Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Legacy of Avraham Avinu

(Picture by Jack Klein)

Four years ago, in 2006, Rav Elazar Mordechai Kenig, shlita, leader of the Tzefas Breslev community, visited communities in greater New York this time of year. My family and I had the zechus of spending Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah with him in Lawrence, and must say that it was an unforgettable experience. As Rabbi Moshe Weinberger of Congregation Aish Kodesh of Woodmere self-effacingly said of the Rav, “We give shiurim on Rabbi Nachman’s teachings – but here is someone who truly personifies those teachings!” Both in his words and deeds – indeed, by his presence alone -- Rav Kenig radiates the serene light of Tzefas to all.

Rav Kenig gave over divrei Torah several times during the course of Shabbos.Since we are approaching Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah again this week, it would be worthwhile to review the Rav's words, which are as relevant as ever.

On Friday night before Kabbolas Shabbos, he spoke about Avraham Avinu’s legacy of chesed and the test that Eliezer put before Rivkah Emeinu, in order to determine if she was worthy to marry Yitzchak Avinu. When we encounter someone in need and compassionately perform an act of kindness, Rav Kenig explained, this is only natural. However, the avodah of chesed exemplified by our holy ancestors demands a higher level: we must seek further opportunities to give, in even greater measure. In so doing, like Avraham Avinu, we become extensions of Hashem’s chesed, which is truly limitless and unending. This quality was reflected by Rivkah Emeinu when she not only gave water to Eliezer, but even to his camels. And this is the level of divine service to which we aspire as descendants of Avraham who bear his “spiritual genes.”

Before Musaf, he pointed out a difference in the way Eliezer addressed Hashem before and after Rivkah Emeinu’s test. Initially he addressed Hashem as “Elokei HaShomayim, Lord of Heaven.” Only after Rivkah proved herself worthy of being Yitzchak’s kallah did Eliezer refer to Hashem as “Elokei HaShomayim vi’Ha’aretz, Lord of Heaven and Earth.”

Based on Likkutei Moharan II, 7, Rav Kenig offered a reason for this change of terminology. Hashem’s greatest desire is to perpetuate life in this world from generation to generation, and to transmit da’as until “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d like the water that covers the sea.” This is why Eliezer called Hashem “Lord of Heaven and Earth” only after the shidduch was consolidated. Now he felt assured that the legacy of his master would be passed on to the next generation.

Another facet of this concept is that shleimus, wholeness, is achieved only when the Infinite Light shines into the finite realm, illuminating the most ordinary, mundane realities of life. Then “heaven” and “earth” become one. This, too, was central to Avraham Avinu’s mission of communicating da’as – the recognition of Hashem – to all, even those who were steeped in idolatry.

During Shaloshudes, Rav Kenig darshaned on these themes from yet another perspective. In the same lesson from Likkutei Moharan, Rabbi Nachman asserts that the greatest act of compassion is to instill da’as in the world. Without da’as, we are but animals in human form; with da’as, we become bnei adam, true human beings, cognizant of the meaning and preciousness of life. However, the foundation of da’as is emunah, deep faith in Hashem’s Oneness and His dominion over all. This holy emunah enables us to recognize Hashem in all things, and to see that everything that happens reflects hashgochah protis, Divine Providence. We emulate Avraham Avinu’s example of bestowing this gift of da’as through studying and disseminating Torah.

At the public Melaveh Malkah in Cedarhurst, the Rav expounded on the concept of semichas ge’uloh l’tefilloh, connecting redemption to prayer. In the most simple sense, this refers to not interrupting between the brochah “Go’al Yisroel” and the Shemoneh Esreh prayer. However, in Rabbi Nachman’s drush, cited by Rav Kenig, this phrase alludes to redeeming prayer itself from the exile of being recited again and again without the degree of emunah that would awaken the mind and heart of the one reciting it. When we believe that Hashem is present in each and every moment and situation, and that He desires our prayers, we will surely say each word with intense kavanah.

