Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Gevorener's Balancing Act

(Reb Lazer Berland of Shuvu Bonim - Photo from Here)

This may not be Part IV of my life's story, but it does voice some of my sentiments on part of what one who "switches" communities must endure. I don't say that I necessarily went through all the hardships that I mention here, but then again, I don't say that I didn't, especially some of them.....

They say Ah Gevorener Iz Erger Vi Ah Geborener - one who becomes is worse than one who is born - and there's much truth to that old Yiddish saying. Today it's used mostly to belittle those who join groups like Lubavitch and Breslov, and maybe some Baalei Tshuvah too, and it's used mostly by those "cool" to serious Judaism. For instance, a Heimishe guy who just goes through the motions and does what he needs to only so he can avoid drawing attention to himself - he would have a real problem with a guy who makes a serious change in life. A guy like this shows him that some people ARE serious about Yiddishkeit, and they DON'T just do it for their kids' sake or to avoid embarrassment. Then there are those that are currently part of their respective movements as well; many of them resent the fact that newcomers come and spoil their pristine environments, and they're pretty forward with those feelings. Some don't like any outsiders, and some like only certain ones; Kol Chad LeFum Shiuroh DiLey.

So, in some instances the Gevorener has lost both worlds; The world he left shuns him for turning his back on them, and the world he joins has yet to accept him for whatever reason. Yet, he perseveres, believing in the movement's/group's teachings and leaders, and less in the group's subculture. He tries to maintain some kind of relationship with his old friends and acquaintances, and ignores their hurtful remarks and jabs, knowing that they speak from ignorance and are basically harmless. He tries to fit in to the new surroundings by discarding any and all remnants of his former upbringing - for better or for worse - and adopting all of the current group's customs and habits. That may work, and it may not, depending on the age of our subject. Say, for example, that an Israeli becomes a Breslover, (or a Litvisher/American becomes a Skverrer) and he wants to sound like a Yerushalmi, Ashkenazi Breslover, (or a Skverrer) here too timing is everything. Just as it is when one moves to a new country and needs to learn a new language, so too when you need to change your Havoroh; it all depends if you Khapped Areyn and did it at the right time, otherwise you sound all mixed up.

Later in life the Gevorener - who thinks that he/she has already paid their "debt" to their new society - realizes that "not so fast." If he/she thought that he/she was a full-fledged members with full credentials he's about to have a rude awakening. It's Shidduch time, and everybody wants to know exactly where you spent your time, and who your parents/grandparents/siblings are. If your general Yichus is OK, and you're an all-around good guy then they want to make sure you spent your years in the same schools that they did/would've sent their children to. I'm not quite sure why that is, and what that's supposed to prove; after all, at a young age the choice of schools is up to your parents, not to you, but so goes it. So, what happens is that MAYBE you're "forced" to settle for someone of your own background, not that it's (necessarily) a bad thing, marrying somebody with a similar background, it's just that nobody likes to be told that they're second class. If you thought it ended there, Zog Ikh Dir Nein! It may go on for generations, if you're unlucky enough. Now, some of you Geborener may defend how you go about your business of "protecting" what's dear to you, and preserving the heritage your grandparents fought so hard to guard, and I'm not saying that it's a bad thing. I'm just trying to make you aware of what some people need to go through, and what many of you may take for granted.

בימים ההם: מיינע זכרונות פון דער אלטער היים

אפשר האָט די מאַמע ביי מיין בר-מצוה אַריינגעוויינט און איר ווייסינקן נאָזטיכל, זייענדיק צוגעטוליעט פון ביידע זייטן פון אירע צוויי טעכטערלעך, פאָרויסגעפילט מיט איר מאַמיש האַרץ, אַז ווייניקער ווי צוויי יאָר נאָכדעם וועט זי פאַרלירן אָט די צוויי טייערינקע ליבינקע, זיסע מיידעלעך -און איר ווייס נאָזטיכל וועט זיך קיינמאָל ניט אויסטריקענען...
יהושע דובראווסקי - מיין בר-מצוה

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Reb Yochonon Twersky of Horibisov HY"D with his Brother In Law Rav Aron Belzer zt"l. Here one can clearly see that the Tchernobler necktie was done away with in Belz, and the "Poroches'el" took its place. The Peyos were also more prominently displayed. It reminds of one of the late Modzitzer Rebbe's sons in law, who wore a Shtreimel every Shabbos. Once my father took me to the Modzitzer Rebbe's Tish in the Agudah of 14th Avenue when he came to America. (We're big Modzitzer Niggunim/BZ Shenker fans) To my surprise I see the Eydem sitting there wearing a Spodik! I guess that must've been some sort of condition they agreed on before the wedding; the Chosson will wear the Modzitzer choice of Shabbos headgear when in his Father-in-Law's presence. Today those two are no longer married....

Photo Two appeared here a while back. The Yid in the middle is Reb Yossel Yarotschever, a prominent Belzer who is seen in other pictures as well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

22 Shvat - 20 Years

Here's what I wrote 2 years ago and reposted last year. The words ring as true as ever now. Since then the rememberances and research into her life have increased tremendously, with a video just released, and a book on the way. The Rebbetzin would be appalled at the coverage and attention her life is getting now, but nevertheless Chassidim do what they need to do.

Many a man will ask why the observance of 22 Shvat, a Yohrtzeit of a Rebbetzin? is she too one of the Rabbeyim that we observe her Yohrtzeit, visit her Tziyun, and learn the Mishnayes of her name? I too had trouble understanding it once upon a time, but I attribute that difficulty to my background and education.

Why her more than all others?

Many will say that it was her royal qualities and the way she conducted herself in her day-to-day life. The fact that she was hardly seen in public attributed to a mystique that has yet to reach its peak. With others it was the fact that with her passing the "golden days" of Lubavitch ended, with no farbrengens during the week, and no more Mamorim, save for a couple. One thing is for certain; Lubavitch owes her a tremendous debt of gratitude, and is repaying that debt. Without her insistance who knows if the Rebbe would've accepted the Nesius, and the outcome of the Seforim court case might have been very different. There is so much we do not know about her support and help of the Rebbe in all matters. There is no more appropriate way of repaying that debt than the current way.

