Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shloshim of Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin z''l

The Zeitlin family recently sponsored a dinner in memory of Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin, zal, a founder of the Breslov Center, at the Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin elementary school hall in Flatbush, which is catered by Yissachar Dov Zeitlin. A large and diverse group attended this moving event. Mordechai Zeitlin kindly provided these video clips of the various hespedim. Most are in Yiddish or a combination of Yiddish and English, but Rabbi Fund's and Shmuel Zeitlin's are in English. Reb Dovid will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Many women also attended by they don't appear in the videos due to separate seating, in keeping with Orthodox tradition. Reb Dovid's 90 year old mother, Mrs. Perel Zeitlin, may she have many more good years of health and nachas, was also present. 

Sefiras HaOmer / The Weeks Between Pesach and Shavuos

From “Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present,” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

According to Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender once stated that on the second night of Pesach in Uman, most Breslover Chassidim counted sefirah after the Seder. This seems to have been a regional minhag that is still followed in many Breslov circles in chutz la-aretz today. Reb Levi Yitzchak also mentioned that the legendary oved, Reb Getcheh of Uman, was accustomed to do so in shul with a minyan of bochurim, who had joined him for the Seder meal in the Beis haMedrash.
(Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 262. In support of this custom, see Rabbi Immanuel Chai Ricci, Mishnas Chassidim, Masechtas ha-Omer 1:1; Rabbi Menachem Azariah of Pano, Mayan Ganim, Seder shel Pesach, 35b; Siddur Tefilah Yesharah-Berditchev. The Chassidim of Karlin-Stolin count in shul be-tzibbur after the Seder. Others who count after the Seder include the communities of Chernobyl-Skver, Bobov, etc.)


However, Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski disputed this. He discussed this subject in detail with Reb Levi Yitzchok, who despite what is printed in Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh told him that most Breslovers in Uman counted the sefirah in shul after Ma’ariv. This was also the practice of Reb Avraham Moshe’s father, Rabbi Zvi Yosef Wasilski, and his chaburah in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
(Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 489:1 mentions the more common practice of counting in the synagogue after Ma’ariv. Among Chassidim, see Kedushas Aharon [Komarno] in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, et al.)


Reb Avraham Moshe asked Reb Levi Yitzchok if those who counted after the Seder did so be-tzibbur in shul, and he replied that they counted at home. As for the story about Reb Getcheh, Reb Avraham Moshe questioned the circumstances surrounding this incident, speculating that this may have been an exceptional occurance, when Reb Getcheh was in poor health.


Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld and his talmidim in Brooklyn used to count after the Seder.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Kramer)


EDITOR: Various schools of Kabbalah debate this issue. For example, the followers of the RaSHaSH (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) count the sefirah prior to the Seder, while the followers of Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzera count after the Seder.


Nusach: Breslover Chassidim are accustomed to recite the "le-shem yichud" and then to count the sefirah, followed by the additional psalms and kabbalistic prayers found in most Nusach Sefard siddurim. The last tefilah relates each day of the sefirah period to a particular combination of sefiros (e.g., the first day corresponds to "chesed she-be-chesed," etc.).


Reb Noson darshans on the custom to recite after counting the sefirah: “May it be Your will . . . that the Beis ha-Mikdash should be rebuilt speedily in our days.”
(Likutey Halakhos, Netilas Yadayim 6:29)


Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender told how in Uman, the Breslover Chassidim used to count the sefiras ha-omer together with hislahavus, hispa’alus, be-arikhus u-ve-kolos. This is still the derekh in Breslover communities today.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski)


Even when Reb Avraham did not daven before the amud, the tzibbur always was mekhabed him to lead the counting of sefiras ha-omer. His way of counting the sefirah was uniquely moving and powerful, and Jews of all types came to hear him and be inspired by him. Reb Dovid Rosenfeld, father of Reb Itzik Rosenfeld and a brother-in-law of Reb Gedaliah Kenig, said that even when Reb Avraham was ninety years old, he recited the words “u-le-tahareinu u-le-kad’sheinu…” like a young man who is consumed with the desire to attain kedushah ve-taharah.
(Heard Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


Rabbi Chaim Yehudah Schlessinger of Katamon, who was a grandson of the Lev Ivri and a son-in-law of Rabbi Velvel Mintzberg, told Reb Avraham Shimon Burshteyn that whenever he heard Reb Avraham davenning Ma’ariv during these weeks, he would stop and wait to hear him count the sefirah. Rabbi Schlessinger explained that Reb Avraham’s counting of the sefirah was without compare, and he found listening to him to be irresistible.
(Heard Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


Rabbi Moshe Burshteyn instituted the custom in the Ohr Avraham shul that the baal tefillah ends the Kaddish before counting the sefirah with a certain niggun to remind the mispallelim that they are about to recite the “Le-shem yichud” and count.
(Heard Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn, in the name of Rabbi Moshe Burshteyn. However, Reb Moshe was no longer sure if this minhag was his own, or came from Reb Avraham Sternhartz.)


Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to publicly announce “Ha-yom yom…” and the day and week of the sefirah in the synagogue after Shacharis, after the Kaddish following Aleinu. Reb Moshe Burshteyn instituted this minhag in the Ohr Avraham shul, as well.
(Heard Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


Reb Gedaliah heard from Reb Avraham that Breslover Chassidim follow the view of the Arizal that the restrictions of sefiras ha-omer remain in force until Erev Shavuos. He did not relax these restrictions even during the sheloshes yemey hagbalah.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Man and Rabbi Ephraim Kenig. See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha'ar Sefiras ha-'Omer, 7; also cf. Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh VI, 496. Reb Noson mentions this subject in Likutey Halakhos, Minchah 7:35; Lo Yilbash Gever 3.)


Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak mentioned that his father, Rabbi Noson Barsky, son of Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Uman, conducted himself the same way and did not cut his hair until Erev Shavuos.


These restrictions include not listening to music, except on Lag ba-Omer. Although the Arizal states that one may not cut one's hair until Erev Shavuos, he does not discuss music. However, the Poskim designate this as a time of aveilus. Therefore, it seems that one should also refrain from listening to music until Erev Shavuos.
(However, these restrictions may not apply to professional musicians and others who work in various phases of the music business. A musician who needs to practice and work during the weeks of sefirah, or a music producer, recording engineer, composer, music teacher, music therapist, etc., should consult a qualified Rov.)


Reb Gedaliah did not approve of making weddings during the entire sefirah period.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Man)


Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz wrote to Rabbi Avraham Jakobovitch of Toronto: “At this time, during the holy days of sefirah, we must greatly yearn for Hashem and prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew. We should recite Tehillim every day, which is extremely beneficial for Teshuvah, and thus receive the holy and awesome Yom Tov of Shavuos—the unique day that transcends all days, when we attain the holiness of Kesser [“Crown,” the highest sefirah], for which we have exerted ourselves throughout the days of sefirah…”
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Michtevei Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 3, p. 14)


Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender heard from Reb Avraham Sternhartz that in addition to the Tehillim he recited every day, Reb Noson had an extra shi’ur of Tehillim that he recited during the days of sefirah.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski)


It is a widely-observed custom to read a chapter of Pirkey Avos after Minchah on each Shabbos until Shavuos, and then the cycle begins again, continuing through the summer months. Reb Noson mentions this minhag in his letters.
(See Alim le-Terufah [Toras HaNetzach ed. 2000], Letter 261)


Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender stated that it was the minhag among Ukrainian Chassidim, including Breslover Chasidim, to eat a piece of matzoh left over from Pesach on Shabbos during the weeks of sefirah until Shavuos.
(Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 222. Cf. Rabbi Aharon Brandwein, Introduction to Tal Oros, re. Minhagey Alik; Erkhei Yehoshua [Manestrich], Perach Shoshanim, 156; et al.)


Reb Gedaliah was accustomed to put some matzos on the table during the week, from Pesach until Shavuos. If someone wished to eat, he could take whatever he desired. However, Reb Gedaliah wanted the matzah to be there.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

“Hinei Rakevet”: The Train From Lublin

Otzar Nachmani, sec. 169
From the collected talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein
Translated by Dovid Sears, unedited

[Rabbi Nachman Burstein relates about the Breslover Chassidim in Poland before World War II:]

I heard from Rabbi Itche Meir Korman that after Rosh Hashanah, when the Breslover Chassidim would returned home from the kibbutz (gathering) in Lublin, they traveled by train, each disembarking at his own home town.  Various groups of other Chassidim were on this train, as well, and once a debate took place as to which group was bigger. One said that his group had so many Chassidim, while another claimed that his group had so many Chassidim, etc. Finally, one Chassid exclaimed, “What are these numbers you’re bragging about? For us, there were so many Chassidim pressed together that it was mamash sakonas nefoshos, actual mortal danger!”

When the debate began to wind down, they turned to the group of Breslover Chassidim, and asked them provocatively, “And how was it for you? What could have happened without a Rebbe?”

