Friday, November 30, 2007

Heads up

Yes Zalman, you are one famous dude. Actually, he mentioned that he'd like to post some articles and other shtuff on the blog, so perhaps he'll be even more famous. Anyway, today is Chuf (20) Kislev, the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Last night we had another Farbrenegen, which was (but of course) very nice. A thought occurred to me as I was writing some notes to post on here. Is it better to fully immerse ones self in the words and songs of the Farbrenegen, and forget about transcribing it, or should I record for future reference. Yes, I know, I should just a sound recorder thingie. Anyone want to sponsor?
Last night Rabbi Chayim Friedman, fearless leader of the YHSTC, Farbreneged with us. He told over a story from Rabbi Aaron Karliner, a holy guy. Problem is, I can't remember the story, just the Mashal (parable), which is a good one, but hardly worth the bother of writing down if I can't remember the analog. So instead I'll write the famous Mashal of the Russian peasant. A journalist for Pravda, the Communist paper, heard that there was a really wonderful peasant who was completely dedicated to the cause. So he traveled to go visit him. Isn't that a great sentence? Two pronouns! So vague! Yippee!
Yeah, so the journalist comes to interview the peasant, who we will, in the interests of sanity, both mine and yours, call Ivan, and sees that the guy is dirt poor. The journalist, who we will also name (why not?) shall henceforth be called Boris. Two nice Russian names, no? Anyway, Boris asks Ivan, "I've heard that your incredibly dedicated to the Party, Mother Russia, Lenin, vodka, etc. How dedicated are you?" And Ivan answers, in the way that only a Russian peasant with more alcohol in his body than blood can answer, "I'm very dedicated". Oh yes, in case you didn't realize, this conversation is obviously all taking place in Russian. So Boris was very impressed with this answer, because he had brains the size of a peanut, and asked Ivan, "If you had one thousand cows, and the party needed them, would you give them up?" Ivan said simply, "Yes". Boris said, "And if you had five hundred goats?" Once again, Ivan came through with a simple, "Yes", though this time it wasn't quite so simple, because after all, who can simple for too long? Boris tried again, "ninety sheep?" and Ivan passed the test." Boris asked, "If the party needs six chickens, to feed the starving soldiers in Smolensk, would you give them up?" This time Ivan begins to hem and haw. Boris is shocked out of his boxers (!). "What do you mean," Boris sincerely questioned, "a thousand cows, no problem. Sheep, goats, no issue whatsoever. But six chickens you can't give to Lenin?" And Ivan answers, all simplicity out of his voice now, "But you see, I actually have six chickens."
Here the Mashal ends. If you must know, Ivan was taken behind the woodshed and shot by twenty select guardsmen, while Boris was promoted to editor of Pravda and eventually died of a broken heart. The point of the Mashal is that we are all ready to do whatever is needed, as long as we can't actually do the deed. We're all ready to go jump in a boiling lake of fiery cow blood for G-d, but we aren't willing to take twenty seconds to thank him for the food we're about to eat.
Just something to think about. And remember, the only tree worth saving is one with a hammock attached to it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The big day

Tonight is the big night. The ultimate. The Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus. I won't bother tellng you everything that I Farbrenged about, because that's done and in the past. Rather, I'll tell you what I started thinking afterwards.
I started thinking about the YH, and how he tries to ensnare a person. There's a story with Reb Levi Yitzchok from Berditchev, that when he was still a young man was appointed to be Chazzen for Selichos. He got up to Daven, and suddenly started saying, in Yiddish, "If you're so holy, you go Daven yourself. I will have nothing to do with you." Everyone thought he was crazy, and left, until only his father in law was left to find out what exactly was going on. So Reb Levi Yitzchok explained, that he was standing with the Tallis, ready to lead Selichos, when suddenly he realized that the Yetzer Hora was standing next to him, also ready to Daven. Reb Levi Yitzchak asked the YH, what are you doing here, and the YH answered that he'd come to Daven too. In fact, he'd been with Reb Levi Yitzchok for all the Torah he'd learnt, all the Mitzvos he's done, all the suffering he'd gone through. And it was then that Reb Levi Yotzchok realized that all the good he'd done was in the clutches of the YH, and even now, when he was preparing to be a messenger of the holy congregation, at the holiest time of the year, the YH was planning on accompanying Reb Levi Yitzchok. But for this Reb Levi Yitzchak had no patience, and he told the YH, "If you're so holy, you go Daven yourself. I will have nothing to do with you."
My question is whether it's possible for Reb Levi Yitzchok's Yetzer Hora to be my Yetzer Tov. Am I that good, or great, or whatever, that I should have these problems? I certainly don't think so, but perhaps I've fallen into his clutches to a greater degree than I ever thought possible. What's the answer? I honestly don't do. Perhaps all my loyal readers could help out here. Anyway, Happy New Year folks, and may you grow in all aspects of both the revealed and the secret Torah.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And the band marches on

