Monday, February 16, 2015

R. Chaim Halberstam of Sanz on Chasidic stories

R. Chaim Sanzer is a legendary Chasidic figure, father of Hasidism in Galicia, the progenitor of many Chasidim and Chasidic groups, such as Sanz, Bobov, Klausenberg, Zmigrod, Gorlitz, etc.

He said the following related to Chasidic tales - 'When a Chasid says he saw something, that means that he heard it. If he says he heard it, that means that he imagined (or perhaps dreamed) it.'

I saw this recently in the new book on the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, by R. Adin Steinsaltz.

There is also an old Chasidic teaching re stories of the Baal Shem Tov, that says 'If someone believes all the stories of the Baal Shem Tov, he is a fool. If he says that they couldn't have happened, then he is an apikoros.'

The above two Chasidic teachings (there are other of the kind as well) are an admission by Chasidim themselves that reliability is a problem with Chasidic stories.

It seems that there are a number of different aspects of this.

Firstly, in general, stories, often become transformed as they are passed along by people. That is a general problem of accuracy of transmission, not limited to Chasidic stories. With Chasidic stories, there is also a problem of exaggeration, if not fabrication. Some people believe that they are allowed to change the facts for (in their eyes) a good cause. Like 'frumkeit', or 'emunas tzadikim'. Some of these issues re veracity of stories exist for some outside the Chasidic world as well.

The Satmar Rebbe, R. Joel Teitelbaum, who was heavily influenced by Sanz, was known to make fun of Chasidic miracle tales.

I believe other Chasidic leaders came out strongly against falsification of history too.

The main thing is, we must remember what our Torah teaches - מדבר שקר תרחק - one should stay far away from falsehood. There is a Chasidic vort that interprets  מדבר שקר תרחק homiletically, that midevar sheker, from falsehood, tirchak, you will distance yourself from Hashem. One cannot sell or build a religion of truth, a Toras Emes, with falsehood. Maybe Hashem help us stay on the path of truth.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Should a Jew dance on Tisha Be'Av? Examing a Chasidic story

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, Rabbi of Cong. Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY, and Mashpia at Yeshiva University, tells the following story every year to his congregation when Tisha be'Av comes around (heard from Rabbi Weinberger). You can hear it here, around 16-17 minutes into the recording.

The Koidenover Rebbe (he uses the term Koidenover tzadik, but I think it means the same thing here) used to dance on Tisha Be'Av. His puzzled Chasidim asked him about it. He responded to them as follows. Tisha be'Av there is a mitzvah to be be'aveilus (in mourning for the Beis Hamikdash). And we know that every mitzvah must be done besimcha (with joy). That is why I am dancing.

Now that is an interesting story, but the whole thing does not add up, due to the following

a) Do Rabbi Weinberger himself, and his congregation, dance on Tisha be'Av, and follow the way of the Koidenover Rebbe? If not, why not? If he holds it is correct, why not do so? And if he holds it is not correct, why does he repeat it every year?

b) According to this story, people should dance at a levaya (funeral), and burial as well, as well as when visiting a shiva house for nichum aveilim (condolence call). After all, those are mitzvos too. Do they do so?

Rabbi Weinberger states, regarding this story, that 'the Misnagdim bichlal can't hear it'. Well, maybe the Misnagdim can't hear it, because it doesn't add up, as above. So it is actually a praise for the Misnagdim, that they don't accept it!

It seems like this is another cute Chasidic story that should be discarded, as it doesn't add up. Even among Chasidim, I am not aware of anyone who actually follows the story and actually dances on Tisha Be'Av.

File it away in the recycle bin.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Kotzk blog

Over the years I have read/heard things about Kotzk and the Kotzker Rebbe. Some of them have actually appealed to and resonated with me significantly.

After all, the main thrust of Kotzk is said to be Emes, truth, and that is not a Chasidic thing, it is a general value (or should I say general Jewish value?), that appeals to Litvaks as well. Especially perhaps to those into mussar.

Anyway, the other day I was surfing around and came across a Kotzk blog! I sampled it some and found some good stuff there! So you might enjoy it as well.

It is from South Africa, yes, that country that gave the world The Shabbos Project.

