Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I've been thinking about death a lot lately. Over the past week, I have been joining a shiva minyan in an effort to ensure that the mourners can have their quorum every day for the mincha services, and that inevitably leads me to thinking about life and, of course, death.

Thankfully, I have not gone through the immediate mourning experience yet; I have lost relatives and loved ones, but none for whom I have a halachic obligation to mourn for. I hope not to have that experience for a long time, either.

Observing the mourners this week, I was once again struck by the impact that death and loss can have on someone - one of the mourners is a generally mirthful fellow, a twinkle in his eye and a good line for everyone. Seeing him deflated, hardly acknowledging the many visitors and rarely making eye contact or speaking to anyone just brought the lesson home.

Over the years, I've approached death in different ways, all of them various forms of defense mechanisms. At one point, death was an abstraction; no one I knew (in the sense of those whom I had interacted on a regular basis) had died at that point, and death seemed to be something that happens to "other people", people beyond my own private little world. At other points, I denied death's inevitability by engaging in risky, dangerous behavior. As I grew spiritually, I grappled with the implications of death in an existential sense, vacillating between eager anticipation and sheer terror of that moment that can come at any time.

Husband/parenthood has yet again changed my perspective on death, in ways that I am still becoming aware of, with every passing day. My life is certainly filled with more urgency...

One of the ways that I used to distract myself from becoming too morbid was to focus on the peripheral elements surrounding death. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I used to imagine my own funeral (which I later discovered in several seforim is a means to stir one's heart to repentance), and the eulogies that people would say about me. However, I have noticed recently that when I use this diversion, I find myself not envisioning my own funeral, but rather those of people close to me: my parents, my in-laws, etc. I don't know if it's a sign of maturity or realism - or a macabre brand of hopefulness on my part - but by attempting to encapsulize a life in a few brief minutes of spoken word, I find a meaningful way of coming to a better understanding of those people. Struggling to extract some lessons from lives lived, in the context of conveying those ideas to others helps me realize how important those people are to me in my life right now.

Why wait until they're gone to let them know how important they are to me?

Why wait until they're gone to really learn from their wisdom, knowledge and experience?

