Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chazan Yossele Rosenblatt in Eretz Yisroel 1930's movie, Dream Of My People, Online!

Shortly before Chazan Yossele Rosenblatt (notice the great difference between the Hebrew Wikipedia entry on Yossele, which I just linked to, and the English one here, which is so much shorter) was niftar, he was in Eretz Yisroel working on a film. The moving picture was to feature scenes of the rebuilding of The Holy Land, along with Yossele singing relevant songs at mekomos hakedoshim.

In the past I have seen small portions of it, but it was edited, and I felt like something was missing.

I just found a more complete and authentic older version online, which is worth watching (although I am not sure if it is 100% complete, and it seems that there was a Yiddish version as well).

You can see it here, free of charge.

It is a great movie, as it gives you a real picture of the land of Israel eighty some odd years ago, as well as giving a living picture of the legendary Yossele Rosenblatt.

Thanks to poster יעקב גרוס and others who made it available to us.

P.S. NCJF seems to have a much longer, sixty six minute, English version, for sale (take a look at their page for it, which shows a quaint poster advertising the film as well), while the one featured here is in Hebrew, and only around twelve and a half minutes. Nevertheless it is definitely worth watching, and the price is definitely not to complain about.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Sefer Hachinuch on simcha (happiness): A person's nature is such that he must rejoice on occasion (as opposed to constantly)

The previous post, on the proper Jewish attitude toward simcha, got much attention, ב"ה, thanks to a fellow writer online that linked to it. Thank you very much to him, and שפע ברכה והצלחה.

Not long after it appeared, a friend notified me that a writer in a prominent weekly publication (Yated Ne'eman magazine, 28 Cheshvan 5774), Rabbi Boruch Leff, had actually devoted a column of his (Growing with Passion) to the subject. Studying what he wrote, it seemed to be an attempt to rebut and refute what had been posted here. He labored mightily and made a good case for his opposition, but ultimately fell short.

Unfortunately, part of the piece muddied the waters and clouded the issue, making it appear as if the position expressed here was opposition to the very idea of simcha shel mitzvah, a fundamental part of our Torah. Chas veshalom! The points made here perhaps are too fine for some people to grasp, and, in the modern sound bite world, with short attention spans and epidemic attention deficit disorders, that we live in, are easily distorted and misunderstood. Nevertheless, we have to make our hishtadlus and try to elucidate the issues. Those who are open minded will hopefully read the words here and give the matter a fair hearing.

To attain some clarity and tap into classical Torah hashkafah on the subject, it would be a good idea to step back about three quarters of a millenium, and look and see what a great early Gaon, the renowned authority on mitzvos, the Sefer Hachinuch, writes about simcha, to show what this great Rishon, a giant among giants, had to say about it. And we can then decide if he agreed with the much more recent mitzvah gedola lehiyos besimcha tamid saying.

Sefer Hachinuch, mitzvah 451, מצוה לשמוח ברגלים

 משרשי המצוה לפי שהאדם נכון על ענין שצריך טבעו לשמוח לפרקים, כמו שהוא צריך אל המזון על כל פנים ואל המנוחה ואל השינה, ורצה האל לזכותינו אנחנו עמו וצאן מרעיתו וציונו לעשות השמחה לשמו, למען נזכה לפניו בכל מעשינו. והנה קבע לנו זמנים בשנה למועדים, לזכור בהם הנסים והטובות אשר גמלנו, ואז, בעתים ההם, צונו לכלכל החומר בדבר השמחה הצריכה אליו וימצא לנו תרופה גדולה בהיות שובע השמחות לשמו ולזכרו, כי המחשבה הזאת תהיה לנו גדר לבל נצא מדרך היושר יותר מדאי. ואשר עמו התבוננות מבלי החפץ בקטרוג ימצא טעם בדברי


Translation - Of the roots of this mitzvah is that a person is set up in a way that his nature requires being happy at times, just like he needs food, and rest, and sleep. And Hashem wanted to refine us, His nation, and the sheep of His flock, and He commanded us to make the rejoicing for his name, so that we stand righteously before Him with all our actions. And behold He set for us specific times in the year as festivals, to remember in them the miracles and favors that he granted us, and then, in those times, He commanded us to nourish our physical side with the joy that it requires, through which we would attain great healing with the satiation of rejoicing for His name and remembrance. This state of mind would be for us a protective shield from veering off the proper path.

