Thursday, December 31, 2009
Sometimes a particular decision we make determines how the rest of the "game" will look like.
This is probably going to be the last post in this calendar year, so: may in the coming year, whatever the significance of its reckoning is, we find a way to unite the gashmius and the ruchnius. On every level.
And make as few stupid decisions as possible.
And have a little more bitachon in Eibeshter.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
(click on the image to enlarge)
From this website (click on the links above the map to toggle between color, black-and-white and comparison regime).
[Via Ilya Birman's blog. He also has very cool interactive map of Chelyabinsk street-car/tram routes. Click within the square to magnify.]
Moscow subway is rather pretty, especially when compared to one in Brooklyn.
Above the federal buildings' yellow gown A hazy flurry circles far and wide Within the sled the coachman sits down And with a broad gesture hides his coat inside. Ships fall asleep. And in the evening, rocking, Thick cabin windows fill to brim with light. And monstrously — just like a fortress docking — Russia is breathing heavily at night. On the Nieva stand hundred embassies; Admiralty, the sun, and silence glare. The state's tight porphyry upon us sits, Poor like an uncouth bodice made of hair. Hard is the journey of the Northern snob — Eugene Onegin's well-cliche'ed despair; On Senate square are mounds of fallen snow A bonfire's smoke, and chill of steel made bare. The ducks are sipping water, and the gulls In waving folds of sea are gently lurking Where, selling lumps of beef or tender rolls, Like opera singers peasant men are walking. Into the fog a row of birds is flying: Self-loving, modest march can't wait. That goof Onegin, poverty decrying Is breathing gasoline and cursing fate.— Osip Mandelstam
Я вернулся в мой город, знакомый до слез, До прожилок, до детских припухлых желез. Ты вернулся сюда, так глотай же скорей Рыбий жир ленинградских речных фонарей, Узнавай же скорее декабрьский денек, Где к зловещему дегтю подмешан желток. Петербург! я еще не хочу умирать: У тебя телефонов моих номера. Петербург! У меня еще есть адреса, По которым найду мертвецов голоса. Я на лестнице черной живу, и в висок Ударяет мне вырванный с мясом звонок, И всю ночь напролет жду гостей дорогих, Шевеля кандалами цепочек дверных.— Осип Мандельштам
Sometimes I really do miss Russia.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I've posted some of these before.
If you can understand the Russian and the French accent, what they are saying is actually rather profound.
Famous Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich “critiquing” the play of a young musician as a part of the Masterclass series.
(click on HQ for better picture and sound quality — in this case it may be necessary to understand Maestro)
You know, in this place, I think, Dvořák had tears. He think about something very sad, that he alone. And you know, I tell you: it is enormous help to artist, to musician, just imagination... not just something in music, but around music. Once, when I was very-very young, I rehearsing [...] sonata by Brahms, first movement. You know this ... [plays].
I rehearse it with Svyatoslav Richter. And Richter ask me:
— Slava, what you think, which weather was outside of his room, in the street, in moment when he composes.
I tell to Richter... I was young, very stupid... I tell to Richter:
— I... you know, Slava, particularly in this moment I was not in Vienne with Brahms. Not in Vienna. That's why I don't know which weather.
And he tell me:
— You know, I am sure, that in this moment rain in the street. And he coming to the window, and he see very gray, and rain. And he coming to piano and start compose.
You know, he opened for me feeling.
From the same concerto, “critique” by Paul Tortelier (starting 1:37 — incredible):
Good taste is made of thousand disgusts.
It is said that when Moshiach comes, we will be able to see the world but also see Hashem in it. Some tzaddikim already live on such a level.
It is amazing how well sometimes music relays one's emotions and can connect to emotions of the other.
A song by Klezmatics here. Contact me if you want the mp3.
Lyrics from the Youtube version:
Shprayz ikh mir mit gikhe mit gikhe trit,
Nokh a ferdl tsum yarid, tsum yarid.
Mitn tayser kling ikh mir, kling ikh mir,
Un a lidl zing ikh mir, zing ikh mir.
Tsu der shtot iz vayt, nokh zer vayt,
Shteyt a kretshmer bay der zayt, bay der zayt.
Brayt tse ofn iz di tir, iz di tir,
Kretshmer gib a glezl, gib a glezl mir.
Nokh a glezel, nokh eynz, nokh a gloz,
Gizt mir on der bale, der balebos,
Vos mir shtot un ven mir ven yarid,
Az keyn ferdl darf ikh nit, darf ikh nit.
Dos ferdl hob ikh nit gekoyft, nit gekoyft,
Un dos gelt shoyn lang farzoyft, lang farzoyft,
Un far tsores shpring ikh mir, shpring ikh mir,
Un a lidl zing ikh mir, zing ikh mir.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
(how computer sees a chess game)
A prelude to a small post about life and decisions, to be written a little later.
Easy and thoughtful fast to everyone.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
(full version here)
One of my favorite poems. A different and fuller version (I prefer Karachentzev above):
By Marina Tzvetayeva (Марина Цветаева)
По лесу, по пустыне,
В ранний и поздний час.
Люди по ним ходят,
Ходят по ним дроги,
В ранний и поздний час.
Топчут песок и глину
Топчут кремень и грязь...
