Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Gems from מרן שר התורה, Rav Chaim Kanievsky שליט"א, on Learning and Reviewing Shas

ש"ס is in the air, as one סיום follows another, ב"ה.

Therefore it is quite timely to share some shas related tidbits from Maran Sar HaTorah, Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit"a, adapted from a publication from ארצנו הקדושה (note: these are general ideas, some of which may be more relevant for ארץ ישראל. Of course everything must be done with proper deliberation, שיקול הדעת, before applying them, lest they ח"ו be applied inappropriately, leading to a situation of possible יצא שכרו בהפסדו ר"ל).

Question: From what age should youngsters be encouraged to go through all of Shas?

Response: מו"ר ר' מיכל יהודה ליפקוביץ זצ"ל said in the name of the Chazon Ish, that by בר מצוה shas must be completed.

Question: Is that not in the category of תפסת מרובה לא תפסת (if you try to seize too much, you will not succeed, whereas if you try to seize less you will)?

Response: It is not meant to know the entire shas by then, but just to go through it. I too learned shas with my sons by the age of Bar Mitzvah.

Question: If the child is saying it (gemara) without understanding, or, say with someone older, that is, let's say traveling, and wants to take advantage of the time, is there an ענין to recite pages of gemara without understanding at all?

Response: Surely. The gemara שבת סג says ליגמר איניש והדר ליסבר ואף דלא ידע מאי קאמר, אף שלא יודע כלום (a person should learn - recite Torah - and later seek to understand, explain it, even if he does not know what he is saying at first, even if he doesn't understand at all).

Question: Did you also finish shas with your father by your bar mitzvah?

Response: No, my father learned with me the מסכתות that I wanted to learn.

Question: At what age did you first make a siyum hashas.

Response: At sixteen.

Question: Rav Aharon Leib Steinman זצ"ל related that R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, before writing his Shulchan Aruch, sat in Mohilev for sixteen hours on the bank of the river Dniester (seemingly should be Dnieper) and reviewed Shas in his mind. So the question was raised, was it not related that the Gaon of Vilna learned the entire Shas every month?  Why did it take the GRA longer to learn shas?

Response: The first story was a case בהרהור (in thought), such a thing is possible. In the GRA case he learned shas inside (with a sefer).

Question: How long should it take to go through all of shas in thought (במחשבה)?

Response: Half an hour (I think).

Question: If someone has a daf yomi shiur, can he still make a siyum even if he did not learn through all of shas (he sat and listened to the shiur, not necessarily saying all the words of the gemara)?

Response: One can make a siyum based on הרהור, according to the GR"A, and surely on listening, where we have a principle of שומע כעונה.

Question: Does learning gemara without Rashi qualify for a siyum too?

Response: Yes. Even in the time of אביי, from where we learn the ענין of celebrating a siyum, learning was without רש"י.

Question: If someone missed a bit of the מסכת, is it still considered a siyum?

Response: It is not קריאת התורה, where missing even a letter holds one back. Only if one misses a complete sugya is it a problem.

There are additional interesting questions and answers there, but I think the above suffice to give you a nice taste, and to whet your appetite. Those that want to see more should click on the photos below.

אשרינו מה טוב חלקנו

אשרינו שיש לנו רבי כזה

סימן טוב ומזל טוב יהא לנו ולכל ישראל אמן

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Lubavitch Introspection on Display in Op-ed, & Understanding Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson's Success.

I came across a remarkable op-ed at a Lubavitch website the other day, by an anonymous bochur, in which he takes to task some of his fellow Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim.

Even though this op-ed does not address all points of contention with Chabad-Lubavitch of course, seemingly focusing more on peripheral issues, it is still good to see some introspection, seeking to improve the situation, and lower tensions.

I think that a real test of a Chasid, especially a Lubavitcher, when he preaches ahavas Yisroel and the greatness of every Yid, is how he relates to a מתנגד (Lubavitch seems to use/prefer the terms מנגד/מנגדים). I don't understand how some such people can claim to love every Yid, but when it comes to Litvaks or Misnagdim, something seems to be missing in that department?

