Sunday, March 31, 2013

Image courtesy of The Oatmeal.*

*a comic that I do not endorse, but sometimes has very good material such as the above.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Transcendent Gratitude

Gratitude to God is the most dominant motif of the Jewish liturgy. It is expressed through shevach, songs of praise to God. Its most exultant forms are the Hallel (Psalms 113-118) and Hallel HaGadol (Psalm 136). The latter shevach was chanted publicly in the Temple with its rhythmic response "For His lovingkindness endures forever," ki l'olam chasdo
Hallel is recited on Festival days, but it was omitted from the Purim liturgy because, as Rav Nachman explained: "Its reading (i.e. the Megillah) fulfills the requirement to recite Hallel." (TB Megillah 14) Shevach is implicit in the very recital of the Purim narrative and no additional Hallel was necessary. If so, why was Hallel included in the Haggadah when the narrative of the Exodus itself should have satisfied the shevach requirement? 
It seems that shevach is not enough for the Seder night. We are expected to rise to higher levels of exultant praise, to a shirah chadasha. It is a night when the Jew is in love with God, a night of passionate romance which is reflected in the tradition of reading Song of Songs after the Haggadah. We move from Hallel HaGadol to Nishmat kol chai, "the breath of every living being shall bless your name." We ecstatically see all of creation joining in a grand symphony of homage to God for all the blessings of life. From the geulat Mitzrayim we are gripped with an appreciation that God is also the ultimate salvation of all mankind. The concluding note of the Haggadah is an eschatological vision of a glorious future, when "every mouth shall give thanks and every tongue shall swear allegiance unto You; every knee shall bow to You." To highlight this added dimension of gratitude, the Hallel and the Hallel HaGadol were included in the Haggadah
- Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Reflections of the Rav (pp. 215-216)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Talk about a conflict of interest!

This is especially frustrating for me; I walk past this area every day to work, and the one week that Satmar actually has off they might be filming Spider-Man...

And here I was thinking that we could go on a class trip.

(Hat tip to the Life In Israel blog)

Monday, March 18, 2013

The value of a tear.

This song is my favorite Moshe Yess song, by far. Something about it gets me going, every time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Greening the Negev

 "It is said that one should go after HaShem. Is it possible for flesh and blood to go after HaShem? It is also said that one should cleave to HaShem. Is it possible for flesh and blood to cleave to HaShem? Rather one should go in His ways, and cleave to His character traits. And just as HaShem, at the beginning of creation, first planted and tended to the Garden of Eden, so too should Am Yisrael upon entering the Land, as it is written: 'You should come to the Land and plant.'" (VaYikra Rabba, 25:3)
A friendly message was waiting in my inbox this past Motzei Shabbos Kodesh, with a link to this startup:

I have a soft spot for anything that has to do with the Holy Land - doubly so for an endeavor that is trying to settle the land, create economic growth, and help fellow Jews make ends meet.

Mitzpe Ramon used to be a boom town, as it was situated on the southern route toward Eilat. However, with the development of infrastructure including the major highways that bypassed this settlement, the area floundered.

The Argan tree yields a valuable resource that these folks are hoping to "capitalize" on; not only will this stimulate the local economy, it will also benefit the ecology as well.

If you can, please donate and lend a hand towards getting this program off (and into) the ground.

Tizku l'mitzvot!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Just cool

'nuff said. Nothing to do with the fact that I work in Williamsburg.

TNIW [That Night In Williamsburg] from Supralude on Vimeo.

Rav Weinberger on Rebbe Nachman

The Breslov Research Institute recently celebrated the completion of rendering the Likutei MoHaRan into English with a gala siyum in Queens. Rav Moshe Weinberger was one of the speakers (although this is not that speech) at the event, along with Elie Weisel (who can also be seen on BRI's vimeo page -[it wasn't embed-able. sorry]). Watch Rav Weinberger below!

