Friday, January 30, 2009

Understanding "Iskafia" - Desire, You're Not the Boss of Me!

I highly recommend reading Rabbi Shais Taub's guest post at A Simple Jew today. It's on the topic of Iskafia, repressing or subjugating one's desires. He speaks about it on a practical level and I think it's a great reminder regarding who should be the boss of us.

A Simple Jew: Question & Answer With Rabbi Shais Taub - Iskafia

One important line that's good to point out: If you refrain from eating dessert but everyone knows about it, then you really haven’t held your selfish drives in check, you’ve just replaced one indulgence with another – in this case physical pleasure for emotional validation.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Shiurim on Kedushas Levi - R' Tal Zwecker

Rabbi Tal Zwecker has been kind enough to share two of his recent shiurim from his Shul in Ramat Beit Shemesh on the Kedushas Levi. Listen to your heart's content!


-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of socialrupture)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Walking Life's Endless Road, Waiting for the End

I heard a series of interviews with the author John Updike, who died two days ago, on WNYC, the local NPR affiliate, as I was driving home from law school last night. One particular poem caught my attention as I listned to what he said about it. On the Road. It was written as a response to the romanization of Rambling by Jack Kerouac who fauned over running away from responsibility and being "on the road." I think it really speaks to the futility of searching for meaning under the sun, i.e. in the physical world.

Koheles 1:3: "מַה-יִּתְרוֹן, לָאָדָם בְּכָל-עֲמָלוֹ--שֶׁיַּעֲמֹל, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ," "What advantage is there to man with all of his toil under the sun!"

Those dutiful dogtrots down airport corridors
while gnawing at a Dunkin' Donuts cruller,
those hotel rooms where the TV remote
waits by the bed like a suicide pistol,
those hours in the air amid white shirts
whose wearers sleep-read through thick staid thrillers,
those breakfast buffets in prairie Marriotts—
such venues of transit grow dearer than home.

The tricycle in the hall, the wife's hasty kiss,
the dripping faucet and uncut lawn—this is life?
No, vita thrives via the road, in the laptop
whose silky screen shimmers like a dark queen's mirror,
in the polished shoe that signifies killer intent,
and in the solitary mission, a bumpy glide
down through the cloud cover to a single runway
at whose end a man just like you guards the Grail.

those hotel rooms where the TV remote
waits by the bed like a suicide pistol
The distractions we use to put our minds to sleep are just like the body's sleep; 1/60th of death.

The tricycle in the hall, the wife's hasty kiss,
the dripping faucet and uncut lawn—this is life?

"כִּי הַכֹּל הָבֶל" "because everything is vanity"

at whose end a man just like you guards the Grail.
To be so high and not high at all!
It only looked good from the bottom

-Dixie Yid

P.S. For more reflection on the futility of life under the sun and many more good mashalim for teshuva, read Hope for the Flowers. To listen to the interview selections that I heard, click here and select "Listen Now."

(Picture courtesy of WNYC)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who's Your Hero/Inspiration in all of Jewish History?

Reb Yerachmiel, in the shiur I posted yesterday, opened the floor to all of the people there to talk about which person in Jewish history has been their inspiration. To ask it another way, I think that I would also like to know that if you could meet one person, from any point in history, who would it be?

I know he and I would be interested if some of you would comment with who you think is your biggest inspiration, your biggest hero in all of Yiddishkeit, in the comment section. I'll start off with what I wrote to that same question from my interview at jblogger interviews:

I think that I would want to meet the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin. He was known as having a very deep sight into reality and into the people he met. I would be both terrified and grateful if I could meet a Rebbe like that who could just clarify for me what the nature of my "self" is, what I'm supposed to accomplish in this world, and what my true kochos and chesronos (strengths and weaknesses) are.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Roshei Teivot)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Real Test is What to Do When the Revolution Becomes the Establishment

Guest Post by my friend the revolutionary, R' Reuven Boshnack, reflecting on Rav Moshe Weinberger's Shalosh Sheudos Torah this past Shabbos:

What Rabbi Weinberger does is a revolution, and what R Moshe Wolfson and R Tzvi Meir are doing is also a revolution. The fire has gone out. These are people who are looking to restart the revolution. It's all about a reveloution.

Rebbe says that the real test is what happens when the revolution becomes the establishment.

There have been many revolutions. The Baal Shem Tov was a revolution. But after some generations Chassidus became a societal thing. For that reason, R Noson felt the fire had gone out, so he left Berdichov to go to Rebbe Nachman. The Yid broke with the Chozeh because it had become an establishment. The Kotzker broke with the world for the same reason.

Baalei Teshuva have the same struggle, when a person is accepting Yiddishkeit on himself, everything is new. But after a while, it's boring because it's become an establishment.

This could be the idea of Atika Kadisha, "ancient holy." What does "ancient holy" mean? Anicent means it's been around forever, but Kadisha means it's so real and relevant.

It's what we long for; to have the mesorah of a frum from birther, but the fire as if you just converted.

That's why the Piazcener wanted to convert- to be a jew after 40 years. Everything I do, I'm thinking, "Am I doing this because it's real? Or because I've done it before?"

You know the maaseh with Satmar Rov. The badchan imitated him davenning on Yom Kippur. At first the Satmar rav laughed, then he started to cry. The Badchan threw himself at the Satmar Rav's feet, begging forgiveness. The Satmar Rav said, "You don't understand, the one time I felt my essence is revealed is on Yom Kippur, but I see you daven like I do perfectly. So maybe once I davenned, and I've been imitating myself all this time."

Maybe once it was revolutionary, but now its become society.

How much of my life is revolution, and how much is society? How much is new and different, and how much is doing it because I've done it before?

And of course- if you keep asking youself this and it makes you crazy and paralyzed... Sometimes you just have to shut up and dance.

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Unique Audio Shiur: Eternal Heroes: "Al Ha'Tzaddikim"

Presenting Reb Yerachmiel's most recent Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Shiur, from Sunday night January 25th, 2009, and the fourth shiur on berchas "Al Ha'Tzaddikim" in Shemoneh Esrei.

In this very unique shiur, Reb Yerachmiel "opened the floor" to shiur attendees, who were asked to contemplate in advance and then present to the oiylam the following: who, amongst all of the Tzaddikim in the entire history of Yiddishkeit, is his primary inspiration, role model or even hero.

Indeed, Reb Yerachmiel reminded us that while this bracha is designed primarily as a tefillah on behalf of the righteous Jews of our generation, it is also an opportunity to consider how we might elevate ourselves to the level of Tzaddikim. Connecting to a tzaddik of the past or the present is an important component for, be'ezras HASHEM Yisbarach, molding ourselves into tzaddikim of the future!

