Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Hijacking of Heimish

It has been going on for some time already, but knowledgeable people realized that it was incorrect, or, more bluntly, a scam.

People were going around and claiming that the Yiddish word היימיש - heimish - meant, or was some type of synonym for Chasidic.

Those in the know realized that it didn't add up. Those in the dark, e.g. people lacking in knowledge of Yiddish, were vulnerable to being duped.

Occasional protests against the misuse notwithstanding, the misappropriation of the word in some circles continued and continues.

And then, I saw the internet post.

A fine and prestigious website had fallen for it.

Now is a time to speak out, I thought. Time to correct things and protest the hijacking of היימיש.

So here we go.

The real meaning of היימיש/Heimish

Looking at Yiddish dictionaries, one sees meanings such as cozy, comfortable, familiar, and intimate given for it.

(See here, and here, for example)

Applied to a person, in our context, if a person is described as heimish, or as a heimishe Yid, what it means is that the person evokes an old fashioned coziness and comfort, spiritual, psychological, as well as physical, with their behavior, mannerisms, and surroundings. Perhaps they speak Yiddish, or at least throw in some Yiddish words into their English, have a samovar in plain view, or otherwise seem like some quaint throwback to an earlier, simpler, more spiritual era. From a frum perspective it is like visiting your grandparents, or great grandparents. It is like visiting with one of the gedolim in the אלטע היים, in pre-modern Europe, for example. Or with a גדול of our era maintaining the same way of life.

The term was/is used by various types of Yidden. Litvaks, Galitzianers, Poylishe, Hungarians, Chasidim, Misnagdim.

To now claim that not only does it mean specifically חסידים, rather than any old fashioned, cozy and quaint, עהרליכע אידען, but also that it means bedavka (specifically) modernized Chasidim, as opposed to more old fashioned versions, is a linguistic crime and travesty, that should be denounced and soundly rejected.

May Hashem help us from all fraud, scam, deception, and distortion.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Chasidic Backlash Against New High Shtreimel Style Gains Momentum

A while ago, we reported on the Vizhnitz opposition to the recent trend toward high shtreimels.

Now, it seems that other Chasidic groups have also come out against the new style.

Behadrei Haredim reports that Karlin has, and notes that Bobov (see here re the Bobov 48 Rebbe's stance) has in the past as well.

See there also re shtreimel history and how they have changed over the centuries.

Yud Tes Kislev Brings Misnagdim To Light

Do Misnagdim still exist today?

Well, they do exist, I have even met some during my lifetime :), but they don't usually go around with big signs and bullhorns proclaiming their beliefs. 

However, at times Hisnagdus comes out into the open.

A few days ago, before יט כסליו, two such cases were seen on the internet. 

We share the details with you below, courtesy of Chabad-Lubavitch.

So not only do Misnagdim still exist today, they exist in places and forms that people may not be aware of, e.g. among other (non Lubavitch) Chasidim, and among Dati-Leumi Yidden. The Misnaged today is not necessarily your sterotypical Litvak.

May we be zoche to see the light bikarov.

A freilichen Chanukah.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

How a Rebbe Can Build Happy and Healthy Talmidim - Rav Moshe Weinberger שליט"א

One of the panelists at a session at the recent Agudath Israel of America convention related to mental health was Rav Moshe Weinberger shlit"a, veteran Rebbe and Agudah Rav in Brooklyn, NY, as well as a longtime summer camp head counselor.

I would like to share some of his wisdom, wit, and good humor here.

"Today every Rebbe knows that he's in charge of the mental health of his talmidim." (3:15 -).

(Partially translated from Yiddish) My father didn't have time to have OCD, my father didn't have time to think if he had self esteem or not (36:50).

Today there is tremendous pressure.

On what a Rebbe can do to prevent mental issues 53:05 -

Rav Weinberger shlit"a commented with regard to three common conditions - self esteem, anxiety, and depression.

Self esteem - You have to acknowledge and relate to the children as individuals (check out the recording for details and examples).

Anxiety - With regard to tests, he says to students, it is a mark on the paper, not a mark on you. He will never write a failing mark on a paper. One of his fellow Rabbeim refers to tests as חזרה.

Depression - Speaks of the greatness of the sefer מסילת ישרים, it teaches that everyone is measured with their own measuring stick, and competition is only with what you can be.

The classroom and the house have to be happy places.

Torah was built in the United States with simcha, passion, vigor, and optimism (in name of his Rebbe, Rav Avrohom Chaim Levin z"l, who was just niftar) (57:40).

May we be zoche to have more Rabbeim like Rav Weinberger shlit"a, and to hear more of his wisdom and wit, לאורך ימים ושנים טובות.

(For more flavor and detail, check out the recording.)

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Personal מוכיח - A Worthy Idea

Personal trainer.

Personal shopper.

Personal רבי.

Personal מוכיח?

In a recent (dated November 16/9 Kislev 5779) issue of Yated Ne'eman (USA), in an article by Tzvi Yaakovson, it was related (p.41) in a segment entitled "A PAID CRITIC", that R. Nosson Wachtfogel ז"ל, mashgiach of בית מדרש גבוה in NJ, paid a generous monthly salary to a yungerman, who was assigned to visit him once a week, and deliver criticism and הוכחה.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that.

I had, of course, known of the famous story of the Vilna Gaon asking the Dubno magid to give him mussar. A shining example of the humility, and search for truth, of the Vilna Gaon. Also, in פרק ו:ו of מסכת אבות we are taught that one of the things that Torah is acquired by is אוהב את התוכחות, loving rebuke (as the posuk in Mishlei says, הוכח לחכם ויאהבך, rebuke the wise and he will love you).

