Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Of Coffee and Hourglass Moles…and Rebbe Chaim of Sanz
Updated from my previous post on the Sanzer:
Tonight and tomorrow, the 25th of Nisan, is the 132nd yahrzeit of Rebbe Chaim Halberstam of Sanz (1793-1876), known as the Divrei Chaim after his magnum opus on Halacha. The Divrei Chaim was born in 1793, in Tarnograd, Poland. He was a talmid of Rebbe Naftali Zvi Horowitz of Ropshitz. He went on to move to the town of Sanz, where he founded a Chassidic dynasty. He attracted many followers due to his great piety. The Sanz dynasty today is represented by the Sanz-Klausenberg and the Bobov dynasties.
This year in honor of the yahrzeit, we present two stories, both of which demonstrate his amazing abilities. The first was told by Reb Shlomo Carlebach.
A Hot Cup of Black Coffee
Although he suffered from a seemingly incurable physical ailment, the Sanzer was famous for his power of healing others. Many came from far and wide to seek his blessings. Once an elderly Chassid, suffering from tuberculosis, was loaded onto a wagon and brought from his distant village to see the holy Sanzer. Reb Chaim told the family. "Take your father home and make a hot cup of strong black coffee for him to drink."
"Are you crazy?" the children exclaimed. "Coffee will kill a man in his condition!”
But Reb Chaim repeated, "Take your father home and make a hot cup of strong black coffee for him to drink." So they took their father home and gave him a hot cup of coffee to drink, and the old Chassid was healed.
A few years later, the father suffered from a relapse of his illness. This time the family thought, "Let's spare our father the arduous journey to Sanz." So they prepared a hot cup of coffee and immediately the father began to cough up blood. So they loaded him onto a wagon and brought him back to Sanz.
The Sanzer asked the family what the problem was all about, so the children explained that their father had tuberculosis and that they had given him coffee to drink and that his condition had worsened.
"Murderers!" exclaimed the Sanzer. "Coffee will kill a man in his condition!"
"So what can we do?" they asked.
"Take your father home and make a hot cup of strong black coffee for him to drink." So they took their father home and gave him a hot cup of coffee to drink, and the old Chassid was healed again.
The next story comes to us from the sefer "The Zeide Reb Motele" by Rav Avraham J. Twerski, who relates: "We are fortunate in having much first-hand information about the tzaddik of Sanz (d. 1876). I knew several people who knew him, and my father and mother knew many more."
Below is one fine example.
In the Midst of the Wedding Ceremony…
There are many wondrous tales about tzaddikim, and it is not my intention to relate all of these stories. Hoverer, the following story is one that I heard in 1947 from R. Kasriel, a nonagenarian who knew the tzaddik of Sanz. [Yitz adds: The Sanzer was niftar [passed away] in 1876. A person in his nineties in the year 1947 was born in 1857 or earlier, which would make R. Kasriel at least 19 years of age when the Sanzer passed away].
The tzaddik of Sanz was given the honor of performing a marriage ceremony. He was given the cup of wine, but closed his eyes and was meditating. The family and guests waited impatiently for the tzaddik to begin the brachos [wedding blessings]. Abruptly, he set down the cup of wine, and called the bride's parents aside.
"Did all of your children survive?" he asked them. The parents said that they had lost one infant, who was swept away when a river overflowed.
''Can you recall whether this child had any unusual birthmarks?" the tzaddik asked.
The bride's mother said, ''Yes, he had a mole in the shape of an hourglass on his left shoulder.''
The tzaddik then had the bride's father take the groom aside, and examination revealed the mole on his left shoulder.
The tzaddik asked the groom's parents, ''Is this really your own child?'' They responded that they had found him as an abandoned infant and had raised him as their own.
''The bride and groom are brother and sister," the tzaddik declared. The joyous celebration continued, not as a wedding, but as a reunion with a child they had thought to have died.