Special Note: Reb Yerachmiel thanks all those who could not attend the shiur but who took the time and energy to provide their thoughts to Reb Yerachmiel in writing, and asks mechilah from each of you that he was unfortunately unable to share your thoughts with the oiylam due to time constraints. Tizku L'mitzvos!

CLICK HERE to listen to the shiur by either left clicking to listen right away or by right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Lazer Beams)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Monday, January 26, 2009

How do we Understand Others' Evil Acts Towards Us as the Hand of Hashem?

Here's a question Army of Achdus posed to me and my non-authoritative thoughts on the matter:

I've been trying to work through an inyan in Emunah and wonder if you can shed light.

I was trying to explain the inyan of Shimi Ben Geirah insulting Dovid HaMelech, and Dovid's reply that H" told him to curse me to someone. I saw this explained in various places, such as Bilvavi Mishkan Evnah and Tanya. I was trying to explain how the Tanya says that if a 3rd Person does something to us, that not only was the action ordained in Shamayim, but that H" even gave the thought to the 3rd P to do the ma'aseh etc...

So then this person gave me the following Kasha - but what if someone does something repeatedly to us? What about a parent that verbally abuses a child etc.. over and over again? Do we say to the child that H" ordained that you receive this verbal abuse, and that you just need to look at your parent as the stick in H"s hand? I didn't know how to answer. Then came the question - so why throughout Tehillim does Dovid HaMelech pray for the downfall and retribution of his enemies? If it's all ordained min HaShamayim, and Kol Mah D'Avid Rachmanah, L'Tov Avid, then we should gladly accept what our enemies do as for our own benefit.

My answer was that "I guess" that it's true, that H" in the case of the parent mentioned, or even with an enemy, l'havdil, is doing this for our own benefit, but that if there's a way within the dalet amos of halachah to deal with the offense, then that would be ratzon H" as well - the defense would then be Razon H".

My answer is chaser - and I'm trying to work through it to help another yid.

Any insight?

Dixie Yid:

The problem lies, I think, in trying to understand others conduct towards me from the perspective of hashgacaha pratis and others conduct, from their own perspective, simultaneously.

As the Rambam writes in hilchos Teshuva (and as I wrote about previously), this is impossible for the human mind to comprehend. So on some level, we have to let go of the expectation that we're going to fully understand.

That being said, I don't see the distinction between one-time verbal abuse and repeating verbal abuse. It's just a matter of degree, not a matter of some sort of difference in kind.

Another distinction that I think is lacking in the question is the distinction between how one views past suffering versus how he should view future suffering. We know that past suffering was decreed by hashgacha pratis because it already happened. But we have no idea if the suffering we may or may not encounter later today or tomorrow is decreed by divine providence. And so I would think that it would be ratzon Hashem, as you said, to daven or take whatever steps necessary to stop it from happening in the future.

Yes, as difficult as it is, you have to look at someone else's actions against you in the past as the stick in the hand of Hashem. But just because it happened 10 or 20or more times in the past doesn't mean that it is decreed to happen again. And I think that when the Tanya says that it is as if Hashem put the thought into the other person's mind to do that to you, he is only saying that this is true from your perspective. But from that person's perspective, he has total bechira, is committing a big aveira and will be punished.

Since we can't understand past and future suffering in the light of both yediah and bechira simultaneously, we are meant to bifurcate our perspectives and use the proper perspective at the proper time. We are to look at our own and others actions in the past from the perspective of hashgacha pratis and we look at our own and others' actions in the future as bechira chofshis that we should act on to improve. But I don't think we can expect to understand both perspectives at the same time.

All we can do is switch back and forth between the two outlooks when it is appropriate to do so. May Hashem help us have the wisdom to know which perspective to use at which time

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Win an Apartment in Yerushalayim in Derech Hamelech's Raffle!

Introducing Yeshivas Derech Hamelech's
Dream Dira Raffle

Take a tour
1 ticket for $180, 2 to for $340, 5 for $800 in up to 10 payments -
as little at $18 per month! to benefit Yeshivas Derech Hamelech's Student Scholarship Fund
*PLUS 12 CHANCES TO DOUBLE YOUR MONEY!*enter before January 30th for the first drawing
Enter Raffle

-Dixie Yid

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Which Type of Hisbodedus? Rebbe Nachman or Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh?

From the comment section of here at Dixie Yid, discussing this Q&A post at A Simple Jew:

Leah Shaindel:

You wrote that the bilvavi derech and the reb nachman derech are different just as a side point- so what is a person limaiseh supposed to do with all these different drachim? I know you wrote in your oro shel moshiach post that there is a higher unity underlying it all, but how does that help a person practically? I feel like that's realizing limashal that 2 different cake recipes actually have many of the same ingredients, and taste best when eaten side by side. but practically, you can't just mix 2 different recipes of two different cakes together- they both come out good on their own but you can't just mix them. I mean Rav Shwartz is someone who almost made his own new recipe based on other recipes but for little me to mix all these drachim...? how do we l'maiseh combine them? (my mashal is prob a little off, but you get the q)


Leah Shaindel,

This is a great question and also relates to the debate you were referring to in the comment section on the Oro Shel Moshiach post.

You're right that while we're living in this physical world, we may be zocheh to *know* about the unity behind different derachim. And we may be zocheh to see that unity in many instances. But as long as we're alive, we are only capable of practically holding like one side in most cases. For instance, in the machlokes between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai in the orientation of a mezuzah, one can either have their mezuzah sideways or verticle. Although we put them diagonal, that really isn't fulfilling either opinion. We can only pasken like one or the other of two mutually exclusive shitos on a practical level.

As between the free-flowing dialouge with G-d of Breslov or the systematic self-building process of tefillah in the Bilvavi derech, I don't really see a practical way of doing both. (Unless you have a lot of time and can do an hour of free flow and an hour of "derech binyan" tefillah each day, in addition to small bursts of conversation throughout the day.) For most people you just have to follow one or the other.

I asked Rav Shwartz this specific quesiton, i.e. the compatibility of what he writes with Rebbe Nachman and I'll share his answer later because I have to leave for ma'ariv. Look forward to your thoughts.

Leah Shaindel

wow cool looking foward to hearing Rav Shwartz's response. I definitely agree- except then what are you supposed to think when letsay I follow Rav Shwartz's derech but hear something so beautiful about a different type of avodah of in this example, free flowing dialogue with Hashem. So I think, oh that's nice but that's not what I do?

