Thursday, December 31, 2009
Freedom of choice is a necessary requisite for the concept of a mitzva being fulfilled.
Will we have the ability to make a choice when moshiach comes?
When Moshiach comes there will be no challenges, there will be no difficulties, and we will not have the opportunity to make a choice. We will not have the ability or the challenge to decide to do the mitzvah or not to.
We will all be doing exactly what we are supposed to do, we will all be in perfect sync with Hashem's Will, doing the mitzvos, almost robotic. But with that of course comes the loss of thrill when we DO overcome a challenge.
That thrill and accomplishment can only be achieved NOW, in galus.
Not only is it a physical thrill and joy, but a spiritual reward as well, which we will merit to collect when Moshiach comes. The more difficult it is to do the Mitzva now the greater the reward will be then. More of G-dliness will be revealed.
That is why we need to utilize every moment NOW - till Moshiach comes - to gather and to collect as many mitzvohs as possible -
For once Moshiach comes the opportunities of galus will be gone.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Two forces set the stage for our act upon this earth: Love and fear. With love, we set our goals. With fear, we set our boundaries. One who fears failure is bound to take no risks. One who fears others is banished from his own self. One who fears life has no room to breathe.
The Torah liberates us by declaring there is only one thing to fear—not failure, not others, not even death itself. The only thing to fear is the One who stands beyond and within all things, the one we call G-d.
It may be a simple fear that, "If I do those things He does not like, the consequences will not be good." Or—fear is the fear of separation from G-d, as a small child who is afraid to be separated from his parents. Or for those who ponder G-d's infinite greatness and the wonders of His creation, fear is a sense of awe and amazement, taking life up to a whole new level.
Sometimes it's "awe", sometimes "wonder." In all these forms of fear, however, there is one common thread: The awareness of a reality beyond our own that defines and determines all we do. Love is a commentary on the nature of the one who loves, whereas fear, awe and wonder are exclusively about the One who is feared.
And if we don't have that sense of wonder, awe, or fear. We can make time each day to ponder our relationship with G-d, to become acutely aware of His awesome and loving presence. Once that awareness finds a fixed place in our heart, all we do will fall in place, with joy and pleasure. We will be free!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The peasant lifted the now unrecognizable king and gently brought him back to his hut and tended to his wounds till he regained enough of his own strength to continue on his way. The peasant had no idea that it was the king that he had revived.
The peasant then received a gift of beautiful silverware with a note from the king who was thanking him for his hospitality in the forest and for nursing him back to his health.
The simple man was shocked. The king?? He had hosted the king in his dilapidated hut?? And the gift, looking totally out of place in his poor home was put on a corner shelf and forgotten about.
One day, the King sent a message to his rescuer that he would like to visit him in his home and thank him personally.
When the simple man heard that the king was coming, he was overcome with anxiety. How can he welcome His Majesty into his impoverished shack?? This was no place for a royal king!! He looked around for something that would be presentable for someone of such stature. He then remembered the gift that he had received from the king earlier. Realizing that this grand gift was something the king can surely appreciate, he happily placed it on the table and awaited the king's arrival.
This time, when the king came, he was royally dressed as is fit for a king. Feeling ashamed at the sorry welcome he was offering the king. "My deepest apologies, Your Highness" He said. " My home is but the simplest of homes. My food? Your dogs surely have tasted better. With what can I serve the king? I have nothing that can impress His Majesty. The ONLY thing I thought appropriately honorable was something that His Majesty himself sent to me."
And the king was impressed.
Monday, December 28, 2009
The Mitzvot are, 613 of, G-d's commandments to the Jewish people. They are the ultimate expression of our relationship with G-d. When we do a Mitzvah we are expressing that connection to G-d.
Nearly all of the mitzvot involve material objects: Tzitizit are made of wool, tefillin of leather, and so on. G-d's Will and wisdom, which is basically His essence, are clothed in His Mitzvot. And so Now G-d is made accessible to us thru His mitzvot which are in enclothed in these physical objects.
We may think that when we are doing a Mitzva we are only connected to the lower level of G-d and not His essence. Yet it is not so. It is like one who embraces a king. There is no difference in the degree of the closeness and attachment to the king whether we embrace him when the king is wearing one robe or many robes, since the king's body is in them.
Our reward in the world to come consists of our soul enjoying the radiance of the Divine Presence, meaning - the pleasure in comprehending G-dliness. But it is ONLY a glimmer, a ray of the Divine light. In THIS world though, through our performing Torah and Mitzvot we are united with G-d Himself.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
It is the day on which the evil king Nevuchadnetzar laid siege upon Jerusalem, which eventually led to the destruction of the first Holy Temple and the Babylonian Exile.
The tenth of Tevet is considered an especially solemn day, because it is the first in a series of events which led to this present exile. Therefore, it is a day to reflect upon all of those events and the actions that led to them, and to reflect upon, which of our OWN actions need improving in order to hasten the end of this exile and to prepare for the imminent Redemption.
TEVET - is related to the Hebrew word "tov", which means "good".
And so even though that we commemorate a sad event; our Sages named this month "Tevet" to inspire the positive good energy, that is within each and everyone of us, that we have the power to transform, bad into good. Sorrow into joy. Darkness into light.
And exile into redemption!
Friday, December 25, 2009
Our Sages tell us that each brother wept over the destruction that would occur in the other brother's portion of land. Joseph wept over the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem, in Benjamin's portion, and Benjamin wept over the Sanctuary in Shilo, in Joseph's portion.
Interestingly, Joseph wept over the destruction that would occur in Benjamin's portion, but not over the destruction in his own territory. Similarly, Benjamin wept over the destruction of the Sanctuary in Joseph's portion, but did not grieve over the two Temples in Jerusalem, which were in his own portion.
Why didn't each one weep over his own misfortune?
A Jew who conducts himself according to Torah causes G-d's Presence to dwell within him, thereby symbolically building in his heart a personal Sanctuary.
When one sees his brother's inner Sanctuary being destroyed [by his actions], he cries, for it is painful to witness. Crying lessens the pain, but cannot fix what was destroyed. Rectifying the situation is not in his hands, he therefore can only empathize.
Yet when a person destroys his own inner Temple he does not weep, for no amount of weeping can ever rebuild it. Instead, he needs to perform actual deeds.
Mitzvot can reconstruct the ruined Sanctuary.
Joseph and Benjamin realized that lamenting their own sorrows would yield no practical benefit. Each brother would have to exert his own efforts to rebuild; by observing Mitzvot and acts of goodness.
Let each of us rebuild the Sanctuary in our hearts, and together we will merit the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, that will never be destroyed!
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:31 pm.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
This week's parshah, Parshat Vayigash, relates how Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers and was reunited with them.
In last week's parshah, when the brothers had first come to Egypt, "Joseph recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him." The reason for that is that many years had elapsed since they had last seen him. They had left him an unbearded young man, and now he was a fully-bearded adult.
