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Welcome to the Social Hall!

Here we will be social. We will share memories and experiences. We do not come here to vent or bash- just to schmooze…and enjoy the cookie parade.

Content will be uploaded regularly and reader submissions will be enjoyed.

All the Best!

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Funny German City Names

I have made aquiantance with a young college/rabbinical student in Berlin. I was picking his brain, and I mentioned that I came across a German city called “Nidah”. I asked him for other funny names of actual cities and he produced a whole list. Find them below…

Muckenloch=gnat hole
Deppendorf= village of idiots
Deppenhausen= house of idiots
Dummersdorf= dumbers village
Kotzen= to puke
Schmedeswurtherwesterdeich= Speaks for itself

(Two more I had to leave out of this post out of good judgement.)

And runners up are:
Windischeschenbach
Bad Gottleuba-Berggießhübel
I will add:
Nekkarbischofsheim

Anyone have a favorite?

Photo: wiki commons. The Court Jester, W.M. Chase

Professor Leo Levi z’l and a Bygone Era

There was once a little street in a small neighborhood on the edge of Jerusalem.On this little street, where trees threw shade on courtyards and alleyways of Jerusalem stone, children played and buses rumbled by a small kiosk across from the Swiss butcher Rosenbaum and a small stationery store where little girls bought pencils for school; and women felt the vegetables at the stoop off the fruit store adjacent to the kiosk where Donny would place a soy frankfurter inside a boureka for three shekel, as Yeshiva students waited and seminary girls picked out a gift for their Shabbos hosts. 

Across from all this stood a tall shul with immaculately shined floors and a view, from between its tall and narrow windows, of the entire center of Jerusalem. But when these windows were closed it was just a neighborhood shul where fathers sat next to sons and older men hushed the children.

On this little street, with the kiosk and the Swiss butcher and the shul and the buses, lived some of the most interesting and prolific writers of the type that contemplate science and Torah with an eye to self-improvement and adherence to the holiness and piety espoused by the Torah sages of every generation.

These men were Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, Professor Cyril Domb and Professor Leo Levi, zichronam levrachah.

I am not going to launch into biographies or eulogies. These men were Heaven-fearing, they were friends, chavrusos , and belonged to an early wave of brave and unique English language Torah purveyors. Two of them were celebrated scientists, founders of the movement of Orthodox Jewish scientists in America and Britain, and eager to apply the Torah perspective to the medium of science. Not looking to disrupt the scientific process, nor apologize to it or for it — but to give a reassuring perspective to the Torah student that science is the study of G-d’s world and Torah is the study of G-d’s word, and one need not fear the existence of the other. Filing through several volumes of their combined works, I do not know if they ever said this in these words, but as sure as they walked the planet this was what they came to proclaim.

In fewer words, they were the purveyors of Torah im Derech Eretz in its rawest form. While we would quicker describe TIDE as the Torah’s relevance to every aspect of our lives, i.e. our day-to-day lives, they looked at the Torah’s relevance to the world we stand upon and the discoveries of those who observe it. (In his work,  Masterplan, Rabbi Carmel espouses the ideas of R.S.R.H.’s Horeb — so there is conventional TIDE here, too.)

On this same bucolic street, reminiscent of something European, lived a saintly chasidic rebbe of advanced age, the Tolner Rebbe, and ybc”l , still lives the great Posek, Rav Azriel Auerbach shlita. Recessed behind that street stands the famed Yeshiva of German rabbinic founding, Kol Torah. And in one of the alleyways resided the early compiler of Hilchos Shabbos, the Berlin-born Rav Yehoshua Yeshayah Neuwirth. Indeed this was a sweet Gan Eden of Torah and Eretz Yisrael, and three men, friends, and co-authors, were among the great adresses on the lane. Now with the passing of Rabbi Prof. Levi, it is a bygone era.

Yehi Zichro Baruch

Rav Breuer Anecdote

Just came from a bris in Lakewood. Rabbi Shelomoh Danziger shlita complimented my bentching. That was worth the whole trip!
He then told me this story…
A Rosh Yeshiva from YU came to visit Rav Breuer Ztl after he had lost his eyesight. The Rav told him, that regardless of the loss of vision he thanks Hashem for what faculties remain.
The Rav went on to interpert the mishna in Avos accordingly:
“Who is a rich man? He who is happy with his “chelek”, his lot. (Chelek could mean something broken off of a whole.) So the mishna means that even if one is left with only a “chelek” a piece of what he once had- is wealthy if he learns to appreciate it.
The visiting Rosh Yeshiva replied in awe: “This is a perush fitting to be said by one of ther Gedolim!” (Unwittingly implying that Rav Breuer was less than that…) And the backhanded compliment evokes smiles to this day…

The Rav Enters.