This remarkable story of the tzaddik's prophetic powers spread rapidly through Galicia. The tzaddik of Sanz dismissed this as nonsense. "I have no prophetic powers," he said. "When I saw that I could not get the words of the brachos out of my mouth, I knew that something was amiss. I could not imagine what was wrong, except that for some reason, this marriage was not to take place. I could only guess what might be wrong, and I just happened to guess correctly."
Thursday, April 17, 2008
MODZITZ KLEZMER JAZZ
Who else but Andy Statman could do this??? I personally like the way we sing it with the Rebbe Shlita at the Tish, but this performance of a Modzitz Tish niggun, in Nashville, Tennessee of all places, is awesome! By the way, Andy is a regular at the Modzitz Shtibel in Flatbush, NY!
Enjoy and Chag Sameach!!!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
KOS SHEL ELIYAHU - ELIJAH'S CUP
After the conclusion of the Seder's Grace after Meals, there is a universally accepted custom to pour a cup of wine, the "Cup of Eliyahu," open the front door of the home, and recite several verses from Tehillim [the Psalms] wherein we beseech G-d to pour His wrath upon our persecutors and oppressors. According to tradition, at this moment our homes are graced by the presence of Eliyahu HaNavi [Elijah the Prophet]...
The Cup of Eliyahu
1. There is an open question in the Talmud whether we are obligated to have four or five cups on the night of Pesach [Passover]. Since the issue was never resolved, we pour a fifth cup, but do not drink it. After heralding the coming of the Messiah, one of Eliyahu's tasks will be to resolve all hitherto unanswered Halachic [Jewish legal] questions. Thus this fifth cup whose status is in doubt is dubbed "Eliyahu's Cup," in anticipation of the insight he will shed on the matter.
2. The four cups correspond to the four "expressions of Redemption" promised by G-d: "I will take you out from the suffering of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their bondage; I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a nation..." [Shemos, 6:6-7]. The fifth cup corresponds to the fifth expression of Redemption which comes in the following verse: "I will bring you to the Land..." This expression, however, is an allusion to the future Messianic Redemption which will be announced by Eliyahu. This is also why we do not drink, "enjoy," the fifth cup -- as we have not yet experienced this Redemption.
The timing of the pouring of the "Cup of Eliyahu" is also apropos, right before we start reading the Hallel, whose focus is on the future Redemption. After commemorating the very first Redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt, we express our hope and firm belief in the coming of the Moshiach who will usher in the new and final Redemption very, very soon.
As told by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Adapted from Holy Beggars' Gazette, transcribed by Elana Rappaport (Schachter), and Shmuel Zivan’s Lev HaShamayim Pesach [Hebrew] book.
One ordinary night the Apter Rav made a feast [seuda]. When the holy Apter makes a feasteleh it is okay with everybody, but the Chassidim wanted to know why he was making a feasteleh that particular night. This is the story he told:
Somewhere, somewhere lived a very wealthy Jew. As wealthy as he was, he spent half his fortune to buy a cup for Eliyahu HaNavi. It was a truly beautiful cup, decorated with jewels. Everybody knows, that at the Seder on Pesach night, you need a special cup for Eliyahu HaNavi. You put it on the table and you believe that he is coming to drink from it. So this man put his heart and soul and half his fortune into buying a cup for Eliyahu HaNavi.
Then the saddest thing happened. Suddenly he became very poor, he lost everything, but G-d forbid, he would never sell the cup of Eliyahu HaNavi. But when it came to two days before Pesach and he didn't have enough money even to buy matzos - he had absolutely nothing - he said to his wife, "I'm sorry to tell you, we'll have to sell the cup of Eliyahu HaNavi. It's very good to have a cup for Eliyahu if you have a Seder, but if you don't even have a Seder, what good is the whole thing?"
His wife refused; she would not let him sell the cup of Eliyahu HaNavi. They had a little fight, and by Erev Pesach morning [the morning before the Seder] he was very upset with her.