Chassidism, however, offers a different interpretation of the verse. The sons of Jacob had all chosen to be shepherds – a quiet and peaceful occupation. Out in the fields, tending their flocks, they had little contact with the social life of the country and were undisturbed in their service of G-d, in their worship and study. They shied away from an environment that would place temptations in their chosen path
Joseph, however, was in this respect superior to them. He was able to occupy the highest administrative position in the mightiest nation of that era, and yet remain righteous.The brothers did not recognize and could not comprehend that the viceroy of Egypt could truly remain the same G-d-fearing Joseph whom they had known, for such a way of life was above their level.Many of us live with the mistaken assumption that only those living shepherd like lives---away from worldly temptation---can achieve great heights in spirituality. But this is not the reality that G-d created nor desired. G-d specifically placed us in this material and coarse world because He wants us to elevate and refine our surroundings. And, like Joseph, we can stay connected to our Source while rising to become princes in our palaces.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
One day the king said to the Rabbi :"I have learned that one of your basic tenets is to believe in G-d who created the heavens and the earth. But Rabbi, what proof do we have that G-d created the world? Perhaps it came about by itself."
Just then the king accidentally knocked over a bottle of ink that was on his desk. It spilled out onto some papers and onto the king's royal garments.
The king jumped up and asked that the rabbi wait while he went to change his clothing.
As soon as the king left the room, the rabbi threw out the ink-filled papers, took a clean sheet of paper and quickly began drawing a picture of mountains, trees and beautiful flower gardens. He placed it right next to the overturned ink bottle, making it appear as though the ink had spilled on the paper.
The king returned to the room and asked in surprise, "Who drew this beautiful scene?"
The rabbi innocently answered, "When the ink spilled all over your majesty's desk it made this picture!"
"Why, a magnificent drawing like this cannot happen by itself. Surely someone drew this picture." cried the king.
Stepping out onto the balcony the rabbi began, "Your majesty, where did all of these trees come from? Who formed these high mountains? And the beautiful flowers in your gardens, who made them? Just a few moments ago, your majesty proclaimed that nothing can happen by itself." answered the rabbi. "Obviously, it was I who drew the picture to prove that G-d created the whole world. For who or what, if not G-d, created it all. For nothing can happen by itself."
Monday, December 21, 2009
A container is defined by its contents. Take a carton of milk, for example. If it's empty, you'll say, "Pass the carton." But if it contains even a little milk, you'll say, "Pass the milk."
So too, our home is defined by the most important things inside it. And some of the most important items in our home (aside from those who live there!) are the Torah books lining the shelves and scattered about.
Just one of those holy books, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said, is enough to redefine our entire environment. Our home is now transformed from just another house to a shining source of wisdom.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe urged us to purchase Torah books and display them conspicuously throughout our home. Creating a Torah environment through these Torah books creates a subtle yet constant atmosphere of holiness, inspiring and affecting our Jewish thought and practice and ultimately encouraging us to learn its teachings and enhancing our lives, one book at a time.Of course, the more books the better. However, the basic minimum of a Chumash (the Five Books of Moses), a Tehilli (Book of Psalms) and a Siddur (Prayer Book) are suggested; and from there, one can expand.
Tomorrow, starting tonight, is the 5th day of Tevet. It is a day of rejoicing in the Chabad-Lubavitch community regarding the ownership of the priceless library of the 6th Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. The ruling was based on the idea that a Rebbe is not a private individual but a communal figure synonymous with the body of Chassidim.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe urged that the occasion be marked with purchasing and devoting time to study from Torah books.
To make our own home a place where Torah is increased; so, too, increase prayer and also all mitzvos, starting with tzedakah -- good deeds.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I was 11 years old.
I went to the infirmary to smuggle out some cream to help relieve my father's sores. His disease was eating his body away. That day, when I finally snuck over to my father's bunk, he was no longer there. I was frantic.
An older gentleman whom I had often seen talking to my father, came over to console me.
He told me that today was Chanuka, and that we light the candles to demonstrate that our light is stronger than any darkness. "Your father would be very proud to know that you carry on his light despite the blackness around us".
Moved by his words, I suggested we light the menora that night. He said that it would be too dangerous. I insisted, and ran to get some machine oil from the factory. I was so excited and for this brief moment was able to put aside my grief. Meanwhile he had put together some wicks.
As we were walking towards some smoldering cinders, to light our menora, a guard noticed us and grabbed away our oil and wicks. When his superior suddenly called him he ran off with our precious fuel.
The gentleman turned to me and said:
"Tonight we have lit a flame more powerful than the Chanuka lights. The miracle of Chanuka consisted of finding one jug of oil, which miraculously burned for eight days. Tonight we lit the ninth - invisible candle.
Make no mistake." he told me. " We did light the menora tonight. We did everything in our power to kindle the flames, and every effort is recognized by G-d. We have lit the ninth flame.
"When you will get out of here alive", he told me "take this ninth invisible flame with you. Tell G-d that we lit a candle even when we had no oil. Not even defiled oil. Yet we still lit a flame -- a flame fueled by the pits of darkness. We never gave up. Let the world know that our ninth flame is alive and shining. Tell every person in despair that our flame never goes out."
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Everything is connected to Moshiach and the Redemption. In fact, the Rebbe states clearly that it is natural for a person who is involved every day in yearning for the coming of Moshiach to look for a connection to Moshiach's coming in every event he encounters.
Since we are now in the days of Chanuka it is appropriate to look at the Festival of Lights with "Moshiach eyes." The Chanuka miracle took place in the Holy Temple, its celebration arouses a greater yearning for the time when the Menora will be kindled again in the Third Holy Temple.
Similarly, there is a connection between the above and this week's Torah portion, Mikeitz. When we hear the name Mikeitz - because we are constantly yearning for Moshiach's coming - we immediately associate it with the word "keitz" (meaning, "the end") which refers to the time for Moshiach's coming.
Also on Shabbat, when the Haftorah will be read and we will hear the vision for the Menora mentioned, we once again immediately associate it with the Menora of the Holy Temple.
So when we light the Menora let us envision ourselves watching the lighting of the rededicated Menora in the Third and Eternal Holy Temple. And as The Baal Shem Tov taught, "In the place where a person wants to be, that is where he will be found." May we all be found together in the Holy Temple this Chanuka!
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:28pm
This Friday night we light all eight candles for Chanuka! We light the menorah before lighting the Shabbat candles. (The Friday night Chanukah candles must burn for at least 1½ hours—so you may need more oil or larger candles.)
Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Seven symbolizes the Natural order, for G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh; Shabbos. Eight, symbolizes the Super-natural. The Human intelligence is limited to the Natural order; anything which is above and beyond Nature is also above and beyond human understanding. G-d, is obviously over and above Nature. We therefore cannot understand G-d, or his ways.
The Torah and Mitzvoth, which contain G-d's wisdom and will, are also beyond our understanding, but the more Torah we learn and the more Mitzvoth we observe, the more we become attached to G-d.. By being attached to G-d, we are no longer limited to our OWN human resources, but are now able to draw from the unlimited of G-d's wisdom.
