early to give the kinderlach a bath?’”

Says Rebbe Nachman, “If I can trade being called fourteen times a day by my wife and being incessantly hen-pecked in exchange for engaging in Mishkav Zachor with another man, I will gladly play catcher in Biyuh SheLo Kedarko with a big sweaty Yeshiva Bochur named Lazer.”

However, the Vilna Goyn suggests that Rav Moishe Chaim Luzzato and Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov probably spent a bit too much time hanging out at the Mikvah on Erev Yoim Kippur. He writes farkhert in Chuddushe HaGruh, “In Klal Yisroel, we don't have homosexuals. We don't have that in our Kehillah. In Yiddishkeit, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.”

Instead, the Gruh points to the seasonal nature of Shaloish Regalim as the true reason we celebrate on Simchas Toirah. He notes that just as Peysach is Chag HaAviv – the Spring Festival, and Shavuois is Chag HaBikurim – the Harvest Festival, Shmini Atzeres and especially Simchas Toirah celebrate something in the calendric cycle of Klal Yisroel and of Kol HaOilam Kooloh in general.

The Gruh cites a famous machloikess. The Tur asks, “What is the most important Aliyah during Kriyas HaToirah?

According to Reb Yoisaiph Karo, the most important Aliyah is Rishoyn, the first Aliyah, since it is the Aliyah reserved for the Koihayn, the representative of Klal Yisroel designated by the Reboinoisheloilum to bless His chosen People.

According to the Bais Yoisaiph, the most important Aliyah is the second Aliyah, the Aliyah of the Layvee, since he silently enables the holy activities of the Koihayn by washing the Koihayn’s filthy hands and smelly feet.

According to the Keseph Mishnah, the most important Aliyah is the third Aliyah, since it is typically reserved for the biggest tzaddik in the room. Or, more frequently, it goes to the guy who writes the biggest check to the shul, even though everyone knows he frequently schtupps his hot shiksa secretary while eating pork, and makes his money by selling variable mortgages to eighty year old widows who live off of Social Security.

However, the Shulkhan Arukh holds that the fourth Aliyah is the most important one. His reasoning: Unlike the first, second, or third Aliyahs, the fourth Aliyah is an RBI position. He is batting clean up, while the others simply have the responsibility of getting on base. He has to bring them home, an awesome responsibility. As proof, the Shulkhan Arukh cites the fact that the last Aliyah is typically reserved for a Bar Mitzvah boy or a light hitting shortstop. Or for a pitcher in the National League, Chass v’Sholom. These mamzerim are likely to get out anyway, so we may as well put them in a position where they can’t do any damage.

Continues the Goyn: on Simchas Toirah we echo the external calendar and combine the completion of the Toirah cycle with the completion of the baseball season. Consequently, there is a strong Minhag for men to dance together and jump on top of each other in celebration. There is even a Minhag amongst the Sephardim to pour champagne over each others’ heads, although the real Jews celebrate by drinking scotch and making Mei Raglayim in the Ezras Nashim.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Elchanan Wasserman once took a break from the Simchas Toirah celebrations at his Yeshiva and ran home for a quick snack. When he arrived, the house was empty. No one was in the kitchen and no one was in the living room. He went upstairs, opened the door to his bedroom, and to his surprise, he found his wife Chraindie naked, rolling around in bed with the wives of his three Talmidei Muvhak, his leading student protégés. In shock, he asked his wife, “Voos Tootzuch Mit Der Gefilte Fish Party”?

His wife Chraindie responded, “Elchi, you are off in Yeshiva celebrating the end of the Toirah cycle, while we are here celebrating the end of our cycles.”

Pausing for just a moment, Reb Elchanan told his wife, “You are indeed an Eishess Chayil!” He then ran back to the Yeshiva, passed through the Bais Medrish amidst all of the Freilechin dancing and singing, and joined his three Talmidei Muvkak in his private study off the Bais Medrish. Together the four of them intently watched a playoff game on TV for the next hour and a half.

Ah Freilechin Yuntif, You Minuval.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sukkois Drasha

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Sukkois Drasha

On this holiday, the yuntif of Sukkois, we wave fresh fruit at the sky for seven days, and eat in an open air beehive. We cap it off by dancing cheek to cheek with a bunch of bearded men. (I have a date with a talmid named Yerachmiel; I hope I get lucky!)

