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 . . .
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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