Monday, April 30, 2007

The solution..... Tznius Police!

Guest Post by commenter Zezmir.

According to Ynet News, the Tzibur Hacharedi in Yerushalayim has established a new "Tznius Bais Din" to grant kashrus certificates to women's clothing stores. The Bakehila newspaper, reported over the weekend that an assembly of Rabbonim gathered at the home of Rav Eliyashiv Shlita, and decided to establish the Tzinus Bais Din. Representatives will examine the garments sold in clothes stores and will grant kashrus certificates to worthy vendors.

Yeshiva World

Here's what a commenter - Joseph - had to say about this idea on YW: "This is a wonderful idea that ought to be replicated in chutz l’uretz. They should also have woman on the streets enforcing (thru reminders) tziniusdika dress. We suffer today from a terrible machla of lack of tzinius."

Zezmir begins:


For years we have been trying in vain to create a Dirah Lo Yisborech in Olam Hazeh – but it seems that women just don't get it. We have been telling them that tznius starts at 3 years old. We told them that every hair and every knee must always be covered. We told them that they need to control their urges to expose any skin. We told them that they must wear clothing that isn't too tight, isn't too loose, isn't to long and isn't too short. Unfortunately, it's just not enough – it's too hard for them to know what is acceptable. Thank G-d, we have been blessed with visionaries that understand the need to provide people with a clear standard full with kashrus organizations that will provide parnossoh and jobs for those who play by the rules and don't have marketable skills.

I am sure that this will stop all the problems that continue in our communities: It will improve the "drop-out rate." It will improve Ahavas Yisroel, cut back on Loshon HoRah, improve the level of Kashrus, build Jewish pride and love of Torah and Mitzvos. I only propose that we add a hechsher on the garment, expel kids that don't have the hechsher, cut off contact with anyone that is seen looking at the window of an uncertified store, and perhaps we can even have supervisors on the streets to stop and inspect the women as they walk. But I just realized that it won't work. Soon there will be fake hashgochos. In Monsey people will begin selling tank tops and mini-skirts with the Badatz and claim that they didn't know. Can you imagine the disaster? Women won't know what's acceptable anymore! They'll be tricked by frauds that sell them clothes that they say are muttar that really aren't! What a kilkul!

This must be stopped..

The (not so cushy) life of a Campus Shliach

Anonymous Campus Shliach has heard enough. He responds to the vicious lies spread about campus Chabad Houses by a supposed "college student" in Circus Tent: Nice going, Mishpachah.

[edited for grammar and clarity]

"It is so amazing that people can write and have an opinion about something they know nothing about. Visit a campus and see what is actually happening there, you'll be amazed. I am a shliach on Campus and have been here for a very long time. I live in the middle of nowhere, with no frum families near us. There are no Jewish families near us. I live on a campus with 1500 Jewish students. There are many places that these students could get food, and many places that these students could get alchohol. Lubavitch on campus has a strict alchohol policy in place. At my Chabad House we only serve wine, and even that is in limited quantities. I would love to turn in the high paying fundraising salary that "I pay myself" for a federation type gig. Let's look at the reality - I have no retirement plan, no health insurance, no money to pay for chinuch of my children, the last 5 years of tuition was put on credit card, Chabad activities have been put on personal credit card. Do you have any idea what it is like to wake up with over 100,000 in credit card debt? Especially when that debt was used solely to pay for Shabbos and Chinuch? I have visited UNC and UMiami. Anonymous's complaints are not warranted. The reality is that today Hakaros Hatov is a foreign concept."

עד כאן דבריו הקדושים

Did we ever suspect otherwise; i.e. that the life of a campus shliach is a party, and where he gets to hang out with college kids as those nasty comments insinuated? no, we never did. But I do know that these comments reach a variety of people from different walks of life and sometimes shake their belief and trust in a very good thing. That's why comments from shluchim like the ones made here are so important to set the record straight. For those of you who think that there may be some truth to those vicious statements, let me remind you that what he writes sounds very much like what a secular or anti-kolel Jew would write the life of a Kolel Yungerman in Israel or anywhere else in the world. Things about waking up at 8am, soaking in the Mikveh, drinking coffee, and discussing the news and politics of the day. You get the picture.

A Worthy Cause

Tzemach says: Save the Tzig

He says I'm locked in this vicious cycle of attacking Snags incessantly for the last while. While I attacked his obsession with the Kanovsky suicide, a worthy cause, I'm just obsessed with irrelevant issues like what somebody said about Lubavitch Twenty years ago. Is it really an obsession with me, and internally I'm insecure with my decision to join Lubavitch so many years ago. Or, is it just a reaction to the society I live in, where I'm degraded and made into a sub-Jew by the powers that be. I wonder sometimes. Here are some of the comments from mentalblog.

Faruq says I'm insecure, like a Soviet Citizen abroad

I'm also bemoaning the fact that I never went on Shlichus

Chabakuk Elisha says it puts my consciense at ease

Then again, is reporting on sexual abuse in the frum community also an obsession? Does non-stop coverage make you obsessed, or worse yet, make you into a clandestine victim of abuse? If the guy has been dead for twenty years, yet he allegedly abused many, many children, is it an obsession and a sign of insecurtity to expose him for what he was? Most of you would say that it's fair game. Is there no such thing as journalism when it comes to uncovering issues of old? Do we ban all books discussing the wrongdoings of certain countries and corporations during the Holocaust since sixty years have passed? I really I'm not discussing agregious crimes against humanity here, but in my own little way, on my own little blog, I believe all the issues and people discussed here are just are pertinent today, no matter how many years may have passed.

I'd like to hear from my readers what they think.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Who's the REAL Brainwashing Victim?

