Thursday, January 29, 2009

5th of Shvat: Sfas Emes Yaharzeit

(Courtesy of

Tonight begins the 5th of Shvat which is the Yaharzeit of the Heiliga Rebbe Reb Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter of Ger better known by his magnum opus Sfas Emes. He is one of my Rebbes and is the reason for my closeness to Gerrer Chassidus. His Maamarim on Chumash used sources from Gemara, Midrash, and Zohar to get a deeper understanding of each Torah portion.

He was one of the greatest Torah scholars of his generation and it is said that the Sochatchover Rebbe maintained two bookcases — one for Rishonim (earlier commentators) and another for Acharonim (later commentators). The volumes of the Sfas Emes, written in the late 1800s, were to be found in his bookcase containing the Rishonim. He said "to study some portions of the Talmud without the Sfas Emes is unthinkable to the modern-day scholar."

Shabbos evening we should celebrate by giving over Torah of the Sfas Emes and saying L'Chaim that in his merit Klal Yisroel should be protected and that we should continue to learn Torah to bring the Redemtion early with the coming of Moshiach ben David, Now! Amen.

Here are recommended resources to learn Sfas Emes. presents Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff's commentary on Sfas Emes selling Sfas Emes Companion in English

1. Rabbi Menachem Lubinsky, in the Jewish Observer

Machmer & Makel

(courtesy of

When Hashem decided to have a Holy nation come from Avraham, he didn’t make a stale carbon copy Jew that lacks beauty and uniqueness. Yaakov had 2 wives and 2 concubines. 4 different women who in turn begot 12 different unique and beautiful sons. Our people come from this beauty and uniqueness. Judaism has 12 gates of prayer (as well as a 13 gate revealed by the Holy Ari'zal) as well as 13 ways of living life. Hashem gave us the Torah and gave the Rabbi's the authority and ability to understand what is expected of us as Jews.

Many FFBs as well as BT's are taught a certain way and this way is Emes of course and might work for them, but they fail to realize for one reason or another that this is not the only way. Anyone who learns Gemara knows that you can get through one daf of any masekta without 3 of our Sages disagreeing with each other, bring up a Barisa here and there and showing each other that R' so in so actually meant this when he said that. There are no superflous words in the written or oral Torah, and there is an important reason why the Gemara is written the way it is. I once ate by a Talmid Chacham of a Chasid for Shabbos in Jerusalem. He told me in Kollel they are learning the non-Pshat of the Gemara and this is showing them that they didn’t even know the Pshat to begin with. Another brilliant Chasid who was my Chevrusa in yeshiva said, "The easiest thing to understand is why the Rabbi who is right is right, the real point of the Gemara is to understand why the one who is wrong is actually right!"

*Note: This blog is a response to statements made to me and these statements are italicized in orange like this. These statements were made to be my Torah Jews searching for Emes and my responses are meant to show a bigger picture and not show them they are wrong and I am right.

There are many different ways in Torah Judaism and they all are Emes, they all keep in Halacha and they all are devoted to HaKodesh Baruch Hu. With that said, it is said by many great tzaddikim that just as it is bad to always be Makel on Halacha, it is just as harmful to always be Machmer on Halacha.

Haredi Judaism, especially Chassidus focuses at great length on the idea of "kadesh et atzmecha b'mutar lach" meaning that you can attain holiness by holding back from permitted things.

I was told a story of a Chabad Rav who said once in a shiur, "Just because there's Kosher L'Pesach ketchup doesn't mean you have to have ketchup on Pesach!" Meaning that, just because it's permitted doesn't mean it's something you "should do".

