Sunday, January 25, 2009

Keepin' it real in Tucson

Rabbi Yossi Shemtov and the owner outside his shop

Received via e-mail:

Reb Tzig: I have a picture that I got from a friend visiting Arizona (for gezunt, of course) of Rabbi Shem Tov, the Chabad shliach here in Tucson, Arizona, posing with the owner of the pictured store on Erev Shabbos, Likutei Sichos in hand. The story - as I understood it from my friend - goes something like this: There used to be a butcher/grocer here under the "hashgacha" of a conservative Rabbi. The store recently changed hands, and now the new owner, a Sefardi Jew who my friend met last Friday in the shop, told the old owner that he didn't want to buy the place unless he got an orthodox hechsher. The man is traditional, but he has a great amount of respect for Rabbonim, we can all learn from him. So he got the 2 Rabbis here, Rabbi Becker who is a chafetz chaim Queens talmid, a more modern Rabbi, to come together with Rabbi Yossi Shemtov of Chabad of Tucson to make it kosher with a Mashgiach t'midi. On Friday afternoon the mashgiach can't be there so Rabbi ShemTov בכבודו ובעצמו was sitting there learning Likutei sichos, and at 3 o'clock Rabbi Becker was to supposed to come.

My friend took a picture of RYST with the owner. Shemtov told him he can't use the picture without also taking a picture of Becker, since he also does Hashgachah there and it wouldn't be fair to omit him from the story. Maybe tomorrow he will get one of Becker, and then maybe I can send it to you. Tzig, if only this is what this shaliach did he will be in the highest gan eden, since mesiras nefesh on Friday is something extraordinary in my view. I consider myself a chasidishe yid and a talmid chochom to boot, but I feel very little near Shemtov and Becker. What did I ever do for yiddishkiet?

The store is Faig's in Tucson.

A little background on Tucson: For a while Becker and Shemtov didn't work together but now ShemTov is very protective of Becker's Kavod. It's a shtick kedusha, this from a Chabad critic. Becker was to take over on Friday when the mashgiach is off, they both shared the responsibility on friday afternoon in the winter just that mostly non frum ppl whould have kosher meat there is a mashgiach but he can't be there on Friday late so the Rabbis themselves com, which is the real thing in my book. So my friend found Rabbi Shemtov learning Likutei Sichois. I have an audio interview with him he said he only agreed to buy it if the 2 orthodox Rabbis give a hechsher, but it takes a serious commitment from both Rabbonim to execute this. Do you think the holy satmar rebbe would sit in story Friday afternoon just that a landsman should have busor kusher. Hey Rebbetzin, where are my strokehs? it's late!

listen, Tzig, it's connected to the Mumbai thing, just a bit different. Every year 1000s of people come to Tucson for the gem show, among them dozens if not hundreds of frum Jews mostly Sefardim. For them to have this service is the same thing that the kedoshim did in Mumbai, זיין א חבר און א שיתוף פאר די שכינה הק' דאס אללעס. Here you can see Becker's shul. I would say he is a cross between Mod Orthodox and Litvish. Rabbi Becker claims that Reb Dovid Feinstein is his Rosh Yeshivah and he asks him for advice, but the shul is 100% Modern Orthodox.

אמר הציג: I guess I waited long enough for Becker's picture. I'm posting this like it is.


Anonymous said...

Nice story and all that. I've heard good things about Rabbi Shemtov but one correction. Rabbi Becker is not MO. He's a shtarke Chafetz Chaim yid and as frum as anyone. A real ben torah and a machmir. I've had a few amazing experiences with him and he's not one bit MO nor would he identify that way. His shul is whatever he can slap together in Tucson where he's done much good work.

Anonymous said...

very good Rabbi Shemtov and Rabbi Becker!
BTW, The Satmar Rebbe would send a chussid to the store

אלא עפולה said...

Could this be used on chabad websites as a news item?

Anonymous said...

"I consider myself a chasidishe yid and a talmid chochom to boot"

I hope I'm not the only one bothered by this hint of hubris

Anonymous said...