For the Yahrzeit I am posting an essay. I  have the generous permission of Feldheim Publishers.

I have typed the post below:

Rav Yosef Breuer ZT’L

The Rav Enters

From the book: The Yearning Soul, Rabbi Moshe Einstadter. Feldheim Publishers 1992. Pg. 133

It is so many years ago, and It belongs to a bygone era, but I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday.

 

It was several moments before mincha– a late hour at the end of a long summer’s day, or quite early during the winter- and within the next minute or so the Rav would make his entry into shul. Invariably he would allow himself precisely the time it took him to slowly proceed from the door to his seat at the front of the shul, and one or two minutes more for the time it would take him to prepare himself for his encounter with Hahsem Yisbarach. I waited with anticipation, not merely once, but every time, for his entrance filled me with a profound sense of reverence for kedushah and for that which is meaningful in life. And so glancing toward the door from my vantage of the southernmost sea in the back row, I waited.

Presently, the right door of the two southern inside doors opened, and the Rav entered.

I observed him closely. Rav Breuer would first carefully place his walking cane in the rear corner where wall met wall, and then begin his slow and unsteady advance up the aisle.

His dress, just as most everything about him, varied hardly at all. There was the round black hat with the upturned brim; the outmoded early twentieth-century wing collar and black bow tie; and on weekdays, the somber gray vest and three-quarter-length jacket. The sides of his face, in keeping with Germanic custom, were clean-shaven, and a trimmed beard dignified his countenance. He wore wire-frame glasses.

His eyesight was poor and he would move cautiously with faltering step, pausing every so often to steady himself before continuing on. He began the trek with his eyes fixed upon the floor before him, but after every few steps he would raise his head slightly upward, looking into the vacant space that met his glance. It was this look that intrigued me; it was mostly for this that I expectantly waited. It spoke worlds of the man who bore it; it captured a rare and enlightened personality.

Ostensibly, it took in the external world of material substance, but in truth he saw it not at all. It was an inward look, that focused on the true concerns of a lofty mind which oiled with uncompromising dignity in the world of practical reality. Etched into that visage was the register of a lifetime- first the old world,  which had formed and nurtured his Torah world-view, gone and lost beyond recall; and now the present world, into which he had translated the values of the old. There one could see the lines of battle fought and won, the just pride of noble accomplishment, the deep furrows of past sorrow. It was the profoundly serious look of a man of unshakeable faith, whose purpose was firm, whose commitment never wavered, who was tested and found true.

 

But beyond it all was the immense and unspeakable dignity which radiated from his aspect. If “Panim” in Hebrew, indeed reflects “Pinim”, here was the glorious proof; never to bend, when to bend was weak; yet humbly to bow when it drew from strength; to staunchly maintain the proud heritage of his fathers- a way of life which needed neither apology nor defense; to rise, to grow, undaunted and ready to meet future challenge. It was his shul, his kehillah, born of his vision, his labor, his trust. Elokim Haroeh osi me’odi ad hayom hazeh- He (G-d) had paved the way for him in the past, and He would see him through to the very end.

And thus he made his way very slowly, past one row of seats after another. Some noticed the Rav coming and respectfully rose while he was yet at a distance; others, caught unawares as he passed them, hurriedly rose to their feet and remained standing as he continued slowly on. They rose one after another, old and young, learned and ignorant, in wordless veneration for their revered Rav.

At last he reached the front rows and finally gained his seat. One to two minutes elapsed; then the Shaliach tzibur commenced ashrei.

Whenever on occasion I happen to be in new York City’s upper Manhattan and go to daven mincha at Breuer’s (the institution still bears that name), I occupy the southernmost seat of the back row. Several moments before the start of the tefillah I involuntarily turn and glance to the back door. In my mind’s eye I see a venerable gray-clad figure slowly make his entrance as in days of yore. He passed on to his eternal reward long ago, but his spirit resides within those walls forevermore.

Omer in Rhyme and Song

Many of you are likely in possession of lithographed hagadas of the type produced by the Diskin Orphanage in Jerusalem to solicit donations. (There is no orphanage there anymore, rather they rent out that mighty fortress that they own in the heart of Jerusalem as office space and use the monies and donations for general distribution to the poor (my googling here).

In the Hamburg hagada of the early 19th century, sefiras ha’omer is not included, but in its place is a REMINDER not to forget- in what was likely a humorous and witty rhyme:

Sefiras Ha’omer Al Tishkach Lomer”

Which rhymes if you choose to say “Lomer” in place of “Lo’mar”- which was probably a common corruption in the Judisch-German of the time!

