Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Polish March

Here is a march the Rebbe as been teaching the oilam as of late. In Chabad, this nigun is known simply as "The Polish March". It is also sung in Yeshivas Chaim Berlin at the Purim seuda.

This post was moved to the Shiru La'Shem page.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Mishpatim: I Want To Go Home

We all know of the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel: ואהבת לרעך כמוך - v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha. Like Hillel's instruction to the prospective convert, the basic definition of this love is, “Whatever you find distasteful to yourself, you should not do to another person”.

In Parshas Eikev (Devarim 10: 19), we find the commandment of ואהבתם את הגר - "You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in Mitzrayim".

In this Parshas Mishpatim, this mitzvah is mentioned an additional two times:

וגר לא תונה ולא תלחצנו כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים -You shall not abuse a stranger and you shall not oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Shemos 22: 30).

וגר לא תלחץ ואתם ידעתם את נפש הגר כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים - You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the soul of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (ibid. 23: 9).

The Rambam makes it clear in addition to the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel which applies to all Jews, there is a second mitzvah in regards to a convert of  “v’ahavtem es ha’ger” and “v’ahavta lo kamocha” (Vayikra 19: 34). The implication from the Rambam is that it’s not just, “do unto the ger as you would have others do to you”, as it is by loving your fellow Jew. Rather, there is an additional aspect by a ger, a positive commandment to love him.

The first question is, why this extra emphasis on loving the ger, more so than on loving a Jew born Jew?

Secondly, the Torah gives us a very perplexing reason why we mustn’t oppress a ger: “You know the soul of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”. Thirty-five hundred years ago, we had grandparents who were in Mitzrayim; how does it follow that we would therefore know what it feels like to be a stranger? Which one of us has any sense of what it means to be a ger because our ancestors were geirim? You could say that to the first generation, but the Torah is timeless and forever, and the Torah is talking to us right now, who have been very comfortable and at home. (The truth is that anybody who has been exposed to anti-Semitism has a sense, but we don’t really understand what it’s like, and the reason is surely not because our bubbies and zeidies were in Mitzrayim thousands of years ago.)

In Parshas Lech Lecha, the Ribono shel Olam tells Avraham Avinu that he is going to father Klal Yisroel and that they will ultimately come to inherit the Land of Israel. Avraham’s response is: במה אדע, how will I know? I’m going father this special nation who will be Your special people and they’re going to inherit Eretz Yisroel, they’re going to be a mamleches kohanim v’goi kadosh. But there is choice. What’s the guarantee that my children are not going to choose to abandon Yiddishkeit and really will inherit the land?

We then have the Bris bein Habesarim where Hashem says: ידע תדע כי גר יהיה זרעך בארץ לא להם וכו' - "Know with certainty that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not their own" (Bereishis 15: 13). Here is the guarantee: Your children are always going to be strangers. They are going to be geirim even when they are living in Eretz Yisroel. They are going to be geirim wherever they are because the nature of the neshoma in this world is to be a ger. The natural place for the neshoma is with the Almighty, in the uppermost heavens. That is the only place where the neshoma is truly at home.

Klal Yisroel will always remain attached G-d, to Torah and mitzvos, matter where they are, no matter what generation, no matter how comfortable, no matter how rich - it doesn’t matter. Even if they’ll be in Eretz Yisroel, with "ish tachas gafno, ish tachas t’enaso", it’s not going to make any difference. For some reason, they will always feel, in this physical world, that this is not their place. The only time they will find themselves comfortable is when they find their place in Avodas Hashem, in Limud Hatorah, in Tefila, in Ma’asim Tovim. Klal Yisroel’s place, where they are not geirim, is in the Will of the Creator of he Universe.

Somehow, no matter what we try to do to get away from “Why do I feel so uneasy when I’m in a swimming pool in Acapulco?”, we can’t seem to shake that feeling. Why is Klal Yisroel so uneasy when they are surrounded by luxury and riches, no matter where they are? Why do they drift into drugs or run to the mountains of Tibet to try and learn from the Eastern myth? It’s because something inside of them says “I don’t belong here, I’ve got to find my roots”, but they are looking in the wrong places. So they have to shut the voice down by either drowning it in the pursuit of pleasure or power or money. Some of them drown it out with the pursuit of spirituality, but not a Jewish spirituality. Yet, they always remain somehow in a state of disquiet, of agitation.

Ultimately, that irritation leads them back because the only place where Klal Yisroel feels at home is when they are with the Ribono shel Olam and His service.

The definition in the soul of Yisroel, which every Jew for time immemorial up until the end of time is going to feel like a ger, was acquired in Mitzrayim. Once we left Mitzrayim, no matter where we were, we were strangers. Be it in the desert, Eretz Yisroel, Bavel, no matter where we find ourselves today, we are geirim.

