Shabbos Parshas Shimini – April 13 -14, 2018

  • Sheloshim for Reb Avraham Mordechai Janowski
  • Yahrzeit for the Yunge Bubbi- 1 Rosh Chodosh Iyar
  • The Legacy of Nadav V’Avihu

Sheloshim for Reb Avraham Mordechai Janowski

This Shabbos is the Sheloshim for our dear Uncle, Avraham Mordechai Janowski.  His parents, Eliyahu and Shoshana Bracha Janowski, had 4 children; Kelcha, Simon (my father-in-law), Sam, and the youngest son, Reb Avraham Mordechai.  His kids, Rachel and Aryeh Benjamin, made a Kiddush for their father at Bnei Ruvain. I davened at Bnei Ruvain in honor of my uncle. I took Naftali with me.  Of course Naftali disappeared and came back right before the opening of the ark. And of course, when the ark was about to be opened, Naftali zoomed up to the ark and opened it.  Since Naftali was born, there was a new condition in the world. Naftali has first rights to opening the ark in the entire world, even if someone else was given the honor and paid for it

The Kiddush was sumptuous, including sushi salad.  Aryeh Benjamin spoke beautifully about his father in law.  He praised his wife, Rachel, for her dedication to her father.  

I spoke about Reb Avraham Mordechai Janowski, and then made a Siyum on Meschita Avodah Zarah.  I felt a kinship to him. He and his wife graciously made a Shevah Brochos for me when I married Serka in May 1980.  I was impressed by his family. They had a very nice suburban home on Cactus Drive in Toronto in the Bnei Torah neighborhood.  I was (and some say, still) a ghetto Jew.  My family and I lived in an apartment in the city. We were not upwardly mobile and did not move to the suburbs with the majority of Jews, primarily secular Jews.  I would visit Reb Avraham Mordechai when I would go into Toronto. I did not realize his name was Avraham Mordechai. Avraham Mordechai is a major Gerrer name as it is the name of the oldest son of the Chidusshei Harim.  The Janowski family in Europe was Gerrer Chassidim, so it is very lively that he was named for the Chidusshei Harim’s son (or the Imrei Emes).

Shalosh Seudas Meal – The Legacy of Nadav V’Avihu

I spoke at the Shalosh Seudas meal.  I dedicated my Torah to:

  • The Sheloshim of my uncle Reb Avraham Mordechai Janowski
  • The 85th Yahrzeit of my mother’s Bubbe, known as the Yunge Bubbi.
  • To a speedy recovery for my mother who was in the hospital

When I first learned about Nadav and Avihu, I had a hard time with the unfairness of it all – to his father, Aaron, and the Jewish people.  Is this the legacy of the Jewish people that even in a time of great joy, we have to have tragedy? What was their sin that had to be a tragedy?   The simple answer is that, imagine at the inauguration of a President in the US, a soldier breaks protocol and does something on his own. That soldier would be reprimanded by either being  put in the brig, reduced in rank, or even discharged from the Army. If it happened with a King, that soldier would in all likelihood be executed on the spot. What Nadav and Avihu did was equally as bad.  

Let us understand the event in depth.  The following Verses discuss the death of Nadav and Avihu and its  aftermath.

Vayikra – Chapter 10:

Verse 1 tells us what Nadav and Avihu did –

And Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.                                             

Verse 2 tells us how they died:

And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Verse 3 tells us what Moshe told Aaron and that Aaron was silent, he accepted what happened:

Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ “And Aaron was silent.

Verse 4 and 5 talk about removing the dead bodies –

  1. 4. And Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Draw near; carry your brothers (actually first cousins) from within the Sanctuary, to the outside of the camp.
  2. 5.  So they approached and carried them with their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had spoken.

Verse 6 and7  tells Aaron and his remaining g sons that they should not go into mourning –

  1. 6.  And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and to Ithamar, his sons, “Do not leave your heads unshorn, and do not rend your garments, so that you shall not die, and lest He be angry with the entire community, but your brothers, the entire house of Israel, shall bewail the conflagration that the Lord has burned
  2. 7.  And do not go out of the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, lest you die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is upon you.” And they did according to Moses’ order.

Verse 7 – 11 warns Cohanim not to walk into the Ohel Moad after drinking wine.

Verse 12 goes back to the story of the dedication of the Mishkan.

Nadav and Avihu’s sin:

Aaron sees his dead sons.    Aaron is beyond words, The Ranban says the Aaron is weeping loudly.  At that moment Aaron was agonizing over the following:

1)  He sees his two sons’ dead.  

