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Mussar HaMadda

In this page we discuss the history of the Mussar Hamadda series of Purim torah, and offer years of Mussar Hamadda documents.

The history of Mussar Hamadda begins with then-students ( currently Rabbis ) Aryeh Striks and Shimon Zenwirth, deciding to make the shmuessin of the Rosh Hayeshiva available to Baalei Batim. They began writing up the shmuessin in fancy English, attempting to make them applicable to the standard Baalabos. They succeeded admirably. Since I davened in the yeshiva, I was reading Mussar Hatorah every week.

The next step in the process was the summer of '88. Due to a lack of better options, I ended up in Machane Mesivta of Silver Lake, the camp of Yeshiva Torah Temimah (!). I actually enjoyed the summer. But that wasn't the biggest chiddush . The biggest one was the fact that it was there that I came up with the concept!

Actually, I stole the idea. Once, in the common room, I overheard a leitz from the grade ahead of me talking about "the Kaas of the wolf, the Gaavah of the Gingerbread Man", etc. He was getting a few laughs from the group there. however,I realized that while this guy was onto something, his humor was wasted in a Yeshiva that didn't really stress Mussar . So I "liberated" his humor, filing it away in a mental niche for later use.

Fast forward 2 ½ years later. I am a senior in the Mesivta in Forest Hills, in Rabbi Wiener's shiur.I have become proficient in computers, and think I'm funny. I also have a copy of Word Perfect 5.1, which features easy-to-use pull-down menus, and a "preview" feature that actually shows what the final document will look like. Even better, my father has a laser printer. Everything was set. Many frustrating hours later, the first Mussar Hamadda was ready. Helpful tip- right-click, save target as, instead of waiting for it to load up in acrobat reader.

The Gingerbread Man

Several comments about it: #1, you'll notice it says "Mussar HasePurim". This was a suggestion of someone else, who wanted something more subtle than "Mussar HaMadda". Nobody got it. Also, I got very lucky here. I used to snooze through the Friday shmuesin , and never "got" the whole " The question is the answer" concept until a few years later. So it came out pretty well considering. At the time I was working on it, Gulf War I was going on. That night, Purim Night, the war stopped, and I felt slightly cheated. In retrospect, I was right about Saddam. The Galactic Destroyer and Captain Killjoy were bulletin board system handles ("screen names" in modern parlance" ) of my brother and myself, respectively. The Amphibian was a mutual friend. Also, the date- Adar I. This was stuck in the next year, when my brother reprinted it. I changed the year back to 5751, but lost cheshbon of the fact that 1991-92 was actually the year that was the leap year. I'll fix it evtually.

It was a big hit, opening up vistas of humor previously unseen. Sure enough, I would get giddy enough to think of following it with a really stupid, nonsensical followup based on the Chicken that Crossed the Road. My guess was that since the whole category was obvious and no longer original, I should do a less obvious shmues. I was going to post it, but it hurts me to read it, so I thought I'd spare you the agony and myself the embarrassment. It did, however, feature several ideas that I was to later revisit.

The next year saw me in WITS, away from my computer. I wrote my brother a nice Mussar HaMadda based on the pigs eating the Wolf after the wolf fell in the pot under the chimney. My assumption now is that I was still trying to avoid obvious shmuessin , and trying to be too clever for my own good. A simple Atzlus shmuess on the Three Pigs would have sufficed. Needless to say, my brother rejected it. He got Mendel Zlotnick to write one, and the result was
Old Mother Hubbard.

The years of '92-'93 and '93-'94 saw my brother and I in Chofetz Chaim Israel. What would happen to the franchise? I assumed it would be put on hold, waiting for us to continue it the next year.

Something went wrong. Someone from WITS saw the Mussar HaMadda, loved it, and decided to come out with his own version, called Purim HaTorah. During those two years, they came out with two issues per year, and had the gall to fax it to Forest Hills! I was steamed about it then- they wasted the best stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood, The 3 Pigs, Humpty Dumpty, and one more I can't think of now. What was there left for the originator?

In retrospect, I was being a baby- imitation is the best form of flattery. Plus, competition is good. As soon as I get hold of scans of their work I will post them in their own section. In Israel, I was Purim Mashgiach, and said shmuessin on the 3 Little Pigs and Hickory Dickory Dock. That year there was a co-mashgiach, who said his own. Things were fine.

'95 was when I found out about our competition. That year, I was in Chofetz Chaim Brooklyn. I was supposed to have an appointment with the rosh Hayeshiva, but it was postponed when the Rosh hayeshiva went to Switzerland on vacation. I was miffed, and the result was
Goldilox

This Mussar Hamadda reflected some bitter feelings I was having towards CC Brookyln- in retrospect undeserved. I compared it to 2 branches that closed down, on the subheader. This Mussar Hamadda was also a little harsh in its style, and named names. This was the last one I would produce pre-Blatt shiur. Finally in this year, the "main thief of my concept" ( as I was fuming about it then) put out a Purim Hatorah one based on Curious George. This will also be posted at a future time.

I went to Forest Hills after Pesach of '95. Back then, the Rosh Hayeshiva, Shlit"a, gave Blatt Shiur fairly regularly. Included was a lot of Hashkafa and humor. The next year, my first full year in the Hills , was '95-96, Yevamos. The influence of Blatt Shiur , the Shabbos Hashkofah sessions plus the Mussar Chaburos produced, in 1996,
The Wizard of Oz.

There were several references to things said in various Hashkafah and shiur sessions:

The bottom contained a reference to a joke Chofetz Chaim version of Kesser Wines. The subheadline contained a reference to the fact that Kew Gardens Hills kept getting pushed further and further away.

The next year was Gittin , my second year of Blatt Shiur . I ended up with
The Chicken/ The Little Red Hen.
The references here include:

The following year, '98, was Kesubos. This was the year that Rabbi Dovid Harris came back and started giving a parallel Blatt Shiur . This was a bittersweet event, the joy of a new Maggid Shiur combined with the acceptance of the fact that the Rosh HaYeshiva could no longer handle it himself. In terms of the Mussar HaMadda, it meant that a common frame of reference for in-jokes, namely the Rosh Hayeshiva's shiur , was lost. Anyways, this year's offering was
Green Eggs and Ham.
References included :

The next year was '99, Kiddushin, my first year out of Blatt Shiur I lost the file, but hope to get it back soon, so ignore this part.
Lost the file due to human error, Doesn't exist, don't click here.Will try to recover by scanning in an archival copy
References don't exist because while working on the 2000 version, I overwrote the 1999 file...

The next year, 2000, was Bava Kamma. Revisiting an old favorite, I produced
The 3 Little Pigs.
References here include:

This year I put out my first Hebrew Purim Torah, and I began focusing my efforts on that, with less emphasis on the English one. The English one was becoming old hat, and I felt I could have more fun with the Hebrew

The next year was 2001, the "last year in the old building", or so we were told. It turned out to be the second-to-last year. This was the year that Mussar HaTorah made a brief but welcome comeback. This year produced
Jack Sprat.
Like I said, the focus was on the Hebrew Purim Torah. Three references:

This year i also came up with the Absolut Forest Hills t-shirt.

2002 was in fact the last year of the old building. That year, the first Harry Potter book hit the silver screen as a movie. To make all the HP fans happy, I produced
Harry Potter and the sorceror's stone.
This was the most half-hearted attempt I gave yet. No real jokes or puns. I focused on the Hebrew Purim Torah, as well as the Kessel Street series. References here include:

I also stuck in the "Absolut Forest Hills" picture at the bottom.