Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Chassidishe Ugrade

I recently changed my Blog Image to my newest work of art.

Its a woodcut I carved, which I printed an edition of 7.

Hope you all enjoy my Chassidishe Upgrade.

Gut Voch.

~ Long Beach Chasid.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Understanding" A Person's Essence In 30 Seconds

I commented on A Simple Jew's blog post about Tzedakah.

It's really sad that we think we have the ability to understand a whole person's essence by the 30 seconds you scan them up and down with our eyes.Who are you to decide if someone is an addict or what they are going to do with the money?It's a dollar. Even if you gave the same guy a dollar every day you are allowed to handle money that still comes out to less than $300 a year.I know for most people $300 is not even 50% of what you are required to give.A Rebbe once said that Hashem makes dishonest beggers so we aren't held accountable for rejecting the honest ones.Even if someone is an addict they have to at some point eat food or drink some water or they will die. Its not hard science.So what if this addict needs some food this time around?If you are all on such a high level that you can see the whole picture, that's amazing to have such holy insight into the world.As for me, ill just risk giving a dollar and performing a mitzvah with Joy.The Baal Shem Tov says that when you give tzeddakah you create the holy name of Hashem.The Yud is the money The Hey is your hand the Vav is his arm extending and the Hay is his hand receiving.If you see a homeless many run with joy to perform the mitzvah before he has to degrade his dignity in asking.Who knows, that "crack addict" could be Elijah HaNavi.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Q&A with a Simple Jew - Torah Lishma

(courtesy of

A Simple Jew interviewed me for an article on his blog. You can read my response HERE on the topic of when my Torah learning is not Torah Lishma, which is Torah learning for its own sake. This type of learning is very lofty, and void of ulterior motives. Its a level I don't think I achieve often, but it will be interesting to see if people of different ideas of what Torah Lishma is, and if I have set to high of a standard for it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bringing youth back to Yiddishkite

How can we inspire Jewish youth to return to their roots? Whether they grew up without a Torah Education or if they did and are slipping away, how can we bring these kids closer to Torah and Hashem?

As a Baal Teshuva, I feel I know how to use myself as an example of why a Torah observant lifestyle is most beneficial in the short and long term. However, I don't believe that this would have the same positive effect on a FFB as it would on a future BT. This is a dilemma that I think Klal Yisroel has yet to overcome and that is keeping kids on the Derech. I see in communities I encounter a sad phenomenon especially with Baal Teshuvim. They are frum but their children don't seem to follow suit. Is it because as a BT we are not prepared to raise 4+ children and keep them frum? Do are inspirational reasons for why we came to Torah not ignite the souls of the 15 year old neshamas that want to dress less tznuis or don't want to make it to minyan anymore?

I'm not sure but this article focuses on something that bothers me greatly. Usually when something bothers you its because that aspect is a reflection of a part of you. This is what the BESHT says, and I have yet to have that not be the case. There is an organization that specializes in Kiruving back FFB's. Kids that went to dayschool or yeshiva and just aren't interested. I want the group to remain anonymous, because Chashve Shalom I should slander them and prevent them from their positive and holy mission of Kiruv.

What can you do to excite kids about Torah, and Yiddishkite in general when they already grew up and lost interest? The organization is throwing a Shabbaton for high school age students and of course there will be great Torah lectures and other ways to get these kids to connect, but what is the main attraction that will pull kids in and get them excited?

A Breakdancing competition with Hip hop music is the main event. Maybe not for the ones throwing it, but it will be for the ones attending. This idea really bothers me on many levels. For one prior to my return to Torah, I was very involved in the Hip Hop // Drum&Bass // Breakdance scene, which causes a level of resentment for what i feel is a waste of my life. To expose this to Jews to "get them interested in Torah" makes no sense to me. I am very much against this idea of engaging Jewish youth and making them excited about Yiddishkite by adapting Goyish music and culture and "making it Kosher". Maybe I am wrong, and this is OK, and I am just bitter because of my past experiences. I was told I am missing the bigger picture, which could be true. I just feel there are many other options to engage Jewish Youth without using Goy Culture that will pull them farther away from Torah than before.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change We Can Believe In

I don't use my blog for political purpose and I don't plan to start today, still this historical election will be mentioned in my blog. Today is a historical day for America, regardless of what political party you fancy. I think that with that said Barack Obama should be congratulated and I hope that his change is real and something that all Americans can believe in. With that said I want to get to the point of this article.

Some people are really angry right now, and of course some people are the happiest they could ever be, "finally proud to be American again". My question is what has changed since yesterday that they are proud? He hasn't even taken office yet, but somehow things have changed. Not sure, but this article might be on its way to a political rant. Its not, rest assured there is a much bigger picture. In other news, the statement of the year by a frum Jew "

Everyday as a Jew, myself and many many others pray to Hashem. We daven, and learn his Torah, and do what it is we are commanded to do as Jews. At least this is what we try to do, some days working out better than other days. We learn from our Sages that Hashem controls every aspect of our lives and that although we do in fact have free choice, nothing happens that Hashem doesn't want to, and EVERYTHING is a blessing regardless of our understanding.

I often think about how Moshiach will come, how all the Jews unite, and how they will get to Eretz Yisroel. I see from history that Hashem hasn't worked an open miracle on our behalf since the splitting of the Red Sea. Hashem has however performed miracles for us on a daily basis since then and it tends to happen in the most natural of means.

A major element in this equation is the Nations. The Non Jews that have ruled and continue to rule us even in the modern state of Israel. I believe that Hashem has put into effect a method to bring Moshiach much quicker than we merit. Since our exile, the nations have been a major factor in remind us that we can only rely on Hashem and his Torah. Every nation we have settled in has turned on us, some taking longer than others. Am I trying to say that America is going to turn into a nation like Middle Age Europe or even worse Modern Europe? It might, but probably not in 4 years, or even 8. Still people only remember the end of the bad and not the beginning of it, the part when it starts to get bad slowly when no one notices.

Regardless of what happens to the Jews, good or bad, we must remember that its all from Hashem and that we must rely on Hashem and not Obama and America. We must also never forget Jerusalem because that is our gravest error. Whatever happens, Obama is a messenger from Hashem and if things do get bad G-d Forbid, know that Hashem is simply longing for our Teshuvah. I hope that things will change for the better and America can continue to be a good place for the Jews, and for everyone.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Baal Sheeeevy.

When I first began my return back to Torah Judaism, a friend of mine made an interesting comment and provided some good advice. He said that a lot of "baal teshuvas" get really excited about keeping mitzvos, that as suddenly as they started keeping Shabbos they begin to judge others, criticize and point on faults, and worst of all judge non religious Jews. Its called "Baal Sheevy Syndrome" and it infects thousands of Jews worldwide. Usually, with the help of G-d and also some time learning in Yeshiva or Seminary, they realize their foolishness and begin to truly focus on correcting their own Neshama. Sometimes, though that isn't the case and the syndrome lingers with them for years, even decades.

During Simchas Torah there was a break between Mincha and Maariv and we went to someones house for some food & drink. The food was nice (homemade cakes) and the drink was as well (homemade lemonade). What wasn't nice was the conversation. One thing I cant stand to do is sit around a table and tell "my story" of how I became religious with other frum people. The purpose is nothing more than a contest to show who returned in a more interesting way. Its sometimes good for non religious Jews to hear to inspire them and get them thinking, but even that isn't my method of inspiration. That wasn't the problem its was ensued after.

