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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Lubavitcher Rebbe’

Celebrating Potential on Tu B’Shvat

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to this brilliant man’s Torah.

Here’s the intro text from JewishMedia (but you can skip straight to the video):

On Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat, we celebrate the New Year for Trees. It falls in the middle of the winter, when the sap is just beginning to flow.

If the fruit is not yet growing, asks the Lubavitcher Rebbe, why do we celebrate the occasion by eating fruit?

By enjoying fruit on Tu B’Shvat, we celebrate the potential within the tree. We also commit ourselves to bring out this potential by nurturing the tree through the spring and summer, until it brings its fruit. The human being is compared to a tree. We must recognize the wonderful potential within every person and every event, and we must commit ourselves to bringing out that potential.


The Giant and the General

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

My good friends and former employers at Chabad.org have utilized Ariel Sharon ZL’s passing to educate the public about the latter’s relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I’m grateful to them for that, even though their obituary comes close to suggesting that Sharon was a hidden Chabadnik. He really wasn’t, and I don’t think the good people of the Lubavitch News Service believe it either.

But they did remind me of two events in Sharon’s life that came in close proximity and had to have influenced his life.

Right after the Six Day War, Sharon led a group of South African military officers—the bad kind—on a tour of liberated Jerusalem, and stopped at the Western Wall. Lubavitch had just set up their tefillin booth there, and the chassid operating it, Reb Aharon Rabinowitz ZL, a former Soviet prisoner, wanted very much to get Arik to roll up his sleeve for Judaism, but was too timid to ask. And so a religious Jerusalemite journalist named Noach Zevuluni, who was writing for the Histadrut trade union’s daily Davar, approached the general with the request. Arik—reluctantly, according to Zevuluni ZL—acquiesced.

There are apocryphal versions of this story, a noted one in which David Ben Gurion is also in the group and refuses to put on tefillin. Another version gathers the entire IDF leadership for the sake of the anecdote, and Arik’s proud example inspires all of them to wrap the straps. The version I cited above is directly from Zevuluni’s writing. Bottom line is: shortly after the war ended, Sharon put on tefillin at the Kotel.

Then tragedy struck. In October, 1967, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Sharon’s 11-year-old son Gur and his friend, Yaakov Keren, took down an old hunting rifle belonging to Sharon, that hung on display on the wall. They stuffed gunpowder into the gun, and, during play, Yaakov pointed the barrel at Gur’s head and squeezed the trigger. Arik came rushing to the room to find his son lying unconscious on the floor, bleeding from his head. He picked him up in his arms and drove to the nearest hospital, where the doctors declare him dead. (Sharon continued to blame Yaakov Keren of killing his son intentionally, to the point where the Kerens had to leave the neighborhood to avoid the general’s wrath).

These two events, coming so close to each other, raised the interest of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who wrote Sharon a touching and beautiful letter of condolences during the Shiva week that followed his son’s death. Chabad.org offers the entire text online, but I will concentrate on what I believe are the late Rebbe’s poignant observations which he saw fit to share with Sharon.

The Rebbe wrote:

I was deeply grieved to read in the newspaper about the tragic loss of your tender young son, may he rest in peace. We cannot fathom the ways of the Creator. During a time of war and peril you were saved—indeed, you were among those who secured the victory for our nation, the Children of Israel, against our enemies, in which “the many were delivered into the hands of the few, etc.”—and yet, during a time of quiet and in your own home, such an immense tragedy occurred!

It’s the two men’s first encounter, entirely initiated by the Rebbe, and yet he, relentless educator that he was, didn’t waste a beat in launching into a lesson that offered condolences, praise for the general’s military victories, and direction. The document in its entirety is brilliant and daring in equal amounts. To me, it’s obvious that the Rebbe had spotted in Sharon a potential for good that must be cultivated. This was nothing new—the Lubavitcher Rebbe was an unstoppable turbine of inspiration and influence, laboring to change the world from his small chambers on Eastern Parkway, Crown Heights. It’s just that when he was love bombing a notable historical figure, he reached greater heights.

