Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Opera singers who died young

A few months back we had a post of classical music composers who died young. Here are some opera singers who died young. Life is short. Get in your mitzvos now.

Richard Tucker, age 62

Wolfgang Windgassen, age 60

Richard Tauber, cigarette card.jpg
Richard Tauber, age 56

Francesco Tamagno is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Famous Male Opera Singers
Francesco Tamagno, age 55

Vincenzo La Scola, age 53

Jussi Björling, age 49
Jussi Björling - Ack Värmeland du sköna

Enrico Caruso, age 48
Enrico Caruso - La Donna e Mobile (Remastered)
Enrico Caruso - E lucevan le stelle 1904. Digitally remastered.

Francesco Rasi is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Famous Male Opera Singers
Francesco Rasi, age 47

Salvatore Licitra, age 43

Mario Lanza, age 38
Mario Lanza - Dicitencello Vuie
Mario Lanza Che Gelida Manina 1949   What a voice this man had. It's a bracha. And he was from South Phillie, not some glamorous European country. Sadly, he got involved in Hollywood, which tore his health apart.

Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick (July 22, 1983 – April 23, 2019) was an American soprano singer
age 33

As I mentioned in a prior post about opera, the librettos are generally decadent and foolish. Those were written by men. But Hashem created the voice and a great voice is a wonder and a bracha. Actually, the ability to speak at all is a wonder. And all the more so gifted singing. It's too bad they wasted their voices on opera. Should have sung songs of praise to Hashem. The fame and fortune are short lived, especially for these people. But praise of Hashem lives forever.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

An opera singer you may never haver heard of and a culture long gone goodbye

Jussi Björling sings Nessun Dorma (Digitally Remastered)

This is a remarkable voice. Pavarotti was in awe of him and refused to even be compared to him. He said, "When I'm about to train a new opera, I first listen to how Jussi Björling did it. His voice was unique and it's his path that I want to follow. I would more than anything else wish that people compared me with Jussi Björling. It's like so I'm striving to sing."

Now, the librettos in opera in my opinion can be quite inane and decadent. But if you don't know Italian or German and just hear the music, it can be elegant and moving and show the power of the human voice that the Creator created. I doubt it was ever wise to go to an opera in any era, but today it would be unwise to go to any classical music or art event or display as decadence has overtaken the entire world, including that part of it.

Björling died rather young at 49.

Here's more of him with video.

Notice the orchestra in ties and jackets. Notice the Swedish audience. Men in jackets and ties, women dressed to the top of the neck, short tied up hair. They sit respectfully here in 1953. They applaud politely. They are more modest than most Orthodox Jews today. How the world has sunk. I mourn for what was. Once upon a time, people really were like this.

One more. Jussi Bjorling - Che Gelida Manina. I have no idea what even the title means and I'll keep it that way. But oh the music, the voice.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Where Hirsch and the Baal HaTanya Meet


[In the end of days] "Through the superabundance of light which will shine upon the Jewish people, the darkness of the nations will also be lit up, as it is written: “And nations will walk by your (the Jewish people’s) light”


 "It is evident from the concluding verse of this Psalm that Asaph does not think here only of the Jewish people, but also pleads the cause of the salvation of all mankind on earth, all of whose existence and welfare is dependent, first of all, upon the proper enforcement of justice and right." (Hirsch Siddur, p. 214, Psalm for Tuesday)

Some people try to claim that Hirsch's 'universalism' was some kind of concession to German sensibilities or his community's attachment to German society. But here we see that the Tanya, who starts off his book by telling us of the problematic nature of the gentile soul, also talks of a day when all of humanity is uplifted. (Note, we don't say that animals will be lifted out of their darkness. People of all kinds will be. So obviously the Tanya's comments about the gentile soul need to be understood carefully as well. He doesn't mean what one may think he means. But that's another discussion.) What we see is that having some concern for the gentiles and their spiritual salvation is a Torah idea, rooted in the prophets.