For the next hour we discussed or should I say, gossiped about and criticized non religious Jews and our interaction with them. What purpose does this serve? Is it bringing Jews back to Torah? Is it elevating our own level of dedication to Hashem? Chabad's who mission is to bring Jews back to Torah, and to learn Chassidus and be Chasidim (Righteous, above the letter of the law, dedicated to Torah), and here I am sitting around a table listening to a bunch of Lubavitchers bash Jews. I guess Ahavas Yisroel only applies to when you are doing Kiruv work, and even then now I question if its genuine. The whole thing was a one up party. Oh Ive been frum for this long, oh I started keeping Chalav Yisroel years ago, Oh this Rabbi ate in my house and he doesn't eat in anyone's house. The best one was "I met the Lubavitcher Rebbe back in the 70's. Oh that was before Dollars." I wondered to myself. is Before Dollars like a time period? Since he is the Messiah I guess AD doesn't stand for Jesus's (the false messiah) death. AD stands for After Dollars. Its a mean spirited joke but it was a product of what I was hearing.

I was trying to figure out how to get up and leave without being rude or making it awkward and I almost got out without saying a word except for thank you to the host for the food. As I was about to leave the question popped "Are you frum since birth?" No... "Oh when did you become religious?" First off, were you paying attention at all? My parents just said they became religious 8 years ago. Am I frum since birth? Yea...I'm married and have a beard, but I'm only 8. OK, OK, give him a break." I told him I became religious about three years ago. His response was "Oh that's not that long ago. Well that was rude. Lets see where I'm at when I'm your age.

I left and went back to shul to continue learning Gemara. I might not be a Talmid Chachum but I figured that not understanding Mesechta Makkos is a better use of time than putting down Jews. When I see and hear my peers (18-30) acting like Baal Sheevy's I kind of just laugh, and remember how many mistakes i made (and continue to make). Its more of me laughing at myself that us Baal Teshuvas in general have so much to work on and yet our Yetzer Hara is so good and getting us to ignore that so we can put down others. When its the 50 and older grown that has been religious for 10-30 years that's when it alarms me.

What would the Lubavitcher Rebbe say about his Chasidim? How the women dress, How the spend their time, What they speak about, How they judge other Jews. Would you go to your Rebbe wearing stiletto high heels, a pencil skirt with a slit in the back and red lipstick? Would you proceed to bad mouth non religious Jews? Why is it ok to do it when you aren't in front of your Rebbe. I thought the point of a Rebbe was to have as a symbol of Emes and Holiness. If you aren't strong enough to ask yourself "Would G-d be happy if I did this, at least you could say "What would my Rebbe think?"

My wife and I need to get out of this darkness because its starting to choke us. Either way, Moshiach is almost here! AMEN!

Lashon Hara Is Now Fast and Easy

(courtesy of

Lashon Hara is now fast and easy with new Verizon DSL. For just $39.99/mo. you can quadruple the amount of people to hear your gossip and destroy and defame Yidden ten times faster. The Internet and Blogging is just anything else in the material world. It can be used for the utmost good as well as the utmost evil. Lately I have seen a pattern of Jewish Blogs posting nothing but negative aspect of Judaism.

I'm not speaking about blogs like Failed Messiah, Xyre or, Circus Tent. These blogs are another category. They had their feelings hurt buy groups they tried so hard to be accepted by and once rejected were unable to cope with the fact that Hashem had other plans for them. Instead they dedicate hours upon hours exposing the most negative, distorting the truth, and praying (well at least they pray for something) for the destruction of the people they are out for.

The Internet has made this much easier as these people would not have even a third of the success they feel they have gained if they led such a campaign in the real world. You know, face to face to the people you slander. No, because that would end in either a pummeled face (G-d forbid) or being out debated, as without open, the knowledge base must shift to brain-only mode. Still these site gets thousands of hits and people keep coming back because people just love to read the kind of negative filth these sites host.

Is it Lashon Hara that i speak about these blogs and the horrible things they say? Some might say yes, but still criticizing a blog, isn't criticizing a person. I don't know the people who write these blogs, and for the most part they try to stay anonymous for fear of retaliation against them. Apparently getting your blog hacked is not as scary as a group of displeased people at your front door.

My focus of this blog is on Blogs that I consider quality blogs writing Lashon Hara. Blogs I support, avidly read, that sometimes go in the wrong direction when they are short on material. There is this concept in the Blogosphere, specifically the Frum one, that it is OK to expose the negative aspects of Haredi Society on the Internet because people deserve to know the truth. There are many problems with this. Firstly Who deserves to know the truth? Haredi people or people that stumble upon a blog and form an opinion that Haredi Society is all negative. Still, the negativity should not be ignored and it should be documented, but it should also be based on fact and not opinion, or not on the word of three or four people.

My issue is when there are blogs that write articles about specific people. This is without question Lashon Hara, and the usual response is that Lashon Hara is just an excuse to keep the truth from being known. Well my question is, who are you to "expose the truth"? You are a Jew with a blog account and nothing more. This goes for me as well, and if my blogs are a reflection of my position on this issue, I can say that if I do write a blog about a person, their idenity is unknown to anyone but me, and possibly them if they read the article.

I have thrown around the idea of posting the blog and its article that spurred this posting, but that will not solve the problem. I enjoy reading the blog and have learned interesting things about Haredi Society and how I functions at least from this blogger's point of view. The article really set me off and I argued back in forth but to no avail did the blogger shift their opinion on the subject.

In short the article is about a few Rabbi's and their method of fundraising. The blogger goes off on them equating them to thievery, fraud, and deception. My problem is what evidence was this hateful blog based on? 100% opinion, yet it is presented as if its well known fact. If you don't agree with how this Rabbi works, then he is not the Rabbi to you. Unless you are his accountant, or the Israeli IRS how do you know what goes on? You asked a couple people (who also happen to dislike this Rabbi as much as you) and this is your evidence.

Lashon hara (or Loshon hora) (Hebrew לשון הרע; "evil tongue") is the prohibition in Jewish Law of telling gossip – negative disparaging but truthful remarks about a person or party who is not present.

However you want to justify an article targeting a specific person, this is the Halacha. You can chose to ignore it, like you can chose to ignore any halacha.

Frum Blogs should be used to make the Internet holy and break the klippot that the Internet has encrusted around its users. Yes, all aspects of Judaism should be documented, but there is plenty of Positive going on, and its a shame that is ignored for the more juicy stories. If that is your goal, then you should work for a goyish mainstream publication like People Magazine.

There will be a separate follow up to this blog but the end result is the same.

If we spent the same amount of type Gossiping and putting Jews down as we did in our Torah study, Moshiach would have come during the time of the 1st Temple.

The Vilna Goan repented one Rosh Hashanah on his time wasted in not learning Torah during the year. He carefully calculated that it was 7 minutes for the whole year!!! If we only spend 7 minutes a day or even a week extra learning Torah, think of our benefit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sukkah and The Ark

From ASimpleJew's Blog...

The Sukkah & The Ark

The Zohar says that the Sukkah is comparable to Noach's ark. Just as Noach's ark protected its occupants from the raging floods, so does the Sukkah protect us from all evil. The Gemara says that only those who had not sinned were admitted into the ark. Perhaps this is why Sukkos falls right after Yom Kippur. Since on Yom Kippur Hashem has forgiven all our sins, we deserve to dwell under the protective shield of the Sukkah.

