Category Archives: Kook

Link to Jewish Action article on Neo-Chassidus and Q & A with Rav Moshe Weinberger

Photo courtesy of YU

Photo courtesy of YU

Jewish Action, the magazine of the OU, published an excellent article about the slowly brewing “trend” of Neo-Chassidus in mainstream Orthodox circles. There’s some fantastic quotes from Rav Moshe Weinberger in the article. Here’s one:

“Many of the off-the-derech youth,” he says, “are not running away from authentic Yiddishkeit; they simply never met it.”

The article touches on many different flavors and instruments within this trend. I know, as someone who as been hearing Rav Weinberger’s shiur for 17 years, that certain aspects of Neo-Chassidus work for me. The fact that the OU dedicated an article to it means that hundreds, if not thousands, in OU shuls and beyond might get a little insight into what makes so a bit more excited about their observance. The article can be found here.

Also, a close friend directed me to an interview with Rav Weinberger here.

Sometimes remaining silent just lets you refocus

speechIt’s been almost a year since I’ve actually written a post on Modern Uberdox. I wish I could say that it’s because I’ve been writing a book, spending free time learning ,spending time on family, spending time on my career, or spending time in the gym. It’s some of the above, but not enough of any of the above to really yield real results. I’ve been adrift, alone. Not physically alone, but simply floating my boat here and there. Why write right now? I was looking up something online and one of the hits happened to be Modern Uberdox, the old pre-WordPress version (with updated links to make you think). I was sort of taken back, because when I read the post that came up in the search it was solid. No fluff, no sensationalism, no references to taboo subjects within frum life.

So, here I go again. No daily posts, but no silence for weeks or months on end, either. There are things that I need to write (because if I said most of them, my kids wouldn’t get any play dates and my wife would be more embarrassed by me than usual). I have thought about disabling comments, since most of my posts rarely get much feedback, but I won’t. If you read something that I write (not this, but, like, in the future) then take it. Grab it, put it in your pocket, wallet, Coach bag, laptop bag, or padfolio. Chew on it and figure out how to make it into something that might help with your own Avodah. Bring it into the real world,. Use it when you deal with friends, family, or the creepy dude at Starbucks who always comes over to you (because you are Jewish) and says, “Shalom.” The quote below was the original quote that was the header when I started blogging. Right now, it seems more relevant than ever to me.

“I write not because I have the strength to write, but because I do not have the strength to remain silent.” -Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook zt’l

Free shiur from Rav Moshe Weinberger has is offering a free shiur for a limited time.  I have heard half of it alreay and it’s amazing and, even more than usual, Rav Weinberger cuts to the heart of the matter on several topics in a clear and emesdik way.  The following was sent in an email:

Rav Weinberger – Almost Completely “Unfiltered!”

If you are ready to hear the truth, read on. And if you never, ever get another shiur (Heaven forbid!) or have never downloaded a shiur from this site, then this is the one to get – and it’s FREE!

The sparks were flying (literally, if you consider the nitzotzos of our neshamos) this past erev Shabbos during the Rav Kook shiur The Short Long Way and The Long Short Way, Especially In A Filtered World. Rav Weinberger used a Rav Kook essay that was not included in Oros HaTorah, to teach that there is a “short long” way and a “long short” way to reach a goal.

The “short long” way consists of shortcuts and superficial methodologies to quickly deal with the issue at hand. For example – I have been diagnosed with tennis elbow. It hurts and prevents me from lifting heavy objects due to the pain. The “short long” path (which I have taken for the past two months) is to take pain killers. This reduces the pain and allows my arm to function almost completely normally. However, the pain killers, while addressing the symptom, don’t solve the underlying problem.

The “long short” way (started last week) means adjusting the way I grip my power tools and bicycle handle bars, wearing an arm strap, some physical therapy and icing the muscle and elbow area frequently. While this path will likely take longer, it addresses the cause of the symptom.  

Back to the shiur…after a only a few minutes Rebbi began talking (“talking” is really much too tame a term, but I was not able to find a nice synonym for “yelling”) about filtering the Internet, filtering girls, in fact, filtering out the entire world; he mentioned the events of a few months ago in Ramat Beit Shemesh, addressed teenager inter-gender relationships and trying to maintain shalom bayis by merely buying your spouse some flowers on erev Shabbos.

This is not how we become Jews who “know” Hashem and each other. We will not become closer to Him if our teachers, parents [and leaders] intimidate us and threaten us with gehinnom. Rebbi advocates that we must teach our children, beginning with first grade in the right, loving way and connect them by example to the Ribbonoh shel Olam. That is the path.

