ההשקפה החב"דית באספקלריית דברי ימי אדמור"י וחסידי חב"ד לדורותיהם

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hasidology: Studies in Chasidic Thought & History

I'm very pleased to announce that my new blog Hasidology: Studies in Chasidic Thought and History has now been launched at chabad.org/academia 
You can follow Hasidology using this rss feed (paste it into your reader):
I may post occasional on this blog, but Hasidology will now become my main platform. Readers can expect to see fuller, more thoughtful and better researched efforts. Be sure to take a look at my first posting entitled On the Eternal Unfolding of the Transcendent Torah, all comments welcome!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Light and Life" - Celebrating Yud Tes Kislev

Last night I sat with a few friends in a small shul in an anonymous corner of Crown Heights. We had gathered there on the evening before Yud Tes Kislev[1] to Farbreng, and we didn't leave till the wee hours of the morning. 

It is very difficult to describe or capture the intimate atmosphere, the other-worldly spirit of truth and open honesty, the strangely unremarkable mix of self criticism and celebration that makes a Farbrengen. But I can highlight some of the themes that I came away with last night.
This year is the 110th year since Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn, the Rebbe Rashab, termed Yud Tes Kislev the Chasidic "Rosh Hashanah". In a letter penned from Moscow to his son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (later known as the Rebbe Rayatz) in Lubavitch on the 16th of Kislev 5662, he described it as "the day upon which the light and life of our souls [ohr v'chayut nafshenu] was given to us, and one might say that it is the Rosh Hashanah for the Word of the Living G-d [i.e. the teachings of Chasidism] bequeathed to us by our holy forebearers..."[2]

Light. Transcendent windows onto the super-rational, which may yet be assimilated intellectually via the thousands of Chasidic discourses recited by the Rebbeim and studied by their Chasidim for centuries. 

Life. The immanent actualization of those lofty ideals, in the mind, heart and actions of the individual - in the all encompassing service of G-d.

In the words of the Rebbe Rashab, we must "draw the depth and innerness of G-d's Torah and G-d's Commandments from the innerness and essence of the Infinite blessed-be-He, that it should shine in the innerness of our souls, that our entire essence (that is, the entirety of our being - both the essence and also its manifestation) should be dedicated to Him alone... all our activity and purpose (whether in matters of service... or in worldly matters...) shall be with true intent for the sake of heaven, that this is G-d's desire."

Chabad Chasidism requires that the most abstract of Divine realities be made manifest within the most concrete of human endeavors. In Lekuttai Sichot Vol. V (172-9), the Rebbe explained that herein lies the boundless celebration and joy that is made manifest on Yud Tes Kislev, for it is only with the power of the Truly Infinite that the transcendent secrets of the innermost part of the Torah - embodied in the teachings of Chasidism - can be rendered immanently accessible and applicable in the concrete realm. Can an elephant fit through the eye of a needle?! The continued manifestation of the inexpressible essence warrants a truly boundless celebration.

In a similar vein I have often thought that in the famous Kuntras Inyanah Shel Toras Hachasidus, delivered by the Rebbe on Yud Tes Kislev 1965, in which he articulated "the essence of Chassidus", he manages to articulate that which really cannot be articulated or clearly defined - to me there isn't a single line or sentence in that masterly thesis where I can put my finger on the central point, but somehow by the time you have assimilated all the components the essential light shines through...

Here is some footage from that historic farbrengen:

Le'chaim! Le'shonah Tovah Be'limud Ha'chasidus U'be'darchai Ha'chasidus!  

__  __  __    
[1] The day upon which Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi was released from Tsarist imprisonment in the winter of 1798-9. Here is an article on the subject by Prof David Assaf drawing attention to the documentation of these events by Chabad Scholar Yehoshua Mondshine (available here). Click on images to enlarge. 

[2] Here is a facsimile of the relevant section of that historic letter as published in Kuntras U'mayon (see there, pages 14-16, for a description of the circumstances under which the letter was written and received). Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

S'vent'zich vu me'redt - A Question of Context?