(Shem MiShmuel)

We are all Angels: Yom HaKippurim

(Courtesy of

A women who was speaking to my mother after Kol Nidre said someone told her that she should be happy today and it really got me thinking. We learn from the Sfas Emes who gave over a maamar on Yom Kippur that this day is the happiest day of the year. Unlike the fast of Tisha B'Av which is fast of sadness and mourning, the fast of Yom Kippur is a fast of joy and celebration. Yom Kippur is know as the Shabbos of Shabbosim, and how could we as Jews that are required to be happy on Shabbos but sad on the Shabbos of All Shabbosim? The Sfas Emes gave a really amazing insight that not only gave me a great appreciation for this amazing day, but made it the most spiritual and fulfilling time in my life. Shabbos is said to be 1/60th of Olam Habah, so its only logical that the Shabbos of Shabbosim would be 1/30th of Olam Habah, and that is exactly what it was.
The Sfas Emes quotes the Gemara in Yoma that discusses the procedure of the Kohen Gadol before Yom Kippur. 7 days he separates from his wife and prepares for the one day. This is how the Sfas Emes connects Yom Kippur to being above nature Le'ma'ala min ha'teva, as 7 is nature, but 7 plus 1 is eight and that is above nature. How do we as Jews reach that level of Le'ma'ala min Ha'teva? The Sfas Emes says Fasting and Teshuva. Fasting because it is above our nature to not consume food and drink, and by doing this we are able to reach the level of angels, who not only do not eat, but do not want to eat. We wear white linen based off of Yehezkal's vision, we don't eat, and it is considered meritorious to stand as much as possible as the angels are incapable of sitting. Baruch Hashem I was blessed to stand the whole time except for the reading of Torah. We also become Korbanos as our bodies feed off of our fat and blood like that of the Korban of Yom Kippur.

How is Teshuvah above nature? The Sfas Emes explains that when we do something (like an averah) it becomes natural to us and very difficult to overcome. By doing proper Teshuvah we are able to raise ourselves above the natural process of everyday life. Hashem gives us the opportunity to obtain a higher level of spirituality on this day. This helps us with both these aspect of Yom Kippur and helps us in appreciating the importance of the day and the joy that these two elements should bring.

I held on to these ideas as I prayed to our creator and It was the most intense experience of my life. Not only did I completely ignore the Yetzar Hara who told my I was "starving", but I could have honestly fasted through the night until the morning. I was totally consumed in what I felt was proper Teshuva and striving for a connection with Hashem. There is something special about my parents shul, as its not a typical Chabad shul, its more like a Lubavitch Shtiebel. The Chazzan was a Rabbi from my community in Long Beach, and his voice is the sounds of a neshama trying to leave through the wind pipe. Im not so into the beautiful voice, I am into the powerful voice that cries when we pray that Hashem should have mercy and not take our lives before our time or when we speaks about the tragedy of the 10 martyrs.

Anu V'Ata was my climax, as that prayer gives me such intense concentration and passion. However the climax of climaxes was Shema x1 Baruch Shem x3 Hashem Hu x7. I lost my voice at Hashem Hu #7 and was shaking all over. We finished off right before the shofar with the Chabad Minhag of "the Victory March". Dancing Jumping Yelling around the Bimah I thought I was at a Breslov Shul for a moment.

I smiles, I cried, my soul was so joyful and I pray that my teshuva was sincere and accepted and that I can work to become a better Yid. Someone asked me last night if I made any resolutions. Jokingly I said, Yea not to make vows.

On a serious note, we should all focus on making our performance of mitzvos less routine and really pay attention to the fact that we are performing these mitzvos and although everyday, they are special and unique everyday. We should pay attention to our blessings over mitzvos and food and really be sincere. When someone does something for us we thank them and remember that. When we "forget" if we said a bracha rishon or achron, it is because we didn't properly thank Hashem for what he has given us.

May this year be the year that we grow and raise our spiritual level so that we can bring Moshiach speedily Amen!!!

Hashgacha Pratis

(Courtesy of

I had 3 art critiques on Yom Kippur, and because of that had to have them done by Tuesday night. I had been working non stop in the art studio putting in 8 hours a day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. As of Monday night I had come to terms that I wasn't going to finish in time and would just have to deal with the consequences. Tuesday morning I got to minyan and I asked Hashem to please help me to just help me a little today so that I could finish on time. I left for work and experienced more traffic than usual. There was a fire on the side of the freeway, and since this was the first fire in history and no one had ever seen a fire before, everyone had to go extra slow so they could stare at it instead of the road in front of them. As I neared the fire I realized that the building I work in was on the same block. Then I realized the building was right behind ours. I got off the freeway and couldn't get into the area because of a Police barricade. I went around the block but the fire hose was blocking the street. I was going to run over it but I didn't feel like getting arrested. Then I realized what was going on with this whole situation and it blew my mind. Would Hashem burn down a building so I wouldn't go to work and instead go into the studio and finish my art on time? No, he wouldn't do that, but if it was already destined that that building was to burn down and it was destined for me to somehow finish my art, then Yes, Hashem decided to make them coincide. It was found out today that it was arson, most likely committed by rival neighbors over "trash". I got into the studio around 9am and worked almost nonstop till 11pm. I got it all done and Baruch Hashem it turned out amazing. Iy"H Soon I will have a website up with my work and hopefully people will want to purchase it so I can provide for my family. Since I returned from Israel, was inspired by many amazing Jews, and read Rabbi Shalom Arush's book Garden of Emuna, my life has really transformed and my trust in Hashem has increased tenfold. Its Hashems job to work about everything, and its my job to perfect myself, perform mitzvos, and learn Torah. This was just a little reminder showing me that yes Hashem can perform open and obvious miracles for a Jew but that really we need to pay attention to the everyday "small" miracles, that are really the biggest miracles of all.

Stay Tuned for "We are all Angels: Yom HaKippurim"....

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fighting to be Rebbe

(courtesy of

When the Baal Shem Tov left the physical world, there was an uncertainty of who would take on the leadership of Chassidus. Should it be his son or his closest disciple. His son became Rebbe and on the first anniversary of the Besht's yaharziet, the Besht came to his son in a dream telling him to give leadership over to the Maggid Reb Dov Ber. Without hesitation he stood to speak to his Chasidim, and declared R' Dov Ber the new Rebbe and gave him the hat and coat of the Besht.

When the Chiddushe HaRim left the physical world, his grandson was asked to be Rebbe at age 18 and refused, claiming he was not worthy to lead the chasidim of his esteemed and holy Grandfather. The Alexander Rebbe at that time took charge and then later the Sfas Emes under pressure finally became the Rebbe of Ger.

So many stories of Chasidim asked to become the new Rebbe and being so reluctant. How could they do the mission as Rebbe even at half of the level of their Rebbe who was so dear to them. Sons, Brothers, Brother-in-Laws, it didnt matter who was asked, as far as they were concerned that was their Rebbe and there was no way they were worth to replace such a holy man.

What happened to the humbleness? What happened to to reluctance? Now Chasidim fight and tear families, and dynasties apart just so they can be "the man in charge" and "run the empire"

All of the new Rebbes of times of old had siblings and relatives. Why was there no cut throat fight then? Or was there and its something I am unaware of?

You have the brothers of Satmar ripping their group in half to the point that they can barely be civilized when they come together for their fathers yaharziet.

You have even small groups like Alexander and Biala where there are multiple Rebbes .

Now the latest news is that the Vizhnitzer Rebbe is ill and his sons are fighting over who will become Rebbe. How can this be? Their holy father is still alive, breathing, and learning Torah and they are already fighting over who gets to take his place?

I don't understand this in the least. Of course I'm not in these communities, so I don't know what and why this happens. This isn't a judgement on them, this is a blog full of questions. Questions I want answered to explain to me why there is such a thirst for power where there previously wasn't such a thirst.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Does the Sun Revolve Around the Earth?

(courtesy of

Over this past Shabbos I witnessed something a little disturbing. Someone asked 2 yeshiva bochurim if the Sun revolved around the Earth or the Earth revolved around the Sun. When the first boy was asked he said the Sun revolves around the Earth. Of course I took this as a joke that he was mocking such a silly and obvious answer to the question. It wasnt until the second bochur was asked that I couldnt believe what I was hearing. The second bochur said the same thing! Then he kind of toyed back and forth with each idea and then said, "No actually I think the Earth revolves around the sun.....right?"

