Sunday, October 31, 2010

יומא דהילולא דקדישא של - מרן החזו"א זצוק"ל? Hassidic terminology at a Litvishe minyan

On a recent Shabbos afternoon, I saw a sign at a nusach Ashkenaz, 'Yeshivishe' minyan advertising a special shiur on the occasion of יומא דהילולא דקדישא של - מרן החזו"א זצוק"ל (sic).

A good illustration of the confusion that has afflicted some people recently.

They want to mark the yahrzeit of the Chazon Ish in a Litvishe way - by having a special shiur. A nice idea. But at the same time they use Hassidic terminology, by using the expression יומא דהילולא דקדישא (actually should really be, leshitasam, קדישא, not דקדישא) instead of the Litvishe/Ashkenaz expression of יאהרצייט. This is not a Hassidic minyan, nor was the Chazon Ish Hassidic. So why the Hassidic terminology?

And it is not merely an issue of different words that mean the same thing. There is a difference between the Ashkenaz/Litvish approach to a death-anniversary, called a yahrzeit, and the Hassidic one to the same occasion, which they refer to as hillulah, which the different terminology reflects.

The Ashkenaz conception is that yahrzeit is a solemn occasion, a time for introspection and fasting. As brought down in Shulchan Aruch, מנהג אשכנז is to fast on a יאהרצייט. By contrast, the conception of הילולא (wedding/celebration), used by Hassidim, is that the day is a holiday, a time for celebration. Therefore Hassidim make a festive meal and celebrate on their Rebbe's יאהרצייט. By contrast, Litvaks give a special shiur on the יאהרצייט of the ראש ישיבה, and they use the old Ashkenaz term of יאהרצייט.

Bottom line -  הילולא and Litvish don't go together. Let's keep terms and traditions consistent.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lipkowitz or Lefkowitz? How a Litvak is transformed into a Hungarian

One of the venerable ראשי ישיבה in ארץ ישראל is הרב מיכל יהודה ליפקוביץ שליט"א

A real Litvak, from the town of Volozhin I believe.

However, it is common to see his surname rendered in English as Lefkowitz, which to my knowledge is a Hungarian Jewish surname.

How did this happen? How did a Litvak become Hungarian in his later years?

I believe that the people doing the transliterating were not familiar with the Litvishe surname Lipkowitz/Lifkowitz, which is not so common, so they confused it with the more well-known to them Hungarian name Lefkowitz.

Should we let this conversion stand?

Thanks to a friend from New England for pointing this out.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Geffen = gezund, parnosso, nachas?

Once again, I have encountered the גפן = געזונד, פרנסה, נחת vertel.

Lipa Schmeltzer was singing it in a 'niggun simcha' in his le'eila ule'eila release playing on an internet radio station.

I had encountered it a number of years ago, in the dinner journal of a supposedly Litvishe Yeshiva. In a message from one of the roshei Yeshiva, he blessed the Yeshiva supporters, with 'birkas gefen', gezund, parnosso, nachas. It appeared stranger to me at the time. I was surprised that a Litvishe Rosh Yeshiva would say that. Something seemed wrong to me. But I couldn't fully articulate what about it bothered me. Now I think I can do a better job at it though, so here goes, בעזרת השם.

1) gezund (health) is a Yiddish word, while parnossoh and nachas are not. So it is sort of weird to have a roshei teivos with a Hebrew word allegedly standing for words in more than one language.

2) Why is a Litvishe Rosh Yeshiva using such a Chassidishe type vertel? Does he have not have any substantive Torah thought to share?

Does anyone know where the vertel comes from?