Archive for 2014

Reb Zalman’s Thanksgiving Prayer 5775

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Reb Zalman, alav hashalom, was reminding us every year about his Thanksgiving insert to Birkhat Hamazon.

For those of us who are ambivalent about Thanksgiving because it is a secular Yom Tov pulling us toward secularism on this day and away from Yiddishkeit, it feels nice and gives us a little stikkele something geshmak.

And this year, we have the extra blessing of being able to use a beautiful side-by-side formatting of Reb Zalman’s singable translation of Birkhat Hamazon which you can find on the Open Siddur Project, by clicking here.

When you get to the section where you would give thanks for the Yom Tovim, please add the following insert (in Hebrew or English below) for Thanksgiving. Good Yom Tov! (Gabbai Seth Fishman)

בִּימֵי הַמְהַגְרִים נְקִיֵי הַדַעַת,
כְּשֶׁהִגִיעוּ לְאֶרֶץ מִקְלָטָם,
וְסָבְלוּ רָעָב וָקוֹר,
וְנָשְׂאוּ רִנָה וּתְפִילָה
לְצוּר יְשׁוּעָתָם,
עָמַדְתָ לָהֶם בְּעֵת צָרָתָם
וְעוֹרַרְתָּ חֶמְלַת הַתּוֹשָׁבִים
הָאִינְדִיָנִים עֲלֵיהֶם,
וְהֶאֱכִילוּם מָזוֹן, בַּרְבּוּרִים וְתִירָס
וְכָל מַעֲדָנִים.
הִצַלְתָּם מֵרָעָב וְיָגוֹן,
וְהֶרְאֵתָ לָהֶם דַרְכֵי שָׁלוֹם
עִם תּוֹשָׁבֵי־הָאָרֶץ.
עַל כֵּן בְּרִגְשֵׁי תוֹדָה קָבְעוּ
יוֹם תּוֹדָה כָּל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה
לְזֵכֶר לְדוֹרוֹת,
וּמַאֲכִילִים סְעוּדוֹת
הוֹדָיָה לְאוּמְלָלִים.
לָכֵן גַם אָנוּ מוֹדִים לְךָ
עַל הַטוֹבוֹת בְּחַיֵינוּ.
אֵל הָהוֹדָאוֹת, אֲדוֹן הַשָׁלוֹם,
מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ.

In the days of the Puritan pilgrims,
When they arrived in the land of their haven,
And suffered from hunger and cold,
And sang and prayed
To the Rock of their Salvation,
You stood by them in their time of trouble
And aroused the compassion
Of the native Indians,
Who gave them food, fowl and corn
And many other delicacies.
You saved them from starving and suffering,
And You showed them ways of peace
With the inhabitants of the land.
Feeling gratitude, they established therefore
A day of Thanksgiving every year
For future generations to remember,
And they feed the unfortunate
With feasts of Thanksgiving.
Therefore do we also thank You
For all the goodness in our lives.
God of kindness, Lord of peace,
We thank You.

Oh Davvener, Adieu!

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

At 8AM, Friday, June 6, 2014, motzei Atzeret 5774 / after the Shavuot retreat at Hazon’s Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center  in New Falls, CT, Reb Zalman (z’l) led participants in Chol Davvenen / the weekday prayer service and taught us all powerful lessons of dvekus / cleaving to God. It turned out to be the last service and shiur / study session Reb Zalman would lead before being niftar / deceased.


Reb Zalman (z’l):
Besides the book that’s called “Davening, A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice” which has been published and which I co-wrote with Joel Segal, (and it is a wonderful book; it won the National Jewish Book Award, and all that other stuff. But look! What’s more important is it guides you, it shows you how to do it, what to do so you Davven), now, if you also see another book on Davennen called “The Gates of Prayer, Twelve Talks on Davvenology,” [you’ll see that] it has twelve lectures that I gave on various subjects of Davennen and then it was transcribed. And there you will find a chapter that’s called “Blue Jeans Spirituality”. (That [whole] series is wonderful because we have it in DVD [form] so you can show it [to a group]. We [also] have it on MP3 so you can play it and listen to it and of course in print. And if you get a chance to work with a group and you would play one of those DVD’s, then any time a person wants to ask a question, etc., you can always easily stop the recording and go and have a conversation about it.) It is a wonderful series; you can learn a lot from it. Also, “Gate to the Heart” which was an earlier form, is also out again in a much nicer form because Reb Netanel Miles-Yepez did such a beautiful job with it.

And in either case, you have ways of making your davvenen work [so I want to let you know of these resources].


Tamid Echad

Monday, August 18th, 2014

As Reb Zalman (ztzvkl) would sing, (click here): Tamid Echad / Always and Forever One!


Reb Zalman (olav hashalom) was our very heart.
He made it seem easy to make us a whole
       between Jews, across divides, a message of echad.

