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12 posts from August 2012

Breslev and Black Jews

Dear Rabbi Brody,

I want you to know that Rabbi Shalom Arush's books, the Lazer Beams web journal and the Breslev Israel site were the messengers that Hashem chose to bring me to convert to Judaism. The rabbis of the Bet Din where I converted were amazed at my knowledge about emuna. At any rate, I feel like a Breslever. I love Rebbe Nachman's teachings and the way Rabbi Arush applies them to every phase of practical life. And I love the way you bring them to us English speakers. I owe you more than you'll ever know. But, when I saw your clip and poem We're All Brothers, I really had to write you. It's nice talk, but is it only you or is it all of Breslev? If I would make aliya (which I'm starting to think about), would an African-American convert like me be accepted? I'd appreciate you're being candid with me - don't spare my feelings, just give it to me straight so I won't have any illusions. I appreciate your taking the time to read this. With appreciation from the heart, Reuven from the USA

Dear Reuven,

Come to Uman on Rosh Hashana and see how many African-descended Jews you'll find. The same goes for our Yeshiva. When it comes to Jews, not only me but all of Breslev is color blind. A Jew is a Jew - Ashkenazi, Sefardi, black, white, religious or non-religious. The missiles of our enemies don't differentiate between Jews, so why should we? Aliya is a great idea. Our Yeshiva has open arms to any serious Jew, no matter what his color is. And, you won't be the first African-American convert in our community. May Hashem help you succeed always. With blessings of every shape and form, LB

Arik and Lazer
Arik Shalom with Lazer at the Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva in Jerusalem

Is it Safe to Come to Israel?

Dear Rabbi Brody - we are big fans of yours here in Baltimore. We moved here about 5 years ago from a small community down south so our kids could grow up in a larger frum community and thank G-d its been great for that. Our oldest daughter just finished Bais Yaakov High School and is planning to go to Seminary in Yerushalaim this fall. Here's our question. We are very concerned about an upcoming war with Iran & assoc and while we try to have Emuna we're honestly very concerned. We would appreciate your advice. Regards, Concerned Parents

Dear Concerned Parents,

By all means, send your daughter to Jerusalem - it will be wonderful for her here. All of Israel is safe, but the safest places are the centers of Torah and Jewish observance such as Jerusalem, Bnai Brak, Ashdod, Beitar, Gush Etzion, Kiryat Sefer, and Ramat Bet Shemesh. I wouldn't recommend Tel Aviv. In fact, I urge you to start thinking about aliya. May you have much joy from all your children. Blessings always, LB 

To Beard or not to Beard

Dear Rabbi Lazer,

You might laugh at this question, but here goes anyway: I became religious three years ago, and thank G-d, my wife is cooperating (shabbos, kashrus, mikva, etc., although she still doesn't cover her hair). A year ago, I began learning Breslev books and I love them. I also own most of your CDs and live by them - they've helped me tremendously. Two months ago, I came to hear your lecture in Dallas; maybe you remember me - I'm the person that told you that your beard and payis are outrageously cool. After your talk, I was driving home with my wife and without thinking I told her that I would love to look like Rabbi Lazer Brody - a guy who's not ashamed to walk anywhere as a proud Jew, even here in Texas. She went beserk, and told me that if I change my appearance, she's out the door. We then had a war, and I'm still picking up the pieces. What do I do?

With respect and admiration, Mike from the Dallas area

Dear Mike,

Slow down, partner. Your wife is right - no change in your appearance at this point! As it is, shaving with an electric razor (in other words, not shaving with a blade razor) is a tremendous mitzva. Religious law doesn't require a Jew to look like me. When you're spiritually ready for a change, your wife will encourage it. Meanwhile, cherish her and respect her, because if you upset her, her mitzva observance might faulter, Heaven forbid. Look at her great points - she's observing Shabbat, keeping a kosher house, and going to mikva. Thousands of other men that aspire to have observant homes would be jealous of you.

In her eyes, you - as a baal tshuva - represent observant Judaism. If you're a kind, considerate, and loving husband, she'll want to please you and she'll cover her hair. If not, don't be surprised if she takes a slide, and it will be your fault. So have patience, my man, and polish up your Torah learning, your praying, and your knowledge of religious law, and your treatment of her. Make anger and criticism worse in your eyes than pork, and treat your wife with love and constant respect, no matter what. If you sincerely want to be a beard and payis chossid, don't worry; you'll get there - together with your wife when she decides to cover her hair.

Now, for first aid, take her out to the Glatt Indian restaurant, buy her flowers, and apologize for arguing. Then, you can invite me to your next bris or kiddush. Hope to see you again this coming November - we're planning to be back in Texas, G-d willing.

With blessings always, Lazer Brody

We're All Brothers

Emuna makes us color blind as far as our fellow human goes. We don't look at black, white, yellow or red, we look at souls. About 5 weeks ago, I posted a rap-style poem that I wrote on one of the plane drips during our recent USA-Canada speaking tour. Well, our good friends "Mac Fool" and "Crackerjack Eddie" from Philadelphia put it to music. They did a James Brown version, which we're posting today, and a rapper version that we hope to post soon. The lyrics appear below the film clip. Enjoy it, and remember - we're all brothers!

We're All Brothers

Lyrics: Lazer Brody

Music: Mac Fool

Vocal: Crackerjack Eddie

There's so much war, people hurt each other

But the other dude, is really my brother

Just because his skin ain't white

That don't mean that he ain't right

Folks from East and folks the west

All got red blood in their chest

So it ain't the body that's really you

Rememba, bro, you gotta soul too

Hey li'l sister, you're really smart?

Listen up, open up your heart

The body stays here for limited years

Full of troubles and full of fears

But the soul you got inside your head

Is live and kickin', it ain't never dead

It's a spark of G-d, 'cause you're His child

Chill, my man, and don't get riled

If I'm His child and you are too

We're all brothers, it's really true.

So let's give faith and peace a try

God loves you, and so do I


A Dangerous Place for Kids

Two short weeks ago, during my weekly emuna lesson Where's Moishie, I warned parents of the dangers of cyberspace. Among other things, I said, "We implore parents to take an active interest – and control – over what their children are doing, online and elsewhere...cyberspace is a dangerous place."

Yesterday, Major-General Moti Aderi, of the National Fraud Unit of the Israeli Police said almost word for word the same thing. An undercover policewoman, posing as a twelve-year old, exposed an online pedophile ring here in Israel. Over 30 seemingly "upright" citizens have been arrested. The policewoman said: "I knew that pedophiles operated online, but I was shocked by how extensive it was," she said. "I told them I was 12 and that I was shy, but it didn’t even deter them. They went to great lengths to try to get me to meet with them. The conversations were very sexual in nature. It was appalling."

Do you what your children are doing right now? It's your duty as a parent. You wouldn't let your kids walk down the street in Gaza. Why let them be exposed to the dangers of cyberspace?