An addendum to the story in Circus Tent: WWRTY?

This young man (of 19, not 13, so in other circles he would've been old enough to agree to a life's partner, so the brainwashing young kids Tayneh doesn't apply here, right?) had a Chavrusah with some Israeli Bochurim learning in New York at the time. Good Bochurim by anybody's standards. Chassidishe, Gekent gut lernen, Nigleh and Chassidus. He asked them to come and speak to his mother, and convince her to let him go learn in Lubavitch. The idea was that she see that her preconceived notions about Lubavitch were wrong, by seeing what kind of Bochurim learn there. The boys agreed and spoke to the mother, making quite a good impression on her, even according to her, but there was one problem, at least that's how the mother saw it.

One of the points the mother made about Lubavitch was that all the Gedolim were against it, including Reb Yaakov Kamenecki. She mentioned to them the talk she had with RYK, and the statements he made about Lubavitch at that time. The boys were surprised at the mention of his name, and voiced their surprise to the woman, saying that they know that he gave a shiur in the Lubavitcher Yeshivah in Miami, and submitted a Pilpul to the Kovetz Chiddushim printed in honor of the Rebbe's 80th birthday! How then would he be so anti-Lubavitch in his views?

The problem was that this woman was raised that by being taught Gedolim are true, and what they say is what they really believe. RYK was especially known to be the embodiment of Emes in his generation, with stories abounding about his care in being truthful. So if he told the woman that he was so against them, and that it was akin to shmad, then that's how he really felt. Now if two Kosher witnesses come along and say that they saw or heard him give a shiur, or that he had a pilpul published in honor of the leader of the group he was so adamantly opposed to, then they may be nice and fine boys, but they're brainwashed, being that IT CAN'T BE TRUE, because it cannot be true. Because He was the co-Godol HaDor.

You follow the logic here?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Old Habits Die Hard

Check This Out

Just ask these three guys, seemingly Baalei Tshuvah, presumably Breslover Chassidim, They'll tell you. Why do I assume that they're not FFB's? Simply because no FFB plays a "mean" guitar like that. Notice what the guy said? In his heavy Israeli accent I could make out "Sounds also 'Endrix." Obviously nobody expected them to drop their knowledge of guitar and forget they ever knew it, after all, who'd play at Chasunas were it not for them? No, what I'm saying is this: No matter how hard we sometimes try, we cannot just drop it all. I use this cute clip as an example only. The guy didn't try וידעו, or some other nice, Chassidisher Nigun, he tried Hendrix to test the guitar, that says someting to me. While the fact that formerly irreligious people drop everything and join a religious community is to be commended, and absolutely amazes me, I find something often that puzzles me.

Many decide to draw a line in the sand and say "Ad Kan!" This I won't give up for anything in the world, no matter what I may be told about it, and no matter the damage it may cause to them and future generations. Often times it'll be the pop music they so love, or the Hollywood movies they need to see - they just can't live without it. This ambiguous message is of course picked up on by their children, and the kids take it one step further, like everything else they see with their parents. They decide that they too have a ready excuse, since that's what they see at home - excuses. The outcome is almost always the same, yet rarely will you see the parent see it for what it is. He just doesn't see how he's to blame to a great extent, and that's sad to watch. He's absolutely clueless as to his part in raising his family, and relies solely on the institutions he sends his kids to be educated in. Obviously this isn't limited to Baalei Tshuvah, nor are FFB's in the minority when it comes to this, it's just that little video clip had me formulate that thought. As a parent I see my shortcomings in my kids on a daily basis, and believe me, there's no worse feeling than that.

A puzzling picture

Soviet poster circa 1925. Translation of text at top: "Abortions performed by either trained or self-taught midwives not only maim the woman, they also often lead to death." Caption for upper-left picture: "Visiting the self-taught midwife" Upper-right picture: "Consequences of abortion" Lower picture: "Death from abortion" Text at lower left: "Any abortion is harmful." Text at lower right: "Any trained or self-taught midwife who performs an abortion is committing a crime."

Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

My question is why would the Communists be anti-abortion? If not for the religious belief that life begins at conception what other reason is there not to do it? Or is it because you're destroying a potential contributor to the great Soviet society? Was abortion outlawed for the same reason other vices were in the CCCP?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

פרסום ראשון Bar Mitzvah 5696

Bar Mitzvah, Otwock, 5696.

The young Ber'ke Gurary - the Frierdige Rebbe's only grandchild - was still destined for greatness then, looking good and happy at his Zeide's side. The Frierdige Rebbe doesn't exactly look thrilled, almost in pain really, though dressed in his Shabbos finery. Then again, maybe his thoughts were elsewhere, with his Chassidim in Russia perhaps? The picture has been published before, although I believe never with the Bocher'el included. Pictures two and three in this thread were published somewhere before, I had it saved on my computer for some time. Much of the Frierdige Rebbe said is printed in the Likutei Diburim under the title: מה שאמר בסעודת הבר-מצוה אצל נכדו שיחי-ה. We can clearly identify the Rebbe, Rashag on his right, Ber'ke on his left, and Reb Chatshe Feygin on Berke's left. Others are pretty fuzzy and tough to identify. The Rebbe did not attend. Why? Well the Rebbe wasn't in Otwock often, but I don't know… Let the speculation begin.

(About to Bentsh al HaKeis)

When I told a friend of mine about the picture he told me to publish it and dedicate it to Tzemach, to cheer him up. I hesitate to make dedications, simply because since when has this become about dedications? We write to get readers and comments – not to mention that he has yet to apologize for the "MORON" comments he consistently made, although this friend of mine tells me to not get overly excited about that. "It's not personal," my friend says, "have you ever seen two Russians having a discussion?" They'll curse at each other In Tatten's Tatte Areyn, like the two biggest enemies, even if they're the closest of friends; "the people TA doesn't care for he doesn't call names, people like that he ignores." I'm not so sold on this form of tough love, maybe it's my Hungarian Neshomeh, it doesn't allow for it. In any case, here it is, make of it what you please. May Berke have a Lichtige Gan Eden.

