Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Still not the whole story (Book Review Part II)



Still reading Freifeld. It's good, I tell ya....

What intrigues me about the book is how it gives every type of reader what he or she wants. That may have something to do with the author, himself somewhat of a hybrid Chossid/Litvak. You want typical Rosh Yeshiva/Gadol? He was that. After all, we're told that he was a "Hutnerite" to the end, so that must make him a typical Gadol. You want a trailblazing Kiruv worker who brought hundreds back to Yiddishkeit? Just look at Sh'or Yoshuv and see what he did. You want a supreme mentsh who went out of his way even when he was gravely ill to make people happy and comfortable? You have countless stories like that in the book. As a Lubavitcher I can tell you this is part of what people always saw in the Rebbe - in a much greater way, obviously - that all kinds of people could relate to him, and each would see what he wanted to in the Rebbe. I see a microcosm of that in this book, and I think that the idea to write his biography in such is a good one.

I do have a message for Rabbi Besser: Based on conversations here with many people that knew the Rabbi I believe the book is not complete. Don't get me wrong, it's miles beyond anybody else would do, and I appreciate many of the messages that you bring to the forefront, but HOW COULD A BIOGRAPHY ON RABBI FREIFELD NOT MENTION HIS CONNECTION TO THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE, ZY"A? Why is it OK to say that he read American Indian History books just so that he could relate to a certain talmid, but it's not OK to say that he spent time in Lubavitch? That he insisted that the Yeshivah continue its tradition of having a grand Purim parade through the streets of Far Rockaway just so a Jew going to pick up his paper in the morning will see the parade and will get a warm feeling about Yiddishkeit JUST FOR A MINUTE?! These are not your typical CB ideas, I dare say that the Rebbe was the one who gave birth to such an idea, or at least was the one to publicize it, that the Eybershter has Nachas from times when his children do the smallest things, even if a Yid puts on Tefillin once in his lifetime, and that a great part of our mission in this world is to give the Eybershter Nachas!!

37 comments:

The Bray of Fundie said...

After all, we're told that he was a "Hutnerite" to the end, so that must make him a typical Gadol.

Except that RYH himself was far from "typical". He had as Rav Gifter said of him ahn aiginehrtikeit= a uniqueness that broke many molds and preconceived notions.

This is one thing about which both RYH supporters and detractors agree upon.

As far as the Purim stage coach...just because RYH didn't do it and RSF did does not mean that "by elimination" he must have gotten it from Lubavitch.

I'll tell you what. When considering the "shalsheles haQabolah" of Rebee to talmid of the Alter fun Slabodka to RYH to RSF the following anecdote comes to mind:

When the S'fas Emes ascended the throne of the Gerrer Rabbisteveh he moved that throne (during tish'n) from the head of the table to the middle of the table.

The first few weeks the elder khasidim chided him rebbe tee azoi vee dee zaideh hut gehteen meaning move your chair to the front.

After several weeks of responding "I will" he finally said "I am". Puzzled the khasidim asked him: ay... dehr zaideh hut gezitsen oiven uhn un dehr Rebbe zitst in mitt'n dehr tish?!? to which the S'fas emes responded:

dehr zaideh hut kainer nisht nukh-gemakht un ikh gai kainer nisht nukhmakhin

One of RYH geniuses as a pedagouge was bringing out the unique koikhos of each individual and giving them the confidence and courage to be comfortable in their own skins and styles. He helped them avoid the urge of cookie-cutter clone-like need fuhn darf'n eimitsen nukhmakhin.

IMO of all his talmidim RSF khopped this the most and thus charted his own independant course the most.

Anonymous said...

Do you truly want all the "bad" things he said about the Lubis and the Rebbe coming out too? I doubt it.

You don't want the FULL story, you just want some more propaganda.

Michoel said...

Maybe the reason R. Besser doesn't mention the Chabad shaychus is because he knows that Chabadnikim will blow it out of proportion, with statements like this:

"in a much greater way, obviously"

How can you possible be dan who feels what to what degree?