That state of geirus brings us back to Avodas Hashem. Even those who are already into Avodas Hashem, but to the extent that each one of us wanders a little bit from that focus, there is something that says to us this doesn’t feel right. I feel like I’m not connected right now, I’m detached, I’m a stranger now, I’m not home. The only place where we really feel whole is when we are connected to the Ribono Shel Olam.

The Torah is telling us: Be very careful about how you treat a ger because you ARE a ger. Not because your zeidas were geirim. The reason you are a ger today is because your zeidas were gerim in Mitzrayim, but the gierus of “atem yodatem es nefesh hager - You know the soul of the ger” is right now! How is it that I know the ger right now? “For you were strangers in Egypt”. The definition happened in Mitzrayim, that’s where we became gerim, and consequently, there is a special mitzva of v’ahavta lo kamocha - Love the ger as yourself. Hashem is telling us that there is a special attention and an extra focus: You have a neshoma. That neshoma is your essence, and it is a stranger in this world. You like yourself. You have to like your neshoma even more, v’ahavta lo kamocha. Love your ger. Pay him attention. See to his needs.

There is a mitzvah by Klal Yisroel of Ahavas Yisroel: don’t do to somebody else what you wouldn’t want. But for the ger you have to go out of your way.

The ultimate objective of v’havtem es hager, is that through this mitzvah we realize that we have our own geirus, and that it’s our shoresh and our essence. We need to make sure we are paying all the attention we possibly can to that ger inside of us because that’s where we are really at.

When the Torah is telling us twice in Mishpatim, the idea is that we understand that that mitzvah is something that applies to each one of us, and if we understand it correctly then we will understand our own stats of frustration, of detachment, when we feel displaced, when we are lacking the right feelings of comfort and simcha, its all because the Almighty has given us that definition, the identity, that we are gerim in this world unless we root ourselves in avodas Hashem. Baruch Hamakom, the Almighty is the place, our makom, that is where we have a sense that we’ve come home.

May we all merit to come home, and the best way for this to happen is for the geula to take place so that everyone comes back to Eretz Yisroel and the Shechina HaKedosha will be back with us in the Beis Hamikdosh. Then, we will be home.

(Edited transcription from Mishpatim, 5766)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Tefila Yeshara Siddur

זה היום עשה ה' נגילה ונשמחה בו

The NEW Siddur Tefila Yeshara V'Kesser Nehora has been printed. I don't yet own one but the Rebbe just returned from New York with one and loaned it to me to take a look at.

So far, only the first volume, for weekdays, has been printed. A second, for Shabbos and Yom Tov, is expected in the hopefully not-so-distant future. UPDATE: The Shabbos and Yom Tov siddur has been printed and is excellent, with corrections and additions.

The siddur was done by Reb Meir Yechiel Veiner, the same one who did the work on the well-known Biala siddur, Siddur Chelkas Yehoshua. Like the Biala siddur, the new Tefila Yeshara is in k'sav ashuris like in a sefer Torah, in addition to many, many other stylistic and typographic similarities.

I was pleased to see that Reb Veiner stays true to the original 1820 edition, while marking the places where the original differs from the commonly used 1929 edition from Premishla (a copy of the 1894 Berditchev edition). This doesn't really help us with our nusach but at least we have a new siddur.

Newly typeset, this siddur is immediately brought out of the realm of old-age and onto the forefront of modernized chassidishe siddurim (like the new Siddur Nehora before it, for example). However, for me, the page is still jam-packed and confusing with all the commentary and notes, each in a different font. Also, he added some "sheimos" and kavanos that add more unnecessary distraction. All in all, the page is pretty busy with a lot of stuff going on and will take some getting used to. UPDATE: I have been using the siddur for a couple of months and have indeed gotten used to the layout and I must say that it is very geshmak to daven from.

Click to enlarge.

I guess now we have to pencil in all the differences between the Rebbe's nusach and that of the Radviller siddur...

Parshas Mishpatim: Slow and Steady

וכי יזיד איש על רעהו להרגו בערמה, מעם מזבחי תקחנו למות - שמות כא, יד

"When a man will scheme against his fellow to kill him with guile, from My Altar shall you take him to die." (Shemos 21:14)

The term איש, man, over here is referring to the איש בליעל, the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara schemes against us to bring us down and kill us (as the Zohar HaKadosh says, "Falling from one's level is referred to as a death"). And he does so with trickery and guile. Often, when one is excited about serving the Almighty, the yetzer hara will "help" him by pushing him forward at a faster pace than he is really capable of moving. It's sneaky. It looks like it is a good idea, like Divine service, but in reality the only way to climb the ladder is one rung at a time, deliberately, painstakingly slow.

We learned at the end of Parshas Yisro that the Altar was to be made with a ramp. לא תעלה במעלות על מזבחי אשר לא תגלה ערותך עליו, "Do not ascend My Altar by steps, so that your nakedness will not be uncovered". Rashi explains that steps require one to take wide steps. This is a dangerous approach to avodas Hashem where slow and steady "wins the race".