We learn a number of important points  from The Chinuch.

1) Simcha is a need, a requirement of life!

2) It is akin to eating, resting, and sleeping, a vital part of existence.

3) However, just like eating, resting, and sleeping, it is not something that is done every second.

It seems quite clear that he did not subscribe to the notion that there is a constant mitzvah to be besimcha. We would be wise to give his words the attention and respect they deserve.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Guess What? The Rama was not a Breslover Chasid! Is there a mitzvah obligation to incessantly, always be happy? No! :-)

Synopsis - In case you have no time or patience to read through the whole post, to save you from jumping to conclusions and saying this guy is crazy, he's advocating being sad always, atzvus, rather than being besimcha, happy, here is a synopsis

עבדו את ה' בשמחה - Serve G-d with joy - definitely yes, as stated in Tehillim 100:2
וטוב לב משתה תמיד - Definitely yes, as per Mishlei (Proverbs) 15:15
מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד - Not in my Tanach, Gemara, or Shulchan Aruch

The Rama's two temidim and a recent competitor

There is an old vort, observing that in the beginning of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, halacha aleph, the Rama, Rav Moshe Isserles, the great poseik, talks about Shivisi Hashem Linegdi Tamid, while at the end of Orach Chaim, almost seven hundred simanim later, he ends off his comments on that same sefer with another tamid, namely veTov Lev mishteh tamid. The old vort refers to these two hagohos of the Rama as the two temidim, as in the two daily korbanos (sacrifices) tamid that were brought in the Beis Hamikdash. In derush it was used to homiletically stress the importance of them both.

Recently, a new competitor has emerged to the Rama's two temidim. A new saying has become popular in some circles, which claims that
מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד.

However, unlike that two temidim of the Rama, which come from pesukim, the first from Tehillim and the second from Mishlei, the latter is neither seen in our holy scriptures, nor in the Mishna, Gemara, or Shulchan Aruch. The Rama, our great halachic authority, when talking about simcha, in Hilchos Purim, as linked above, doesn't say mitzvah gedola lehiyod besimcha tamid - rather, he says vetov lev mishteh tamid.

An accident? I think not

The Rama was not a Breslov Hasid it seems, believe it or not. ;-) Surprise, surprise.

Apparently, the saying comes from Breslov circles, though Rav Nachman himself may not have said so exactly.

Simcha doesn't make the list of mitzvos temidios, constant mitzvos

And now a new twist. I could see it happening years ago. And now it has occurred, in a very public manner.

What do I mean? A Rabbi, a fine talmid chacham, asked, at the end of a recent newspaper article, why 'mitzvah gedola lehiyos besimcha tamid' is not included in the list of mitzvos temidios (constant mitzvos). This shows how the relatively new Breslover saying 'mitzvah gedola lehiyos besimcha tamid' has become so ubiquitous and taken for granted by many in recent years, that even a prominent and respected Rav, treats it as it if it were a halachic  statement from the Mishna, Gemara, or Shulchan Aruch. When actually it does not appear in any of those places!

Years ago, a  fine article on the topic appeared online, questioning if the saying was indeed correct. Reading it is recommended. The answer to the Rabbi's question can be found that way.

I paste it below, with permission.

http://www.avakesh.com/2007/09/is-there-a-mitz.html

Is there a Mitzvah of Simcha

BS"D

from http://mail-jewish.org/simcha.txt (note: the url does not work at present)

Is There a Mitzva To Be B'simcha (happy) constantly ?

In recent years, a 'saying, "mitzva gedola lihiyos b'simcha tamid" (It
is a great mitzva to be always joyous) has become well known and oft -
quoted. It is not a new saying, but probably due to being put to music
in recent years and (an)other factor(s), it has become a very popular
saying. Some seem to think that it is an ancient Jewish teaching -
perhaps from the gemara (Talmud) or another unimpeachable classic
ancient Jewish source. That is not the case, however. The source of the
saying is, to my knowledge, the leader of the Breslov (or Bratzlav)
chassidic group, R. Nachman, who lived approximately 200 years ago. Such
a formulation does not appear earlier than that, to my knowledge. With
that in mind, I think it is appropriate and in order to try to examine
if this is an undisputed and indisputable teaching accepted by all
Jewish authorities, despite their not expressing such, or perhaps their
refraining from expressing such a belief for so long, indicates
otherwise.