A couple of posts back I wrote about the complex depth of Jewish Mysticism, in general, and Chabad Chasidism in particular, as reflected in Prof. Elliot Wolfson's rather challenging style of delivery. I now feel compelled to compare his style to that of Prof. Don Seeman as exemplified in this lecture:

Indeed, Seeman himself (beginning at approx. 38:40) draws attention to an essential difference between what I will call their respective "styles of reading". According to Seeman, Wolfson readings emphasize "the coincidence of opposites and the sense of paradox", Seeman goes on to explain how he disagrees with this reading. "In my reading... there is actually very little focus on paradox, what there is - is a focus on the sense that opposites are often both true, which is then absorbed [or rationalised] in a kind of Lithuanian manner - 'two dinim'; this is true in this context and that's true in that context..." Thus, two contradictory statements within Chabad literature are usually to be interpreted as both being true. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Ultimate Chasid

I just came across this passage (from Habad: the Hasidism of R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady, by Roman A. Foxbrunner) describing the ultimate Chabad Chasid: 
Scholarly yet sociable; reticent, yet a capable singer of Hasidic melodies and relater of Hasidic tales and traditions; austere and somewhat ascetic, yet possessing a refined appreciation of this world’s pleasures; earnest but not humorless or somber; deeply religious but not unctuous or pietistic; modest but self-confident; devoted to RSZ [R. Schneur Zalman], but fully capable of thinking for himself: this Hasid personified the profound and paradoxical system that came to be known as Habad Hassidism. 
Personally, I think this is a very insightful description. The more one studies Chabad Chasidus, and the rich oral and written literature describing the history and nature of the Chabad Chasidic ideal, the more one becomes aware of the sophisticated inner world that the Chabad Chassid must attain: A controlled balance between worldliness, intellectual and critical awareness - what might be called "class", on the one hand - and the utilisation of that sophistication for the attainment of a higher purpose; an end to which all the worldly self awareness is but a necessary means. Chabad is a path of discipline and intellectual rigour, which harnesses the best and fullest qualities of humanity in the service of G-d. Thus the Chabad Chasid must live life fully, but the fullness of his or her self expression must itself be a manifestation of Divinity. The ultimate Chabad Chassid achieves self-renunciation in the medium of self-completion.

I am reminded of a letter penned by the Rebbe Rayatz and printed in Hatamim, where he describes the novelty of the Chasidic ideal as making an "inner light and life" manifest within the medium of the complete and healthy self. Only once the individual has achieved human completion can the true ideal of Chasidus be realised. Readers are invited to read the letter themselves, its three pages can be viewed here I, II, III.  

The Foxbrunner passage is cited in an article by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, well worth reading in its own right, and available here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Immanent Transcendence

I've just finished watching a great lecture (embedded below) by Professor Elliot R. Wolfson, author of Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson (2009). The main theme (if I am reading him right) is that central to each mystical movement is its distinct path, whose boundaries and limitations must be adhered to in order to arrive at the ultimate manifestation of the Infinite and the Unbound. In oisies hachasidus we would say that the only way to be toifus atzmus or ain sof is through the hagbolo atzmis of mitzvos. (The only way to grasp the Essence of Divine Infinitude is via the essential limitation of the Divine mandate - the fulfilment of the Commandments.)   
Unfortunately, Wolfson's vocabulary is somewhat obscure, presenting quite a barrier to the average reader/listener (in Wolfsonian terms, the veil of darkness via which one perceives the light). In an interview with MyJewishLearning, Wolfson claimed that "the delivery of a complex message demands a rhetoric that is commensurately complex and too often Jews outside the academy are not willing to be pushed to think harder and to expand their vocabulary." While I am not sure I agree with him on the first point, and would like to see scholars make the attempt to express themselves in more accessible terms, I do agree that this is rather a tall order.
At any rate, this lecture and the question and answer session that follows is studded with pearls of insight (and humour), and I highly recommend that the effort be made to listen to what is being said and to think about what is meant (don't jump to any hasty conclusions, the ideas are as deep as they are broad). 
One important point that he touches on in the question and answer session is the fact that when we conceive of different levels of reality, or of Divine Manifestation, we must not conceive of them as being completely separate from one another. To enlarge on this idea for a moment: The realm of limitations and boundaries in which we function is not distinct from the realm of the Infinite (indeed, it cannot be, for if it was not itself a manifestation of - and a key to - the Infinite, then the Infinite could not truly be describe as Infinite). These are variant perspectives on the same reality. More-so, it is specifically in the finite world that we can experience the ultimate reality of the Infinite. As we said earlier, the only way to be toifus atzmus or ain sof is through the hagbolo atzmis of mitzvos. In Wolfson's words, the transcendent is within the immanent. 
If the embed feature doesn't work please click on the link below.   
Elliot R. Wolfson: The Path Beyond the Path: Mysticism and the Spiritual Quest for Universal Singularity on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Divine Source Of Atheism

