Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My Conversation With the Sudilkover Rebbe - The Non-Jewish New Year

B"H, I was priveliged to speak yesterday with the Sudilkover Rebbe, Reb Areye Wohl by phone. Of course, I have to thank A Simple Jew, who is very close to that tzadik and was kind enough to introduce me to him.

I called him early in the afternoon yesterday, the Secular New Year. First, he thanked me for translating his essay on the importance of Chassidishe stories that are meant to teach something.

He told me an interesting story regarding how he spent his "New Year's Eve." First, he told me the teaching from the Apter Rov about New Years. He said, partially based on that, that he makes it a point of going out at midnight on "New Year's Eve" and wishing gentiles "A Happy New Year!"

He said that the night before, he asked his gabai and driver to take him out to the only place in Monsey he knew of that he would be able to find any gentiles, the 7-11. There, he made it a point of wishing "A Happy New Year" to several of the non-Jews that he saw there. Once outside, he saw one particularly unhappy person walking by just after midnight. He wished him "A Happy New Year!" A few minutes later, the man came back to find him. He asked the Sudilkover if he was a rabbi. When the Rebbe answered in the affirmative, he asked if he could have his picture taken with the Rebbe. He answered him that he very much does not like having his picture taken. "Why," the Rebbe asked, "do you want to have your picture taken with me?" The man answered him that the Rebbe was the first person to wish him "A Happy New Year," all year, and it made him very happy, especially considering the fact that he knew that this was not the Jews' new year and that they had their own. So the Rebbe agreed to have his picture taken with the man.

He said that as long as we live among the goyim, our blessings somehow come through them and that this is connected to the Apter Rav's vort. He also said that it is good because if the non-Jew is a sonei Yisroel (an anti-semite), then the greeting will hopefully make him less of a sonei Yisroel. And if he is parve, and doesn't feel one way or the other about Jews, the greeting may make the person an ohev Yisroel (one who likes the Jewish people). And if the person is already an ohev Yisroel, then this will make him an even bigger ohev Yisroel and will give him another story to tell his friends, who may not like the Jewish people as much.

He also told me something about Gerim which I will, IY"H, share tomorrow.

-Dixie Yid

(Video of interview with the Sudilkover Rebbe in Hebrew is from Chabad Online)

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A Simple Jew said...

Thank you for sharing, Dixie Yid!

DixieYid said...

What do you mean? Thank *you* for introducing me to him!

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

I find it strange to be'davka go out at 12AM and say happy New Year to goyim. Of course, you can say it if you see them, whenever, wherever you go, but to seek it out? The Apter Rav just sounds like he's saying that when Hashem contrasts us with them and how they party without meaning, and we begin RH with seriousness, then we'll be zocheh to a good year.

DixieYid said...

But that's the whole point of why I brought it up. It is his "chidush" so to speak, to not just take it as it comes, but rather to make an avoda out of it. To go, davka, out at that time and do it "b'd'chilu u'rechimu." (My words not his). One thing we can learn from that is that there are no "small" avodahs. Rather, Everything one does for the sake of avoda can and should ideally be done with chashivus and b'davka. Ya hear?

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

It is a great thing to learn this. On "New Year's Eve" I was on a longish trip in Texas, USA. It was 11 p.m. and I had 3 hours of driving ahead so I stopped for coffee. The two women working at the convenience store asked me if all I had was coffee and when I answered in the affirmative they waved off and both wished me a happy new year. Surpised in a small way, I thanked them and with sincerity wished them a happy new year. Then, knowledgeable of the history of the "new year" and its rituals I wondered if I should have. Thank you for posting.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:03 here.
I don't really hear. Why make an avodah out of something that does not appear to be an avodah? The Apter Rav is not saying more than what I mentioned. I def. hear saying it when you happen upon goyim as you write to have goyim like us more, but to go out at 12AM b'davka? What is there, a chiyuv to say it, and asur to have a hefsek?

DixieYid said...

