Saturday, February 28, 2009
Alas! A Quarter Century!
An entire Quarter Century of Shlomo and neither he nor the world around him have changed in any positive way since he was born!
I was not expecting to find myself in this sort of situation at this point in my life.
If I had known that so little would become of myself I would obviously have done something, ...everything quite differently, though it is much too late for that now.
I mean, I would very much hesitate to call this a "failed existence", though I would hesitate more to call this an "accomplished existence"!
It would be difficult for me to verbalize exactly how I feel about things at this point in my life, although if I did have to render it into words, I'm afraid it would exclusively contain four-letter words describing things like excrement and fornication.
One protruding example that has been a disturbance to me recently is my recent realization of the fact that my mind, personality and actions have changed so very little since I was a small child. When I was younger I felt like I had come so far, yet now I feel as if I haven't gotten anywhere. Any accomplishment I may have had seems like some kind of fanciful illusion.
I also feel that the years between 20 and 25 didn't really happen. What were supposed to be some of the most eventful years of life were some of the most eventless. Now I feel like I have to "make it up" or something, ..which, of course, is somewhat impossible, due to the fact that this is the age to "settle down" in life, get married, and get in the same gear as many of my comrades are. This temporal paradox itself is a source of some displeasure.
Another example has been the issue of peers; how I feel that most of my peers have gone beyond me, which for me has become a source of jealousy in recent times.
Though it is also unsettling to me that many of those I see around me are upset and frustrated about the way their existences seem to be leading them. I cannot hide the fact that at times I feel their frustrations are minimally justified in comparison to my own.
Yet I, friends, am a believer in the logical basis for the notion of Divine Providence, and the idea that G_d has a plan for every man. It is my opinion as well, friends, that G_d has something of some particular purpose in this world to be fulfilled by myself and none other.
I therefore pray to He who gives life to all to overlook my trespasses, and lead me into a coming quarter century of great fulfillment, purpose and accomplishment, Amen.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I recently started reading Oliver Twist for the first time. A little late for that, I know (I even had a collection of all the famous pieces of eighteenth century English Literature in my house when I was a kid, though I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to read them!).
It could be said though, that a book like Oliver Twist wasn't quite meant for very young readers. Reading through it, it seems he supposes his reader to be mature and somewhat opinionated about, and experienced in, life. Dickens also has a writing style that younger people might find a bit rigid and lengthy.
One thing I found really funny was towards the beginning of the book Oliver supposes that "the Jew" (Fagin) and his gang are employed making handkerchiefs. And for quite a little while there is a complete lack of communication in using the word "work". Oliver supposes they mean handkerchiefs, and it actually seems they understand him to understand that they mean robbery.
For example in chapter 9:
"‘You’d like to be able to make pocket–handkerchiefs as easy as Charley Bates, wouldn’t you, my dear?’ said the Jew.
‘Very much, indeed, if you’ll teach me, sir,’ replied Oliver."
"At length, he began to languish for fresh air, and took many occasions of earnestly entreating the old gentleman to allow him to go out to work with his two companions.", and many similar passages.
This is funny to me because such a lengthy misunderstanding once happened to me with Israeli charity collectors in regards to the word work. I once came to Montreal (from Israel) with the intention of working with an acquaintance of mine in the dry cleaning industry. I had intended to stay in the free lodging intended for Israeli charity collectors, and had mentioned to the owner on the phone before I came "אני מגיע לשמה לעבוד". I was surprised the next day when the Israelis told me things like "הולכים לעבוד, אתה מגיע?י".
The absurdity grew even more when I informed them that I met with some trouble with the Immigration Officers at the airport when I told them I had come "to work" (I had not known it was not officially allowed for an American without papers). The Israelis thought this was a complex play on words and ideas when they told each other "הוא אמר להם שהוא מגיע לפה לעבוד!י" (obviously with the understanding that I meant charity collecting, but I was using the word "work" which is often used to refer to it, to make it sound more legitimate, not knowing that "working" is just as prohibited for an Israeli in Canada as soliciting!). It turned out, by the way, that if the owner had not understood me to mean charity collecting, he might not have let me stayed there...
