If you want it darker: my take on Leonard Cohen’s mesmerising song.

A few weeks before Leonard Cohen passed away, somebody sent me [hat tip AN] a youtube video of his new song ‘You want it darker’.

I was mesmerised. I loved the song. I have to admit to not being a big listener of Leonard Cohen but knew some of his better known tunes as we all do (eg, Halleluka — yes, I write it with a K, it’s a Machlokes Tannoim at the end of Psochim, but that’s how I was taught).

Some  listen to a song but don’t really “hear” the lyrics. In general, this is me. Often, I think it is because the lyrics and the tune often have no relationship. When they do, the lyrics become relevant to me. The famous and great Rabbi Ben Tzion Shenker ז׳ל who recently passed away, wrote his songs FROM the lyrics. The songs emerged from the lyrics. I think that’s the right way around. Others seem to always know and remember lyrics to songs irrespective. On the other hand, as a band leader, I’m probably more attuned (sic) to the musicianship and pitch of the singer (mind you, so many sing through pitch controllers these days) and don’t focus on lyrics.

What surprised me about this song was that the lyrics hit me between the eyes. I sent a link of the song to our family whatsapp group and said

“He’s preparing for his death, and it’s so deep, he’s telling us what he’s going to say to God”

I had heard that he was ill but I wasn’t across his life history in much detail.

I am somewhat drier and like things in black and white without the cloudiness of interpretation. I don’t want to guess multiple meanings.I remember in year 7 our English teacher becoming so excited while reading  poems. This did nothing for me. I guess I don’t have that aesthetically nuanced ingredient. It’s also the rare piece of Art that I will stop and appreciate. Abstract art is something that just passes me by.

Yet, somehow, this song grabbed me immediately and the lyrics were just luscious. I said at the time that I was going to write my commentary to them but hadn’t gotten around to it. Apparently, Rabbi Sacks wrote a masterpiece “drush” but it was only after I mentioned to my wife last night before retiring to bed, that I had written this piece, that she told me about Rabbi Sacks’s interpretation. I had mistakenly thought Rabbi Sacks had spoken about Cohen’s most famous song Halleluka. Since writing the draft post, I listened to Rabbi Sacks, and enjoyed his ever-brilliant take. You can watch it here

Just before writing this blog post, I looked up Leonard Cohen on wikipedia to learn a bit more about him. Cohen was seemingly an enigmatic thinker. He strangely stayed close to his Orthodox Synagogue and yet became involved with Zen Buddhism even becoming a Monk. He never abandoned his Judaism, although his life couldn’t be described as that of someone with complete fidelity to their religion’s tenets. He felt that there was no contradiction with Zen because his involvement never included another deity. There was only one God for Cohen. He believed that, it seems, all his life. There was only one Judaism as well, and it was Orthodox Judaism. Whatever the case, he was clearly monotheistic and believed he would confront God one day, as do we all. He was buried in a traditional Orthodox way, as was his wish.

Here are the lyrics and uncharacteristically my own thoughts, after I first heard it (and replayed it several times). I sent it to members of my band, and my non-Jewish Bass player responded with “brilliant” and went out to buy the CD. My interpretation isn’t set in Parshas Vayera. More likely it reflects some of my own feelings about the world today and that is why I connected with the lyrics in my own way. Maybe my teachers in year 7 were right after all

The lyrics are in red, below. My interpretation follows each line.

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game

Here the ‘you’ is God. He is apprehensively asking about God’s nature. What is your role in this world I have lived in. Are you like the proverbial dealer in a card game? If so, since you are God, I’m bound to lose, and so I’m out of the game. I’m going to die. I’m about to meet my maker.
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame

Cohen had cancer and it wasn’t going away. He tried to understand the meaning of God as a healer. This is what he knew. God could heal, but wasn’t healing him. Cohen was descending into the valley of death, and so he was broken by this realisation, and lame in the sense that he wouldn’t be able to go on doing what he had. He was perhaps wondering if his not being healed was due to the path he had chosen, or that he would soon need to account for it. I think he was addressing his preparation for addressing why he lived the way he did.

If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame

He self-reflects and in the face of death, considers himself and his life as inglorious. He was dying. Perhaps he regrets some of the things he had done. So he meekly points out that compared to God’s glory, what he has done must be considered shameful and hence his journey to the valley of death/heaven. Cohen seems to be saying is he about to say goodbye.

You want it darker

He is questioning God. Living is light, but ultimately our lives seem to be so unclear. We don’t see the light, so often. The world is such a dark place. Coming to the end of his life, Cohen is saying, well God, you don’t seem to need my light in this world, “you want it darker” because Cohen considered that he did offer some light. But, he is resigned. He knows he can’t win and the next line is
We kill the flame

Who is the we here? I think it is humanity, especially Jews or those who speak in the name of God. He is reminiscing now about others who have died and killed. He’s saying, there were times when God seemed to want it darker. The current state of affairs, where Jerusalem is dismembered from Jews and Jewish history is pretty dark. Cohen says, “have it your way”, you are the boss. We are ultimately responsible though for our actions, so perhaps then it is WE who kill the flame through either completing our task or polluting your world, in your name.
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name

He’s acknowledging that he has inescapable deference for the Creator. God is by definition perfection, this is the essence of Kaddish, but

Vilified, crucified, in the human frame

We Jews have a tangible element of God within us, and yet, we Jews are vilified, crucified once that Godliness is within our human frame. The body isn’t a perfect receptacle to hold such a sanctified element, says Cohen. He is reasoning that God knows this, so how can he be critical of what we haven’t achieved and the state of this dark perverted world. Cohen, then goes to the great tragedy of Jewish mass murder
A million candles burning for the help that never came

