Thursday, December 11, 2008

A community of caring, a legacy of study . . . and song

Walking around Jerusalem -- as I hope, God willing, to be doing in only about a week -- one often sees a sign like the one to the right. It's a death notice -- one that Minna found posted outside a pet store -- announcing not only where the funeral will be (on the very day the notice was posted), but also where, in the ancient tradition of the Jewish people, the mourners can be found afterward, so the community can visit them during their week of initial mourning.

Minna went to the funeral earlier this week for the deceased, Rabbi Mickey Rosen, and I expect she will be writing about that experience soon on smamitayim -- about how clear it was to her while she was there that Rabbi Rosen left a deep mark on many people. [True to her word -- as usual! -- Minna did write about the experience. See second half of this blog post.]

So, I will only say a little bit here about Rabbi Rosen's emotional and spiritual impact -- just that he was the founder of Yakar, a synagogue and place of learning that deeply impacted many people, including my former rabbinical school colleague, Barry Leff who wrote a hesped recounting how much he was impacted by Rabbi Rosen and by Yakar and the songs of prayer he participated in there.

I will just share something indicating that Rabbi Rosen was also very much a scholar. Here is a description about Rabbi Rosen's recent book, QUEST FOR AUTHENTICITY: The Thought of Reb Simhah Bunim:
The Przysucha (Yiddish: Pshiskha, pronounced Pe-shis-kha) school of Hasidism believed in a service of God that demanded both passion and analytical study. There was little or no study of kabbalah in Przysucha, and the emphasis was not on trying to understand God, but on trying to understand the human being. It was clear to them that one could not stand with any sense of integrity before the Divine Presence unless one first had some clarity of who one really was.

Directly or indirectly, Przysucha had declared an internal war upon the hasidic leadership of its time. It simply refused to accept anything that smelled of falseness and self-deception, be it the honor due to a zaddik or a particular religious practice. Przysucha equated pretension and self-deceit with idol worship.

During the early part of the nineteenth century, when the center of the hasidic world was in Poland, R. Simhah Bunim transformed Przysucha Hasidism into a movement and thus rose to become a, if not the, dominant personality in the Hasidic community.
May his memory be a blessing.


Rabbi Rosen only had a small impact on me personally, although I vividly remember how his talit seemed to be constantly in a process of falling off and being pulled back up when he spoke before his congregation. But it does strike me how what I wrote above has weaved within it -- even in just the title of this blog post -- three themes that I am striving to weave into a whole in my own life as a person, as a rabbi and as a spiritual caregiver:
  • the thread of scholarship (davka academic scholarship (in addition to other kinds of Torah learning))
  • the thread of spiritual care (with the community caring for Rabbi Rosen's family )
  • the thread of spiritual inspiration (with Yakar's songs of spirit)

No comments: