Thursday, October 30, 2008

All in the name of ____________

We often hear about how times have changed - and for the better. How we're so much more educated and secluded from the secular world, and how today's rules make us better and holier people. How things that were acceptable a mere 40 years ago are totally out of the question today, and at the same institutions! How most everything that our parents did, from the way they dressed to what they ate to where they went and studied, was flawed and happened only because they didn't know better, or because it was "OK back then." If you don't believe me, and you have old family albums or yearbooks take a look and get back to me. I understand perfectly when I'm told that even the "frummest ladies did that," and I accept that times HAVE changed, and maybe, just maybe for the better. The only problem I have is when the same logic and understanding is only applied to certain people, not to everybody. That leads me to believe either that LeKatchilla it was never OK, or we never really changed, even if on the outside everything looks better now.

Somebody got it right when he said it was Rav Shlomo Wolbe enjoying the round table discussion here. (I didn't appreciate the "Hamercaz" plug but I let it get through.) I wonder if you told a frum guy that it was a Lubavitcher shliach teaching this class of young girls what he would say, and even what I - the great Lubavitcher partisan - would say. The excuses - after the above-mentioned frum guy is told who this is - would probably go something like this: "It was after the war, they needed to be brought back to Yiddishkeit." I don't necessarily disagree with that "excuse" either, I just ask for your understanding when you that scenario with people you don't have the same respect for.

מים רבים לא יוכלו לכבות את האהבה

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fifty Years Is Not Much

"Der Yid" in 1958/9 was not what it is today, a (ZL) Satmar partisan attack dog. But to see the very same newspaper print a letter from the Rebbe is still nice. This seems to be right around the same time that Chaim Lieberman (not the mazkir) printed his book against Satmar after Der Yid called for a demonstration at the Israeli Consulate in New York. So they were Satmarish back then too. I guess they "overlooked" the "issues" they had.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feasting on the smaller fish

It's been a while since we took Artscroll to task here, and maybe because the topic was tiring. I think we have another issue at hand.

Your local Jewish paper probably had a big spread from "Ma Torah" (as in Ma Bell...) about another "landmark project" they're about to complete. It's the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a good choice if you ask me, although not so popular among the Bnei Torah. (what do Hungarians know about Torah anyway, right?) My guess for them choosing the KSA that the MB has already been translated by another publishing company (Feldheim?) and they can't do the big Shulchan Aruch, soooo, enter the KSA. It seems like the boys at Artscroll never can decide on a project and stick to it; they always for new and exciting things to do. If only they'd stay focused maybe the Yerushalmi would already be completed, as well as other projects that take forever to complete. That's not to say we don't appreciate the good work they do, even if they do rely heavily on previous editions of translated works...

Anyway, judging from their insatiable need to advertise and publicize (of course, all in the name of spreading Torah...) one might say that Artscroll never seems content with what they do. I'm not suggesting they rest on their collective laurels, I'm saying that it seems like they want it all, like nobody else is allowed to do anything related to Torah and English anymore. It's as if they're trying to beat everybody else at anything Torah and English, and not just because they have more of a drive or need to do it. There's a sense of entitlement there that I don't think they earned. How did Reb Avrom Yehoshua Soloveitchik put it last year when they came to him to sign on to the Oz VeHodor fiasco? אלע מוזען געבן פאר קופת העיר, און אלע מוזען קויפען עוז והדר! "Let others make Parnossoh too!", he cried. The same can be said for the English Torah-books publishers; let others do their holy work!

Monday, October 27, 2008

You saw it here first!

(RAS and son (standing behind his father) at a Pidyon HaBen yesterday.)

CBT, the pillar of truth, commenting on Circus Tent Clickable Classics

First things first, and it must be clearly understood, there are two things that should never be confused because they are most definitely not synonymous, even though to many people, even within the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin - Kollel Gur Aryeh (CB for short) it may superficially seem so: And that is that Rav Yitzchok Hutner (RYH) and Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin are NOT the same subject and one cannot automatically interchange the name CB with RYH. Doing so could even backfire big time. So always remember that CB is a 100 year old institution in Brooklyn that hired RYH, he then headed and moulded it for some time, but CB preceded RYH and it goes on after his passing headed by others, now most notably by Rav Aron Shechter (RAS) its current Rosh Yeshiva and its president Reb Avrohom Fruchthandler (RAF) (AFAIK, RAF is not an ordained rabbi and does not claim to be one, even though, make no mistake about it, he is as quick and tough a talmid chochem as he is a businessman.) CB is not Lubavitch and RYH is not the Lubavitcher Rebbe so it's not the same style and way of thinking. RYH was an individualist and HIS talmdim were very different from each other, unlike Lubavitchers and all Chasidim who are most often mostly from one mold.