Кто на ветру — убогий?
Всяк на большой дороге —
Треплются их отрепья
Всюду, где небо — сине,
Всюду, где Б-г — судья.
Сталкивает их цепи,
Так по земной пустыне,
Кинув земную пажить
И сторонясь жилья,
Нищенствуют и кня́жат —
Вот и сошлись дороги,
Вот мы и сшиблись клином.
Тёмен, ох, тёмен час.
Это не я с тобою, —
Это беда с бедою
Каторжная — сошлась.
Что же! Целуй в губы,
Коли тебя, любый,
Б-г от меня не спас.
Всех по одной дороге
Поволокут дроги —
В ранний ли, поздний час.
Monday, December 21, 2009
A very famous song by Vladimir Vysotsky. If you don't get Vysotsky (you don't have to like him), you don't get the Soviet culture.
The video is quite stupid, but it's the only one on Youtube with this song (update: there is another one, and it's even more stupid).
Lyrics in Russian here. Loose translation in English here.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Coming back from an emergency trip to NY (during which I had to respond to a family tragedy, but as a result lit all the candles of the menoira in a household, where not a single candle had been lit during the whole Chanukah), I had an interesting occurrence. Actually, it was rather commonplace, but it made me think of a conversation I recently had with my rabbi.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
In tractate Kiddushin, Mishna states that a man cannot betroth two sisters at the same time. If one betroths a group of women (e.g., five) at the same time, and amongst them are two sisters, the sisters are not betrothed (even though the other women are). The sisters are not legally betrothed — to the point that if one of them has a child from another man, the child is not a mamzer.
Gemara asks the question: what if the man gives two sisters a gift each and says “You are betrothed to me” to both of them, at the same time? Is one of them betrothed? Should the man write them both a get?
The original (Ch. 20 of Alter Rebbe’s Iggeres HaKoidesh, with commentaries):
На самом деле здесь имеется в виду следующее: они, [эти элементы, составляющие “костяк” мироздания, воплощают в себе не самый существенный] аспект Б-жественной эманации, [передающий способность] творить Нечто из Ничто, [ибо их связь с сутью Эйн Соф носит не субстанциональный*, а лишь функциональный характер, поскольку они участвуют в акте творения].
Подобно самой сути Эйн Соф, [обладающей способностью творить принципиально новые объекты, эти элементы наделены тем же свойством], а не только возможностью образовывать последовательность сущностей, соединенных с ними причинно-следственной связью.
* В своей книге, Тора Oр, автор делает следующее утверждение: “Суть Всевышнего не в том, что от Него образуются миры”. Созданиям известны лишь те аспекты Всевышнего, которые нашли свое выражение в творении.
The translation [sic — the brackets are in the original]:
In fact, there is the following in mind: they [the elements that make up the “backbone” of the universe, embody not the most important] aspect of a divine emanations, [transmitting ability] to create something from nothing, [because of their connection with the essence of Ein Sof is not * the substantial, but only a functional one, because they are involved in the act of creation].Overall, not bad, I must say. In my experience, online Russian–English translation has been quite horrible. The last sentence should say: “To creation are known only those aspects of G-d...”.
Like the very essence of Ein Sof, [possessing the ability to create entirely new objects, these elements are endowed with the same property], not only the opportunity to form a sequence of entities connected with a causal link.
* In his book, Torah Or, the author makes the following statement: “The essence of G-d is not that from him formed the worlds.” Creation known only to those aspects of G-d, which found expression in the world.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
(Joseph Stalin, y"sh — twice)
(Adolph Hitler, y"sh)
(Wow, that's an unflattering painting. Anyway: John F. Kennedy)
(Vladimir Putin — with some barrel distortion)
And now... drum roll...
(Ben Bernanke, Mr. “We screwed up your economy, but it could’ve been much worse”)
By the way: that picture of Obama above? I always wondered what it reminded me of.
I rather prefer William Wallace’s haircut, though.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I like the paintings of Russian Jewish artist, Boris Dubov. Not all (not his surrealist paintings), but many of them (more traditional ones).
See this web-site for his “Judaica” art.
Although, am I the only one, or do the works of this sort seem a bit cliché after a while? Somehow, I like this work a lot more.
(No, that's not a lame attempt at a pun.)
Hemshech “Mem Gimmel”, ma'amor “Tannu Rabannan – Neir Chanukah”. Rebbe Rashab asks the question: “How can you say, ‘I, Hashem, have not changed’, if indeed you see a tremendous amount of change from one world to another?” E.g., from Atzilus, the world of revelation, which is one with Hashem (“He and His causations are one”) — to the point that, for instance, Chochma of Atzilus is called literally the Brain of G-d — to our physical world, in which G-d is almost not revealed. That’s a big change. And since G-d creates the worlds, surely it means the change in Him, no?
Or, how can you say that G-d does not change if He is in control of every single atom’s movement in the Universe? Same logic.
There are many answers that Rebbe Rashab brings to explain this, from more philosophical to more profound. The first time I learned the ma’amor the following answer caught my attention because of its novelty to me:
In order for something to change, it needs a form. A metzius. The whole concept of change can be actualized only through that form.
