This motzaeiShabbos,ParashasNoach, October 17, Congregation Aish Kodesh of Woodmere will commemorate the 72nd yahrzeit of Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro, the Rebbe of Piaseczna, Poland, with a special hilulah, yahrzeit event, featuring the music of Yosef Karduner and inspirational words by its mara d’asra, Rav Moshe Weinberger. The hilulah will take place at the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst beginning at 8:30 p.m.
At its founding in 1992, Rav Weinberger named the shul after the Piaseczner Rebbe’s profound sefer, Aish Kodesh, which is a compilation of the Rebbe’s discourses in the Warsaw Ghetto between 1939 and the liquidation of the ghetto in 1943; the Rebbe was interned in the Trawniki labor camp and then murdered by the Nazis. (See related story on page 79.) Rav Shapiro was one of the most prominent Polish chassidicrebbes before World War II. He also founded an innovative chassidic yeshiva, Daas Moshe, to help combat the social upheaval and rampant assimilation prevalent after the First World War.
This year is the 16th annual hilulah and will be especially meaningful; in addition to the beautiful music of Yosef Karduner with Gadi Pugath on violin and the inspiring words of Rav Weinberger, the shul will introduce a newly published sefer, Warmed by the Fire of the Aish Kodesh, a compilation of Rav Weinberger’s discourses from previous years’ hilulahs. The sefer, distributed by Feldheim Publishers, was adapted by Binyamin Wolf and is also available at Jewish bookstores and on Feldheim’s website.
The hilulah often attracts as many as 1,000 people of all backgrounds, from far and wide. What makes the teachings of the Aish Kodesh so compelling and why do they resonate with this generation more than those of many other great tzaddikim? Rav Weinberger explains, “The Rebbe was far ahead of his time. When one opens up Chovas HaTalmidim [which discusses education], the methodology and the psychology were very, very modern .Â .Â . It speaks to modern man and it speaks very much to our generation .Â .Â . The Rebbe had his finger on the pulse of the generation .Â .Â . He ‘gets’ it.”
While Congregation Aish Kodesh continues to host events like the hilulah for the Piaseczner Rebbe and its popular Lag BaOmer hilulah, the shul has taken a number of important steps recently to reinvigorate and augment its overall learning and programming schedule. Most importantly, the shul appointed Rav Yoni Levin as its first assistant rabbi. Rav Levin is an alumnus of the Kollel Elyon at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University and is currently a rebbe at Yeshivas Lev Shlomo in Woodmere, an affiliate of HALB.
Rav Levin is now leading two new morning learning programs, Mondays through Thursdays, 6:00—7:00 a.m. One group is learning Gemarab’iyun and the other focuses on halachahb’iyun. Participants in the halachah program will be tested and ultimately earn semichah, rabbinical ordination, after approximately three years. Participation in either of these chaburos is not limited to Aish Kodesh members, so readers are encouraged to check the Aish Kodesh website (www.aishkodesh.org) for more information.
Friday mornings at Aish Kodesh are now almost standing-room-only with two new morning classes. At 6:00 a.m., Rav Weinberger teaches a new weekly shiur titled “Sugyos in Chassidus: What is the chiddush of the Baal Shem Tov?” This series is a great introduction for anyone interested in obtaining a basic, systematic grasp of chassidus. Participants will come away with a greater understanding of why chassidus, as a spiritual and intellectual movement, seems to take the religious world by storm more and more every year.
At 8:00 a.m. Friday mornings, Rav Weinberger teaches a shiur on the sefer “Eretz Cheifetz: Desired Land,” a systematized compilation of the writings of Rav Kook, zt’l, on the land of Israel and those who built it prior to and after the founding of the modern state. EretzCheifetz was compiled by Rav Yeshayahu Shapiro, scion of the Polish chassidic world and brother of Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Aish Kodesh. This class is open to both men and women and is a must-hear shiur for anyone who wants to understand what the land of Israel means to the Jewish people and the part it plays in the unfolding of the ultimate redemption.
There are multiple other new shiurim every night of the week by speakers including Rav Yoni Levin, Rabbi Yussie Zakutinsky, Rabbi Shalom Yona Weis, and Rabbi Yosef Richtman. The full schedule of shiurim is laid out on the shul’s website, aishkodesh.org. Newcomers, visitors, and other explorers are welcome.
Certain shiurim, particularly on Friday mornings, are also available via live teleconference for those who cannot make it in person (605-475-6333; passcode: 183654#). The shul’s website indicates which shiurim are available by phone. Shiurim may also be downloaded/streamed online at yutorah.org. The shul also hopes, in the near future, to make a live video stream of many of the shiurim available on its website. v
Binyomin Wolf is the adapter of a recently released book by Rav Moshe Weinberger, distributed by Feldheim Publishers, titled Warmed by the Fire of the Aish Kodesh: Torah from the Hilulas of Reb Kalonymus Kalman Shapira of Piaseczna. He studied at RIETS and Sh’or Yoshuv, served as a member of the Community Kollel of Des Moines, and is now an attorney in New York.