Moshe and Asher Weinberger: Heart of the Fire: Together Even with Small Differences

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SUMMARY

This series is sponsored by our friend, Danny Turkel. 

This episode is sponsored by our friend, Evan Goldenberg.

In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we talk to Rav Moshe Weinberger, Rebbe of Kehillas Aish Kodesh and his son Asher, CEO of Swimply.

Rav Moshe Weinberger is a Chassidic Rebbe who raised his son Asher in the more modern world of the Five Towns. Join us as they discuss differing trajectories and expectations, and how fathers can learn from their sons despite the small differences between them. 

  • How does a chassidish father react to his son cutting off his peyos
  • Does being the son of a Rav play a role in paving one’s own path and journey? 
  • What does it mean to go back to the year 1840? 

Tune in to hear a conversation about chassidus shniya [renewed (or secondary) Hasidic commitment] and the evolution of fatherhood.

Interview begins at 11:25.

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger (father) is the founding rabbi of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, New York, and is Mashpia at RIETS at Yeshiva University. Rabbi Weinberger is one of the leading spiritual leaders in the contemporary Jewish community, and is a key figure in the spiritual revitalization of the Orthodox world. 

Asher Weinberger (son) is the co-founder and COO of Swimply, an online marketplace for renting private swimming pools. Asher is the president of the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs.

References:

Sefer HaRokeach by Eleazar of Worms

2.0 by Mishpacha Magazine

Miniver Cheevy and Other Poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson 

Tzidkas HaTzaddik by Rav Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin

Haggadah – In the Heart of the Fire by Rav Moshe Weinberger

Likkutei Moharan by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Hararei Kedem by Rabbi Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik

David Bashevkin:
Hello, and welcome to 18Forty, where each month we explore a different topic balancing modern sensibilities with traditional sensitivities to give you new approaches to timeless Jewish ideas. I’m your host, David Bashevkin, and this month we’re exploring Intergenerational Divergence. Thank you so much to the sponsor of today’s episode, our friend, Evan Goldenberg. And thank you again to the sponsor of this entire series. Our second look at Intergenerational Divergence, a big thank you to our friend, Danny Turkel. This podcast is part of a larger exploration of those big juicy Jewish ideas. So be sure to check out 18forty.org, that’s 18 F O R T Y.org, where you can also find videos, articles, and recommended readings.

One of my big hesitations before we began this series of Intergenerational Divergence, which again, not the best name, it’s definitely a mouthful, but we began it last year. And as those who have been listening since then, we interviewed the Grama family, the Frisch family and the Penner family. And each of those families had incredibly noticeable, obvious divergences, whether they were denominational differences, whether there were differences of observance, whether they were differences in sexual orientation, building family in that future, the differences were quite obvious and quite clear.

And I was definitely concerned that in many ways, I thought that the starkness of these examples could actually be a distraction. If the only thing that we’re willing to talk about is building that parent-child relationship when it’s so obvious how different it is, that the life is so different. It can sometimes obscure the everyday differences that oftentimes slowly erode or slowly build friction within the structure of a family. In many ways, my own family is an example of the latter. Thank God. You know, my parents are unbelievable people and they were able to raise five fairly similar children. That’s to, if you have a bird’s eye view and you look from a distance, we are all fairly similar. When you look in closer, our lives are a little bit different. Some of us are a little bit more religious. Some of us are a little bit less religious. Some of us raise our kids in one community, some in the other community.

And when you talk about it from the outside, it’s like, yeah, that’s not a struggle. That’s life. That’s what everybody’s dealing with. But inside of any family, undoubtedly, as any family knows, this is really where the tug of war, those imperceptible slights can start to build some sense of factionalism, even within a family. And my family is certainly no different. And I’m sure for nearly all of our listeners, the family structure that you grew up in, even if it didn’t have a stark example of Intergenerational Divergence that could headline a podcast, so to speak, that had this headliner story of wow, child goes to the Mir. Mom is a Reform rabbi. There are smaller types of differences that I think still merit discussing and can still in many ways be a challenge in finding that cohesion, that sense of love, that sense of trust, that sense of confidence between a parent and a child.

The term that’s often thrown around, I think is appropriate over here is the one that was originated by Ernest Crawley, but was really popularized by Sigmund Freud. And that’s the narcissism of small differences. The notion that when we are in places that are more or less similar, you live in a Jewish community, you live in Teaneck, I live in Bergenfield, you live in LA, you live in the Valley or whatever it is. That second example wasn’t great, but very often the more we are similar, the more our differences become highlighted. And that is particularly true in the context of a family. The fact that we are all part of this family, and this is what Bashevkins do, this is what Moscowitz do, this is what the Smiths do, this is what the Weinbergers do. This is what, whatever family does.

Every family has its culture, and because there is that culture within the family, when there are these smaller differences, they tend to be magnified and highlighted. And I think it is healthy and helpful to talk about how we navigate those smaller differences, even within the backdrop of unity. And in many ways, that’s the conversation that we are having today. And it is really an absolute privilege to be speaking with Rav Moshe Weinberger and his son Asher, or I believe as he is known, Ushi in the family. This is really the third time that we’re having Rav Moshe Weinberger on. We did an interview a while back when we did our series on mysticism. He had a brief cameo in our story before Yamim Noraim, the High Holidays last year, where we told the story of the Yabloner Rebbe.

This is a different story, but in many ways it’s the same continuity. It’s the same theme that underlies really my relationship with Rav Moshe Weinberger and what has always stood out at the center for me and how I relate to him. I think I mention this story the first time that I interviewed with him, but I want to repeat it in a little bit of a different context. As many of you may or may not know, I’ve mentioned this 101 times, I dated for a very, very long time. And I began dating, I was in the Yeshiva world. I was living in yeshiva in Baltimore, in Ner Yisroel. I was going at out, I was wearing a hat and a jacket and the whole thing. And by the time that I got married, the way I looked, the type of girls that I was dating was very, very different than the girls that I began dating. And I remember at some point in that transition, Rav Moshe Weinberger called me up and he wanted to mention an idea for me to maybe consider taking somebody out on a date.

And he was describing this person to me. And he was so effusive of how holy and righteous he was talking about her yiras shamayim, her awe, her heavenly awe of how serious of a person this was. And I was so embarrassed because I wasn’t in that place that I once was that I began in, in yeshiva. And I remember telling him over the phone, I said, “Rebbi, I’m not there anymore. That’s not who I am, that’s not what I’m looking for. And I’m sorry, I don’t know if this works.” And that self admission was really painful to realize, and to talk about that you’re not in the place, you’re not in the trajectory that you once imagined for yourself, but I will always remember his response. And his response was, “ein chassidus k’chassidus rishona.” Which I’ll translate. “ein chassidus k’chassidus rishona” means there is no chassidus, there is no relationship like that initial steps that you have, the passion, the fervor, the idealism that you have in that very beginning, that always evolves into something else. Beginnings do not necessarily follow a sequential path to the middle and ultimately to the end.

It’s an idea that I believe first appears in the Rokeach where the language that the Rokeach uses the figure from early Chassidei Ashkenaz. You could look at the life of the Rokeach, but the language of the Rokeachuses is “ein chozek k’chassidus b’tchilaso“. Those initial steps don’t always bear out in the way the rest of your life is going to look and the way the rest of your life is going to unfold. But it always stuck with me because buried underneath the statement of ein chassidus k’chassidus rishona, that your initiation into that world of passion, of commitment, of observance is not going to necessarily be the same as what evolves later is also the idea that there is such a thing as a chassidus shniya, a second chassidus, a third chassidus, a fourth chassidus. That the entry point that we have in forming our religious identities, our personal identities may have a specialness, a passion, something that makes it different, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a chassidus, and of course I don’t mean chassidus in the literal sense of being a part of a chassidiccommunity. I am not a part of a chassidic community.