According to Chazzal, Sukkois is the time when Moshiach will come. And according to Reb Hai Goyn, it is the holiday when you are supposed to separate yourself from the secular world. He cites as proof the fact that you are forced to take off so many work days right before end of year reviews, you might as well start polishing up your resume.

The RI holds that Sukkois is actually a celebration of homosexuality. When Klal Yisroel were preparing for the long winter, planting in the fields by day and sleeping in huts at night, at the end of a long day they would sit down bichavrusa (in pairs) and study a little Talmud. One minute they are on daf yud baiz, amud alef, and the next minute they are on the floor, committing Mishkav Zachor. And who can blame them? I get excited by a gevaldik Toisfois myself!

The RI cites various Sukkois practices as proof for his position:

- We wave our phallic lulavim on the faces of all the other men, boasting about how ours is the biggest in the shul;

- Alongside our lulav is our esroig, where the gemarrah tells us that the more bulbous and full of veins, the better;

- We commit a sadomasochistic act with a handful of willow branches;

- We dance around the Toirah with other men, our fingers firmly entwined with others' hot, sweaty, hairy hands.

However, most Rishoinim disagree with the RI, referring to his rather abrupt departure from his position as director of the all boys Orthodox summer camp in Northern Lithuania (although they settled out of Baiz Din, so no one can prove a damn thing).

The RIF points to the beauty of the Sukkah celebration as a unique mitzvah within Yiddishkeit. Fresh fruit. The outdoors. Many Rishoinim hold that you should live in the Sukkah for eights days. It says in the Gemmarah that Rish Lakish would move into the Sukkah, and use it as an excuse for not having to deal with his mother in law all week. Rav Ashi, on the other hand, insisted that his mother in law sleep in the Sukkah, and take one or two of the kids with her.

The Sukkah offers many opportunities to be Hiddur Mitzvah, to go above and beyond the letter of the commandment. It is customary to decorate the Sukkah with pictures and other decorations. (Vooz iz givehn plastic fruit, anyway? I understand the Reform decorate their Sukkahs with shrimp.)

According to Rabbeinu Tam, it is actually a Mitzvah Dioraisa to buy Christmas decorations in January at fifty percent off, to be used in decorating the Sukkah the following year: Flashing lights. Ornaments. Candy canes. Indeed, one year the Vilna Goyn decorated his Sukkah with a nativity scene he bought for six dollars.

There are other things that one can do with a Sukkah. A Braisah brings down a story of Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, who, as a teenager, had the roof removed from his family's minivan so that he could drive down to the beach and be mekayaim the mitzvois of pleasuring his girlfriend and eating in the sukkah at the same time. What a tzaddik!

Yet the most beautiful element of Sukkois, and the aspect most shrouded in mystery, is the mitzvah of esroig. I still can't figure it out. It looks like a lemon. It smells like a lemon. It even tastes like a lemon. But it costs as much as heroin. How come it is easier to buy fresh peaches from Antarctica than it is to buy an esroig at a reasonable price?

And how many times in your life have you heard of esroig jelly. I bet you have heard of it all your life, but have NEVER seen it. You know why? Imagine this boast to your friends and neighbors: "I took 100 esroigim that last week retailed for a total of $5,000, mixed them up with a little sugar and pectin, and now it's worth about $1.50." Really impressive.

For this reason, I have a personal minhag. Two days before Sukkois, I buy 5 pounds of lemons in the supermarket, take them home, and then take a baseball bat to them. After about ten minutes of beating the crap out of them, I have plenty esroigim for myself and the kinderlach, and sell the remainder in the shul. With the extra money I buy some cologne, so I can smell nice for my dancing partner on Simchas Toirah night.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, you Minuval.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Yoim Kippur Drasha

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://stores.lulu.com/rapas

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Yoim Kippur Drasha

You good for nothing minuval, you have sinned all year long, and now you are going to pay for it!

From Kol Nidrei at sundown until the blowing of the shofar, you will be cramped into an overcrowded room surrounded by unshowered, unshaven men whose empty stomachs are growling louder than the chazzan. But look at the bright side: at least you get your exercise. Between the frequent and incessant beating of your chest and the four instances of full kneeling, you have become a Moslem Tarzan. Mazel Toiv.

Chazzal spent many, many hours contemplating the true meaning of Yoim Kippur, while waiting for the horses to reach the finish line. There is a famous machloikess (rabbinic debate) in Massechess Yuma on the topic between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. Bais Shammai holds that the true commandment of the Toirah is that you should sin all year long, and then repent on Yoim Kippur. Bais Hillel, on the other hand, holds that you should strictly avoid sin all year long, and then enjoy a nice honey glazed ham right after Kol Nidrei. Of course, this is one of the fourteen instances when we hold like Bais Shammai (along with such critical issues as not using toilet paper on Shabboskoidesh and the infield fly rule.)

