Friday, November 27, 2009

PARSHA - Vayaitzei (Climbing ladder, rung by rung)

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

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

PARSHA - Vayaitzei (Ladder connecting earth and heaven.)

The dream of the ladder in our Parshah this week, Vayeitzei, is something that has captivated people's imaginations for thousands of years. Jacob, the ancestor of the Jewish people, was on a journey going far away from home. The sun set, he lay down and slept, dreaming of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven.

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

Tes (9th) Kislev - Mitteler Rebbe

Today is the ninth of Kislev, it marks the birthday and, 54 years later, the passing, of Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch, the second Chabad Rebbe, known as the Mitteler Rebbe.

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.