But I don't recall hearing recently of someone designating someone to rebuke him regularly, and even paying him for it. Wow!

I don't know where Rav Nosson got the idea, the practice from. Kelm? Elsewhere?

Yes, in the past, especially in old mussar yeshivas, there were frameworks for personalized mussar, rebuke. Novhardok had something called a birzhe, which I believe could serve that purpose, for one example. But that was between fellow talmidim, not from a paid outsider.

Some Chasidim have, or recommend, personal משפיעים, which could encompass mussar giving.

Anyway, since we are in a time when some people claim that no one can give תוכחה nowadays, even basing their contention on Jewish sources, which, along with the outside influences of attitudes like "mind your own business", and "none of your business", can lead to there being sometimes situations of הפקרות and extreme lack of rebuke, it it is especially pleasant to see that the idea of personal תוכחה has not entirely disappeared.

Perhaps the tzibur at large should consider such frameworks for personal tochacha once again.

Another thought that came to me was that in addition to תוכחה being important for everyone, perhaps there is a special need for it among מנהיגים, our dear leaders, especially in certain settings. In addition to their being in positions of power and influence, where errors can be more costly and damaging R"L than with lesser individuals, there is also a danger of people being afraid of, or reluctant to take issue with them, fearing that it would be disrespectful and improper, leading to them perhaps lacking at times vital feedback.

For all of the above reasons, it seems like an idea worthy of serious consideration, that people (especially leaders) should consider emulating R. Nosson z"l to some extent, in one way or another, and make efforts to solicit rebuke on occasion, and not just surround themselves with yes men.

(I understand that sometimes people like spouses or chavrusas can play this role as well, but sometimes they don't at all, or do so inadequately.)

In the merit of pursuing truth and loving tochacha, may we be zoche to acquire Torah and Emes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Apology to my Readers and Commenters - Problem with Submitted Comments

Dear Friends -

It just came to my attention that that many recent comments submitted here, for maybe like the last two years, have ended up in the spam folder. While I looked there in the past, as suggested by Blogger (and didn't find much, if anything), it seems that I have not checked there for a while, and therefore a sizable group of them has been laying there in limbo for months and months.

I know that people put thought and effort into writing comments, expecting to have reasonable comments posted, and that to not have that subsequently happen is frustrating and disappointing. If people thought that comments have not been posted lately in an attempt to totally prevent and stifle legitimate discussion and debate here, they should know that that is not correct.

I started rectifying the matter a short while ago, by starting to go through the backlog (still in progress).

Please accept my apology for the problem, and thanks for reading.

Looking forward to legitimate, reasonable, discussion and debate, with appropriate respect.


Your Friendly Litvak Curmudgeon Buddy 😇

Thursday, October 25, 2018

How to Enjoy and Succeed in Torah Study - Rav Gershon Edelstein's Common Sense Advice

In a recent edition of "Yated Neeman" (USA) (issue dated 3 Cheshvan 5779 - October 12) a worthwhile feature appeared containing valuable הדרכה (guidance) from gedolei Eretz Yisroel in learning and avodas Hashem, on pages 40-44. It was adapted by Avrohom Birnbaum from the Israeli Yated.

I would like to bring to your attention some pieces of very important advice in it regarding proper ways of learning Torah, from מרן Rav Gershon Edelstein shlit"a, Rosh Yeshivas Ponevezh, מגדולי וממנהיגי דורנו. While they may seem simple, plain, and self evident to some people, others unfortunately are ignorant or confused about them. Both groups can benefit from reviewing them.

A person should learn במקום שלבו חפץ (we discussed this here in the past), a type of limud (study) that one will enjoy. Rav Edelstein cited the sefer חוסן יהושע, by Rav Yehoshua Heller z"l, as strongly urging a person to learn in a way with which they will enjoy their learning, also citing the gemara in מסכת עבודה זרה דף יט teaching that as well.

There seem to be two separate aspects of this.

1) The subject matter, the חלק of Torah studied, should be desired by the person, and

2) The תלמיד should study in a simple way (at least at first), not making things too complicated and difficult. R. Edelstein said that over the years many yungeleit came to him, broken in spirit, not enjoying their learning, and lacking in desire to go further. He explained to them that according to their situation they needed to learn simple gemara and Rashi, without all the סברות and לומדות. When they began to do so, they became so satisfied and happy, it was like they were exposed to a new reality, and began to derive real pleasure from learning.

Some examples from gedolim -

R. Hirsh Glickson, son in law of Rav Chaim Brisker, when he was a bochur all he knew was Mishnayos. Neverthless, Rav Chaim Brisker saw that he had seichel hayashar and took him as a son in law, and he later became a Rosh Yeshiva. (Rav Dof Yaffe z"l cited words of the של"ה in his time, that now that the commentary of רע"ב on mishnayos exists, the primary limud should be משניות.)

I saw a similar thing in the Artscroll biography of great gaon Rav Yisroel Zev Gustman z"l, Rosh Yeshiva of Ramailes yeshiva - Netzach Yisroel, that he first learned through all of mishnayos, ששה סדרי משנה, before gemara (as his Rebbe held that was the proper derech, as per the Vilna Gaon, Maharal, etc.), coming to know mishnayos by heart at ten years of age, which laid the foundation for his later gadlus (p.32). He also learned a great deal of נביאים in his youth, getting to know ירמיהו and ישעיהו by heart (p.34).

In the fine Rav Avigdor Miller biography, it reports that he first learned Tanach well, and only in his teens got into gemara.

להבחל"ח, we know that מרן שר התורה, Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit"a, followed a similar derech, generally speaking.

As the Torah itself tells us, כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאוד, Torah is very close, not excessively difficult and distant.