(Ad Kan from 2 years ago.)

A Different Kind of Belzer....

Yochonon Twersky Upon his Engagement

Reb Yochonon Twersky HY"D was the son of Reb Moshe Mordche HY"D the Trisker Rebbe of Lublin. He's not to be confused with his brother the Trisker Rebbe HY"D of Warsaw who was married to Chaykele Twersky. In those days if two brothers were to be Rebbes - especially with the same title - they had the common decency to travel to another city and set up shop there. Today's Rebbes seem to thrive on the turf wars. Anyway, as we were told by some well-informed commenters here, Reb Yochonon was known as "Yochonon Aleph", not to be confused with "Yochonon Beis", another Twersky son-in-law of RYDB. He later became Rebbe in Horibishov and is featured in two beautiful photos with his Brother-In-Law Reb Aron Belzer ztvk"l wearing a Rabbonishe Peltz and "Porochesel" on his shirt KeMinhag HaChassidim.

We here read about Reb Noochem Yitzchok and his fear of marrying into the Belzer Rov's family. Part of what worried him was (Ihr Zolt Mir Antschuldigen) the fact that he and she would have to have a matching his and hers Karachat. Again, I apologize. We also read how in Belz they banned all sorts of wigs, and only the old-fashioned kerchief was acceptable headcovering for women. So much so, that even the wedding party, siblings of a son-in-law of Rav Yissocher Dov Belzer zt"l were forced to change into kerchiefs upon entering Belz. That does seem to be the case, that Belz was quite extreme in Pre-WWII Europe, and that they banned any all modernity. Why just recently, in honor of the Belzer Rov's Fiftieth Yohrtzeit, one of the publications had a very interesting list of Takonos that was on display in the Belzer Shtiebel in Munkacs, and was agreed to the by Reb YD Belzer zt"l. Suffice it to say that they would make today's Belz look like Frayakes. So, there really would be no reason to say that RNYT's fears were exaggerated were it not for the following piece of photographic evidence that recently reached the Tzig's desk.

Yochonon Twersky and wife

Yochonon seems to have been younger than Noochem Yitzchok, NY was married in 1910 at the age of 20, and Yochonon looks to have been pretty young in the 1930's, with very little facial hair even then. As a matter of fact I'm not sure he even knew his shver. Otherwise I would've told NY to Chap Ah Shmooz with Yochonon his Brother-in-Law, so that he tell him how to manage in Belz without capitulating to all the Belzer Takonos. Then again, if Yochonon was married after WWI, and after the wanderings that the Belzer Hoyf had to endure to Hungary, then maybe it would be difficult to compare the two Shvoggers and what they had to endure. Maybe once the Belzer Rov came back to Galicia he realized that times HAD changed, and that it would be difficult to put the "cat back in the bag." After all, we do see that the daughter of the Belzer Rov is seen here wearing a Sheitel and "modern" 20's clothing, not to mention doing the unthinkable with the arm on the shoulder. So I guess whoever said timing is everything knew what he was talking about; Just a few years later and Noochem Yitzchok could've saved himself lots of Agmas Nefesh, and ultimately embarrassment.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reb Mottel Zilber on Hiskashrus

Reb Mottel - Photo From Here

I'll need your input here; My opinion has yet to be formulated.

The latest "Kovetz Nezer HaTorah" was recently dropped off in every shul in the tri-state area, some in large quantities. It seems to be quite a serious periodical, with contributions from serious Chassidishe Talmidei Chachomim. I was told that there was a Shtikkel there from Reb Mottel Zilber, the other Stutchiner Rebbe, so when I saw it in shul I picked it up and looked for that piece. The little I know about Reb Mottel and his Chevrah is this: After the old Stutchiner Rebbe passed away in approx. 5742 His grandson Reb Lazer (?) Yudkowsky - a "Litvisher Gevoren Chassidish" who learned in Philly - was made MeMaleh Mokom, at least as far as inheriting his Zayde's Beis HaMedrish was concerned. Some of the Stutchiner Chassidim chose the Chossid Reb Mottel Zilber (son in law of Rav Moshe Wolfson) as their leader, and they went and started another shul in Boro Park. Reb Mottel is a Baal Avodah who puts lots and lots of Kochos into davenen, as well as being "into" serious Limud HaChassidus. His Shiurim are attended by many serious Chassidishe Bochurim and Yungeleit, many of them devoted MeKushorim. The shiur that's featured in this Kovetz is based on the Agroh DiKalloh of Rav Zvi Elimelech of Dinov, the Bnei Yissoschor zt"l.

It turns that the piece is Lang vi di Golus, and on a short Shabbos there wasn't really when to learn it, so I've yet to see it. What I have been told by a friend who skimmed the article is that Reb Mottel seems to have prepared his Oylem for what has become the sad reality realized by all; namely that today's Tzaddikim and Rebbes are lacking their ancestor's Tzidkus and Gadlus. While some may be surprised at this approach it it better than what some others have done. Other groups see what they have and decide that the Rishonim - their current Rebbe's ancestors - were probably not much better. At least Reb Mottel sees like it is; that we're living in a Dor Yosom like never before, he just chooses to make due with it. This may not sound like such a novel idea after all, since most of us know of the phrase "Yiftach BeDoro KiShmuel BeDoro," it just doesn't bode well for us. Yes, we realize that the generations and is leaders are declining, and that these are all signs of the IkVesoh DiMeshichoh, but is this what we want in a Rebbe? After all, if you've come to terms with the fact that the person you see as your leader - the one who serves as the Tzaddik who connects you with the Aybershter - is no Tzaddik after all, then why is he your Rebbe, try and find a Rebbe who is a Tzaddik!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Me, Hate Hasidim?!

