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CHABAD HOUSE – To see video and text go to https://shorrenterpris.wpengine.com/downloads/chabad-house/
Prepared for: Alter Bukiet
Transcribed by: Transcription for Everyone
Number of Inaudibles: 5
(START RECORDING – 00:00:00)
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: Good morning. We’re going to start the class today back to what we’ve been doing for the past two years, speaking of the Rebbe’s vision and taking a certain aspect of the Rebbe’s talks on a certain idea and putting the Rebbe — which I really like to do — in the context of history. Of how this was viewed historically and where the Rebbe was coming from to put himself on center stage and ask of the Jewish world in the 20th-21st century to change your view of thinking a little bit. Look at this topic, look at this Medrash a little differently. Reinterpret the way. That really is focused on our generation, what we’re going to be doing in our generation.
What I do is I walk you a little bit through history and in that way you get an insight of how things develop. So it’s not just in a vacuum. I always do it starting with a beauitufl story. I want to tell a story this week that I actually heard years ago, 1986, when I was in Sarasota, Florida with Sorele. We had this man tell the story. When he told the story, it was beautiful. It was to a crowd of people in Sarasota that were getting introduced to Chabad, orthodoxy for the first time. This man was a professor, a scientist from Minnesota. His name was Dr. Velvel Green. Back in those days, in 1986, his children were already into the world of being frum and getting married to religious girls and going out and being emissaries of the Rebbe.
He stood up in 1986 and told a story that went back to the days when he wasn’t yet that religious. He was becoming religious. He was involved with the Chabad house in Minnesota with Rabbi Moshe Feller who was bringing him around to yiddishkeit. 1969, he was this unique personality back then, that you had a professor who worked for NASA, taught in Minnesota University and from the world of science was merging with religion. Many others, not only the Chabad world, many other Jewish worlds, were taking him as a speaker. A conservative temple in Detroit, Michigan, booked him as a speaker for an evening. He agreed to talk and he flew into Detroit, Michigan. When he arrived, he realized that that night is yud tes Kislev. Yud tes Kislev on the Chabad calendar, the 19th of the month of Kislev is when the original founder of the Chabad Movement was released from prison and it’s a chasidic celebration. He realized oh, I should make contact with the two emissaries that he knew in Detroit at that time. He knew the original Chabad rabbi that the Rebbe sent to Detroit, Rabbi Berel Shem Tov. And he knew Rabbi Berel Shem Tov’s public relations man. His name was Itche Meir Kagan. Rabbi Kagan spoke a beautiful English, an American boy. He knew those two from different times.
He went running to these people’s homes to just tell them, look, I’m in town and I know tonight’s yud tes Kislev and I’ll come down after my talk in the conservative temple. I’ll swing by to join you for yud tes Kislev. When he came running to these two houses, the wives looked at him and said our husbands are not here. They’re on a plane to New York. Because the Rebbe is having a public rally in honor of yud tes Kislev. They’re not in Detroit. They got on a flight already. They’re on the way to New York. A little defeated, he leaves and he thinks to himself, what am I doing here tonight. If this is the custom of Chabad to be with the Rebbe in 770 in Crown Heights and listen to a beautiful (inaudible), what am I standing up in a conservative temple tonight.
He picked up the phone and he called up the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Chadekov (ph). The Rebbe had five or six secretaries, this was the leading secretary of the Rebbe’s staff and he had a relationship with him. He gets on the phone to Rabbi Chadekov and it’s a couple of hours before the Rebbe’s going to go down to the public gathering. He says to Rabbi Chadekov, I made a mistake. I should really be in Crown Heights tonight, but I didn’t look at the calendar properly and I accepted an invitation to speak. I just wanted to tell the Rebbe that I ask forgiveness for not being in Crown Heights. I made a mistake, I’m sorry.
Then, in a little kibitzing way, which is just an interesting part of the story, he joked with Chadekov, oh, my two suppers for tonight are gone. In Detroit, then, there were not kosher restaurants. He joked that the two houses he was going to be able to go to to eat, they’re not home tonight so he doesn’t know. R’ Chadekov says stay on the phone. I’m going to buzz the Rebbe’s room. If the Rebbe’s there, I’m just going to tell him what you just said to me. He stayed on the phone and five minutes later, Rabbi Chadekov is back on the phone. He says the Rebbe responded.
The first thing, about the talk tonight, is that the Rebbe said to let you know that he’s with you there more than with the people that are sitting across him tonight and staring at him for the seven-hour gathering. You should know, my presence is with you there in that conservative synagogue versus the whole crowd sitting with me in 770. Number one. Number two, the Rebbe said, there’s another Chabad family in Detroit that’s not showing up tonight. The family’s name was Afsin (ph). Go to the Afsins and eat supper tonight. In a very humanistic way, the Rebbe kept it very real with him. You have to have supper after a beautiful speech. The Afsins are not showing up tonight. I know they’re not coming tonight. You can call on the Afsins for supper tonight.
It’s the first part of the story, both parts of the story, that I really want to dissect. You can YouTube it and watch a chasidic gathering with the Rebbe in 770 which there are thousands of these YouTube clips of the Rebbe farbrenging and you’ll realize it was a religious cocoon. You entered in an environment that engulfed you from spiritual thought to spiritual song. It was this haven of spirituality and the outside world ceased to exist. It was over. You entered there and there was this tremendous emotional spiritual rush. You got 10,000 people singing together in unison. Listening in unison. A holy face staring at them. It was an amazing moment.
Velvel Green had that dilemma. He knew what he was missing. On the other side, he was going to be up against a crowd that were going to look at him a little bit, okay, you’re a religious Jew and now you’re coming to talk to us about our science and religion. By the way, the name of this topic, his son was telling me — I called his son who’s a Chabad emissary in Rochester, Minnesota and he said to me that night, my father’s topic name was like this. Full professor, half mystic. That’s how the conservative synagogue billed the evening. That was the name of the subject tonight. This is what he was going to be up against. He had to somehow or other look at the crowd and explain to them how a mystic and a professor can coexist in the same body. It wasn’t an easy task. Back in 11969, you didn’t have many in that caliber that can truly speak to both fields.
The Rebbe then turns around and says to him I know of the great spiritual cocoon that we’re about to create in this room. I’m there. I’m part of the reason why it is like that. But I want to tell you, don’t make that mistake. I’m telling you, your existence outside of this cocoon, I’m with you there even more than those that are existing with me in this beautiful total enveloped environment of spiritual bliss.
I want to teach you this and I want to show you this through one of the most profound verses that you have in all of the writing about the Tabernacles. The writing about the Tabernacles is done in the Torah three different times. Repeated three different times. Originally, when G-d said it to Moses. When Moses repeats it to the Jewish people the second time and the third time is when actually, the Jewish people go out and build the Tabernacles. Three times the Torah repeats it.
The Torah introduces it with eight verses at the original time. It’s at the beginning of the portion of Terumah in the Book of Exodus. It’s actually last week’s Torah portion. Beginning of Chapter 25. On my sheet, it’s A. I’ve put it out for you. Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe lemor, daber el Bnei Yisrael, speak to the Jewish people and they should take for me a terumah, a tithing. Me’eis kal ish asher yidvenu libo, from all those that have it within their heart. Tikchu es terumasi, take from them the tithing.
Then, the Torah goes on, six verses, to tell you what the tithing could be of. From material objects to financial objects to objects of value. Six verses. After the Torah tells us those six verses, the Torah ends with the eight verse and then the Torah begins to tell Moses how to build the Tabernacles. What’s the eighth verse? V’asu li mikdash, from all the tithings the people are going to bring, they should make for me a holy place, v’shachanti b’socham, that I can reside amongst them. This is that famous line.
That’s where all the conversation starts to develop over the fact that G-d doesn’t say, v’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’socho, singular, that I will reside in it, talking about the place. G-d turns around and says v’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’socham. Amongst them. This becomes the conversation. There was a period in Jewish history — at the back end of this class, that’s where we’re going to go to. There was a period in Jewish history where the mystics were developing the great mystical schools. During R’ Isaac Luria’s period. There were three great mystics that lived in Tzfat. Before Isaac Luria was a man by the name of R’ Moshe Alshich. During R’ Isaac Luria’s period, there was a man by the name of the Reishis Chachma. His name was R’ Eliyahu Vidas. He lived during that time period. Then, after R’ Isaac Luria’s period was the Shela in the early 1600s, R’ Yeshaya Horowitz. He made his way from many countries and ultimately ended up in Jerusalem and then from Jerusalem ended up in Tzfat.
Three of them said the exact same interpretation on this verse. The first one to introduce the verse from their perspective, not mentioning each other, and off of these three great mystics, it changes the direction of how people viewed the verse. Let me get you to the three mystics.
Prior to these three mystics, the interpretation to this verse was entirely different. Let me start you how the original interpolation to this verse went. I’m going to start you by the Midrash. The Midrash in the beginning of the portion of Teruma, the Midrash goes into seven different interpretations on the word Terumah. But the running theme is about the Torah. The Midrash is trying to paint an image that although we’re talking about building a house for G-d, it’s really about the Torah. It’s about the ark. It’s about the tablets in the ark, in the temple. It’s all about a different version of what the relationship with the Torah is about. But we don’t go away from the Torah.
The Midrash then tells a beautiful parable. You can read it while I say it, but let me not waste time reading it. Let me just tell you the parable. A person falls in love with a girl and it’s an only child and he takes her away to a different country. The father-in-law comes after them and says, listen, I know that you married her and I know that she’s going to be your wife, but do me a favor, build me a grandfather’s flat that whenever I come, I have a place to visit, a place to stay.
G-d realizes the moment He gave the Torah, there’s a new marriage taking place. He gave away His child to the Jewish people. His child being the Torah. The bride over here being the Torah. We are the ones who are taking away from G-d so to say. This is the Midrash poetry. Therefore, G-d turns around and says do me a favor, build me a room. What’s the room? The Tabernacles. That when I come visit, I have a place to visit my daughter, the Torah. From the Midrash’s view, this whole story of the mishkan is an emphasis on a continuous relationship that G-d desires with what he started with, giving the Torah at Mount Sinai. That was the date that his child was taken away from him. Now, He’s just finding a residence that he can come visit his child on this world.
We are, to a certain degree, bystanders to this whole story. we married the child. That’s why this whole story has developed. But who is the child there that G-d wants to visit and He created a Tabernacles to visit? The Torah. The Midrash lays down the (inaudible) of their perspective to what the purpose of the Tabernacles was about. The purpose of the Tabernacles was about G-d’ willing and G-d’s desire to continue that relationship that he started on Mount Sinai where he expressed the Torah. He allowed a being of His to be taken from Him. He wants to have the opportunity to not lose that relationship with him. Therefore, he created a Tabernacles and He’s asking us, the son-in-law, be a mentsh, be a good son-in-law and allow me visitation rights. Open your house for me. That there’s a room in your home that I can visit my child. That’s the Midrash.
Based on how the Midrash lays out this view, it becomes the floor of the commentaries. The commentaries fall in line behind this Midrashic view. For example, the Ibn Ezra, Avraham ben Haezra, a man who lived in Spain in the early 1100s, a great Spanish commentator, right at the top of my page 2-C, what does he turn around? He continues along the Midrashic line and in simple words, what does he write? G-d wants to continue speaking. He started speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, He wants to continue speaking with Moses. He doesn’t want to chase him around Israel. Create a place where that teaching of G-d’s wisdom has a home where you can continue the conversation with Moses.
