Parshas Vayera: November 3 – 4, 2017

What a Shabbos.  On Friday, I had to drive to the western part of the State, 30 miles from the Iowa border.  I listened to Rabbi Goldberg’s Chumash Shiur  from 2015.  Excellent Shiur.  At the end of the Shiur, Rabbi Goldberg gave four reasons why Monarchy and/or Moshiach had to come from Lot and his two daughters.  Rabbi Goldberg mentioned

  1. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, using Rabbeinu Bachya
  2. Reb Tzadoch Hacohen
  3. Kotzker Rebbe
  4. The Rov, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik in his book Abraham’s Journey,

The reason given by the Kotzker Rebbe is in the Sefer, Shem M ’Shmuel on Megilas Rus  written by Reb Shmuel Bornstein, the son of the 1st Sochachover Rebbe and a grandson of the Kotzker, my second cousin, four times removed.

The Shem M’Shmuel writes that his father asked the Kotzker this very question as to why Monarchy has to come from the Lot and his two daughters.   The Kotkzer answered: since the Jewish people are united as one body, and just like one part of the body cannot rule over another part of a body, the same thing with the Jewish people – one person cannot be a king and rule over the rest of the Jewish people.  Therefore, God had to take the Middah (character trait) of Monarchy from a non-Jewish source.  God had to take the Ga’avah (arrogance, strength) of Moav which is sourced in an incestuous act from a non-Jewish source and turn it holy.  Meaning, this DNA was integrated into Malchus Bais Dovid.

How do you understand the Kotzker?

I thought and thought about this Vort and explained it as follows: The foundation of Kotzk Chasidus is Ahaves  Yisroel – Love of Fellow Jews.  It is not possible, says the Kotzker.  When you love another Jew, how can you rule over him?  A king has absolute control over his subjects.  He can take away property, kill people, and be nasty, all for capricious reasons.  This is not a Jewish character trait.  God had to take the Monarchy character trait of arrogance from the non – Jewish world, make it holy and integrate it into the Jewish people. 

Friday Night – November 3rd:

Davened by the Glenners.  Saw Ma. Went home to eat.  My kids were there.  I love my boys so much.

Shabbos Morning – November 4, 2017

Mayer Chase came to my house at 7:40 AM to take me to the Peterson Park Kollel for Davening.   I did not want to get up, but Mayer insisted.   Normally I go to Mishna Ugemorah much later for a davening that starts at 9:30 AM and usually ends at 12:15 PM.   Meir schlepped me to the Kollel because Rabbi Elya Brudny, Rosh Yeshiva in Mir was speaking.   I walked in the Kollel and it was beautiful.  The place was packed with Kollel guys and many others I knew.  It is a fast davening with little talking.  Davening started at 8:00 AM and ended at 10:00 AM, my style of Davening.     After davening Rabbi  Elya Brudny, Rosh Hayeshiva of Mir,  spoke  for 30 minutes,  He spoke out an Avi Ezri (Reb Shach  and it was Reb Shach’s Yahrzeit)  and a Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin.  What was the test of the Akediah to Avraham?  The Avi Esri explains it that the highest levels of Nevias was Moshe who spoke to God “B’Aspakya Hemeirah” clear communication between God and Moshe, Peh el Peh.    All other prophets do not have  direct communication with God. Meaning, God communicates with prophets in the heavenly realms and the message from God  gets filtered down to this world through the prophets understanding.  Each prophet can and will understand God’s message differently.  Their goal is to understand God’s message as God intended.  Despite this if a prophet interprets if his way, then it is still God’s prophecy.   When Avraham heard Gods words to bring Yitzchak as a sacrifice Avraham could and would have been justified interpreting it as to not bring Yitzchak on the Akediah.  After all, God told Avraham that Yitzchak will grow into a great nation.  Avraham remained true to what God wanted and this was the test of Avraham.

Rabbi Brudny then explained Da’as Torah based on the Gemorah that says a Talmud Chocom is greater than a Navi.  Once a Talmud Chocom can discern Gods will through Torah wisdom, he is higher than a prophet.   The Talmud Chachom’s   level of understanding is on a very high level.  A Talmud Chachom can then understand other aspects of life such as business, medicine, and other matters because he attained a  level of greater than prophecy.

Picture of Rabbi Elya Brudny

Image result for pictures of rabbi elya brudny

During Davening I said the following  Vort.

Bereshis Chapter 21, Verses 22-24 says:

22  Now it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phicol his general said to Abraham, saying, “God is with you in all that you do.  23And now, swear to me here by God, that you will not lie to me or to my son or to my grandson; according to the kindness that I have done with you, you shall do with me, and with the land wherein you have sojourned.”    24And Abraham said, “I will swear.”

When Abimelech wants  a covenant of peace between the two, Abraham simply says, I swear that we will live in peace.  No arguments, no recriminations.

However, Verses 25 through 33 show a more contentious exchange and a ceremony to reinforce that Abraham dug the wells.

כה. וְהוֹכִ֥חַ אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶת־אֲבִימֶ֑לֶךְ עַל־אֹדוֹת֙ בְּאֵ֣ר הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר גָּֽזְל֖וּ עַבְדֵ֥י אֲבִימֶֽלֶךְ                  
כו  וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲבִימֶ֔לֶךְ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי מִ֥י עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה וְגַם־אַתָּ֞ה לֹֽא־הִגַּ֣דְתָּ לִּ֗י וְגַ֧ם אָֽנֹכִ֛י לֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖עְתִּי בִּלְתִּ֥י הַיּֽוֹם
כז   וַיִּקַּ֤ח אַבְרָהָם֙ צֹ֣אן וּבָקָ֔ר וַיִּתֵּ֖ן לַֽאֲבִימֶ֑לֶךְ וַיִּכְרְת֥וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֖ם בְּרִֽית
כח: וַיַּצֵּ֣ב אַבְרָהָ֗ם אֶת־שֶׁ֛בַע כִּבְשׂ֥ת הַצֹּ֖אן לְבַדְּהֶֽן
כט: וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֲבִימֶ֖לֶךְ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם מָ֣ה הֵ֗נָּה שֶׁ֤בַע כְּבָשׂת֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֥ר הִצַּ֖בְתָּ לְבַדָּֽנָה

25 And Abraham contended with Abimelech about the well of water that the servants of Abimelech had forcibly seized.  26 And Abimelech said, “I do not know who did this thing, neither did you tell me, nor did I hear [of it] until today.”    27 And Abraham took flocks and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and they both formed a covenant.  28 And Abraham placed seven ewe lambs by themselves 29 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What are these seven ewe lambs, which you have placed by themselves?”  30 And they formed a covenant in Beer-Sheba, and Abimelech and Phicol his general arose, and they returned to the land of the Philistines.

Why the different reaction?.  Water is life.  Avraham’s family could not survive if the servants of Abimelech would seize Avraham’s  water supplies.  Avraham fought Abimelech on this very essential need.  The word the Torah uses the Hebrew word,   וְהוֹכִ֥חַ.  This word can mean  rebuke, which is Onkelyos.   However, Rashi brings down Yonasan Ben Uziel who explain it as to contend , to fight, and Avrohom fought with Abimelech.    This was critical and  Avraham  fought for his rights.  What does Abimelech say in  Verse 26.  “I did not know.”   This is usually the reaction of people in power.  Their minions steal and destroy and the king  says, I did not know.   Plausible deniability.  Politicians and people in power haven’t changes in 4,000 years.  This is why Avrohom made a public ceremony to reinforce publicly his right to the well.

However, it goes beyond this.  The Jewish mission is to do good to the world.  What happens when a king or politicians have control over something needed by the public, by humanity.  They limit access, tax it, and use it to have power over their subjects.  Avrohom was fighting Abimelech from hurting his own people . Avraham had to publicly declare I dug this well and it  is mine.    I will give it the public at large for free because water is a human right and not  be controlled by a king.  This is the Eishel Avraham opened for humanity, and gave food and water as needed.

After Davening there was a Kiddush Rabbi Leibenstein’s son’s house.  My nephew and I went over to Rabbi Elya  Brudny.  Meir asked Rabbi Brudny if he know his father, Pesach Chase.  Rabbi Brudny said he was close to Pesach when they were both learning in Mir Yeshiva in New York.  .  Rabbi Brudny then said he knew our grandfather,  Rabbi Sholom Sklar,  from Lakewood and he was close to my Zedi.  Rabbi Brudny substituted at the Daf Yomi Shiur in Yuks shul and my Zedi would tell him about Europe.