G-d does not have a form. His revelation takes forms, but His Essence has no form, because it cannot be defined, constricted to a specific metzius. Therefore, His Essence is beyond the concept of change.
How about that? It’s not the deepest answer (that G-d’s mode of creation of the world is “yesh me’ayin”, ex nihilo), nor the most philosophical (that if you have simple infinity, a finite exertion of creative energy cannot cause change in it), but for me it is somehow the coolest.
Then again, some of the more skeptical folk may say this is just an excuse. Which is why you have to learn the rest of the ma’amor.
Another interesting thing about the above explanation is that the smarter a person is the less he thinks he understands it. (Actually, I think there may be some sort of inverted parabolic function.)
[Picture by Boris Dubov]
(This is not a sign of support of this low-life's public and private behavior either.)
Monday, December 14, 2009
My friend answered: to make things and people the best they can be. Or something along those lines.
I could say that I have these problems and those problems with the answer, and a different set of problems with the alternative answer, but the most intelligent thing I will say is that I still don't really know. (In general, ignorance seems to be my predominant state lately.)
But seeing this joke just now (on this blog) reminded me of my friend’s assertion:
The governor of Texas and his wife are driving through a small town and getting gas. The governor notices that his wife is looking very closely at the gas station attendant filling them up. He remembers that she was born and grew up in this very town and figures out what two plus two is. After they drive off, the following conversation ensues:
— Hey, aren’t you from this town?
— Yes, dear.
— And you dated a few guys in this town before you moved to Dallas and met me, didn’t you?
— Yep, sure did.
— Hmm. This is really just a wild guess, but is there a chance the guy filling us up was one of them?
— Yeah, you got it. He was my former boyfriend. Didn’t recognize me though.
— In that case, can I ask you what you were thinking about when you were looking at him? Were you thinking that had you married him instead of me, instead of being a wife of the governor of Texas, you’d be married to a gas station attendant?
— No, I was thinking that had I married him, he would be the governor of Texas.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
For scientists, math is an opportunity to make their field work (for ideas to emerge from one another, be understood, be predictable, be testable, etc.).
So, for mathematicians, science is a keli for their light. For scientists, math is like horseradish that you eat with gefilte fish. It's not that you can't eat fish without chrein. Or some herring with vodka. It's not like you can't drink vodka without herring, but herring makes it easier to go down. (Plus, everyone knows that a real farbrengen always has herring in it. The same way everybody knows that real science must have some math in it. And real Biology must have some Molecular Biology, even if your project is not about genetics at all.)
I know a person who would say: "Let's go buy some beer. I am in a mood for dried fish. Which beer? Preferably light, but I don't really care. I just like the fish." When asked why not eat fish right away, he would answer that everybody knows you only eat dried fish with beer.
The same way some mathematicians who come to my school really only want to do Math. They don't really care about science (physics, chemistry, Neuroscience, etc.). But they feel silly doing fundamental Math; they want to be doing something applied, whatever it is. The problem is: you really need to care about the science part in order for your Math models to make sense. I guess this may be the difference between art and science; in art, it doesn't really matter (well, for the last hundred years or so) that your work is realistic and is a good depiction of the world out there (I am not criticizing; I like abstract art).
If you think my mosholim are stupid, I don't care. I am not making chiddushim here; I am reminiscing. Also, if you don't like herring, you're a kalte misnaged. Or you haven't tried good herring.
In this scene, a friend of a lady who broke a man's heart came to convince the man that he is being an idiot and should come back. The background story is not important; watch the interaction between two men. Skip the scene with women crying. It's not important for the story. (Dubbing is a little off.)
I like this scene a lot too (there is a woman reading poetry, but not singing).
Assume the figure ABCD is a square. Divide the segment AB in half and through the point of division (E) create a line perpendicular to AB. This line will intersect the opposite side of the square (DC) at F. Such that DF = FC.
From the point C, create a segment CG equal to CB. Connect points A and G with a line and divide the segment AG in half by a point H. Then, from the point H create a line HK which is perpendicular to the segment AG.
Because the segments AB and AG are not parallel, the lines EF and HK are also not parallel. Therefore, they will intersect at some point (call it K). Let’s connect the point K with points D, A, G and C.
Triangles KAH and KGH are congruent (equal?), because they have a common side HK, because AH = HG, and because the angles at H are right angles (both equal to 90°). [Here we are invoking a well-known theorem that says that if two triangles’ sides and the angle between those two sides are equal, the triangles are congruent.] Therefore, KA = KG.
Triangles KDF and KCF are also congruent, because they have a common side FK, because DF = FC, and because the angles at the point F are right (both equal to 90°). Therefore, KD = KC, and angle KDC is equal to angle KCD.
Besides that, DA = CB = CG.
Therefore, the sides of the triangles KDA and KCG are equal. Therefore, angles KDA and KCG are equal. Let’s subtract from them the equal angles KDC and KCD. It is obvious that the results of the subtraction should also be equal; i.e., that angle GCD = angle ADC.
But, the angle GCD is an obtuse angle (>90°). While the angle ADC is a right angle (90°).
Therefore, sometimes, obtuse angle is equal to the right angle, which is what was required to prove and what is so far from the truth.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
"The Essence of Chanukah: Beyond Definitions"
"G-d or nature?"
