Monday, December 30, 2013

Volunteer Needed for Limited Source Checking Project for Rav Moshe Weinberger Sefer - UPDATE: Volunteer Found!

Please contact me if you are interested in volunteering for a circumscribed source-checking project for about 20 or so sources quoted in the forthcoming book of Rav Moshe Weinberger's drashos.

As a general principle, it's important to verify the accuracy of citations and we've already verified the large majority of the sources cited both for (i) the accuracy of the citation and (ii) verification that the source indeed supports the proposition for which it was cited in the particular way that source was characterized in the text.

These are some of the somewhat harder-to-find sources. The project would be on an approximately one-week timeline after I get you the pages with the sources that need to be checked. We would like to get the manuscript out to the proofreader soon.

Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from anyone who's interested! Please email me at dixieyid(at) Shloyach!

Update 10:30 a.m.: We have a volunteer. Thank you!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Guest Post - Serving Hashem with a Broken Heart - Poetry and Pain

I am happy to share the following guest post which was written a couple of weeks ago by a reader who would like to remain anonymous. This is a beautiful, sad, and heartfelt essay that grapples with applying teachings of Breslov and Piaczezna chassidus to real-life challenges and pain. You can read about some of the background concepts that underlie this piece in some of my past posts, like this one discussing the soul's basic need for sensation, any sensation. And also this post and this follow-up one discussing the fundamental reality that one must first destroy the old in order to build something new and greater in its place.

One mans search for meaning in a broken heart
“The worst feeling in the world is no feeling at all. A prisoner to passivity, the lacking of connectivity.
Longing to escape this monotonous place, with hopes of arriving at an elated state.
The only thing I feel is the shower drip, the burning hot is quite a trip
With a weak attempt to clear off the dirt, I really just want to know I can still hurt
As the burning hot water leaves its mark
 I only wish my  soul would feel it and spark
In most it flickers while mine just dwindles, hoping for something to help it rekindle
Created to fight and destined to slumber I wish I could cry as my innards continue to dissemble”
A short while ago, the girl I was dating broke up with me. The pain was pretty overwhelming. I couldn’t eat, read, concentrate, converse with people, the very state of being conscious was just too painful. How could one put in to words the pain of losing such a large part of who they were and what they invested in? The echoes from a recently hollowed space in my heart reverberated throughout my soul. It made me greatly question the value of dating and marriage. Why should I risk the potential mind numbing pain that accompanies such heartache? 
The soul is often compared to a candle. A candles flame dances and sways as it flickers in the darkness. So to the soul, its natural state being one of turmoil. The soul has a need to love, feel, and experience. When we are exposed to pain, we instinctually hide that pain behind a veil of cynicism and denial. With this veil draped over our senses, we not only numb ourselves to the pain, but we also hinder our potential to feel joy.
We must understand that every yeridah and aliyah is just another beautiful note on the musical scale of life. Its imperative to remember that every time we trip or stumble, its really just a beautiful melody or dance move in disguise. Our job isn’t to deny and hide the fact that we're struggling but its rather to show the world the potential beauty that lies within that struggle. The beautiful reality that every yeridah brings about the possibility of an even greater aliyah.
The story of the redemption of the Jewish people is always preceded by darkness. The night proceeds the day in the Jewish religion, but we know that the first thought of G-D was the last act in creation. Which means G-d only created the darkness in order to make the light that much greater and magnificent. 
Emunah isn’t ignoring our feelings of despair. Emunah means I have the realization that this pain is very real and deep, but at the same time understanding its an essential experience in the process of creating the new and much improved self. We must acknowledge the heartache, embrace the pain, and mold our experiences in to something meaningful. Life is a constant search for that spark of goodness that’s hidden within the paralyzing darkness.
So yes, I could choose complacency, a life that’s numb to the calling and searching of my soul for its greater half. But wouldn’t I be missing out on the beauty of this world? Because life is not just an assortment of joyous occasions that are arbitrarily strung together. The beauty of growth lies within the ebb and flow of life’s waves, navigated by the souls longing to feel. The lows experienced during this voyage of creating oneself are just as essential as the highs.

So that’s why its worth it. Its worth putting it all on the line again because in the end of the day its really the only option we have. A life without feeling is barely a life at all. And a loving heart that’s never been broken doesn’t really know what it means to love.

We must have faith in G-d, our self, and others. We must not be afraid to share our feelings and struggles with those who are close to us. A Jew must never forget that when all else fails, the gates of tears are never closed.  Although the world tells us it’s a sign of weakness to cry, in reality it’s precisely the opposite. And those who never cry, will never truly experience what it means to laugh. So cry, cry because your entitled to. Cry because it will help you. Cry now because soon you will be laughing. A laughter that will be so great it will fill your mouth. A laughter that will only be as strong and meaningful as your tears had previously been. So lets stand up, light the candle, and spread the light of the broken hearted.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Guest Post: Breslov Melaveh Malka Motzei Shabbos with Rav Nasan Maimon

Bais Breslev of the Five Towns & Far Rockaway will be hosting a Melaveh Malka this Motzei Shabbos. We will have the privilege of hearing divrei Torah from Rav Nasan Maimon of Rav Arush Yeshiva Chut Shel Chessed and lecturer (Click here for his shiurim).

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Was Supression of Abuse Victims the Real Reason for the Internet Asifa? (Hint: Depends who you Ask)

I have been thinking about the issues relating the my post on Thursday  about the approach of many in our community to place the burden on the victims of sexual abuse rather than stand up to abusers and enablers and protect abuse victims.

In connection with reading about that issue, I saw another article written by Judy Brown, the author of Hush, relating to the big Internet Asifa at Citi Field last year. The article was posted on Dovid Teitelbaum's blog, Tales from a Summer Camp and was called, This is why the Internet Asifa is Important for K’lal Yisroel.