Here, the Torah is telling us that when this evil "man" is scheming to kill us by pushing us ahead in avodas Hashem, ultimately leading to our downfall (and our revealed nakedness, so to speak), we must learn from the mizbe'ach and tell the yetzer hara that we know better. Ascending the place of Divine service must be like the kohanim who had to walk with the toe of one foot adjacent to the heel of the other. מעם מזבחי תקחנו למות, take [a lesson] from the mizbe'ach, and with that you can do away with the yetzer hara.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Parshas Yisro (from 5766)

With the encouragement and assistance of Reb Nuchim Abrams and others, we present the following D'var Torah for Parshas Yisro, based on one of the post-shachris shiurim. It was transcribed word for word and then edited to make it all flow a little better, all the while trying to preserve as much of the Rebbe's own words as possible. It is not a simple undertaking but with time and siyata dishmaya we will get better at it. For now, enjoy!
RMT Parsha Yisro

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nigun Waltz 5765

Here is a nigun from the Rebbe, introduced after Shavuos, 5765. As far as I know, it was never really circulated. Enjoy!
This nigun was moved to the NIGGUNIM page.

Video: Kever Rachel 5771

In case anyone missed this awesome video...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Praising Hashem

The following is an edited transcription of the morning shiur given on Oct. 25, 2010 (י"ז מרחשון תשע"א).


Here’s the mashal: A couple becomes married and each one loves and respects their spouse. Shortly after their wedding, the husband finds out that his wife is an extremely gifted interior decorator. Whenever he enters the house he begins to notice all the various accoutrements and modifications that his wife has been working on. He becomes aware of the tasteful colors of the walls, their variance, the way they match, the trimming, the curtains that have been chosen, the choice of carpets, etc. He then learns even further that his wife is a very talented artist. He begins to notice that their home is becoming increasingly adorned with all sorts of very striking and beautiful paintings and other artwork. Over time he may come to notice smaller and smaller details about the attention that his wife has given to finer and less noticeable things in the house.

This husband’s awareness of the extent of his wife’s capacity to create beauty grows further and as it grows he notices more things than he ever noticed before about the beauty of the home. First it was just the colors of the wall, then he may begin to notice the designs on the silverware, less and less prominent things, tiny little touches on everything, how everything is done with such care and such taste. After a period of time he will come aware of the fact that his wife’s attention to beauty is so extensive that everything, literally everything that he comes in contact with had been meticulously crafted, carefully chosen to bring beauty into the house.

To the extant that his appreciation grows, his feelings will be deepened, mostly because he realizing that his wife is doing all of these things for him; she is creating all this beauty so he will be surrounded by beauty. This issue of awareness is what deepens and intensifies feelings. It deepens respect and love, appreciation, gratitude. All of those things increase with the awareness of how much his wife’s craftsmanship is devoted to providing a context of beauty for him.


One may notice something beautiful and inwardly there will be some recognition about the fact that it is so, and he will think “that’s beautiful.” But that acknowledgment will remain in his head and only be manifest as a thought; he won’t say it. The nature of thought is that it impacts in a very modest way and that it is quickly replaced by another thought. When we bring something into words, we’ve taken a thought and given it an independent existence. We’ve taken it from an inner place to a…we’ve externalized it. In a certain sense we’ve given birth to something. There is now something out there that’s physical – its sound waves – but we’ve invested it with our thoughts. Hopefully we’ve also invested it with feeling. Feelings of gratitude, appreciation, wonder, awe. 

Ever since the Ribono shel Olam created the world with words, words have a very powerful presence, they create things. Words create worlds. Words create reality. We know how words can create reality when we say nasty things about people or when we say angry things to people that we love. We know how words can create reality when we urge people to do things that they never thought of ever doing before. And words create realities for us. There’s a big difference between a person who thinks and even feels appreciation and someone who actually speaks that appreciation, or that respect or awe. It’s much more real. Our speech is different than anybody else’s speech in the world. You can’t say they are all sound waves. They’re not, because our speech has our signature in it, it belongs to us.

So you have two things: An awareness which sharpens and deepens feelings and emotions, appreciation and gratitude and respect. And you have the fact that articulating those feelings by speaking them, makes those more real for you.

The Third Aspect: Self-Respect 

If you compliment somebody on having said something particularly insightful, that means that you have in you the quality of insightfulness. You cannot compliment somebody for something that you have no relationship with. If a person is stupid then they cannot compliment anybody on something which is smart because there’s no common denominator. Acknowledging something in somebody else which is to affirm that you appreciate somebody’s wisdom, kindness, creativeness, strength, it means that in some way those qualities are in you, they belong to you, and to be aware of them and to describe them and to express them is to affirm for yourself that you have something of that in you. 