There are people that take issue with this idea. I mean if its Kosher than its ok, right? Wrong. I wish that in illustrating this issue they chose an example other than Pesach because this one my biggest issue in Torah Judaism. The Jews left Egypt with flat bread because they had to leave immediately. Do you think they had Kosher for Passover Ketchup? Or Kosher for Passover Cake mix? I hear people complain every year of how expensive Kosher for Pesach food has become and how the price raises every year. Newsflash!!! It’s Hashem raising the prices!! For one week would it be so bad to not eat processed food? Maybe eat fruit and vegetables for a change? All I ate for Pesach last year was raw foods. It was amazing, and when I saw that there are people whose daily living is eating raw foods, I figured for a week I could live. To be Machmer for a week, oy so difficult.

But this doesn’t really answer the question. Internet, Movies, TV, Concerts, these are what kadesh et atzmecha b'mutar lach is talking about. Each way of Torah Judaism is Emes, and I can’t stress that enough. Chassidic, Litvish, Sephardic, Modern Orthodox, Mizrach, Whatever you are, we all have one thing in common. We praise Hashem and we keep Halacha. Still different groups choose to hold different levels on different things and just because that isn't right for you doesn’t mean its not right for someone else. There is no internet connection in New Square and using the internet is Assur. Why? Because 80% of the internet is a Chillul Hashem of Sex, Murder, and Avodah Zara. The internet is a storage space for the 3 cardinal sins of Judaism. Now the other 20% what about that? Well the Internet is what Tanya would called a Klippas Nogah. Something that although can be used for evil can also be transformed into Holiness. That’s why the internet has been used by Chabad to bring thousands of Jews back to Yiddishkite in a way that without internet would not be possible.

Someone told me imagine you and 3 other people are walking and you see on the ground an object which has materialized from space. You have no idea what this object is but it seems to have some function. It's ownerless. What would one's gut reaction be before knowing anything: is this (brand new, never existed before) object mutar/permitted or assur? You have two ways to go about the research after this point, "It's mutar, of course, why should it be assur?" or "It's assur! Show me why it's mutar!" I started seeing far more of the latter in the Chassidish world than the former.

I’m not exactly sure what the former is, if this is the former Chassidic generation, then the answer is that there was less unknown things then than now. The Industrial Revolution has in 200 years accomplished more than it did the prior 5569. A Jews mission here on earth is to bring Holiness into the world by performing his Mitzvos. The question arises in regards to something being assur or mutar is, how will this help me reveal Hashem into the world and connect to him. Does watching TV do this? Going to a concert? Eating Kosher L'Pesach Ketchup? I’m not here to give my own opinion, in as much as I want people to get thinking and knowing that Yes, or No, neither violates Halacha but some people choose to go above the letter of the law.

Another person said to me:
Is abortion assur? I got shut down at a Chabad before even bringing up pro-choice opinions. Ask in the Chassidish velt if America should have gay marriage - who will mention Leviticus and who will mention the Gemara in Chullin, the source of the issur (for goyim, for Jews its the Sifri)?

This was kind of left field for me, because the discussion was about Chassidus and Modern Orthodox, and I was unaware that the Rabbinic leadership of Modern Orthodoxy said that Abortion and Gay marriage is mutar. I’m not really looking to discuss that as I don’t see a point, and this itself deserves its own blog and I’m not willing to waste time with such.

This was a rather surprising statement also said to me and I was very shocked to say the least. More so because I feel this person knows what he’s talking about and I cant image what less uneducated people might make of these types of experiences.

"Chassidus" is given as the reason "why" something is done I get furious. We do NOT pasken from Tanya. Or from the Kedushas Levi or any sayings of any other Rebbe except when said in a halachic context. Period.

