Thursday, December 3, 2009

PARSHA - Vayishlach "Im Lovon garti v'taryag mitzvos shomarti"

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.

Celebrating the 19th of Kislev.

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

The Perpetual Struggle - Tanya.

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

14th Kislev. Wedding of Rebbe & Rebetzin

Today is the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, it marks the wedding anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka- daughter of the Previous Rebbe. Their wedding took place, amidst much rejoicing, in Warsaw, Poland. However, the Rebbe's parents, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson were not in attendance, as the Russian government did not permit them to travel to Poland for their eldest son's wedding. They, however, prepared a celebration and wedding feast in their town of Dniepropetrovsk, which was attended by many in the Jewish community. Their celebration lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

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

Listen to a "child's" cry! (Story of A.Rebbe& Mitteler Rebbe)

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (known as the "Alter Rebbe,") was deeply engrossed in study. His intense concentration was legendary. But something caused him to suddenly stop his learning.

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.