Special Thanks to CBF for providing both the picture from his private collection, and the permission. He requests that nobody reproduce the picture without express written consent.

(some would say that the Rebbe covering his eyes BeShas'en Bentshen looks like Peylishe Mayses, since these days any emotion at all during Davenen or Bentshen is Treyf in Lubavitch. I'm not quite sure why. Well, I guess I do know why, we simply don't trust anybody's intentions and emotions. We consider it shtick.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sack Parade 2007

(Moyshe, se shteit gut?)

For those of you out of the loop, yesterday was Israeli Independence Day (observed). Most Frum Jews in Israel do not see this as a very auspicious day, at least as far as Aschalta DeGeulah goes, and rather just go about their business, as they should, and try not to hurt anybody's feelings who may be celebrating. Some, however, need to make noise, just like they need to make noise about everything else. Yerushalmi noise also is very unique, with a very "old-world" flavor to it, as handed down by generations of Yerushalmim. Add to that Hungarian/Toldos Aron creativity, and you've got yourself a nice show.

These Jews pictured here grew out out of the confinements of Meah Shearim, with the neighborhood literally bursting at the seams, and moved out to the city of Beit Shemesh, using land given to them by the "Zionist Government" I presume. The usual "We were here before they came" excuse would then not be applicable here, which is what they usually say when asked why they live in a place where everything you do, from riding Eged buses to paying your electric bill is associated with "Avodeh Zoroh" and "revolt against G-d." So if I were in their shoes I'd stick my tail between my legs and scurry on home with my head down,, Mita'am not to spit in the proverbial well that I drink from, but I guess some people just have no sense of right and wrong, and have no problem living life to the fullest, including public displays of hypocriticism.

(Mayday!, Mayday!)

(he looks constipated)

And so, on the 59th annual Independence Day these Jews took to the streets and proclaimed their "sorrow," but not before doing what they do best and calling the local Jew-loving news agencies like the AP and AFP. They also donned their sackclothes, being that their pain is so great, and they so long for G-d's glory to be revealed in his land. I know that most people may not be 100 percent sincere about all their actions, especially when it comes to serving Hashem, but even that has a limit. How anybody can take these silly sack parades seriously; as if these shnooks are really bothered by Tziyoinim, is beyond me. When Reb Amrom Blau was around we knew that he was serious because he was serious about everything he did in life. We didn't agree with his tactics but we respected his sincerity. These clowns look like they're just passing time marching around instead of sipping coffee. I just wish they wouldn't give the rest of us a bad name.

(Yankel macht morgen tzen azeyger a bris in di Shtieblach)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Circus Tent Flashback

Futerfas Family Reunion

(l-r, Reb Avremel Shemtov, Reb Mendel Futerfas, HaRav Yaakov Kamenecki)

In Monsey, probably around 5742-4. Reb Yaakov and Reb Mendel were cousins, RYK's mother or grandmother was a Futerfas. Avremel Shemtov's mother was also a Futerfas, RMF's sister.


I wonder if it's OK to stand and be photographed with people you consider heretics just because they may be related. After all, if joining them is considered Shmad then wouldn't original members be considered Goyim? So, is it like having your picture taken with your non-Jewish neighbor or friend, or not exactly? We should forward this Shayleh to one of the Rabbinic authorities of our day. Perhaps the Posek HaDor can answer it.

Monday, April 23, 2007


= What was Reb Yaakov Thinking?!

(The old Shul in Shkudvil, Lithuania)

A friend of mine in his 40's, from a nice American-Oberlander family, recounted a story that happened with him and his parents some twenty five years ago. To fully understand his situation we need to discuss his parents' background and education, and the mindset it created within them. His father came to America as a young child, learned in Chadorim in Williamsburg, and later went to Lakewood as a young man. His mother was educated in Bais Yaakov in the 40's and 50's, and soaked up every word the esteemed Rebbetzins there taught her about marrying a Ben-Torah and raising a family of Bnei Torah. The two were married and had children, very fine and Eydele children if I may say so myself, but children without an exact sense of direction. DeHaynu, they weren't boys who you looked and immediately saw where they belonged; there was room for maneuvering, although they did daven in a Chassidishe Shtiebel.

Daughter number one married a Oberlandishe type young man, and her children are all Chassidim today, with Shtreimlech and all. Son number one followed his father's path and he too ended up learning in BMG, and later settled in Lakewood, living there to this very day. Son number two is where it all started; the void became apparent, and that void needed to be filled. Son number two had friends in Yeshivah, and some of the friends learned about the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Chassidus Chabad. So, the group started to go to Farbrengens in Crown Heights, and began to get drawn in more and more, until one day Son number two decided to go learn in Tomchei Tmimim, the Lubavitcher Yeshivah in Morristown. Needless to say, the mother was devastated; her dream of having sons Bnei Teyreh was beginning to unravel. She was beside hereself. Her friends from school also married fine Bnei Torah and raised fine children who were following in their father's footsteps, and here her Tchatchke, he pride and joy was joining a stupid cult? What should she do? Where should she turn to? What did she do to deserve this?

