Posts Tagged ‘Rebbe’


The sun’s blessings, solar energy and the Rebbe

March 4, 2009


The blogger at Jewish Climate Initiative has a post about the Rebbe’s early recognition of the possibilities of solar energy.

“So why did Rabbi Schneerson get it twenty eight years ago, when so many other smart people didn’t? The date of his utterance, April 11th, 1981 provides us with a clue. The Lubavitcher Rebbe gave his speech on solar power three days after the last Birkhat Hahama celebration…

Speaking on the Shabbat after the last Birkhat Hahama, Rabbi Schneerson was doing just that. He was challenging his listeners to use that day, an obscure but precious resource from our tradition, to think about whether their generation was using the sun’s blessings wisely.”

Read it all here.

Here’s the a clip from the sicha he references: (You will note that this Farbrengen, held in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday, did not take place on Shabbos. tells me that 11 Nissan 1981 was a Wednsday.)


Birkas Hachama – What’s up with it?

March 3, 2009


So what is Birkas Hachama anyway?

Hint: It’s not this.


Every 28 years the sun returns to the exact position, at the same time of the week, that it occupied at the time of its creation—at the beginning of the fourth day of creation. A special blessing – called Birkat Hachamah, “the sun blessing” – is recited to mark this event. Due to the rarity of this event, this blessing is customarily recited amid large public gatherings of men, women and children.

On April 8th, the sun will not be in the same spot as it was at the time of creation. Even discounting the fact that the world was created in the month of Tishrei, and assuming that the world began in Spring, the positioning simply does not match up.

So here goes: The brocho of Birkas Hachama is said when the spring equinox, or the start of “tekufas Nissan” by Shmuel’s accounting of the solar year, occurs on the same time and the same day of the week as in the springtime preceding creation (year 0 -6 months) when it was “oloh b’machshovah” or conceived. This happens every 28 years.

For a heliocentric explanation of the sun’s rotation and its relation to the seasons see after the break. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Rebbe pleads: Finish the operation!

January 21, 2009

To my endless shame, this blog pretty much ignored the war raging in Israel these last few weeks.

In the two clips below, the Rebbe pleads with Israeli politicians to let the IDF achieve its objectives: Making Israel safe for Jews and destroying its enemies.

Alas, it appears I may be too late.

The first clip is audio only  with subtitles, but well worth a listen. From Peace Upon the Land.

The second is a sicha from the same period, the first Lebanon War. From Living Torah.

Behold, even as the queasy and weak of heart bungle, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps

This is a preview of the Six Day War segment from “Peace Upon the Land“.


Rabbi Dovid Hollander, OBM

January 20, 2009

Rabbi Dovid Hollander has passed on. Baruch Dayan Haemes. Word from Collive.

Rabbi Hollander served as a pulpit Rabbi in Brooklyn for a long, long time. He grew up in the Bronx, went to Yeshiva College (now RIETS) and graduated NYU and Brooklyn Law school. He was president of the RCA and the Hebrew Alliance of America. A passionate speaker, he campaigned against orthodox rabbis recognizing “denominations” of Judaism that deny the existence of G-d or his Torah.

In his My Encounter with the Rebbe interview, he says that because few of his colleagues were willing to take on this issue, he felt alone and asked the Rebbe for support. The Rebbe encouraged him wholeheartedly. The oldest active pulpit rabbi in America, he served well into his nineties. (He told the Rebbe years back that he was considering retirement, which the Rebbe discouraged.) There’s lots more to say here. I don’t do the man or the interview justice, but such are the constraints of time.

Rabbi Hollander and My Encounter producer Yechiel Cagen. Courtesy of COLlive.

Rabbi Hollander and My Encounter producer Yechiel Cagen. Courtesy of COLlive.

Update: I see now the Circus Tent covers this nicely.


Another “My Moment” week up, more coming….