In it, she writes about why she feels it's important for people to attend a protest outside the Asifa by supporters of sexual abuse victims. Their rallying cry was "The Internet is not the Problem." While it's clear that Internet filters are absolutely necessary in my opinion, I also agree that "the Internet is not the [real, underlying] problem," for reasons explained by my Rebbe here and here.

But Mrs. Brown offers a different, seemingly left-field explanation of what she views as the "real" reason for the Internet Asifa: The chareidi community wanted to make the Asifa because the Internet must not be allowed in our community since it (i) gives people a way to reveal the "moral decay" within the chareidi world to the outside world and (ii) empowers victims of sexual abuse by connecting them with others in a similar situation and sources of help and information, which in turn makes the abuse harder to keep under wraps.
As someone completely outside the world of abuse victims, my initial reaction is that this explanation is completely left field (no Mets pun intended). And, right or wrong, because of the "wholesome lie," as she so poetically describes it, told by many parts of the various chareidi communities, abuse as a reason for anything is very far in the periphery of most people's minds. While there may be some people who may have consciously had this reason for supporting the Asifa, I don't think it was a major part of the organizers' motivations. While it could be debated or argued that they missed the real underlying problem, most people's primary motivation is helping protect ourselves and our children from the impurity which is so accessible on the Internet, which is a positive goal. The worst one could say is that the focus was misguided, but the truth is that there was nothing consciously nefarious about it.
That being said, why would Mrs. Brown and so many others believe that the primary reason for the Asifa is to silence sexual abuse victims? To clarify, I'm not suggesting that I don't agree with her that one of the positive things about the Internet (much more important than my ability to share Torah on this blog!) is its ability to connect abuse victims with one another, connect them with resources, help, and law enforcement, and raise awareness so more people will take greater steps to prevent and stop abuse. But that aspect of the Internet is not what most people think of as its defining character. Most people think of it either as a practical tool, a source of entertainment, and/or a source of filth no Jew should be exposed to.
I believe that Mrs. Brown and others saw the the purpose of the Asifa the way they did because the primary importance and character of the Internet in their lives is as a literal lifesaver. It is one of many people's only sources of information, connection, and help, and is a powerful tool in exposing abuse and abusers in order to begin taking steps to fix broken, corrupt systems. For them, that is what the Internet is all about. That is its defining essence in their lives. It is a life preserver that literally saved their lives. In their expeirence, moral decay comes from within the community, not from the outside. The information and connections they find on the Internet feels like the first breath of air inhaled by someone who was drowning.
So from their perspective (assuming I'm right about charactarizing that perspective - anyone who has expeirenced this is welcome to share their actual perspective), if someone is trying to cut off frum people's access to the Internet (the same Internet wose defining attribute is as a lifeline for those suffering from abuse and intimidation), the only explanation is that their primary motivation is to further silence abuse victims and perpetuate the moral decay within the community.
For the majority of people, however, who are not connected in any way to abuse, the Internet does not have that kind of a life preserver nature. That is just not its defining nature in their mindds. It has a different significance to them. It is something they need for work, or want for self-expression, entertainment, or as a way of giving into their illicit desires. For them, it's character is largely as a conduit of impurity, too easily brining filth into Jewish homes and minds. That is why it should be curtailed. That's why Mrs. Brown's charactarization is utterly baffling to those who are (thankfully) not part of the world of abuse.
I hope that by writing this, it will serve as a way of helping people coming from very different perspectives understand where one another are coming from. I also hope I'm not too off-base. IY"H, may we merit to stand up to abusers rather than victims and only use the Internet for good things.
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Protecting Jews Even From Other Jews, Sexual Abuse, and Why Moshe was Chosen

Judy Brown, author of Hush, asked a serious question in this famous speech at the Nefesh conference in Chicago (above). She asked why do we punish victims of sexual abuse in many parts of our community and hide/protect the perpetrators? Why do we place the burden to prevent chillul Hashem, the burden to remain silent, on the children and the victims?

She asks (see the video above starting at 15:50) why, for a community that does such an immense amount of chessed, do we further victimize the victims of sexual abuse? She suggests that one reason could be that we do above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty chessed when the victim in need of assistance is the victim of circumstances, Divine decree, or perhaps even non-Jewish persecution. But if we stood up to protect children from other frum Jews (including family members, rebbeim, etc.), we would have to admit that we (at least some of us) are the bad guys. There is no such connotation when helping perpetrator-less "victims." So we deny that the abuse exists and bully the victims into silence.

We're willing to help Jews who are victimized by circumstances or by non-Jews, but not those who are victimized by other Jews.

This is the opposite of true of Moshe. Hashem chose him in this week's parsha, Shmos, as our redeemer because he not only stood up to protect a Jew (at great risk to himself) from the non-Jewish task-master who was beating him. He also stood up to one Jew who was beating another. His accomplishments go further, but this point reminded me of Judy Brown's observation noted above.

IY"H, may more of us be like Moshe Rebbeiniu and, if presented with the choice, may we have the courage to face the consequences as Moshe did and protect children and others in need of assistance even from other Jews, no matter how powerful they are.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dixie Bit: The essence of Binyomin, Yosef, and Yehuda (Izhbitz and Beis Yaakov)

Dixie Bit: [short ideas taken from various sources or my thoughts - not as well formed or with clear citations as a proper blog post]
Who and what is Binyomin as a shevet and in his essence? The following is based on the Mei Hashiloach and Beis Yaakov of Izhbitz.

As I've posted before, the essence of Binyomin is the ability and proclivity to take the good from the nations of the world and the physical world generally and bring it into the Jewish people, and thereby, back to its source, Hashem. This is the avodah of "v'yinatzlu es Mitzrayim, and you shall empty out Egypt," mentioned in the last pasuk of the 2nd perek in this week's parsha (Shmos).