Anonymous said...

YOU WANT THE TRUTH... YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

Anonymous said...

Good review so far, Hirshel.
What was the actual extent of RSF's connection to Lubavitch ? I couldn't find his name in the index of the rebbe's igros ?

shimon 2 said...

Your 'source' about Rabbi Freifeld and his appreciation of the Rebbe is not even sure if he had any yechidus with the Rebbe yet you say 'HOW COULD A BIOGRAPHY ON RABBI FREIFELD NOT MENTION HIS CONNECTION TO THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE, ZY"A?'

Man,
You have a problem with basic logic.First ascertain that he had a relationship/connection then ask your 'kashes'.In the other earlier so called discussion which you linked to no connection to Lubavitch was shown either.

To make it a bit easier for you to understand:Rav Frefeld may have appreciated Lubavitch or the Rebbe but apparently it was no any driving force in his life.

I'm getting worried about your love for Rav Freifeld.Whenever a Lubavitcher likes something to much it's worrisome and I know Rav Freifeld was a big mentsch

shimon 2 said...

Shlomo Freifeld, Rabbi, 66

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Published: October 8, 1990

LEAD: Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, dean of the Sh'or Yoshuv Institute of Jewish Studies in Far Rockaway, Queens, died on Saturday at his home in Far Rockaway. He was 66 years old.

Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, dean of the Sh'or Yoshuv Institute of Jewish Studies in Far Rockaway, Queens, died on Saturday at his home in Far Rockaway. He was 66 years old.

He died of a heart attack, a spokesman for his family said. After funeral services at the yeshiva yesterday his body was flown to Israel for burial in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Freifeld was born in Brooklyn and was a disciple of Rabbi Isaac Hutner at Yeshiva Chaim Berlin. He later became dean of men there before founding Sh'or Yoshuv in 1967.

His survivors include his wife, Sarah; four daughters, Tehila Jaeger, Ahuva Halpern, Perina Rothman and Ruth Mecholwitz, and a son, Avrohom, all of Far Rockaway.


This is his obituary in The New York Times

Anonymous said...

the connection is negligible at best and rabbi besser does a great job of pushing the enbvelope as far as frummie bio's go; to suggest otehrwise is ridiculous-he talks of bob dylan, jimi hendrix, and all kinds of forbidden things with candidness. you are way to rough on him.

Hirshel Tzig said...

EXACTLY MY POINT! if all that is OK, then why not Lubavitch? and don't tell me there was none.

Anonymous said...

simple. In Yeshivisheh PC bob dylan, jimi hendrix represent recapturing souls lost to the enemy=valiant and heroic, Lubavitch represensts consorting WITH the enemy, treachorous and treasonous.

shimon 2 said...

Tzig
Who said R'Freifeld had anything with Lubavitch??
I'm just reiterating my earlier question which you conveniently avoided.

Hirshel Tzig said...

trust me, he did. I know.

shimon 2 said...

Tzig
Can you do a bit better than 'trust me'.
A)Frankly I don't trust you.You make it clear that this blog is some kind of Chabad defense blog, so obviously you want it to sound like many more people held of the Rebbe than the reality has shown.That is not being 'objective'(you have full right to having your Lubab bias, but claiming objectivity is not being truthful)
B)You show signs of shallowness and naivete which you have demonstarted often enough.Just recently for example you claimed that ;
"you knew ' yeshiva chaim berlin because you had been there for a purim chagigah.c'mon now

Chaim Berlin tragedy said...

Much of the debate here so far is missing the point. It's beginning to sound like a search for a "smoking gun" or a "deep throat" or those who say they would like to see a "real" neshoma (souls cannot be seen) to reveal who the real RSF really was. But the reality, coming from "a thousand points of light" is very obvious and stares everyone in the face, that RSF did have personal and professional connections with Chabad, the only question is what was their nature and what does it mean?