But it means being able to cultivate that sense of passion that you had in the beginning. It doesn’t mean that just because your initial passion is not going to be the same in that second and third and fourth stages of your life, it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be a chassid in that purest sense, that sense of commitment and passion at all. There is a notion of evolving over the course of your life. There is a notion of changing, and I believe that this conversation between Rav Moshe Weinberger and his son Ushi is a model of that difference between chassidus rishona, that initial entry point to chassidus, and chassidus shniya, and a second entry point and a second doorway and a third and a fourth. And I mean that on two levels. Firstly, this conversation is about the evolution of a father, about how Rav Moshe Weinberger, and as he discusses in our conversation, began as a parent and now sees himself as the parent to an adult.

But I think in many ways, it’s a beautiful story of Ushi. Now I know Ushi for many, many years, we first met, we were doing outreach together in downtown Manhattan. I remember I was first introduced to him and like anytime you’re introduced to somebody who comes from a notable family, it began with a whisper from the person who was making the introduction, “You should know who his father is.” And I’m always sensitive to that because I grew up also… My father isn’t a world renowned educator, he’s not a world renowned rabbi, but he was also very well known in the community, was an oncologist. And I overheard such whispers, “You should know your father,” this and that.

And I always feel an instinctive pain when I hear that whisper, because even if it’s not literally overheard, it’s certainly subsumed in your identity growing up, knowing the home that you grow up in. But I really became close with Asher, with Ushi later on when we worked together on a magazine initiative, when I was working for Mishpacha Magazine, we were doing an initiative about entrepreneurship. And it always stuck with me that when we were rolling out the initial concept for what later became, I think it’s called 2.0, which is an insert of Mishpacha Magazine. During our first meeting, he began by saying, “This is all chassidus. What we are trying to do is trying to bring spirituality and commitment and passion and allowing people to see it in their entrepreneurial initiatives, to be able to see it in their professional lives. We’re trying to build a doorway for people to see that underlying spirituality that could animate their professional lives.”

And I remember that initial conversation, which stuck with me to this very day, was a model in my mind of what a chassidus shniya could look like. Not that initiation into the world of passion and commitment, but maybe that re-ignition, that re-entry, that beginning again with the knowledge that we need more than one doorway, we can’t just have a doorway. We can’t just have a signpost at an entry point for that initiation. We need to build on ramps even later on in life. And that’s why it is such a privilege and pleasure to introduce this conversation because it is about that evolving relationship between a parent and a child navigating real differences, but small differences because small differences can be real differences. And we shouldn’t just hand wave and say, “Oh, okay, no, no, they’re fine. They’re the same.” I think if we look at our own lives and our own relationships and see which ones get under our skin, we will realize that small differences can be real differences and our ability to navigate them, to talk about them, to have real conversations, even when the impetus might be fairly small, can be healthy in order to build strong relationships, evolving relationships and relationships that have multiple entry points, no matter what point of a person’s life they are. So it is my absolute pleasure to introduce our conversation with Rav Moshe Weinberger and his son, Asher Weinberger.

So I can’t thank you both enough. It’s one of the deepest privileges to talk to both of you who we’ve never been in the same room together, I don’t think, and we both have our separate relationships, but I know you both. I’ve been influenced by you both in different ways. Now, what we’re trying to explore is how families kind of negotiate and deal with difference. And I guess I wanted to begin this conversation with a picture that Asher sent me. He sent me a picture of him in Simcha Day Camp, which I’m also an alumnus of. I love Simcha Day Camp. And in the picture you see it’s a young Asher, probably around seven years old. He has long peyos, he has the side locks down around to shoulder length.

He looks very, very sweet. And the Asher I know now is also very much connected to Yiddishkeit and Jewish life, but at the same time, doesn’t have peyos down to his shoulder, which we could explore and took a little bit of a different route. And I’m wondering if we could begin with the question of what is the original plan, so to speak? You have a young child and you’re always balancing between the ideals and the dreams of what the child can become and the reality of the world. And the past that we take. I’m wondering if each of you could explain, what did you feel the original plan was?

Moshe Weinberger:
Well, should I begin? I guess the plan was originally coming from me, Lucy entered in a couple years into the game. The original plan was B’reishis bara Elokim but somewhere further along, I think that my original plan was that the true chassid, the chassidishe Yid that I wanted to become myself, that I was dreaming of becoming myself from the time that I was around 13, 14. And I put on my cousin’s shtreimel to see how it looked. So instead of actually working as hard as I should have to become that true chassid and oved HaShem, I think that unconsciously, I decided that my son would become that person. I think that was my original plan. Not with the girls. The girls I would leave them be, but with my one boy, with my one son, that was the original plan. Of course, a yirei shamayim and the person that sits and learns Torah and so on. But according to the model that I had envisioned for myself, but I guess on a deeper level that I felt that I had perhaps forfeited or given up because of the life and I was living.

David Bashevkin:
Asher, does that resonate with you? How did you feel when you were first growing up? Did you feel that there were like expectations so to speak of what you would be moving into and becoming?

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah, for sure, absolutely felt there were expectations. And I think that from my perspective, the confusing part was just expectations meeting my reality, because the community in which I grew up in wasn’t necessarily Boro Park, Williamsburg. However, Far Rockaway back in those days was certainly a little bit more colorful. So it wasn’t unusual for me to, for example, have long peyos or to have a different set of philosophies. It wasn’t so unusual back then. I think where it really started to become more of a stark contrast for me was when I went out into summer camp and then eventually to high school and more mainstream yeshivas where all of a sudden I found out that I wasn’t exactly so typical. So it wasn’t so much a point of conflict for me earlier on, but I think it’s a really interesting topic, and I think that I did sense early on that there was maybe some sort of desire to capture something that was, which, Dad is it okay if I call you the OG flip out?

Moshe Weinberger:
What is OG?

Asher Weinberger:
OG meaning the-

David Bashevkin:
Original gangster.

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah.

Moshe Weinberger:
Oh yeah, yeah. I was one of the originals. Yeah.

Asher Weinberger:
Right. The original flip out, right? And that has developed into its own culture. And I think what’s really changing is that now it’s less about… Well, put it this way. Back then, I think there was more of this desire for not just for you Dad, but for a lot of people to flip out to become something other, to try to either capture something that was lost, particularly post-Holocaust. You can imagine all the trauma there to try to capture something. But I think now where it’s really come full circle where it’s more about flipping in than flipping out. And I think what’s interesting is that ultimately I resisted that path, at least the external social components of it, but what’s really ended up happening, I think, again, coming full circle is that maybe it was the right move, because I don’t think we find anymore that the true legacy of the Baal Shem Tov, if you will, is found anymore in mainstream, for lack of a better term, chassidus, right? So what’s really happening now is it’s become its own subculture. And I’m not saying that I sensed that at that point in my life, but I think that it’s become true for me today.

David Bashevkin:
So, I actually, I want to go step by step and maybe the next step you come and you have these ideals, you’re growing up in a home where, as your father explained, to raise you in the way that maybe he wasn’t raised or create a world that he wishes he grew up in. When did each of you notice, and maybe you could speak on this first, Asher, because you already alluded to it, that original trajectory of emerging in this almost insular world that didn’t really exist on the ground. You know, Simcha Day Camp, I went to Simcha Day Camp. We probably overlapped at Simcha Day Camp. I don’t know if we were in the same bunk. My original writing just as a PS, was in the News in Schmooze, which was the newspaper of Simcha Day Camp. It was the first time I ever wrote. But I’m curious when each of you noticed that original trajectory of recapturing that lost world of chassidishe chinuch in Far Rockaway would have to be modified?

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah. I didn’t know that you were at Simcha Day Camp too, I guess that’s because you were busy writing things. I was playing ball. We probably didn’t interact too much. Yeah. But I think for me the key inflection point was probably the search for a high school. Because again, growing up in the community very much in my home, we lived in Woodmere, I didn’t have too many friends from the yeshiva world in my community-

David Bashevkin:
Because where did you go to elementary school? You went to Siach Yitzchak?

Asher Weinberger:
Siach Yitzchak, yeah.

David Bashevkin:
Sure.