The Ibn Ezra takes the Midrash and just enhances it a little further and says what do you mean, G-d wants the continuation of Mount Sinai? He simplifies it. That that’s what Moses — he’s continuing his conversation with G-d which in essence is a continuation of conversation from Mount Sinai which in essence is the whole idea of him continuously teaching the Jews the Torah. The reason for his house is that that Torah teaching can continue.
Based on this type of commentary, what does it mean the plural, v’shachanti b’socham, amongst them? Why does the Torah change its language? Work with me here because this is going to be a very interesting conversation. In walk Rashi’s grandchildren. Same time, 150 years later than the Ibn Ezra. They’re called Da’as Zekeinim. This is a commentary written on the Torah from Rashi’s grandchildren. R’ Shlomo Yitzchaki had beautiful grandchildren. Some of them argued with him and some of them protected him. If you learn the Talmud, running alongside R’ Shlomo Yitzchaki’s commentary on one side, goes on the other side his grandchildren. Some of them are there to protect their grandfather’s honor and some of them say we challenge our grandfather. These same grandchildren wrote an interpretation on the Chumash. On these words, and reside amongst them, they say a beautiful interpretation.
What does it mean amongst them? They don’t go away from the focus is on G-d and giving of the Torah. They say it’s very simple. That the Jewish people, when they witnessed how G-d gave the Torah, there was a certain imagery that was exposed to them. Do you know what was exposed to them? They witnessed how the angels, spiritual energies because they are an energy that cleaves to the source, surrounded the image of G-d. Because they were cleaving to the source. Because angels have no choice and therefore they’re just simply an expression from the source. Therefore, they cleave back to the source. That’s what the Jewish imagery at the giving of the Torah was. They witnessed that in this great spiritual moment of revelation of G-d, they saw other worlds in that revelation. The other worlds that they saw was the angel, the spiritual worlds. What they witnessed in the spiritual world is how G-d was amongst them. That the angels encircled G-d. Therefore, the Jews turned around and said we’re going to mimic that. The encamping of the Tabernacles was surrounded by the 12 tribes. There were four tribes on each side of the Tabernacles and G-d resided amongst them. That’s what the them is about.
It’s not that we’re going away from the interpretation. No, to the contrary. The reason why they’re doing this is because that’s what they witnessed at Mount Sinai. They witnessed at Mount Sinai a whole different spiritual world. In that spiritual world, they realized the concept of cleaving which human beings don’t have. We’re independent. We’re not born with a nature to cleave. We’re born with a nature that’s exactly the opposite. It’s all gravity. We’re pulled away from the source. We don’t cleave upwards. We’re independent. All of a sudden, at Mount Sinai, the Jews witnessed this amazing moment where their eyes were opened to a spiritual world. In that spiritual world, they saw the concept of a being totally connected to its source. By being connected to its source, it cleaves to it because that’s its energy. They witnessed the spiritual world surrounding G-d, so to say. Cleaving back to its source. Therefore, they did the Tabernacles that way. They turned around and created that they — they parked the Tabernacles in the middle recreating the imagery that they saw at the giving of the Torah.
Audience Member: You once taught about G-d coming back to His garden to dwell amongst us?
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: Yes?
Audience Member: It’s very, very similar.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: We’re going to get to it. I promise you, I’ll get back to it.
All of a sudden, the word b’socham, amongst them, doesn’t go far away from the original Midrashic interpretation that the beauty is the Tabernacles. What they were doing was to the contrary, cleaving to the Tabernacles. Like the angels cleaving to G-d. o
On the bottom of the page, Nachmonides doesn’t move too far from that either. Look what Nachmonides says. In the beginning of the portion of Terumah, he says like this. I’m going to do a verbal translation. Do you want to know what the inner secret to the whole concept of a Tabernacles is? What is the purpose? Recreation of Mount Sinai. Nachmonides continues right down the Midrashic line that the purpose of the Tabernacles is a continuation of G-d’s Torah. Just now it takes on a different format. But that’s the purpose of Mount Sinai. It doesn’t move away from that.
I want to tell you a beautiful thing I read from R’ Eliyahu Kramer, the Vilna Gaon, head of the whole Lithuanian movement. He writes on the verses of Shir Hashirim that what G-d started at Mount Sinai were people lifted above the earth comes down in the Tabernacles where people experience it on earth. From this perspective, it’s two sides of the same point. The whole concept of the Tabernacles is the other side of the experience that people had on Mount Sinai. Therefore, to a degree, it’s all been focused around the G-dliness of the giving of the Torah, of G-d’s voice on this world. The human being is just there to house it. But don’t for one second make the mistake that you are the significant reality to it. You’re not. But G-d wants to experience like the Midrash says. He wants to visit his daughter. Who’s his daughter? The Torah.
What does it mean amongst them? Amongst them means how the people witnessed at Mount Sinai the angels cleaving. They’re cleaving. Therefore, now, they parked the temple in tehir midst and they surrounded it. But it’s all about the temple. That’s what it’s about.
By the way, if you turn the page to Page 3, I made a copy of the Or Hachaim on this verse. The Or Hachaim doesn’t change up. The Or Hachaim was a man by the name of R’ Chaim ben Atar who lived in the early 1600s. At the same time as the Baal Shem Tov. He ended up living in Israel for a very short period of time. The Baal Shem Tov desired very deep to meet him. The Baal Shem Tov actually started to travel to Israel to meet him, but it didn’t work out. The Baal Shem Tov said if I would have met with the Or Hachaim, the Messiah would have arrived.
The Or Hachaim on the portion of Terumah on the word b’socham walks down the same exact path. Do you know what the path is? Simple. Amongst them. The same idea of Rashi’s grandchildren. That they cleaved around the temple. But the focus was the temple. What took place in the temple was G-d’s relationship with the Torah and the mitzvot. We cleaved around it.
Where does a little shift begin? Where does a tiny crack begin to open up that all of a sudden maybe start refocusing the story of the Tabernacles a little differently? The Talmud. I want to tell you a story in the Talmud. The story in the Talmud is the man who actually was the one who recorded the oral tradition, R’ Yehuda Hanasi, who wrote the Mishna 2,000 years ago. Then, for300 years after he wrote the Mishna, the Talmud developed until the end of the period of R’ Ashi. It ended up at a difficult time when the Roman emperor became part of the church. That’s when the Talmud closed and the Jews in Rome — the great relationship that for a period of time the Talmud would say that Rome was the Jerusalem in exile. That’s what they thought. They thought of Babylon as the great new savior. Like we Americans speak about America. The great savior for Judaism 1,900 years ago — you have to hear about how the rabbi wrote about Pepidoo, Nahardai, all these cities of Babylon. It’s the Jerusalem of Babylon. It’s the Jerusalem outside of Israel. It was sacred. The one who began the writing down was R’ Yehuda. He recorded the oral tradition and it was called the Mishna. The constitution of the oral law.
He was marrying off his son. The Talmud says first he went to marry off his son to R’ Chiya’s daughter. Before the wedding took place, she passed away. The Talmud asks why did she pass away. After much research, they realized that she wasn’t good enough for R’ Yehuda’s son. Because R’ Yehuda Hanasi comes out of the dynasty of King David. R’ Chiya didn’t. R’ Chiya came out of King David’s brother. It wasn’t good enough yichus for R’ Yehuda Hanasi’s son so the daughter passed away. Sad. The Talmud continues. He found a second match for his son. He found it by R’ Yosei ben Zimra. Who was R’ Yosei ben Zimra? Talmud says he was a kohen, priestly family. Okay. Once it was a priestly family, the yichus was good for R’ Yehuda Hanasi. The deal was — in those days there was two separate — there was eirusin and there was nisu’in. We do it altogether today. The ketuba and the recital of the ketuba under the chuppah is the eirusin. Then we say the seven blessings. There’s betrothal and then there’s the marriage. Years ago, they wrote the ketuba, they signed the ketuba and that was a commitment. Then you didn’t get married, but you were tied to each other. They didn’t do it at the same time.
R’ Yehuda decided he wants to betroth his son, but then his son should go learn 12 years and come home after 12 years. Why 12 years? Multiple commentaries what’s the 12 years. Some say because R’ Yehuda was working on the six sidrei Mishna and he wanted his son to dedicate two years to each section. One year to just learn it and the second year to review it and correct mistakes that his son believed should be corrected. If you take six portions of the Mishna and you spend two years per portion, it was 12 years. He wanted his son to be around him over those 12-year period when he was writing the Mishna. But he wanted his son to be committed to this girl, so let the betrothal take place and he’ll get married 12 years later.
What happened? The girl walked by the boy. The boy took a look at the girl. She was a very pretty girl. And he decided, told his dad, you know what, let’s shave it down to six years. I’ll do what you want me to do over a six-year period. She happened to walk by a second time. When she walked by a second time, he said no, dad, let me get married first. Then after I get married I’ll spend 12 years. Let me first get married. Let me set up a house with her first. He was embarrassed of his father. It’s in the Talmud. He knew that his father wanted him first to spend 12 years with him then to settle down in a home with this lady and create a home and he’s going really against his father’s will where he’s reversing the order. He wants to first settle down and create a home with this lady and then for 12 years learn in kolel. You know, have his father support him as he walks on his father’s thesis which was called then the Mishna. His father realized that his son was embarrassed and picked up the whole — good father, picks up right away what happened here and realizes he’s put his son in a very difficult position. This is a Talmud in the tractate of Kesubot, 62b.
Listen to what he says to his son. I’ll read it together with you. His father placates him and says to him, my son, you have your maker’s perception. You and G-d think alike. Don’t be embarrassed. How do you and G-d think alike? Let me tell you the story. When G-d was taking the Jews out of Egypt and He sang the song, what was the first thing they sang? The words that they sang were tevieimo v’sitaeimo which translate you bring them and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance. That first G-d says let’s go get the land. The house we will live in, we’ll work that out later. First let’s go get the land. What ends up happening? He creates v’shachanti b’socham. The land doesn’t happen. They don’t (inaudible) 40 years and what He does do is he creates a home where He resides with them. G-d turned around and did exactly what this boy did. Before this boy went out to settle the land, so to say, 12 years of study, he said let me first create the home where I can live together.
Which, to a certain degree — the commentaries bring this — that if they would have gone to the land of Israel, that would be like the betrothal where the Jewish people are committed to G-d and G-d to the Jewish people, but there is no sacred home where they reside. After they would settle the land, then they would build a Tabernacles and that would be the marriage. That would be the chuppah. That would be the nisu’in where now they’ve created a home where they live intimately. G-d refers to them. He first created a home and then he went ahead and found the land 40 years later where the home will reside. But the home came before the land.
Therefore, R’ Yehuda Hanasi looked at his son and said you’re no different than G-d. That initially, we talked about go out there and create a land first, go out there and get the properties and the territories, which to R’ Yehuda Hanasi was the Talmud. Gain all that insight, become a leader that way and then build a home. You desire to do it the other way. You want to first build a home and then you’re going to go out and study and conquer the land. Fine. Don’t be embarrassed.