There is also an interesting aside there (at the end of the second to last paragraph) about the Lubavitcher speaker Rabbi Y.Y. (aka, as he called by Lubavitchers, Rabbi Yossi) Jacobson. The author implies that he is popular (and is invited to speak at non-Lubavitch places) because he cites other sources as well, not just typical Lubavitcher ones. That is definitely correct as one of the reasons for his popularity, as I see it.

Now, if such things are אמת and sincere, fine and well. But if they are just gestures, a show, a tactical move to help with הפצה of Chabad-Lubavitch, well, that is another story, and we should not be fooled by window dressing.

And we non-Chasidim should introspect sometimes too. One of the things we can and should introspect about is the fact that some of us are at times inviting outside "inspirational" speakers that don't always share our השקפות, and are sometimes even actively at odds with them. Is it perhaps because we don't have enough of our own giving a פנימיות התורה message in accordance with our מסורה? We need to realize that times have changed and we can't just serve up נזיקין lomdishe nuggets for every meal. We need a varied and balanced Torah diet to be spiritually healthy.

הלואי that we all introspect and merit to reach and implement proper conclusions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

OU Whitewashes Chabad-Lubavitch, Participates in Messianic Torah Dedication

In the last issue of the OU's fine magazine Jewish Action, one of the main pieces featured was by Neo-Chasidus leader Rabbi Judah Mischel, a glowing portrayal of the impact of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The problem with the puff piece however, is that it totally left out the Rebbe's Moshiach campaign, which ended disastrously, with Chasidim proclaiming him openly (in giant billboards, large newspaper advertisements, etc.) for years as the Messiah, while the Rebbe took ill and ultimately passed away, a debacle that continues, to this very day, in various ways, in one form or another.

Such a blatant and gaping omission is deceptive, misleading, and irresponsible. It is like someone writing a book on FDR and leaving out WWII.

Reb Judah also was allowed to insert a statement of Lubavitch doctrine there of cheilek Elokah mimaal mamash, blurring the line between man and Hakadosh Boruch Hu, as if it was standard Orthodox theology, sans disclaimer.

What has happened to the O-U? Has it become a Chabad-Lubavitch mouthpiece?

Just because Neo-Chasidus leader Rabbi Judah Mischel is close to Lubavitch and was hired to work for NCSY, doesn't mean that the O-U and Jewish Action have to become Chabad-Lubavitch mouthpieces.

An ostrich mentality, hiding ones head in the sand, is not befitting for a great organization that runs a very important kashrus certification agency.

Lest one think that this is just an academic issue, it can lead to practical pitfalls, as seen in a recent Hachnosas Sefer Torah at Lubavitch Headquarters in Crown Heights. In it a sefer Torah was presented to Lubavitch HQ in honor of Prof. Dershowitz for his efforts on behalf of justice for Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin. A leading O-U official participated in the event, not only by attending it at 770, which is festooned with signs proclaiming the late Rebbe as messiah, but also by holding a sefer Torah (with a green cover) with a messianic inscription on it, proclaiming יחי המלך. Such actions send signals of acceptance of Lubavitch messianism, which is against the spirit of the resolution of the OU's partner, the RCA, after the late Rebbe's passing.

As an aside, there seem to be significant grounds to suspect S.M. Rubashkin of being a continuing believer in the late Rebbe as Messiah, namely 1) this event, held at the 770 congregation, which is under messianic domination, and 2) a letter that he wrote years ago referring to the Rebbe shlit"a many years after his petirah (see line five of page two).

Let us hope that in the future people will be more careful and responsible, and not send out mixed and improper messages.

A gutten chodesh.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Hisnagdus to Chabad? Not a New Invention

Dovid/David Lichtenstein of the Headlines podcast recently issued yet another (the fourth in around 2 1/2 years.) misleading and deceptive program promoting Chabad-Lubavitch, while giving short-shrift to its opponents.