A story: The fifth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn was once asked, “it is known that all earthly realities stem from a Divine archetype, what then is the Divine source of atheism?” Rabbi Sholom DovBer replied, “The atheist does not believe that God exists as empirical realities exist, and in this he is closer to the truth than many a believer. In truth, the nature of the Divine reality is of a quality entirely different to that of physical existence.”          
The issue of how to reconcile current scientific theory with the 1) belief in G-d and 2) the Torah's account of creation, has been on the table for decades, but the intensity of the debate does not seem to dissipate with the passage of time. The most recent contribution of note is The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. While I have not yet read it  I certainly intend to. I usually find Rabbi Sacks to be eloquent and fairly penetrating. A couple of weeks ago the UK's BBC Radio 4 hosted a discussion between Rabbi Sacks, Richard Dawkins and Lisa Randall. On this occasion I was to be disappointed; while Rabbi Sacks was as eloquent as ever, I felt that he could have done a better job of expressing the Jewish concept of G-d, and defining the role He plays in reality.
The central issue that I would like to address is this: Often, in the course of such discussions, an appeal is made to (one or more variations of) the Argument from Design or (more broadly) to "the wonder of nature", rather than to the Cosmological Argument. Both of these approaches can be found in Jewish sources, but there are two major distinctions between them. 
1) In the language of a Talmudic debate: The Argument from Design is a svarah - its a good idea, it resonates, but its not conclusive; the Cosmological Argument is a hochachah - a conclusive argument. When I say conclusive I do not mean that it cannot be debated; of course one or anther component of the argument may be subject to criticism, but if we except the logical veracity of the Cosmological Argument we must except its conclusions (See here for an earlier post describing the version of the Cosmological Argument made in Choives HaLevovos). On the other hand, the Argument from design will always remain a matter of opinion; for some it has resonance for others it has none. (On a related but slightly different note, the theory of  evolution has absolutely no bearing on the Cosmological Argument, while it does weaken the Argument from Design.)

2) The Argument from Design says that there is an Intelligent Designer, but it doesn't say that their is a Creator, nor does it say much about the nature of the relationship of the Designer with the universe He designed. We may very well conceive of physical existence as an autonomous reality, which has been manipulated by an "external" Designer. Both G-d and physical reality may exist on equal terms, only that physicality has no "intelligence" of its own so G-d supplied some.
The Cosmological Argument, on the other hand, concludes that physical matter cannot have existed for ever (indeed, time itself must have a beginning), it must have been created (not just designed). In this light the reality of Divine existence is shown to be of a very different quality, entirely transcending the limited (time and space bound) reality of physical existence. G-d cannot be defined only in relation to the reality we know, His being is of another quality entirely, existing with or without us. In Chasidus there is an oft quoted saying, "The fact that He creates worlds is not the essence of Divinity". (I can't find the original source right now.)
On a different note, physical reality is shown to be a product of Divinity, its very presence, its own reality, is a function of the Divine reality that makes it be. We can no longer conceive of G-d and the universe as being separate realities that somehow interact to some degree or another. Rather there is no reality aside from G-d, the physical reality that we experience is no more and not less than a limited manifestation of a truer reality; that of the Divine Himself. (This last point is one of the central themes of Chasidus, to which the second part of Tanya, Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah is dedicated.)            
The Argument from Design may be prettier, more poetic, and if it happens to resonate for you, then it is more accessible; but while the cool-headed logic of the Cosmological Argument, may demand more intellectual effort, the rewards are greater. The rigours of reason provide clarity and a depth of perspective that is far more compelling.      

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chabad: Returning Chasidism to its Roots

Dr. Naftali Loewenthal talks about how the post-modern aspects of Chasidism espoused by Chabad can return Chasidism to its roots and heal the schisms in Jewish society today:

For more inspirational Jewish video, check out: TorahCafe.com!

