Thursday, December 23, 2010

Parshas Shmois - We are like stars...

The name of this week's Torah portion, identical to that of the second of the five books of Torah, is "Shemot" ("Names"). This is because this Torah portion starts off with once again mentioning the names of the tribes.

The names of the tribes have previously been mentioned numerous times in the Torah. Why are they listed here once again?

Rashi explains that this teaches us how precious the Children of Israel are to G-d, for in His eyes they are compared to the stars which He counts and calls by name time and time again.

Why are we, the Children of Israel, compared to stars?

Stars shine brightly in the night sky. By their light, a person who walks in the darkness of the night will not lose his or her way. Similarly, every Jew, man or woman, possesses enough moral and spiritual light to positively influence their peers and guide them to the proper path.

Additionally, despite the great distance between us and the stars, we are able to see them and benefit from their light.
If we utilize the strength G-d gave us, we have the ability - like stars - to illuminate not merely our immediate environment, but the entire world! Every single deed is important. One action, one word or one thought of one individual can have an influence on the entire world!

As Maimonides instructs, one should always consider that he and the entire world are being judged by G-d and that the scales of justice are even.
One mitzvah, one good deed, can tip the scale to the side of merit and bring redemption to the entire world!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Deep Concentration - Learning Torah....

Shlomo HaMelach (King Solomon) writes that a person should be so occupied with his love for Torah, that one drop all affairs in order to run and learn Torah.

The Rebbe related the following story to teach us that when one delves into something deeply, he can reach a point where he does not even notice what's happening around him.

"Once, the Mozhitzer Rebbe was in need of an operation, but the doctors were afraid that in his weak state he would not be able to handle the pain. The Mozhitzer Rebbe suggested that they allow him to sing a Niggun (a chassidic song), wait until he is fully absorbed in it, and then operate on him. This way, he would not feel anything. The doctors followed his instructions, and amazingly, everything went smoothly!

Here is another story illustrating the deep concentration we can, and ought to attain.

One winter, Reb Yosef from the city of Lubavitch, traveled in a horse drawn sled on a dangerously slippery and bumpy path. The sled shook violently and swayed from side to side, eventually causing Reb Yosef to fall overboard into the snow. Unfortunately, the driver did not notice and continued on without him. And Reb Yosef? So immersed in deep concentration was he, that he felt not a thing of the freezing snow in which he was sitting. A while later, a group of Chassidim passed by and saw Reb Yosef sitting in the snow. When asked what he was doing there, he looked surprised and replied, "I am on my way to Lubavitch."

Now that's deep concentration.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

We Can Control Our Thoughts....

A chassid once came to Rabbi DovBer, the "Maggid" of Mezeritch.

"Rebbe," he said, " When the Almighty commands us to do a certain deed or refrain from a certain act, I understand that however difficult it may be, I can do what G-d commanded because we all have free choice - to do something or not to. The same with speech, it is within my power to decide which words will leave my mouth and which will not.

"But what I find hard to understand is when the Torah forbids us to entertain thoughts that are destructive and wrong. Can a person really control his thoughts??"

"Go to my disciple, Rabbi Zev"
said the Maggid, "He can answer your question."

And so the chassid made the trip through the snow-covered forests of White Russia. He arrived at Rabbi Zev's doorstep late into the night. To his happy surprise, there was a light shining through the window and he could see Rabbi Zev bent over his books.

He knocked on the door expectantly, but there was no response. He knocked louder, but there was still no response. As the night wore on, and he got colder and colder, he kept pounding on the door. But Rabbi Zev was seemingly oblivious to the banging on the door-just a few feet away-and continued to study his books.

After a while of this unusual behavior, Rabbi Zev suddenly rose from his seat, opened the door, and warmly greeted his freezing visitor. He prepared a hot glass of tea for him and inquired after the health of their Rebbe.

"Actually, our Rebbe was the one who sent me to you" the confused Chassid said, " saying that you could answer a question that I've been troubled by for some time. I simply cannot understand how it is that we are expected to really control what enters our thoughts!"

"I just gave you my answer",
said Reb Zev, smiling. "Though you knocked incessantly on my door, I did not open up for you to come in. In my home, I am the boss. Whomever I wish to admit -- I allow in; and whomever I do not wish to admit -- I do not allow entry."

We are our own boss!
We have the power to control who, or what, enters our thoughts!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How could it be that a prayer goes unanswered? Tzvi Freeman

Often, we find that our prayers have gone unanswered.

But can a prayer to our Father ever go unanswered?

"Aha," you may believe, "sure every prayer is answered, and sometimes the answer is 'no'."

But that's because you don't understand the secret of prayer.

Prayer is when a consciousness below breaks out of its ego and causes delight to the Consciousness Above. And when delight is brought Above, it must return below.

You may thus conclude that prayer is always answered, but perhaps only in a spiritual realm. Not always can a prayer affect the coarseness of our material world.

Yet this also cannot be, for the consciousness below did not pray for a spiritual blessing, but for a material one. The place from whence the prayer emitted, to there the blessing must return.

Rather, it must be that every prayer is answered, in our world, now, for the one who prayed and for that which he prayed.

The problem is only in the packaging -- that it is packaged in the artifacts of our coarse and dark world, so that at times we cannot see through the wrappings to discover the answer to our prayer.

But there will be a time when all of us will return to the One Above with all our hearts, and then all the concealment of this world will be shattered. The wrappings will fall away and we will see how each prayer was answered in its time. And we will hold all the blessings of all those thousands of years in our hands.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jewish Birthday - the Jewish way.

One's Jewish birthday is the date upon which one was born according to the Jewish calendar. Jewish tradition regards one's Jewish birthday to be brimming with meaning and relevance.

Birth is G-d saying that the world could not go on without you. It is the day that your soul's mission had to begin.

There were already nearly six billion people on earth when you were born. Did the world really need you? Can one more soul really make a difference? Obviously, the answer is yes; otherwise G-d would not have sent your soul to this earth. The fact that you were born means there must be some unique gift that you have to offer the world that none of those other six billion people could possibly achieve.

Your birthday is an opportunity to reflect on these truths, and consequently, make the necessary resolutions. Consider: This is the day that my soul was dispatched on its mission. How is the mission going? Have I been contributing my part to the furthering of G-d's purpose to create heaven on earth? Have I been doing my bit to enhance and improve myself and my world? How much time and energy do I spend on meaningful pursuits? How much time could I add to that amount in the coming year?

The Talmud informs us that on our Jewish birthdays our mazal (good fortune) is dominant.

On one's Jewish birthday it is customary to get together with family and friends to celebrate. At the celebration one should say a prayer of thanks to G-d, give money to charity, and learn some Torah.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New! LIVE TeleFARBRENGEN!

B"H


Reminder! TONIGHT!!

Join Rabbi Moshe's "Live TeleFarbrengen"!

Thursday evenings - 6:00 - 6:30 p.m. L.A. time.
Participants will have an opportunity to share insights and/or ask questions.

It's easy, it's convenient, it's inspiring.

The live TeleFarbrengen call-in number is: 712-432-1438
The live TeleFarbrengen access code is: 1056496 #

We hope you'll enjoy this learning experience, with the aim of helping you to be your best self!



Rabbi Moshe Levin
Chabad of Downtown East.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chanukah Tidbits...

"Listen to the Chanuka lights," The Previous Rebbe would say. Each one of them has a profound message.

Here are some Chanukah insights to reflect upon:

1. The Hebrew word "Chanuka" shares the same root as the word "chinuch" (education). During Chanuka we focus our attention on matters affecting the Jewish education of children. For this reason it is also traditional to give "Chanuka gelt" to children.

2. Oil, upon which the miracle of Chanuka is based, is an interesting substance. It is not required for our day-to-day existence and is never served alone as a food. It is used to add flavor and is thus associated with pleasure. Oil is a metaphor for the inner teachings of the Torah--Chassidut. Study of Chassidut adds pleasure to our observance of mitzvot. Additionally, both oil and Chassidut have the potential to illuminate. When we light a candle in a room, the contents of the room are revealed. Similarly, studying Chassidut serves to reveal not only more of our own personal potential and energy but also helps to reveal the G-dliness in the world around us.

3. "In those days at this time." These words, part of a special Chanuka prayer, hint at an amazing Jewish mystical concept. The spiritual energy that was evident during a particular event is reinstated in the world on the anniversary of that event. "At this time" we can draw on the energy of "those days." The eight days of Chanuka are an auspicious time to wage spiritual battles against evil, impurity and corruption within and without. And, with G-d's help, we will certainly be victorious, just as in those days.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yud Tes Kislev!

Tomorrow, starting tonite, we celebrate Yud Tet (the 19th of) Kislev, the Chasidic "New Year." On this date the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidut, was liberated from prison in Russia.

Not merely a personal event, his redemption was an ideological victory for the revelation of the inner aspect of Torah, and a significant milestone in preparing the world for Moshiach.

Before Yud Tet Kislev, the inner, esoteric part of the Torah - the Torah's "soul," as it were - was in a concealed state. Only its outer aspect - the "body" - was revealed.

Human beings are also composed of a physical body and a spiritual soul. The soul cannot be touched or perceived by the senses, nor can the human intellect fully comprehend its essence. The soul's existence can only be determined by deduction - i.e., if the body is alive, there must a soul that is animating it.

With the redemption of Yud Tet Kislev, the Torah's "soul" became revealed and apparent. Anyone can now learn its inner wisdom, and understand it on an intellectual level.