Yahrzheit for Lubavitcher Rebbe Expected to Draw 50,000 Visitors

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Tens of thousands of Jews are expected to visit the gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Tuesday, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (z”l), who passed away 19 years ago.

Thousands stood in the rain Monday night at the Queens gravesite at the beginning of the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz.

The Rebbe was arguably the most influential rabbi in the past generations. He is credited with reinvigorating a decimated Jewish people after the devastation of the Holocaust and creating the largest Jewish organization in the world, with more than 3,300 social, religious and educational institutions in 80 countries.

Women behind Bars Get Three Days of Jewish Studies

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

For Jews in prison, incarceration can keep them isolated from their family and their faith. But thanks to the Aleph Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit, they and their loved ones receive some much-needed help from an organization that has been providing assistance for more than three decades.

In fact, the institute’s Yeshiva in Prison program recently expanded to include a visit for the first time to female prisoners, said Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, executive director of the institute.

The program spans three days of interactive classroom-style work. Yeshiva volunteers work with inmates in small groups or on a one-on-one basis to provide introspection using the Torah. Inmates learn how to live as a Jew despite their surroundings.

The program covers many topics, including Jewish law, ethics, explanatory prayer services, kosher dietary laws, faith and reason, and Kabbalah. Daily afternoon lectures focus on the idea of personal responsibility, self-control and the skills for accepting authority.

The idea is to help channel the inmate’s energies in a positive manner, which could improve a sense of personal responsibility, explained the rabbi.

THREE-DAY PROGRAM FOR WOMEN

Earlier this month, program volunteers Rebbetzin Chanie Lipskar, Judy Adouth, Leah Lipskar and Rochel Katz went to Coleman Federal Prison Camp near Orlando, Fla., for their first time teaching female inmates.

The three-day sessions included a full-day program—8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.—of interactive classroom-style learning. The volunteers also divided the women into smaller focus groups, each concentrating on a prepared course subject by the teacher.

Katz said of the experience: “I’ve gained as much as the inmates have, if not more.”

She alluded to preconceptions regarding inmates and prison culture in general, and noted that they can often be misguided. “Some of the women were doctors, and lawyers—educated women with tears running down their faces in gratitude for myself and my colleagues taking the time to spend the day with them,” she said.

Chaplain Yolanda Garcia works there, and called the Yeshiva program “awesome.”

“I think the women felt a sense of womanhood being around Jewish female representatives,” she said. “I actually received a ‘thank you’ card from them. It taught them how to get along with each other and pray with each other.”

Garcia welcomed the opportunity for the program to return to the prison camp. Rabbi Lipskar responded that the group will absolutely come back to female prisons.

WORK THAT TOUCHES THOUSANDS

The Aleph Institute was founded 32 years ago by Lipskar’s uncle, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, at the request of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. The organization says it regularly services more than 4,000 Jewish inmates and nearly 6,000 of their family members. The institute has 35 employees, including a dozen rabbinical positions and many volunteers.

“From a personal perspective,” said Lipskar, “it’s very rewarding to make a tangible impact in someone’s life at very challenging times. It certainly is very special.”

Beyond the Yeshiva program, the institute’s prison work encompasses a range of activities at the federal, state and local levels.

During the High Holy days, for example, it helps conduct more than 300 services in prison. Much of Aleph’s inmate advocacy work is related to basic issues, Lipskar said, such as inmate placement, medical concerns and what materials can be contained in a religious library.

The foundation does not provide lawyers or legal advice, but it can be involved in the legal process, he said, such as creating alternative programs for offenders. If a medical professional is found guilty of prescription fraud, for instance, Lipskar said the institute could suggest he work a certain number of hours at a rehab center, perhaps cleaning bed pans, to appreciate the damage he has done.

“We try to help people through the entire process, and to maintain familial relations,” said the rabbi.

To that end, the institute has a gift program, sending birthday or Chanukah presents to children in the name of the inmate. There’s even a pen-pal program to write to Jewish inmates, both of which add moral support to their prison stays.