And then, how do you define a derech of avodah? Because isn't even a certain mindset and approach towards letsay what hashgacha pratis means a part of a particular derech? So that when even learning a thought from another derech , I might have to say thats beautiful, but not apply it. Which for men, I guess is fine because its all just for learning Torah, like learning 20 dif opinions in the gemara and then only applying one. But for me as a girl, i really only want to learn what I can actually apply to my thoughts, feelings and actions. So it almost seems futile to learn anything but the derech I choose. So I am really interested in what Rav Shwartz has to say- because for me I've chosen to follow bilvavi as a derech, but I love Reb Nachman! thanks!


Leah Shaindel,

Okay. I basically layed out what I thought was the major difference beween the kind of hisbodedus that Rebbe Nachman talks about in Likutei Moharan and what he (Rav Shwartz) writes in the Bilvavi seforim. i.e. That Rebbe Nachman talks about a free-flowing, talking-from-the-heart, whatever-comes-to-mind type of hisbodedus while Bilvavi talks about a very structured inculcate-myself-with-a-concept-to-make-it-a-reality type of hisbodedus. To me they seem to have a similar goal, which is increasing our connectin to Hashem. But Rav Shwartz seems to say that an approach like Rebbe Nachman's (while not naming it specifically) won't accomplish the goal of increasing one's Deveikus with Hashem since it isn't done "derech binyan," in a structured, step-by-step way.

He answered me that he doesn't think that they contradict because the two seforim were written in two different ways. He said that Likutei Moharan is not organized in a step-by-step method, so it's not clear at which stage of personal spiritual development Rebbe Nachman's talking about. (Indeed, Bilvavi does talk about doing more of a Rebbe Nachman type approach in the higher stages of development.) He distinguished the Bilvavi seforim from that by saying that Bilvavi was written to be more systematic and step-by-step. Therefore, inferences about contradictions couldn't necessarily be made.

However, he did not say that it *didn't* contradict either. I also felt that he may have seen my question as more theoretical than practical, and that he therefore wasn't really trying to directly answer the question. So I don't personally have the sense that he was affirmatively saying that there wasn't any contradiction, but was merely trying to leave open the possibility that there isn't any.

As to which method you should follow to the extent that the two approaches to hisbodedus might be contradictory, I can't tell you. The only suggestion I would give is, on a practical level to pick the derech that you feel would be the most effective in developing Deveikus with Hashem and then sticking with that method. As a human being, it's not really possible to do both (unless, like I mentioned before you have enough time in the day to do over two hours of hisbodedus daily and can accomodate both approaches simultaneously!). You may know that there is an inner unity within the two approaches, but one can't live that way practicaly and each of us have to make a choice and stick with it.

For those of us who merit to be brought up in a community with a "derech," the first choice would be to follow that derech. For those who were brought up in one derech but whose shoresh neshoma calls them to switch to something else, that need should be taken seriously. And for those, like me, who were not brought up with one derech in avodas Hashem, we need to seach out the options out there, figure out which derech is the best for us, based on where our shoresh neshoma pulls us, and then try to stay consistent in that derech on a practial level, even if we're still learning other approaches "on the side."

Adendudm: As to your other question about what you should do, as a woman with no independent mitzvah of Talmud Torah when you have the opportunity to learn about things that don't fit within the derech avodah that you've chosen, I see two main approaches. One is to say, as you did, that that derech is not yours and so you won't learn it since you only want to learn practical things. However, there's another aspect to learning Torah from drachim other than one's primary derech. And that is the aspect of hisorerus, inspiration. All of us go through the waxing and waning "Ratzo v'shov" cycles throughout our lives. But in order to get through the "shov," low times, we need some hisorerus, inspiration in the high times to take us through the "low" times. Even women need this. We all need to recharge our batteries so we can keep going in a good way during the times of "smallmindedness," mochin d'katnus. So I think that even as a woman, seeing inspiration in whatever place you can find it is also a practical aspect of learning Torah that you can benefit from, even from derachim other than your primary derech avodah. Hope that thought helps!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture by Zvi Malinovitzer courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

French Frogs in Parshas Va'eira - Illustrated Version

In honor of the plauge of Frogs in Parshas Va'eira, I just have to re-air this post from two years ago (when I had virtually no readers):

Ever notice that the Hebrew word for France is Tzarfat, which would make the plural for French people, "Tzefard'im," the Hebrew word used in Parshas Vaeira, for the plague of the Frogs?

Coincedence? I think not. (I am now in the process of removing my tounge from my cheek)

-Dixie Yid

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Kedushas Levi on Parshas Va'eira - Rabbi Zwecker - Audio Shiur

Here are two parts of a shiur that Rabbi Tal Zwecker gave in his Shul in Ramat Beit Shemesh on the Kedushas Levi for Parshas Va'eira. Second, R' Zwecker gives a shiur in his "Introduction to Chassidus" series, Part 3. Enjoy!

KedushasLevi_VaEra Part 1
KedushasLevi_VaEra Part 2

Introduction to Chassidus from Sifsei Chein Part 3

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Bilvavi Author's Main Nekudah on His Trip to the U.S.

When Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim came to the United States in September, he challenged many people to rethink their priorities in life. Many of us may have had difficulty hearing this message. It wasn't only a message of chizuk and hisorerus, but a call to deep and difficult action. I found a section from the beginning of the 5th Chelek of Bilvavi which explains the basic message along these lines. It would be kedai for us to read what he writes here and think about how it may be applicable to ourselves. I have translated part of what I think is a very relevant portion here:

The R"I writes (Sh"T P"1 11) "Know that one who sins by happenstance because he has a desire which overpowers him and his inclination grips him , which he cannot remove from his mind and senses when he encounters it... The beginning of the Teshuva for this person is regret and placing sadness in his heart for his sin etc... But one who is constantly and firmly planted on a path that is not good, whose sins overcome him and he walks in them every day and repeats his iniquity... the beginning of the Teshuva for *this* person is to abandon his [all of] his evil path and thoughts..."

