Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shimonke live!

Tonight we had a farbrengen with R' Shimonke Lazaroff, head Shliach of Texas. This is an extremely unedited version, enjoy at your own risk.

There were two brothers-Reb Zushe and Reb Melech, talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov, who went to exile. In those days in every shul in every town there was a hekdesh, a place for all the travelers, meshulachim, schnorrers, and losers to eat and stay.

The parnas of the kahal would give them a becher for kiddush and havdala. Once after havdala the becher disappeared. The parnas was very distressed, because it was a valuable becher, and even more so, he was nostalgic, he had inherited it from his grandfather, and he asked all the people who had stayed in the hekdesh that week, including the two brothers, where it was. No one knew, so he put all of them in jail.

The time came to daven, and Reb Melech made hachanos and started to daven. One of the guys pointed out that there was a chamber pot in the room, and he couldn't daven. Reb melech got very upset, began to cry. His brother asked him why he was crying. Because I can't daven! The same G-d who told you to daven also told you not to daven! And here it's harder to not than not to! Reb melech realized what was going on, and he began to dance with joy, he was serving Hashem! Everyone began to dance too, after all, these were talmidei baal Shem tov! The jailer came in, wanted to know what was up, why was everyone so happy? They pointed to the chamber pot, and the spiteful jailer threw it out! Reb zushe turned to his brother and said, "you see what you accomplished through crying? Nothing. But simcha poretz geder!"

I remember when the yeshiva opened up here (in Morristown), in 1972, it was old and empty and dark and depressing, maybe ten students. I went to Texas that year before 11 nissan.

Now you're sitting in a big yeshiva, with reb melech zweibel, you're very lucky. This yeshiva was the first and oldest yeshiva for baalei teshuva, contrary to what the misnagdim say.

In my time, the world was not so small as today. Merkos shlichus was far away to go away to Pennsylvania. Far far away was to Denver. Across the world was to California. I went far away to Reading PA to Philadelphia with yosef abrams. I was coming from Israel, only knew a couple words "kitchen chicken". We went on MS in the nine days; a misnagdishe yeshiva had just opened in 1959. We walked into zal, was sitting there four or five bochurim, and minhag yisrael, we said shalom Aleichem to the rosh yeshiva. We started to say a dvar Torah, a pilpul. After ten fifteen minutes he asked what we were doing there, and explained that on merkos shlichus, selling books, talking to people about kashrus, etc. The rosh yeshiva said, "bittul Torah?"

Yosef abrams was the only American who looked like a Russian, and I looked like an Israeli. I came with my Israeli chutzpah, "how many bochurim you have in your yeshiva?" sixty, seventy. Where are they now? Summer camp, home, it's the nine days. So I said, what's so bad if we, instead of going home, are going around talking about yiddishkeit? He wanted to give me a smack. That was the attitude. The only people doing outreach was lubavitch. Everyone else laughed at us.

A couple years before that tzach was in lod, the bochurim went around doing mivtzoyim. We were all from Russia, didn't speak too much hebrew, but then there were a few Israelis who knew Hebrew, who did mivtzoyim. They went to a kibbutz "shomer hatzair", the most left leaning place, worse than communists. As a hiddur mitzvah they ate pork yom kippur night.

The bochurim went there for an "erev chabad", speak a little, sing niggunim. The frum world thought lubavitch was nuts.

One time Avremel Sussonkin, five years older than me, a very good friend of mine. In those days no one had cars. After ten there were no buses. The bochurim who went to the kibbutz, ended at midnight, there were no buses. One of the locals drove them back in his "tender", a pickup truck with benches and a tarp roof in the back.

The bochurim going back laid down on the benches to sleep, but they didn't actually fall asleep. Also there was one old and one young kibbutznik. The old one, thinking the Lubavitchers were sleeping, said to his fellow kibbutznik, "Idiot, what are you getting excited from these dark hats? In Russia we cut their heads off! What are you getting excited for?" The young one replied, "You're a donkey the son of a donkey! For ten years I've lived here, my life has been empty-tonight I finally have something to live for!"

The chassidim then didn't know the Rebbe's plan. But now? We can look at Basi Legani '11, it's like a state of the union address, tells us the plan.

The Rebbe wanted that every place in the world should be influenced-places only Moshe Kotlarsky could spell!