When we daven and we begin to praise Hashem for these many qualities, we are trying to a) deepen our awareness, because the more we do so the more we are going to become aware. When we speak about Hashem’s creativity or about Hashem’s kindness or strength, etc the more we talk about it the more we are going be aware of it, the more we are aware of it the deeper will be our feelings of awe, appreciation, love and those things will become more real to us because we can hear ourselves speak of them. The fact that we speak them deepens our sense of reality about them. And b) it also tells us, in a certain sense, about ourselves which throws off a certain self-respect for ourselves. When we speak about the fact that we appreciate G-d’s wisdom or His kindness, just saying that resonates something with ourselves that we respect kindness. And then it makes a demand on us that when we are given opportunities that we be generous and kind. We must do things that promote our being able to act wisely. 

The bottom line purpose of prayer, (notwithstanding the kabbalistic aspects) is to have a closer relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that it be a constant in our lives. The more we notice, the greater will be the constancy of our relationship because we’ll notice Hashem everywhere. We’ll notice Him in the colors, in the fragrances, in the intricacies of tiny little things in our lives, and that’s the extent to which we will be connected, grateful and enthusiastic. 

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Tisch Nigun

Here is a nigun that the "old-timers" in Milwaukee used to sing at the tischin of the Rebbe's father, Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel, ztz"l. A few months ago, the Rebbe related how after decades, he was suddenly reminded of this nigun. Not long afterward, he began to reintroduce this nigun and has sung it a few times by tisch. Here it is for your listening pleasure and so that we can all learn it.
This nigun was moved to the NIGGUNIM page.

Shabbos Shira 5771

At tisch, the Rebbe spoke about the utmost importance of learning Torah in the right way. Namely, not as an intellectual exercise but as a means of connecting with Hashem. He quoted Chazal saying דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה, Derech eretz precedes Torah, and mentioned that "derech eretz" has the same numerical value as "Tefila" (485). Before we sit down to learn, we must first daven and ask Hashem for help that our learning should be that sort of experience that we are connecting to him.

The Rebbe pointed out that if a person approaches limud haTorah with the understanding that Hashem and his wisdom are one, they cannot be separated, and he appreciates that he is connecting with Hashem Himself for אורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא חד, then it won't matter to him if he is learning something that is relevant to him (like Hilchos Shabbos etc) or if he is learning Zvachim and Menachos which doesn't really have any practical application in our times. Lack of clarity will be intolerable whether it is in something l'maaseh or not since the entire Torah is the expression of the will of Hashem and it is all has equal connective capabilities.

The Rebbe related that sometime in the 60's, someone came to Milwaukee from a certain yeshiva on the East Coast to fund-raise for his yeshiva. He was set up to meet a well-to-do individual named Luck (or Gluck ?) who had once learned in Baranovitch but years later was no longer Shomer Shabbos. When asked if he knew Reb Baruch Ber, the reply was, "Er is gevein a malach Elokim mamash!" The gvir told over how he had traveled a great distance to come to the yeshiva and he arrived in the evening. Inasmuch as there was no place for him to sleep, he made his way to the Beis Medrash and lay down on a bench. At three in the morning, he was awakened by the sound of the doors opening. Not wanting to betray his presence, he made not a sound, but watched as someone made his way to the front of the shul. The man opened the Aron Kodesh and began weeping hysterically, crying out: "Tatte! Tatte! Ich farshtei nisht dem Tosfos! Oy! Tatte!" This went on for the better part of an hour. The next morning by davening, the bochur saw the same man sitting on the mizrach vant and realized that it had been none other than the famed Rosh Yeshiva, Reb Baruch Ber.

This was someone who cared so much about the Ribono shel Olam's Torah; he cried and cried for an hour because he couldn't live without knowing pshat in a Tosfos. Limud Hatorah was no intellectual experience to Reb Baruch Ber. It was cleaving to the Almighty.

We find in a number of instances throughout Shas, that when one Tanna says an extremely sound svara, the other tanna will say משה שפיר קאמרת, Moshe you have said well. Obviously, not every Tanna is named Moshe. The ספרים הקדושים say that there is a little piece of Moshe Rabbeinu in every person and when you say something so profoundly in tune will an authentic Torah line of thought, it is that spark of Moshe Rabbeinu speaking up.

(This is what I have so far from last Shabbos. If anyone remembers what came next, please let me know.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tu B'Shvat Torah

From the tape series, Experience the Essence of Yom Tov. (Running time: 108 min., Size: 15.6 MB)

A bunch of years ago, the Rebbe's son Reb Yankiv Moshe wrote the shiur down in lashon hakodesh. Thanks to him for providing this maamer for the public. Don't forget to comment; I am interested to hear what the oilam has to say about this shiur.

RMT Maamer Tu Bishvat