So she did the only thing she knew how to do; she went to seek the advice of the luminaries of her generation. (the order of the meetings; who they saw first, is unknown to me) A while later she and her husband (who was not as devastated, although he was a student of BMG in the 1950's) went to speak to Rav Avigdor Miller z"l, and cried out her angiush to him. RAM didn't understand why she was so upset; after all, he said, I too would be devastated if my son became a Lubavitcher, but I'm a Litvak, you're a Oyberlender, you've been close to Chassidim for a long time now, so what's the big deal? Your son is a fine young man who you'll have much Nachas from. I think we can all agree that RAM gave the concerned mother the correct answer, whether or not he fully meant what he said. After all, sometimes tact is necessary in order to maintain a little sense of normality. As it turns he was right! since our young man sits Al HaTorah V'al HoAvodah for twenty years, while some of the friend's kids didn't turn out so great after all.

The second luminary was Reb Yankel Dolhinover, aka Reb Yaakov Kamenecki, who at the time was living in Monsey, New York. I imagine that they told him that the father was a Talmid of RAK at BMG, because otherwise what he subsequentky told them makes zero sense. Now, let's remember that RYK and RAK were colleagues and at the Slabodker Yeshiva, under the tutelage of Reb Nota Hirsh Finkel, so Reb Yaakov was not someone who trembled at the mention of RAK's name. Therefore, I would imagine that he invoked RAK's name only for the father's sake, that the father should know what HIS Rebbe would say to it. Reb Yaakov, the co-leader of our generation told a Jewish mother, who's son's only crime was joining a well-established Chassidic group, as follows: ACCORDING TO RAK GOING OVER TO LUBAVITCH WAS AKIN TO SHMAD!!! Just what a mother wants to hear, right?

After hearing that story I thought to myself, "Hirshel, WWRYT?" Why would a wordly and intelligent man, who read Pushkin and pulled out chairs for strange women, why would he be so hurtful and downright extreme when it came to Lubavitch?!! After all, he was a Mishpocheh with the Futerfas and Shemtov and Serbrianski families in Lubavitch and knew them to be Ehrliche Yidden, Baalei Mesiras Nefesh, so why would the beacon of Emes of our generation make a statement like that? Can some of my Yeshivishe readers help me out on this?

Ahhh, simpler times.

Rebbe Rayatz, RCO, and CC

When Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshiva could put aside their ideological differences and work for the greater common good. The three above-mentioned leaders of Russo-Lithuanian Jewry signed a call for Jews to fast in light of the hardships facing the millions of Jews in the Soviet Union. Those days are over, and have been since WWII, when supposedly the atrocities were supposed to bring us closer together. I guess G-d didn't get the memo....

(hattip, ASJ)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Nice going, Mishpachah

A whole long article about campus Rabbis doing Kiruv, and not a word about Chabad?

It seems like they found some guy working on a Campus at UCLA and thought it a nice topic for an article about doing on College Campuses. Are you people there completely in the pockets of the Chabad haters now that you can totally print 5% of the actual story about outreach on College campuses? Is it all about winning over Yated readers now?

Do you people know that there are tens of Shluchim out there who struggle mightily with making ends meet, and who've made it their life's work to bring college students back to Yiddishkeit? They must fend for themselves, with very little of a pool from where to draw funds from, simply because college kids, unlike BaaleiBatim at conventional Chabad Houses, have no money to give, and leave after a few years. They do need to feed hundreds of students every week, often having more of a budget than some of their non-campus brethren, and serve as Rabbis and counselors for these kids.

I guess they don't really exist after all, at least not as far as "Torah Judaism" is concerned, correct?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Careful what you wish for....

There were calls recently for the disbanding of all Chassidic groups, and for a while I thought I agreed with him, but for very different reasons. "I say all Chasidic movements should be disbanded. They outlived it spiritual and practical purpose. This addiction could be cured," said TA last week, repeating the sentiments he's felt for a while now. This comment was brought on by a story about the fighting that continues between Srool and Mendel Hager, the 2 sons of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Bnei Beraq. I'm not sure why he can't see what all others see in this little battle; that is a simple power struggle, no different than a wrestle for control of a major corporation, which Vizhnitz is, with all of its institutions. I thought I agreed because I felt that all groups today are all about money and power, but I then saw that he meant something completely different.

In the eyes of someone who sees Chassidic groups as nothing more than clubs for men to participate in and women to watch, then there's really no point in attaching a name like the Baal Shem Tov to your club, it brings nothing but shame to his holy name. Stop calling yourself a scion of a Chassidic dynasty. Name it something else and continue fighting, but don't drag the Besh"t through the mud just so you can have some entertainment, and your leaders power. You can do the like the Perushim in Yerushalayim, and wear Chassidic clothes and trappings. As a a matter of fact, most people would consider Chassidus to consist mostly of dress and a few Chumros, so those Jews of the Old Yishuv have nothing to feel bad about when it comes to those fields. - Then again, anybody with the minutest knowledge about anything that goes on in the Israeli and American "Yeshivos Kedoshos" knows that power struggles are by no means limited to Chassidic groups. The shame that certain Yeshivos have brought upon Charedi society, and the hypocrisy that's been uncovered makes petty little infighting in Chassidic groups look like child's play. -

However, if Chassidus is not just dress and a Poylishe Havooreh, but a Teyreh and a way of life, where Dibuk Chaverim is integral in keeping its members both spiritually and physically intact, then disbanding Chassidus, whatever that means, would have consquences beyond what anybody of us could imagine. I find it ironic that some of the people that call for the disbanding of Chassidus are the same ones that stand to benefit the most from what it has to offer. They complain about others not being there for them when they're the ones that remove themselves from society simply because they don't feel anybody is intelligent enough or smart enough to enter their little world. I can very much relate the last aspect; where you feel reluctant to allow others into your little world, but that would make me the problem, not the rest of the world, correct? So next time you see a few Jews sitting at a table saying LeChaim and some words of inspiration, why not pull up a chair and join them? You may not agree with everything they say, and you may not share the same opinions about certain sages of yesteryear, but you'll be amazed what a little sit-down can do to your spirits, it'll lift them straight up to the sky.



