Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A hardhitting Yud Tes Kislev

As reader's of tonight's previous post will no doubt have apprehended by now, I was a bit depressed coming into tonight's farbie, convinced that it couldn't possibly come close to the glorious 19 Kislev Farbrengens of yesteryear. Usually when I come into a farbie with this attitude I'm pleasantly surprised at the results, presumably because my expectations were so low to begin with. As it turned out, tonight's farbie could have been entered with high expectations, and they would have been fulfilled. Rabbi Yisroel Cotler was tonight's victim, I mean mashpia, and he performed admirably. All the opinions expressed herein are his, though I do reserve the right to defend them if I must. If they seem trite or obvious, well that's probably the transmitter's fault. And don't get the idea that just because I write something that means I practice it. It's enough that I try. And so, enough chit-chat, on with the show!

What's the point of 19 Kislev? What did it accomplish? Like most things in life, it's easier to describe by writing what it ain't. For example, and this is as true a story as a story can be, there was a bochur taking a bus in Israel on chol hamoed sukkos, and he noticed a non-lubavitch bochur on the bus. This other bochur went over to the bus driver and told him that he was going to sleep, but please, if it begins to rain, please wake him up. Why? Because then he can eat.
What is wrong with this story? Hey, the bochur was keeping shulchan oruch, wasn't he? The problem is that his whole Judaism was a cat and mouse game with G-d. A chassid recognizes that there ain't no one but the big guy, both upstairs and downstairs.
Once a chassid came to the Tzemach Tzedek and he asked him for a bracha for his grandkid. He wanted to bring junior to hear the Rebbe say chassidus, and b'derech mailah, automatically, he would become a chassid. The Tzemach Tzedek got up from his chair, and said, "For fifty years my grandfather, father in law, and I have fought that a person shouldn't become a chossid automatically, and you're asking for a bracha for it?!"

There is a relatively famous story with Professor Velvel Green, who had just made a hachlata to keep kosher. A couple days later he went to a week-long NASA sponsored conference in Huntsville, Alabama. Unlike seasoned kosher eaters, be didn't yet know that when you go to Alabama, you pack two suitcases: one with your clothes, and one with your kosher food. So here he is, at the end of the first day, and he's starving. There had been a delicious buffet dinner that night, but he I course couldn't eat at it. He walks out, and lo and behold! The hotdog man approacheth! Now, this wasn't New York where chances are that it's Hebrew National; this stand had treif written all over it. Poor Velvel is standing there, and he makes a deal with G-d: I'll start keeping kosher next week. What else was he supposed to do? He walked over, bought a dog, and then it hit him. He couldn't do this. He said he wouldn't. So bye bye hotdog. The rest of the week he lived on potato chips, Coca-Cola, and the occasional apple. When he got back to Minnesota he wrote the Rebbe a letter detailing this experience, and the Rebbe wrote him back, saying that he had released an incredibly great spiritual light into this here physical world. Like, major fireworks. We all have our hotdog stand. For Velvel now, it's not a hotdog anymore. But he still has one, just like everyone. The question is, what will we do? Give in, or fight the great fight?

We are living in a microwave generation. We need gratification, we need it now, and we need it easy. When we learn a maamar or sicha, the first thing is, "how does it speak to me? What lesson can I learn out of it?" If it's too hard, or too esoteric, then there's plenty more where they came from. There is even a wide selection of sefarim which give a nice question, a nice answer, an it only takes two pages instead of twenty. This approach works for a chabad house; after all, which shliach has the time to learn a whole sicha before shabbos? This approach will also work for a shabbos table, for mivtzoyim, for virtually any situation...except one. It won't work for you. The only way to learn chassidus properly and to internalize it is to sweat over it. Sure, you won't understand it the first time. Heck, you won't understand it the fifth time either. But you keep on plugging away? Good things will come your way. It's the difference between a tradition soup and a homemade chicken soup. Sure, the instant soup is simple, easy, and hassle free, but you can't compare it to a chicken soup which was slaved over for many hours. So too, any chassidus you manage to pick up in a few minutes won't fool anyone. The only way to accomplish anything is through constant application.

