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Rav Moshe Weinberger

Mysticism | November 03, 2020

Listen to “Rav Moshe Weinberger: Can Mysticism Become a Community? [Mysticism 3/3]” on Spreaker.

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SUMMARY

In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Rav Moshe Weinberger, rabbi and educator, to discuss the role of mysticism in modern-day Judaism.

Rav Weinberger grew up Modern Orthodox and became attracted to Chassidus at a young age. Though he is a fan of the yeshiva system and believes that Halakha cannot be compromised, he has long watched with anguish as countless products of the system have been turned off by the dry, inhumane version of Yiddishkeit taught to them. Rav Weinberger believes that Jewish education must evolve over time, and that Chassidus is as good an approach as any for the current generation.

How can one go about strengthening their connection to Hashem? What are the educational challenges of today’s generation? Where does the modern-day yeshiva system succeed, and where does it fail its students? And how can we attempt to tweak the system to suit everyone’s needs? Tune in to hear Rav Moshe Weinberger discuss the challenges that he sees facing today’s generation of young Jews.

For more, visit https://18forty.org/mysticism/#weinberger.

TRANSCRIPT

David Bashevkin:

Hello, and welcome to the 18Forty podcast, 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 mysticism in Jewish thought. This podcast is part of a larger exploration of those big, juicy Jewish questions that animate our modern lives, so be sure to check out 18Forty.org, where you can find videos, articles, and recommended readings.

David Bashevkin:

When I think of mysticism I always think of individuals, like those individual rabbis, teachers who you have to go off on these big, majestic hikes to the tops of the mountains, to the inner sanctums of studies, to be able to connect to. But today we’re actually talking to somebody who’s been a major leader in Jewish thought, in Chassidus, in Kabbalah, mystical Jewish ideas, but not as an individual who you can’t reach, but somebody who has established a community. Really focused and centered around these oftentimes esoteric ideas, but has managed to take all of that esotericism that sometimes feels so unreachable and manifest it in the daily practice and daily life of an entire community. And I’m speaking with Rav Moshe Weinberger, who I consider a rebbe of sorts. I add on “of sorts” because he’s not a typical rebbe of mine: he doesn’t have a formal Hasidic movement where I’m going to pay patronage to him, I’ve never been a member of any of his ongoing classes, I’ve heard him speak maybe a handful of times. But I do consider him a rebbe.

David Bashevkin:

I actually wrote about this in a recent article I wrote for Tradition, who had a symposium on Jewish thought and the meaning of Jewish thought in the modern world. And I wrote an article called “Jewish Thought: A Process, Not a text.” And in that article, I actually talk about my own introduction to the more deeper, dare I say, kabbalistic, Hasidic, it’s a whole hodgepodge of different sources and how I got introduced to him. The figure which stands at the center of my relationship with Jewish thought is a Hasidic thinker named Reb Tzadok HaKohen MiLublin, who was born in 1823 and died in 1900. And I actually wrote an article that the first time I ever heard the words “Rav Tzadok HaKohen MiLublin” was actually from Rav Moshe Weinberger, which we actually touch upon. But the article that I wrote, again, “Jewish Thought: A Process, Not a Text,” and you can go to Tradition’s website and they have it up there for free, without a paywall, you can check it out, I’d love your thoughts on that.

David Bashevkin:

But I basically go through the three teachers who introduced me to the thought of Reb Tzadok HaKohen MiLublin, and what each of them taught me, not just about Reb Tzadok particularly, but the larger question about what Jewish thought is, represented by the thought of Reb Tzadok, but a much larger, larger question. And in there, the first person who I talk about is Rav Moshe Weinberger, and what I write in that article is actually a story that I heard from Rav Moshe Weinberger about Reb Tzadok HaKohen MiLublin. This Hasidic thinker was part of the court of Izhbitz, and his close friend named Reb Leibele Eiger both sat together in the same class with the same rebbe and took what you would think would be the same set of notes, but if you look at their different works, they couldn’t be more different. Reb Tzadok is much more philosophical, brings in hundreds of sources to support all of his ideas, and if you read Reb Leibele it’s a little bit more, almost softer, one central idea, he uses gematria, the numeric system, that assigns values to the letters of the Aleph Beis, and they’re extraordinarily different. And they asked Reb Tzadok, “I don’t get it. What is, how are your works, you and Reb Leibele, you had the same rebbe, you were in the same class, the same teacher. Why are your books so different?” And Reb Tzadok gave a beautiful answer. He said that, “We both do sit in the same class, and we both write down what our teacher tells us, but I write down what the teacher said, and Reb Leibele writes down how the teacher said it.” And I found that to be such a charming and beautiful story, but something that really sheds light on what Jewish thought is all about.

David Bashevkin:

And this is how I took that story and actually connected it to Rav Moshe Weinberger, because there’s something about how he speaks, and this is exactly what I wrote in the article. There’s something about the voice of Rav Weinberger that conveys all of the anxieties, doubts, and concerns of his listeners. His voice trembles, it sings, it becomes vulnerable. I don’t remember much of what Rav Weinberger said, I remember how he said it. And I’ve always been struck when I get the opportunity to hear from him – and it’s not a lot – how much the ideas that he says ends up resonating because of the way how he says them. I actually make reference here to a very specific speech that he gave. I don’t want to call it a speech, a meimer, a “meimer” is the word that you would use for a more formal teaching of Jewish thought. Call it what you will, but it was… I know exactly where I was, I was in the dormitory in Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, when I was studying there. I was sitting in my room, my room was all the way on the left hand side of the big Gudelsky dormitory over there. And if you go all the way on the second floor, the room all the way to the left, the end end end of the hallway, I sat there in a room, and I remember who else was in the room. You used to be able to call in, there wasn’t streaming back then, people weren’t streaming or zooming anything, this is probably in 2006 is my guess, maybe even earlier, 2005. We all sat there and called in and all the, we had a bunch of phones all lined in and called in at the same time. So we put all our phones on speaker, really felt like he was in that room.

David Bashevkin:

And he starts with this amazing story about this rebbe, known as the Amshinover Rebbe, who always is doing things on his own time, he’ll keep Shabbos till the middle of the week, he’ll light Chanukah candles in the middle of the night. But on erev Yom Kippur, he began, Rav Moshe Weinberger began with telling this story, he sat there nibbling on bread. And nibbling on bread, and the chassidim were getting nervous, Yom Kippur starting in a few minutes. How could you just sit there continue to nibble? And we were all sitting there, if you could imagine, in this dormitory. I don’t think the lights were off, but we were transfixed on his words, we were transfixed on what he was saying. And Rav Weinberger really made poetry of this story and the message that the Amshonover Rebbe said, why he kept nibbling, even until just a few minutes before Yom Kippur.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

And the Rebbe took out his watch, and he looked at it, and he put the watch down and he kept on eating a little bit. And after a moment of eating, having the last crumbs, the Rebbe said that every Jew has to own two watches, it’s not enough to have one watch, everybody has to have two watches. One watch, when you look at one watch, the watch says tzu shpeit. It’s late, it’s too late. The other watch there says, when you look at the other watch, you have to see that it says on, it says, nuch tzayt, there’s still time. There’s still time, the candle’s still burning, there’s still time. And as long as we have a breath of life in us this time.

