Meanwhile, Internet access came to town. I began setting up my personal website. When the ISP rep asked what ID I wanted, I said "rooster" out of pure cussedness. (So beware of angry roosters - -they use fowl language!) Thus was my nickname born. Even after we moved to our little hobby farm outside of town, (where chickens are no problem), I kept the Rooster ID because, by now, the website was linked all over the Internet. It also related nicely to the Hasidic parable by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, about the mad prince who thought he was a rooster. (Read my re-telling of the story.) Or, some say, he was a turkey -- but I first heard it as a rooster... Besides, I'm not about to call myself a TURKEY!
The original reference in Yiddish was to the "Indian Cock,"which some scholars claim is the turkey (because people apparently mistook it for a peacock) and others say it is the Red Jungle Fowl of India, which is believed to be the original ancestor of all breeds of chickens. (Wouldn't this make a really great Purim debate -- was it a turkey or was it a rooster???? We Jews can agree on the big things, such as One God, Ten Commandments... it's those annoying little details that really get us going. )
Anyway, the exact species of barnyard bird doesn't really affect the story, which I frequently tell, and which is my personal model for teaching Yiddishkeit (Judaism). Plus, my wife and I like chickens, which we keep as pets on our farm. (Wec are vegetarians. We do not slaughter our birds, although we do eat the eggs.)
Not long after I got online, Amazon.com came out with their Associates program and I decided to join. To my dismay, the “Rooster” ID was already taken on their system. So, I added “613" to my Amazon ID. Why did I choose that number? Because I’m an Orthodox Jew, and “613" has a special significance to religious Jews. It refers to the 613 mitzvot (pronounced “mitts-vote,” meaning “commandments”) in the Torah. (NOTE: They are communal rules -- no one person can do all 613 mitzvot, because some are for men, some for women, some for farmers, teachers, merchants, priests, soldiers, etc. Altogether, the Jewish community as a whole has the 613 commandments. Many are common-sense social rules we all follow anyway. Others are connected with specific rituals and ceremonies.)
Nowadays, "613" has become a shorthand way that many Jews use on the Net to let each other know that they are Orthodox or Hasidic, similar to the way that Christians use WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) to identify themselves to each other. There’s even a site called 613.org with an extensive audio-video library of talks by various rabbis. Now granted, the number 613 doesn’t have a meaning to everybody, but at least it has a back story that people might remember once they hear it. My guess is that you will remember it now and that’s a whole lot better than using my age or my Zip Code.
When I later came to eBay, "rooster" was already taken there, too. So I carried over my "rooster613" theme. By now, I also owned the domain name rooster613.com which used to point to my personal website and now goes to my eBay store, The Happy Rooster. (My website is located at RabbiGershom.com.)
However, we should note that not every "rooster613" ID online is really me. There is some woman using it on a dating site who definitely is NOT me! I emailed her once about changing it, but got no answer. It's not exactly identity theft, since she clearly is somebody else and not claiming to be me, so this was probably just a random coincidence. But it's a good idea to actually read the material in question and be sure you are actually talking to Rabbi Yonassan Gershom. Conversely, if you don't want to get a lot of rabbincal questions and/or hate mail about Israeli politics (and I'm a PACIFIST yet! Some people just target any Jew they find with their rants...) then it is a good idea not to call yourself "rooster613."