Meron/Kever Rashbi: New Jerusalem of Kabbalists – מירון/קבר רשב”י: הירושלים החדשה של מקובלים

May 19, 2022

Why are Kabbalah enthusiasts (this category includes many, if not all, modern Chassidim) so dedicated to visiting Meron, especially on Lag Baomer? Why, after the terrible, fatal stampede there last year that took tens of lives, have many recently doubled down on their Meron pilgrimages, clashing with government and police repeatedly in the process, at times violently?

A very important article on the subject was recently published at the Israeli כיכר השבת website. It shows how contemporary Kabbalists, specifically Israeli Chassidic leaders R. Yitzchak Meir Morgenstern and R. Gamliel Rabinowitz, have taught that Meron is more holy than the Western Wall (כותל מערבי), or even the Beis Hamikdash itself ( ! ), nowadays, with R. Rabinowitz saying that it is obligatory to visit Meron at present as it was to visit the Beis Hamikdash when it stood.

Of course, such notions are not accepted by, or known to, most observant Jews nowadays. But leaders and educated members of certain groups or sects are definitely aware of such notions and influenced by them, even if not accepting them totally explicitly in public.

Those who follow the holy mesorah of יהדות אשכנז stand far from such newfangled ideas, remaining mindful of the warnings of the great Chasam Sofer זצ”ל, against exalting מירון over ירושלים עיה”ק, as we have written here in the past.

May הקב”ה help us from falling into errant ideas and philosophies, and exalt the holy city, ירושלים עיה”ק, back to its previous greatness, במהרה בימינו, אכי”ר.

Outstanding KAJ-WH/Breuer’s Historic Gem Now Online – סרט היסטורי נדיר ויקר מאוד מתולדות קהל עדת ישורון פראנקפורט-וואשינגטאן הייטס הועלה לרשת

March 1, 2022

Video of 5734/1974 YRSRH dinner moving picture production, including exceedingly rare footage of the pre-WWII Frankurt Jewish community. Early footage of KAJ-WH in the USA, including Rav Breuer, and Rav Schwab, זללה”ה. Renowned lay leaders. YRSRH scenes. Early days of the בית מדרש ע”ש רב שלמה ברייער with a young R. Yaakov Perlow, later אדמו”ר נאוואמינסק. And more.

A historical and nostalgic feast.

Manifold thanks to breuers2gether once again for sharing such marvelous and special treasure with us.

Watch and learn, view and enjoy.

יישר כחם וחילם

Lag Baomer Heresy Alert, Meron Alternatives, Bonfires Threaten Eruvin, and More: Iyar 5781 Roundup – אזהרה נגד מינות בשירת ל”ג בעומר, חלופות למירון, הדלקות נגד עירובין, ועוד: סקירת אייר תשפ”א

April 29, 2021

One of our most popular features historically has been coverage of the evolving Lag Ba’omer scene. So to keep the tradition going, we present a roundup of relevant news for 5781.

  1. Lag Ba’omer heresy alert: רב אשר ווייס שליט”א, the great תלמיד חכם and posek, has issued a warning against a heretical mispronunciation often heard on Lag Baomer. Those who follow the derech of אשכנז do not say or sing those words, but it is still noteworthy how a Chassidic poseik is speaking out against this serious error. There exist other issues relating to יחס לרשב”י worthy of being addressed as well. Perhaps in the future we will be זוכה.

2. Meron alternatives: Some Chassidim are promoting the idea that by visiting the graves of their Rebbes outside Eretz Yisroel one visits רשב”י as well, as they claim he will be at those sites.

Exhibit #1 – Bobov in New Jersey, USA. Exhibit # 2 – Lubavitch, NYC, USA.

3. Some additional Chassidic Rebbes are taking up the bonfire gig. I guess they figure that if you can’t hold your Chasidim from going off to fires of other Rebbes, join in to keep them close to you.

Exhibit #1 – Bobov-45 Rebbe. Exhibit #2 – Skulener Rebbe.

