Friday, December 25, 2009

PARSHA - Vayigash. (Brothers wept on each others neck)

In this week's Torah portion, Vayigash, we read about the reunion of the two brothers Joseph and Benjamin. The verse states that they each fell on his brother's neck and wept.

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.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

PARSHA - Vayigash. Yosef Hatzadik

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

Ink spilled....Hashem The Creator of world.

There once lived a king who had, as his closest friend and advisor, the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community.

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."

The king was impressed - and satisfied.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hey Teves. Holy Books.

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

The Ninth Candle in Auschwitz

Chanuka 1944, Auschwitz
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."