He is “fighting back” in a presumably future dialogue and saying, but there were good people, good Jews, who did light up the darkness. Why then does God allow them to suffer. Why has this world become so dark. Where was God’s help that never came. The million candles lit up the world throughout history, but when they were bullied and murdered, he asks God why He didn’t intervene, and then says again.
You want it darker

Ultimately, you don’t seem to want that light, or it’s not enough for you, or Cohen has no explanation except that it is God’s “want” that this world seems so hopeless. He wants it darker.
Hineni, hineni

So here I am. Here I am ready to be confronted, dressed down, analysed and judged. I am not hiding. I will engage you. Cohen submits himself to his end, and says
I’m ready, my lord

I’ve thought about it all. I am not apprehensive. I will engage in dialogue. I will ask questions. I’m ready. I’m ready to meet my maker.
There’s a lover in the story

Cohen is telling us that this isn’t a relationship of antagonism. He has a love of God despite what it might sound like. He stresses, that Cohen, is the lover, and he is part of the story of Jewish history, despite not understanding the darkness and the killing of the flame.
But the story’s still the same

Yet, even though Cohen tried to manifest his love, as did many others, the story of the fate of the Jewish people, the continuing pain and anguish at being persecuted for being different, is constant. Others have also perpetrated atrocities in God’s name.
There’s a lullaby for suffering

Yes, one can sing softly and meaningfully about the tragedy of the Jewish people’s suffering. We do so on Tisha B’Av and other occasions. It can rhyme beautifully, calm the nerves, and eventually put one to sleep, as well as …
And a paradox to blame

If we are the Chosen people, the ones charged with a holy mission that other nations refused, it is an extreme paradox that as a result of that choice, it’s all our fault? What a paradox. Cohen then says that it’s not just his feeling or interpretation. In fact,
But it’s written in the scriptures

The Torah forewarns us that we will go through periods of terrible suffering. The world will be an ugly place. The Esav’s will bite our neck, when they pretend to kiss us. Amalek will sneak up on us, and ultimately there will be an enormous battle of Gog and Magog. The prophets of the Scriptures have told us this would happen. So, please God, don’t think this is just Leonard Cohen’s poetry. In fact ..
And it’s not some idle claim

There is evidence that this is our destiny. You told us so. What do you want from Leonard Cohen. How could he change what you decreed. The fact is that, you God
You want it darker

For some reason that Cohen doesn’t understand, he accuses God of just “wanting” it to be darker, as Jewish lights are extinguished. He can’t understand it. The world is full of shameful darkness and lies. But, in the end, we submit and
We kill the flame

We go to our maker, vanquished, and resigned. It is our fate, we accept it and thereby kill the flame. But God, can’t you see that we are victims?
They’re lining up the prisoners

We were taken during the Holocaust and before and now are lined up against a wall as we were before. Is that called killing the flame? Who is killing? Who is making it darker? Why did this have to happen? What are we meant to do when ..
And the guards are taking aim

We face the barrels of a gun, aimed at us. Whether in the form of mass murder, murder tunnels, missiles, knives and now fire … We are in the aim of those who have us captured in our enclaves. How do you expect us to live the life you wanted us to live? Cohen is saying he was far from perfect, but he is one of a production line of historical tragedies that seem to have been foisted on him. He struggles to understand dark humanity
I struggled with some demons

Cohen didn’t give up. He might not have lived a proper Orthodox Jewish life, but he was proud that he was a Cohen, and he left strict instructions that he was to be buried as a Jew in a traditional Jewish way. He wrote acclaimed poems and songs. He gave voice to his struggles up and down the ladder of his human existence. He wasn’t a passive player.
They were middle class and tame

Yes, Cohen says, his struggles were with the pen, with the mind (probably his tuning out of the world through Zen) and through his guitar. The issues he struggled with were not those of a pauper nor those of a wild man. The demonic ideas and explanations that paraded in Cohen’s head were not extreme. They were plain and tame, somewhat middle class in their roots, much like the German Nazi middle class expected tameness … He didn’t go blowing himself up because he didn’t understand. His voice, words and music were rather an urbane reaction. Was that not enough for you, God, asks Cohen. Did you expect me to do more?
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim

Cohen says he did what he could but he hadn’t been taught that  weapons would be the mode of violence in the name of God, as we see all too often. He wasn’t that sort of person anyway. He gave voice. He wasn’t silent. He did his best, but he wasn’t ready to terrorise those who preferred the elimination of Jews even though they terrorise the world. He doesn’t understand, and repeats his mantra once more:
You want it darker

Which I see as question to God. Cohen replies rhetorically, okay then

We kill the flame

Have it your way. I have no choice. I’m ready to have a discussion with you, as I leave this world.

Challenges

There are a number in Melbourne. I won’t elaborate but 

חיה ביילא בת לאה בתיה 

Is one which hits home personally and she should get back to full health quickly.

I was at a Simcha tonight, and all I heard was ‘it’s terrible what’s going on in Melbourne lately’

Then somebody sent me THIS CHILLUL HASHEM

If I was there I would take the parents and teachers and air drop them into Gaza. That’s obviously their home. Disgraceful low lives.

The moral decay that is anti semitism 

Dennis Prager made his name when I was a youngster with Joseph Telushkin (who more recently wrote a marvellous book about the Lubavitcher Rebbe זי׳ע

Denis has been involved in some Oxford Debates of late.

[hat tip Md]

Here he is in a stinging and compelling snippet.