At the time of Chanukah, the Jewish people were challenged to this view and way of life. The Greek philosophers believed that there was nothing higher than the human intelligence. They did not believe in the true G-d, the Creator, because they did not understand G-d, and according to them, anything that could not be understood was not to be believed.
King Antiochus wanted to force the Jews to give up the Mitzvoth which seemed "unreasonable" to him. Like the Mitzvah of the Bris which is done on the eighth day. Antiochus had vast armies, ready to put to death any Jew who disobeyed his orders, which now put the whole future of the Jewish people in great danger. Fortunately, a handful of Jews, led by Mattisyohu and his sons, openly resisted Antiochus. They kindled the flame of true faith in G-d, and with G-d's help they were victorious for they would not compromise with the enemy.
The eight Chanukah lights, reminds us that the true approach to Torah and Mitzvoth is not through the limited human intelligence, but rather through the actual fulfillment of the Mitzvoth first and foremost.
Monday, December 14, 2009
As we light the Chanuka candles we commemorate the Jewish victory over the Greeks and the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. The miracle of Chanuka occurred in the holiest place on earth: in the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, in the Holy Temple where G-d's Presence was revealed.
The miracle of the oil involved the menora, which in the times of the Temple was lit specifically by a kohen, a priest. Nowadays, however, the mitzva of lighting the menora is no longer expressly connected to the Temple, and everyone, even a small child, may do so. We light the menora in our homes, facing outward so that its light can illuminate our surroundings.
G-d has given us a truly an amazing capability. Everyone, not only a kohen, can transform his home into a Holy Temple by lighting a Chanuka menora! By kindling the menora's lamps, we suffuse our surroundings in exile with holiness and purity. Furthermore, the menora's light accompanies us throughout the year, until the following Chanuka, when we can observe the mitzva anew.
We thank G-d for enabling us to turn our own private homes into a Holy Temple. And when we transform our home into a Temple, G-d does everything - even performs miracles, if necessary - in order to enable us to continue bringing light into our personal life and to the world at large.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The eternal lights of Chanuka have eternal messages for us:
Number one - The candles are kindled when the sun sets. When darkness falls outside it is then time to light up our homes with the holy Chanuka lights, symbolizing the eternal lights of Torah and Mitzvot. and to provide inspiration and illumination in our daily lives.
Number two - The location - that they be visible also outside further indicates that the Torah and Mitzvot not be confined within the walls of the home, but must shine forth also outside.
To eliminate the darkness -- to rid the world of ignorance, negativity, hatred and greed -- and to kindle the lights of knowledge, generosity, hope and love.
A third important lesson is that however satisfactory the observance of Torah and Mitzvot may be on one day, a Jew is expected to do better the next day, and still better the day after. There is always room for improvement in the matters of goodness and holiness, which are infinite..
To fulfill the Mitzva of candle-lighting on the first night of Chanuka is to light one candle, yet the next night of Chanuka it is required to light two candles, and when another day passes even the higher standard of the previous day is no longer adequate, and an additional light is called for, and so on, to increase the light from day to day.
With every added flame, we go from strength to strength in deepening our commitment to the values and traditions of our Jewish way of life.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Joseph's life closely parallels the life of every Jew.
Joseph began his life by enjoying the comfort of his father's household. Not only did Jacob make him the famous coat of many colors, but he learned Torah with him day and night. This period was Joseph's happiest, both spiritually and physically.
This is analogous to the Jewish soul before coming into the body. It exists on the highest plane, enjoying the proximity of only holiness and G-dly light.
Then Joseph was sold as a slave and his situation continued to deteriorate until he was a prisoner in Pharaoh's jail. Spiritually as well, plucked from the tent of learning Torah, Joseph was dropped directly into the most corrupt civilization of his era.
This symbolizes the soul's dramatic descent into this world. No longer can it bask in G-d's glory--the soul finds itself trapped in a physical body. It must endure the temptations to which the body is drawn, and overcome all sorts of trials.
Yet Joseph triumphed and attained an even higher position than he had enjoyed while in his father's house. Joseph was victorious spiritually as well, for despite his elevation to high office Joseph retained his purity and goodness.
Joseph turned his descent to Egypt into triumph and ascent.
This then is the purpose of the soul's journey down into this world. And our task is to subjugate the Evil Inclination and conduct our lives according to the dictates of Torah.
Overcoming the obstacles which try to prevent us from doing mitzvot enables us to attain greater spirituality than would have been possible had the soul remained above.
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:25 pm.
Friday, December 11th, is the first night of Chanukah! We light the menorah before lighting the Shabbat candles. (The Friday night Chanukah candles must burn for at least 1½ hours—so you may need more oil or larger candles). On Saturday night, we light the menorah after dark, after the Havdallah ceremony.
Shabbat Shalom and Chanuka Sameach!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
A once-wealthy chassid who had lost his entire fortune came to see Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. "If G-d has chosen to afflict me with poverty," he wept, "I accept the Divine judgment. But how can I be reconciled with the fact that I cannot repay my debts? That I am unable to meet the dowry I promised for my daughter's upcoming marriage? Never have I reneged on my commitments. Why is the Almighty doing this to me? Why is He causing me such terrible humiliation?"
"Rebbe!" cried the chassid, "I must repay my debts! I must give what I have promised for my daughter!"
Rabbi Schneur Zalman sat with his head in his arms in a state of meditative attachment to G-d. In this manner he listened to the chassid's tearful pleas. After a long pause, Rabbi Schneur Zalman lifted his head and said with great feeling: "You speak of all that you need. But you say nothing of what you are are needed for."
The Rebbe's words pierced the innermost point of the chassid's heart, and he fell in a dead faint. He was then carried out of the Rebbe's room, water was poured over him, and he was finally revived. When he opened his eyes he didn't say anything to anyone. He simply applied himself to the study of Torah and the service of prayer with renewed life and with much devotion, diligence and joy.
Monday, December 7, 2009
In the Letter that the Alter Rebbe wrote upon his release from prison, it states: “As I was reading in the Book of Tehillim (Psalms) the verse “He has redeemed my soul in peace,” before I began the next verse I went out (of prison) in peace. I will conclude with peace from the L-rd of peace.”
This letter clearly indicates the great stress laid on peace in association with his liberation.
The purpose of a soul’s descent into this world is to “make peace in the world”. A Jew’s environment, through his G-dly service, should be permeated with the concept of “I am the L-rd your G-d.” Before the creation of the world, G-d was still G-d. But the idea that creations should recognize and know of G-d’s wonders existed only ‘in potential.’ To exist in actuality, the world, and a soul’s descent below, was needed.
The liberation was such that “He has redeemed my soul in peace". The idea of peace is associated with the concept of spreading Judaism and Torah.
Therefore, it is now an auspicious time to receive added strength in the service of spreading Torah and Judaism. The beginning of this service is the study of Torah. When a Jew learns Torah for its own sake it effects peace in the hosts Above and the hosts below. This includes the idea of making peace between the spiritual and the physical aspects of the world; and in man, between his G-dly and animal souls. It also embraces the concept of Ahavas Yisrael, love of a fellow Jew - to make peace between a man and his fellow.
