Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I got the Motts[-ah]!

[For anyone who doesn't understand the title, see this video.]

Today I did my annual drive in to the Shatzer Matzah bakery in Brooklyn. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now; I did it when we were in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for the shul there, and now I do it from Allentown. Every year is different – one year I brought my pre-school aged son, we’ve had a couple of rainy years, and last year I forgot to bring a check and had to run around Brooklyn to find a bank branch and get a bank check – so I thought I would blog the 200-mile round trip this year, and let people in on a little-known aspect of the rabbinate.

Correction: In truth, this isn’t part of the rabbinate; I doubt there are more than a handful of rabbis who do this personally. I do it because (1) my father always taught me to do the hard jobs myself, and (2) because if the matzah comes back broken, I’d rather take the blame myself than have to be upset with someone else.

One year we tried shipping it. They did a good job at Shatzer, but there was just no way. Some things aren’t meant to be shipped.

So I set out after the Daf, at 9:03 AM, armed with two cans of Boost-Plus, two bottles of water, a few music CD’s and a few shul projects to contemplate.

In truth, the ride this year was rather dull, but here are the high (or low) points:

9:33 AM
The radio anchors were a little odd this morning; one of them went on a five-minute monologue about the keywords on his station’s website, and the question of whether there was a keyword “Keyword” you could enter in order to get a list of available keywords. I changed the station.

9:38 AM
Someone named Sean Astin was interviewed on the radio, regarding his role as a surrogate in the Hillary Clinton campaign. According to the interviewer Sean starred in Rudy and in Toy Soldiers, neither of which have I seen. Sean talked about celebrity sponsors of politicians, and how they can be a drawback if they don't know anything or if they are doing it just to get their names involved. I tend to agree, except in the Bono type of case, where the celebrity actually takes the time and devotes the brain cells to understanding the issues.

9:41 AM
Huge jam-up, which continues for more than 3 miles and 30 minutes. Bloomberg radio says there's a tractor-trailor turned over, two lanes out of three shut down. Just what I had dreaded. We market Allentown by telling people it’s less than two hours to Manhattan, and that’s true – but not when you get an accident like this one. Hands-free drivers laws or not, I pull out the cell phone; I’m not moving, anyway. Might as well get some work done.

9:57 AM
Still stuck in the accident traffic. I start working on a working group I’m forming. I’ve come to believe that committees are best formed by filling qualifications slots, just like in hiring employees. So the chair and I are looking for a hard worker, a creative thinker, an organizational mind, a business mind, a community-minded person and a fundraiser. We have a great community; I have a few people listed for each slot within minutes.

10:09 AM
Still stuck. Crawl past a car pulled over by a police officer on the other side of the highway. It has New Jersey plates, which is unusual; from what I’ve seen, New Jersey cops much prefer to pull over non-residents. A revenue thing, presumably.

10:18 AM
Traffic jam is over. Hooray.

10:22 AM
A car ahead of me gets pulled over by a cop. That is unfair. There should be a moratorium on speeding tickets within ten miles after an accident scene; after we’ve been bottled up for so long, we need to stretch our legs a little! He couldn’t have been doing more than 80 anyway, and it’s a 65 zone. You have my sympathy, my friend.

10:32 AM
Police officers all over the highway. Just passed one on the left, followed by one on the right. Guess they figure you’ll speed up after passing the first one, and get caught by the second. Jersey needs the income.

10:48 AM
In the "that's awful" department: As I near the New Jersey Turnpike, I see a billboard with a Wanted poster, for a Christopher Barrett, wanted for rape. It would be nice if we could have billboards honoring people.

10:53 AM
Lots of billboards for alcoholic beverages. “Want to learn about wine? Do it the FUN way” and “Get Frost Smitten” among others. I’m no Prohibitionist, but I don’t like it.

11:05 AM
Ah, here we are in New York – where the drivers all pretend not to see you. (As opposed to Boston, where they really don’t see you…)

Brooklyn is actually tamer today than I’ve ever seen it, and the Shatzer factory is quieter than I can ever remember seeing it. Usually there’s a mob scene in there. "Why does he only pay X?" "What do you mean I have to call ahead?" "Ex-kyoooze me, I was here an hour ago, I came back with a check, lemme get my matzah!" etc. Not today; I was in and out in ten minutes.

I love the kids they hire to help load cars; they always have funny reactions to hearing I’m from Pennsylvania. “You mean you drove all the way in from Pennsylvania?!” as though it was Kentucky. “Better pack this tight, if it’s going all the way to Pennsylvania!” No one quite asks, “You mean there’s a market for 150 pounds of shmurah matzah in Allentown, Pennsylvania?” but you know they’re thinking it.

Yente, the woman in charge, is good; she speeds me through and I’m on my way. The trip home is, thank Gd, uneventful.

I love the “Reduce Speed Get Ticket” signs on the Jersey Turnpike. Am I the only one who sees those signs and wonders why you would want to slow down? (Sort of like the counterpart of those “Fine for Speeding” signs…)

And I get my usual lift from seeing the Statue of Liberty on the way to Route 78; even if it’s now property of New Jersey, it’s still beautiful. Enough of a lift that I can ignore the two dead Bambis I pass on the highway shortly afterward.


  1. Re: 11:05 - Hey! I'm from Boston and I resemble that remark!

    (It's such a novelty for me to be alone in a car (without kids) that I rarely get annoyed by traffic. I enjoy getting to finish a sentence in my own mind while driving!)

    Wishing you, the Rebbetzin, the family and your community a chag kasher v'sameach.

  2. FWIW, Sean was also in The Lord of The Rings Movies- He Played Sam.

    P.S. Rudy is an excellent movie. It is worth an hour.

  3. Another fan of the "Reduce Speed - Get Ticket" signs here! But I'm easy to amuse that way - I still snicker at the "Protect our SLOW Children" signs too. Hey, we call them "differently abled" now!

  4. OK, I can't let you off the hook for this one.

    A RABBI, an Orthodox rabbi, defending someone who broke the LAW and endangered life by speeding??

    Maybe I've been out of the big cities too long, but going over 80 seems insane, especially if there's a lot of traffic.

    Oh, and um, yeah. Boston. Hard to see you what with all the cars parked on both sides of the narrow, curving roads. Took me several months to retrain myself not to pull out halfway into the street at a stop sign to see if anyone's coming.

    And I'm jealous - I want shmurah matzah hand-delivered by a rabbi!!
    Granted that New York to Oregon is a much longer trip. :)

  5. My husband schlepps from Machaneh Yehuda, but we can get machine shmura in the local grocery store.