This is based on Yaakov's blessing, "Binyomin is a Wolf that tears" sparks of holiness from the nations of the world in order to bring them into the Jewish people. It is also based on the stone from the Ephod corresponding to shevet Binyomin, the "yashpeh" which the Izhbitzer says is a contraction of the words "yesh peh, there is to him a mouth" to consume the holiness that is trapped among the nations of the world to bring it back to the Jewish people.

Why is Binyomin consumed by the need to look for holiness outside the walls of the beis medresh in order to bring it back? Why is he not satisfied and calm, willing to look for holiness only where it is apparent? Why isn't he patient enough to wait for "b'ita, its time," the appointed time of redemption when Hashem Himself will bring back everything to its source and redeem those sparks of holiness Himself when He decides the time is ripe? Why must he insist on "achishena, I will hasten it?" Why must he reach into the mud to bring goodness back *now*?

The Izhbitzer's son, the Beis Yaakov, gives us the backstory.

The Beis Yaakov explains the differences between Yehuda, Yosef, and Binyomin. In short, their essences are the following (I'll note below some obvious questions about the following given other things we know about these players):
  • Yehuda is the tzadik who recognizes that the whole purpose of life is the higher world. This world is transient and our avodah is to live purely for the higher world. He is patient and will wait for "b'ita, its [the redemption's] time." He has no need to live for or see the redemption of the holiness that he know intellectually exists in this world. So he is patient and doesn't see the rush to involve one's self in the physical world or the nations to redeem the holiness trapped there.
  • Yosef expands on Yehuda's satisfaction with only involving one's self with things that are already outwardly spiritual. He stretches out Yehuda's interests by showing how there is value in being involved in the world, settling and improving it. Yosef takes care of every detail of running a country. He gives Yehuda the ability focus on those details of this otherwise insignificant world in Yehuda's own malchus.
  • Binyomin takes this a step further. He is not satisfied with "b'ita," waiting until Hashem is good and ready to redeem the holiness within this world at the end of time. He has no patience for that. He demands redemption in the way of "achishena, I will hasten it." That is why he looks to the good points within the physical and within the nations of the world in order to take them away from their captivity there and bring it into the Jewish people, Hashem's bride, into Hashem's household. He must do this now, before the ultimate redemption.
This is why Yehuda was so distraught when he came to Yosef-viceroy at the beginning of Vayigash. He knew that his kingship had no staying power in this world without Yosef and Binyomin. Without a focus on the good/the value in this world, Yehuda would disappear as far as any existence in this world goes. Granted, he was part of the cause of the loss of Yosef, but sometimes "you don't know what you've got till it's gone."

Yehuda had already lost Yosef, which, together with his intent to focus on the higher world, gave him the ability to extend his upper-worldly life into this world. But at least he still had Binyomin. Now, though, Binyomin was about to suffer the same fate as Yosef. He was about to be swallowed up by the very impure world he was trying to redeem. Yehuda therefore guaranteed Binyomin's return to his father Yaakov. If he lost Binyomin, he would have no further reason to live in this world, so he guaranteed Binyomin's return with his own life.

And by doing so, Yehuda merited not only the ability to retain physical life by keeping Binyomin's influence in his life, but he also merited to regain Yosef's influence as well.

We can see from this how all types of Jews and darchei avodah across the spectrum (i) of living only for apparent holiness while rejecting any essential purpose in this world, on one hand, to (ii) intense involvement with the nations and the physical world, on the other hand are both needed. It is a symbiotic relationship whereby we are only complete as a people when we have both sides to do their respective jobs but also to keep the other side grounded and balanced.

I previously commented that Binyomin would be a great name for a Ger because such a person extracted his own soul from captivity among the nations. It's not a completely clean extraction though. There's junk that comes along into the Jewish people along with the holiness that had been there. Binyomin struggles to cleanse himself from that junk while still able to see the good in the world outside and trying to bring it up without being taken captive again by it. He must be anchored by the purity of Yehuda who'll save him from the brink when he's almost lost.


As I learn more, I don't yet know enough to fully get my head around these ideas or how they shtim with the fact that Yehuda is the son of Leah, the embodiment of the "alma d'iskasya, the hidden world." He should be the one to look for the hidden kedusha in this world, right? He's also malchus, the ability to bring all of the higher kochos all the way down into the details of this world. Isn't that the essence of malchus? Why does he need Yosef for that? Or is Yosef the reason why Yehuda can do it? But if so, what is malchus?

And Binyomin is a son of Rochel, the embodiment of the "alma d'isgalya, the revealed world." Shouldn't that mean he's the one who only deals with the world of revealed holiness, nigleh? Shouldn't he be the one with patience who doesn't need to see how the hidden holiness in the physical world will return to the world of holiness? He should be satisfied with the revealed holiness of the spiritual world and not so preoccupied with revealing that which is hidden.

Perhaps some of you can help me fit some more pieces of the puzzle together.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bring Challah & Conversation to Dead Sea Kiosk Yiddin or Gawk at Yiddish Speaking Kiosk-er Chossid as a Novelty?

Check out Jeremy Stamin's story starting at 6:53 of this video where he talks about how he brings challah to the mall, gives it to Israelis working at the Dead Sea product kiosks, and makes conversation. Gevaldig!

If only more people took his approach! I hope people are inspired to do that when they watch the below video and not simply watch it in order to see the Yiddish speaking Yid in the video below as a side show or novely:
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Deep Shiur by Reb Joey Rosenfeld - Yosef, Daas and the Quest for Essentiality

Another deep shiur by Reb Joey Rosenfeld, Yosef, Daas and the Quest for Essentiality. See here for source sheet for the shiur. HT University of Purim
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Michael Shapiro's Niggun for Maoz Tzur - Video & MP3 - Shared by Rav Moshe Weinberger

This past Shabbos, which was Shabbos Chanukah, at shalosheudos, Rav Moshe Weinberger pointed out that everyone only knows only one niggun to Maoz Tzur. It is a beautiful tune, but why is there only one? He therefore said that he has been singing a different tune from Michael Shapiro with his family for about 30 years! He taught the shul (Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY) the tune for the first time right there at Shalosheudos.