4. A Chareidi Rav and Eruv supervisor in ארץ ישראל warns against bonfire damage to עירובין, a special concern this year when Lag Ba’omer is on ערב שבת.

Of course, following the דרך הסלולה והישנה of מנהג אשכנז offers protection from such pitfalls.

In the zechus of following our holy מסורה, may we be protected and blessed.

חודש טוב ובשורות טובות

18 Iyar 5780: A Time to Return to the Lag Baomer of Old – ל”ג בעומר התש”פ: עת לשוב לל”ג בעומר הישן

May 11, 2020

השיבנו ה’ אליך ונשובה, חדש ימינו כקדם

It is time to go back to the old ל”ג בעומר (those that never left it are already set, some who have gone elsewhere can return, this year it is very easy to do so, with all the restrictions in place due to the pandemic).

It is time to return to תורת משה, as articulated and elucidated by the רבן של ישראל, רבי משה סופר, מרן החת”ם סופר זי”ע.

זכרו תורת משה עבדי – the Chasam Sofer wrote that that he would not join the Lag Baomer pilgrimage to to Meron.

The old Lag Baomer, when it meant a day marking when the dying of תלמידי רבי עקיבא stopped. Unlike later when it was changed to an ecstatic festival focusing on רשב”י, overshadowing its earlier meaning and way of observance.

How appropriate and fitting for the situation now, also a time of masses passing away, ה’ ירחם. We daven that this year too (if not earlier), as in those ancient days, Lag Baomer mark a time when that stops. בימים ההם בזמן הזה.

We need to focus on basics like תשובה תפילה וצדקה שמעבירין את רוע הגזירה. On תורה, מצות ומעשים טובים. On thanks to הקב”ה for all he has done for us in the past, הודאה על העבר, ותפילה על העתיד. Not on questionable “segulos” that can be costly in more ways than one, ר”ל.

Instead of כדאי הוא רבי שמעון לסמוך עליו בשעת הדחק, substitute אין עוד מלבדו, בלתי אל ה’ עינינו, and אין לנו על מי להישען אלא על אבינו שבשמים. I think רבי שמעון himself would go along with that.

In זכות of such a return to the דרך הישן, הקב”ה יאמר לצרותינו די.

ונזכה לקבלת התורה וביאת המשיח בב”א, אכי”ר

(More details on the above, and important previous posts here on ל”ג בעומר, containing a wealth of material you may not see elsewhere, can be seen via this link.)

בשכר זה הקב”ה ימלא רחמים עלינו וישלח לנו רפואה שלמה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל, רפואת הנפש ורפואת הגוף, השתא בעגלא ובזמן קריב

Trees in the Ground vs. Trees on Trucks – Looking at a New Form of Birkas Ha’Ilanos – משאית הסובב בעיר עם עצים לברכת אילנות – לכתחלה או בדיעבד?

May 7, 2020

While we have discussed and examined various הנהגות here for years, usually the practices have been around for some time already – whether years, decades, centuries, or even longer. At other times, we actually see new practices develop in our times, however.

One example of such a new practice is the collection of “sheimos”, with “sheimos trucks” circulating in some large Jewish neighborhoods before פסח. That has been going on for a while already (though perhaps not at all, or only in a limited fashion this year). It fits in well with the practice of people cleaning their dwelling places well before that יום טוב, and the need to deal with the modern profusion of printed matter, including religious texts at times, that can sometimes seem to threaten to overwhelm domiciles. It is a not a practice that seems potentially problematic, or controversial (if done properly). It seemingly meets a need of some people, so it is what it is.

Another interesting springtime practice seems to have just been born, this year, in recent weeks, seemingly first in ארץ ישראל and then quickly, within days (thanks to modern communications) spreading to, being imitated in the United States of America.

