Monthly Archives: April 2012

Link to a write-up of Rav Moshe Weinberger’s Shabbos HaGadol drasha

Dixie Yid has done the almost impossible (again).  He posted the official write-up of Rav Weinberger’s Shabbos HaGadol drasha, here.  Seems the drasha was on Shabbos this year.  In the past it has been Motzei Shabbos and the mp3 has been available the next day.

While I have yet to read it (it’s printed and sitting in my car), I know that Dixie Yid takes great care in writing up the Torah of his Rebbe.  I know that this must have taken a huge chunk of time and you have to go to Dixie Yid’s blog and check it out.

A Pesach lesson from my son

Photo from here.  Personally this reminds me of
the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine.

Last week during carpool my 12 yr old son shared the following revelation with me:

Abba, did you know that a Mitzvah Tank is just an RV that they Na Nach up Lubavitch style?

I smiled at his his observation, but it also initially bothered me. I have always found it somewhat troublesome when someone copies something from someone else and then they (those who copy) get credit for being creative and original.  I cringed when people would tell me how Blue Fringe had this “awesome new song” called “Hafachta” (originally written and performed by Diaspora Yeshiva Band).  I smirked when teens would tell me that “they came out with another Willy Wonka movie, but that guy just isn’t as weird as Johnny Depp”.  Some remakes of movies and cover songs are not all bad.  I just don’t like it when the originals get overlooked for, simply, being original.

Now, I don’t blame my son.  He’s seen Mitzvah Tanks in Chicago.  He has also seen videos of Na Nachs dancing in Tel Aviv, photos of their Na Nach’ed up vehicles, and even seen some guys selling their swag Motzei Shabbos on Central Ave (in Cedarhurst, NY).  In his mind, the Chabad that copied the Na Nachs, not the other way around.  It’s his frame of reference only because he saw the Na Nachs do it first.

I have been thinking about this for over a week. At first, as I described above, I was bothered. Then, after some hisbonenus  I gained a better perspective on things.  A number of years ago I heard an amazing vort on the chatzatzros, trumpets, used in the Mishkan.  R David Orlofsky quotes Rav Moshe Shapiro, who brings up the point that after Moshe was niftar, the trumpets he used were put away and hidden. Yehoshua had to fashion his own. Rav Shapiro says the reason is that each generation doesn’t aways respond to the clarion call of the previous generation. While the message is the same, the mode for communiting it has to be different.

R Micha Berger puts it like this on his blog:

The call of the shofar is eternal, and thus a shofar is not invalidated by age. However, in contrast to the raw, natural, shofar, the silver chatzotzros are man-made. Their message changes as people do. The call of the chatzotzros is distinct for the generation.

If each generation has to be approached differently then, kal v’chomer (even more so) for each person.
We know that, ” A person is obligated to see himself as if he were leaving Egypt.” (Pesachim 116b)
The way that I might perceive my own freedom from Mitzrayim is, in fact, totally different than how anyone else sees it.  This obligation totally makes sense based on my son’s observation about the Mitzvah Tank.  My son has no choice but to see things from his perspective.  Hopefully he will experience Pesach in a very personal and meaningful way.  Hopefully I will, too.

"The Pesach Plan"- by R Avi Shafran

The story below is being posted with direct permission for Rabbi Shafran. His father’s memoir, Fire Ice Air: A Polish Jew’s Memoir of Yeshiva, Siberia, America is available for purchase here and was also just released for purchase as an e-book (only $3.99) at Jewish e-Books, here.