From the Talmud’s perspective, all of a sudden, there’s a little bit of a shift going on. We’re talking about G-d marriage to the Jewish people. This is the authority. It’s not the giving of the Torah so much. It’s G-d’s marriage. But there are two forms in the marriage. There’s a form where the Jewish people first take on this unbelievable relationship with G-d which is about creating a land, no particular location where they live with G-d. The whole land is there. Then there becomes a particular holy site. But in principle, there’s a little shift going on here from the Midrash. Where the focus goes a little bit away from it’s that the Jewish people are incidental. That shift starts happening. All of a sudden, the Talmud opens up and says no, it’s about a marriage. Yes, a marriage takes a certain format. We don’t get married every day. It’s once in a lifetime. In that once in a lifetime, there is certain imagery and certain objects that are in the marriage and therefore makes it a marriage. Therefore, the Torah and mitzvot which is part of the marriage. It takes place in the temple. It’s significant, that’s what makes it a day of marriage. But who’s getting married? G-d and the Jewish people. It’s a little shift.
The Tabernacles becomes the place where G-d and the Jewish people are getting married. It’s not the bedroom of the father-in-law that’s all about the father-in-law wanting to be with his daughter which happens to be the Torah. We are the sons-in-law on the side that have to watch this unbelievable relationship between the father and daughter. We’re on the outside. We’re not relevant. We’re the tzugekumener. We’re the Johnny come late in this relationship. G-d wants to have a place where you can go back to the original relationship, which is Him and His daughter. We schlep along as a son-in-law that just, you know, pays the rent on the house and does the cleaning that the father-in-law can come and spend time with His daughter. A little different. When you create an imagery that it’s G-d and the Jews getting married.
There are two formats to the marriage. There’s the conquering of the land, a people, a nation and then it gets focused into a marriage of the intimacy of you and your wife, you and your husband in a private home. That’s the Tabernacles. But it’s about us. We’re not innocent bystanders in this whole story of the Tabernacles. Yes, the Tabernacles was made up very uniquely with objects that make it unique. Like a marriage. It’s not just simply oh, today I married you. No, there’s a whole imagery that goes to it. We invite hundreds of people to witness it. We have a chuppah, we have a ketuba. There are objects that make the day into a marriage. But at the same time, it’s about marrying this person. The Jewish people are brought into the conversation because it’s a marriage.
The Talmud shifts a little bit the focus of the Tabernacles. The focus of the Tabernacles is not slam dunk about G-d and the Torah. It schleps us into the conversation. We join the party. We’re a participant in this (inaudible). It’s a beautiful Talmud.
I just want to show you something that I did here. I know it’s in Aramaic. It’s just interesting that when you learn and you have the ability to see how the commentaries work. There was R’ Shlomo Yitzchaki, I mentioned him, this great French commentator 1,000 years ago. One of the most original writings on the Talmud. In the Talmud that we have, he makes no commentary on this whole story. But I found there’s a book that came out that after they printed the Talmud with the original Rashi’s printing, they found handwritten from Rashi. I want to show you what they found from his handwriting on the source.
Look what Rashi says that they found later in his handwriting. He says one word to explain why G-d built the Tabernacles first in the story of how R’ Yehuda Hanasi presents that he changed His mind. He started off first wanting to conquer a land and then He changed it. He said no, let me first build a house. It’s the last line. V’asu mishkan kodem. And he made the Tabernacles first. I underlined those two words, me’ahavaso l’Yisrael, for His love for the Jewish people. Rashi starts interpreting the Talmud and says I want to tell you something. I know the Midrash focuses on the Torah. I’m telling you what the Talmud is doing here is a little bit of a shift. That the purpose of the Tabernacles is about His relationship with the people.
On that little shift, in walk three great mystics. R’ Moshe Alshich. His name was Moshe Alshich and his works is called the Alshich. He lived in the early 1500s in Tzfat. He lived until 1590. He was a disciple of Joseph Caro. He got to know R’ Isaac Luria who lived for three years in Tzfat. That’s all, by the way. From 1578 to 1581. He passed away at the age of 36, a very young man. But got to know Moshe Alshich in those three years. At the same time, there was the Remak, R’ Moshe Cordovero. He was another great mystic living at the time of the Arizal. He had a student. He wrote the famous book called Reishis Chachma. The student’s name was R’ Eliyahu Devabus (ph). R’ Eliyahu Devabus lived at the end of the 1500s into the early 1600s. Then came the third mystic in Tzfat. A man who started out in Austria, went from Austria to Germany, went from Germany to Prague, went from Prague to Yerushalayim and he ended up in Yerushalayim in 1621. Then, in 1626, he moved from Yerushalayim to Tzfat. He joined the mystics of Tzfat. He was R’ Yeshaya Horowitz, known as the Shela. He wrote a book called Shnei Luchot Habrit. Many, many great chasidic masters came out of this man’s family. The Stracheler came out, the Chozeh miLublin. Great chasidic masters in the 1700s, early 1800s came out of this man’s grandchildren. From this man.
Each one of these mystics, without quoting the other one, come back to this verse, v’asu li mikdash, you shall make for me a Tabernacles, v’shachanti b’socham and I will reside amongst them. Do you know what they say? Three simple words. B’soch kal echad v’echad. That G-d wants to reside amongst every single Jew. All of a sudden, at the height of building the Tabernacles, G-d changes around according to their interpretation and shifts it entirely away from the Tabernacles. Although he’s about to tell them to build the Tabernacles, he turns around and tells them I want to tell you something. Although I’m telling you to build a Tabernacles, v’shachanti b’socham. My purpose is not because I simply want to reside in this building and the building is where I’m Jewish. Through this building, I end up residing in every single one’s life. That’s the real purpose. Three mystics said it. It changed the entire direction.
All of a sudden, instead of talking about a marriage and a marriage taking place inside a building which happens to be the Tabernacles, instead of talking about grandma and grandfather’s flat, which has nothing to do with us, it has to do with G-d revisiting His Torah that He gave away to us. In come these three mystics and say no, change the whole direction with this. It’s not about the marriage inside the building, it’s not about grandmother’s flat, it’s outside of the Torah. It’s taking place in each person. That’s the real thing that’s going on here. They shift the whole direction of this.
From that point and on, in the chasidic world, they jumped on this commentary and they began to work this commentary. I’m just going to tell you that the Alter Rebbe, the founder of the Chabad movement, in his writings of Likutei Torah, the Sfat Emes in his writings on the portion of Terumah in 1873, R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev his writings on the portion of Shemini, they all quote this commentary. They all find the significance of G-d residing in the Jew, that a Jew makes his own being into a holy house. Better your midot, your attributes, your emotional attributes, make them holy. Better your intellectual attributes. That your mind should become a residing place for G-d. They all work the person as becoming the mishkan.
It becomes a whole storyline of how G-d resides in you, how you better yourself. All these great mystics spoke of it. By the way, it wasn’t only mystics. There was the famous R’ Chaim Yosef Dovid Azoulai, the Chida, a man that lived in the 1700s, famous for his travelling the world. He wrote on the Torah. He took the writing of these mystics — he’s not a mystic, by the way, but he was very respectful — and he wrote beautifully the same idea, the same thought. That the person, in his personal life, becomes a holy edifice. All based on an injection in this verse that’s started by the mystics in the 1500-1600s. They introduced a whole new way of thinking. If you can back your way back to the commentaries I put in the front of this worksheet, it differs from them. Because those commentaries are based on the Midrash. That the real story wasn’t about people, it was about the Torah.
In walks the Rebbe on the backend of everything, on the backend of those mystics in the 1500-1600s, on the backend of the great chasidic masters that all spoke about the human being changing his identify and a relationship with G-d where he becomes a house for G-d and says I want to take this even a step further.
V’shachanti b’socham, I reside amongst the people. Do you want to know why? Because the people are going to change the world. The Rebbe goes into this whole idea that G-d desires the dwelling place in the world. G-d doesn’t desire to dwell in a holy edifice where it’s a cocoon and it’s isolated from the world where only priests can function there and you have to sanctify yourself to enter the room and its certain surfaces at certain times. It has a whole schedule with machines and priests and Levites and everybody functioning and it’s a holy place. No. G-d wants the sacrimonous and the worldliness and the most unholy place in the world to also identify. Who does that? we. Not the animals, not the angels, nobody. There’s no other being that does that. Every Jew, we all should be doing this. All people as well. Change the world. Take the most secular, take the most farfetched corner of the world, not only physically, but figuratively, ideas that you would never fathom that could identify itself with any kind of holiness and bring G-d into it. Nothing is divorced of a relationship with G-d.
The Rebbe turned around and says I believe that when you make a holy edifice in a place that’s out there, unholy, it’s a greater accomplishment than the building the Tabernacles. It’s very easy to make a cocoon and isolate it and create rules and regulations around it and therefore it has holiness. Go out there in the world where there is no cocoon and there are no rules and show that even in that format, G-d has a relationship. That’s even greater the Rebbe says.
Therefore, the Rebbe turns around and says this is what the verse means. V’shachanti b’socham, I want to reside amongst them because these are the people. It’s only us that can take G-d to a place that’s not natural and show even on those unnatural terms, G-d resides there. The Rebbe build a whole theology on it. That’s why (inaudible).
It was very easy for the Rebbe to say I’m going to live in Crown Heights. I’m going to lock community into its own world. you want to see holiness? Come to Crown Heights. You want to see G-dliness? Come. Because out there in Lexington there’s no G-dliness. You want the real G-dliness, come to an environment that I’m going to create and that’s where you’ll see G-dliness. The Rebbe turned around and said that there’s no corner of the earth that there shouldn’t be somebody there saying to you you can be G-dly here as well. We can find a relationship with G-d in this environment as well.
That’s exactly what the Rebbe said to Dr. Velvel Green. I am more with you sitting in a conservative temple on yud tes Kislev night than the cocoon called Crown Heights, locked into 770, a building where everything is spiritual and holy. That’s the Tabernacles. You want to know where are you really at? I’m really out there. That’s even a greater truth and a greater accomplishment than any accomplishment that can be accomplished in this warm closed environment that everybody shares something equally and it’s all identified with a certain set of disciplines and an adherence to a certain style. That’s why it’s holy. Show G-d and show G-d’s holiness where none of that exists. He did that for 5,000 centres around the world where he took — he translated this word and I reside amongst them, that it’s the them that will go out there and create an edifice for G-d in the most unnatural places. From the Rebbe’s perspective, that edifice is even greater than the holy edifices that people create in beautiful closed environments.
(END RECORDING – 00:54:28)
CERTIFICATE OF TRANSCRIPT
I, ROCHEL BADDIEL, as the Official Transcriber, hereby certify that the attached transcript labeled: CHABAD HOUSE was held as herein appears and that this is the original transcript thereof and that the statements that appear in this transcript were transcribed by me to the best of my ability.
February 24th, 2019
Transcription for Everyone
THE HUMAN VOICE – To see video and text go to https://shorrenterpris.wpengine.com/downloads/the-human-voice/
Prepared for: Alter Bukiet
Transcribed by: Transcription for Everyone
Number of Inaudibles: 2
(START RECORDING – 00:00:00)
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: All right. Good morning everybody.
Audience Member: Good morning.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: Just on the calendar note, next week is going to be the last class before Purim, because the actual week, the Sunday before Purim proper, which is two weeks from today, I’m going to be in New York for my daughter’s wedding and the sheva brachot after the wedding. I won’t be here that Saturday, I won’t be here that Sunday, so we won’t have a class on that Sunday, two weeks from today.
