Sholem and Hudi in Toronto
Dennis Wilson, Grandson of Menashe Skulnick
Rabbi Ari Cutler
Bais Halevi – הַצִּילֵ֥נִי נָ֛א מִיַּ֥ד אָחִ֖י מִיַּ֣ד עֵשָׂ֑ו
Sholem and Hudi drove in to visit my mother in law. They were here for Wednesday December 7, 2022. It was great as they lit up Bubi’s spirits. Hudi is looking at my mother in law’s 90th birthday picture book. My mother in law wore a dazzling green dress that she remembers until today.
Dennis Wilson, Grandson of Menashe Skulnick
I received this email from Dennis Wilson who is a grandson of Menashe Skulnick. My aunt Alltie told me she remembers going with Bubi Sklar to Yiddish theater and hearing a song sung by Menashe Skulnick, “I have nothing, absolutely nothing”. Tovah was doing a presentation for college about Yiddish Theatre and she included my aunt’s recollection.
|December 10. 2022||3:07 PM (7 hours ago)||Reply|
I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you but I have had COVID for the last couple of weeks. I am just now starting to feel a little better. Menasha played the “Schlemiel” and was much loved by audiences similar to Jackie Gleason’s “The poor soul” or Charlie Chaplin’s “The Tramp”. In fact, Menasha had been called the Yiddish Charlie Chaplin.
Menasha did have a wonderful life in so much as he was able to do something he loved right up until the end. He was on the stage when he had the stroke that killed him after a six week hospital stay. His first wife died early in the 1940’s and he remarried his second wife a couple of years later. They were married until his death in 1970. Menasha made a very good living and lived very comfortably. If you google “Menasha Skulnick Videos” you will find an old film of him singing in Yiddish “The Doctor” song. I hope that answers all your questions.
Menasha Skulnik (Yiddish: מנשה סקולניק; May 15, 1890 – June 4, 1970) was an American actor, primarily known for his roles in Yiddish theater in New York City. Skulnik was also popular on radio, playing Uncle David on The Goldbergs for 19 years. He made many television and Broadway appearances as well, including successful runs in Clifford Odets‘s The Flowering Peach and Harold Rome‘s The Zulu and the Zayda.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, Skulnik reportedly ran away at the age of 10 to join a circus. In 1913 he emigrated to the United States, and sometime after his arrival joined a Yiddish stock company in Philadelphia, where his fellow actors included Molly Picon. His diminutive stature (5’4″), high nasal voice, mannerisms and appearance, made him a natural for comedy.
Skulnik knew exactly what he was in comedy: “I play a schlemiel, a dope. Sometimes they call me the Yiddish Charlie Chaplin, and I don’t like this. Chaplin’s dope is a little bit of a wiseguy. He’s got a little larceny in him. I am a pure schlemiel, with no string attached.” Skulnik was dubbed the “East Side’s Chaplin” by the New York Evening Journal in 1935.
He collapsed on stage in New Haven, Connecticut, during a dress rehearsal of a show he was bringing to Broadway, and died several weeks later on June 4, 1970, in New York City. He is buried in the Yiddish theater section of the Mount Hebron Cemetery.
Rabbi Ari Cutler
Friday night Rabbi Ari Cotler spoke at the BAYT. He spoke beautifully and at 8:30 PM I went to Dr. Eddie Jessin’s house for a Tisch with Rabbi Cotler and boys from 12th grade in Orach Chaim. Yes, I crashed. I did want to speak but I was the interloper. Rabbi Cutler is so dynamic that I wanted to be on the next plane to learn at Yeshivat Hakotel and be his student.
I walked him partially the way home and I asked him if he knew Rabbi Sugerman. Rabbi Sugerman was his dorm counselor at Ohr Yerushalayim, OJ, and they both learned under Rabbi Moshe Chaim Sosevsky,https://www.ohryerushalayim.com/rebbeim. Rabbi Yehoshua Liss is Rabbi Ari Cutler’s student.