Liviu Librescu's Hebrew name, anyone?

In the old days in certain European countries like Lithuania and Romania, everybody needed their name to end with national suffix. For instance "Shvilli" in the Georgian Repyblic (Gruzye) and "ius" in Independent Lithuania. It seems like in Romania too, every citizen, whether Jew or Gentile, had their name end with "escu," as in Nicolai Caucescu. We see that Liviu Librescu, the Jewish Professor and hero to many at Virginia Tech University, kept his Romanian name, at least on his official documents. Rashag, son in law of the Frierdige Rebbe, signed his name for a while as Samarius Gurarius, in accordance with Lithuanian regulations, but we can easily tell what his real name was. I would imagine that Liviu is the Romanian for Leib, but what would the Jewish equivalent of Librescu

I understand that most of you have more important concerns; but this has the Tzig perplexed for days now.....

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Raise your Cup of Salvation

Working on a hot tip from A Simple Jew I came across this Becher for sale. It's not just any Kiddush Cup, you see, it's a "Kaballah Becher" based on the writings of the Rashash zt"l. I know very little about the Segulos of Kaballah and whether or not laymen like myself can actually get them to work, but this seems a little much. People who bought these Bechers supposedly swear that it helps for everything from an easy childbirth to preventing kids from bedwetting. All you need to do is overpay for a silver cup and all your problems are solved? I once spoke to a guy who had this Kolel of a group of men in Israel who learned Kaballah half a day and produced these Bechers the other half. Supposedly they have very lofty Kavanos in mind while inscribing these cups, and produce them by hand one cup at a time. He was quite happy that there was such a market, and that people will pay anything if they think that their problems could be solved.

From the ad: The gilt (gold washed) interior of the cup is designed based on the writings of the 17th century Kabbalist - Rashash. It is engraved with sixty-four different words that are derived from the letters of the names of the four rivers that flowed through the Garden of Eden. One who drinks from this cup, according to Kabbalistic teachings, is granted the secrets and blessings of healing from any sicknesses, mental or physical, and infertility.
According to Kabbalistic tradition, King Solomon extracted these secrets from the Garden of Eden.

Get yours for only $199.00

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chossid gets no respect

You readers of the English language Mishpachah these last few months have defintely read the story of Yisroel, the prize "catch" from Ponovezher Yeshivah, who lives the dream of a good Yeshivah Bochur, getting a top-notch Shidduch, an apartment as Naden, and being supported while in Kolel. He somehow discovers (the fictitious) "Milchover" Chassidus, and becomes increasingly drawn into it, against the wishes of all his family - including his wife. The "complaints" against Chassidim and Chasssidus, the classic stereotypes of all Kugel and no Torah, the lack of adherence to Halochoh, they're all there, albeit from the perspective of the Misnaged. The Milchover Rebbe and his Chassidim are made into a bunch of fools at best, and charlatans at worst. The wife has been taught well by her brothers and father, and instead of respecting her husband's wishes - which she sees has only a positive affect on his observance of Torah and Mitzvohs - she criticizes and questions at every opportunity. This character must have nerves of steel to take this from his wife of all people. Hey lady: Cut your husband some slack, will ya? Don't worry so much about your Yenta friends.

I found myself being transported back to my Bocher'ishe days, and I emphathized very much with Yisroel and all he was going through. The scorn from supposed friends, and the aggravation from family members. ( I did not have to live through the disrespect from family, b"h) I could not help but realize how so many of our brothers (and sisters, for that matter, there are girls out there that are attracted to Chassidus) have to live through the same ordeal. They make a conscious decision that there's a better way for them to live their lives, not to CH"V leave the fold, but to adopt a different way of serving Hashem. They love their parents, spouses, and families, but they choose to live their lives differently. After all, can we really expect that all of our children be exactly the same? I b"h did not have to live through that, being that my parents were supportive for the most part, although it meant some self-sacrifice on their parts. Supposedly there's even a Vort from Chassidim of the Mitteler Rebbe of Lubavitch that goes like this: We do not know if Chassidus Lubavitch will last another generation, since it's based so much on putting your hearts and minds into the learning of Chassidus, and how can we be sure that our children will want that as well? We cannot force them to be like us, but we hope that we can influence them by our actions to continue in our path. If the young man or woman chooses a different path is it so terrible? (Please don't start with the Apikorsus chants, because I won't have any of it.) Parents who want the best for their children must realize that the best, is THE CHILD'S best, not the parents'. I'm waiting to see how this Mishpachah story ends up. Will he remain a Chossid? I think so, he seems too much into it to leave now. What the wife and her family do, if her brothers and father get to her and force her to do something rash remains to be seen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nine Eleven threads and counting

Since Moshe Kanovsky jumped to his death Friday, loyal mentalblog readers the world over have been subjected to NINE threads about his and other suicides amongst memebers of the frum community. Anything from blaming everybody but the kitchen sink, to making him into a Tzaddik, (which he may have been, I did not know him) to posting news and video clips, to "was he allowed to jump?" I've been asked by others and I've thought to myself:

"Is this a call for help?"

Do we need to heed this call so that we don't regret it later? I'm sorry if you think this as harsh and cruel, and some of you may look at this thread like some Purim joke, but it's not. The warning signs are there, and if they are there wee need to pay attention.


Video around the ESB

Halachic aspects of suicide

Bending his body like a pretzel

Rabbi Moshe Kanovsky, Esq.