The innovation of Yud Tet Kislev affected all Jewish individuals on a personal level as well.;making it easier for every Jew to fulfill his mission in the world.

On such an auspicious day, when the same spiritual energy that was originally present comes down into the world, it is appropriate to rededicate ourselves to ensuring that all our deeds and actions help hasten Moshiach's revelation - the underlying purpose of the spreading of Chasidut.

May everyone be inscribed and sealed for a good year in the study of Chasidut and in the Chasidic ways of conduct.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fast Day for Volunteers of Chevra Kadisha

The Chevra Kadisha, The Sacred Burial Society, have instituted an annual fast day. It was established as a form of repenting, if G-d forbid they had failed to handle the deceased body with the utmost of care.

The volunteers treat the body with gentleness, with special care and with absolute dignity. Every act of theirs is infused with reverence and honor for the deceased. They keeping the body covered whenever possible. They move the body gently and only when necessary.

This is an extraordinary concept. So much concern and attention to avoid hurting a Jewish body. So much emphasis and caution to guard against harming someone who can no longer feel.

How much more so must we be careful and sensitive when interacting with people who do have feelings. Our family, our friends, our neighbors and even total strangers deserve our vigilance and tenderness. Not because they can hurt us back, but because they are part of G-d.

If the Torah instructs us, with many intricate details, how to treat a body without a soul, without G-d's holy spark that gives it life, shouldn't we be much more cautious and careful when relating to a human being with a G-dly soul??

This is a lesson to always be a little kinder than necessary to all those around us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Im Lovon Garti - Taryag Mitzvos Shomarti

A man once came to the Maggid of Mezeritch. He was shocked to see how empty the Maggid's home was. There was hardly any furniture and the few basic pieces he did own were all made of simple boards or stumps of wood. The man could not restrain himself and asked the holy Maggid why his house was so bare.

The Maggid responded with a question of his own: "And where is your furniture?"

"In my home, of course." answered the man.

"Why don't you have any with you?" asked the Maggid .

The man looked at the Maggid in surprise. "I'm on a business trip now. Surely a person doesn't need his furniture when he is in the middle of a journey!"

The Maggid smiled. "I, too, am on a journey. This world and all its possessions are only temporary."




**




In this week's Torah portion, Yaakov Avinu relayed this very same message to his brother Esav. "I have lived with Lavan", he said, "and I have acquired many possessions - oxen, donkeys, sheep and servants."

The word "garti" - "I have lived"-has the numerical value of 613, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Yaakov's message, teaches the commentator Rashi, was -"I may have lived with Lavan for many years, but I kept the mitzvot and led my life according to the Torah."

"Garti" also comes from the root "ger", meaning a stranger, a person who knows that he's not really at home.

Yaakov was saying that everything he earned while working for Lavan - the oxen, donkeys, sheep and servants - are not really important. The entire time he was living there, he was like a stranger, because acquiring these things is not what his life was all about.

Yaakov's real life centers around his neshamah, his soul.

Until Moshiach comes, we, Yaakov's children, are also strangers. Although we may be successful and acquire many possessions, this is not what we are really living for. Like Yaakov, our lives should center around our neshama. That is what really matters to a Jew.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joy Sweetens Severity - fell off horse...

The Mittler Rebbe, (who's anniversary of his release of prison we celebrate today,) was known for his unusual fondness for activities promoting joy. He even had a kapelya, a choir of musically gifted individuals who sang various melodies. Moreover, some of his Chassidim excelled in horse riding stunts and performed tricks and stunts for the Rebbe. Reb Nochum, one of the Mitteler Rebbe’s sons, was part of this horse riding group.

Once, the Rebbe suddenly instructed his kapelya and horse experts to begin their mode of entertainment. This was extremely unusual, for the Rebbe only used them on special dates. The Rebbe gazed out of the window at the Chassidim performing all kinds of antics when suddenly a horse reared and threw off its rider. It was Reb Nochum, the Rebbe's son.

"Your son has fallen off his horse," they informed the Rebbe,"He seems to be in critical condition."

But the Rebbe motioned for them to continue their singing and horse riding. And so the Chassidim continued with their tricks on their horses, while Reb Nochum lay motionless on the floor. All were wondering at the Rebbe’s seemingly uncaring attitude. "It’s nothing serious," the doctor who examined Reb Nochum proclaimed. "His foot is broken. He’ll be fine in a couple of weeks."

"Today was meant to be a harsh day for my son," explained the Rebbe. "I saw grave accusation against him in the Heavenly Court. The prosecution was very powerful; I could see no way out. However, joy sweetens the attribute of severity. I therefore, called upon my kapelya, instructed them to sing and asked for the horse riders to gladden everyone with their antics.

"The joy created by the singers and horse riders tempered the strict decree against my son, but a small portion of the decree remained. That is why he fell off his horse and hurt his leg, because this became the physical manifestation of the remaining decree. However, I continued with the happy activities to lessen even this lesser decree and, G-d willing, Nochum will recover in the very near future."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The story of two suits, for the prince

A man once came to the Chassidic master Rabbi Yerachmiel of Pshischa:

"Rebbe, I am a tailor. Over the years, I have earned quite a reputation for my expertise and the high quality of my work. All the nobles in the area order from me.

Several months ago, the prince himself asked that I sew him a suit of clothes from the finest silk in the land. But when I brought him the finished product, he began yelling and cursing: 'This is the best you can do? Why, it's atrocious! Who taught you to sew?' He ordered me out of his house and threw the garment out after me.

"Rebbe, I am ruined. All my capital is invested in the cloth. Worse still, my reputation has been totally destroyed. No one will dare order anything from me after this. I don't understand what happened! This is the best work I've ever done!"

"Go back to your shop," advised Rabbi Yerachmiel. "Remove all the stitches in this garment, sew them anew exactly how you sewed them before, and bring it to the prince."

"But then I'll have the same garment I have now!" protested the confused tailor.

"Do as I say", commanded the rabbi, "and G-d will help."

Two weeks later, the tailor was back. "Rebbe, You saved my life! To be honest, I had little faith in your strange idea, but with nothing to lose, I did as you said. When I presented the result to the prince, his eyes lit up. 'Beautiful!' he cried. 'You have more than lived up to your reputation. This is the finest suit of clothes I have ever seen.' He rewarded me handsomely, and promised to send more work my way.

"But I don't understand -- what was the difference between the first suit and the second if the cloth was cut and sewn in exactly the same way?"

Explained Rabbi Yerachmiel, "The first was sewn with arrogance and pride. The result was a spiritually repulsive garment, which, though technically perfect, was devoid of all grace and beauty.
"The second suit", continued the wise rabbi, "was sewn with a humble spirit and a broken heart, investing in the garment an inner beauty that evokes awe and admiration in everyone who beholds it."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What are YOU doing?

Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveichik was the rabbi of the town of Slutsk. Once, he happened to meet a young man who had been one of his students at the yeshiva in Volozhin. The meeting was very cordial and the rabbi invited the young man to dine with him at his home.

"What are you doing these days?" the rabbi inquired.

"Thank G-d," the former student replied, "I have become a merchant and I'm very successful. In the past few years I have done very well for myself, and I'm making a very comfortable living."

The rabbi looked at his former student, paying close attention to his words and then said asked, "What are you doing?"

The young man was perplexed. Hadn't the rabbi understood him? He repeated his explanation.

Instead of acknowledging his statement, however, the rabbi only repeated, "What are you doing now?"

"I hope the rabbi will forgive my asking" said the young man, "but three times the rabbi has asked me what I'm doing and I have answered him. I don't understand."

The rabbi replied with a deep sigh: "It is correct that you have answered my question three times over, but your answer is not the one I was hoping to hear. In so far as you have accumulated money, that is nothing to your credit, for it all belongs to G-d, as it says, "Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold." It is He who gives you riches, health, and in fact, your very life.
"When I ask you "What are you doing?" I am referring to your good deeds, which are wholly your own. Do you give tzedaka (charity)? Are you kind to your fellow man? Do you devote a set time every day to the study of Torah? These are the only things in this world which are truly your own possessions which you accomplish through your efforts alone.
I am asking you what you are doing, not what G-d is doing for you!"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

To FEEL for the poor...

A number of years ago, there lived a very rich Jewish miser. When the local rabbi would come to him to collect funds for the poor, the miser would invite the rabbi in, offer the rabbi a tea and talk about his business. When the rabbi would start talking about the plight of the poor people in the winter, the miser would brush him off and tell him that poor people like to complain--it wasn't all as bad as the rabbi thought. The miser would then escort the rabbi to the door, go back to his warm room and settle down near the fireplace.

The rabbi was not pleased. The poor had no money for food or for stove-wood; they were hungry and cold.

One evening, the rabbi knocked on the rich miser's door. It was a cold and miserable night, snow and sleet blew through the streets. The miser asked the rabbi in, as usual. But this time, the rabbi refused. He stood by the door and inquired after the miser's health, and after the health of his family, and asked him about his business, and spoke about affairs of the community. The miser had come to the door dressed in a thin shirt and slippers and he was getting cold. The rabbi, wearing a warm coat with a fur lining and heavy winter boots talked on and on. "No thank you", he repeated each time to miser's numerous invitations to enter. And the miser got colder and colder, his toes were freezing, his teeth were chattering, his---

Suddenly the miser understood. "Oh, Rabbi!" he cried, "Those poor people with no warm clothes or firewood for winter.... I never imagined it could be like this. This is horrible. You are right-something must definitely be done!!"