What do I refer to? An ingenious effort by some in the waning days of this past ניסן to bring flowering trees for ברכת האילנות (the blessing on flowering fruit trees usually recited in spring mentioned in the גמרא) to people at home, via potted plants in the bed of a truck or trailer, to enable them to say the ברכה before the opportunity passed (some hold that the ברכה should be recited דווקא, specifically, in חודש ניסן, though that is by no means universally accepted). Since many people’s movements were limited during that season this year, due to conditions of מגיפה, ה’ ירחם, some who normally went to sites of flowering fruit trees for such purpose were hard pressed to do so. Enter some creative minds who came up with the aforementioned solution.

According to a report here, the practice may have started in ביתר עילית (larger report in Hebrew here). It later appeared in New York, as well as in Chicago.

The question is, however, if such a method of bring the trees to the people is a good idea, under normal circumstances at least.

לענ”ד, while it might be permissible בשעת הדחק, it is generally לכתחלה not advisable, for the following reason.

The גמרא that teaches us about this ברכה speaks about someone going out in the period of ניסן, seeing trees in bloom, and then reciting the effusive blessing, thanking הקב”ה for creating a beautiful world complete with nice creations and trees to bring pleasure to people. The impression given is of someone going out and being overwhelmed by a profusion of spring blooms, blooms of trees (some say that it should be made on דווקא more than one tree together based on that), as part of the general spring “rebirth of nature”. Think of large trees, with many large blooming branches. On the other hand, small potted trees, towed around in vehicles, present much less of a visual spectacle, are less moving (quite possibly leading to less כוונה והתרגשות כשמברכים), and the blooms may even be difficult to see at a distance. Since people were told to say the ברכות from a distance, from porches, for example, it is definitely not an ideal situation and might even be קרוב לברכה לבטלה in some cases.

Based on the above, לעניות דעתי, such a practice should not become a regular springtime scene in Jewish neighborhoods for the masses under normal conditions. If some פוסקים allow it, בשעת הדחק, those who follow such authorities can do so presumably, but it should by no means replace the age old practice of people going out and seeing large blooming trees flourishing in Hashem’s good earth. Small potted specimens are no match for glorious large in-ground trees.

ליותר עיון ראה פה, בפרט סעיפים לא, לח, לט.

May we be זוכה to make this beautiful ברכה for many years, outside, בבריות גופא ונהורא מעליא.

א גוטען, געזונטען חודש

Lag Baomer and Chinuch -ל”ג בעומר ומצות חינוך

May 22, 2019

We recently read פרשת אמור אל הכהנים, where we are taught the important lesson, להזהיר גדולים על הקטנים, that not only gedolim/adults are obligated in the mitzvoh, but that also youngsters who have not reached the age of majority (adulthood) are to be under the guidance of their elders in it. The years of minority, before bar mitzvoh, are not a free for all, of anything goes.

Proper behavior in adulthood is developed by training the youth in their younger years in the ways of their elders. If children are not shown the proper way by them, they are at significant risk of going “OTD”, whether in a general sense, or in a more limited sense, ר”ל.

There are some mature adult institutions and individuals, who while not taking part in activities such as the Lag Baomer Meron pilgrimage, or bonfire celebrations themselves, nevertheless, think that it is okay for youngsters under their control or influence to do so. They think that they are only kids, so what is the problem? So there have arisen, in recent years, some such places they will even go so far as to arrange, on their premises, a bonfire with music and dancing for them, a sort of mini Meron. But such an approach sends dangerous mixed signals, and gets kids used to and comfortable with foreign practices. Not a good idea. The children can go on a outing to a park instead.

In the זכות of proper חינוך, may be zoche to much נחת from our children.

Toras Ashkenaz Online: Additional Important Works Now Available Free of Charge – תורת אשכנז על הרשת: שבעה ספרים נוספים לראיה והורדה בחנם

May 6, 2019

It is a pleasure to share the good news of the availability of a number of important works מבית מדרשו של מו”ר רבש”ה שליט”א, from the circle of Rav Hamburger, chaveirim, talmidim, and followers, online.

