Thoughts on Judaism

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

See where Family Squabbles go

In the mid-1980's, a long fight culminated when the Lubavitcher Rebbe won the rights to his father-in-law's book collection. The 6th Rebbe, a noted bibliophile, had collected books by the tens of thousands, covering philosophy, history, science, mathematics and secular Bible study, as well as sefarim from all over, some very easy to come by, some unique and extremely valuable. This huge library was schlepped through the Russian revolution and German occupied Poland, before reaching the US. A battle ensued between the Rebbe and his operatives on one side and the 6th Rebbe's only male descendant on the other. The battling began in 1950, in the wake of the Rebbe's death. As is with chasidic dynastic battles, the supporters of the two sons-in-law tried to make the case for their candidates succession. After some nastiness and thuggery on both sides, the dust settled, and the 7th Chabad rebbe, the younger of the two eidim, took the chair. The elder quickly joined him, partially to avoid further nastiness, and partially, most likely, that he saw that his rival was visionary and charismatic, and he felt that was best for Chabad's future. The elder's son, Barry, was completely excluded, even from sinacure positions or trifling inheritance, even though the Rebbe had unquestionably been very close to him. Thuggery on the part of some of the 7th Rebbe's operatives followed to ensure that Barry would stay away. There is no indication, even in Barry's stated opinion, that the Rebbe himself had known or approved of these actions.

The Rebbe's followers placed the books that they had salvaged in a large library in Crown Heights, and there they remained for some 35 years. Barry Gurary, for his part, attempted to secretly take some of the more valuable books from the library, in an attempt to sell them. Chabad says that he stole them. He claims that he had a right to them, as the Rebbe's sole male descendant. The Rebbe shrei-ed at every public gathering tht the books were martyrs, tht the books were "captives" worthy of redemption, that on them rested the fate of the universe, etc. etc.

Barry felt that no Beis Din in the world would impartially be able to judge a case where the Chabad Rebbe was a party, especially since he had expressed himself so forcefully. The case ultimately fell to a court of law in the US, and Chabad won the case, on the power of corporate ownership. The 6th Rebbe had put the books under corporate ownership, and the trustees of that corporation, known as Agudas Chasidei Chabad, or Aguch, were the official caretakers. End of story. That was 5 Teves, 1987 (if I am not mistaken).

To this day, I do not understand why the Chabad Rebbe felt it so necessary to include every Chabadnik in the family Broiges. (Do I include him in my broiges?) If, as Chabad claims, all Barry wanted is the money, why didn't they just buy him out? Shoin, everyone is happy? Obviously, there was more to it. If Barry wanted to stir up trouble, why didn't he bad mouth Chabad and try to gain a following? Exactly what anyone wanted out of this, other than sheer emotion and one-ups-manship, I do not know, and whatever it is, he did not get it. It became a rallying point for bad feelings and bad mouthing about Barry and his family, and ultimately, it was stained with silly apolocalyptic pronouncements and misapplied fervor.

One good thing did come from it, though. The Chabad rebbe, as was characteristic of him, found a good applicaiton, and bid that all Chabadniks remember the occasion by buying Jewish books for themselves, their synagogues and each other. (Granted even most of the books in question were not "Jewish books", per se, but it was a good way of turning a shameful situation into a positive initiative.) The apocalyptic pronouncements of our times will continue on 5 teves this year, no doubt in Chabad circles. But, it is my sincerest hope, that Chabadniks lose the Broiges aspect, forget the whole senseless historical affair, and concentrate on the message, that all knowledge, Jewish, philosophical, scientific, that strives to broaden our minds brings us closer to our proper service.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

and then there was ... nitel?

What the heck is nitel, anyway? What does it mean?

Obviously, to the kabalistically minded, the holiness of something or other is violated by the shortest night of the year (which it is not anymore, but what the hay). Others specifically learned sedarim on that night, presumably to reject the kabala custom of not learning, and the Chabad Rebbe of that time denounced their actions. When I learned in Chabad, people completed the daily learning shiurim and then gathered for games of chess or just did laundry.

But, who first declared nitel a bad night. I mean, Easter we do nothing. Eid al Fiter we do nothing. Halloween, nothing. Even Christmas day, we do nothing special. Where did the "custom" of not learning, apparently in controvention of a Torah Aseh, get such prominence? Takana de Rabah?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hanukah - a Fight for Tradition

I saw this post, from, Jewish Philospher, the guy who is either the scariest maniac in the frum world or its most angry parody writer. When you get past the base ridiculousness of the logic, the argument is actually made frequently in the frum world. It proposes that Orthodox Judaism is unchanged from ancient times until now. Judah Macabee would be perfectly at home in our synagogue liturgy and religious laws and customs.