Anon 1:03,

Based on the anti-semitism issues, and based on the idea that our blessings come through them while we're living in galus, it was his idea (he is the Tzadik after all...) to make this into an avoda. He was not saying that the Ohev Yisroel from Apt said that you had to do this.

It's not only technical divrei mitzvah that can and should be made into an avoda. To say "Good Morning," to a fellow Jew is also an avoda, if done that way, l'shem being mesameach a fellow Yid. It's not an issue of technical mitzva performance, hefsekim, etc.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

I would add that there are those who say wishing a happy New Year is like saying Merry Christmas to a gentile and should not be done. New Year's was originally to celebrate Yushka's bris as Terumas Hadeshen writes. I think Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that one should not celebrate New Years for this reason, but can celebrate Thanksgiving within parameters.

Anonymous said...

Please explains the sevara of 'since our blessing comes through them'.

DixieYid said...

Anon 1:10,

Great that it could be a chizuk. Tell the folks in Dixie that I say "hi!"

-Dixie Yid

DixieYid said...

Anon 1:26/1:27,

Elu v'elu. The Sudilkover's a bar hachi to have an opinion in the matter. It was surprising to me to, which is why I wrote about it?

As to our blessings coming through them, not sure of the mekor. It has to do with birkas Eisav. The Sudilkover Rebbe's statement is *my* mekor though. :-)

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to the Rebbe, he is not the Kedushas Levi and he is not able to create a new 'mitzvah' to go out at 12AM davka, etc. When we face something like this, we should ask and ask respectfully of course, until a makor is brought. Just hearing it from him is not a makor.

You can also ask him what he does with the Terumas HaDeshen and Rav Moshe.

DixieYid said...

With all due respect, it does *not* sounds like you are speaking with "all due respect." The Rebbe is not telling you or me what to do. He was telling me a personal story of what he did or does for himself. I think that bee in your bonnet needs to be removed.

-Dixie Yid

Neil Harris said...

Nice posting.

Anonymous said...

If you are writing it in your blog and trying to explain his sevara then it no longer becomes a cute story of what he did. You need to explain it in a way that pple will not question it. Otherwise you shouldn't write it until you have it clear. Why write a maaseh about a rebbe you respect that makes ppl walk away thinking that it's a davar muzar?
And I'm from the rov who will think it's muzar unless a solid sevara is cited.

Anonymous said...

hey anon
please relax. i think this is a great story that sheds light into the way a tzadik thinks and acts. i dont understand why you have such a problem with it. if you dont agree dont do it. i on the other hand will try and remember it for next year.
dixie yid ,keep it up, love your work.

Yankel said...

I agree with the anon who has a problem with the story. It appears strange. I would never tell over a story about a Rebbe if it seemed odd and I couldn't explain his actions adequately.

maks said...

Anonymous 11:03,

The Rebbe was relating to Dixieyid what *he* personally did. He didn't tell Dixieyid that he should start doing that and he certainly wasn't telling me or you or anyone that we should start doing that.

With all due respect to the Rebbe, he is not the Kedushas Levi and he is not able to create a new 'mitzvah'

Do you say the same for R. Sheinberg wearing his hundred pairs of tzitzis or the countless other tzaddikim that do things that the rest of us don't do???

If you are writing it in your blog and trying to explain his sevara...

Dixieyid never explained the Rebbe's sevara. The Rebbe himself told DixieYid why he did it and DixieYid simply told that over.

Why write a maaseh about a rebbe you respect that makes ppl walk away thinking that it's a davar muzar? And I'm from the rov who will think it's muzar unless a solid sevara is cited.

What rov??? Who thinks it's davar muzar (besides you)??? I think you're a yachid in this. Re-read the post and stop to think for a moment before jumping to critisize The Rebbe and Dixieyid.

"bee in your bonnet" indeed!

Thanks DixieYid for the great post and keep them coming!

DixieYid said...

Anon 9:03 & maks,

Thanks for your support. I wanted to say some of the things that I hadn't said and that you brought out, but I really didn't want to keep the conversaton going but dignifying it with another response. Yasher koach and amen to what you said. :-)

-Dixie Yid

Chase said...