The Rebbe sent me in 1962 to Brunoy along with five other bochurim. I didn't know English, but I knew Hebrew. The bochurim had no clue. They were amazed, "The police stop cars for the rebbe to go on tashlich?!"

Back then, people were afraid to say they were Jewish. The Sephardim were not there-only the shattered remnants of the Holocaust. They were afraid of their own shadow! You went to a store, they didn't want their own employees to know they were Jewish.

And today is a different world. To go to Philly on MS? It's an insult! You have to go at least to Kenya, or maybe somewhere you can't spell.

Every organization now does "kiruv rechokim". The Rebbe is very happy. The only not good thing is that they deny who started it. But there's enough work for everybody.

When I came to Texas I brought ten bochurim (hippies) to 770. I gave them yarmulkes, but their hair was too long, the yarmulkes fell off! So I gave them all cowboy hats, and brought them by the Rebbe, who smiled. Then I brought them to Morristown to learn.

Half of these bochurim are now shluchim-they were college students, you wouldn't recognize them. Once a student came for the summer, and he wanted to stay. The Rebbe told him no, he was in third year pharmacy school, so he finished that, came to Morristown for three years, and became a Shliach!

We are very lucky. We have a Rebbe. This Rebbe leads us to prepare for moshiach. The whole world is jealous of us. They try to emulate us, to copy us. We can't waste our time. The more you know how to learn nigleh and chassidus, the more people you can attract. If you don't know anything, you just attract crazies. We need talented people-but the only way to get them is through having what to sell, because lawyers and doctors and pharmacists don't want to buy nothing.

In 1990 was the Gulf War. There were very few American casualties, and most of them were from friendly fire. Sometimes in Lubavitch we have the same thing, very stupid people who hurt lubavitch. We don't need people who know how to change light bulbs. All right, so it's still needed. In the Beis Hamikdash they also had bookkeepers, and if you used one of them, you were using hekdesh.

In 1990 I made a niggun to go with that year's kapitel.

"Watch out from friendly fire. Shoot only on your enemies. Don't shoot on your own two feet. Don't be a loser, don't be a suicide, don't be a misfit."

I can't talk too graphic why I made this song, you'll faint. I'll give you a hint. Sometime when we think were a chacham, and we make a big chilul lubavitch, and the misnagdim make big problems for shluchim, people don't want to go-whose fault is this? It's our own fault. It started in 1990.

I made up this niggun while sitting in the White House waiting to meet President Bush. Avremel Shemtov and Zalman Posner started getting scared, told me to be quite, I wasn't nispael, sang even louder, they tried even harder to make me quiet, I started saying the maamar reishis goyim amalek, they all got quiet.
In the army, before you go to the battlefield, the general gives a speech explaining what it's all about. The same thing we had before MS, rabbi chodakov explained before what we should do.

First send out planes to bomb, then send out commandos. You don't win with this, it's only a start. You have tanks who come in bombarding, but this still doesn't win the war. What wins the war? The foot soldiers. The infantry.

In MS is the same thing. A couple bochurim come for a day or two to bombard the city, and them maybe make a camp or something, a month or two. Then a regular Shliach moves in and works on every person.

If you learned, if you have what to sell, then fine. But if you don't learn, if you don't anything? You'll have nothing to do when you go to the army! Whatever you can give, that's what you can get.

There's an interesting letter from the FR-there's no place chabad. You can take it everywhere. But really, every place has four walls, a roof, a ceiling.

One wall is chassidus, one is mikveh every morning, one is to think over chassidus before davening, and the fourth is to daven slowly with a little voice and a tune. Misnagdim kvetch when they daven. A chassid davens nicely. What is the floor? Midos tovos and love of our fellow chassidim. We're all family. We don't only care about ourselves. We are here to care about everyone.

In every class there's a square guy, a nudnik, a guy who asks for tzurris, who asks to be hit. The best guys nowadays were those guys. We gave it to them. Hazing. What does chassidus teach us? Mivtzoyim isn't only on Friday afternoons!

Dor hashishi is to love a Jew you never even met. Dor hashvi'i is to love the Jew you know.

And the ceiling of chassidus? Is to learn chassidus with haskala. We're still mugbal though, there's a ceiling, our intellect is limited. But a chassidishe hergesh? There's no ceiling. There's no boundaries. We can't be selfish, we have to be selfless. Even when you're doing the right thing, it's not enough. You have to help the guy who is less than you. For sure not to gang up on him.