Do yeshiva students not learn basic science, math, and english? Then again are these subjects really that important, or aid in the purpose of a Jew's mission in Olam Hazeh? I guess as a Baal Teshuva who just about has a BFA, I feel that anyone should know such a simple thing as 4th grade science. Learning Torah is of course the priority, but how to these bochurs go to Law School and get Masters later in life if they dont know the basics. Maybe these 2 cases do not represent the majority of frum children.

It seems that todays Torah Community rejects science because it is a tool that is perverted to Chashve Shalom "prove" Hashem doesnt exisit. Others would argue the total opposite and say that not only does science prove Hashems power over the universe, but it helps to explain his process. The Rambam himself " strove to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy and science with the teachings of the Torah."

Of course my future children, iy"H will attend a Haredi type school, but if they are deprived on such common knowledge, I will have to fill in the gaps.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fifty Seven Sixty Eight

(courtesy of

After reading A Simple Jew's blog on Preparation of Elul, it got me thinking about my own preparations and my own year in general. This was a big year for me on so many levels and I thank G-d for all the blessings bestowed upon me even the ones I didn't see as blessings till months later.

My Gregorian Birthday is Labor Day, and except for a year where there is a second Adar, it falls right before Rosh Hashanah. This past year during a social gathering to celebrate the fact that even against my will I continue to grow, I was given a blessing by an engaged couple. Honestly I didn’t take it too seriously. The year before was a rocky one, struggling with my yiddishkite and adapting it to an ever changing social surrounding. The Kallah blessed me that I should find my zivug asap. That next Shabbos I met my future wife and now we have been married for almost six months Baruch Hashem!

To write a blog on my whole year of experiences would take hours and it would be much to long for anyone to enjoy reading, so I will just highlight some aspects but really focus on this years Elul which has been very special for me.

Going to Eretz Yisroel over the summer was a life changing experience that has benefited my ten-fold. Since I have returned to Chutzla Eretz everything has been different. My job has been Blessed, my art has been blessed, my davening and learning has blessed, and so is my relationship with my wife, family, and friends. Hashem has clicked on this dormant switch in my brain to help me think things out a little bit more.

There is less than a week until Rosh Hashanah, and I’m not sure if I am ready or not and my Yetzer Hara is doing its job perfectly. During the month of Elul, I began to wake up to get to shul 30-45 minutes before the minyan to really prepare myself for davening. Instead of rushing through morning blessings and Korbanos I really focused on them and read the 3 chapters of Tehillim each day during Elul. I have been doing Hisbodedus prior to davening as well, and if I have extra time I review the only Gemara I know fluently in Aramaic. Then we rip through davening at lightning speed that you must pray to G-d not to sneeze during Ashrei because you just might miss davening Shema with the minyan. Someone said today that "the reason he davens so fast is because he sacrifices his kavana to be at peace with the minyan." I guess it’s sad that the minyan really needs to daven Shachris in 30minutes flat, but better to daven with a minyan then without one. Instead of listening to the worthless radio on my way to work I also do Hisbodedus and feel more comfortable speaking with Hashem, even though the guy next to me thinks I’m either crazy speak to myself or that I’m on a Bluetooth headset.

The Shofar has been really special for me during Elul as well. I wrap myself in my tallis and close my eyes and if I concentrate in a specific manner, I can feel the blasts of the Shofar pierce my heart & soul and it awakens in me the knowledge of where I need to focus my teshuva.

This is all fine and dandy but does it make Hashem happy? I pray everyday that I perform my duties as a Jew for the Sake of Hashem's happiness, and not for the acceptance of man or for a nice spot in the Shuirim of Olam Habah, but if those also come with making Hashem Happy, then please make me humble. My greatest fear is that I would perform a Mitzvah so that someone will say "Wow this Yid is so religious look at how great he is." My mind is a very confusing thing, and the Yetzer Hara is so great at increasing the confusing.

Now, I don’t think I do a lot, and as I write this I am fearful that whoever reads this will thing that I’m bragging about what I do. Please don’t think this, but to my credit if I deserve any, I at least do something.

One of the blogs I read quoted a Chassidic Rebbe in saying that If we only started our Teshuva in Elul, Rosh Hashanah would be that much more beneficial. It’s like waiting the last minute to do anything, If you don’t give it your all it could result in a complete failure. So by doing a little bit each day it will build up to something great. Of course I have no clue if my tefillah or teshuva is being accepted in Elul, on Rosh Hashanah, or ever. Of course I read words of tzaddikim, and words of Torah that say Hashem forgives anyone who returns to him to make teshuva, but I still have this voice in the back of my head telling me that all the sins I committed before I became of Baal Teshuva (I’m not a master of anything) are not yet rectified. Therefore I’ve been giving more Tzedakah than usual. At least I know (or hope) that the joy I feel is for the mitzvah and not the reward for the mitzvah.

Selichos has also been intense and even more so because I’m reading it in English. I can read the Hebrew but I can’t understand it so that seems worthless to me. The words make such an impact, I wish I could get the true essence with the Hebrew. Still it makes my soul burn reading the words.

The quote of Reb Simcha Bunim still resonates inside me and I continue to ask Hashem to let me return home instead of begging for a raise, or to find an apartment that’s nicer, or other Gashmius things. I hope he blesses me with those based on the rest of the year when I ask for those things, but not for Slichos. Slichos, I want to return home. I want to be close to Hashem and I want to know that by doing what I am supposed to I make him proud.

There is so much to work on but I do feel I am putting some sort of effort forth and better to do something than nothing. For this I pray that Hashem judges my whole family and my wife's family in favor and blesses us the coming year and that our blessings spill over to everyone around us so that we can all have the revelation of what needs to be done to usher in Moshiach NOW! So that we can once again connect to Hashem on a direct level.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wearing a Tallis during Selichos

(courtesy of

Last night, at 1am we started reciting Selichos which is a grouping of prayers to Hashem that Jews say from the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. There must be at least 4 days of Selichos before Rosh Hashanah, so when it falls on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, then you start the Motzi Shabbos before that week. This year is an example of this. If my explanation is not simple to understand please go here, here, or here.

The nusachs of davening Selichos are not like that of normal davening, as they are based on region instead, which still follows closely to normal nusachim. In respect to European Jews, Chassidim of Poland use Nusach Polin, Russian Jews like Chabad use Nusach Ruzin, Litvaks use Nusach Litva, and I'm sure Jews of Germany, Hungary use their own respective Nusachs.

There is a great difference between Selichos of Polish Chasidim and Chabad as Chabad does not put their head down. I'm used to being the lone Chasid doing things different but this was awkward and confusing enough for me to not put my head down. This is a mistake on my part that I will not repeat again iy"H.

Another interesting maklokes involves wearing a Tallis during Selichos. This is something most Jews do not do, but I will do. (I wasn't married during last selichos so I didnt have this issue to worry about). My Rav and I learned about Selichos from Sefer
Nitei Gavriel, and he says explicitly that you must wear a Tallis if you recite Selichos at the earliest time (or later) to wear a Tallis, and if you are in the middle of reciting Selichos when that time arrives you must stop and put on your Tallis. I know I am going to get flack for this but I hold by how Rabbi Gavriel Zinner (author of Nitei Gavriel) poskins. He is a very respect Chassidishe Posek and if there is an issue the Lubavitch Shul I daven at owns his whole set. Generally Lubavitch Minhag and understanding of Halacha agree, but there are occasions when they don't, such as if one should not fast on his wedding day if it falls on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. This Maklokes in itself could have its own article, so I wont elaborate.