Rabbi Ari Cutler’s first Dvar Torah Friday night at the BAYT:
Rabbi Ari Cutler spoke out a Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky on this week’s Sedra. After Shminon and Levi wiped out the city of Shechem, Yaakov criticized them. Shimon and Levi respond in Verse 34:31. “ shall our sister be made into a harlot”. Yaakov does not respond. Did he agree with them or did he not agree with them? Rabbi Meir Kahana said years ago that Yaakov did not answer because he knew they were right. Jews have to stand up for themselves. Rabbi Cutler mentioned Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky who said that he did not agree with them and at the end of his life rebuked them, Verse 49:6. However, Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky did say that Yaakov was only criticizing their anger, that they have to channelled properly. Channelled wrongly they killed Shechme and his father, Chamor, Channelled properly they became the righteous tribe of Levi who were the gatekeepers of the Bais Hamikdash and were teachers for the Jewish people.
I discussed this last year in the following email thread:
From: Yehuda Leonard Oppenheimer <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, Jan 3, 2022 at 4:41 PM
Subject: Re: This week’s article in the Jewish Press
To: Mitchell Morgenstern <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Mr Morgenstern
Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me…I greatly appreciate it. I referenced the Rambam from Avoda Zara in the article…perhaps I should have quoted it at length as you did. It is surely fascinating. A number of people have written to me about why Yaakov was so harsh to Levi – I will have to research that and write again! Your idea is certainly an interesting one.
Thank you for sharing about the עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם. It is true, those of us blessed not to be afflicted with it cannot really know how challenging it is. Kudos to you for overcoming it!
Once again thank you and kol Tuv
On Sun, Jan 2, 2022 at 5:50 PM Mitchell Morgenstern <email@example.com> wrote:
Rabbi Yehuda Oppenheimer:
Excellent article in the Jewish Press. I saw your article and a Vort also on the Levim in the HTC Likutei Peshatim. They bring down a Rambam in Hilchos Avodah Zara 1:3
וְיַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ לִמֵּד בָּנָיו כֻּלָּם וְהִבְדִּיל לֵוִי וּמִנָּהוּ רֹאשׁ וְהוֹשִׁיבוֹ בִּישִׁיבָה לְלַמֵּד דֶּרֶךְ הַשֵּׁם וְלִשְׁמֹר מִצְוַת אַבְרָהָם. וְצִוָּה אֶת בָּנָיו שֶׁלֹּא יַפְסִיקוּ מִבְּנֵי לֵוִי מְמֻנֶּה אַחַר מְמֻנֶּה כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תִשָּׁכַח הַלִּמּוּד. וְהָיָה הַדָּבָר הוֹלֵךְ וּמִתְגַּבֵּר בִּבְנֵי יַעֲקֹב וּבַנִּלְוִים עֲלֵיהֶם וְנַעֲשֵׂית בָּעוֹלָם אֻמָּה שֶׁהִיא יוֹדַעַת אֶת ה’. עַד שֶׁאָרְכוּ הַיָּמִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם וְחָזְרוּ לִלְמֹד מַעֲשֵׂיהֶן וְלַעֲבֹד כּוֹכָבִים כְּמוֹתָן חוּץ מִשֵּׁבֶט לֵוִי שֶׁעָמַד בְּמִצְוַת אָבוֹת. וּמֵעוֹלָם לֹא עָבַד שֵׁבֶט לֵוִי עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים. וְכִמְעַט קָט הָיָה הָעִקָּר שֶׁשָּׁתַל אַבְרָהָם נֶעֱקַר וְחוֹזְרִין בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב לְטָעוּת הָעוֹלָם וּתְעִיּוֹתָן. וּמֵאַהֲבַת ה’ אוֹתָנוּ וּמִשָּׁמְרוֹ אֶת הַשְּׁבוּעָה לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָשָׂה משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ רַבָּן שֶׁל כָּל הַנְּבִיאִים וּשְׁלָחוֹ. כֵּיוָן שֶׁנִּתְנַבֵּא משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ וּבָחַר ה’ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְנַחֲלָה הִכְתִּירָן בְּמִצְוֹת וְהוֹדִיעָם דֶּרֶךְ עֲבוֹדָתוֹ וּמַה יִּהְיֶה מִשְׁפַּט עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְכָל הַטּוֹעִים אַחֲרֶיהָ:
Translation of the Ramban Avorah Zera 1:3:
Yaakov also taught all of his children. He selected Levi and appointed him as the leader. He established him [as the head of] the academy to teach them the way of God and observe the mitzvot of Abraham.