Anyway, in case it interests you, you might want to check it out.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Yehuda Green's new song Rebbe, Rebbe - a Chasidic song, not for Litvaks

Yehuda Green, chazan at the Carlebach Shul in New York, and a talented singer, has recently released a song with the title Rebbe, Rebbe.

The lyrics seem to be more or less as follows

רבי, רבי, רבי, מיר ווילען זיך מקשר זיין צו דיר

הנני מקשר נפשי, רוחי, ונשמתי, לנשמת אדוני מורי ורבי

עם שאר הצדיקים והאבות הקדושים ועם שאר הצדקניות והאהמהות הקדושות

In the parshas Vayigash issue of the Yated Neeman newspaper published in the USA, there was a feature on Reb Green recently (p.64-5). In it, this new song was mentioned and it was claimed that it carries a special message for anyone who has a Rav or a Rebbe, and is very meaningful, not only to Chasidim, but to anyone with a spiritual leader who guides them.

However, the language, and the idea of hiskashrus used, is from the Chasidic world. The composer, R. Pinchas Pomp, is a Chasid, and Yehuda Green himself, according to the Yated feature on him, is from a large Chasidic family in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood of Yerushalayim.

According to Wikipedia's entry on Yehuda Green, Green is from a Breslov family, and went to a Lubavitcher Yeshiva.

It seems to be coming from a Breslov milieu. Here one can see a video in which it is sung at a Breslov gathering (at 3:10). If you examine the lyrics, and are familiar with Breslov teachings, you can recognize a strong Breslov influence.

So I don't buy that it is a universal song, for anyone with a Rebbe. The song is a Chasidic song, about a Chasidishe Rebbe, not a Rebbe in general, of the types non Chasidim can also have. While non Chasidim also have connection to their Rabbonim and Rabbeim, their conception and practice of hiskashrus, if you want to call it that, is different than that of Chasidim.

Litvaks please be aware of this.

See also this writeup about it at a Habad website, along with some interesting comments by Lubavitchers.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Breslov - Lubavitch Dance Continues. Breslov visits 770 after Lubavitch plants flag in Uman

A few months ago, Lubavitch planted their flag in Uman in a major way, during the big annual Breslov Rosh Hashanah get together there, in the guise of an Uman Chabad House.

Now, Breslov has returned the favor, with a Na-Nach truck visiting Lubavitch HQ at 770 the other day.

What will be the future of the relationship between these two Chasidic groups, who have grown in popularity and visibility in recent years, who share the characteristic of their Rebbe having passed on? Time will tell. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Moshiach will be a Misnaged: As Related by the Seventh (!) Lubavitcher Rebbe

Previously, a post here discussed the Lubavitch teaching that Moshiach will be a Misnaged (opponent of Hasidism).

Someone might think that it is an obscure, forgotten teaching, dug up from over two hundred years ago, when the Alter Rebbe was still alive. But that is not exactly the case.

I found some more information about it recently. It is mentioned in the recent book on the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe by Joseph Telushkin, and he gives a source for it, from the last Rebbe. The late seventh Rebbe himself (!) mentioned it, right in the beginning of his tenure as Lubavitch leader. His version is a bit different than what was posted here previously, but the basic facts are the same.

You can see it here, in a sicha from Chol Hamoed Sukkos 5712 (1951 C.E.), תורת מנחם ד:נג

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Rav Shraga Silverstein z"l - noted writer, translator, teacher, passes away

Looking through Mishpacha magazine of Parshas Noach, 28 Tishrei 5755, I noticed, on page thirty six, a report on the passing of noted author and teacher Rav Shraga Silverstein z"l, this past erev Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Silverstein translated many important classical Jewish texts, making them more available to a broad public, as well as writing deep works of his own. It is only appropriate that he be remembered and eulogized. His impact may have been mostly quiet (at least on readers, who didn't encounter him beyond the printed page), but it was deep and profound.

המקום ינחם את האבלים בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

P.S. The following info on him was printed with his edition of דרך תבונות:

Alumnus of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, B.A., M.A. Brooklyn College, settled in Yerushalayim 1963 with family, where he taught in a foremost school of Jewish education as well as English in U.