כְּכֶלֶב שָׁב עַל קֵאוֹ כְּסִיל שׁוֹנֶה בְאִוַּלְתּוֹ

While given a fair sounding title, "Understanding the differences in Hashkafah between the Litvish and Lubavitch worlds", in reality it was yet another very unfair and unbalanced program of Lichtenstein promoting Lubavitch, as shown in his subtitle, "The incredible impact & Mesiras Nefesh of the Shiluchim - from all six continents". The side of Chabad-Lubavitch was not only given much more time than the non-Lubavitch side, but it also had the active support and intervention of the host.

Now, to refute every falsehood in the world is not possible. Nevertheless, occasionally, e.g. when masses are in danger of being fooled by a sophisticated, well-funded propaganda program, as in this case, it may be desirable to have someone expose the scam and the sham of it. And the wise can extrapolate from one exposé to deal with and counter other deceptions on their own later.

Now, let's point out some of the deception in this group of programs.

Let's start with some major ones.

1. What David Lichtenstein wants you to believe - Rav Schach was some type of Litvishe outlier, who invented a new thing, יש מאין. That until he came around everyone was at peace with Lubavitch.

The Truth - Hisnagdus to Chabad-Lubavitch goes way back, over two hundred years. Some of it is due to theological differences, such as controversial things in the foundational text of Chabad-Lubavitch, the Tanya, but there is more to it as well.

Over the years, there have been ups and downs in the relationship between Chabad-Lubavitch and the Litvishe world. During some periods there were good relations, where the groups joined to stand together against hostile groups and governments, while at other times relations were more distant. However, at no time did the Litvishe velt as a whole concede to Chabad-Lubavitch and give up its opposing beliefs. Even if there were friendly relations at times, and some friendly interactions among leaders, that should not be mistaken for assent. Rav Itzele Volozhiner, The Chofetz Chaim, The Brisker Rav, Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Nachum Partzovitz, etc., זכרונם לברכה, were מתנגדים, even if they may have had occasional friendly interactions and cooperation at times with Chabad or Chasidic leaders. Polite, quiet, low-key, and even friendly התנגדות is also hisnagdus.

Additionally, it must be realized that in difficult times, people were focused on survival and were lacking in time, energy, and desire to pursue and dwell on חילוקי דעות.

That situation persisted for a long time. For so long in fact, that after a while many people forgot, or were not aware of in the first place, יסודות of the differences, the fundamental חילוקי דעות, between Chabad-Lubavitch and the Litvishe world (note - hisnagdus to Chabad is not solely Litvish. There is also significant hisnagdus to Chabad from other Chasidim), since they were not spoken of so much in public, not dwelt on, spoken of בקיצור או ברמיזה, etc.

The growth of Chabad-Lubavitch under their last Rebbe, their aggressive proselytizing, and the failed messianic campaign during his reign, brought to the fore tensions that had been bubbling just at or below the surface for some time, and resurrected old differences. They were חוזר וניעור, as the term goes. At some point, מרן הצדיק HaRav אלעזר מנחם מן Schach זצוקללה"ה זי"ע, when faced with an aggressive, dangerous messianic movement, felt that a public stance had to be taken against it, which he did, at an advanced age, with great מסירת נפש. Klal Yisroel owes him a great debt of gratitude.

2. What David Lichtenstein wants you to believe -  Hisnagdus is because Misnagdim thought that 'Chabad didn't learn'. Whatever that means. So of course, that is quite easy to demolish, just find some Lubavitchers who learn, and poof, end of issue.

The Truth -  It could be true that there were/are differences re learning, but that is not the sum total of the חילוקי דעות. It is wishful thinking and delusional to believe such a thing. Whoever believes that should contact The Lightstone Group for a great deal on The Brooklyn Bridge.

Now, let's also point some other deceptions as well.

3. David Lichtenstein has been posing on his program for a long time as a Litvishe guy, a talmid of Mir, BMG, and so on, something which has given his relatively recent infatuation with, and promotion of Lubavitch lately, along with his ridicule of its opponents, more attention and credibility.