David Bashevkin:

And that story of that feeling of tzu shpeit, that it’s late, that you’re running out of time. And that sense of nuch tzayt, that there’s a little bit more time to make things even a little bit better, a little bit easier, a little bit sweeter. It still stays with me now. And that’s not any reflection of deep mystical practice, but the fact that it resonated with me and the fact that that story became a part of how I think and how I approach the world, I actually think that is at its core, what mysticism is all about. It’s about changing the lens with which you approach the entire world. And what I find so remarkable about Rav Moshe Weinberger is he’s taken that how, the how of how things are said over with that vulnerability, with that softness, with that singing, and he’s wedded it to a very sophisticated, very substantive and powerful what. And he’s created a community, and he’s taken mysticism out of the world of hike into the Himalayas and go into some Ashram, out of some rabbi that you’ve never heard of, and you’ve got to go all the way to the back of the study and he gives you 30 seconds, and he’s created a sustainable community around these ideas. Ideas that resonate, ideas that transform, and ideas that I hope our listeners find a great deal of inspiration and joy from listening to. It is my great pleasure to introduce my conversation with Rav Moshe.

David Bashevkin:

Thank you so much for being here.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

David Bashevkin:

Rebbe, I want to start with a story, with me and you, that still sticks with me to this day. I was dating, and I don’t know if Rebbe remembers, but it wasn’t a quick journey. I wasn’t a quick, it wasn’t a quick journey. And I was probably at a low point religiously in my life, a low point. I, outwardly I was studying in yeshiva and I had all the pedigree, I was a Ner Yisrael boy who was now in YU and in Semicha and doing all this great stuff. But inside it was cold, freezing cold, nothing happening. And Rebbe called me and actually had a suggestion for a shidduch. And I remember you were describing the girl. Yiras shamayim, she’s so, so lofty and great and amazing, and all this stuff.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

It’s all things I thought of you. And now it’s even more.

David Bashevkin:

And I remember I was embarrassed, and I said, “Rebbe, I’m so embarrassed. I’m not there anymore. That’s not who I am. It’s not, the image,” even though probably at that point I still projected it, of the good, clean-cut yeshiva boy, “It’s just not who I am.” And I remember, to this day, Rebbe’s response was “Ein chassidus k’chassidus rishonah”. There is no Chassidus, there’s no connection, like that first connection. And I want it to begin, a, I don’t, is that Rebbe’s phrase or is that –

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

No, that’s already found in the Kadmonim. It’s not so easily traceable, but it’s found in the Kadmonim, it’s already out, it’s been out there.

David Bashevkin:

So I guess I wanted to start with your Chassidus rishonah, which is… there’s something very magical about that first entrance into serious religious commitment, and that turning point in your identity, most people associate the shul and building the shul, but usually the Chassidus rishonah is much quieter and much earlier.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Yes.

David Bashevkin:

I was wondering if Rebbe could start with, what was Rebbe’s Chassidus rishonah, the initial entrance into this world?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Okay, I’m happy to talk about these things, Reb David, only if by my opening up a little bit and sharing some of these memories and feelings could be of help to other chevra that are listening in some way. Otherwise these are things that are very dear to me and private, but I, if in some way it could help. My rebbe, one of my great rebbeim was Rav Soloveitchik, and he said that in our times, we can’t afford to be so reticent about our experiences because the chevra needs to hear that we went through a lot of stuff to try to get somewhere, and we’re still on that journey. But by hearing some of the things that I went through, maybe it could be of some help. So, if I think of the Chassidus, the Chassidus rishonah, I’ll tell you honestly that from the time that my father alav hashalom began to talk to me about his childhood before the war in Europe, and described to me the tzadikim that he was privileged to meet, the Ahavas Yisrael from Vizhnitz, and the Spinka Rebbe, and other tzadikim, the Minchas Elazar.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

There was a fire that was ignited in me, that I was looking for something along those lines. Something authentic, something real, something deep, not to say that I wasn’t surrounded with wonderful teachers and rabbis, but I was looking for something. And I was, I guess now they have this term that I don’t care for because I hate anytime that somebody is put into a particular category, but I was from the old flip outs, an original flip out. Because I was raised in a frum family, and I went to yeshiva, but I began flipping out in the early, at an early age –

David Bashevkin:

This is like 15, 16?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

It was before that, it was before that. What happened was is that there was a gentleman in our neighborhood. I don’t want to say the name because it’s not important for the family, but there was a wonderful person who owned a business where we used to shop, and he was a Lubavitcher chassid, and he took me with a couple of other boys to a farbrengen of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At that time I… actually, yeah I had come back, 15, I had just come back from Eretz Yisrael, we lived in Eretz Yisrael. So I was just 15 at that time. He took a couple of us to a farbrengen, we thought it’d be interesting. We heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we thought it’d be fun. I, as I said, was already looking for something, searching for something. On my wall, in my room, I had pictures of Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra and lehavdil, I had pictures of the Satmar Rebbe and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. That was the –

David Bashevkin:

Even as a kid?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

As a kid. And I didn’t know why. And I began to try to read certain things, which of course were very hard to understand as a little kid, even when I was 12 years old, 13 years old. And I remember, just going back for a second, we lived in Netanya, and that’s when Kiryat Sanz was just developing. And when I would see one of the Chassidim, one of the chevra from Kiryat Sanz would cross over into the other side of where we live, into Netanya, where I would take my bike there, and I was mesmerized by… I went once in to daven mincha in Sanz, and I had never seen anything like it. I’d never seen such, such a fire, that’s all. And I was a little Modern Orthodox kid, was consumed by the Yankees and all the other stuff that kids, TV and the Yankees, but there was something of a residue of that experience and being in Eretz Yisrael. And then this Lubavitcher fellow took us to farbrengens, and I couldn’t stop going, even though I didn’t understand. My understanding of Yiddish was not good at the time. I mean, my parents spoke to each other in Hungarian, and whatever Yiddish was sounded very different than the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Yiddish. I couldn’t control myself from going, I was drawn like a magnet.

David Bashevkin:

Your father, having grown up and known that Hasidic world, but he didn’t outwardly…

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

No.