In addition to its prison-related efforts, the institute has been helping Jews in the military for 20 years now.

It works with close to 5,000 Jewish service members and their families through Aleph Operation Enduring Traditions. That support could take the form of advocating for the rights of Jews, providing training to military chaplains, sending food packages to personnel and even distributing camouflaged pocket-size Torahs.

The Mystical Meanings of the Anonymous Hacking Attacks

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Much can be said about a name. Especially about a name which isn’t really a name at all. Whereas the heroes of Jewish history have had volumes written about them, sometimes it is those untold stories that seem the most compelling. Such was the case during the Purim saga (as related in the Book of Esther), where God’s name was not mentioned explicitly even once in the megillah.

Perhaps then it would be much better for all of us to be called anonymous? Maybe we should all keep our secret identities of ourselves? To the world we are Clark Kent, but secretly we really have untold super-powers.

Indeed, in Jewish law, sometimes it is most praiseworthy to do things anonymously. For instance, when giving tzedakah (charity), it is virtuous to do so discreetly so as not to embarrass the recipient. In general, those mitzvot (commandments and good deeds) done unnoticed, seem to have a greater potential to be carried out altruistically.

So on the surface, naming your activities “anonymous” doesn’t seem intrinsically wrong. In fact, it could be something most virtuous.

Two Types of Anonymous

Returning to the Purim saga, we can observe two representations of the “anonymous” concept. But as is the nature of most Purim related discussions, they tend to reside on opposite sides of the spectrum. On the good side, as mentioned, is the “anonymous” nature that God played during the story. Before the miracle of Purim, God Himself “hid His face” from Israel. By initially hiding one’s true identity, pretending to be someone else, the innermost essence of one’s true identity becomes revealed. On Purim we reach the level of the “unknowable head” (“the head that does not know itself nor is known to others”), the state of complete existential hidden-ness of self from self, for the sake of “giving birth” to one’s ultimate self anew.

It is clear, whether they consciously realize it or not, that this is the attraction behind the Anonymous group name and logo. But the source for the attraction to this concept doesn’t jive well with some or all of their activities. As mentioned, the purpose of this first type of anonymous is to ultimately benefit the world with a greater state of revelation. Individually, this means being able to reveal your secret identity in public; to “give birth” to your superhero self anew. On the macro level, this means making the name of God explicit from within a state of concealment. For out of the darkness of their trial, Mordechai, Esther and the entire Jewish people witnessed and revealed great Divine light to the world.

So if “anonymous” is to be capitalized, the best reason would be to reference the word to the “hidden face” state of God Himself during the exile of the Jewish people.

Above Nature

While it is true that some of the activities seem (at least on the surface) to present signs of altruism, many other activities are not mitzvot or good deeds at all. Such was the case with their #OpIsrael April 7th campaign timed to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day. They had promised to “launch a coordinated, massive cyber attack on Israeli targets with the intent of erasing Israel from the internet.”

The timing and wording of their campaign was reminiscent of the plot of the wicked Haman during Purim “to destroy, kill and annihilate all Jews, from young to old, infants and women, on a single day, on the 13th day of the 12th month, the month of Adar.”

While the date of the 13th of Adar was selected by drawing lots (the name “purim” is Persian for “lots”), Haman was very happy with the results. Adar was a month without Jewish holidays. Also the 7th of Adar was the day when the great leader of Israel, Moses, passed away. What he failed to realize, however, was that the 7th of Adar was also the day when Moses was born. Such began the reversal of fortune that led to Haman and his sons being hanged on the gallows that he himself built.

It is explained at length in Hassidut, how the motivation for casting lots is the drive to reach a place above choice. Instead of choosing the month and date, he was attempting to reach a state above nature and reason. So too seems the case with this campaign from this formless hactivist group. While the organizers realize (in one way or another) that the God of Israel protects His children, they are hoping that this date is similar to the “month without holidays” of the Purim story. Whereas Haman realized that the God of Israel protects His children when they are observing the festivals, he had hoped this the 13th of Adar would be different. Additionally, the timing of this campaign prior to the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 28th of Nissan, seems to relate to Haman’s happiness at knowing that Moses passed away in Adar.