In order to track down a recording of the song, a special Yid who was there, Rabbi Reuven Boshnack recorded himself singing as much of it as he could remember and sent it to Rabbi Gavriel Bellino, a connoisseur of Michael Shapiro's music who B"H found it! 

You can listen to it using the youtube video above or downloading the mp3 HEREYou can also click here to order Michael Shapiro's music CDs.

If you may be in Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY next Chanukah, make sure to listen a few times so you can be ready to sing it with us! 

P.S. Rav Weinberger held a beautiful mesiba for Zos Chanukah last night hosted by Reb Roni Goldberg. See below for a little video clip I took on my Blackberry (yes - they still exist, at least through my office) of the chevra dancing to one of my favorite songs, Reb Shlomo's Hazor'im B'Dima (music by Nochi Krohn). Enjoy!

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Awesome Musical Davening for Chanukah This Morning in Woodmere - Eitan Katz - Video & Audio!

The video above is a compilation of a number of people's videos from a beautiful Halel from Chanukah davening this morning in Woodmere. As Chazal say (Avos 6:2), "The only free man ("Frei" yid) is one who is fully engaged in learning Torah." Reb Eliav Frei, who organized this Carlebach davening, shows us all that the way to be free of the shackles of the smallness of this ephemeral world is by being fully engaged with Yiddishkeit. In that spirit, he put together this morning's beautiful davening at his house for the chevra from Woodmere. Some very special Yiddin even came from various parts of Brooklyn, including Marine Park and Williamsburg to daven with us as well.

You can click here to hear an audio recording of almost the entire Halel and see above for a compilation of videos.

It was great seeing Reb Eitan Katz leading Halel, as well as other talented musicians who joined in like Pinny Farkas, Mutty Shur (both of One Trek fame), and Shloimy Reich.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Parshas Vayeshev - Shalosh Sheudos Torah - The Bas Ayin, Reb Mendel Vizhnitzer & Rivkahlah

Also courtesy of Reb Adam Friedman, here is the Torah from the Bas Ayin Rav Moshe Weinberger taught at Shalosh Sheudos during his visit to YU this past Shabbos, parshas Vayeshev. Learn through that first. Rav Weinberger then told over a story about Reb Mendel Vizhnitzer (The Tzemach Tzaddik), which Reb Adam summarized as follows:
He then told the story of the Tzemach Tzaddik, Reb Mendel Vizhnitzer and little Rivkah. He heard it from his father when he was younger. Before he became Rebba, he wanted to take the pulse of the people. He dressed up as a begger and went traveling around year after year. Every year he would arrive in a ceratin town and the people would give him a few koppecks but no one invited him in. There was a little girl, Rivkahleh, who year after year, would set up her little table and chiar and serve Mendel "the meshugeneh" tea. Rivkah and Mendel became friends. During his last visit - he knew he would have to reveal himself and become Rebba soon - he said to Rivka that this would be the last time he would be here. He asked her not to forget him and she asked the same.
Fast forward, Rivkah became very sick and lost the ability to walk. Her parents went to every doctor, travelled to Vienna and Prague, but to no avail. Rivkah suggested that they go get a bracha from the Tzemach Tzaddik because maybe he is Mendel the begger, who used to travel around. The family thought she was speaking crazily due to sickness, but had exhausted all options. During the day before the family arrived, the Rebba made a starnge request of his gabbai. He asked him to find a toy set of table and chairs and a little tea set. The gabbai found one and set it up in the corner of the Beis Medrish, at the Rebba's request.
The family arrived and carried Rivkah in to see the Rebba. They placed her in front of the Rebba in the middle of the Beis Medrish, she was laying on the floor. When Rivkah saw the Rebba she yelled "Mendel!" The chassidim looked around "Mendel?" Who is this woman? Rivkah continued and said, do you remember me? Reb Mendel turned to Rivkah and said, Rivkah, do I remember you? When no one else took me in, you brought me to your table and served me tea. I would like you to serve me tea once more. At that moment Rivkah stood up and walked over to the tea set.
IY"H, may we be zoche to see the faces of our own true selves, the faces of the tzadikim, and the face of Moshiach, may he come soon in our days!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Question on Rashbam's Pshat re Confusing Psukim Regarding Who Sold/Bought/Transported Yosef

The Rashbam on Bereishis 37:36 says that M'dan, Midyan, and Yishmael are all brothers from Avraham, though they do not share the same mother according to the Rashbam (Bereishis 25:1). The Rashbam also solves the difficulty of the numerous nations the psukim say bought/sold/transported Yosef by stating, on the next phrase in the Rashbam, that M'dan and Yishmael are one and are referred to interchangeably in the psukim. So according to him, we're really only dealing with two distinct groups: Midyan and M'dan/Yishmael.

My question is that it would have been simpler for the Rashbam to say that M'dan and Midyan are one (rather than M'dan and Yishmael), since M'dan and Midyan share the same father and mother (Keturah), while M'dan and Yishmael only share one parent (Avraham). Why, therefore, does the Rashbam say that Yishmael and M'dan are one, rather than saying that M'dan and Midyan are one (which would be equally effective at resolving the confusing psukim regarding the nationality of those who bought/sold/transported Yosef)?

Any ideas?