David Bashevkin:

Was he excited by this or it was…

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

He was excited by it, but he was a little bit concerned. He was worried that I would try to take too much too quickly, but he had no issues with me going, and then I would go from the Lubavitch, then I went to, my father himself alav hashalom would take me, I have cousins in Williamsburg, would take me to the Satmar Rebbe before Hoshana Raba to the davening. And it wasn’t like he had to force me, I wanted very much to go. And there was something about it that, I think it’s part of my overall need that I had as a child to relate to my parents’ world that was destroyed. But to relate to that world, I began to read whatever, Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim, anything I could get my hands on in English.

David Bashevkin:

Just read it, yeah.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Read it, then when my Hebrew, because we lived in Eretz Yisrael, my Hebrew picked up and I was able to read Hebrew. I started to read everything that I could get my hands on. And I spoke to relatives of mine that are Chassidish, and they gave me Kedushas Levi, and they gave me other sefarim. And I began, from the time that I was 15, to learn in earnest to learn Chassidus.

David Bashevkin:

So the Chassidus rishona began without a rebbe. It wasn’t directed with a specific teacher –

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

It wasn’t like I met someone. There was a Jew in… He should have a refuah sheleima, again I don’t want to say his name, a big talmid chacham in Queens, and I davened in his shteibel. His father passed away, I just knew his father at the end of his life. We moved back from Eretz Yisrael to Queens, and I davened in that Shteibel. And he was a fiery Satmar Chassid, a big talmid chacham, and he took me under his wings. I could say that this particular individual had the biggest single impact upon me at that time of the Chassidus rishona. I thought that he was from another planet. I thought that he had nothing in common with the guys in the neighborhood, and I found him to be unbelievably insightful, and deep, and charming, and gracious with his time. And we became sort of… the two of us became a chavrusa for a few years at that time.

David Bashevkin:

So, if we could fast forward, because I think I want to hear more about the progression and how people’s religious experiences unfold over time, but I’ve written about this before, about my… I don’t know if this was the moment of my Chassidus rishona, but I certainly think that when looking back, and intuitively, I look at it as that, was when Rebbe introduced me to Rav Tzadok, which is the thinker that’s influenced everything that I read, and everything that I write, and everything that I do. And I was in 12th grade at the time, and as I’ve written about, it was in Mishmar, and we had Chinese food. It was Wok Tov, Wok Tov. And we all got a Tzidkas HaTzadik, everybody got a sefer, which, you get a book for a mishmar class was unheard of, and everybody was digging into the beef and broccoli, very leibedig, it was very intense. And I remember Rebbe looked at the room, quiet, we’re high school kids, and said, “I need everybody to put away their food in order to hear the next words that I say.” And I remember even that introduction, it shocked me. What could you possibly be saying that can’t be eaten over F12 beef and broccoli order from Wok Tov? But I remember exactly what the words that Rebbe began with, it’s from Tzidkas HaTzadik, Reb Tzadok, in kuf nun daled, and Rebbe began: “K’sheim she’adam tzarich” –

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

“l’hamin b’hakadosh baruch hu kach tzarich achar kach l’hamin b’atzmo. Sheyesh l’hakadosh baruch hu esek…”

David Bashevkin:

Yeah. That just as you have to believe in God, you also need to believe in yourself. And I wanted to unpack that a little bit, which is the role of self and personality in religious development. In a lot of times when Rebbe writes, he talks about this something, this unspoken, intangible, ineffable, whatever word you wanna use, this something. And I guess that’s the self. And my question is, if you don’t have the personality that’s receptive to that, then how do you find it?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

There are personalities that are more open to that, but I believe b’emunah sheleima that given the right circumstances, sometimes the circumstances are unfortunate or even tragic, when a person’s heart is more opened, there is a natural longing and naturally yearning that a Jew has, not just to understand more about God, but to have a personal relationship with him. That belief that I have fuels all of the teachings I’ve been doing these past 40 years plus, and my entire existence and relationship that I have with so many people is from that emunah that I have that, yes, there are some Jews that – Look: all of galus, that all these of exile and the Jewish people are described as having a heart of stone, and when Mashiach comes that they will have fleishige hearts, and the hearts will be a lev basar. Meaning there are hearts that have more stony exteriors, but I don’t believe that it’s real, I just don’t believe, I don’t accept it. And it’s just that, to me, there are certain neshamas that I’ve seen that, for whatever reason, from above, Hashem has gone after. He’s not tolerating this delay anymore, and then coming back to him in a close way, in a real way.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

There’s a vort from the Divrei Yisrael that I’ve said very often, from the Modzitzer, which says in the pasuk, “V’salachti b’soichechem v’hayisi lachem l’elokim.” I will walk together with you and I’ll be your guide. And Rashi says over there, it’s in B’chukosay, Rashi says, “V’salachti b’soichechem: atayel imachem b’gan eden k’echad mikem.” I want to take a walk with you in gan eden, k’echad mikem. Hashem says, “I want to be like one of you. And you’re not gonna be afraid of me, we’ll walk together in gan eden.” And the Modzitzer says that the same way that a Jew has a place that’s called gan eden, whether that’s in this world or in some other worldly place, the Ramban talks about that in Toras Adam, but there is this ideal, beautiful place called paradise, called gan eden, somewhere. So the Modzitzer said, “Hashem also has a gan eden, but Hashem’s gan eden is in the heart of a Jew. That’s Hashem’s gan eden. And Hashem says, ‘I want to take a walk with you. I don’t want you to be afraid of me. I want to be like you, to be with you, and to take a walk with you.'”

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

I think Hashem is Hashem for whatever reason. How this happens and why it happens, because I’ve seen it so many times, that there are certain Jews that Hashem has chosen earlier than the others to say that your time has come for this shpatzir, for this walk with me, it’s time to take this walk with me. Sometimes, how that happens, what are the conditions of it happening? It’s a mystery to me, it’s amazing to watch, but I’ve seen those who appear on the outside to be furthest away, who they won’t have any connection at all, to be outspoken, like Rav Shlomo Carlebach used to say, “Not only are they atheist, they believe in atheism,” they manage to believe in it. And I’ve seen that facade fall away in a second. And I always believe it’s a facade. The person could be hiding behind intellectualism or something that he read or something, or some, usually it’s some emotional terror or fear that could be holding him back. But it’s there all the time, by some people it’s more under the surface and by others it’s closer to the surface.

