Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rebbe Restores Rustic Relic - (Woodbourne Shul Revived by Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis)

A century ago, Jews flocked to the Catskill Mountains, not merely for the summer months, but to live year-round.

One of the primary reasons for the move, was the farming profession, which allowed Jews to keep the Shabbos. Corporate jobs in the city, required working six days a week, with Sunday as the only day of rest.

Monticello, Liberty, Hurleyville, Glen Wild, Woodridge, South Fallsburg, Ellenville, Livingston Manor and Woodbourne, to name a few, built beautiful town Shuls which remain standing to this day.

One of the pleasures of Davening in one of these rustic relics of the past is to admire the artwork on the walls, the high domed ceilings, the stained glass windows, the ancient radiators, the musty basements and the simplistic, yet endearing architecture of the Aronei Kodesh.

Although a few of these Shuls still operate year round, others gather dust until they are revived by their summer guests.

Several years ago, the Nikolsberger Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, embarked on a plan to restore the Woodbourne Shul to it's former glory. Although Woodbourne hosted a Seforim store, the city was more famous for it's pizza, ice cream and pool tables, not to mention as serving as a meeting place for teenagers.

Rabbi Jungreis instituted round the clock Davening, provides hot food, cake and drinks as well as a listening ear for countless youngsters looking for guidance. The 93 year old Shul now serves as a bustling meeting place for Ruchniyus.

Kol HaKavod to the Rebbe.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Borscht Belt Bungalow Bygones - I Remember When II - Catskills Edition

Some of my best memories occurred during various summers spent in the Catskill Mountains. As the summer draws to a close, I compiled a list of memories that will take the reader down memory lane - and hopefully inspire some nostalgic comments.

I remember when

Jamesway, Ames, Shopright, Sullivan's, Great American.
Mom's famous Woodbourne Pizza Knish.
4 corners waterfall and hitch-hiking.
Browns, Pines, Nevele, Raleigh, Homowack, Grossingers.
Kiamesha, Ellenville and Liberty bowling.
GL1-2121 Billboards.
Lucky Dip, Pizza, pool at Woodbourne.
Tomsco Falls.
Moped renting.
Produce and hayride at Taivail Farm, Woodbourne.
Ice Caves Mountain.

Orange County Fair.
Catskill Game Farm.
Apollo Mall.
Farmers Market.
Mountain Fruit.
MBD, Fried, Shlomo Carlebach concerts.
Bears, deer, skunk, raccoons.
Washing machine shortage after the 9 days.
Blueberry picking.
Candle in the bottle for Eicha.

Arts and Crafts.
Shabbos Nachamu.
Mountaindale Lions.
Hakol B'Sefer Schlep it sale.
Cocoa Club.
Mosquito bites.
Color War.
Camp Munk circus.
Canoeing at Morning Side, Liberty, Loch Sheldrake, White Lake.
Old Town Shuls.
Neversink river and reservoir.
Yeshiva South Fallsburgh.

Route 17, 42, 52.
Harris and Ellenville hospitals.
Frogs, toads, salamanders.
Camp Fires Kumzitz.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Senator Sings Shabbos Songs - Joe Lieberman: The Gift of Rest

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman has recently published a book which describes the beauty and serenity of Shabbos, and his attempt to follow it's laws while serving as a public servant.

I think that it is very notable that such a high ranking official of the United States saw fit to write a book, geared to all Americans, that promotes the idea of a Day of Rest.

Joe serves as an important role model in asking that people turn off their electronic gadgets for one day a week. If a US senator is able to shut off his blackberry for 24 hours, certainly teenagers can be persuaded to give up TXTing for a day.

Aside from the Shabbos lessons that Joe is teaching fellow Americans, I especially appreciated the personal vignettes. His meeting with Sarah Palin, his Shabbos spent with Al and Tipper Gore, his conversation with George Bush II; these stories add a historic flair to a topic that I and most of my readers are fluently familiar with.

Notable is his explanation for publicly criticizing Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky matter, while still voting against impeachment. Also remarkable is his recounting of a Brocha his mother received from a Chassidic Rebbe, that he would grow up to be a "leader of people". Also noteworthy are his mentions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson and Rabbi Johnathan Sacks.

The language is surprisingly simple. I would expect a Senator to use a rich vocabulary, yet I imagine that the simplicity is due to his genuine regard to teach the reader what Shabbos is, and why it is important.

As often mentioned on this blog, the messianic era is dawning. As our rabbis have taught us, if we all would keep 2 Shabbosos in a row, Moshiach would arrive. Perhaps having a high ranking official author such a book is a necessary step in reaching this goal.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blood Bares Biblical Belief

It has been in the news recently that a simple blood test can now determine whether an embryo is male or female. What is interesting, though, is that the determination can be made at a mere six weeks into pregnancy with 99% accuracy.

I find this interesting, because precisely 40 days into pregnancy is a significant milestone in the Talmud. The Talmud states in Berachos 54A

היתה אשתו מעוברת ואומר יהי רצון שתלד אשתי זכר הרי זו תפלת שוא

"If one's wife is pregnant and he says let it be thy will that my wife bears a son, this is a prayer in vain.”

Yet this is qualified by the codifiers that one may pray up until the 40th day after conception: See the Tur in Orach Chaim 230.

The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 230:1) explains that this is because until 40 days, the embryo is not “formed” yet.

The source for this observation might be the Talmud in Menachos 99B

ר' יוחנן ור' אלעזר דאמרי תרוייהו תורה ניתנה בארבעים ונשמה נוצרה בארבעים

“Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar both say that Torah is given at 'forty', and the soul is formed at 'forty'.”

All in all, I find this more than coincidental.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Reminiscing Remembering Reminding Reflecting

These dog days of summer invariably lead one to reflect on the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh. These are the days when tragedy crouches around the corner, waiting to rear it's ugly head.

Unfortunately, this year the beast was unleashed early. Chazal say that when destruction is visited upon us, we need to reflect on our deeds. While no one really knows what cause effects which affect, we can certainly speculate.

In my popular I remember when post, readers and I lamented on how simple life was years ago. One could drink orange juice made from concentrate, one could drive a yeshivishe car and one could attend Yeshiva Gedolah outside of Lakewood and still get married. One could even dwell in a bungalow with no telephone for 10 weeks.

Children did not get debilitating diseases and die, Jews did not molest and kill and no one felt the need to install security cameras. Meeting a Jew with a Yarmulka meant you were doing business with someone trustworthy.

Yet, as if to fulfill some macabre [deleted] dream, we have sadly tried to become a nation like all others. Perhaps we need to do a little more Avodas HaLev and make ourselves aware of our innate-difference so that our beacon once more shines on the other nations of the world and subsequently - ourselves.

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