The following was heard personally personally from Rav Weinberg of Lubavitch, the one who used to teach the weekly Tanya lesson on the old WEVD radio station. He said that he had been in the hospital recently with Rav Freifeld and it was not long after Rav Hutner had passed away in 1980, that RSF told Rav Weinberg himself what RYH had said in the hospital at some point after his stroke when RYH said many curious things in his semi-conscious state. One of those things that RSF said was that RYH stated that the last Lubavitcher Rebbe (who was still very much alive at that time) was the "Tzadik Hador"! This is what Rav Weinberg told said in the name of RSF and it is true.

Now, of course such a statement was very perplexing, so the question was put to RAS to clarify it who refused to discuss it, just stating "next" as if one was something from a shopping list. Thus RAS neither confirmed nor denied it. The question of that statement was then put to Rav Chaim Yitzchok Kaplan, the last and one of the greatest of RYH's chasidim, who was at the hospital and heard or found out and transcribed what RYH said and his reponse was interesting, he said in Yiddish "me ken zohgen as es iz nisht emes" -- meaning that "one could say it was not true," implying that even if it was truly said by RYH, one could go ahead and say a "white lie" and say that RYH never said that.

BUT, here is the point, and it illustrates the huge difference between RSF and all other CBers that RSF felt no inhibition in saying over such things, and indeed one could clearly sense from Rav Weinberg, that RSF said it over with a point of pride as if to vindicate some complex debate that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was not what the CB propaganda machine made it out to be. Even RYH, who while he totally discouraged individual talmidim from going to Chabad (or to YU, or to Brisk, or to many other places)or to see the Rebbe, yet still and all retained a close warm personal relationship with the Rebbe. No doubt about it, BUT, again a big BUT, it was not for ANY of the CB masses, this was a very delicate and complex matter for RYH alone to handle, and it was ONLY a handfull of other top CBers who were allowed to have a shaichos with the Rebbe and Chabad and EVEN TOO TALK ABOUT IT without getting their heads blown off, and such a man was RSF....and the Cbers were waiting for the day when they suppress all of this once and for all, and books like the one here just add to that "conspiracy of silence."

Another individual who had a not-so-secret connection with the Lubavitcher Rebbe was Rabbi Shia Fishman a big CBer and one of RYH's top talmidim who was the Exec VP of Torah Umesorah until very recently. He married into a Chabad family, and at his chasuna it is said that they wanted to be mechabed RYH with reading the letter from the Rebbe that is done in such ceremonies, but he naturally declined. It is said that R' Shia would phone and consult with the Lubavicher Rebbe regularly, after all his mechutonim were the Ziskind family of Crown Heights who were real Lubavitcher Chasidim.

Finally, to all those who like to say that "it 'all' began with RYH" etc, well that is baloney because RYH did not invent Chasidus or the concept of a Rebbistive etc. In addition many CBers were tempted to be drawn into Chabad, but RYH went into full opposition mode to stop it, when Chabad came to Crown Heights and RYH had his top talmidim learning in the CB Kollel Gur Aryeh in President Street starting in 1956 until 1967 when they moved to CIA in Flatbush, and during the 1950s and 1960s the Lubavitcher Rebbe was at his most energized and so was Rav Hutner and they conducted a friendly rivalry that essentiall saw no anash Lubavitchers cross over to CB and no CBers who also started calling themselves the anash of CB who did not cross over to Chabad, excpet for very few glaring exceptions.

But for those like RSF, who had no personal psychic struggle with Chabad or the Rebbe, who had a huge interest and gift for kiruv, what was happening in Chabad was key to his formulating his future vision for kiruv and which.

With the rejection of his son RMF as the true but EXILED Rosh Yeshiva of Shor Yoshuv, RSF went down the tubes as a kiruv center for frei Jews and as the place has become almost a run of the mill modern day school type/Litvishe yeshiva in the materialistic Five Towns, having now fogotten not just its Chasidic type roots embodied by RSF but also its humble origins in Far Rockaway as it now seeks to cater to the cool yeshiva feinshmeckers of Cedarhurst and Woodmere who escaped Boro Park and Flatbush years ago and now are happy to have a yeshiva that will do *their* bidding instead of them entering a place where the aura and hashpa'a of RSF would have molded their children far differently.