David Bashevkin:

So when rebbe was describing his initial Chassidus rishona, so he spoke about father maybe being concerned that you took on too much too quickly, and I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on that, particularly, not the people who are so far away, but how you view people who have come close and been a part of, maybe even the shul, and this, and then it just, it fizzles out. It doesn’t just fizzle out, sometimes it really explodes. And I think it, to me, I always look at that, I think of, anytime I hear a story of somebody who was close and who was once upon a time, I always think, I want to ask, what could we have done differently? What could that person have done differently to make their experience more sustainable?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

You know there’s a word that kids use now, kids I mean into their twenties already. There’s a word that I find that’s being used in a different context and more than ever before: “normal”. The word “normal”. When I hear my granddaughters talk to each other, the granddaughters, “Oh, she’s normal.” They’ll say something like, “no, no, no, not really yeshivish, not really chassidish, like, normal, really normal.” And what exactly fits into a child’s definition or an adolescent’s definition of being normal? I think that much of the fear that people have of spirituality and of even exploring the possibility of having a connection to Hashem is the fear of losing their grip on what they consider to be normal or what their friends and family consider to be normal.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

And when Rebbe Nachman told the story about, the famous story about the Prince who thought he was a turkey and was pecking at crumbs under the table, and all the wise men of the kingdom didn’t know what to do with this guy until the tzadik came, this chacham came, and he got undressed and he went under the table and he’s also pecking at crumbs. And the Prince turned into a turkey, looks at this tzadik and says, “What’s this, what’s your story?” Here’s what he said, “You’re the only turkey in the world? I’m also a turkey.” And over time, of course, the Prince remember that he was a Prince.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

So I believe that what’s happened to many of the chevra for whom it didn’t seem to work or hasn’t yet worked, or there was a detour, a departure, that a lot of it has to do with an exposure to Yiddishkeit in an idealized way, on the part of a person, on the part of people who have the best, most beautiful, wonderful intentions, but that somehow it was transmitted in a way, or it was perceived in a way, that condemned the person to feeling that I am presently in an abnormal situation.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

One of the greatest struggles I’ve had here in the shul. I was actually just talking to my friend Reb Efrem Goldberg last night, we did a podcast last night, and I was talking to him about this phenomenon, that is unfortunately not uncommon, where you’ll have somebody that received Yiddishkeit in a way that was very powerful, that was very, very beautiful. But he wasn’t, he really wasn’t ready yet to take certain steps in a practical way. And one of the greatest challenges that we’ve had here in the shul, I told Reb Efrem, was that bringing the women along on the journey. Because the guys are here all day long, and we have all the shiurim, we farbrengen, we go places, we hang out in the Ukraine, and we hang out in Poland, have a lot of fun in Auschwitz and Majdanek with all these great places.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

And what about our tzadkaniyos, what about the women? This has been a tremendous challenge, my wife is unbelievable, she’s picked up a lot of this. And I try with the shiurim, and I try to make it more experiential. We’ve recently these fireside chats during this period of COVID, I try with my wife together, but at the end of the day, at the end of the day, what has often happened is that at some point a person can begin to look at himself and to feel that, I’ve lost my connection to my wife. I’ve lost my connection to my parents. I’ve lost my connection to my kids, if they’re a little bit older, I’m just, I’m unhinged. And the cause of that disengagement will usually be traced back – right or wrong, but oftentimes right – will be traced back to that Yiddishkeit that was swallowed up, large spoonfuls of it, without a proper amount of milsa d’bedichusa, humor, a proper amount of common, healthy human adventure, I don’t know what else to call it.

David Bashevkin:

I’m afraid to, how to phrase this, but my question is, I’m thinking about what happens when the person inspiring them and fomenting the unhinge and fomenting the unhealthy steps is you? Meaning, when there is a, and I have such… So much of my growth has been from your words, and there is a intoxicating, dare I say, quality to the Torah and the way that you speak. Have you ever had talmidim and students who you said, cut it out, something like –

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

A hundred percent. And there’s no question, because you’re such a bal derech eretz and we love each other, there’s no question that I’ve been guilty of that, and I do believe that over the, guilt meaning of giving over such a thing and just letting it go, and then seeing the mess I left behind. And I think that over the years I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about that, I’ve tried to calm down a little bit and to mature in certain ways. But I believe that the greatest chachma in this sugya of communicating Hashem to others could be explained in a… there’s a beautiful Torah from the Beis Yaakov from Izhbitz where he discusses the mitzvah of prika and te’ina. Now you all know that there’s an animal that’s being, that your friend’s animal’s being crushed by its, by the load, then you have to help, there’s a mitzvah of prika to help to take off, unpack. And the mitzvah of te’ina is if there’s someone that needs help loading up the animal. So then you help that person, azov tazov.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

So the mitzvah of prika and te’ina. So the Izhbitzer explains that sometimes you see a Jew who’s just feeling empty. He’s living an empty life, seems to be living an empty life, and he has no connection to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, just a bare, empty life. The other mitzvah is a mitzvah of te’ina, trying to load up some Yiddishkeit on him. But the Rebbe says that just as there’s a mitzvah of te’ina, of telling a Jew, “Listen there’s a borei olam, and 120, we’re going to face him and so on,” and, and I guess giving that intoxicating drink of God’s presence to a person, so the Izhbitzer says a very radical thing. He says that sometimes you see a Jew that’s overwhelmed with God. In other words, he’s being weighed down by Yiddishkeit, he’s been crushed by Yiddishkeit. Either because of a parent or rebbe, whatever it is, or just because of his own learning or reading, he’s been crushed by Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s presence, and he’s not breathing anymore, he’s losing his breath. So the Izhbitzer says there’s a mitzvah of prika, that you have to, not God forbid to tell him he doesn’t have to keep Shulchan Aruch, it’s a chachma how to take off some of the packages of God’s presence. And that’s where people often get confused on the balance. When you learn Torah, let’s say, from the tzadikim, so you have some people that the only Torahs they ever noticed from the Berditchever, or from Rebbe Nachman, is the Torahs that say “God loves you”. There’s nothing in the world you could do that’s wrong. You are, and even the choices, talking about Izhbitz, even the choices that you have made now we know were not really your choices and so on. And there are those individuals that those are the Torahs that they’re looking for. The Torahs of –

David Bashevkin:

Snip everything –

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Snipping, unburdening, relieving, and to feel good about my Yiddishkeit, to feel good about God and all of that. Those people oftentimes need some packages to be put on, and to have a healthy dosage of madreigas ha’adam, something strong yiras shamayim. On the other hand, the Jews who have been through the yeshiva system with all of the wonderful people that are part of it, many of those are survivors of a system in which, from an early age, the Yiddishkeit was piled up big, Hashem’s anger, that you’re a sinner in the hands of an angry God type of stuff, it was piled big time on their shoulders. And we have to come to them and know when to take a little bit, how to pull that off and to reveal a gentler side of the creator.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

So that’s the trick when it comes to dealing with so many people. I could be talking to a group, I could be talking, now especially with the Zoom, I did something with Shlomo Katz at the beginning of COVID, we had 10,000 people, and there was something recently, it was like 40,000 people. So I don’t know who I’m even talking to. So there’s no question that some of the things I’m saying could be crushing a person, while for another person who’s hearing that it could be giving them, taking off that, and giving them the air to breathe, it’s scary.