A very close friend commented about the shiur: “I love Rebbi the way he is now, but this is the Rebbi I fell in love with.”

OK. I got it off my chest – but really… this is a MUST HEAR shiur. Tell your friends, and family members… remember, it’s free!

Have a good Shabbos.

Moshe C.

P.S. You do know about our $6.99 for FIFTY shiurim monthly plan, right?

The Rav and the Rebbe

Published in Song of Teshuva,  a commentary on Rav Kook’s Oros HaTeshuvah by Rav Moshe Weinberger and adapted by Yaacov Dovid Shulman.

Rav Weinberger tells over the following story (pages 134-135):

When Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik went to a farbregen (a Chassidic gathering) on the occasion of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s eightieth birthday, he was very impressed by the Rebbe’s brilliance and erudition.  But on the the way home, Rav Soloveitchik said that there was one thing with which he did not agreee.  When he offered the Rebbe a l’chaim (a toast), the Rebbe said, “Now the descendants of R. Chaim Volozhiner and the family of the Baal HaTanya have come together.”  Rav Soloveitch said that this was not true.  They had come together earlier, when Hitler had put the Chassid and the misnaged (the opponent of Chassidism) together in the same oven.  That was when we realized that there is no difference between one Jew and another.

It should not take someone who hates and persecutes the Jewish people to remind us that there is no difference between Jews on the level of the soul.  We must appreciate that the sould of every Jew is inseparable from the Congregation of Israel.”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Rav Frand on the how to disagree and the paradigm of unity

In Rav Frand’s Teshuva drasha for this year (recorded live in Los Angeles on the first night of Selichos and available for purchase here), he discussed the need for unity on Yom Kippur and gave over an amazing story about Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld 

and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kookwho both had very different ways of viewing both the state of Israel (at the time called Palestine), the Jews who lived there, and secular education.

Rav Frand said:

When Rav Kook and Rav Sonnenfeld went to the little communities, the little kubutzim up in the north, where they [the residents] ate chazair treif, they went together to bring people back to Yiddishkeit.  Baalei Machloches- they held each other were wrong, but they worked together.  They disagreed without being disagreeable and we have not learned to do that.  When we disagree, you’re invalid, not entitled to your opinion.  Their vehement machloches never devolved in animosity.


You know, Rav Kook and Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld were once invited to a bris.  Rav Yosef Chaim was to be the mohel and Rav Kook was supposed to be the zandek and they got to the shul at the same time.  Rav Yosef Chaim insisted that Rav Kook go in first, because he was a cohen.  Rav Kook insisted that Rav Yosef Chaim should go in, because he was a bigger person.  And they stood at the door frozen, they wouldn’t go until Rav Kook noticed that it was a double door and the left portion of the door was locked.  He reached in beside and pulled down the thing and they opened both doors simultaneously and they went in together.  That’s the paradigm [to how we should behave].

The entire shiur, Teshuva 2011 – Conflict Resolution: Within Our Community and Within Ourselves, is available for purchase and downloading on the Yad Yechiel website.

Any inaccuracies in this transcription are mine.  This is posted in zechus of a refuah shelayma for Reuven ben Tova Chaya and Miriam Orit bas Devorah. 

Excerpt from "Song of Teshuva

The excerpt below is from, Song of Teshuva, a commentary on Rav Kook’s Oros HaTeshuvah by Rav Moshe Weinberger and adapted by Yaacov Dovid Shulman.

The currents of teshivah- of the individual and of the community- surge forward.

This image of teshuvah as a flowing river comes from a passage in the Zohar: “There is a hidden place, which is the depth of the well.  And from it rivers and springs stream to every direction.   And that deepest of all depths is called teshuvah” (Acharei Mos 70).

A related idea is coveyed in by the fact that the Hebrew word for “river”, nakhal, is an acronym of the phrase, “nafsheinu khiksa laShem– “our soul hopes for Hashem” (Tehillim 33:20).

The currents of teshuvah flow- within the individual, community and the entire Jewish people- in the form of an inclination to chagne and improve.