I will end with an amazing parable on Selichos given over by the Rebbe Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. There once was a King who had a rebellious son, so he banished him from the kingdom. The prince came upon a rural village and soon he became more villager than prince. The king still loving his wayward son, would send out secret agents to check up on him and help him through difficult times without his knowledge. One day the king couldn't bare it and he sent a message to his son. The message said "Your father loves you and is ready to grant you anything you want. Make a wish." The son didn't have to think very long. "Tell my father how grateful I am for his concern. And them him that it is cold here and my coat is worn. Please ask him to send me a new, warm, fur-lined coat!"

Can one imagine the heartbreak of the father who wanted his son back in the Palace? The boy could have asked for a chance to visit his family. he could have asked for a reconciliation. He could have asked for the kingdom. But he had forgotten where he belonged. He had traded the palace for the corral, traded his destiny for a coat.
So too, R' Bunam said, "We come to the Days of Awe when G-d longs for us to say, 'Father, we want to come home to YOU!' And all we think about to ask for in our prayers is a bit more money, a nicer home, a warmer coat. Can we even begin to imagine the extent of our foolishness and the anguish we cause G-d?"

As i recited Selichos last night I was so overwhelmed at the words with this new thought in my head. It was one of the most intense moments of prayer I have experienced outside of Eretz Yisroel.

May we all be blessed to beg Hashem to let us come back home and become the princes and princesses that we as Children of Hashem are destined to be!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

No Tachnun

Today is a very special day for Chasidim. Today is Chai (18th of) Elul, and lots of amazing things happened to the Jewish people, especially the Chasidim. Today is the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, Aka the Besht, Aka Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer. It is also the day that Alter Rebbe of Chabad, Shneur Zalman of Liadi was born and also the day special Maamers and Chassidius given over through out their lives. Another notable event today, is the Yaharziet of the Heliga Maharal of Prauge, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel. This is where the Tachnun comes in, or rather doesn’t come in. As a general Chassidic Minhag that I have taken from my Rav, Tachnun is not said on the Yaharziet of Tzaddikim. This is not a Minhag of Chabad, as they even say Tachnun on their Rebbe's Yaharziets, or so I thought. No, it is not a Minhag of Chabad, but like all groups, you always have a rouge. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but it does make me smirk when someone steps out of routine and gets a comment out of the head Rabbi of my Shul.

There is a Chasid at my shul that does things that conflict with what other Chabad Chasidim feel should be done. One of those things is random times when Tachnun should be said and isn’t. Today is one of those days. The last one happened on the date marking the release of the Frierdiker Rebbe from Russian Prison. He was Shliach Tzibur and didn’t say Tachnun and this started a quiet argument as to "What the Rebbe did". Still, Tachnun wasn’t said. Today the Head Rabbi made an announcement, that "Today is Chai Elul, which is a very important day for Chassidim (Went on to list the reasons) and because of this Rabbi So & So probably wont be saying Tachnun, even though there is no source for this."

Now as a non Chabad Chasid davening in a Chabad shul, there are a few things I do different, and one of those is trying to not make it obvious that I'm not saying Tachnun. I have a calendar that is in the process of being marked on which days not to say Tachnun, because sometimes I forget and then realize later. I usually insert some sort of voluntary prayer that is printed after Shachris in the Art Scroll Sefard Siddur instead. Now don’t think I’m one of those Chasidim that goes No Tachnun Buck Wild. I only omit Tachnun when it is the Yaharziet of a Tzaddik who I have learned some sort of Torah from, not if I have just "heard of him".

This brings me to another interesting event that occurred today. Is it only Chabad or do other Chassidim consider Birthday, Yaharziet, or something monumental involving their Rebbes as Yom Tovim? The same Chasid, who doesn’t say Tachnun on these random days, also wishes everyone a "Gut Yom Tov", and wears his Kaputa. I only find this weird because he is the only one and no one else, not even the Head Shliach of the shul wears his.

Today we should learn Chassidus from the Besht, and the Alter Rebbe, as well as Chumash with Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague's commentary on the Chumash). May the merit of these Tzaddikim bring forth Redemption and Moshiach and may their Torah inspire us to engage in Tefillah, Teshuva, and Tzeddakah and be judged in favor by Hashem this Rosh Hashanah.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Before the Baal Shem Tov

“Until the birth of the Baal Shem Tov, the Jewish people always looked backward: How many years has it been since the destruction of the Temple? From the birth of the Baal Shem Tov onward, the clock has been ticking toward the future. With each new year, we look forward, realizing how much closer we are to the Redemption”

(Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz)

Guest Post By Chabakuk Elisha - Shelo Asani Isha

I guess this is technically a "guest's guest post", but regardless its a great post to read, especially for someone who has been attacked for being apart of a male centered religion. This topic was discussed at a Malava Malka last Motzi Shabbos, and this post raised my understanding of this topic to a new level. I wish the post was posted before I had the discussion. At least I got the Pshat.
Check out the guest post on A Simple Jews Blog.

Mazel Tov to the reason for this post which is that Chabakuk Elisha has a baby girl.

Shabbos Tish in Bnei Brak

My wife and I spent our last Shabbos during our stay in Eretz Yisroel in Bnei Brak. I had spent Shabbos there two years ago with my friend's Sephardic cousins. We are talking serious Sephardim here. They speak Ladino and have Ladino siddurim and seforim that are hundreds of years old. It was my favorite Shabbos then as it was now with one theme in common, the language barrier. Whether it’s the Sephardim and their Ladino, Hebrew, No English or it’s the Aleksander Chasidim and their Yiddish, Hebrew, No English, I still had the most amazing experience not understanding 85% of what was being said.

Before we left, we asked our Rav if he knew anyone we could stay by for Shabbos in Israel. He asked if we wanted a really Chasidish place and we say yes with excitement. He gave us the number for a Rabbi in Bnei Brak who ran the Aleksander Shtiebel there. When we got to Israel, we called him and he was very confused. He didn’t speak very much English and he didn’t seem know who our Rabbi was either. Finally after his daughter got on the phone everything was made clear and we made plans to come. As everything happens for a reason, it’s of course not by chance we stayed in Bnei Brak our last Shabbos. We conditioned ourselves by spending Shabbos in places around Jerusalem, such as the Old City, Har Nof, Ramat Eshkol, and even made it out to Ramat Beit Shemesh, too.

Before we knew it, it was Friday morning and we were busy preparing. It wasn’t until Israel that I understood the saying "You make plans, and G-d laughs..." We got to the Bus Station 10 minutes before the last bus would leave for Bnei Brak, but this was just the beginning of our adventure. When I called the Rabbi that morning to get directions, I apparently didn’t understand anything he said and wrote the cross street and address totally wrong. I did get Rabbi Akiva St. down so we weren’t too far off the beaten path. We got off and walked right by the alley to the house. We kept walking, and walking, and walking and then finally after asking five different people who kept asking us confused "No Hebrew, No Yiddish?" we realized we were lost. We called the Rabbi and turned around and started walking back. I will tell you that walking in humid hot Bnei Brak five minutes before Shabbos in your Shabbos bekeshe pulling a suitcase is not a simple task.