New Maccabeats Chanukah Song/Video: Burn - Classic Maccabeats Videos also Included

The video above is the newest Maccabeats Chanukah video to raise funds for the Miracle Match bone marrow donation organization. Love those "Greek" guys' cameos every year. They even give a hat tip to the fact that Thanksgiving falls on Chanukah this year (eye roll). ;-) And l'hashlamas hainyan, enjoy two other classic Maccabeats Chanukah videos below (wish I could show you our video of our son spontaneously singing Candlelight at his sister's bas mitzva when he was about 5 - sooo cute):

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Awesome "Hashem Melech" Song - From Uman this Year - Gad Elbaz Video

This is my favorite song from my trip to Uman this year. So happy to see that it's online. Hashem Melech Hashem Malach Hashem Yimloch l'olam va'ed! My wife helped me understand the French parts. :-)

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Monday, November 18, 2013

My Guest Post at Circus Tent - Intro to Rav Moshe Weinberger's Teachings and Response to Comments

I enjoyed reading Reb Hirschel Tzig's recent post at Circus Tent about the inspiring Rosh Chodesh Kislev farbrengen held by Rav Weinberger at YU but I was dismayed by the smallness, disrespect, and ignorance displayed in many of the comments. I know it's the Internet and many comment sections in the world are populated by such commenters, but I was unable to forget about these comments without putting a response "on the record." For the sake of the majority of readers there who did not comment, and perhaps against my better judgment, I offered to write a response to the majority of Circus Tent readers who may not be aware of the ignorance of many of the commenters. Baruch Hashem, Hirshel Tzig was gracious enough to accept my offer.

Please see below for the introductory comments at the beginning of my guest post or you can click here to read the full post. I encourage my Dixie Yid readers to contribute voices of reasonableness and sanity to the comment section there and I discourage people from making disparaging or insulting comments in response to any small-minded comments you read. I don't think anything is gained by sinking to the lowest common denominator of the Internet comment world.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the guest post:
First of all, thank you to Reb Hirshel Tzig for publishing this guest post so that I can share some information and thoughts about my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger, shlita, who I see as one of the greatest mashpi'im in our generation. I do this with the recognition that although it is absurd for an ant like myself to "explain" Rav Weinberger to those who are not yet familiar with him, the comment section of Reb Hirschel Tzig's recent post about the inspiring Rosh Chodesh Kislev farbrengen held at YU convinced me that many Circus Tent readers may benefit from some additional insight into this very special Rav.
My biggest hurdle is, as Rav Weinberger said about Rav Kalonymous Kalmish Shapira, Hy"d, the "Aish Kodesh," at that tzadik's hilula a few years ago, is "For those who are not yet familiar with his teachings, how does one explain that this [is] not 'just another rabbi?'" The only way for readers to truly get a sense of why Rav Weinberger's teachings are so vital for our generation is by listening to at least one series of his shiurim. I recommend starting with one of the series of shiurim on the teachings of the Baal Hatanya, Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, or Rav Kook. You can also read some of  his recent Shabbos morning drashos on my blog here. Nevertheless, I will try to hit a few roshei perkaim and point those interested in learning more toward some helpful sources.
My only basis for speaking on the issue is the fact that I have been a student of Rav Weinberger's in Woodmere for about nine years and a student-from-afar of Rav Weinberger's for about twelve years. Readers should note that the views I express here are my own and I am not an "official" spokesperson or gabai for Rav Weinberger. Any mistakes in attempting to characterize Rav Weinberger's teachings are my own.
In terms of format, I will address the topic by responding to many of the misimpressions expressed in certain of the comments to Reb Hirshel Tzig's post according to the categories listed below. In doing so, I am intentionally looking past the profound bizui talmidei chachamim, smallness, and ignorance in which many commenters enclothed their "analysis." I'm also numbering the paragraphs so I can refer to the paragraphs in this guest post if a comment raises a point or points I've already addressed here either explicitly or implicitly. Life is short. Here are the general types of comments/"complaints" organized by category:
  • It is problematic that Rav Weinberger does not limit his self-identification and teachings to Chabad chassidus 
    • It is problematic that Rav Weinberger cannot be pinned down to clear Chabad/Chagas/MO/Litvish labels 
    • Rav Weinberger's teachings are not penimius/derech arucha u'tzetzara. They're "Poilishe bubeh maasehs," fireworks, and pomp to appeal to the masses and are without tochen.
    • YU should be ctiticized for hiring a chasidish mashgiach and thereby abandoning their Brisker/Litvish/RYB Soloveitchik heritage (I'll explain below why I place this in the "Rav Weinberger is not Chabad" complaint category)
  • How can a Rav who learned in YU and is "worldly" credibly be considered a "Rebbe?"
  • Rav Weinberger appeals to the chevra at YU because they are starved for spirituality
  • Rav Weinberger appeals to the chevra at YU because he teaches Rav Kook

CLICK HERE to read the full guest post!

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Melaveh Malka with Rabbi Chaim Kramer and Music Next Motzoi Shabbos in Woodmere! - Live Music Research Institute is havintg a Melaveh Malka and the home of Dr. Nudman, my friend, and writer of the Rav Weinberger Shalosh Sheudos drashos. Rabbi Kramer has put out so many books on Breslov chassidus and I was fortunate to daven and learn by him in Uman this Rosh Hashana.

The Melaveh Malka is next motzoi Shabbos (Nov. 14th) at 8:00 p.m. at the Nudman's home. The address is on the flyer on the right. There will be live music (I'm not sure by who!) and it's definitely a worthwhile organization to support! Rabbi Kramer will speak on "Chanukah Brings a Glow to Every jewish Heart - Why?"

See you there!