"Spiritual timelessness of Judaism"
A post that doesn't have to do with Chanukah per se, but explains the idea of Essence vs. revelation, which was touched upon in the first post mentioned above.
Chanukah is a good time to learn the topic of Ani Hashem loi shanisi. Why? Because it's discussed in Mem Gimmel: Tannu Rabanan, which is connected to Chanukah (well, Tosfos vs. Rashi questions regarding Menoira is the ma'amor's passport). I will try to present to main idea of the ma'amor over the holiday.
By the way, my rabbi told me a story once. He gave over the sicho of the Rebbe, in which the Rebbe asnwers Brisker Rav's question regarding how could the oil be miraculous and be kosher at the same time. In order to to a mitzva, one needed regular oil and regular fire — normal according to the laws of the world. The Rebbe explains that what happened was not that the oil was burning more slowly or lasted longer, but that it was burning and not burning at the same time.
This was not a miracle, but a nimna ha’nimnaos — a contradiction of the laws of logic. Which is possible when only the Essence of G-d is revealed. Which is why Chanukah is on a such high a level, and why it will be celebrated when Moshiach comes. Fine.
When my rabbi finished his talk, somebody in the audience asked: “Why can't you say that the oil was really burning, and the Halacha was being kept and not kept at the same time?”
Thursday, December 10, 2009
An excerpt from Rabbi Paltiel's class on ma'amor Vayeitzei (hemshech Samech Vov), where he describes a story of one talmid chochom comparing the Rebbe to Rambam and describing how both saw Torah. This also explains why it's so valuable to learn your daily Rambam (besides hiskashrus to the Rebbe).
The whole shiur (second from the series) is very nice too. Elucidation of the idea introduced in the first shiur that pnimiyus Abba — pnimiyus Attik, that in Chochma of Atzilus (Abba), there is a package of Atzmus, Hashem's Essence (which is copied, literally, in Attik). Which is why we can reach Hashem's Essence not only through mitzvos and mesirus nefesh, but also through struggling in Torah.
He brings an interesting illustration. In Tanya we say that nefesh elokis is a part of Essence, literally, and then we start talking about Chochma Ila'ah (the Higher Chochma) being the source of the souls, just like the brain of the father is the source of the nails of the son. Wait a second, how did we get from the Essence to Chochma all of a sudden? Because the Essence is packaged in Chochma (which makes it accessible through toil in Torah).
Which shows again: we learn Tanya, and we have no idea what we're learning. (We, Nicholas II.)
- Папа, а как мы победили греков?
- Беезрас ашем!
- Тогда зачем нужны Маккавеи?
- Они были только солдатами. Ашем помог им, беезрас ашем, и, барух ашем, они победили.
- Маккавеи были солдатами???
- Аааа.. солдатами Ашема, цеваот Ашем.
- А, ну я понял, они были хабадниками!
- Нет! Нет! Тогда хабадников не было.
- А у Йегуды Маккавея было оружие?
- Так, наверное, Йегуда был хилонимный или вообще гой?
- Хас вешалом, почему вдруг он был хилонимный?
- Но ведь только хилонимные идут в армию!
- Когда-то религиозные тоже служили в армии.
- Так почему Маккавеи служили в армии, а мы нет?
- Это потому, что Тора нас охраняет.
- Но почему тогда Тора не охраняла их?
- Слушай, почему бы ты не пошёл бы к Мойши поучить мишнайот?
- Маккавеи учили мишнайот?
- Учили Тору, много Торы.
- И не работали?
- Хас вешалом!
- Так, наверное, Антиох давал им деньги?
- Ну нет, не совсем. Они работали кое-где и зарабатывали что-то.
- По-черному, как наш дядя Янкель?
- Янкель не работает по-черному!
- Так как же работал Матитьягу?
- Он был крестьянином.
- Ааа, он был таиландцем?
- Боже упаси, почему таиландцем?!
- Так как же он работал в поле в костюме и белой рубашке?
- А почему ты считаешь, что он был в белой рубашке?
- Так Мойши сказал мне, что настоящие евреи носят только белые рубашки.
- Ты слишком много времени проводишь с Мойши. Но вообще-то он прав!
- А что хотели Маккавеи ?
- Они хотели самостоятельное государство, без греков.
- Так мы тоже этого хотим ?
- Да, только нельзя говорить про это - мы же не сионисты!
- Папа, папа, я хочу быть солдатом, сионистом, маккавеем!!!
- Ты что, с ума сошёл??? Гевалд!
- Папа, я пошутил, я пошёл на концерт хасидской музыки вместе с Мойше.
- А, хорошо, передай привет его отцу !
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Result? The government is scared of them. Neither Mumbai nor Obama (FDR, Stalin, Hitler, whoever) are likely to happen in Switzerland.
This man realized importance of knowing how to defend yourself while visiting a Holocaust museum (~2:01):
Now, you would think that Swiss streets would be constant gang war zones, right? Well, the country has one of the lowest crime rates. And it's not like the country has nothing to steal.
The key to freedom is ability to defend yourself. And if you don't have tools to do that, then you're at the mercy of whoever wants to put you away.
