Friday, August 14, 2009


This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim, when we bless the upcoming month of Elul. The month of Elul is a month of preparation, when we take stock of ourselves in anticipation of the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashana.

In Elul, one contemplates the past year, utterly regretting whatever has been undesirable, and resolving to be vigilant in the meticulous observance of the commandments, to be conscientious in one's Torah study and in one's prayers, and to habituate oneself to positive character traits.

The name of the month, "Elul," is an acronym for the Hebrew words which mean, "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine."

"I am my Beloved's" refers to serving G-d through one's own initiative. When a Jew serves G-d through his own initiative, the bond between G-d and the Jew is internalized. "My Beloved is mine" refers to Divine revelation which inspires this bond. Elul represents a month of complete connection, through revelation from Above and service from below.

This concept is also connected to this week's Torah portion, Re'ei, which begins with the words, "See, I am giving before you today." All of the aspects of our service to G-d should be seen and openly revealed, and not just something we hear about. Seeing implies the establishment of a deep and powerful connection.

In a deeper sense, we should use our sight to see not just the physicality of the world, but also the essence of G-d and His handiwork in our surroundings.

Candle lighting time for L.A. is 7:24p.m.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jewish Birthday

Today's Torah Message is sponsored in honor of the birthday of our very dear friend Chaya Mushka Shapero. Wishing her an abundance of revealed blessings in all areas.

On our Jewish birthday our mazal, our good fortune, is dominant. It is when the Creator said, "Here, I am giving you a body, a soul, and a divine mission. I have absolute trust in your ability to pull through for Me." It is important to utilize this most special day of our lives to its utmost. A day to recommit to the mission that G‑d entrusted to us, that is to bettering and sanctifying ourselves and the world around us; transforming it into G-d's sanctum. And in accomplishing this goal, we are also given the ability to achieve incredible spiritual heights—heights unimaginable to the soul before it was dispatched from its lofty heavenly abode to inhabit a physical body.

Celebrating a birthday is thus also a demonstration of confidence. Confidence that we are and will continue to be worthy of G‑d's trust. No matter the obstacles, we will persevere and live up to G‑d's expectations of us.

On the anniversary of any momentous event, we have the ability to tap into the same spiritual energy that originally caused that event. On this day we have the ability to accomplish that which would perhaps be very difficult on another day.

Rosh Hashanah is special because it is the birthday of humankind—it is the day when Adam and Eve were created. Our birthday is our personal Rosh Hashana and we need to utilize it to its utmost.

Monday, August 10, 2009

20th of Av. Passing of Reb Levi Yitzchok

Today is the 20th day of the Hebrew month of Av. It is the anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's father, Reb Levi Yitzchok Schneerson. He was a renowned and brilliant scholar, a kabbalist, and a fearless, devoted community leader. Though he suffered greatly at the hands of the Communist government, throughout his ordeal, he remained steadfast in his commitment to teach Torah. He never ceased encouraging and inspiring those around him to observe the mitzvot.
In 1939 he was arrested for teaching Torah, an act which the Communists claimed undermined the authority of the government. Reb Levi Yitzchok was sentenced to five years in exile.

In a letter that Reb Levi Yitzchak wrote to his son, he emphasized the concept of faith in every little "dot and crown" of our G-d-given Torah, whereby each detail complements and perfects the others:

"Do not imagine that the process of argument and debate as engaged in by the Sages of the Mishna and Talmud and those who followed... falls into the category of regular human intellectual pursuit. No, it is not that at all... Rather, each of the Sages perceived the Torah's wisdom as it exists Above, according to the source of his soul.

"There is absolutely no doubt, that everything in both the Oral and Written Torah, and in all the holy books written by the sages and tzadikim who studied Torah, was said by G-d Himself, in that particular and exact wording."

Reb Levi Yitzchak lived with the realization of the importance of every aspect of Torah; he had utter self-sacrifice for the compliance to Torah's every detail and nuance.

May we be inspired to learn from his teachings and example. And may G-d help, that on this day of the tzadik's passing-a day when he is empowered to bring salvation to the world - each of us be redeemed from all worries and pains, ultimately leading to the uncomparable and everlasting salvation-the arrival of our Righteous Moshiach.