Therefore, next week, I’m just giving you a heads-up, there’s going to be a beautiful class and it’s going to be, like, around holiday. It’s not going to be study, study. It’s going to be around stories, stories that the Rebbe told on the festival of Purim and how the Rebbe tied beautiful Chassidic stories into the festival of Purim, which is an interesting take. It’s going to be on storyline. A little lighter, next week, but I think, in many ways, a lot deeper, because in those beautiful stories that’s told on Purim, speaks volumes to how the Rebbe was celebrating Purim and what messages he wanted to get across in those moments of Purim through a story.
We’ll spend time next week with three, four stories, depending on how much time the class allows me to tell you different stories, and with the historical background to the story itself.
Let’s go to this week’s class. This week’s class I’m going back to the inauguration gathering when the Rebbe assumed leadership in 1951, the 10th day of Shevat. I’ve said this piece of what the Rebbe said at that inauguration address. The Rebbe said that in America there’s a custom to make a statement. Let me make a statement of what my leadership is about.
The Rebbe went in to say that there are three links that link together the whole story of Jewish life. The three links are there’s the link of God, there’s the link of Torah, and then there’s the link of the Jewish People. The Rebbe said like this, if a person says I’m assuming the link of Torah, but I don’t have a good relationship with the other two links, it reflects that the link of Torah is incomplete as well.
If a person says, I’m consumed with the link of God and I don’t have the other two links, then it shows that even in the link with God it’s question.
But if a person stands up and says that I have a relationship with another Jew, but I’m struggling with my relationship with God and I’m struggling with my relationship with the Torah, don’t let go! One day he’ll come around, but that link should be kept in place.
The Rebbe separates and makes a statement about the uniqueness of a link of another Jew with each other, although there is an incompleteness in his understanding of his relationship with God and his understanding of the relationship with the Torah. He’s honest. He says I don’t have that great of a relationship, but I’m willing to say to you that I understand or I feel for another Jew, that human relationship. And he has no godly words for it or he has no scriptural words for it, because godly words and scriptural words, he says, I’m lacking. The Rebbe says I want you to hold onto that and the Rebbe said that’s my statement to the world. It’s an amazing statement.
We have worked this statement over the course of time. We have worked this statement pretty, pretty strong. I want to do it again.
I want to come at it with a beautiful Talmud. I’m telling you in advance a couple of things. Number 1, that my introduction to this Talmud — for the sake of honesty and for the sake of transparency, I’m a big fan of Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik of blessed memory, and if you go on Yeshiva University website, they have links of his audio, of his tapes of his classes he gave in the 70’s and 80’s. They are perfecting it on the technology that it’s clearer and you could hear it better. There’s a tape of a lecture he gave in 1973 that has been worked on and actually produced in one of the books that was coming out, a book called Reflections, and he was the one who opened my eyes to this Talmud.
I’ve worked it differently a little bit. What I want — it’s based on the Rebbe’s inaugural statement, but I just want to be honest that I’ve seen that Talmud through listening to a lecture of his, which opened me up to look at that Talmud.
I want to introduce it. Usually I do it with a story of the Rebbe. I’m not doing it with a story of the Rebbe today. I’m doing it with a contrast of two stories. Even more than two stories, of the difference of an approach to another Jew through Lithuanian halachic Talmudic analysis or versus Chassidic masters. Then I’m going to come back to the Rebbe at the end of the class.
I’ve picked on a story that just came out on a website in Israel. Now, again, God forbid, there’s no attempt on my part to speak bad about anybody and that’s not what I’m doing here. The story I’m about to tell you is a story that they printed. I just want you to understand the contrast of opinions about Jews.
If you look at my Page 1, right on top of the page, there’s a picture. Let me tell you who’s in the picture. There was a month ago, over the holiday weekend — actually, January time, two months ago, American businessmen flew to Israel and took their vacation in Israel.
A group of them sat to learn. They flew to Israel. There was an evening where rabbis spoke to them and praised them for what they did.
In the picture, what you’re looking at, is two brothers-in-law. One’s standing and holding a mike, his name is Yitzchok Zilberstein, he’s a head of a yeshivah in Jerusalem. The next one, the one sitting right next to him, bent in, his name is Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Known as the Steipler, his father, was Yaakov Kanievsky. He wrote extensively on Maimonides, called Kehilos Yaakov. Today, he is considered — Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the man sitting, is considered one of the great leading authorities in the Talmud, right-wing Orthodox world.
They were both — the man standing, Rabbi Zilberstein, and the man sitting, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, they were both sons-in-law of a man by the name of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. He was known as Rabbi Elyashiv. He passed away in the year 2012. He passed away at the age of 102. He was born in 1910. He was one of the leading authorities in the Orthodox world. His prime years, when he led the Orthodox world, were the 80’s and 90’s. For twenty years, he was their halachic authoritative voice.
His younger son-in-law is the man at the mike. The man at the mike, Rabbi Zilberstein, was born in 1934. His older son-in-law, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the one sitting, was born in 1928. This younger son-in-law was the mouthpiece of Rabbi Elyashiv for years. He would be present, be the one that would interpret the answers that he gave, would help Rabbi Elyashiv speak his opinions. He was like the secretary, his religious secretary.
He stood up at this convention two weeks ago and told this story. Again, I say this as a — I don’t mean to speak bad, belittle anybody. I’m just telling stories for you to understand the difference of authoritative opinions.
He stood up and — the story goes as follows. He says, ten years ago, before my father-in-law passed away, when my father-in-law was weak, I would ask all my halachic questions of my older brother-in-law, the one sitting at the table, Rav Chaim Kanievsky.
A question came to me. An Orthodox Jew in Israel leases private planes for people to fly. A group of Israeli Jews booked a plane to go to a football match in some country. After they booked the plane and these families were flying to the football match, one of the people on the flight realized that the night they’re taking off, they’re getting onto the plane, is the eve of Passover. He turned to the leasing company and said to the leasing company, do you mind to supply for the flight matzos and wine and maror and Haggados, so on the flight —
Audience Member: We could have a Seder.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: — we could have a Seder. The leasing company, who has a contract with the food company that does all their flights, is non-kosher food and it’s a simple thing. This leasing company turns to him and says deliver 12 packages or 25 packages and this food distributor does this in bulk. Well, now, you’re asking for a specialty. You can’t go to the food company, say matzos, wine, maror and Haggados. It meant that the leasing company has to go put this together. He’s an Orthodox Jew and he felt, under contract, he’s not obligated.
He didn’t want to do the wrong thing, because it’s about a Seder, but it’s on a flight, flying on Passover night. He went to Rabbi Zilberstein and said to him, help me with this. Rabbi Zilberstein turned to his older brother-in-law and said, what do I answer? The older brother-in-law said, I don’t want to take responsibility, go ask our father-in-law.
Although he was weak by then, he said I’m going to go ask him. He went and asked him. He laid out the question and Rabbi Elyashiv, his father-in-law, their father-in-law, turned around and said let them eat chazer, let them eat pork if they’re flying on Passover. That was his answer. This man stood up and repeated this in front of the whole crowd.
There are two things there. First of all, he realized that his older brother-in-law, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, struggled. He didn’t want to answer. He didn’t want to put his stamp either way on this. The father-in-law took responsibility and made a major statement. His statement was they’re flying on Passover, I don’t care about anything religious for them. This is an interesting dilemma.
Let me tell you a Chassidic story. Those that go to Israel, and we should all be going to Israel, you should make it — if you have the opportunity — the largest synagogue built in Israel belongs to a Chassidic community called Belz, the Rokeach family. Why do they have the largest synagogue in Israel? Let me tell you the story.
The original Rokeach, his name was Rabbi Sholom Rokeach. He was a disciple going all the way back to the Noam Elimelech. These are students of the Maggid. This is third-generation Chassidic movement. This man was a — he, with a friend of his, decided that they’re going to stay up a thousand nights and learn through the night. Catnap through the day, but be up through the night, when everybody else is sleeping, a thousand nights. He and his friend decided.
His friend conked out after 700 nights. He couldn’t. He said I can’t go further. On the thousandth night that this Sholom Rokeach stayed up he had a prophesy. Elijah came to him and learned with him the laws of the sanctuary, of the synagogue. When he woke up from his dream after learning the laws in his dream of a sanctuary, of a synagogue in his head, it became a message to him.
When he moved to the city of Belz and became the Chassidic master of Belz and led a Chassidic movement, he built the largest synagogue in Poland, in Belz. In middle of building this great synagogue in Belz, he ran out of money. Some of his students convinced him, you know, you have children from your followers that have made it well, they live in Warsaw, they’re not religious, but if you travel to Warsaw and they know that their parents’ rebbe that they remember from childhood is making the trip to Warsaw, they’ll support you. He was convinced. They left Belz and he travelled to Warsaw.
When he arrived in Warsaw, they took him to this villa, a beautiful villa. He enters through the gates of the villa and, as he’s walking to this mansion, along the way, there’s this beautiful garden with the gazebos along the side of the garden where people are sitting. As he walks by one of the gazebos, there’s this young man, not wearing a yarmulke, not religious at all, and eating non-kosher. As the Belzer Rebbe walks by, the original Belzer Rebbe walks by, he turns to him and says in Yiddish, es gezunterheit, eat in good health, with a big smile. Es gezunterheit.
Then he went into the mansion. They showed him to the office. He waited in the waiting room, and who comes walking through the waiting room to enter his office? The man who was sitting and eating non-kosher. Ow. He sat down across the Belzer Rebbe and the Belzer Rebbe told him that he’s building a synagogue in Belz and he would like him to support and he agreed to support. He asked him what’s the shortfall in the synagogue, the Belzer Rebbe told him what the shortfall is, and he sponsored it.
They left. In the carriage ride from Warsaw back to Belz, the Belzer Rebbe sat in the front seat, next to the carriage driver. In the back was the entourage, the five, six people, his gabba’im. The gabba’im shushked, this, like, this little shushkening. Why did the Belzer Rebbe say to him es gezunterheit? It was not kosher what he was eating. Some said, most probably he didn’t know who he was. Others said no, he knew who he was and he wanted to get money out of him, so he said es gezunterheit. All this type of shushkening.
The Belzer Rebbe turns around and says let me set the record straight. Number 1, I did not know who he was when I walked by. Number 2, I knew it was not kosher. Those that were arguing maybe he didn’t know it was not kosher, or those that were arguing that he knew who he was and he did it for financial reasons, he says, let me set everything straight. I knew it was not kosher and I did not know who he was.
Let me tell you why I said it. I want that although he’s not doing something right, he shouldn’t be fighting with God. Farvus darf men zich shluggen mit di Eibeshter, why should it be a fight? If I would walk by and ignore him, then he would say oh, because I eat non-kosher, God is against me, because look at this rabbi, he ignored me. I’d rather he doesn’t fight with God.
This is a beautiful take of a Chassidic master, to turn around and say I understand that this person’s relationship is complicated, but I’m not going to make it worse. I’m going to try to minimize the complications.
There’s a great story of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev was a disciple of the Maggid. His age, he saw the Ba’al Shem Tov as well. He was a great, great Chassidic master, that actually was at the time of the Alter Rebbe, the third generation as well. He lived into his 80s. He crossed over three generations of the Chassidic movement. He was one of the greatest Chassidic masters. A lover of Jews.
One of the most beautiful stories they say is that he stood up Yom Kippur in his synagogue and told this story. What was the story? He’s telling a story before Ne’ilah. The end of Yom Kippur. He says I want to tell you what happened to me this morning.