January 19, 2009

As I’ve blogged before, another week of dollars has been added to “My Moment with the Rebbe” at The pace of these becoming available should pick up soon. (We upgraded some of the technology too, as JEMnation readers know.) 

I'm pretty sure this is former Israeli MK Rechavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi

I'm pretty sure this is former Israeli MK Rechavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi

And to warm the frostbitten heart: A couple of Chossanim came into JEM last week to pick up “My Moment with the Rebbe” DVDs of their Kallahs getting dollars, as presents leading up to their wedding. Isn’t that just darling?

But seriously, it makes the perfect gift. Chosson: ask (surreptitiously, to preserve the surprise!) her family if she’s ever gotten a dollar, and when. Check out the weeks available online. Have a great married life. It’s that simple.


My top five

January 15, 2009


As promised, my five favorite JEM titles (in no particular order):

  1. Tishrei with the Rebbe - For me, this will always be the benchmark by which all others are judged. Aptly subtitled: “Days of Awe” and “Days of Joy”. Most of the footage was being shown for the first time. The soundtrack and audio mix is spot on. Highlights (on volume 1) include: Erev Rosh hashono at the Ohel, panim, lekach, birkas habonim…. I could keep going. Truly a masterpiece.
  2. Davening with the Rebbe - The first (by my recollection) to use top notch editing and effects. In particular, the haunting (I know there’s a better word) around-the-year intro, over a backdrop of pages from the Rebbe’s siddur and an exquisite, original score. Audio mix also excellent.
  3. America is No Different - Presentation of archival films at its best. A slice of history. I hate to keep going on about the music, but here again it hits all the right notes. The highlight was the Frierdiker Rebbe’s citizenship proceedings from 1949, (amazingly) in full color. It was many years before the quality and substance of that first color film was matched. (Parenthetically, I think the Rebbe was responsible for the filming of that event.) The book that accompanied it was great on its own. 
  4. Embers - This is probably the soundest – script-wise – of all. It has a focused, overarching premise, and it moves. The new threat from communism is introduced: “Yoseph Yitzchok my son (from the Rebbe Rashab), dark clouds are descending upon Russia”. It vividly recalls the Frierdiker Rebbe’s struggle and the years of darkness and doubt that followed. The clandestine efforts to keep the sparks (embers) of Yiddishkeit alive during those years. It packs an emotional punch, showing the Rebbe crying for the plight of the Jews behind the Iron Curtain and then addressing them publicly in Russian. Then the rebirth of the last twenty five years. The only downside here is the prominently featured Mr. Putin who has fallen out of favor these last few years. (Embers, by the way, was the answer to yesterday’s “What’s missing in this picture” question. Congratulations to commenter dfruendlich who will collect his prize of an ice cream cone one of these days.)
  5. The Early Years - Breakthroughs in both content and presentation. Mounds of original research, newly unearthed material, in a historical context. (Too many, the Rebbe’s early life was private, and should remain so. In my humble opinion, debunking much of the half-baked misinformation from this time period has proven worthwhile.)

Honorable Mention: Peace Upon the Land, Reflections, Cornerstones.


Top five JEM releases, reader favorites

January 14, 2009

Now hear this. 

I’ve chosen my five favorite JEM releases of all time. I’ve circled four of them in the photo below, again using my trusty crayons. One of my choices is not pictured. Which is it? 

The first commenter with the correct answer will be invited to the JEM production office to receive a prize of my choosing.

Past JEM releases, excepting (at least) one

Past JEM releases, excepting (at least) one

 Stay tuned for my choices, together with my reasons  and  reviews.

What are your favorite JEM videos? Speak now or forever hold your peace. 

Commenting activity from JEM employees has been particularly dismal. Let me hear you! 

I might have to start calling you out by name. Things could get ugly.


The Living Archive: Get hip to it

January 12, 2009

Today I ran into the revamped website of The Living Archive project. I don’t know how long it’s been around, but now it’s got pie graphs and other graphs and colors and restored samples and lotsa other cool stuff. Check it out the site and learn about the project here.