Allan Nadler - from here

Allan Nadler (himself!) responding to Circus Tent: Religious Indignation:

I hate to intrude on this loshen hora-fest with a reality check, but allow me to introduce myself. This is Allan Nadler writing. I won't bother to defend myself against all the astonishing bile that is being directed against me (why ruin so many people's idea of fun ?), but let me just correct some factual errors:

1) The Shaar Hashomayim was once, many decades ago, part of the Conservative movement (it was established almost 175 years ago and that was the only movement that existed in North America at the time), but it is a traditional shul, with a mechitzah. It never had mixed seating, not for one day! Since I left the rabonus there (in 1991)all of the rabbis have been Orthodox musmakhim, two from YU and the current rabbi from YCT. The Siddur that is currently used is the Artscroll. The davening and all other conduct at the shul is Orthodox. The bobeh-mayseh about the wedding is utter nonsense. The shul's catering/kitchen is under the Vaad Ha'ir of Montreal. There are all kinds of Yeshivishe and Hasidishe weddings there; it is a community synagogue, and is banned by no one. The late Rav Hirshprung officiated with me at many weddings there during the years I was the Rabbi. Rav Leib Baron gave a Talmud Shiur there for about 40 years. And so forth.....

2) I don't, chas ve-sholom hate Hasidim. I love and admire them; except of course when they turn out to be insane messianists, or simple ganovim. All I was trying to do in my article was make some sense of this Hillul Hashem by placing it in a historical and cultural context. You can disagree with my "pilpul" -- which is what all academic conjecture really is -- but why such personal animosity ? I didn't defraud the IRS. And I did try to explain why in the Hassidish velt, there is a perfectly legitimate historical reason to hate mosrim! It just so happens that it is misplaced in this country. We are not living in Tsarist Russia anymore; there are no special unjust Jew-taxes; the IRS isn't out to punish us. So, we have an obligation to behave ourselves in accordance with Dina de-Malchusa Dina.

3) I never, not for one day, attended Yeshiva University (contrary to Anonymous, who claims to know me personally). My smikhas are from Rabbi Leib Baron (former Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Ha-Torah and now in Israel) and Rabbi Zvi Hersh Tennenbaum, z"l, the former Av Bes Din of the Vaad Harabonim of Boston. Rav Baron was a talmid of Rav Elchonon Wasserman in Baranovitch and later was at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Poland and Shanghai. Rav Tennenbaum was a talmid of Rav Boruch Ber in Kamenetz. In that sense, of being their talmid, I am indeed a Litvak! My University studies were at McGill (BA) and Harvard (MA, PhD). At Harvard, my doctoral supervisor was the late Rabbi Dr. Isadore Twersky, himself also the Tolner Rebbe in Brookline, with whom I had a very close relationship.

4) My Zayde, on my mother's side was a Tolner aynikel. On my father's side, a Litvak who was born in Botosani, Rumania. There was a large emigration of Litvaks to Rumania in the 19th century, by the way.

5) Aside from all the hatred, there is also ridiculous praise: I do not have Yadin Yadin semikha. I never quoted Toysfes or Rishonim or Akhroynim "oysveynig" in my shiurim at the Shaar Hashomayim or anywhere else. Even if I had that kind of memory and bekius, which I do not, I wouldn't engage in that kind of shtik!

6) The correct title of my book referred to by one of you is "The Faith of the Mithnagdim." If you bother to read it, you will see that I harbor no antipathy for Hasidim.

7) And if you read my op. ed. article that appeared last summer in the Montreal Gazette, defending the Hasidim of Outremont against their real enemies -- the French Canadian anti-Semites, you'll understand how much I value and respect Hasidim and their communities.

7) Most importantly, I find it very sad -- and ironic -- that the focus of all this anger, these insults and the incredible distortions of reality, are not directed at the real criminals in this matter: the Spinker Rebbe and his cohorts. Just as in my article I bemoaned the misguided focus on the moser, Kasirer, now I am astonished that the focus is on me.

In normal literate society, the kind of article I wrote would be seen as an attempt to explain, if not justify, aberrant behavior, by looking to history. When white liberals try to explain, for example, the causes of the high crime rate in inner city black communities, by looking at the historical and social roots of the problem, the racists attack them as apologists. Here I do much the same thing -- to a largely secular readership of the Forward that has no understanding of Jewish history -- and this is the result.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Righteous Indignation

Allan Nadler doesn't like Hassidim

Somehow Lubavitch gets into the conversation....

Also, Mayseh Ushitz - the story of the killing of two Mosrim on the orders of Heilige Ruzhiner - is told in some detail.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Trouble in Da Mir

Photo from here

S'iz "Mir" Nisht Gut

(I'll write this piece in piecemeal style; adding bits and pieces as time allows. So check back for updates, please.)

Yes, we're speaking about another secession battle in a Litvishe Yeshivah, but this seems to have a very unique twist, one that goes back many years, maybe Sixty-Plus years. Yes, this all comes out after the passing of Reb Shmuel Berenbaum z"l, but it can be traced all the way back to the founding of the Mirrer Yeshivah on the shores of America in 1946. Much of what's happening now is based on what happened then; who took charge and who was left out in the cold, their history with the Yeshivah not withstanding. Some of you asked why Reb Leib Malin and the Alte Mirrers started their own little Yeshivah in Bensonhurst when he could've joined the existing Mir on Ocean Parkway. Some of you answered that their idea was to start a smaller, more serious operation, not what was going up on Ocean Pkwy. Ocean Pkwy was an affluent neighborhood, and pretty much still is to this very day. That's what Beis HaTalmud became and is to this very day; a small community of Bnei Torah who are Mistapkim BeMuat and lead an exemplary life of Torah and Yiras Shomayim.

The real question is not what happened to the Malins etc. but what happened to "Reb Chatzkel." Any student of Jewish History will tell you that Reb Chatzkel Levenstein spent the Six years that Mir was in Golus Kobe/Shanghai with his Talmidim. He also made the trip to America, as opposed to Reb Lazer Yudel Finkel and Reb Chaim Shmulevitch z"l, who went to Eretz Yisroel. Reb Lazer Yudel and Reb Avrohom Kalmanovitch made it out earlier, and never had the Golus experience that the others had. Today all that remains of Reb Chatzkel in America is his Eynikel R' Lazer Ginsburg; otherwise I'd venture to say that most Mirrer Talmidim don't know that Reb Chatzkel was here in America. (I'm going out a limb here, so don't hold it against me) So if Reb Chatzkel was here in America why didn't he stay? Couldn't he have accomplished more on these shores like many others who stayed accomplished? I was later informed by e-mail of Reb Chatzkel writing in his letters that he couldn't take the materialism of America, and that he couldn't see America as a Mokom Torah. That may be post factum writing; I can't see why he so differed from his contemporaries who all thought it quite possible. Seemingly what's going on today in Mir - namely a very quite yet very apparent battle for the Yeshiva's leadership - has it roots in the very founding of the Yeshivah on these shores. Yet, for some reason, there's a very strange twist that needs to be explored.