The Rishoinim struggled to define the metaphor by which we can understand how the Jewish People should look upon a single day in which they can redeem themselves for past mistakes, and plan for the next year without the aid of a good tax advisor or financial planner.

According to the Rabbeinu Tam, Yoim Kippur is like an all day telethon, where the Aimishteh is raising funds and support for the coming year, and you are asked to contribute of your soul.

The ROSH disagrees, using the same metaphor, but reversing it. Says the ROSH, YOU are hosting the telethon, and are appealing to the Rebboinoisheloilum for his support. And you refuse to go off the air until He is ready to write you a check. (And if He pledges 75 dollars or more, you'll send Him an autographed CD of Luciano Pavoratti in concert.)

The RIF holds that the true metaphor for Yoim Kippur is that of the annual performance review. Hakkodoshboruchhu is your manager, and at review time, He reaches out to your colleagues, your superiors, your subordinates, and your clients, soliciting feedback on your performance. He looks at your numbers. He checks how often you have been absent or late to shul. He then synthesizes the information and decides your fate. Will you be terminated? Will you get a raise? Will you get a better bonus? Will you get a hot new shiksa secretary?

But how can you protect yourself as the Aimishteh's employee? How can you best ensure a positive year? According to the Pas Akum, this metaphor explains one of the age old questions, which is: why does Sukkois so closely follow Yoim Kippur? Say the Aimishteh decides to terminate you. What can you do? Can you prove wrongful dismissal? Says the Pas Akum, on Sukkois we stand before Hakkodoshboruchhu four days after Yoim Kippur and wave our phallic looking palm branches at heaven as if to say, "if you terminate me, I'll sue you for sexual harassment!" And in the current politically correct environment, even He has to be careful.

We prepare for this holiest day of days with the greatest degree of sobriety. We set aside Ten Days Of Atonement for spiritual introspection. We say Selichois, special prayers beseeching the Aimishteh for forgiveness. We blow the shoifar, which is intended to strike an internal chord of repentance. And we wave a live chicken over our heads.

In the time of the Second Temple, there was a great debate over this strange practice. The Perushim (Pharasees) held that before Yoim Kippur, every Jewish male should take a chicken by the legs, wave it over the heads of his loved ones, as if to absorb their sins, and then send the chicken off to slaughter. We have recently learned from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Essenes, on the other hand, held that before Yoim Kippur every Jewish male should choke the chicken, if you know what I mean. Given that the Essenes are not doing too well these days, I guess that was the wrong approach.

There is a famous story of Rabbi Chaim MiVerlozhin. Reb Chaim was traveling from town to town in Inner Mongolia, trying to raise money for his Yeshiva's IPO. When Yoim Kippur came, Reb Chaim went to the only shul in town just in time for Kol Nidrei. "We're sorry," he was told, "but you can't get in without a ticket." Not having purchased a ticket in advance, Reb Chaim was sent away, denied the opportunity to daven on Yoim Kippur in a minyan.

The next morning, as Reb Chaim went downstairs in the small hotel in which he was staying, the host greeted him saying, "Rabbi, please join us. The missus just made up a huge breakfast, including a fresh batch of muffins." Reflecting on his experience the night before, on his rejection at the shul, and at the prospect of having to daven for the next sixteen hours by himself, Reb Chaim took off his yarmulke, sat down at the table, and began to serve himself.

That night, the Aimishteh came to him. "Reb Chaim," the Aimishteh said, "why did you sin today?"

"I'm sorry, Aimishteh. I was so drained by the whole ticket thing I just had to grab a bite to eat," Reb Chaim responded.

"No, you fool," the Aimishteh replied. "Why did you let all that nice bacon go to waste?"

Repentance, and sin, are somewhat in the eye of the beholder. So when you are standing before the Melech Malchei Hamelachim at Neilah, don't just mouth the words; picture it as a conversation, one on one, between you and the Reboinoisheloilum. Before you beg for forgiveness, establish rapport. Tell a couple of jokes. Ask the Aimishteh how He's doing. Ask about the wife and kids. Sure He's busy, but a little brown-nosing never hurts.

Gemar Chassima Toivah, you Vilda Chaya.