The R"I is speaking on an external level, of one doing actual aveiros (sins), G-d forbid. However, the same thing applies to inner work. Let us explain: Their are those whose actions are entirely tied to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who just has one detail of his life in which he forgets his connection to the Creator. Then his Tikun is just to fix and tie that detail to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. However, there are others who, even though they observe all of Torah and Mitzvos, lack the inner essence of Torah. They feel no love and they do not have the requisite joy [in doing Mitzvos] and they feel no connection in their souls to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, to their Father in Heaven. He feels no parent-child connection between himself and Hashem. This person's entire path in life is wrong! He is cut off from the true essence of life, from the true essence for which he was created. Therefore, for a person of this type, doing teshuva by taking on some additional stringency or this like will not be enough. Rather, he must change his whole approach to life. He must go out of the world of externality and enter into the world of connecting to the "One Who spoke and the world came into being." If someone doesn't feel love for Hashem burning inside of him enough, and doesn't feel longing for his Father is surely still entirely on the wrong path.

This point is one which is very important and which many people fail in. Let us explain: If someone decides to do Teshuva, especially during these days of Elul and the 10 days of Teshvua. He contemplates his way of life and examines his actions. In general, if he finds that he is afflicted in guarding his tongue, wasting time from learning, davening without thought, saying brachos merely out of habit, etc. What does this person do? He accepts upon himself all sorts of commitments in each of the areas in which he is afflicted. It is obvious that the majority of the time, these commitments do not last long. And even if they last for a long time, a true growing person does not sprout from this process. What is the root of the problem? This is exactly what we have been speaking about! This person is doing the first type of Teshuva from the R"I in the aspect of one who sins "by happenstance." However, in truth, he needs to do the second type of Teshuva for a person who is planted on the [wholly] wrong path.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Answer to Q&A at A Simple Jew About Seeing the Goodness in Suffering

Please click on over to A Simple Jew. This morning, he posted a Q&A session with me on a topic related to something I've been posting about earlier in the week, but from a somewhat different angle. I was writing about questions relating to how one views others' suffering. As you will see, ASJ's question is about how to view own own suffering from the perspective of Emunah. The following was A Simple Jews Question, and you can click here for my answer!

A Simple Jew asks:

The Me'or Einayim taught that if a person can truthfully view the suffering he is undergoing as being ultimately for his own good, he will immediately experience relief from his suffering.

We may fully understand that taking a bitter-tasting medicine can help us feel better in the long run, yet this knowledge still doesn't change the fact that the medicine does not taste sweet to us. How are we, on our lowly level, supposed to honestly regard the suffering and difficulties we experience in a positive light and experience them as such?

Dixie Yid Answers...

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our "Trade Off" For Chabad's Great Mesirus Nefesh for the Jewish People

I wanted to discuss a general observation about the view of Chabad Chassidim regarding other orthodox traditions and communities and how I think that attitude enables them to have such Mesirus Nefesh, self-sacrifice, for the Jewish people. However, I am frankly concerned that my question/observation may not be read in the sincere spirit with which it was written. Therefore, in order to provide a balanced perspective, I asked Menashe, a frequent commenter, Lubavitcher and friend/reader of Dixie Yid, to offer his take on the issues I bring up.

After a number of experiences with various Shluchim over the years, I have gotten a clear picture that there is a certain belief that Chabad Chassidim are taught; i.e. that Chabad is the only true expression of Torah and Ratzon Hashem and that any other form of, even orthodox Judaism, is, at best, second class.
In explaining why he now considers himself "just Jewish" rather than Chabad, Matisyahu recently summarized something like that idea in a recent interview in the Forward: "In Chabad, there was always the tendency to deify everything, whether it was the rebbes or the learning," Matisyahu said. "[There was] this sense that you couldn't ask questions about any of it, that if you didn't accept it, you weren't accepting the Torah. It was as if you weren't religious, and that this was the one path and the true path and that anything outside of it, even if it was a different kind of Hasidim, was certainly looked down upon."

During a certain difficulty with a Shliach many years ago, I was discussing the issue with my Rosh Yeshiva at the time. In the course of the conversation, he suggested that this attribute of Chabad Chassidus is our "trade-off" for their tremendous Mesirus Nefesh for the rest of Klal Yisroel. I was thinking about this comment recently, and I think that these two attributes are not random. Rather, I think they are highly related.

Perhaps it is Chabadniks' belief that theirs is the truest and highest Mesorah of Yiddishkeit that gives them the feeling that "it's all up to them." That feeling is the foundation of their ability to abandon all of the frum amenities that most orthodox Jews feel that they cannnot live without. They give up having local yeshivos to send their kids to according to their preferences, having like-minded friends nearby, and many other aspects of frum life that other frum Jews just would not do without. Perhaps if they felt that theirs was only one of many paths G-d, they would not have the motiviation to be moser nefesh like no one else. That feeling of "It's all up us" is the foundation for their ability to be moser nefesh for klal yisroel.

Menashe's response:

First, you should know that I'm not offended at all. I've read your work, at times regularly, for the better part of a year and I know you are not "anti-Chabad." I know you don't have an agenda, and more importantly, I know this perception that you have is pretty widely held in the non-Lubavitch velt. So I'd like to examine your assumption about how Chabad Chasidim view their hashkafa.

You wrote: "Chabad Chassidim are taught that essentially...any other form of, even orthodox Judaism, is, at best, second class."

First of all, I won't deny that there are indeed a select fiew whom this describes. But I don't think that this is what the Rebbeim taught and nor do the overwhelming majority of Lubavitchers feel this way. My forays into hashkafos outside Chabad are limited. I don't think I've been influenced by them much. So although I didn't grow up "going through the [yeshiva] system," I feel that my view is the general Chabad view. As far as other hashkafos, I think that the Chabad view is that although they are truly Divrei Elokim Chaim and without any question a true path to serving Hashem, they are nevertheless not the best or most effective path to serving Hashem. Regarding Matisyahu's quote, I would certainly agree that chasidim of the Rebbe are expected to accept his words and those of his predecessors as complete emes. I don't think there's anything so unique about that. But I definitely take issue with his characterizing our view on other hashkafos, even chassidishe ones, as "second-class" or "looked down upon." Chas vshalom! Many Lubavitchers have pictures adorning their walls of non-Lubavither manhigim and have nothing but respect for Toras Emes, even in another interpretation.

As far as how we view our hashkafa, I think it would be of benefit to share with you some of what I experienced in Eretz Yisroel (Menashe returned from Israel a little over a week ago). One of our stops was a historical center of sorts in the Golan built next to a site of one of the battles of the Yom Kippur War. They showed us a short documentary which they made from the recordings of the communications that the tanks had with one another. I remember one scene in particular where the Syran line was about to break through a small battalion of Israeli Tanks that stood in its way. If the Israelis lost the Golan then it would be near impossible to prevent the Arabs from getting access to the center of the country. The Tank Commander comes onto the transmitter and says something like "The war is in our hands. Nobody else can save us. If we don't push them back all is lost. We are stronger than them. I know your are not cowards. Whoever wishes to should join me NOW!"