Questions On 'Mitzva Gedola Lihiyos B'Simcha Tamid'

(1) What is the source of this supposed mitzvah?

Many would point to 'ivdu es Hashem b'simcha' (serve Hashem with
joy) of Tehillim (Psalms) 100:2 and similar verses. However, that /
those verse(s) speak(s) of serving Hashem with joy - not being joyous in
and of itself. This distinction, although seeming very fine, should not
be ignored, in my opinion. What may seem to be fine distinctions /
nuances in Torah verses can be of great import.

(2) If this is a mitzvah (commandment), why do the classic enumerators
of the 613 mitzvos not count this as such? There is a Biblical mitzvah
of Simcha on certain yomim tovim (holidays) that is enumerated, I
believe, but not such a mitzva that applies constantly. In fact, even
the mitzva of simcha on holidays is only fulfilled by action, e.g.eating
meat from karban shelamim (sacrifice), etc., and not just by being in a
certain state of mind. This is quite significant in that it shows that
(1) when there is a mitzva of simcha, it involves more than just thought
/ feelings / emotions and (2) there is no such mitzvah seemingly, at
other times.

Conflicting Statements / Sources

Karliner Rebbe takes opposing position

(1) Karlin vs. Breslov - One of the great early hassidic leaders, R. Aharon of Karlin, who was before Rav Nachman of Breslov, is reported to have stated 'there is no mitzvah to be b'simcha, but simcha
can bring one to the greatest mitzvos, and there is no aveira
(prohibition) to be be'atzvus (in a state of sadness), but atzvus can
bring one to the greatest aveiros' (or similar). Here one sees a great
hassidic leader, contemporary to (slightly earlier I believe) R.
Nachman, saying that there is no mitzvah to be b'simcha!

(2) Rav Yosef Gikatilla (a great Sephardic Rishon - early authority -
circa 1200's C.E.) says in his Sefer Hamishalim (book of Parables) the
following ( # 97) - He compares simcha to day and atzvus (sadness) to
night, saying that simcha's effect is to light up a person, similar to
the sun lighting up the day and atzvus darkens a person like darkness
darkens the night. He continues by saying that just as it is impossible
to have (only) (day) light always, with no periods of night (darkness),
so it is impossible to have (always) only simcha without atzvus
(sadness).

(3) Rabbenu Bachayay (a great early commentator) says in his classic
'Kad HaKemach' - There is Simcha that is assur (prohibited) min haTorah
(Biblically). Somewhat less than R.Nachman's unequivocal enthusiastic
advocacy of simcha. It is also written, I believe, that simcha tmidis
eina simcha - a constant simcha is not simcha! (I don't have the source
right now - help would be appreciated).

(4) Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon, wisest of men) says in Koheles
(Ecclesiastes) 2:2 "UliSimcha-ma zo osa?" - As for Happiness - what
(good) does it accomplish? Rashi comments - what good does it do, being
that letdown follows in it's wake. Here the wisest of all men,
questions the value of simcha. The gemara (Talmud) in Maseches Shabbos
30b explains this verse (in contrasting it to Koheles 8:15, where Simcha
is praised) as referring to Simcha sheaina shel mitzvah (non - mitzvah
related joy). In other words, Simcha (Joy / Happiness) of a mitzva is
praiseworthy - Simcha not of a mitzva is not.

Another statement critical of simcha is in Koheles 7:4 where it is
stated "Lev chachamim b'veis eivel v'lev ksilim b'veis simcha"- The
heart of the wise is in a house of mourning and the heart of the fool in
a house of happiness (simcha). We see clearly that the wisest of men
clearly does not consider simcha to be always and unequivocally
desirable / praiseworthy - rather he considers certain simcha
praiseworthy and other simcha worthy of criticism / disdain.

Another statement critical of simcha is found in Mishlei (Proverbs)
21:17 where Shlomo says "Ish machsor ohev simcha"- a deficient person
loves happiness.