Reb Avrohom Kalmanovitch was Rov of Tiktin and President of the Mirrer Yeshivah. He was not Rosh Yeshivah. Yes, he saved the Yeshivah from certain death, but he wasn't Rosh Yeshivah. It seems like in America, once he was here and the Bochurim were arriving he felt that now the Yeshivah is his - President, Menahel, Rosh Yeshivah, it's all the same, the Yeshivah is his. When Reb Chaim and Reb Chatzkel came there were differences of opinion as to who should lead, and Reb Chaim and Reb Chatzkel didn't stay. They say that Reb Lazer Yudel didn't allow his daughter and grandchildren - Reb Chaim's wife and kids - travel to America to join their father/husband, so he went to them. I think the fact that Reb Chatzkel left even the Yerushalayimer Mirrer Yeshivah as soon as Rav Dessler passed away in 5714 - basically at first opportunity - tells us that maybe he wasn't happy with the situation in the Mir anywhere - or maybe they with him....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shnayim Ochzin B'kicsi Papa

There was a Rov in Montreal for the last Fifty Years named HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok Naiman z"l. To some he was known as the Kicsi Papa (small Pupa in Hungarian) Rov. He was a Talmid of the VaYaged Yakkov and of his son the "VaYechi Yosef" of Pupa, and a Belzer Chossid. As a matter of fact they were very proud of him in Belz; he was one of the few older Chassidim who stayed in Belz and were Chassidim of the current Rov; many others left and either joined the Machnivker Group, or just stayed in their old Shtiblach, never pledging allegiance to any group, but never joining the new Belz either. Rav Neiman was a real Rov from Di Alte Heim, spending most of his time learning and davening, and setting up a beautiful community in Montreal. He was appointed by Rav Aron Belzer zt"l, and served there to his passing day one year ago. Up until 2 years ago Rav Naiman had a plot reserved for him in the cemetery at Har HaMeNuchos next to the Belzer Rov Zt"l, but he suddenly sold it and asked to be buried in New York State, near the resting place of his Rebbe the Pupa Rov zt"l.

So, now the debate has begun; has he switched allegiances and no longer wanted to be associated with today's Belz or was there something else here? He seems to have said that there was a Taam Komus and that he'd not discuss it with anybody, and that's probably what it was. After all, one doesn't decide after all those years that he was wrong all along, especially since the Chelkoh was next to the previous Rov. Then there's the issue of the Pupener maybe taking too much "credit" (for lack of a better term) for Rav Naiman; They'd like to think of him as a major Chossid of today's Rebbe in Williamsburg. Judging from the Matzeivoh they put up in time for his first Yohrtzeit one can see how they took full advantage of the fact that he chose their Beis Olem as the place for him to be interred; making him into a full-fledged Pupener. And so, the tug-o-war continues; Zeh Omer Hu MiShelonu, ViZeh Omer Hu MiShelonu, so what are we to do? Will he have no rest as the 2 groups fight it out?!

See Bechatzros HaChassidim (if you can...)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Buy Tzemach's Hat

Buy it Here

Tzemach's cleaning house and is making some of his valuable personal items available to us all via E-bay. Pictured here is a Persian Lamb Genuine Russian Ushanka. It'll keep you warm whether you're in Monsey or Monroe, Montreal or Moscow, and has the added celebrity status to make you feel fuzzy all over too. Notice the rich-looking fabric and professional Russian tailoring; this hat will have your friends oohing and ahhing all winter long. Get it fast before it's too late, and help Brother Tzemach in the process. Bidding starts at a mere Fifty American Dollars.

Or a pack of Marlboro Reds ;-)

большое спасибо

Monday, January 21, 2008

Chaykele's Last Word

Chaykele (Chaya) Twersky was the daughter of Reb Mordche Shpikover, son of Reb Itzikel Skverrer zt"l. That made her first cousin of the old Skverrer Rebbe from New Square; as his father Reb Doovid'l Skverrer and Reb Mordche were brothers. Her brother was Reb Yitzchok Noochem of Shpikov/Rava-Ruska, who was married to the daughter of Reb Yisoocher Dov Belzer zt"l, and was the subject of one chapter of David Assaf's latest book. Chaykele is supposedly the one who introduced him to the Maskil Dinesohn in Lvov/Lemberg, since she had already had extensive contact with many Maskilim like him. She was married to Reb Menachem Nochum Twersky, who was later the Trisker Rebbe in Warsaw and died Al Kiddush Hashem in 5703. After being married for a while they both realized that they were headed in opposite directions and divorced. She went back home to Shpikov, moved around in Europe, and later emigrated to the United States with her two children Yochanan and Avrohom. Yochanan passed away in 1967, Avrohom in 2000, or so it seems from the following obituary in the New York Times:

Paid Notice: Deaths
Published: August 15, 2000

TWERSKY-Abraham, 92. Of West Orange, New Jersey. Formerly of The Bronx, New York. Beloved husband of the late Anna (nee Bernstein) and the late Isabelle (nee Arsham). Devoted father of Naomi Zahurak & David Twersky. Loving brother of the late Yochanan Twersky. Cherished grandfather of Suzanne, Michael, John, Gary, Richard, Michael and Anna. Adored great-grandfather of Daniel, Hannah, Skiler, & Christopher. Services will be held at the Bernheim, Apter Goldsticker Funeral Chapel, 1600 Springfield Avenue, Maplewood, New Jersey, today, August 15, at 1:30 P.M.