Asher Weinberger:
And in Siach Yitzchak was very much… I was totally normal there. This was the very often the children of Baalei Teshuva from the world of Rav Shlomo Freifeld often trickling down from Rav Shlomo Carlebach. It was very flexible and didn’t feel at all like any conflict to me. Again, where it began was in summer camp. I started going to camps. I don’t want to mention which ones. And there started to be some friction there, really strange things that occurred there. I remember in one summer camp, there was this kid who had a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and would intentionally, just to try to get me upset. I don’t know why he thought this would upset me per se, but… Well, it did. He would stomp on the picture or spit on it, things like that.

Absurd things because they’d never seen a kid with long peyos before, at least not in the same bunk as them. So, started to have some conflict there, which ended up in a couple of fist fights and my departing on less than mutual terms from different camps, but really where it began was the process of looking for high school. Like what’s the next phase? And it was wide open. So we were looking at different yeshivas. And I think at the time, one of the leading contenders, at least Dad, that from your perspective, was the Yeshiva ofStolin. And we went down there, I remember for a farher and I think the farher went pretty well.

David Bashevkin:
Was that a Yiddish speaking yeshiva?

Asher Weinberger:
I think, I think one of the selling points you made, Dad, was that I think that they speak English a lot of the time. So yeah, is somewhat of… Well they’re a litvishe chassidus and they’re more Americanized. And that was why the thinking, it made more sense. And I remember going down there and asking during the walkthrough, asking the menahel, I asked him where the basketball court was and he said something along the lines of like, “Oh, the boys play sometimes handball on the side of the building.” And I was like, “Oh.” But if I recall correctly, Dad tell if my memory’s not serving me or if I fabricated this, but I remember on the drive home from Brooklyn, we were talking about this. And I think we pulled over into maybe Costco parking lot over there on Rockaway.

And if I recall correctly, what I said was, I felt I needed to just say where I stood on this issue. And I just felt like after going there and seeing it for myself and I had gone to other yeshivas as well too. And I just felt that this wasn’t the right fit for me. And I said, I think along the lines of something like, “You know, I may have long peyos, I may look a certain way, but that’s not really, at least socially, it’s not really the world that I live in and I don’t feel comfortable over there. It’s not really the path that I want for myself.” I wasn’t talking about chassidus, did what I really know?

I mean, I knew we learned a lot together, but it wasn’t something that I felt connected to culturally at all. And I felt very foreign when I was there, didn’t feel like the right place for me. So I believe the response… I remember when I said this, I think your response was like, it wasn’t easy to hear, I’m sure. I don’t want to be that chassid, at least the archetype that you had maybe imagined, but I think the response was something like, “Okay, if you’re not going to be a chassid then next stop we’re going is to Riverdale then we’re going to be litvaks. Like we got to be amazing at whatever we do. So we’re not going to be like hardcore chassidim, we’re going to be amazing litvaks. But anyways, we ended up in Shaar HaTorah which was I think the right place for me at the time, whatever, that’s the beginning of a longer trajectory. But I think that was the point where it became clear to me that it was kind of binary.

David Bashevkin:
So I’m curious, Rebbi, when you think back at that, and you think of when you noticed that the original trajectory of recapturing that world would have to be modified, does your mind go to the same point in time picking high schools for a child and seeing what fits or did your mind go someplace else?

Moshe Weinberger:
1000%. I knew that Ushi was going to say the trip to Stolin. And that was the watershed moment in that picture that I had created and envisioned. That was unquestionably the time. Ushi, baruch HaShem, is brilliant at learning. His faher in Stolin, they accepted him on the spot. He’s tremendous in learning. And I was so excited because I thought I’m such a smart guy, if I would’ve taken him to Bobov or to Satmar, there wouldn’t have been a chance, but here I took him to this modern, more of a modern Americanized chassidish place. Okay, it’s in Boro Park but I wanted to show him there’s some guys walking around there, that they talk English to each other. And here I thought that this would be the perfect integration of Far Rockaway and Ungvar and Munkács where my parents come from, that somehow they would merge on 16th Avenue.

It was a delusion of course, to my part and I wouldn’t just say in retrospect, I think probably half hour later I realized it was a delusion, but there was no question that trip back home… Ushi knows that I was crushed by that revelation, and no fault of his, because he’s absolutely right. I did not raise him in that culture. It wasn’t a matter of the learning. Ushi loved learning, that wasn’t the issue. And he loves Yiddishkeit, he always loved Yiddishkeit. And the peyos that he cut off at some point, he has much longer peyos now inside of him, much longer peyos than ever. But culturally, I was so off with that, I was so off. And Ushi knows that one of the… I don’t know if Ushi ever read, or if Dovid, if you’re familiar with, there’s a famous poem called Miniver Cheevy. It’s about a person. My wife always calls me Miniver Cheevy when I’m having one of those trips back in Jewish history. Like you’re 18Forty.

David Bashevkin:
18Forty, yeah.

Moshe Weinberger:
1840, which was… Okay, that time, 1840. So my wife knows that if I could pick a time to go back, that I would go back to 1840. I’ve been living in the 20 and 21st century, but in my mind, in my heart, I’m pure 1840. I’m Miniver Cheevy. And when we took that trip home and Ushi honestly told me, “Dad, I don’t think this is for me.” Then it was very hard for me to process what happened to… How could this be after all? Your grandparents were in the Holocaust and what are we here for, if not to get back to 1840? We’re not moving forward, we’re moving to the past. Why would you want something different?

And it was for very hard for me to understand and to accept this, which was so obvious that culturally I was doing violence to my son. It wasn’t shayach to pick him up and to put him into Boro Park, and that world as beautiful as it was and as it is, and Ushi knows that there’s something very beautiful about it. And even back then, he knew it was something beautiful. It’s just not us. And it’s not me either. It’s not really me. As I said at the very beginning, it’s what I wanted to be, but I couldn’t recreate myself because I went to YCQ, and I played ball and I listened to all the goyishe music and I was part of that world.

So now I’m a flip out. We didn’t call the flip out back then. Whatever we did, we did. But my son, my son, ah, my son, my only son, he’s going to be the one that’s going to go back to 1840. He’s going to start from 1840. I couldn’t anymore because I got in that time warp of the 1960s and the 70s. So I was messed up. By Simon and Garfunkel. I was just messed up by Woodstock, by the whole thing. I mean, I didn’t do any drugs or anything like that ever. Baruch HaShem I was always clean.

Asher Weinberger:
Not yet.

Moshe Weinberger:
No, that was my world. But my son, my son I’m going to send back to 1840. That was the project. And that trip back from Stolin that Ushi was talking about, that’s when it became clear to me that I was delusional.

David Bashevkin:
So I want to get a little bit to the question of almost the surprise of being surprised. It’s something strange to grow up in a house of a world renowned educator. And you’re in this home, you’re both living in this home and it’s surprising that you were so surprised and how that shifted. But before we get to that, I want to, because you mentioned it, Ushi who I know very well. And I know about his inner peyos quite well, but I want to talk about that moment. Because I was just talking to a friend of mine, a Chabad, he’s not a shliachbut he’s a Rav of a shul. Very close to, I go there every year Yamim Noraim and he raised his kids not to shave, and a lot of his kids taka began to shave. And I was talking to him about how he reacted to that.

And I’m curious if you could come to the moment and talk a little bit about the moment when Asher who grew the long peyos, which represents something, there’s something external and tangible and real about that, about the moment when you decided to cut them, to longer have… You have peyos obviously, but not long chassidish peyos. The moment that you decided to cut them, how old were you? Why did you decide at that point? And how did your father, Rebbi, how did you react to that?

Asher Weinberger:
Okay. So first I want to respond to Dad, what you had said before, that your experience of it on the other side, and it will segue into the peyos question. I look back sometimes and I wonder, was I assertive enough or early enough? And what I think about, the way I think about it now is that I was trying to be very gentle. Because I had this sense that this was very meaningful and this was very important. And I also had this sense that I can’t really understand stand how important this is to my father because I’m one generation removed from that. I didn’t grow up hearing my parents screaming in their sleep. And Dad, remember we were talking on this the other day about how it just found out scientifically speaking, how a woman carries all the eggs she’ll ever produce from the time she’s born.