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
אבל לא כולם דומים זה לזה בדעתם, ויש מהם הנמשכים אחר ההיגיון הצרוף והמדע הטהור, וכל רעיון אשר לא עבר את השיטה המדעית יתרחקו מעליהם. לבחורי ובנות ישראל אלו לא הייתי מתמהמה לומר שדרכיהם התורניות של אנשים כמו רב הירש, רב סולובייציק וחכמי ספרד, וכל מי שילך בדרכים אלו בפירושי היהדות, אם יועברו באופן יעיל, יעשו פירות יותר מה"מבצעים". כי דתינו אינה אופנה חולפת מה"עידן החדש", רוב ככל האמונות העיקריות ביהדות אינם נפרדים מן הדעת וההיגיון. לנוער היותר מעוניין צריך, לא, חייב, להיות יותר מתפילין ומיסטיקה לקרב את לבם לאספקטים של הדת היותר מתיישבים על הדעת. י
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
As you can see, dear readers, ....."reader"? ; ), I have been trying to categorize my past posts through the usage of labels, which of course is somewhat difficult, since it's hard to say what many of my posts are "about". Not to mention the difficulty of correcting my grammar and syntax errors, which would take weeks to complete.
Anyway, I was on the subway recently (as I often am), and I was considering all the things that I've written in the past that have become lost to me (mostly Gemara notebooks). I tallied it all up, and all together there are:
- 5 notebooks on פסחים.
- 2 notebooks on בבא מציעא.
- 2 notebooks on בבא קמא.
- 1 notebook on קידושין.
- 1 notebook on סוכה.
- 1 notebook on כתובות.
- 1 teaching notebook on ברכות.
- 1 teaching notebook on קידושין.
that I've lost. (When there's more than one it means I studied the same tractate at different periods). Some of these notebooks were b'iyun (in depth, as heard from the Rosh Yeshiva), and some were b'kiyut (basic outlines and conclusions of studies from later chapters in a given tractate).
Here it may seem a bit negligible, but in my eyes it's a big loss. These in essence were my "blog" before my blog. My writings and my thoughts on the tractates I was able to study. If I had more time with them I could have even rewritten them or typed them up in a way that might have proven useful to me in the future.
..I guess it shows why it's a good idea to keep important stuff in safe places! Hopefully I'll review those tractates again, and come to clearer understandings and gain keener insight in them, having the amount of exposure to them I've had in the past. אכי"ר
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I heard that monarchs and other rulers in the past were called and called themselves by the third person plural (for example saying "we" instead of "I") because they felt that in a sense, they encompassed in themselves the entire nation they were ruling over.
I was just thinking of how that might apply to some of the attribute names with which we refer to G_d at times in Hebrew. אלו"הים for example, is said to also mean judge (as אלו"ה wouldn't). In this case it would mean a judge who encompasses his judged. Is that somehow eluded to when referring to G_d as a judge in this ancient Hebrew third person plural?
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
אי אפשר היה לי להגיד שאינני חש לאפשרות שכך אני מראה את עצמי, מ"מ לא היתה האשמה כזאת כזב לחלוטין(!). ובין כך מתוך צירוף תחושת הבטלה הנזכרת, ותחושת רצוני להפיץ רעיוני הקצרים למקום שמור יותר ומפורסם יותר מדפים ממשיים, כמעט ומוכרח אני לכתוב. ואם באמת ככה אני מוצג, "יהיה אשר יהיה", ו"כאשר אבדתי אבדתי", כי לחסום מעניינות המחשבה עבירה היא, עבירה שאין ברצוני לעבור! י
(Written on the subway, after admiting to someone that I blogged!)
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Do you recognize this man?