Here’s the idea, in short: We are increasingly reliant on multimedia. Pictures and audio/video recordings keep the Rebbe’s image and voice alive. We are lucky to have them.  We are losing them. (Not simple enough? I’m coming up with a mathematical formula to express this.)

Little site, lots of content. Find a history of JEM’s archive, really a history of recordings of the Rebbe, here.

The letters of support section is fascinating. As I’ve said before, academics love these videos.


Dr. Elliot Udell – Praying for Israel in 1991 (JEMnation exclusive)

January 12, 2009

Last week Yechiel Cagen sat down for a My Encounter with the Rebbe interview with Dr. Elliot Udell, who served as the Rebbe’s podiatrist in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

A ground invasion in an urban area is tricky business. Things can get hairy real fast. But as has been demonstrated whenever Israel takes the correct attitude in defending itself, the casualties are miraculously low. Bli ayin horah, and may it ever remain so. The guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.


Lech Walesa and the Rebbe, from “My Encounter with the Rebbe”

January 5, 2009


Lech Walesa - Commanding Heights

Lech Walesa - Commanding Heights

Lech Walesa is regarded as a hero for the cause of liberty in the twentieth century. His contribution is remembered alongside other, more widely known names like Reagan, Gorbachov and Thatcher.

His activism fueled demands for free elections, and his Solidarity Party brought down the Polish communist regime, giving rise to similar movements in other countries of Eastern Europe. For his efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was Poland’s president from 1990 until 1995.

Click here and here for two clips from the excellent PBS documentary Commanding Heights. Walesa’s (pronounced Walensa) role in the burying the communist regime is featured prominently.

In his My Encounter with the Rebbe interview, Mr. David Chase tells of how, before a business trip to Poland, the Rebbe gave him dollar bills to give to someone there, someone “that will deserve it, who can help the Jewish people”.

Mr. David Chase, My Encounter with the Rebbe

Mr. David Chase, My Encounter with the Rebbe

A holocaust survivor, Mr. Chase had deep reservations about the widespread antisemitism he he remembered from his youth in Poland. In a meeting with Walesa, he voiced this concern, to which the Polish nationalist responded: “Tfoy Buggoyes Moy Bug, your G-d is my G-d”. Set at ease, Mr. Chase gave the Rebbe’s dollar to the future president, together with an explanation about the man who sent it. He keeps the dollar in his pocket until this day.

From the transcript:

Years later, we went to Israel, by air force, by Polish Air Force One, ten ministers, I and Wałęsa. We went to-not Jerusalem but we went to Tel Aviv, to the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv and there are pictures of many, many Jewish people from different countries, including a picture of the Rebbe of blessed memory.

And we stood in front and General Arad was next to us, he was the head of the holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, at the mountain, with us. When we looked at, when Wałęsa looked at the picture, he bowed in front of the Rebbe. And Arad said, what is he doing? Mah Zeh? I said it’s very simple; that’s his Rebbe. And I said to him [He says it in Polish], this is your Rabbi…

For more on this topic, click here.

Last year’s visit with Chabad in Israel  here.


Part 2: Transistors vs. Vacuum tubes

December 26, 2008

A Rebbe for the Technological Age

December 25, 2008

This was on Living Torah a few months back. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you have, watch it again. Part 2 will follow.

G-d puts a Rebbe on earth to help his people navigate the challenges of their time.

(Baalabatishe observation:) I am not one to be machshiv cheshbonos, particularly regarding a Rebbe. Still, it seems to me that the Rebbe’s background in electrical engineering made him uniquely qualified to guide Klal Yisroel though the opportunities and pitfalls of the Technological Age.

The invention of transistors and the subsequent development of computer processors, was the work of a handful of Midwestern electrical engineers. Read about it here.

As can be seen from the clip, the Rebbe understood the implications of these advances long before the “wise men” of the time.

