“Let Don Siegleman be with us for Next Shabbos”

don_happy.jpgLast Friday night, at a massive Hillel Purim/Shabbat table at Congregation Lubavitch-Long Beach the Purim spirit was intense. We had been singing since 5 o’clock, and after many hours, the room was ringing with our joyous songs. We were pounding the tables and the floors were getting treacherous. Delicious shnitzels, BBQ chicken wings, and other dishes were piled on huge platters, and kept coming out of the kitchen. Ice-cold pitchers of Heineken and many other drinks, going fast and furiously. The party was so holy and so beautiful. I got up to make toasts and L’Chaims. I had been in the same place for several hours.

I gave a roaring toast to the assembled students, alumni, members of the community starting with LChaim, tovim, u’sholom, she yibane beis ha mikdash bimheira v’yameinu, u sen chelkeinu v’torasecha…. and so on for several minutes. Then my wife Rachel yelled in my ear “Don.”

I yelled out “And Let Don Seigleman be with us for Next Shabbos!” Only some in the room understood what I was talking about—former Alabama Govenor Don Siegleman has been unjustly imprisoned for nine months in a work camp, denied being free on bail during his appeal, and featured recently on 60-minutes, MSNBC, and in congressional hearings—but it didn’t because it was Purim and everyone gave a resounding, a gigantic “L’Chaim,” and the singing commensed again. At the table was Dana, Don’s only daughter, who works with us at Beach Hillel. Dana, Rachel and I prayed that Purim would be a yeshua, a redemption for Dana’s dad.

The phone rang this morning and Dana told us the amazing news. Her father was set free just moments before, and she reminded us of the story at Purim, and how she remembered what I had said about “next Shabbos” and how impossible that felt. Thousands of his supporters have been fighting for his release from day one, and it was improbable that anything would change too fast. Then yesterday, the news came that he was wanted for testimony on his case on Capital Hill, and the entire wheel started turning:

OAKDALE, La. — Former Gov. Don Siegelman rolled through the gates of the Oakdale Federal Detention Center at 11:10 a.m. [Friday], released pending an appeal after eight months behind bars.

“I may have lost my freedom for a while,” Siegelman said. “But I never lost faith.”

Siegelman stepped out of a black Chevrolet SUV to speak to reporters. He was wearing a torn gray sweatshirt

over a T-shirt.

He said he would have more to say tonight in Birmingham.

“Now, I’m sure you understand this, I want to be with my family for a few days,” he said.

At his house in Birmingham, a red, white and blue balloon floated above the mail box this afternoon and more yellow and silver ones were attached near the front door to welcome the former governor home.

That is Purim – everything can and does change in the blink of an eye. Mazel Tov to all the Siegelman’s and their supporters, Baruch Hashem and Shabbat Shalom!

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30 day sex challenge


It is nice to see a Christian minister with a sex positive attitude for a change. Of course if you are single, it’s more like, 30 days to contemplate sex. CNN and AP report:

YBOR CITY, Florida (AP) — A southwest Florida church issued a challenge for its married members: Hanky panky every day.

Relevant Church head pastor Paul Wirth issued the 30-day sex challenge to take on high divorce rates.

“And that’s no different for people who attend church,” Wirth said Sunday. “Sometimes life gets in the way. Our jobs get in the way.”

The challenge doesn’t extend to unwed congregants, however.

The poor pastor’s servers got overloaded and you can’t access his site 30daysexchallenge.com to find out more details. And I thought this was a nice way to dovetail the previous post which hit upon the intersection of Limmud, Sexperts, and Hungarian Sexual morays of the 19th century. Suffice to say, it was an exciting talk.

Regarding the pastor and his challenge—you’ll have to have a chuppah for all that …..hanky panky.


Why is the Torah finished on Simchat Torah?

From Rabbi Eliezer Kwass, the master teacher from Yeshivat Darchei Noam in Yerusahalayim (aka Shapells).

The Shem Mishmuel on Vezot Habrakha

Hagaon Rav Shmuel Bornstein on Parshat Vezot Habrakha
(from Shem Mishmuel Vezot Habrakha 5672 “B’Rashi)

Why Do We Finish the Torah on Simchat Torah?