Today is the historic day of Yud Tet Kislev, the 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, when the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad was released from prison by the Czarist government. It was more than a personal triumph. For, in regaining his personal freedom on that day, as well as the freedom to continue his teachings and work, he gained a victory for the whole Chasidic movement which had been threatened with suppression and extinction.
The Alter Rebbe was the chief target of attack for he was the chief exponent of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov [who had founded the Chasidic movement about a half a century earlier] and his Redemption brought salvation to our people as a whole.
The Baal Shem Tov taught us -- and the Alter Rebbe expounded on it at length -- that the Jew is essentially, by his very nature, incorruptible and inseparable from G-d; that "no Jew is either able or willing to detach himself from G-dliness."
The Baal Shem Tov introduced a new relationship between Jew and Jew, based on the inner meaning of "Have we not all one Father?" (as interpreted by the Alter Rebbe).
Rabbi Shneur Zalman received the good news about his freedom when he was reading the daily portion of Psalms and specifically the verse: "[G-d] has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle against me, for many were with me."
Everybody is in need of a personal liberation from all the difficulties and hindrances encountered in daily life which hamper the attainment of our goals--both material and spiritual.
Our Sages emphasize that the personal redemption of every Jew, is directly linked with the dissemination of the Torah, acts of benevolence and prayer.
Let us take advantage of this auspicious day for making good resolutions in spreading Judaism and Torah. Just as the Alter Rebbe was completely exonerated and victorious, so too today in each person’s fight against his personal exile, and against the darkness of the general exile, will we be victorious!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
This week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, relates Jacob’s statement that, “I have sojourned - garti - with Laban.”
The great commentator Rashi notes that the word garti has the numerical equivalent of 613. Thus, by using the word garti, Jacob implied that, “Though I visited with the wicked Laban, I have observed the 613 Mitzvot (commandments).”
“Sojourned” implies that Jacob lived as a stranger with his father-in-law. All aspects of Laban, all the physical objects of oxen, donkeys, flocks, menservants and handmaids, were to Jacob no more than garti - something alien, something strange, transitory. They were not his true self.
Where did Jacob feel his true self? Where did he feel at home and not like a stranger? - When he was involved in studying Torah and performing Mitzvot.
His true home was when he was engaged in serving G-d.
The Maggid of Mezeritch, (whose yohrtzeit is this coming Sunday, on the 19th of Kislev) when asked why his home was furnished so sparsely said, “At home, it is different.” A person’s home must contain all the amenities of life. However, when we travel, when we are on the road, it is not so important that our temporary dwelling be furnished beautifully, after all, it is just a journey.” And for him, his life was just a transition.
While still in exile we are “on the road”; like strangers on a temporary visit, a journey, heading toward the eternal world of truth.
We are not yet in our true home. As expressed in Jacob’s message to Esau: “garti - I am only a sojourner.”
In the Days of Moshiach, we will finally be at “home,” engaged in our real task of serving G-d. May it happen immediately!
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:25 pm.
The Baal Shem Tov writes that he was once granted a spiritual vision of Mashiach. Unabashed, he asked him: “When are you coming?” Mashiach answered him: “When the wellsprings of your teachings spread outward.”
Two generations later, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism, was imprisoned by the Czarist authorities.
While in prison, Rabbi Shneur Zalman had a vision of the Baal Shem Tov and asked him: What was the real reason for his imprisonment?
The Baal Shem Tov told him that there were spiritual factors involved. Rabbi Shneur Zalman had been spreading Chassidic teachings without restraint, and this had aroused negative forces in the spiritual realms. “The world was not ready,” these forces claimed, “for such a great revelation.” And therefore, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was imprisoned.
“If I’m released, should I change my approach?” Rabbi Shneur Zalman asked.
“No,” the Baal Shem Tov answered. “If you are released, that will be a sign that your approach has been vindicated.”
On the Hebrew date of Yud-Tet Kislev, the nineteenth day of the month of Kislev, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was released from prison. That date is thus celebrated as a festival. For on it was granted the potential for the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings to be spread outward and prepare the world for Mashiach’s coming.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
In his Tanya, The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, describes a perpetual struggle between the spiritual and the material in man and in creation.
Within the human being, this conflict takes the form of a battle between the "animal soul" and the "G-dly soul." The animal soul is our physical self -- the drive to be and exist, the instinct for self-preservation, self-fulfillment and self-enhancement. The G-dly soul is the source of our spirituality -- our drive for self-transcendence, our yearning to escape the confines of our material existence and connect to the infinite and the eternal. Life is the war between these two opposing drives: every act we do, every word we utter, even every thought we think, is an outcome of this inner struggle, representing the victory of one of the two selves vying to express itself and further its aims via the body and faculties which they share.
The Tanya charts a program for life to achieve the dethroning of the material self from its natural station as the prime motivator of everything we do, and establish our spiritual self in its place; to transform our every deed from an act of self-perpetuation to an act of self-transcendence. For example, to sanctify our eating by eating for the purpose of utilizing the energy we derive from our food to serve G-d. In this way, the act of eating becomes a holy act -- an act that expresses the exclusivity of the Divine.
"The foundation and root of the entire Torah is to raise and exalt the soul over the body."
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Our Sages taught of the importance of "Shalom Bayit" - peace and harmony in one's marriage. Thus, we are enjoined to be of the disciples of Aaron, for he loved peace and pursued peace, bringing peace between husband and wife.
In the Rebbe's personal correspondence, the greatness of Shalom Bayit is emphasized, as well as practical advice on how to achieve a peaceful, harmonious relationship.
In one letter, the Rebbe writes that the Torah teaches, and Chasidut emphasizes, that a person is created with a right eye and a left eye. The right eye teaches that one must always look at another Jew - and obviously and most importantly, one's spouse - with a good eye, to see what is best and nicest in him or her.May we very soon merit the ultimate wedding of G-d and the Jewish people, and with it of course the ultimate peace and harmony, with the revelation of Moshiach. NOW!
Monday, November 30, 2009
It sounded like a crying infant.
He closed the holy book he was studying, and rushed to calm the newborn—his grandson.
All the while, the child's father – the Alter Rebbe's son, himself a future Rebbe – was utterly immersed in learning, oblivious to the cries.Later that day the Rebbe had a talk with his son.
"No matter how involved one is in an endeavor," the Rebbe coached, "however lofty it may be, one must never fail to hear and respond to the cry of a child in need."
The Lubavitcher Rebbe would add that this principle applies to the call of a child in knowledge as much as it does to a child in years.
Preoccupation with all things grand and noble must not preclude the needs of those less fortunate.
Life is such that we inevitably become preoccupied with things small and large, sometimes to the point that we fail to hear the call of our very own children, let alone someone else's.
Whether we are busy with matters local or global, spiritual or mundane, life-shattering or otherwise, those suffering children, in years, in knowledge, or in opportunity, rely on us to have them in mind.It's up to us to sharpen our senses, to tune our ears, so that we hear the tear-filled eyes and heart of a child calling out in need.