The truth is, though, that the Hashmonai would be totally bewildered if he walked into a synagogue today. Tefilin might be familiar to him and Talis as well. However, he would wonder why we take them off after prayer. He would wonder at the lack of blue tzitzis. He might be familiar with Tanach. And there it ends. The Talmud as codified today would be unknown to him. The liturgy or the three davening a day regime would be unfamiliar. He would wonder at the lack of karbanos, until someone explained the logic to him that davening is like karbanos. He might or might not be familiar with Assyrian letters, but not as familiar as we are, since that is all we learn in our schools. Even Israeli pronunciation would be incomprehensible to him. Yiddish would draw a dumbfounded look, no doubt.

Hanukah, itself, would be completely alien to him. Latkes, sufganiot, dreidels would be unknown. The concept of lighting the menorah, adding one for each night for each person, and related halacha would be unknown. He might have an idea of lighting candles in general. The legend of the single flask that they found in the Temple with the seal of the Kohen Gadol would likely be unknown to him. It first appears in Talmud, 600 years later. It does not appear in Ktuvim Acharonim. To boot, the way we keep kosher, the way we keep Yamim Tovim, Sukos, Pesach, Yom Kippur would all be completely unfamiliar to him. Certainly, our method of keeping Nidah laws would make no sense whatsoever.

None of this is based modern scholarship. Every bit is based on the fact that the Talmud changed the religion, and he lived long before the Talmud, in the time of the Zugim. Not to mention, our current laws and theoloogy are largely based on modern kabalah, which did not come about for another 1500 years after his time. That is why many Rishonim sound like they could not into modern Yeshivas, because of their variant views of theology.

This JP post is fairly tame. But the concept that Judaism is unchanged for thousands of years is just a plain distortion of the truth.

Note: I will definitely strangle the next person who tells my children that the enemy in Chanukah was "the Greeks". We, in the US of 2008, are not "British", and the Syrians were not "Greeks". They were descendants of a helenistic empire, but with very distinct customs, language (dialectic Greek), and new mixtures of nations and populations, that were not Greek, Bactrian or Persian.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


The long silent seclusions, the moodiness, the secret nighttime missions. There can be no doubt. He is blogging again.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bans from the Rav

Bans of the Rav

It has been custom to call many people "the Rav". Thus, when someone quotes the Rav, they are ususally safe, since they could be referring to almost anyone in the past 2500 years or so, since Rav in the Gemora. However, for purposes of these pahkevilen, only my Rav, a true chasidishe yid, maleh daas torah, is THE "the Rav". These declarations represent Daas torah, and as such, they are the declarations of the Ribono shel Olam Himself, not subject to discussion of any kind, and certainly not chas v'shalom to any sort of disputation. The real Torah True Jews of the world, who follow a true chasidishe Hashkafa, will be subject to all of these neshama saving measures immediately and indefinitely.

These measures will be tailored to bringing back control to the appropriate authorities through the traditional methods of public shame and accountability.


The Internet is a medium that users can use to get all manner of filth and garbage into their homes and minds. Emails, blogspots, craigslists, pornography, information about NCSY, modern Orthodox "dvar Torah", apikorsus, smut, filthy jokes, antisemitism, treif foods, and even information about evolution can be accessed in a few moments. Where once one would have to go into a smut store, library, or a Modern Orthodox synagogue to get access to such things, a person can now do so in the privacy of their own home, opening a world of temptation, rachmana litzlan. A community may be totally unaware that a member is accessing these materials. Also, one may order things to come to his home, without anyone of responsibility in the community able to monitor what he is doing. It is needless to say that any Chasidishe house must not have such Internet in their walls.

While "making a parnasa" opens the field to a wide range of ways to kasher this treife Internet, the Rav, in his infinite compassion, will allow certain individuals to have Internet in their homes for parnasa, under following conditions:

1) Responsible community rabanim, approved by the Rav, will be able to monitor all Internet traffic, through software installed on each chasidishe computer, like J-net. Being the most forthright and honest people in the neighborhoods, naturally all will trust the rabanim not to compromise passwords, security codes, or digital signatures.

2) The job or business must be approved by the Rabanim, and its reasons for use of the Internet must be justified thoroughly, under scrutiny of the Beis Din.

3) Anyone attempting to reach a site that is forbidden by the rabanim must face a din Torah so that the rabanim can remove his Internet access, and report all appropriate information in a pashkevil.


A chasidishe house should not have a telephone, which can be used in all sorts of unseemly sins. Before phones, one had to go to a treif restaurant and risk being seen by others in the community. However, with a telephone, a person can order treif to come to his home. Even worse things can be ordered in "plain brown wrapping" rachmana litzlan, and others in the community might never know or see. If one must have a phone because it is required for parnasa, he should use only J-phone, which allows rabanim to listen to all of his telephone conversations, to make sure that he does not fall astray lo aleinu, oi meh haya lanu.