The following is Chaykele's Tzavo'oh (will and last testament) as dictated to her friend, as she hadn't the strength to write it herself, but was of sound mind. Pictured above is Chaykel with her two children and sister; which sister it is is still unclear. It could either be Mirel, the former wife of Reb Osher Perlow hy"d of Stolin, son of the Yenukah/Frankfurter zt"l of Stolin, or it could be Feiga, who was married to the son of Reb Yitzchok of Buhush. Either way these two are very hard to tell apart. One of these days I'll translate it for y'all. I apologize if anybody was offended by the posting of women's pictures; I have a soft spot for Bnei and Bnos Kedoshim, I don't think they have the affect that stam women's pictures have. That point can also be argued, but that's how I see it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

א גרוס פון רבי'ן

I was at the Rebbe's Tziyun (Di Ayhel) this Shabbos LiKovod Yud Shvat. I did not have an opportunity to go on Thursday, and it had been a while since I had been there for Shabbos; not that I needed that "excuse" to go for Shabbos either, but it helped for many reasons. In my humble - yet biased - opinion there's no better place on planet earth where to spend Shabbos, UmiKamoh Taimim. There's the fact that you're in the Rebbe's Daled Amos - KiPshutey; where else would you rather be? There's the fact that the Svivah is one of unadulterated Chassidishkeit, where one simply has no choice but to learn, daven and Farbreng with like-minded Chassidim. I say "has no choice," but the truth is once you're there you have no other Rotzon. Sleep is superfluous, as is doing anything else that could be confused with mundane. When you leave for home on Motzoei Shabbos it's like you're re-entering Olam HaZeh.

One more thing you see on a Shabbos like yesterday is that Lubavitch Lebt. All you see is hundreds of Chassidishe Bochurim with their Mashpi'im and Roshei Yeshiva/Menahalim learning, davening and Farbrenging Tzvishen Zich MiToch Ahavas Yisroel. Tayere Bochurim, each and every one of them. For someone who bases his decision on what Lubavitch looks like on the ones that hang around the fast food joints in Crown Heights a sight like this would surely do him good. This is where we need to bring people when we want to "show off," and this would surely do better than showing them the pizza shop five minutes from 770. Some may take pride in the Rebbe's Army, a.k.a. the Shluchim, and don't get me wrong, it's a very impressive army after all. But I prefer the younger army; the Bochurim, the Tmimim who learn and daven and do what's right. In today's day and age that's quite an accomplishment.

Friday, January 18, 2008

No need to improve......

Hirshel is a curious guy by nature, he likes to find out who people are. Not their finances and family troubles, just the Yichus HaMishpochoh and such. I also enjoy discussing their backgrounds and communities, and I reciprocate by telling them about myself and my background too. So when a young Yeshivish-looking man began to frequent our shul I was interested to know who he was and what he was thinking, and why he'd come daven in a Lubavitcher shul. After all, the fact remains that most Yeshivishe guys would rather walk a few extra minutes than go to a Chabad shul, and vice versa; a Lubavitcher would walk a long way to go to a Lubavitcher shul. Of course the Tzig has no problem davening anywhere at all, from Tunisian to Teimani to Tartikov to Tcharna-Ostroh and everything in between; Hirshel's seen it all, but that's what makes him so special....

It turns out that I didn't need to approach him, since he approached me. We sat next to each other one Friday Night and I hung around after Davenen, while some others rushed home to get home and make Kiddush before Six O'clock. I explained that concept as best I could, and I hope he accepted it for what it's worth. Since then we usually sit and Shmooz whenever we see each other, about different topics and issues, sometimes even at the expense of me getting a Chelek when I get home; Ober Vos Toot men Nisht Far A Bissel Ahavas Yisroel? He's a newly-married Yungerman from a Yeshivishe community who married a local girl and now learns in Kolel here. Now, before you accuse me of trying to "convert" him, remember this: I don't run after him - he comes to where I daven, and I almost never initiate the conversation - he does. I'd say he comes back for two reasons: 1) Convenience. The shul is just down the block from his house, and he can sit by himself and daven quietly. 2) having a bunch of Lubavitchers just down the block piqued his interest; he's only heard about them, and never came in contact with them before. He know wants to see what these people are all about.

Last week we were shmoozing, and the conversation turned to me, and how I got to Lubavitch. I didn't tell him the long Megilleh I told you all here, I just told him that as a young Bochur I was searching for a way and this is what I found. I believe I mentioned my age too, which really shocked him; "how can I decide on my way in life at such a young age," was what he wanted to know. He then went on to tell me about his circles, and that there's basically no such thing as looking for a derech; this is where you are, and this is where you'll be for the rest of your life. Nobody looks for something else, the most you could do is maybe grow bigger Peyos.... Why would you look elsewhere? he says, this is where you are, everything you need is here. I found that somewhat disheartening; why should they not have the will to see something different? I realize that Chassidim BiChlal, and Chabad BiFrat have this notion that everything they need can be found within their doctrine, but at least they changed centuries ago. Here we have thousands of Bochurim who seemingly have no chance to ever see anything but their Daled Amos, and that's just not right, not right at all.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Korestin, 5687

דער 1-ער רבנים צוזאמענפאר פון קאראסטיענער דזשיטאמערער אונד שעפעטאווקער קרייזען - אין קאראסטיען
18-20'טען מרחשון תרפ"ז

Pictured here is the Asifas HaRabbonim in Korestin, Ukraine in Marchesvan 5687/1926. The troubles in the USSR had already started, but Rabbonim could still meet without being harassed by the authorities. It's mentioned in the Frierdige Rebbe's (The Baal HaHilluloh of Yud Shvat) letters as an Asifah he felt would be harmless - as opposed to the proposed Moscow Asifah a year earlier - one that was called by irreligious elements who wanted to gain control over the Jewish communities, where the Frierdige Rebbe fought for and succeeded in canceling it. The Frierdige Rebbe felt that no good would come from Korestin either, although it was attended by many Choshu've Rabbonim VeAdmorim, including Chabad Rabbonim like Rav Zevin and Rav Gershon Chein, but at least it would do no harm. At the Asifah they surprised the Rebbe by voting to make him Nosi HaKoved, and sent a telegram informing him of the fact. The Rebbe responded with a telegram of his own thanking them for the honor, and reminding them of their responsibilities in keeping Yiddishkeit alive in the USSR.