If you want haskala, you don't need a farbrengen. You need to open a maamar. What's a farbrengen? To internalize what you learn. Don't be a misnaged with chabad clothing. You have to have ahavas rayim.

I once said to a gerrer chassid, what makes you a chassid! You put on tefillin backwards like a misnaged, you only know mishna brura and daf yomi, you don't even learn poilishe chassidus! You're a misnaged dressed in chassidishe clothing.

Think about your classmates. You have the power, if you are mekarev him, to be responsible for bringing forth generations of chassidim. And if not? Chas v'shalom you could accomplish the opposite.

If you see a friend of yours who's a loser, a misfit, you have to help him!
The bottom line, what I'm trying to accomplish, what I'm trying to drill into your heads, is that there's no way to waste. You have to pack as much into your bags as possible now. At the same time, you have to practice what you preach, to love your fellows. What's all your Torah and mitzvos worth if you don't do this?

The hanhala has their cheshbonos what you have to accomplish. But you don't have these! All you have to know is that you have to to what you have to do. It's not enough to only think about yourself. You have to think about every person.

Everyone nowadays is into shlichus, to do the Rebbe's work. But we have to know that we have to do it now! Not everyone is smart in learning, not everyone is good in everything. But does that mean you can ignore him now and help him when you're on shlichus in ten years?!

You think every day by me is so easy? Once I did a lot for someone, a lot, and he spit me in the face. I was very angry with him. R' Mendel Futerfas told me, "If you do a favor for someone, expect back bad. If he doesn't do anything, be happy. If he does a favor back to you? Be grateful!" Once he said, "A guy is throwing big stones at me, I ask him, 'Why are you throwing big stones at me? I understand regular stones, but big? I never did you a favor!'"

I had this many times, I give my life for someone, he calls me at two in the morning, and a year later, when he doesn't need me! He stabs me in the back. But am I better than Moshe Rabbeinu?

You think Dassan and Aviram were motorcycle bums? Of course not. They had long peyos, long coats, they only spoke Yiddish, they were more frum than Moshe! And Korach, the frummest guy, had a lot of money, Dassan and Aviram loved him! And when they went down into the pit, they had their tongues stuck out at Moshe.

Being a Shliach is a thankless job. You only do it because Hashem wants you to do it, because the Rebbe wants to do it. And we can't be misnagdim with a Lubavitcher beard and hat.

Everyone wants to be a Shliach. Some people are teachers, roshei yeshiva, rabbanim, executive director, fundraiser, program director, bullsh---er. They're all shluchim!

There were two guys, good friends. One was a doormat, no one listened to him, they treated him like trash. The other one was like a king in his own house-no one dared contradict him. The loser asked him for advice, and he told him, "Listen, on my first date, I took out a cat and tore it right in half. Since then no one ever bothers me." The loser thought it sounded good, and he went home with a cat and tore it right in half. And they threw him into the loony bin. He went to his friend and complained, "What kind of advice did you give me?"

A guy once called in the shtetl, "Yankel is a thief!" Yankel was very insulted, brought him to a din Torah. The rav paskened, he embarrassed him in public, next shabbos he has to scream in shul, "Yankel is not a thief!"

That shabbos the shul was packed, and the guy got up and said exactly what the Rav told him to say, "Yankel-is not a thief?"

Once again yankel took him to beis din, and the rabbi said, what were you thinking? Yankel said, "I said what you told me to say, but you never told me what tune I should use."

Rabbi Holtzberg, the same way he was in Mumbai, that's the way he was in yeshiva.

When we went into yechidus we knew that the Rebbe could see right through us. Once I had a severe family problem, in the eighties. That year shemini atzeres was thursday, simchas torah was friday, shabbos bereishis was the next day. In years that simchas Torah was in the middle of the week, I came for shabbos bereishis. But this kvius I would come by shabbos noach.

My sister in law worked by a modern orthodox guy who could help us, and we went. He asked us if we had asked the Rebbe. I answered of course, but he didn't yet answer. The guy said, it makes sense to me that in the fifties the Rebbe knew everyone, but now, there's so many more people, it's not possible. I said, of course the Rebbe knows everybody! The guy said, so how come you, a Shliach in Texas, the Rebbe doesn't answer you? I got angry at him, but I was trying to be polite, I tried to explain that things take time, etc.