We stopped right in front of the alley and these little chasidishe boys asked us if we American. To make this part of a long story short, it was the Rabbi's grandchildren and they took us to the house. When we got there we were greeted by the Rabbi and his family and much needed air conditioning, soda, and even a little cake. Once I was ready, it was off to shul. One of the most beautiful things I have ever send is a Polishe Chasid walking to shul with his eight grandchild running around him playing and grabbing hold to him. We got to his shtiebel and my stereotype that Haredi Jews aren’t welcoming of outsiders went out the door. At least in Bnei Brak, at least with Aleksander Chasidim it was "Shalom Alechem" this and "Good Shabbos" that. I felt more welcome in 30 seconds then some shuls I have davened at a dozen times. We davened so beautifully together, so slowly but with such fire something I began to take for granted in the Holy Land. The Aleksander Niggunim is so powerful and energetic which helped me begin to understand why Aleksander was the second largest Chasidic group before the War. The climax of my Kabblas Shabbos is Lecha Dodi. If sung right it can lift my soul to such heights. Usually it’s sung in an obscure tune that no one can follow and it ends up being a Shliach Tzibur on a soapbox singing while everyone else reads it. This past Shabbos in Los Angeles this happened to no surprise and when we tried to hijack the niggun the Shliach Tzibur raised his hands like "what are you doing cant you see I’m trying to sing this amazing niggun by myself so no one can follow and only I will enjoy the davening!" Aleksander just like Belz (the only two Chassidic Kabblas Shabbosim I experienced) was amazing. Knowing that it was composed by such a heilige Rebbe as the Yismach Yisroel makes my soul flutter. I was then told by the Rabbi that there would be a Rebbe visiting. He is the Bushtina Rebbe and the brother-in-law of his wife zt"l.

A lot of people trivialize Rebbes and say, "oh, who is this Rebbe" and that and its really sad. Before the war there were dozens of Rebbes and they were all holy tzaddikim and respected for that. I don’t listen to such lashon hara and was eager to spend the evening with this Tzaddik. The Rebbe was celebrating a simcha and there was a Tish planned to be at the Rabbi's house where I was staying. Baruch Hashem, the Rebbe spoke English because if not for him I would have understood even less than the 20% I could barely make out. He didn’t speak to me in English as much as I would like, but it’s not the job of a Rebbe to be a translator. I will just have to learn Yiddish or sit there and be in the clouds. At dinner the food was great but the seating situation was something I was not accustom to. Because of the Rebbe being there, the woman had to be totally separated, but the Rabbi's daughter explained that on a normal Shabbos dinner they would all eat together. I sat by the Rebbe and the Rabbi and the Rebbe gave me his leftovers. I must say the Fish Head was the best part, except I would have liked to have eaten the eyeball. After sinner the Tish began with lots of L'Chaims and songs. The niggunim were on fire. I was in such a daze of awe and excitement I couldn’t even remember the niggunim the next day. To this day I can only remember the chorus of one. The room filled up to around 60+ men and we were all clapping banging singing and finally climaxed dancing in a circle around the table. There was such energy in the room that my mind couldn’t function on any mode except Holy Mode, B"H. I think I passed out on the table for 30 minutes but then was back up singing and dancing, arm locked with other Chasidim, all different types together. Some with spodiks, some with shtreimels, some with flat hats, some with fedoras, all together in honor of the holy Shabbos and to be by a Tzaddik. This for me was a reality when Chazal says Shabbos is 1/60th of Olam Haba.

Shabbos day was nice as well and the same feel overwhelmed me. We left Motzi Shabbos and the Rabbi said we must come back to visit when we return to Eretz Yisroel. Only there can you become so close to people after knowing them only for a short time. Our experience all over was that of true connection to Yidden. It didn’t matter if we were eating by Chasidim, Non Chasidim, or even Non Haredi they all truly cared about being Messengers of Hashem and truly fulfilling the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel.

We can’t wait to go back to visit in Bnei Brak and after that Shabbos, it really made me want to wear a spodik! Take it slow, Michael Mordechai, take it slow.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Avoda For The Common Man - Part II

A really great article by A Simple Jew about different Chassidic views of how and if you can raise yourself to the level of a Tzaddik in your Avodas Hashem. Check it out.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Me'arat HaMachpela

(painting by Gustave Doré)

Hebron is a very special city for us as Jews, and just like anything truly special to the Jews it is truly special to someone else. Me'arat HaMachpela has always been on my list of places to visit, but something always seems to get in my way. In 2000 just before the intifada we were unable to go and in 2006 during the Lebanon War, I was also told to stay away. Its to dangerous of a place they tell me. The violence between the Arabs and the IDF will put you in grave danger they say. Its just not safe, period I'm told.

Have you ever driven the streets of Los Angeles or Chicago or New York? Let me tell you about the time my wife and I dropped the rent check off in Inglewood. There are cities in America, and the world that are 10 times more dangerous to be in than Hebron. However, because of the media and hearsay, American Jews are panic stricken to go to Hebron.

I sometimes believed the distortion about Hebron, and how the Jews live in fear of the Arabs surrounding them. That was until my parents spent Shabbos in Hebron in the beginning of 2008. In 2005 my parents were taken to Hebron with their community Rabbi. They must have forgot to compare their Jewish Muslim calendars because he took them on the first day of Ramadan. Well after their group was surrounded by a potential mob of hundreds of muslims, they IDF swooped in surrounded the Jews and escorted them to the bus. Not the best idea, but like going anywhere you need to know where you are going and whats going on there. Visiting before Shabbos earlier this year my mother took a taxi with that community Rebbitzen and somehow were dropped off in front of the Palestinian Authority Headquarters and had to walk to their friends home in Kiryat Arba. Not the best idea but they traveled comfortable without any fear evoked by the Arabs living there.

With all this in mind, I traveled with my wife and our friend to Hebron. The bus was bulletproof and the drive into the West Bank was interesting. The view consisted of more than lots of checkpoints, fences, and walls. There were beautiful fields and vineyards and lots of green hills. The Torah says that Hebron, the least fertile area of Israel is seven times more fertile than than the most fertile land of Mitzrayim (Egypt). The bus winded down the narrow rubble filled streets of Hebron up to the military checkpoint. We got off and observe an IDF soldier with his M-16 drawn aimed in the direction of a house behind us. He starts yelling and I wasn't sure If I should run back onto the bus, or run to the Cave. Then he lowered his weapon and we became our walk to the Cave HaMachpela.

I don't think Ive ever seen photos of Me'arat HaMachpela but I knew there was a mosque there. An acquaintance of mine said that its overrated to go there and you feel like you are praying in a mosque and there is no holiness there. His words to me weren't even worth a grain of salt, more like a grain of sand but nothing would prepare me for my first view of the Caves. The mosque is huge, like a fortress, and it was very intimidating as I walked towards it. Once we got inside and saw the tombs I was in awe. Unless you are able to read Arabic, you would never know it was a mosque as Arabic looks like fancy artistic decoration. The holiness was like a weight on me leaving me in awe and my yetzer hara powerless over me. I davened mincha in the kever of Avraham Avinu and Sarah Emanu and it was one of the most joyous times of prayer I have ever experienced. There was an absolute connection between my sour and HaKodesh Barachu in the merit of our Father and Mother. After davening i said the prayer for when you visit Me'arat HaMachpela which brought me to tears as I stared at the Stone Marker of Avraham.

The whole experience was overpowering and so fulfilling for my soul. This experience I recommend for any Jew, especially one who is searching to connect closer to HaKodesh Barachu. Ignore what anyone tells you about the danger because Hashem will keep you safe on your journey and anyone that has actually been there can attest to the experience out waying the apparent risk of coming to Hebron. Chazel and any Chacham for that matter can attest to the benefit of visiting the graves of Tzaddikim, not just spiritually, but also physically. Hebron is a special place that will forever resonate in my heart and mind. I look forward to the next opportunity to visit such a holy place as Me'arat HaMachpela.