Last person to see Moshe Kanovsky in his final moments

remembering Moshe Kanovsky

daloy textual rituals

frum suicides

MK leaps to his death from the ESB

Shturem needs to learn their history

(Solomon Schechter)

You would think that a website that writes so much about Chabad history would know better, or would bother to find out if they didn't, but I guess they were in a rush to get the story out there before COL did, or something like that. Then again the article is from the Mizrachi daily HaTzofeh, so maybe they should take the blame for this one. The article is about the origins of the Schecter family of Lubavitcher Chassidim, based on the writings/memoirs of Solomon Schachter, founder of the Jewish Theological Seminary. It seems like the writer either knows ZERO about the Conservative Movement of America, which was founded by SS, or chooses to ignore it and focuses on the fact that he sorted through the Cairo Genizah and brought it to New York. He makes note of the fact that the first meeting of the Chovevei Tzion Organization was held in his town in 1881, and that his father was the Shochet of his town in Romania, hence the name Shechther. He davened in a Chabad shul, and had a Chabad Melamed. What I didn't know about SS was that he was a Talmid of Reb Yosef Shaul Natansohn, the Ba'al Shoy'el U'Meyshiv, Rov of Lemberg/Lvov, and Posek of his generation. The article continues to call SS "HaRav," as if he were a legitimate candidate for that term, which is literally painful to watch. Yoshe Kalb, a frequent (albeit less frequent of late) commenter here "called them on the carpet," and reminded the editors of Shturem that this is NOT a man we need to be proud of as being "MiGeza Chabad."

Monday, April 16, 2007

No "textual rituals" here

(well, at least not as much.)

Marc Chagall, "Jew at Prayer"

Tzemach has been complaining alot recently about textual rituals, and Judaism being all "textual" and stuff. See Here, and Here, where he laments the "Overemphasis on the textual." Some would say that he fails to connect with the words, and he's certainly not the only one, hence he sees no need to repeat the same words over and over again. I'm not sure why davke the holiday of Pesach brings out this disregard for the textual; after all Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur should have just the same affect, but that's the case. I see something else here, and I think the Alter Rebbe may have seen the same problem, at least in some instances, and to some extent. Other Chassidic groups like the Gerrer Chassidim, and other groups stemming from Kotzk seem to have taken the same road, slashing the Siddur and Machzor at almost every occassion. Is there a future "convert" to Ger in the making?

In some Kehillos all there is to Yom Tov is the text. They recite maarovis, (which is Yotzres at Maariv,)Yotzer at every Tefilloh, including Shacharis and Mussaf, and any other possible Yotzer ever invented. At the Seudos they have special Zemiros for every Yom Tov, and the list goes on. Some even have extra Yotzres to say that aren't even printed in the Machzor! If you tell people like that that there are those who say no Yotzres at all on any of the daled Parshiyos, or any of the Sholosh Regolim, or that you don't say Rus on Shavuous they'd say you're not Jewish....Imagine a guy who complains about texts davening in a shul where they say all that.... I can relate to it in a way, not being able to last in situations like that, at least I did in my adolescent years, but now I live and let live. I see how for many people the only connection they have to a time and moment is the text; they can only relate through reciting words and singing songs, and I respect and honor that.

IMHO the Alter Rebbe took a different road, and decided that this is not his way. In every way possible, and wherever possible, the AR cut and slashed text from his siddur. There is no Yotzer said on any of the Sholosh Regolim, no Yotzres said on any of the Daled Parshiyos, and little Zemiros said on Shabbos. At every occassion the AR saw fit to omit text, possibly because of the disconnect that many people have with the text. Later generations saw the omission of Selichos after Rosh Hashonoh, possibly for the same reason, as "Tshuveh should now be done BeMachshovoh, not BeDibur." Obviously we're not condoning the banning of "all textual prayer and embrace human interaction as the ultimate mitzvah," like Tzemach is, simply because that would be a knee-jerk reaction to a problem not facing all of us. Most shuls are pretty understanding when it comes to people not participating in all aspects of the textual obligations of davening. On any given Shabbos and Yom Tov you'll see plenty of people hanging out outside shuls while long texts are being dissected, and nobody condemns them.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jackie Robinson Overdose

I'm glad this Shishim Shonoh (of the auspicious day of April 15th) celebration is finally over, I could hardly stand another minute of it. For those of you not familiar with the man, Jackie Robinson was the first colored man to play baseball in America in the modern era of the 20th century. Until then, from about the late 19th century, blacks could not play in the Major Leagues, they had their own "Negro Leagues." JR was the one who broke the color barrier on this day 60 years ago. He was the subject of insults and threats, yet never responded, practicing great restraint, not something seen amongst today's athletes. I wish Americans today would stop feeling so guilty over things they had no control over, like who played baseball 70 and 100 years ago, and who was allowed to sit where in a bus in Birmingham. I'm not sure I see how he "changed American society forever," like the pundits say. After all, Brown Vs. Board of Ed took another 7 years, the Birmingham Boycott was eight years in the making, and the Civil Rights Act was only signed in '64. (Even that was an insincere ploy on behalf of LBJ to get votes.) I understand all about "learning from history" and "not repeating old mistakes," but even should have a limit, otherwise there'll ultimately be a backlash, as is the case with the Holocaust.

Was JR a good man? probably, but judging from what they say about him he'd be a little embarrassed over the fuss being made about him now, as anybody with a little dignity would be. I understand the need to commemorate, but this was just too much for me to handle. What can I say? maybe I need to get with the program, I'm known not to follow the rest of the pack, at least on some issues. If you'll ask Vi Kumt es az a Chassidisher Yungerman vi mir zol bichlal vissen fun epes ah Jeki Rahbinsin? Then let it be known that his team played right near the Shchuneh, and "Unzere Bocherim" were known to occassionally attend a Dodgers' game, back when people in general were far more innocent. In the words of the venerable Moshe Sklar: Ich bin geven a Yankee fan, ven Ich bin Gekkomen ein mohl in 770, un ich hob gezogt heych, "Di Yankees hubben Gevoonen! Hut men mir fartribben fun Shul!" "This is Dodgers' territory," they said, De Dodgers shpielen glaych Doh in Bedford Avenue. A Chutzpah. MeMeilah hut es epes vos ah Shayches....