I told Rabbi Brudny, my above Vort from the Kotzker Rebbi and he responded;  based on the Kotzker’s Pshet perhaps you can answer a question that is asked on the following Verse that speaks about a Jewish king.

Dvorim, Chapter 18 Verse 14 says:

יד כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣א אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֨יךָ֙ נֹתֵ֣ן לָ֔ךְ וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֖הּ וְיָשַׁ֣בְתָּה בָּ֑הּ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֗ אָשִׂ֤ימָה עָלַי֙ מֶ֔לֶךְ כְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר סְבִֽיבֹתָֽי:

14. When you come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, “I will set a king over ourselves, like all the nations around me.”

Rabbi Brudny said the Velt asks why does it say “like all the nations”.  The Chumosh should have stopped at “I will set a king over ourselves”.  We know what a king is.  Rabbi Brudny said that perhaps the Torah means what the Kotzker is saying, we Jews do have the emotional wherewithal to appoint a king over ourselves, it has to come from  non-Jewish DNA and like the Kotzker said that God took the non-Jewish DNA and make it holy.

At davening Shabbos morning there was a Rov who I know and may be a relative.  I am happy to see him.  However, a number of years ago he did something  I felt was not proper.  About two years ago the incident was mentioned and the Rov’s approach was justified and how the Rov was right.  I said nothing.  I am so happy that I did not respond.  Had I responded, it would have gotten back to the Rov and would have affected our relationship.  The incident was years ago, everyone moved on, so why get involved and Boruch Hashem I said nothing.   I was able to greet him with a smile and told him the Kotzker Moshiach Vort.

The rest of Shabbos was great.  By davening at 8:00 AM I expanded my Shabbos by three hours.

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Parshas Eikev – Kotzk – Vorka

Parshas Eikev

22 AV 5776 – August 27, 2016

Pesach

Chapter 8, Verse 14: “Vram Levavcha” –  “and your heart grow s haughty”

Kotzk and Vorka

Pesach came in for Shabbos to be with my mother. It is always great seeing him. Friday night we stayed up to 11:30 PM talking about Bubby and Zedi Sklar.  Bubbi and Zedi Sklar’s trip to Israel in 1962, Pesach’s trip to Israel in 1960 to learn in Yeshiva.  Pesach got Bubby and Zedi a room at the hotel Tzfania, not exactly a 5 star hotel, but served its purpose.  Zedi wanted to go to Meron on Lag Ba’omer, however knew that Bubbi would not let him go.  Zedi made up with Pesach for Pesach to go to Zedi’s hotel room at 2:00 AM, lightly knock on the door, and Zedi  would come out.   They hopped on a bus to Meron.  Imagine, Zedi sneaking out at 2:00 in the morning.  What would Bubby  think when she woke up and Zedi would be gone all day.  For Zedi it was an Avodas Hakodash and not a tourist trip.  Pesach also with detail talked about his trip from Chicago to Israel on  a two week boat trip aboard the SS Zion, a Zim Lines passenger ship;  and back on a Greek passenger line. As only Pesach can tell a story, we laughed, reminisced, and laughed.

Shabbos morning was a normal Shabbos. Went home to eat and then went to Mayer’s  house to have Cholent for the third time.

At Sholosh Suedas Pesach, Mayer, my mother, and myself washed and had gefilte fish, Matzah, and salad.   I spoke the following words of Torah:

Dvorim Chapter 8, Verse 14 says:

יד: וְרָם לְבָבֶךָ וְשָׁכַחְתָּ אֶת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ הַמּוֹצִיאֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים:

14:  and your heart grows haughty, and you forget the Lord, your God, Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,

The simple explanation is that you will become arrogant, forget God, you will go astray and worship idols. The Ibn Ezra explains it differently.  You will be come arrogant, you will forget that once you were slaves, forget that once you were poverty stricken, and forget that God provided for you when you were down.  The Ibn Ezra is saying that you will not go astray, you will not worship idols, rather you will remain Orthodox and keep Gods commandments, but your heart will turn to stone, you will not have empathy for your fellow Jews.  This will lead to demeaning other Orthodox Jews, hatred for the sake of hatred, all the while , going to Shul three times a day, even learning Torah, and wearing a big Yarmulke.  How else do you explain many of the disagreements in Israel.  It almost seems that it todays world certain segments of Klal Yisroel forgot there was a Holocaust.