When Unity Reigned

From the Jewish Press:

In 2007 my parents decided it was time to downsize and sell their home of more than thirty years. To help them pack up and move into their new apartment, I returned to Cleveland to offer my assistance.
Sorting through items in the attic, I found a long-forgotten box of my elementary school mementos. While I certainly got a kick out of looking through my youthful drawings, school projects, and report cards, it was some photographs that really caused me to stop and think.
Among my official class pictures were photographs from my eighth birthday party. There I was, at home, celebrating with my friends and Hebrew Academy classmates. As I studied the photos, I was struck by the diversity of the homes and families represented by the smiling young boys looking back at me. My friends and classmates spanned the entire spectrum of Cleveland’s Orthodox community of the early 1980s.
There were kids whose homes had television sets as well as some in whose homes TVs were not welcome. Some of my friends belonged to shuls that proudly recited Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut, while others davened in shuls that did nothing of the sort.
My classmates included children and grandchildren of the Telshe Yeshiva faculty, as well as the sons of businessmen, Jewish educators, intellectuals, musicians, etc. The parents of some of my friends had attended the finest colleges and universities, while the parents of others had attended the most respected yeshivas and seminaries.
Some of the boys in those pictures had mothers who wore sheitels; others had never heard the term. Most of my classmates were “all-American” while a few had recently arrived from what was still the Soviet Union. Finally, theyarmulkes on our heads ran the full gamut of sizes, colors, and materials (mine was of the official blue Hebrew Academy of Cleveland variety).
Despite the differences between us and between our families, we all attended the Hebrew Academy together. Those pictures were full of happy, smiling boys enjoying the beautiful birthday cake my mother had baked in my honor.
Since finding those pictures of my birthday party from thirty years ago, I sometimes find myself pondering the following:
A) I was able to celebrate my birthday in the company of friends from such a diverse group of families because our parents chose to focus on the 95 percent of values shared by all Orthodox families rather than the five percent that divides us.
B) I am grateful I grew up in a time and an environment when the children of Cleveland’s diverse Orthodox community were easily able to befriend and interact with one another. I know my friends and I gained immeasurably from our shared experiences.
C) I pray that pictures such as those I chanced upon will again become the standard rather than the exception.
D) Should someone tell me that achdus (unity) within American Jewry’s Orthodox community is not possible, I can confidently tell him he is mistaken. After all, as a young boy I experienced such achdus – thanks to the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland.
About the Author: Akiva Males grew up in University Heights, Ohio, and attended the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland from kindergarten (fall 1979) through 8th grade (summer 1988). Together with his wife, Layala (nee Feintuch of Brooklyn), he moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the fall of 2007 to become the rabbi of Kesher Israel Congregation. He can be reached at

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A yeshiva bochur was once preparing to drive from Brooklyn to Monsey, when someone approached him for a favor. Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky OBM was in Brooklyn at the time, looking for a ride back to Monsey; would the bochur mind giving the Rosh Yeshiva a ride?

Naturally, the boy agreed, and was brought over to Rav Yaakov to meet him so they could make the proper arrangements. Rav Yaakov asked him if he could see the car before they left, so the two of them went outside to the bochur's car. Rav Yaakov climbed into the backseat, and moved around a little; after a few minutes, he climbed out and thanked the boy. As they walked back into the building, the Rosh Yeshiva explained that before they left, he just wanted to make sure that the car would be comfortable enough for his wife.


This anecdote tells us a lot about what we need to know about building healthy relationships.

He shall love her as himself and honor her more than himself (Sanhedrin, 76b; Yevamot, 62b)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I felt like sharing some clips of the Tolna Rebbe shlita, a real tzaddik and source of inspiration for many, including myself. After hearing a  shiur that Reb Ally posted on YUTorah, I was brought back to my one and only matzah baking experience, last year with the Rebbe himself on erev Pesach.

That experience was wonderful, unlike anything I'd ever had.

The most memorable part was the joyous singing of Hallel, over and over again as the chassidim rolled the unleavened dough into matzot, which the Rebbe then perforated with a special roller just before it was placed into the oven.

I can still feel the warmth of his hand from when he stroked my cheek when we went to greet him beforehand...