One of the Breslovers (probably Reb Mordechai Sokolover, zal) replied, “Vos zogt ir, az bie eikh iz gevvezn mamash sakanas nefashos? What are you saying, that for you there was ‘mortal danger?’ Bie inz iz gevvezn mamash mechayeh nefoshos! For us, it was actual new life!”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Breslov Campus - Spring Semester Starts Thursday!’s Spring Semester is Starting Thursday, April 21st

7 New and Thought-Provoking Courses, 2 New Teachers, &; Even More Classes for the Introductory-level Student.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Shloshim Seudah for Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin, zal

Received by e-mail from Mordechai Zeitlin

סעודת שלושים וסיום משניות לכבוד אבינו מורינו הרה״ח ר׳ אליעזר דוד בן ר׳ יוסף צייטלין ז״ל 
יתקיים ביום ראשון לסדר אחרי-קדושים, ז׳ אייר תשע״ה בשעה 5:00 בערב
The Shloshim for our dear father Eliezer Dovid ben Yosef Zeitlin will take place at:

Yeshiva Chaim Berlin Elementary School
911 East 13th St., Brooklyn NY.
Sunday, April 26th 2017 at 5:00 pm

Men and women are invited.

Rav Elazar Kenig of Tsfat shlit"a plans to attend and share some of his memories of Reb Dovid, zal.

New Movie: Rebbe Nachman's Stories!

Here's a "first": A group of professional movie-makers and actors are creating a movie of the Rebbe's stories. Two versions are planned, one in Hebrew and one in English. Please watch the trailer. It will definitely leave you wanting to see the rest!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A “Treasure Trove” of Wonder

Otzar Nachmani, sec. 182
Collected talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein
Translated by Dovid Sears
[The Hebrew word “yirah” may be translated as wonder, fear or awe.]

[Rabbi Nachman Burstein relates:]

I heard from Reb Levi Yitzchok [Bender] that the chassid, Reb Moshe Shmuel of Uman (one of the anshei ma’amad, those appointed to oversee the Breslov Kloyz), often attended Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman Halevi Chazan during his last years. [Reb Moshe Shmuel] used to accompany him wherever he needed to go, and he used to escort him to the Rebbe’s holy tziyyun (grave site). Reb Moshe Shmuel told how once when he prostrated himself at the tziyyun, he overheard [the saintly Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman] entreating with deveykus, “Ribono shel Olam! Master of the Universe! Have pity on me! Help me, that I should love You, and that I should fear You!” He repeated these words again and again.

[Reb Nachman Burstein adds:]

In Likutey Moharan I, 17, it states that holy love and fear cannot be received except through the tzaddik ha-dor, who reveals love and fear; see wondrous things there. The Rebbe once said, “I’m a treasure trove of yiras shomayim [fear of heaven; wonder or awe]” (Chayei Moharan 294). And it is brought in the Zohar (Tikkuney Zohar, Tikkun 10): “Torah without fear and love does not ascend above.” And the directive is brought in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berakhos, end): “Act out of love, act out of fear”—on which the commentaries explain that love is the source of the 248 positive commandments, while fear is the source of the 365 negative commandments. From all this, it may be understood that the Rebbe’s tziyyun is the place to entreat Hashem for holy love and fear, in the merit of the tzaddik ha-dor who lies there; for he reveals love and fear.  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Melaveh Malkah in Moscow

Otzar Nachmani, sec. 167
From the collected talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein
Translated by Dovid Sears, unedited

[Rabbi Nachman Burstein relates:]
Rabbi Hirsh Leib Lippel, zal, told me that many times he was required [by the Soviet authorities] to travel to Moscow regarding his application to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael. While there, he usually stayed with [a fellow Breslover chassid], Reb Moshe “Moskover” (whose family name was Yeruslavsky). According to the Communist regulations, it was forbidden to take into one’s home a stranger who was not a resident of Moscow. The punishment for doing so was harsh—exile to Siberia. However, Reb Moshe endangered himself with mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the mitzvah of receiving guests, and did not heed the prohibition.

Reb Hirsh Leib told how on Motza’ei Shabbos, he often longed to sing the zemiros [of Melaveh Malkah, songs to bid farewell to the holy day] loudly, as was his way. However, this could not be done in Reb Moshe’s home, for fear of arousing the suspicions of the neighbors, [in particular] the Bolsheviks, who were on the lookout for strangers. Therefore, he came up with a strategy. He would go out to the street and pretend to be drunk—like the other drunks who could be found in the streets, according to their custom.