The truth however is, as Lichtenstein has just revealed in a recent program on Tefillah (at about five and a half minutes into the recording) is that he is from a Polish Chasidic background. So it is not so remarkable that he is promoting and defending Chabad-Lubavitch (as a prominent Polish Chasidic group did after Rav Schach זצ"ל spoke out against their raging Messianism around thirty years ago).

In fact, with regard to his latest program, a prominent Chabad-Lubavitch website was promoting it specifically as being a "Litvish Podcast"A different Chabad-Lubavitch website promoted it as well, though somewhat differently. That likely is one reason why so many Lubavitchers tuned in to it and weighed in with comments.

David Lichtenstein also has deep connections with Chabad-Lubavitch. He regularly attends a shtiebel in Monsey established by his cousin Reb Leizer Scheiner, which hosts leading Lubavitcher Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, whose influence David has come under. And he has contacts with other leading Lubavitchers as well, such as R. Moshe Kotlarsky.

So David, someone who revealed on his program a while ago (13:15-13:30 app.) that he had never been to 770 and never seen the late Rebbe , is now peddling an air-brushed picture of Chabad-Lubavitch to his listeners, that is misleading and lacking.

If David Lichtenstein can sell Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal as being Venice-like, does he think he can also sell the עם חכם ונבון on his religious fantasies as well?

4. Approximately two and a half years ago, Lichtenstein had Rabbi Dr. David Berger, author of well-known works on Chabad-Lubavitch messianism, on his program. Near the end of the program (after 47:00), Dr. Berger raised the issue of a proclamation issued by eight Chabad-Lubavitch משפיעים from the largest yeshiva in Crown Heights calling the late Rebbe אבינו מלכנו, and a subsequent letter by one of them saying that a Rebbe is the essence and actuality of G-d (R"L) in a body. About eleven minutes later, after cutting off Dr. Berger, Dovid Lichtenstein, in an outright lie, lashed out at him, claiming that in Lubavitch 'everybody with a beard is a mashpia', and tore into Rabbi Dr. Berger for raising his concerns, using an inappropriate and offensive analogy, claiming that he was invoking highly inappropriate collective guilt by raising such a concern about a large group based on the statement of just a few people. However, since the eight people under discussion are leaders of the largest yeshiva in Crown Heights they are not just any Lubavitchers with beards. It is quite sound and fair to judge a movement by a statement of eight of their high-ranking leaders. Not all mashpi'im are of equal level and status. Lichtenstein also tried to distort what the letter of the mashpi'im meant, claiming that 'every Yid is divine'. Huh? Yiddishkeit 101 is that humans are humans, and not divine. Divine is הקב"ה. Is David advocating עבודה זרה ח"ו? A different religion, the Notzrim, claim that their man is divine, but we reject that, as a human, by definition, is not divine.

Reb Lichtenstein, you are hurting your credibility and your brand with such deceptions.

Dovid Lichtenstein should apologize and ask mechila, for his open, out and out lie, and libelous comments to the listeners with regard to Rabbi Dr. David Berger's remarks.

5. In the recent segment/program with R. Zalman Gifter shlit"a, at the end of that segment (around 1:39:30), DL put forth a choice of getting five thousand people to keep Shabbos based on Lubavitcher methods vs. five using Litvishe methodology to ridicule R. Gifter. The implication being that Lubavitch kiruv is a thousand times greater than 'Litvishe' or non-Chabad kiruv. That is a false dichotomy. In a condescending tone, Lichtenstein ridicules R. Gifter's principled stance. Shameful.

How Lubavitch Messianism Has Hurt and Continues to Hurt Kiruv

Another thing that needs to be addressed is how Lubavitch hurts and has hurt kiruv. How their failed messianic movement, messianism, and rebbe centeredness, has turned off many people, and made Chareidim a laughing stock in the eyes of many Jews, who believe Chabad-Lubavitch is standard Orthodoxy. Lichtenstein does not discuss that. Does he think that ignoring it will make it go away? It is a very serious subject that needs to be addressed. To examine how Chabad-Lubavitch can be, and has been for some, a negative force, moving people away from Yiddishkeit.