"What do you mean you are not selling the cup? Can't you see that we don't even have matza?!"
She still refused to sell the cup. He was very angry at her. "I'm going to the Beis Medrash [study hall],” he said. "We don't have anything to eat at home, I have nothing to do, so I might as well be studying."
He had just left when a very wealthy man knocked on the door and asked if this was the home of the very great and learned scholar so-and-so. She told him it was. "I have come from a very far country. I heard of your husband and I would like to be at the Seder with you."
The woman said, "I would very much like to invite you to the Seder, but we have nothing to eat."
"Oh, that's no problem," he says, "I'm a very wealthy man. Here is some money. Do me a favor, buy food for the whole week because I want to spend the entire Pesach with you." He left her a sack of gold pieces, asked when she was beginning the Seder, and promised to be back on time.
So the woman went and prepared a beautiful Seder. The poor husband came home very late. He was sure that he would find an empty house, without Yom Tov [holiday] candles, matzos, or wine. What a surprise when he came in found a great feast!
She said, "We can't start the Seder yet, because we have to wait for the rich man," and she told him the whole story. They were waiting, waiting, waiting. He didn't show up. Finally, it was twenty minutes before midnight. You have to eat the matza before midnight, so they ate fast, rattled off the Seder Haggada, and had a feasteleh, but they were really sad that their guest didn't show up.
Then when the time came for the man to open the door for Eliyahu HaNavi, he wanted to get up, but suddenly he felt very heavy, and couldn't keep himself from falling asleep. The door opened and Eliyahu HaNavi came in. Sure enough, it was the rich man!
He said to the woman, "Thank you so much. I am so glad you didn't sell my cup." He blessed her with the greatest blessings in the world.
As soon as he walked out, the husband woke up. "What's going on? I don't know why I fell asleep so suddenly." She told him the whole story of why he fell asleep. "Apparently, you didn't get to see Eliyahu HaNavi because you wanted to sell his cup, but I was so strong, thank G-d, that I didn't allow you to sell the cup, so he spoke to me, and blessed us."
Years later, this little Yiddeleh [Jew] died and came up to Heaven. He really deserved Gan Eden [paradise], and he was just about to slip through the door when Eliyahu HaNavi came along and said, "Not while I'm around, brother".
This is a very deep story. Deep down, Eliyahu HaNavi probably realized the man didn't really believe in him, he didn't really believe in miracles. So why should he go to Gan Eden? So Eliyahu HaNavi blocked his way. What could the man do? He didn't deserve Hell, so he wasn't going to Hell, but he couldn't get into Gan Eden either. So he just sat by the gate.
Four years later, his wife came up to Heaven, and Eliyahu HaNavi came to greet her with all the tzaddikim [righteous ones], and all the holy people. They wanted to take her into Gan Eden right away, but she was a faithful woman, and she wanted to know where her husband was. They told her that Eliyahu HaNavi wouldn't let him in yet, he wasn't ready for Gan Eden. She said, "If my husband isn't going in, neither am I." So they were both sitting at the gates of Gan Eden.
The holy Apter said, "Yesterday Eliyahu HaNavi came to see me. I told him, 'Eliyahu, really, cut it out. How long are you going to make them sit like that by the gates of Gan Eden? Let them in already!' So Eliyahu promised me last night that he would let them in today. So tonight I am making a feast in their honor, to congratulate them upon being admitted to Gan Eden."
I've heard this one in the name of both Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir: They would wish their fellow Jews a Kosher Purim, and a Freilich [joyous] Pesach. They explained, everyone knows you have to be happy on Purim, so I have no doubts your Purim will be a joyous one. But kosher? That I bless you it should be! Similarly, everyone knows you have to have a meticulously chametz-free home on Pesach. I have no doubts yours will be Kosher. But Freilich? I wish you a joyous Pesach!