[Jacob] commanded his sons that the leadership should not depart from the descendants of Levi, so that the teachings would not be forgotten. This concept proceeded and gathered strength among the descendants of Jacob and those who collected around them, until there became a nation within the world which knew God.
When the Jews extended their stay in Egypt, however, they learned from the [Egyptians’] deeds and began worshiping the stars as they did, with the exception of the tribe of Levi, who clung to the mitzvot of the patriarchs – the tribe of Levi never served false gods.
Within a short time, the fundamental principle that Abraham had planted would have been uprooted, and the descendants of Jacob would have returned to the errors of the world and their crookedness. Because of God’s love for us, and to uphold the oath He made to Abraham, our patriarch, He brought forth Moses, our teacher, the master of all prophets, and sent him [to redeem the Jews]. After Moses, our teacher, prophesied, and God chose Israel as His inheritance, He crowned them with mitzvot and informed them of the path to serve Him, [teaching them] the judgment prescribed for idol worshipers and all those who stray after it.
We see that Levi was designated by Yaakov to be the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people and yet he seemingly was derogatory towards them at the end of his life when he gave them a negative Bracha. While Rashi says he cursed their anger, he denigrated them. How does this Shtim with the Rambam? The source of the Rambam is the Pirkei Rav Eliezer. Did Rashi know this source? I have to assume yes.
What is the meaning of the negative “Bracha” of Yakov to Levi?
I thought about this and the answer you must say is that all of the Shevtai Ka were holy. Yakov recognized in Levi that he was the one to carry the Mesorah because he had Gevurah. He was telling Levi, you are destined for greatness, you will carry the Mesorah, your descendents will be in charge of the Bais Hamikdash, but you must control your anger and I curse your anger. Uncontrolled anger will lead to disastrous results as leaders of the Mesorah. You cannot lead, you cannot teach, and if your anger is not channeled properly, you will turn on your own people. Levi and his descendants took this to heart and they became the leaders of the Jewish people in Egypt. The problem is that Rashi did not give this generous interpretation of the negative “Bracha”.
I like what you said about the movie “Prince of Egypt”. I too, when I saw it, went to my teacher Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhoffer and asked him if there are any Midrashim that speak about Moshe going back to the palace and seeing the mother who raised him, childhood friends. Was Moshe conflicted? Rabbi Bechhoffer just answered me, perhaps.
I want to say something which I also worked on this Shabbos. Moshe was an עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם, “a man of impeded speech!”. Rashi says ערל שפתים. אֲטוּם שְׂפָתַיִם; וְכֵן כָּל לְשׁוֹן עָרְלָה אֲנִי אוֹמֵר שֶׁהוּא אָטוּם, אָזְנָם” (ירמיהו ו’) – אֲטוּמָה מִשְּׁמֹעַ. Perhaps he was an אָטוּם not only for his slurred speech but for his feelings towards going back to where he was raised. I have nothing to base this on,only that Moshe consistently did not want to go on God’s mission to save the Jewish people.
Another interpretaton of עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם. Do you know what it is to be an עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם? I was an עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם for most of my life and it has cost me dearly in terms of my family and my work persona. B”H and despite all this I was able to retire with dignity and respect after a long career in banking. Even if Hashem put the correct words in my mouth I still would stumble when challenged. I am not saying that this is how Moshe felt, but one should never, never, underestimate what it means to be an עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם. It seems that Yosef and Dovid as leaders never suffered from being עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם. Again, I am interpreting עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם in the broadest sense, the ability to answer accusers, the ability to know the right thing to say, to convince people and to lead them, and not appear to be an idiot. Moshe could have been saying to Hashem, yes, by Pharaoh I am on your mission and I will be articulate and be clear on my mission, but as a leader to my people, I will not be able to project confidence and be the true leader to lead Israel.