Friday, March 15, 2019

HaGaon HaRav Yisroel Yitzchok Kalmanovitz on the gezeiros against Yiddishkeit in Eretz Yisroel

HaGaon HaRav Yisroel Yitzchok Kalmanovitz on the gezeiros against Yiddishkeit in Eretz Yisroel

HaGaon HaRav Yisroel Yitzchok Kalmanovitz shlit”a
Mechaber Sefer Ahalei Yeshua
Bnei Brak
9 Teves 5779

To the Leaders of Klal Yisroel in the Diaspora, Choshuve Rabbanim, and our brothers everywhere:

The calls of Klal Yisroel have reached us due to the gezeiros against Yiddishkeit here in Eretz Yisroel.  Every day the evil ones attempt to destroy us by passing new laws against our holy Torah. This is true in terms of schools and mosdos where they are constantly scheming to introduce their ideology and education into our yeshivos, as well as their attempt to break down all barriers between chareidim and the non-religious.

This is especially true when it comes to the gezeira of Giyus; in respect to their gezeira of giyus banim where through coercive methods they have already succeeded in compelling thousands of holy Jews into the army, a place of true shmad and impurity. And certainly now as the Knesset debates a law which will add tens of thousands of chareidim to the ranks of the army. 

And in respect to the geziera of Giyus Banos.  Literally every day we hear of bnos yisoel who are shomrei Torah u’mitzvos who have become ensnared in the army and can no longer free themselves with exemptions of the past. The army pursues these girls mercilessly, using all attempts to enmesh them and trip them up, whether summoning them to a “rayon dat” where  they are presented  with  extremely  difficult questions (which the Gedolei Hador ruled is yeihareig v’al ya’avor to respond to) or mistreating them in other ways and imprisoning them to break their resistance to joining the army.

Therefore, in the name of the Rabbonim shlit”a of Eretz Yisroel, we plead with you, the Rabbonim of chutz l’aretz: Turn over the world to assist us in Eretz Yisroel, create an uproar which will not be ignored. We in Eretz Yisroel cannot reverse the gezeira on our own. It is only with the influence, outcry, and pressure of the Jews in chutz l’aretz that the government will respond as the Gedolim always maintained with the gezeira of Giyus. Then perhaps Hash-m will have mercy on us to annul these decrees.

Hash-m should save us now just as He performed great miracles for our ancestors during this period until we merit the final geulah and coming of Moshiach.

I sign with great pain and sorrow over that which is transpiring,

Yisroel Yitzchok Kalmanovitz

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Thy commandments are the end which I love

"Thy commandments are the end which I love; all other things have value to me only to the extent that they serve as means to the attainment of this end." Rav Hirsch on Tehillim 119:44-48

There are those who seem to have lost their esteem for commandments and talk only of study. Rav Hirsch saw how the latter attitude contributed to massive departure from Torah observance in Germany. Torah study matters and mitzvos matter.

TIDE is dedicated to all mitzvos. It rejects the Medieval Spanish notion of mitzvos as handmaidens to the ultimate goal of philosophic understanding. This notion was influenced arguably by Aristotelian-Arabic philosophers. R' Hirsch's explanation of the meaning and symbolism of mitzvos helps to enhance our love for the mitzvos. Rather, mitzvos are an end goal themselves. Rav Hirsch saw Judaism as "a view of life which lays chiefest stress upon the deed, upon action, and looks upon knowledge only as a means to such action.(Letter 18)."

The Sefer Tanya speaks of the value of study but also of mitzvos and in this Tanya lesson for the day says that mitzvos are necessary to bring the Divine light into the guf and the animal soul. Study alone will not do it. 


"When even one person applies himself diligently to Torah study, the Shechinah is with him,”meaning, in this case, that 

the Shechinah rests upon his divine soul, and upon its 

faculties of thought and speech which are engaged in the 

mental and oral study of the Torah. However, in order to draw the light and radiation of the Shechinah upon his body and animal soul as well, i.e., upon the vitalizing soul actually clothed in the body and providing for it a corporeal life-force, one must fulfill the practical mitzvot (i.e., commandments involving the faculty of action), which are performed with the body itself."  (Chabad.org)

Full lesson here: Likutei Amarim, end of Chapter 35

Then continuing on to the beginning of Chapter 36, the lessons in Tanya overview says, 

"In the previous chapter, the Alter Rebbe began to explain why the observance of the practical mitzvot is the ultimate purpose of Torah and of one’s spiritual service to G‑d. (This practical aspect is underscored by the conclusion of the verse, “For the thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it.”) He explained that only mitzvot observed through action draw down the light of the Shechinah upon one’s animal soul and body (rather than upon the divine soul alone, as do the mitzvot performed only in thought and speech).

