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 . . .

These are the LETTERS OF MY THOUGHTS.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Любавич без России деньги на ветер


I started this post before the craze of the Kinus took me on to other things . . . hopefully I'll be able to get more blogging done now. My thoughts have changed some what -  as the post was based on a passing nostalgia. Take it for what it's worth.


The other day I became very sentimental for the Russian Lubavitch of old.
Somehow the combination between watching Ech Luli Luli, interviewing Berel Levin for a since postponed article on Chof Mar-Cheshvan - and all that entailed a trip to the exhibition hall of Rebbe's library, and the photos in Closed on Saturdays brought back a nostalgia for the Lubavitch of old.
Which is odd, as I have very little to do with the Lubavitch of yore.
Even my education was not in Brunoy, with it's connection to those who made the great escape from the USSR via Lemberg or the like, but rather Montreal - a yeshivah established and run by Polish Refuges from Shanghai . . . The eltere chassidim of my Yeshivah days were R' Volf Greenglass and (yibdal bein chaim) Rabbi Hendel a"h.

Yet somehow, it was the beauty of Russian Chabad that attracted me. The lack of falseness and  superficiality, the refined sense of understanding and intellectual purity . . . I may not be a Russian, but Ukrainian and Lithuanian blood pulses through my veins; as a child I played in Russian parks and shopped in Russian markets.

And Chabad is Russian.

It is no coincidence that Toras Chassidus Chabad was revealed in Russian Empire . . .  I don't know of another culture that would complement it so well.

For those who seek proof, look at Russian Drinking etiquette, and tell me if you do not see a Lubavitcher Farbrengen:
Drinking on an empty stomach can leave undesired effects. Therefore,
tradition dictates that the usual drinking party involves a lot of
eating between shooters of vodka. This custom is called a zakuvski, an
expression akin to what we call an entre. Zakuvski comes in a large
variety of choices: caviar on blinis, smoked fish, black bread, pickles
and even wedding cake when desperate . . .
As simple as the idea of drinking vodka may
seem, there are a few things one must know for proper vodka etiquette.
Let us further explore the methodology of vodka drinking.

  • First Rule: Drink what is served to you in one gulp. Nobody measures the quantity
    of alcohol poured, this is left to the discretion of the pourer.
  • Second Rule:Never sip or mix vodka. Mixing is perceived as a western way of doing
    things since orange juice is often more expensive than the vodka itself . . .

  • Common practice
    when drinking as part of a group is to synchronize your drinking;
    everybody drinks at the same time . . .  Keep some traditional Russian medication handy for your hangover: pickle juice. Like they always say: Nas zdarovia : To our health!
       
    Our Yiddish is inflected and suplimented with Russian, our songs are Russian . . . and dare I say, our Souls.

    Which makes me slightly sad when I see Chabad today.

    Today too many Lubavitchers think that chabad is the cultural amalgamation we present to others, and they in turn bring to us.
    We look at hiskashrus like Poilishers, or culture like hippies, or sephardim, or Americans . . . whatever. There are many beautiful things out there (though there's an equal measure of crap people take for "Chabad" today), and it could very well be that in the world today they have a valid place. Uber Lubavitch is dos nit!

    Listen to whatever music you like . . . but don't think that Matisyahu's ruinations of chassidus are our heritage!

    This not to say I love everything about the Chabad of yore - its biting shteching nature, its 'vemen's pisher bistu?' attitude annoys me to no end. (In truth I think it was the fact that the Gezhe chose to remain to themselves and keep the ba'alei teshuvah en mass from assimilating into their population (as done in previous generations) that has marginalized Lubavitcher culture in a see of hopping frogs and dreadlocks - but that is for another post.)

    So what of today?
    We can, based solely on the Rebbe's directives based on the instructions of those within the mesora to understand them, move evolve in our culture . . . but we can't forget where we came from and what it truly was.

     

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    16 comments:

    הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

    "It is no coincidence that Toras Chassidus Chabad was revealed in Russian Empire . . . I don't know of another culture that would complement it so well."- Umm, I think it's the opposite way around actually. ..it's obviously an extension of Russian culture..