Anonymous said...

Reb Motty Freifled is his fathers son in every sense of the word and it is a tragedy that he isnt a more influential position. he is funny, smart, deep and charismatic. i heard the family were dead against this book and were rodef its main backer, benjie brecher till the end

Hirshel Tzig said...

I heard the family were dead against this book and were rodef its main backer, benjie brecher till the end

That's not what I heard....

CHNYOCK said...

hirshel

you rock!

why and when did r avigdor miller become ois mashgiach in CB ?

Anonymous said...

Larger than life, that a true biography.

Anonymous said...

1.I cannot believe tha benjie brecher would ever defy the freifeld family.
2.When i was a student in CB ,50 or so years ago,it was a wll known fact that RYH and the Rebbe communicated with each other in writing.
3.when the Rebbe took a turn for the worse RAS had the student body say Tehhillim.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in S.Y and there was noone more dedicated to Rav Shlomo than Benjiy, who was always at his side. It was a father/som relationship.

The family supported thsi book wholeheartedly.

Anonymous said...

>3.when the Rebbe took a turn for the worse RAS had the student body say Tehhillim.

He had them stop seder to say Tehilim, almost never done in CB.

Anonymous said...

attention tragedy; am at the siach yitzchak even hapinah ceremony. RAF is the emcee and he just said 'i will never forget the chizuk that i derived, when the rebbe rav huter was niftar, from these three anakim-giants, reb aron, reb yonasan, reb shlomo

Chaim Berlin tragedy said...

To anonymous of Sunday, June 22, 2008 11:52:00 AM who says "am at the siach yitzchak even hapinah ceremony. RAF is the emcee and he just said 'i will never forget the chizuk that i derived, when the rebbe rav huter was niftar, from these three anakim-giants, reb aron, reb yonasan, reb shlomo"

Ok, so? I don't get what your point is.

Who said that "reb aron, reb yonasan, reb shlomo" were not "anakim-?

A BIG question is what KIND of anakim are they?

And even anakim can get old, tired and worn out and develop failings over time that some on the outside may fail to see because they are going by the phone directory of twenty years ago and have not gotten an up-to-date report and review. Open your eyes and don't fall under anyone's pell at a speech rally. The last time that happened big time in history it led to the Third Reich, a very big TRAGEDY that happened in the other "Berlin"!

Anonymous said...

Tragedy; That reference is a tragic attempt at humour, sorry, I too was tehre tody at the Siach Yitchok event and so was Rav Aron and the Novominsker who spoke glowingly abouty RSF. RAF the chairman refered to the new book warmly and the RAMF was accorded a heros welcome.

Chaim Berlin tragedy said...

To anonymous of Sunday, June 22, 2008 6:29:00 PM: sorry you don't like my humor, you can't make everyone happy -- or laugh.

You say: "...Rav Aron and the Novominsker who spoke glowingly abouty RSF."

Ok fine, noone is arguing, least of all me. I have not said one critical thing of RSF aside for his pushing out Rav MC Hunger from the yeshiva when MCH was an obvious success with the talmidim. But it is the way the CBers and RSF's own family have been playing around with RSF's legacy that many people have trouble with. It's called active revisionism and it's not funny, it's TRAGIC, and this is not my imagination at all.

"RAF the chairman refered to the new book warmly"

Jolly good, now we know he at least reads (some) quasi-genuine books and not just financial statements, rosters of rent receipts, and stock reports.

"and the RAMF was accorded a heros welcome."

