hasidim

Why Did God Create Atheists?

There is a famous story told in Chassidic literature that addresses this very question. The Master teaches the student that God created everything in the world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson. 

One clever student asks “What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?”

The Master responds “God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all – the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs and act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that god commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right.”

“This means,” the Master continued “that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say ‘I pray that God will help you.’ Instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say 'I will help you.’”

ETA source: Tales of Hasidim Vol. 2 by Mar

Haifa, Israel, July 2, 2016

(Hasadim bussing home after enjoying Shabbat hospitality in the city.) 

A Na Nach Breslover hasid stands beside van with images of Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser and the “Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman” mantra on it in downtown Jerusalem, Israel; 2009. x

The Na Nach Hasidic sect is a subgroup of the Breslov Hasidim.  They are the newest Hasidic sect, drawing their roots from a 1968 letter - known as the petek - received by Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser from the long-deceased Rebbe Nachman.  In this letter, it is mentioned that the ‘song of the future’ - the simple song that will be revealed before the messiah - will contain the words ‘Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman’.  As such, Na Nach is known for playing infectious Hasidic techno music from speakers on vans and dancing in the street.  This is a part of the Na Nach’s religious goal of spreading joy to everyone.  They are primarily based in the cities of Tel Aviv, Safed, Jerusalem, and Tiberius.

Crown Heights is becoming the Hasidic SoHo. The neighborhood now has a spanking-new gallery of Jewish art with $175,000 paintings; a female rock band whose members are frum (religiously observant); and a kosher pizzeria that’s a hangout for chic moms with Louis Vuitton handbags.
One nation, many cultures

He and his son, no older than five, sat down next to me.  This was really quite unexpected. I always assume black hats will stay away from women. Shomer negiah, kol isha, yichud, I could make a list that goes on forever of why.

“What’s your name?” I asked the little boy, attempting to make friendly conversation.

“He only speaks Yiddish,” answered his father in a thick Yiddish accent. I nodded, understandingly.  I was used to this, oddly enough.  And the boy, he stared at me with eyes wide as a full moon, taking in the whole situation. He was not used to this, he had probably never seen anyone secular before. 

“How many kids do you have?” I asked the man.

“Fifteen children, fifteen grandchildren, and four more on the way, baruch hashem,” he answered. I was comforted by his use of Hebrew. It meant two things: 1) he was attempting to make friendly conversation with me; 2) he was not Satmar.

“My mother is from a family of nine,” I told him.

“That’s what I like to hear,” he said “I am too.” I smiled politely. “How many cousins do you have?” he asked.

“Thirty or so, I lost count,” I admited.

“I lost count too, I had nearly two hundred cousins growing up. It’s different with your own family though,” he said, adjusting his hat as he watched his son squirm in his chair. 

“What’s your son’s name?” I asked, pointing to the little squirmy black hat.

“Mendel-Meyer,” answers his father, the big black hat.

“Mendy,” I called to the boy. Recognition appeared in his shy eyes before he looked at his father for assurance.

“Do you know any Yiddish?” the man asked me.

“Not really,” I confessed. On my mother’s side I’m Moroccan and Tunisian, aside from “schmuk,” and “alte mobel” which means old furniture, I’ve got nothing.

“What language are you going to speak when the Massiah comes?” he asked me.

“Judeo-Arabic,” I tell him.

“Okay,” he says, watching his son squirm in his chair some more. I gave him an answer he didn’t want, and in response, he could do nothing but wait beside me. 

vimeo

A multimedia story about Shulem Deen, Hasidic rebel and creator of unpious.com

Today: Went to watch “Fill the Void” directed by Rama Burshtein with Martina. Good storyline about a girl dealing with death and marriage that’s backed up with some really unique documenting shots of the ultra-orthodox lifestyle. I think I want to watch it twice just to pick up on anything I miss and get a better sense of the story. Not sure why but I find Hasidic Jews super interesting, something about how insular and ritualized they are.

Oh yeah, Yiftach Klein, take me.