Today is Shabbos Mvorchim.  Chazzan Silber has a beautiful Nusach for the Yehi Ratzon.  I was looking up the English translation and saw that Artscroll explained “Chaverim Kol Yisroel” as ” All Israel becoming Comrades”.   I decied to look further into the translation of “Chaverim Kol Yisroel”.  A second translation not found in any of the English prayer books is that we are joined together like two pieces of metal are soldered together so they appear as one piece but are actually two pieces.  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks translates these words as “so that all Israel may be united in friendship.”  However, the Birnbaum Siddur explained it that all Jews are “knitted together”.  It is interesting that the same words are translated differently, and each while similar have different connotations, which reflect Haskafah, and time of history.  Refer to end of this post to explains the differences in interpretation.

Philip Birnbaum is the highest level, the knitting together, being intertwined.  This  can be explained best by the following story of the Kotzker and his dear friend, Reb Yitzchok of Vorka.  I had heavenly help in finding this story to understand Birnbaum.

At 3:00 PM I went to take a nap and looked for something to read. I found in my closet three pages from a publication called Hapardas, dated January 1968.  Hapardes was a publication for the Torah world by Rabbi Simcha Elberg, first published in Warsaw, then Chicago, and in the later years of his life from Boro Park.  1968 was his 42nd year of publication.  On page 36 Rabbi Elberg had a book review of a new Sefer published by Rabbi Kalman Eliezer Frankel, a Rabbi in Tel Aviv.  The new book’s title was; In the Tents of the Righteous – the branch of the house of Vorka – Sakranovitz.

I will translate a large part of the book review as follows:

The Seraf of Kotzk did not want many Chassidim among the masses; however, Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka drew the love of the masses to himself. Just like Rabbi Levi Yitzchok TZL of Berdichiv was in his generation (1740 – 1810), so was Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka in his generation, he looked upon the Jewish people  with the mindset  of “ He (God) does not look at evil in Jacob and has seen no perversity in Israel. (Numbers 23:21).”    These two great people came out of the Bais Midrash of the Rebbi, Reb Bunim TZL, who both illuminated the heavens of Poland, two completely different viewpoints in Chassidus and nonetheless a great love  and an everlasting love existing between the two great and holy individuals

On page 322 in the book,”B’Ohali Tzaddikkim” the reader will find an amazing story from the author. It is worthwhile to recount the story here.

The Rebbi, Reb Yitzchok Vorka in his generation was like the Berdichiver in his generation, having great compassion, a lover of the Jewish people, a trusted servant for his people, he found merit even on the lowest of the lowest Jewish person.

After the death of the Rebbi, Reb Bunim, Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka crowned the son of Reb Bunim, Rabbi Avrohom Moshe as the leader of the holy congregation, which he led for only two years. And after the death of Reb Avrohom Moshe, Reb Yitzchok of Vorka accepted the leadership of the congregation.

Even though the mindset, the essence, and entire being of Rabbi Yitzchok Vorka was totally  different than  Reb Menachem  Mendel of Kotzk; as the Kotzker  demanded only perfection, without blemish,  Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka saw the light that shines in each Jewish person.  Despite this they were strongly and faithfully attached