"Yet this does not answer one question satisfactorily: Why is the illumination of the body and animal soul so important that those (practical) mitzvot which accomplish this illumination should be considered one’s primary objective?

"The Alter Rebbe addresses this question in ch. 36. He explains that G‑d’s purpose in Creation is that he might have a dwelling place “in the lower realms”; specifically, in this physical world. In this world of doubled and redoubled spiritual darkness, His Ein Sof-light would radiate even more powerfully than it does in the higher, spiritual realms, through man’s transforming the darkness into light."

Full lesson here: Likutei Amarim, end of Chapter 35

He doesn't say it here but I think this gives us insight into why a woman's role is so important. A woman is not commanded in Torah study (even though she can do it on a non-commanded level) and her role (even her support of Torah study) takes place in the more physical realms (tznius, chesed, etc.) But we find that bringing light into those realms creates a special kind of revelation and is the purpose of or a main part of the purpose of the creation. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Intent is Everything

"Let us further bear in mind that even in the case of script, which one might think cannot possibly have anything but symbolic significance, its symbolic value, when used for a sacred purpose, depends on the intent of the scribe who executes it. Thus, in the writing of a ספר תורה [Scroll of the law], the intention of the scribe is so essential that the Scroll is considered as having the קדושת ספר תורה [the sanctity required for a Scroll of the Law] only if it was written  לשם קדושת ספר תורה [with the intent that it should be a sacred Scroll of the Law]. Whenever the scribe writes down the Name of God, he must enunciate each time that it is now his intention to write these letters for the purpose of setting down the name of God, לשם קדושת השם. The sanctity of these letters is so completely determined by the attitude of the scribe who writes them down that a Torah Scroll written by a heretic -- a man whose attitude when he wrote out the Name of God may be assumed to have been contrary to the Divine truth [inherent in the Torah], so that one might even say he did the work לשם עבודה זרה ([for the purpose of idol worship]) -- must be burned." 

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch on Shemos 36:8, translation by Gertrude Hirschler in The Chumash, Judaica Press


Allow me to add that if Zionism is approached like idolatry, which it usually is, [worship of the state, worship of the army - heaven save us from such folly] then the books with this approach are worse than a Sefer Torah written with intent of idolatry because in such a Sefer Torah the words are correct but the intent is wrong but here the words themselves have idolatrous content.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Parshas Pikudei – Mishkan times: its Completion and Construction

Parshas Pikudei – Mishkan times:  its Completion and Construction

Tzvi Abraham

M’soret Askenaz goes back a very long time, and going back to the  12th century, we find a mystical movement that is truly our own:  Chassidut Ashkenaz, which consolidates the ancient mystical tradition of Chazel. 

That tradition has been preserved in the writings of two Gedolei Yisrael:  R’ Yehudah Hachassid (best known as the author of Sefer Chassidim), and R’ Elazar Hagadol of Worms  (“the Rokeach) his  illustrious  talmid.  R’ Elazar was a prolific writer of  siphrei halachah, kabbalah and commentaries, including a multi-volume commentary on the Torah. 

In his commentary on this week’s parsha, R’ Elazar points out (citing the psikta  Rabbasi ) that although the Mishkan was set up on the first of Nissan, the work of creating its many parts was completed on the 25th of Kislev.   Indeed, the gematria of the words ותכל כל עבודת המשכן is the same as  בעשרים וחמישה בכסליו נגמר --  one of  the Rokeach’s many astounding gematrias.