Thus, the Gemara teaches that every day a heavenly echo calls out, “Return to God” (Pirkei Avos 6:2 and Hagigah 15a).  The Baal Shem Tov explains that this echo is not a loud proclamation, but our inner awareness of teshuvah calling to us.
Rav Kook believed that despite its many detours and difficulties, the world is spiritually improving, and he refused to accept a dark, negative and pessimistic outlook.  He saw this return to God as being woven into the very texture of the universe.  This view is not unique to Rav Kook.  Thus, when people told the R. Yisrael Meir Kagen, the Chofetz Chaim, that the Balfour Declaration marked the beginning of the redemption, he demurred and replied that Creation itself marked the beginning of redemption.  (Pages 106-107)

Rav Weinberger’s commentary on Oros(t) HaTeshuva now in book form

Black hat tip to R Reuven Boshnack.

Perfect for Elul and Tishrei!  I have been a teleconferencing Rav Weinberger’s Oros Ha’Teshuva shiurim forever, it seems.  They were my Friday morning companion for the eight years I lived in Indianapolis and after that, too.  Thanks to Reb Yaakov Dovid Shulman, the commentary of Rav Weinberger has now become available in book form.  Oros Ha’Teshuva is not (for me) easy to learn just on it’s on.  Like most of what Rav Weinberger teaches, his ability to clarify ideas and bring them home to our level is a gift.  My copy is ordered already.

From the publisher’s website:

Includes the original Hebrew text of Oros HaTeshuvah, a new translation into English by Yaacov Dovid Shulman, and commentary from Rabbi moshe Weinberger.

“Teshuvah – repentance – does not come to embitter life but to sweeten it.”

HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook wrote these inspiring words in Oros HaTeshuvah, a work in which he delivers the message that teshuvah is not a somber process of self-deprivation but a joyful journey back to Hashem and to the core of who we are.

When Oros HaTeshuvah was published in 1925, it was immediately accepted as a classic of Jewish thought and hailed for its brilliance of ideas, warmth of feeling, depth of psychological insight, holiness of spirit and mastery of Torah knowledge.

However, because of the difficulty of its language and the profusion of its exalted concepts, Oros HaTeshuvah has remained for many a sealed book.

Now Rav Moshe Weinberger, Mara D’Asra of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, New York, has composed a commentary that reveals the treasures embedded within Oros HaTeshuvah. Based on an extensive knowledge of Jewish philosophical and inspirational literature, Rav Weinberger’s commentary is profound, moving and fresh, richly explicating Oros HaTeshuvah’s ideas in a clear and accessible but not superficial manner. His masterful expositions on a variety of topics (such as the difference between depression and a broken heart) are both lucid and invigorating.

This book will fulfill the hopes of those who are looking for a holy text written in a contemporary style that will inspire them to renew their spiritual passions, strengthen their religious commitments and energize their personal growth.

Place your order here or contact your local seforim store.

A story about Rav Kook and Reb Aryeh Levin

(Picture from

SerandEz has an awesome post last week titled “A List Letterman Won’t Be Doing Anytime Soon ” . I had actually planned on posting the except below a long time ago, but had forgotten about posting it until I read the above mentioned post.
This story about Rav Kook and Reb Aryeh Levin from A Tzadik in Our Time is one that I tell my kids as soon as they can understand the lesson within it.

who taught him compassion

In his memoirs Reb Aryeh wrote:
I recall the early days, from 1905 onward, when it was granted me by the grace of the blessed Lord to go up to the holy land, and I came Jaffa. There I first went to visit our great master R. Abraham Isaac Kook (of blessed memory), who received everyone. We chatted together on themes of Torah study. After an early minhah (afternoon prayer-service) he went out, as his hallowed custom was, to stroll a bit in the fields and gather his thoughts; and I went along. On the way I plucked some branch or flower. Our great master was taken aback; and then he told me gently, “Believe me: In all my days I have taken care never to pluck a blade of grass or a flower needlessly, when it had the ability to grow or blossom. You know the teaching of the Sages that there is not a single blade of grass below, here on earth, which does not have a heavenly force (or angel) above telling it, Grow! Every sprout and leaf of grass says something, conveys some meaning. Every stone whispers some inner hidden message in the silence. Every creation utters its song (in praise of the Creator).”
Those words, spoken from a pure and holy heart, engraved
themselves deeply on my heart. From that time on I began to feel a strong sense of compassion for everything. (Pages 108-109)
There are many times when it would be faster to walk to shul by cutting across a grassy stretch of land on Shabbos or easier to ‘cut across the grass’ or even walk over the planted grass that for some reason is in the middle of a parking lot. There are times when it’s easier or quicker, I know. I, mostly, try to stay on the sidwalk, though. Mainly because of this story. If each blade of grass and stone has meaning, then even more so, each person.