Next blog: Tzfas and the Holiest Mikvah on Earth.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Shabbos with Belz

(Courtesy of

Shabbos in Belz was something unlike anything I have ever experienced. We began our walk to Kiryat Belz which would become a 10 mile walk on Friday night of Shabbos. Looking back on the experience, I think I could have walked 15 miles, but I cant speak for my wife. I had seen pictures and even a video of the Belz synagogue, also know as the Belz HaMikdash, but nothing could truely prepare me for the view with my own eyes. Before you even get to the Shul, you see it towering over the other buildings consuming the hill it sits on. In the distance you can see a replica of 770, but the Belz Hamikdash owns all eyes. Ive been to some very larges shuls but this shul has to be, if not the largest shul in the world, then at least in the top three or five. It sits six thousand men with two stories for woman and when we davened there, it was standing room only so there had to be at least seven thousand people inside daven together.

Everyone was trying to get to the front of the shul so they could sneak a look at the Rebbe and I was no different. In all my times davening in Eretz Yisroel I noticed a trend of davening slow that seems to be non existant in Chutzla Eretz. Still even where I have soaked up a 20 minute Shemoni Esreh, nothing could have prepared me for Belz. Belz walks a tight rope with grace and beauty between "This davening is to fast" and This davening is to slow" called "This davening is Juuust Right".

Now how do you suppose the Shliach Tzibur commands these thousands of Chasidim? He has an asistant on the bimah with a large wooden stick and a leather bag filled with sand. Every time they finish a section of the prayer "WHAP", and they continue onto the next section. The davening was beauitful, the niggunim were soulful and Lecha Dodi was the climax with a chorus of men and young boys singing.

I never felt rushed or that I needed to race through the davening just so I could keep up with the Minyan. I felt that, at least for Shabbos there was no rushing these Chasidim to finish their prayer. I felt comfortable and truly enjoyed my davening to the fullest which is something that is a rarety where I live.

*Note: Today's Rosh Chodesh Shachris was very enjoyable and I felt like I back in Eretz Yisroel for a few moments.

After the davening was done I decided I was going to meet the Rebbe no matter what. Well, I wasnt the only one with that Idea. Ive never been in the presense of a Rebbe with this large of a following and what I witnesed made me realize why Chasidic groups like Belz, Ger, Satmar, and Vizhnitz are so large.

The Rebbe proceeded to shake each and every hand that passed by. His Chasidim, others Chasidim, Non-Chasidim, Non-Religous even. It was a beauitful sight as I stepped in line. As I waited in line with my friend I realized I wanted to ask him for a bracha but realized I dont speak Hebrew OR Yiddish Oy! Luckily my friend is fluent in more than one language and gave me the tools I needed to ask the Rebbe for a bracha for children in Yiddish. As I neared the Rebbe reverence consumed me and my Yetzer Hara was weakening by the footstep. It was my turn and I scurried towards him. I looked at him and when our hands connected my whole mind wiped clean on any evil inclination. It also wipped clear of any thought period and I almost forgot how to speak my Yiddishe pharse. I got it out B"H and he looked at me and smiled and nodded his head. Im not sure if that means I got a bracha from the Belzer Rebbe, but it sure means I asked for one. After that moment I was on this spiritual high till I unlocked the door in Har Nof and passed out in my bed. It was such an experience to travel to a Tzaddik, daven in his presense, and meet with him even if for just a moment.

After that we walked to Ramat Eshkol by French Hill then to Kiryat Moshe to drop off our friends and then to Har Noff. Total must have been over 10 miles but when you are lifted up by a tzaddik, its like you arent even walking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chasidim Dont Learn Chassidus Anymore

(Courtesy of

*Update 8.28*
I realized after a day of thought and a response by a fellow Chasid that the blog wasn't really about the claim that Chasidim dont learn Chassidus, but I critical commentary on Chabad philosophy. My Yetzer Hara one uped me here because this is something I had told myself I wouldn't do anymore. Criticizing other derechs of Judaism does not further my pursuit or bring me closer to Hashem. So I rewrote the blog that ends with a question I hope non Chabad Chassidim who are allowed to use the internet can answer.

Darche Noam has an interesting Chassidic element to it. Three Rabbis who teach there are Chassidish and there are more than a few students inspired by them and the larger part of Chassidus. This is where I heard a most interesting statement made by a Lubavitcher Chasid that is a student at Darche Noam. He told me straight faced and serious that "Chasidim don't learn Chassidus anymore except for Chabad and Breslov." Flabbergasted, I said that it was simply not true and that many Chasidim learn Chassidus. He said to ask anyone and they will agree with his statement which he wishes wasn't true but is a reality none the less. The only Chasidim I am exposed to in Long Beach are Lubavitchers, Breslov, and my Rav who is neither of the two. He is a Polish Chasid, spodik and all. I learn Chassidius with him once or twice a week. I was scared and confused at his words. Does this mean I am a Breslover or a Lubavitcher since I learn Chassidus? Ok, I wasn't scared, I knew that this Baal Teshuva, just like other B.T's (including myself), sometimes believe what a certain person, Rabbi, or group might say and take this as the Emes of all Emes.

Even though I didn't believe him, I was on a mission to figure out if there was some truth into what he had said. First, I went to all the Chassidic Rabbi's who teach at Darche Noam. One is Vizhnitz, another Breslov, and the third seems to lean towards Chassidus in general. The Breslover laughed, the Rabbi who is a general Chasid was confused, but the Vizhnitzer had the best response of them all.

"First of all Chasidim learn Chassidus, there is just different opinions on how you learn Chassidus, when you learn Chassidus, and how often you learn Chassidus. Chasidus is the dessert of Torah. The Gemara is the Cholent. Some Chasidim eat dessert first and then have no room for Cholent. In Vizhnitz we don't learn Chassidus as much until you are older for this reason."

I'm not a Chabad Chasid or any specific Chasid but I try to learn Chassidus daily. If I am successful or not is another story. I know I'm not the only Non-Chabad Chasid learning Chassidus out there because I learn Chasidus with non Lubavitchers. Our last Shabbos in Eretz Yisroel was in Bnei Brak with an Aleksander Chasid who runs the Aleksander Shtiebel off of Rabbi Akiva St. It was one of the most amazing Shabbosim I have ever experienced and it will have its very own post, but I can tell you one thing about Aleksander Chasidim. They learn Chassidus. They learned Yismach Yisrael, by the second Aleksander Rebbe, Rebbe Yerachmiel Yisroel Yitzchok Dancyger after Shachris during Kiddush AND at Shalosh Seudos.

I am convinced that Chasidim are still learning Chassidus, but I wont be able to answer my own question until my wife and I get back to Israel to learn next year. Hopefully till then you can answer my question.

"Do Chassidim still learn Chassidus? and if they dont, what are they learning?"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Learning How Much You Need To Learn

(courtesy of

The main purpose of our trip to Israel was to figure out where we would be learning next year. Our Rabbi recommended the yeshiva/seminary that he learned at with his wife before he recieved smicha, and Baruch Hashem, that we followed his advice. My wife and I have experience learning at other Baal Teshuva yeshivot and seminaries and at least my own experience has shown me that learning Hashkafa comes before Halacha in many cases. This never sat right with me that getting a Black Hat or a Gartel was the goal when one could'nt even learn a sugia of Gemara. Because of this, you have B.T. Bochur A putting down B.T. Bochur B for not keeping Chalav Yisroel or Pas Yisroel when he doesn't know the source for the Halacha, where you can be makel, or the legitimate Heters given by poskim. All Bochur A knows is that a Rabbi told him something and that MUST be the only way. Most B.T yeshivas simply push their minhagim and their interpretations of halacha on impressionable Yidden and cause the B.T to think this is the only way.