The gematria suggests that  the completion of the parts of the Mishkan (as opposed to its construction) on the first day of Chanukah was not by chance or for any accidental reason: for Hashem created the world “looking into the Torah.” 

הסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא[i]

When the work of the Mishkan would be completed was also part of the Master Plan.

Why did Hashem ordain that it be completed just then?  Why did Moshe delay setting it up until Nissan even though the people were complaining to him, saying:   “Why the delay?  Is there a problem with it?”[ii] 

The midrash (cited by the Rokeach) explains that Hashem delayed setting up the Mishkan until Nissan so that the joy of the Mishkan would be celebrated in the month of Yitzchak’s birth.   What about  the month of Kislev?  Did it lose out entirely?  No.  there would be another chanukas habayis, and it would take place in Kislev.

הסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא (Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world).   As above, so below.  This principle applies to everything Hashem created.  For, for example, the Rokeach tells us,[iii]  when a person is born, an angel  with his face is created in Heaven.   The next level down from the heavenly sphere, the domain of angels, is the planetary sphere, and there the newborn also appears, for his nature is configured by the arrangement of the  planets .

Since the timing of the construction of the  Mishkan is in the Torah, the same principle applies:  “as above so below”  and we would expect some indication of it in the heavenly and planetary spheres. And, indeed, he tells us that while Moses was setting up the Mishkan below, the Angels were setting up a Mishkan above.[iv] As above, so below.

Where do we see a suggestion of the timing of the construction of the Mishkan in the planetary sphere?

In the fact that the Mishkan was constructed in the sign of Aries, the zodiacal sign of  Chodesh Nissan. “It was the reason that the fire of the Shekhinah descended onto the Mishkan.” [v]

“It was the reason…,”  the Rokeach tells us.  What was the reason?  That the sign of Aries is identified with fire? (Each of the 12 signs of the Zodidac is associated with one of the four elements: fire, earth, air or water.) But it’s not the only fire sign.  Sagittarius, the sign of Kislev, is also a fire sign.  So is Leo. But Aries is the sign ruled by a planet, Mars,  that is itself identified with fire: the Rokeach tells[vi] us in his Commentary on Sefer Yetzira that Mars is   Dovid Hemelech and the spirit of the Moshiach.  The fire of Mars is the fire of King David’s devotion to Hashem and the fire of the spirit of Moshiach.

But what does the descent of the Divine fire that consumed the flesh on the altar have to do with a fiery planet or a  fiery zodiacal  sign?  

There are two other fire signs:  Sagittarius and Leo, but the planet that activates the fire of Sagittarius,  Jupiter, is moderate by nature, and, besides that, Sagittarius moves directly into the cold and dark of winter which begins with the sign of Capricorn, ruled by the coldest of the planets, Saturn.

Leo is a summer sign that is ruled by the Sun, which is moderately and generally benignly hot.  The heat and radiance of the Sun is the vitality of created being which expresses itself with the gentleness that brings forth grains, fruits and flowers. Not Mars.  Mars is the  heat of redemption and revelation, a fire that heats the spirit, not the flesh:  the sword of David and the passion of his Psalms.  It doesn’t nourish:  it transfigures.  The Sun brings forth new life from the ground, Ma’adim bestows new Light from above with a fire that burns through the boundaries that keep men in darkness and separate this world from the worlds above. 

The sign of Sagittarius, which correlates with the month of Kislev, and is a fire sign, is ruled by Jupiter . Rokeach identifies Jupiter  with Aharon Hakohen. That would seem to make Sagittarius  the perfect time to set up the Mishkan and for the Shekhinah to descend as a fire from above onto the altar.  But the chanukas habayis that would later happen in Keslev would be initiated from below by the Kohanim.  The Kohen’s task is to reconcile Bnei Yisrael with Hashem and, in that way, help them return to Him.  But the chanukas habayis of Moshe--the construction of the Mishkan--was initiated from above, and denotes the moment of G-d descending to dwell among Bnei Yisrael.   The chanukas habayis of the Maccabiim was a moment of teshuvah.  The chanukas habayis of Moshe was a moment of geula.  That’s why it had to happen in the sign of Aries (Nissan) under the planet of Ma’adim, the planetary analogue to the Moshiach and to Dovid Hamelech and the month of geula.