Friday, November 27, 2009
What's the best way to get to heaven?
In this week's Parshah, Vayeitzei, we read the story of Yaakov's (Jacob's) dream and the famous ladder with its feet on the ground and head in the heavens. "And behold the angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it."
Do angels need a ladder?!?
In climbing heavenward one does not need wings. No dramatic leaps and bounds. There is a ladder! A spiritual route clearly mapped out for us; a route that needs to be traversed step-by-step, one rung at a time. The pathway to Heaven is gradual, methodical and manageable.
Sometimes when climbing a spiritual journey we may get overwhelmed. We feel we are not ready to make that giant leap. However, we are taught that the correct and most successful method of achieving our Jewish objectives is the slow and steady approach. Gradual, step-by-step, yet consistent. Then, through constant growth, slowly but surely we become more committed, fulfilled and happy.
If two people are on a ladder, one at the top and one on the bottom, who is higher? It depends in which direction each is headed. If the fellow on top is going down, but the guy on the bottom is going up, then conceptually, the one on the bottom is actually higher.
As long as we are going up on the ladder of religious life, as long as we are moving in the right direction, we will, please G-d, succeed in climbing the heavenly heights.
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:26 pm
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The Zohar tells us that the ladder in Jacob's dream represents prayer. Like the ladder, prayer reaches from earth to heaven. It is the means for every one of us to connect with G-d.
The prayer service has different sections, different stages, similar to the rungs of a ladder. During the service the person is climbing higher and higher, reaching ever closer to G-d. The highest stage is the Amidah prayer, in which we stand in the immediate presence of G-d, and speak directly to Him.
The angels going up the ladder in Jacob's dream represent the words of prayer. The words coming from our mouths and our hearts rise up to G-d.
The angels coming down the ladder are the messengers from G-d carrying Divine blessing to the person who is praying, to his or her family, to the Jewish people and the entire world.
After having the dream of the ladder Jacob established the bond between his own personal material success, and G-d/holiness.
Jacob said to G-d, "...of whatever You give me, I will give a tenth to You". By giving a proportion of his income to charity, Jacob was ensuring that all his wealth was tinged with holiness. Thus two worlds were joined: the material and the holy - like earth and heaven.
To join earth and heaven has been a vital factor in the preservation of the Jewish ideal.
Candle lighting time for LA is 4:26
About the Mitteler Rebbe it was said that he was so immersed in Chasidut that "if his finger would have been cut, it would have bled Chasidut instead of blood!"
When the Mitteler Rebbe was arrested by the Czarist government on slanderous charges (and was later released on the 10th of Kislev - a day after his birthday), even the government doctor, who was a prominent specialist, acknowledged that Chasidut was the Mitteler Rebbe's very essence and life.
The doctor told the Russian authorities that they must allow the Mitteler Rebbe to give talks on Chasidut to his Chasidim, explaining, "Just as you provide food for prisoners to ensure their existence, so too, must you allow him to teach Chasidut, for his very life depends on it."
The Mitteler Rebbe was not only concerned about the spiritual life of his fellow Jews; he worked to better their situation materially, as well.
It is important to celebrate the ninth, and tenth, of Kislev (tomorrow, the day of his release) - in a fitting manner. It is a time of great significance and we should celebrate with gatherings that will foster brotherhood and lead to good resolutions.
May we utilize this auspicious occasion by increasing in our performance of the three basic modes of Divine service; Torah Study, Prayer and Acts of Kindness. Thereby speeding up the coming of the true and complete Redemption.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In this week's Parsha, Toldot, we read about the famous twins in history, Jacob and Esau. As any child can tell you, Jacob was the "good" one and Esau was the "bad" one, and the two brothers never got along with each other.
But the Torah is not a history book; Torah means "teaching," it contains eternal lessons that are always relevant and have a direct impact on our daily lives.
Jacob and Esau represent two ways of looking at the world, two different life styles that man is forced to choose between. Esau's attitude was "carpe diem" - seize the day, with no thought for tomorrow. Jacob, by contrast, lived a more elevated existence, recognizing life's spiritual dimension.
According to Chasidic philosophy, every Jew is made up of two souls: an animal soul and a G-dly soul. Like Jacob and Esau, they too never get along, and are in constant conflict.
The animal soul is interested only in the physical; like an animal that walks on four legs, its head is focused downward rather than up at the sky. The only thing that matters is the here and now. The G-dly soul, however, looks upward. Why am I here? What's the real purpose of my life?
As we learn from this week's Torah reading, the true birthright belongs to Jacob, and our function as Jews is to elevate the world by imbuing it with G-dliness. The battle will always be there, but it's a battle we can win by choosing wisely.
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:29 pm
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Hebrew word "amen" means truthfulness, credence or belief. When we hear another reciting a blessing we respond with "amen"; thus affirming that we believe that which has just been said.
Tears fell from the angel, the officer of the Inner Chamber as he showed Rabbi Yishmael, the High Priest, what is in store for the Jews, the holy nation.
I asked him, "For whom are these troubles?"
He replied, "They are for Israel."
"And will they be able to withstand them?"
And he said, "Come tomorrow and I will show you troubles even beyond these."
So the next day he brought me within those chambers hidden within hidden chambers, and he showed me troubles even beyond those I had seen before. And I said to him, "My glorious one! Has Israel sinned so?"
And he replied to me, "Know that every day new decrees are formed against them, each day harsher than the day before. But the people of Israel gather in their synagogues and places of study and they respond, 'Amen! Yehay shmay rabba...'. And when they do this, then we do not permit these decrees to leave the inner chambers and to take effect."
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Reb Zusha had gone to visit his rebbe, the holy tzadik Reb Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch. Before departing for home Reb Zusha mentioned to The Maggid that he needed to marry off his daughter. His rebbe immediately gave him a sum of three hundred rubles.
Reb Zusha was greatly relieved. For now his wife and daughter would be at ease.
On his trip home Reb Zusha passed through a Jewish village where he heard the sound of bitter weeping coming from a poor widow. The poor woman was about to marry off her daughter and on the way to the chupa lost her entire dowry, three hundred rubles! The wedding was now called off because the groom and his family refused to go on without the dowry.
Reb Zusha walked up to her and said, "I think I have found your money!. Can you tell me wht it looked like?"
"Why yes," she replied. "The money was in a packet of two fifties, and ten twenties, and was tied with a red string."
"Yes, that's exactly what I found!" replied Reb Zusha. "I will go to my inn and bring your money back."
Reb Zusha ran to the inn and changed his money for the denominations the widow had described and tied it with a red string. Meanwhile with great excitement the preparations for the wedding continued. As Reb Zusha presented the widow with the money, he said, "I am keeping one twenty ruble note as my reward"
"What!" screamed the widow. "How can you rob a poor widow of twenty rubles!
"This money is mine as a reward for my troubles!" said Reb Zusha.
After much yelling and screaming from everyone around, the case was brought to the local Rabbi. The Rabbi ruled: "Reb Zusha must give the widow back the twenty rubles."