I bought this book last year before Pesach and found it to be a fascinating story of survival, determination, and family.  There are amazing first-hand accounts of yeshiva life prior to the Shoah and how much impact one person can have on family, friends, and a community.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
The group of Novardhoker yeshiva bochurim and their rebbe (and his rebbetzin)—along with a number of families—were packed into the train’s stock cars in the summer of 1941. Since Rav Yehudah Leib Nekritz, zt”l, and his talmidim, then in Soviet-conquered Lithuania, had declined the offer of Russian citizenship, the Soviets were providing them an all-expense-paid trip to Siberia. Occasional pieces of bread and cups of water were also offered at no charge during the weeks of travel. Not to mention the cruise across a lake on a barge to the work camp where my father, may he be well, the youngest of the yeshiva group, and his rebbe and friends, would spend the years of the Second World War.
The Siberian summer is oppressive; insects left the exiles at times unrecognizable for their swollen faces. Winter in the taiga, of course, brought challenges of its own, including 40 degree below zero temperatures.
In his short memoir, “Fire Ice Air,” my father recalls that even as the yeshiva exiles arrived in the East, Pesach was already on their minds.
And so, as they worked in the fields, some of the boys squirreled away a few kernels of wheat here and there, carefully placing them in their pockets—something that was “entirely against the rules, and very dangerous.”
“The Communist credo, though,” he writes, “was ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ and so we were really only being good Marxists. Our spiritual needs, after all, included kosher for Pesach matzo.”
They put the kernels in a special bag, which they carefully hid where no one could find it.
The winter was brutal but the Novardhokers all survived it, as did the bag of grain. When the end of the cold season was rumored to be near, they ground the kernels into flour with a small hand grinder intended for coffee beans. My father remembers that the flour was coarse and dark, but resplendent all the same.
The next part of the Pesach plan was to arrange for the actual matzo-baking. Although the yeshiva boys were barracked with non-Jewish locals, there was one hut in the area that was occupied solely by a Jewish family, the Beckers, who had come from Kovno. Arrangements were made for some of the boys to come to their house in the middle of the night, when all the town’s residents were asleep, and fire up their oven on full blast for two hours to make it kosher. Then they would bake matzos for the family and themselves.
Since matzo dough is traditionally perforated in rows to ensure that it is “baked through,” the young men improvised a special tool for the purpose by whittling a piece of wood so that it could be fitted with gear-wheels borrowed from a clock. The apparatus was rolled over each matzo-dough quickly before the baking. 
“When Pesach came,” he recalls, “we all gathered at the hut and all of us—the Nekritzes, we yeshiva boys, and the Beckers—were able to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzo on the first night of Pesach, in remembrance of our ancestors’ release from the outsized prison that was ancient Egypt. Understandably, it was a mitzvah that resonated strongly for us.”  The four kosos could not so easily be addressed; there was no wine and there were no grapes to be found in Siberia. But, to at least undertake some semblance of that mitzvah, the exiles managed to obtain milk—an expensive delicacy in its own right—and used it instead. To them, my father writes, “it tasted of the finest wine.”
The group even bartered some of their possessions for a few eggs, traditionally eaten at the Pesach Seder. Some of the eggs were frozen, he recalls, “but that was nothing that a bit of roasting couldn’t cure.”
As we all prepare for Pesach this year, cleaning our homes and polishing our silver and shopping for our personal plethoras of pesachdikeh products, accounts like my father’s—whether from Siberian exiles, concentration camp inmates, or Jews in hiding—should be required reading, and required pondering, for our children and for ourselves.
They provide something priceless: perspective.
The above essay may be reproduced or republished, with the above copyright appended.

"Building a Sanctuary in the Heart" vols 1 & 2

Photo from here

The English adaptation of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh volumes 1 and 2 was recently republished in English as parts 1 and 2 now in one complete volume.  It’s available here for online purchase and is currently available in Chicago at Kesher Stam.

From the website:

“Building A Sanctuary In The Heart” is the first in a series detailing practical steps on how to attain deveikus to Hashem at all times. The Hebrew title – Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh sums up the three elements of the method. The goal is to create in oneself a sanctuary within which the Divine Presence will rest. The method is “building” step by step in a concrete way that is both simple and profound. The tool is “my heart”. The author presents an outline of the way to achieve this deveikus, one step at a time in short paragraphs, so that each point can be absorbed independently, at a comfortable pace.

The author has associated himself with the tzadikim in our generation, from who he has received haskamos to his Hebrew sefarim. Using an eclectic approach, he has developed a method that speaks to the hearts of Jews from all walks of life. As a bookstore owner in Yerushalayim put it: “His sefarim are lapped up by the entire spectrum, from Modern Orthodox youths to Meah She’arim Chassidim!” His audiences on a lecture tour in the States last summer included Y.U. graduates, secular Israeli college students, yeshivaleit, Sephardim, seminary students and Chassidim.

The translation is presented in readable English, while being faithful to the style of the source text. It also includes additional paragraphs not included in either the original Hebrew or the Yiddish, Spanish or Russian editions. These were taken (with the author’s permission) from cassette recordings of the shiurim on which this sefer is based.

Nesivos Shalom on middos

Rav  Shalom Noach Berezovsky zt’l, the Slonimer Rebbe 

In is series of seforim, Nesivos Shalom, the Slonimer Rebbe zt’l writes (in one of the many sections on Tikun HaMiddos):

One needs to feel the joy of acquiring positive traits and realize how miserable he is as long as he is mired in negativity. A person of positive traits is happy—at peace with others, at peace with God, at peace with himself. The opposite is true of one whose traits are negative—he is irritable, not at peace with others, God, or himself. It is contention within your gates—within your own personal gates there is contention: He fumes with anger at himself; he is depressed and lethargic; he is full of jealousy and animosity toward others; he doesn’t like to be around people and they don’t like to be around him; he is full of bitterness at the Almighty concerning his lot. Once a person comes to the clear realization that his happiness actually depends on the rectification of his character, he will spare no effort in pursuit of his own happiness. The whole of a person’s life and times hinges on his character. (Translation by R Jonathan Glass)