So yesterday was only funny, but not LOL funny? What's wrong with you? Or me? Today I finished up a Maamar, that can be found in this week's Dvar Malchus, that deals with the purpose of 19 Kislev. What is the purpose you ask? Basically, there's this treasure that's being expended in order to win this big war thing. OK, so you know the mashal, right? I'm still too sniffly to write seriously, so instead I'll complain about the lack of real tissues in today's society. Your average tissue is so flimsy that when I blow it disintegrates into my beard and clothing. Quite annoying. So instead I use industrial strength sandpaper that also has the effect of turning an innocent bit of skin into a seething morass of bloody flesh, the organs oozing out in a liquidy form, not unlike Al Gore's neck on steroids. If you got that analogy, can I borrow your weed? Thanks. Anyway, more nonsense later.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I have a cold. It's not too exciting. In fact, it's rather distressing. One of the worst things in the world is having a debate with yourself at 4:00 AM as to whether you should get up and get another paper towel, or your blow your nose in the old, wet one. Oh yeah, that's another thing, since I'm such a manly kind of guy, I can't use regular tissues, because they dissolve in my beard with the slightest of blows. Continuing on my little tangent here; I love beards and all, but they do get a bit annoying with a few things. Take drooling for instance. Without a beard, no problem, just a quick rinse and no problem. But with a beard, it gets caught up in the hair, and, when you're too lazy to take a shower-actually, you can't be too lazy to take a shower, because then you have drool in your beard all day. And don't even get me started on stray hairs. Sure, our fearless leader has a Yoel Kahn thing going, but I've just got random hairs floating down two feet below the rest of the beard.
Anyway, I hope that no one is discouraged from growing any sort of facial hair. I'd fell terrible. Actually, I feel terrible already, what with this cold and everything.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Aspiration without Perspiration is worthless

Once again Rabbi Chayim Friedman, our fearless (and catalytic) leader came through in the clutch, hitting a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to beat the--oh, sorry, that's what the Twins opponents have been doing the last fifteen years! (That was for Shillibear). No, what I meant to say was that was R. C. actually Farbrenged in honor of the Rebbe's wedding yesterday, and came through, despite there being a singular lack of physical sustenance for the various peoples attending.
What's the difference between a Chassid on Shlichus and a Snag working for Aish Hatorah, or for some community Kollel, or for Oorah, or any of the other groups currently populating our little landscape? The question is, what's the difference between a Mikveh and a Mayaan, a wellspring? Both purify the impure. Both have water inside them. (I'm grasping for similarities here, folks). Both, um, both start with the letter Mem. Good one, huh? Anyway, the difference is in the various laws governing their purifying abilities. For example, a Mikveh must be perfect-no cracks or leaks; basically, it must be rain water that is currently stationary, and it must have at least 40 Seah (a measurement) of rainwater. Without these, not only does the Mikveh not purify the person going in, but he makes the Mikveh water impure! On the other hand, a wellspring can have as many leaks as it wants, it can move all over the place, and it doesn't even have to have the 40 Seah, all it needs is to cover the body. Why this difference? Because a wellspring is connected to it's source. So too a Chassid and another-another, who is not connected to his source, his Yeshiva, if he doesn't stay at the peak of excellence he can not only not do his job but even destroy others. A Chassid, on the other hand (that's the third one, for those counting at home), is always connected to his source. He can't fail, as long as he is connected to his source, his Rebbe.
Nice, no? Oh, and in honor of Zalmen, who recently revealed his distaste of short posts, I'd like to put here a little poem in his honor. I'd like to, but I can think of nothing. Perhaps Zalmen would like to contribute something?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Someone left a bunch of comments. I didn't appreciate them very much. Remember people, the goal in life is to think positive. On that note, I'd like to tell a story that I read in the previously-mentioned "Shabbos Secrets". By the way, this book absolutely rocks. Buy it now. Seriously. Anyway, there's a story told of the Belzer (Bobover?) Rebbe who once held a Tish by a summer resort. Short note: I've been to just on Tish, of the Skverer Rebbe in LA, and it was pretty amazing. I imagined, if this is a Tish, then imagine how great a Farbrengen with the Rebbe was. As my friend Sholom Goldberg said, quoting his father, "Watching a video of the Rebbe Farbrenging is amazing. The only thing you miss is the sound of angel's wings beating."
Back to the story. A bunch of Litvisher (man, that was PC, huh editor?) Bochurim from Mattersdorf (don't ask) came, and they were very interested to see all the interesting Minhagim. The Rebbe invited them to ask any questions that they might have on his Hanhaga (conduct). One Bochur, named Chaim, asked, "I noticed that the Rebbe made Kiddush very late, at 11:00. It says in Shulchan Oruch that a person should make Kiddush as soon as possible after Shabbos starts. What gives?" The Rebbe answered, "The Shulchan Oruch doesn't say a time that a person has to make Kiddush by, just that he should hurry. And this I did, for if not, I'd be making Kiddush tomorrow morning." The Bochur was so impressed that he became a Chassid on the spot.
Do I have a problem with this story? You bet. Let me preface my rant with another story. Back in the day, Mikves were cold. Like freezing cold. Like Lake Superior freezing cold. Like I once went into Lake Superior for Mikve. Like it was really cold. Once again, back to the story. The way they used to heat up the Mikve was that they'd keep a steaming vat of water near the Mikve, and every time a guy wanted to use it he'd pour some in, jump in, out, and get on with his life. I believe this story took place in Ruzhin, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, two local Chassidim went into the Mikve, did the vat-pouring trick, and a horrible scream alerted them to the fact that there was in fact a guy underneath the vat. Whoops. They carried his dead body to the Rebbe (of wherever it was) and he did the Elisha thing (look it up) and the guy, who happened to be a Lubavitcher woke up. An incredible miracle. The Chassid said to the Rebbe, "Yasher Koach (Thanks), but the Rebbe is in Lubavitch."
So what's my problem with the first story? If you're going to be affected every time someone has a brilliant comment, you may as well go be the Chassid of a late night talk show host. Judaism demands inner struggle, work, the triumph of good over evil. OK, so I'm being a little harsh. But that's what Thanksgiving is all about, no?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Last night we had another Shiur with Rabbi Shagalow, and it was really good. In fact, we also had a Shiur with Rabbi Wilhelm, and that was really good. So I was going to write up the Shiurim, but then the editor sent me a photo, which appears on the top left, which is very cute. If you don't get it just ask.
Ahh, so what am I going to blog about today? I picked up a book that is even cuter than the photo on the top left. This book is called "Shabbos Secrets" and it's written by a guy named Dovid Meisels. What's cute about the book is that in the back is a whole photo section of different Minhagim for Shabbos. Incidentally, the one time he mentions Chabad in a picture, he gets it wrong. We put our thumb outside the Kiddush Cup, the opposite of what this dear boy says. But what of it. There are, and I'm not exaggerating, 42 (!) different customs when it comes to holding a Kiddush cup. That's crazy! In the text of the book I'm sure it explains each Minhag, but I was too lazy to write all that down. And how many Kugels? 24. We Jews are crazy.
So at first I was going to write that it's a pity that people focus on such narishkeit instead of learning, but then I realized that this is a terrible way of looking at things. Why are Jews so great? Specifically because we have so many different Minhagim. Specifically because each and every one of these Minhagim has a source in Torah. It says that there are 70 "faces" of Torah, but the amazing thing is that they're all the will of Hashem. If this doesn't make sense to you, just email me, along with your question about the picture on the top left. Then I can answer. Then we can all be friends. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Have you ever realized that truth is non-negotiable? It just is. If you don't like it then that's fine, but you can't escape it. Why do I bring this up? Probably because I couldn't remember what I really wanted to write. Ah, now it's all coming back. Last night we had a Farbrengen for the auspicious day of Yud Kislev, the day that the Mitteler Rebbe was freed from jail. Though Shillibear attended he didn't say anything, leaving the inspirational shtuff to the Shluchim of YHSTC. Oh, in case you're wondering, the reason I try to avoid the word "Stuff" is because my third grade teacher, Mrs. Ring, would always tell my class that "stuff" is what you put in turkeys, and for every other situation you should be a bit more specific. Anyway, I talked about the Mitteler Rebbe. He really made things very easy for us. Both of his important days are right next to each other, so we can spend just 48 hours and then forget about him for the rest of the year.
Shillibear liked this. At least, I think he did. He laughed. Point is, we've got this incredible Man of G-d, and no one cares in he least. His father, the Alter Rebbe, said that if you would cut him no blood would would flow it, but rather Chassidus. When he was 14, and ready to get married, he had many proposals, and when they asked him which he wanted he said, "whichever one is ready to get married the fastest, because I want to hear a Maamar from my father."
Do you realize what this means? Here's a guy who's whole existence was dedicated to the word of G-d. simply incredible.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jokes and shtuff