Now it is true that if one was accepted as a student into CB then one can claim to be a CBer but even that is not always fully true, usually not all CBers are equal, and in fact one can spend many years in CB and not become a CBer at all, and being a CBer has a variety of connotations. At any rate, RYH had his own life which he kept separate from CB the institution, and there were times, especially in the last part of his life, starting in the mid-1960s when he started his elongated trips to EY with the plans of leaving NY and building a new yeshiva in Yerushalayim which he eventually did. RYH passed away in 1980 and from the mid 1960s he started to spend most of his time in EY and commuting back to the US to spend Pesach and Yomim Noraim/Sukkos and say his famous ma'amorim. Don't forget that it was on one of those transcontinental commutes that he, his wife, daughter and son in law, who were also with him, that they were on a plane that was hijacked by the PLO's Black September in 1970 to Jordan.

The point of all this particular information so far, is that RYH having made a decision to spend most of his time in EY and at the same time keep on coming back to the CB yeshiva in Brooklyn for Pesach and RH and/or Sukkos, a practice that his son in law Rav Yonason David (RYD) and Rebbetzin Bruria (Hutner) David (RBD) still keep up at till the present (they come for all of Pesach and the first days of Sukkos only). So in effect RYH was a rosh yeshiva in America and EY simultaneously. At first, by the early 1970s, he built a yeshiva in Yerushalayim together with Rav Dov Schwartzman (son in law of Rav Aharon Kotler, who was divorced from Rav Kotler's daughter and remarried) at Bais HaTalmud but they had a serious falling out and RYH withdrew to just his small Kollel Ohr Eliyahu in Yerushalyim, and then launched plans to build Yeshivas Pachad Yitzchok which was only completed after his passing in Har Nof and which is headed by RYD only (RAS is restricted to Brooklyn but RYD is permitted to come and go as he please since he is the "chasne debei nesia.")

So now, while in EY, RYH attracted new people and talmidei chachomim to himself who had no connection at all to the CB in America. Some were attracted to his derech and some he worked in drawing closer. Evidently, Rav Shlomo Wolbe (RSW), already appreciated RYH from his writings, but there is no doubt that he was not only from the earliest big names to be mekabel RYH upon his return to EY in the 1960s (remember that RYH was originally a talmid of the Alter of Slabodka in Europe and in the original Chevron Yeshiva in the late 1920s and early 1930s). But evidently the old yishuv of the 1960s was not sure who the RYH of the 1960s was.


RYH, with his appreciation for secular knowledge and having headed a yeshiva (CB) that permits going to college and added to the known relationship he had with Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook, ad to that that the Briskers had their own grudges against RYH who they felt was not respectful to the Brisker Rov, Rav Velvel (RYH was in great awe of Rav Chaim MiBrisk, and was clooe to Rav Moshe Soloveitchik and his sons the American Rav Yoshe Ber of YU and his younger brother Rav Aron who RYH appointed as rosh yeshiva in CB before RAS), so that there were all sorts of suspicions and uncertainties floating around in the minds of Charedim in EY and it was RSW who came to RYH "rescue" and decalred that all is well and that RYH is kosher veyosher lemahdrin! This was something that RYH recognized and was deeply grateful to RSW for.

But a fascinating thing then happened, RYH and RSW had a great love and respect for each other, both being major ba'alei machshove and genuine Jewish philosophers who knew their stuff, but RYH was way ahead and had worked longer and harder and had established himself on a far deeper level, so that RSW was drawn into RYH's world and way of thinking and supposedly they established a chavruse in kabbala together with RYH as the senior mentor and that in turn resulted that supposedly RSW said on himself, it might even be written in one sefer that RSW wrote, that he was RYH's talmid peshuto kemashma'o without any preconditions.

That is is how it is understood and accepted in CB and noone who knows has disputed it. Indeed, after the passing of RYH, RSW supposedly kept up a chavruseshaft with RYD but it was never heard that he called RYD his "rebbe" unless others may have heard more. RSW is not alone in this regard, many others became talmidim of RYH in EY over the years without ever setting foot in CB in Brooklyn or even coming to RYH's yeshivas in EY. So don't be surprsied if you hear that they claim to be talmidim of RYH without ever being a day in CB in Brooklyn. Today there are many in the Litvishe oilem haTorah who are serious students of RYH's ten volume Pachod Yitzchok sefarim and among those there are no doubt people who will justifiably claim to be talmidim of RYH based on the fact that they have devoured and digested (the contents of) his seforim and have adopted and even adapted his derech from his sefarim. It is not far fetched.

