Category Archives: Piasecna Rebbe

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.

Niggun Hashkata of the Aish Kodesh zt’l

On my commute this morning I re-listened to a shiur about the life of the Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira zt’l, the Rebbe of Piaseczna.  The shiur (#2 of a series), given by Rabbi Zvi Engel of Cong. Or Torah (Skokie, IL) is great, but what I realized is that he mentions that Herzog College published a biography of the Rebbe written by Dr. Ron Wacks (Wax).  They also had a yom iyun about the Rebbe and part of the event included Rabbi Dr. Tamir Granot singing of a niggun Hashkata (silencing the mind), composed by the Rebbe.  I believe the niggun was tracked down by Rabbi Dr. Zvi Leshem, as he teaches it in shiurim available here (thanks to Shmuel).  Allegedly there is a video online (somewhere) of Rav Granot singing the niggun.

After much searching, I did find this gem online.  The niggun can be downloaded here.

The lyrics come from Tehillim 86:11
הוֹרֵנִי יְהֹוָה דַּרְכֶּךָ אֲהַלֵּךְ בַּֽאֲמִתֶּךָ יַחֵד לְבָבִי לְיִרְאָה שְׁמֶֽךָ
Teach me Your way, O Lord; I shall walk in Your truth. Unify my heart to fear Your name.

For a great post and video about the Aish Kodesh’s technique of quieting the mind, check out this.

Chovas HaTalmidim: Back for the Attack

Originally translated and published in hardback in 1991 (and paperback in 1995) by Aronson, Feldheim has just republished a new edition of Chovas HaTalmidim by Rav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro zt”l, the Piaseczna Rebbe.  Feldheim is offering a fantastic intro price of only $19.99 for this volume which is over 640 pages.
It seems that from their website, Feldheim plans to reprint many of the Rebbe’s works in English.

I’m guessing that this is similar to their republishing of R Daniel Korobkin’s translation of the Kuzari.

While I happen to own the original verison of A Student’s Obligation, I’m looking forward to the new edition, since I believe it will have the Hebrew, as well (I’ve been bugging my seforim store about this since before Chanuka).
I cannot even begin to explain how moving and influential this sefer has been to me.  Originally published in 1932, the lessons with it seem as if they are written for us, today.
I have previously blogged about the sefer’s introduction here.

B’nai Machshava Tovah transalated online

I had posted briefly before about this project by Yaacov Dovid Shulman.  Recently I’ve had an urge to reread his transation of B’nai Machshava Tovah by Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira z’tl.  Reb Yaacov Dovid’s translation, titled, “Experiencing the Divine: A Practical Jewish Guide” is a very welcome change from the original translation

What I am fascinated by is that the Guidance and Principles and the Rules of the Group are very similar to the concepts and goals of the ‘traditional’ mussar va’adim of the Mussar Movement.

The entire translation is available here.  Comments are welcome.

Thoughts on the "off the derech" crisis from 1932

The sefer, Chovos HaTalmidim, A Student’s Obligation, was published in 1932 and written by the Rebbe of Piazeczna, Rav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro, zt”l.  The sefer, itself, is powerful.  However, the introduction sheds light on students and children leaving the path of Torah Judaism.    I have posted a few pages of the introduction to this sefer here.

The Piazeczna’s description and advice for those “at-risk” speaks to both the young and old, the BT and the FFB, those burned out and those go through the daily motions of Yiddishkeit.  It is almost hard to believe that it was first published over 76 years ago.

In light of several posting recently (Rabbi MarylesDixie Yid, and two from Little Frumhouse on the Prairie) I had been think about posting something myself, but that will have to wait.  If you are in chinuch or a parent or find yourself thinking “do I really need to make a bracha after I eat?” or notice you speed through bentching Shabbos night so that you can get to sleep really early then you really need to read what the Rebbe writes.

In the few pages that I’ve made available as a pdf, the Aish Kodesh brings up things as:

  • Children being rebellious or stuborn students (top of page 7)
  • Parents role in educating the next generation (top of page 10)
  • Children thinking that they are more grown up than they really are (middle of page 11)
  • The slow, small steps that lead us away from Hashem (bottom of page 12)
  • The main thing someone needs to know is that he or she is connected to Hashem (page 15)

These pages are not meant to be read while stopped at a traffic light on the way to work or while waiting in line to pick up your kids from school.  This is the real deal!  I would suggest printing them out and setting aside a few minutes Shabbos night in a comfortable chair with a cup of mint tea and absorbing Rav Shapiro’s persepctive.  Please click here to view and download these few pages read the words of this Tzaddik.

Comments are always welcome.

Parsha Tetzaveh

כ וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד.

Rav Hirsch zt”l says on the words l’halos ner tamid, to kindle the lamps continually, that only this term is only used for the menorah. We are taught that one must hold a flame against the wick until wick burns on its own. Rav Hirsh goes on to say beautifully that this is how it should be with with the teachers of Klal Yisrael. They should have patience and be persevering with each student, so to light a flame that will burn on its own. Rav Hirsh published his commentary on Chumash in 1878.