He went into the house and returned with a purse full of gold coins. The rabbi took the money with a grateful smile and thanked him. This year, the poor people would have a good winter.

And the miser? He sure learned a good lesson that night and became a regular contributor to the rabbi's funds for the poor.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Cow Who Kept Shabbos..

There was once a Jew who owned a cow with which he plowed his field. Unfortunately, this Jew became impoverished and was forced to sell his cow. His buyer was not Jewish.

The new owner plowed with the cow all throughout the week, quite satisfied with her labor. When Shabbat arrived, however, and he took her out to the field, the cow kneeled under the yoke and refused to do any work. He yelled, he cajoled, hit her with his whip, but still she would not budge from her place.

The furious man stormed over to the Jew: "Take back your cow! All week I worked with her, but today I took her out to the field and the lazy animal refuses to do anything! "

The Jew calmed the irate owner and said: "Come with me, and I will get her to plow." When they arrived at the field where the cow lay, the Jew spoke into her ear. "Oh Cow, Cow! When you were in my domain, you rested on Shabbat. But now that I sold you to this gentile, please, stand up and do the will of your master!"

Immediately, the cow stood, prepared to work. Said the gentile to the Jew: "I'm not letting you go until you tell me what you did and what you said to her. Have you bewitched her?" The Jew repeated what he said to the cow.

When the man heard this, he was shaken and astonished. Said he: "If this creature, which has neither language or intelligence, recognizes her Creator, should not I, whom G‑d created in His image and imbued me with intelligence and understanding?"

So he went and converted to Judaism and merited to study Torah. A righteous scholar, he became known as Yochanan ben Torta, "Yochanan son of the Cow".

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"SERVE G-D WITH JOY".

Joy is central to the service of G-d. The happiness with which one performs a mitzvah shows that we truly comprehend the tremendous privilege that serving the King of kings constitutes. Indeed, the Arizal, master Kabbalist, once asserted that the gates of wisdom and divine inspiration were opened for him only as a reward for his observance of mitzvot with tremendous, boundless joy.

In truth, all a person does – eating, sleeping, business, and etc – can be part of his Divine service, provided that they are done with the proper intentions. As such, the injunction to "serve G-d with joy" actually applies to all times and all situations.

For a joyful person, the toughest tasks are a breeze. For a depressed person, on the other hand, even simple challenges seem overwhelming. Victory in the lifelong battle fought against one's temptations is largely dependent on constantly maintaining a joyous disposition.

* Consider G-d's unfathomable greatness.
* Appreciate how small and insignificant you are by comparison.
* Contemplate on how He loves and cherishes you.
* Consider how, when you do a mitzvah, you cause Him to dwell with us here in our world.
* Recognize that all that transpires is part of G-d's plan, and that G-d is in control.
* Understand that no evil could emanate from G-d—for He is entirely good.
* Feel secure in the knowledge that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be, and Someone is looking out for you


Let a sense of purpose lend bounce to your step, as you go about your daily activities.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Fox And The Vineyard

A sly fox passed a lovely vineyard. A tall, thick fence surrounded the vineyard on all sides. As the fox circled around the fence, he found a small hole in the fence, barely large enough for him to push his head through. The fox could see what luscious grapes grew in the vineyard, and his mouth began to water. But the hole was too small for him. So what did the clever fox do? He fasted for three days until he became so thin that he managed to slip through the hole.

Inside the vineyard, the fox began to eat to his heart's content. He grew bigger and fatter than ever before. Finally, he decided he had eaten enough and wanted to leave the vineyard. But alas! The hole was too small again. So what did he do? He fasted for three days again, and then just about managed to slip through the hole and out again.

Turning his head towards the vineyard, the poor fox said: "Vineyard, O’ vineyard! How lovely you look, and how lovely are your fruits and vines. But what good are you to me? Just as I came to you, so I leave you..."

And so, our Sages say, it is also with this world. It is a beautiful world, but, as King Solomon teaches, just as man comes into this world empty-handed, so he leaves it. Only the Torah he studied, the mitzvot he performed, and the good deeds he practiced are the real fruits which he can take with him.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Avrohom - live life to the fullest!

Many of us are too frightened to enter into our lives and live it fully, with complete presence of mind, heart and body, with passion and zest. We do not trust life enough to let it possess us. Life holds too much pain, too many disappointments, so much shame, anger and guilt; we would rather let our days pass by as we "mark time" and retain a certain distance, so that we remain safe.

Yet Avraham and Sarah, the Torah says, "They came into the days;" they fully entered into their days. All their days were explored,utilized and lived to the fullest.

Avraham and Sarah enjoyed tremendous blessings and victories, as well as profound pain and disappointment, including the fact that Sarah was (at that time) childless. Yet throughout the positive as well as the challenging, the joyous as well as the painful -- they allowed themselves to experience the pulse of life in its totality. They did not retreat into the cocoon of safe detachment.

Sure, it is safer to create a border between yourself and your experiences. No sorrow, no pain, no tears. But that may come at the cost of LIVING, of a life filled with exuberance, laughter and passion..

And the Torah tells us that Abraham's courage lasted him till the very end. "Abraham was old, he came into the days." Even as a widower, Abraham did not detach from life. He breathed it in, with all of its majesty, drama and pain. That is what we call truly living: acquiring the courage to become one with life, to feel it and to love it.

Till his last breath, Avraham, the founder of the Jewish faith awoke each morning and said, "I will live my life today to the fullest; my heart and soul will fully go along with the ride we call living."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sold his OlamHaba - Redeemed it by Mitzva providing for poor bride.

With tears in his eyes, R' Mottel cried to The Rebbe of Apta, "Rebbe, please help me, I need one thousand rubles to marry off my daughter and I have exactly one ruble to my name!"
"Well, one ruble is also something", said the Rebbe, "Go and purchase the first piece of goods that comes your way. Surely, G-d will bless you."

R' Mottel had faith in the words of the Tzaddik and so, encountering a group of rowdy merchants on his way home, his interest was aroused.

"Looking to buying something?" one merchant called out mockingly.

"Yes," he replied," I have one ruble."

"One ruble! Ha! Well, I have something I can sell for one ruble-my portion in the World to Come!"

And so, a contract was drawn up. Both the buyer and the seller signed their names, and Reb Mottel handed over the coin. The merchants' laughter filled the air.

When the seller's wife inquired what the laughter was about, her husband responded, "You see that beggar over there? I just sold him my portion in the World to Come!"

"What!" she cried. "You sold him the only thing of value that you own!? I want a divorce!"

The merchant was shocked. Didn't she know that this sale was just a joke? But his wife was perfectly serious.

So, the merchant called over Reb Mottel. "I'm afraid our little bargain is off." he told him, "I'll give you back your one ruble, and you give me back my paper."

But, Reb Mottel refused. "I am very happy with my purchase. I have no intention of returning it."

"How about if I add a few rubles compensation for the 'broken contract,'" he chuckled.

"No thanks," replied Mottel. "I won't settle for less than one thousand rubles!"

"What! Are you mad? One thousand rubles??! Forget it! Keep your paper!"


But the merchant's wife insisted. "I promise that if you don't buy that paper back, I will have a divorce this very day! I won't spend my life with a man who sold his portion in the World to Come!

The merchant realized he had no choice. He gave one thousand rubles to Reb Mottel who handed him back the document. Reb Mottel then told the seller's wife the words of the Apter Rebbe. She was so impressed that she went to visit the Rebbe herself.

"Was my husband's portion in the World to Come worth only one ruble?"
she asked the Rebbe, painfully.

Responded the Rebbe: "The truth is, before he sold it, it wasn't even worth that much. But when he redeemed it by 'buying' the mitzva of dowering a bride, the value of his Future Life soared, for such a mitzva cannot be measured in money!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rachel Imeinu - Our Matriarch

Today, the eleventh day of Cheshvan, is the anniversary of the passing of our Matriarch Rachel, the most beloved wife of Yaakov.

When Rachel died, Yaakov and his family were only a short distance from the city Bet Lehem. Yet, Yaakov did not bring his dear wife Rachel into that town to be buried, nor did he bring her home with him to Hebron, but he buried her on the side of the road.

Why this seemingly uncaring behavior?

Yaakov foresaw that following the destruction of the First Temple, when the Jews would be driven from their homes and forced into exile, they would pass on this very road. Burying Rachel on the roadside would give these discouraged Jews the opportunity to cry out to Rachel. They would take courage from her presence, and she would beseech G-d on their behalf.

The prophet Yermiyahu describes what actually happened:

A voice is heard on high,
Wailing, bitterly crying.
Rachel weeps for her children
She refuses to be consoled
For they are gone.

And G-d's response:

"Restrain your voice from weeping,
"Hold back your eyes from their tears.
"For your work has its reward and your children shall return to their border."


According to the Midrash, at that time the other Patriarchs, Matriarchs and Moses, too, begged for mercy. But G-d remained silent. Then Rachel lifted her voice, and only she elicited the promise of redemption.

"O Lord of the Universe," she argued. "Consider what I did for my sister Leah." And immediately, G-d's mercy was aroused and He responded, "For you, Rachel, I will bring Israel back to their place."