There is more that can be said, and maybe will be said later, but plenty has already been said to make the point.

The opposition to Chabad-Lubavitch, is a מחלוקת לשם שמים of over two hundred years, that continues, as per the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos that a מחלוקת לשם שמים is סופה להתקיים. That doesn't mean that it is mentioned every moment, or even every day, but it is in the background, and sometimes comes out more into the open.

יהי רצון that אליהו and משיח should come soon and bring it to an end, by revealing the אמת for all to see.

A gutten Yom Tov.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Measuring Uman's Rosh Hashanah Kibbutz

How many were actually there this year? From where? What type of Jews? The best, most detailed report I have seen, with statistics from the Uman City Council Press Service, is here. That seems to be the last word on the subject, at least in English, AFAIK.

Elsewhere, different figures can be seen.

Some would like you to believe that over fifty thousand men attended. They would probably also like you to believe that it is a growing phenomenon, rather than one that has leveled off, or even perhaps declined.

On the other hand, Ukrainian sites, which have good local sources on their home turf, as well as government connections, have reported just a bit more than twenty five thousand, a much smaller number. For example, this report at Kyiv Post, which also has nice photos and video coverage.

Based on the above (as well as other sources, e.g. food statistics in Meir K.'s video), and the fact that the higher numbers were pre-Rosh Hashanah projections, while the lower ones were issued later, after the new year had arrived, it appears quite definitely that the smaller figures are the accurate ones.

So yes, it is a significant event, but no, 'everyone' is not going there, not at all.

Also interesting is the background of the visitors. I recall seeing in the past (IIRC) that like 80% of the visitors were from ארץ ישראל. It also appears that a significant portion of the visitors are from the Sephardic/Edot Hamizrach world as well.

To get a good idea of what goes on ערב ר"ה at the actual ציון (as opposed to further away, in the streets or elsewhere, which other coverage often focuses on), this page has good, extensive video coverage.

May we merit the kiyum of our tefillos to הקב"ה for וטהר לבנו לעבדך באמת.

Monday, September 9, 2019

A Litvak Looks at Reb Zadok Hakohein of Lublin and a Well-Known Teaching of His

(Today is the yahrzeit of Reb Zadok of Lublin, which makes it a good time to share some relevant thoughts.)

One of the Hasidic authors that has become popular among some in the wider Jewish world in recent decades is Reb Zadok of Lublin.

One big fan of Reb Zadok recently wrote a tribute to him, in which he claims that the line in Reb Zadok which people are mostly familiar with is his teaching that 'just as a man must believe in Hashem, he must believe in himself'. This fine writer, who described himself as having four American born grandparents and without any even remotely distant Hasidic relatives, describes how, hearing those words in his Modern Orthodox high school from neo-Hasidic leader Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, mashpia at Yeshiva University and Rabbi in Woodmere, turned him on to Reb Zadok/Hasidus (though he says that he is mainly interested in Reb Zadok, as opposed to Hasidism in general).

Now I have heard that before from others, that those words of Reb Zadok made a big impression on them. But I have some trouble understanding what the big deal is.

Didn't the משנה itself, eons before ר' צדוק, say that every person is obligated to say בשבילי נברא העולם, the world was created for me?

Don't believe me? Take a look at סנהדרין פרק ד.

So okay, Reb Zadok said a similar thing in a different way, but it seems that he basically reinvented the wheel here.

יגדיל תורה ויאדיר

Just don't tell me that he made the whole thing up יש מאין.

Monday, September 2, 2019

A Inside Look at BMG With Its CEO

A frank discussion with an excellent interviewer.

Topics discussed include Shlomo Carlebach, לולי תורתך, & BMG, Rav Nosson Kaminetsky ז"ל, MOAG, and the Kotlers, changes over the years, the freezer, quality vs. quantity, and more.

Tune in and enjoy.