2)  He also sees his sons ignore the two great leaders, their uncle and father, Moshe and himself.   Not only that, they walked into the Mishkan after drinking wine. He is aghast.

Rashi on Verse 2 brings down two opinions. 1) Rebbe Eliezer who says that they decided a question of Jewish law themselves and did not go to their leaders, Moshe and Aaron.  2) Rebbe Yishmoel says that Nadav and Avihu entered the Mishkan after having drunk wine.

3)  He blames himself.   He feels he failed his kids.

Rashi on Verse 12 says that at as result of his sin by the golden calf, all of Aaron’s 4 sons were to die as punishment.  Moshe prayers helped to save two of them.

4)  Aaron   is worried that even his remaining two sons would die.

In Verse 3 Moshe consoles Aaron and Rashi eloquently explains:

‏וגו‎‎‎הוא אשר דבר ה:    ‎ THIS IS WHAT GOD SPOKE, etc. — Where had He spoken this? In the statement (Exodus 29:43), “And there I will be met by the children of Israel and the Tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory (בכבודי).” Read not here בִכְבוֹדִי, “by My Glory” but בִּמְכֻבָּדַי, “through My honoured ones” (Zevachim 115b). “

Moses here said to Aaron:    “ אָחִי אַהֲרֹן” –  “Aaron My brother!”  with all the love of one brother to another – do not agonize over the circumstances and death of your sons –

“I knew that this House was to be sanctified by those who are beloved of the Omnipresent God and I thought it would be either through me or through thee; now I see that these (thy sons who have died) are greater than me and than thee!” (Leviticus Rabbah 12 .

Aaron – your sons were  great people, greater then us two.  The death of your two sons was preordained by God, their death had to happen at this time.   Do not focus on our and their shortcomings, we are all human. What happened is Gods plan.

Aaron accepts Moshe’s words and is consoled as he silences himself.    

Nadav is an accepted Jewish name.

Rashi on Verse 4 says that Moshe told Aaron’s nephews to remove the dead bodies, as not to disturb the joy of the dedication of the Mishkan.  The Mishkan and its deduction was a great moment for the Jewish people and  the Jewish people. The Mishkan is God’s place in this world. The acceptance by God and bringing his presence into the Mishkan is evidence that the sin of the golden calf was forgiven.   Rashi In effect is saying the death of Nadav and Avihu in Gods plan is not a tragedy. in fact the Nadav and Avihi are rejoicing as their souls ascend heavenward towards God. If I may add, the same way we believe that those that were martyred in the holocaust, were embraced by God as their souls rose heavenward.   Moshe understands and relates to Aaron that Nadav and Avihu in the next world are in joy realize they were integral to building and dedicating the Mishkan, therefore remove their bodies and let the joy continue. If I have the Chutzpah to suggest the martyrs of the holocaust were integral to creating a State of Israel and the building of Torah both in Israel and America.
During the week of Pesach Shenei I was by the Shul in Buckingham and Rabbi Unger spoke between Mincha and Maariv.  Rabbi Unger mentioned a Chidusshei Harim. Pesach Shenei is discussed in Numbers 9:6-13. Mishael and Elzaphan want desperately to do a Korban Pesach and go to Moshe and Aaron expressing   their desire to serve God like the rest of the Jews. Verse 8 says:

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֖ם משֶׁ֑ה עִמְד֣וּ וְאֶשְׁמְעָ֔ה מַה־יְּצַוֶּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה לָכֶֽם:

The Rim focuses on the last work in Verse 8 –  לָכֶֽם:.
Moshe says, what God will answer “you”, how will He respond to your strong wish to get closer to God.   The Rim continues and says that Hashem created a new law just for them. There is a make up Pesach sacrifice for them.  This is something we find no where else in the Torah. This was enacted solely because of the desire for Mishael and Elzaphan for closeness to God.  Perhaps this is the answer to Nadav and Avihu. Nadav and Avihu wanted to feel closeness to God. However, they decided for themselves how to get closer to God.  Our spiritual needs cannot be met by innovating against the Torah. Mishaal and Elzaphan wanted the same close spiritual connection to God. In contrast to their cousins, they went to their leaders to Moshe and Aaron and said we want to feel this closeness to God; we want to bring a Pesach Sacrifice.

 

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156th Yahrzeit of the Kotzker

This coming Tuesday night, February 3, 2015 and extending into Wednesday February 4, 2015 is the 156th Yahrzeit of the Kotzker.  The following is a piece I wrote last year and did not have a chance to put it on my website.  I offer this as my 2015 Yahrzeit speech for the Kotzker.

