This past Shabbos was the most high. This past Friday night, Hillel
convened at the Namaste Lounge at College 9 on campus for services and dinner, sponsored by Soy Vay
(a company that started in Humbolt). According to Hillel member Corinne Strasser, there were about 40 people present. Everyone enjoyed the "really good chicken and potatoes, rice, salad with Soy Vay dressing... It was a really nice shabbat, low key, relaxed and nice. The dinner was great, there were some new faces, and some of the old ones too." The Soy Vay guy and his wife were both there, and Corinne said they were really nice. Shkoiach Hillel!
It was off the hook at the Chabad House
Friday night. According to an estimate by third year student Ze'ev Hoffman, it was a packed house with between 50-70 students. "Shlomie gave a really lively recap of the last few parshas, in particular hearing the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai." He said Shlomie also delved into the midrash about how G-d first looked to the children of Eisav and Ishmael to see if they could receive the Torah, but they couldn't accept it, but not only did the Jews accept, they said, "We will do and we will listen," and here we are today. Ze'ev also noted, almost matter-of-factly, that the "food was superb, as always." Also, there was some celebration on the news of Ronit and her fiance's engagement. Mazal tov from the JewniProj!
Me and three other Jewish slugs (who had been at Jewlicious at the Beach v2.0
a week ago) spent this past Shabbos in Berkeley, again with famed Chassidic reggae superstar Matisyahu and his mishpocho. Friday night we were at Rabbi and Rebbetzin Ferris' (of Chabad of Berkeley
) house for Shabbat dinner. It was a packed house over there too. Jonah David
, the drummer from Matisyahu's band, gave a d'var Torah on connectedness with G-d, and emphasized that it's important to know that G-d is with you all the time, no matter how lost you feel or far you feel from holiness or spirituality, and G-d is always ready to embrace you with open arms. Rabbi Ferris also spoke at length over dinner, making l'chaims and relating Torah and Chassidic stories. One thing really stuck with me. There is a line in this past week's parsha that goes "If you see your enemy's donkey crouching under its burden... You will surely help it." [My own commentary: On a literal level, we can say that this means don't let animals suffer, even your enemy's animals.] Rabbi Ferris related the following story (copied here from SichosInEnglish
) in relation to the above mentioned quote:
In the days when the Maggid of Mezritch was still alive, the Alter Rebbe was once about to leave Mezritch for home. As the Maggid's son R. Avraham the Malach ("The Angel") was seeing him off, he said to the wagon driver: "One has to whip the horses until they stop being horses." (Or, according to another version, "...until they know that they are horses.")
Hearing this the Alter Rebbe reacted by saying that he had now learned a new path in Divine service. He therefore deferred his departure and stayed on for some time in Mezritch. (Likkutei Dibburim I, ch. 2 sec. 25)
"Horses" alludes to the animal soul which must be refined and purified by "whipping." The goal is (a) to nullify the "horses" and change them into non-equine beings; and (b) refine and influence the "horse" so that it knows that it is a horse and that it should fulfill its purpose to travel to a certain place following the desire and will of the driver.
Full story available here
How does it relate to the donkey of your enemy? The donkey represents one's own body which houses a divine soul. The physicality of the body creates a perceived disconnectedness from G-d, and it is called "your enemy's" because it actually hates G-dliness. It is crouching under it's burden, because it doesn't want to become refined, so you must surely help it to be refined and to connect physicality with spirituality as best you can. The story about whipping the horses is the exact same concept. Shkoiach Rabbi Ferris. So, we had great Torah and excellent food.
Rebbetzin Miller held an engaging group question-and-answer session after dinner on the theme of "Intimacy from a Jewish Perspective," with about 15 students staying until 12:30am.
Saturday there was quite a lavish Kiddush. Rabbi Ferris related a handful of stories there as well, but this one really stood out to me:
It was a number of years ago, early in Rabbi Ferris' career, and he was going to visit a Jewish man who was dying of AIDS, to talk with him and comfort him. As he was leaving his house and about to pull out of the driveway, his wife ran out and said, "Here, take this, it might help you" and tossed a tape into the car. R' Ferris popped it in, and it was a Torah-talk about dinosaurs, the age of the universe, fossils and related scientific topics from a Torah perspective. While Rabbi Ferris found it all very interesting, he had no idea how it would help him comfort a terminally-ill AIDS patient.
So he showed up to the house with a bag of bagels and a pair of tefillin. The man's partner opened the door, and let the Rabbi in. He walked to the sick man's bed. The man looked at him and said, "Thanks, I'll take the bagels, but you can leave the tefillin in the car." When Rabbi Ferris asked why he was so opposed to putting on tefillin, the man said when he was a kid, he had once asked his rabbi a question, and the rabbi had brushed him off and not even considered the question legitimate. This had frustrated the boy so much that he swore that he would never put on tefillin or do any other Jewish stuff again until someone answered his question, and that was 35 years ago. So, if Rabbi Ferris wanted to answer the question, he would put on tefillin. Rabbi Ferris uttered a silent prayer that he should have the knowledge to answer the question and said, "Sure, let's hear it."
"Ok," the man began. "It has to do with dinosaurs." At that moment, all the pieces came together. So this amazing story shows that sometimes G-d's plan is extremely revealed, although most times it is not. Another theme is the wisdom of Jewish women. Another theme is how we have to value the education of the youth, and take their questions seriously.
Speaking of the youth, if you haven't seen Matisyahu's new video for "Youth" yet, here it is. It's really well produced, and I love the scene with the tefillin at the beginning of the video. I also like the fist-in-the-air theme, but, well, I always associated it with the Black Panthers and other revolutionary movements (like the JewniProj lol). So I asked Matis what he meant by it, and he said it just goes with the lyrics, namely "Young man/ control's in your hand/ slam your fist on the table and make your demand/ take a stand, fan the fire for the flame of the youth/ you got the freedom to choose/ better make the right move." So it is revolutionary, but more like the Revolutionary Army of Hashem