The guys who go on to become klei kodesh from Chofetz Chaim are not Modern Orthodox.That term would be used for many of the graduates Of RIETS. (YU)

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Becker is an absolute tzadik and has given his life to that city. His sterling middos and good sense have nothing to do with what happened in Mumbabi or anywhere else, he is just the consummate out-of-town Rov from the Yeshiva world. That he consults Da'as Toirah in the form of Rav Dovid Feinstein, himself a Rosh Yeshiva, and now part of the Aguda's Moetzes Gedolei haTorah is a huge ma'aleh. Rabbi Becker is NOT a "modern orthodox" rabbi and he would be deeply offended if he knew that he was being described that way.

How long has the Chabad rabbi been in Tucson compared to Rabbi Becker? There should be no implied meaning that there is something "off" with the heilige Rabbi Becker when the man is an outright Tzadik. Just meeting him in person will tell you why. I have met him and spoken with him a few times many years ago, Tocho KeBaro and he is an Ish Emes and a complete Yashar not prone to any Shtik, Krumkeit, or Kuntzim. His life's aim is to do KIRUV and his shull should be seen more as a Kiruv Center than an average regular shull. He has been recognized for his powers as a successful Kiruv rabbi based from his shull and even received grants for his trailblazing Kiruv work in Tucson. He has a Choshuve brother in the Rabbonus who is also doing the same thing (last I heard he was in the South some place.)

He is a 100% Chofetz Chaimer (your poster here does not seem to recognize that type when he bumps into one, calling it all sorts of wrong names with wrong labels), meaning a graduate of yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Queens, thru and thru and his middos and hashkofa are 100 Torahdik and frum. He is probably older than the present young Rosh Yeshivas of Chofetz Chaim so that is why he must be consulting with the older Rav Dovid Feinstein as well. He was long the lone frum rabbi in Tucson and had to survive in the midbar of Tucson and Arizona on his own raising a Torah family.

Yes, it's true that Chofetz Chaimers and Chabad rabbis do not usually get along and they have very hostile views of each other's Hashkofas. It is unfortunate and tragic, but this is proof of Rabbi Becker's maturity and gadlus as a far-off American shtots-rov, that he is not the type to make machlokes and get into childish wars of ideas that lead nowhere and help noone and that would be but pointless tragedies of no help to anyone.

Rabbi Becker is moser nefesh for Yiddishkeit his entire life and he has suffered from various balebatim over the years, some of whom he mekarevd and became frum and in some cases even turned on him. Yet he has managed to hang in there.

He is big Talmid Chochem, he is kovei'a ittim and will anything for another Yid. Most Chofetz Chaimers like him have Yadin-Yadin semichah from the Chofetz Chaim yeshiva and are able to pasken and make a Bais Din with two other Orthodox rabbonim if need be.

What he has done in Tucson as a beacon of Torah and Avodas Hashem is a Kiddush Hashem that defies description, it's out-of-town mamash, and not one bad word should be said about such a true Tzadik who has been moser nefesh his entire life for the Klal.

He is a great diplomat and his shull is made up of modern people (there are no Kehillas of Charedim and Chasidim there) and it is in keeping with his charcater that he has gotten along with the Chabad rabbi in Tucson.

Let's try to avoid any tragic misrepresentaion to score points as that would be a true tragedy.

It's more than about this or that store or butcher, it's about a lifetime of mesirus nefesh for Torah and Am Yisroel in Tucson, and Arizona, and in that department Rabbi Becker is a 100% true hero. I can even verify this personally.

Anonymous said...

when i read satmar TC's always positive comments its a breath of fresh air.

Anonymous said...

tzig tzig tzig. how can you compare a lubavtcher shliach whose ordination consists of much chassidus and a cursosry run-through of basic halachos with a bona fide musmach, a talmid of RSAthat learned in Kollel for five years intensely and knows REAL halacha, not halachic jargon?

Anonymous said...

Sad! It's a real pity that the writer - in the process of trying to tell an inspiring story of a kosher store in Tucson and how representatives of different kreizen in the community are working together to provide hashgocho - had to let the yetzer horo include a nasty comment about the Satmar Rebbe. For me, that line poselled the story and told me what that author really is.

Anonymous said...

It shows the state of Yiddishkayt in the US when we write articles praising Jews and NOCHMER
rabbis for behaving along Torah mandated guidelines. Its like getting an award in BP for paying your taxes.
But they deserve credit for their begavior !

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

the writer is no Lubavitcher, but it seems like he dislikes Satmar as well. I guess he likes himself and not many others!

Anonymous said...