THE KOTZKER AND THE GRA

The Vilna Goan known as the Gra – Reb Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman – lived from 1720 to 1797.  The Kotzker – Reb Menachem Mendel Ben Yehuda Leib lived from 1787 – 1859.   The Kotzker was 10 years old when the Gra passed away.  The Gra was the first Mishnagid while the Kotzker was a Chassidic master.  The Kotzker grew up in a non-Chasidic family and knew about the greatness of the Vilna Goan.   The Gra signed the excommunication against the Chassidim.

Yet I believe that the Kotzker had a grudging admiration for the Gra.  Both were more alike than different and it is a tragedy of Jewish history that the Gra agreed to and signed the excommunication thereby creating a split between the Gra’s world and Kotzker’s  world.   Had they met, they would have embraced in the kiss of Hashem and perhaps brought a new era to the Jewish people.

The Kotzker did interact with the community at large, albeit in a more limited way in the Kotzker ’s later years.   The Gra had almost no contact with the community at large.  The greatness of the Gra was preserved  for later generations due to his 10+- students,  primarily Reb Chaim Voloziner.  Yet the beacon of light extended from Vilna during the Gra’s lifetime, and from Kotzk in the Kotzker’s lifetime.

I question whether anything good came out of this excommunication.  It led to people turning other Jews over to the government and feeling that they are doing holy work by turning people in on charges,  after all there is a ban against Chassidim.    How can someone sign a ban, when his protagonist is equal to him in piety, learning, leadership, and Yiras Shaminaym.  It is the height of arrogance to say that I am Lesham Shamayin, when his opponent, his equal and a leader of men is not for the sake of Heaven.  I believe  the evil effects of the excommunication lasted all the way to the destruction of European Jewry in 1939 – 1945.  This should be a lesson  today of the need for unity.

Page 249 of the book  Amud Haemes brings down one of the only times the Kotzker mentioned the Vilna Goan  The story  is as follows:

One time the Chidusshei Harim and Reb Moshe Michel of Biala were sitting and analyzing a Tosefes.  The Kotzker comes by and says that according to the explanation of the “thief”  of Vilna the words of Tosefes are answered.  When they asked the Kotzker why he called the Goan of Vilna  a “thief”, the Kotzker answered:  At the time the Torah was given and Moshe ascended to the heavens, a number of Souls hid under the cloak of Moshe, went up with Moshe and heard the entire Torah.  One of them was the Goan from Vilna.

I felt that the Kotzker could not come out directly and say how much he admired the Gra, so he did it in a backhanded way. 

I was at Kesser Ma’ariv in Skokie this past Shabbos – March 2014.  The Rabbi is Rabbi Louis Lazovsky, a friend from my days in Brisk Yeshiva.  His mother and my mother worked on the Brisk Yeshiva ad books in the late  1970s.    I found a Sefer in the Shul’s library titled, “The Goan of Vilna and his Messianic Vision” by Dr. Arie Morgenstern.  I am trying to reach Dr. Arie Morgenstern to determine if I am related.  The title was fascinating and I was not disappointed.

How do we picture the Gra?  We picture the ultimate Misnaged, a rationalist cut of the same cloth of the Rambam. Someone who did not delve into Kabbalah and the Messiah.    He is the teacher of Reb Chaim Volzhin, the person who wrote the Nefesh Hachaim to counter the Tanya.  The Gra was the intellectual and theological father of Volzhin and Brisk, Brisker Torah, the Bais Halevi, the Soloveichiks, and the cold rationality of Halacha.

However,   Dr. Arie Morgenstern dispels this vision of the Gra and turns it on its head.  According to Dr. Arie Morgenstern the Gra was a major Kabbalist, believed that the coming of the Messiah was imminent, and would happen on or around 1781, felt that he was a vessel for Hashem to bring the Messiah, made plans, and started the journey to move to Eretz Yisroel and got to Amsterdam when he turned back.   How does Dr. Arie Morgenstern’s description of this aspect of the Gra square with the historical Gra known to the Yeshiva world?  It does not at all.  It seems as if this side of the Gra was purposely suppressed because this side of the Gra seems to be a textbook Chassidic master.    The  Gra who rejected and excommunicated Chassidim appears to be no different than the Besht and the Chassidic masters.  