After the death of Rabbi Yitzhok Vorka on the last day of Pesach (1848), the Vorka’s son and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kalish, goes to Kotzk.  The Kotzker asks have you seen your father in the next world?  The son answers no.  The Kotzker responds – I saw him. In the Kotzker sharpness, the Kotzker relates the following story. “I was in the heavenly world, and I searched and asked the heavenly angels: Tell me, where can our Reb Yitzhok’l be found?  The angels answered, he is in a higher level, that even we are not allowed to enter. I then searched in the level of the Baal Shem Tov and I was told that Reb Yitzchok was in a higher level. I went to the level of the Achronim, of the Bais Yosef and Remah, and also there I could not find my friend. I traveled and entered the level of the Reshonim and could not find him.  I then went up to the level of they holy Amoreim and asked them, tell me, I am searching for Yizhok’l my friend, where is he and where can he be found.   They responded he was here, but now he can be found on the river’s edge which is closeby. I ran with all my might, I passed the field of the “Chakal Tapuchin” (mentioned in the Zohar of the next world), and there I saw a flowing river, and at its edge, your father Reb Yitzchok’l was leaning on his staff and looking into the clear and pure waters of the river. I grabbed his coat and asked, Yitzchok’l my faithful friend, what are you doing here? He answered me do you see this river? These are the tears of the Jews that were shed over the generations and from the tears a river was formed that flows into the upper heavens. I am standing by this river and I am not able to move away.

Rabbi Frankel adds that this is how the Kotzker described to the son of the Vorker  who his father was and his father’s  greatness. No other leader in that generation merited to be described by the great Kotzker, as the true lover of the Jewish people, Rabbi Yitzchok of Kalish, the first Admor of Vorka, TZL.   The story is told by Rabbi Naftoli Citron – youtube, The Kotzker Rebbe, #3 and #4.

This is how Philip Birnbaum translates “Chaverim Kol Yisoel” “knitted together” as the Kotzker and Vorka Rebbes. And this is the model for the Jewish people.

The four interpretations of Chaverim Kol Yisroel are:         1) Artscroll – All Israel are Comrades.

2) All Israel are connected –pieces joined together.

3) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – so that all Israel my be united in friendship.

4) Birnbaum Siddur – All Israel is “knitted together”.

Each interpretation I believe depends on someone’s outlook towards life, religion, time of history, and relationships.   They are probably all true at times during history.

Artscroll’s translation sounded strange to me. The word Comrades brings up negative images.  Loyal communists were called Comrades.  This implies that Klal Yisroel must all be the same, think the same, and look the same.   Comrades is an exclusionary term, anyone different is not part of us.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld did tell me that in Israel the word Chaverim is used in the Kibbutzim and it means comrades.

The second explanation is like the Satmer. Klal Yisroel is separate parts joined together as in a menorah whose branches are soldered to the base.   This is how the Satmer would translate the word.  The Satmer in his Hagadah says on Yachatz (we break the middle matzah) – sometimes our community has to break off from the rest of Israel.  We must split off.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is how most people would interpret the words; however, Birnbaum is on a deeper level. We are bound to one another.  This is more the viewpoint of the Besht, the Kotzker, the Lubavitcher, Menachem Begin, and others.

 

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.

 

 

Parshas Noah

The below is Martin from LA’s comment on this weeks Torah potion, Parshas Noah.   In red are my comments.  Martin from LA is a student of Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks.   As as result I consider myself a student of the Chief Rabbi and have been inspired by the Chief Rabbi’s Torah.   Martin from LA is my cousin, my friend, and my co-marathoner.   At least he is still running and I am not.  

 Noah’s Failure

The Torah readings continue with the introduction to Noah and the flood story. Virtually every culture has a similar story. That Noah and the flood are mythical is irrelevant. The myriad lessons contained therein are of import.

I only take issue with you in this entire piece that Noah and the flood are mythical.  The Torah cannot make up stories of our history, especially after reading the first Rashi in the Chumash.  The problem then is separating myth from fact.  I believe the entire story happened.   My kids completely agree with you.

Noah is a perplexing character. He is described in the Torah, at the beginning of the eponymous Sedra, Noach, as a righteous man, faultless and walking with God!

He, alone in the Hebrew Bible has such appellations! Abraham and Moses, for example, do not come close.

But, despite such praise, the man that was supposed to save the world and rebuild it anew, in the end couldn’t even save himself as he wallowed in a drunken stupor and was an embarrassment to his children, and according to one opinion, sexually assaulted by his so Ham. And unlike Adam and Eve previously, who were ashamed of their nakedness, he was not even aware of his nudity.

How could this be? The man seemed to be the paradigm of religiosity, obeying every jot and tittle of God’s commands to him.