Friday, February 24, 2012

New documentary of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk

This is exciting. I saw an ad in the Jewish Post concerning a new documentary about the rebbe Reb Meilech, and found this item online:
The world premiere of Hanoch Teller’s new documentary, Reb Elimelech and the Chassidic Legacy of Brotherhood, is scheduled for motzaei Shabbos, Saturday night, March 10 at 8:45 p.m. at Aish Kodesh in Woodmere. This film promises to be among the most inspiring and educational documentary ever produced for a Jewish audience. Rabbi Teller will present a brief introduction and message before every premiere of the film.Rabbi Hanoch Teller (author of 27 books, with a new biography of the Mirrer rosh yeshiva, Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel, to be shortly released, iy’H) produced a docudrama 16 years ago entitled Do You Believe in Miracles? that became a mega-hit, particularly in the day-school world.This new film is also targeted for the entire family and for every stripe of Jew. Using the highest quality cinematic techniques, state-of-the-art graphics, full orchestration by leading musicians, original scores, duets by famed vocalists Abish Brodt and Avraham Fried, and rare archival material, Teller has created an experience that will be cherished for a lifetime.Who exactly was Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk? Why do 35,000 pilgrims travel to that remote corner of Poland in freezing weather every year on his yahrzeit? The answer to these questions, as well as the understanding of the origination of the Chassidic movement, is tastefully explained in this 74-minute film.But far more than just setting the backdrop of Jewish life in 18th-century Poland and Ukraine, which involved the Chmielnitzky massacres, blood libels, pogroms, debilitating taxes upon Jews, and the prohibition against Jews earning their livelihood as they chose, the viewer will understand the atmosphere of such angst-ridden despair that it resulted in the Sabbetai Zvi and Jacob Frank debacles. In such context, it will be appreciated how the Baal Shem Tov was finally able to give to the masses—whom he mixed with and uplifted—a reason to live.An all-star team of luminaries has been enrolled to share before the camera their unique perspectives on the subject. These scholars include Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu (former av beis din, London), Rav Berel Wein (noted historian and lecturer), Rav Abraham J. Twerski (noted author and psychiatrist), Rav Moshe Weinberger (mara d’asra and revered teacher, Aish Kodesh, Woodmere), and Rav Dovid Gottlieb (senior lecturer, Ohr Somayach Jerusalem; former professor of philosophy, Johns Hopkins University). And, of course, Rabbi Hanoch Teller knows just how to relate enchanting Chassidic stories for the contemporary world.Reb Elimelech’s life and teachings are the segue to the documentary’s key message of ahavas Yisrael. The film’s portrayal is both profound and engaging, with many contemporaneous applications. The viewer will be seriously challenged to see this film without being deeply inspired, uplifted, and earnestly committed to enhance his or her ahavas Yisrael. Inevitably, the viewer will wish to improve their personal avodah and desire to be, well, holier. The spectacular musical compositions will never leave you.The only way to view this documentary is to attend one of the premieres that will be held nationwide the week of Reb Elimelech’s yahrzeit (21 Adar). The film is not set to be available on DVD or through any other medium.As noted, the world premiere will be in Cong. Aish Kodesh at 894 Woodmere Place on March 10 at 8:45 p.m. Sponsorship opportunities are available for $180, which includes two free admission tickets, the DVD Do You Believe in Miracles?, and Hanoch Teller’s latest book. For information, contact 516-993-1636 or 516-476-9042.Other screenings in the New York area will be held iy’H March 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Rockland Community College Cultural Arts Theater, 145 College Avenue in Suffern (for women only); March 12 at 8:00 p.m. in the Young Israel of Holliswood, 86-25 Francis Lewis Boulevard in Queens; March 13 at 8:30 p.m. in Cong. Ohab Zedek, 118 West 95th Street in Manhattan; and March 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Agudas Yisrael Birkas Yaakov of Passaic, 262 Terhune Avenue.
It's unfortunate that they say it won't be available after the release date. I won't be able to make it in all likelihood, and I would really rather not miss it. I sent an e-mail to Rabbi Teller asking him to reconsider, and I hope he does.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. 
An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. - Winston Churchill

Purim with the Rebbe

Just a little something to get into the spirit of Adar.

A gut chodesh to all!

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

This is awesome. One of my favorite books ever, available for free online.


Aryeh Kaplan - Jewish Meditation, a Practical Guide

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rav Tzvi Meir on Shovavim, part VIII

Shiurim - Sichos Hischazkus: Shovavim 8 - eSnips

The final sequence. I'm sorry it took nearly the entire period of Shovavim to go through the ma'amar, but thankfully things have been busy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Life Apart

This is a "must watch" documentary that I mentioned a while back in a post about Reb Shlomo Halberstam, the Bobover Rebbe OBM.

The full version is now available on YouTube. Hat tip to Rebbe Clips.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Very cool music video

It's been a long time since I listened to non-Jewish music, but someone sent me this video, and it's worth sharing. There's nothing like a little ingenuity, especially when it is elaborate, and it works.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rav Tzvi Meir on Shovavim, part VII

Shiurim - Sichos Hischazkus: Shovavim 7 - eSnips

Getting In The Way

Anochi Omed Bein Hashem U'Veineichem - I stood between you and HaShem. (Deut. 5:5)
The Kotzker Rebbe explained this verse: What is it that comes between us and God? None other than our own egos, the "I" that imposes itself into every aspect of our lives.

The Hebrew word for "I" is Ani; those same letters (Aleph-Nun-Yud) switched around spell "Nothing", Ayin (Aleph-Yud-Nun).

Something to think about...