 

 

CANCEL your subscription to Mishpacha Magazine

Anyone who wants to know what divisiveness is, anyone who wants to know what love of a fellow Jew is NOT, anyone who wants to know why Haredim are derided, anyone who wants to remember Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, anyone who wants to know why Al Aqsa isn’t the Beis Hamikdash should read this outrageous, monstrous and contumelious post

The haredi Mishpacha newspaper created a social media firestorm on Thursday after it published an opinion article in which the first paragraph, printed in Arabic and in Hebrew, asked that since members of the haredi public do not go up to the Temple Mount “could you please stop murdering us.”

The article, written by Mishpacha Magazine deputy editor Aryeh Ehrlich, explained how the haredi community refrains from going up to the Temple Mount since the haredi rabbinic leadership prohibits visiting the site.

Almost all leading haredi rabbis and arbiters of Jewish law rule that Jews may not visit the Temple Mount since they may enter areas that are forbidden to enter without undergoing purification rituals which cannot be conducted today.

“Us, the haredi community, we have no interest in going up to the Temple Mount in our time,” Ehrlich writes. “We oppose this vehemently. Moreover, Jewish law see this as a severe prohibition – punished by spiritual excommunication.”

So even if you have solid information on Israeli desires to change the status quo at the Dome of the Rock – something which is incorrect to the best of our knowledge – the haredi community has no connection to it. So please, stop murdering us.”

In the rest of the article, the Mishpacha deputy editor observed that several victims of the recent spate of terror attacks have been from the haredi community, and wrote that he was trying to understand why this was the case.

He went on to detail a conversation he had with an Arab worker at a Rami Levi store and he tried to convince him that members of the haredi public do not go up to the Temple Mount.

Ehrlich was subjected to fierce condemnation on social media once awareness of the article spread.

“How wretched and ghetto like can you be? Is this your version of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’? Of loving your fellow Jew,?” asked one person on Twitter. “Are you are calling on Arabs not to murder haredim because they don’t go up to the Temple Mount but insinuating ‘go and murder those who do? Disgusting. What about just calling on them not to murder. It would be more humane and more Jewish.”

One talkbacker on haredi website B’hadrei Haredim exclaimed “What about other Jews who aren’t haredi, them you should kill?????”

“The Mishpacha newspaper is turning to murderers to ask them not to murder haredim…everyone else is okay apparently. (He forgot that the pogrom in 1929 was because Jews went to visit the Western Wall),” tweeted far-right former MK Michael Ben-Ari.

Following the outrage prompted by his article, Ehrlich took to Twitter and said that he was trying to explain in his article that the Islamic Movement in Israel was trying to create a religious war and has urged Palestinians to attack people with a religious appearance.

“My article in the Mishpacha Magazine says: This religious war is wild incitement based in imaginary rumors. Most people who observe the religious commandments don’t go to the Temple Mount, if only because of the religious prohibition. The article was trying, naively it must be admitted, to tear the away the mask from the murderous Palestinian aggression which has been going on for decades, and to neutralize the false Islamic incitement.”

It is beyond belief that these morons from Mishpacha think they can affect anything. As if the Arabs don’t know this. They know it’s a beat up. They dress up as Haredim wanting a lift so that someone will stop and give them a lift, and then pull a knife on the Jew loving driver who thought he was picking up a harmless Haredi.

These people need to find

מחילה ברקיע השמים אצל מלך מלכי המלכים, הקדוש ברוך הוא

The Obama Administration’s linguistic gymnastics

To hear this video and to continue to support Obama as a US Jew, is simply unfathomable.

In Melbourne, we have the NIF patrons

from simonstudio

: Martin Indyk and Ronni Kahn. I know Ronni, from doing gigs in Sydney where she worked to collect left over food. Martin Indyk, unlike Dennis Ross has shown himself on many occasions to be out of touch with reality.

In Melbourne, we have Ameinu: Ostensibly led by my friend Johnny Baker (although their web site could do with some fixing)

Of course the old Habonim, Hineni Reform, Conservative, Deconstructionist, and other left wing groups that have been around for eons, and now the all singing Shira Chadasha strain of conservadox judaism.

Watch this video and tell me if you detect any sign that the Obama administration is fair. Or, do you share my opinion that they are left-wing apologists for Muslim terrorism unless it affects their uber strategic assets.

This is a good article if you can get your hands on it.

Pass this on especially to your non-Jewish friends

Actually, pass it onto J-Street, Ameinu and all the left wingers who think you can TALK to these “things”.

When the word radicalisation comes up, send this video (from memri). Ask them what Australia has to do with this savage stream of religion.

Click Here

Make no mistake my friends, this is the work of Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessors and is a direct result of the profoundly failed Oslo Accords.

Where are the Charedi Luminaries?

[Hat tip DS]

The original (24/4/215) in Hebrew is here from Chadrei Charedim. I haven’t seen it elsewhere in English.

A Givati Brigade Commander went to see two of his Charedi soldiers who were in dire poverty in Meah Shearim. The Jewish Terrorists of Meah Shearim, then set on him and his car for daring to come and aid etc. The mother of the Brigade Commander noted that her husband was Rav Getz, the Rav of the Kotel, who had good relationships between these Meshugoim. About 50 of them, men and children lay on the road, smashed his car and wouldn’t let him leave. They knew he was too kind to do anything to them. Have we heard any voice of condemnation from the Charedi Badatz.

I’d take the 50, and put them on a farm in Beersheba and make them work for a year. They slept soundly at night while this brigade leader and his soldiers risked their lives and this is the thanks they get.

Enough is enough. We have to send a message to these extremists. When they come to my door, again, I will give them the least and tell them that instead of travelling the world they’d be better off enlisting in an old age home and helping people in Israel and earning a wage. They aren’t geniuses, they are not the chosen few who should be sitting and learning all their lives. That is the domain of the real McCoy.