We all have them. Some of them are good, others are not so good. Some manifest themselves as traits, middos (tov v’ra), and personality quarks. Here are a couple of examples of habits that I’ve taken note of over the past few months:

1. We spent about a month before Rosh Hashana trying (with success in the end) to de-Crocify our son. He spent a fun filled summer wearing his Crocs almost every day. While we were happy to see him enjoying them, the downside is that once you start wearing Crocs your foot feels very confined in anything else (I will attest to this). Throughout Elul he had been wearing his new Shabbos/Yom Tov shoes around the house so that he can get use to them. At first there was great resistance. “They are not a comfortable as my Crocs”, was a common line from him. With patience and effort he successfully wore ‘regular’ shoes all Rosh Hashanah without too many complaints (only to relish in the fact that he could rock his Crocs on Yom Kippur). I realized during the month that were letting him get use to his Shabbos shoes, that some habits are easier to break with when attacking them in small doses (like slowly chiseling away at something bit by bit). This technique is used in popular Shemiras Ha’Lashon programs, where in individual makes a commitment not to speak Lashon Horah from a set amount of time.

2. Recently we stayed with my brother-in-law, his family, and their two dogs. My one year old Uberbaby daughter was not to hip to the dogs at all. For the first 5 days she could cry if a dog came near her. We debated about what to do to get her acclimated to the pets. At first we tried to get her to pet them and sit next to them. Well, she happens to be a pretty fast crawler and is becoming a confident walker, too. So we then opted to do nothing. We simply allowed her to get use to seeing us interact with the dogs and go about our business. Within, as I wrote, 5 days, her fear was gone. She would pet them and even give them her food. This approach of breaking a habit by watching others set an example happens to be one of the most effective middos management tools used both in chinuch and more importantly, in the home.

3. I do a lot of our grocery shopping. Usually, I’ll pick up non-food items at one store and then get actual food at one of several stores in the area. Because of time constraints prior to the Yom Tovim this year I found myself doing massive shopping at one store that has both non-food, food, and extensive kosher deli/bakery/take-out as well (if you live in Chicago, the name of the store happens to rhyme with the word cool) and it seemed to take forever. I was very frustrated by this. Mostly by the fact that I wasn’t so familiar with all the aisles and where certain products were. I was in the habit of not knowing my way around the store.

After Yom Kippur I was reading an article in Fast Company (one of my favorite websites and mags) about Design Thinking and I realized that I could use the concepts behind design thinking to help me with my grocery shopping issue. In brief, if you haven’t read the entire article yet, the ideas behind Design Thinking are:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Create and consider many options
  3. Refine selected directions
  4. Pick the winner, execute

Applying the steps of Design Thinking to spending less time in a particular grocery store might look like this:

  1. The problem is that I don’t know my way around
  2. My options might be that I could study a map of the store, do more shopping there, spend my lunch hour walking around the store to see where things are, or just not change a thing
  3. Doing more shopping there might help, but the learning curve will be slow. I like the idea of spending my lunch hour there. The extra exercise wouldn’t hurt me.
  4. I started walking around the store and I feel like I have a better grasp of which aisle I can find things like: plastic wrap, flour, rubbing alcohol, chullent beans, and toothpaste.

One cool thing about the first step (Define the problem) is that it really make you think. At first glance, it might seem like the problem was that grocery shopping took to long. That’s really not the problem. The problem was that I didn’t know my way around the store.
The Design Thinking approach can also help with things like anger. Why do we get angry? Usually it seems on the surface to be for different reasons. I’ll use the example that happens to me. I get upset or angry sometimes when my son doesn’t do something right away when I ask him (of course this is only a reflection of the same lacking on my own part). But that’s not the real reason I get angry. I was zoche to be in Woodmere, NY to hear Rav Moshe Weinberger’s 2005 Shabbos Shuva drasha at Aish Kodesh (totally rainy night, thunderstorms, and over 1000 people showed up). The following is based on my own notes:

Why do we scream and get angry? When we miss the train or when your wife burns the kugel. Why do you yell at your kid? You yell at your kid for not cleaning his room. For something like not looking in the zemiros book? That is what kids do. Rav Kook says the source of your anger is with yourself, because you can’t control yourself. It’s not due to the people that are trying to be good to you and love you.

In my case, the emes is that I get upset because I feel that what I ask to be done should be done right away. It’s guyvahdik, plain and simple. Rav Kook’s words seem to imply that it’s all about a lack of self control. Either we feel that we need to be in control or we simple have no control over our anger.

If anyone has any ideas about dealing with habits, I’d love to hear them. Thanks for reading.