If we’re so universalist, so why be Jewish?

Every religion is a vital organ — including ours.
Could a body become all liver? Absurd!
Moshiach, Christ, the Mahdi, the Avatar and Maitreya
       will all come to an eco-kosher sudenyu. Oy, what a sudenyu!

When we’ve receded to a place where we seem insignificant to God,
       it’s a heresy greater than thinking God is small.

You are not an “oops” of God!
In God’s present your lifetime has significance!

Oh! Secularist’s nascent spirituality!
Oh! Popular believer: Become “shiviti Hashem l’negdi tamid”!

So whether:

Religious or Secular,
Hasid or Mitnaged,
Mystic or Atheist,
Panentheist or Pantheist,
       (“Kinderlachen, geh gesunderheit!”)
Renewal, Frum, Liberal, Ultra-Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Secular Humanist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Native, Mammal, Bird, Reptile, Micro-organism, Charm, Rock, Planet, Galaxy, Black hole:

How can we get it together? Together!

Tamid Echad! Always and Forever One!

Food For Healing the Soul

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of the Rav Tzvi Hersh of Liska (1798-1874) is commemorated on the 14th of Menachem Av. The following praise of his works appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

His Writings

This is the background: I am very excited to share that I have now taken his innovations of the Torah and had them set down for posterity. In addition, I also have a bundle containing his Torah innovations which were never before available covering all the Holidays and Festivals, and also his writings regarding several issues in the Mishnah. All the writings stem from later in his life and the topics that inspired him at that same time.

We don’t have his work from earlier times because all the brilliant teachings and writings which he had set down when he was younger in a book were burned in a fire of this world when he was in the provinces of Poland. None of it remained for him except for that knowledge that was in his head, which has always been the basis of his teaching.

As he put it:

“As I teach from what’s in my head, I don’t need anything more.

“On a certain level, the fire was God’s will. I accept it.”

The day of the fire, he was able to sense that the books in his house were burning and he dashed home, and they asked him why he was leaving them in a hurry and he said:

“In my minds eye, I’m seeing that my books were burned in a fire!”

And so it was.

In these words of Torah are found all food for healing the soul and all drink for getting to the essence of reverence for Hashem and meditating on His name.

For, as the waters cover the sea, so does fear of heaven and love of God fill a person, and so we wait for the world to be filled with God’s presence.

For there are many who go out in search of acquiring wisdom and understanding, seeking to hear words said in truth from the mouth of a true preacher. And we, too, should merit to bring an overflow of books in a basket of books that will fill us within and give our souls their coins. People should seek out these treasures.

And now please take this book, a blessing from me that I have brought before you.

(From the Introduction by his grandson, Rabbi Zev Wolf, on the book “True Sustenance”)


A Well-Formed Self

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak HaLevi Horowitz (“Chozeh”) (1745-1815) is commemorated on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av). The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

How He Answered The Esteemed Mitnaged

A certain prominent member of the non-Hasidic Orthodox community (Mitnaged Gaon) asked the holy Rav of Lublin:

“To your credit, a huge number of Jews stream to you to learn from you.

“What is that special quality that they see in you that causes them to rush to you? How do you think of it?

“And why don’t they do the same with me? It seems to me that I am an extremely distinguished Torah scholar with much learning at my fingertips stemming from the heights of God’s glory!”

The holy Rav  answered him simply:

“I, too, am surprised and even astonished by the fact that they come to me.

“For as I see myself, I am undeserving of accolades. In my eyes, I am low down, close to the ground.

“I ask myself:

‘Who am I? What am I?

‘Why do many Jews come to me when they are seeking answers to their questions of God?

‘Why don’t they go to you given your impeccable credentials and your well-known reputation as a renowned scholar, a source of Torah wisdom and a man of great power and influence in supernal realms?’

“But perhaps the answer lies in this very way that others see you and in your having this amazing reputation.

“I, in contrast, think of myself differently: I feel that I know my value and it is not worthy of such titles and pretensions.

“Perhaps therein lies the reason that they come to me.

“And perhaps it is your view of yourself that causes your honor to ask of yourself, ‘Why don’t they come to me?’ I’d say that this is the reason that they leave you and don’t come to you.”

(The New Order Of Generations)


Shared Concerns

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisachar Ber of Zlotchov (d. 1810) is commemorated on the 7th of Menachem Av. The following praise of his works appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

His Books

It has come to pass that I too, “the plant of his joy”, take my own joy in setting my heart onto those concerns that were my father’s.

He had a vast number and range, like a great sea, and they are gathered in his teachings.

I took a pledge, etched it with fondness into my heart, to raise them up onto printing presses, to have them printed and presented as a gift in honor of Hashem, a “fire offering”.