Thus, he started singing the zemiros vigorously, at the top of his lungs, to his heart’s content. Sometimes during his wanderings, he would stumble into some passerby in order to make him go away from him—because according to the law, it was forbidden to touch a drunk. Then he could sing unhampered.

Reb Hirsh Leib attested that the joy, enthusiasm and spiritual arousal he felt at that time, while singing the zemiros—especially “Adir Ayom vi-Norah”—was more precious than gold. And when he came to “Eliyahu ha-Novi,” which includes the words, “the man following whom they declared, ‘Hashem hu ha-Elokim!”—he screamed thunderously, with all his might, repeating seven times: “Hashem hu ha-Elokim! Hashem is G-d!”

He contemplated that Eliyahu was Hashem’s solitary prophet in the midst of nine hundred prophets of Baal and the Asheira [a tree dedicated to idolatry]. And now he too found himself in a street full of drunks and their drunken songs, while he alone directed his heart toward heaven, in singing songs and praises to Hashem…

[Reb Nachman Burstein adds:]
See “Yemey Moharnat” (Reb Noson’s diary), Part II, where Reb Noson describes how he and his disciple, Reb Yehudah Eliezer, while aboard the ship [bound for Eretz Yisrael], once danced along with the sailors. However, the latter celebrated with no thought as to the reason for their festivity—“whereas we, thank G-d, danced and rejoiced because of the privilege of going up to the Land of Israel, thus to recognize ‘the One who spoke and the universe came into existence.’ ” Reb Noson brings a parable from the “Toldos” [Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye], in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: “They danced out of drunken abandon…” see there.

A Good Beginning

Otzar Nachmani, sec. 177
From the collected talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein
Translated by Dovid Sears

[Reb Nachman Burstein relates:]

I heard from [Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender] that Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman once said: “When one begins the day by studying the Rebbe’s teachings, this instills in him holy desire and enthusiasm for all the Torah study of the rest of the day.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Barukh Dayan ha-Emes: Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin, zal

With a heavy heart, we announce the passing of Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin—Eliezer Dovid ben Perel and Yosef—on Erev Pesach, 14 Nissan, in the early hours before dawn at Brooklyn Hospital.

Shortly before Shavuos last year Reb Dovid was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor (GBM). When informed of the test results, he thanked the doctor and told his family at his bedside, “Whatever Hashem wants, I accept.” His emunah was unshakable, and as always, he never complained.

A descendent of the Baal ha-Tanya on his father’s side, and Rabbi Yechiel Schlessinger, a talmid muvhak of the Chasam Sofer and father of the Lev Ivri, on his mother’s side, Reb Dovid was born in New York in 1950. His parents, Reb Yosef, zal, and Perel (may Hashem give her strength at this time of grief), survived the Holocaust and settled in America after World War II. He attended the Viener Yeshiva as a boy, during the years when the melamdim were all Holocaust survivors, and often broken, traumatized men; lacking funds, the yeshiva was often forced to move from place to place, and its facilities consisted of the bare necessities. However, one of the highlights of his youth was his relationship with Rabbi Yonah Forst, zatzal, Rosh Yeshiva of Nitra, renowned for his shiurim in Chovos ha-Levavos, which had a profound effect on Reb Dovid. A spiritual seeker, Reb Dovid also became close with the old Skulener Rebbe and Reb Herschel of Spinka, and also felt a connection with the Satmar Rov, Shoproner Rov, Rav Moshe Bick, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zikhron tzaddikim levrakha. Throughout his teenage years, he assiduously studied the classics of Chassidus, such as Be’er Mayim Chaim, Maor va-Shemesh, Yosher Divrei Emes, Likkutim Yekarim, Tanya and the Chabad teachings. Then one day his father came home with a dozen seforim for him—which Reb Dovid later noted was the only time in his life that his father did such a thing—telling him that they were being sold in shul for very little money, and he thought that his intellectual son might be interested in them. These were the Breslov seforim that he would spend the rest of his life exploring, and whose teachings he would follow with exemplary devotion.

