Thursday, January 1, 2009

That was a Farbrengen, eh Schapiro?

Back in the good old days when I was a Bochur in LA the Shluchim from Oholei Torah would tell me about G-d's special representative on earth-Phil Parker. They told me that Rabbi Ephraim Piekarski was a real American boy, not one of those fakers who pretended that they were from Lubavitch when everyone knew the truth, that they were in fact big Yankees fans. Phil wasn't afraid to say that he was a big Yankees fan. And yet he was also the most Chassidish guy in New York, who used to skip breakfast every morning so that he could Daven properly.
The first time I met him was by Shabbos Achdus in YOEC, when he was brought down by the Shluchim to farbreng, which he did excellently. The next year the Shluchim again pushed him and OT, but then he was fired and the magic was gone.
Why was he fired? Because the bochurim were acting like they didn't have a Rebbe, and he suggested that they get a new one. Some people didn't appreciate this revolutionary sarcasm, and there he was, out of the job he had created. He used to say that before he was in Oholei
Torah it was a safari, and after it became a zoo. The difference? In a safari, the animals are free, and the people are in cages. In a zoo, the animals are caged and the people are free. So yeah, the bochurim were still animals, but at least they were locked up a little.
Tonight is the first time that I've ever live-blogged a farbrengen. Fine, this is only posting later, but this is every word as it was said. It's a little raw, a little repetitive; it's also the first time I've managed to convince myself that I got down the proper flavor of a farbrengen. Normally I only manage a few vertlach here and there, but tonight you get the full thing.

And of course, before we begin, a short word from our sponsor. This farbrengen happened on Wednesday night and tonight is Thursday. I spent tonight going from Simcha to Simcha, which was an awesome experience. First up was Schneur Pruss' wedding to some girl. It was really nice to see and chat with Rabbi Chayim Friedman, Shmuli Bortunk, Shmuelie Chazanow, and Mendy Freedman. Plus I enjoyed the dancing. My only complaint was that the music was way too loud. And now I sound like every other person who writes about weddings. "The music was too loud." But it was. Deal with it.
Next up, before leading the Maariv services in 770, I had a nice little chat with SZB who's off to Israel on Birthright, and who will be eating a falafel for me there.
After leading that prayer service it was onto Avremel Rimler's L'chaim where I of course wished him a big Mazel Tov. Avremel and I were in Yeshiva together in Minnesota for two years and a summer. Then I made my way to Menachem Landa's L'chaim (he and I were in YOEC for a year) where my bracha to him, "A Binyan Adi Ad and all that mumbo jumbo" was appreciated by Rabbi Shmuelie Friedman. Also featuring prominently in my experience there was Zalman Friedman, Eliezer Wrightman, and Shmuelie Gurary, who wants everyone to know that the guy whose secret I participated in this past holiday season is named "Simcha".
Now back to our regular scheduled programming.

It's a pity that Rabbi Piekarski is self-employed now, because I just heard him say something that, if properly used, could get him fired all over again. He mentioned the difference between Chanuka and Purim, and Hey Teves and all other chassidishe yomim tovim. By Purim and the other chassidishe yomim tovim, the Jews did some praying and then G-d sent them their salvation. By Hey Teves and Chanuka though, the Jews took matters into their own hands. The Greeks tried to enforce their religion on us? We beat them up good. By Hey Teves, Barry tries to say that legally the books belong to him? We beat him up good. Legally, of course. The good menahel then said, prefacing that he wasn't getting political, that we could even see this in current events. The Israelis were finally taking the war into the other side's territory. I immediately thought, "Controversy!" The other side's territory?! The Gaza Strip! Every Jew's birthright! Horrors!