At that time, it was before beepers announced farbrengens, someone would go around telling everyone that there was a farbrengen. I ran there, leaving the modern orthodox guy, and even though I wasn't wearing a kapote like I normally would for a farbrengen I went there.I was thinking there, I was depressed, I didn't know what to say. The Rebbe started looking at me, and I thought he must be looking at someone else and I started looking around to see who it was. A mazkir said, no, it's you! The Rebbe pointed to me to say a lchaim, and I took a small cup. The Rebbe made a hand motion for a big cup of lchaim, and shouted across the room, "Shimon, stop being a moreh schorah!"

All my friends afterwords were very impressed, I got so embarassed, the Rebbe had caught me with my pants down!

This was already after the Rebbe had stopped sending letters, but the next day I got six lines directing me how to do everything, who tomeet, etc. I did everything, and called up the modern orthodox guy and told him what happened. He was very impressed, and he became closer to the Rebbe because of it.
I went shlichus in Texas in 1972. In 1973 I heard from the president of the federation that Shazar is coming to speak in Mexico, and he's making a stopover in Houston because Air France didn't fly direct.

In every airport there's a VIP room for special people who have a stopover, and since I'm a Lubavitcher and Shazar has a connection to Lubavitch he wants to know if I should come. I immediately called up my supervisor, I was a young, I couldn't do whatever I want, and I asked Rabbi Chadokov what I should do. I heard a buzz on the line, that the Rebbe was on the phone, and Rabbi Chadokov asked me if I knew what the next day was. I said that the next day was gimmel tammuz, and the Rebbe had farbrenged in 1958 that Gimmel Tammuz was greater than
12 Tammuz, along with a whole explanation.

Rabbi Chadokov told me, go to the room tomorow and tell Shazar this, and bring a bottle of mashke.

I was told to come at 2:00, they started at 1:30, I came in at 2:00, the place was already full, and Shazar, sitting at the head of the table, put on his hat and stood up, stretched out his hands, and said, "A Lubavitcher yungerman!" Everyone else looked at me and thought, "Who is this schnook?" Shazar said, in Yiddish, "Who are you?" I said, my name is Shimon. "How's by the Rebbe?" Then he said to his guard "Lubavitch is everywhere, even on the moon!"

Again he asked me, "What does the Rebbe say?" I said that the Rebbe sent his regards, and that the Rebbe wanted me to tell him over what today is, gimmel tammuz. He got a little confused, said, "Yeah, in a week, it's 12 Tammuz." I told him the vort, Gimmel Tammuz is even higher!" He got very excited, and I started to poor mashke for everyone, but he motioned don't bother, just poor for me and you."

After it was all over Shazar asked my name again, and said, "On my way back from Mexico I'll go through New York, can you arrange a yechidus?" Who was I to arrange a yechidus, but eved Avraham anochi, I called up Rabbi Chadokov again, reported what happened.

6 or 7 Tammuz I got a phone call from Rabbi Klein, they arranged a yechidus, would you come to new York?" I of course said ok, and flew there and was in the yechidus the first ten minutes. The Rebbe said to shazar, this is the yungerman you met in Houston, Shimon Lazaroff. He's named after his grandfather who was rav in leningrad." Shazar said, "Alazaroff?" The Rebbe said, "No, he was in Charkov, this is Lazaroff from Leningrad."

That year shazer passed away, it was the last time he was by the Rebbe. I saw an article a little later that said that the Israeli consulate was very impressed, they had relayed to the Rebbe that shazar wanted to visit, and the Rebbe knew about it already!

This reminds me, when Shamir was a Mossad agent in Russia, he would come to report to the Rebbe, and the Rebbe knew everything already. He would say, "In Charkov I met a yellow guy, I don't remember his name-" the Rebbe would say, "chatzkel." Shamir would say, "Yeah, that's him." Then he would continue, and again the Rebbe would help him along. The Shluchim of the Rebbe kept him well informed, better than the mossad. l


boom trucks said...