His main teachers in Breslov were Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig, zatzal, and his son Rav Elazar Kenig, shlit”a, the mara de-asra of the Tsfas Breslov community, whom he attended devotedly during the latter’s many visits to America, particularly before and after Rav Kenig’s lung transplant surgery some ten years ago. He was also one of the founders of the New York Breslov Center, and author of a still-unpublished translation of Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig’s Chayei Nefesh, and in more recent years, Breslov Eikh she-Hu on Breslov minhagim and hanhagos tovos (both co-authored with Dovid Sears). He first went to the Rebbe’s tziyyun in Uman with several friends during the early 1980s, during the Soviet years. During that period, he would travel to Meron for Rosh Hashanah to join the Breslover gathering near the tziyyun of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. After it became possible to attend “the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah” in Uman, beginning in 1989, he traveled there every year with mesirus nefesh until the last year of his life. He fully intended to go to Uman for Rosh Hashanah, even when he could no longer walk or feed himself, and traveling was impossible.

Reb Dovid was a talmid chokhom who learned bi-hasmadah throughout his life, even while working in various clerical positions, but who finally achieved his goal of studying full-time in kollel more than fifteen years ago. He was highly knowledgeable in both nigleh and nistar, and, although he held no formal rabbinic position, was fluent in halakhah. For most of his life he faithfully attended the Shabbos morning Shulchan Arukh shiur of Rabbi Ben Zion Strasser, shlit”a, Nitra Rov of Borough Park, who was his lifelong mentor and friend, as well as a relative through marriage. Ironically, another relative through marriage of Reb Dovid, the esteemed Rav Shmuel Wosner (author of the halakhic responsa Shevet HaLevi and Rosh Yeshiva of Chachmei Lublin in Bnei Brak), zatzal, passed away at age 101 on the same day.

According to Chazal, petirah on Erev Shabbos is an auspicious sign. Surely Reb Dovid Zeitlin’s neshamah tehorah went straight to gan eden.

May Hashem comfort and give strength to his mother, Mrs. Perel Zeitlin; his brother Hillel Zeitlin in Los Angeles and sister Mrs. Sheindel Vider in Brooklyn; his devoted wife, Mrs. Malka Zeitlin; his daughters Mrs. Gitty Brown and Mrs. Hindy Hecht; his sons Ben Zion, Yissachar Dov, Mordechai and Shmuel; his many grandchildren, as well as his extended family, friends and neighbors. May he be a meilitz yosher for them and for Klal Yisrael. Yehi zikhro barukh, may his memory be a blessing, amen.

Barukh Dayan ha-Emes: Rabbi Mayer Wasilski, zal

We are sad to announce the petirah of Rabbi Mayer Yitzchok Ben Tzvi Yosef Wasilski, zal, on Pesach. Reb Mayer was the Gabbai of the Breslov Shtiebel on 16th Ave and 55TH St in Borough Park for many years and worked on behalf of the Lakewood Yeshivah. A son of the prominent Breslov leader, Rabbi Herschel Wasilski, zatzal, he was born and raised in Breslov Chassidus. After attending Yeshivah Torah Vodaath, where his father was a respected melamed and maggid shiur, he attended the Breslov Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. He was a talmid of Rav Bergstein, the Rosh Yeshiva there, and had close relationships with Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender and Rabbi Elya Chaim Rosen, zatzal, since his childhood. As this unhappy news came to us unexpectedly, we don’t have enough information to write a fitting obituary yet. But Reb Meir was one of the key figures in the New York Breslov kehillah, and his loss will be keenly felt by all. May Hashem comfort his rebbetzin, children, brothers, sisters, extended family and friends, and may we soon see the day when Hashem will “wipe away the tears from all faces.” 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Expanded Consciousness

(c) Dovid Sears

A Pesach Prayer By Rabbi Ephraim ben Naftali, Tefilot HaBoker, 7
Entering the Light

Master of the Universe! Help me to attain holy memory—to remember the words of Your Torah constantly and not let them slip from my memory, in fulfillment of the verse: “They shall not cease from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of your children’s children, says God, from now until the end of time” (Isaiah 59:21).

Protect me from violating the prohibition of possessing even the smallest amount of chametz throughout the days of Pesach. Through this, may I be saved from falling into states of constricted consciousness that lead to all harsh judgments and all sufferings, God forbid. May I be worthy of seeing beyond the illusion of nature completely and eliciting the full manifestation of Divine Providence, which comes from expanded consciousness.

Grant me the privilege of eating matzah on the days of Pesach and, by so doing, attaining the perception of Divine Providence—to truly believe that the natural order is an illusion, and that everything takes place through Your Providence alone; to negate all perplexities and heretical ideas that befall humankind because of Your hidden ways; and to believe that all that transpires is for the good. We can accomplish all this by eating matzah in a state of holiness. Through the merit of eating matzah, may we be granted revelations of Godliness, to see and to know that everything reflects Your Providence.