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Hi Tumblr! My name is Isaac Ofori Solomon! I’m a Jew of African descent! My mother’s side are Ethiopian Jews and my father’s Ethiopian and Igbo Jews. On this day that we celebrate the preservation of our people and our diversity I am proud to be part of something so important. I also want to tell a little bit of my story. I was born March 10, 1999 (or Adar 22, 5759). I’m 16 years old, semi-religious, a zionist, and future anthropologist/rabbi. Every day of my life so far I’ve had to deal with someone trying to question my Jewishness and/or me being a Jew because of the color of my skin. It got so bad that from 6th to 8th grade I stopped wearing my kippah to school because I got tired of the harassment. Last year before starting 9th grade my grandfather(who is recently deceased) took me to Brooklyn so I could meet his friends. That’s when I met my best friend Shlomo who is Hasidim and he told me to never let anyone take who you are. The day after that was the first time I wore a yarmalke outside of a synagogue in years, and I haven’t stopped since. Since then I’ve noticed many things. One largely being the “white lie”. The way how in American society, not Western society, that allows so many Jews to hide who they are. Jews of ALL colors have tried to bury our heritage just to be comfortable in this antisemitic society. This is detrimental to a point that few truly are acknowledge. As a group of people we must unite and educate ourselves. We must also stop allowing gentiles to weigh so much on things that should only involve Jews. We also need to accept TRUE zionism. What does that mean? Zionism goes back to the time of Moses. It is simply realising that we as a people have a right to be defended and a right to our ancestral land. We need to stop selling our people down the river. Whether it is over color, politics, or interpretation. We need to stop it. We also need to be proud of our people. Physically, historically, and religiously. I’m tired of people demeaning Jews of color and hearing people say the idiotic phrase “You look Jewish”. Wtf does that mean. We’ve lived across AfroEurAsia and have mixed with the native populace. Someone who is Ashkenazi doesn’t look like someone who is Kaifeng or Lemba. Nonetheless we still are related and follow the same truth. We must stop letting goy define us. Repeat with me “DON’T LET GOY DEFINE YOU!!!” Shalom. I wish everyone an empowered preservation day.

The Hasidic Jew Who Feeds All People With Dignity 

 The story of one Hasidic Jew who opened a restaurant for those in need, but never installed a cash register. 

On the way to a speaking engagement in New Orleans this week, I found myself seated next to a woman with pink hair and lots of tattoos and piercings. We got to talking along the way. (I have this thing for speaking to people that end up next to me on planes as I believe our seat assignment is pre-ordained so that we can learn something from one another. Also, I’m just generally chatty!)

This time was no different: I found out that this woman lives in Brooklyn, right on the edge of the Hasidic community. From the alternative way that she was dressed, my guess was that she was one of those open-minded, accepting-of-all-types kind of gals. Yet when the topic of Hasidim came up, she straight out told me, “If I see a Hasidic man on the street, I’ll cross over to the other side to get away.” She explained, “I know it sounds racist, but I’m just scared of them.”

“How sad,” I thought to myself. The image that has been burned into many people’s minds about Hasidic Jews (and Orthodox Jews more generally) comes from ignorance — or worse, from creeps and crooks of the community who always seem to make the most noise. That’s why we at Jew in the City love to tell the positive stories about Hasidim – like Alexander Rappaport, aVizhnitz Hasid who grew up in Boro Park immersed in a world of unconditional giving to those in need.

From the youngest age, Alexander was made aware by his parents and grandparents that there are hungry people around him everyday and that it is up to him to do something about it. Charity, he learned, is not something that is reserved for just wealthy philanthropists. It is an obligation that all people have towards one another. (In fact, the Hebrew word for charity is“tzedaka, whichcomes from the word “tzedek,” meaning “justice.”

Charity is not considered going above and beyond, according to Jewish thought, it is simply what we owe our fellow man if he is lacking and we have the ability to give.)  Even when Alexander’s grandmother was in the midst of the Holocaust she made the effort to help others find food. Her acts of kindness were repaid by the Nazis with beatings. 