These Jewish Terrorists are a gross Chillul Hashem, and they remind me of the Sunni vs Shiite war that is raging. They do not see the rest of us as useful or part of the Jewish Kehilla (unless of course you are flashing hundred-dollar bills).

 

Jewish Meah Shearim Thugs

וְשֹׁחַד לֹא תִקָּח כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר פִּקְחִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים

 

 

Our holiday. Part 3: 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn New York

Dear Readers,

I’ve scribbled out part 1 (and thanks to a reader for the english correction wherein I learned that I had understood a word incorrectly all my life!)

I’m jumping to Part 3 before Part 2. Why am I doing so? Perhaps you will understand when I have finished writing. I apologise as always for errors but I don’t proof-read much if at all.

My dear father’s 2nd Yohr Tzeit is on Friday. Leading up to that has been somewhat teary. A way to cope is to try to divest from  thoughts and memories and ever presence. It only helps partly. Every which way life turns, the touch and influence of his Neshoma and memory is raw and palpable. Call it second generation holocaust survivor syndrome. It’s my existential reality; I can’t escape it.

This morning I had five injections in my feet (for plantar fascia) after enduring pain for way too long. The specialist kept saying, “this is going to hurt, this will hurt a lot more etc as he dug the needle and spread it around while squirting in places where needles don’t normally wander”. I answered each time. It doesn’t hurt. Just do what you have to do. When the procedure was finished and my feet felt like they had fallen asleep from the block used in my heels, he was ready to move on quickly (too quickly to his next patient). I stopped him and explained that nothing any doctor could do would cause me to show pain. He asked why? I replied that my parents are holocaust survivors in a world of insulting and sick denial, and their pain was far worse than anything I could ever imagine. Accordingly, I stridently refuse and refused to show visible pain; what I experienced was a drop in the ocean.

He stood there somewhat speechless. He asked me if my parents had passed away. I said my father had “just” passed away. That’s not true of course. His second yohr tzeit is in a few days and ברוך השם he is weaving his magic 2005-10-09_14-47-22 with השם and cajoling him to shower our family and wider family with Simcha after Simcha. To me though, it is like yesterday, and hence my instinctive but unintentionally dry incorrect answer.

So what has this to do with Crown Heights and Part 3 of a holiday? Is Isaac Balbin off on yet another emotional outpouring? Maybe he needs to see a shrink. Maybe I do need to see a shrink but not because of this 🙂

We were only in Crown Heights for a few days. The truly wonderful Tzirel Goldman led us on a walking tour of important places, and then our Mechutonim graciously took Leonie and I out to a very nice restaurant. Unfortunately due to a gig, I couldn’t make the wedding of their son, which had just taken place.

I felt an “agenda” happening yet I wasn’t in usual control. I was moving from place to place. The area was buzzing from Chanuka to Hey Teves (& silly meshichisten) and it was on for young and old. Let’s not forget to mention the aufruf I was looking forward to attending (oh and the Kiddush in Getzel’s Shule, someone I had heard lots about)

Suddenly, our Mechutonim, the Goldmans said, let’s go and introduce you to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky. I had momentarily forgotten he was their brother-in-law. I keep getting mixed up between Duchman and Kotlarsky for some reason, and Mendel Duchman (who I also met on this trip in Montreal) is also a Mechutan of the Chaitons.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky

I recognised his face, had seen him in Melbourne, and was aware that he supervised the shlichus operations for the Lubavitcher Rebbe זי’’ע. “Fine, I responded thinking perhaps I might just say a few niceties and perhaps share a tiny piece of Torah”. We came into his room and he is a big man in several ways. His office looked organised and tidy. Emails were constantly flowing in. He looked tired and weary as if the world was on his shoulders. We shook hands and I sat in front of his desk, with Rabbi Yossy Goldman, and the lady folk including Rabbi Kotlarsky’s wife (who is my mechuteniste’s sister), Leonie et al on the side.

After the usual platitudes. I mentioned to him things he (made out he didn’t know) about Rav Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg הי’’ד

The horrid Holtzberg Kvura

and we immediately had a rapport based on our collective experiences with these special korbanos tehoros. He asked me if I had been back to see what they had done to Nariman House. My response was “no” and I wasn’t sure I could anyway. On my last trip, I somehow managed to get into the bullet-riddled, blood-stained building and took a video, which I won’t show, as it is nauseating. I mentioned my chelek in the miracle that is Moshe Holtzberg and he nodded, seemingly knowingly. I had the impression that this figure knew a heap more than he was letting on. Nonetheless, I told him how Rav Gavriel’s parents majestically appeared in Melbourne for our daughter Talya’s wedding to Zalman Bassin. The others were moved, but he seemed to show less emotion. I had the feeling that he was “used to” these types of happenings and for him, they were but another confirmation of what he had experienced and what was driving him with a sense of unstoppable purpose.

Suddenly he turned to me and asked “Have you been to the Ohel?” 

I answered truthfully. A בית החיים gives me the heebee geebies and I avoid them. As a Cohen I am somewhat cocooned but that came to an abrupt end when my father passed away and a scene I had never been close to, invaded me with shock. I mentioned the opinion of the Gro and Beis HoRav (Soltoveitchik) and Mori Rav Schachter and explained I was a soul with a foot from Brisk and a foot from Amshinov. It’s a contradiction in terms, which might explain my often ebullient meshugassen and eccentricity (well maybe not, but it’s a good try :-). I explained that I find it very difficult to go to my father. I unashamedly attend the least of my entire family. He asked me for the reason, and I explained that I was ממש a nothing compared to him and feel emotionally distraught even from the distance, after which I would be disturbed for days. He asked why? “That’s a good Midda to have. One should feel useless when standing next to giants”. I countered that the giants are around even outside the בית החיים and that is a fundamental. Why did one need to effectively go to a “sack of bones” which was even Tomei to experience their special presence. I suggested that maybe people can achieve things in different ways.