In a way, children of Holocaust survivors actually were in the camps. And I can’t understand what that can do to a person. I can’t understand how that alters our psyche and our vision for ourselves and for the future and any entanglements and trans-generational trauma, et cetera. So it’s something that I intuited, like this is something you have to handle carefully because this is actually something you can’t understand, never will be able to understand. So I tried to be as gentle and sometimes maybe that was disservice to myself, not asserting or communicating clearly about where I stood on things and what I was comfortable with. But yeah, that’s just a process of growing up and maturing. So the same thing really was with the peyos. It wasn’t like there was this one moment I said, “Okay, I’m going to cut them off.” It wasn’t like that. It was a very gradual process.

And I think that really speaks to the core of what the experience is like, what my experience was like and probably what the experience is like for other people growing up in a similar type of dynamic with a parent who is somewhat, we’ll call it larger than life or extremely charismatic, dynamic or famous for the lack of better terms. For most people, the process of life is adding on layers. It’s growing your peyos longer and incrementally. It’s like discovering things that your parents provide you with a great platform. And from there you just add your unique… The things you want to add to your life, whether it’s perspective, it’s ideologies, it’s practice, whatever it is. But for me, and for people like me, I’d say, the process is absolutely 180 degrees in reverse.

It’s the process of removing layers. You’re given these big ideas, you’re the child of people who’ve already figured it out more or less. And so you grow up around all these big ideas that are not yet integrated per se. They feel right, they sound right, but they’re not necessarily yours. You don’t own them. So you might have long peyos but they’re not necessarily ones that you grew. So, the process of maturing, growing for someone in my circumstance is really the opposite. It’s the removal of layers, taking off each layer at some point in your life, holding it up to the light, looking at it and saying, “Is this mine? Do I want this? If so, I’ll take it back. If not, I’ll discard it.” So it’s a reverse process of growth. It’s confusing.

And I’m not advocating that we need to have special institutions for privileged people like myself. I don’t think it’s going to be a very… I can’t go door to door collecting, hey, I’m looking to raise money for institution for privileged sons of rabbis and CEOs. No one’s going to donate to that cause. But it’s definitely a very different experience. It’s the removal of layers and it’s gradual. And to that, to what you’re saying, it’s like the irony is that it actually worked out and I’m wondering if it worked the other way, what would happen? Had I gone to a mainstream institution, maybe I’d be stuck in the mainstream and the inner peyos never would have grown to where they are today. So I think of course everything always works out. it’s all a process of evolution, spiritual evolution, but it’s just ironic that I think it actually worked out exactly the way it was supposed to.

David Bashevkin:
Before your father responds, I’m just curious. Just a technical question, just so I have a timeline to my own head.

Asher Weinberger:
Sure.

David Bashevkin:
How old were you when you cut off your peyos? I’m just curious.

Asher Weinberger:
It started in ninth grade when I went to high school.

David Bashevkin:
Oh, it was literally gradual. They got a little bit shorter?

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah, yeah. Then behind the ear that eventually… And to this day, every time I take a haircut, I am still conscious of it. It’s something that… Really, it’s still an active process for me until I decide not to, if I decide not to. And it was meaningful to me, it wasn’t just like a cavalier kind of day, on and off the next day. It was something that I took seriously and also again, trying to be sensitive to it and trying to do something gradually. I didn’t want to shock anyone, I think.

David Bashevkin:
To come down one morning. Yeah.

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah. I didn’t want to do that, but I do remember the sound you made, Dad, when you found my shaver for the first time. That was funny.

David Bashevkin:
What was that sound, Asher, in your memory?

Asher Weinberger:
Like, ah, what’s this? A shaver has never crossed a threshold of-

David Bashevkin:
It never crossed the threshold.

Asher Weinberger:
Right. And honestly, the funny thing is I don’t shave today either, but… Well, I also don’t have a long beard.

David Bashevkin:
Okay. So Rebbi, before you respond, I want to add in something in his question, because it reminded me of the person who you brought me towards, which is Rav Tzadok, who I love to quote and Rav Tzadok, when he opens up his first sefer of chassidus talks about the process of growth needs to begin very, very quickly. Reishis kinasas ha’adam tzarich l’hiyot b’chipazon which is couched in the Pesach story. That the initial leaving was very hurried and quick and just jumping a lot of steps and then afterwards to go slowly. And I’m curious when you reflect back, kind of the question that Asher asked, do you look at this as maybe it was necessary? Maybe we did have it all right. You need to skip maybe a lot of steps and have a little bit of a dissonance between where you are and the aspiration of where you want to be.

And it would be totally different. And all of the decisions and the surprises were absolutely necessary. Or do you look back at it and say, “Maybe we needed a little bit more leat leat, a little bit more of that gradualness.” And I’m wondering if you could couch your response and the way you reacted when the physical appearance, particularly the peyos. This isn’t a conversation about yes peyos, no peyos. If that’s what you’re hearing to our listeners, you’re missing the whole boat, but couching that in your reaction, the initial reaction to that market shift in Ushi’s appearance.

Moshe Weinberger:
Dovid, it’s very hard for me to sort out in my mind to remember what was I thinking at the moment and what am I looking back and reflecting upon as a more mature and experienced adult who spends most of his life trying to give advice to other people, to do things leat leat. And it’s hard for me to sort it out, but of course, when I look back, I believe, and Ushi really alluded to this a couple of minutes ago. I’m not making excuses for my expectations and my dreams. I’m not making excuses for how I was rushing, tried to rush out of Mitzrayim, but when I look back and I think about how things could have been and how things are, I’m the proudest person in the world, because I do believe that there was something pure that I tried to impart to Ushi.

There was a certain pureness, a certain way of looking at the word world that even though through time Ushi would find his own way. Nevertheless, there was a perspective of kedusha, there was a respective of holiness, and I see that he looks at everything in the world through those eyes. Even though, as I said, the inner peyos, even though you might look at somebody who is this successful worldly business person, Ushi in a deeper way is very, very much part of the 1840, that world of 1840. And Ushi alluded to this before. I don’t know if that would’ve been, had we taken that step into the actual culture of Boro Park or Williamsburg or Yerushalayim, I don’t know if that would’ve been. Would Ushi be a person who is deeply honest with himself and whose Yiddishkeit is authentic and that he worked hard for as opposed to just going along with the flow?

So at the time, of course I was disappointed because there was something very, at the same time shallow in me and something very deep in me that was compelling me to build this world that I had always expected and wanted, that I wanted to recreate. And of course Ushi felt that disappointment. And that was hard. It’s hard for a kid to feel that. A father and son, son and father, we loved each other. And we played a lot of ball together. We had a lot of good times and laughs together, but at the end of the day on that trip home from Stolin, it took a lot of courage for Ushi to tell me that, “I can’t do this.”

And it was hard for me, and there’s no question that he felt disappointed. But when I think back on that time, I’m the proudest person in the world. And I wouldn’t want anything to have happened in a different way. This is exactly the person that Ushi is working on himself to become, and I’m proud of that person. And I would not have been proud anywhere as proud. It might look good in the family pictures to have some kid next to you in his levush, and he would’ve been walking around with his gartel when they go to get a burger or something, but they seemed to do that. He would’ve been walking around looking like that. But when I think about how life was and is, it would’ve been an empty shell of just impersonating somebody that I wanted him to be and not himself. The person that he is, and that he’s worked on becoming is the one that I’m proud of, and I believe that HaShem was pulling us both in that direction.