Why There May Be No Mitzvah To Be B'simcha

Perhaps there may not be a mitzva to be b'simcha because (1) As shown
above, not all simcha is desirable (2) Simcha (joy / happiness) is not
considered a desirable end / goal in and of itself. Rather, it is
something that must go together with / be derived from mitzva
activity. Having an independent / stand alone mitzva to be b'simcha
might be interpreted as making simcha a goal / end in and of itself,
rather than an adjunct / by product to / of mitzva activity.

What Brings Desirable Simcha? Some Ways

Examination of Psukim (Biblical verses) that mention Simcha positively,
show that (1) Straightness - There is a connection between yashrus
(straightness) and simcha. Being straight / righteous brings simcha, as
is stated [Tehillim (Psalms) 97:11] "Uliyishrei lev simcha" - to the
straight of heart is joy. This is also evident in the pasuk (Tehillim
19:9) "pikudei hashem yesharim mesamchei lev" - the precepts of Hashem
are straight and heart gladdening. A straight person with a clear
conscience is naturally inclined to happiness.


(2) Proper Torah study (as per Tehillim 19:9, as above).

Conclusion - Summing Up


As it appears to me, the Jewish attitude to simcha (happiness) is
nuanced. Proper simcha, though not a mitzva, can be desirable /
praiseworthy. Other simcha is undesirable, even forbidden. One should
beware of overly exalting simcha and making / proclaiming 'simcha' a
major thrust of one's Judaism. Let us not forget the classic Rabbinic
dictum "Kol hamosif goreia" (whoever adds, actually subtracts). If
Hashem did not make something a mitzvah, it is presumed to have been for
good reason and we are forbidden to put it in that category.

P.S. Re a related subject - Some people who believe 'mitzvah gedola
lihiyos bisimcha tamid' seem to think as well, as a corollary of the
above perhaps, that sadness and shame are always viewed negatively and
as undesirable by Judaism. Re shame - That is incorrect, as classical
Jewish sources praise shame and bashfullness highly - though not
excessive shame / shyness.

Re atzvus (sadness) - some seem to think that it's always, totally
undesirable. However, we know that everything Hashem made was for a
purpose (see last statement in Pirkei Avos).There is a time for
everything (Koheles). Atzvus may have it's proper place in the world in
aiding a choteh (sinner) and spurring him to do teshuva
(repentance). Those who seem to want to banish it entirely remind me of
a Midrashic teaching where Chazal say that Dovid haMelech (King David)
wondered why Hashem created shigaon (insanity) - he wondered what useful
purpose it serves - who needs it? He was later shown that he would have
need for it - when 'L'Dovid bishanoso es taamo lifnei avimelech
vayigarishehu vayeloch' (Tehillim 34) - He was only able to escape
unharmed from the jaws of King Avimelech by feigning insanity
(parenthetically, this account is somewhat similar to a story related by
Chazal re Dovid hamelech o"h questioning why Hashem had created spiders
and the need for them in the world - which ends with him similarly shown
not to question G-d in that manner and being saved by Hashem from his
enemy via a spider [web]).

Similarly, in my opinion, those who think that atzvus has no proper
place in the world, are repeating the mistake of Dovid hamelech and
should realize that G-d created everything for a reason.

Wisdom of the Wise of the Nations re Simcha

I have come across the following quotes from general non - Jewish
literature, which I think are enlightening on the subject. In the spirit
of the Talmudic teaching that 'chochma bagoyim taamin' [if someone tells
you that there is wisdom among the nations, you should believe them] ),
I am mentioning them here.

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is just beyond your grasp,
but if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you." - Nathaniel
Hawthorne.

"If only we'd stop trying to be happy we'd have a pretty good time." -
Edith Wharton.

Both of the above seem to express a realization that active pursuit of
and concentration on happiness can actually be counterproductive to it's
attainment. Perhaps because of the above reasons, some people have been
observed to change the lyrics when the songs were played to 'simcha
gedola lihiyos bimitzvah tomid' (it's a great joy to be always involved
in mitzvah[s])-a reformulation which seemingly avoids the objections
cited above.'

P.S. In the comments section, some important comments appear -

1) Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb of the O-U stated that R. Nachman's statement was given in the following context -

We are taught that 'mishenichnas Adar marbin besimcha', as well as 'mishenichnas Av mamatin besimcha'. R. Nachman observed that both of those directives just tell one when to increase simcha and when to decrease it - but it is taken as a given that it always exists at some level.