I’m walking to shul and I see this man smoking and it happened to be that that Yom Kippur was on Shabbos. He looks at the man and he says, do you know that it’s Shabbos today? He says of course I know it’s Shabbos today. He says, do you know it’s Yom Kippur today? He says of course I know it’s Yom Kippur today. And he keeps on smoking, and he walks away from me.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev says how beautiful it is. He could have lied and said he doesn’t know it’s Yom Kippur and said, no, I didn’t realize. But look at a Jewish man, he says, he didn’t want to lie to God.
That’s called minimizing. That’s called saying that although I know it’s complicated the relationship, let me try to figure out how I find within this relationship something to grasp onto and to turn around and make this person understand that you can still identify it through the complications.
It’s this type of Chassidic way of thinking that dominated, I imagine — again, I’m saying something off record, I shouldn’t say it. I imagine that if this story of the airline would have been handed to the Rebbe, the Rebbe would have turned around and said, number 1, try to convince them not to fly on Yom Tov and explain to them the beauty of sitting down by a Seder properly and they’ll fly after Yom Tov. Then if it doesn’t work out, quietly, do what you have to do quietly. Don’t make an announcement. But why shouldn’t they eat the Seder? Try to give them whatever they want to cleave to Judaism, the best as possible, without public announcements.
It’s a different approach. It’s an approach where you turn around and say that you know what, within this great relationship with God, there’s a need to understand in the complication of the relationship, there’s beauty to be found. When you find that beauty, emphasize it. Okay.
I want to teach you a Talmud. It’s a Talmud in the Tractate Sanhedrin. Those that follow me online, it’s the sixth page, Side B, Vav, Amud Beis.
The Talmud goes into this great conversation about arbitration. Arbitrational law. Initially, the Talmud says, you shouldn’t do arbitration. Arbitration should not be done in Judaism because either right or wrong. Why are you arbitrating compromises?
Then the Talmud turns around and says, you know, that if you can get the case resolved before it hits the courtroom and before a judge gets his hand on it, you can arbitrate somehow or other that the two should come to an understanding. Arbitration is a good thing.
In the copy of the Talmud I showed you is that the Talmud says that you should know that who introduced arbitration is King David, because King David used two terms, that when he became king of the Land of Israel, he introduced righteousness and judgment. The Talmud says judgment is where a person gets judged right and wrong, and there’s no righteousness, it’s simply right and wrong. Righteousness is the concept of arbitration, where the judge has a way of arbitrating the case — not the judge, it’s arbitrated before it hits the courtroom.
The Talmud uses the example of Aaron and Moses. Moses was the judge, but before something came to Moses, who had to judge it? Aaron tried to work out peace treaties and he tried to figure out how to get the two people to somehow or other resolve their issue before it reaches Moses. Because once it reaches Moses, there’s no arbitration. Then he’s obligated to say what the law is and whatever the law is, is the law.
If the guy walks in and says that this guy stole from me $100, Moses can’t say let them do a compromise, give him 50 and go home. What do you mean give him 50 and go home? Either he stole from me 100 or he didn’t steal from me 100. Let’s get this right. I never said he stole from me 50. I’m telling you he stole from me 100. Why the compromise of giving me 50 is going to resolve the issue? It’s either I’m right or he’s right.
So once the judge gets his hand on it, the concept of arbitration is out the window. Before the judge got the hand on it, before it came to Moses, Aaron would try to figure out, how do I arbitrate?
That’s the Talmud. Then the Talmud turns around and says arbitration is a good thing.
Then the Talmud — turn the page with me, we’re going to work this through quickly — the Talmud turns around and tells seven stories. Little storylines. It’s almost like the Talmud’s saying to us — it’s not stories, it’s one-liners. The Talmud tells it in a very interesting way. What are the seven one-liners?
There was a certain man, the Talmud doesn’t name who he is, who went around and used to say, if a person hears about him something and it’s against him and he remains silent, you should know that 100 misfortunes would pass by as a result. So instead of blowing the thing out of whack, that you heard someone say something about you, now you go after that person and now you start — it’s going to —
Audience Member: Escalate.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: — it’s going to escalate. Talmud says if a person simply allows it to go by him, 100. Comes along Rabbi Shmuel and says to Rabbi Yehudah, I want to tell you something, it’s a nice saying, but actually it’s written in Proverbs. He quotes a verse in Proverbs, let’s not go into it, just note that he quotes a verse in Proverbs. From that verse in Proverbs you see this idea, allowing something that has been said about you, to be silent.
Story number 2. There was this man, again nameless, who went around saying that a thief can get away from his thievery for the first couple of times, but then ultimately he’s caught. You just can’t go on your entire life and not be caught. You’re going to be caught. That was his saying. Comes along Shmuel and says to Rabbi Yehudah, I want to tell you something. I know this is a beautiful saying from this man, but let me tell you something. There’s a verse. It’s a verse in Amos, one of the Prophets, that implies that you should know that a thief might not be caught on the first couple of times, but he will ultimately be caught.
Third saying. There was this man who went around saying that a person who’s of peace, they can be selling pig’s dung in front of him, he’ll be able to avoid it, because a man of peace stays with the peace and he can walk between, as we would say, between the drops of rain. Versus an evildoer. The first pit, he’ll figure out how to fall into it. Comes along Shmuel and says to Rabbi Yehudah, I know that this is a man who said this beautiful saying, but you should know in the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon already said it. He quotes him a verse from King Solomon.
Story number 4. There was this man who walked around saying — what did he say? He would say as follows, that a judgement on somebody poor was levied against him and it really hurt him, it emptied him out, they took away the garment he’s wearing, and he walks out of the court singing. Where he accepts the judgment and he’s not bitter by the fact that there was a judgment against him, because the judge said he was wrong, should be praised. Along comes Rabbi Shmuel once more and turns to Rabbi Yehuda and says, I know there’s a beautiful saying from this man, this faceless man, this nameless man, but I want to tell you something, it’s again, it’s a verse from the Torah. It’s in Exodus.
Story number 5, on top of Page 3. There was this man who went around saying that if a woman carries a basket on her head and she dozes off, she behaves irresponsibly, you should know it’s going to fall. If you’re careless, things happen. Turns Shmuel to Rabbi Yehuda and says, I know that there’s this man who had a saying, but you should know it’s already said in Kohelet. Ecclesiastes already said this idea that if you behave irresponsibly things will happen.
Story number 6. There was this man who walked around saying that you should know you might have a friend that you think is backing you, but one day you’ll turn around and realize that that friendship went sour. All of the sudden the person you thought is in your corner is not in your corner. Turned around Shmuel to Rav and says, I know this man has a saying, but I want to tell you something, it’s in Psalms. That’s story number 6.
Story number 7. There was this man who went around saying that if you have a true love for a person, then both of you can sleep on the width of a sword because you don’t even feel the lack of space when you love somebody. If you don’t love somebody, then you should know that you can have a bed that is huge, a king-sized bed, and there’s not sufficient room for the two of you on one bed. Turns around Rav Huna this time and says, I know there’s a man who walks around having a saying about a relationship that’s healthy, but he’s not original. It’s in Exodus. God says something very similar. Therefore, I know the man has this saying.
That’s the Talmud. Seven sayings right after the story of arbitration. That’s the Talmud in a nutshell. Okay. Let’s work this Talmud.
I get that arbitration, before it reaches a judge, there’s something to the arbitration. Let’s talk about it. Why is there something to arbitration? You’re telling the guy give $50 instead of the $100. It’s a nice thing, but it’s not right. That’s not the story what happened here. This person believes $100 was taken from him. You walk up and say listen, stop squabbling.
It’s worth the $50 loss, you’re saying? What’s the concept of arbitration? In what way does it have legal grounds over the rightness of judgment? To say oh, it’s a good thing to do. What’s good about it? What’s the legality to it? What roots does it have?
This is an interesting conversation, but the Talmud says it’s good. Then let’s ask the question about this. There was a guy. The Talmud doesn’t usually leave people faceless. Why doesn’t the Talmud — because usually the history of the person who’s saying it speaks volumes to what he’s saying. You get to understand — if you know this person’s personality and you realize this person’s history, all of the sudden you have the ability to understand why he would come out with such a verdict. Therefore, the Talmud would speak to you about who Hillel was, who Shammai was. You get to understand oh, these are certain personalities.
The Talmud tells you the history of Rabbi Akiva and therefore you get an understanding who Rabbi Akiva is and therefore you start understanding why his verdicts were certain ways. The Talmud would translate the character of the personality who was saying what was being said as a way of understanding what’s being said.
All of the sudden, for seven stories in a row, the Talmud decides there was a person, won’t tell me who the guy is. There was a person. By the way, I’m not saying — I imagine that whoever, there was this person, had to have some kind of respect, because look at the Talmud, it takes up time to try to say that what he said was written about.
If it was some Moe, Joe, Larry (inaudible 00:32:00) and saying something, the Talmud is not just going to say oh, let’s spend time on somebody who’s walking around telling stories. They didn’t look at the local paper, at the cartoons, and said let’s figure out from the cartoons where’s the Talmudic — where’s the Torah backing that cartoon. They didn’t do that. Whoever this person was, meant something to them. They didn’t want to mention his name.
Rabbi Shmuel found it important to say I want to tell you something, there’s something to this person. For two seconds, work this together with me. Turn to Page 4.
I want to introduce you to a personality that lived in a primitive time. He lived in the early 1800s, 1823, 1824, until 1900. His name was Rabbi Tzadok. He was a Kohen. They called him Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen. He lived in the city of Lublin, in Poland.
In the city of Lublin, there was a great Chassidic master that he became a student of. His name was Rabbi Leibel Eiger. Rabbi Leibel Eiger was the grandson of one of the great Talmudic scholars in the Lithuanian world that lived right after the Vilna Gaon. His name was Rabbi Akiva Eiger and he lived in the city of Eiger. He was the chief rabbi of a city called Posen. He was a scholar of epic proportions. His grandson became a Chassidic master, because as a young man he got attracted to Rabbi Mendele of Kotzk, the great Kotzker Rebbe, and the Kotzker Rebbe turned him onto the Chassidic world.
By the way, just to point this out, the son of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, his name was Rabbi Shimon Eiger. Rabbi Shimon Eiger spent a major portion of his time to make sure that his father wouldn’t get close to the Chassidic movement. God has a sense of humor. He took his son, Leibel, and made him a Chassidic master. When he was learning in Kotzk, the grandfather was influenced by his son to travel to Kotzk to try to convince his grandson to get out of the movement.
There are whole storylines how this grandson impressed upon his grandfather, that the grandfather went back to Posen and when his son, Rabbi Shimon, spoke to him about did you convince Leibel to come home, he says, he’s just fine, leave him alone.
This man, Rabbi Leibel Eiger, moved to Lublin and became a Chassidic master. When he passed away, the one that inherited his position is Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen. He was a leader from the mid-40s to the year 1900. He was one of the — he was a great Chassidic master. He was childless, so there was no — from this man’s — there was no following after he passed on.
He wrote extensively, beautifully. He wrote seven or eight different books. I want to show you what he does about there was this man. I’m going to show it to you out of three different books of his. If you go to Page 4 and go to B, skip the A on top, go to B.
I know it’s all in Hebrew, they have yet to make these books in English, so forgive me. I numbered the books. Number 1 is a book called Tzidkas HaTzadik, number 2 is a book of his called Poked Akarim, number 3 is a book called Pri Tzadik. In all three of these books, he focuses on ‘there was this man. He focuses on understanding the whole story about this man. I’m going to just — if you want to follow in Hebrew, I highlighted. I’m going to read you these quick translations.