Anticipating the Messianic Age

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of Reb Moshe Teitelbaum of Ujhel (“Yismach Moshe”) (1759-1841) is commemorated on the 28th of Tammuz. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

Anticipating the Messianic Age

Every day – actually, every hour – Rabbi Moshe was anticipating the Messianic Age.

There was not even a single moment in which his mind wasn’t prophesying about its taking shape and right through his sixties, seventies and beyond he believed that the Holy One of blessing would grant him life, sustain him and enable him to reach this occasion.

If the sound of some noise coming from outside was heard, right away, this Tzaddik asks questions and summons the people of his community:

“Go out and gaze upon what the cause of this sound was!

“Is it possibly a herald coming to the city?”

Every night he set out holiday clothes and his walking stick right next to his bed, so that there would be no delay when he would go forth to encounter the herald’s arrival. In addition, with the people of his house, he would insist that whenever they had a sense that they had heard something, they should interrupt at once.


Dialogue With Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Meir HaLevi of Apta (1760-1831) is commemorated on the 25th of Tammuz. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

His Dialogue With Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz

When he had an encounter with the Rebbe, Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz, the holy Rav Rabbi Naftali said:

“Let me bear witness, that amidst the Hasidim at the present a kind of chaos prevails, a sundering of hearts and a splitting into various divisions.

“Therefore in my opinion, it should be as it is written: ‘Every man to his own tent, O Israel‘, i.e., every person should stay home and study and serve HaShem as best he can but, they shouldn’t journey any more to the Rebbes of the generation [because they no longer follow the Rebbes like they once did].”

The holy Rav Rabbi Meir Halevi replied to him:

“Regarding this, I disagree. Instead, I would say, as it is written: ‘Speak to the children of Israel and they should travel!

“To stress over why Hashem Yitbarach has made the world as it is, is not giving Him the benefit of the doubt.

“If we Rebbes aren’t capable of leading the community, then others will come who are better than we, and they will be the leaders.”

(Generation of Wisdom).

An Evildoer’s Olam HaBa

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi of Karlin (1738-1792) is commemorated on the 22nd of Tammuz. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

Rabbi Shlomo Keeps His Promise To An Evildoer

Once, the divine and holy Rav, Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin (ztzvk’l) came to his Study Hall to meet a creditor.

The creditor had come to collect a sum of four hundred silver Roubles that was owed him by the Rabbi.

The Rabbi did not have the money.

The person had gone to great effort to get there and collect the amount owed in full and so it wasn’t an option to ask him to come back another time.

The Rabbi declared to himself that if a person would provide him with the needed funds to pay off the creditor on the spot, the Rabbi would assure him Olam Haba / the world to come.

As soon as he made this offer to the people there, immediately, a certain person leaped up from his spot.

He was a man with a reputation for evildoing.


He Was Never False

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh of Radzimin (1792-1877) is commemorated on the 18th of Tammuz. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

He Was Never False

First, the Tzaddik Rabbi Yaakov had traveled to be with the Maggid of Kozhnitz ztzvk’l.

Then, he spent some time basking in the shadow of Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Pshischah ztzvk’l. He was his star pupil.

As is well-known, Rabbi Simcha Bunim was an abundant source of light; and so was his student for, it was in Rabbi Bunim’s presence that he would get to recite his lessons.

Once, they were touching upon an area which talks about bringing to life the dead.

The student said:

“I wish that my teacher and master would reveal to me the name that has the power of bringing to life the dead.”

His teacher answered him:

“This secret isn’t revealed except to those with discretion.”

The student said:

“Indeed, I am discreet and so according to this, it could be shared with me.”

Rabbi Simchah Bunim answered:

“I will reveal it to you on condition that you will never utilize this name, for with it, it is possible to bring to life those who are dead.”

Rabbi Yaakov, (olav hashalom), agreed and the teacher revealed the secret to him.

Years later, a nearby Hasid was coming to Rabbi Yaakov with a petition to pray for a sick and dying man, (the merciful One protect him). The matter touched the heart of the Tzaddik.

He broke his promise to his master and teacher and made use of the name he had learned from him. For what should he not do on behalf of this sick one near death?

Over the course of time, the Tzaddik, Rabbi Yaakov fell sick and it seemed that in some few number of days he would be dying; and he lay there unconscious.

However, something happened; he did not die!

When he regained consciousness, those who were close to him asked what he had seen when he almost departed.

He told them that they had wanted to sentence him to death for having used the name.

An angel came to his defense. He placed the guilt onto Rabbi Simcha Bunim because Rabbi Bunim had taught him the name.

They brought the Peshischa [angel] who argued that regarding this matter, Rabbi Yaakov had promised to not reveal the secret.

The supernal court ruled:

They should search and investigate if he had ever lied in some matter. If not, the ruling was that he should be pardoned for this offense.

Upon investigation, they found that he had never broken his promise, not even a single time – and so, they pardoned him.

(The Amazing Practicality of the Rav, the Tzaddik Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh of Radzimin.)