He cajoled me undoubtedly through his demeanour and presence, to “not” leave Crown Heights without a visit.

I launched into the issue of Doresh Al HaMeisim (I can make grown Rabbis scream, but he was very calm) and that I had no Minhag to go to Mikvah, wear slippers and knock on doors. He responded that’s all unnecessary. You can go in the way you feel “comfortable”. I said that DAVKA at a Tziyun, there is a natural tendency to “ask” from the Niftar, and tried to side track him with Brich Shmei and Shalom Aleichem which aren’t said by some for similar reasons. He then said, “Nu, take a simple Maaneh Loshon and say that”. I heard what he said, and understood him well. He had more than a touch of charismatic “Rabbi Groner” about him.

When I go to my father’s Tziyun, I say very specific Tehillim. I do that to stop myself from ASKING my father to do things. You can’t do that, but it’s a very natural tendency. I said I’d consider it seriously, but if I did go, it would be a very great mental strain to stop myself from lapsing into Doresh Al Hameisim when standing in front of two people who were responsible for my Torah education and much more.

In another part, I will explain what eventuated in terms of decision time.

I then mentioned that I had written but once to the Lubavitcher Rebbe yet had never received a reply. He didn’t ask what I had written, but I was comfortable saying it. I said that Melbourne was going through a particularly difficult and potentially splitting moment where two icons were jousting and Lubavitch was splitting. I had mentioned my family history, and made it clear that I could not be considered a Chosid in any shape, but I knew that the only person who could resolve the issue was the Rebbe himself and I asked him to. I never got an answer, and the Rebbe then had a stroke. I always assumed that the reason I hadn’t received an answer was because the Rebbe was B’Sakono and wasn’t in any position to respond with the same immediacy and wisdom as people were accustomed. I left it as a תשבי. One day I’d find out.

At that moment, Rabbi Kotlarksy said but you did get an answer, you just didn’t know it. I will now tell you what happened. As a result of the momentum of letters such as mine (I don’t claim any special powers!), he was summoned immediately to the Lubavitcher Rebbe who instructed him to travel to Melbourne and sort out the “mess”.

Rabbi Kotlarsky then told me how he sorted it out, and he did so quickly. I was very impressed by the ביטול of Rabbi Y.D. Groner ז’’ל about whom I could never imagine as “lower” than anyone, given his towering presence. That was a new greatness that I discovered. I was blown away by what Rabbi Groner had done. I was also blown away by the fact that on this particular trip after our daughter married into a well-known family, I had about an hour with someone who I never expected (or had a desire/need) to meet. I had no common business, so to speak.

But “the Aybishter Firt Der Velt”, and it was השגחה that I was to unravel a long mystery. I liked Rabbi Kotlarsky. He gave me the impression that he’s someone who I could sit for five hours listening to at a farbrengen. His finger was literally on the Chabad pulse.

We said our good byes, and I thanked him for allowing us to interrupt his very busy schedule. He was due to spend Shabbos at the Ohel for Hay Teyves and seemed to always be on planes, in cars and any vehicular transport, as he explained to me.

I’ve obviously not gone into all details, as they aren’t necessary and help nobody today.

So I come home to the Golus of Melbourne, and I’m due to now go the Tziyun of my dear father. I’ve had a practice run, so to speak, and it was mentally draining for me to keep my thoughts halachically sound and emotionally relevant.

I have to admit, that I am still implacably against people who write “to” the Rebbe as I noticed in many letters (even though they were torn) the people either didn’t know the Halacha, or were never taught it properly by some single-minded teachers who probably assumed something transcending Halacha. I don’t change my views on that and don’t apologise. I understand Chassidim emulate, but I am sure that the Lubavitcher Rebbe never ever was Doresh directly of his father in law. He was a Medakdek B’Mitzvos K’Chut Ha’saaroh and could not be questioned on such issues. I feel this was also why he had a common thread with the Rav, who is also known as the איש ההלכה.

So, until my next post, I will try to do the things one should do to give my dear father’s Neshoma nachas, although I can’t help but feel that there ought to be a motive to pile these up during the year, and just unload so to speak on the Yohr Tzeit when the Neshoma will go up a level (or levels).

I hope I haven’t bored you too much, but most of my posts are rather selfish. I heal myself through writing them.

Rebbetzin Bashi Twersky speaks

In a earlier blog post, I felt that we need to be more nuanced in the way we express our opinions on why God allows/does things. One of the Seforim I learned back in days gone by was ספר העיקרים by one of the Rishonim, Rav Yosef Albo. It “spoke to me” at the time, and I used to learn it during Mussar Seder. I remember the Mashgiach noticed what I was doing, but he (sensibly) “let me be” and learn what my heart desired. He said nothing. I don’t know if they have reprinted this Sefer, but my original one seems to have gone walk about. If I remember correctly, it was in the second perek where he wrote a phrase which has stuck with me since

לו ידעתיו – הייתיו

If I knew Him (God), then I’d be Him.

In other words, attempts to know exactly why, are axiomatically impossible.

That doesn’t mean to say that one can’t surmise, one can’t draw lessons, or one can’t initiate a Drush. But, one can’t say this is why X happened, unless God himself, or a Navi is commanded to tell us.