Firstly, the first six volumes of the highly esteemed journal ירושתנו, containing important Torah and research in various diverse areas and aspects of the heritage of יהדות אשכנז as well as כלל ישראל בכלל (h/t Friends of Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz), have recently been made available at the renowned website, to whom we owe a deep debt of gratitude.

Additionally, another interesting work, about a “Shabbos Chassunah”, שבת בריילפט – מנהגי ופיוטי שבת חתונה, in more detail חתונה שחופתה ביום ששי וסעודתה בליל שבת פיוטיה ומנהגיה by R. Noach Hofner, has also been posted at the same site, for a while.

Thanks to all involved in providing such treasures to the public.

Enjoy and be illuminated by the exquisite offerings.

Law & Order on Pesach Night: Dealing With The Afikoman – האם יש מקום לגניבת אפיקומן בליל הסדר?

April 16, 2019

A well known custom some people have at the Seder is that a youngster takes the Afikoman in the beginning of the proceedings after it is set aside, and then, later in the evening, when the time comes to bring out and eat that portion of matzah, negotiates its return with the Seder leader in exchange for some type of consideration.

The question is, however, if such practice is proper. Even though it is usually understood by most people as some type of game played with the kids, nevertheless, for various reasons, including the fact that some people refer to it as “stealing the Afikoman”, and stealing is viewed with abhorrence in the Torah, it has been the subject of strong rabbinic opposition by various great Torah leaders.

Recently, breuers2gether posted a synopsis of a shiur on the topic given last year by Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger שליט”א. As usual, רבש”ה presents a masterful survey of the practice and Rabbinic attitudes toward it through generations.

He shows us that an array of גדולי ישראל opposed, or did not accept the practice. Included in this group are giants like the Chavos Yair, Rav Yaakov Emden, the Chasam Sofer, the Chazon Ish, the Steipler Gaon, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Shimon Schwab, and the Erlauer Rav/Rebbe (Rav Yochanan Sofer) זכר צדיקים לברכה. Additionally, he notes that a long list of Chasidic Rebbes did not allow it at their own seders.

It is true that some rabbis were more tolerant (some such are mentioned in this recent talk), and offered some creative ex post facto explanations for it. Since special means of keeping children engaged at the seder is an ancient tradition, some viewed it in that vein. However, there are other ways of keeping children involved, as taught by Rabbis over many generations.

As the custom is a relatively late arrival on the Jewish scene, and due to various objections raised with it, people may want to re-examine and rethink it, ע”פ דעת תורה. The idea is not to be a scrooge though. One could and should give special gifts to children לכבוד יום טוב in other ways.

Certainly, in the old country kids didn’t hold up the seder for the latest electronic game.

In the זכות of זהירות in ישרות, and proper practice of our great heritage, may we be zoche to גאולה שלמה במהרה בימינו, אמן.

בברכת חג כשר ושמח

Nusach Ashkenaz in the Center of Chasidic Davening: The Interesting Cases of Belz, Sanz, and Berdichev – נוסח אשכנז במרכז תפילות חסידים: נוסחאות בעלזא, צאנז, וברדיטשוב

September 20, 2018

As is well known, one of the major dividing lines between Chasidim and non-Chasidim, and a source of tension at times, is in the area of נוסח התפילה. While Chasidim (with some exceptions, as we have posted about in the past – see for example this post, as well as this post) overwhelmingly discarded the ancient נוסח אשכנז, adopting in its place a so-called “נוסח ספרד” or “נוסח אר”י”, those faithful to the holy מסורה of אשכנז emphatically rejected such change.

What is interesting and noteworthy, however, is that even among major Chasidic groups to the present day, there are major elements of nusach Ashkenaz still in use.