Tikhonov played in a wide variety of movies. As a young actor he played count Volkonsky in War and Peace (“I said that a fallen woman can be forgiven. I did not say I can forgive her”). A soldier in They Fought for the Motherland, a teacher in Let’s Live until Monday (“Love is blind. Earn their respect first”), etc., etc.
His most famous role, however, will always remain that of the Soviet intelligence officer, Max Otto Stirlitz (aka Maxim Isayev) in the Nazi Germany.
This is one scene from the movie, Seventeen Moments of Spring. In it, he is sitting in a cafe and is trying to remember when was the last time he had seen his wife. It is, I believe, 1944 or ’45, and the last time he’s seen her was in something like 1938. At that point he also had not seen her for a while and was already deep in the Nazi ranks. Soviet intelligence arranged a meeting, but all they could afford to do (because of the Nazi eyes being everywhere) is to sit in a cafe for a few minutes across from each other. Although the movie is not silent, in this scene there are no words.
There is a color version of this scene which looks very nice, but somehow I prefer the original.
Another scene, a little lighter:
— Well, in any case, I did not say that.What is remarkable about the scene, the movie and the whole Soviet cinematographic industry is eidelkeit. Something one does not see either in American movies or in modern Russian ones.
— Better I play for you, and you shall dance. I haven’t seen how people dance for a long time.
— Hmm, I am ready.
— You know, I have often wondered: why do you show such tenderness for frau Saurich? She says you remind her of the older son... Or maybe she reminds you of your mother?.. Then why?
— Simply... of all people who live on the Earth, I like children and old people the most.
— Is that so?.. I don’t think I belong to either.
— No you do not.
Monday, December 7, 2009
After saying that, the Rebbe commented that if you look it up on the calendar, that year was a leap year. So, there were actually ten months between the two dates.
The thing is, continued the Rebbe, that tzaddikim require an additional month for the development.
Rabbi Paltiel comments: had the Rebbe not told us that the year was a leap year, nobody would have looked it up. He would totally get away with it.
This made me think. How many things the Rebbe said that we later look at in a greater detail and say: “Wait a second... What about...? But isn’t it...?” We have to remember that we don’t know all the details.
The famous story about the gem that needed to be ground up for the king’s son who got sick went on like this. Baal Shem Tov had an inner circle of students and an outer circle of followers. He was the Rebbe to a wide range of people but he taught Chassidus to a select few. The Maggid was the Rebbe only to his talmidim, but he was less selective about whom to take as a student than the Baal Shem Tov.
One of the tzaddikim, original talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov — let’s say it was Karliner Rebbe — was disappointed about the lower standards of selection process and criticized the Maggid about it. One day, he went from the shull to the outhouse. As he was walking back through the courtyard, he saw a piece of paper on the ground. He bent down to pick it up and saw that it had Baal Shem Tov’s Chassidus written on it.
What happened was that one of the talmidim of the Maggid wrote down on a piece of paper his vort and then copied it into his notebook. Then he got rid of the original piece of paper. He should have torn it up first, but he just threw it into the furnace. Because of the back draft, the piece of paper flew up the chimney and out of it, landing in front of the outhouse.
Karliner Rebbe got very upset about it. He walked in, furiously, back into the shull. The Maggid, sitting in the other room suddenly started feeling heaviness creeping in onto him and began sensing that it is Karliner Rebbe’s kipeida.
Meanwhile, in the shull, Alter Rebbe was sitting learning. He sees Karliner Rebbe walk in with a piece of paper in his hand and the expression on his face. Immediately catching on what happened, Alter Rebbe gets up and comes over.
Karliner Rebbe goes to do netilas yadayim, and as he is doing netilas yadayim and then saying Asher Yotzar, Alter Rebbe is saying the story about the king’s son who got sick, for which purpose they ground up the king’s most precious jewel, most of which ended up on the ground, but some of which got into the prince’s mouth, saving his life. (Rabbi Paltiel comments: he was saying the whole story while Karliner Rebbe was washing and saying Asher Yotzar. Either Alter Rebbe could speak very fast, or Karliner Rebbe had a lot of kavanah.)
As Alter Rebbe finishes the story, Karliner Rebbe smiles and finishes Asher Yotzar: “...rofei chol basar u’mafli la’asois” (“...who cures all the flesh and makes miracles”). The Maggid feels the heaviness of the kipeida lift off from him. Later he told Alter Rebbe: “From now on, every year that I live I owe to you.”
When the talmidei Maggid decided to create a counter-herem against misnagdim, they decided to put a kipeida on Vilna Gaon so that he would lose his mind. For this they needed a greater scholar than him. The two of them traveled to see Alter Rebbe and told him what they wanted to do. Alter Rebbe answered: “This will be chillul Hashem”. They asked again and again, and Alter Rebbe refused again and again.
Mitteler Rebbe was sitting outside the door and learning with Reb Aron Strasheler. The two talmidei maggid raised their voices in the argument, and one of them said: “If you refuse, chillul Hashem will come on your family through one of your children.” When Mitteler Rebbe heard this, he fainted. Hearing the commotion outside, Alter Rebbe walked out and saw Mitteler Rebbe on the floor, with chassidim surrounding him. He put a hand on his head and said: “It doesn’t mean you.”