David Bashevkin:

Did Rebbe ever have a period, going back to that Chassidus rishona, where you felt like you took on too much, and there needed to be something lifted off?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

I didn’t identify it as that, but it was that. In other words, I had become, there was a certain intensity, and my friends were being scared away. I wasn’t getting invited to the softball game Sunday morning, you know? I just wasn’t getting… I know that they weren’t gonna invite me to the sweet sixteens anymore, Moshe doesn’t talk to girls. I took this whole frum persona on in a very Modern Orthodox setting. And so, okay, but I wasn’t insulted not to be invited to the sweet 16, I get it. But I’m a good ballplayer. I was the star left fielder, I batted third, and I’m not getting invited. So I spoke to that rebbe that I had in Queens, the Satmar chassid, I spoke to him about it, and I told him, “What’s the matter, I was hanging with the guys?” So he said to me, “Chaim Moshe, Chaim Moshe,” I think maybe he said, “You want to be too much like me, you want to look like me and you want to be like me.” And he says, “kodem kol, I’m not even like me that you think I am, that’s aleph. And beis, if you do want to become an authentic oved Hashem just take it slowly.” As he said, just take it slowly. Now I didn’t know exactly how to do that. What did that mean? That I could still be with the guys.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

So I have a good sense of humor, and I try to use my humor as a way to get back to the ballpark, to the playground. And to some degree it worked, but to some degree there was an intensity that did set me apart. I think what was life-changing for me without a question where I was able to find more of a healthy way was my wife, my wife. She just took upon herself that this project of Chaim Moshe, I was a project. And I learned how to, with her and through her, to laugh more freely again.

David Bashevkin:

So thinking a little bit about interpersonal relationships, I look at the whole conversation, everything that I’ve heard from you is still that negotiation between the emunas atzmo and the emunah in Hakadosh Baruch Hu, in God, from those first words of Reb Tzadok. My early memories… I’ll confess here, and I have an article where I told Rebbe I’m writing. I don’t even know that I’ve ever davened by the shul, and I’m not certain that I’ve ever heard a shiur from rebbe in person in my whole life. Maybe once, twice. I think a lot of my memories come from tapes, when the tapes were going around, something special about the tapes, and the cassettes. I remember that Rebbe on Parshas Vayeshev, this is probably 20 years ago, was talking about the frustration and the realization that Yaakov in the Torah had, that it could be that he’s not gonna have any good in the next world, and he also doesn’t have any good in this world. It’s also not good for him in this world. And in there, it’s a throw-away line, where you were talking about people dressing a certain way and wearing dignified clothes or whatever it was, and you said, “And I’m not talking about dressing chassidish,” and you had a few words after, you said, “Don’t drag me into your smallness. Don’t drag me into your smallness.” And I love the line, I think about it a lot.

David Bashevkin:

I never have the guts to say it to anybody, but I think about it a lot. But I was wondering if Rebbe will allow, not to be chalilah dragged into smallness, but to talk a little bit about when somebody is trying to concretize their experience. So, on the one hand, there are a lot of people who, they want to start dressing a certain way, and it makes it tangible, it makes it real. It gives it that quality. You know, there’s that famous story, I think Reb Carlebach’s story, where he says, “I wanted my kids to have peyos that are three feet long so their children, they’ll cut off a little bit, and their grandchildren, and that way in three generations they’ll still have something.” And then on the other hand, I’ll confess for myself, even at my most high moment, I think I was scared to ever do anything very outward. There was a period I wore a black hat, but I was afraid because the moment I took on something, I was afraid I was going to lose it.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

From that first moment. I was afraid to grow peyos. What are they going to say? What’s gonna be when I cut it off? And I was wondering if I could step into how, what’s the right way to negotiate the outward expressions of one’s religious commitment, and then the necessarily shaky ground that your life is going to unfold?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Each person is different. I don’t see that there’s, there’s not one formula for it. There’ll be an individual, my chevra know that if they’re going to ask me after being involved in learning, Chassidus, pnimius haTorah for a short time, and they’re going to ask me, “Is it okay if I put on a gartle?” I’ll always say things like, “Why don’t you try going to the mikvah first a little bit more? Why don’t you try doing things that nobody sees except God himself? Do things that are more internal than external at the beginning.” It’s only when I’ve seen someone that’s really been working at things in earnest. I mean, those who are asking my… I don’t offer my advice to people unless they ask me. If they ask me, when I see someone that’s been working in earnest at internalizing the things that we’re learning, even then I can hardly remember a time that I ever, ever suggested something external. I can hardly remember a time.

David Bashevkin:

Does Rebbe ever look, meaning… Do you ever have the pit in your stomach when you see somebody, and they come in, and they’ve been there for a while, and they’re changing, and they haven’t asked you for advice, but in the pit of your stomach, you’re like, “I hope this ends well, I hope this -”

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Sure. Sure. Sometimes I’ll go over it. With somebody that I’m very close to, I’ll go and ask, like, “What’s the story? What do you think you’re doing?” All of a sudden he starts putting his hat up, wearing it up, something like that, or whatever, some other kind of a very, more of an extreme thing that he’s accustomed to. I’ll often talk to those guys about, that you have to proceed with caution to be very, very careful. I’ve seen many crashes over the years. I’ve tried to prevent crashes, I’ve, I’ve probably caused a number of crashes and then tried to pull it back, and it was later in the game, but I definitely see that, I see that very often. You look at, it’s like, today’s a very warm and humid day, and you look out the window and we have, the Five Towns has a high percentage of those holy flip outs, right?