Hashem ordained at the very dawn of creation, indeed, even  before: as part of his plan of creation, that the spring sign of Aries would rule the time when the Divine Fire of His Transcendent Being would break through the barriers that separate Heaven and earth and his Shekhinah would dwell among us.  While the gentle heat of the Sun’s fire banishes the cold and darkness of winter,  the fire of Mars would burn through the barriers that separate men from the world above and redeem them from the darkness of their hearts.

The Rokeach also gives us another reason why the construction of the Mishkan was delayed until Nissan:  Hashem wanted us to rejoice in the construction of the Mishkan at the same time that Avraham and Sarah rejoiced in the birth of Yitzchak.

The midrash explains that Yitzchak’s blindness goes back to the Akeidah.  Acording to Bereishis Rabbah (ס"ה) Yitzchak grew blind because he had gazed upon the Shekchinah.  According to Rashi he was blinded by the tears of angels that fell into his eyes while lying on the altar.  That, too, suggests that he was blinded by what he saw:  his eyes received something from the eyes of angels, so that his vision participated in theirs.

Yitzchak’s birth was like the construction of the Mishkan, because it created the location where, later, on the altar of the Akeida, a fire – a great vision and holy light—would descend into him as he beheld the Schekhinah, or as the   angels  opened his eyes with their tears .   Just as the avodah of the Miluim was the spiritual preparation for the descent of the  fire of the Shekhinah onto the altar, the Akedah was the spiritual preparation for the descent of the Shekhinah as a spiritual fire that would later cause Yitzchak to go blind on account of what he saw. 

In the Sefer Habahir[vii] we learn that compared to the Light above,  the Light of this world is like darkness. Perhaps that’s why Yitzchak became blind:   as he became older and withdraw from the concerns of this world, he focused his attention on the Light above, and entered the vision he received unrestrained by worldly responsibilities.  And for those who see that Light, the light below is like darkness.  He  lost the sight of his eyes because vision depends on seeing a light in the light of this world. To him, that light was darkness.

[i] זוהר תרומה ח"ב קסא, א)) דכד ברא קוב"ה עלמא אסתכל בה באורייתא וברא עלמא
[ii] פירוש הרוקח על ספר שמות מ:א
[iii]ספר חכמת הנפש, הוצאת זכרון אהרון, ירושלים דף ס"ה
[iv] פירוש הרוקח על ספר שמות מ:יח
[v] פירוש הרוקח על ספר שמות מ:יז
[vi] פירוש הרוקח על ספר יצירה, הוצאת זכרון אהרון, ירושלים,  דף נא
[vii] ראה פירוש אור הבהיר על ספר הבהיר פרק א'

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

K. Zimerman again

Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No. 2 (Zimerman, Ozawa)

Seiji Ozawa conducts. Amazing that a man can play Beethoven, a German, and Rachmaninoff, a Russian, equally well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

City of Beit Shemesh Destroys a Charedi Shul

The city of Beit Shemesh with its new Dati Leumi lady mayor razed the Charedi shul Mayanot Bnei Yasasschar in the Charedi neighborhood of Kneih Bosem. It's located next to 62 Ben Ish Chai St. You'll note that the shul was on flat ground and not perched dangerously on a hill as one ignorant defender of the city on a website alleged and was not in the way of any other construction as it was situated between two other shuls. It's a small space that can hardly be used for anything else. The street across from it is pretty wide and there's some apartment construction on it. In general, the area is not particularly built up or crowded. One has to think there was some other solution other than destroying a shul. But the Israelis get their practice destroying Arab homes and think nothing of destroying Charedi shuls too. This is Zionism. The city has plans to destroy more shuls.

The shul before destruction:

Note what appear to be wrinkles in the walls are wrinkles in the poster I photographed. In the original photograph, the shul looks quite new. This photo is of a poster telling about the situation and it was pasted on a kiosk on top of other posters, so it looks lumpy.

The evil ones secure a place in gehennom.