I decided to turn my attention to a man who has gained a great amount of popularity during his lifetime for his Torah, charisma, soul-stirring discourses and never-ending efforts for the sake of strengthening Judaism in America and the world-over; רבי מנחם מענדל שניאורסון (a name, I recently discovered, which was once changed from "שניאורי", which obviously meant "son of שני-אור", after שני-אור זלמן מליאדי).
I was having a conversation with some gentlemen over at "Dixie Yid"s blog last week (very nice blog by the way) about the ruling of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson concerning the impropriety of university attendance. I countered with something that has always bothered me about Chabad Chassidim; the fact that they adhere to relatively fundamentalist viewpoints of "the Rebbe", while Rabbi Schneerson himself could have been seen as somewhat of a modernizer. In this example Rabbi Schneerson advised against university attendance, while he himself had attended a number of universities in both Germany and France. Other obvious examples include his comparative "modernity" of dress (in his circles what he was wearing was quite outlandish!), while the official dress of his Chassidim is of much more of a Traditionalist-Polish-Jewish fashion, and his including sources from secular knowledge into is discourses, while he, again, advised against the acquisition of such knowledge.
The gentlemen I was talking with responded that Rabbi Schneerson's university studies cannot be taken as an example to others, considering he was less susceptible to the undesirable influences of the university environment. One of them suggested that it wasn't even the idea of Rabbi Menachem Mendel at all, but that he was sent by his father in law, the Rebbe of Lubavitch.
I started to take a bit of interest in this seeming shift in interests of Rabbi Sheersohn, and tried to discover for what reason he attended in the first place (according to records Rabbi Schneerson first attended University of Berlin for little more than a semester, then attended a technical school in Paris where he received a licence for engineering, and then studied math at the Sorbonne until the war broke out).
From what I read online, it seems that Rabbi Schneerson, having studied Torah under his illustrious father and having received Rabbinical ordination from the famed Rabbi Yosef Rosen (צפנת פענח), harbored a keen interest in general knowledge and languages, having learned Russian on his own while still at home. He later visited the (then) Rebbe of Lubavitch for the first time (who had only daughters), and quickly became engaged to one of his younger daughters (the conditions of which are not clear). After the marriage his father in law was criticized for his son's dressing in modern clothing, and having somewhat of a secular education.
The couple then made their famous trip to Germany, where both Rabbi Schneerson and his wife would be able to continue their studies. Rabbi Menachem Mendel audited a few interesting courses at the University of Berlin, and his newlywed wife, Chaya Mushka (Musenka), took some classes at the "Deutsche Institute". It seems that Rabbi Schnerson was somewhat dismayed by the lack of seriousness among the students, and decided instead to spend his time acquiring knowledge (both secular and holy) on his own pace, in the university library and at Hildesheimer (Rabbinical Seminary). During this time he was said to have met with men who were to themselves become Jewish leaders in America. I'm speaking of course about Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik and Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner. They both attested to his piety and his keeping of strict religious practices in unlikely conditions. The couple was supported by her father, who, it's suggested, took interest in the idea of his son in law learning a reasonable trade, in order to support himself.
He allowed himself the liberty of this secularism, seemingly, because he was not in line to become the next Rebbe. The Rebbe's eldest daughter was already married to someone by the name of Rabbi Shemaryah Gur-Ari (a name slightly familiar to me from hearing Crown Heights people talk Chabad politics with each other), who spent all his time with the Rebbe, and produced a healthy son, something Rabbi Schneerson had yet to produce.
An even more informing proof that that Rabbi Scheerson had an acute desire to acquire knowledge, and did not think he would succeed his father in law, is that the couple subsequently moved to Paris, and lived in an upscale neighborhood with their brother and sister in law (where they were reportedly "very modern"). He succeeded in completing a two year course at ESTP (a technological college for construction and industrial engineering), and obtained a licence for electrical engineering (which he ended up taking advantage of for Tikun-Olam in America towards the end of the war). He then continued to register at Sorbonne, where he studied math until the war broke out (obviously not to obtain a degree of any kind).
