Thursday, November 20, 2014

Breslov - Lubavitch Dance Continues. Breslov visits 770 after Lubavitch plants flag in Uman

A few months ago, Lubavitch planted their flag in Uman in a major way, during the big annual Breslov Rosh Hashanah get together there, in the guise of an Uman Chabad House.

Now, Breslov has returned the favor, with a Na-Nach truck visiting Lubavitch HQ at 770 the other day.

What will be the future of the relationship between these two Chasidic groups, who have grown in popularity and visibility in recent years, who share the characteristic of their Rebbe having passed on? Time will tell. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Moshiach will be a Misnaged: As Related by the Seventh (!) Lubavitcher Rebbe

Previously, a post here discussed the Lubavitch teaching that Moshiach will be a Misnaged (opponent of Hasidism).

Someone might think that it is an obscure, forgotten teaching, dug up from over two hundred years ago, when the Alter Rebbe was still alive. But that is not exactly the case.

I found some more information about it recently. It is mentioned in the recent book on the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe by Joseph Telushkin, and he gives a source for it, from the last Rebbe. The late seventh Rebbe himself (!) mentioned it, right in the beginning of his tenure as Lubavitch leader. His version is a bit different than what was posted here previously, but the basic facts are the same.

You can see it here, in a sicha from Chol Hamoed Sukkos 5712 (1951 C.E.), תורת מנחם ד:נג

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Rav Shraga Silverstein z"l - noted writer, translator, teacher, passes away

Looking through Mishpacha magazine of Parshas Noach, 28 Tishrei 5755, I noticed, on page thirty six, a report on the passing of noted author and teacher Rav Shraga Silverstein z"l, this past erev Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Silverstein translated many important classical Jewish texts, making them more available to a broad public, as well as writing deep works of his own. It is only appropriate that he be remembered and eulogized. His impact may have been mostly quiet (at least on readers, who didn't encounter him beyond the printed page), but it was deep and profound.

המקום ינחם את האבלים בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

P.S. The following info on him was printed with his edition of דרך תבונות:

Alumnus of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, B.A., M.A. Brooklyn College, settled in Yerushalayim 1963 with family, where he taught in a foremost school of Jewish education as well as English in U.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lubavitch Public Relations pioneer R. Yehudah Krinsky speaks about his career

R. Yehudah Krinsky, longtime aide to the late Lubavitch Rebbe, recently spoke about his career at a gathering, relating some interesting anecdotes.

He reveals (25:55 app.) that his hiring as part of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's staff, way back in the 1950's, was specifically for P.R., public relations purposes. They needed someone who knew English, a native speaker like him. The Rebbe himself was behind it, he says (26:25 app.).

This shows how important P.R., public relations, was, and is, to the late Rebbe and Lubavitch. It is not some professor outsider who is saying it here, it is the Rebbe's close aide himself!

P.S. In the beginning of this video from the 5755 Lubavitch shluchim conference, one can see old, historic images of R. Krinsky, and a look at his years in the Lubavitch movement.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Alter Mirrer R. Moshe Pivovoz z"l recalls glory and mir-acle salvation of Mirrer Yeshiva

About a month ago, R. Moshe Pivovoz, an alter Mirrer Yeshiva talmid from Europe, who lived on the Lower East Side of NYC for many years, was niftar, at the age of ninety six. See posts on it, here, here, and here.

Approximately two years before that, he spoke at length (over an hour and a half), and in great detail, about his life, his memories of life with the Mir Yeshiva, as well as how it miraculously survived the WWII period. The talk was recorded and posted online, for which we express our great gratitude to those responsible.

The recording contains important information, which may not have been reported elsewhere. For example, Rav Pivovoz sings niggunim, songs, sung by the Yeshiva people at that time. He shares the tune for Chad Gadya sung by famous Alter Mirrer R. Shmuel Kharkover (Vilensky) z"l (thirty one minutes into recording).