Sure, like when Bill Clinton finally invited Richard Nixon back to the White House and sang his praises. Falshe kovid is not kavod. Let them bring him back a couple of months a year and let them allow him him to say over his Torah and not just clap hands at a meeting like a bunch of goyishe dignataries giving a round of polite, but false, applause. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

It wasnt false at all. It was genuine and longing. They wish that he would come back and give them a taste of true Freifeld blood.

chnyock said...

why are thre so many spudik pictures? at what point in his life did he start wearing it?

Hirshel Tzig said...

His Talmidim bought it as a gift later in life.

SY INSIDER said...

I have been following this saga for a couple of days, and basically, I am disgusted by what I am reading. It started out nice but turned into drivel when speculation overtook facts.

I am an insider. I read the book and it is right on historically and factually. The kesher between Rebbi and Chaba'd was weak, and although he was no enemy of them, he was no great admirer eithr. His home address was 707 Bolton and he would often joke that the numerals are Rebbishe ones.

As for as Reb Avrom Mordche. He actually was Rosh Yeshiva, as per Rebbi's tzavaah, but had no sipuk from the whole thing; raising money, dinners, paperwork involved in managing a Yeshiva.

He chose to leave it all for a career in realtive anonymity in holy Jerusalem, where he teaches, learns and prays in peace.

Happy ending? Not quite, but no TRAGEDY either.

Chaim Berlin tragedy said...

To sy insider of Monday, June 23, 2008 7:44:00 PM :

"I have been following this saga for a couple of days, and basically, I am disgusted by what I am reading. It started out nice but turned into drivel when speculation overtook facts."

Which part was "nice" and which is "drivel" we are all eager to learn the details if you can spare the time.

"I am an insider."

Ok, Mazel Tov.

"I read the book and it is right on historically and factually."

Ok, good, most people say it's a fine book, even Tzig the blog owner says so.

"The kesher between Rebbi and Chaba'd was weak, and although he was no enemy of them, he was no great admirer eithr."

Um at no time has anyone said that RSF had a "kesher" with Chabad as such, that is not the point at all, the real question that came under the microscope was what the exact nature of the relationship was between RSF and the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, the *man* and not the movement he led, because it was with the Lubavitcher Rebbe the *man* that RSF seemed to have a non-hostile and positive take unlike the average CBers who picked up only what they viewed as RYH's presumed "hostility" when all RYH was doing was keeping his own talmidim away from an alien ideology as much as the Lubavitcher Rebbe kept his own anash away from RYH's alien ideology when they were all living cheek-by-jowl in the Crown Heights area/s yet.

So that RSF was more secure about himself and the Lubavitcher Rebbe and acted in a way that was far different than his fellow CBers and was essentially looking for a sort of sign-post in the Lubavitcher Rebbe as they both trailblazed the new concept of KIRUV by reaching out to and conquering non-frum Jews and bringing them over to becoming Baalei teshuva in the wild days of the 1960s and 1970s. RYH had more than a passing insterest in this too and had a few of his own people going into this field, and RSF was only one of such personalities, other examaples were Rabbi Pinchas Stolper a close RYH disciple who successfuly founded NCSY (while he worked with other gedolim like Rav Ruderman zt"l and Rav JB Soloveichik zt"l on the issues) and even characters like Shlomo Cralebach the singer, Noach Weinberg of Ohr/Aish fame, who all went out to mekarev non-Orthodox youth in America and who had a shaychos with RYH and who had a strongly positive view of what the Lubavitcher Rebbe was doing and saying. -- All this while the Litvishe velt was mostly numb, baffled and opposed to all that kind of stuff, a tune they have mostly all changed in the last 10-20 years. BUT, and it's a big but, RAS represents that side of RYH that places LIMUD HATORAH ubber alles and while he may find kiruv and day schools interesting and amusing he clings to the central mandate RYH handed *him* of running CB and producing "gedolim" in it (and that is why when RAS gets involved in matters other than this he often tends to get it wrong because outside the daled amos he does not have practical velt's experience in dealing with all sorts of complicated human situations that are not to be found in lomdishe seforim or even in lomdishe kep) and that is where the big divide kicks in because Rabbi Yeager is more amenable to that while RAMF is ariengetun into Chasidishe inyonim which by definition would make him a success with Baalei teshuva who drink that up like bees to honey, as anyone can see from the success Lubavitchers have when they market Tanya and Chasidus to anyone within earshot. So it's a mixed bag.