It has become my conviction, though, that his opinions about modernism changed radically when he came to the United States, and was found to be a more promising candidate for Rebbe then that Rabbi Shemaryah fellow. His piousness, Torah knowledge, general knowledge and charisma really left Rabbi Gur-Ari no match for him, and he was eventually chosen (by some sort of general consensus it seems) to be the next Rebbe. Once he was the Rebbe, and the movement started growing tremendously under his leadership, I think the movement started taking on some Polish-style colourisations. Though the Rebbe didn't wear the traditional fur hat, his adherents started looking more and more "Polish". He began advising against university study and began to adhere to a more supernatural approach to things as a result of the responsibilies and possibilities of his post.
This is a letter sent by the Rebbe, for example, about the ideologies of Samson Raphael Hirsch about secular university, and why he feels Hirsch's opinions cannot be applied to the situation in the United States. I must say, while I do not disagree with many of the points in this letter (but do admit that some of the points are debatable), I feel that it is possible that his change in his public stance on these subjects came as a direct result of the responsibility he felt he had to Jewry as the Lubavitcher Rebbe (in other words it wasn't his personal opinion, but his "professional" opinion).
These are some some of the sites I used to gather this somewhat controversial info:
Wikipedia. (Of course!)
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
A little late, I know.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Aramaic Song: Why are these guys singing about me?! You gotta' hear this one!
Aramaic Song: My favorite Aramaic song (from the S'lih'ot) "מחי ומסי" (it's so emotional. ..mostly when you yourself are singing it though).
While I was living in Orlando, I had the type of beard that made me look like an ambassador to Judaism or something (which, I admit, is fun!). I was once stopped on the street by a British Christian my age, who seemingly converted since he had dark skin (perhaps Indian). He asked me about prayer, and about what I thought of "the lords prayer". At that time I hadn't even heard of it though (something I was somewhat embarrassed of), and so he explained to me that it was that famous prayer about "give us today our daily bread" etc. I told him honestly I didn't have a preconceived opinion, as I hadn't given it much thought in the past.
I am not here to discuss the lords prayer, but rather Aramaic, since it is known that "Jesus spoke Aramaic", and if the prayer was uttered, it would have been in Aramaic, though in honesty it was probably traslated from the Greek origional.
I have always felt somewhat sorry for Aramaic, since most of the people I know who read it pronounce it in a way that's far from how it might have once been pronounced, and I'm one of those guys who, even though nobody else in the yeshiva reads Gemara that way, will strive to read it in a way that's more historically palatable. It has always been somewhat of a source of pride for me.
In the place and times in which the Talmud was penned though, most everyone spoke Aramaic, including the Christians of the Chaldean, Mesopotamian and Assyrian Orthodox Churches. How might the lords prayer, for example, or Aramaic in general, have sounded at that time in which some of our greatest ancestors lived? This is something I thankfully was able to hear almost daily, due to my living for a year in quite close proximity to the Syrian orthodox Church in the old city (as I mentioned). Here's a little snippet I found on YouTube, it's pretty much from 48 seconds till 1: 45. Don't worry, there's nothing in it that's subersive to Jewish theology!
For some clarification, I'm actually going to type it out(!) to aid understanding.
הב לן לחמן (סונכנן) יומנא
ושב[ו]ק לן חובין
איכנא דאף כנן
ולא תעלין נסיונא, אלא פ[ת]צן מן בישא
מתון דדילך היא מלכותא, חילא ותושבחתא
(Some interesting grammatical elements to this Modern-Eastern Aramaic:
פ רפויה is pronounced "P".
ב רפויה is pronounced "W".
ח is pronounced "כ".
In Western Aramaic the כ is pronounced "ch".
In Western Aramaic the קמץ is pronounced "oo").
I have also added (with a bit of technical instruction from the Babysitter) the option which shows how long ago a blog was updated; another asset for one to whom saving time and patience are important.
Enjoy! ; )