He sings a beautiful, Yiddish song about the Yidden in golus, at twenty two minutes into the recording, and explains it in English.

At fifty one minutes into the recording he describes Simchas Torah at the Mirrer Yeshiva, and sings niggunim sung there. The old Litvish tunes are quite different than most popular Jewish music today.

Some Mir names heard in the recording, in addition to the above, include
R. Yosef Dovid Epstein, R. Yonah Minsker, R. Elchonon Hertzman, R. Chaim Shmuelevitz, R. Leizer Yudel Finkel, R. Chatzkel Levenstein, R. Avrohom Kalmanovitch, זכרונם לברכה.

You can check it out in video or audio format.

Part one (the major part)

Part two (smaller, conclusion)

Thank you

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brisk-Lubavitch tensions revealed in new Rebbe biography by Lubavitcher author

Despite a campaign by some to paint a picture of very friendly relations in the past between Lubavitch and Brisk - which was part of the Lubavitcher effort to convince the Modern Orthodox people at the recent Rebbe and Rav event at YU, that Lubavitch and YU are not necessarily opposing camps - a new biography of Rebbe Schneerson, by Lubavitcher R. Chaim Miller, has shown that while they may have cooperated at times, there was still significant tension between the two camps.

In the beginning of the book, on page seven, Rabbi Miller relates that the late Rebbe's father, R. Levi Yitzchak, went to R. Chaim Brisker to be tested for semicha. According to the account, R. Chaim Brisker tested him painstakingly, seeing that he was a Chasid and from the Schneerson family - trying to find a justification to deny that to him. When he didn't succeed in that, he was compelled to grant ordination. However, he lamented the fact that he (R. Levi Yitzchak) was putting his scholarly energies into Kabbalah and Hassidism.

In the endnotes to the book, the source for the story given is actually the Rebbe himself, from a talk in 1951.

Doesn't sound like R. Chaim Brisker was in love with all Lubavitchers from the story. Doesn't look like a Brisk-Lubavitch lovefest to me.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why a Litvak doesn't wear a gartel - Reb Aizel Charif of Slonim zt"l

R. Aizel Charif of Slonim was a very colorful gadol, who lived in Lita around a century and a half ago. He was born into a Hasidic family (his father was a Chasid of the Alter Rebbe of Habad), but became a Misnaged, an opponent of Hasidism (that is a good subject for a possible future posting, Chasidim who left Chasidus and became Misnagdic gedolim, with Hashem's help).

A number of years ago, a descendant of his put out an interesting book about him in English, called "The Modest Genius: Reb Aisel Harif", portions of which can be seen via google books. One chapter of it is about Chasidim and Misnagdim (Chasidim and their opponents, the Misnagdim), and has some interesting stories, which display Reb Ayzel's sharpness. One of them (p.117-118) tells that Reb Aizel was once rebuked by a Chasid for not wearing a gartel. He responded that the pants belt he was wearing already performed the separation between the upper and lower parts of the body. The Chasid, however, kept bothering him about it, which led him to remark that if a sefer Torah is kosher, the gartel is under the mantel (coat, cover, jacket), whereas if the gartel is over the mantel, it is a siman, a sign that the sefer Torah is not kosher. והמבין יבין.

Another issue with wearing gartels that I notice is, especially in some cases, that the way the gartel is worn accentuates the shape of the body in an immodest way, which doesn't seem like an appropriate way with which to approach Hashem.

There are also other aspects of why Litvaks (generally) don't wear gartels. The idea of a gartel is a separation between the higher and lower parts of the body. In ancient times, clothing styles were different than today. If someone wore a robe like garment, they might not have such a separation between upper and lower regions. However, later on, prevalent clothing styles changed, and they already incorporated separation between those areas.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lubavitch and The New York Times

Lubavitch (aka Chabad) has, for many years, been heavily involved in PR, public relations, trying to get press coverage to promote their aims. One of the leading press outlets in the NYC area, where Lubavitch HQ is, as well as worldwide, is the New York Times newspaper. Lubavitch has appeared in that publication many times over the years.