JIB Shmib

It seems like every blogger out there is vying for some kind of JIB award. (That's Jewish and Israeli Blog award.) Those that won in the past are trying for more, and they keep their little award ad from previous years on their site forever. Those that would like to win have every single possible category posted for you to vote on, so there's seemingly a reason to try and win. I just don't see it. Is that why we blog? maybe it's why Harry does it, or DovBear for that matter, but we're in it for another reason: To speak the truth and defend what's dear to us, not for a silly award.

But if you like you can vote for me anyway, I just don't know where to point you to....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

They come despite us

Shlomo Carlebach had this to say about the BT movement: "People think that the frum community created so many Baalei Teshuvah, and that the irreligious looked at the frummies and said to themselves: "I wanna be like them!" I say that it happened DESPITE the frum community." That they couldn't stand in the way of the the booming movement no matter what they did to turn them off....

Mehallel commenting on Circus Tent: Seeing past the flaws

You do not recognize the gift you have. The world is drowning in emptiness and hopelessness and you are living in the shade of the tree of life and you are complaining about the color of its leaves. The world today is an empty shell. There are no longer ideologies to excite the world and rally the masses. All the gods are dead. We have a toras chayim, ah ziseh toyreh, a sweetm, true torah of life. So for some momentary pleasure some of ours may stray and graze in foreign fields but there is nothing to hold them there anymore. They will come back. there may be some souls who are so broken by abuse, drugs, or mental illness that in this lifetime they may not be able to come back, G-d should heal them. Please don't make these unfortunates into the norm! There is no question that we have problems in the frum community and there are things that have to be fixed. We have to ensure that we help our children who are at risk as early as possible, etc. All the critical bloggers point out our flaws and if we are to grow we should listen. But please do not internalize the anti Semitism. Tzigaleh, oy Tzigalleh, You have gone to sleep with dogs (or maybe with cows )and you have woken up with fleas.

There is no question to change is difficult. When do we change?? Sadly it is when a crisis hits or at certain points of our life when we are not entangled in responsibilities etc and we are in an open mode to experience new things such as the college years were in the secular world in the past and may still be to a certain extent. For a mature healthy adult in a stable situation to change is not realistic. But every day I am humbled by people who are doing just that. The Russian engineer who puts on teffilin everyday, the woman married to a non Jew who is keeping kosher, the family who sent their teenage son to yeshiva, the man who walks 3 miles to shul and sits by his shabbos table alone Friday night waiting for his children and wife to join him. His sons who have begun to join him,,soon his wife may light the shabbos candles..... Leave Boro Park and visit some Chabad houses even the least successful ones will tell you stories of the changes people are making and the paths they are taking The world is full of many tens of thousands of Jews who are adopting more mitzvos into their life. In the world today there is a huge shift of attitudes toward mitzvos and yiddishkeit. This is not a young college kid going off to a Yeshivah where he can submerge himself in yiddishkeit although that is also happening. The big picture is a longer much more difficult path it is bringing back the entire Jewish people to Mitzvah observance. If you chart what is happening across the board - reform, conservative, the unaffiliated, you can see this. Is everyday a churban with all the children of mixed marriages and false conversions? Of course. But do not take away from this huge REVOLUTION in attitudes and practice that is impacting the Jewish world.

To the outsider Yiddishkeit does not look worse today than it did 50 years ago. Farkert! Yiddishkeit is no longer perceived as an obstacle to success in the world and (for better or worse) it is possible to live a life of Torah and Mitzvos without giving up the vast majority of comforts. The beauty of Torah and Mitzvos and Jewish family life is apparent to so many today. The non frum world looks and sees the success of the frum world in leading Jewish lives of meaning, and we should too!

What's the gadlus of Kurt Vonnegut?

Photo by Jill Krementz

The NYT is writing too much about him, something must be terribly wrong. He died recently at the age of 84. I'm an Am Ha'Aretz when it comes to pop culture, or counter-culture in this case. Would he have "made it" like he did had he written on other subjects? I read the NYT obituary and came out understanding nothing. I hate when that happens, it makes me feel so inadequate, so uneducated.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Seeing past the flaws

(The BeyondBT band)

I've been told by many in private, including my wife, that they're "shocked" that I said that I'm surprised that any non-Frum person would decide to become Orthodox today. It was in response to a comment made by Tzemach Atlas to this thread where he said that many more than are joining Orthodoxy are leaving. I agreed with him on that point and added the few lines about why anybody would become Frum today. Boy, did I get angry stares and lines in emails! It was like I had made a confession that I don't care to be frum, as far as they're concerned, and I'm not sure where they got that idea from. I guess I have a different manner of thinking and writing than most people do. I also don't know what it's like to be unhappy as a secular Jew, being that I am Frum from birth, so maybe I'd see it differently if I was in that situation.

The point is that Yiddishkeit today is so flawed, so not what it purports to be, that anybody who spends just a short time within that framework is met with one disappointment after another. That's already after he decided that he wants to be bogged down by one rule after another, (not that I think Chas VeSholom that Halochoh boggs you down) and one seemingly strange law and reason after another. Even if he gets past that point, and sees that this way of life IS for him, he still needs to join an already existant clique that's very tough to get into, and not very hospitable to new members. Groups like Chabad and Breslov, with large BT populations, are much easier to adjust and adapt to, but even then you may be limited to that clique for the rest of your life. I understand that nobody is actually sat down and told this prior to commencing with his/her Kiruv process, but a fairly intelligent man/woman should realize this soon after.

