Saturday, October 29, 2011

Feels like Cleveland

It's only October, but you wouldn't be able to tell that by looking out the window. It's snowing outside; it began earlier this morning, and hasn't abated yet. there are downed trees everywhere, and some blocks have no power.

Unfortunately, due to the driving conditions, I can't go out, so I am missing the hillula tonight at Aish Kodesh. But I'm warm, my family is safe, and there is plenty of things to do, so I am not complaining.

Stay safe, everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Aish Kodesh Hillula 5772

Congregation Aish Kodesh
Congregation Aish Kodesh
Rav Moshe Weinberger, Mara D'Asrah
 Hilula L'Zecher the Aish Kodesh
(Please Note New Location)

This Motsai Shabbos, October 29/ 2 MarCheshvan, Aish Kodesh will be celebrating the annual Hilula for the Yahrzeit of our namesake, Harav Kalonimus Kalmish Shapira, ZY'A, HY'D, the Aish Kodesh, the Holy Rebbe of Piacezna. The Hilula will once again feature the music of Yosef Karduner and the Divrei Torah of Rav Weinberger.
The Hilula will take place at a new location (Not YILC). The Hilula will take place at Bnos Bais Yaakov (613 Beach 9th Street, Far Rockaway, in the lunchroom on the lower level). The Hilula will begin at 9:00 p.m.
Admission Donation: $10
Separate Seating
As usual, it is our policy to open this special event to as many people as possible to be inspired by the uniqueness of the Aish Kodesh himself, the heartfelt nigunim of Yosef Karduner, and the emotional and powerful Divrei Torah of our Rav, HaRav Moshe Weinberger, Shlita. We have always tried to keep the event affordable to everyone by having several sponsors step forward and become major sponsors of this holy evening. The opportunity exists for sponsorship of the Hilula. If you have the capability to sponsor the Hilula, and be Mezakeh Rabim with this event, please contact David Waltuch via reply email, or Elliot Blumenthal or (516) 457-7893.

I'm sure it will be awesome, like last year, and the years before it. I hope to attend, where I'll be able to spend time with a few hundred "friends" coming together to pay respects to the rebbe.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The dangers of substance abuse

And Noah, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard. (Gen. 9:20)

The Medrash Tanchuma reveals what happened (adapted translation):

As Noach was planting the vineyard, the Satan came along and engaged him in conversation. 
"What are you planting?" he asked. 
"I am planting a grapevine," replied Noach. 
"What are grapes? What is their nature?" Satan asked. 
"Their fruits are sweet, whether they are dried or moist," Noach answered, "and you can make wine from them, which gladdens the heart." 
The Satan offered to enter in a partnership with this vineyard; Noach agreed. The Satan fetched a sheep, slaughtered it, and let its blood seep into the ground where the vine was planted. Next, he brought a lion, slaughtered it, and drained the blood into the same spot. Then he brought a pig, slaughtered it, and spilled its blood into the soil, before finally bringing a monkey and doing the same. The vines took in the blood, along with the nourishment that the soil offered. 
The Satan was hinting to Noach what the effects of alcohol are: 
Before a man drinks, he is gentle and unassuming, like a little lamb; the first few swallows deepen the mellow. When a person drinks a moderate amount, he gains courage, and confidence; he is like a lion, ready to take on any challenge. Once he imbibes too much alcohol, he becomes violently ill, and wallows in his own filth like a pig in a sty. Finally, when he has gone past a certain point of indulgence, he ultimately loses all inhibition. He jumps around like a monkey, out of control and hurling insults and profanity at everyone he encounters without shame.

When I saw the above medrash, I was floored; I think anyone who has ever gotten drunk or seen others drink too much recognizes these familiar descriptions.


One of the lessons I think we can learn from this account: never get into a conversation with the Satan.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thank God, we can now remove Gilad ben Aviva from our collective tehillim lists, as he is now home and safe!

I know that there were many who were vehemently opposed to the swap, for compelling reasons, but I don't want to focus on that. I would like to express my hope that this will indeed be the profound kiddush HaShem that it had the potential to be. We have just shown the world how precious one single life is to us as Jews - we are willing to make enormous sacrifice with tremendous risk to bring one of our own home.

Who is like Your nation Israel?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Does anyone know whether there are vasikin minyanim in Washington Heights during Chol HaMoed? I have an extremely important test at the YU campus on Monday, the third day of Chol HaMoed, early in the morning. I would like to pray with a minyan beforehand, especially considering that the test takes three hours, so afterwards isn't necessarily an option...

Any info can be posted either to the comments section, or directly to me via e-mail at


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

B'nei Machshava Tova: Ten Things to Remember

B'nei Machshava Tova: Ten Things to Remember: A great post by Yitz, of the Waxing Wellspring blog. I'm posting it here because I think it has very practical applications.

