The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Two Jews by their Rebbe

From Venice (where I met "Jew meets world") to Poland (where this picture was taken), people we meet may unexpectedly reappear in our lives.

Where do the needs of one Jew stop, and those of the other begin?

I went to the Ohel today. The weather was cold. Drizzle fell intermittently from brooding clouds casting everything in darker shades -hues of gray from the concrete of the path, the sienna of the earth crossed with the damp green of ivy crawling amongst the speckled marble of the headstones . . .
The Ohel itself was nearly empty -but the thick sky above seemed to close in the area, creating a far more personal setting.

My experience in the Ohel varies, but I try create a sense of yechidus -of being in private audience with the Rebbe.
The other bochur left, I was alone . . . alone with my thoughts, my doubts and prayers, alone with the Rebbe.

A Lubavitcher Israeli couple entered.

"We want [to do your will], and You want . . ." I read in my ma'aneh loshon.

*Snap - Click*

The husband began to take pictures of his wife in front of the headstones . . .

*Snap - Click*

" . . . Who holds us back - [the evil inclination which is compared to] the yeast in the dough!"

"Slicha -Excuse me," the be'camera'ed Lubavitcher asked "Could you take a picture of me?"

Where do I stop -my existence, my needs, my desire for self sanctity, my yeast - and those of my Israeli friend begin?

Was my moment of prayer more important then that of his, however seemingly inane and distracting?

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Sefirah said...

One time i was davening shmone esrei in a foreign shul. The women's section was very narrow (as most are..actually..). I positioned myself as close to the mechitza as I could to allow people to pass through. Right in the middle of praying a women in a wheel chair shows up. Im clearly in the middle of praying, and its an all orthodox town.. and she goes "slicha..."...I keep praying... "slicha"...."slicha...."........."slicha.."

I read a story in Chicken Soup for the jewish soul...About this newly orthodox rabbi going on a road trip with his friends. They have to stop at this town in the middle of nowhere for shabbat and he meets this kid who was fascinated with tfillin, and wanted to put it on.... But it was Shabbat... the rabbi knew the rules.......but..he did it anyway.

My last story...

Seminary girls tend to go crazy when going to a famous kever. crazy as in... "GROUP PICTURE TIME! AHHH! YAYY!!!" In front of some tzadiks grave...Its all a little bit ridiculous, no?

Nemo said...

I really feel for you Mottel. I used to be the spiritual type, wanting to cherish every moment in a special place, like the Ohel, the Kotel, 770, or even just the daily davening experience. For years I didn't talk from Kedusha to Kedusha or at all while wearing Tefilin. I would even put Tefilin on before Karbanos to ensure that I wouldn't talk. At the Ohel, of all places, I have had powerful experiences and the worst thing for me is a distracting time there. When we were in Israel, I was frankly annoyed that most of our group didn't relate to the holy sites or even the military cemetery with a bit of a serious spiritually engaging approach. At the very least, these boys, who were supposedly educated in Lubavitch Yeshivos, could have shown some decorum/reverence out of basic decency.

Years of fending off the sapless people around who don't seem to be as inspired by holy places and holy moments, has caught up to me. I myself have become spiritually dulled by it, partially as a social reflex.

I think that this is what Tanya is talking about when it says that the Yetzer Hara send messengers to talk to you during davening. They can come at any time and in any form, and through repeated attempts to get to you, they will get you if your guard is down. It really is a struggle.

On the other hand, I also can appreciate your feeling that by not helping these people you're being selfish. We always Farbrenged in Yeshiva about the "Misnaged," a person who is so self-absorbed in his own spiritual heights that he cannot find room to accommodate other people. We have this ingrained feeling that we cannot advance if someone else still needs something, even if that is a petty favor. It feels snotty to say to people that you can't take their picture.

A lot of my Avodas Hateffila went down the drain on Shlichus. You try to help others, but without focus, it gets to you.

Sorry if I'm kvetching here, you just hit on an important issue, and in my humble opinion, a key problem in our educational system.

Mimi said...


I think the key is realizing that, specifically in Mottel's case, sure they were a distraction to him, but its not like they were aimlessly cracking up loudly or something. They, too, wanted to be in on a "spiritual" moment at the ohel. The fact that they want to take a picture there - and pay no heed to how we view it as "innapropriate" - is a beautiful (and even spiritual) thing. It's not only people like Mottel who come to the ohel.

Also, its DWELLING on the distraction that makes it so.

I didn't grow up in your educational system, but can you be more specific about the problem? What would you suggest?

Nemo said...

Mimi- I won't lie, even in my most spiritual of moments I've snapped a picture or two. There's nothing wrong with cherishing a moment and retaining it with a picture. In the Heilige Reb Mottel's case, maybe the couple had really done nothing wrong, although a little consideration for someone Davening shouldn't have been too much to expect from a Frum couple. I'm really not going to sit here and judge that story though...

What I don't like is how these moments of elation become so cliche, touristy and mundane. I don't like how a trip to the Kosel or Ohel means running into everyone you know. How is it that a bunch of Lubavitch kids could go to the Kosel for the first time in their life on a Friday night and not be completely taken away. Why is it that everyone spent their first time there chatting about "where are you this year/what are you doing.."? I find it sad that I, who has been to the Kotel many times and has long since stepped down from the initial excitement of being there, was one of the few that made an effort to sing and dance through davening. I felt stupid running into people there; not now, now I should just savor the moment.

Throughout the week, I experienced similar let downs from my peers: People couldn't take a discussion about memorializing Israeli wars seriously, say anything particularly thoughtful about the Holocaust, laughed off a visit to a holy grave site, didn't keep their mouths shut while others are speaking, and for that matter, they were silent when they should have spoken up. Hayitachon (how's it possible) that in a group of forty-something Lubavitchers, no one knows how or what the Rebbe felt about Israel? It's to their credit that no one was belligerent about it, but the fact that when engaged in discussion no one could add anything intelligent based on the Rebbe's views is troubling? Does anyone take him seriously enough to really consider what he means?

Do Lubavitch kids-- and I refer to Lubavitch because that what I got started with here-- really take their Judaism seriously?

I think the problem comes from a general lack of appreciation for sanctity and decorum.

(It's late now... to be continued... or should I make this into my own post?)

Mottel said...

Nemo -I'm honored that you think I'm so holy . . . I tried to address some of the issues you raised in a second post on the subject.

Mimi -your advice about dwelling on the problem is very true. Our minds can make a mountain out of molehill!

Me said...

When I see the Kotel I cry. I can't help the emotion that pours out from the depth of my very being. "I'm home!" here, in this very spot is where so many Jews have been crying out to our Father in Heaven, here is where we all stand as equals before the King of all kings.
And yet?
Friday night, birthright Israel trip.... Kotel... EVERYONE is there.
The holiness is still there... But it's no longer a great return after an absense of many years. The feeling friday night @ the Kotel, is that you truly are home. Home in the sense of relaxation. No formalities. No great serge of emotion. Homecoming was last time, this time it's just coming home at the end of a long day of work.

I love the spiritual high i get @ the Kotel any time, but on Shabbos, it's a very different story.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this... but that was at least my experience.

Mottel said...

Me -it seems that the crowded "Western Wall on Friday night" experience doesn't truly bother you, rather it inspires you in a different way . . .
I agree wholeheartedly.
There are two types of divine service, one that is loud and booming full of passion and excitement. The other, silent -unseen and unspoken.
We need them both in our lives.

me said...

Although we may need both, I think the later suits me more... Yet when you think of the masses of Yidden who are so much more affected my the former, you can't help but strive for it as well...