A chasidishe house should not allow mail to be delivered or sent. If a person must send or receive mail for parnasa, he should use only J-mail, which allows rabanim to inspect every piece of mail to make sure that he does not fall astray, oi va voi, hashem yishmereinu.

Electricity and electrons

A chasidishe house must never have electrons. While I am not expert in these matters, as I am just a simple kanoi, the Rav obviously know what electrons are, and would not have banned them without ample justification.


No chasid must ever ride in an "OTO" because of shmiras henefesh. Many car accidents happen daily, and if the ban saves even one life, it will have performed the act of saving a world, as it says, "One who saves a life, it is as if he saved the entire world." Also, people can go in privacy to places of ill repute, like "adult stores", non-heimishe supermarkets (which sell both kosher and rachmana litzlan non-kosher products), banned concerts, casinos, nightclubs and Modern Orthodox synagogues. People can travel quickly by car several miles to a secluded illicit spot, whereas such trips are impractical on foot. (see section entitled "Shoes".)


All music is a danger to the neshama. Today's "Jewish music" is based on goyishe avoidah zara tunes that have been altered slightly or set to Jewish sounding words, even oi lanu mah asinu, words of holy pasukim, put to treife musical notes. Reports have been given to the Rav of new music being written as recently as a few decades ago, which our fathers and zeides never knew, lo aleinu. Singers create large concerts that are often attended by both men and women. However, even if there are only men at the concert, it is possible that women are lurking outside, waiting to meet illicitly with men. Needless to say, one who totally abstains from music, tavoi alav habracha. However, after much consideration , the Rav would allow one to hum ay ay ay or tum tum tum to no particular arrangement of musical notes. La la la is based on goyishe avodah zara and is forbidden.


No one should listen to news, even if it is not conveyed by a forbidden medium such as televison (chas v'shalom), radio or newspaper. For instance, even if a non-Jewish acquaintance offers to tell you "news", you must not listen, acknowledge or receive the "news" in any way. News programs generally use an attractive woman to deliver the news, which raises issues of lo sasuru acharei anaihem (television), kol isha (radio), darchei emori (all other forms). the Rav holds that this issur is d'oraisa, since it involves one of the most stringent rules in the Torah, men coming into contact with women.


No one is permitted to wear shoes, except in climates where loss of limb may occur. In those cases, the feet may be encased in cloth and a sandal may be worn over the foot to prevent frostbite. Before shoes, people could not walk so quickly, and therefore, they could not attend the bars, newstands, Modern Othodox synagogues, adult stores, and other places mentioned above except with in a small area. Since no one has ever been killed in a shoe accident, its use may be permitted in extreme circumstances.

Use of language

In a chadishe hois is faran kein goyish. A chasidishe home should use authentic yiddish as its only language. Variants such as Yinglish, unknown to Moshe Rabeinu and the holy Chazal, are permitted only among those who can not remember the authentic pure Yiddish word and may waste time from Torah in trying to remember the correct word. Using languages other than Yiddish also allows Jews to speak to non-Jews chas v'chalilah and they may come to follow the ways of the goyim. As the Rav has taught us, in the days of the Tanach, David Hamaylech, spoke only Hebrew to deraybishter and Yiddish to other people. This is obvious from the pasuk in Tehillim, k'sus k'fered, spoken first to deraybishter in Hebrew, ksus, and then to the people in Yiddish, k'ferd.


No Jewish house should ever have cereal, as the pasuk says in parshas vayaitzai, "ufarinu ba'aretz". It is clear that its only proper place is to be thrown on the ground. The antisemitic goyim have purposefully made certain cereals round so that they will roll under the furniture and radiators and cause the Jewish people to transgress Pesach, an issur karais, rachmana litzlan.


Playing cards are assur because of avodah zara. As we know, non-Jews use cards for fortune telling in a way that the Torah does not specify. Only fortune-telling in the ways that the Torah specifies can be condoned under certain circumstances, as the Ramban clearly states reish parshas Tazria.


Cumin will not be found in a chasidihe house. The name of the spice cumin rhymes somewhat with woman, inspiring evil thoughts, hashem yishmarenu. On the same logic, anyone with chest pains must be put out the house immediately.


It goes without saying that photographs are forbidden.

Indoor heat and air conditioning

Indoor heating and air conditioning is forbidden in a Jewish house. Such heating may induce women to remove their clothing, chas v'shalom. Air conditioning may induce women to put on attractive clothing.


Colors are the source of many michshalim and must be avoided at all costs. White, black and gray are permissible, if approved by community rabanim, in some circumstances. A person who is colorblind should say "hatov v'hamativ" along with morning brachas, for the immense blessing that Hashem has given him. Clothing that has "colors" should be removed from the closet and given to a non-Jewish charity.