So to all my readers, a Zissen, Freilichin and Kosherin Pesach - a Sweet, Joyous and Meticulous Holiday of Freedom!
Monday, April 14, 2008
Reb Shlomo on Jewish and Chassidishe Music - VIDEO
I have transcribed a significant part of the above video below. The video opens with Reb Shlomo singing his L'Mikdasheich Tuv niggun, and at about one-and-a-half minutes in, his talk begins. The entire video is 6:40 minutes. Other videos in this series can be found here.
"I want you to know something: when I began my humble career, some people said, 'Oh, it’s the Jewish Elvis Presley!' Achhh – so disgusting! If he [Elvis] were to call himself the non-Jewish Shlomo Carlebach, on the very same day I would call myself the Jewish Elvis Presley. You know, the problem with us is, we always mix up everything - milchig [dairy] and fleishig [meat], sardines and chicken soup… [Reb Shlomo goes on to cite how this never happens in the plant or animal kingdom].
"As for me, when I was in Yeshiva, I was learning so much, not only did I not buy a newspaper, I didn’t even look at the headlines! I didn’t want anything in my head but the Torah. But then, I went to university, because I needed to be in touch with the world. But there’s one thing I never did: I never listened to non-Jewish music*. You might think I’m crazy, [but] I never heard the Beatles. I never heard the Beatles!
"The only thing I know is a Chassidishe melody. And believe me, we don’t need to pick up the rhythm. I love the non-Jewish world, the music is beautiful, but we don’t need to pick up the rhythm from them. You think the old Chassidim didn’t dance like wild?
"You know, when someone says the word Rock 'n Roll to me, it makes me feel very bad. I want you to know, without bragging, because if you have something which is a gift from G-d, you can brag about it. After the Second World War, there was no more Jewish music, 'cause all the Jewish composers…nebich - gevald! I’m sure they’re still composing great melodies up there, but we haven’t heard them.
"So miraculously, I got myself a guitar and began making up some melodies. And the world was so hungry, that whenever I made a new melody, after a few weeks, they were singing it all over the world…
"Baruch Hashem, today there are a lot of young people who compose melodies, but the only thing is, which is a little bit sad, they’re mixing milchig and fleishig. They do! You know, not every 'bang-bang' melody is a Chassidishe melody. You know what a Chassidishe melody is? A melody you can dance with, but also cry with.
"You know, the old Chassidim, when they were dancing, tears were flowing! Not sadness!! So deep, it’s so deep! You know, I bless you to be at your children’s weddings, bless me to be at my children’s weddings. When you marry off your children, your eyes are full of tears. You can’t believe it – Master of the World, thank you so much!!!"
*When I posted this in Hebrew on a Hebrew forum, someone immediately asked, what about the non-Jewish songs that he sang, like "Kumbaya"? I answered as follows. Let’s analyze his words. First he says that he never listened to non-Jewish music, then later he mentions that the problem is with the beat, the rhythm. He’s taken aback about being compared to Elvis Presley, and even the words "Rock 'n roll" make him feel bad. And he never heard the Beatles.
I’m fairly certain that Reb Shlomo heard non-Jewish classical music in his youth, having grown up in a cultured "Yekke" home in Berlin and Vienna [before coming to New York]. It’s also obvious that he heard at least some folk music - witness his singing not only "Kumbaya", but also "I’m on My Way to Canaan Land" and "Sinner Man". Apparently he found something positive in this kind of music, but not in the heavy 'bang-bang' [as he calls it] beat of Rock 'n Roll.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
The International Funeral Procession
We now bring you, courtesy of our good friend Yrachmiel Tilles of Ascent, the story of the 'transport.'
The International Funeral Procession
Story #541 - 3 Nissan 5768
It was in Medzibuzh, on the night of the 5th of Nisan, 1829, that Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the Ohev Yisrael of Apta, departed this world. On the very same night, in the holy city of Tiveria [Tiberias], people heard a knocking on the windows of Kollel Volhyn. The synagogue attendant inside, alone, was the one who held the keys to the gates of the cemetery. The voice from outside said: "Go outside, go outside, and follow the bier (a wooden frame for carrying a corpse) of the Grand Rabbi of Apta!"
