Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Emes and MS

Emes (truth) is a very geshmak'er (enjoyable) flavor. It can set a person free. But some people see it as MS - a handicap - rather than the liberating agent emes, which frees people from the heavy handicap of living and toting lies.

We need a virtual Kotzk in cyberia - where the focus is on emes !

Kotzk and Lita

It is interesting how certain Chassidic groups and some Litvaks (esp. mussarniks) share certain common values.

Some Chassidim have an extreme emphasis on emes - I am thinking of Kotzk (and perhaps Ger/Gor/Gur), R. Pinhas of Koretz, and the like. In some ways they are similar to certain Litvaks who similarly place great emphasis on being emes'dik (as our heiliger Torah does).

Some things said over in the name of Rav Yisroel Salanter, e.g., are sometimes stated in the name of the Kotzker Rebbe. I think that they are sometimes confused, leading to such misattributions (going both ways), because of their shared focus on emes, penimius (inwardliness), and genuineness in avodas Hashem, which leads to some of their vertlech/divrei Torah being similar.

Rav Yechezkel (Chatzkel) Levenstein z"l, one of the great baalei mussar in the Yeshivishe velt, came from a Gerrer background. Was that just a coincidence ? Ger/Kotzk and mussar seem to fit well together.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Litvaks yesterday and today

In the past, and still to a degree presently, a Litvak was a Jew from Lita or one with Litvish roots. However, as there are very few Jews in Lita today, and as there are not that many Jews around any more anywhere that grew up in Lita, a new definition of Litvak is emerging.

The label Litvak today is changing to mean someone who is Litvish in outlook - who shares Litvish approaches to life, Torah and the like - even if that person may have no ancestors that lived in Lita. To be a citizen of the spiritual Lita - the Lita shel maalah - of the Vilna Gaon, Rav Yisroel Salanter, the Beis Halevi, etc., one just has to share their values - even if their roots are in Kiev, Cracow, Tunis, Sanaa, Budapest, Casablanca, Aleppo, Riga, or Berlin.

We are still in a transitional period between the old definition and the new one, but the new one is steadily gaining ground, in my opinion.

Lita - not just a place - but a way of life.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Litvaks - the air conditioners of the Jewish world

When things heat up - too much 'varemkeit' (warmth) making you stuffy or you just want some fresh air - intellectually, emotionally, spiritually - then it is time to turn on the Litvisher air conditioning.

When you hear an outlandish tale or notion being passed along in the name of Judaism - and it just doesn't sound right - but no one has challenged it, preferring to take the easy way out - put on your Litvish hat and raise some questions. It will be a welcome blast of fresh air !

Maybe we should market a line of Litvish air conditioners !

Varemer Litvaks un Kalter Litvaks (warm Litvaks and cold Litvaks)

Sometimes one hears the expression 'kalter Litvak' (cold Litvak). By the way, a real Litvak should know Yiddish, but, lo oleinu, some today, esp. from the younger generation, are shvach (weak) in that area.

Anyway, I recall hearing a choshuv'er Rav, a Litvak from South Africa, some years ago address this matter. This Rav, Rav Leizer we could call him (zol er zein gezund un shtark), said that he never heard the expression Kalter Litvak until he came to America ! In South Africa, the Jewish population is predominantly Litvish, but he never heard of such a thing ! They are varemer (warm) Yidden !

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Mazal Tov

Finally - a Litvish presence in the blogo-sphere !

In these hot summer days, could we not use a blast of cool Litvish air ?

Sometimes people don't appreciate the greatness of cold, until things get too hot.

So sit back and relax and enjoy the cool Litvish atmosphere......