I generally like your blog but I have to admit that I side with those here who have expressed that you don't publicize a story unless you can explain it. This Rebbe may be a tzadik, but if you are going to reveal his actions, you better be able to explain them.

DixieYid said...

Chase, Thanks for your comment.

I've thought about what you and others have said, and it does not seem reasonable to be bothered by this or think that it is so strange. He didn't say that he *celebrates* New Years, ChV'Sh. Therefore, just saying Happy New Year to someone wouldn't fall under what Rav Moshe or the Terumas Hadeshen, as quoted by Mr. anonymous above, had said anyway. He explained why such an act helps against anti-semitism, which I also wrote. So concerns here seem to be overblown.

-Dixie Yid

chase said...

The main concern seems to be why he would go out at 12AM and seek it out. I agree that it might help slightly againt anti-semitism like saying good morning to non-Jews. But to specificly say Happy New Year would be no different than saying Good Morning, the next morning when seeing pple in the street or store. And to specificly seek it out at mamash 12AM remains unclear.

Alice said...

Look at it this way, when my husband taps me on the shoulder at 12:01 AM on Aug. 2nd and wakes me from sleep to whisper "Happy Birthday!" in my ear, it's a little different than saying it at 10:00 the next morning.

When one considers the abominable way in which so many Gentiles have treated so many Jews- for a Jew to go out of his way to wish a Gentile a Happy New Year is a really beautiful thing. Those kinds of seemingly small actions are really not small at all. There are some who wouldn't remember it. But for others that 'small' act can lift their spirit for a day and could even remain in their memory to be called upon for a lifetime.

Think about how one rude driver on the way to work can wreck your whole morning. These are not small acts.

The act of seeking out people of a different nation to wish them good tidings on their special day(s) makes those people stop and think.

The Jews with whom I grew up who were Holocaust survivors were people who laughed and smiled and continued to enjoy life despite the tragedies that befell them and their families. Their refusal to stop loving others was so inspiring it literally made me pursue my interest in Torah and changed my life.

As an adult looking back I think it's amazing they had friends who were non-Jews who they loved and trusted so much because in so many ways we- as a nation- are not worthy. It makes me think about how God gives us chance after chance and extends such generosity to us all when we all screw up time and time again. So when the rabbi does this, some of those people might stop and think "How can I get some of what he has?"

Alice said...

And then they can come to this excellent site and get some of it.

DixieYid said...

Alice, thank you so much for your thoughts on thus issue from a non-Jewish perspective. I always appreciate that and any and all insights you offer. It is much appreciated!

Also, thanks for your very kind compliment about the site.

You know, even all of these disagreeing comments on this post are a testiment to the growing numbers and diversity of the readers here. These kind of comment discussions didn't used to take place.

Be well!

-Dixie Yid

Jake said...

As far as the 12:01AM b-day mashal, it'd be one thing if it really made a difference to the recipient (does any non-Jew look at 12:01AM on New Years as a b-day?-it appears it's just an excuse to drink or party) or if the Rebbe were calling Pres. Bush or some other influentual person, but to go to a 7-11?

A Simple Jew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Simple Jew said...

I know with utter certainty that if you speak with the Rebbe over the phone again he will be able to further explain the rationale and motivation behind his actions on New Year's Eve in a crystal clear manner.

Alice said...

No. They don't see it as a birthday. My point was that having some spring in your step and seizing the moment to do a good thing makes the recipient of the good thing feel even more special.

As a Gentile I have never felt any emotion about New Years because to me this will be the only Friday January 4th 2008 ever. So each day is special. Now I'm picturing the scene in Sound of Music where Julie Andrews is running through the hills swirling around and singing 'The Hills are Alive'. I don't treat each day like that. But probably should.

I do think it's really special for many Gentile cultures, even if there is much drinking. My Argentinian friend was saying that no one celebrates it like Argentinians. She has many very special family memories surrounding that day. Swedes go bonkers too.