Boruch Hashem, Yad Hashem was clear that day in allowing the Israelis to go against impsosible odds and prevent the Arab takeover and inevitable slaughter of Jews that would have resulted. What I noticed was that the commander felt that the entire burden of the war was on his shoulders. Nobody else could or would be able to help at that point. To advance was, strategically, suicide. Nevertheless he did it, because there was no other choice.

I'm writing this story now because I feel that it parallels in many ways how Lubavitch views its role in the war against golus. I won't get into the reasons why right now because I'm neither capable and this isn't the subject of the question, but the Rebbeim have always taught us [and proved it as well! - see Inyana Shel Toras HaChasidus by the Rebbe, published in Hebrew/English in the Chasidic Heritage Series for the most comprehensive explanation] that Torah was always meant to evolve this way, that Chassidus was always the final intention. And that the Baal Shem Tov always intended for Chassidus to become Chasidus Chabad. The implications of that are that Chasidus Chabad is the highest form of Torah, but not that others are ch'v low. Every interpretation, like you said, has its place and is holy in it's own right but that it's through the spreading of Torah, and specifically through the spreading of Chasidus Chabad that moshiach would be brought.

I think I agree with you that the mesirus nefesh that the Rebbe demanded, and got, from his shluchim is probably unparalleled. If you've learned a bit of chasidus I suspect you can see why. Certainly in this generation that is true. I also agree with you that the feeling of "it's all up to us," is certainly the main motivation. After all, who else would fulfill the Rebbe's words, if not his own chasidim?. But I disagree where you take the next step and say that this precludes other derechs from being legitimate. Does Chabad view its hashkafa as, in some ways, the highest and most effective? It would be frankly misleading to tell you otherwise. But as in the example of the battle scene I described earlier, the entire country was involved in the war effort. Everyone had their role. But, at least at that battle, which was crucial to success in the war, nobody else had the oppurtunity to sacrifice themselves for the greater cause. It's simply because nobody eles was in that position. We Chasidim of the Rebbe find ourselves in a unque situation. We believe that "Moshe Emes vToraso Emes," and that the Rebbe is our own Moshe Rabbeinu. He entrusted us with a crucial task. He trusted us so much that he left us, at least by appearances, all on our own! In our eyes, if we don't step up to the plate and advance, against insane and completely unwinnable odds, who else will or is even able to?

That's my own attempt at a fair and honest answer to your question. I feel that this is the way most Chabad Chasidim view themeselves and their hashkafa.

Dixie Yid follows up:

Menashe, thank you very much for your response. Although you may disagree with the way that I phrased it, that other traditions even within the orthodox community are seen as "second class" to Chabad, I think that you are essentially confirming my impression. You affirmed that the whole tachlis habriah, the point of creation, is for Torah to eventually produce Toras HaBaal Shem Tov and for Toras HaBaal Shem Tov to ultimately produce Chassidus Chabad, and that it is only through Chassidus Chabad that we will bring Moshiach. Davka it is the highest form of Torah, from what I hear you saying. Following any other tradition or Mesorah then would seem to be almost a brocha l'vatala and a missed opportunity to bring the Geula relative to the alternative of learning and carrying out the teachings of Chassidus Chabad.

Be that as it may, all of the Chabad Rebbes are the greatest of the great and if what you are saying is a reflection of the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, then I would certainly expect Chabad Chassidim to follow it. And, as you related with the story of the Israeli Tank commanders fending off the Syrian army, it's only when you feel that "it's all up to you," that you can find the kochos within yourself to be Moser Nefesh like you never would have been able to, if there were anyone else who could do it too, as I suggested in the beginning.

I understand and would expect you to follow the Rebbe's teachings about the status of Chassidus Chabad relative to other Chassidus'n and how much the more so, other orthodox traditions. Baruch Hashem, each community in klal yisroel has its beliefs and IY"H k'sheyavo Moshiach bimeheira viyameinu, it will be revealed how all of these disparate traditions are part of the great "Elu v'eilu divrei Elokim Chaim." But in the mean time, I understand that I will not necessarily "agree" with every single thing that you, in Chabad, or others in other groups, believe, and vice versa. But that's okay! And IY"H, we'll all be matzliach in loving one another even knowing our differences!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of Chabad Shluchim meeting with the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Aron Teitelbaum courtesy of VIN)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Audio Shiur on Berchas "Al Ha'Tzaddikim": Sympathy, and Empathy, For An Unlikely Type of Tzaddik

Presenting Reb Yerachmiel's most recent Baltimore Community Kollel shiur from Sunday night January 18th, 2009, and his third on berchas "Al Ha'Tzaddikim" in Shemoneh Esrei.

In this shiur Reb Yerachmiel reads and explains a heart-wrenching maamar from the sefer "Darchei Noam" (the Slonima Rebbe shlita), which discusses the classic debate between Yaakov and Yosef regarding the blessing of Ephraim and Menashe. Indeed, this maamar introduces us to a very different type of Tzaddik, and forces us to sympathize and therefore daven for this Tzaddik, while simultaneously empathizing with this Tzaddik, as we recognize in this Tzaddik, a little bit of ourselves.


Click on the links above to listen to the audio shiur by either left clicking to listen right away or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Sorah Gave Up Her Life By the Akeidah...

As a continuation of yesterday's post about Moshe's questioning of the Jewish people's suffering as a sign of Emunah...

Rav Zvi Leshem brought up another teaching from the sefer Aish Kodesh on Parshas Chayei Sorah along similar lines.

The Piaczena Rebbe asks why Rashi's comments about the fact that the Torah (Breishis 23:1) splits up the years of Sorah's life, he explains the phrase "שְׁנֵי, חַיֵּי שָׂרָה" as meaning that all of Sorah's years were equally good. Isn't that implied by the first part of his comment on that verse?

He explains this by pointing out Rashi's comment on the next verse. Sorah died as a result of the shock of hearing that her son Yitzchak was about to be slaughtered by Avraham as a test from G-d. The Aish Kodesh brings several sources to show that Sorah didn't have to die from this and that she had enough Emunah in Hashem's plan for the world and her family not to actually die from such shock. But that she intentionally allowed herself to die.