The Rav also described the spiritual challenges of the Lebanon War that Israel had just waged against Hizbullah, and the need to remain resolute in emunah u’bitochon in the face of all threats. This is our most powerful weapon against our enemies, he stressed, not our military might. In these even more dangerous times, this is a message we must not forget.

Rebbe Nachman's Deveykus Niggun

More than a decade ago, the Andy Statman Quartet recorded a critically-acclaimed CD called "Between Heaven and Earth: Music of the Jewish Mystics" (Shanachie).

Musicians include: Andy Statman, clarinet; Kenny Werner, piano; Harvie Swartz, bass; Bob Weiner, drums and percussion.

One of the highlights of these sessions was their instrumental version of Reb Nachman's Deveykus Niggun

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rav Kenig of Tzefat Arrives in NY

Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Kenig, shlita, leader of the Tzefat Breslov community, has returned to New York for his periodic medical check-up. (The Rav underwent transplant surgery several years ago.) He will be staying, as usual, at the home of Mr and Mrs Jack Klein, 19 Briarwood Lane, Monsey, NY. The Rav will be available for private consultation, but we don't know on which days. To make an appointment or for other information, please call Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin, 718-288-1951.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Merit of Melaveh Malkah

Received by email from a friend

Sunday, Cheshvan 16th, is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Shlomo ben Naftali Carlebach, z"l.

I remembered this while eating Melava Malkah, and thought I should share it, since it is Reb Shlomo's yahrtzeit. I always enjoyed Reb Shlomo's stories, but there was one that that really had an effect on me. I was in a friend’s car in the Catskills over fifteen years ago, and he was playing a Shlomo Carlebach Melaveh Malkah album. On it he told the following story:

Someone came to a certain Rebbe (the recording was unclear so I couldn’t make out the name) and said his friend was deported to Siberia. He asked if the Rebbe could get a yeshu'a for his friend. The Rebbe said, "If you’re friend will do whatever I tell him, he will be able to get out of Siberia." The man said, "Of course."

Soon enough, the friend was released from Siberia and came to the Rebbe. He asked what he could do to express his gratitude. The Rebbe told him, “Wash for Melaveh Malkah every Motza'ei Shabbos.” He said, “That’s all?" The Rebbe said, “Yes. I promised Dovid HaMelech that you would wash for his meal of Melaveh Malkah, and that’s how you got out of Siberia!”

When I heard this, I thought to myself that if washing for Melaveh Malkah can save someone from Siberia, imagine how many smaller things it can do? Of course, there are many reasons to wash, but this is what got me to wash for Melava Malkah. Since then or shortly after, I have washed for Melaveh Malkah every single Motza'ei Shabbos--except for one time eight years ago, when I felt so sick that I had to go straight into bed on Motza'ei Shabbos and didn't wake up until the next morning.

If anyone doesn’t keep this custom this yet, I would encourage them to start. There are many good reasons to do so besides this story. Because of Shlomo Carlebach, I have been washing for Melaveh Malkah so many years now. May this be still another source of merit for his neshamah.

UPDATE: Mordechai Schiller informs us that the rebbe was the "Heilige Shinover." Reb Shlomo finished the story by saying that Dovid Hamelech looks at everyone with Moshiach's eyes. Everything little thing a Jew does is precious. Then he added a brochah: "When you look at yourself, expect the most. But when you look at others, see every little thing as precious..."

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Breslov Approach to Education

Photo by Roman Vishniac, 1938

Translation by Dovid Sears

Rabbi Shimshon Barsky, a descendant of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, was one of the foremost teachers in Uman's Breslov community in the decades before the Stalinist purges. This letter was written in the early 1930's, immediately prior to the breakup of the community and the murder, imprisonment, or forced exile of its members. After Reb Shimshon passed away in 1935, his family escaped to Poland, and a number of his descendants now live in Eretz Yisrael and in the Chassidic community of Brooklyn, NY. The letter below is printed at the beginning of Reb Shimshon's classic Breslov work, Likutei Eitzos Ivri-Teitch ("Rebbe Nachman's Collected Advice Explained in Yiddish"), reprinted in 1978. A Hebrew translation recently was published as Gevuros Shimshon. Reb Shimshon's message remains as relevant as ever today.