He starts out — let’s start with one from Tzidkas HaTzadik. This is Chapter 53. Rabbi Tzadok of Lublin, his last name was Rabinowitz, Rabbi Tzadok writes as follows. “Dibur shechol hamerugal b’fi adam,” the language of people that people are used to saying, “hu divrei Torah mamash,” you should know, consider it as Torah words. “Afilu eitzel ish hahamoni miYisrael,” even the simplest person in the Jewish community, don’t underestimate his conversational speech.
Go down further in the paragraph, what I highlighted. He says that’s what the Talmud says there was a man that had a saying, because the Talmud wants to bring out that even the non-spiritual words in the Jewish community is holy. Why? Next highlighting. Why?
“Ki kol nefesh Yisrael,” for every Jewish soul, “yesh lo achiza b’divrei Torah miyuchedes,” has his own connection to Torah words. Each one of us has a letter in the Torah. Each one of us has a part of the Torah that’s ours. Therefore, now this walking letter in the Torah is speaking about Bob Kraft. Makes no difference. It’s this person that has a letter in the Torah that’s his, that’s speaking. Therefore, on a certain level, he says, that is holy.
Listen to this. From his perspective, that’s why, A, the Talmud goes to mention a person that’s faceless. Because it’s not about the uniqueness of this great scholar, it’s every single Jew.
Audience Member: A regular mentsch.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: A regular person. If I mentioned who he is as a scholar, then you’re going to say oh, he said it because who he is. No. There was a man. Who’s the man? Anybody. Why could it be anybody? Because every single soul of a Jew is attached to the Torah. Now this soul is speaking the most secular idea, there’s a part of it that’s holy.
Let me move to his writing in Poked Akarim, that’s 2, on the left-hand side. He turns around and says that in Pirkei Avot, in Ethics of our Fathers, it says you should learn from every person. Right? “Mikol adam.” “Eizeh hu chacham,” who’s a wise man, “Halomed mikol adam,” who learns from every person. Why? Why is a wise man who learns from every person?
He goes right back to this. He says that that’s the explanation. Because every person has a part of him, a letter of the Torah in him, embedded in him. He has a connection to the Torah. Although now he doesn’t seem to be expressing it, but that’s who he is. You might not see it, but that’s who he is and therefore listen to what he says.
He goes right back and quotes our Talmud. That’s why the Talmud in Tractate of Sanhedrin says there was a man who went around saying. Then he adds an interesting line.
He says, you should know, the man who went around saying might not even realize that he’s connected to Torah. He doesn’t realize that what he said has to it some sacredness. That’s why the Talmud turns around and says, Rav Shmuel comes and says, you should know, this is connected to the Torah this way. This is connected to the Torah that way. Although the man when he said it doesn’t even realize how he’s connected, the Talmud wants you to understand that you should know he’s connected.
In his brilliant way, how Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen views this whole Talmud, is a simple thing. The truth is that every one of us is connected to God. Sometimes it’s revealed and sometimes it’s concealed. We’re connected to the Torah. Sometimes it’s revealed, sometimes it’s concealed. Shmuel, it was revealed. He studied, he learned, he was aware, he was knowledgeable. The man who walked around and had a saying, he didn’t see, but it’s there. That connection with the Torah is there. Therefore, you have to listen and you have to understand.
Let’s work backwards. Let’s go back to the story of arbitration. Arbitration, you’re not going into the obvious part of Torah which is the Law Code to decide the case. What are you doing here? B the way, Rabbi Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, in that lecture of ’73, says like this. A little bit different to Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen, but this is how he introduces to explain arbitration. He says, I want to tell you something. He doesn’t use Tzadok HaKohen’s sources, he comes up with his own source.
He says, there’s a Talmud that says that a person before he’s born has learned the entire Torah in his mother’s womb. Then you get a little shnaid on the nose over here, right before you leave, and that’s when the angel makes you forget, but it’s been already engraved in your psyche.
Audience Member: DNA.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: The DNA. Therefore, Rabbi Soloveitchik of blessed memory, says, you want to know why arbitration is real? Because, although in the revealed part of the Torah, you’re not going there, but that human part that you’re going to express your feelings and try and make these two people — there’s holiness to that and it has its own source of Torah which is not revealed.
In the revealed part of Torah, it’s right and wrong. This is a different level of Torah revelation. That’s Rabbi Soloveitchik.
I want to show you that before he said it, there was a great rabbi that lived in Israel, his name was Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop. He was a disciple of Rabbi Kook. He passed away in 1951. He lived in Israel his entire life, 1882 to 1951. He wrote a sefer called Mei Marom.
He goes down the same path, but a little bit different. It’s interesting because they all come back to the same root. What’s the same root? That we’ve got to find a source to why this man had a saying. There was a saying, but you’ve got to find a source to why arbitration works. It just can’t be that there’s no Torah source to it.
Rabbi Soloveitchik wants to say that you can have a deep relationship with Torah that’s not even in the revealed part of Torah, that comes out subconsciously in this human touch of arbitration.
This man, Rabbi Charlop, turns around and says, I want to tell you something. It’s very possible that in this arbitration case, you might have overspent in a previous case on them that is long forgotten, or it’s the grandfather that owed a grandfather that now is being resolved.
Audience Member: Finally.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: — is being resolved in this case with this arbitrational decision. And so, in the revealed Torah sense, you could only look at what’s happening, but if you really dig deeper, there is repayment that goes back in generations. The arbitrational decision is going into that level of the psyche of the person where he carries the weight of past history.
That’s what his explanation is and therefore that’s justified. That’s justified, he says. You could find grounds that I’m paying up a debt of my ancestors.
They all work this angle. What’s the angle? Although there was a man who walked around saying, although there’s an arbitrator who says I’m not just looking at what the revealed Torah tells me to do, I’m going to do this human touch, where I’m going to walk in and say, Yankel, Moshe, why are you fighting, let’s figure out an in-between round here.
You should know, there’s a part of holiness, there’s a Torah aspect embedded in me, that’s not revealed. If you somehow or other lean on it, you’re strong enough, it comes out. The arbitrator brings it out in the arbitrational decision.
There was a man who walked around and had a saying and then Shmuel turned around and says, if you dig deep enough, although this man doesn’t realize what he’s saying, it has roots in the Torah. The reason why it has roots in the Torah because any Jew has roots in the Torah. That is the running theme of interpreting this Talmud.
Can I walk back for two seconds to the Rebbe? Let’s work this Talmud from the Rebbe’s perspective. You have a Jew who says, I have no relationship, I have a compliacted relationship with the Torah, I have a complicated relationship with God, but you know what, I have a human touch, where I feel for someone. In that human touch I have an understanding. There was a man who walked around and talked about his human touch for another person, how he was humble for another person, how he accepted another person’s judgment. All these human touches.
The Talmud turns around and says, don’t mess with him. This human touch is real. Then comes Shmuel and says, by the way, I know that there was a man who said this, but you should know that ultimately, he can grow in his relationship and when he grows in the relationship, he will see that not only is it coming from a human touch, there’s sources in the Torah as well because there’s another chain. What’s the other link in the chain? The Torah. But the link of the human touch is real, even though at that moment this human touch is saying I don’t know of my relationship with the Torah, I don’t know my relationship with God.
Therefore, this man walks around saying sayings that has no connection to God, that has no connection to a verse in the Torah, but the Talmud turns around and says I want to quote it.
Audience Member: Wow.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: I don’t want to dispose of that. I want to tell the world that — like the Rebbe said in his inauguration address — that you should know that when a person stands up and says my love for another person is independent to a degree at this point in my life, because I don’t have a complete relationship with God, I don’t have a complete relationship with the Torah, the Rebbe says, don’t throw it away. There’s a uniqueness to that human touch and it’s real, developed.
That’s exactly what the Talmud’s doing. From the Rebbe’s perspective, you don’t have to go back to the concept of a relationship with Torah. There’s a uniqueness in one’s Jew’s relationship with another person.
By the way, that’s the story of the arbitration. What’s the story of the arbitration? The arbitrator walks over to both of them and says, listen, we’re not going to talk law, we’re going to about it as human beings. How would you feel about it? What would be the best way that we all walk out of this room and we feel good about it? You know what that is? Let’s come to an understanding. No one gets 100 per cent and no one gets nothing, but we’re able to look at each other after the whole thing is over. Versus, when one is right and one is wrong, that relationship could be ruined.
It’s the human touch which, to the Rebbe, he was willing to stand up at the inaugural address and say, my dear friends, when a person stands up and says I love another human being, that has a value. That has total validation.
When you sit and look at this Talmud, you don’t have to run and try to figure out subconscious relationships with the Torah. You don’t have to go there. Just listen to the Rebbe’s voice, that there’s a link in the chain that’s very unique and has its own validation.
I want to tell you a story before I let you go. I read it recently. I have to find it, but I read it recently. The second of the great Chassidic masters in the dynasty of the Ger community, Gur, of Polish community. The Gerrer Rebbe today is the seventh Gerrer Rebbe today. He is the seventh in the chain. Rabbi Yankel Alter, his last name is Alter.
The second one was Rabbi Yehuda miGer. He was known as the Sfat Emet. Rabbi Yehudah Leib of Ger. He was the head of the school. He was a rosh yeshiva in Ger before he became the rebbe. He was teaching a Talmud in the Tractate of Baba Batra. The Talmud goes like this.
Two people walking in a forest, lost, knowing that to get to civilization will take days. There’s one bottle of water that one of them owns. That one bottle of water would be sufficient for one person to survive. Should he split the bottle of water in half and they both die? He’s not playing judgment, but that way he’s, like, leaving it up to God? Or does he say, no, I’ll drink the bottle of water, I survive, I’m sorry, it was my water, I’m not sharing.
The first opinion in the Talmud is, he should share. Comes along Rabbi Akiva and says, why is he sharing? Why should he? It’s his water. Sharing it, they’re both going to die. He should drink it. That’s the end of the Talmud.
The Sfat Emet, the second Gerrer Rebbe, teaching a class of students, turns around and says, I want to ask you a question. The Talmud’s scenario is made up of two people. What happens if there’s three people? Two of them, if they don’t get any water, they’re going to die. The third guy is just fine. He’s not dehydrated in any way. He’s doing just fine and he has the bottle of water. So now, for him to drink it, there’s no purpose. Why should he drink it? He’s okay. If he gives it to one of the two, then the other one dies. If he gives it to both, they both die. What does he do?
He asked this question. You can’t answer the Talmud’s answer drink it. I don’t have a problem. I’m okay. I’m not dehydrated. The owner is not dehydrated. You can’t say — why should he drink it?
What the Sfat Emet was doing was getting the Talmud’s answer removed and going back to the original question, where you have two people, (inaudible 00:53:07), and now what do we do? Does he throw it up in the air and let the two of them fight? What does he do?
As he asked the class the question, one student stood up and lifted up his arm. He said I have the answer. Let the scholar be the one to drink the water. If there’s a scholar amongst the two, whoever is greater for the Jewish community, let him drink the water. This is what a student answered.
The Sfat Emet listened to the answered and was dumbfounded. He said I didn’t respond, because he was amazed that someone said that. Why was he amazed? If you analyze — what was wrong with what the student answered?
Go through the Talmud and you’ll read over and over in the Talmud about scholars. You should marry a scholar. A scholar, a scholar, a scholar. The student answered based on what’s in his head about scholars and therefore said, listen, this guy seems to have a greater priority.