First of all Chas V'Shalom we should ever be angry, because anger the sages say is equal to Idoletry. Secondly I can for a moment relate to this, but once its explained I can not relate to it. Something that used to bother me specificly in respect to Chabad is that they always say "The Rebbe said" and rarely sight an actual source. Then it hit me one Shabbos and I understood. I was learning Chumash with the Baal HaTurim's commentary and that same Shabbos someone said "The Rebbe said" and said exactly what I learned. I wanted to yell out actually the Tur says that and he is quoting Rashi, but G-d forbid I would embarrass a Jew publicly. A Rebbe and I mean any Rebbe of a Chassidic dynasty is a huge tzaddik and its safe to say they know the whole written and oral Torah by heart. Its also safe to say that the only thing that comes out of a Rebbe's mouth is Emes Torah. So most people arent learned enough to remember the sources the Rebbe used but if you ever watch videos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe its always "Its says in this Gemara this and it says in Shulchan Aruch that" and all of his Sichos have sources cited. So to say that you cant learn Torah unless you are reading straight Shulachan Aruch is absurd. As for saying you cant Paskin from the Tanya, this is true you cant. However the person that wrote the Tanya the Baal HaTanya was a Posek and codified his own Shulchan Aruch that many Chassidim hold by. It also is written in the beginning of Tanya that nothing the Alter Rebbe writes is new. Its all sourced and every other line is straight from the Gemara. I took the liberty of providing the sources for the 1st chapter of Tanya to prove this point. Every source on the 1st Chapter is from the Gemara. Niddah 30b, Berachos 7a, Bava Batra 16a, Bava Metzia 86a, Sanhedrin 99a. So you cant "poskin" a Shilah from the Tanya, but you can sure use it as a map to live ones life as a Torah Jew. I personally have never heard anyone poskin from Tanya because unless you are a Posek you cant poskin and some random Yid or even a Rabbi isn’t a Posek even if they try to derive Halacha from the Tanya.

Or when "Israel are compared to the stars of the sky" is given as the reason for why a Chabad Sukkah doesn't need to have the stars visible (real reason: multiway machlokes in the Shulchan Aruch, Alter Rebbe going in his usual derech of paskening, down w/the Magen Avraham )

I would just like to clarify if it isnt clear, that Chabad is a Chassidic sect but does not represent all Chassidim, so it makes me a little said when all Chassidim are judged on account of how Chabad holds (which is in most cases the opposite of general Chassidus). Regardless my reoccurring theme still stands, and that is that it’s ALL EMES and I pray my words arent taken as criticism of Chabad. With that said, the Alter Rebbe is quoted as saying "His only regret is that he didn’t poskin more like the Magen Avraham." The Magen Avraham was Polish and many Polish, Galicia, Ukranian Chassidim hold by him while Russian, White Russia, Luthuanian Chassidim (such as Chabad) don’t. I’m not familiar with this Chabad Minhag and my parents (who are Lubavitchers) have a sukkah that I see the stars just fine in. Regardless you said it yourself. Its a Machlokes in the Shulchan Aruch so that means more than one opinion and that doesn’t violate the Halacha.

One of the reasons I'm feeling myself drawn to the Modern Orthodox world is davka for this reason. Looking at halacha and seeing endless cases of "hey, you mean I could have been doing this the whole time?". Halacha based on people not seforim is the opposite of what I see in Brooklyn shtetlach based on my interactions with Chassidish Rebbeim.

As a Jew it is YOUR Job to learn Torah. It isn’t the job of any Rabbi to sit there and give you the 10 opinions brought down from the Shulchan Aruch. Its a big problem for people that become religious later in life, who go to Yeshivas like Mayanot, Aish, Ohr Somayach and they learn the way that group holds and they think that is the halacha without actually taking time to learn out the halacha from the Gemara or the Shulchan Aruch where they see that almost all Halacha has more than 2 opinions. They arent told that "This is how we hold, but there are other opinions" because that will confuse people and cause problems. If you hold by one Rav for one thing and another Rav for another thing what happens when you hold by something that goes against that Rav. That doesnt make sense. You are supposed to find yourself a Rav. It says it in Pirke Avos to make yourself a Rav. What does that mean? It means you must search to see which Rav's way of holding Torah suits you best. Whether its Modern Orthodox, Ultra Haredi Orthodox or something in between, you have to find a Rav and stick with what he says. You can play picksies and choosies when you don’t like how a Rabbi rules and find someone who rules like you want. That’s not how it works. You need to find a Rav and stick with him. If you want to find a Rav that is makel on most things that is fine, but you cant criticize someone who decides to be machmer and go above the letter of the law.