            Ashkenaz in the Nusach of Belzer Chasidim

The Chasidic group of Belz is one of the oldest (going back over two centuries) and largest Chasidic groups in the world, and has been a major force for a very long time. In Belz, the Shemoneh Esrei, the core of our tefillos, is basically a nusach Ashkenaz text (this can be personally witnessed by listening to חזרת הש”ץ at a Belzer minyan. For those not near one, a recent sefer from a Chasidic Rav in Europe, דברי פינחס, reports (top left), in the course of a responsum, “ומאחר שמנהג בעלזא עוד מימי כ”ק מרן השר שלום זצ”ל הוא להתפלל תפלת שמונה עשרה בנוסח אשכנז).

Historical Background

I had known of this phenomenon for some time, but lacked a full understanding of it. However, recently, I saw an explanation of the interesting background behind it. According to a recent release regarding the World of Belz website (paragraphs 8-10), way back in the early years of Belzer Chasidus, circa two centuries ago, the town of Belz was divided between the new Chasidim and the old townspeople that wanted to continue davening nusach Ashkenaz. They came up with a solution in which the Chasidim would lead the davening in the main Shul, however, certain parts of tefillah, including Shmoneh Esrei, the central part of our tefillah, would remain nusach Ashkenaz. The founding Belzer Rebbe himself, known as the Sar Shalom, approved of this arrangement (interestingly, a relatively recent encyclopedia article (first paragraph) described the first Belzer Rebbe, the שר שלום, as a Talmudist who maintained a close relationship with the non Hasidic Galician rabbinate of his time). So the story goes.


If this is all there is to this interesting phenomenon, however, one wonders why this arrangement has persisted for circa two centuries, long after the original principals to it passed on. It should have seemingly been just a temporary concession, an arrangement for a limited time (although perhaps Chasidim didn’t want to change what the first Rebbe did, and there were other people – non-Chasidim – who continued to daven nusach Ashkenaz in Galicia for many years, as even until the WWII period, there were significant numbers of people in Galicia, often in the large Shul of a town, that davened nusach Ashkenaz).

This leads one to suspect that there is more involved. Perhaps there is a recognition, a tacit admission by Chasidim, of the high level of nusach Ashkenaz, as well as persistent issues (textual and others) with Chasidic nusach Sfard.

Ashkenaz in the Nusach of Sanzer Chasidim

The fact that other important Chasidic groups with roots in Galicia also are said to have a nusach Ashkenaz, or mostly Ashkenaz, Shmoneh Esreh (the aforementioned דברי פינחס, mid-right column, states “בגליל צאנז ויתר מערב-גאליציא הי’ המנהג להתפלל שמונה עשרה רובו ככולו בנוסח אשכנז כמנהג קראקא), namely the large, important, and influential Sanzer Chasidim (e.g. the large groups of Sanz, Bobov, Klausenberg, and others), while they don’t seem to have such a story explaining why it is so, leads one to believe that they held that it was the nusach to use, and not just as a tactical concession.


Belzer and Sanzer Chasidim emphasize(d) traditional לימוד התורה, תורת הנגלה (as opposed to, for example, Kabbalistic study and practice for the masses, the המון עם) to a greater extent than some other Chasidic groups did. In Belz and Sanz the Rebbe was referred to as the Rav. He was someone who could pasken she’eilos in הלכה. They retained some אשכנז practices, as well as reverence for גדולי אשכנז, even those who opposed them strongly, such as the נודע ביהודה. Therefore they were not as rejectionist toward נוסח אשכנז as some other Chasidim.

Berdichev nusach

There is also a Chasidic nusach called nusach Berdichev, used by some, including members of the Bostoner Chasidus which is similar to the above. I don’t have much material on it at this time.


The adoption by the Chasidism of a new נוסח התפלה, in place of the traditional נוסח אשכנז, was apparently a later development in the movement, said to be from the time of the Maggid of Mezrich, rather than from R. Israel Baal Shem Tov, who is called its founder.

There is much difference of opinion and variation among Chasidim as to what the exact text of this nusach should be. Among many Chasidim, including very large and significant Chasidic groups, to this very day, important segments and elements of נוסח אשכנז surprisingly still persist, even at the heart of their תפילות.