Here's a quick semi-joke I thought of this morning while listening to one of the wonderful Shluchim give an even more wonderful Shiur on the day's Chumash. Basically, Jacob fights this angel guy and gets a name change. Wouldn't it be sick if he had just gotten like four thousand personal address labels and now had to change them?
Enjoyed my little semi-joke? It was funnier at the time. Anyway, during Mincha I remembered a beautiful Vort from the Rosh (same as last time, Mr. Editor). It doesn't make sense that a person only gets their Yetzer Tov (good inclination) from 13 while they're born with a Yetzer Hora (evil inclination). After all, babies are really cute, and even kids are relatively innocent. When they reach 13 is specifically the time when the evil urge takes over! So what's the story?
What is the YH exactly? He's not necessarily an evil monster. His whole point is himself. The YH makes a person focus only on themselves. A baby's whole existence is himself. Sure it's cute and all, but it's the work of evil. When a kid turns Bar Mitzvah he finally realizes (hopefully) that he's not the only person in the world. This is what it means when a person gets a YT, that he understands that he is not the only existence in the world. Some people, unfortunately, never get this fact. They can be nice people, generous people, but it's all because of them.
Right? Good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Responding to the response

So my previous post has elicited much response from the one guy who actually bothered to read it. In order not to spoil it for those of you who have not read it, go down and read it, and then scroll back up and read this one. That way we'll all remain friends and no one has to get eaten. Unless you want to get eaten.
I have very few complaints about YHSTC, but one is that virtually every lunch is some sort of noodle with some sort of cheese, cooked in some sort of way that guarantees a maximum of smell and minimum of personal comfort. I'd like to state for the record that my entire lunch today consisted of six pieces of bread. I ask not for your pity, nor for your money (though I won't say no), but rather for strongly-worded letters to the editor. Or cook. Or whoever they hired to cook here.
Judaism? You want Judaism? Come back tomorrow. Tonight's Tes Kislev, the birthday and passing of the the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch, second Rebbe in the Chabad line, so hopefully we'll have some more info a bit later.

And now you know..

One of the many fun things about blogging is writing people's names and then finding out that other people read your blog just for those names. It's happened before, but never have I gotten a request for juice on the guy. But that request has come, so now I shall reveal all.
I used to learn with Yankee Majeski (him of the recent engagement) and one day I was waving my hand around when he grabbed it and bit a finger. I don't quite remember why. Anyway, the next day, I said to Mendy Rabin (also a Shliach, and still available) that I was amazed that Yankee had bit my finger. And Yankee said, "Do you want me to do it again?" and I said all right, so of course he bit it again.
Anyway, I hope that all are happy now that I've spilled the beans in public. Just as long as his Kallah doesn't find out. I'd hate for anything to pass between the two.
Anyway, more later. Probably. If I feel like it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And the truth rolls on