Why was the yearly Torah reading schedule set up to finish on Simchat Torah? Surely right before Rosh Hashana would have been a more appropriate finishing time. The Shem Mishmuel offers an explanation through his comments on a Rashi at the beginning of Vezot Habrakha.

When the Torah says that Moshe blessed the Children of Israel before his death, Rashi comments, “If not now, when?” This implies that if Moshe could have delayed giving the blessings any more, he would have. Why?

For a blessing to take effect, teaches the Shem Mishmuel, it is essential that the recipient of the blessing be properly prepared, that he be a “kli kibul,” a vessel ready to receive blessing. [The last Mishna in Shas ends, “G-d found no better blessing holding vessel for Israel than peace, as it says, ‘Hashem gives power to His nation, Hashem blesses His nation with peace.'” This might be why at the opening of Moshe’s blessings he says, “B’hitasef rashei am,” referring to the gathering together of Klal Yisrael.]

Moshe wanted Israel to receive the greatest possible blessings, so, because he saw that they were in a period of spiritual growth (see Devarim 29:3) he wanted to wait for them to reach their maximum level. He, like an investor waiting for his stocks to reach their highest price before selling, delayed giving the blessing as much as he could. When he knew he would soon die, he had no choice – “If not now, when?”

Moshe’s blessings were not a one-time event, says the Shem Mishmuel, but are an eternal yearly one. Each year as we read Parshat Vezot Haberakha, it is as if Moshe is giving every one of us a berakha. We must all therefore make sure we are proper vessels ready to receive the Divine blessings Moshe is channeling towards us.

Therefore our Sages set up the Torah reading schedule so that when Moshe’s blessings come around we are naturally at our highest point. After having repented during the days of Teshuva, receiving atonement on Yom Kippur, and serving Hashem with joy during Sukkot we are ready to receive them. On Simchat Torah we are a fitting vessel to hold Moshe’s blessings.

May we merit receiving all the Torah’s blessings.

[prepared by Eliezer Kwass]


Shem Mi Shmuel

I could not resist posting this amazing translation from the Yiddish Yizkorbuch about the life of the Shem MiShmuel, whose Yarzheit is today. This is from JewishGen.com

Rabbi Zvi Belovski from London has published an amazing book of translations from the Shem MiShmuel, and is available online.

From Wikipedia: Shem Mi-Shmuel is the name for a nine volume collection of inspirational essays on the Torah and Jewish holidays. It is authored by Rabbi Samuel Bornstein (1856-1926) (שמואל בורנשטיין) and it is the name by which he became known among Jews in the world of Torah scholarship.

In this work, Bornstein presented many of the ideas of his father, Rabbi Abraham ben Ze’ev Nachum Bornstein, who was head of the Bet Din of Sochaczew (Poland). The commentary set forth many of the classic ideas of the Hasidic movement. Upon his father’s death, Samuel succeeded him as the rebbe of the Sochaczew Hasidim.

The Admor Rabbi Shmuel of Holy Blessed Memory

by A. Ch.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Second of the house of Sochaczew (known by the name of his book “Shem Mishmuel”)
4 Chesvhan 5617 (1856) – 24 Tevet 5686 (1926)
Notes about his personalityRabbi Shmuel of holy blessed memory was born in the year 5617 in the house of his holy grandfather Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (his righteous mother was Sara Tzina the daughter of the fiery Admor of Kotzk) during the time that his father the Gaon Rabbi Avrahamele was supported at the table of his father-in-law. His youth was spent in Parczow and Krosniewice, places that Rabbi Avrahamele served as rabbi and spread Torah publicly. During those days the young Reb Shmuel soaked up most of his Torah from his father – for the rabbinate did not take much of his time, as he was coronated as a Rebbe only in 5630, — and even at that time the lines of Hassidim that knocked on his door were not too long, and did not disturb him from his learning. Therefore, he was able to give of his time freely to the education and teaching of his only son who was fitting, and to give him to taste of his treasures. Read more