1. Mazel Tov
2. A summary of Rav Hamburger's visit to the US
On Shabbos Parashas Shemous, bnei Ashkenaz from far and near converged on Baltimore, MD for a special Shabbaton to mechazeik the base of Minhag Ashkenaz supporters in the USA. Hosted by Kehillas Ashkenaz and featured as a major speaker at Shomrei Emunah, Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger שליט"א, delivered many shiurim, and answered questions to clarify and elucidate the halachic bases of Minhag Ashkenaz. Many people participated and received great chizuk.
Alexander Weil, the founder of Kehillas Ashkenaz in Baltimore, introduced Rav Hamburger and also mentioned that the minyan had been invited by the largest shul on Baltimore, Shomrei Emunah, to join that kehilla. Being part of a larger framework would help Kehillas Ashkenaz attract more members and also be able to participate in chesed activities, learning and tzedoko in the context of our own shul.
Rav Hamburger delivered a lecture highlighting the accuracy of the Ashkenazic mesouroh and encouraging Bnei Ashkenaz to daven at Kehillas Ashkenaz, intermixed with some stories about the history of Baltimore Orthodox Jewry including Rav Avraham Rice, zt'l and Rav Shimon Schwab, zt'l. Though many people would rather daven in a "large" minyan of 1000 people rather than the Ashkenaz minyan which on occasion has 10, Rav Hirsch explained when he was struggling to set up an independent kehillo that the same shechino is in both places.
Leil Shabbos after the seudoh, an עונג שבת was held at the Weil home attended by about 35 men and a number of women. Rav Hamburger spoke about the chiyuv to say the brocho "oseh ma'aseh breishis" if flying over the Swiss Alps, and cited many famous poskim and Jewish thinkers including Rav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch, zt'l. Rav Hamburger addresses why Dutch Jews name after living relatives, why some people wash before kiddush at night but not during the day, and the importance of keeping minhogim like "Chol Kreisch." Many people with little or no affiliation to Kehillas Ashkenaz came to the עונג שבת and attained a great respect for the mesouroh, as Rav Hamburger demonstrated that all Ashkenazic Jews are primarily beholden to the German-Jewish roots for their Jewish practices.
At Shabbos morning after Davening, Rav Hamburger spoke in Shomrei Emunah, about the Ari zl's ma’amar that there are 12 gates in the sky, and that tefilo only goes up through the gate of one's sheivet. He then gave a brocho to the host shul, to the chosson who was celebrating his aufruf that day, and thanked Shomrei for inviting Kehilas Ashkenaz to be a part of the larger community.
One hour before mincho Rav Hamburger spoke about waiting 3 hours between meat and milk, and about how to pronounce the choulom. He briefly mentioned washing before kiddush and then took questions. This session was lively, and attracted about 120 people.
Rav Hamburger was asked to daven mincho before the omud and obliged with an unhurried, remarkable chazoras ha'shatz that the tzibbur enjoyed.
At seudoh Shlishis he fielded questions regarding importance of piyyutim and other key contemporary issues.
Havdolo at the Weil house was attended by many supporters and accompanied with singing Gott Fun Avrohom, HaMavdil, Eliyohu Hanovi and Shir HaMa'alous Ashrei Kol Yerei Hashem.
After Shabbos he received more visitors, before heading out speak at the Kol Torah (R. Yosef Berger shlita) melaveh malkoh at the Liberty Jewish Center. He spoke there regarding the halachic question of whether we pasken like R. Yehudo Hachosid's numerous instructions from his tzavo’oh.
On Sunday afternoon, he was invited by the ראש ישיבה of Greater Washington (Silver Spring) Haran Aaron Lopiansky שליט"א, to address the yeshivo and community in one of their bottei medrosh. Roughly 45 people attended the shiur about "The History of Minhogei Ashkenaz." Among those attending were rebbeim as well as bloggers who wrote up their impressions online.