So yes, it is true and valid to say that RSW and others were talmidim of RYH without ever having been in formal institutions that RYH ran. There is more to say on this topic but this is more than enough for now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Carried Away A Bit?

As a Lubavitcher it's tough not to smile at an outburst of emotion like that. Chabad has always been the antithesis of emotional displays like that, ever since the Mitteler Rebbe's times. There's also the fact that people today in general are VERY skeptical of any Rebbe today that tries to emulate what he thinks the Rebbes of old would do. If there's a certain nusach to follow, or a dance to do, or a waving of the hands to perform, people are understanding that the current Rebbe is only following in the ways of his ancestors, though he may not be on their level. Most Rebbes today have come to terms with that fact and have adjusted. No longer do they claim to have all the spirituals "powers" that their ancestors had, and most will say that themselves. Neither Satmar Rebbe would even attempt to copy the routine of the old Satmar Rov on Hoshana Rabboh.

I spoke to a chossid of the Kossover Rebbe (filmed here) and asked him pshat. He says the KR has been doing it ever since he was a kid. I'm not sure I get that. What's that supposed to mean? Resident heretic DovBear added that clip to his lengthy gloating period and called the man "crazy." That's one extreme. What else can you expect of somebody who thinks BHO is the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln. What did bother me was that the KR fed this insane man's (Dovbear's) appetite for making light of ANYTHING and everything Jewish and serious. I also would've liked to poll the people present there what they thought about what the KR was doing. Most seemed indifferent - not suprised - as is this was normal for their Rebbe and will be done again the next day. If that's so then we've got a "Kan Tzorich Livkos" on hand here, where the so-called emotions displayed here are pre-meditated and possibly bluff.

The KR is knows to be a very laid-back kind of Rebbe, as Rebbes go these days. "Proof" of this may seem lame to some of you but these little things say alot about a person in today's culture. He shuns the trappings of other Rebbes, Gabboyim, fancy clothes etc., things others live for. He'll talk to you like a NORMAL person, without rolling his eyes or talking in Rebbe code. Having said that the fact that he does Nanuim like that seems to go against everything I've heard about him before. A psychology major told me that he attributes this behavior to Scrupulousity, which is mostly seen among - lehavdil - Catholics. OCD of another sort. I fail to see the "symptoms" here. It's not like he's checking his Lulav constantly to see if it split. Then he gave some other term for it, which I fail to remember now. In any case, what we have is a case of one perplexed blogger; maybe you fellows can respectfully help me solve this mystery.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Clickable Classics

"Clickable" as in must click on them to fully enjoy them.

Aron Mordche'le Rokeach and his father

The "Imrei Aish" of Modzitz and his grandson, the current Rebbe in Israel

Yenuka II of Stolin

Pachad Yitzchok III

With his "talmid" Rabbi Wolbe

From Private HydePark forum

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Moving Right Along


Simchas Teyreh has come and gone, now the only thing we cling to is Shabbos Bereishis. It's the last remaining link to the month that irrigates the rest of the year. For some of us it's business as usual already, for others there's still a few days till normal order resumes. For some of us Simchas Teyreh is all about celebrating accomplishments, a time to reflect on all the Torah we learned throughout the year and to celebrate it. Every song and dance is all about Ashrei Mi SheAmolay BaTeyreh, the Bnei Teyreh are the real mechutonim of the Teyreh, they say. "Toras Hashem Temimoh," they sing, and they claim to see the sweetness of the Teyreh in their everyday lives. Good for them. Many most definitely do, and there's much to envy there, but that's not the point of this thread. Like many other Mitzvos and Minhogim, how we do it may not be very different, it's WHY we do that is like night and day.

Notice I haven't said anything that would make you think I'm attacking any which way of celebrating ST, I just naturally have my preference. The elitist approach of this being a Ben-Teyreh YomTiff may work when selecting students for a school, but Simchas Teyreh is all about unity. "Kosheh Olai Pridaschem", G-d says that it's difficult for him to see how his beloved children are separated by classes and levels of frumkeit. Nice orderly dancing with only a select few dancing and most not participating but just standing by may tickle your fancy, but you sure have lots of explaining to do as to why you like that. I'll take dysfunctional dancing any day. I do notice that many of you feel the need to come to Chabad for free booze, often young men - well underage. Is it that you too want the chassidishe spirit, or is it just the booze? Take it from me - just drinking without friends sitting with you is for losers. Why not have a little kiddush before Hakofes and you'll feel much better. (Not that I'm condoning irresponsible drinking, c"v.)