Usually when you think of busses you think of the bright yellow ones that you used to be forced to ride on the way to school but not anymore. Although busses are still primarily focused on bringing transportation to a large number of people at a time, they are now shifting their attention to building busses made for luxury and style. They are comfortable and fun to ride and drive.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Misnagdim don't kvetch when they daven. They give off the two-tone hum of a well worn motor.

And if all of his friends were impressed when teh rebbe spoke to him doesn't that prove he didn't know everybody?

fakewood inc. said...

sounds like a great farby i wished i had known. its funny pesach i was talking to him about how people today dont see teaching as shlichus and how its a major problem.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

and re the gerrer chossid: My rebbi asked the same thing to a nitra chossid: "What makes you a chossid? You put your tfillin on forwards, you call your rebbe 'rov' and you daven a grammatically correct nusach. Your litvish!" That being said, as big as the geonim in chabad are, why do you put on tfillin backwards?

Just like a guy said...

Boom trucks: yes.

Modeh: no, it wasn't normal for the Rebbe to talk to people across the room by farbrengens and tell them to drink large amounts of alcohol.

Fakewood: yeah, I remember that like four or five years ago there was a massive argument on shluchim achdus about whether teachers are shluchim that was only ended when someone put up a letter from the Rebbe which conclusively said that in fact (of course!) they are.

Modeh: you mean, why do we put them on the right way?

fakewood inc. said...

the discussion wasnt whether they are or not. rather how to motivate more bochurim to go into chinuch by having mashpim and yeshivas emphasizing this.

Just like a guy said...

Ahh. Hmm. Yeah, I can see there'd be an issue there.

fakewood inc. said...

he was asking me why i dont go into teaching. i explained im to much into my gashmius to be a teacher. money money money.

Mottel said...

Did you write a transcript of the entire farbrengen?
Of note: Hadar Hatorah was the first BT Yeshivah, not Teferis.

It was the klal in the early days to send two guys on merkos shlichus - one an American and one a Russian or Israeli.

le7 said...

Watch out for the Subscirbing Submarine.

bonne said...

Either you write notes very fast or you had a tape recorder, in any case, very nice.

fakewood inc. said...

when shimonke speaks its sort of hard to forget what he said

Just like a guy said...

Fakewood: ahh. Yup, money is nice. Feeling fulfilled in life? Possibly nicer.

Mottel: yes, I wrote the whole thing.

le7: (quickly scans the horizon) "where, where?"

Sara: I typed as he talked. My fingers killed afterwords.

Fake (2): well yes, but to get this degree of authenticity?

Anonymous said...

man thanks

fakewood inc. said...

if your fishing for compliments you will have to look elsewhere. the fact that i read your blog is compliment enough.

Modeh B said...

TRS: My bad. I was reading it that they were surprised the rebbe knew his name.
fake: Ah, money money money. Very important.
le7: I'd rather be surprised
TRS2: BACKWARDS! BACKWARDS I SAY! (don't you love senseless shouting matches about equally valid minhagim?

fakewood inc. said...

i cant be fulfilled and have money?

Dovid said...

TRS- great post.
re- "If you don't know anything, you just attract crazies."
I have begun to realize that even if you can't learn anything and you're just a chill bochur, you can at least attract the crazies. Then there are some people that can't learn a thing and still manage to affect intelligent people as well.

Dovid said...

The way I look at it, the Rebbe's idea of mivtoyim was not- go get the intelligent sophisticated upper class refined Jews; rather he wants us to get every Jew- from the crazies to the water carrier to the senator. So if you can learn, fine, go stun the senator with that brilliant maamer and put tefillin on him. If you can't learn, fine, go drink mashke with the crazy and put tefillin on him.

Just like a guy said...

Anon: Sure!

Fakewood: I only fish for fish.

Modeh: Huh?

Fakewood (2): It's possible.

Dovid: Who is a better basis for a Chabad House?

fakewood inc. said...

its a bit fishy that you only fish for fish.

Just like a guy said...

'Tis? Pray explain why.

Dovid said...

TRS- your right, no question its better to be learned. I'm just saying, I've noticed that even people that can't learn at all have had surprising success in lighting up Jews. Sometimes in certain communities, just being warm and friendly does the trick- especially if that community is not a highly educated one.

Anonymous said...

it wasnt with bush it was with carter

Just like a guy said...

Dovid: And when Aish or "Kollel" moves into town...

Anon: He also said Carter, but if it was 1990 then it wasn't Carter.