David Bashevkin:

Mm-hmm, sure.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

You’ll see some guy in his Shabbos when it’s 10 degrees hotter than this with the neck tie and a jacket and a hat, and he’s just, he’s awkwardly trying to be yeshivish. He’s just, it’s a second language. So he’s trying to be yeshivish… It could be that even the baby in the stroller, he could be that he’s put some head covering, or maybe he’s drawn some peyos on the side of his face as they grow in. And I just feel like screaming out from the window, “Listen, buddy, you gotta be careful.” Because God’s had enough suffering of his people. Yiddishkeit is not something that’s supposed to cause you to suffer. And if you take this on too early and too fast, then you’re not ready for, you don’t have the keilim for them, Yiddishkeit becomes abnormal for you. It’s just a question of when you’re going to notice that you’re not… You know how many times I’ve seen this? I had a mother that called me last, no, it was Shavuos time, she called me that she sent off to the yeshivas, to the world of the yeshiva, her kid wanted to go into that, she sent off a kid that spoke to his siblings, that was happy, that was funny, that was like with it. And she’s totally fine with his Yiddishkeit, she wants him to be a talmid chacham, that’s not the issue. I know the family for a long time. But she said he forgot how to emote, he forgot how to, he came back stone, like a piece of stone. She was telling me how the biggest bracha in her life as a mother with this boy was Corona.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

He was back home, she had him for three months. She had him for three months. She said the last few weeks he’s starting to talk to his sisters again. He’s starting to laugh. He’s starting to… And the Yiddishkeit is good, the Yiddishkeit is good, he’s keeping everything, he’s going to davening. I just have watched my son return to the human race. Now, why did that happen? How did that happen? There are certain individuals that have a netia to that, how it happened, so she wants me to, she asked if we can get together and talk about some things, and I said, when he’s ready, if he’s interested I’ll talk to him, I’m not going to call him up, but if he’s interested. I haven’t heard from him yet. But the Corona, it’s an interesting thing, there are quite a few stories like that.

David Bashevkin:

Being back in the home in the rhythm of family…

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Yeah, yeah.

David Bashevkin:

Maybe a little bit later, yeah.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Yeah, family, not having, not davening in the yeshiva, and keeping up with a certain scene, with a certain picture. Now within the city, of course, a good environment is something which is, which can promote a good Yiddishkeit as well, but for a lot of the chevra that took on stuff, this is the kind of people we’re talking about, they took on stuff very quickly, or they weren’t ready for certain things in Yiddishkeit, they lose their humanity along the way. Rav Kook in Oros HaTeshuva speaks a lot about that, about teshuva, and being very careful that teshuva should not take away from your natural, healthy instincts, your personality.

David Bashevkin:

B’atzmo, yeah.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

You lose your personality, many people just lose their personality, and they take on this new personality. So I know that there was a time of my life that I was close to doing that, and my wife was able to see through to my real personality and allow me to try to be as firm as I wanted, while being able to still tell a joke or, I guess, off the air, you know, if I had to back then to listen to a little bit Simon and Garfunkel. And it’s okay, Moshe, it’s okay for now. It’s okay, you’ll see later on, it’s okay. She saved my life in that way.

David Bashevkin:

We’ve been going for a while, I don’t want to take up too much of Rebbe’s time.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

I’m talking too much.

David Bashevkin:

No, no, my questions all take twenty five minutes. I had two more major ideas I wanted to talk about, and then I have much quicker points. So we named this project 18Forty, which is a strange name for a project. You know, Jews love their acronyms, or the Jewish, this project, Jewish education, or whatever it is. And we chose instead a year, and the year 1840 is quite significant, as Rebbe knows, there was a lot of modernity and a lot of… it was the… there was an intellectual revolution, the industrial revolution. I was wondering if Rebbe could talk a little bit about the moment that we’re in now, that we’re seeing an explosion of, on the one hand, a lot more reasoned, but atheistic, agnostic, or removed from anything in Torah, but high quality media, in a way. And then on the other, we have an explosion of mysticism happening at the same moment, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about, why are these two happening at the same time?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

You know, if we had the time we would talk about, about 1840, really what happened beginning in 1840, or at that time, that the Zohar talks about, and the higher waters and the lower waters and the higher wisdom and the lower wisdom. What all of these people have in common, whether it’s the profound atheist or the mystic, but they all have in common is that they’re looking for some great meaning in life, some purpose in life. For one person, the answer is God, for the person, the answer is turning away from God and finding that within secular humanism, whatever that might be. But what they all share in common, and what’s happening now is that, to a large extent people are not apathetic. They’re not apathetic. The revolution of 1840, our revolution of the higher orders and lower orders beginning to move towards each other, was this need for something in my life that is deeper, that’s significant, that’s overarching, it’s great, it’s something big. Rav Kook saw in kefira was his colleagues, they were screaming and yelling and hanging up signs in Meah Shearim everywhere, Rav Kook saw in that passionate kefira of that generation, who were raised in homes in the shtetlach in the cities of Russia and Poland, that they were mostly from very religious homes. He saw tremendous value in that rebellion against institutionalized Yiddishkeit. He saw even in secular Zionism, which he was staunchly opposed to, as something, as a legitimate expression of avodas Hashem, but he saw in secular Zionism a tremendous, tremendous signpost of a great spiritual awakening.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

He saw that in atheism as well, he saw that in atheism as well. But what the Chozeh from Lublin said, give me any time a guy that’s sitting in a bar, waving a drink, using foul language, and singing a profane song to some sad, meditative philosopher sitting on a bench somewhere thinking. Because he said, the guy that’s waving the beer and it’s on fire with something, he’s going to be a crazy, crazy chassid of Hashem. And the one that’s sitting sad and depressed on a bench some place in the park, it’s going to be hard to break through. So I believe that since 1840, since taf resh, that the world is crazy, crazy, mamish crazy. The Beatles were part of that in the 60s, the hippies, and whatever form of kefira the world is adapting at a particular time, to Rav Kook and subsequently to me who was a student of that, oh, I don’t see that at all as, I don’t see that at all as anything which is a sign of us moving further away from redemption, I believe that it’s all a sign of us getting closer to redemption. Everything’s a sign of getting closer to redemption, it’s unbelievable. Like we were learning last week in the Rav Kook chaburah, we were learning the Oros HaKodesh about the higher waters and lower waters, that’s what he’s speaking about, maysa bereishis, maysa merkava, science and Torah. There’s no argument between science and Torah, there’s no argument between the higher waters and lower waters. They’re two long lost lovers that have been separated from each other. Kefira itself, atheism itself, when it’s hartzig, when it’s passionate, I’ve seen so many of them go down big time into Yiddishkeit and to emunah. But when you combat atheism with intellectualism, and you think that if you come up with a better answer than the atheist, that’s when you run into trouble, because these chevra are not looking for better answers, they’re looking for God.