Esteemed JEM chief Elkanah tells me that professionals and academics in this field are constantly amazed at the Rebbe’s grasp and foresight on these matters.

A friend of a friend (I know its vague, but I have to protect my sources), one of the developers of the first IBM personal computer, visited the Rebbe many years ago. The Rebbe told him he envisions a time when all the world’s computers will be connected. 30 Years later, enter the dotcom era.


JEM activities featured at JSA conference

December 24, 2008
Conference Program

Conference Program

Conference Program

Conference Program

Pulled this one right off the news ticker:

At this week’s Association for Jewish Studies conference in Washington, two distinguished experts highlighted JEM’s progress in archiving and production of Jewish multimedia.

As part of the panel “JEWS AND NEW MEDIA II: ARCHIVES AND THE CULTURAL MARKETPLACE,” JEM director Elkanah Shmotkin outlined the effort underway to create an archive of the existing media featuring the Rebbe. Their efforts toward collecting, storing, and providing access to materials as part of “The Living Archive” project has established JEM as innovator in this field, and was of great interest to the assembled audience of academics and scholars.

(More surprisingly,) …another of the panel’s experts pointed to lessons that can be learned from the methods used in the “Living Torah” series. Using the weekly sicha segment as a model, professor Samuel Heilman gave a presentation on how proper production and packaging can make raw content palatable to a broader audience. Had they attended the Rebbe’s Farbrengen in person, Dr. Heilman explained, most American Jews would have had difficulty understanding the message spoken. In making the Rebbe’s talks accessible to these Jews, through use of video introductions, English subtitles and more, Living Torah demonstrates the ability to package content in a way that widens its appeal.

The sicha Dr. Heilman showed can be seen here. The Jew the Rebbe is speaking about is Mr. David Chase, one of the founders of Machne Yisroel Developement Fund.


New week of dollars online at “My Moment with the Rebbe”

December 24, 2008 has uploaded photo stills from another week of dollars. It can be found at here.

In the unlikely case that you are not familiar with “My Moment with the Rebbe”, here’s the gist.

A still is grabbed from the dollars video for every person who got a dollar from the Rebbe. That happens on the JEM end. puts the whole lot (in this latest case, 2,636) of them online where people can browse through them, and name anyone they might recognize. If it’s themselves in the picture, they can order a personalized DVD with their moment with the Rebbe. (Hence the Name.)

This involves extensive and tedious effort, all necessary to due to the private nature of most of these encounters.


A peek inside my JEMnation Chanukah

December 22, 2008

Remember when every JEM release was like, a huge deal?

Those were the days. When they began adding subtitles to the Rebbe’s Farbrengens, people were very excited about the innovation that now made them accessible. The most exciting release for me was my personal favorite, Tishrei with the Rebbe Volume 1, and Volume 2 became hotly anticipated and a must-watch. Everyone got excited about the fast-paced  Kinus series (Cornerstones, Embers…), and a video a week made Living Torah a special novelty.

We’ve become a bit spoiled by the regularity of JEM’s offerings, the quality of each equaling, and usually outdoing, that of the older favorites. I’d say they’re a victim of their own success, and – if they weren’t my employer – I would have an earful for the higher-ups on how I would have things run.

Anyhow, I still like to make an event out of a new video whenever possible. So I brought home my brand new Chanukah Moments with the Rebbe DVD (can be purchased here) and popped it into the high tech home theater system at my lonely writers garret. Heeding the (not at all cheesy) suggestion on the cover, I watched the whole thing in the glow of my just lit Menorah. My impressions will be forthcoming.

How do you celebrate a new JEM release? We love your comments!

Humble Menorah-video setup of your JEMnation blogger

Humble Menorah-video setup of your JEMnation blogger

New JEM DVD - Now with instructions!

New JEM DVD - Now with instructions!

More from my lonely writer's garret

More from my lonely writer's garret


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