Reb Shimshon Barsky's Letter

May G-d be blessed

To my dear son, Noson, and his entire family, may they live:

Please tell me about my precious, esteemed grandson, Yisrael, may he live long: if he now goes to cheder (school), if he knows the Hebrew letters and vowel points, and if the melamed (teacher) has taught him the blessings for the various kinds of food and drink, and so forth.

Let there be no excuses: the melamed should treat him pleasantly in every way, and never frighten or threaten him at all, for any reason. The mind of a child is extremely sensitive. Therefore, one must never frighten a child or threaten him for any reason, so that he should come to no harm, G-d forbid.

Additionally, tell the melamed that he must never display anger or rage. No excuses! He must not inculcate fear in the child, neither while teaching him the siddur (prayer book) nor while teaching him the blessings, etc. Rather, he should relate to the child in a calm, pleasant manner, without anger or harshness, so as not to upset him.

Without any excuses, he should fulfill everything I have written in this letter, and may G-d help you to raise all your children in the ways of Torah and good deeds, with material blessings and nachas (emotional gratification).

Your father,


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Engage Your Shul - Canfei Nesharim

From Canfei Nesharim: Deadline, November 8th

For Your Community / Engage Your Shul

You can make a difference!

Applications now open to join our 2010-11 Communities Program! More information

Canfei Nesharim is dedicated to empowering leaders to educate their own communities about the importance of protecting the environment from the perspective of Torah and halacha. We provide resources for rabbis and lay leaders to explain the connections between Torah and the environment and encourage their communities to make a difference. We offer holiday programs, parsha materials, and other materials to help you engage your community in our work, to sustain Hashem's resources for the benefit of our children.

Explore our resources for your shul!

Holidays: Resources for your community by the times of the Jewish Year
Weekly Torah Teachings: A dvar Torah on the environment, for each parsha of the year
Program Ideas: Activity ideas for children and adults, and free stickers, magnets and keychains to order for your community events

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Breslov Seforim Online

Rabbi Moshe Yaakov Rosen of Monsey, founder of Sifrey Breslov many years ago, now has a website: Everything Breslov

This site is a real "first," in that it makes a wide range of Breslov publications available online from a Breslov bookseller who knows every item in his catalog and can answer any questions the customer may have.

Rabbi Rosen is a respected member of the Breslov community, who recently retired from teaching in a local yeshivah. (If you are ever in Monsey, he also would be an interesting person to meet, especially since he knew many of the now-legendary figures in the Breslov world, both in America and in Eretz Yisrael.) We wish him great success in his new venture.

New Tefillin Fund

We are sad to learn that one of our guest speakers for the Breslov Center, who lives in Eretz Yisrael, was the victim of a theft recently. His Tefillin were stolen. This rabbi has barely enough money to meet his daily living expenses, his wife needs medical treatment for a chronic condition, and now on top of everything, he must borrow Tefillin every morning to pray. Therefore, we are undertaking a campaign to buy him a pair of Rashi Tefillin. (He has the use of someone else's Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin for the present time.) It would be a tremendous zekhus to help a person of this rabbi's stature as a talmid chokhom and oved Hashem.

Helping others to obtain Tefillin is a great tikkun (act of spiritual repair) for having neglected this mitzvah at any point in one's life.

In fact, wearing Tefillin is comparable to studying the Torah day and night (Midrash Tehillim). Therefore, it is an extremely great thing to help another person to perform this mitzvah by buying him Tefillin!