After the war, once Alexander’s grandmother had a home and a table of her own, it was always overflowing with guests. She took in the people that no one else wanted. Alex’s father also always provided food and shelter for strangers in need, no questions asked. It was in this environment of  constantly seeing acts loving kindness performed that Alexander began dreaming of a way to help even more people.

In 2004, after a year of regularly talking with his Talmud study partner, Mordechai Mandelbaum, who shared his passion for helping the downtrodden and feeding the hungry, Masbia — “the restaurant without cash registers” — was born. The vision was to create a system where a large number of people could access food in a way that was as dignified as being a guest in someone’s home. A place where those who are struggling could forget for a few moments about how much they didn’t have.

Alex saw a flaw in how every other soup kitchen is run. A hungry person can’t simply come and eat. No, in order to participate in  the most basic necessity for survival – something that most of us do numerous times a day without thinking about it – the impoverished have to first pass through a screening process. Either through an invasive form, or worse, an extensive one-on-one interview, the average soup-kitchen-goer must prove his neediness. Budgets are examined, documents are requested. The act of food consumption becomes a shameful experience.

But at Masbia, there are no forms, and there are no interviews. They simply serve hot, nutritious meals daily, with dignity and respect, to whoever comes through the door to any of their three New York based storefront locations. Of course I wondered if the folks at Masbia were afraid of being scammed. The response? “It’s not for us to judge. Poverty is not something you can always see when you look at a person. Maybe a family is basically managing, but then they’re hit with a rough month. Masbia is there for those people too.” 

Read more here

I'm seriously going to bomb you guys with this stuff forever... sorry

Blah blah blah, still thinking about my project about working for Chasidic Jews for three years.

This is going to be a super slow blog, but I’m working on an FAQ right now, and hopefully that will provide me with some inspiration in the future.  I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to write this - memoir?  Talking about specific issues?  Eh…

Problem is, I’m drawing a bit of a blank on the FAQ stuff.  Overwhelmingly, the number one question I’m asked about my job is, “Aren’t Chasidic Jews sexist/misogynistic?”

My answer to that is still in the works, because it’s a tough question.  By Western standards, I think that it would be easy to slap the “sexist” sticker on ultra orthodox Jews, but I don’t think that would be fair.  As we’ve seen with the criticism of Slut Walk, Western ideas about feminism are not universally applicable.  Many Frum women argue that, while a woman’s role in Chasidus is distinct from a man’s, it’s equally as important, and that the feminine is treated with no small amount of reverence within the culture.

And of course, traditions and practices vary greatly between different Chasidic sects.

Does that get any wheels turning?  I’m kind of having a brain fart.  Not that I’m on a schedule or anything, I’m just looking for a project.  :)

So yup!  Still soliciting questions about Chasidic Judaism, or my experience working for Chasidic Jews.  Anyone?

Gershom Scholem - Alphabet of Metatron, “Origins of the Kabbalah”, 1990.

Gershom Scholem, the late great scholar of Jewish Mysticism, maintained the “Alphabet of Metatron, the celestial scribe,” to be the oldest of these angelic alphabets, which he mentioned “is preserved in many manuscripts and came to the German Hasidim with the Babylonian Merkabah material”.

Whilst the “Alphabet of Metatron” is perhaps more employed for mystical/contemplative rather than magical/talismanic purposes, a closer investigation of the form of its component glyphs indicates that these magical alphabets are not composed of randomly chosen signs. In fact, judging the detailed analysis of this alphabet in a commentary which Scholem thought might have “derived from the pen of Eleazar of Worms”, it appears that each glyph is loaded with meaning.

Unfortunately, detailed delineations of Hebrew based magical alphabets are rare, and since we have really only one such analysis of a magical alphabet, i.e. the “Alphabet of Metatron” (Weinstock, I.: Temirin: Mekorot u-Mech’karim b’Kabbalah v’Chasidut, Mosad ha-Rav Kook, 1972), which was written by an anonymous author some centuries back, we are still in the dark as to the primary reasoning behind the construction of most of these magical alphabets.