Anyway...he just quoted, (in his words) the immortal Vince Lombardi. I told you he rocked the house. And I never even survived the point system under him. Usually I embellish what the rabbis say by the farbrengen...but with Phil Parker, there's no need. He takes care of it all by himself.
So yeah, the best defense is a good offense. Sometimes we live our lives as if we're playing a defensive game. We don't want to mess up. If no one knows, or we think no one knows, then we can get away with it. No mistakes, because then you won't get a good shlichus. Or a good
shidduch. Or a good spot in the cemetery. Sure, we don't eat in McDonalds. But are we trying to get better? Are we trying to do extra, or are we only avoiding the worst?
Do you (I) represent Judaism? Do I want all Jews to look like me? Like the famous story, a guy is going out with a girl, and he says that she's no good. Why? Because she's going out with a guy like me!
If you were dumped on an island alone for three months, what would you look like at the end? How frum would you be?
We have to take the battle to the other side. We have to think about ourselves, in a serious manner, to figure out, "What am I doing to be a better Jew?" We do many things to become a better computer game player or driver or cook or attorney or doctor or blogger, but are we
trying to become better Jews?
By chanuka the Jews could have said, let's stay in our caves and learn, because the world out there is a scary place. We say, let's be comfortable, let's be happy. Guess what! Life isn't about comfort. Life isn't about happiness. It's about working hard and making a difference. And as bochurim we have to stop being afraid of G-d. He isn't trying to make you suffer. Judaism isn't about telling someone else to put on tefillin or light shabbos candles. Sure, that's a beautiful thing, but why aren't you demanding something from yourself?
No one is ever satisfied with money. Is that all you want in life? My (Piekarski's) shver (Shmuel Isaac Popack) tells the following: It says two seemingly contradictory things in the holy books. On the one hand, it says that a person who has one hundred wants double that, 200. It also says that a person never never dies with even half the money he wants. This doesn't make sense! If he has 100 and wants 200, then how does he die with less than half of what he wants? The answer is that a person has 100 and wants another 200. So when he dies he only has 1/3 of what he wants. That was supposed to be a joke. If you knew his shver you'd think it hilarious.
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It says in the holy psalms "my tongue is like a speedy quill". What's the connection between the two? Just like a quill needs to be constantly dipped in ink in order to be able to write, so too does a tongue need to be constantly dipped in mashke in order to speak.
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Tanya perek 15: In war there needs to be a two-pronged approach. A pincer. From one side, a person has to spend quality time thinking, "What am I doing to be a good Jew?" And at the same time, there are practical things that need to be done. There's two types of ways that
a person can judge himself. A person can judge himself, "I don't eat pork." Great. The second way is that a person judges himself, "Am I a tzaddik or a rasha? Am I someone who works for G-d or not?" Wearing tzitzis and wearing socks is the same thing. You're not working for either. Sure, tzitzis is a big mitzva and everything, but at this point is your life, are you working at it?
When you're in zal learning, and you hear of a bullshove happening at the next table, do you go over and join in? If you don't, even though you want to, you're a Jew. A servant of G-d. You're working. It's tough. That's why you're here. You attacked your complacency, your daily routine. Without this, what is your Judaism? Are you working at it? This is the truth. Blackberrys aren't real. iPods aren't real. Judaism is real. But do you mean it? You want a new computer, but do you want Judaism? When the bang comes on the table, and seder is over, do you stop in the middle of tosfos or do you continue learning?
Sure, if you quit you'll get a bigger piece of chicken. Can you give that up?

If there are two people on a ladder, one on the fourth rung and one on the second, who is higher? It depends who's going up and who's going down.
Every day we fight G-d. Usually we win. But the one or two times that G-d wins, we're the ones who are really winning. Because when you stop yourself from doing something or take a new action, we are taking the fight to the other side. We are Lubavitchers! Supposedly we have mesiras nefesh! Nowhere does it say that one of the mivtzoyim is not to work hard at being a Jew. In fact, we are supposed to be good at it!
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Kelipas nogah is the worst thing in the world. It has only one advantage. It's a little better than sholosh kelipas ha'tmeos. That's not saying much.
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What are we looking for? For temporal delights? How deep is our life? As deep as the pool table in our basement? Isn't there something else in life? We have to dig deeper. Much deeper. There has to be more to life than playing guitar. Do you only go as deep as the vault at the bank, or is there something more? We have to give ourselves over. We have to dig down deeper. You won't be satisfied with corn chips and bars. All you can eat for five bucks? So you walk out feeling accomplished?
There was once a guy who was napping on a recliner. He suddenly woke up, and he was in a new recliner. A massage one. And it wasn't his old living room here, it was a beautiful and large room. Instead of a tiny window in the corner looking on an empty lot, there's a massive window
looking on a gorgeous lawn. He feels hungry, and immediately a butler comes in and serves him a delicious meal. The best meal that ever was.
He realizes that he must have died and gone to heaven. He walks outside and starts to play golf on a course that's nicer then Pebble Beach. And he makes a hole in one. Incredible. He makes 18 holes in one. Incredible. He feels a little unsatisfied. He goes and plays poker, and wins every hand. He plays basketball, every shot goes in. Everything he does he does incredibly well. He feels pretty bad, and goes to the butler and says, "This heaven, it's terrible, I'd rather be in hell!" The butler said, "Where do you think you are?"