Instead of a burial spot in the family plot in Hebron, she accepted a lonely burial, on the side of a deserted road. She did this in order to be there for her children who would live tens of centuries later

Rachel is the ultimate Jewish mother, sacrificing for our well-being and security. This feeling of limitless love and motherly concern is what draws people to her tomb to this day. Her grave will always remain a House of Prayer for she is a mother to all Israel, and continuously awaken mercy on our behalf.

Monday, October 18, 2010

KEVER ROCHEL

Avraham's tests/our tests and challenges.

Avraham, the father of all nations, was the first true pioneer. He stood up to an entire world and trail blazed a spiritual path to life, forever changing history.

How can we emulate Avraham and acquire his courage in our own lives? Our father Avraham was tested with ten challenges, and he withstood them all. Does this mean that every man of faith needs to be challenged as well?

By virtue of being created in the "image of G-d", every soul contains enormous reservoirs of extraordinary potential. However, these powers remain dormant when not actualized. A true test of one's character is a challenge that actualizes our potential and brings the best out of us by revealing the powerful forces we carry within.

When we pass a difficult test in life, a deeper part of our soul is revealed, to the point that it can actually bring on true transformation of the human being.

Just as Avraham endured ten challenges, one more difficult than the previous, we, his children, too undergo in our lifetimes similar challenges. With one important difference-Once Avraham proved himself, his children do not need to be challenged with quite the same intensity.

The key thing to always remember, with every fiber of our being, is that these are all challenges that we have the power to withstand, and will help catapult us to greatness.

Avraham's story is our story. His travels paved the way for our own. His endurance empowers us with the ability to not just survive, but to thrive and to reach true greatness.

If that doesn't give us confidence and inspiration that we too can make it through our difficulties, then what will?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

7th of Cheshvan

We are taught that on the 7th day of the Hebrew month of MarCheshvan the Jews in Israel begin "to pray for rain; fifteen days after the festival of Sukkot." In the time of the Beit HaMikdash, even the pilgrim who had the greatest distance to travel back home from Jerusalem (after spending Sukkot there), had already returned home by this date and he wouldn't be inconvenienced by the rain that was now being prayed for.

Thus, till now, the spiritual high enjoyed by the Jewish people during their pilgrimage still continued. But, starting with 7th of MarCheshvan, all the Jews were already home and thus in a state of spiritual descent relative to their lofty state while in Jerusalem.

A Jew must continuously rise from level to level in holiness. Therefore, the Jewish people's spirituality after returning home from Jerusalem possessed a quality superior even to that of their lofty state during their pilgrimage.

Most Jews during those times were involved in agricultural matters. He was able to perform the agricultural commandments relating to Israel as well as drawing down holiness within all his physical affairs. This is something he was incapable of doing while he was in Jerusalem and at the Beit HaMikdash.

G-d desired to have a dwelling place in this physical world. We accomplish this by drawing down G-d's sanctity and permeating the mundane with holiness--taking physical objects and performing mitzvot with them.

While in Jerusalem, the person is mostly occupied with sacred matters. Thus, it is specifically on the 7th ofMarCheshvan, when the Jew returns to his home, that he begins to express the quality and merit of a personal spiritual service that involves elevating this material world, transforming the physical objects themselves, so that they become the actual dwelling for G-d transforming this world into a dwelling place for G-d.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

7th of MarCheshvan - Ahavas Yisroel - Jewish Unity

The 7th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, is when the Jews in Israel begin "to pray for rain; fifteen days after the festival of Sukkot. In the times of the beit hamikdash during Sukkot, the entire Jewish people were in Jerusalem. By the seventh of Cheshvan, even the pilgrim who had the greatest distance to travel back home from Jerusalem had already returned home. It was then that the prayer for rain commenced, so that no one would be inconvenienced by the rain that was now being prayed for.

The delay of the prayers for rain until the last pilgrims reached their homes, is the concept of Jewish unity.

The Rebbe points out that despite the millions of acres of fields, orchards, and vineyards in need of these rains, the thousands of farmers passed up on their own desires, their livelihood – all until one Jew, the last one, finally returns home. The Rebbe teaches us a tremendous lesson. The fact that the Jewish People don’t ask for rain doesn’t mean that they’re all suffering just for the sake of one Jew who hasn’t come home yet. The benefit of that Jew is for my benefit! This is the true benefit of every Jew, passing up his own personal interests to the point that it becomes to his benefit that this Jew will return home without being inconvenienced by the rainfall.

The needs of another Jew are my needs!

The unity expressed by the seventh of Cheshvan relates to us as individuals.

Understandably that during the pilgrimage festivals, the essential unity of the Jewish people is expressed, however the 7th of cheshvan teaches us that Jewish unity remains even after each Jew returns to his own home and his individual lifestyle.

May we continue to work on Jewish unity in every way possible until the ultimate revelation of total Jewish unity and the unity of G-d and the entire world with the coming of Moshiach, NOW!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Card playing in Gulag/Check your own pockets....

One of the activities prohibited in the Gulag was card playing. It was considered a severe crime, and harsh punishment was imposed if one was caught violating this prison rule.

Somehow, the inmates managed to smuggle in a deck of cards and would while away their free time with the forbidden game.

The guards were told about the breach and came to inspect the prisoners' quarters. They found nothing.

As weeks went by, and the games continued, the guards were baffled. Were these uncouth prisoners really outsmarting them? They wondered.

They finally decided to put an end to this. They carried out a surprise inspection, checking every inch of the barracks as well as the bodies and clothes of the inmates.

They found nothing.

As soon as the inspectors left, the cards re - appeared, and the games continued as usual.

How was that possible? The inspectors had checked every possible hiding place.

Eventually,the secret was let out.

You see, they were professional pickpockets . As soon as the guards would enter the barracks, they would slip the cards into their - the guards' pockets. Right before they would leave, they would slip them back out again. Obviously it never occurred to the guards to check their own pockets...

The lesson is clear. If you want to make an accurate assessment of reality, start your search by checking your own 'pockets'.

Often when we make our spiritual and personal inventory, we instinctively look to place blame on those around us. "My parents are responsible," "my education is responsible," etc. Everyone is blamed except oneself. That is an easier and less painful way to do things, but it is not effective in the long run. In order to really put your life into order, we must not overlook our own "pockets."

Friday, September 17, 2010

EREV YOM KIPPUR - Hashem Forgives!

The Midrash recounts the following dialogue regarding the significance of sin:

Wisdom was asked: What is the fate of the transgressor? Wisdom replied: “Evil pursues crime” (Proverbs 13:21).

Prophecy was asked: What is the fate of the transgressor? Prophecy replied: “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).

The Torah was asked: What is the fate of the transgressor? Torah replied: "He shall bring a guilt-offering, and it shall atone for him" (Leviticus, ch. 5).

G-d was asked: What is the fate of the transgressor? G-d replied: "He shall do teshuvah, and it shall atone for him."

G-d sees sin as the potential for Teshuva!

From G-d’s perspective, there is only the positive essence of transgression. As viewed by its Creator, transgression is the potential for a deeper bond between Himself and man—a bond borne out of the transformation of evil into good and failure into achievement.

And this year G- d will once again forgive us. Why? Why should He?

If a person offends another and apologizes, and then repeats the misdeed, it becomes more difficult to grant pardon once again--and certainly if it occurs a third and fourth time.

To G-d, however, there is no difference between once and a thousand times. As it's stated in the Tanya, G-d's attribute of pardon comes from His mercy, which is infinite. And relative to infinity there is no difference whatsoever between a small number and a large one. Therefore G-d removes our sins every year on Yom Kippur.

These are words to soothe our aching hearts as we bare our souls in prayer and repentance this Yom Kippur.

Let us focus entirely on our spiritual connection to G‑d and how we can connect deeper and thereby live a more holy life.

Wishing you an easy fast and may we all be sealed in the Books of Life, Prosperity, and Redemption!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

10 Yemei Teshuva

The Baal Shem Tov would go to a special place on Rosh Hashana, he would light a fire in a special way, say a special prayer, and as a result the entire world would be blessed.
In the next generation, his successors knew the location of the special place and they knew how to light the fire but they forgot the prayers. So instead, they would pray, "Whatever the Baal Shem Tov achieved here with the fire, we should achieve."

The next generation knew the location but they forgot the rest. So they just stood in the location and said, "Whatever the Baal Shem Tov achieved here, we should achieve."
Today, we have forgotten even the location. So what do we do? We tell the story...

We are asked to do only that which we are capable of. We do not have to be like the giants of the past. We just have to do what is in our power—stand on their shoulders. When we do so we lay claim to everything they achieved plus we add our own small part—and that small part,, might just be enough to tip the scales and bring redemption.
Ask yourself: Do you know what your small part in this world is? What can you add to the cumulative accomplishments of the giants of the past?

We find ourselves now in the 'ten days of Teshuva' when we have the opportunity through our service, to cause G-d to grant us yet greater benefits from His “full and expansive hand".

We say in our prayers, “Teshuva - , Tefillah - ,and Tzedaka avert evil and bring the good.
Teshuvah is a return to the self. meaning going back to one’s roots in G-d making it the dominant influ­ence in our lives.

Tefillah- prayer - means, to attach oneself. In tefillah we seek to attach ourselves to G-d. to the source of all life.

Tzedakah means justice. We have a duty to act towards others as we ask G-d to act towards us. And as we ask G-d for His blessings though He owes us nothing , so we are bound in justice to give to those who ask us, even though we owe them nothing.

These three

Teshuva - Returning to one's innermost self.

Tefilla - attaching oneself to G-d.