But likely unbeknownst to them, the 28th of Nissan, in some ways, is the most auspicious time of the year to counter and transform the threats and trials leveled against the Jewish people, and reveal our super-powers. This is the day when the Lubavitcher Rebbe handed over the task of bringing mashiach to us.

Identity Crisis

So who is Anonymous? There are two extremes. There are those well-meaning individuals, who are trying to make a difference in the world for the better. Then there are the hate mongers, who are using this cover to carry out their nefarious plans. Unfortunately, one doesn’t need to look far to see the greatest representation of Haman today (Just instead of the Persian Empire, we now call it Iran). So those leading this campaign likely most associate with Iran (whether they presently live there or not).

The other observation is that this and other similar campaigns has left idealist hackers feeling homeless. Increasingly, they are looking for a place they can call home apart from the hate mongers. This explains the recent interest in legitimizing and legalizing certain forms of hactivism.

Virtual Threats

The final lesson from our discussion is that just as this campaign was targeted at cyber or virtual space, the other threats coming out of Iran and others are just as virtual.

Ultimately, the great reversal of fortune will occur, and much like the Purim story where “the Jews experienced light and joy, gladness and honor” [Esther 8:16], the same will occur again speedily in our days.

Author’s note: this submission relied on sources and information from the website inner.org.

Rebbetzin Devorah, Wife of Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Aide Rabbi Yehuda, Laid to Rest

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Rebbetzin Devorah Krinsky, wife of chief aide to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, passed away on Friday night at the age of 74.

Rebbetzin Devorah returned her soul to its maker after the Friday night Kiddush was recited at her bedside, surrounded by her husband, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky – who still serves as Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch and Machne Israel educational and social services – and their children.

Rebbetzin Devorah’s parents, Rabbi Zev and Etta Kasinetz, provided space for early Lubavitch work from their home in Brooklyn’s Brownsville in the late 1930’s and 40’s, according to an article in Chabad’s COLlive.

She was described by COLlive as the pillar of her home, and a constant partner in the work of her husband.  “Her warmth and humor, her quick wit, practical common sense, and her concern for others complemented her dignified comportment,” the article written on the  occasion of her death said.

Rebbetzin Devorah is survived by Rabbi Yehuda, her children Rabbi Hillel Dovid of Crown Heights, Mrs. Sheine Friedman of Crown Heights, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Crown Heights, Rabbi Levi of Lubavitch of New Hampshire, Mrs. Chana Futerfas of Crown Heights, Rabbi Shmaya of Crown Heights, and her grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as her brother Rabbi Moshe Kasinetz, founder of Suburban Torah Center in Livingston, New Jersey.

Rebbetzin Devorah’s funeral took place on Sunday at noon, leaving from Shomrei Hadas Chapels and passing by Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway.  She was laid to rest at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens.

The shiva house is located at 729 Montgomery Street in Brooklyn, and will be open from 11am on Monday through Friday.

COLlive listed prayer times at the home as follows:

Shachris: 8:00, 8:45, 9:30, 10:00

Mincha: 15 Minutes before sunset

Maariv: After nightfall

Those wishing to send condolences to the family are also encouraged to write to krinskyfam@gmail.com.

Now, This Is a Lulav

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Here’s an image of the Lubavitcher Rebbe benching his lulav and etrog.

 

Nancy commented, when she saw this image, how his eyes always look directly at you in all his pictures.

The etrog is upside down, which I thought meant the Rebbe is about to make the blessing, but reader JK was quick to correct me (from his iPhone) that the Rebbe never turned the etrog upside down and didn’t bench in shul.  He also added: “Get things right before writing to thousands.”

I was impressed by the lavish assortment of hadassim and aravot in his lulav bunch. Why haven’t I thought about it before? All these years I’ve been carefully counting them out, three of this, two of that – when I could have this big, fluffy hedge of a lulav.