The reason that there are so many ways of Judaism is because there is not just one way for Jews to reach their full potential. Not everyone should adhere to an Ultra Orthodox Standard of life, and some people should raise themselves up above an "Always Makel Stance" on Torah. Hashem knows where we should be so if we all learn Torah and search out for the Emes then we will all be put in the place we belong.

To say that Chassidim don’t follow Halacha is not only inaccurate but it is the anti of Emes. Not everyone is perfect but you judge a group of hundreds of thousands of Yidden on your or mine or anyones limited experiences is unfair and wrong.

Remember the Heilega Baal Shem Tov said, "When you see a fault in someone, its really a fault in yourself."

We should all merit bringing Emes into the world through our holy study of Torah and with that bringing Moshiach ben David through peace and not war, NOW. Amen.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chassidic Art

My art has made as much of a transition towards Emes and Kedushah as my Ruach and Nefesh. It has been a great struggle to completely remake myself as an artist, sometimes even more so than remaking myself as a Jew. In the beginning my art was very forced and screamed "Look Im Jewish and I make Jewish art, see how Jewish it is!" I thank Ribono Shel Olam and his holy land of Eretz Yisroel for helping me find my place not just as a Chassidishe Yid, but as a Chassidishe Artist. Tomorrow I start my last semester of university. I will iy"H graduate with a B.F.A. in Printmaking. Ironically enough I graduate on Shavuos. After that my wife and I will Hashems blessing will go to Eretz Yisroel for an undetermined amount of time to fully submerge ourself in Torah Learning at Yeshiva Darche Noam and Midrashet Rachel V'Chaya. I have my first gallery open on April 5th, 2009 iy"H. I have a website that will be up iy"H soon which my blog will also be moving too. I can now say that which is something I rarely admit but I am finally now making conscience art and not ust pretty pictures. Stay tuned and check out.

Chassidic Cyclers
Silkscreen and Monoprint 2008

Chassidic Cycler
Silkscreen Spoke Card 2008

The Alter Vilna
Lithography before Color 2008

The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Silkscreen on Monoprint 2008

Long Beach Fixed
Lithography 2008

Rosh Hashana
Lithography 2008

Friday, January 9, 2009

Long Beach Chasid is Moving

I'm still in Long Beach for now, but I am moving my blog. Ive registered the domain name

This website will host my artwork as well as whatever future Long Beach Chasid has.

Stay tuned for pretty pictures and shiny objects.

Good Shabbos!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Birthpangs of Moshiach

A Chasid told me a story about the Baba Sali

Before he died he gave a letter to his Shamesh telling him not to open it until Sept 11, 2001. The Shamesh opened the letter on the 11th of September like the Baba Sali had instructed him. Now keep in mind, his Shamesh doesn't use internet or watch TV so there is no way he knows what is happening on the other side of the world when he opens the letter and reads the following.

"Today two buildings will fall. When the third building falls, Moshiach will come."

The story was quite a shock to me and I tried to search the internet to verify such a story. I didnt find it, but what I did find was this website.

Pure Torah
Amazing Torah website.

Bircat Ha'Chamah - The Blessing on the Sun - Once every 28 years Since creation, there was only two times that the year we say Birkat HaHamah fell out on the 1st Day of Passover.The first was the year Hashem redeemed Israel from Egypt.The second was the year of Purim, when Hashem saved the Jews from the evil Haman, who wanted to kill and destroy all Jews.This year Birkat HaHamah falls out on the 1st Day of Passover (which will be the 3rd time in history) When it was told to Hacham Ovadia Yosef, that this year Birkat HaHamah falls out on the 1st Day of Passover, he started crying.