So last night we had a Farbrengen with Rabbi Chayim Friedman in honor of the wedding anniversary of the Tzemach Tzedek and my sister's sixth anniversary. OK, so it wasn't quite in honor of her, but that's all right. Scary, but I remember the score of the Viking's game that Monday night with almost the same clarity as the wedding itself. The Vikings, if you're wondering, beat the Giants, avenging their loss the previous year in the NFC Championship Game. But I digress.
R. Friedman talked about our half-hearted efforts in life. It's true. I can not recall a time when I really tried. My theory is that if anyone ever really tried then everything would come together and the final redemption would be among us. There's a famous Mashal, parable, that I won't go into now, but essentially compares us to "Friends of Lubavitch". Sure, we respect the Rebbe, respect what he does, perhaps even love him. His Chassidim? Great guys. They do such good work. We even give a donation sometimes. Or even often. But at the end of the day, we're not given over.
So what is the difference between us, the half-baked Chassidim, and "Friends of Lubavitch"? We care. We wish we could be better. It's not much consolation, but then again, it's not like we deserve it.
In closing, I'd like to wish Mazel Tov to my friend Yankee Majeski on his recent engagement to some girl from Florida. I learned with him every day for a year in Los Angeles, and twice he bit my finger. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Story time with Uncle Shliach

Can we cue the corny music please? It's time for stories! Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm, fearless leader of the Lubavitch Yeshiva-Wexler Learning Institute, and all-around genius, gave us, the Shluchim of YHSTC a Shiur yesterday. It was very interesting. The part that I wrote down was of course the stories, so here goes: The Tzemach Tzedek was once provoked, and he made a quick mental search through the entire Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi to figure out if he was Halachicly allowed to get angry. What's the point of the story? It's just cool. Second story: People once asked the Friedriker Rebbe, Lubavitch is Mekarev (brings in) many people, but doesn't it say in Shulchan Oruch (Code of Jewish Law), in the fourth section, Choshen Mishpat, that there are only certain people who we bring closer, and there are some who we even push away. How could Chabad bring in everyone indiscriminately? The Rebbe answered, "First let me deal with every person with the first three sections of Shulchan Oruch, then we can discuss the fourth." Point of the story? Chabad is all about love, baby. Third story: Reb Mendel Futerfas once said, "Why by the orthodox world is an engagement celebration called a "Tenaim", literally "conditions", while in Chabad it's called a "Vort", a saying? Because when a Bochur leaves Yeshiva, it's a descent for him, from the rarefied air of Torah learning down to the corporeal world of our mundane lives. This is helped along by the Yetzer Hora, the evil inclination. So by the rest of the orthodox world, they make conditions, have a give and take with the YH. But by Lubavitch, we tell the YH what's what. He has no say." And nowadays, Lubavitch doesn't even have a Vort, we have a Lchaim. Why? Because even talking to the YH can be dangerous, so we just say Lchaim. Point of the story? With yourself, no love, you've got to be firm. And the fourth story? Here goes: Reb Yoel Teitelbaum, the Divrei Yoel, former Rebbe of Satmar, was once asked why in the Torah, the laws of personal dealings, Parshas Mishpatim, comes right after the giving of the Torah, in Parshas Yisro, while in Shulchan Oruch it's the final section? So Reb Yoel explained. We try to avoid a court case, the application of the final section of Shulchan Oruch, because it's strict judgement, and someone's bound to get hurt. Two people can't both be right. So instead the Rabbis try to make a compromise. But when it comes to Torah, you must immediately know right from wrong, there can be no compromise! The point of the story is, even Satmar has some cool stuff.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed all those. And a Happy Anniversary to the Tzemach Tzedek, 3rd Rebbe of Lubavitch, who got married at the age of 14 a long time ago.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Psychology for the masses

That's right folks, last night we had another session with Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Shagalow, mental doctor extraordinaire and Shliach to the long-suffering Snags of S. Louis Park. What did the dear boy say? That, my friends, is what I'm about to communicate to you. Basically, you're never allowed to hit your students. Ever. Well, unless they're really bad. Then you can slaughter them. No, just kidding. The only time you can hit students is if they can see the great pain that it's causing you to hit them. It should really hurt so much, that you're such a bad teacher that you have to hit the kids in order to educate them. Because obviously a god teacher should inspire the kids so much that it's not necessary to even raise your voice.
If any teachers actually read this blog, I'm sure I'd get hundreds of angry responses, but since no teachers do read this, I'll be spared. Whoopeee!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So (the traditional) ...

Today I learned the Maamar in this week's Dvar Malchus, which is about Yud Kislev, coming up in a week, about the redemption of the Mitteler Rebbe, the 2nd Rebbe of Chabad. It wasn't one of those Maamarim that inspire you to go off and change the world, so instead I'll write about something else interesting that happened in my day.
So last night I thought I would Farbreng with Shillibeer. Two hours later I realized that Shillibeer would not be appearing, and today I asked him what the problem was. Turns out that his wife is out of town, so he has to watch his kids. Can you believe it? This guy is dedicated. Plus, another reason to stay a Bochur. We don't have these kinds of issues. Farbreng? No problem. Sleep? Except for that annoying Mashgiach dude, also no problem.
So what are you waiting for? Bochurize!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Here's your religion

All righty then, here's your daily religious dose. It's from a Maamar that was said by the Rebbe Rashab in 1898. Basically, the Yetzer Hora is not essentially bad. The reason we know this is because before the first sin (the one with the tree) man was created with two drives, one towards Chessed, kindness, and one towards Gevurah, strictness. Neither of these is necessarily bad. What happened with the sin was that Adam used too much Gevurah when he prohibited his wife Chavah from even touching the tree, therefore causing Gevurah to fall down much farther than Chessed. So the drive towards Gevurah became the drive towards sin. But even this is not a constant; after all, it is possible that a surfeit of love can cause bad. We can see this from the case of a child who cries for a knife. A person who gives it is doing it out of love, after all, the child is crying for it! Nevertheless, obviously it's a bad thing. So we can see that Gevurah is not necessarily bad, nor Chessed necessarily good. Just that normally from Gevurah comes bad. When Moshiach comes the truth will be revealed, that Gevurah is really good. Because remember, strictness is not bad.