On that basis he proceeded to state 'mitzvoh gedola lihiyos besimcha tomid'.

While the context is illuminating and makes the statement seem less extreme, the concerns about it raised in the essay above are still valid, IMHO.

2) A different commenter claims that R. Nachman is actually being misquoted, and that he didn't even say it!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bottom line - We don't pasken from modern song lyrics. Don't believe everything you hear. If someone would show you this supposed mitzvah in the Sefer Hachinuch, that would be one thing. But if you can't find it there, that tells you that something is wrong. Buyer beware

עבדו את ה' בשמחה - פסוק בתהלים - כן!

וטוב לב משתה תמיד - פסוק במשלי - כן!

מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד - יצירה חדשה

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why Didn't Eliezer ben Yehuda Set Up Modern Hebrew To Be Spoken Litvish?

I just saw an interesting video with footage of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe talking Hebrew to a visiting Israeli group (via crownheights.info). It was geshmak, hearing him speak it in such a Litvishe way.

Eliezer ben Yehudah, the man behind the modern revival of Hebrew as a spoken language, was from a Habad background. So why didn't he put things in place for modern Hebrew to be spoken as the late Rebbe spoke it? Oy, would that be great!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rav Yitzchak Elchanan's Yeshiva (RIETS-YU) Turns To Hassidism

In the last few days, Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, the Yeshiva affiliated with YU, the flagship Modern Orthodox institution in the USA, has welcomed a new mashgiach, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, who is a well known speaker, as well as the spiritual leader of a Hassidic congregation in Woodmere, New York.


While RIETS-YU has a number of mashgichim, this new appointee has gotten red carpet treatment, with special arrangements being made for him, to enable his serving in the position alongside his prior duties to his congregation, as well as other commitments. Although it hasn't been clearly stated, it is clear that he has gotten star billing, and special treatment. This indicates that he has a special status on the RIETS staff. Even if he is not officially chief mashgiach at this time, it is clear that he has a special status, de facto. The hoopla surrounding his arrival gives the impression that in the eyes of some there he is seen as a saviour of sorts for RIETS-YU. Like some kind of superstar, or spiritual version of a rock star (lehavdil).



The new appointment has surprised onlookers, who wonder how it fits in to RIETS-YU's long and proud heritage as a Lithuanian style ('Litvish') Yeshiva.  RIETS has never had a Hassidic mashgiach like this. It would have been unthinkable in the past, just like it is unthinkable at present that a Lithuanian type Yeshiva such as Lakewood or Mir would bring in a Chassidic Rebbe as a mashgiach, with a program of teaching Chassidus. See also the end of a post from way back in the beginning of last December by former YU Professor Dr. Alan Brill, along with incisive comments there, for misgivings in the Modern Orthodox community about this major shift.



What has brought about the new great change?



First, we should be aware that it has not occurred in a vacuum. Ground was laid for it in recent years by regular shiurim of RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Hershel Reichman (a descendant of Belzer Chassidim like Rav Weinberger - oops, mistake there - Rabbi Weinberger's family Chasidic roots are Spinka, with some Nadvorna connection as well, heard from his own mouth) in Hassidism in YU, as well as the promotion of Chassidus by his son, Rabbi Zev Reichman, also a faculty member there, as well as a Rav in NJ. A few years ago they brought a prominent Hassidic leader, Rabbi Moshe Wolfson of Boro Park and Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, to RIETS/YU to speak,  something that would have been unthinkable in past years. Also, nowadays, in Western society, the zeitgeist is such that old barriers and differences are routinely reexamined and discarded.

Nevertheless, despite there having been occasional Hassidic gatherings in YU in the past, as well as a Lubavitch oriented Tanya club, they were, on the whole, marginal and extracurricular phenomena, which were not part of the main program of study. Similarly, while past President and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Dr. Lamm wrote extensively on Hassidism, that was extracurricular, and not his main role there. The new appointment of Rebbe Weinberger, however, remarkably, considering the history of RIETS, prominently institutionalizes a Hassidic program and influence there.