David Bashevkin:
Maybe it’s easier, and you’ll allow me, it’s a different question, but it’s a question that relates to both of you about how this journey affected the way that you present vis-a-vis, the outside world, and you both are on a fairly public stage, whether it’s in Woodmere, whether it’s Asher’s work in finance and in building organizations and companies, but I’m curious for you Rebbi, when parents come to you and they’re living in the world that you live in now, they live in Woodmere, in the Five Towns, in Bergenfield, and they do have dreams of that holiness to raise their children a certain way. And the parents maybe look one way, but they want to raise a kid with maybe a little bit more of a chassidic levush and chassidish minhagim, and to have that. Does your experience with Asher and with Ushi, I call him Asher, affect the advice and the direction that you give them, the decision making of that process, or it’s a totally separate thing?

A couple comes to you and says, “We want to do an upsherin. And at the upsherin we want to leave on the longer peyos and raise our kids chassidish. We live in Woodmere, we live in Cedarhurst, but this is the world we want to enter our kids in.” Do you have almost like flashbacks or warning signs, what goes on to the advice in that you vis-a-vis, the outside world, given your experience that you had raising Asher?

Moshe Weinberger:
It has a direct, very conscious effect on the advice that I give others. And I try to give others advice, and I’m very open about telling them that I’m trying to help you based upon my own experiences, successes and failures. Some good things, mistakes that I’ve made. I don’t know if Ushi remembers, but around the time of his bar mitzvah, I took him to the Debrecener Rav, zecher tzaddik kadosh l’vracha. I don’t know if you remember that. I don’t know if you know who he was. The Debrecener Rav was one of the biggest poskim in the world, a very distant relative of my father alav hashalom. And we went to the Debrecener Rav, and I asked the Debrecener Rav, he was a oberlander, Hungarian, the real old chassidish Rav, huge talmid chacham and tzaddik. And I went to the Debrecener Rav with Ushi to ask for a bracha.

And he said, “er zol oysvaksen a normaler mensch.” That may he grew up to be a normal person. So I looked at the Debrecener Rav like, I had to come here to get a bracha like that? I was hoping Rav Moshe Feinstein or to be the Chazon Ish or whatever, Chasam Sofer something, you know? a normaler mensch? And he saw that I was disappointed and he said, “kulei hei v’ulay.” Those were his words. Meaning you’ll be very happy, he should be a normal person, he should be a normal person. I think that was one of the greatest, the greatest bracha that I could have ever heard. And I think that it’s colored every interchanged exchange that I have had with people when they come to talking to me about Yiddishkeit, where I realized that at the end of the day, if you have a child that is not going to be normal, if you are going to superimpose upon a child an abnormality that is the fulfillment of your expectations and dreams that child all is not ready for, nor is he being groomed for in the Five Towns of Bergenfield, and so on, then you’re not going to have a normaler mensch.

Thank God, Ushi came out to be, baruch HaShem. I mean, I don’t know if he considers himself to be normaler mensch.

Asher Weinberger:
The jury is still out on that one.

David Bashevkin:
No.

Moshe Weinberger:
The jury’s out. Okay. Because nowadays to be a normaler mensch is kulei hei hulay. I think that this whole inyan, raising Ushi and all that we are discussing, I think that it brought me to have a tremendous respect for normaler mensch, to be a normal, healthy, emotionally balanced person. I was actually at a bar mitzvah the other night of a talmid of mine who’s a Rebbi in yeshiva, he’s a talmid chacham. And he’s really one of the few that I actually recommended that he move into that world. He was holding by it and he got married and he has a chassidishe family and he is living in Boro Park and they made that move successfully. But to a large extent, when it’s very apparent that this is something which is abnormal and not normal, and if that child is going to be able to end up in the world of chassidus it has to be something that evolves very gradually.

I think that my experience with Ushi that it bears directly upon those conversations. And I’m not ashamed to share that with them, to say that, “Listen, I been there and done that. This is not for your kid. Your kid is being raised in Teaneck or your kid is being raised in the Five Towns. He needs to make certain decisions on his own. You try to impart a sense of kedusha, try to raise him in a house where he hears about the Kedushas Levi, he hears about Rav Tzadok or he hears about the tzaddikim, and you behave in a way that’s exemplary to him. And then he’ll make a decision on his own when he’s older, but don’t make him crazy, a normaler mensch.

David Bashevkin:
Asher, I’m curious for yourself, there is a component of being in the public eye and you went on this journey, and aside from the disappointment that you felt at that time, that you may have given your father. The shaver crossing the threshold, I’m curious how the role as child of, and you fill in the blank, and being representative of almost the success or the wisdom or the educational depth that your father has and reflecting poorly, so to speak, on a family image, on a shul‘s image. Did that play a role and how did you figure out a way to go on your own journey when you rightfully could have felt that you were representing so much more?

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m still trying to figure it out. I think it’s part of the… Well, it’s my life. And we all have our own journey. And that’s the journey that I’m on. Maybe the mashal here is it’s like growing up in the house of a famous chef, right? If your father is Wolfgang Puck or something, and you grow up eating… You’re not having scrambled eggs for breakfast, you’re having whatever, eggs benedict. So you have a whole different level, a whole different standard that you grew up around. Sophistication, theories around food. So you might have picked up along the way, some really good skills maybe, you have some senses that are more heightened or more refined, but they’re not integrated per se.

And then what happens when you get a little older, you go off to yeshiva and then you’re now eating the yeshiva cook’s food, the rubbery chicken, or your friend in the dorm is making cholent or whatever it is. You’re never satisfied with what the institutions are offering you, or even what your peers are offering you. You feel somewhat never fully present in your surroundings, never fully in the moment. Or like just watching your friends experience going through yeshiva and so on, being a talmid to a Rebbi, you always feel somewhat out of the loop because you’ve already been given the highest standard.

Again, you haven’t integrated it yet, but you’ve been given it, so you know enough to be frustrated. And I feel like the experience I had was one where I did feel had odds with my surroundings. I never really, in the yeshivish terminology, shtelt tzu

David Bashevkin:
Connected.

Asher Weinberger:
Never really gave myself over to the system because of that, because I’d already seen something completely, either at odds, in many cases with what I was hearing, or certainly much more sophisticated and felt a lot more aligned with where I was going. So it’s confusing process and it doesn’t help, especially when you’re younger, that could develop into a sense of entitlement or ego or better than, and for sure I experienced that with some of my friends where there’s of friction. Because they were really just going through this gradual incremental process. And I was trying to unpackage something, or to try to find my own place. And I didn’t honestly respect necessarily both the institutions and the ideas that I was being given.

So it’s complicated, it’s very complicated. And there’s something you lose. There’s something you lose just as not joining a chassidus in Boro Park and being able to stay aloof and to pick and choose, you also lose something. You lose a sense of belonging. You lose a sense of, there’s a certain anchor that you can receive from being part of a community, which I know Dad, I’m sure you’ve talked about this. You also struggle with just… There’s a luxury in being able to have big ideas and to pick and choose, but you also lose out on that sense of comfort and stability and being part of something that feels bigger than you. And when you feel bigger than your surroundings, especially as a younger person, that’s not very healthy. And it doesn’t play out well in relationships in other ways. So it’s really been a journey to figure out, again, these are big ideas, but are they mine? And to slowly start to unpackage things and to remove certain layers and to stop assuming certain things and then asking myself a lot of questions. And that’s the process that I’m still in.

David Bashevkin:
What do you attribute? I’m just curious, because we first met, and you might not remember this when we were working and I think on East 13th Street with Birthright alumni, and I remember the person who introduced us whispered, as people do, “You should know who his father is,” et cetera, et cetera. And you moved into the business world where you’ve had startups, you’re involved in this incredibly innovative company called Swimply, which is like an Uber for swimming pools. And I’m curious, where did you draw upon to have the confidence to really chart your own path where you’re no longer kind of in that shadow, even the professional shadow that I’m going to become a Rav, I’m going to become a Rebbi, a mechanech, an educator, a Jewish leader in the typical sense, though, I very much do consider you a Jewish leader, but in the typical sense, and be able to say I’m taking another path. I want to become a CEO, an investor, an organization builder. What do you attribute that to?

