Friday, December 11, 2009

PARSHA - Vayeishev (Yosef's life parrallels life of a Jew

This week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, chronicles Joseph's trials and tribulations from the time he left his father's house and was sold into slavery until his appointment to the position of second in command of the entire Egypt.

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

What you are needed for.....

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.

Several weeks later Rabbi Schneur Zalman summoned the once-wealthy chassid, blessed him with success, and told him to return to his home and business. In time, the chassid regained his wealth, made good on his debts and promises, married off his daughters, and resumed his philanthropy on an even more generous level than before.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yud-Tes Kislev. Podo b'sholom nafshi....He has redeemed my soul in peace.

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!