"His home address was 707 Bolton and he would often joke that the numerals are Rebbishe ones."

Ok, we know he had a good sense of humor and then some, but you are not really saying anything here, and just because you are not saying anything does not mean that RSF had nothing to say on this subject.

"As for as Reb Avrom Mordche. He actually was Rosh Yeshiva, as per Rebbi's tzavaah, but had no sipuk from the whole thing; raising money, dinners, paperwork involved in managing a Yeshiva."

RAS and RAF and the CB boys could have come to his rescue as they have consistently come to Rabbi Yeager's rescue, so it's no excuse that they stood by while RAMF sailed off into the EY sunset as they waved him goodbye even if was, as you claim, "self-imposed" exile, which is really, really hard to accept.

"He chose to leave it all for a career in realtive anonymity in holy Jerusalem, where he teaches, learns and prays in peace."

Sure, fine. Many of us wish we could do this, but is this what he was thinking when he was initially fighting to keep his top post as his father's heir before he lost and was forced out? Only he could tell us, and for now he is keeping his mouth closed, that proves that the man must be a tzadik if nothing else.

"Happy ending? Not quite, but no TRAGEDY either."

It all depends on the perspective.

Anonymous said...

Tragedy; You are, of course, very eloquent and convincing. You are just missing some facts.

Perhaps some therapy is in order for you? Maybe someone who specializes in resentment related disorders?

Oh, and mark my words. We haven't heard the last of RAMF yet.

Chaim Berlin tragedy said...

To anonymous of Monday, June 23, 2008 10:23:00 PM:

"You are, of course, very eloquent and convincing."

Thank you.

"You are just missing some facts."

Ok so hand them over. I love to learn new things all the time.

"Perhaps some therapy is in order for you?"

I thought this blog was therapy? You mean it isn't?

"Maybe someone who specializes in resentment related disorders?"

Who will pay for it? You think RAF can spare a hefty dime to help me out in that dept? But I will insist that Michael Hersh gets equal treatment! And they should not forget to get RAS therapeutic help with how to cope with advancing age and to avoid the pitfalls that senior citizens are prone to make.

"Oh, and mark my words. We haven't heard the last of RAMF yet."

Ok, but people don't live forever and when they hit their 50s and 60s they need lots more finacial and material help. Does it mean that Shor Yoshuv will now share half there budget with RAMF or that they will now bring him out a couple of months a year to the delight of all the true Freifeld chasidim to the chagrin of the order that has been artificially imposed by RAS and RAF on Shor Yoshuv and the Freifeld legacy or something?

Anonymous said...

we all owe benjie ,the rebbe died in his arms and if anyone knows what was in our rebbe's heart it's benjie.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Benjie Brecher was the closest talmid to RSF and ambodies the 'old Shor Yoshuv' hardowrking, real and Jewish.

Anonymous said...

Family was initially skeptical of the original mishpacha article on RSF, but when they got to know the author they were convinced he would do the right thing. He did. It's a great book, should be part of every mechanech's training.

Anonymous said...

>>"in a much greater way, obviously."

There you go again with your childish insistence on the Rebbe being greater than anyone else. Well, he wasn't. And Rav Freifeld, for one, does not have a single talmid who refers to Rabbi Freifeld as Boreinu.

Anonymous said...

RSF,(ZTL) -- RNJ -- RAMH -- RMF --RAH-- ,<------ Tzadikim. If your reading this you are the talmidim. How can I understand this situation. I just love my Rabbeim and whatever it is they do I am just here to learn. Period.


I love them all. We just need.... a week at least in Shor Yoshuv Bungalow Colony... we will all be hugging each other.