Alter Rebbe’s youngest son, Moshe, ran to Alter Rebbe and grabbed his legs. Alter Rebbe put a hand on his head and was coming back to his office. One of the talmidei Maggid told him: “You have one more chance.” Alter Rebbe repeated: “It will be chillul Hashem” and got in response: “Chillul Hashem will come through one of your children”, with Moshe standing right there. The rest is history...
Victory of Yud Tes Kislev and Chassidus in general is over this mentality (among other things). In particular, the first two points. I mean, Alter Rebbe was pretty much told so by his teacher the Maggid and by Baal Shem Tov.
It would be fun to explain what exactly is wrong with the post, but I have no time, and most people who know anything about what Chassidus is will realize the silliness of the post's contents.
(Link originally referenced by Dixie Yid.)
In Lubavitch, there is blind faith with an explanation. In Breslov, there is blind faith. Everything is G-d. There is not even yetzer ha'rah. Imagine you're walking on the street, trip and fall on your face. A Breslover would say: "G-d just punched me in the nose."
A farbrengen tonight with Rabbi Yossi Paltiel in the place of re-doubled darkness and kaltkeit. Some of the stories I've heard before, but some I have not. Overall, an amazing talk as usual (close to the end of the talk, I've seen at least two people wiping off tears). I apologize for poor sound quality; I think I placed the recorder too close. Although the sound improved after e's uncle turned off the microphone.
After the official talk, there was a long farbrengen, parts of which I might post later after some heavy editing. At the beginning, Rabbi Paltiel told a story of a guy whose name was Reb Reuven Dunin. His father was a Litvishe Yid, but he himself fried out and became a Zionist. He drove a tractor working with other people on cultivating land in Haifa region.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
So, I give you my old post instead. To be continued... Gutt Yom Tov.
Actually, just before I go rest a bit, I can't help but give a little thought. Answering the question "Who is G-d?", Rav Saadia Gaon answered: "Ilu yadativ, hayisiv" — "If I knew [Him], I would be [Him]." Which makes sense. And is a separate topic on its own.
The thing is: Rebbe Rashab once said that when he meditated on Chassidus Chabad, on G-d, on His relationship with the world, on the purpose of the world's creation, on G-d's Essence and Revelation, etc., etc., — while meditating on all this, Rebbe Rashab "yadativ ve'hayisiv". "I knew Him and I was Him." There are several ways to understand this statement, and intelligent people will pick the more intelligent way.
And here comes the politically incorrect bit. A lot of people say that they have studied Chassidus. A lot of people say they have studied Chassidus Chabad. But, they say, "Chassidus is not for me. I can't say I am a chossid. I have learned Chassidus, I understand and know what I have studied, but..." My answer to that? "Ilu yadativ, hayisiv." If you knew it [Chassidus], you would be it [a Chossid]. No way around it. Sorry...
In my humble opinion. (Hey! No snorting!)
Monday, November 30, 2009
I understand using words like “krieger”.
What I don’t understand is using words like “Westmorelands”. Is that even a real geographic location? Sounds like one of those places where a hero of some RPG game is supposed to travel to get the cooperation of the king of dwarves in the war with the dark elves.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Looking at the mix of Russian, English, Aramaic and Hebrew (not to mention the figures), I though that this was actually a pretty good representation of my current life:
And so I go through my life, trying to look at Torah through the prism of my secular background, trying to look at my secular world through the magnifying glass of Torah, and trying to make sense of both.
It also reminded me of a painting by Escher, with a similar title:
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I decided to re-publish the end of the last post as a separate post.
I had a discussion [on Thursday] in the car. I said that one can learn a lot about life from Yiddishkeit. Not only explicitly. One learns and learns, and then the logic of what he is learning, the relationship between the concepts, can be applied to everyday situations, decisions, problems. I can see it in Chassidus; I am sure it is certainly the case with nigleh as well.
I got in response: you can get the same from Biology. And Physics. And Math. And literature. From learning how to play balalaika. I answered: sure. But what I am talking about is Jewish chochma. It’s appropriate for us as a source of advice in life. Not that we should ignore other sources. Probably.
But the point is: “If they tell you that other nations have wisdom, believe them. If they tell you the nations have Torah, don’t believe them.” There is a difference between wisdom and instruction of what one’s life is all about. And by the way, voz is chochma? Chochmas ha’Torah. A non-Jew (or a secular Jew; or a presumably frum Jew using secular sources) can write a book analyzing some sugya in Talmud. And everything that he will write will be true. But it won’t be Torah. It will not be Hashem’s Will of how you should live your life.
More about the last point (what learning Torah really means) here.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I have no idea what my opinion is on what he said. Yes, maybe, he is right that this is the trend. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it just appropriate? I have no idea. Certainly, to me there seems to be a problem in approaching everything in Judaism and our lives from chumra perspective. Certainly, to me there seems to be a (possibly even bigger) problem in doing whatever you want in life, and then making sure, b’dieved, that you haven’t violated Halacha. If barely...