Which begs the question, has the well of Lithuanian Torah, Mussar, and Hashkafah, that sustained RIETS until now dried up? Has Torah UMadda run out of gas, that it has to turn to Brooklyn style Chassidism, albeit with a more sophisticated and modern presentation, as exemplified by Rabbi Weinberger, to try to sustain itself going forward?

In the past, students went to RIETS-YU to escape that kind of thing. Various prominent RIETS-YU talmidim that came from Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and similar backgrounds come to mind. They went to RIETS from Brooklyn seeking a broader type of Yiddishkeit. Some went to learn with Rav Soloveitchik. RIETS-YU was a Litvish bastion. Can anyone imagine bringing in a Chassidic Rebbe like this in those days? It seems unthinkable.

Of course, there have been many individuals from Chassidic backgrounds at RIETS/YU over the years, but they did not come in wearing their Chassidism on their sleeve, or as a Chassidic Rebbe, as Rabbi Weinberger is, with a mandate (actual or perceived) to openly spread Chassidism there. On the other hand, Rabbi Weinberger is openly, clearly, and quickly showing, front and center, no bones about it, that his agenda is to do just that. That is clear from various indications, such as his starting a new introduction to toras haba'al shem tov shiur in his first few days on the job (in which he announces that he will be learning from shiurim of R. Mottel Zilber, a son in law of the aforementioned Rav Moshe Wolfson, in the coming weeks) as well as his speaking in typical Chassidic style. What do I mean by the latter? Let me explain with a few examples. 

1) His usage of the term 'tzaddikim' as a synonym-euphemism-codeword for Chassidic leaders, as opposed to non Hassidic gedolim (you might find some rare exceptions, but they prove the rule. If you have doubts, listen to his talks online)..

2) His usage of the term 'seforim hakedoshim'  as a synonym-euphemism-codeword for Chassidic seforim. However, 'regular' seforim of Torah are not called that. Do they not qualify as being holy?

3) When he refers to Hassidic leaders, he typically will say 'zechuso yogein aleinu' (their merit should protect us). However, non Chassidic leaders do not get that appended to their name.

The above are typical among Chassidic speakers of his type, but it is surprising to hear such exclusionary and discriminatory language used at the bastion of Modern Orthodoxy which is YU-RIETS, without protest.

 Some may say, perhaps he is acting as a traditional Yeshiva mashgiach, just drawing somewhat on his Hassidic background for insights at times, so what is the big deal? However, as per the above, we see that that is not so. His Chassidism is not incidental and in the background, but rather his main identity, and front and center in his activities. Although he is also teaching from other works not commonly considered Chassidic (though that classification may be less than totally correct), such as seforim of Rav Kook and Rav Charlap, nevertheless it is through a Chassidic lens and as a Chassidic Rebbe, using Chassidic lingo that he does so. It is clear that he is acting as a Hassidic Rebbe, and engaged in hafotzas hamaayanos (spreading Hassidism) at YU. He is a believer in Chassidism and believes that spreading it will bring Moshiach closer. So he is trying to do that, aka hafatzas hamaayanos, in his new post.



It will be interesting to see how this new experiment will work out, for sure. Will he succeed in spreading Hassidism in RIETS-YU in a large way, or will the novelty of a Chassidic Rebbe on campus wear off over time, with Litvish remaining the dominant form of Yiddishkeit there? Will the new Chassidic way endure, or will it just be passing fad?

Time will tell. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Skinny on the Shtreimel - What's Up With Those Fur Hats?

Extensive, Inside Look At Shtreimel Manufacturer

I recently saw a great pictorial feature on a Meah Shearim shtreimel manufacturer. Definitely worth a look.

Since we are on the topic, let us discuss some other shtreimel related matters as well.

Litvaks and Shtreimels 

First, a few words about Litvaks and Shtreimels . At times one can hear people claim, that in the old days Litvaks wore streimels. After all, look at photos of Litvishe gedolim such as the Netziv, Aruch Hashulchan, and Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein, with fur hats. R. Yechiel Michel Epstein, the Aruch Hashulchan himself, in his great work, mentions shtreimels, for example in או"ח סימן תקנ"א, יא. Wikipedia has an interesting entry on shtreimels, where it claims that they were worn by Lithuanian Jews up to the twentieth century.