This isnt to say anything negative about any B.T. yeshiva, because B"H they bring Jews back to Torah and regardless of how they do it, its bringing Moshiach quicker. Its just not a direction that speaks to me. This is why I can say Darche Noam, is (for the Baal Teshuva) that best Torah Institution on Earth. We learned there for a few weeks and also spent time with many of their Alumni and I noticed two things they all had in common. First they all very much had their own Hashkafa and they were all different types, Chassidic, Litvish, Religious Nationalist, Sephari, and the second thing they had in common was they were all Talmid Chachamim. They knew how to pull halacha out of Gemara and Shulchan Aruch and I'm not talking about the Kitzer. The beautiful thing about Darche Noam is that you learn how to learn. You dont rely on what one Rabbi says, you learn to listen to what one Rabbi has to say and then research yourself to figure out what you should do.

Darche Noam's faculty also is something special as all walks of Yidden teach there. Different types of Chassidic Rabbis, Rabbis with smicha from Mir, even HaGoan Rabbi Kamenetsky's son is on faculty. So for those critical of Darche Noams "lack of" hashkafa will have no problem finding a Rabbi to latch on to and seek for guidance.

Our plan iy"H is to start next summer and go a full year and see where we are at. We went to shuir's at other yeshivas and I had a chevrusa at another and just looking at the people at other yeshivas I knew Darche Noam was where I need to be. At Darche Noam not to many put in the time learning to leave and go clubbing in Tel Aviv at night and no one wakes up at 2pm and daven shachris with their Tefillin on in the Beis Midrash.

Being at the yeshiva really smacked me with a reality check. How much I knew, How much I now know, but more how much I Need to know. Of course we are always learning, but outside of Israel in the darkness of Chutz La'Aretz its really easy to think you know something.

Our experience has brought light back to the darkness and I pray to G-d that he keeps blessing me with the light until we get back to the source in his Holy Land of Eretz Yisroel

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eretz Yisroel 5768

(Courtesy of

My wife and I returned home Wednesday afternoon from a 30 day learning excursion in Eretz Yisroel. What I really mean to say is we left home to come back to Long Beach after 30 days. As a Jew especially once you have experienced the beauty of Israel, realize that Eretz Yisroel is your home, and wherever you are in Galus is not.

Therefore, for the next 30 days iy"H this blog is going to be very busy. I have so much to write about, and every day was so eventful that it deserves its own post. This initial post serves are a launch pad to express the anticipation before and after our experience and all the trials and tribulations we endured to get there.

Getting to Israel is expensive, and when you get there it doesn't stop. With a weak dollar against the shekel you now have 25% less shekels than you did in 2006. Fuel prices adding hundreds onto plane tickets, rent exploding in Jerusalem. Even before we left the Yetzer Hara was deviously making us want to give up. Unexpected financial burdens and lack of financial help was also fuel in the fire of despair. I knew that I must trust in Hashem and that if I did, not only would we get to Israel but regardless of what happened it would all be to our spiritual benefit.

We sought advice from someone and he told us, "learning in Israel for one week is like learning in Chutzla Artez for one month." Now that I sit here after learning in Eretz Yisroel for one month, I can say that I learned more than six months here in America. I have such a different outlook on life and such a strengthened closeness to Hashem, which I pray such a feeling is mutual.

So please check back and give me your thoughts on my thoughts...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dreams of Geulah

My wife said it perfect "This gives me the chills..." It brings tears to the rims of my eyes and such words reinforce my dedication to Hashem, His Torah, and our People.

Mystical Paths writes...

The following story is going around within religious circles in Jerusalem...

The famed Rabbi Shachne Zohn, shlita, had an amazing dream about three weeks ago. Rav Shachne Zohn has been the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Kodshim v'Taharos in Yerushalayim for nearly 40 years. Before that, he served as a Rav at Yeshivah Torah Vodaas in Brooklyn. In his youth, he studied at Yeshivos Mir and Kamenitz in Europe. He also studied briefly with the Chafetz Chaim, who had a great impact on him.

About three weeks ago, the Chafetz Chaim appeared to Rav Zohn in a dream. The Chafetz Chaim said to him, "Geula krova lavo. L'farsem, ulehitkonen." (Translation: The "redemption is close. Publicize and prepare yourself.") [The author of this writes...] I have confirmed this story with Rabbi Zohn's daughter in Jerusalem, and his son, Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, Director of Vaad Harabanim of Queens, Chevra Kadisha.

May Hashem bring Moshiach so pull Klal Yisroel from the darkness.

Can the people praying keep it down there are people trying to talk.

During Shabbos davening at my parents shul the Rabbi stood up in the middle of davening and asked the congregation nicely if "the people praying could keep it down because there were people trying to talk." It got a mixed reaction. Some laughter, maybe some silence from the constant chatterbox's that plague Torah Observant Shul's worldwide. Ive been in shuls where the Gabbi said if you want to talk then go outside, and a group of around 10 people left. A full minyan decided that what they had to say to each other was more important that what they should be saying to Hashem.

Its something that unfortunately has becoming an accepted practice on Shabbos because "you kinda have to be there" but there are other times it just surprises me. Last night we had a 10pm maariv so that someone could say Kaddish. Not surprisingly, the two next to me finished Shemonah Esrei in 3 minutes flat but what was surprising was what they did when they finished. They started talking. Talking in the little Bies Midrash where everyone can hear you without a single care as to the disturbance they might be causing their fellow Yidden. It's not that I was truly distracted or even offended, I'm just surprised. I'm surprised that after reading Tanya probably fifty times over, they would have skipped the end where it discusses the Alter Rebbe of Chabad's view on davening. They spoke throughout Shemonah Esrei, in between the amens of Kaddish and since they said Aleinu right after Shemonah Esrei, they spoke through ours. Now like I said, "you have to be at shul on Shabbos" but you DON'T have to be at shul at 10pm for maariv as a favor for another Jew. Couldn't you talk after Maariv? The whole davening only lasted 15 minutes at best. Couldn't you have gone home and chatted on the phone? I got home at 9:00 and I was tired. I could have davened and went to bed, but I went to shul because I feel its important to daven with a minyan. What about you?

Its safe to say they weren't discussing a blot of Gemara they just couldn't decipher, or a Sefer that really has them boggled, or even some part of Tanya that has them perplexed. It was about sports, or movies, or just something "funny".

We arent on the levels of the original Chassidim or anyone before them and never will be. However that has now become an excuse for trying to raise up our spirits and devotion to G-d, because its HARD to do and with much more temptation than the Chassidim of the Baal Shem Tov, its easier to fall pray to the Sitra Achra.

How can I, a Baal Teshuva, with barely any yeshiva learning, with only a few years of devotion to Hashem have trust that after many years I will grow closer and closer to HaKodesh Barachu? When I see FFB's with Smicha who are a good 5-10 years older than me acting the way these two were acting I know Moshiach is coming because he will only come when people start forgetting Torah.

Its a total disrespect for Hashem's Presence, the Torah's Presence, & the Shuls Presence. Is it not a mitzvah to show reverence to the Sanctuary or did I confuse that with something else when I read the Chofetz Chaim's Book of Mitzvot.

I dont think I'm better than these people, in fact its the opposite. They are better than me, and when they act in a holy way which I know they can, they inspire me to raise myself up. Its when they think that Tivo-ing the Dodgers game is more important than praying to G-d that I just don't understand.

Someone once defended them by saying after decades of davening it becomes routine and that the more you learn the strong your Yetzer Hara becomes. Later I thought to myself, and the more you learn the more you understand how to battle the Yetzer Hara.

I pray to G-d that when I'm G-d willing 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or 120!! I will always remember how important davening was to me when I was 23. Hopefully the Torah I learning from now till then will strengthen my devotion and not weaken it.