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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