Mitchell A. Morgenstern
Yehuda Leonard Oppenheimer
Migdal HaEmek, Israel
Rabbi Ari Cutler’s second Dvar Torah – from the Tisch:
Rabbi Cutler spoke out the following Bais Halevi on Verse 32:12 at the Tisch.
There are two threats from Eisav to the Jewish people. 1) direct conflict and 2) befriending the Jewish people and we losing our religious compass.
הַצִּילֵ֥נִי נָ֛א מִיַּ֥ד אָחִ֖י מִיַּ֣ד עֵשָׂ֑ו כִּֽי־יָרֵ֤א אָנֹכִי֙ אֹת֔וֹ פֶּן־יָב֣וֹא וְהִכַּ֔נִי אֵ֖ם עַל־בָּנִֽים׃ Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else, I fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike.
The Bais Halevi comments:
הצילני נא מיד אחי מיד עשו. יש להבין אחרי כי לא היה לו רק אח אחד למה הוצרך לומר מיד עשו ובאמרו מיד אחי כבר מבואר בקשתו. ועיין בזוהר על פסוק וז”ל מכאן מאן דצלי צלותא דבעי לפרשא מיליה כדקא יאות כו’ מיד אחי ואי תימא קרבין אוחרנין סתם אחין איקרון מיד עשו בגין לפרשא מיליה כדקא יאות. אמנם אכתי יש להבין אמרו שני פעמים מיד אחי מיד עשו והיו סגי לומר באומרו מיד אחי עשו?
ויש לפרש הכוונה דיעקב בהודעו דעשו בא לקראתו הבין דלא ימלט מאחד משני האופנים, או דעשו ילחם עמו וירצה להורגו, או דיתרצה עמו וישוב מאפו וישב עמו בשלוה ואחוה כשני אחים. ומשני האופנים הללו נתיירא יעקב, דגם טובתו ואהבתו של עשו רעה היתה אצל יעקב, ועל אלו שני האופנים אמר הכתוב ויירא יעקב מאד ויצר לו דאמר ויירא על ספק שמא יהרגנו וייצר לו על הספק שמא יתקרב לו. וזהו שביקש על הני שני אופנים הצילני נא מיד אחי מיד עשו שאיננו רוצה בו לא לאח ולא לעשו וביקש שיצילו משני ידים הללו. ונתקבלה תפלתו,
דבתחילה היה בדעת עשו להרגו והקב”ה הצילו מידו ואח”כ כשנתרצה לו ביקש להיות עמו ביחד ואמר נסעה ונלכה ואלכה לנגדך ויהיו שניהם ביחד והוא דחה אותו בדברים וניצל גם בזה ממנו וכמו שאמר הכתוב וישב עשו ביום ההוא לדרכו שעירה, השמיענו הכתוב דבאותו יום עצמו נפרד עשו ממנו והלך לדרכו ולא נתעכב אפילו יום אחד עמו וכבקשתו. וכבר ראיתי במפרשים שנתקשו על דברי הכתוב וישב עשו ביום ההוא לדרכו דמאי אשמועינן הפסוק דבאותו יום שב לדרכו ולפי הנ”ל מבואר היטב:
Ram in Yeshivat Hakotel:
Rav Ari Cutler received Semicha from Yeshiva University and has a Masters in Social Work from Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
Rav Cutler’s daily Gemara shiur teaches students the necessary methodology and skills to be confident in building a sugya with in-depth analysis of Rishonim and Acharonim. The shiur is known for its culture of chevra, confidence to build sugyot by student-led chaburot and connection to Torah. His unique ‘vaad’ is a highlight for the talmid’s week in building their Avodat Hashem. Rav Cutler takes pride in the close relationships that he develops with talmidim.
Rav Cutler is also known for his passionate sichot, guidance delivered, and Halacha and Machshava Shiurim (with a focus on Machshevet Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Kook).
Rav Cutler is the Founder and Director of the Yeshivat Hakotel Leadership Program which features mentoring and practical experience in community and youth leadership.