Asher Weinberger:
Also a very interesting question. And it’s also really interesting that you brought up our first point of contact at the JEC in the West Village, because that really does speak to the broader topic here, which is, I always wanted to have one foot in each world. Call it guilt or just a true desire, I would not be satisfied if I was only in the world of business or things that are more mundane. And so I did that. I went for my smicha and I started after hours. I was teaching in the JEC and other places like that. But at some point I realized that also didn’t feel authentic to me. So removed that layer as well. But I wouldn’t say it’s over. I wouldn’t say that I’ve given up on my interest in the normative path of Jewish leadership. That’s something that I still absolutely think about and potentially will come back to at some point, but I don’t feel that what I’m doing now is that different.

This may sound a little fantastical, but it’s really my world view very much toward the 1840 idea of being on this path of evolution as the Zohar would describe what’s going on here. And there are many touch points to that. There’s this evolution that is going on in the world of philosophy. There’s an evolution going on in general, in the business world. Innovation is what interests me. I’m somewhat of a futurist. I’m really interested in what’s happening now and what’s coming next. So I don’t see that there’s that wide of a bridge between the two worlds. In fact, I’m constantly, at least in my mind, but also in what I’m sharing with people around me and what drives me is really blending the two, is like, what is actually going on today? And how is what’s happening today in the business world, really a spiritual evolution?

I think we’re living in incredible times. I talk about this at every single Shabbos table, this is the type of thing that comes up. This is what I think about all the time is, we’re living in a time where we have the privilege, the luxury of not having to think about survival per se, at least here in the United States, we don’t think about survival or our next meal. So at companies like Google, they’re sitting and thinking about artificial intelligence, what does it mean to be a human being? What’s the boundary, if there is one, between a human and an animal between, between a computer and a human? Is there a soul? We’re finally starting to ask the questions that truly, truly matter, which is completely reflected as a parallel experience going on in Yiddishkeit.

We’re asking the questions that really matter. And that’s what interests me. So I’m going back and forth between these two modes of thinking and it’s not just thinking, in meetings that I have in Silicon Valley, I’m bringing up the ideas, we’re talking about things that I find to be deeply, deeply spiritual. So it’s just a matter, to me, of circumstance. So right now, the manifestation of that is currently in the business world primarily, but can it change in the coming years? Yeah, totally. It’s very fluid for me.

David Bashevkin:
It’s fantastic. We’ve bought over these ideas, but you’re the type of futurist in line with Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa who talks about, instead of the dissent of each generation, this notion that you can recover the glory of the past, even within the future and being able to tap into that innovation within each generation is something that’s always moved me. It’s animated me, it’s why we call 1840 what we do. I’m curious, we are releasing this right before Pesach, I know Rebbi, that they’re releasing, they just published a new haggadahof your Torah that they’re publishing now, and we’ll have links to that. I’m curious if we could get almost a little bit more whimsical, a little bit more memory based, what was your Seder, your Pesach Seder like growing up? You have these big drashas, these big public lectures where you’re talking to thousands and then there’s something going on in the home. I’m curious if each of you could share what the experience of the Pesach Seder was like growing up and if there are particular memories about how you created that family culture around your Pesach Seder?

Moshe Weinberger:
I was determined from the beginning when it comes to Pesach, I was determined to keep things as simple, and I tried, as enjoyable as possible. With all of the things that I’ve adapted and come up with over the years and thinking about, and at the end of the day, I’m my father’s son and my father conducted a very, very straightforward, sweet and simple Hungarian style Seder, which he received from his parents, HaShemshould avenge their blood, which as you know, the Chasam Sofer himself, that’s the state of the Chasam Sofer conducted. Chasam Sofer, all that we have, the thousands of things that we have, all of his Torahs on Pesach, those were not Torahs that he shared with the family at the Seder, those were Torahs that he wrote and that he said, it’s brought down that he would say later on at night after Shir HaShirim, he would say to a couple of the talmidim or something, but the Seder itself was… My wife and I tried to keep it straightforward and simple.

In the early years, of course, my mother, she should live and be well, anyway, was hovering over reminding us every second that your father is hungry, your father is hungry. That’s also Hungarian tradition. What are you doing? What are you doing? It’s time to move on. But mostly I think that our Seder was about the kids showing us their projects and telling stories and laughing and having a blast, just having a good time. At least that’s what I remember keeping it. I was determined to keep them very, very, very simple and sweet.

David Bashevkin:
Asher.

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah, totally consistent. Absolutely. That’s my experience as well. It was first of all, very focused around simplicity and very much focused around the kids, still is. And did get that very clear sense of mesorah, of tradition. The thing that stage with me the most is that special niggun, the chanting of the haggadah that comes straight from my grandfather and from way before that as well. And we felt like we were part of something that was, and is a legacy and a tradition. A couple of things that I also recall… Well, Dad, you used to have your own table for your own matzah that was always a little… We didn’t understand what that was about. Why can’t you eat from the rest of our matzah? Turns out we have sticky fingers and-

Moshe Weinberger:
Gebrochts.

Asher Weinberger:
Gebrochts issues, yeah. A heightened sense of security around the matzah but I think that might have changed over the years, or at least it’s not possible anymore with so many grandkids around. It’s a lost cause. So, that was something that stood out. I recall we would spend hours often after… We didn’t have a lot of guests. That was another thing. It wasn’t so much about having… And if it was guests, it was family. It wasn’t really… Or people who were bnei bayis. It wasn’t really outside. It was very comfortable, very cozy. And maybe this is something you’ll want to edit out, we’re not paskening for anyone here, but I think we did rely probably on the kulah of the Sridei Aish with a little bit of the singing, we felt pretty comfortable on both sides of the gender aisle singing. But it was family. So I guess it’s not exactly the Sridei Aish‘s sugya.

David Bashevkin:
Mishpacha.

Asher Weinberger:
Mishpacha, yeah. But I remember even after the lights would go out after the Seder at one, two o’clock in the morning, we would sit, me and my sisters, and they all have, or most of them have great voices. We would sit around and sing for hour, two hours. That’s how I remember it. And that was the best part. It was just a sense of there’s nowhere else to be. There’s nowhere else to go.

David Bashevkin:
I’m curious, you’ve been through so much together, when you reflect on this journey and you look past, and then we’ll follow up with the present, is there anything that you wish you did more of together in those earlier years? And is there anything that you wish you did less of together?

Asher Weinberger:
Let’s see. I mean, we played a lot of ball, but it was never enough.

David Bashevkin:
Basketball?

Asher Weinberger:
It was baseball, basketball, but we played a lot of ball. That’s the worst part of this whole thing, at least from my perspective is, it’s one thing to have a father who’s a talmid chacham and a Rav and all that. And it’s like, okay, so you know he’s a better Jew and he’s better in learning than you, but the fact that your father is also a better ball player, that was hard for me.

David Bashevkin:
Is that true?

Moshe Weinberger:
Yeah.

Asher Weinberger:
That was hard, yeah. And I’m six foot three, and it was a little embarrassing honestly, and that I think is the hardest part of this whole thing for me, getting over that one, but things we don’t really… Well, things we don’t do anymore is we don’t wrestle anymore. We used to have a minhag after Shabbos morning, which is not ideal. You don’t want to have a wrestling match right after cholent but we did. That was our minhag. We don’t do that anymore after I think I caused maybe a permanent injury, but that’s pretty much over and done with. But no, we spent a lot, a lot of time learning together. We had a lot of chavrusas. I was actually pulled out of yeshiva pretty early. Like I had other chavrusas and we had a very good system. I think I remember Dad, we had actual tests, I think, sometimes. There were these amazing prizes. Like they would have very generous. Yeah, I was only son. There was no competition here. So very generous prizes and rewards to make the learning fun. But yeah, that’s how I remember it.

David Bashevkin:
Rebbi, is there anything you want to add?