We thank the anonymous "donor" again. This too must be clicked on to fully enjoy.

Letter Mem is (I believe) Rav Aryeh Leib Kaplan Hy"d of Kiev, father of Reb Moshe Binyomin Kaplan o"h, and Zeide of the late Reb Leibel Kaplan, R' Nochum Kaplan, and R' Shmuel Kaplan from Baltimore. He was what they called An Ailimisher Rov, but he sent his son to learn in Chabad undergorund Yeshivos, simply because that's all there was. Rav Zevin is possibly letter Hey, although it's difficult to tell. Letter Chof is a "dead-ringer" for the Hornosteipler Rebbe in Flatbush, son of the Denver Hornosteipler z"l. I was told that there was a Maliner Rebbe at the Asifah, and that he may be pictured here too. Most of the Megulochim - I would imagine - are part of the logistics, not actual Rabbonim, as even Rabbonim MeTa'am without beards didn't dress in simple peasant clothing. All in all the picture is full of Erliche-looking Yidden, many Baalei Tzureh, and is a good reminder of years gone by. Try your hand at identifying the others, and we'll be much obliged.

See Igros Kodesh Admo"R MoHaRaYYT"Z N"E Chelek Alef letters 304-306

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Halt Kup!

See Seforim Blog for one of the hardest hitting threads on a Torah personality (The "Ba'al Torah Temimah") I've seen in a long, long time. It's also the longest, so "Halt Kup!." They include accusations of falsifying stories, making up "facts" and events about people, and plagiarizing large parts of his Torah Temimah.

"......... When Mekor Barukh was published there were still plenty of people alive who had known her and it would have been impossible to entirely fabricate her personality. The same can be said about Epstein’s report of the Netziv reading newspapers on Shabbat. This is not the sort of thing that could be made up. Let’s not forget that the Netziv’s widow, son (R. Meir Bar-Ilan) and many other family members and close students were alive, and Epstein knew that they would not have permitted any improper portrayal. It is when recording private conversations that one must always be wary of what Epstein reports.

......In fact, when the Torah Temimah first appeared, the editor of this work published a booklet, Sihah Temimah, accusing Epstein of fraudulent behavior. Here are the first few pages of this booklet."

Read On

Pat on the back

Things are looking up at Circus Tent these days, Danken G-tt. Traffic is way up for weeks now, seemingly because of the extra effort on my part to post meaningful material, and still keep it somewhat cordial. The Chaim Berlin discussions also helped. I'd go so far as to say that even heated exchanges with the likes of U N and Berl, CH has alot to do with it. I also had help from certain others in the blogging community, links and so on. Also, I see that word has spread about what we do here, and the above graphics - sporadic as they may be - seem to prove that. We now have visitors from many, many countries. I need to thank you all - the readers - for reading and commenting, and also for telling your friends. Without y'all there'd be no Circus Tent. People like to be heard, myself included, and shouting in the wind is tiring. It helps that I have some gratification from writing; it sure beats what I do for a living.

Now, I wish there'd be some way to turn some of this into cash.....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2 photos

The Belzer Rov, HaRaHaK Reb Aron zt"l and Chassidim in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow Tes Shvat is the Yom HaTzoloh of the Rov and his brother the Bilgorajer Rov zt"l in 5704. The first on left is Reb Yitzchok Noochem'l Twerski of Rawa Ruska, his BIL. First on right - holding the BR - is the hotel owner, but his name escapes me now. Much of what we have today as far as pictures of Rebbes and Rabbonim is from those days spent in Marienbad. Some photographer would stand around and get good shots; If I didn't know better I'd say they all stopped and posed for the picture. This is a fairly known picture, but never have I seen it this clear, with the Rov fully visible - from head to toe. To really appreciate it click the image, and see his holy Tzureh shine. I thank the anonymous sender of this picture. He'd prefer that his name not be mentioned. That's his prerogative.

The Frierdige Lubavitcher Rebbe - who's Yohrtzeit is Thursday Yud Shvat - exiting the VagZahl at Podbrodzie, Lithuania, in 5694-1934. On the left we see Reb Mordche Cheyfetz Hy"d holding the Rebbe's belongings, and on the right Reb Mendel Kupershtok. Reb Mordche traveled to America in the late '30's BeShlichus the FR, and returned in 1939. He was killed AKD"H in Riga in 1941, together with thousands of others, including Reb Itche Masmid and Reb Eli Chaim Althaus, HY"D. This picture too must be clicked to fully enjoy.

(close-up of above pic)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Changes (Part III)

Photo from here

Summary: Hirshel enters Spinka Cheder in Boro Park and stays throughout elementary school. He does well in Yeshiva and is well-liked for the most part by both teachers and peers. Kittah Ches is a bit of a challenge, with a new Melamed who was learning on the job and with his Bar Mitzvah coming up, but Hirshel hangs tough and perseveres. At that time Hirshel still has no direction in life, and is content just being Chassidically inclined; the education has done that much, and he has little interest in the non-Chassidic world other than a few of the Gedolim pictures that he has.

Spinka had slowly but surely begun to change. More and more of the Hungarian/Chassidic light students were leaving, and in their place came the hardcore Satmarer etc., with many of them coming from the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Seagate, and with them they brought their ideas of how things should be run. The change MAY have been brought about by the arrival of a certain Assistant Principal several years later, but that may be difficult to prove. So, as time went on more and more Talmidim/Parents decided that this is not the place for them, and they began to look for other places to educate their children/be educated. Many leave after 8th grade, opting for Mesivtos like Beis Meir or Novominsk , but the Tzig stays put. Ninth and Tenth grade (Kitta Tes and Yud) go somewhat well, I guess; Tzig works hard to learn and daven, and basically stays out of trouble. Every once in a while some Satmarer would shoot his mouth off and we'd get into it. That would give me the nudge; it would remind me that this place really isn't for me anymore, and that it's time for me to leave. I do have to say that we had some fine Ramim/Maggidei Shiur there; "Litvishe" that could relate to the "Chassidishe" Oylem there, and some of them were good and caring. Others were not, but that's to be understood. After Kitta Yud I finally got out. I chose Mesivta Ch'san Sofer as my next place of learning - I don't remember now on who's advice - and they were nice to accept me. I would start there in Camp, not the usual Elul or after Pesach time, since I couldn't bear to be at Spinka for another summer, it would just be too difficult, MiKamoh Taamim. VeDal.