But still, Reb Zusha refused to give up the money. One young man then quickly extracted the bill from Reb Zusha's pocket and they threw him out of the village.
Months later the village rabbi happened to encounter The Maggid of Mezritch and related to him this incident with his disciple, Reb Zusha.
The Maggid turned to the rabbi, "You must go to Reb Zusha and beg forgiveness. That money did not belong to the widow. I myself gave it to Reb Zusha to marry off his own child! He demanded twenty rubles because he wanted to avoid honor at any cost. He wanted this great mitzva to be completely pure."
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Avraham sent Eliezer, his faithful servant, to his relatives in Mesopotamia, where Eliezer was destined to meet Rikva, Yitzchak's intended.
Rashi explains that Eliezer's actual journey was miraculous.
"I have come today," Eliezer declared to Rikva's father and brother, Betuel and Lavan. "Today I set out, and today I arrived," comments Rashi. Eliezer reached his destination -- a journey of 17 days -- on the very day he embarked.
Why was it necessary for G-d to make a special miracle for Eliezer?
Rivka, the Matriarch of the Jewish people, is described in the Midrash as "a rose among the thorns." Righteous and pure, Rivka lived the first few years of her life surrounded by "thorns" namely, Betuel and Lavan.
On the day she turned three, Abraham sensed that the proper time had arrived to free the rose from its prickly environment.
Eliezer was then dispatched without delay, and a miracle was wrought so that Rikva would not have to spend even one extra moment in an improper atmosphere.
"I have come today!" he declared. "Destiny cannot wait! Today I have come, for I must bring her back with me at once!"
From Eliezer's journey we learn that when the moment for Redemption arrives, it cannot be delayed for even one second. And if need be, miracles will be wrought to ensure that the Redemption occurs at exactly the proper time.
We must therefore not be disheartened by the length of our present Exile, for the Final Redemption with Moshiach will take place immediately, without delay, at the proper time, speedily in our days! Amen.
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:33 pm
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Once, when Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok, the Rebbe Rashab's son and future successor, set out on a journey, his father asked him to try to do a certain favor for one of the chasidim, a businessman, who was in need of help.
When Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok returned he told his father: "I did everything you told me to do, and the favor to that man I did meticulously."
"You err," said the Rebbe Rashab. "You did a favor to yourself, not to him. G-d did a favor to him, by arranging for an emissary, such as yourself, to help him."
The Rebbe taught us an important lesson. When we do a mitzva, especially one which ostensibly allows us to help another person, we are G-d's emissaries. And, more than helping the other person we are, in essence, helping ourselves.As our Sages teach, "More than charity does for the poor person, it does for the rich person."
Abraham planted an eishel [a grove] in Be'er Sheva. The Midrash explains eishel was an inn, a place of lodging. Our Patriarch Abraham established his eishel in Be'er Sheva, in the heart of the desert, to cater to travelers in that inhospitable climate.
Abraham did not know these travelers personally. All he knew was that strangers would be hungry, thirsty and tired and he was to make their journey more pleasant. Abraham provided more than just bread and water; his visitors were offered meat, fine wines, fruit and a wide array of delicacies, as well as a place to rest. And next to the inn Abraham established a Sanhedrin, a court of law, so that wise men could answer the travelers' questions and find solutions to their problems.
This same attribute of kindness and justice is the birthright of every Jew, an inheritance from our forefather Abraham. And the Torah portion of Vayeira teaches us how we are supposed to fulfill the commandment of charity:
It isn't enough to provide a poor person with the basic requirements necessary to sustain life. We must offer him more than just the bare minimum, bringing him pleasure and enjoyment. And not only must his physical needs be met, but we must also try to help him resolve his spiritual struggles. This applies to every single Jew, even those we do not know personally, and constitutes the true meaning of the commandment of tzedaka.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
G-d however, explained that the Jewish people would be perpetuated through Isaac and his true nachas (satisfaction) would come from Isaac.
Ishmael's birth was a natural phenomenon.
Isaac's birth was a miracle. It was impossible for Abraham and Sara to have a child at such an advanced age. Yet, Isaac was born.
Ishmael was 13 years old when he was circumcised. At the age of 13 a person's intellect is already well established. At 13, Ishmael agreed to connect himself to G-d.
The circumcision of Isaac, on the other hand, was performed when he was only 8 days old. One cannot obtain an infant's permission and it is precisely then that this eternal bond with G-d that can never be erased, was effected.
Judaism cannot be based solely on the foundations of human understanding. If, as a more mature individual, that person were to encounter a new set of circumstances there is no predicting how he will react. The basis of his Judaism -- his own understanding -- is deficient.
Hence G-d told Abraham that his true nachas would come from Isaac.
Judaism is not based on the foundations of nature. The connection between the Jew and G-d transcends nature entirely; it is an eternal bond that endures forever.
From the moment of birth one must inculcate the infant with Judaism that transcends the bounds of nature. A child thus educated will bring us true nachas!
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 5:45 pm Shabbat Shalom!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thus it is difficult to understand why Noach sent out the raven and the dove to determine if the Flood had ended. If Noach was supposed to wait until G-d told him it was time to leave, why did he send the birds out to see if the waters had abated? Why wasn't he content to wait for G-d's command?
So by sending the birds from the ark, Noach was expressing his strong desire to leave it. Rather than waiting for G-d to come to him, he did all in his power to facilitate his exit. Noach sent the birds out in the hope that the Flood had receded and it was already permissible for him to leave.
When G-d saw Noach's efforts and observed his intense longing to go out, He then hastened to issue His command. In fact, the command "Go out of the ark" was given in the merit of Noach's exertions.
Exile, is likened to the mabul (Flood), for in exile our perceptions of reality are mevulbal (confused). The confusion of exile is so great that the falsehood of the world is often mistaken for truth. And in such circumstances we cannot wait until G-d will come and tell us to go out of exile.
Learning from the example of Noach, we must also do all in our power to hasten our departure from exile. We must expend all necessary efforts to put an end to it immediately.
We must believe that at any minute the exile can end and Moshiach will come. We must also increase our performance of good deeds, and bombard G-d with petitions and prayers that He remove us at once from the exile and bring us to Redemption.
When G-d will see our strong desire and intense longing to leave exile, most assuredly He will hasten to send our Moshiach. In the merit of our efforts He will certainly fulfill our hearts' desire, and bring Moshiach to us at once! Amen!
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 5:52 pm
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Noach was the only member of his generation who behaved properly. Noach was not ashamed of acting differently. He served G-d in an open manner. And In the merit of his exemplary behavior, Noach and his family survived the Great Flood while all others perished.
Noach's conduct contains a valuable teaching for all of us. It sometimes happens that we may want to learn Torah with great diligence, Or we may want to observe a particular mitzva, but the evil inclination intervenes and whispers: " Do you see anyone else doing this mitzva? You don't need do it, either." Why do you need to be different?
The evil inclination must be answered by following Noach's example.
Just as Noach disregarded his surroundings, so too we must pay no attention to the conduct of friends and colleagues when it is not in accordance with the teachings of the Torah. And just as Noach succeeded in his path, which was different from the rest of society's, so too, will we succeed in conquering our yetzer hara, allowing us to learn Torah and observe mitzvot even in a hostile environment.