The Aish Kodesh says that she did so as an intentional protest in order to show that some suffering is just too much. He says that suffering helps a person in the same way that salt helps preserve food. The right amount of salt makes food better. But Just as too much salt ruins food, rather than preserves it, too much suffering breaks and destroys a person. So too, Sorah was trying to show Hashem that the suffering of having to sacrifice one's own son to fulfill the word of G-d is just too much. Perhaps she could have lived through the shock, but part of her would have died with the knowledge that her son would die. Rather than live as "half a person" after that, she prefered to let herself die to show Hashem that too much suffering should not be placed upon the Jewish people, her children.

Realizing that he wrote this sefer when he was living in the Warsaw Ghetto, during the Holocaust, he says that if that suffering was too great, how much more so his and the Jewish people's suffering was too much in their time! I think it's also important to remember that he also had multiple chances to get out of the Ghetto, but that he refused in order to stay with his people, thus giving his own life to relieve the suffering of his beloved Jewish people just as Sorah did.

He says that one might think that Sorah sinned by allowing herself to die rather than to live. But, echoing the words of the Midrash Raba that I quoted yesterday regarding Moshe, since her act was designed only to help and save the Jewish people from their suffering, Hashem did not find any fault in her for it. And that is why Rashi says that the Torah used the words "שְׁנֵי, חַיֵּי שָׂרָה," to teach that all of Sorah's years were equally good. Meaning: Even her last act on earth, the act of giving up her life to relieve her grandchildren's suffering, was as equally good as the rest of her sinless lifetime.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beautiful Pictures of Israeli Soldiers Davening

These and many more pictures HERE. Thanks to Dixie Dad for pointing out this website to me!

-Dixie Yid

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Was Moshe Right for Questioning G-d?

Rav Yair Dreifuss brought up some very interesting questions on something very difficult that Moshe says at the end of Parshas Shmos. After Hashem tells Moshe that He will use him to save the Jewish people and relieve their suffering in Egypt, Moshe speaks to Paroh, but Paroh brings even more suffering on the Jewish people, who let Moshe know how they feel about this! Then Moshe turns to Hashem and asks some very difficult questions:

"וַיָּשָׁב מֹשֶׁה אֶל-יְהוָה, וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנָי, לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתָה לָעָם הַזֶּה--לָמָּה זֶּה, שְׁלַחְתָּנִי. וּמֵאָז בָּאתִי אֶל-פַּרְעֹה, לְדַבֵּר בִּשְׁמֶךָ, הֵרַע, לָעָם הַזֶּה; וְהַצֵּל לֹא-הִצַּלְתָּ, אֶת-עַמֶּךָ." "And Moshe returns to Hashem and said, 'Why have you done evil to this people? Why have you sent me? From the time that I came to Paroh, to speak in Your Name, he has done evil to this people and you have not saved Your nation!" (Shmos 5:22-23)

Ostensibly, Moshe's words sound like heresy. Doesn't he know that everything that Hashem does is good and that it is for a reason, even if we don't know what that reason is? As Rabbi Akiva says, one must always say, "כל דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד," Everything that the Merciful One does, He does for the good." (Brachos 60b).

To explain this, two opinions are brought at the end of the 5th Parsha in Midrash Raba on Shmos. "מהו והצל לא הצלת רבי ישמעאל אומר והצל לא הצלת ודאי רבי עקיבא אומר יודע אני שאתה עתיד להצילם אלא מה איכפת לך באותן הנתונים תחת הבנין באותה שעה בקשה מדת הדין לפגוע במשה וכיון שראה הקדוש ברוך הוא שבשביל ישראל הוא אומר לא פגעה בו מדת הדין." "What [did Moshe] mean by 'And You have not saved Your nation.'? Rabbi Yishmael says: 'You have not saved' literally. Rabbi Akiva says [that Moshe means] 'I know that You will deliver them in the future. But don't you care about those [babies being built into the bricks] under the building[s]?!' At that moment, the Divine attribute of justice wanted to kill Moshe. But since Hakadosh Baruch Hu saw that [Moshe] was speaking for the sake of the Jewish people, the Divine attribute of justice did not kill him."

Rabbi Yishmael basically says that yes, Moshe Rabbeinu spoke heresy. But Rabbi Akiva said that no, even though Moshe had full Emunah in the fact that everthing would be good, but he was still protesting the excessive suffering that he felt the Jewish people were enduring. The Midrash continues that since Moshe was speaking for the sake of the Jewish people, he was "forgiven" for speaking that way.

Rav Dreifuss pointed out that these teachings would seem to indicate that there is something to be said for a type of Emunah where one is engaged enough with Hakadosh Baruch Hu to ask questions when things don't seem to make sense, rather than withdrawing from empathizing with others, lest he come to questions of faith. He points out that this was the way of Rav Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev and others as well. Since these questions by Moshe are for the sake of the Jewish people and come from a place of Emunah, and not for the sake of cynicism, or justifying an irreligious lifestyle, they are accepted by Hashem.

He even says that one with faith who asks questions like Moshe's is a higher level of Emunah than one who passively accepts all suffering by anyone, no matter how bad, with total faith and no questions. I partly understand what he's saying here, but this is also a difficult point to grasp, so if you have thoughts on this, pleae let me/us know.

Lest this post be too long, I'll tell over Rav Zvi Leshem's adendum to this discussion in the words of the Aish Kodesh, Rav Klonymous Kalaman Shapira, in a follow-up post tomorrow.

Click here for Part II: How Sorah Gave Her Life for the Jewish People...

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today's News: And I shall Harden Pharoah's Heart...

In this week's Parsha, it says, "וַאֲנִי אֲחַזֵּק אֶת-לִבּוֹ" And I shall harden [Pharoah's] heart... (Shmos 4:21)

Hamerkaz: Hamas Political Chief Rejects Cease-Fire

And why did Hashem harden Pharoah's heart? "וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת-אֹתֹתַי וְאֶת-מוֹפְתַי, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם..." "[So that I may] multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt" (or in this case, bordering Gaza). (Shmos 7:3)

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Hamercaz)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kavanos to Have When Painting a House - R' Boshnack in New Orleans

As I referenced two days ago, my friend Rabbi Reuven Boshnack, in his role as rabbi at Brooklyn College, accompanied a bunch of Hillel members down to New Oreleans to paint someone's house that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. He taught Torah every day of the trip. He has been mezakeh us by sharing some of what he spoke about each day of the trip, even on Shabbos. Awesome!

Before Scraping

We understand, that the paint here, waiting to be scraped, has been waiting since the creation of the world for us to come and scrape it. You see there are sparks of holiness, little points of destiny waiting for us, all the way down here in New Orleans.