The Sages, in their Midrashic analysis of the flood parable, give Noah short shrift indeed. He is heavily criticized for not doing more to try to encourage a depraved humanity to repent and perhaps prevent the oncoming deluge. In fact he did nothing, but just busied himself meticulously following the minutiae of the ark’s blueprints.

Never understood the criticism.  No one would have listened.  Maybe Noah felt that the proper way is to live a religious  life by example.  Abraham’s defense of Sodom on its surface appears to be misplaced mercy for a society that choose brutality with their riches over a just society.  Abraham should have said, I will go and teach them.  I was only satisfied in Abraham’s defense when I answered the question of misplaced mercy,  that of course, Abraham was not saying let Sodom be spared any judgment.  He told God or understood God, that God will punish them for their evil ways, just not to destroy them.  If you do not say this,  then Abrohom is a fool.  I have not found a source for this, but this has to be the understanding.

 The Sages were particularly disturbed by his unwillingness to leave the ark after the floodwaters had subsided. Despite being certain that the land was now dry he only finally debarked because God instructed him. The Sages excoriated him for this. He was to be performing the most vital role in human history, the reconstructing of a shattered world and he dallied in the comfort and safety of his home not prepared to take the risks necessary for his daunting task until God approved his exit.

Abraham did not sit back in quiet obedience when God told him of the impending destruction of Sodom.

The Kotzker criticized Abraham that when God told him that his children will  go through a bitter slavery, Abraham did not protest and scream GVALT, my kids will be exiled for 400 years and will have to go to slavery!   They will have a holocaust!

Likewise, Moses did not await God’s permission to act on the injustices he saw in Egypt.

The Sages, who claimed that they would have torn down the walls of the ark and taken themselves out, were teaching us in this Midrash that to build a better society, you do not await permission.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, (amongst others) even before the storm clouds of Europe began to darken warned European Jewry of the approaching destruction and begged them to leave and go to help build what was to become the State of Israel, a process that had begun 50 years or so previously. He was mostly ignored.

Some simply comfortable in their current surroundings, others claiming, that just like Noah before them, were exemplary in the observance of the God’s commandments, that a Jewish State can only be built with God’s permission.

The result was catastrophic.

You are correct.

No disease has been cured, no technology invented for the benefit of society, no hungry child fed, no poor have been clothed and no State has been built  by those that prefer to sit in an ark studying and even devising more minutiae than taking the courage to create a better world.

We need a balance.  We need Torah scholars and we need builders.  We need them in sync, each understanding their roles.  We need Torah and the scholars to provide this radiant glow that positively affects everything it shines on.  A foundation stone for a Jewish society to be built based on the Torah, just values, charity, and Torah knowledge.

This is my theme of Kotzk and when I write the definitive book on Kotzk, I will touch upon this very subject.  On the surface, the Kotzker seems to have withdrawn from this world for 19 years, when in reality he was a major  leader and leading the Jewish world.

“Devising more minutiae”.

Both Reb Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, the Meshak Chocmah and Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Kook would agree with you.

 Shabbat Shalom

 The Haftora.

The Hebrew bible consists of 3 sections. The Torah, which Orthodoxy believes is the revealed word of God. Followed by the Prophets, that section from Joshua, through Judges, Kings, and the various 15 Prophets, and finally Writings, such as Psalms, Proverbs, Esther and a bunch of others that you may or may not of heard of. The Haftora is a short reading taken from the 2nd section, that either has a connection to the Torah reading or the season, and is read at the conclusion of the Torah reading. How it came to be, nobody knows. There have been many speculative guesses, and the most well-known and promoted ad nauseum in the Orthodox world, may be the silliest. That is, the Greeks (and later the Romans), banned the public reading of Torah, but we fooled ’em by substituting another section of the Bible.) Personally, I prefer the argument that the Haftora reading was a polemic against sectarians who rejected anything other than the Torah itself as being part of the Jewish cannon.