As an aside, the Chasam Sofer's attitude to modernity is also discussed (and juxtaposed with his tendency to issue lenient rulings on an individual basis), which relates back to some of the conclusions drawn in an earlier post regarding how he influenced the way Orthodoxy came to regard Mendelssohn. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Adon Olam: Casting A Familiar Prayer In A New Light

אדון עולם אשר מלך בטרם כל יצור נברא
Some years ago Prof. Marc B. Shapiro dealt with the translation of the opening words of the well known Adon Olam prayer in a post on the Seforim Blog. He began with the premise that the proper translation must be “Eternal Lord”, but goes on to explain that based upon the expert opinion of Rabbi Meir Mazuz, he is forced to admit that Artscroll’s translation “Master of the Universe” and other similar renderings are in fact more correct. The central point is that the sages of the post biblical era who composed Adon Olam understood “olam” to mean “world” or “universe”, although in the Biblical Canon it usually means “eternal”, or “forever”. Subsequently, another blogger by the name of Zack (Sholem) Berger, took issue with Shapiro’s conclusion. Here again the premise is that the rendering of “olam” as “eternal” is “more plausible”.
While neither Shapiro, nor Berger, justify their premise, their line of reasoning should be clear enough: The words “adon olam” are directly qualified by the continuation of the verse “asher malach beterem kol yetzur nivrah” – since G-d is described here as the one “who who reigned before any form was created”, G-d cannot be simultaneously described as Master (or Lord) of the as yet non-existent universe.
Long before this issue was raised in the blogosphere it was addressed in a Chasidic discourse (mamer) delivered by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Rayatz of Lubavitch. In that discourse (see Sefer Hamamrim 5703, pages 10-11) the Rayatz points out that even if we were to translate “adon olam” as “Eternal Lord”, we would still be left with an unresolved contradiction implicit in the qualifying description itself: The concept of kingship – reign – applies to a particular form of relationship that can only be achieved by a ruler in relation to a group of people who, save for the dynamic of kingship would exist as entirely separate and independent selves. The designation “who reigned” (“asher malach”) cannot be applied to the Eternal Lord absent the creation of ostensibly independent entities (“before any form was created”) over which He may reign.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Newly Published Book and Letters Cast New Light on the Rebbe's Biography and Persona

Rabbi Chaim Rapoport has recently published a revised and expanded edition of The Afterlife of Scholarship, his critique of The Rebbe by Heilman and Freeman. R. Rapoport has gathered much interesting information and analysis, expanding and reorganising his detailed arguments, and also summarising specific elements of the debate that was played out between him and the authors of The Rebbe on the Seforim Blog (see here, here and here). R. Rapoport has also included an appendix entitled The Ten Lost Years (1941-1951) detailing the role the Rebbe played in the Lubavitch movement following his arrival in America, and the more controversial issue of his rise to the leadership of Lubavitch following his father-in-law's passing. Large parts of the newly published work can be viewed via Amazon's "Look Inside!" feature.

Since my own opinion could hardly be objective (R. Rapoport thanks me for my contribution in A Note To The Reader), here is what Professor Elliot R. Wolfson of New York University, author of Open Secret, has to say:
In Afterlife of Scholarship, Chaim Rapoport offers a meticulous critique of Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman, The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, published by Princeton University Press, 2010. Rapoport challenges many of the assumptions made by Heilman and Friedman, and argues, through close textual reading, that these assumptions are based on interpretive flaws and/or lack of knowledge of Hasidism in general and of Habad in particular. Despite the overtly polemical tone, Rapoport's criticisms are never offered ad hominem. On the contrary, he painstakingly documents every point of contention, and has thereby provided ample evidence to allow other readers to assess his arguments against the portrait of the Rebbe presented by Heilman and Friedman. Whatever one might decide on the merits of his analyses, Rapoport's volume provides an invaluable treasure-trove of sources for future generations of scholarship on the seventh Rebbe of Habad-Lubavitch.
While on the subject of the Rebbe's biography and persona, two recently published letters (available here pages 18-26) are worthy of attention:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On The Eternal Relevance of Talmudic Cures

Over at the Talmud Blog there's a discussion about the medical advice offered by the Talmud.