David Bashevkin:

So we’ll, I was going to ask a third question, but I’m going to use it to segue into some of the shorter posts. You wrote in Klal Perspectives a few years ago about the need to teach emunah, the need to teach faith in the high schools. Coming back to what we’ve been talking about throughout Chassidus rishona vs. Chassidus shnia, I was wondering if you could talk about, what books would you recommend, not for Chassidus rishona, but for people who, they went through a Jewish education, and it is what it is, they landed where they landed, and now it’s Chassidus shnia, maybe it’s a third, fourth, fifth hakafa, who knows. Where would rebbe say to begin? And if possible, maybe it’s the same doorway, but if there’s one doorway for a book or idea or a topic in the world of emunas Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and do you think it’s a separate book for exploring emunas atzmo?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Baruch Hashem we’re living in an amazing time, and there are many, many sefarim and many, many books that are now available that weren’t around. I remember when I was growing up, I went to yeshiva in Queens, YCQ in Jamaica, not Kew Garden Hills in Jamaica. And there was an Israeli, called the Israeli shop, the Israeli story. It was a sefarim store, there were very, very few sefarim, there’s so much now. So first of all, it’s a question of whether or not somebody is actually able to learn sefarim, to read Hebrew, and is fluent in learning sefarim, or if it’s somebody that needs more…

David Bashevkin:

Are there English… Specifically English?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Yeah. So then if we talk, talking about English, baruch Hashem. I’ll give you a few examples of what’s being done that I have found is having an extraordinary amount of success reaching chevra that are looking for that phase two, phase three, and moving forward. There’s a tzadik that lives in Eretz Yisrael, in Beit Shemesh, Rav Avraham Zvi Kluger, Rav Kluger. He’s the author of, already by now there must be 30 sefarim, more. He began with Nezer Yisrael. I have a close relationship with him, he’s an extraordinary person, absolutely extraordinary person who was raised in the insular world of Klausenberg, Eretz Yisrael, but he gets it, he just gets it. So there’s a translation of his Yichud Hisbodedus, that’s called “One,” O-N-E, that is an introduction to developing a shprach, a way of speaking and hearing, speaking to and hearing from Hashem that’s very, very clear, that’s very healthy, it’s called One, by Rav Kluger. All of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh’s sefarim, the ones that are translated, there are already quite a few, even Das Nishmascha, somebody got it off the computer and they had it printed up on Central Avenue, many of those things can be printed up. But the earliest sefarim have already been translated into English. Das Atzmecha has been translated in English, Das Nafshecha I think is in English, even Das Nishmascha is in English. Exceptionally, exceptionally clear without being weighed down with a million Chazals, without this sefer says, this sefer says, just Elokus, godliness, and how to begin to work practically on achieving a relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

It’s a primer to the world of hisbodedus, and hisbodedus of serious work in avodas Hashem. You have, look, Breslovers put out, my friend, Reb Chaim Kramer, he should have a refuah, Reb Chaim Kramer and Chabad have put out such amazing things. They were ahead of their time, they still are, with putting out. But by way of crossing over into the world of ruchnius, so many people have had tremendous success using the books of the Nesivos Shalom. Now you have someone who’s been adapting them, a fine talmid chacham that’s been putting out Nesivos Shaloms, it’s always a safe and healthy way of entering into, gently into pnimius, into pnimius haTorah. But Rebbe Nachman’s stories, what Breslov has done, Reb Nachman’s Torah, Likutei Moharan. I recommend for any person who’s serious about pnimius haTorah, you have to learn Tanya cover to cover three, four times, and if you need to get some help with listening to shiurim from mashpi’im that are out there, there are some very good people and wonderful shiurim.

David Bashevkin:

Is there a… does Rebbe ever feel comfortable, I guess this is a little bit of a tricky question, but books that are written with a syntax or a language that’s a little bit more modern? Maybe Aryeh Kaplan did this, but are there… It’s dangerous, because when you talk about mysticism, Chassidus, everything we’ve been talking about, how easily it can be misunderstood, you have to be discriminating about what you’re willing to look at. But again, assuming this is a Chassidus shnia shlishis type of individual, and somebody who’s reading higher level, all this stuff –

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Yeah. There are some wonderful things in English that are more geared towards those kinds of people that are written with yiras shamayim – I wouldn’t recommend things that are written without yiras shamayim – that are written with yiras shamayim. For instance, there’s a book on Izhbitz written by a woman, Dr. Ora Wiskind –

David Bashevkin:

She’s the other interview, we have her.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Yeah. It’s a masterpiece.

David Bashevkin:

She’s unbelievable.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

She’s exceptional, exceptional. See here we have yiras shamayim together with…

David Bashevkin:

It’s on every page.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

She’s articulate, and real, and she gets it, and she understands. And there are other people that are like that are out there in Hebrew, there’s tons of stuff, [inaudible] the Hesder chevra, they put out, there’s tons of stuff from the Hesder chevra. They’re putting out high quality stuff on Chassidus. Rav Shagar, that’s a little bit different, to pull up this high quality work that’s, you just go through this… And Binyanei Hauma, the week of yud tes Kislev, and what’s coming out from the Mizrachi Hesder yeshiva chevra, sophisticated, attractive, beautifully, beautifully written on Chassidus.

David Bashevkin:

Two very quick, I end with these, and I apologize if… I always like to know people’s schedules, so I’m curious: Is Rebbe, Rebbe usually winds down and goes to sleep at what time, and when does Rebbe usually wake up?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Okay, it’s interesting, nobody ever asked me that, but it’s an interesting question. Baruch Hashem, yesterday was my 63rd birthday, so as I’ve gotten a little bit older, so I’ve had to make some adjustments, but generally I was able to, for all of the years, to basically, I was able to subsist on between four, four and a half hours of sleep. Now I’ve moved it more to five, five and a half hours, that’s my usual. I don’t, I’m not Yekkish in that way, but I am when it comes to getting up, I’m very, very Yekkish. You have to understand: I was raised… My father alav hashalom, it was on a Sunday morning, I had been out with the guys watching a triple feature, in the movies, I got back like at 3:30 in the morning from watching three movies, sitting in the second row, and I couldn’t put my head. So, and that’s after being in the pizza shop and hanging out and maybe even catching a bowling game at the beginning, game of bowling, and then it would be, my father is knocking on my door and he said, “Yamod habachur hachosson Chaim Moshe Mordechai.” And I hear my mother asking, saying to him in Hungarian, “Let him sleep a little bit, he came very, he came home very late.” My father would say, “What do you think this is over here?” I said, “Daddy, minyan’s not until 7, it’s Sunday morning, there’s no minyan at 6 – ” My father said, “You can’t lie there like a peasant, you got to get up. It’s time to get up.” I said, “I got nothing to do, it’s Sunday morning.” My father said, “Shtei of, up”. So that was my conditioning. So it has stood me well, so I need very little sleep, I don’t get much sleep. And…

David Bashevkin:

So it’s like 12 to 5?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

So I usually, it’s like 12 to like 5:15, right? That’s my schedule. Or 12:30 till, it’s supposed to be from 12 to 5:15.

David Bashevkin:

It’s like my father, I grew up in the same home and I did not inherit any of those genes, unfortunately.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Yeah. Now it’s much less common.