Active vs Passive

"Some day I will do it." - is self deceptive. 
"I want to do it." - is weak. 
"I am doing it." - that is the right way. - Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.
Something I read in Reb Micha's Aspaqlaria: Aseres Yemei Teshuvah reader yesterday evening resonated with me, and reminded me of the above aphorism. As he writes, as reflected elsewhere both within Torah as well as sources of non Jewish wisdom, we must be concerned with becoming, not just being; we have to be focused on the quest, the journey toward perfection, because the path we travel along is as much a part of the process as the goal at the end of the road.

And until we come to a point when we can say "I am traveling the path now," all our reflection, our introspection and plans toward a better life are merely abstract exercises that lull us into a false sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Holding On To It...

Over the past few days since Rosh HaShana, I've encountered people who ask me how my yom tov was. The truth is, that's a really difficult question to answer, to my mind. Answering that it was "nice" seems a little too pat; on the other hand, saying that it was meaningful doesn't seem appropriate, either, if not a little bit pretentious...

For one thing, I won't truly know how my Rosh HaShana was until next year, obviously. But even in terms of experience, I just don't feel comfortable expressing my thoughts on it just yet, because to a certain degree, it's not reflective of reality beyond these Days of Awe. Of course, I had a positive tefillah experience; at this point in my life I am lucky to have reached a stage where I anticipate the opportunities of our annual milestones, as opposed to the anxiety concerning how I will "survive" them. But with that comes the recognition that it isn't so much about how inspiring the actual moment may be, in the moment - it's about how it affects me days later, weeks later, months later, in the cold darkness of the winter stretch.

A little exercise to illustrate my point:

Leiby Kletzky

When I tried this in person with several of my friends, I saw a widening of their eyes as they remembered, at the same time recognizing that they had in fact forgotten about the sweet little boy whose tragic death affected us so viscerally a few months ago. At the time, did any of us think that we would forget him? We were so profoundly moved; his image was stamped on our collective consciousness...

And now...

The same thing gives me pause about the Days of Awe. And I know that it happens, because this is the twenty seventh time that I am living (thank God!) through this auspicious time, and I don't feel that my year was significantly better...

I pray every day that our sensitivity should increase, and that we should be able to truly incorporate the lessons learned and maintain the resolve that we feel during these Days of Awe.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reconnecting the Day After

As I hope many of you are aware, yesterday was the Day to Disconnect, an initiative headed by Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein and Ohr Naava; the goal was to get pledges (I believe the aim was for one million hours)  from people around the world to unplug from their technological devices for at least one hour on October 2, 2011 (yesterday) and find something meaningful to do, be it with their friends, family, or God.

I had the opportunity to pledge two hours; with the just passed holiday, it seemed like a great time to take stock and enjoy what is really important in the world: the ones I spend my life with. I had a beautiful day (the fast notwithstanding) with my family, reading to my boys and talking to my wife.

One of the members of the campaign was nice enough to send me the official press release concerning the initial results of the campaign:
 Thousands disconnected from their cell phones and laptops for at least one hour on Sunday, October 2, thanks to DaytoDisconnect, the campaign created by Ohr Naava, a Brooklyn based educational organization.
 In August, Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, the founder and director of Ohr Naava, launched a campaign to encourage people to switch off their mobile devices for at least one hour on Sunday October 2, and to connect with people face-to-face instead. He chose that date since it was the first Sunday of the Jewish New Year, an opportune time to begin enhancing personal relationships.
 In a few short weeks, the campaign received worldwide attention. It registered people from over 28 countries including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada/Quebec Country, Chile, Columbia, England, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hungary, Israel, Italy, India, Indonesia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Ukraine and USA.  Within the United States, over 26 states were represented.
 Elisheva Perlman, the Executive Producer of the campaign, said, “We were shocked by the response. Emails, Twitter mentions, and Youtube comments poured in from people of all backgrounds, religions and ages. People thanked us for doing this and jumped on board.”
 One teenage registrant emailed, “It really helped me to be more focused on myself, and really helped me to connect with my family instead of being connected to electronic devices.”
 Ms. Esti Zicherman, Director of Program Development, said that the reason for such broad participation is “the issue of people being addicted to their technology doesn’t discriminate. Taking a break offers people the opportunity to think outside their screens and be creative.”
 Unplug and Reconnect, headed by Dr. Joseph Geliebter, is a strategic partner of Ohr Naava’s DaytoDisconnect.  It’s a movement for people to find a balance between their technology-laden selves and their creative, emotional and spiritual needs.
 As for what is next, Charlie Harary, the campaign’s spokesman, said “it’s clear how important and universal this issue is. While we are still collecting hours from this Day to Disconnect, I can confidently say that there will be another Day to Disconnect in the near future. Stay tuned.”
 For more information about this wonderful idea that I hope picks up steam, visit!