Anyway, for a little humor, there was once a haberdasher who had a minister walk into his business. The clothes-seller was so honored that a minister should come to his store that he gave the guy a free suit. A week later the minister sent a bible as a thank you. A month later a priest came in, and the same thing, except that the priest sent a beautiful gold cross. A month later a Rabbi walks in, and the same thing happens. And the gift? A week after the Rabbi gets his suit, another Rabbi walks in.

OK, so it's cute. Deal with it.

The second day

There's an old song about X-mas that I won't be transcribing now, but it kind of fits this month. Every day is chock full of religious goodness. For example, today is the second of Kislev, renowned in Chassidic circles as the day when the Sefarim which had been stolen from the Rebbe's library were returned. Not all of them mind you; as far as I know there are at least three which were never returned. But all in all, a glorious day. It's also famous because the Rebbe screamed at the hundreds who were thronged around 770 waiting for the Sefarim to appear. Why did the Rebbe get upset? Because the people had such great love for the Rebbe, and wanted to share in his joy? Probably not. More like they were wasting valuable time, which is of course the exact opposite of what the Rebbe wants. There is nothing worse in Judaism than wasting time. It's a precious commodity that can never be returned. I'm sorry that this blog has been reduced to platitudes. You know, it's tough to keep up the humor for any length of time. There'll be two weeks where it'll flow like Mashke, and then three weeks where it's like pulling teeth out of a recalcitrant lion. You know, at least lions provide some entertainment. Writing humor is tough. Perhaps I, like the late-night talk-show people, should get some writers. Brilliant idea, no? Almost as smart as Edison's.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How 'bout

Exclusive coverage of the Kinnus can be found on half a dozen websites, but not this one, probably because I'm not actually there. What I can tell you about the Kinus is that Rabbi Mordechai Friedman was very inspired, plus he got the new HASC DVD, which is of course all that really counts. It's a bit of a waste, because who needs a DVD? You watch it once, and then what?
Ah, you want some religion with your fries? Speaking of fries, sometimes I get a big Taavah for fries. Really, it's for salty food. Listen, cookies before Davening, oatmeal for breakfast, and at about 11:30 you just feel the need for some sodium, to course through your veins, leaving a bit of salty sediment behind, bringing gastronomic delight and big credit-card payments to your heart surgeon later on.
Oh, sorry, I got off topic, we were discussing religion weren't we. Oh, by the way, the potato chips were fine.
Today is the first day of the month of Kislev. This is the day when, in 1977, the Rebbe went home for the first time. What does this mean to us? The Rebbe's greatest work happened after his recovery from the heart attack. I just read an article on about Lubavitch, and while it was cute, it wasn't the point. The point was the many comments (well over 100) about Chabad. It's amazing, there is not a single Jew without a strong opinion on our wonderful movement. Either they hate it with a passion bordering on the violently pathological, or they love it with much the same fervor. I guess we're just very inspirational. Well, enough blab for today, but remember, tomorrow is a brand new day, so, if you're lucky, there will be even more blab.

Friday, November 9, 2007

After Further Consideration

I'd like to start off by saying that the whole "Snag-Bash" topic is now over, with the consensus that it's morally wrong but quite enjoyable nonetheless, and that Shimshon was a holy man. A very holy man. Mistakes? Did the Rebbe make mistakes? Case closed. Any further resistance from the editor is futile.
I saw an interesting article on about Chabad of Kenosha's winning the legal right to put up a Menora. The article itself I read on the Lubavitch sites, what was fascinating was the comments. A certain person cursed out Chabad, the Rebbe, and everything sacred. It was nice to see that many people, quick to distance themselves from personal affiliation, defended Lubavitch with an eloquence reminiscent of my own. (And so humble to!).
Why is Chabad attacked so much? Why doesn't Google recognize the word as being spelled correctly? Is the whole world allied against us? Is there nothing we can do?
And as always, the answer is education. Lack thereof causes hatred. Am I advocating the invasion of Beth Medrash Gevoha and the mass conversion of the thousands of Snags contained therein to Judaism? Of course. There is an old joke that Chabad is the closest religion to Judaism. Last time someone told me that I belted him. It was totally worth the suspension from school.
LT told me that when he was a kid in boarding school the teacher was educating the class on bible, and he mentioned that the Jews were stuck in the desert for forty years. I'm sorry that I can't remember the wise-crack that some brat made, but that same brat has never forgotten the blow LT dealt him immediately after. Sure, he got caned, but it was worth it. This, my friends, is Jewish pride. You've got to show the goy who's boss.
And last and probably least, if you recall I mentioned a while ago that literally no one rates my posts on unless I first rate. I rated for a week, got great results, stopped, and it appears that no one reads my shtuff anymore. Oh well, their loss.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

OK Then

To respond to the editor's comments, I'd just like to say that I don't enjoy bashing Snags, I just enjoy bashing Snaggiism, a dangerous disease peculiar to Jews who haven't internalized Chassidus.
I'd also like to say that after further discussion with LT, I have come to understand the importance of the whole Hey Teves saga. Basically, Barry's point was that when the Previous Rebbe gave his library over to the Chassidim it was merely a trick to bring it onto these blessed shores, and that in reality he maintained ownership. The point of the Rebbe is that his father-in-law would never resort to chicanery in order to accomplish something, and that whatever he did was truthful and honest. Saying otherwise impinges on the honor of the Previous Rebbe, and by extension the entire Chabad. The great joy caused by Chabad's victory in court was because of the affirmation thereby of the Previous Rebbe's integrity, of course of the return of the Sefarim, holy and important manuscripts.
This is my (and LT's) interpretation, and if anyone doesn't like it they can post a different one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Oh baby! (2)