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Beautiful TV Spot on Students' Gratitude to Rabbi Doniel Estreicher from Atlanta - Link to Evan & Jarod Song About Him Too

See above for a beautiful video showing how students from Yeshiva High School in Atlanta nominated Rabbi Doniel Estreicher, who learned in Telse, out of their great love for him. B"H, I was zoche to meet Rabbi E a few times and stay with him for Shabbos eighteen or nineteen years ago when I lived back in Dixie. HT Jew in the City.
Musical duo Evan and Jaron who attended Yeshiva Atlanta and were students of Rabbi E years ago also wrote a song honoring him called "He Shines" (lyrics here). A video of two guys singing that is below:

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

BBC Feature on Long Island Railroad Daf Yomi - Many Aish Kodesh/Far Rockaway People Interviewed!

I heard about this BBC feature about the daf yomi shiur on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) many times before it came together. The film crew had a number of fits and starts and the chevra had to wear suits a number of days for filming this that didn't end up coming together! There are extensive interviews with a number of chevra from our shul and accountant Yossi Klein was particularly eloquent here. Enjoy and share. Big kiddush Hashem!!! Here is the BBC website link with a short article and here is one with a longer article they came out with at about the same time.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Three-Part Interview with Shlomo Carlebach & Music - If the Establishment Doesn't Invite You, That's When You Do It the Best of the Best

The three videos below contain a fairly in-depth interview with Shlomo Carlebach which I hadn't seen before. Great questions and answers! HT The StollelClick here for another long multi-part interview which I posted earlier.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Video Shiur - Does Thinking About the Akeida Stop You from Sleeping? - Rabbi Joey Rosenfeld

Definitely worth seeing this shiur by deep young talmid chacham Rabbi Joey Rosenfeld, who it's always a pleasure to see at Rav Moshe Weinberger's shiurim. HT UofPurim. In it, Rabbi Rosenfeld quotes the Ishbitizer, Rav Kook, Dylan, Kierkegaard and Derrida
One interesting and central point in the shiur is that the point of the test was that that Avraham wasn't directly commanded to slaughter Yitzchak, but it was a "favor" or "request" asked from Hashem of Avraham. This is in contrast to the generally understood way of looking at the Akeida as Hashem's unequivocal command, as noted by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein in Cross-Currents recently.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Guest Post: The Secret Life of Gershon Burd Z'L - Please Read & DONATE

I personally knew R'Gershon while I learned at Bircas Hatorah. He was a hidden Tzaddik. Klal Yisrael and his family lost a special neshama. Please take time to read his story and more important, donate money to his fund.

Click here for story on

Click here to donate directly now

Kol Tuv,


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Guest Post: How to easily add new built in internet filters on any iOS 7 Apple Device

As a follow up from a comment I left to DixieYids post here and a article DixieYid sent to me from here I wanted to post these simple steps for locking your iOS 7 device to block all adult content and even create a white list (I will explain). This will allow both your cellular data and WIFI connection to block adult content and still be able to use Safari. It's simple and unobtrusive that there is simply no excuse not to have some basic level of filtering on your iOS device now.

Step 1: Click on the settings icon and go into "General"

Step 2: Once in "General" click on "Restrictions". Note: If you have not set restrictions before it will be set to "Off" and will prompt you to assign a easy 4 digit passcode. Have this passcode set by another person to ensure you cannot unlock settings. In addition you should limit explicit content for things like movies as shown below. 

Step 3: Once in "Restrictions" scroll down until you see "Allowed Content". There is a new "Websites" option to click on. As noted earlier, in this screen you can limit other content like movie ratings.

Step 4: Now you can check the "Limit Adult Content" and you are DONE!

Optional Steps 5-6: If you wish you can add a blacklist/whitelist. Blacklist will ALWAYS block a certain website. Whitelist feature will only allow websites YOU list. It is a great feature and something I might try soon.

Step 5 Black list: Scroll to the bottom of the same "Websites" menu previously in when we selected the "Limit Adult Content" option in step 4. In the "Never Allow" option you can simply type in URLs you always want blocked!

Step 6 White list: Here instead of selecting "Limit Adult Content" select "Specific Websites Only". As a default Apple has pre-populated a list of kid friendly options. The last option at the bottom is "Add a Website" (not pictured below). Simply type in as many sites as you want to white list. Again once setup your Apple device will only allow the sites YOU choose.

I hope these steps were clear and help people protect their phones from basic adult content. If I can be of more help please leave a comment below.

Thank you,


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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Know that G-d is Everywhere and Ask "Where is G-d?" - Shlomo Katz Kumzitz and Question to Lubavitcher Rebbe


Check out this beautiful audio (above) of a Kumzitz by Reb Shlomo Katz given at JLIC at Queens College back in March of this year. What he said from Rebbe Nachman about knowing that Hashem is everywhere, in everything, and always asking "Where are You G-d?" reminded me of this beautiful story below about a man's departure from the derech and how he found his way back after the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zy"a, gave him some time. I recommend seeing/listening to both! HT Menashe Fleischer for the second video! 


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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chasidish Drush by the Rambam re Fallen Jews Who Try to "Steal" a Few Mitzvos