א גוט געבענטשט יאהר און א גוט יום טוב

The Lion of Ashkenaz: The Arizal You Didn’t Know – הארי של אשכנז: האריז”ל שלא הכרת

July 17, 2018

Today, ה’ אב, is the yahrzeit of one of the great figures of Jewish history, the אר”י ז”ל, Rav Yitzchok Luria. Although almost four and a half centuries have passed since The Ari passed away as a relatively young man, only in his late thirties, he still is very much alive in terms of his influence on the Jewish world.

To a great extent, as Rav Hamburger שליט”א writes in the recently released fifth volume of שרשי מנהג אשכנז, the Arizal was a riddle, a mystery, during his lifetime, as well as after his passing, to the present day.

Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to get a better understanding of this major figure in Jewish history from what is available to us, כפי שידינו מגעת, and to, בעזרת השי”ת, dispel some of the confusion about him that is quite prevalent among many today.

To that end, a significant section (p. 246-320) in the new sefer, entitled האריז”ל, שורשיו באשכנז ושאלת התפילין, (see p. 20-21 here) is devoted to in depth exploration and analysis of the Arizal from an Ashkenazic perspective.

Contrary to the conception many people seem to have, thinking of the Arizal as a Sepharadic Kabbalist or as Chasidic, Arizal was an Ashkenazic Jew. Let us explore a bit his Ashkenazic identity, practices, and attitude.


  1. He is referred to over and over again, by his contemporaries, as the אשכנזי רבי יצחק. It was not just a name, an inherited surname (his family name was Luria) from previous generations, as we are familiar with today. Rather it was a description of the man. Although his Ashkenazic father passed away when he was just eight years old, his mother was from a different background, he didn’t live in the main areas of settlement of אשכנז, and lived among many ספרדים, he still retained this strong אשכנזי identity. The moniker אר”י, by which he is known, stands for אשכנזי רבי יצחק.


2. He davened in an Ashkenazic Shul in Tzefas at key times of the Jewish year, on ימים טובים such as the ימים נוראים and רגלים, as well as at other times, and darshened there as well (while he davened in a Sepharadic shul at other times, e.g. on regular weekdays, as he desired to recite the additional mizmorim, bakashos, and vidui recited there). Source: שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק ה citing קסת יהונתן, דף ה עמוד א (right column, ד”ה גם). Rav Chaim Vital, his talmid, mentions a number of times the מחזור אשכנז that the Arizal used on ימים נוראים.


Arizal and Mesoras Ashkenaz: Opponent or Proponent?

3.  Contrary to what many people might think, The Arizal did not renounce or repudiate his Ashkenazic roots, and did not tell his fellow אשכנזים to change their נוסח or מנהגים. On the contrary, he encouraged them to stick with their ancestral minhogim. Here are some words about this from הרב הגדול ר’ יוסף פיאמיטא מאנקונא ז”ל in the ספר פחד יצחק (top of page)

שמעולם האר”י הקדוש לא שלח יד במנהגי הקהלות….והיה מניח לישראל במנהג אבותיהם והיה מזהירם שלא לשנות מנהגם כי היה אומר על כל מנהג יש מלאך ממונה וחלון ברקיע לקבל אותן התפילות וכ”כ בכוונות האר”י 

Free partial translation: The Holy Ari  never touched the customs of the congregations…he would have them continue with the customs of their fathers and warn not to change them….

It is quite possible, or even likely perhaps, based on the above and other material brought in the new sefer, that he davened נוסח אשכנז for the main parts of his davening, and maybe even wore tefillin on Chol Hamoed.

In the zechus of following the מנהגים הקדושים of our ancestors, may we be זוכה to נחמת ציון וירושלים בב”א.

Note: We already wrote a bit about the Arizal in this vein two years ago, but now that a great amount of new information on the topic has come out via the new volume of Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz, it was felt appropriate and worthwhile to revisit and expand upon it. The above is just a limited taste of the great amount of material on this and other related topics in the new sefer. Those interested to learn more are directed there.

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