Tzedaka - distributing one's possessions with justice -


leads to a year “written and sealed” for good. A year of sweetness and plenty.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Preparing for Rosh Hashono

On Rosh Hashanah the world is new. It’s life-force is different that of any previous year -- a spiritual color never seen before. We cannot see this profound renewal, but its effects are real.
For each of us individually, this means new potential for spiritual growth. Rosh Hashanah shakes us out of our spiritual slumber, hence the Shofar blasts, to reconnect, to recommit to our divine mission in this world.

Each of us pauses to draw up а balance sheet for the past year. With unflinching honesty we assess our past actions and resolve to better ourselves. Thus committed, we confidently pray for а happy year, both materially and spiritually. And we pray that this year will bring the coming of Moshiach.

If we have thus far not taken full of advantage of the opportunities inherent in Elul to prepare ourselves, the time to start is now. Preparation is essential for success in anything in life—be it material or spiritual, be it an audit of your taxes, or an audit of your soul.

Imagine yourself arriving in the reception room of a big corporation.

"Can I help you?" asks the receptionist. "Oh, I guess so," you answer yawning and looking uninterested.
The receptionist looks quizzically at you.

"Well... why are you here?"
"Ummm...i'm not exactly sure", you answer her.
Are you here to apply for a job, perhaps?"
"Yes I think that's it." you say.
"Okay, did you bring a resume?
"You look at her feeling a little stupid. "No, I didn't bring anything."
"Well, then perhaps you can come back when you've prepared for this." She says.

If you arrived ill prepared, you'd expect nothing to happen. Similarly, if you arrive at shul on Rosh Hashana without preparation, without knowing what you are there for, or what this is all about, then what can you truly expect?

Moshe Rabeinu was on the mountain for 80 days. We don't have to physically go to the mountain, but we have to climb.
Let's each resolve to take on one more good deed, and increase the goodness in the world.

Our Sages say that giving Tzedoko, to the needy opens the way for our prayers to bring us good health, prosperity and happiness.


Wishing you and yours, and all of Israel, a sweet, prosperous, and meaningful new year!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Selichos in Berditchev

It was the day before Rosh Hashanah in Berditchev. The spirit of holiness hovered in the air. Each heart was throbbing with the thought of the imminent Day of Judgment; each mind was occupied with thoughts of repentance; perhaps too much time was wasted which could have been spent in the study of the Torah, more help should have been given to the poor, and way too much gossip was spoken during the past year, but thank G-d for the selichot. Here is the last chance before the year is over to turn to G-d in humble prayer, for the new year will most definitely be a better one...

The Jews of Berditchev made their way to the house of Rabbi Levi Y. Of Berditchev to accompany him to the synagogue for the selichot services, As they approached his home, they saw him on his way out holding a bottle of vodka and some herring …What on earth is the Rabbi going to do with the refreshments at this hour?" they wondered, as they followed him in silence to the outskirts of the town into a large inn.

At the inn the Rabbi bent over a sleeping poor Jew. Gently, the Rabbi whispered: "Reb Yid, Wake up have some vodka and fresh herring." The Jew opened his eyes wide with amazement, threw a glance at the refreshments, and said in horror -

"What? have you no G-d in your heart? Would I drink vodka before I've washed my hands? Would I eat before I have said my morning prayers?!

The Rabbi then moved on to a sleeping country peasant.

"Ivan, do you want a schnapps and some refreshments?"

"Give it here!"
he said, and he gulped down the glass of vodka and swallowed some herring, turned over and fell back asleep.

The Berditchever Rabbi lifted his eyes to heaven and said, "Master of the Universe! Look at your children! A Jew gets up in the morning, and his first thought is of You, G-d! A Jew would not let anything pass his lips until he has sung Your praises! But a non-jew's first thought is of food and drink… "

His face beaming with satisfaction as his mission was accomplished, the Rabbi turned to his followers. "And now, holy flock, let's go to the house of G-d. We can now face our Maker with confidence, and pray for a happy new year…!”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What father can possibly condemn his own children

The hour for the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue of the “Seer of Lublin” had long passed one Rosh HaShanah morning, yet the great Chassidic sage remained secluded in his study. Finally, one of the Seer’s disciples knocked on his master’s door to ask what was amiss.

The Seer’s face was pale with terror and his eyes red with weeping. “I see a terrible decree ordained in the Heavenly court for the people of Israel this year,” he told his disciple. “I’ve been praying and pleading all morning to nullify the decree, but to no avail.”

The Seer noticed a young lad next to his disciple. “What are you learning these days?” he inquired of the young boy.

“We have just concluded a Talmudic section dealing with the laws of witnesses,”
replied the young student.

“So, tell me an original insight that you’ve come up with in the course of your learning,”
prompted the Seer.

And the Talmudic discussion began.

The boy said that he had been puzzled by the law that a person cannot serve as a witness in a case involving a relative of his, whether his testimony is for his relative’s benefit or to his detriment. Understandably, a witness cannot be believed when he testifies in support of his relative, the bias would be clear; but why do we not accept his testimony against his relative?

“Well, do you also have an answer to your question?”
asked the Seer of Lublin.

“Yes,”
said the boy. “I thought of the verse, ‘And the two persons shall stand ... before the judges,’ which the Talmud interprets as a reference to the witnesses. The Torah is saying that only ‘persons’ are qualified to serve as witnesses. Someone who is prepared to testify against his own brother, father or child is not a ‘person.’”

The Seer burst out joyously, “My son!
With this argument we shall win our case in the Heavenly court! We shall remind G-d that He is our father, and which father can possibly condemn his own children? Come, let us go hear the sounding of the shofar.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Human beings are not angels.

"Why is life was full of struggle and disappointment. Why can't it just be simple and easy?" Why? because we are not angels. Angels are impeccable and flawless, always on target. Human beings, on the other hand, are fragmented and vacillate between extremes and shaken by conflicts.

"But why did G-d create us in such a complicated fashion? Would G-d not have enjoyed us far more if we were like the angels?"

The Rebbe gives the following analogy as he responds to an artist.

A photograph, which is lifeless, captures and freezes a person or a scene as is. A painting, on the other hand, contains the richness of human imagination, the depth of human emotion and human creativity. That is what gives a painting its great value. We call it - art.

Angels are like photos, they are perfect shots of the spiritual realities. Like photos, they never err. Yet it is precisely the fluctuating drama of human existence, the perpetual conflict between our inner light and darkness, and the inner human void searching for meaning and truth that turns our life, into a piece of art.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that our every deed, every word we speak, even a single thought we think, has an effect throughout all the worlds and through the whole of history. With every thought and action, we are capable of defining our life into art.

Only in the tormented chambers of our human heart can G-d discover genuine, awe-inspiring artwork. It is the goodness that emerge from human struggle that bestow upon humanity a splendor that the highest of angels can never attain.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Put the spiritual on a pedestal

Rabbi Shalom DovBer, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, had an older brother, himself an illustrious and saintly scholar, by the name of Rabbi Zalman Aharon. As a young child, Zalman Aharon was bothered by the fact that he was noticeably shorter than his younger brother.

One day, Zalman Aharon gently pushed his brother into a small ditch. And Zalman Aharon gleefully pointed out that now he was taller...

The boys' father, Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, observed the entire incident. The Rebbe asked for a chair and asked Zalman Aharon to stand on it. "Tell me," he asked, "who's taller now?"

Zalman Aharon excitedly answered that once again he was taller.

"Aha!"
said Rabbi Shmuel. "To be bigger than your friend, there is no need to pull him down. Simply elevate yourself!"

*** ***

This week, on the 18th of Elul, we mark the birthdays of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov father of the chassidic movement, and Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi who founded the Chabad stream of chassidism.

They taught us and challenged us to put the spiritual on a pedestal rather than wrestle with the material in its ditch. Instead of focusing on the lowliness of the mundane, concentrate on the sublimity of the spirit. As one of the chassidic mentors once said, "if the pleasure seeking people of the world were introduced to the delights offered by prayer and the communion with the divine that it affords, they would abandon all other pleasures and pray all day!"

Open a chassidic text and study about G‑d, His awe-inspiring splendor and His magnificent deeds. And G‑d craves a relationship with you and me, as individuals. We can unite with Him through studying Torah, praying, and observing His mitzvot. Vote for the spirit not because the alternative is depressing, but because the spirit is the absolute best place for you to cast your ballot.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Talk nicely to others...

In the ethics of our fathers it teaches:
Shimon (the son of Rabban Gamaliel) said; “All my days I grew up amongst the Sages, and I never found anything better for the body than silence".

Rabbi Yehudah wanted to teach his students to be very careful how they spoke to one another.

What did he do?

He called his cooks and told them to prepare a big meal for everyone, at which the main dish would be tongue.

Now the tongue of a cow is very tough. When the cow is alive, she uses her tongue to eat all kinds of sharp, pointy grasses, full of thorns and thistles.

To cook tongue properly, you first have to soak it a long time, and then cook it for many hours until it gets soft.

Rabbi Yehudah had his cooks make some of the tongue properly, soft and tender. The rest he left half-cooked. It was very tough and hard.

"Which pieces would you have want, The soft ones or the tough hard ones?,
'
He asked of his students. Of course, they all wanted the soft tasty pieces of meat.