I believe that the Kotzker perhaps desired  the world that the Gra created.   The Gra had few students, did not mix with the general public, hid himself from the world, and was free to devote himself to learning Torah.  As described by Dr. Arie  Morgenstern and detailed below the Gra was also a Kabbalist,   Mishicist, tried to determine when the Messiah would come, and worked to bring the Messiah.  The Kotzker and the Gra were exactly the same:  Great Torah masters, both in the revealed and the hidden parts of the Torah.   Both were also similar in their view of the world which while deeply spiritual  they  had very rationalistic views.  The Gra learned science and mathematics.   The Kotzker gave advice that was practical.  The Kotzker did not go as far as the Gra to bring about the Messiah, in fact little is mentioned on this subject by the Kotzker.
Dr. Arie Morgenstern in his book on pages 292 and 293 talks about the nature of the Gra and about who the excommunication against the Chassidiym. It is attached below.   Read it in sheer amazement, especially what Yehuda Liebes wrote how Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shklov regarded the Gra.  Read what R. J. Z. Werblowsky wrote.  Haflah VePhlah.  Wondrous.

Dr. Arie Morgenstern writes on page 316, “Everyone contemplated the genius of the Rabbi Elijah of Vilna in amazement and considered his very advent on earth a supernatural act.  Several of his disciples said repeatedly that the Goan earned the revelation of the secrets of the Torah and the true Halacha not only by limitless toil and superhuman talent but also as a reward form God for his prodigious effort, in a chain from the patriarchs to Moses and the prophet Elijah.”

The Goan’s genius is attributed as a supernatural act, almost from God himself.    The Kotzker is his comments above acknowledged the same by stating that the Gra was a “thief” when he ascended to Heaven with Moshe, also attributed the genius of the Gra directly from God in a backhanded way.

Both the Kotzker and the Gra believed that Moshiach can come in a supernatural act or Kimah, Kimah – natural means but having people start making Aliyah and through building up the land. The Gra through his students who made Sliyah (the Rivlin and Solomon families, Reb Menacham Mendel of Shklov and his brother) and the Kotzker through his grandson’s Sefer, Shoelm Yershalim, and his grandson’s desire to start an agricultural community of 1,000 families.

 

Postscript – Last week I was in Israel and on January 27, 2015, I was fortunate to meet with Dr. Arie (Aryeh) Morgenstern.   It was a great meeting.  I received an autographed copy of his Sefer, The Goan of Vilna and his Messianic Vision.   Dr. Arie Morgenstern has written at least 10 books.  He is one of the authors on the recent book on the history of the Chuvra Shul, written in conjunction  with the rebuilding of the Chuvra Shul in 2014.   Dr. Arie Morgenstern has lectured on the Goan and the history of the Jewish community in Israel over the last 200 years.  We are probably not related.  Dr. Arie Morgenstern’s grandfather was named Menachem Mendel, however, usually, the family would have had a tradition that they are descendants from the Kotzker and Dr. Morgenstern has no such tradition.  Even though,  Dr. Arie Morgenstern’s family is from near Lodz and some of the Kotzker’s grandchildren from his second wife settled in the Lodz area.

 

 

Our Posek is Auschwitz, Dachau, and going hungry for 5 days

11 Tamuz: Tonight and tomorrow is my father’s 11th Yahrzeit.

My father’s will states:

Upon donations made with my money the following shall be stated:

“This is a donation from the late Mr. Israel J. Morgenstern, who was continuously hungry since September 1, 1939, when Hitler and his German army with his German Luftwaffe (air power) attacked Poland, until May 7, 1945, when he was liberated from Dachau Concentration Camp by the American Army”

My father’s Posek is Auschwitz, Dachau and going hungry for 5 days.

In 1994, when I visited my father in Los Angles, we walked by a homeless man. I grimaced and my father said that in America, the wealthiest country in the world, it is a shame that we cannot house and feed everyone.

Heaven forbid we should be in need of food and livelihood.

Synagogues from time immemorial were always places of refuge. A Jew could always find comfort, food, and friendship. In 1982 at Kesser Israel in Georgetown, D.C., I was very impressed when, after Shabbos Morning Prayer services, they announced that anyone who needing a place for Shabbos lunch see the Gabbai.

About 5 years ago, I noticed a sign in a Synagogue on Pico Boulevard in LA that people collecting money cannot collect during services. I was outraged. Who are these people to limit when a Jew needing money can collect? Be hungry for 5 days and then tell a person   that he cannot collect during prayer services. A Synagogue is a place of Chesed, not a place where we put restrictions on a Jew who needs money, needs food, and needs sustenance. Do the members believe that their prayers are so holy that they cannot be bothered during davening for charity?  I was so angry that I called their national headquarters in New York and gave the Rabbi in charge of member services an earful. He assured me that the Synagogue in question is charitable. Not a good answer. A few years later I saw a similar sign in Chicago.   I found the right person and a few years later the sign was taken down. I just heard of another Synagogue in Chicago banning collecting money during services.