This is the second post of the day, make sure you read the previous one. We (The exalted Shluchim of YHSTC) had another Shiur with Rabbi Shagalow. He was very good, especially in the last 20 minutes, when he started Snag-bashing. A little note. R. Shagalow lives in S. Louis Park, which is the Snag Capital of the upper midwest. The man lives his life among these people, and he bashes them. How beautiful. Truth is, I guess this makes him uniquely qualified to bash. Anyway, he said, what's the basic difference between a Lubavitcher and a Misnaged? How they translate the Possuk, "Tamim Teheye Im Havaye Elokecha." A Snag says that it means "You shall walk prefectly with the L-rd your G-d." So, a Snag thinks, learn Torah and do Mitzvos in order to become perfect with G-d. A Lubavitcher, on the other hand, translates the verse as "You shall walk wholely with the L-rd your G-d." Or in a whole manner. Point is, we say that the Possuk means that a person should serve Hashem with all his faculties, his good and is bad. What's the practical difference? Perfection is not the goal. And when a person thinks he has perfection, it's one of two things. Either the guy's mind is blown, or he really is perfect. In which case he has no purpose left on earth. Why didn't G-d create man as angels? Because they're worthless! They don't struggle! Without struggle life is meaningless.
And now we come to a little later in the night, another brilliant Farbrengen from Rabbi Chayim Friedman. His brother Mordechai farbrenged earlier with the Bochurim, but I missed most of that, except for a little speech about the greatness of the Shluchim and how the Bochurim should start respecting us. So that was nice.
Rabbi Chayim spoke about a lot of topics, ending at around 4:45 AM. I was literally falling down because I was so tired. At 2:00 I decided to go once the current Sicha was over. That's why I left at 4:45. But it was totally worth it. The only quibble I have is that his Farbrengens are so flowy (new word for the OED) that it's difficult to take out specific points. The last thing was "why do bad things happen to god people?" The answer is that it's G-d's fault. Since he is everything, therefore all is him, and he is the one responsible. It also says that no bad comes from heaven. Meaning? There is no bad in this world! Just because you can't see the good doesn't mean it's not there. In fact, it's a higher level of good, because it's not revealed down here. And I'm not saying that suffering is a good thing, rather that it's not really suffering. OK, so it is, but only in our eyes.
All right, enough for today, more tomorrow, probably,
(the customary ellipsis)

Oh Baby!

Here's a comment that I got from the editor on my last post that for some reason blogger is refusing to post.

You just mentioned something that kind of pisses me off. I hope you'll find this genius of mine worthy of putting near yours.

People like to take out all the juice of everything and blame it all on the Rebbe. Case in point: "Who the hell understands what was so important about the seforim? Not me! The only reason I'm celebrating is because the Rebbe found it important!" Or, "Who the hell would think it's important to get kids to hear the Ten Commandment? Not me! I'm only shlepping kids off the street because the Rebbe said to do it!" Or, "Why the hell would someone want to learn chassidus? Not me! Just the Rebbe said to do it, so I'm doing it!" This kind of attitude can really make you feel bottul and mekushar and mesiras nefeshdik (Side note: a mashpia once said: the only mesiras nefesh we do is when we're moser our nefesh elokis.) but you're drying out Judaism. Didan notzach becomes a meaningless victory which we celebrate b'kabolas ol because the inscrutable Rebbe felt like it. Mivtzoim isn't necessarily accomplishing anything; it's just doing something that the inscrutable Rebbe wants. Learning Chassidus (Learning Chassidus!) also doesn't accomplish anything, it's also just doing what the inscrutable Rebbe wants. Is this what Judaism is about? An emphatic no! Chassidus does have an effect. Movtzoim do have an effect. If the Rebbe (who certainly is inscrutable) wants something, it's because that thing is worth wanting! If we don't understand why, then we're missing a very important part of the point!
The real mekusharim don't care if Judaism is dry. All that matters is oysfirin di kavanah. Well, if you don't attempt to scrutinize the Rebbe (just a wee bit) than you can't think straight.
For example, people might say, "It's important to build buildings because "der Rebbe vil binyanim!" (It always sounds better in Yiddish, even if the key word in the sentence is Hebrew.) Well, buddy, why, pray tell, does the Rebbe want buildings? Because buildings help you do shlichus. So, if you're on shlichus with limited resources, considerations such as "Der Rebbe vil binyanim" are only going to befuddle your decision—unless you think why the Rebbe wants binyanim!

If you think this is kefirah, then write back, and we'll settle things out.

Did you like his genius? Impassioned no doubt. Kefirah? Doubtful. My point was that sometimes we don't know what to do, and then the answer is to rely on the Rebbe, not on our own intellect. Sure, work as hard as you can to understand, but sometimes you just don't. Is this an excuse to not do what you have to do? Of course not. Is this an excuse to not try to figure it out? It's like the Bracha Shekahol. Shulchan Oruch says that this Bracha is said whenever you don't know the proper Bracha for something. But not because of your ignorance, that you haven't learned which Bracha to make, it's because you did learn and still don't know.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

And now, presenting...