“Learn your lesson carefully,” said Rabbi Yehudah to them. “Nobody here wanted the tough, hard tongue. Everybody wanted the soft tender pieces. It’s just the same when you speak to others. Remember, a soft tongue is the best. Always use gentle words and kind speech. And if someone is upset with you, do not answer in angry tones. Remember what Shlomo HaMelech said, 'A gentle answer turns away anger.'"

Push your 'blanket' to others....

“Who can tell me what the lesson of the Holocaust is?" Asked Rabbi Finkel of a group of American businessman. He called on one guy, who didn’t know what to say, he mumbled something like, “We will never, ever forget…" And the rabbi completely dismissed him. Another guy offered another answer, he said - “We will never again be a victim or bystander."

The rabbi said, “You guys just don’t get it. Okay, gentlemen, let me tell you the essence of the human spirit.

“As you know, during the Holocaust, the people were transported in the worst possible, inhumane way by railcar. “After hours and hours in this inhumane corral with no light, no bathroom, cold, they arrived at the camps. The doors were swung wide open, and they were blinded by the light. Men were separated from women, mothers from daughters, fathers from sons. They went off to the bunkers to sleep.

“As they went into the area to sleep, only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide, ‘Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?’”

And Rabbi Finkel said, “It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because we pushed the blanket to five others.”

And with that, he stood up and said, “Take your blanket. i.e. your riches, and take it back to America and push it to five other people.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Light.....Light...

"And G-d said, 'Let there be light.' And there was light" (Genesis 1:3)

Light has always been the metaphor for all forms of revelation. We speak of "G-dly light," the "Divine light," etc.

As physical light brightens our path so we don't stumble over obstacles, so the light of G-dliness, our spiritual awareness, helps us avoid the pitfalls on the journey of life. Light represents truth, eternal values, the spiritual which transcends the mundane.

A story is told of a wealthy man who had three sons. As he was uncertain as to which son he should entrust with the management of his business, he devised a test. He took his three sons to an empty room and said to each of them, "Fill this room as best as you are able."

The first son called in bulldozers, and workmen with shovels and wheelbarrows and they got mightily busy. By the end of the day the room was filled, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with earth.

The second son was more of an accountant type, so he had no shortage of boxes of files, archives and records and so it didn't take long and the room was filled from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with paper.

The room was cleared and the third son was given his turn. He seemed very relaxed and didn't appear to be gathering or collecting anything at all with which to fill the room. He waited until nightfall and then invited his father and the family to join him at the room. Slowly, he opened the door. The room was absolutely pitch black.. He took a candle out of his pocket, lit it and suddenly the room was filled with light.

He got the job.

Some people fill their homes with earthiness -- with lots of physical objects and possessions.

Others are into paper -- money, stocks, bonds, etc.

The truly wise son understands that the emptiness of life needs light. Torah is light. Shabbat candles illuminate and make Jewish homes radiant with light. G-dly truths and the eternal values of our heritage fill our homes and families with the guiding light to help us.

As we are about to begin a new Jewish year, may we all be blessed to take the candle of G-d and with it fill our lives and illuminate our homes with that which is good, kind, holy and honorable. Amen.

Friday, August 6, 2010

PARSHAT RE'EI

This week's Torah portion, Re'ei opens with a fundamental principle of Judaism- free choice.

G-d says to the Jewish people, "Look, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, that you will hearken to G-d's commandments...; and the curse, if you will not hearken to G-d's commandments..." (Deut. 11:26-28).

Why did G-d create the world so as to necessitate blessings and curses? Why did G-d create something to make it difficult for us to do what is appropriate and right?

Evil alternatives exist to allow for free choice. If there was only good in this world - no chance for a person to behave in a questionable manner - he couldn't freely choose to do good; he would be forced to do good by default. And there would be no room for reward and punishment.

Wrong exists only to allow a person to choose right. Evil is nothing but a means of improving our Divine service, to push the person toward the correct path. Evil is not a curse, but a merit that enables us to succeed and prevail. Knowing this gives us the ability and strength not to be intimidated or overwhelmed by the bad.

Parshat Re'ei is read on the Shabbat when the month of Elul is blessed. In Elul, G-d's Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are manifested with particular intensity. At such a time, a person might think that his own efforts or initiative is unnecessary. Thus, the Torah reminds us, "Look, I give you today a blessing and a curse." In Elul, when G-d's mercy is manifest, a Jew must intensify his efforts to vanquish evil.

It should be a time of emphasizing the positive and increasing our love for our fellow Jew. In the merit of our good deeds (especially charity), G-d will inscribe each and every one of us together with all the righteous!

Monday, August 2, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY - The Jewish Way

Birth is your beginning. It is a window to the chance of a lifetime, the chance to fulfill your unique mission. A birthday is much more than an occasion to receive gifts. It is a chance to remember the day that a major event occurred, to celebrate and give thanks and to reflect upon how well we are fulfilling our calling.

Because time itself is like a spiral, something special happens on your birthday each year: The same energy that G-d invested in you at birth is present once again. It is our duty to be receptive to that force. How do we do so? By committing to a life guided by G-d's will, and by using the abilities and resources we were born with to perfect ourselves and society, making the world a fitting and sacred home for G-d.

A birthday is a time to celebrate birth itself, the joy of life. It is also an occasion to rethink your life: What I have accomplished and what can I accomplish? Am I spending my time properly or am I involved in things that distract me from my higher calling? How can I strengthen the thread that connects my outer life and my inner life?

To recall our birth is to recall a new beginning. No matter how things went yesterday, or last year, we always have the capacity to try again. Your birthday is a refresher, a chance for regeneration--not just materially, but spiritually.

There is no better way to celebrate a birthday than to commit a special act of goodness, a kind deed, something that you did not do yesterday. Your inner goodness, your soul, wants to express its thanks for being born and alive.

Such an act of kindness gives G-d great pleasure because He sees that the child in whom He invested, the particular child he wanted to be born on a particular day, is living up to its potential. And nothing, of course, gives a parent greater joy. This is the true experience of birth, the true beginning of a life of meaning.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mezuza

In this past week's torah portion it tells of the mitzva of mezuza. the Talmud relates that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi once sent a mezuza as a gift to the king of Persia, explaining that the small scroll would protect him from harm.

The commandment to affix a mezuza upon one's door posts was given only to the Jewish nation. A non-Jewish king, therefore, would not be fulfilling a religious principle by possessing a mezuza. As such, he would also be ineligible for any reward resulting from the performance of a mitzva. Why then did Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi promise the gentile king that the mezuza would guard and protect him?

When a person obeys G-d's command by fulfilling a mitzva, the reward he earns is a separate and distinct entity, additional to the essential nature of the mitzva itself. For example, the Torah states that the reward for the mitzva of mezuza is long life.

Yet besides the reward promised by the Torah, each mitzva has its own special attributes and characteristics that have nothing to do with reward, but are important parts of the mitzva itself. The mezuza's attribute is protection. Our sages explained that when a kosher mezuza is affixed to the door post, G-d Himself watches over the occupants of the house, even when they are not at home.

A mezuza is written solely for the purpose of protection, and, by its nature, it protects.

With this in mind, it becomes clear that even when no fulfillment of a religious precept is involved, a mezuza still possesses this attribute of protection. It was for this reason that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi sent the mezuza as a gift to the Persian king.

From this we learn the crucial importance of having kosher mezuzot. The Jewish people, is always in need of special defense. Every additional mezuza affixed to a Jewish home extends G-d's Divine protection to the entire Jewish nation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

15th TU-B'AV

Today is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av. The Talmud states that on this day the daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyard to find for themselves marriage partners.

The mystics teach that marriage isn't really a union between man and woman, it is a reunion. A soul is divided into two halves. Marriage is the joyous reunion of these two separated halves.

The love between husband and wife is the most passionate for it is a result of years of a soul's yearning to achieve wholeness through reuniting with its long-lost other half. When the two finally find each other and reconnect, the resulting emotions are dizzyingly intense.

On a cosmic level, man and woman are metaphors for G‑d and His nation. The soul of the Jew is a "part of G‑d"; we are essentially one with our Creator, just as a husband and wife are derived from one essence.

And we, too, undergo this process of alienation and reunion.

On Tisha b'Av (the 9th of Av), with the destruction of the Holy Temple and the commencement of two millenniums of exile, we embarked upon a most horrifically painful long stretch of estrangement. The result of this estrangement will be the grandest wedding of all times, the coming of Moshiach which will usher in an era of eternal marital bliss.

The 15th of Av symbolizes the reconciliation that follows the estrangement of Tisha b'Av.

It is an auspicious day, a day to increase in Torah learning, prayer and acts of kindness.

Wishing much much success to all those who are seeking their soul's mate.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Foxes....Akiva laughed...MOSHIACH

The Talmud relates that the sage Rabbi Akiva was walking together with his colleagues, Rabbis Gamliel, Ben Azaria, and Yehoshua.
On the way to Jerusalem, they came to Mt. Scopus. On viewing the ruins of the Temple, they tore their garments, as mourners do. As they came closer to the Temple mount, they saw a fox coming where the Holiest place of the Temple had stood. Rabbi Akiva's colleagues started to cry.
And Rabbi Akiva? He laughed.
Shocked, the other rabbis asked him, "Why are you laughing?"
Returned Rabbi Akiva: "Why are you crying?"
Said they to him, "This was the most holy place where only the High Priest could enter and only on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur; anyone else who entered would be eligible for capital punishment. Now, foxes run in and out from there. Should we not cry?"
Said Rabbi Akiva, "For this very reason, I am laughing. The prophet Uriah foretold: Because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field". Another prophet, Zecharia, said, "There will come a time when old men and women, boys and girls, will once again sit together in the streets of Jerusalem". Since the words of the one prophet warning of the destruction of the Temple has been fulfilled, the words of the other prophet telling us of the rebuilding of the Temple for sure will also be fulfilled."
To this the rabbis exclaimed, "You have comforted us Akiva, you have comforted us."