Comes the Sfat Emet and says no, it’s not only about the link of Torah. These are two human —
Audience Member: Beings.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: — beings, that that is in the relationship with God as well. In that relationship, how do you even equate one more important than the other? He had to sit there and teach the child, because that child was only evaluating the relationship with God through Torah study and this one was greater than the other. That link of Torah played a greater role to that child than any other link.
Comes along the Sfat Emet and says no, don’t do that. There’s another entire link, and that’s what the Rebbe was talking about. The Rebbe turned around and said I want to tell you about this link, that even though to a certain degree in its right now revealed stage, the person says, I don’t have the other two links, it’s a link that’s real and don’t let go of it.
The love for another Jew has a right to stand in its own merit, independent of finding a revealed way of how it’s connected to the Torah or to God. That’s exactly what the Talmud did. There was a man that walked.
Have a good day, everybody.
Audience Member: What’s the answer?
(END RECORDING – 00:55:49)
CERTIFICATE OF TRANSCRIPT
I, Libby Meisels, as the Official Transcriber, hereby certify that the attached transcript labeled: THE HUMAN VOICE was held as herein appears and that this is the original transcript thereof and that the statements that appear in this transcript were transcribed by me to the best of my ability.
Transcription for Everyone
There are a lot of different theories as to why the Messiah hasn’t arrived. Whether Moshiach is a human or a “state of being” gifted to us by HaShem, why the delay?
The answer is so simple: Tikkun Olam “Kol Yisrael arevim ze lazeh”
It’s vital to instill good values not just to our children but also to help our fellow adults behave correctly and have the right manners, refinement, respect, courtesy, compassion, good behavior and chivalry.
My posters highlight these values and many more, they are suitable for all ages.
One of the issues festering that I address, which I feel so very passionately about is, Sinat Chinam I’m referring to intolerance towards to those from different backgrounds who have different customs, minhagim or might look different or use a different nusach, sefard, ashkenaz, etc, summed up in the phrase: אהבת ישראל: אהוב את חברך/חברתך מכל מוצא ומכל מקום
The posters I have designed are a beautiful delivery method that can be displayed in the classroom, office, waiting room, home and everywhere else!
Please take a few moments to browse through the different styles and pick the perfect one for you or someone you know.
BY GUEST: ARNON SHORR
About the Production
Several years ago, filmmaker Arnon Shorr was introduced to a history book with an eye-catching title: “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean”. The subject-matter, Jewish piracy in the wake of the Inquisition, fascinated Arnon, who is a filmmaker in Los Angeles. “The way the book presents it, Jewish pirates were motivated not just by the usual pirate motivations. They sailed the seas when Spain was the maritime superpower, so Spanish ships, with the Spanish gold fleet in particular, were their primary target. These Jews had fled Spain – they were victims of the Inquisition – so there’s a sense of justice that seeps into their narrative in a way that simply doesn’t exist in typical pirate stories.” It was a long time before Arnon seriously considered actually making a Jewish pirate film. In September, 2016, Arnon wanted to develop a short film project for the end of the year. He had just attended a presentation by Amir Giveon, the founder of Jewcer.org, and was inspired to give the crowdfunding platform a try. The idea for “The Pirate Captain Toledano” hit Arnon all at once. “It was a Friday,” Arnon says, “and I was working on another project, when the whole story, cut out of whole cloth, occurred to me. I set my work down, outlined the tale of a refugee stowaway and the pirate captain who finds him, and set the outline aside, determined to get back to work. But I couldn’t work. The story called me back. I pushed off some deadlines and set to writing the short script, working off of my hasty outline. In less than an hour, the first draft was written, and it’s actually very similar to the finished film.”
The story was great, but Arnon was crestfallen. He had just written a period piece that takes place on a tall ship. How could he possibly pull that off without the resources of a major Hollywood production? He was tempted to set the script aside, to try writing something else, something less ambitious. But Arnon couldn’t let the project go. “I had to know what it would cost. I figured that if I knew how expensive this film would be to make, I’d give up on it and move on to something more achievable.” So he started contacting maritime museums on the California coast to inquire about the cost of shooting on tall ships. One of his first calls was to The Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. They have two beautiful replica tall ships that have been used for films from The Power Rangers to Amistad. The folks at The Ocean Institute were very nice, and quoted a price that would have been reasonable to a major Hollywood feature… but far too big for a scrappy little short film. Even so, Arnon wasn’t ready to accept defeat. He asked the Ocean Institute if they knew anyone else who had a tall ship with a less expensive day-rate. And he sent them the script to read. The folks at The Ocean Institute loved the script! They offered Arnon a HUGE discount, and even suggested that they’d get more deeply involved with promoting the crowdfunding campaign and screening the film. In an instant, the production had hope! But this was still going to be an expensive production. In order to pull it off, Arnon had to raise $18,000. For this, he turned to Jewcer.org, a crowdfunding platform that offers nonprofit status to campaigns that raise money for Jewish-themed projects. Arnon ran a resoundingly successful 6-week campaign on Jewcer.org, and gathered a passionate cast and crew for the film’s production. At last, over the course of a long and thrilling night in December, “The Pirate Captain Toledano” came to life.
Fun Facts & Stories from Behind the Scenes
The Royal French Privateers of Clan Darksail™ (www.ClanDarksail.com) Clan Darksail provided actors, stunt men, props, costuming and more to The Pirate Captain Toledano. Founded in 1998, Darksail is one of the oldest and largest troupes of acting pirates in the Southwest US. Members of Darksail have appeared in Conquest for the History Channel, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Master & Commander: Far Side of the World, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, Assassin’s Creed: The Devil’s Spear and much much more. They perform all over at Renaissance and Pirate Festivals, and are available for hire. In their enthusiasm for this project, they brought their own cannon to set.
Stephen DeCordova’s Kiddush Cup
There’s a narrative beat in “The Pirate Captain Toledano” that revolves around the discovery of a silver kiddush cup among the Stowaway’s belongings. “When I brought in our actor, Stephen DeCordova, to read for the role of The Captain, he brought a small kiddush cup with him. I figured he simply brought the prop from home so he’d have something to work with during the reading of the scene,” says Arnon. As it turns out, the cup had some history. Stephen was born in the USA, but comes from a Jamaican Jewish family. His mother was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and descends from Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition and came to the new world in the 16th century. The cup belonged to Stephen’s grandfather in Jamaica, and has been in the family for more generations than anyone can remember. It’s an authentic piece of Judaica from the heart of the Caribbean. “It was as if Stephen had reached into my script and pulled the prop right out of the pages. I was honored that Stephen even offered to let us use the cup in the film!” (Don’t worry – for the moment when the cup clatters across the deck of the ship, the art department found a “stunt double” so as not to harm the precious antique!)
The Ancient Ladino Folk Song
During the Editing, Arnon used recordings of Ladino folk songs as temp music. One of the recordings, “Camini por Altas Torres”, as composed by David Ludwig and performed by Choral Arts Philadelphia, felt particularly appropriate for the tone of the film. Out of curiosity, Arnon looked up the translation of the song, and found that the first verse says “I walked among high towers, I sailed through storms..” Sailed through storms? High towers like the masts of a tall ship? This was too perfect. Arnon got in touch with David Ludwig to ask for permission to use the piece. Ludwig, who is a notable composer, and who has composed for films before, responded enthusiastically. “Camini por Altas Torres” now plays prominently and sets the tone at the start of the film.
News and Reviews
http://jewcy.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/ahoy-jewish-pirate-movie “Most pirate stories are tired these days… and Jews breathe new life into a genre that never seems to explore new themes”.
http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-pirates-make-pirates-more-interesting/2016/11/09/ “Shorr’s enthusiasm for “The Pirate Captain Toledano” is contagious”.
http://www.danapointtimes.com/hands-set-filmmaker-uses-ocean-institute-tall-ships-backdrop-short-film/ “There’s another reason to tell this story, if the anti-Semitics are using it to inspire the hatred, the good guys need to start telling this story and reclaiming it”. http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/264625/jewish-pirates-caribbean-daniel-greenfield “A fascinating exploration of how much of history is lost when legend becomes cliche”.
http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/reclaiming-a-jewish-narrative-in-the-face-of-anti-semitism/ “The very fact that the phrase “Jewish pirate” catches people by surprise is an indicator that this is a type of character that we need to see. It’s a reminder that Jews can share a cultural heritage with more than just Eastern Europe. It’s a reminder that a stereotype (whether it’s positive or negative) is still a stereotype”. http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/news/2017-01-20/Arts/Mass_man_makes_Jewish_pirate_movie.html “I like depicting Jewish characters outside the Hollywood norm…I thought pirates were as far away from the typical trope as you could get”.
http://jewishtimes.com/57779/hebrews-on-the-high-seas/news/ “People are nervous about this idea of connecting Jews and piracy, but what we are afraid of is the anti-Semitic usurpation of this narrative, so we need to make it our own.” http://maxitmagazine.com/2016/11/16/groundbreaking-short-film-about-jewish-pirates/ “It’s astonishing,” says Shorr, “That Jewish pirates are so profoundly absent from popular pirate mythology. Their history is so vibrant, their characters are so rich, and their stories are so full of human drama.
My goal is primarily entertainment, not social activism. I’m an entertainer first. But I can’t wriggle free from the sense that as an entertainer, I still bear a responsibility to serve the people I entertain, to make them better for having been entertained. So I write a script, I raise some money, and I make a film about Jewish pirates. What more can I do?
Cast & Crew Bios
Arnon Shorr, Director: Arnon is an Israeli/American modern-Orthodox Jewish filmmaker who lives and works in Los Angeles. His award-winning shorts and features have screened in festivals across the country.
His work includes award-winning feature films, dozens of shorts, and a Jewish comedy web-series that was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. He is an Israeli/American with a blended heritage of European and North African ancestry, including family that was expelled from Portugal – like his characters in this film – by the Inquisition in the late 15th century.
In addition to making films, Arnon has taught film history, production and post-production courses at several high schools and colleges. He founded the SunDeis Film Festival at Brandeis University in 2004 with Adam Irving (director of last year’s hit documentary, “Off the Rails.”) After he graduated, Arnon saw the festival mantle picked up by Scott Feinberg (now the Hollywood Reporter’s awards season expert).
Arnon is an active storyteller, not an observer of moments. Whether it’s dark or comedic, he thinks the audience must feel a part of the scene, embraced by the story. He thinks movies need to transport us, even if it’s just to the house next door. Where would you like to go? Let him take you.
For more about Arnon, his trademark fedora, vintagewear, and goatee, as well as his recent work, check out these links:
Stephen DeCordova, “The Pirate Captain Toledano” - Stephen became a professional actor in New York at the age of 55, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his film and TV career. Network TV guest appearances have included: Veep, Frasier, Arrested Development, House MD, General Hospital, Las Vegas, The Bold and the Beautiful, Southland and many others. Stephen first worked with Arnon Shorr as a series regular on Mad Mentsch, the Jewbellish web series, which Arnon directed and produced. He lives in the Hollywood Hills with his wife, Debra, and two Cornish Rex cats.