I think her point below is excellent and salient. Some would say I’m even guilty of promoting it, which may be true, but isn’t and wasn’t ever my intention. My only quibble with what she says relates to the cause/effect nature of her statement which implies that we know for sure.

Again, I do not disagree with her point. She is clearly an intelligent lady. This is a snippet from the Jerusalem Post

Bashi Twersky, the widow of Rabbi Mosheh Twersky – who was killed in the Har Nof terrorist attack last week – said the internal divisions within the ultra-Orthodox community that have developed over the last two years were the (my emphasis) reason why her husband and three other members of the community died in the brutal incident.

Speaking at the mass prayer rally and ceremony held in the Jerusalem neighborhood on Tuesday night for the end of the shiva mourning period for the victims, Twersky said the dispute had become increasingly acrimonious over the last year in particular.

She was alluding to the establishment of a new political movement and party that is in competition with the traditional Degel Hatorah non-hassidic haredi party.

She said that the attack had been particularly brutal, and asked how such a death could befall those praying in synagogue, “how did the sanctity of the synagogue and prayer not defend us,” she asked.

“The fire of dispute has been burning among us for a year now, and this dispute became terrible, and every day it gets worse.”

“Someone who listens to a great rabbi different from the one I listen to, someone who belongs to a different camp from me is commanded to be cruel to them, is commanded to humiliate and disgrace them, to harass them with terrible brutality.

“When we behave with cruelty to our brothers, God sends a punishment with cruelty, measure for measure.

“In synagogues and study halls they persecuted, disgraced and humiliated those who think differently from me, and therefore we were struck by the attribute of strict justice in a synagogue at the time of prayer,” the rabbi’s wife said.

She added that strengthening religious observance, as has been advised by many rabbis, was not a good enough reaction, and that rather a “drastic change” was required.

ואפילו בהסתרה … even when he is hidden?

There is a moving Breslov melody which is very popular. The words are from R’ Nachman in לקוטי מוהרן although I haven’t ever read that ספר חסידות, but so I am told. The gist of it is that even when God is hidden, as in ואנכי הסתר אסתיר את פני he is still there albeit בהסתרה.

My davening was very agitated at Shule today. In fact, during davening, when I read certain things, tears welled up in my eyes, and for reasons which probably aren’t entirely normal, I didn’t want anyone to notice my distress. I raised my voice for pesukim which condemned רשעים.

I asked a few people, what is the meaning of this song after the tragedy the latest tragedy. Rav Moshe Twersky הי’’ד for example, Rosh Yeshiva, was named after R’ Chaim Brisker’s elder son Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, the Rav’s father, whose Yohr Tzeit falls out on the same day as my father ע’’ה.

I asked others whether Breslav would be bopping in the streets of Beit Shemesh. How can anyone, even a Chossid bring שמחה to the table.

I noted to others, that in this case, they don’t do Tahara, and one is buried in their bloodied clothing. I don’t know what the din is, but my feeling was it would have been appropriate to bury the person in their Tefillin as well as their Tallis. אפילו בהסתרה was sounding so hollow to me. I couldn’t cope with it.

[Hat tip BA]

Here is a post from a lady close by

Some people wake up in the morning to the soft strains of the music on their alarm clock. This morning I woke up to the heart-stopping shrieks of multiple ambulances and police cars racing down my street on the way to Har Nof. Meanwhile my husband was in shule davening Shacharis. I hadn’t even said goodbye to him as he left while I was still asleep and was considerate enough not to wake me. Thank G-d my husband came home from shule. But my friends Chaya Levine and Breina Goldberg weren’t as fortunate. What do you say to a friend, the widow of a holy martyr, whose life has changed drastically in an instant? How can I smile at Salim, the friendly Arab worker at the grocery store across the road, without feeling suspicious? And how do I deal with the fact that for the first time in 24 years in Israel I no longer feel safe in my own backyard? May G-d comfort all of us in these trying times, and may we all appreciate every minute spent with our loved ones.

I just don’t want to hear God’s accountants telling us it is because of a) or b) or c). Do yourselves a favour and adopt וידום אהרון.

At times like these, I’m terribly reminded of horrible holocaust scenes . I’m left with extreme בהלה

What can one do? We can donate money to relevant organisations, but there are families that now comprise some 24 children without a father. What was the Aybishter doing hiding? Can we ask why? I say yes. I say we adopt Moshe Rabeinu’s attitude and say מחיני נא מספרך rub me out from your Torah if you have something against the Jews. This so soon after a Shabbos Kiddush Hashem, it defies logic, and yes, I know “that soul may have completed its purpose in this world” is often used, but I don’t know why that soul wasn’t allowed to complete more. Who does it harm?

Don’t anyone dare suggest it was because we didn’t follow Satmar’s incorrect views.

In Melbourne we have the wonderful CSG looking after Shules and Schools. Ironically, they don’t look after Chareidim who think that their negative attitude to Israel and Torah Learning etc will protect them. This is a reminder that אין סומכין על הנס and you have to protect yourself. Does someone really believe that two or three deranged chevra from this כת הרוצחים these ישמאלים ממזרים aren’t capable of a copy cat style operation. Both major political parties are supportive of improved security, but there is a limit to what can be done. And I hope nobody touches the latently anti-semitic, nevus socialist alliance party. Don’t give them one vote.

Parents, watch your kids. Watch yourselves.  I see kids in the Charedi area of Ripponlea walking at night alone or in two’s. They wouldn’t have a hope of protecting themselves from the type of attack that Zac Gomo endured. Zac was a חייל with training and that saved him. He spoke Arabic and knew how to close a wind pipe.