So while we are scraping while monotony sets in, let’s focus on the message that paint scraping holds for us. There are layers that need to be scraped away, thoughts, feelings and actions that prevent us from being real. They keep us with connecting with others, they keep us from connecting with Hashem, and they keep us from connetction with ourselves. They need to be scraped away, to reveal the pure Neshama beneath.

Before Priming the walls

Now that the paint has been scraped, and our walls have been removed, we can begin again. The first step is what are the yesodos, the foundations of our lives, what are the fundaments, of emunah and yesodei hatorah that we live by? As you apply the primer keep this in mind, before we can actually paint, to interact with the world, we must understand our inner priorities first. As you put on the primer, think and try to formulate your yesodos.

Before we started painting

We’re now about to paint. R Shlomo Carlebach, in a famous torah, explained how we are all “painted”- with the superficial identification to torah and mitzvos. It’s just a mask. We’re not talking about how you are on the inside, only the way things look. You know, there are schools that won’t let sincere ehrlich jews in, because their third cousins aren’t in kollel in Lakewood. R Shlomo said, that no matter how well you paint,,you always miss a spot.

On the other hand, we should try to paint ourselves in a color which is the same on the outside as it is on the inside. We know that there was a guard outside of Raban gamliel’s Yeshiva, that would not let you in unless you were tocho k’boro- the same on the inside as you were on the outside. The Kotzker rebbe said, “What manner of demon could see the inner workings of a person? Rather, a person who went to the yeshiva for external reasons, would be dissuaded by the guard. A person who was Tocho Kboro, would figure out a way in anway, they’d go through the skylight if they had to.

Let’s try to make our Yiddishkeit real and meaningful, and a color that matches our insides

Before starting the last day of work

Do you know what it means "Makeh B’patish?" No, it doesn’t mean to hit something with a hammer. The Melacha of Maka B’patish means to put the finishing touches on something. Why is it assur to do the Melacha of Makeh B’patish? On Shabbos we have to see the world as if everything is done, so clearly putting the finishing touches are prohibited. Today, we are racing against the clock, to get in those finishing touches, before Shabbos. That’s what erev Shabbos is all about.
Also we know, that hakol holech achar hachosam, how you end it is the most important thing. Right now we’re trying to seal in all of the the thoughts and feelings and love and friendship and to seal all of our work in with a kiss.

In the Park

R' Soloveitchik said, we may have brought back shmiras Shabbos, but we have not yet brought back shmiras erev Shabbos. What’s so important about erev Shabbos? Isn’t it just Friday?

The Sefas Emes says, “In Choshen Mishpat, we have a halacha, If I sell you a field, surrounded by other fields, You need to buy a road from me, but If I give you a field surrounded by other fields, I must give you a road, because if a person is giving, it is assumed that the person is giving with a generous hand. Shabbos is called a matana tova, a good present. How do we get to Shabbos if it is so different than the rest of the week? Hashem gives us a road called Erev Shabbos.”We’re spending Shabbos in a place where people view Shabbos as a collection of don’ts, we need to be mechazek ourselves to show all of them that it is truly a good present.

Oneg Shabbos

The alter Rebbe said, that song is the pen of the soul. When you sing a person’s niggun, you touch the depths of the person who composed it. We’re singing a song from the Tzemach Tzedek. He was a person who wrote over 300,000 pages of manuscripts, proficient in every area of the torah. While singing his niggun, we’re trying to touch that great person in the deepest way.

Why do we have to be so careful about singing an old niggun in the way that it was transmitted? The song we are singing is the chernobler hakkafos niggun. The Chernobler Maggid closed his eyes on simchas torah, when he awoke- he brought this niggun down.

When we sing a niggun, we’re trying to connect, through every note and movement, you know, miss a beat, you lose the rhythm. Did you know that R Shloime Twerski, Hornosteipler Rebbe of Denver, used to spend hours, being “me’ayen” into a niggun, if a note or two belonged there?

Ok,,now that our voices are hoarse from singing, let me tell you something. In this week’s Parsha Yaakov says, “Hashem appeared to me in Lud, and said he’ll increase me, and give me Eretz Yisrael. Efraim and Menashe will be like Reuven and Shimon to me, and they’ll have inheritance equal to the shevatim. Then on the way from Padan, Rachel died, and I buried her there.”

I heard the following from my Rebbi, who quoted Rav Saadia Gaon. Do you know who Rav Saadia Gaon was? He met people, who met Rabbis from the Talmud. We’ve met people who met the Rav, who met Rav Kook, who met the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Anyway, Rav Saadia Gaon, said Yaakov was saying, Yosef, I never told anyone, but Hashem promised me great things as I was in Lud, but then tradgedy after tragedy happened. Rachel died, you disappeared, and any time I would even think about such a nevuah, it was a source of pain. But now that I see Efraim and Menashe,I know that Hashem, kept his word.

My Rebbe’s father was sitting next to him at a graduation of one of Rebbe’s daughters, and he told him, if you would have told me when I was in Mathausen, that one day I’d be sitting with hundreds of Jews at a graduation of my granddaughter, I’d have told you that you were crazy.

So many times, we think all of the nevuos which we have seen in tanach are so far fetched, they’ll never happen. This quote from Rasag tells us even Yaakov had given up on them, but it teaches us never to give up on Hashem’s promises to us.
These gatherings are sometimes called Sheves Achim, where jews get together, to sing together and encourage each other. It’s a great thing to do. We should continue sitting together and singing, until moshaich comes and teaches us a new song, vsham nashir shir chadash, bivinyan bayis Hamikdash hageula Hashelama vemisis…

Shalosh Seudos

In just a few hours, we’re going home, and facebook will become plastered with the pictures of our trip. Now, I’m not an antitechnology crusader, but I want to warn you about the dangers of digital media.

We lost our camera last week, with all of the pictures on the memory stick. It was a little upsetting. But if you think about it, our memories really should be a lot stronger than all of the pictures we take. Whenever we experience something, we take a picture. Now this is a little disturbing, we’re relying upon the pictures instead of our memories. And maybe, it’s cheapening them.

Let’s try something. Can you close your eyes and picture your favorite memory from the trip. Take a minute. What did it feel like? Was there wind blowing? Was it warm or cool? What did it smell like? Look at the details. You’ll notice that you can “zoom in” on certain details, or remove some noise or obstruction.

When we rely on our pictures for our memories, we confine them only to what was in the viewfinder of the camera, and only that millisecond, not before or after. If it’s a video, whatever happened outside that viewfinder or duration of the clip.
If we do it the other way- you get everything, and you never need a picture to revisit your memories. You can do this exercise all the time.