As I mentioned, we had a Farbrengen last night. It was the sort where a serious suggestion was made that we boil some potatoes, and I don't mean for Mashke. As usual, Rabbi Chayim Friedman was excellent. Soon I'm going to run out of words to describe him. But hey, he deserves every accolade he can get. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your religion and/or liver) I was a bit inebriated, so my memories are clouded a bit by the happy Stratocumulus Perlucidus of lukewarm Smirnoff.
What is the whole Simcha of 25 Cheshvan about anyway? We're happy because the Rebbe was happy. The whole court case was a strange thing. The Rebbe was so involved, and thought it was so important. Some people suggested that it was perhaps not so very important-after all, it was just a bunch of old books. To these people the Rebbe was very sharp.
To reiterate, we're happy because the Rebbe is happy. Rabbi Perlstein of Chicago (AY's daddy) told of how he learned a Nigleh Sicha with a Misnaged, and it blew his mind. An hour later a Bochur in his Yeshiva told the Sicha over for the benefit of his fellow students, and they were like, "Oh, that's nice (yawn)". We just don't appreciate the genius of the Rebbe, and even more, don't care to find out. Even on a day like today, the only reason we can figure out to be happy is, "Oh, the Rebbe's happy? Me too!"
You've got to care. To care you've got to feel. To feel you've got to know. To know you've got to learn. And that's exactly where I'm headed.
Oh, and a quick Mazel Tov to Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, fearless leader of the Yeshiva High School of the Twin Cities, and all round good guy. Should there be an apostrophe there? Have I used that joke too many times in this blog already? Does anyone care either way?
Anyway, Shillibear told me today that I should Chap Arein, take advantage now, because when I'm 34 I'll be wishing I was 19. I pointed out to him that I was 20, and I already wish I was still 19. That's the problem with us, when we're 19 we wish to be 34, and when 34 to be 19. Which is worse? Or better?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fifty is eternal

Today I finished up L'maan Daas (Kuntreisim 1), and once again came upon the dichotomy that makes our lives so meaningful. The Friedriker Rebbe discusses faith in Hashem, that he is the only one who makes anything. In fact, he is the only one that is anything. We all have this knowledge subconsciously, but but all it is. We believe, sure, but does it affect us? I know that sustenance comes only from Him, but do I practice it?
As a Bochur it's very easy to live life in this manner. After all, I have no problems with money. The whole world is black and white. Once I grow older, and have eight children sitting at the able waiting for supper, it'll be a little tougher to simply put my faith, and fate, in Hashem.
All right, enough soul-searching. Tonight is the 25th of Cheshvan, the day that the US court ruled to return the Sefarim to Chabad, and therefore we Farbreng. Should be fun. These things usually are. Oh, and for an update on the saga of the "Dubov", I spoke to him today, and he said I should call him tonight. Isn't that brave of me? They should make an award or something (check the comments section for a sarcastic remark by the editor). Until next time then...(ellipsis again)

P.S. And just in, I'd like to wish a hearty Mazel Tov to my dear friend Yehuda Leib Heber on his engagement to some girl (Dassie Butman, if it really matters to you). He was a Shliach in LA when I was there for two years. Incidentally, I notified both and See, I'm getting good at this phone call thing. Did you like the editor's comments?

Sunday, November 4, 2007


I've had some complaints about this blog from a certain editor. Firstly, my previous post was, to him at least, heretical. So I'd just like to clarify. I did not mean that the Alter Rebbe's Maamar made no sense. I did not get it. I am at fault. I carry a cross for the world's sins. Oh, sorry, I'm getting a little carried away. Anyway, happy editor?
Not yet, because I have yet to address his second concern, that this blog has gotten way too serious for his liking. Too much Judaism, not enough stupidity. Is this really such a problem?
Shillibear had the brilliant idea that we bring down Rabbi Dovid Dubov of Princeton, NJ, to come Farbreng for Yud Tes Kislev. I think it's a great idea. Only problem is that I'm the one who's supposed to make the phone calls. Know this, my friends, that I hate (a strong word, yes?) with a passion bordering on the pathological the concept of cold-calling. If you can believe it, that was the most difficult part of Merkos Shlichus. But I did it, because I'm a big boy. So I called Rabbi Dubov. Some girl picked up, and I left a message. He called me back, but unfortunately I wasn't around to answer. Did I immediately call back? Of course not, that would make way too much sense. What do you think I am, some sort of normal person? Horrors. Now I can spend the rest of tonight and half of tomorrow agonising. There's nothing like Jewish guilt to put other nation's pain and suffering into perspective. We suffer the most because, well, we're Jews. Eat that, Armenians.
Lest you think I didn't learn today, I did. Quite a lot, in fact. But nothing mind-blowing. The editor should know that when I put Chassidus up here it's because I'm really excited about it, and there's almost no other place you can find this stuff in English. For example, I just read a great article in this month's National Geographic about memory. Really fascinating. But since anyone can walk to their nearest news-stand and read all about it, why should I bother?
I hope there's been enough stupidity to keep even the notoriously picky editor happy. Tomorrow hopefully we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Moving right along

A quick response to the latest comment, regarding the second story on my previous post "bears". Essentially he was just filling in some background info, and all I'd like to add to the comment is that I faithfully transmitted the story as I heard it.
Anyway, I had a nice Shabbos. Have you ever learned a Maamar and had no idea what is said? Sometimes it's because the Maamar is so profound, one's head is swimming. Sometimes the Maamar is simply unintelligible, in which case, well, I guess, you simply don't get it. The second to last Maamar is this week's Torah Ohr (Alter Rebbe) was a clear example of the latter type. Normally I'm happy to get seventy percent of a Maamar in this Sefer, and even fifty percent is acceptable. But this one? First a little background on this particular bit. The Alter Rebbe said many Maamarim, and a certain amount of them were compiled, with annotations, by his grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch. This Maamar that I'm referring to is the same as the previous one in the Sefer, it's just transcribed as the Alter Rebbe said it, without notes or explanations. And man, is it impossible. I truly don't get how the Chassidim understood it. All right, so they were about four billion times smarter than me.
What else? Um...
That would appear to be all that's on my mind now, so I'll say sonora 'till next time. Or I'll type it. Whatever.