Knowing that the end of the exile is imminent, comforts us. We are comforted by the reasoning of Rabbi Akiva that the Temple will be rebuilt. We are confident that just as all the prophecies of various punishments both in the Torah and the Prophets, clearly have been fulfilled, so too will the day come when the words of the prophets of the beauty and glory of Moshiach will be fulfilled in full measure. May it happen soon in our days.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How G-d Loves Us...

The Baal Shem Tov, explaining how great the love of G-d is for every Jew, gave the following example:

There was a Jew called Reb Yaakov, and he knew the entire Talmud by heart including the commentaries. He also used to learn verbatim without having to refer to the text. Learning this way demanded deep concentration, more so than if one was reading from a text. Once, in the middle of learning a large and difficult piece, Reb Yaakov was approached by one of his small children who told him something wise. Reb Yaakov was so excited by what the child said that he interrupted his learning. This is what can be achieved by a small child.

"So too," said the Baal Shem Tov, "G-d is busy all day. However, when a Jew prays and his request comes before the A-lmighty, G-d interrupts whatever He is doing and listens to the request of the Jew."

When G-d wanted to create man, the angels asked G-d why He needs them, what for?

When a Jew gets up in the morning, and he runs to pray, and then is busy the whole day but manages to tear himself away and go to shul for Minchah, and between Minchah and Maariv he listens to some Torah and then comes home and relates waht he learned to his family.

When this happens, the A-lmighty calls together the angels, along with the man whom He has created, and says to them: "You angels have no living to make, no wife and children, no problems, no taxes to pay. This man has a living to make and is dealing with the pressures of the exile, and yet see how he conducts himself.

Thinking deeply about how G-d is so proud of every good deed we do should in itself have a great effect on us.

Friday, July 2, 2010

PARSHAT PINCHAS - Daughters of Tzelafchad....

In this week's Torah portion, Pinchas, an incident with the five daughters of Tzelafchad is related. Tzelafchad, a Jew who died in the desert, had no sons. Since sons, and not daughters, were entitled to an inheritance, the daughters of Tzelafchad were not permitted a portion in the Holy Land.

The daughters of Tzelafchad, who were all known to be righteous women, objected to the thought that their family would not have a part in the Land of Israel. They went before Moses who presented the case to G-d. G-d said to Moses, "The daughters of Tzelafchad have a just claim. Give them a hereditary portion of land alongside their father's brothers."

We see here the Jewish woman's love for the Holy Land. The task the daughters of Tzelafchad had set for themselves was not easy. They had to approach various judges, each one referring the matter to higher authorities, until it was finally brought to Moses, himself. Tzelafchad's daughters were willing to try to overcome such a seemingly impossible obstacle to receive their portion.

This incident can serve as a lesson to each one of us in our daily lives, too. G-d demands that we conduct our lives according to certain guidelines. Yet at the same time, He created and organized the universe in such a way that it seems to preclude proper fulfillment of our obligation of Torah study and performance of mitzvot.

But, with the right approach, we too, can merit a portion in our rightful inheritance. We must be willing to try to overcome the seemingly "impossible" obstacles, just as Tzelafchad's daughters did. If we undertake it with the same attitude of love as Tzelafchad's daughters, then certainly we will achieve our goal.

Candle lighting time for L.A. is 7:50 pm.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Parshas Pinchas - we are given a spiritual direction

This week's Torah portion, Pinchas, describes the apportionment of the Land of Israel. The Torah states, "Through the lot shall the land be divided." The Talmud notes that the process by which the lots were drawn was neither arbitrary nor random; the miraculous breastplate of the High Priest, guided the outcome. Rashi explains that the lot itself spoke and announced the result. In other words, the division of the soon-to-be conquered Land of Israel was determined by G-d Himself.

The inheritance of the physical portion of land is symbolic of the spiritual inheritance of every Jew with which he is required to fulfill his individual mission in life. Just as each of the Twelve Tribes was given a specific portion of land to live in and cultivate, every Jew is allotted his own spiritual realm to perfect.

Although a person might think he is free to choose his own spiritual portion, following whichever path in the service of G-d that appeals to his nature, the Torah teaches that this is not a matter of free will or logic, but is ordained by G-d.

A person cannot choose his own spiritual bent; it is an integral part of his individual spiritual makeup. But how does one determine exactly which mitzvot are especially relevant to him? By objectively ascertaining those which he finds the hardest to do!

A person may safely assume that a given direction is his "inheritance" whenever the path seems strewn with obstacles and hindrances. In fact, the more important the mitzva, the harder the Evil Inclination tries to dissuade the person.

A lack of interest in a particular facet of Torah study or indifference to a certain mitzva indicates that it is precisely in these areas that special efforts must be made. In the merit of this effort, G-d grants the individual success in all other areas of his life as well.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Use our time wisely

A time-management professional is brought into a busy corporation for a lecture.
He fills a jar with stones until no more fit in. "Is this jar full?" he asks the audience. All heads nod in concurrence.

The speaker takes out a sack of pebbles and pours them into the jar. He asks the audience again, "Is now this jar full?" A few heads vigorously nod in agreement while others express uncertainty.

The speaker then lifts a bag of sand and begins pouring it into the jar. He continues to pour the sand until the jar can contain no more. "Now is the jar full?" he asks.

Nearly everyone is now certain that the jar is finally filled.

Finally, the speaker pulls out a bottle of water and slowly pours the water into the jar. "Now is this jar full?" asks the speaker. The participants all shake their heads in agreement.

"We learn from this", says the lecturer, "that first we must schedule into our days that which is most essential and significant. Afterwards, we do the 'important' matters. Then, We follow that up by adding to our schedules matters of lesser importance. And only after we have incorporated all of these into our days and weeks do we fill up the rest of our time with the inconsequential matters."

We are now in the midst of the three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples.. For about 2000 years we have been praying for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the in gathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and Moshiach. The hope and prayers for the Redemption have always been part of the personal and collective jar of the Jewish people.

Before our jars get packed with time-wasters and energy-sappers, let's fill them with simple acts of goodness, dignified acts of kindness and the foundation stones of Torah study and mitzva observance. Let's increase in acts of goodness and kindness, in Torah study and in holy deeds, as a preparation for the era that will be utterly good, kind and holy for the Jewish people and the world.

Wishing you all a very fulfilling day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ha'Kotel Ha'maaravi - The Western Wall

17th of TAMMUZ

Today is the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz,it is the start of a three week mourning period for the destruction of Jerusalem and the two Holy Temples. Abstaining from food and drink is the external element of a fast day. A fast day is an auspicious day, a day when G‑d is accessible, waiting for us to repent. Now that we are so very near to the final Redemption when “these days will be transformed into gladness, rejoicing and festivals” it is time to emphasize the truer, deeper and essential aspect of this period, that they are part of the positive “building” of the Third Beit Hamikdash.

As the Rebbe describes it: The Three Weeks are compared to a locked treasure chest filled with gems and pearls. The key to the chest has been given to every Jew. We need merely place the key inside the lock and open the chest, to reveal the immense treasure hidden within. It is entirely dependent upon us to have the Three Weeks be a desirable, positive experience.

Unlocking the world's treasure is achieved when we turn this world into a dwelling for G-d. How? By revealing the G-dliness, the “treasure” hidden within.

We should begin by unlocking our true selves – utilizing every physical function,which seems like it's G-dliness is concealed, such as eating, for example, for the sake of Heaven as it says, “In all your ways know Him -G -d."

Today is a day when we are empowered to fix the cause of that destruction, so that our long exile will be ended and we will find ourselves living in messianic times, may that be very soon.
The fast in LA ends at 8:45 pm.

Wishing you an easy fast and may this day be transformed into gladness.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Erev 17th of Tammuz

Tomorrow is the Seventeenth day of the hebrew month of Tammuz, when the ancient city of Jerusalem was assaulted by invading gentiles. Three weeks later on the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av), the Holy Temple was set afire and razed. Both the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av are fast days.

This interval on the Jewish calendar is known as the "Three Weeks". The number three alludes to the inner significance and function of the Three Weeks as a period of preparation for the Third Holy Temple.

On a superficial level the Three Weeks are a sad time, a period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the Jewish people's current exile. But on a deeper level they contain a hidden good. Why?

Everything that happens in the world is directed by G-d. G-d is the essence of good, and everything He does is good, even if it doesn't appear that way at first. Having come directly from G-d, there is no other possibility.

Accordingly, the Three Weeks, although superficially associated with sadness, contain a positive meaning: At the exact moment when the Second Holy Temple was destroyed, the Third and eternal Holy Temple was constructed up in heaven. In this light the entire destruction can be seen as nothing but a preparatory stage in the Redemptive process, a necessary step toward the Final Redemption with Moshiach, at which time the concept of exile will no longer exist.

At present, the good contained within the Three Weeks remains hidden. But reflecting upon its true, inner meaning hastens the day when its inner goodness will be revealed, when the Temple will be reestablished.