Since the Breslov Center no longer has tax-exempt status, we have asked Rabbi Rosenberg of Eizer L'Shabbos to sponsor this tzedakah campaign. Checks should be made out to Eizer L'Shabbos. But be sure to write "Tefillin Fund" on your check.

If all you write is "Eizer L'Shabbos," the money will be used to pay for food packages to needy families in Tzefat, Israel -- a very worthy cause, but right now our priority is getting those Tefillin!

We are very grateful to Rabbi Rosenberg for his lev tov in helping out with this mitzvah. He is always there to help a person in need.

Please send your tax-deductible contribution to:

Eizer L'Shabbos
5014 16th Ave, Suite 319
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204

Rabbi Sutton in Manhattan and Monsey - October 18 through November 3

Our friend David Schweke tells us that Rabbi Sutton will be lecturing in Manhattan and Monsey from October 18-November 3. One weekend is still open (Shabbat Chayey Sarah, Oct. 29-30). For more details, visit David Schweke's website:

It has been the Breslov Center's honor to host Rabbi Sutton several times in the past, and although we're not directly involved this time, we welcome him back again.

To sample Rabbi Sutton's teaching style, visit his YouTube learning channel:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yosef Karduner Concert - October 16th

JMC season starts this
Saturday Night, October 16th
Doors open 9pm
Cover $15

More info at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Exciting New Lecture Series (Plus Some Golden Oldies)

From a representative of Congregation Aish Kodesh, Woodmere, NY:

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger began teaching the Monday night Introduction To Chassidus class at Aish Kodesh in October of 1994, just under two years after the founding of our shul. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed and that this one class generated over 420 recorded shiurim. During that time Rabbi Weinberger taught about the lives of and Torahs from (in the order taught):

Reb Mordechai Yoseph Of Izhbitz (Mei HaShilo'ach)
The Toldos Yaakov Yoseph
The Tzemach Tzedek
Reb Tzadok Hakohen
The Avnei Nezer
Reb Areleh Roth
The Be'er Mayim Chaim
The Kozhnitzer Maggid
The B'nei Yissaschar
The Ba'al Shem Tov
The Divrei Chaim of Sanz
Reb Leibele Eiger
The Yid HaKodesh
Reb Simcha Bunim Of Pshischa
The Kedushas Levi
The Noam Elimelech, and finally, for almost six years,
Rebbe Nachman M'Breslov

In Rabbi Moshe Weinberger's own (somewhat summarized) words:

"Although we should not, and will never leave the teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov, the Tanya, Rebbe Nachman and so many other tzaddikim, it is very easy to remain in a state of merely gathering more and more Torahs and hearing many principles that are tucked into these teachings. That, however, doesn't guarantee that we come out with a clear way and path in our avodas Hashem and could very well mean that we remain jacks of all trades, but masters of none, picking up a lot of information but never getting the whole picture."

Utilizing the sefer Divrei Chachamim B'Nachas, a collection of essays by Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kluger (the Nezer Yisroel) Rav Weinberger now turns to providing us with a mahalach, a pathway how to integrate Chassidus into our lives; how to connect our hearts and souls to those routine activities that shape our days. We have just uploaded the first shiur of the series Living The Derech Of The Ba'al Shem Tov, recorded before the Yamim Tovim. The emphasis of the title is "Living," as opposed to just studying. This is a wonderful new way to reenergize ourselves and begin a new seder and path in our lives. Hatzlachah rabbah to all in all of our various endeavours both in ruchnius and gashmius.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Special Request for Personal Stories from Gerim

I am putting together a book about Gerim and plan to include some stories of Gerim, especially (but not exclusively) those who became Chassidim and those who were inspired by Chassidic teachings.

Please contact me if you are interested to have your story included. I am particularly interested to include stories about how Gerim first discovered Yiddishkeit, overcame obstacles during the geirus process, and what attracted them to whatever teachings inspired them.

Dov ben Avraham