I was listening to something today, however, which made me think about this question. Rabbi Paltiel was discussing in a shiur (third one) on the ma’amor “V’yishlach” (from hemshech Samech Vov) the idea of getting to Atzmus Eloikus, the Essence of G-dliness. Why, he said, can we not get to it? Because we are trying too hard. Every time we are trying to get somewhere or get something, we are only able to grasp some level of gilui, revelation. Atzmus cannot be b’gilui. Essence cannot be revealed. So, the harder you try, the more elusive it becomes. You will get to some level of G-dliness through a positive effort, but not the Essence.
So, how can you get to it? Through mitzvos loi ta’aseh, negative commandements forbidding us to do certain things. Because by following them, one is not actively doing something, reaching somewhere, but in fact he is just staying away from something. But — for the purpose of Hashem. (This, says, Rabbi Paltiel, is the difference between a Jew not trying to get to G-d and a sinner, or a cow, not trying to get to G-d.)
As an illustration of the idea, Rabbi Paltiel tells a story. After the passing of the Rebbetzin Nechama Dina, the Rebbe’s brother-in-law, Rashag, wanted the Rebbe to have a seider together with him. The Rebbe answered: “On Peisach I sit by myself.” So, Rashag asked him again several times and then sent a shliach: a chossid of the Rebbe, Rabbi Simson, who was older both than the Rebbe and the Rashag, and was a deep person. Rabbi Simson could not say “no” to Rashag, but could not ask the Rebbe to do something that the Rebbe didn’t want to do. So, he walked in into the Rebbe’s office, stood there without saying anything, and walked out.
Later, at the end of Adar, Rashag asked the Rebbe again about his plans for the seider. The Rebbe answered: “As I said, on Peisach I sit alone.” Rashag asked him if he talked to Rabbi Simpson. The Rebbe answered: “Yeah. He was here and stood silently. And his silence spoke.”
The other story is about something that happened to a very holy and deep Jew during the War of Independence in Israel. There were snipers everywhere, and it was impossible to go out. There was no food, and the man said he would go out to get the bread for his little daughter. His wife said: “You can’t go. They will shoot you.” The Jew answered: “I will go. I will not see them; they will not see me.” He went, got the bread and came back. How? Was he invisible? No, if a camera took a picture of the street, it would capture the man’s image. It’s just that he didn’t care about the world, and he made the world not care about him.
Hashem is not hiding. He is just not seen. Because we keep looking. But when a Jew does a mitzva loi ta’seh, he does something for Eibeshter, but he is not looking for Him. And thereby he reaches Hashem’s Essence.
This all reminded me, lehavdil, of this master class, in which András Schiff says: “Silence is the most beautiful thing in music.” Which is reminiscent of, lehavdil, the message of the later chapters of Alter Rebbe’s Sha’ar HaYichud ve’ha’Emunoh (second book of Tanya), in which he explains that concealment of G-dly Light comes as much from G-d as the revelation of the Light. In fact, when the G-d reveals His Light, that’s not a big deal. That’s status quo. C’est normal, as the French say. When G-d conceals the Light — now, that’s a sign that takeh der Eibeshter is involved. Which is a very encouraging idea for us, when in our lives something negative happens, G-d forbid.
My pianist friend says: when some musicians play, silence is the most beautiful part of their music... :)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I attended a really awesome talk by a visiting post-doc this morning. In which he talked about squirrels, college students, pregnant women whose brains should be drunk but are not, hibernation and bloodletting.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The name of the song is “Mardjandja”.
I have already posted this song (played by two guitars). My pianist friend says he likes this guitarist more (more soul):
For those preferring Jewish music, in the honor of the recent yortzeit of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg:
“We came to disperse the darkness”
(source — download the video)
More of the music by the guy on the right.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The discussion on Moshiach is OK, but I was not too impressed by the content of the conversation at the beginning.
Interesting little question about the Rebbe asking Rav Moishe for halachic opinions and the possibility of Rebbe making mistakes.
Form is very nice, though. The menchlachkeit of the conversation is especially refreshing. Nobody’s banging the table, screaming out “vos hakstu chainik?!”, or getting personal. Not to mention that nobody got sprayed with mashkeh.
The following are some of the auspicious dates that occur in the month of Kislev:I personally welcome this month, because, with all due respect, this Cheshvan was supposed to be very happy for me, but turned out to be one of the unhappiest months in my life (in a revealed way only — and even then, not in all areas, since there were some things which went very well, boruch Hashem… and of course, b’pnimiyus, everything was a blessing from Eibeshter).
1st of Kislev: The Rebbe returned home in 5738 (1978), having recovered from a heart attack.
2nd of Kislev: The books were returned to the Lubavitch Library following a lengthy court case in 5748 (1987).
3rd of Kislev: Marriage of the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, in 5564 (1803).
6th of Kislev: The Rebbe’s engagement in 5689 (1928).
9th of Kislev: Birth and yahrtzait of the second Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Mitteler Rebbe; he was born on the 9th of Kislev, 5534 (1773), and passed away on the same date in 5588 (1827).
10th of Kislev: Release of the Mitteler Rebbe from Czarist imprisonment in 5587 (1826).
11th of Kislev: The Rebbe was called to the Torah in preparation for his marriage in 5689 (1928).
14th of Kislev: Marriage of the Rebbe in 5689 (1928).
18th of Kislev: Completion of the annual study of Tanya.