Is that out goal in life, to buy fancy cars? To have fun everyday? The truth is, we're not here for ourselves. G-d didn't put us here to have fun.
Barry said that a Rebbe is a private person, and a private person has property. The American court ruled that a Rebbe is not a private person. He doesn't have any personal property. A Rebbe is one with his chassidim. Chassidim are one with their Rebbe.

G-d doesn't tell us that if we're good he'll give us chocolate chip cookies. That's not the point. Sure, it's going to happen, but that's not why we were put here. There is a baaleboss in this house. Not only that, the whole house is the baaleboss. We are not private people. We
don't have any personal property. We have a job. We are given tools. We don't have needs, and they certainly don't come first. Because G-d doesn't dwell on something which feels itself. Sure, we are all wonderful people, but what are we worth? What are we doing here? You can have a nice house, sure, but is it worth anything? Do you have a life? If your life is about you, it's not a life. When the day is over, what's important? The chicken you ate by supper or the friend you helped? Because in a week, you don't go to your mother and tell her that last week you ate a great piece of chicken. After ninety years of breathing you don't feel wonderful that you breathed for ninety years. That's not a human life. That's an animal. Humans work. They try hard. They give until it hurts. If you can't do this, are you a person?
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Hey Teves is the Rebbe's Yom Tov. You think anyone cares about the library? The chassidim suffered because the Rebbe suffered. And when the Rebbe had joy, the chassidim had joy.
Is McDonalds any worse than Rubashkins? Ask the PETA people! But...G-d said that McDonalds is treif, and Rubashkins is kosher. Do we understand it? No. Do we understand why the library was so important to the Rebbe? No. (or maybe we do)

But...we can work hard. We can try. We don't have to understand it. We can learn a little extra. The chicken for supper doesn't matter. You're 21 years old! It's 2009! What are you doing with yourself? What have you accomplished? You ate some chicken?
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Every bochur says that he needs some time for himself. And you know what? It's a good thing. A bochur needs time to work on himself, to lie in bed and think, what am I? Where am I? Am I doing what I have to do?
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I (Phil Parker) came to 109 Grumman Avenue (the Yeshiva in the fifties) in Newark as a smart-aleck kid who knew everything and didn't learn anything. I came knowing the entire lineup of the Yankees and Dodgers. Even Frank Gifford of the New York football Giants. But that was shvacha maasos. But eventually I realized that Vin Scully wasn't all there was to
life. He's great, sure, but there's more to life.
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R' Shmuel Levitin was the elder chossid when I (Phil) was being brought up. He was the first to be named after the Rebbe Maharash. He said that when he was young they told him that when he's big he'll get long pants instead of the short ones young boys wore back then. Once he got those long pants they told him that when he's older he'll get Tefillin. And after that, he got marriage. And kids. And grandkids. And you know what? It's all worth nothing. What you get is worth nothing. What you give is worth everything.
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Why are bochurim so desperate to go on shlichus? They want to avoid the stigma of not going on shlichus. You know what? Be a shliach now. What's going to change? Do it right now! You think that by making a Chanuka party, inflating your ego 25,000 times, then it's all good? Do it now!
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R' Yoel Kahn learned his bar mitzvah maamar with him, and attended the bar mitzvah too, which occurred in his family's basement. After it was over R' yoel sat down to farbreng, and said, you'll learn chassidus, you'll learn nigleh, you'll daven, give tzedaka, keep kosher, you'll be a true baaleboss and a true putz.
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You tell Hashem to give you a checklist, and you'll sign on the bottom, and even do everything it says there, but then? You tell him, "Get the hell out of my life!" Does this make you feel bad? Go call your therapist.
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The Rebbe said a sicha on this parsha, about Yosef crying for Binyanim's loss of the Mishkan, and Binyamin crying for Yosef's loss of the Beis Hamikdash. Why did they cry for each other and not for themselves? Because for yourself you can't cry! You have to work!
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When Yom Kippur comes you don't do teshuva on your sins, you do it on your mitzvos. Your sins you did with a full heart and mind, but your mitzvos?
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Lubavitch is not a cow that you should suck at its teat. This is not a career. This is life.
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It's embarrassing, when I daven with a Lubavitch minyan I'm the last to finish, but when I daven with a non-lubavitch minyan I'm the first, and that's after I waited a little longer after I was done before going back three steps.
The bochurim have to demand that their mashpiim teach them how to daven. You know what you should do? Take all your mashpiim, line them up in a line, get a high velocity gun, and shoot them with one bullet. If they won't teach you how to Daven, they aren't worth more than one bullet for the lot of them.
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The difference between a Misnaged and a Lubavitcher is that a snag sometimes thinks that he's a good guy, that he accomplished something. A Lubavitcher realizes that he's worth nothing.
Like Martin Buber said, the difference between them is that a misnaged wants to find himself in the Or Ein Sof and a Chassid wants to lose himself there.
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Back in the day they couldn't get a minyan together in 770 for mincha even when the Rebbe was davening there. The Rebbe worked to turn this into the greatest Jewish organization in
the world. And he never stopped for a moment to think about all the great things he had done. Rather he pressed on further. You can do the same, don't be so proud of yourself.
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You want to be happy and successful? Go to Lakewood or Mir. Do kiruv. Be successful. Be happy.
You want to do the right thing? Don't be a baaleboss. Be a bochur. A baaleboss is a parody of a Jew.
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When the previous Rebbe left Russia for the last time the elder chassidim understood that they would never see him again. Some of the bochurim though believed that they would. The chassidim called everyone together to try and figure out what to do, and to try to convince the bochurim that they wouldn't be seeing the Rebbe again. But some refused to give up their belief. And those who held strong managed to get out eventually and see the Previous Rebbe or Rebbe.