Now to song: On the website of Hagada collector and lecturer Avraham Roos of Amsterdam/ Israel I found sheet music that appeared in early 20th century hagadas. I gave it to my friend to play, and then I faked the chazanus- for the sole purpose of sharing the tune (click here). The arrangement is by Henry A. Russotto who composed and arranged many scores in that era, including a yiddish song about the sinking of the Titanic.

Finally, in Breuer’s the Lecha Dodi for the sefirah is hauntingly baroquish. It is a favorite of mine, and, I am told, that it was originally used for the Three Weeks until it was displaced by the current tune. I don’t have a recording of it, but would like one!

 

omertune

 

 

 

 

Austritt ala Washington Heights

IMG_7021

In a short booklet published by Rabbi Dr. Eric Zimmer covering his close to ten years as Rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Torah (covered extensively on the YouTube channel) he writes about an idea put forth by Rabbi Rappaport z’l of the Beth Medrash Hagadol of 175th street.

 

Rabbi Rappoport wanted to make a “Shomrei Shabbos” society uniting the orthodox rabbis in the neighborhood under one banner. This group would also publish a list of businesses that are Sabbath observant in order to steer people towards supporting them. With time this would incentivize more observance in the workplace.

 

Zimmer writes that Rav Breuer did not agree to join and the idea was aborted. (Comrade Y.S.Strauss poitns out that Rev. Neuhuas as well as Rabbi Bieberfeld and Breslauer are absent here- pointing to an actual network of Austritters. He mentions that these three rabonim were called the “three B’s- Breuer, Breslauer, Bieberfeld. Rev. Neuhaus probably took the cue from Rabbi Breuer.)

 

While the Hirschian “Austritt Gemeinde” principle would not have procluded such an umbrella organization (as there was no connection to Reform practices or instituions, there likely were two other reasons for Rav Breuer to decline his invitation.

 

  1. “The Hungarian Demand”. This term refers to a demand from Hungarian Rabonim upon the founding of the Agudah in the nineteen-teens that in order for them to join, Rabonim who were not “Austrit” would have to be barred. This was a form of second-stage Austritt, in which you Austritt yourself not only from reform, but from Non-austritt Orthodox. The Agudah did not capitulate to this demand.

 

2)    Kavod Hatorah. Some of the neighborhood Rabonim were not ordained Rabbis. It was common for graduates of any of the teacher training seminaries in Germany to take rabinic positions.  Some took the title of Reverend, and with time the title was sometimes replaced with Rabbi (perhaps upon seeing the free usage of this title on these American shores?) The Rav might have seen it as inappropriate to sit on such a committee.

 

Finally, it should be noted that I don’t think Rav Breuer even agreed to be included in the Agudas Yisroel of America in an official capacity- though he considered his shul part of their network and had various Agudah programs such as pirchei ni the kehilla. He did not attend the national functions, but later sent Rav Schwab. (He was very careful not to be associated with anything theologically adverse to the principles he guarded so carefully, the national events sometimes included delegates of the Israeli Agudah and perhaps he didn’t agree with their inclusion in Israeli government.) We must remember that he was truly a remnant of a different era.

 

See the list of Rabonim from the mid 1960s signed on to this board. I bet there are a few you haven’t heard of!

 

Rabbis: Isaac Fried, Sol Friedman (Dr.) [Young Isr.], Shlomo Kahn [Beth Israel],Abraham D. Kraus [Sharei Tik.], Jacob M. Lesin, David Lifshitz, Murray S. Penkower (Mt. Sinai), Abraham Rappoport (BMH], S. Rosenbaum [B’er Mayim Chayim], Naftali Rubin [Deberechin?], Eliezer Tarsis, Joel Turnauer [Noda Byhuda], Irving Weinberg [WHC], Joseph Weiss [Anshei Sefard], Maurice Wohlgelerenter (Dr.) [IJC}, Eric Zimmer [Ahavath Torah].

found this…

While googling I came across this wonderful article about the dedicated teacher, Miss Rothschild. Wriiten in 2000 in the Jewish Week. See the full article at https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove/

 

“On her 40th anniversary of teaching, she was honored by the Ladies Auxiliary of K’hal Adas Jeshurun, the synagogue connected to the school. Her boys performed a song they wrote, “You treat us all with so much love/An iron fist within a velvet glove.” They repeated the chorus: “Teach fifth grade next year, Miss Rothschild/Then we’d have it made, Miss Rothschild/If not, let us then be fourth-graders again.” In her talk accepting the honor, she thanked “the Good Lord” and her parents for instilling her with good values.”