Friday, November 2, 2007


The Yeshiva had a Farbrengen tonight with Rabbi Chayim Friedman in honor of 20 Cheshvan. It was very good, as all of his Farbies have been. While he was telling one story I was reminded on another. You want to hear both? Read? Whatever? No problem. Here's the one he said. Oh, and in response to the almighty editor's comment on the previous post, that is hardly the case. There's a thick dollop, thank you. Anyway, the story.
Reb Mendel Futerfas was once Farbrenging when a bunch of Bochurim from a snag Yeshiva piled in. Their leader was being very cynical, making jokes, etc, and eventually Reb Mendel stopped and asked him his name. "Ber", the Bochur answered. Reb Mendel said that he'd like to tell a story. Once there was a dog that got lost in a forest, and got found by a bear. The bear felt bad, and said, "don't worry, you can come live with us bears." There was only one problem. Dogs don't look like bears! But no worries, the bear found the dog a bear costume, and everyone was happy. The bear taught the dog one very important lesson. Dogs say "hello" be sniffing each other's tails, whereas bears greet one another with a nuzzle on the nose. So, wonderful, many years pass, and eventually the dog, who's a good politician, becomes leader of all the bears. They hold a grand inauguration ceremony, and the dogbear greets all the bears with a nuzzle. Eventually the old bear who had rescued the dogbear came up, and the dogbear moved to his nose. But the bear said, "Oh no my friend, I know who you really are, you can Kushen Tuchus." Which means "kiss my rear". So, Mendel said, all your friends here are so impressed with your jokes and comments, Ber, but I know who you really are. Kushen Tuchus.
Nice story, no? It reminded me of another one that I heard from Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein who came to Farbreng when I was in Mesifta, many years ago. In Russia people like to go bear-hunting in the winter. Why? After all, normal people prefer to stay at home in the winter in their cozy homes, sipping hot apple cider and playing rummicube, or at the worst risk. But I digress. Anyway, there's only one slight problem: in the winter, not only are normal people inside, so are the bears. This, my student, is called hibernation. So the hunters, being Russian came up with a brilliant system. They trained small dogs to go into the caves where the bears sleep and to bite them on their reproductive facilities (this is a family blog after all). The bears come running out, enraged, and perhaps kill a couple of the dogs. But the hunter is waiting, and manages to shoot the bear. Only a Russian could think this up, no? Anyway, so too are the Rebbe's Shluchim. We go out to the caves, to places where Frum Jews are not found, in the winter, in a time of Galus, and we bite the bear's balls. What the parallel exactly is for the Shluchim I know not. Every one of them has his own method. But anyway, people get annoyed, even outraged, and maybe even a couple Shluchim will lose big time. But the bear comes out, the Jew wakes up, and boom, the hunter, the Rebbe, gets the guy. But instead of hanging a head on a mantelpiece we hang Tefillin on a head.
SO these are two nice stories, and I hope you've enjoyed them. Oh, you're waiting for your humor for the day? Sorry, no luck. Once again I find myself at quarter to one, and the humor wells have run dry. All that's left is serious, committed, respectable Real Shliach.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Today is the 148th birthday of the Rebbe Rashab. Last night the Shluchim here ate YHSTC had a Farbrengen with Rabbi Moshe Feller at his son Mendel's house. So I was planning on writing a couple of the ideas expounded upon at the Farby. For two reason though I have decided not to. The first is that he mostly told stories, which is great, but doesn't give me much to write (yes, I could write the stories. I'm not that dumb not to think of that). The second reason is that I decided to learn a Maamar of the Rebbe Rashab this morning, in honor of his birthday. The one I chose, totally at random, was "And Israel said to Joseph", said in Weisbaden in 1911. This Maamar was (is) so cool that I figured I had to share it with you, so I will.
What is the difference between Shabbos and the rest of the week? On Shabbos we rest, while during the week we work. Or at least some of us do. Anyway, the spiritual difference is in how the G-dly soul is enclothed in the animal soul. See, there are two ways. The first is when the G-dly soul totally dominates, and the animal in all of us is totally nullified. So that's pretty cool, and it's what happens on Shabbos, and for Tzaddikim, all the time. Have you ever noticed how everything looks better on Shabbos, the food tastes better, people are nicer, your favorite sports teams win (unless of course someone else's favorite teams win), even the grass is greener (on your side)? This is all because the G-dly soul is dominating.
And on the weekday? Sure, the G-dly soul is enclothed in the animal one, but now it's not dominating at all. In fact, it's in exile. But it still retains some power, and let's say it causes the animal soul to learn a little, or to do a Mitzva. Then the animal soul becomes nullified on its own, because it understands how great G-d is, and it wants to participate. Isn't that beautiful? Ah, but like everything in life there's a caveat: two people can hear the same exact thing, but one of them gets it, and feels the L-rd, and the other doesn't, so he just feels his own gross temporal existence. And this means that even the guy who gets it doesn't really get it, because he still feels himself, because He is nullified.
So what's the point of all this? Why not just have Shabbos all the time? In fact, when Moshaich comes, every day will be like Shabbos, in the sense that the G-dly soul will transform the animal soul, making it a partner in the fight for good and justice. Or something like that. But again, why not now? Why the long wait? Firstly, I have no idea. And secondly, man's whole purpose in this vale of tears is to transform this valley in the shadow of death into a place where you'll be happy to bring your kids up. That is of course if you have kids.
And how do we transform this world into a great place? By working hard. Through our struggle we can change the world.
Now, wasn't all the above inspiring? But it taught me at least one thing; that unless you get it you'll get nowhere, and the only way to get it is to try and get it. Deep, eh?