45 comments:

Ima said...

Wow! Yaffe! Toda.

ima said...

Ze achi tov, m'od neheneti.

When Yom Kippur comes you don't do teshuva on your sins, you do it on your mitzvos. Your sins you did with a full heart and mind, but your mitzvos?

The Real Shliach said...

I'm glad you like.

Crawling Axe said...

Nice stream of consciousness.

Which Rabbi Shapiro?

The Real Shliach said...

The Rebbe's farbrengens in the later years were very different from the ones in earlier times-they were filled with berachos and other such shtuff. The Rebbe's last farbrengen though was totally different, as if it had taken place thirty years before. After it was over Rabbi Piekarski said to Rabbi Chaim Shapiro, "That was a farbrengen, eh Shapiro?" Of course, a couple days later was 27 Adar...

Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. R.S.:
Excellent!

Newly inspired (and grateful for your efforts),

LdToot

Dovid said...

Marvelous:
"Sure, if you quit you'll get a bigger piece of chicken. Can you give that up?"

"We don't have needs, and they certainly don't come first."

"You'll learn chassidus, you'll learn nigleh, you'll daven, give tzedaka, keep kosher, you'll be a true baaleboss and a true putz"

Thank you TRS, thank you very much.

The Real Shliach said...

This happens to have been one of my best posts in a long time, and just because it was posted on Thursday night no one reads it?

Dovid said...

What's your last comment? Something else REP said at the farbgrengen?

The Real Shliach said...

No, just the truth.

Dovid said...

Haha, I was reffering to the 2:55AM comment. You snuck the 1:26pm comment in as I was typing.

Mistamah everyone was at farbrengen late last night and haven't checked out the blog yet.

The Real Shliach said...

The 2:55 was something Rabbi Shapiro said at our 14 Kislev Farbie.

I sincerely hope so.

e said...

The comments rarely have anything to do with the post. So why should the amount of comments indicate the quality of or the audience's appreciation of the post?

The content of the comments is "This is a super-cool post!" So if we want to judge the post based in the comments it elicits, this post is doing just fine.

Were sitting at the farby with your ipod, tapping away? That is such a non-bochurlike thing to do. Did you get screamed at or have cole slaw thrown at you?

The Real Shliach said...

My neck hurts because I kept the iPod stuck under the table and had to crane to type.

e said...

and nobody noticed?

The Real Shliach said...

The people who weren't supposed to see didn't.

e said...

I'm surprised. Wouldn't you like to have phil berate you in public?

LE7 said...

I'm definitely impressed you were able to capture all of this.

Thanks, it's good stuff.