    Mottel said...

    Customs in Chaba dmay be and extension of Russian Culture, but how are Lekutei Torah and Samech Vav extensions of Russian culture?! Russian culture gives room for inyanim in chassidus - hafshata from gashmius, hisbonanus in an inyan, the term 'Botul Idyut' is itself said in Russian . . .

    הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

    "how are Lekutei Torah and Samech Vav extensions of Russian culture?!"- They are in a way, but in a far more indirect way. ..what's samech vav?

    "Russian culture gives room for inyanim in chassidus - hafshata from gashmius, hisbonanus in an inyan"- Well, I admit "Russianism" has its benefits. i mean it's the sort of culture that produced people like Tolstoy.

    "'Botul Idyut' is itself said in Russian"- What's botul idyut?

    Crawling Axe said...

    Mottel, interesting.

    For someone who grew up in Russia, the remnants of Russian culture in Chabad are very interesting. And sometimes cute and caricaturesque. Rabbi Berl Bell once told a story about the time he visited Japan (perhaps before he became a baal teshuva) and was brought to a restaurant to have some American food. Namely, a hamburger. Namely, a piece of cucumber between two layers of rice.

    I think in the end, it’s not about how you drink. I don’t drink all my vodka in one shot, and zakuska can be just a small pickled mushroom. Or whatever. It’s about emphasis on pnimiyus, on emes, no looking for the real thing, ignoring the chitzoinius.

    I think we should not mistake historical accidents with real things.

    The aspects of the culture of yore that bother you bother me too. But I wonder how Chabad and how Russian (Jewish-Russian) those aspects really are.

    ..what's samech vav?

    I am sorry, that’s hilarious. It’s like having a discussion with someone who argues vehemently about what Judaism really “is”, quoting something from Talmud to him, and hearing back, “What’s Talmud?”

    Dowy said...

    i dont understand - your saying that chabad is not all these things - hippies sefardis americans, but in the same sentance ur saying that its russian. did i miss something?

    Nemo said...

    Mottel - Nice post.

    Mottel said...

    -Crawly Axe: That was exactly mu point.

    -Shriki: Perhaps you may be confusing Lubavitcher culture and custom with Chassidus . . . Samech Vav is a fame hemshech from the Rebbe Rashab - arguably his magnum opus. Chassidus, if one believes in the Divine revelation of Torah is no more an extension of Russian culture then Shulchan Aruch of Spanish culture.

    Menashe said...

    Where did you find that photo?

    Mottel said...

    Life's photo archive. You can find it on google's archives.

    Jacob Da Jew said...

    Good point re:vodka. Matisyahu hasn't been lubavitch in years.

    הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

    "Perhaps you may be confusing Lubavitcher culture and custom with Chassidus"- Well, like I said, it's not as direct an influence, but there's no question the Likutei Amaraim was a product of the environment "Rabeinu Zalman" lived in.

    "Chassidus, if one believes in the Divine revelation of Torah is no more an extension of Russian culture then Shulchan Aruch of Spanish culture"- I didn't mean it's necessarily a product of 'Russian' culture, but of the Russian-Jewish culture of the time, with an added-on of pure innovation.

    The Shulchan Aruch is pretty true to the Talmud and earlier halachic sources, though he does mention some contemporary foods and clothing. Either way, Caro's "Magid Meisharim" has a lot to do with the spirit of his time.

    "Samech Vav is a fame hemshech from the Rebbe Rashab"- Yeah, I just looked it up. Seems like samech vav is referring to the year (which we just passed again). Seems like an interesting set of ideas.

    Crawling Axe said...

    I think the quality most valuable in the old culture that is getting lost is sensitivity. On multiple levels. And samovar by itself won’t help. But perhaps you’ll know that you’ve gained it when just sitting around samovar will be enough.

    e said...

    whatever.

    Mottel said...

    uh E . . . COme again?