*Edit: A commenter on my blog showed me that this is not true. Birkas Ha'Chammah fell on the 1st day of Pesach on April 8th 1925.

Some really amazing stories.

Stories are stories though. We need to do Teshuvah, get others to do Teshuvah and perform Mitzvos with Love and Joy!

Lets bring Moshiach now!!! Amen!

Shabbos with Skver

רבי דוד טוורסקי שליט''א

Rosh Chodesh Shabbos Channukah. The Triple Crown of Shabbosim is a very special time and Baruch Hashem my wife and I were blessed to spend such a special Shabbos in New Square. I had heard many great things about New Square from friends and was very excited to spend time with the Skver Chassidim and their Heilega Rebbe. Before we left we spoke with a friend who is a Skver Chasid living in California. He gave us some idea of what to expect, but even this couldn’t prepare us for the New Square Shabbos Experience. We arrived in New Square a few hours before Shabbos and were shown our room.

We entered to see a table filled with an array of delicious foods. The Rebbetzin came down and told us that she expects all of the food to be eaten because she doesn’t have room in her refrigerator. After speaking with her for a few minutes, it turned out that she was the aunt of a friend of mine, and the only Skver Chasid I knew before coming to New Square. Our friends were coming to meet us for Shabbos from upstate New York. The Husband, my good friend is the head Mashgiach for the Chalav Yisroel farm under the heckshurs of Skver, Satmar, OU and a few more, so rest assured your holy milk is safe. After being introduced to the Family we were staying with, we did something unusual for being in New Square. We davened Mincha before Shkiah because everyone needed to go home and light Chanukah Candles after watching the Rebbe light his. It was something spectacular. The Rebbe's bracha was so emotional, so energetic, and most of all sincere. He began to weep as he blessed Hashem and this was quite startling at first. With every word he said it pierced me like a holy arrow and culminated with thousands of Chasidim saying "AMEN" in unison.

The thousands of Chasidim were standing on bleachers and as the Rebbe finished the blessings they began to rush down from their seats. The mass of Chasidim turned into a massive river of Streimels as the Rabbi pulled me into its current. They rushed out the door and the Rabbi turned to me and said, "When Moshiach comes the Yidden will be running just like this". We came home and lit Candles for Shabbos and Chanukah and then experienced another first. We took a nap between Mincha and Maariv. We awoke and went to maariv and davened a beautiful Kabblos Shabbos. A nice Chasid offered me a chair next to him, which ended up being my Skver friends father. He gave me a little history about the Skver Chasidim and their Rebbe and then we went to the Son in Law and Daughters home of the Rabbi we were staying with.

During the meal we spoke of Chassidus and Torah and each sung a Niggun to bring joy to Hashem. Then we went to the Tish to be by the Rebbe, which is something that impacted me unlike anything before. I’ve been to Tish's before but nothing was like the Tish in New Square. As the thousands of Chasidim climbed the bleachers we sat next to our Rabbi friend. While we eat our meal the Rebbe is learning and then at the Tish we all come together and eat Sharayim of the Rebbe and then all bench together. The Rebbe made Motzi on two massive Challahs and twelve showbreads surrounding them and we began to sing. The niggunim of Skver are something special as they have the ability to bring your Neshama to amazing heights. The unity of the Chasidim as they sung was so powerful I could feel my neshama inside me bursting with joy. The Rebbe would recite a verse from a zemiros and the Chasidim would repeat back to him with awesome energy. I felt as if Olam Hazeh was truly the waiting room of Olam Habo. This feeling was what I was waiting for when I read the verse "Shabbos is 1/60th of Olam Habo". I had an intense feeling all over me as I sang along praising Hashem with fervency. The Rebbe ate meticulously dipping everything into salt three times and brought the food up to his mouth. Bite, Chew, and Swallow. No gorging or rushing to fill his face, simply eating for the sake of energy to learn Torah Lishma. We sang more and he gave over some Torah in Yiddish, which I couldn't understand but just his voice kept me captivated. There inside me formed a desire for Teshuva as the singing and Rebbes words spun in my head. After benching I left in a daze my mouth fixed with a huge smile. I knew I wasn’t alone as my friend was equally on the same high.