Dovid said...

e: I think even TRS wouldn't like to be the token shlemazel at the farbrengen. It's nice to be a spectator, but not so nice to be the spectacle.

The Real Shliach said...

e: some things are worth getting screamed at.
Dovid: as any reader of this blog can attest, I love attention. So maybe it wouldn't have been such a bad thing. Now that I know it can be done I'll be sure to record farbrengens again as they happen, and I'm sure I'll be cursed out at that point. And my faithful readership will get a full report, I assure you.
Elisheva: I do what I can. It's too bad I had to censor some of what he said, but in my efforts to keep this a family friendly blog...

e said...

Isn't it interesting that you wrote to Dovid the exact opposite of what you wrote to me?
You contrarian, you.

Dovid said...

TRS: The good stuff always gets the black marker.

e: I think he said the same thing; he essentially said he doesn't mind as long as he gets attention. (and we, his readers, can sit back and enjoy the spectacle)

Cheerio said...

before i can address the rest of the post, i have to point out again how freakin' small lubavitch is. menachem landa got engaged to adina green - whom i went to hs with, lived in the dorm with, and went to sem with. well, mazel tovs all around.

it was interesting reading your notes - made me flash back to sem when i edited the farbrengen section of our yearbook. there's a certain rhythm to farbrengen notes. and there's a lot of sentences that end in question marks. seems trivial, i know, but if you think about it, it says something about what happens at a farbrengen.

"lubavitch is not a cow that you should suck at its teat. this is not a career. this is life." i read this line a couple of times before i really understood it. once i did, i felt rocked.
i miss good farbrengens...

The Real Shliach said...

e: Actually, they both make sense.

Dovid: Yeah.

Cheerio:Yup, it's a small world after all.

True.

What does "rocked" feel like? You're a girl, you should be able to describe this. And I agree, it is a great line, and completely contrary to the official party line.

Cheerio said...

rocked, at least the way i meant it, is a way to describe the feeling when one is deeply moved, but not in a mushy way, rather in a perspective-changing, action-motivating way.
and why does my female nature have anything to do with my ability to describe this?

The Real Shliach said...

Sounds good.

Girls are better at descriptive writing than me.

Cheerio said...

do you have proof of this?

The Real Shliach said...

Do I need any? And what do you think of my fashion post?

Cheerio said...

haven't seen it yet. my routine is this: first check mail, read and respond to comments, then check blogs. so give me another 30 seconds and then you'll be welcome to my opinion.

Farbrengen said...

BS"D
TRS, WOW.
Thank you so much for this.
I can't even pinpoint which line was best.
I want to go to a bochur Farbrengen, they're soooo good.
This is the type of posts that keeps me coming back to your blog.
I'm going to have to read this again and again.

Nice work! Keep it up!





ps- We were at the same weddng AND the same l'chaim... ashira's right, Lubavitch is a small world afterall...

The Real Shliach said...

Yup, being a bochur rocks.

And me, innocent one, discussing my commenters with a friend of mine at the lchaim...

LE7 said...

huh?

Cheerio said...

ooh, no you di'int!

The Real Shliach said...

Don't worry, nothing personal.

The Real Shliach said...

Don't worry people, I have a big mouth, but there is a small brain behind it. Nothing was said that you wouldn't want said.

Farbrengen said...

BS"D
Being a Bochur at a Farbrengen "rocks", but other than that, I'm more than happy with where I am.
Being a Bas Chabad, I feel empowered by the Rebbe. Although, I want to go to a bochur Farbrengen...

Farbrengen said...

BS"D
As long as u don't mention names or nicknames we're good...

Cheerio said...

what i want to know is what WAS said!

Farbrengen said...

BS"D
I just skimmed over this post again. I really really really love it.

The Real Shliach said...

Cheerio: by me and my friend?

Fab Gal: Become a bochur and all this can become yours...

Cheerio said...

no, by Ernie and Bert. yes, you and your friend.
re: your suggestion for farbrengen: that's a very halachically questionable action you're recommending. is this really your only advice?

Farbrengen said...

BS"D
I'm more than pefectly happy on my side of the Mechitzah, but I greatly appreciate the offer.

The Real Shliach said...

Cheerio: He mentioned that he noticed all the girls who comment on here, and I jokingly called y'all my harem. That was about it.

re: gender manipulation surgery: What else do you want?

Cheerio said...

snort.

The Real Shliach said...

I'm glad you liked it.