After the Flood, Noach merited to establish a new world. So too each and every one of us have the power to save an entire world and bring redemption with "Moshiach Now!"
Thursday, October 15, 2009
We read that Adam was commanded by G-d not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But Adam ate the fruit! According to the Midrash, the command not to eat the fruit was given for only three hours.
When we consider that Adam was created by G-d, Himself, and heard the command from G-d, it seems amazing that he couldn't control himself for a mere three hours.
We learn from this episode the strength of the yetzer hara--that aspect of our psyche which encourages us to go against G-d's will. The yetzer hara may camouflage its aim by trying to convince us that a commandment is too difficult or unimportant. Nevertheless, its real intention is to persuade us to go against G-d's will. Therefore, the more important a certain command is for a particular person, the harder the yetzer hara will try to dissuade the individual from performing the command. Even if the commandment is a very easy one, the yetzer hara will make it seem extremely difficult.
Thus, we can understand how Adam was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit. The yetzer hara employed its most compelling arguments to convince Adam to sin.
We have all been imbued with the strength to overcome the yetzer hara's arguments. We can be sure though, that when we draw on our G-d-given inner strength we will be victorious!
Candle lighting time for L.A. is 6:00pm
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The Midrash likens this to a king who holds a seven-day celebration for his sons. On the eighth day, when it comes time for them to leave, he is reluctant to see them go and asks them to remain for one more day of celebration.
There is something special about this holiday, Shemini Atzeret, that actually prevents the departure from taking place at all.
This concept is reflected in the precise language of the Midrash. "Your departure is difficult," the king tells his sons, not "our departure."
This alludes to the fact that G-d never abandons the Jewish people; His love for us is constant and eternal. "Your departure is difficult," G-d tells us. G-d doesn't want us to abandon Him; He therefore requests that we celebrate one more holiday together which will serve to strengthen our bond.
The entire theme of Sukot is Jewish unity. When we are united with one another our relationship with G-d is strong. But, AFTER Sukkot there may exist the possibility that we will revert to our self-centeredness.
And so in order to prevent this from happening, G-d asks us to remain with Him a while longer; to celebrate a holiday which will secure our unity in an everlasting manner.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Rebbi Abraham of Slonim (the Yesod HaAvodah) arrived at the synagogue in the morning on the first day of Sukkot and found a Jewish soldier there. The rebbe called him over and said, "I see light shining from you. What did you do?" The soldier was speechless; he didn't want to say. But when the rebbe pressed him, he told the rebbe what had happened the previous night, the first night of Sukkot.
"I was a guard in my army camp and was feeling badly that I wouldn't he able to observe the mitzvah of being in a sukkah" he started. "But then I noticed that beyond the wall around the camp was a Jewish home and in its courtyard was a sukkah. Now, if I left my post I could be shot but I decided that after all the officers left and I was alone, I would risk it. I would climb the wall and be in that sukkah.
As time passed, I started to worry because the officers were not leaving. Bu then, fifteen minutes before midnight, everyone left and I was alone. I stuck a piece of bread in my pocket and quickly jumped over the wall. I went into the sukkah, made the blessings and ate my bread. I then quickly jumped back over the wall.
"I was so happy," he told the rebbe, "that I had had the opportunity to fulfill the mitzva of eating in the sukkah."
"That's beautiful," said the rebbe, "but you wouldn't shine so much from that. Tell me more."
The soldier then admitted that he had been so happy with what he had done that he had danced the night away."Ah!" exclaimed the rebbe, "Now I understand why you're shining so much!"
Monday, October 5, 2009
It was the height of the Communist regime in Russia, and all religious activity was strictly forbidden. Numerous rabbis had already been exiled to Siberia. Nonetheless, there were a handful of brave individuals who risked their lives and taught Torah to Jewish children, they organized communal prayer, they provided kosher meat, and they built ritual baths, etc. They risked their lives to keep the embers of Judaism alive.
Reb Michael, a Chasid, was one of these courageous and defiant Jews.
Every day the Chasid's wife urged him to flee, but Reb Michael pushed off his departure for he knew he was the only Jew in town who could organize a minyan for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
"Fine, But as soon as Yom Kippur ends, you're leaving!" She insisted.
After Yom Kippur, Reb Michael tells his wife, "I can't leave, I need to take care of a Sukka for the Jews here...."
On the first night of Sukot, each person took a different route, arriving at Reb Michael's sukka at staggered hours throughout the evening. One after the other they snuck in, made Kiddush on the wine, washed their hands, ate a piece of challa and departed hastily.
After the first two days of Sukot, Reb Michael realized the time had come for him to leave. That night he took some food and went out to his sukka in the back of his house.
Suddenly he heard loud knocking on his front door. Reb Michael jumped up and started in the direction of his house. But what he heard next stopped him in his tracks. "Open up! Police!" a harsh voice demanded.
He heard the police announce that they had come to arrest him, and his wife's reply was that he wasn't around. Fine!, they told her, they would search the house for themselves. Thank G-d he was in the sukka.
Stealthily, his heart beating wildly, Reb Michael tip-toed till he reached the street, he then broke into a run in the direction of the train station. In the meantime, his wife's only prayer was that her husband not arrive home in the middle of the search.
For several days she was unaware of his whereabouts. Then a letter arrived from her brother who lived several thousand kilometers away, informing her of his guest....her husband.
Reb Michael knew it was the sukka he had built that was his salvation.
Friday, October 2, 2009
One year, everyone in that village decided that they too wanted a beautiful Sukkah like their Rabbi. But most of them were not very good carpenters. So the villagers who knew how to work with their hands, joined together to be the "Sukkah -builders" for the community and went from house to house building new Sukkot for everyone. As they finished the last Sukkah, they realized that they had been so busy working for everyone else that they had no Sukkah in their own courtyards. And so since there wasn't enough time for each one to go home and build his own Sukkah, they took the leftover wood and build one big Sukkah for all of them.
They then quickly prepared for the holiday and rushed to Shul.
When the evening prayers were over, everyone wished each other well and were about to go home when they saw it had began to rain...and pour. The rain got stronger and stronger. With torrential rains and winds smashing things in the street.
When the rain finally ceased, all were looking forward to eating the holiday meal in their Sukkah. But they were in for a surprise!
"Let's go to the Rabbi. Surely his Sukkah is still standing!" suggested one man.
But the Rabbi's Sukkah was destroyed like everyone else's.
From far away some festive singing was heard. It was coming from The Workers' Sukkah!
Their Sukkah was still standing!!
"I know why their Sukkah remained standing", declared the Rabbi, "because our Sukkot were built each person for his own self and his own family. But they built their Sukkah with unity.
And when there is unity between Jews, all the storms and the hurricanes in the world can't break it!"
Friday night, candle lighting time for L.A. is 6:18 p.m.