Maybe we need to introduce קרב מגע in every Jewish School. Obama isn’t going to help us, and neither is anyone else. We can’t be sanguine. We must act, speak up, and look after ourselves. At the same time, improving one’s own personal faults in עבודת השם and עבודת הזולת, which is a very personal thing, should be on everyone’s mind. The world is finely balanced, and as usual, we are on the עקידה and although it is commonly thought that Yitzchak didn’t die on the עקידה the Midrash/Peskikta explicitly says that פרחה נשמתו i.e. Yitzchok died before the knife cut, and when he was saved, a new Yitzchok was effectively born.

אני הקטן don’t have anything of real value to contribute in this blog post except an outpouring of = extreme angst and aggravation that MY God was אפילו בהסתרה and if so, I say, no I beseech, that this game of hide and seek needs to stop through full גילוי אלוקות במהרה בימינו.

In the meanwhile, I would, even though it’s against intrernational law, not only demolish the houses, but evict all members of the family on a one way passage to Gaza. Let them rot there. I would investigate and include any Imam/Sheik who had influenced them (if they did) and do the same to them. The Balad party and all parties should swear allegiance to a JEWISH State, and if they can’t, they should leave to an Arab state.

End of Story.

Israel: Stay strong and resolute

ישראל נושע בה׳

The donors of 5 billion dollars to Hamastan laid no conditions of demilitarisation. This is unacceptable, and should be unacceptable to even J-Street supporters

Ban Ki Moon’s statement that the war was a result of “occupation” is reprehensible. He is grossly unfit for office. How does he know? We know it didn’t start with that. That’s fact. We know that Hamas and Fatah hate each other but hate Israel more. We know that successive Prime Ministers have tried to negotiate two state solutions only to have them rejected by the Arabs. We know they don’t recognise a JEWISH state. We know Israel can do no right.

The British Labor Party’s direction to its members to vote on the issue is grossly political. It isn’t about the concept, it’s about the timing and methodology. This is how a prostituted party works in England to garner votes.

How dare Moon not wish to investigate Human Rights violations from Hamas.

Obama is on his last legs. He has proved absolutely useless at protecting Kurds and Yazdis. He gives lip service to genocide. His lip service is only second to Clinton. Kerry is a גארנישט

The world is corruption personified.

I would, as Israel, Boycott as many UN events as possible. THAT must be the reaction. If you aren’t forced, why go to a filthy bordello? We are עם לבדד ישכון ובגויים לא יתחשב

That will not change.

Issues tangential to the tragic death of Aharon Sofer ז’’ל

I have been ill with a virus, consumed with the Gaza operation and all the news surrounding it, and yet, I most certainly knew that this 23-year-old Yeshivah student, who was hiking with friends near Yad Vashem, had disappeared in the Jerusalem forest. I had read it in the Israeli papers. I read it in the Jerusalem Post, Yediot, Times of Israel and I’m sure more.

Was it a secret? No? We all knew about it, and it was on the front page over a few days.

And yet, in another example of Charedi ignition, we are exposed to a shrill article in Matzav, which not only asserts that the Israeli media ignored the disappearance, but probably did so because he was Charedi. The first point is patently false. When I first heard about it, my immediate reaction, call it a gut feeling, was that he had lost his way and was dehydrated somewhere.

This is not the first time in recent times that a Charedi kid has tragically died in avoidable circumstances. Perhaps his phone battery was low, or it was a kosher phone unable to connect to the internet for a distress signal, but not having water when you hike appears to be more common among Charedim. Aharon may have had water. I don’t know. It’s baffling.

What I do expect though is that a proper educational approach take place where Yeshivah boys are warned and re-warned, that you don’t travel without a charged phone which has a way of sending a distress signal, and you must have water with you. Will such obvious advice be splashed on the walls all around Israel’s Charedi enclaves? I don’t know. I sure hope so. If they don’t it’s questionable whether the Rabonim should be held to account according to the Din of Egla Arufa that we just layned.

No doubt, we will hear one of “God’s accountants” who says that it happened because he wasn’t in the Beis HaMedrash. I sincerely hope not. The Rebbes and Rabbonim who went to Marienbad and similar to get some Menuchas HaGuf were also not in the Beis HaMedrash, and it is entirely acceptable to take a rest and have some fun Bein Hazmanim. In Israel of course, based on the Medrash?, walking 4 cubits suffices to acquire Olam Habo! I guess according to Satmar and other Hungarians that statement is whitened out.

I’d like to turn this issue on its head, from a Melbourne perspective. Yesterday, in light of the fact that a few days had passed and he hadn’t been found, it was planned to have an evening of Tehillim in the Adass Hall. The poster was politically correct. It also mentioned that the Tehillim was for the “matzav” in Eretz Yisroel. My questions were, for the “Matzav in Eretz Yisroel” there had previously been no such poster let alone a call to the Rabbinic Council to lend their approval.

A boy of 4, Daniel, had just tragically been killed in a mortar attack. The Rabbi of Adass will not allow a Tefilla for the welfare of the soldiers of the IDF (Tefila L’Chayalei Tzahal) to be said in his Shule! The automatons follow this ruling. Yet, when a boy from Lakewood, who tragically met his demise becoming lost while hiking, the “Matzav” in Eretz Yisroel gets a sudden call up. I ask, where was the picture of little Daniel whose parents were in the midst of Shiva. Where was a call to divide the learning of Mishnayos for Daniel’s soul? There was not. You see, Daniel, wasn’t wearing a Yarmulke and his parents were Kibbutzniks so his Neshama wasn’t important enough to make a brouhaha and cause a kiddush Hashem by using this night to also divide the learning of Mishnayos.

Why do the Rabbis of Lakewood in Melbourne and those from Adass ask for support from the Rabbinic Council of Victoria (RCV) if they consider that council to be something akin to a Chabad dominated circus of ignoramuses? Let’s not kid ourselves. They have no respect for the RCV.