Two other incidents bothered me. When my nephew wants to irritate me, he has me look at a web site that claims to promote Cheriedai values; however, you can always rely on that website for anti-Zionist views, anti Achdus opinions, and self-righteousness.

Two years ago the web site had a video of a question that two “kids” from Lakewood posed to Rabbi Eliyashuv TZL, a question I considered a question of Eisav Harashah. These two kids are in charge of giving out certificates that allow a person to collect money. They asked can they put in a restriction in the certificates, that money cannot be collected during Krias Shma (reciting of the Shma prayers). I was appalled and thought, what is it their business when people can collect money. Their only job is to make sure the person needing money is worthy. If someone does not want to give during Shma, he can ignore the person, or do what I do, have money ready. These two “kids” had a look and sound of stupidity or as my sister says to me when she feels I am being foolish, “Narashah Lachin”.

These two kids brought down the esteem of Reb Eliyashuv TZL. The web site thought that the video showed the greatness of Rabbi Eliyashuv, when it actually showed him in a poor light. I e-mailed the editors of the web site and had a debate with them. After a series of e-mails they responded to me, we have our Posek, you ask your Posek. My Posek is Auschwitz, Dachau and going hungry for 5 days. The shame is that Lakewood is a city full of Tzedakah.

About two months ago I saw a incident that continues to bother me. A Rabbi from Israel was a guest at this Synagogue for Shabbos in one of its members’ home. He was collecting for his institution in Israel. He was an elderly Jew and had the look of an important Rabbi. Sunday morning this Rabbi was in the Synagogue looking for someone. A Synagogue official went to him and told him to leave the Synagogue, as per the Board of Directors. To my shame and others around me, no one said anything, no one defended this Rabbi. This Rabbi went over to the Gabbai and said, you have acted as they did in Sodom, meaning you have exhibited unnecessary cruelty. I did not know what to do. I went to a Board member and told him about the incident. Here you have a beautiful Synagogue that is full of Torah being soiled by pettiness and Midas Sodom.   I am embarrassed to admit that I said nothing, I froze.

In honor of my father’s Yarhzeit as Jews we have to be kind to one another and that

Our Posek is Auschwitz, Dachau and going hungry for 5 days.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Morgenstern, TZL

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Morgenstern, TZL

1858 –  2/18/1920 – 29 Shevat  5680

ktozk 2This Shabbos was the 83rd Yahrzeit of my great Grandfather, Admor Tzvi Hersh Morgenstern of Lukav.  Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Morgenstern was the great grandson of the Kotzker.  The Kotzker Reba was his Sandek.  Continue reading “Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Morgenstern, TZL”

Kotzker Rebbe’s Yahrzeit 2011

Family e-mail:

January 26, 2011

It is now 7:44 PM and I have just finished for the day.  I did go to Sidney for Mincha and Maariv.

I gave the Daf Yomi Shiur last week and enjoyed it.  To prepare I used the Daf Yomi shiur on ou.org, the most widely listened to Daf Yomi in the world.  It is given by Rabbi Moshe Elefant.  His 45 minute Shiur turned into a 1.5 hour study session for me.

On 2/1/11, just 6 days from now, registration opens for the 2011 Chicago marathon.  A ray of sunshine in this bleak winter.  Walking the miles and miles of 2010 Chicago Marathon,  I was  in terrible agony, and told myself  that I will never do this again.  However, the sights, sounds, and smell of the marathon keeps beckoning to me and I am going all in.

Tonight and tomorrow is the 152st Yahrzeit of the Kotzker Rebbe.  I like to write something novel or something that I did not know about the Kotzker every year. Continue reading “Kotzker Rebbe’s Yahrzeit 2011”

Kotzker Rebbe’s Yharzeit 2013

154 years

22 Shevat 5619 – January 27, 1859

Takhe Kotzk (click to listen)

This Shabbos is the Kotzker Rebbe’s 154th Yharzeit. Everyone is invited to the Glenner residence for a Yhazeit seudah this shabbos after minchah. Years ago my father sent me a Cantor Paul Zim tape of Yiddish songs that included the song Takeh – Kotzk. A beautiful song which captured Kotzk, its reverence, its holiness, and its greatness. I received Cantor Paul Zim’s phone number from Seamach Records and called him. Cantor Zim told me although he sings Takeh-Kotzk, it is not his song. The person who knows the song and has “ownership “ is Chazzan Moshele Kraus who lives in Ottawa, Canada. Continue reading “Kotzker Rebbe’s Yharzeit 2013”