However, we should keep in mind, that 1) those hats were not the same as the typical Hasidic streimel, and 2) even if some Litvaks (though it may have been mostly a Rabbinic, and/or affluent phenomenon) wore such headgear, we do not see such a great stress on it, going to the level of an obligation to do so, as is found among many Hasidim.

One should note, that among the Perushim community in Eretz Yisrael, which are Litvish, some still wear streimels. Rav Elyashiv zt"l, as well as R. Menachem Porush, z"l, were prominent examples of such in recent times. But they may have been influenced by other groups in terms of the form, the type of streimel they wear.

I would venture to say that it is similar with the Chasam Sofer, of whom there is a famous image with a fur hat on his head. So does that mean that all the Yidden in Pressburg wore the same? I have my doubts about that. I think there is a similar image of the Vilna Gaon as well.

Shtreimel Inflation In Recent Years

Another shtreimel (or streimel) topic is the growth in their size in recent decades. If you look at photos pre and even post WWII, you will see Chasidim, including Rebbes, in pretty low/small/thin/flimsy shtreimlech. Here is a good photo from only around thirty years ago, in which the shtreimels are also noticeably smaller than typical ones nowadays (though perhaps already larger than the WWII era models). In recent years, however, the size/height of typical shtreimels has greatly increased, and it is not common to see the old, lower type worn anymore - especially on the heads of younger men. You can still see it occasionally on older men who haven't upgraded to the new, larger models. A number of years ago, someone showed me a great article in Emunah magazine, How Shtreimels Have Changed Over the Years, which talks about this change. Recommended reading, definitely!

Enjoy!

Hatzoloh, Shomrim, Chaveirim

There are some fine organizations that came from the post WWII immigrant community, such as Hatzoloh, Chaveirim, Shomrim. And we have to give credit where credit is due for them.

Hatzoloh is like bikur cholim. But before one thinks that earlier generations, our elders, were deficient by not creating Hatzoloh before the 1960's, we should think for a moment. Could Hatzoloh have emerged then or in the pre-WWII period? Not as it is today, for sure. The technology was not there. Emergency medicine, equipment, was not developed to the extent that it became later.

And with regard to Shomrim, the radios, communication equipment that is so vital to their work, was not widely available, or reasonably priced, in the old days as well.

Ditto re Chaveirim. Did they have all the advanced booster kits, small and efficient diagnostic equipment, pre WWII? They didn't have the modern electronics we now take for granted then.

We salute all who work selflessly for the community, the ציבור, past and present.

וכל מי שעוסקים בצרכי ציבור באמונה, הקב"ה ישלם שכרם

Chesed Shel Emes in USA - Who Was First?

Similar to the case with bikur cholim, discussed in a previous post here about pioneers of bikur cholim in America, in recent years we have seen the emergence and growth of Chareidi/Hassidic organizations such as Chesed shel Emes and Misaskim, who deal with מיתי מצוה ר"ל. One is given the impression from some of the reports about their activities that they are the pioneers in providing burial for such cases in the USA. The reality is though, that that is very far from the truth. Over one hundred and twenty years ago the Hebrew Free Burial Association, חברה אגודת אחים חסד של אמת, was started in New York, and continues to this very day.

It is fine and well for new groups to get involved in such holy work. But at the same time, credit must be given to those who preceded them and they should not imagine or pretend that they were the first ones to perform a certain mitzvah.

P.S. Do I see a pattern here? Definitely. These types claim that they invented bikur cholim, chesed shel emes, shemiras Shabbos, limud Torah, gemachs...Maybe they strengthened them..but invented? No way.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Litvishe niggunim - Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro zt"l

Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro זצ"ל, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Be'er Yaakov in Eretz Yisroel, who was niftar a few years ago, was a ba'al menagein.

Here are a few of his niggunim, for your listening pleasure.

1) שירו לו - note the old Litvish pronunciation of the cholam (cheylem).

2)  בא אל פרעה

Somewhat different is a third, אמר אביי.

They are not the jazzed up songs that one hears so often today. They have a simplicity that evokes years past. But it is nice to hear such old fashioned tunes for a change.

Kol Haloshon has a nice selection as well, video and audio.

Here is a nice video, with clips of the ראש ישיבה speaking at public events, with Rav Schach זצ"ל, and recalling a visit of the Chazon Ish.

Who says Litvaks can't sing. ;-)

זכותו תגן עלינו