We see two different types of writing in the Torah, the writing of a Torah, ink on parchment, and the writing of the luchos habris- on the tablets. The difference of course, is that the writing is something separate from the parchment in the Sefer Torah, but in the case of the Luchos, it is the Luchos. Our experiences can be like letters written on the parchments of our lives, or they could become apart of them. The choice is yours.

There is the story of the Volper Rav, one of the students of the Maggid of Mezrich due to setbacks in his life, ultimately became an alcoholic and wandered around. Once, in an inn, a certain Chasid heard someone reciting secrets of Torah. But he couldn’t see where they were. A careful search revealed that they were coming from a poor man, drunk and hiding under the furnace. He realized that this must be the Volper Rav. The chassid located the Volper Rav’s room, and began to search his possessions, for a manuscript of the Maggid’s Torahs. The Rav returned to the room, and asked this man what he was doing. The Chassid, embarrassed, said, “Iwas looking for a manuscript of the Maggid’s torah.” The Rav said, “What’s wrong with you, when I was at the Maggid, he, the students and the Torah were all, one. So, who needs a manuscript?”
The way we deal with and revisit our memories, will allow us to make them a greater part of us.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Natasha Hollander)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Great Site for Chassidus Shiurim - Rav Golberger's Shul in Baltimore

Akiva Feinstein has pointed out a section of the Baltimore Tiferes Yisroel Shul website that has many shiurim on Chassidus from the last four years by the Rav of the Shul, Rav Menachem Goldberger.

Some of you may remember Rav Goldberger as the composer of "Rav Goldberger's Niggun" for Lecha Dodi, which I linked to a few months ago. They even put out a CD which is really nice and which can be ordered here.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Ellie and Esther's son's bris)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Berchas "Al Ha'Tzaddikim": Appreciating Who Our "Zekainim" and "Sofrim" Really Are - Audio Shiur

Presenting Reb Yerachmiel's most recent Baltimore Community Kollel shiur from Sunday night January 11th, 2009, and his second on berchas "Al Ha'Tzaddikim" in Shemoneh Esrei.

In this shiur Reb Yerachmiel defines the terms "Ziknay Amcha Beis Yisroel" and "Pelaytas Sofrayhem" as explained by Chazal. As he and his shiur proceed methodically through this bracha, the hope is that each of us will find ourselves mentioned therein, not only under the "catchall" phrase of "Ve'Aleinu" but even in the dramatic and honorable categories that proceed it!

CLICK HERE to listen to the shiur by either left clicking to listen right away or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Picture Collector)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Using My Gemara Kop to Get Out of a Cell Phone Ticket

Ever since I read New York's anti-cell-phone-while-driving law, I had a hankering to get pulled over so that I could put my law-school-acquired statutory construction skills to good use. For good measure, I xeroxed a copy of the mobile phone statute and kept it with me in the car just in case.

My wish came true about a month ago. I was holding the phone in my hand. It was on the "speaker phone" setting and I was holding it an inch or two below my chin. I was pulled over by a nice Nassau County police officer. After surrendering my license and proof of insurance, he told me that he was going to give me a ticket for talking on the cell phone. I asking him if, since he'd already decided to give me the ticket anyway, I could explain to him why I thought I didn't violate the statute. Out of a sense of amusement, I think, he gave me the go-ahead.

So I whipped out the copy of the New York VTL (Vehicle and Traffic Law), § 1225-c that I had prepared for just such a moment and I showed him the pertinent parts of the statute that you can read here:

§ 1225-c. Use of mobile telephones.
1. For purposes of this section, the following terms shall mean:
(c) "Using" shall mean holding a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, the user's ear.
(f) "Engage in a call" shall mean talking into or listening on a hand-held mobile telephone, but shall not include holding a mobile telephone to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of such telephone.
(g) "Immediate proximity" shall mean that distance as permits the operator of a mobile telephone to hear telecommunications transmitted over such mobile telephone, but shall not require physical contact with such operator's ear.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway while using a mobile telephone to engage in a call while such vehicle is in motion...
At first, he argued, "Were you using a hands-free device or not?!" I retorted that the statute does not require someone to use a hands-free device. Rather, in order to violate 2(a), the actual prohibition in the statute, two elements must be present for the purposes of my case. You have to be (1) "using" a mobile phone and (2) "engag[ing] in a call." Subsection 1 of the statute defines "using" as "holding a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, the user's ear." And it defines "engage" as "talking into or listening on a hand-held mobile telephone."

In my case, while the second element may have been present since I was talking to Dixie Dad on the phone, the first element was absent. The phone was not "to, or in the immediate proximity of, [my] ear." It was in the vicinity of my chin, but not my ear! One cannot violate a criminal statute unless all elements of the violation are present and since the first element was absent in my situation, I didn't violate the statute!

The officer responded that what I was saying wasn't true. It didn't mean that it had to be by my ear. It just meant that I was in violation merely by holding the phone. In the alternative, he argued that the phone's position below my chin should also be considered "in the vicinity of" my ear.

I responded that I didn't think that could be true. If the legislature wanted to prohibit all calls where the cell phone is in one's hand, it could have left out the definition of "using" in subsection 1, thus leaving only the definition of "engage in a call" as the only operative part of the statute. Then, the mere act of being on a phone call while driving would have been prohibited. Alternatively, the legislature could have defined "using" as "holding the phone in the user's hand" without any reference to proximity to the ear. Obviously, since they inserted the language about "proximity to the ear," they intended only to prohibit calls where the phone is right by the driver's ear. Not only that, but the statute requires the phone to be in the immediate proximity of the ear, and not merely in the "proximity" of the ear, thus requiring that the phone actually be extremely close to (even if not touching) the ear. Perhaps they even inserted this language specifically to indicate that they were permitting the use of cell phones with the "speaker phone" feature, like mine!

The officer vehemently disagreed with me but nevertheless said that he would not give me the ticket. (!!!) I think he realized that I might take this to trial and didn't want to be cross-examined by this over-eager, Perry-Mason-Wanna-Be law student. Woo hoo!

Incidentally, my nine year old daughter made the policy argument that since the reason for the statute is to prevent distracted driving, that perhaps I shouldn't even use the speaker phone while driving in the spirit of the reason for the statute, which is probably the biggest question on my statutory construction argument. "Tamim Tihiye im Hashem Elokecha." "Be simple with the L-rd your G-d" (Deuteronomy 18:13).

Do any lawyers, law students, Lamdanim, Gemara Coppers or any others want to argue with my statutory interpretation? Please comment. :-)

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of City of La Palma)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.