In the evening, Rav Hamburger spoke at Sherith Israel (Glen Avenue) in Baltimore regarding various rabbinic responses and principles when dealing with Meshichei Sheker personalities through the ages. R. Mordechai Frankel, the assistant Rav of Agudah of Park Heights, who had actually read the entire 700 page book Meshichei Sheker u'misnagdeihem, enthusiastically introduced Rav Hamburger, lauding his work that gave a proper perspective on False Messiahs. This is a great service to the frum community that people do not have to read works by quasi-maskilim just to understand a contemporary, ubiquitous menace. There were about 100 people who attended this lecture including some hecklers in the back, whom Rabbi Hamburger put down in short order.
On Monday morning, Rav Hamburger met with the ראש ישיבה of Ner Yisroel, HaRav Aharon Feldman שליט"א, who expressed support for the Meshichei Sheker book and even wanted to buy a copy for himself. The ראש ישיבה even offered to help partially raise the funds to translate the book into English. Additional sponsorship is needed!
Monday afternooon, as Rav Hamburger's final engagement in Baltimore, he spoke to the Bais Yaakov staff and teachers regarding the influence of Rav Hirsch on Sarah Shnerer, and how he actually saved Eastern European Jewry through girls' education.
Monday night, he spoke in Lower Merion Synagogue in Philadelphia, about the historical basis and discussion regarding whether it is permissible and/or proper to auction off aliyos. Special meetings also took place with Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky שליט"א – the ראש ישיבה of Philadelphia, the Roush Koullel שליט"א and Rav Mandelbaum שליט"א of Philadelphia Yeshivo.
On Tuesday night in Lakewood, Rav Hamburger spoke at R. Nosson Hershberg's shul regarding the chashivus of Minhag Ashkenaz. The questioning went on for a few hours from the packed house. From this event a nucleus of בני תורה who would like to start a Lakewood Ashkenaz minyan in time for Dalet parshious is beginning to emerge. Rav Hamburger also met with Rav Malkiel Kotler שליט"א, and gave him a copy of Meshichei Sheker.
On Shabbos Parshas Vo'eiro, Rav Hamburger went to Riverdale where he was scholar-in-residence at RJC. There was an עונג שבת at his cousin's apartment where there were probably a dozen people as well as the assistant Rabbi of Riverdale Jewish Center, and the famous Rav Mordechai Willig שליט"א, bombarding him with questions, and he having the answers to all of the questions.
Moutzo’ei Shabbos he spoke at Young Israel of Bays water on “Ashkenaz and Sepharad: Two approaches to Torah”. He was introduced by the Moro d'Asro of the shul Rav Feuer שליט"א, as well as the ראש ישיבה of Five Towns, Rav Moshe Zev Katzenstein, שליט"א. The shiur was organized by the KAYJ forum's Daniel Adler, and roughly 150 people attended.
On Sunday afternoon he spoke at Bais Torah in Monsey on the general development of Minhag Ashkenaz and Sunday night he spoke at Riverdale Jewish center on case studies of the development of Yizkour, Kaddish and Av Horachamim.
Monday night he spoke in Ahavas Israel in Passaic, being introduced by Rav Ron Yitzchak Eisenman שליט"א, who having lived in Washington Heights and learned the halachic bases of Minhag Ashkenaz, is a vocal proponent of awareness of this Minhag.
In Elizabeth on Tuesday night, Rav Hamburger about the ancient traditions, nusach hatfiloh, and practices which Ashkenazim (especially Yekkes) still share with Sephardim as well as those in which they differ.
On Wednesday afternoon in his final stateside appearance before returning to Eretz Yisroel, he spoke at a lunchtime gathering at the offices of the Orthodox Union. Invited and introduced by Rabbi Steven Weil, שליט"א, the OU’s Executive Vice President, the shiur was open to the public and as Rav Hamburger’s sole Manhattan appearance, was well-attended. It also focused on the History and Development of Minhag Ashkenaz.
The main points Rav Hamburger stressed during the trip were the authentic Ashkenazic choulom, as explained by many pouskim including the גר"א, the saying of piyyutim and the need to return to authentic practices (such as those which had been banned due to censors) in our daily lives and davening. Bnei Ashkenaz need their own shuls where these traditions and halochos can best be upheld.
Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz and KAYJ are preparing audio and video recordings of Rav Hamburger’s lectures.