He ventured outside and was chilled by terror, for the bier was being followed by a grim retinue of human forms from the Other World. One of these followers intimated to him that this was the funeral procession of the tzaddik of Apta; he had died in Medzibuzh, and angels from Above had borne his coffin here for entombment in the soil of the Holy Land.
The beadle repeated his story in the morning. Of course, people refused to believe him. But then, on the suggestion of an elderly sage, they went together to the cemetery, where, surely enough, they found a newly-covered grave.
Letters from Apta later confirmed that the tzaddik had indeed passed away on that very day. Before his passing he had cried out to heaven in bitter protest over the length of the exile - why was Moshiach tarrying so long? And in his heartache he had wept and said, "Before Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev left this world, he promised that he would not rest until his insistent pleas would bring about the Redemption. But when he arrived there, the saintly souls in the Garden of Eden found spiritual delight in his company, and ascended with him to the palaces of supernal bliss - until he forgot his own promise. But I will not forget!"
When Rabbi Chaim Elazar of Munkatch visited the holy sites in the land of Israel in 1930, he asked about among the oldest citizens of Tiveria as to whether any of them knew where the tzaddik of Apta was buried. They led him to a certain stone slab in the old cemetery which their hoary elders, who were now on the World of Truth [the next world], had shown them - the place where the Ohev Yisrael had been brought to rest. Today it is a well-known pilgrimage site of stature.
(Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (ArtScroll), as translated by Uri Kaploun from Sippurei Chassidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin).
Thursday, April 03, 2008
רבי נחמן מברסלב, ליקוטי עצות, סבלנות
Accustom yourself to sing a niggun. This will give you new vitality, and fill you with joy.
– Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Likkutei Eitzos, Savlanus
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Y'hei Sh'lama Rabba…an Outstanding Niggun!
The remainder of the niggunim are usually introduced on the two days of Rosh Hashana, except occasionally a new niggun or two is introduced on Yom Kippur [often, Ki Anu Amecha]. [There are often more niggunim composed during the rest of the year, usually for Simchos and Chagim-festivals].
In terms of the types of niggunim, this year’s dozen was actually a very typical one. Thus, there were four joyful dance tunes - Kaddish, Kadsheinu, Simcha L'Artzecha and Rikud-Ki Anu Amecha; three waltzes - Areshes S'faseinu, Hayom Haras Olam, and Hallelukah [from Musaf]; two marches - V'yesayu and Ein Kitzva; two dveykus niggunim - Slach Nah and Mechalkeil Chaim; and a lengthier "Tish" niggun, Heyei Im Pifiyos. As they did last year, the Modzitz choir recorded the niggunim in a studio, accompanied by a keyboard artist, and released it on a disk which has been sold at the Rebbe Shlita's Beis Medrash. [Those desiring a copy can e-mail me for info].
Usually, one of the joyful dance tunes becomes the "hit" of the year. Although they may all be excellent compositions, somehow one of them stands out as the niggun - for enthusiastic dancing, whether it be on Simchas Torah, at a wedding or other Simcha, or at the end of a Friday night Tish. Last year, for example, it was Simcha L'Artzecha.
This year's was clearly the Kaddish tune, which has been renamed "Y'hei Sh'lama Rabba" by many, as these words are always sung to the penultimate part, along with the words "Oseh Shalom" to the last part [whereas the first two parts are often sung wordless]. So without further ado, let’s see how it was sung at a Tish in Kislev, on the yahrzeit of the Divrei Yisrael, the first Modzitzer Rebbe.
[Please note: this is far from a professional video, and leaves much to be desired, but one still can get a small taste of a Modzitz Tish, and of this niggun].