You might ask: "Tzig, where and when did the interest in Lubavitch happen? You never speak of Lubavitcher friends or personalities that you knew like others did, so why the sudden urge to become a Lubavitcher?" The truth is I sometimes wonder when and how it happened. I try and recreate the moments and not everything is clear to me yet, I don't recall every moment in my life like some people do. (which makes me wonder sometimes; How do 90-year olds remember everything that happened to them?!) What I do remember is as follows: I always had a very warm spot in my heart for Lubavitch. When I'd see Lubavitchers in the street or would go to Crown Heights for whatever reason I'd be excited about it. When some of my classmates would poke fun at Lubavitch because their idiot father or brother taught them how I'd be there to strike them down, being Mekane Kin'as Hashem. That leads me to believe that I always had that Lubavitcher spirit in me, albeit dormant at first. I understand that may be difficult for some of you to understand; you may believe that somehow you're meant to stay within that culture for the rest of your life, and that you're obligated to follow your parents' customs to the letter, but I see it otherwise, as did most of the Talmidei HaBesh"t.

It may go something like this:
As many of you know in 5749 there were elections in Israel, and not just any old elections either. These were the first elections after the big breakup between the Agudath Israel's two factions, the "Lithuanians" and the Chassidim. The reasons for the breakup were many, but we'll name two. One was the disproportionate influence wielded by Chassidic groups, mainly Ger, in the policy making of the AI and the "say" in how the money received from the Government should be distributed. Forty years of being told what to do by Ger can do that to a person and a group. The other was what Ger and their newspaper, the HaModia, which was supposed to be THE frum newspaper, was reporting and accepting. They had been told many times by the Lithuanian leadership to stop positive reporting about Chabad activities in general, and specifically about the Lag BaOmer parades organized by them. In particular one parade bothered one very famous Rosh Yeshivah, and he decided that he had seen enough; and then - in 1985 - the Yated was born. The only newspaper that followed the directives of the real Gedolim, not some "Rebbelach" that wore velvet on their collars and carried silver-tipped canes.

And so it was; The newly-independent Yated now had a carte blanche to attack all those that didn't sit well with them, and those didn't fall in line. The fact that the paper was established by the Ponovizher Rosh Yeshivah and the Steipler Gaon now made everything they said not only permissible, but it made it a Mitzvah to follow in their attacking ways. LeMoshol: Say that till now Yeruchem from Flatbush - a nice all-around good kid learning in YOB - was careful not to speak Loshon HoRah because the Chofetz Chaim said not to; now he could speak LH about certain groups because the Yated hakked against them, and the Yated is published by the Gedolim. When Yeruchem would be asked by his friends how he could say such things about a Godol BeYisroel he would reply: Mitzveh LeSaper al Apikores! This and this man was dubbed an Apikores by the Yated & Co., so I can say whatever I want about him. In other words: Lubavitch and the Rebbe can be knocked around by 12 -year-old Pi--ers. To say the least this did not sit well with young Tzig; he now knew that these people are not for him, he won't subscribe to their cockamamie theology, that's for certain. Tzig met some of these characters in Camp Mesivta Ch'san Sofer, and needless to say they turned him off. So he knew that these people were not him, but the question was "Vee Yoh?"

To be continued.....

Al HaPerek - Artscroll

As Promised - The Garelik Rant....

Sunday, January 13, 2008

!בלייב אן עם הארץ

Those of you who know may know that the Kovetz Or Yisroel is probably the most important continuously published Rabbinic journal around. The Journal is published monthly for several years now, and is on the tables of most Rabbonim and Bnei Torah today. Topics of importance to today's Ben Torah - as well as all Yidden - are dissected and discussed, and issues are continuously argued, with good results. Some of the more famous issues taken apart there were the "Indian Sheitel" debacle, the "Worms in Water" fiasco, and the Boro Park Eruv uproar. Now they seem to have one of the most hot-button issues to date; they've decided to discuss the Artscroll Gemoroh; more importantly whether it's "permissible" to learn and study from the brown and blue volumes at all. If you're sitting at your computer and scratching your head, wondering why there would be a problem at all, allow me to make one thing clear: You're not Heimish.

In Heimishe circles - Kri Satmar - they're very worried about the source and Hashkofoh of the one who publishes seforim. Anybody who's accused of being sympathetic to Zionist or Agudist causes is Treif as are his seforim. It doesn't matter if his sefer is a work of monumental importance, if he doesn't halt mit di shittah then it's like a Sefer Torah SheKosvoy Min. Seforim from Mossad Harav Kook, including the Reshonim and Achronim that they published and revealed to the Torah World for the first time - all that is Treyf. Of course we're only speaking of the hard-core Kanoyim; most Bnei Torah have no problem with most of the above-mentioned Seforim. In most policy issues Satmar finds an ally in the Brisker Talmidim - the hardcore Briskers, those that take upon themslves all Minhogei and Hanhogos of Brisk. In New York one of the biggest Briskers around is Reb Leib Garelik, son of Reb Yeruchem Garelik of the Bronx, and brother of Reb Abba Garelik of South Fallsburg. Reb Leib seems to have found a home in Satmar circles - for a long time being a R"M/Rosh Yeshivah in Alexander Yeshivah, populated by many Satmar and satellite members.