Moshe Weinberger:
No, I think that those times were very normal. I always lived then and now under the terrible constraint of time, because I’m pulled in so many directions by so many people and I live constantly with the guilt in the present more with my grandchildren now and thoughts of the past, how I just would’ve loved taking more trips, just driving up to Bear Mountain and hiking, like things that a lot of regular chevra do that I just didn’t have the luxury to do. And I feel bad that I didn’t prioritize as I should have, looking back. I should have given more time to Ushi and the kids. On the cheshbon of other people, but at the time I thought that I was saving the world, not consciously, but I was doing my best to save that world that HaShem put in my lap. And at times I felt that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the world that was in my own home. And I have regrets about that, but I try not to get stuck in those thoughts. There’s no point to them. I tried my best, that’s all. And with all my limitations, I tried. That’s all.

Asher Weinberger:
Can I just respond to that?

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Asher Weinberger:
Briefly. I think it’s cliche that everyone on their deathbed regrets not spending more time on things that matter more, but that wasn’t my experience. And I think I could speak on behalf of my sisters too. I don’t think that was their experience either. First of all, we did think that you were saving the world, and you probably were. Number one. Number two is, I for sure felt like I didn’t expect it, I didn’t need to go hiking on Bear Mountain. Having a catch on the front lawn was more than enough. But I think that, again, speaking for the rest of the family, we felt like partners in this. It mattered to us the work that you were doing, even if it wasn’t work, it was just sitting and learning. It mattered to us. And we felt and still feel like partners in that. So it didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything honestly. I don’t look back at all and think that there was more time that could have been spent and we didn’t go on enough fishing trips. That really doesn’t feel like any sort of lack at all. So just if it makes you feel better.

Moshe Weinberger:
I wish you would’ve told that to me a long time ago, because I’ve been tormenting myself over that. That’s why I said, I said to Rav David, before we went on air, I said, “This is cheaper than therapy.” So I’ve been tormenting myself about that all over the years. And your mother, she should be… Well, she always says to me, “Don’t make yourself crazy.” And she always felt that was true, that the children felt that there was a partnership, but I’ve always regretted that, that comes also with the post-Holocaust and Hungarian upbringing, that guilt. And I appreciate you sharing this with me now.

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
My final question is really about the present. I think one of the big challenges of our generation is being a parent to adult children. And I’m curious to talk now about just what do you bond over together with now? You’re at different stages in your life and I’m almost more curious, is there anything that you deliberately do not do together and don’t bond over together and deliberately create space for one another?

Moshe Weinberger:
Let me take this one. I’ll be very brief. One of those transitions that takes place is usually later than. I mean, thank God I’m not 90 years old in a retirement home, but I’m aging baruch HaShem. And one of those things that happens with age is that things become reversed. I have found that one of the things that is most gratifying to me, and I’m not ashamed to say this, I’m proud, is that I really turn to Ushi for a lot of advice. That’s what’s been changing over the past few years. There are things that I go through in my position that are sometimes hurtful and challenging. And I don’t really, my Rebbi, I mean, I should have a Rebbi now, but my Rebbi is longer in the world of the living. And my Rebbeim are no longer here, they’re long gone. And one of the things that I find most gratifying is that I’m able to turn to my son and I trust his insight. I trust his wisdom, and I find that it makes me feel incredibly close to him. First of all, he’s always looking out for me and I respect his advice. I respect his insight. I respect what he brings to the table. I don’t really talk to too many people.

People come to ask me for advice. And I find that I’m turning more and more to my own son for advice. And I feel that’s something that draws me very, very close, not just because I’m… I don’t consider myself a needy person, but I’m so grateful to HaKadosh Baruch Hu that I have a son like this, that I can now turn to him and speak to him and hear what he has to say. I’m amazed with the chiddushim that he has, both in his thinking of Torah and HaKadosh Baruch Hu in his thoughts about the world. And I’m in a certain way, I’ve become a bit of a talmid, and I’m very proud of that. And I feel that it creates a tremendous bond between us. I’m not able to have the catch on the lawn anymore, maybe I should try. Last time I played ball with the shul, I still have a limp from that last experience, a Memorial day or Lag Ba’Omer, I don’t know, like 10 years ago. So I don’t know if I could throw the ball around, but we throw ideas around and we have a catch, not on the front lawn but over the table and in my study. And there’s nothing that’s more precious to me, more dear to me than those conversations.

David Bashevkin:
Asher.

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah. Well, I had a feeling that this conversation would be cathartic in many ways, and hearing that, it doesn’t get better, but it’s also exactly how I feel on my side of the equation, is I feel like our individual journeys as separate people are starting to merge in a new way. Like there was a process, a natural process of me having to individually, every parent and child has to go through that. Now as I’m growing, the paths are starting to merge. It’s unbelievably, firstly, gratifying. I sense that too. I sense that I have something to bring to the table when most of my life, it was the other way around. And just having gone out there in the world and picked up a few things and developed into maybe more of a self-standing individual allows me to finally have my own unique perspective.

So I think it feels incredibly gratifying that that’s seen, that’s visible on the other side of the table. And also we work together a lot, and a lot of it’s behind the scenes as it should remain. But I think part of being a Ravof a very quickly expanding, I guess, call it kehillah. It’s not really the best way to describe, there’s certain other characteristics, there’s certain other skillsets that are needed for that, that maybe not, if I may, are not so natural or intuitive. It’s certain executive skills. Management and organization and things like that. So just being able to help on more of the “business side” of this and to help my father really fill in some of those gaps to make the work that he’s doing more seamless and to help to accomplish some of those big ideas that sometimes require a different set of eyes and different set of hands.

So, just being able to help and be part of that process is something that for me, is incredibly meaningful because it aligns our purposes that I’ve always really been aligned. It’s just a matter of what’s the approach we’re taking to get to the same end results? So now I feel like they’re starting to come together and I’m really curious about and excited to see how it develops in the coming hopefully decades. So yeah, it does feel like a journey coming full circle.

David Bashevkin:
It is an incredible privilege to be in whatever small way at the nexus to speak to two people who’ve had such a tremendous influence on me and the fact that even through differences, however subtle they were to see that kind of return and that synthesis of a parent and child, I think is really inspiring, certainly to myself. I have no doubt to our listeners and it’s really been a privilege to be able to speak to both of you today. And I remain so, so grateful.

Moshe Weinberger:
Thank you, David.

Asher Weinberger:
Thank you. There was no one else that we would’ve had this conversation with, so thank you.

Moshe Weinberger:
Yeah. Thanks David.

David Bashevkin:
Okay. Rebbi, you’re patur. I can’t thank you enough for this, but really, really thank you so, so-

Moshe Weinberger:
Like Ushi says, cathartic. I thank you, we both thank you. Okay, David. I’ll speak to you. See you later.

Asher Weinberger:
All right Dad, I’ll see you later Dad.

David Bashevkin:
Okay. We’ll be b’kesher, Rebbi. I always ask my guests three questions at the very end of the interview. I did them once already with your father, but I’m curious for you, is there a book, idea, article that you would recommend that gave you the strength? So the word you use is individuate, give me a book, an article that really anchored your strength to create this path for yourself.

Asher Weinberger:
If we’re talking Yiddishkeit, so it was Rebbi Nachman no question is where I found it. It was the first place that I found someone who I felt understood me, but also hadn’t really been touched by any preconceived notions, meaning this is actually really important to the conversation we just had is my father, he learned everything with me. I had either himself directly, or I had tutors teaching me Tanya or whatever it was at seven years old. The one thing we never really learned together was Rabbi Nachman. I grew up around the stories.

David Bashevkin:
Do you think that was deliberate?

Asher Weinberger:
So I didn’t know, but years later when I was starting to grow up, I was in my early twenties and I discovered it, so to speak, and I went all in and I asked him this question, almost desperately once. We picked him up from the airport one time and I’m like, “Dad,” I didn’t say, and I was like, “Dad, why don’t you teach me Likkutei Moharan?” And he was quiet, and he said to me, “I figured the one thing I wouldn’t ruin for you.” That’s what he said.

David Bashevkin:
Wow.

Asher Weinberger:
And I understood that. I understood what he was trying to tell me. Not that he ruined other things for me per se, but-

David Bashevkin:
No, I understand.

Asher Weinberger:
Yeah. But aside for it being-

David Bashevkin:
To come to it on your own.