Fast forward to 1932, the year that the Piazeczna Rebbe, Rav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro zt”l, published the Chovos HaTalmidim. This is taken from his introduction:
An educator, however, who wishes to uncover the soul of the child that lies hidden and concealed with him, who wants to help it grown and to ignite it so it will burn with a heavenly fire, upwards, towards the holy, so that the student’s entire being, including his physical body will increase in holiness and will long for God’s Torah, such an educator must adapt himself to the student, must penetrate into the midst of his limited consciousness and small-mindedness, until he reaches the hidden soul-spark. Then he can help it emerge, blossom, and grow. (From A STUDENT’S OBLIGATION page 5)
The same idea put forth, almost 50 years later. Two distinctly different Gadolim, using similar imagery. And why not? Neither Rav Hirsch nor the Piazeczna were interested in promoting themselves, they only wanted to teach us, so that we can continue to burn! Have a great Shabbos Kodesh.

A Sweet Deal on Sefrei Kodesh

(Photo from

In Rebbetzin Jungreis’ book LIFE IS A TEST there is story on page 117 about Piazeczna Rebbe, Harav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro, zt”l. The story tells about how after the Holocaust a manuscript of the Rebbe’s D’vrei Torah was found in among the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto by “a young Polish boy who sold it to an American soldier for a bar of chocolate. The soldier was not Jewish, but he recognized the Hebrew writing, and he handed it over to the Jewish chaplain of his unit.”*

The Piazecnza’s manuscripts were written during the war. They are some of the only collected works that survived. For sure, they were worth more that a bar of chocolate.

We tend to put a value on things based on our needs at the time. There are time that I choose what I want to do over what I need to do.
For some, papers or books written in Hebrew seem to hold less importance than the “Great American Chocolate Bar”. Others put work over family, or family over work. If we only knew the value of what we each have? If only we could recognize what value Hashem places in each of us?

I believe it was the Vilna Gaon who said that for the cost of a few coins one can purchase tzitzis and have the zechus to constantly serve Hashem.

* Rabbi Polen has a slightly different version of the story in The Holy Fire.

Harav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro, zt"l

Today, the fourth of Cheshvon is the yarzeit of the Rebbe of Piazeczna, Harav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro, zt”l. Sixty-three years ago he died al Kidush Hashem in Treblinka. Some of you might be familiar with this Carlebach story. Others in the New York area might be familiar with Cong. Aish Kodesh, named in memory the holy rebbe, by Rav Moshe Weinberger.

Just after the Holocaust, a construction worker found in Warsaw found a container buried underneath some rubble. In it contained three manuscripts of his writing, with instructions for them to be sent to Eretz Yisrael with the intent of publication. It is a source of strength for me to know that even in the darkest hours of his life in the Warsaw Ghetto, Harav Harav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro had the vision and faith that his writings would survive. Over the years, B”H, they have been printed and translated into English (which is how I am familiar with his writing).
One of his lesser know works is the English translation of the journal he kept between the spring of 1928 through the winter of 1939, titled TO HEAL THE SOUL and translated by Yehoshua Starret. I have owned a copy of it since it’s publication in 1995 and often reread it. I have found his journal to be a unique insight into the mind, heart, and life of a true tzaddik.
It’s somewhat, for lack of a better word, strange, to sit and write about someone who was nifter 27 years before I was born. Yet, I feel a loss for a generation of yidden that were taken from us, that I will never know. I can think of nothing more fitting than to post three selections from the Piazeczna’s journal on my own blog, my own digital journal.
He who knows his place.
Be creative and contribute to the world, give it the best you have. Make a niche for yourself that will always be felt in the world.
Are not the “places” of our forefathers, the prophets, and other tzaddikim to this day not known in the world? What a void there would be in the world if, for instance, there had been no Baal Shem Tov?
So “he who knows his place”- who leaves a mark in this world with his life- his “place” will forever be know, even beyond his life. (Page 31)
Many people console themselves by saying, “Well, if I am not serving God as I should and am not as refined as behooves me, at least I have good aspirations. Many times my heart cries out in the pain of my distance from him.”
But would the drowning person console himself with his desire to rescue his life and with his heart’s cry facing imminent death? What use is it if he doesn’t act to save himself and try to get out of the water? (Page 51)
It is much easier to devote many years to diligent learning and even to engage in maximum self-denial than it is to devote one day of your life to serve God honestly, sincerely, and properly even according to your own understanding. But who do we think we are and what great service would we do in this one day, “even according to our own understanding,” that such an undertaking seems so overwhelming?
Still, this is no cause for despair or even to be lax. On the contrary: this best service that we can do for today, this is our unique life work. And the effort we put in, together with our yearning for higher, is the aim of our life work. Let us devote these to our Creator. (Page 98)

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