19th of Kislev: Yahrtzait of the Magid of Mezritch in 5533 (1772).
19th-20th of Kislev: Release of the Alter Rebbe from Czarist imprisonment in 5559 (1798); this date marks the “Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus.”
20th of Kislev: The Tanya was first printed in 5557 (1796).
26th of Kislev: The Alter Rebbe received the first edition of Tanya in 5557 (1796). Bris of the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Rebbe Rashab, in 5621 (1860).
27th of Kislev: Release of the Alter Rebbe from his second imprisonment, in 5561 (1800); this coincided with the third day of Chanukah. Although he was freed, he was required to reside within the city of Petersburg.
29th of Kislev: Release of the Alter Rebbe from his second imprisonment — according to alternative accounts. The Rebbe suggested that significant developments in his release occurred on both the 27th and the 29th of Kislev.
In retrospect, actually, it makes a lot of sense. Which brings me to my main question: why so much simcha in Kislev? Why less simcha in some other months? How did it happen that we have holidays in particular days and not others? Coincidence? Random historical occurence? The following is an exerpt from a post I wrote last year, around Chanukah time.
What University education really gives
you is the knowledge how to use sources.
— Andrzej Sapkowski
And then your sense of humor kicks in (usually when it’s really late… coffee also helps). And you want to write only: “How old are you? Which perek of Tehillim do your read every day? Are you fourty five? Fifty five? Fifteen?”
And then you sit back, and ask yourself: “If he does this, what can you expect from … ? From yourself? From … ?”
And suddenly it is so easy to be non-judgmental. And forgiving.
Вопроса, в кого у нас такие дети, у меня не возникает.
На только что прошедший Пурим Муся наряжалась кошкой. Надо сказать, наряд кошки - гораздо более экономная вещь, нежели наряд принцессы, которым мы щеголяли в прошлом году (впрочем, это и логично - принцессам много чего надо, а у мудрых кошек всё своё). Ушки, хвост, манжеты, мой любимый меховой шарф (от сердца оторвала, но уж больно к костюму подошел) и старательное рисование по ребёнку.
Мы даже провели тренировочное гримирование, за день до праздника - чтобы юная кошка могла оценить, нравится ли ей орнамент на лице, и если что - у нас было бы время его переделать. С утра надели костюм, разрисовали морду, напугали шипением и мяуканьем кота Васю и отправились в детский сад. По дороге к саду нас встречают Коллега с Котяней ("когда Джордж кончит жизнь на виселице, худшим упаковщиком в мире останется Гаррис" - только они приходят в садик еще позже нас).
Девушки парой идут впереди, мы с Коллегой - за ними. Киваю на роскошный мех, обвивающий Мусины плечи:
Непроснувшаяся Коллега, с сонным ужасом:
Monday, November 16, 2009
From the same blog:
I come home rather late, and Musya misses me. That is why at home I am in a mode of a kengaroo: whatever I do, she is hanging on me.Good stuff.
— Musya, — I tell her, — wouldn’t it be good if you had eight moms?
— Eight moms? — she says, excited. — What for?
— Well, you know, — I explain. — Out of eight at least one would always be home. And you wouldn’t be bored.
— No, — eagerly protests Musya. — I don’t want eight moms. Because even if one were always home, I would still miss the remaining seven all the time.
Anyway, she has an interesting value system, which I am in no hurry to correct. For example, I am explaining to her the meaning of the [Russian] saying: “not all is gold that shines”.
— You see, — I say, — there are things that look very valuable; they “shine”, literally or figuratively. And in reality, they are not golden; meaning, not of real value.
— I see, — she says. Thinks somewhat and adds: — I know such a thing.
— A gem! It is shiny, right? And looks terribly beautiful. But there isn’t much to do with this beauty. You know, you can insert it into a ring, put it on yourself... and that’s it.
And really. That’s it.
An amazing article by a friend of mine, a former fellow attendee of a local Chabad House, now studying at Mayanot in Eretz Yisroel. Very good stuff. An excerpt:
I had made up my mind. I grabbed the discarded pieces out of the garbage can, and I began to reconstruct my new puzzle, gluing piece by piece. By the end of the class, I had a new masterpiece. A well-loved, painfully delicate, perfectly imperfect masterpiece. It wasn't a mistake anymore. It was art. It was whole.Read on.
Most of us tend to miss the forest for the trees. What we observe, we see as isolated and disconnected. Instead of hearing a song in the noise around us, we hear a series of clangs and screams and vibrations. Instead of seeing a dance, we see a kick, a turn of the head, and a raised arm. The thing is, a kick is just a kick, and a clang is just a clang. A hand doesn't do much good if there's no arm to extend it, and the arm is useless if there are no legs to walk it. Nothing in this world can function on its own. Alone, every single thing in existence is nothing. And yet, if any one morsel of this universe were missing, our world, too, would be nothing.
Everything, be it a ceramic shard, a bang on a drum, the palm of a hand, or a human being, is one part of a whole. Sometimes, it takes first being broken to realize what the whole entity is. For the hamsa plate to become complete, it had to first crack into pieces. It hurts when you scrape your knee; suddenly, you're missing a part of it. The heart aches and yearns for years before you find the other half of your soul it previously thought to be its own entity.