So you realize; when I mentioned my surprise that non-Frum people would ever want to join Frum Judaism I did not - G-d forbid - question the validity of the frum lifestyle, All I did was try and point out how leaving the fold may be easier than joining it; especially if you have neither friends nor family to worry about, for whatever reason, and especially if you seem to be more popular and accepted amongst your new-found friends. It may seem easy - for the FFB observer - for the new recruit to don a black hat and beard, or for the woman to begin dressing modestly, but it sure as heck is not. Just ask the chain-smoker what he feels like on Shabbos when he's told he can't smoke, or what he/she feels like when he/she is told that they have to keep a whole new set of Halochos Beino LeBeinoh. Then tell me that you'd want to join if you had a choice. I just wish some of those people closest to me would give the benefit of the doubt based on past performance, even if - like the investment companies tell you - past performance is not indicative of future returns..... This is, after all, not a hot stock tip we're talking about, it's my commitment to G-d and his Torah. I'd like to think of it as more than a roll of the dice.....

Saturday, April 7, 2007

How a Shliach/Chossid plays Golf

"Shliach Roshi" Reb Zvi Grunblatt teeing off somewhere in the Argentine. photo by COL

Some of you may remember the thread on Shluchim running marathons, where I blasted Shliach Peretz Chein for running a marathon in Massachusetts looking like a space man. He supposedly did it to be Mekarev the youngsters at Brandeis U. So you're probably thinking that here I go again, about to blast a Shliach for a similar "offense." But here's the difference: Rabbi Grunblatt looks like he's totally out of place, which he is, if you know him at all, and there seems to be no Kiruv motive whatsoever. Nowhere is it written that a Shliach must become a monk, living a life of abstaining from all physical amusement, but please, mish nit arein di eigene Cheshbaynes. Don't convince yourself that somehow this is what the Rebbe - and therefore G-d - wanted from us; to bring Jews closer to Yiddishkeit by lowering our standards.

The Tzig has spoken.

A Gutten Mayed

Friday, April 6, 2007

A Seder in Bushwick

I'm currently in the middle of writing of the "Chulent" seder that I attended after my own, but this thread will discuss the other chulent seder, which took place in Bushwick, Brooklyn, with a much larger, more colorful crowd in attendance. Here's a short report, as transcribed by Heshy, a former kid from Willy, - now all "Rasta" - the "Rebbe" of the Chulenters. I guess a "Chossid" needs a "Rebbe" after all....

"There were 40-50 people it was great, mamish amazing. It was a seder way beyond. It was very special and great.The only thing was that we pretty much forgot was Haggadahs, but since we were doing this all our lives, together we managed to remember and piece it together and we said the whole Haggadah Ba'al Peh!. There was enough wine, food, brisket, Matzah, K'yad Hamelech! It was a good Shefa of everything, a place where u can fully feel the potential of Chairus."

That's all I have for now; I'm hoping Radloh or some other guy would come forward with some more information. I feel like I owe that much to the donors. I'm over-the-moon excited that that many people showed up; my estimates were twenty to forty. I'd like to know more about the mood, the discussions, and the general atmosphere. I'd like to know the makeup of the seder; from where and what kind of groups these guys and gals come from, and what brings them all together. Would somebody please help me out here?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A Chometz'dige Korech with Orange Soda

A Wandering Jew describes his meal on the 1st night of Pesach this year.....

"I had two slices of pizza with sausage, and a lamb shawarma at this Turkish place. with orange soda!
from all the things I ate it was the orange soda that made it feel UnPesach'dik..
I made Hamoitzee.
Matir Asurim.
Al Achilas Chometz.
Un Mit Alle Kavonos.
And I Bentched. with Yaaleh V’Yovoy.
And I’m not Kidding."

The Brochos and Yaale VeYovoh mit Kavonos remind me of a story told of a bygone time: There once was a young man from a good Yiddishe home who joined the Bundisten. They have this custom, the Bundisten do, to have a "Yom Kippur Ball" where they eat, drink, and dance the night away, and are especially merry, including roasting a big, fat pig for good measure. One Yom Kippur Eve the young man comes home and announces to his father that he's returning from this big event where they ate and drank to their hearts' content, including Fressing Chazzer. The Father had but one question for his son:

Hust Chotsch Gehat Bentschen?

Monday, April 2, 2007

a tale of two erev pesachs

We've got an array of groups within Charedism, and they conduct themselves quite differently on Erev Pesach. One runs to bake Matzos, while the other says that it's Chometz Gomur. One runs to the Hardware store, while the other runs around distributing Matzos to those that do not have their own. We may consider ourselves to be the same, but we sure do have different priorities.

I plan to be more patient with my kids this Pesach, even if there's grape juice all over the floor. I also plan to visit the Chulent seder tonight, to report back to the donors, and to see what these chulenters are made of. I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Many of the attendees told that were it not for chulent they would not attend the seder, so that makes me feel good. I also would like to see the reaction by the neighbors; seeing such a crowd in Boro Park is not an everyday occurence.

I also realize that for those who are alone for whatever reason, Yomim Tovim are THE most difficult times. They dread them like the plague, and wish that they would just go away. You can do your part: Invite a lonely young man or woman, or multiples of them, and make them feel at home, maybe even at the expense of spending more time with your kiddies. After all, what more valuable lesson can you teach your kids than to live his life caring for other Yidden?

חג הפסח כשר ושמח

Sunday, April 1, 2007