Regardless of it’s genesis, it’s very ancient, at least 2000 years old, and is universal in practice throughout all denominations(There are occasional differences on the choice of Haftora)

 

 

The Kotzker Rebbe and the Crimean War:

Expressions of love for Jewish soldiers

I saw this Vort from the Kotzker mentioned in Harry Maryles’s Blog, Emes V’emunah, by a commentator named Ephraim.  I have not seen this Vort in  a sefer, but it is true to the Kotzker and keeping with the feeling of his responsibility to the entire nation of Israel. Continue reading “The Kotzker Rebbe and the Crimean War:”

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”

Pesach at the Kotzker Rebbe’s Seder Table

The Lesson of Maror

 

A Chosid who used to travel to the Kotkzer, approximately 56 years earlier, was on his way home from Gur after the holiday of Succos.  He travelled by way of Sochatchov  and visited the Sochatchover Rebbe.  This event  took place in the early 1900’s.     The Sochatchover Rebbe was Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain – 14 October 1838 to 7 February 1910,  and son-in-law of the Kotzker.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avrohom_Bornsztain

When this Chosid visited the Rebbe, the Sochachover remembered that he sent this Chosed on two missions.  Once regarding the Ran and once regarding the Rashba. (I do not know what this means).

 The Chosid asked the Sochatchover Rebbe to tell him rest of the story at the Kotzker Rebbe’s Seder.    

 The Kotzker Rebbe’s Seder:

The Kotzker failed to pass out Maror to his family and those at the Seder.  This story of the Seder took place in the mid to late 1850’s.  The people around the table whispered to the Sochatchover that he should remind the Kotzker to pass out Maror.   The Sochatchover in a light-hearted comment to the Kotzker Rebbe mentioned a disagreement in the Talmud whether Marror today is Rabbinic or Biblical.  The Sochatchover said to his father-in-law that I have a proof from the Rebbe that Maror is Biblical because the Rebbe has not passed out the Maror.

 This is the extent of the story that the Chosid heard from Reb Hersh Tomashover and the Chosid wanted to know what happened afterwards.   Reb Hersh Tomashovor was the Kotzker’s Gabbai for many years.

The Sochatchover told  the Chosid the rest of the story.

 The Rest of the Story:

The Kotzker responded to his son-in-law, you are correct and gave Maror to everyone.  Suddenly, the Kotzker declared in a loud vice, “Maror Fressers”, Maror Fressers translates into, People who indulge in  Maror.  Due to the fear of the Rebbe everyone around the table scattered and only the Sochatchover remained.

 The Kotzker asked his son-in-law, what new insight have you said on the topic of Pesach. The Kotzker and Sochatchover talked in learning.   After a while Reb Hersh Tomashover came in the room and the Kotzker asked him, where is everyone.  Reb Hersh answered that the Rebbe chased them out of the house when the Rebbe screamed out, Maror Fressers.  The Kotzker replied that he did not mean the people around the table.

Understanding the Story – Understanding the Greatness of the Kotzker:

What is the meaning of this story?  Is it just a Chassidic tale that has no meaning or even worse.  Rabbi Farkas, my nephew’s father-in-law, repeated this story to me at Avrohom Yisroel Chase’s Bar MItzva two years ago and said he had no clue to what it meant.   Rabbi Farkas’s words were a little harsher and used this story almost as a metaphor for Kotzk.  Luckily I knew the story and explained to him what the story meant, why it had to be written, and how we can see the greatness of the Kotzker Rebbe.

 This Seder took place in the 1850s well into the period the Kotzker’s “Yimai Hester”, when the Kotzker withdrew from the world.    Even during this 20 year period the Kotzker never for one moment stopped being a leader.  During the 20 year period he raised a family, taught students, married off kids, was consulted by other leaders on communal matters, did not stop from praying to God for the salvation of the nation of Israel, learned Torah day and night not only for himself but for all Jews.  He was a beacon of light to all those seeking Torah and the Truth.  The best and brightest of Poland flocked to the study hall of Kotzk to be in his shadow.  The Kotzker established Poland as a Makom Torah, a place for top level Torah study.

 When the Kotzker  screamed out Maror Fressers, he was praying to God.  Enough already.  It is time for Moshaich.  The Jews have suffered and suffered and suffered.   The Jews are constantly eating Maror and it is time for salvation.  This is a leader, someone who is constantly worried and praying for his people, exhorting his community to be fierce in the worship  of God, excel in Torah learning,  and doing the right thing. 

  I wish everyone a Chag Kosher V’Sameach.