He is a lubavitcher by liking and boasting about himself and lubavitch,pretending not to be one, so to sound impartial,and hating the satmer rebbe and blogging ,this makes him a full fledged lubavitcher you don't need more to be accepted into the lubavitcer movement

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

no, he's not. I know who this guy is. Believe me, plenty of non-Lubavitchers dislike Satmar.

Anonymous said...

Tzig says: Believe me, plenty of non-Lubavitchers dislike Satmar. but only a lubavitcher would promote their franchise with a silly jab at the holy satmer rebbe by writing: "Do you think the holy satmar rebbe would sit in story Friday afternoon just that a landsman should have busor kusher."
and you are a putz for publishing it

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Becker is NOT a "modern orthodox" rabbi and he would be deeply offended if he knew that he was being described that way.

"deeply offended" ?Interesting choice of words. Would you ascribe the same feelings had he been described as a TIDE rabbi? Lakewood?

Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

Joel, would a RW MO person be "deeply offended" to be considered a YCT affiliate?

Anonymous said...

Joel Rich asks: "deeply offended" ?Interesting choice of words. Would you ascribe the same feelings had he been described as a TIDE rabbi? Lakewood?"

Note that I said that HE, meaning Rabbi Becker himself, would be offended, I was not talking about an absolute objective standard in the world where people don't care what they are called as long as it's something nice or complimentary.

And, yes, if you know the Chofetz Chaimers it could fairly well be accurately generalized that they would be offended if they were called followers of Torah Im Derech Eretz or of the Lakewood yeshiva, because they regard themseleves as shleimim in their own derech and hashkofa and when they become rabbonim and mechanchim out-of-town or anywhere they are very proud of being musmachim of their yeshiva and they are definitely very picky, makpid, fussy and protective of their Chofetz Chaim "brand name" and "yichus" and do not wish to be called anything but what they are. If you have ever spoken with, and gotten to know, any real Chofetz Chaimer, you will know this to be so.

Similarly, a Lubavitcher rabbi would not appreciate being called a Bobover, even though they are both Chasidim of a Chasidus and hold from the Baal Shem Tov, and a musmach of YU with a PhD would not appreciate being called a Chaim Berliner with a PhD, just because it's fact that there are YUers and Chaim Berleners with PhDs.

All this should be obvious, unless some people just enjoy provocations and word-games for no real purpose, other than to ignite needless tragedies.

Anonymous said...

imho, no - he would explain what he is and where he differs, if appropriate. The assumption that there is a one dimensional grading scale is part of our problem.

BTW anyone living in Phoenix is likely heavily engaged with modernity.

Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, Rabbi Becker also has smicha from Ovadia Yosef, the Sephardic Shas Rabbi, and (former?) chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel.

You talk about being open to working with others!

AZ doll said...

Reb Tzig,

I read the blog entry of Jan 25, 2009 about the Tucson shop. Some clarifications are needed.

1. As pictured on the marquee in the picture: the shop is named 5th Street Kosher Deli and Market. It is a butcher shop - a deli - (offering Israeli dishes as well as Askenazi fare) -a market - and a catering establishment! And the owners are warm, friendly and helpful. We in Tucson are fortunate to have it.

2. It was never named Faig's. It was called Feig's when under previous ownership.

3. Rabbi Becker is Chofetz Chaim, not Modern Orthodox.

4. Services at Congregation Young Israel (which is Modern Orthodox) are led by Rabbi Shemtov, the Lubavitcher rabbi.

5. While it was Feig's, and under the previous owner, the Orthodox population would not patronize it because it was under the hashgiach of Rabbi Robert Eisen, (Conservative). Rabbi Eisen is very strict in his observance of Kashrut. True, Feig's did not have a mashgiach T'midi, it was not economically feasible. [Rabbi Eisen's shul, Anshei Israel, does have a mashgiach T'midi.]

The new owners have revitalized the business --improved it tremendously , and are able to have a mashgiach T'midi and now the Orthodox patronize it.

6. I wish Jews would stop bashing each other. Anonymous' gratuitous remarks about the Satmar rebbe were could be construed as "leshon hora." So could his (unless there was a second Anonymous) comparison of an RSA education vs a Lubavitcher one. Add to that #19's comments about Rabbi Becker being really frum, not MO, and it is a disturbing picture of different Jewish groups putting down the others. We should not do that... there are plenty of non-Jews who do that.