I saw the most amazing drush by the Rambam quoted by Devorah in her Voice After the Fire blog.
The piece she quoted is in the Rambam's Igeres Hashmad, which he wrote giving a community guidance on how to handle the forced conversion issue and how to deal with Jews who had converted out under duress.
A certain rav wrote the community that if a Jew had converted out, that they should be shunned and booed out of shul if they ever showed up and that any mitzvos they fulfilled in secret counted for nothing. This is understandable in the sense that it was important to them to send a message and set an example to prevent others from succumbing to the the pressure. They didn't want others to think they could convert out for the sake of expediency, thinking that there would be no consequences if they did so.
But the Rambam wrote the community, telling them that people who, r"l, converted out or broke Shabbos should not be shunned or chased out of shul, but should be welcomed and that all of the mitzvos they performed in secret were very precious. And he did so quoting a very chassidish sounding drush. I would not be surprised seeing something like that in the name of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. Here's that key part from the Rambam: 
וגם כן אינו ראוי להרחיק מחללי שבתות ולמאוס אותם, אלא מקרבם ומזרזם לעשיית המצות. וכבר פירשו רז"ל, שהפושע אם פשע ברצונו כשיבוא לבית הכנסת להתפלל מקבלים אותו, ואין נוהגים בו מנהג בזיון. וסמכו על זה מדברי שלמה ע"ה משלי ו' ל' "אל יבוזו לגנב כי יגנוב למלא" וגו', אל יבוזו לפושעי ישראל שהן באין בסתר לגנוב מצות.
It is also not appropriate to distance oneself or show disgust at those who desecrate Shabbos. Rather, draw them close and encourage them to do the mitzvos. Chazal have already explained that [even] a sinner who sinned willfully, when he comes to shul to daven, we accept him and do not humiliate him. They relied on that which Shlomo Hamelech said in Mishlei (6:30), "They will not despise a thief if he steals to sate [his apetite because he is hungry." Do not despise Jewish sinners who come in secret to "steal" mitzvos.
So beautiful! The Rambam does not just explain the pasuk in Mishlei to mean that just like one should not be too harsh on a thief if he steals because he feels forced to do so by starvation, he should also not be too harsh on Jews who converted out under duress. Rather, he takes it further and says that when the pasuk discusses thieves, it's refering to Jews who have fallen out of the fold but are now coming back just a drop to "steal" a few mitzvos. Don't despise them but honor every little effort they make to come closer to holiness. 
Picture courtesy of The Destiny Foundation.
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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Two Stories: Shpoler Zeide/Rebbe Nachman and Bais Yisroel of Ger from Yom Kippur War

I saw a great story over Shabbos in the sefer Sippurei Chassidim by Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, zt"l and heard another story from Rav Weinberger at Shalosh Sheudos which share a lot in common so I wanted to share both.
Some chassidim heard about all of the negative things the Shpoler Zeide said about Rebbe Nachman and decided to go to Rebbe Nachman's town to do a little "self help" to prevent Rebbe Nachman from continuing his work.
The Shpoler Zeide heard about this and summoned the "activist" chassidim. When they came, he first told them not to touch Rebbe Nachman or harm him in any way. He then told them the following vort:

Rashi brings down that when the Torah says about Noach that he was a "tzadik in his generation" that some of chazal explain this positively that even in such a horrible generation, he was still a tzadik! And others explain it negatively, that by comparison to his low generation, he was considered a tzadik, but that if he had lived in Avraham's generation, he would have been considered like nothing.

The Shpoler Zeide asked the well-known question: If it's possible to explain the fact that the Torah calls Noach a tzadik positively, why on earth would any of the sages have explained it negatively?! Doesn't the mishna say in Pirkei Avos that one should judge every person favorably!

The Shpoler Zeide therefore explained that because Noach is the first person in the Torah who is called a tzadik, chazal were concerned. Although they wanted to explain Noach only positively, they were worried that if they did so, everyone would say that someone can only be considered a tzadik if he has no opposition among the other rabbonim and tzadikim. Chazal therefore made a point to find some basis for "opposition" to Noach so that from then on, everyone would know that opposition by tzadikim to someone does not mean that the person isn't a tzadik.

We see from this that even though the Shpoler Zeide was stridently opposed to much of what Rebbe Nachman was doing, that as a person, he considered him a tzadik.

I heard the second story from Rav Moshe Weinberger at Shalosh Sheudos. He said that during the Yom Kippur War, many parents were coming to the Bais Yisroel of Ger for help because of their children who were fighting in the war. He was completely immersed in talking with, crying with, and davening with these families.

The Bais Yisroel davened every day at the Kosel, begging Hashem for mercy on these young men. At one point he told a number of people the following thought: He started off by asking the same question asked by the Shpoler Zeide above; why chazal would explain the way the Torah refers to Noach as a tzadik pejoratively if there other, more positive, ways of explaining it. After all, it was in Noach's zechus that the whole world was saved!

He answered that it must be chazal were concerned that if everyone saw Noach was such a big tzadik and he succeeded in saving the world, that they would think that only a big tzadik can save the world. Chazal minimized Noach's tzidkus in order to teach us that even a "little tzadik" can save the world. The Rebbe continued with a tefila that maybe even a "little tzadik" like him could accomplish something in saving some of the boys fighting in the war.

Rav Weinberger concluded that we each have to believe that we too can save the world and do not have to be the biggest tzadikim to do so.

May we all be zoche!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New Ramat Beit Shemesh Housing Update and Meetings with Builders/R. Judah Mischel in NY Area!

I got the email below from Rabbi Judah Mischel giving an update on the new building projects in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef. See above for a video he, Rav Boaz Mori, and the realtors made. Very exciting. He also has events coming up for more information, including a chance to meet with the builder, in Forest Hills, Bergenfield, NJ, YU, Kew Gardens Hills, and Manhattan. Very exciting! See below for the details!
Lev HaRama" is an exciting community initiative and building project in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef. A partnership and joint venture between Yigal Realty & Yeshivat Lev HaTorah, our goal is to build on the successful model of Ramat Shilo (Shechunat Yeshivat Lev Hatorah), of creating a neighborhood model based around a Torah institution and community center.
We are developing a vibrant, growth oriented Kehillah in two adjacent communities- Ramat HaRo'eh (named in honor of The Ro'eh, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook zt’l) as well as parallel project in Givat Shilo.
We are thrilled that over 40 inspired families have already purchased homes and are committed to joining us in developing our vision for creating an open and comfortable, warm Torah community in Ramat HaRo'eh.
BE"H residents will enjoy all the advantages of living in a new area of an established city – with an array of excellent schools, stores and the convenience of the location between Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv, as well as the unique opportunity to help build and shape a Kehillah from the ground up.
We are working with experienced realtors, Kablanim, architects and builders, and have obtained exclusive rights to develop and market a limited number of attractive, high quality and competitively priced homes, apartments, duplexes, and townhouses.
Specifically, we are excited to announce our partnership with Reb Mordechai Chazon of Chazon & Galili Ltd., one of Israel’s most prolific and experienced real estate developers. Over the past 30 years, Chazon & Galili have built thousands of residential units, and are renown for their reliability, stellar reputation and high quality construction.
R' Mordechai Chazon will be joining us in New York area next week for a series of presentations about the new communities, and will be reviewing floor plans and exciting opportunities that are especially relevant for young couples and growing families.
Meir Dombey, representing the real estate company of Yigal Nechasim - one of the area's most respected firms- will be at the meetings as well.
We look forward to seeing you and sharing the vision and plans for this project, and invite you to take advantage of this exciting opportunity by joining us at one of the the information session / open houses next week:

  • Tuesday, October 8th @ Home of Justin & Shaindy Diller,
    69-11 Yellowstone Blvd, Apt. #B25, Forest Hills, Queens, NY 11375, 8pm
  • Wednesday October 9th @ Home of Rav Moshe Zvi & Alisa Weinberg, 19 Sunrise Terr., Bergenfield NJ, 07621, 8:15pm
  • Thursday Oct 10 @ Yeshiva University / Amsterdam Ave., Glueck Building, Rm 418, 7:45pm
  • Motzai Shabbos, October 12 @ Home of Michael & Lauren Mandelstam, 144-49 70th Road, Kew Garden Hills, NY 11367, 8:30pm
  • Sunday-Monday October 13-14 @ Israel Real Estate Exhibition,Grand Hyatt, Park Avenue at Grand Central Terminal
Chevreh, every effort we make toward holiness- and building & settling The Land of Israel is meaningful... May this effort bring Nachas Ruach to Hashem, and BE"H maybe even help some of you (or someone you know...) find your place in Eretz Yisrael!
If you're able to help spread the word to any family or friends who may be interested, I'd really appreciate it...
Thank you very much ~ Tizku L'mitzvos!
Looking forward to seeing you,

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No Jew Should Use Unfiltered Internet - The Filter I Use & Recommend is Web Chaver

Enjoy the video above recently created by Web Chaver, an Internet accountability and filtering company. It's cute and definitely a lot more useful than some recent filter advertisements.
It's been a while since I wrote about the self-evident fact that no Jew should use or permit his or her children to use unfiltered Internet here and here. While Internet did not exist in the time of chazal so there is no halachic prohibition of yichud (seclusion) with a computer/Internet-capable device, it is clear that using the Internet without people seeing, accountability software, or a filter is significantly more spiritually dangerous than being alone with a woman other than one's wife. That being said, no system is perfect, even the one I use, and there will always be ways to bypass an Internet filter so the real issue and real solution is to install the Yiras Shomayim Filter.

As an update on what I recommend in terms of an Internet filter, I have been using Web Chaver since January 2010. They offer a buddy system and a filter; and I definitely believe it's best to use both. They also offer filters which you can install on your Apple or Android devices. As part of the "buddy system," my buddy gets a weekly email of any questionable sites I may have visited on any of my computers that week so this "accountability" aspect helps in terms of self-control, recognizing that if I look at something I shouldn't, my friend, who I greatly respect and in front of whom I want to look good, will know about it and ask me about it. If it's totally innocent, I can just explain it to him. We work very well together in this regard. :-) See also the right sidebar where I've placed a permanent logo for Web Chaver so even if you forget the name of the company I'm writing about, you can click on that logo at any time to find their site. 

Web Chaver also has a filter, so I use that too both for my own benefit and as an added protection for my kids if they end up using the computer without mine or my wife's knowledge or supervision. There are also free filters available, like K-9, but I stopped using these for reasons that I no longer remember for certain. Perhaps it was the ability to have real customer service. I don't want to end up in a situation where I'm frustrated with my inability to access the Internet normally because of the filter and then I'm motivated to just uninstall it, which would leave me without protection.

The best way to do the accountability software and filter is to have your "buddy" choose the password and have exclusive control over it so one doesn't have access to that in a weak moment. I personally don't do that yet though because if one uninstalls the filter/accountability software from any computer, it sends an immediate message to my "buddy" so one still has some accountability in that situation.

I mentioned kids before. My wife and my first focus is trying to teach about and model positive, thoughtful, and responsible use of technology and Internet.  That goes along with modeling, encouraging, and facilitating a life in which we and they look forward to and find our enjoyment and pleasure in Torah, mitzvos, and all sorts of wholesome activities. The kids will have to choose how they use technology/the Internet on their own at some point in their lives so it would be completely negligent if we simply banned it without doing our best to give them the tools, knowledge, and inclination that will set them up for success when that time comes.  
With all of that said, none of our kids have yet reached an age where independent use of technology or the Internet is necessary or advisable. Therefore, our personal policy for all of our kids, since our  home computer does have Internet on it, is four-fold: (i) all computers/Internet-capable devices are password protected and they all lock up after a couple of minutes of inactivity; (ii) we do not let any of our children (even/especially our 9th grade daughter) use the computer or an Internet-capable device (even just the word processor) unsupervised or without one of us around; (iii) even if they do get on the computer somehow without us knowing, it's filtered; and (iv) even if somehow they do view something inappropriate, both my buddy and I will get the regular weekly report email showing any questionable sites visited on my computer. It's not a perfect system but B"H it's working so far.
The purpose of sharing all of this advice and information about what we're doing is to hopefully give over something that may be helpful to you or remind/encourage you to either get a filter and/or buddy system software for your computers/devices or to close up any gaps if you have any computers or devices which are not yet protected.
Hatzlacha raba to everyone in this nisayon of the generation and may we merit first and foremost to install the Yiras Shomayim Filter!

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