Asher Weinberger:
To come to it on my own, yeah. But also specifically Rebbi Nachman, because as you know, there’s a lot there, especially for people looking for healing.

David Bashevkin:
That’s beautiful. If somebody gave you a great deal of money and allowed you to retire without any responsibilities, take a sabbatical and go back to school to get a PhD. What do you think the topic and title of that PhD would be?

Asher Weinberger:
Ooh, can I answer it a little bit differently?

David Bashevkin:
Absolutely.

Asher Weinberger:
This actually is one of my plans. My parents are both Ivy leaguers, so even though that wasn’t the plan for me, I think they’re still somewhat a little disappointed that I didn’t do that. So I think it’s still in the cards for me, I’ll answer it in a different way and really about the kind of book I like to write, which you can call it a thesis. So a book that really got me going is a pretty well known book by Yuval Noah Harari, it’s called Sapiens: A Brief History of, I think, mankind or something like that. And I found that the way he sort of together and organized a brief history of evolution from a scientific and definitely non-believing perspective was unbelievable. So what I’d like to do is to write a book from the perspective of emunah on spiritual evolution on 1840, to give a history of mankind. I would call the book instead of Sapiens, I would call it Adam, a spiritual evolution or something like that. And that’s the thing I’m interested in. I’m interested in very much in how do the worlds of innovation, secular innovation and spiritual innovation collide?

David Bashevkin:
That is absolutely fascinating. And I hope when the time comes to write that book, we spend another time in an office really working it out as we did so many years ago. My final question, I’m always curious about people’s sleep schedules. What time do you usually go to sleep and what you wake up in the morning?

Asher Weinberger:
I’m not a very good sleeper. I go to bed probably around 01:00, 01:30 ballpark. I’m up more or less every hour, hour and a half. I don’t necessarily get out of my room until 07:00, 07:30, but I work on multiple time zones. So I work on West Coast, Israel, Australia, and East Coast simultaneously. So yeah, right now it’s not a question you want to ask me. I don’t want to give people my lifestyle. It’s not the way to live.

David Bashevkin:
Not recommended.

Asher Weinberger:
No.

David Bashevkin:
Asher, I cannot thank you enough, you’re a dear friend, and just your honesty, authenticity, vulnerability that you bring to everything that you do, but particularly our conversation today, it means a great deal to me. Thank you so, so much for sharing.

Asher Weinberger:
Thank you so much for having me.

David Bashevkin:
The friendships that I find most satisfying are the ones that have evolved with me since childhood, and I am extraordinarily blessed that I have such friendships, people that I’ve known, Yoni, Akiva, another Yoni. I have certain friends that have stayed with me since I am a child, since as early as I can remember, and I remain in touch with today. Not everybody has that privilege, but there’s something quite beautiful about it. And I think what is so marvelous about it is that you can look back, at least I can look back at those periods of those small differences that allowed for friction in a friendship, in a relationship, that necessarily emerge and kind of feel like we’re living who separate worlds. And then the work that you do to ensure that that underlying relationship, that underlying friendship, remains together, remains tethered to something real and something whole.

And I think what’s so powerful in our religious lives, and why so much of the language when we talk about our relationship to God is we really almost always use language of parents and children. And the reason why I think that so is because in our relationship to God, we do evolve and we do have to confront the differences, big and small, intergenerational differences. Lifnei Avinu sh’ba’shamayim those intergenerational differences between our Father in Heaven, so to speak, that sometimes are quite big and sometimes quite headlining and sometimes are quite small and almost imperceptible. But even those smaller differences, like the ones that we discussed today can be real, can require conversation, can require thoughtfulness and navigation, which is why it was such an absolute privilege to have this conversation with Rav Moshe Weinberger and Asher. This is the last episode in the series before Pesach. We do have one more episode afterwards, but I wanted to leave you with an idea that I saw my dear friend Rabbi Natan Farber shared.

He shares this, I think almost every year on Twitter. I think it’s so beautiful. Natan Farber on Twitter is @natanfarber, N A T A N F A R B E R, @natanfarber. He’s a Rebbi in DRS. I know him for many, many years. He’s one of the great creative educational geniuses we have in our community. And he always shares an idea around the Pesach Seder that to me, is very central to everything that we’ve been discussing. Right before are we tell the story of the four children at the Pesach Seder, the arba banim, the four sons, the wise one, the wicked one, the simple one, and the one who does not know how to ask. The highlight of every haggadah is looking at how those children are depicted.

I have an old column in Mishpacha Magazine. I always get a kick out of the way different haggadahs depict the wicked son. They always tells a lot about the author or the illustrator by how they depict them, but that’s for a different time. But the introduction to the four children, we say the following prayer, the following very brief words. We say baruch HaMakom Baruch Hu. We refer to God, blessed are you God, but we refer to God specifically as HaMakom, as the place. And it’s a strange way. We’ve rarely referred to God as HaMakom, as the place. Why specifically in our introduction to the arba banim, to the four sons in the haggadah do we use this terminology? And Rabbi Farber shared a beautiful idea from Rabbi Soloveitchik that is cited in the work Hararei Kedem, where he writes his follows, that we invoke the name HaMakom, specifically HaMakom, meaning the place in moments where we need to be reminded that God is ultimately everywhere in our lives.

We invoke this name, HaMakom of the place, this notion that God is our very foundation. Our very bedrock, our very context during moments when we need this reminder, when we need the reminder that God is in fact, our makom, that God is in fact, our place. Moments that we might be bereft, most famously during times of loss. When we wish people who are in mourning HaMakom yenachem eschem, may God, but referred to as HaMakom the place, comfort you. Is the reminder that even when God is obscured and is not apparent, he can still be found. He’s still the bedrock of your identity. And we used the word HaMakombefore arba banim for this part of the haggadah to remind us that God is for everyone, that ultimately just like God is everywhere, and we remind ourselves during times of loss, that God is still accessible.

God can still be found. We remind ourselves before we talk about divergence within a family, wicked children, wise children, children who don’t know how to ask, simple children. We invoke the term HaMakom again. Because when you look at your children, it’s very easy for a moment to feel like I wish God was more accessible, could be found more in all of my kids. This one, God can’t really be found, but we specifically invoke the word HaMakom as that reminder that God is for everyone and can be found in everyone, that even perhaps, and parenting can be so difficult, being a child can be so difficult. I wish there was a verb. We have a verb for being a parent called parenting. We don’t have a great verb for being a child, and that can also be really hard. Childing, whatever you want to call it.

That relationship that is at the center of our lives that we build from one generation to the next can be really challenging in ways, both big and small. And in the haggadah, as we approach this recognition of the diversity within families, we send that reminder for ourselves, invoking the very same term that we use when we comfort those in mourning, that reminder that God can still be found, even though he may feel obscured, maybe he’s being manifest. Maybe godliness is being manifested in a way that we’re not as familiar with, but the same way that God can be found in moments of loss, God can be found within all of our children, within all different forms of relationships and baruch HaMakom baruch Hu, God can ultimately be found in all of us. So thank you so much for listening.

This episode, like so many of our episodes was edited by our friend, Denah Emerson. And thank you once again to our sponsors, Evan Goldenberg, who was the sponsor of this episode and our friend, Danny Turkel who sponsored the series. It wouldn’t be a Jewish podcast without a little bit of Jewish guilt. So if you enjoyed this episode or any episode, please subscribe, rate, review, tell your friends about it. You can also donate at 18forty.org/donate. That’s 18 F O R T Y.org/donate. It really helps us reach new listeners and continue putting out great content. You can also leave us a voicemail with feedback or options that we may play on a future episode. That number is 9 1 7 7 2 0 5 6 2 9. Once again, that number to leave a voice note is 9 1 7 7 2 0 5 6 2 9. If you’d like to learn more about this topic or some of the other great ones we’ve covered in the past, be sure to check out 18forty.org. That’s the number 18 followed by the word F O R T Y.org, where you can also find videos, articles, recommended readings, weekly emails. Thank you so much for listening and stay curious, my friends.