Let us therefore accustom ourselves to seeing the hidden good that exists in all things, thereby meriting the ultimate revelation of inner goodness with the arrival of our Righteous Moshiach.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our Rebbe

One of the disciples of Rabbi Yisrael Alter of Gur, was very wealthy and at one point lived in New Zealand due to his business dealings.

Once, in 1949, on a trip to New York to visit his daughter, he entered an elevator only to be greeted by a Jew who asked where he hailed from. He responded that he had just arrived from New Zealand.

The stranger asked him, "Is there is a mikvah (ritual bath) in New Zealand?" The wealthy man responded, "I am there for business, not a mikvah."

The stranger responded, "If a Jew finds himself somewhere, he must have a positive impact."

The elevator doors opened, both men exited and went their separate ways.

The wealthy man asked his daughter, who was waiting for him nearby, regarding the identity of the man who had rode in the elevator with him. She responded that he was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the son-in-law of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, who would later himself become Rebbe.

Over forty years passed, during which time the businessman had aged significantly. He had long since left New Zealand and he was, again, visiting his daughter in New York. He decided to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Sunday dollar distribution.

When he greeted the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked, "Is there a mikvah already in New Zealand?"

The elderly man was clearly amazed. The Rebbe of Gur asked him what he was so amazed about.

He responded that he was amazed by the Rebbe's memory; forty years had elapsed since their elevator rendezvous!

And the Rebbe of Gur said, he was amazed about what was on the Rebbe's mind for forty years—a mikvah in faraway New Zealand. And how bothered he was that there was none there..."

That's our Rebbe.

Friday, June 25, 2010

13th Tammuz - PARSHAS BALAK

On this day the Previous Rebbe was actually freed.

It was not myself alone that the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed on the 12th of Tammuz" wrote the Previous Rebbe, "but also those who love the Torah and observe its commandments, and so too, all those who merely bear the name ‘Jew'."

In the face of adversity, a natural impulse might be to restrict one’s sphere of activity. Instead, the Previous Rebbe expanded his activities and reached out to our entire people, impacting, producing change and influencing the future of all.

A true leader is not conscious of his individual identity; his only concern is for the people as a whole. Leadership of this kind is characterized by a unique di­mension of self-sacrifice

The re­demption of the Previous Rebbe, the head of the generation, enables every member of our people to experience redemp­tion from those forces which restrict our own observance of Torah. May this personal experience of redemption spread and spiral until we merit the ultimate Redemption. May this take place now..


This week's torah portion Balak focuses on the blessings given the Jewish people by the gentile prophet Bilaam. Balak, the king of Moab, hired Bilaam, a gentile prophet to curse the Jews. But G-d put blessings in Billam's mouth and he was forced to utter them, in stead of the curses.

Among Bilaam's prophecies is the only explicit allusion to Mashiach in the Torah: "A star shall shoot forth from Jacob."
This allusion is chosen, because Mashiach's coming will introduce new light into our existence, brightening our horizons. The star to which the verse refers is an analogy for every individual Jew. Every person is a source of positive energy, radiating light.

Chassidut explains that every person is a star, because every person contains a spark of Mashiach within his soul. There is in our souls- an element that is one with G-d. This is our personal star. And this is our spark of Mashiach.

The coming of Mashiach will initiate an era when the G-dliness which is at the core of every being will come to the surface.

May it happen now, amen!

Candle lighting time for L.A. is 7:50.

Shabbat Shalom!

Previous Rebbe arrested as a child.....

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe R' Yosef Yitzchok would earn money for reciting Talmudic passages by heart, with this money, at age 11, he provided interest free loans to the market people.
One day he met one of his regulars, Reb Dovid the butcher, he was carrying a calf on his shoulders, a small lamb in his arms, and a basket of chickens in front of him. "I hope to G-d that I'll earn well today..."he told to the young Yosef Yitzchok. And just then a policeman smacked R Dovid across the face till blood ran down his nose. Seeing this, the young boy yelled, "Drunk! Despicable one!" and he pushed the policeman.
The policeman accused the young boy of ripping his badge off his chest and interfering with his duties and so he had him arrested. Sitting in the dark cell, the young Yosef Yitzchok was pretty frightened. But then started reviewing the words of Torah that he knew by heart.

Suddenly the young boy heard grunting sounds. He lit a match from his pocket and to his utter suprise saw a bound calf with a muzzle on his mouth lying in a corner.
After a couple of hours he was released.

Now, Reb Dovid, was accused of stealing the calf he was carrying. Someone had their calf missing and the police accused R' Dovid of being the thief therefore smacked him.
When they heard that young Y.Y. found a bound and muzzled calf lying in the jail. They investigated, and how amazed they all were to see that indeed .there was the missing slash stolen calf. The policeman himself framed R' Dovid.

"My father said to me" writes Yosef Yitzchok in his diary, "You did well to protect the dignity of an honest Jew. And if for that you suffered for a few hours, so what?"
"Now it has also been demonstrated to you," father continued, "how good it is that you are fluent in mishnayot, talmudic passages by heart. Were it not for this knowledge, in what way were you any better than - l'havdil - the calf who also sat in prison?

Father's words remain engraved on my mind and heart: continues to write Yosef Yitzchok, "Love and esteem every honest Jew, be he rich or poor in Torah. Protect the dignity of every Jew even if danger is involved. And always prepare "provisions for the way" - by learning by heart - in case of any mishap, so that no time will be wasted without study of Torah.

My father gave me ten rubles to add to my fund that I may increase my loan-granting activities."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tests and Challenges

One day, a donkey fell into a pit. The animal cried and whined for hours while its owner tried to figure out what to do. Finally, the farmer decided that since the animal was old, and the pit needed to be covered up anyway, he'd just bury the old donkey right there. He got a shovel and started filling in the pit. The donkey kept up its wailing, but then fell silent. After an hour of furious shoveling, the farmer paused to rest. To his amazement, he saw his old donkey jump out of the pit and trot away!

At first, when the donkey realized what was happening, he cried even more piteously. But then the animal hit on a plan. As each spadeful of dirt hit his back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up on the growing mound of earth. Eventually, the mound grow high enough for him to jump out of the pit.

Life is going to shovel dirt on us, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the pit is to shake it off and take a step up. We can get out of the deepest pits by not stopping and never giving up. Just shake it off and take a step up.

The word, "test" - Nisayon, comes from the word "l'nasos", which also means "to raise high".
The tests and challenges we face are intended to enable us to reach a higher spiritual level.

G-d chose to allow us to reach a higher spiritual level through tests and challenges.
When we realize that there is G-dliness contained in these challenging experiences, it helps us become aware that they are, in essence, hidden good.

When we realize and believe that everything is really good then it will cause us to be truly happy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Father! Father! Answer me"

The following is an excerpt from the diary of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, which he wrote after a pleasant visit to a park in the hamlet of Serebrinka. A park that evoked detailed memories of the walks and talks the Rebbe had with his father.

"For an hour and a half I luxuriated in strolling through and sitting in the park, gazing at the sky and drowning in memories, until I heard the voice of my three year old daughter Chanah calling to me: "Father, father, where are you...? Father, father, answer me..." repeating her call twice and three times.

The call interjected most aptly into my thoughts: at that very moment I had been thinking about my father's discourse of the past Shabbat Naso, entitled, "G-d Descended Upon Mt. Sinai". In it, father cites a metaphor to explain the difference between the Divine effluence which comes in response to one's Torah study and observance of mitzvot and G-d's response to one's "service of the heart", one's prayer. The service of Torah and mitzvot draws a Divine response comparable to a father's pleasure in a son who toils in his father's business to increase his father's wealth. But the response evoked by prayer is like a father's response to his small child who yearns for him and cries, "Father, father, answer me..."

Hearing my own daughter's cries, I sensed in my own self how a child's call of "father, father" causes a pleasing of the spirit and awakens an inner delight that is incomparably greater than the pleasure accorded by the older son's most impressive accomplishments.

The calling continued: "Father, father, where are you? Father, father answer me, hug me." I followed her voice and she hugged me and told me that grandfather, grandmother and mother were all waiting for me for the evening meal."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Parsha - Naso.Birkat Kohanim

An ancient Jewish theme is the idea of one person blessing another. Everyone has the power of blessing to a certain extent, but some people have it to a greater degree. The person giving the blessing is calling on G‑d to help a particular individual, to pour on him or her Divine bounty and goodness.

G‑d told Abraham "...through you will be blessed all families of the earth". G‑d was hereby granting Abraham the power of blessing.

This week's Torah reading, Naso, gives the text of a very remarkable blessing: the words with which the Priests, the kohanim, bless the people. They used to chant this daily in the Temple. Today too, on festivals, they stand in front of the Ark and bless the congregation:

May G‑d bless and protect you. May G‑d make His counte­nance shine upon you and be gracious to you. May G‑d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.

Rabbi Akiva explains that following the blessing of the kohanim, G‑d responds and gives His infinitely exalted blessing to the Jewish people.. The kohanim pronounce their blessing, and G‑d responds.

We just celebrated the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. One of this holiday's lessons is the ongoing interaction between each individual and G‑d. The same effect as when the Kohain blesses and G-d responds, is with each individual when we study Torah, G-d responds. We connect with G-d.

An individual actually, connects with G‑d at every step. Whether as a kohen blessing the congregation, or any person studying Torah, or indeed carrying out any mitzvah, G‑d responds, at every moment of our life.
Shabbat Shalom! Candle lighting time for L.A. is 7:34
בס"ד