David Bashevkin:

Last question. If somebody were to give Rebbe a stipend, you will take care, a full year, you’ll leave the shul, no shiurim, no anything, we want you to sit and spend the whole time writing a book. What do you think the book would be about?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

So I’m going to answer you honestly, [inaudible] I’m gonna tell you honestly. I dream about that time. I hope there will be a, im yirtzeh Hashem, I’ll be able to have that. I have notebooks and loose Leafs of shiurim that, of drashos and shiurim from over the years, that I’d like to work them through and sit down and try to put them together, it would come out to be probably 30, 40 volumes by this time. Every Shabbos, long shiurim, and then short drashos, and then every Yom Tov, all the ones in between during the week. A lot of it I wouldn’t put in the book anymore, I’ve seen…

David Bashevkin:

Do you have that desire to –

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

I don’t have a strong enough desire. The problem is that my desire to learn new things is always stronger than my desire to go over my old stuff.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

But at the same time, it’s my life’s work, it’s all that I’ve invested. All my life I took thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of thinking and giving over my neshama to chevra. So I have people that are listening to tapes and they’re transcribing some things, but as far as if I would have that time to just put into sheimos a lot of the stuff that should never have been even said to begin with, and once it was said should be hidden. And then a lot of the stuff that I feel is very, very current and very real for the olam now, because I’m not interested in writing something to impress, whether it was interesting from before, I want to speak to the generation now, now, now. So I would try to spend that year distilling out, and I never used a computer in my life, I don’t know how to use a computer, but I need to –

David Bashevkin:

Really?

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

I’ve never touched a keyboard in my life. And I suppose I would have to learn how to do that, or have a staff of serious people that could help me with that, and to go over the material. There’s this, I have sefarim that, just on Lag Be’Omer, there’d be five, six sefarim, 400 pages. And Shabbos, and, besides the parshios, and I have to, I just don’t have the time and enough of a ratzon to go over my own stuff. I’m so much more excited about what other people have to say, but I need to go over my own stuff. I think that that’s… I would love to spend the time, but only if it’s something which is not causing eyes to roll because it’s irrelevant, only if it’s relevant. Can i share with you a tiny story.

David Bashevkin:

Please.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

Maybe you heard from me? I heard this from a chassidishe yid, that he told me that he went to the Rachmastrivka Rebbe in Borough Park, he’s a big tzadik, Reb Yitzchok Chai Twersky, he’s a humble, humble tzadik. He hardly talks. He’s from the real, real tzadikim. Not that I know how to measure that, but it seems to me like that. So this yid told me that he wanted to introduce a relative of his who came from Yerushalayim to the Rebbe here in Borough Park, to the Rachmastrivka Rebbe, and he wanted to make an impression on the Rebbe that this relative of mine is a fatzaytishe chassid. A fatzaytishe chassid, a fatzaytishe yid, means the old school, like the real McCoy, fatzayt, fatzayt. And that was the greatest compliment that he could pay to this relative, he came probably with his stripes from Yerushalayim, you know, a fatzaytishe chassid. So it was Pesach time, and the Rachmastrivka said, “I just read in the Haggadah, the Haggadah says, ‘Mitchila ovdei avodah zara hayu avonosenu,’ that fatzaytish, in the old days our ancestors worshiped idols, ‘v’achshav kervanu hamakom la’avodaso,’ and now Hashem has brought us close to him, to serve him. I don’t need any fatzaytishe chassidim, bring me a chassid from v’achshav, an achshav chassid, not a fatzaytishe chassid. The problem with our education is that a lot of our kids have been exposed to fatzaytishe Yiddishkeit.”

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

It was true. And it’s always true, the Torah is eternal, we use all those words. But you have to know which piece of Hashem’s Torah is resonating right now, with the chevra right now, aliba d’hilchisa, now, Yiddishkeit aliba d’hilchisa. Rebbe Nachman once said to a kofer, “The Ribono Shel Olam you don’t believe in I also don’t believe in.” So going back to those who might be listening who are, who might consider themselves to be atheists, rachmana latzlan that there’s not one of you, if any of you out there, no such thing, no such thing. You know that somebody that’s a non-believer, there is no, there is not one of you that’s a non-believer. It’s not true, it’s simply not true. The God that you don’t believe in, I also don’t believe in. You just haven’t been introduced to Hashem Elokei Yisrael. You might’ve been shown, you might’ve been taught a Gemara, you might’ve been taught some schmooze from 1954, and you think that that’s what, God was saying that at the time, but right now that’s not what God is saying to you. And as soon as we expose our kids and ourselves to the God of taf shin pey, of 2020, there’s no such thing as atheism, there’s no such thing as kefira, no such thing, there never was, there’s no such thing.

David Bashevkin:

Rebbe, thank you so very much, it was such a privilege and pleasure speaking with you.

Rav Moshe Weinberger:

It was good to spend this time with you.

David Bashevkin:

It was such a privilege to speak with Rav Moshe Weinberger, and, you know, it’s funny, I don’t usually speak with people in third person, I’m an eye roller. Nowadays, anybody who’s got rabbi before his name, you have people come up to them, “What does Rebbe think? What does the Rabbi think? What does the -” They’ll talk to you in third person. I’ve never been that kind of person, I’ve always reserved the third person formulation, not to people who are so important, but the people who I feel third personed towards. It’s not an honorific, it’s more of a deep feeling that you change in somebody, which is why throughout my conversation with Rebbe, with Rav Moshe Weinberger, I just didn’t feel comfortable addressing him without that kind of third person feeling, because I do feel a great sense of gratitude, and it was a great privilege to speak with him.

David Bashevkin:

And I think the question that it leaves for me is, how do you take the excitement, the euphoria, that clarity that very often mystical, kabbalistic, Hasidic texts offer, how do you make them sustainable? How do you hang onto that? How do you wed them into your daily practice, into your communal living? Is that impossible? I think for some people, and we touched upon this a little bit in the interview, there are some people who didn’t make it, they were students of his and came to his minyan, and it didn’t work. And for others it works really, really well. And I try to think about, what are the ingredients that allow this to become sustainable, to live that plugged-in, joyful, deeply experiential life where you feel the privilege of being alive every single moment. It’s a high order, and it’s something that people, over the course of their lives, maybe feel for a moment, for a minute, for a day. How do you create a world, a life, a practice where that is a part of your every day life? And I think my conversation, our conversation, with Rav Moshe Weinberger, gave us a great deal to think about in terms of that.

David Bashevkin:

So thank you so much for listening, and if you enjoyed this episode, it wouldn’t be a Jewish podcast without a little bit of shnorring, so please subscribe, rate, and review, tell your friends about it. It really helps us reach new listeners and continue putting out great content. If you’d like to learn more about this topic or some of the other great ones we’ve covered, be sure to check out 18Forty.org. That’s the number one eight, followed by the word “forty”, F-O-R-T-Y, 18Forty.org. You’ll also find videos, articles, and recommended readings. Thank you so much for listening today, and have a meaningful rest of your day.

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