We went to sleep that night with the joy still fresh in our minds knowing that there was still a beautiful Shabbos day to spend in New Square. We awoke and went to shul. The davening is quick, as they want to have more time for the Tish. My friends father told me they used to daven really slow and give everyone who had a simcha an aliyah and guests as well but davening would go till 3:00pm. So now they daven quick and end with an intense Mussaf led by the Rebbe. We ate lunch and sung some more and then went to another Tish that was just as intense as the one Friday night. There was so much energy I could feel it passing through me. After the Tish we went to my friends Uncle's home and spoke with the family about Torah, and Chassidus, and also Kosher Milk. The table was covered with little bowls of nosh so we could cover the 100 Bracha requirement on Shabbos. Then we washed and went back for the Shalosh Seudos Tish, which was a Dark Tish. This was the climax for me. Its pitch black and the Rebbe begins to sing and he cries and cries out the words and his Chasidim repeat the verse with such energy I was overcome. I began to cry and my mind was consumed with a begging to connect to Hashem, to become a better Yid to bring sanctification to Hashem name in this world. I couldn’t contain myself. B"H it was dark because I must have looked crazy. I shuckled back and forth tears streaming down my face banging on the table singing along. Then it was silent and the Rebbe spoke and the lights came on. Shalosh Seudos went almost 2 hours after Shabbos ended. Went home and our friends who we were staying with during our stay in New York came from Passaic, NJ and we went to see the Rebbe light the menorah. We wanted to speak with the Rebbe after but that wouldn’t happen till 1:00am so we left still drunk off the holiness of the Rebbe, his Chasidim, and their home.

Our host said they loved having us and they know we had a good time if we come back which we plan to do, iy"H on our way to Eretz Yisroel in the summer. The Skver Chassidim are very special people. Hachnasas Orchim is their Mitzvah and they truely bring Ahavas Yisroel into this world. A Skver Chasid told me, "Streimel, Black Hat, Long Coat, No Coat, Long Beard, Short Beard we are ALL Jews with Holy Neshamas. We see this in Mumbai. Our Enemies don’t care if we are a Lubavitcher, a Toldos Aaron, a Bobover, a Jews just making Teshuvah, or an Israeli. ALL they see are Jews" Skver taught me a lot of unity as there were more than just Skver Chassidim coming together to be with such a Holy Rebbe and praise Hashem.

New Square is a special place, to visit but not a place I could live. Either way, the town is full to capacity. The rules in New Square are outside men can come learn in the yeshiva but they have to marry a Skver girl and become Skver. If a Skver Chasid marries a girl from outside New Square he has to move out. Its seems harsh but they don’t have any room left.

Ill end with a story of the previous Skver Rebbe. He came to Brooklyn without a single Chasid, as they all perished in the Shoah, may G-d avenge their blood! He opened a shul and soon a following started to grow. Final it was to the point that they had to leave Brooklyn so he purchased farmland by Monsey and began to build New Square. The Previous Rebbe was a Malach and all sorts of Jews became is Chasidim. The Rabbi we stayed with told us how his father became a Chasid of the previous Rebbe. He came from Israel to visit New Square and had yichud with the Rebbe. The Rebbe told him, "You aren’t going back to Israel, you are one of us." So he stayed and sent for his whole family to come to New Square and now they are 4th Generation Skver B"H.

I really feel a deep connection to the Skver Rebbe and his Chasidim. Still looking for my Rebbe, but the Skver Rebbe holds a special place in my heart. He is a truly Holy Tzaddik and one of the Gadols of our Generation. With his help and inspiration Moshiach will SOON be on his way. Amen.