What Reb Leib wants is to keep the Gemorroh out of the hands of the ignoramuses. After all, if everybody can learn a shtikkel Gemorroh just like him what then makes him a big Rosh Yeshivah. Yes, the BaaleBos needs help from Nosson Scherman & Co., but he still feels as if he's Shayech to it. He calls the people who translated the Shas people who have the gall (in the spirit of "Chutzpah Yasgei") to do what nobody in previous generations dared to do. They're in it for the business - even if their stated goal is to make it "easy to learn," and they're uprooting one of the Ikkarei HaDas! Torah was meant to toil on; if it comes easy then it becomes Sam HaMovess. Someone who derives pleasure from learning has the wrong idea; he needs to be Maymis Atzmoy, that's the only that the Torah has a Kiyum with him. Only regarding Mishnayos was it permitted to learn without toiling and understanding on your own, since Mishna is Piskei Halochos, which are important to know in order to live a life according to Torah. Not so with Talmud. Gemorroh was meant to learn and understand, and only through hard work, not by being handed a finished product.

Not for nothing, continues Rabbi Garelik, did every shtetl have a Chevra Ayn Yaakov, and Chayei Odom, and Chevra Ri"f; that was made for those who didn't have the time or intellectual capacity to learn Gemorroh the proper way - by working hard at it. Those people could fulfill the obligation of learning Torah by learning Halochos or Agaddata. If they'd have wanted them to learn Gemorroh with the big boys they too could've written a commentary on the Talmud. Only those lofty souls - those that G-d had granted the ability to learn the way it was meant to be - only they should be allowed to learn and understand the Talmud. Everybody else: stick to the Ayn Yakkov and to the Chayei Odom, and leave the Gemorroh to the big boys, guys like Garelik and his buddies. In other words: "!בלייב אן עם הארץ"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Horror Caught On Camera

Kiev and Babi Yar, 1941

In color, Noch.... (NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!!)
What we have here is photos of Jews being marched through the streets of Kiev to the mass grave of Babi Yar. There's also the piles of clothing and belonging that was nicely sorted for the Germans and Ukes to loot after they were slaughtered. My Russian-speaking friends tell me that the conversation in the forum where the pictures are featured is revolting. Words like "war is war," what can you do, and how brave the POWs were to work without masks....What's most horrifying is the expressions on the faces of the local Ukranians, Yms"h, and the collaboration that went on with the Germans, Yms"h. For them this was a great victory. Not that any of this is actual news; but the pictures are, relatively anyway.

Must see DVD

If you're looking for Kosher, inspirational and educational audio-visual material, and if you wish to see how Chassidim lived and inspired others, then this DVD is for you. You have one in your computer anyway, so you might as well utilize the drive for what it was meant - Gutte Zachen. Reb Chaim Dalfin has taken upon himself the all-important task of eternalizing some of this footage, and we thank him for it. The fact that the events took place within the confines of his home and Chabad House in California also didn't hurt his cause.

You see, Reb Mendel O"H would spend a few weeks each year traveling to collect funds for the Tomchei Tmimim Yeshivos, and Northern California was one of the stops on his itinerary. While in California he'd join with the legendary Reb Shmuel Dovid Raitchik o"h, and together they'd go to their list of supporters. The "Algemeiner Journal" readers amongst you will remember that there seems to be a Kibbitz of She'aris HaPleitoh Yidden in S Francisco and the environs, I guess these were the Yidden they'd relieve of some of their money and use it for bessere zachen.

At times like these Reb Mendel and Reb Shmiel Doovid would stay at Reb Chaim Dalfin's home for a few days, and it's one of these days that the footage was taken, much to Reb Mendel's chagrin. He didn't like the fact that he was the subject of the video, a very Chitzoniyus'dikke concept in his eyes. The fact that the Rebbe allowed it was a Rebbishe Zach, and for one to do it of stam Chassidim was Chitzoniyus. We thank Reb Chaim for this Chitzoniyusdikke act, one that may bring some Pnimiyus into our lives. We sure are lacking, and what better to get some back than to watch those that did attain some through hard work, and see how they did it. Other works by Reb Chaim include "Who's who in Lubavitch," "Davening," "To be Chassidic" and more. See This website for a full listing.

The mission statement of "Who’s Who in Lubavitch – Oral History Project" is: To retain the rich Chabad-Lubavitch tradition and flavor in the consciousness of Chabad Chasidim, young and old. Through written, audio and visual means we hope to remember the past, influence the present, and assist in the development of the future. If you are interested in having your Lubavitch family member remembered, we encourage you to contact us. WWL Project is a nice wedding memento, Bar/Bas Mitzvah gift, or for any other occasion. To order the DVD, email or call(212)444-9105.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Crossing the Line

The discussion about pre-WWI Belz, and the living conditions (and conduct expected) there, prompted reader Yosef718 to send the following in to the editor. We thank him profusely for this fascinating piece of history, one that tells us of a Yid who decided to leave the comforts of the West in Prague and join the huddled Chassidic masses in the East. Just as today there are many that decide to leave the fold, citing how uncomfortable and stifling life can be for them, so was the case then. Actually, we now have only a fraction of the problems living like that caused for the young people who were caught up in the ideas of the time. Similarly, although the numbers may not be as high, there were those that left the creature comforts of a Western (Torah?) life, one comparable to Modern Orthodox today (maybe not exactly, but you get the idea), and went searching for a life of Yiddishkeit that included Hiskashrus to the great Chassidic Masters of the day, and adapting the lifestyle of their adherents. Another famous author who made a similar transition pre-WWI was the author Aron Marcus, although their original level of observance may have differed.

Jeri Mordecai Langer, Czech poet and writer, writes of his visit to Belz in 1913. Raised in an acculturated upper middle-class Jewish family, he was longing for something mystical, and found it in the Belz of the time. It seems like he was irreligious at the time, which makes his life's change even more spectacular, since there was no outreach at the time, and he made it all on his own. He eventually moved to then-Palestine, after the Nazi invasion of his native Czechoslovakia, where the relationship with Belzer Chassidim flourished again. Baalei Tshuveh of today can easily find parallels to what they go through while trying to adjust to the Chassidic lifestyle. The mistrust and cold shoulder was maybe more prevalent in those days, and may have been more difficult to shake off too. Yet, we see how he persevered, and was able to realize and achieve the essence of Chassidus Belz, eventually seeing the "ice-wall of mistrust" begin to thaw, even if that had to come with him adopting the Belzer mode of dress, the one Reb Nochum Mordche'le was so afraid of.