Ad kan when we talk of the yeshivishe/modern crowd. When it comes to the large chassidishe heyfen something puzzles me. Many of the chassidishe Rebbes wait till 12-1 o'clock in the morning till they start Hakofes. They daven maariv at the z'man and then everybody goes home and has seudas yomtiv. I'll go out on a limb and say that the meal lasts until 10 pm. What does one do all that time until the Hakofes start? In Lubavitch Hakofes would also start quite late, but there was very often a long farbrengen by the Rebbe That would fill up the time quite appropriately. I don't believe there's a pre-Hakofes tish in Skver or in Bobov, so what does "Ben-Zion Doe" or "Yankev Yossef Doe" do till the Rebbe comes in? I had a chance to go see the action in Skver, but I had nobody to go with, and I didn't want to do it by myself. Most of the guys I asked - non-Lubavitchers - said they weren't interested, and mouthed off about Skver. I guess they had bad experiences there, although Skver does do a good job with those kinds.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Where Was I?

I sometimes wonder the same thing.

Some of you may have been concerned or curious as to my whereabouts, at least as far as the Web is concerned. The truth is I was right here, in a way afraid of the keyboard. Not wanting to write, not caring enough to write. Maybe I'm not cut out for the hardcore blogging, i.e. targeting people from the community etc., like others do. As a matter of fact I know I'm not. I don't usually do that. I almost NEVER do that. Some of the comments I got on the Friedlander thread were a wakeup call for me. I happened to see one of the people pictured over Rosh Hashonoh, and I wondered what my reaction would be had he known who I was and had he confronted me about what I wrote, as benign as it was. That sort of took my cheshek of writing away for me, and I decided to take a shtikkel break from writing. THAT BREAK IS OVER.

I now realize that I was being intimidated by people with agendas and with things to hide. Nothing I did was so terrible. I see other "respectable" blogs get nice "mainstream" companies and businesses with constant ads on their sites, even if they report every single Loshon HoRah piece about every Jew available on the web. Somehow nobody I know is embarrassed to say that he reads Vos Iz Naies, yet the Tzig's blog is somehow taboo for some people. I fail to see the logic in that.

The picture above is from an Artscroll book published by the Munkacser Rebbe's aunt - his father's sister - before Artscroll became the final word in Charedi policy. I doubt they'd print such a picture today, for several reasons. I also happen to have loved the article/interview in the Mishpacha magazine with the MR. He seems to be in touch with today's society - at least when conducting an interview. I loved how he "taytshed op" his zeide's shitos regarding Zionism etc. and adapted them to his own less-zealous way of dealing with all kinds of people. The pictures were also great. I also was crazy about how he mentions the Baal Shem Tov so often and bases so much of what he does on the Besht and his approach.

There are good times ahead for my readers, iy"H. Spread the word.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

אחת בשנה

(Who You Lookin' At?!)

We Hungarians are a funny bunch. Ever since I was a little boy Erev Yom Kippur was the biggest day of the year. At least Kaporos was. Missing early morning Kaporos was the crime of the century, even as young as 9 years old. I even have pictures of me right next to the old Bobover Rov while he was having his Kaporoh shechted years ago. The same goes for me now; not doing Kaporos while it's still dark outside is like not eating matzoh on Pesach.


I know I had more to say about this topic, and that it was a lead-in to something more interesting, I just can't remember now, 2 days later and all. Maybe it'll come to me some other time. I remember now! I meant to wish you all a very inspirational Yom Kippur, aka YumeKudesh, and that Hashem grant you all your (permitted) hearts' desires. May it be a year of "health and wealth and time to enjoy them," a year of peace and brotherhood, a year of Torah and Chassidus for all Jews.

even misngadim!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Well-meaning or taking it too far?

From Here

I hope you all had a very inspiring and forgiving Rosh Hashonoh. I apologize for conveying my greetings and salutations before the New Year as is customary.

Some of you may have been looking for a way to show G-d that you really mean it this year, that you'll show him how sincere you are about CHANGE. You especially want to create an environment at home where your children are safe from the bad influences of our time. A certain Chassidic group sent this questionnaire/form to all parents recently. They may mean well, but others start off "meaning well" and then get carried away. Is this something you're comfortable with?