Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Original Cup of Coffee

I recently was struck with a difficult dilemma, how do you make that first cup of coffee in the morning? I like to consider myself a coffee connoisseur, whereas my wife prefers to call it an addiction. I don't really like the word addiction, so many negative connotations. Nevertheless, I often need a good cup of strong java to get my gray matter going early in the morning. Case and point - the other day I added the coffee grounds straight to the cup and then added hot water. It took me a minute to realize my mistake. And I also realized that it can be very difficult to make that first cup of coffee in the morning.

Certainly my experience with the original cup of coffee is similar to Chazal's comment about the original pair of tongs in Pirkei Avot 5:9.
Ten things were created at twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath:
Others add the original tongs, for tongs must be made with tongs.
The true meaning of the verse in Avot could be discussed on many levels: It could be a response to the Prometheus legend - that fire is a gift from HaShem. Perhaps it refers to the fact that the impulse to create technology and tools is part of the divine spark of creation. My own midrashic (and even possibly Chassidic) explanation of this Mishnah is that it refers to the first tools of creation. Only HaShem can create perfect tools ex nihilo. The rest of us are left struggling to make that first cup of coffee in the morning.

ps - As a coffee connoisseur making instant coffee is not an option. In fact, I would boldly state that drinking instant coffee is one of the signs of an unenlightened life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Death of Sarah Imeinu

I have already posted about one of my favorite pieces by the Piaseczno Rebbe regarding Parshat Chayei Sarah and the concept of Yissurin. (That post was in the context of Yom HaShoah)

I don't know if this counts as cross-referencing or it is double-dipping, but you can read (or re-read) that post here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Classic Rock Meets Midrash

In addition to having the זכות to learn with real live Chassidic Rebbes, I also draw religious inspiration from a wide range of Chassidic seforim. However, there is a hidden Rebbe who has much wisdom and religious inspiration despite the fact that he is not necessarily so religious. I like to refer to this man as the Hibbinger Rebbe.

The Hibbinger Rebbe is primarily a singer/songwriter and one of his classic songs is called, "Highway 61 Revisited." This song should be viewed as a modern Midrash/classic piece of Chassidic Torah. The Hibbinger Rebbe devotes an entire verse of this song to his analysis of Akeidat Yitzchak.
  1. Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
  2. Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
  3. God say, "No." Abe say, "What ?"
  4. God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
  5. The next time you see me comin' you better run"
  6. Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin'done ?"
  7. God says. "Out on Highway 61".
Now I don't want to write out a long drawn-out over-analysis of every line, but let me point out a couple of salient details:
  1. (Line 2) Avraham was clearly reluctant to perform the Akeidah. Here the Hibbinger Rebbe clearly disagrees with Rashi 22:3 (ד''ה וישכם) who explains that Avraham was eager to perform HaShem's command.
  2. (Line 5) Regarding the Akediah, the relationship between Avraham and HaShem is based on fear and not on love.
Regarding the significance of the mysterious number 61, the Hibbinger Rebbe has not yet been willing to reveal that secret. Perhaps it refers to the word אני which has a Gematria of 61 (1+50+10) and would clearly represent the existential angst of the individual walking alone. HaShem tells Avraham to perform the Akeidah on Highway 61, on the lonely road. The Hibbinger Rebbe is telling us that HaShem acknowledges the difficulty of the task because Avraham is alone (אני) and separate from everything in the world.

Thank you for reading my analysis of this piece of Chassidic Rock & Roll. If you have not yet heard the actual song, you are missing out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Learning the Esh Kodesh in English

One of my faithful blog readers recently asked me, "Oh great Kabbalah u'Madda. What is the best way for me to learn the Esh Kodesh of the Piaseczno Rebbe in English?"

Here is my reply:

There are two books in English related to the Esh Kodesh: one is an English translation and the other analyzes the sefer.

The translation of the Esh Kodesh is called Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1939-1942 and is translated by J. Heschy Worch. The English is quite readable and there are no explanatory notes or comments. There are many powerful messages contained in the translated divrei Torah, but as you would expect it is difficult to appreciate the Rebbe's chiddushim without knowing the sources that he is quoting.

The analysis of the Esh Kodesh is called The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto by Nechemia Polen. He translates and analyzes portions of the divrei Torah and arranges them into categories.

I have used both books when teaching and I would recommend owning both of them if you can afford it. Both of them are available from Amazon.

Also, I know that R. Moshe Weinberger of the Aish Kodesh shul on Long Island has given shiurim on the Esh Kodesh and they can be purchased online.

Kol Tuv,

Reb Yaakov

ps - You can support Kabbalah u'Madda and purchase these books via the Amazon link at the bottom of the page!

Red Sea Splits Again

I found a news article about a new sea that is beginning to form in Ethiopia. Normally I am not a big fan of science proving miracles from the Torah, but I was intrigued by the idea of a scientific precedent for the splitting of the Red Sea.

Now some of you out there might be screaming, "The Torah refers to the Sea of Reeds, which is not the Red Sea!!!" I am aware that the Red Sea and the Sea of Reeds are indeed two different bodies of water. Nevertheless, I am focusing on the geological phenomena and not the geographical location.

ps - The photograph is actually from Hawaii, but I thought it conveyed the same idea.

Photo Credit -