I am reminded of a discussion in Lekutai Sichot (Vol. 23, pages 33-41) by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson זי"ע, which sheds some light on some of the more general issues raised there. The central problem he seeks to address is that Maimonides included some (but certainly not all) of these Talmudic cures in his Mishnah Torah, codifying them as a part of Jewish Law, despite the fact that he only includes laws that are pertinent for all generations in that work (see Lechem Mishnah, Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:1, Sdei Chemed Vol. 9, Klolei Haposkim 5:11). At the same time he is clearly acknowledging that they are not eternally relevant by only including some Talmudic cures.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What Mendelssohn Did Wrong - Part Two

The source cited in Part One, associating Mendelssohn, Wesseley and Satanow with various levels of Klipah, is an example of antagonism directed towards Mendelssohn from the Chasidic camp specifically, and it seems quite clear that the Non-Chasidic Traditionalist contemporaries of Mendelssohn did not necessarily see him in such a negative light.
Amongst the Chasidic leadership, perhaps the most prominent in his attacks on Mendelssohn and his associates was Rabbi Pinchus Horowitz, Chief Rabbi of Frankfurt, author of the Hafloah (by which name he is often referred to) and a disciple of Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezritch. In an impassioned sermon delivered in 1782, he justified his opposition to Mendelssohn and the other Biurists, with a withering attack centering on the Biur’s rendering of the following verse:
לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך ולא תשא עליו חטא (ויקרא יט, יז)
Mendelssohn explains this to mean, “You may rebuke your friend if he has insulted you earlier”. Here is the offending passage (click to enlarge):

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Mendelssohn Did Wrong - Part One


Click here to read Part 2

Moses Mendelssohn is widely acknowledged as one of the great Jewish thinkers whose ideas marked the progression of Modern Jewish thought. However, the image of the man in his own time and his legacy thereafter, continue to mystify. Despite his almost legendary fame, there is no modern stream of Judaism that traces its roots back specifically to his worldview or labels itself "Mendelssohnian". On the other hand, it is clear that he and all others associated with the early Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement, have been generally disassociated from Orthodoxy. Relative to the great Jewish thinkers of the nineteenth century, Mendelssohn is more likely to be associated with Abraham Geiger and other reformers than with Orthodox figures such as Samson Raphael Hirsch or Esriel Hildesheimer.
By all accounts, however, Mendelssohn was a strictly observant Jew who championed the validity of the ritual component of Jewish law as Divinely mandated by the authority of the Revelation at Sinai. If so, it would seem that the differences between Mendelssohn and Hirsch, are less significant than those between the former and Geiger, for example. To be sure, Hirsch was a Rabbi with a beard, while Mendelssohn looked and lived the part of a renaissance man of letters. But their attitudes towards Torah and modern society don't seem to be so fundamentally different. There certainly are differences, but apparently they relate more to semantical aspects of Jewish thought than to the fundamental tenets of belief. Both attempted to draw Judaism into the modern world, championing the causes of general education and integration into secular culture, without compromising on Jewish law and practice.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Leaf in the Wind

The Principle of Specified Providence (part 2)

One of the principal theological innovations of Rabbi Yisroel of Mezibush – the founder of Hasidism, known universally as the Baal Shem Tov – is the principle that Divine Providence extends even to the most apparently insignificant of events. In the words of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn:
The Baal Shem Tov says that G-d moves many diversified causes in order to carry out a specified providence for even the smallest of created beings. In order that a fallen leaf, which has already blown around in a backyard somewhere since autumn a year ago… should be moved from one place to another… To this end, a strong wind breaks out in the middle of a warm summer day, moving heaven and earth, and thereby is the ordained providence fulfilled for that fallen leaf…
In a lengthy discourse (Lekkutei Dibburim Vol. 1, page 164), Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak dispels the sense of helpless and arbitrary insignificance normally conveyed by the ‘leaf in the wind’ metaphor, and in its place builds a model of elaborate providence. The image is now used to exemplify an irreplaceable component in a carefully ordained plan; a grand design in which each and every created being is endowed with its own unique significance relative to its station. The millions of small events, apparently swept together at random by the great gusts of world shaking events, are in fact precisely ordained, designed to fit together like the pieces of some great puzzle. There is nothing which is not a priority.

When applied to the story of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s life, this model fits like a glove. Some of the most earth-shattering milestones of modern history; the social and political upheavals that began to plague Tsarist Russia at the end of the nineteenth century, the First World War, the Rise of Communism, and the Second World War, swept Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak from the provincial village in white Russia where he was born, to the tottering grandeur of Tsarist St. Petersburg, to the darkly secretive silences of communist Leningrad, to Riga, the Holy Land, Warsaw and ultimately to New York.