27 comments:

Elisheva said...

I wonder what the original held?

Request for explanation: Wake up if rains?

Leo de Toot said...

Dear Ms. Elisheva:

I believe (based on a prior conversation with Mr. R.S.) that it has to do with when one may forgo eating in a sukkah e.g. during severe rain. So the point would be, he couldn't eat in the bus (not in a sukkah) but if it rained, then he couldn't eat in the sukkah anyway, so therefore eating in the bus was now possible! (I see hedgefund management in this kid's future). Awaiting the word of Mr. R.S. to confirm, LdT.

Elisheva said...

Mr. de Toot,

Thank you for that clarification. If I would have read close enough to take note that it said "during chol hamoed Sukkos," the answer would have been obvious.

This is another example of why critical reading skills and attention to detail is of an upmost important.

Thank you for your time,
Elisheva

Nemo said...

Cotlar bio?

The Real Shliach said...

Eli: what the original what held?
LdT: exactly.
Eli: work on it.
Nemo: as in, why didn't I give one? Very simple-I barely know him. However, if you google his name with the correct spelling, then you'll find a decent bio from chabad at Columbia.

Elisheva said...

Androgynous nicknames sit rather funny.

I am. I am. I am.

The Real Shliach said...

What nickname?

Elisheva said...

Eli. I believe you could say it is androgynous no?

The Real Shliach said...

Oh, now I get it.

Elisheva said...

Yeah.

Nemo said...

I was asking more for his current resume. What's his connection to Mo-town and why was he the invited speaker for the venerable 19 Kislev Farbrengen. I mean, he's not old, doesn't have grey in his beard ... what's his deal? Does he have a job? Would someone normally enter his farbrengens with high expectations? (I remember him when he was in high school in my hometown not long ago, but don't know much about him since)

Cheerio said...

eli is a particularly amusing androgynous name, being as i know an eli who married an eli. and not in san francisco.
but nonsense aside - trs, thanks for the farbrengen. i needed to read some of the things that were said.

Elisheva said...

The original post with the same name.

The Real Shliach said...

Nemo: he's currently teaching morning chassidus here. That's right folks, there are five shiurim of chassidus here in the morning. For 80 bochurim. This place is cracked.

Eli: really wild and wonderful shtuff.

Cheerio: glad you enjoyed it.

Elisheva said...

Uch must you torture me so? First by calling me Eli and second by dangling unposted "wonderful shtuff" in my (cyber) face?

The Real Shliach said...

No Eli? Fine.
And how much you gonna pay for the original?

Elisheva said...

I mean if you must, Eli is fine.

How about a handshake and smile?

tzniut police said...

Handsahke? To what depths will you people not sink?

e said...

I like your "the real shluchim exchange." It's got some class and punniness; and that semicolon was starting to go stale.

e said...

Nemo,

www.chabad.org/k12471

and you ask what qualifies Rabbi Cotlar to farbreng?

Elisheva said...

I just wanted to see if you'd come out of "hiding." Go me. I win.

tzniut police said...

A big kuntz you have pulled off.

Elisheva said...

Why thank you!

tzniut police said...

Because you're welcome!

Crawling Axe said...

There is a similar problem with ma’amorim that one does understand. Went through the ma’amor — understood it — bam, done! When one understood the ma’amor down to minute details, one’s avoida with it has not even started.

The Real Shliach said...

E: I'm glad someone finally noticed.
Elisheva: yeah, I have to agree with the po on this one, no handshakes. However, I could do a strawberry milkshake.
Crawling Axe: yup.

Elisheva said...

I noticed the Real Shluchim Exchange but I was too embarrassed to say anything, because I figured I'm just slow on the uptake as always.

And anyways "a smile and a handshake" is a reference that was obviously lost on all of you.