Let’s get serious. Matzav.com had no business making such false accusations, and the Melbourne community really shouldn’t have had to wait till after a ceasefire and when this boy Aharon tragically lost his life before attempting to organise joint ventures in “good faith.”

Perhaps my cynicism is greater than ever, but for me, every soldier, child etc who is killed is a human tragedy. Whilst the RCV had an evening of prayer (twice, I believe) and whilst some Charedim attended, most did not and would not. No, Matzav.com, the argument goes the other way, why does it take the untimely tragic death of a Lakewood boy to spur the Charedi world to organise a special night of Tehillim for the community. The answer is, I believe, that Aharon was frum. He was learning. Soldiers protecting lives and little boys killed by mortar are on a “lower madrega”, one which doesn’t call for a special gathering.

Ironically, who visited family Sofer to give them encouragement? It was the Dati Leumi mother of one of the three boys kidnapped and murdered by terrorists.

In summary, who could have a problem with an Asifa to say Tehillim for a missing kid, but to effectively make differences between frum and not yet frum is distasteful.

Let me also remind my Charedi friends that there was a soldier who went missing for days and days and was ultimately found dead. The strong rumour is that abuse when he was a child led to his untimely death. Again, I can’t remember the Charedi Lakewood or Adass communities organising, let alone getting the RCV involved, to publicise their event for that tormented soldier.

I’m sorry for those Charedim who send me unnamed comments telling me I’m fostering Sinah. People, wake up. The Sinah is perpetrated palpably not by me, but by the actions of hypocrites who love non Charedi financial support in terms of business and donations, but think we are second-rate.

Well, I don’t accept being considered a second-rate citizen: neither Rav Shach or Rav Kotler was my Rav,  and I don’t follow the anti Israel views of R’ Yoel of Satmar.

We are in Ellul. A bit more Ahavas Yisroel is needed. Tonight there was meant to be a community Avos uBanim program. Adass not only said that they aren’t participating, but they actually removed the posters advertising the event, lest one of theirs is “led astray” and sits and learns with his son in a large room with those who don’t follow the closed Hungarian Charedi world. Shame on them!

I will finish with a most sincere wish that Aharon’s parent’s are blessed with nechama, and the resultant trauma doesn’t consume their lives, בתוך שאר אבילי ציון וירושלים. I can’t even begin to imagine their pain.

Adopt a Terrorist—Too good to miss

[Hat tip MD. Don’t know if this is true, but it’s worth publishing anyway]

The Canadians know how to handle complaints.
Here is an example.
A Canadian female liberal wrote a lot of letters to the Canadian government, complaining about the treatment of captive insurgents (terrorists) being held in the Afghanistan National Correctional System facilities. She demanded a response to her letter. She received back the following reply:
National Defense Headquarters
M Gen George R. Pearkes Bldg., 15 NT
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa , ON K1A 0K2
Canada
Dear Concerned Citizen,
Thank you for your recent letter expressing your profound concern of treatment of the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists captured by Canadian Forces, who were subsequently transferred to the Afghanistan Government and are currently being held by Afghan officials in Afghanistan National Correctional System facilities.
Our administration takes these matters seriously and your opinions were heard loud and clear here in Ottawa .. You will be pleased to learn, thanks to the concerns of citizens like yourself, we are creating a new department here at the Department of National Defense, to be called ‘Liberals Accept Responsibility for Killers’ program, or L.A.R.K. for short.
In accordance with the guidelines of this new program, we have decided, on a trial basis, to divert several terrorists and place them in homes of concerned citizens such as yourself, around the country, under those citizens personal care. Your personal detainee has been selected and is scheduled for transportation under heavily armed guard to your residence in Toronto next Monday.
Ali Mohammed Ahmed bin Mahmud is your detainee, and is to be cared for pursuant to the standards you personally demanded in your letter of complaint. You will be pleased to know that we will conduct weekly inspections to ensure that your standards of care for Ahmed are commensurate with your recommendations.
Although Ahmed is a sociopath and extremely violent, we hope that your sensitivity to what you described as his ‘attitudinal problem’ will help him overcome those character flaws. Perhaps you are correct in describing these problems as mere cultural differences. We understand that you plan to offer counselling and home schooling, however, we strongly recommend that you hire some assistant caretakers.
Please advise any Jewish friends, neighbours or relatives about your house guest, as he might get agitated or even violent, but we are sure you can reason with him.
He is also expert at making a wide variety of explosive devices from common household products, so you may wish to keep those items locked up, unless in your opinion, this might offend him.
Your adopted terrorist is extremely proficient in hand-to-hand combat and can extinguish human life with such simple items as a pencil or nail clippers.
We advise that you do not ask him to demonstrate these skills either in your home or wherever you choose to take him while helping him adjust to life in our country.
Ahmed will not wish to interact with you or your daughters except sexually, since he views females as a form of property, thereby having no rights, including refusal of his sexual demands.
This is a particularly sensitive subject for him.
You also should know that he has shown violent tendencies around women who fail to comply with the dress code that he will recommend as more appropriate attire. I’m sure you will come to enjoy the anonymity offered by the burka over time. Just remember that it is all part of respecting his culture and religious beliefs’ as described in your letter.
You take good care of Ahmed and remember that we will try to have a counsellor available to help you over any difficulties you encounter while Ahmed is adjusting to Canadian culture.
Thanks again for your concern.
We truly appreciate it when folks like you keep us informed of the proper way to do our job and care for our fellow man.
Good luck and God bless you.
Cordially,
Gordon O’Connor