Dan Shakad, The Stowaway – Dan is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts where he studied at The Lee Strasberg Film/Theater Inst
itute and at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Relevant theater credits: Boston’s UnderGround Railway Theater’s production of Naomi Wallace’s The Fever Chart, directed by Elena Araoz at the Central Square Theatre (about Israeli-Palestinian relations). His parents moved to Boston in 1974. They moved to the US to pursue the American Dream. Dan is first-generation American and identifies as Israeli-American. Growing up, he spoke both Hebrew and English at home. All four of his grandparents are Holocaust survivors.
Will Beinbrink, The Quartermaster – Will is an American actor whose most recently been recurring on USA Networks Queen of the
South. Also recent films include Free State of Jones with Matthew McConnaghey, I Saw the Light with Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen and Manhattan Nocturne with Adrien Brody. Also was a producer on Manhattan Night.
Will first met Arnon on Benjamin Troubles, a fun feature written by Lee Ross.
Richard Rasner, Brig Guard- is a lifetime actor and stuntman having started as a child actor on Romper Room and growing up through teen dramas and the like before settling into historical roles with Clan Darksail in many popular pirate films of the last 20 years. He was also a Historical Consultant on this film, regarding piracy in the Caribbean, a subject on which he is a published author.
Diana Haberstick, Production Designer and Costumes- Diana has a broad background in theater and has worked in TV/Film for the past 5 years. She bases her designs on script analysis, research, the director’s vision, the audience’s perception, and her own intuition. https://www.dianahaberstickdesign.com
Maybelle Pineda, Art Director- From humble beginnings in the Philippines to the big city of Los Angeles, Maybelle works in leading industries in motion design, video editing and production. She currently works at BOND while trying to do a lot of good at Resume.Works www.Maybellepineda.com
Scott Brown, Production Manager- is a writer, producer, director, publisher and mentor. Having stopped ghostwriting over 7 years ago, Scott has sold and/or optioned 36 scripts under his own name. Scott boarded “The Pirate Captain Toledano” as Unit Production Manager, and contributed the production capabilities of his company, The Indie Vision Project.
Mendel Katz, Cinematographer- Mendel is an LA-based cinematographer with experience in short films, music videos and corporate production. Like this film’s director, mendel doesn’t work on Saturdays. https://www.mk-visuals.com
Phoebe Dawson, Key Makeup Artist- is a Makeup Artist from a small beach town in New Zealand. From doing makeup for the cover of Forbes Magazine, to working on Athletes, chart topping Music Videos or Features Films, Phoebe loves the variety of her job whether it’s helping people look their best or creating a character.
Hillel Smith, Poster Design- is an artist and typography buff. He has painted Hebrew murals in California and Israel, made art commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, and creates posters for the likes of Patton Oswalt.
hillelsmith.info hebrewtype.com The parsha, illustrated!
Quotes From cast and crew:
“My mother was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and I was surrounded by her large Jamaican Jewish family throughout my childhood. When I read Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean four years ago, I realized that many of the pirate names mentioned in the book were surnames from my own family. I am descended from Jewish Pirates! When Arnon first announced his plan to make The Pirate Captain Toledano, I contacted him immediately and pledged my passionate support for the project. Two days later, Arnon offered me the role of the Captain. When we met, I brought along the kiddush cup that had been my family’s in Jamaica for many generations…that is the very cup we used in the film!” “I am thrilled that The Pirate Captain Toledano offers a glimpse at the little-known truth that Jews played a prominent…even dominant…role in navigation, ship command, merchant trade and, yes, piracy, during the Age of Discovery and the settling of the New World. (It’s a refreshing counter to the images of Jews that are too often depicted in popular culture: intellectuals, accountants, victims.)”- Stephen DeCordova
“This movie uncovers and informs the public about an unknown fact about Jewish History that is often overlooked. It truly is a unique story about Jewish Identity that has never been told.“ “I dedicate this film to my grandparents who were all holocaust survivors. This movie is not about Pirates searching for gold- it’s about preserving Jewish Identity, which is exactly what my heritage and family narrative is about- literally.” -Dan Shaked
“It’s a rare glimpse into history most of us don’t know!” -Will Beinbrink
“I’m vested in this project for the fact that, even though it’s fiction, it reveals an important piece of history that has been nearly forgotten.” -Scott Brown
“I think the film should be seen because its different and this story has not been told before, the location was really cool and authentic and I think everyone in the cast and crew did an amazing job! We had a group of “Pirates” playing the crew men that have been Pirates in all kinds of films and brought their own authentic outfits, who knew the proper Pirate mannerisms and how to hold a sword etc! (I didnt even know Jewish Pirates existed, and im sure many others arent aware of this either.)” -Phoebe Dawson
“As a student of Jewish history, I think it’s very important to highlight these lesser-known episodes of Jewish oppression and Jewish resistance, and how they shaped our world.” -Hillel Smith
Based on a lecture by Rabbi Bukiet
The Shema, a Biblical verse, (Deuteronomy 6:7) begins with a commandment commanding the Jews to accept God as one; “Hear, O Israel! God is our God, God is one,” and continues with the commandment to love God; “You shall love God…” How can someone be commanded to love? The rest of the Shema is the roadmap/instructions of “how to love”, and how to teach it to our children. It begins with the verse; “You shall love your God with all your heart…” In Biblical and rabbinic Hebrew, the heart is the center of the intellect, meaning, that to love with the heart is to think and to act using your intellect, reason and knowledge. The verse continues with commandments that one has to do something, to act, in order to express his love for God. One of these commandments that defines how Jews should love G-d, commands Jews to teach their children the Torah. The Talmud (a collection of doctrines and laws compiled and written before the 8th Century, A.D., by Jewish teachers.) interprets the verse and argues that the teaching is done intuitively. The child learns from watching the parent’s behavior. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040 – 1105 (Rashi), a medieval French rabbi commentator on the Tanakh –Old Testament and the Talmud.) interprets the verse as saying, that the way to teach the child is by repetition. To repeat the learned material again and again. Rabbi Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1089–1167, Spain) interprets the verse as saying that the only purpose of man in the world is to serve God, and to do that, one should learn God’s creation, and study science, math, etc. Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman, (Ramban, 1194–1270, a leading medieval Jewish scholar in Spain) interprets the verse as saying that the only reason Jews are obligated to teach their children, is to teach them the commandments, to teach the difference between right and wrong. Spinning it to our time, teaching our children to love means: 1. Teaching them to act upon things. 2. The action of love needs to begin with us as parents/educators, setting the example. 3. Love is learning God’s creation – science, math, etc. 4. Repetition of learning is important. Share with us your opinion.
Based on a lecture by Rabbi Alter Bukiet.
As an educator, did you ever encounter a situation in which you proved your opinion to be true, and yet, the majority of your colleagues, did not agree with you? Did you go with your insight or with that of the majority? Let’s see how the Talmud deals with this issue.
(The Talmud is a collection of debates among Jewish sages on the Torah laws, compiled in the 6th Century, A.D.).
In an aggada (a legend, parable, or anecdote used to illustrate a point of a Law in the Talmud) found in the Talmud, Baba Metzia 59b, rabbis debate whether an oven that became impure can be purified. ,All, except Rabbi Eliezer, agreed that it can not be purified. Despite rabbi Eliezer’s proofs of truth, the law is according to the majority. The question is why, and how is it related to our reality as educators?
Here is the translation of the aggada:
On that day, Rabbi Eliezer put forward all the arguments in the world, but the Sages did not accept them.
Finally, he said to them: “If the halakha (law) is according to me, let that carob ¬tree prove it.”.
He pointed to a nearby carob tree, which then moved from its place a hundred cubits, and some say, four hundred cubits. They said to him: ”One cannot bring a proof from the moving of a carob tree.”
Said Rabbi Eliezer: “If the halakha is according to me, may that stream of water prove it.
The stream of water then turned and flowed in the opposite direction.
They said to him: “One cannot bring a proof from the behavior of a stream of water.”
Said Rabbi Eliezer: “If the halakha is according to me, may the walls of the House of Study prove it.”
The walls of the House of Study began to bend inward. Rabbi Joshua then rose up and rebuked the walls of the House of Study and said: “If the students of the Wise argue with one another in halakha, what right have you to interfere?” In honor of Rabbi Joshua, the walls ceased to bend inward; but in honor of Rabbi Eliezer, they did not straighten up, and they remain bent to this day.
Then, said Rabbi Eliezer to the Sages: “If the halakha is according to me, may a proof come from Heaven.”
Then a heavenly voice went forth and said: “What have you to do with Rabbi Eliezer? The halakha is according to him in every place.”
Then Rabbi Joshua rose up on his feet, and said: “It is not in the heavens” (Deuteronomy 30:12).
What did he mean by quoting this? Said Rabbi Jeremiah: “He meant that since the Torah has been given already on Mount Sinai, we do not pay attention to a heavenly voice, for You have written in Your Torah, ‘Decide according to the majority’ (Exodus 23:2).
Rabbi Nathan met the prophet Elijah. He asked him: “What was the Holy One, Blessed be He, doing in that hour?”
Said Elijah: “He was laughing and saying: “My children have defeated me, my children have defeated me.””‘
Two rabbis who lived at different times interpreted this aggada
Rabbi Vilna Gaon (1720-1797), and Shmuel Eidels (Maharsha) (1555 – 1631)
The Vilna Gaon interpreted Rabbi Eliezer’s proofs (the carob tree, the water, and the walls) as criticism of the character of the rabbis in this aggada. He says that in order to pursue something one needs three qualities:
1. to be a minimalist – not to multitask, and be tied down to too many things.
2. to tame the ego – to be able to change views if needed.
3. not to be lazy – to change one’s opinion one must study the issue in depth .
The carob tree is represented in the Talmud as a minimalist. – Rabbi Eliezer used the miracle of the carob tree as a proof that he is correct. By doing so, he criticizes his collogues as if he is saying: “you are not minimalists, you do not focus on one thing at a time.
Water flows from the top (high ego) down. By having the water go up, a miracle that defies nature, Rabbi Eliezer suggests that his colleagues’ ego is too inflated, and that makes it difficult for them to change their minds.
The walls of the house of learning represent learning, and learning is not a form of laziness. One can not be a good student and be lazy at the same time. By having the walls caving, Rabbi Eliezer criticizes his colleagues as complacent. They do not make the effort to change their opinion.
Rabbi Shmuel Eidels interprets the proofs that Rabbi Eliezer brings as criticism of the leadership skills of the rabbis. The carob tree survives only 70 years, so is the leadership of the rabbis that will remain localized and limited in time, it will not effect the generations to come.
As for the water- he says that the leaders came to the decision because of their egos, and that they are not willing to change.
The walls he says, represent religion, and Rabbi Eliezer is suggesting not to use religion and to hide behind God, he wants the rabbis to explain themselves so people can live with their explanation.
After the rabbis did not agree, Rabbi Eliezer introduces a higher voice. The higher voice agrees with Rabbi Eliezer, but that does not help either. Then God looks at the argument, He smiles and says: “my children have defeated me, my children have defeated me” He sides with the majority. He is like a parent, and in a very compassionate way, He tells his child that He agrees with him, and yet disagrees with him too.
This Talmud is saying that humans do not live in the perfect spiritual Heavens, and sometimes even though the minority is right, it needs to accept the decision of the majority in order to prevent chaos. From the reaction of God to the conflict, one can learn that when one disagrees with the majority, one should find a way to live with it and at the same time to keep his/her convictions. God, through the voice from Heaven, agrees with Rabbi Eliezer, but yet, He smiles and says that his children defeated him, and sides with the majority. If one does so, we will have unity, civility, and respect to each other.