Saturday night, candle lighting time is (from a pre-existing flame) after 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
There are two ways to arouse a feeling of joy: through the head, and through the feet. We can sit and meditate on things that make us happy, or we can get up and start to dance. But whatever our approach - cerebral or with outward manifestations of joy - the heart will follow.
In truth, every Jew has what to be joyful about. Just thinking about the enormous love G-d has for every Jew, or the great merit each of us has in possessing a Jewish soul, can make us appreciative and thankful.
When a Jew is happy, it expresses his trust and faith in G-d that whatever happens is for the best. Serving G-d with joy reveals the good that is hidden in everything.
The holiday of Sukot is a time to recharge our batteries, to "stock up" on an abundance of joy for the coming year. According to Chasidut, all of the spiritual goals we were trying to reach on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur by fasting and praying are attainable on Sukot and Simchat Torah - simply by being joyful and dancing!
So have a happy Sukot, and may G-d grant us the ultimate joy of Moshiach's arrival immediately.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
One of the themes of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is that of the unity of the Jewish People. But it is on Sukkot that this motif finds its highest expression.
On Rosh Hashona, we all stand as equals before G-d in prayer, accepting His sovereignty and crowning Him King over us all. And on Yom Kippur we are equally aroused to do teshuva (repent) and return to G-d.
Our unity during the High Holidays is a unity based on the common denominator inherent in every Jew. On Sukkot however, we reach an even higher level of unity than before.
One of the most important mitzvot of Sukkot is the taking of the 'Four Kinds'. These four species symbolize the four different types of people which exist within the Jewish nation. The etrog symbolizes one who possesses Torah learning and also does good deeds; the lulav stands for one who possesses only Torah learning. The hadas (myrtle) symbolizes one who performs commandments and does good deeds, but does not have Torah learning, and the arava (willow) symbolizes the Jew who possesses neither Torah nor learning.
On Sukkot we take these four different species and bring them together to perform a mitzva. Despite all our differences we are all bound together. And this is the highest degree of unity we can achieve.
Thus on Sukkot we verify and confirm the unity which was achieved during the High Holidays. This realization sustains us throughout the year and gives us the strength to live in harmony and solidarity with one another.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
In many synagogues,shuls on the day before Yom Kippur, plates and containers are put out for various charities. As people enter and leave the synagogue, they drop a few coins into the containers. The busier the shul, the more noise is made by the clanging and jingling of the coins as they are dropped in. And, of course, during these solemn days, more charity than usual is given.
In the Baal Shem Tov's shul, there was constant noise from the rattling of coins, so much so that some of the people found their prayers sorely disturbed. One person approached the Baal Shem Tov and asked him if it might not be possible to abandon this disruptive custom.
"Heaven forbid," cried the Baal Shem Tov in horror. "It is this very jingling and clanging of the coins that is our deliverance during these awesome days. It confuses the Adversary on High who is spending his time trying to convince the Alm-ghty that we are not worthy of being forgiven."
On Yom Kippur, we solemnly intone the ancient words: "Repentance, prayer and charity, annul the harmful decree." It is not only the noise made by the charity, then, as the Baal Shem Tov mentioned, but the actual giving of the charity that is so important. Let us all remember this in these days before Yom Kippur.
My best wishes that all of you, be sealed for a good and sweet year, and that we all celebrate Yom Kippur together in true joy and happiness in the Holy Temple together with Moshiach.
For part of the High Priest's service he wore gold clothing. The part of the service performed inside the Holy of Holies, however, was performed in plain white clothing.
Although the physical Holy Temple was destroyed -- and we eagerly await its rebuilding -- the spiritual Sanctuary within every Jew -- his Holy of Holies -- remains totally intact. Thus, each individual Jew is personally responsible to perform the special service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur.
The High Priest wore gold clothing for a large part of his special service to remind us that we should use the most precious and beautiful materials available in serving G-d; we should perform mitzvot in a beautiful and enhanced manner.
The white clothing of the High Priest, worn in the Holy of Holies, is a reminder that mitzvot that are purely spiritual in nature, such as prayer and Torah study, must also be performed.
At the end of his service, the High Priest said a short prayer that the year should be a good year materially for himself, his tribe and all the Jewish people throughout the entire world.
This, too, is part of the service of every single Jew on the holiest day of the year and in the Holy of Holies of his heart. Each Jew on Yom Kippur should also pray for a good year not only for himself and his family, but for the entire Jewish people.
Friday, September 25, 2009
"Listen, O heavens, for I will speak! Let the earth hear the words of my mouth!"
The Midrash explains that Moshe was "close to the heaven," so he told them to "listen" - a term which suggests a closeness between speaker and listener. But since he was "distant from the earth," he told it to "hear", from afar.
Since every Jew has a spark of Moshe within his soul, it enables us to attain, to some small extent, the spiritual greatness of Moshe.
Thus, to some degree, we too can appreciate that - spiritual matters are more important than physical things - to be "close to the heavens and distant from the earth."
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In the midst of the Yom Kippur services, the Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe, interrupted his prayers and made his way to the nearby forest. There, he collected dry wood and branches. He carried them to a small house. He knocked on the door and then entered. Once inside, the Rebbe kindled a fire from the wood he had brought. He prepared a soup and he fed it, spoon by spoon, to the woman in the house who had just given birth.
We must take into account the magnitude and intensity of the Rebbe's Yom Kippur prayers which were on behalf of all the Jewish people. Yet, he saw that caring for a new mother was more precious before G-d than his exalted prayers.
A Jew's compassion and caring is driven by the fact that this Mitzva is an integral part of his/her relationship with G-d.
As the Alter Rebbe says, "Love of G-d and love of the Jewish people are equally engraved in every Jew's soul. However, loving of the Jewish people is superior, for you love whom your beloved loves."
Candle lighting time for LA is 6:28
Candle lighting time for Sunday, ushering in Yom Kippur is 6:25pm.
The fast ending Monday evening at 7:28pm
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Yom Kippur, one of our holiest days, completes the "Ten Days of Repentance" which began on Rosh Hashanah. The verse that the Rabbis use to describe these days is "Search for G-d while He can be found, call upon Him when he is near" They explain that G-d is close to every Jew during these days. This knowledge and innate feeling helps each person make a greater effort to come even closer to G-d. During each of the Ten Days, this energy grows until it reaches its height on Yom Kippur,
Psalm #130,(that we add in our prayers this week begins with the words) "A song of ascents, out of the depths have I called you, G-d. My Master, listen to my voice, may Your ears hear my calls for grace". The simple meaning of the verse is that a person calls out to G-d from the depth of his pain and difficulties. The inner dimension of the verse requires from us something more: "Out of the depths" refers to a level of consciousness attainable by every Jew, that through our concentration and effort, we call to G-d from our innermost place, the depths of our soul.
The Baal Shem Tov said that each person gets a stream of blessings from heaven; a person's negative actions can cause those blessings to be reduced or blocked. When a person prays from the depth of his soul, digging deep, opening himself up, something changes in the person himself (!), altering him entirely. The Heavenly Court can then remove those blockages.
Let's not let the Ten Days of Repentance pass without taking full advantage.