Another may have seen himself as a helpless leaf, powerless in the grip of such powerful winds. But Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak saw each new situation into which he was thrust as a provident opportunity, orchestrated with a demanding – if sometime unfathomable – deliberation. For him there was no such thing as default. Each new circumstance carried with it the weighty import of a Divinely ordained mission – it was his responsibility to set his own concerns aside and meet the need of the hour, however difficult.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hashgacha Protis - The Principle of Specified Providence (part 1)

In Elul 5645 (1885) The Friediker Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, then a youn boy just five years old traveled to Yalta with his parents. More than forty years later, while under soviet arrest in the Shpalernaya Prison in Leningrad, he fortified himself with a lesson imparted by his father on that trip:

We were traveling then amongst the Mountains of Crimea, between Sevastopol and Yalta, in a closed carriage harnessed to four horses, as is the custom in those parts… The journey takes us amongst lofty mountains, towering high – a wilderness strewn boulders – with the road twisting and turning below. On the right are the mountains and on the left the sea shore… 

Thursday, May 19, 2011



A new volume in the series of Chasidic discourses by the fourth leader of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn, covering the year 5642/1882, has just been released by the Kehot Publication Society.

The year 1882 was a year of great upheaval for Russian Jewry. A large wave of anti-Jewish riots swept through south-western Imperial Russia from 1881-1884. In that period more than 200 anti-Jewish events occurred in the Russian Empire. During these pogroms, which continued for more than three years, thousands of Jewish homes were destroyed, many families were reduced to poverty, and large numbers of men, women, and children were injured.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Tanya: revealing the essentially transcendent

The "Tanya" is the central work of Chabad thought, a complete guide to the deep and often complicated relationship between man and G-d, instructing the "average" person every step of the way, foreseeing and forewarning all possible obstacles to his or her service of G-d. Written by the first Rebbe of Chabad it was first published in Kislev 5557 (the winter of 1797-8).

The following is a collection of extracts from a letter of the Friediker Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneesohn, describing the great importance, value and power of the Tanya.

The title page of the first addition of the Tanya

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

True Education

There is a difference between a Chassidic upbringing and a regular upbringing… even a religious upbringing. 
When I was a very small child, as soon as I began to talk, my father the Rebbe said to me, “Whatever you may wish to ask, you should ask me”. Although there were others who paid attention to all my needs, my father said, “Anything that you may wish to ask, you should ask me”. 
When I was taught to say Modeh Ani, I was told to lay one hand next to the other, bow the head, and so say Modeh Ani. When I grew a little older, though still a child, I asked my father the Rebbe, “Why is it that when saying Modeh Ani, one must put one hand next to the other, and bow the head?” 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A moving picture is worth many thousands of words...

The popular COL (Chabad On Line) Hebrew language site recently posted four clips from a documentary that portrays the life led by the Chassidim of Kfar Chabad in the mid 1960’s. The film is titled in German “CHASSIDISMUS – ODER DER FROHLICHER WEG ZU GOTT” (“CHASSIDISM – OR THE JOYFUL PATH TO G-D”), however the narration is in English.

The producer is identified as Kobi Jaeger, I don’t know he was but he seems to have a very good grasp of his subject, and in my opinion has generally succeeded in capturing the essence of the Chassidic ideal authentically and with an elegant simplicity, which reflects the purity of Chassidic life as it should be.

These are beautiful camera shots of real Chassisdim, Davening, learning, Farbrainging and working, epitomizing the ideal of “be’chol derochecho de’aihu” (“in all you ways you shall know Him”) – joyously serving Hashem with every breath. Here you can really see the Chassidus of the Bal Shem Tov as persevered through Chassidus Chabad, so that it may be manifest in every aspect of the human experience.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rabbi Yakov Landau Ztza"l

הגאון החסיד רבי יעקב לנדא זצ"ל
אב"ד עיר התורה בני ברק ת"ו

This Monday, the 26th of Shvat, is the twenty fifth Yhortzeit of Rabbi Yakov Landau, who served for fifty years as the Chief Rabbi of Bnei Brak. He was born in the year 5653 (1893) in the Chassidic town of Kurnitz, where his father, grandfather and great grandfather had served as Rov. He too took up that post upon his father’s death, which occurred before is twentieth birthday. He did so at the express directive of the Rebbe Rashab of Lubavitch, with whom he enjoyed a very special relationship.
This week Hebrew language weeklies such as Ba'kehila and Hamodia published special articles or sections in his honor, and while I have not yet seen the Hamodia, the main focus seems to be on his activities as Rov of Bnei Brak. This post will focus on his years in Russia.
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