How did Lubavitch develop a relationship with that well known, very influential paper? They invested special effort into cultivating it.

This was recently discussed in an address by R. Yehudah Krinsky of Lubavitch, who was delegated by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to work on PR way back in the 1950's. He told of his relationship with Irving Spiegel, who dealt with Jewish affairs at the Times. The address can be seen here.

Another aspect of the Lubavitch-NYT connection is seen in another newly released video online, which shows NYT reporter Israel Shenker and the Lubavitcher Rebbe at a 1972 Purim Farbrengen. It can be seen here. Some more recent R. Krinsky-Lubavitch-NYT interactions are related by R. Krinsky in this recording.

One doesn't usually know what goes on behind the scenes at a newspaper. Here we are given some glimpses of behind the scenes action.

The advertising that Lubavitch placed in the NYT over the years is another related topic. How that may have impacted on the paper's coverage is not discussed.

These activities show how Lubavitch used modern public relations strategies at the direction of the last Rebbe.

Postscript: If you examine the Wikipedia page on R. Krinsky and are aware of the composition, activities, and trajectory of Lubavitch in recent decades, you can see how important its PR (Public Relations) activities and wing have been as part of its overall activity.

The Wikipedia page does not include some other interesting facts on R. Krinsky, which are revealed in a book by George Kalinsky, which features him among other clergy, that he was the youngest of nine children of a non Lubavitch shochet from Boston, who attended Boston Latin school before going to New York, and that his maternal grandfather was of Habad background. Also of interest is that in publicity for a planned program at Yeshiva University, re The Lubavitcher Rebbe and The Rav, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, it is stated that he was the first student at Maimonides day school of Boston, founded by the Rav.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rav Yisroel Salanter's Non-Ancestor: The Vilna Gaon

We have previously posted (here and here) about non-descendants of R. Yisroel Salanter, in reaction to contemporary claims that two public figures, the late Israeli General Amnon Lipkin-Shachak, and להבדיל לחיים טובים, a well known frum author and speaker, descended from R. Yisroel Lipkin of Salant (aka Rav Yisroel Salanter), and how they were both incorrect.

Yet another dubious claim with regard to Rav Yisroel's familial line was noted just a few hours ago, on his just concluded yahrzeit, on a popular website. However, this time it was not of a descendant, but rather an alleged ancestor. The claim was that R. Yisroel's father, R. Zev Wolf Lipkin, was a descendant of the Vilna Gaon, which would mean that Rav Yisroel was the same.

I felt that something was wrong when I read it, as I didn't recall such a thing from the past. 

It seems clear that it is wrong, based on the following -

1) It was not heard in the past. Such a close familial connection between two Lithuanian Torah giants would likely be well known.

2) Rav Yisroel Salanter was born in 1810 למספרם, less than twenty years after the petirah of the Vilna Gaon. His father, Rav Ze'ev Wolf Lipkin,  was born twenty some odd years earlier, in 5546, when the Gaon was still alive. The writer writes very vaguely that Rav Zev Wolf was a descendant of the Gaon, without specifying what kind of descendant. Since the Gaon was was in his sixties when Rav Zev Wolf was born, let us assume that they meant a grandson or perhaps great grandson. If that was the case, it would be clearly known and should be stated as such, rather than just the vague claim of being a 'descendant', which sounds like someone who was born many years and generations after, when lines of descent and exact relationships often become unclear with the passage of time and development of different family branches.

One may wonder how such a claim even came into being, if it is totally lacking in basis. It is hard to figure out some things, but perhaps someone saw a statement somewhere that placed Rav Yisroel in a line following the Gaon, and misinterpreted it to mean that he was a physical descendant, when actually what was meant was a kind of spiritual lineage. Hopefully people will be more careful in the future, as this is not the first error I have noted in compilations of yahrzeit information.