This morning I plan to take my spare branches and add them to the ones that have so far survived the daily benching, see what that looks like.

Chag Same’ach!

The Evolution Of American Orthodoxy: An Interview with Yeshiva University Librarian Zalman Alpert

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Books. Some people love them; others claim they can do without them. For Zalman Alpert, they are essentially his life.

For the past 35 years, Alpert has served as a reference librarian at Yeshiva University (YU). Educated at Columbia University’s School of Library Services and New York University’s School of Education, where he attained a master’s degree in Modern Jewish History, Alpert is one of those individuals who knows a little (sometimes a lot) about everything. Over the years, he has contributed articles to such works as Encyclopedia of Hasidim; Jewish American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia; Encyclopedia of Jewish American Popular Culture; Midstream; and The Jewish Press.

The Jewish Press: In your three decades as a YU librarian, what would you say was your most interesting experience or encounter?

Alpert: Well, one recent one took place last summer when I noticed a Catholic priest in the library. I started talking to him, and through conversation it became clear that his mother was a little girl during the Holocaust, was hidden by non-Jews, and never came back to Judaism. She adopted the Catholic religion and eventually married a Catholic in Poland.

For some reason, however – I guess because of the pintele yid inside her – she and her husband moved to Israel in the 1960s or so. This young man was born there and attended Israeli schools, but the family later left Israel and moved to a Polish enclave in New Jersey. Subsequently this young man returned to Poland, studied for the Catholic priesthood, got a doctorate in Old Testament studies using the Hebrew he had acquired in Israel, and is now a professor at a Catholic theological seminary in Poland.

I couldn’t really get this priest to admit he felt Jewish although he knew the halacha and didn’t deny he was Jewish. He said he came to the library to familiarize himself with midrashic literature because he wanted to see how the Jewish rabbis interpreted the Bible.

Have you ever met people in the library who would otherwise never dare step in YU due to ideological reasons?

Absolutely. In fact, many of the more interesting people I have met over the years are chassidic rabbis from Williamsburg. The Pupa dayan, for example, was here, as was the spiritual head of the Organization of Young Satmar Chassidim.

They come because everything is in one place, and many of them don’t want to go to the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) for theological and halachic reasons. In recent years, though, there’s been a marked decrease in the number of chassidim who come here because of the availability of such databases as HebrewBooks.org, Otzar HaHochma, etc.

Many people claim JTS’s library is far better than YU’s. True?

If you’re doing research that requires use of old manuscripts, JTS is better. But if you’re doing research that involves books published in the last few hundred years, I would say YU compares favorably to JTS and in some areas is even better.

Why does JTS have a better manuscript collection?

They started building their collection a lot earlier than YU. When Solomon Schechter took over the seminary in 1902, he brought part of his library with him, which included a lot of Cairo Geniza fragments. Also, Schechter brought faculty members with him who were very interested in creating an academic library, and they went to Europe actively seeking manuscripts and rare books.

In contrast, YU’s college was first created in the 1920s and the Jewish studies graduate school only started in the late 1930s. YU’s library only really became very professionalized after World War II.

How many Jewish books does YU own?

I would say 300,000-400,000. We also have something like 50 incunabula, which are books printed before 1500.

You possess something of an interesting family background. Can you share?

My parents were Holocaust survivors from Lithuania/White Russia. In Europe, my father was part of the Lubavitch community, but my mother came from a misnagdic background. I attended Lubavitcher school in New Haven for many years growing up, and then went to YU later on.

Do you consider yourself Lubavitch?

The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, said there were three sorts of Lubavitcher chassidim: chassidei ha’geza, i.e., people descended from Lubavitcher chassidim; chassidei ha’nusach, i.e., people who live their lives according to Lubavitcher minhagim; and chassidei Lubavitch, which I imagine means people who study Chabad chassidus and have a personal connection to the Rebbe. I would put myself in the first two categories.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/the-evolution-of-american-orthodoxy-an-interview-with-yeshiva-university-librarian-zalman-alpert/2012/07/11/

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