Friday, January 15, 2010

PARSHA - Va-ayra. Not to lose our Resolve!

Our ancestors in Egypt were slaving away for years. Then Moses appeared and began making promises. He brings them a message from G-d that they are about to be redeemed. That there is a Promised Land ahead. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

The Jews' response? “And they did not listen to Moses out of shortness of breath and from the hard labor.

A commentary explains that they weren't able to heed Moses' call - not only from physical breathlessness, but because they lacked the spirit. Having suffered in bondage for so long, they no longer had the faith or hope to believe that freedom was still in the realm of the possible. It was simply beyond them. They had lost the spirit and therefore, they could not hear, meaning they could not absorb, Moses' message.

It happens all too often. We may become so set in our simple ways that we give up hope of ever achieving a breakthrough. We simply lose our resolve.

There is a wise saying from the legendary Chasid, Reb Mendel Futerfas. "If you lose your money, you've lost nothing. Money comes and money goes. If you lose your health, you've lost half. You are not the person you were before. But if you lose your resolve, you've lost it all."

Moses brought new hope to a depressed, dreamless nation. He gave them back the spirit they had lost and eventually, through the miracles of G-d, the promise was fulfilled and the dream became destiny.

To be out of breath is normal. To be out of spirit is something the Jewish People can never afford! May we never lose the spirit!

Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:47pm.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reb Hillel Paritcher, hid under bed, "Appraisels".

As a young man, Rabbi Hillel of Paritch heard of the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and sought to meet with him. But the opportunity seemed to forever elude the young prodigy.

He finally managed to locate Rabbi Schneur Zalman's lodgings before the Rebbe was due to arrive. In order to ensure that he would not, once again, somehow miss his opportunity, Rabbi Hillel crept into Rabbi Schneur Zalman's appointed room and hid under the bed, determined, at last, to make the acquaintance of the great Rebbe.

At that time, the young scholar was studying the section of the Talmud which deals with the laws of how to appraise the value of one's pledges to charity. Rabbi Hillel had a scholarly question on the subject which he had diligently rehearsed in order to discuss it with the Rebbe.

From his hiding place, Rabbi Hillel heard the Rebbe enter the room. But before he could make a move, he heard Rabbi Schneur Zalman exclaim: "If a young man has a question regarding 'Appraisals', he had best first evaluate himself."

The prodigy under the bed fainted on the spot. When he came to, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was gone...

The Lubavitcher Rebbe told this story, and then asked: How are we to apply this story to our lives?

The tractate of "Appraisals" discusses the laws if a person pledges to give to charity, but instead of citing a sum he says "I promise to give the value of this individual," we are to follow a fixed rate set by the Torah, in which each age and gender group is assigned a certain "value."

We may think that an accomplished scholar be considered more valuable than a simple laborer, but The Torah states that we all stand equally before G-d.

This is the meaning of Rabbi Schneur Zalman's remark to Rabbi Hillel: If you have a question regarding "Appraisals,"meaning - if you find it difficult to relate to the Torah's evaluation of human worth, you had best take a long hard look at yourself. An honest examination of your own character and behavior will show how much you can learn from every man, how much there is for you to emulate in those who are supposedly "inferior" to yourself.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some teachings of the Alter Rebbe, Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi

  1. The purpose of man's creation and of the creation of all the worlds, is to make for G‑d a dwelling in this physical world.

  2. A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.

  3. By virtue of its inborn nature, the mind rules the heart.

  4. Prayer without direction of the heart is like a body without a soul... Love of G‑d and fear of G‑d are the two wings by which a deed rises heavenward.

  5. Every individual Jew, righteous or wicked, has two souls... One soul derives from kelipah, the "other side", and from it derive the evil traits and the Jew's instinctive good traits... The second soul in the Jew is literally a "part of G‑d above."

  6. The body is likened to a small city: like two kings who wage war over a city, each desiring to capture it and rule over it, so do the two souls - the G‑dly soul and the animal soul - wage war against each other over the body. The desire and will of the G‑dly soul is that it alone should rule over the person and direct him, While the animal soul desires the very opposite..

  7. The era of Moshiach is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation of the world, for which purpose it was originally created..

  8. Our sages have taught, "Whoever gets angry, it is as if he worshipped idols" The reason for this is... because at the time of his anger, his faith has left him. For were he to believe that what happened to him was G d’s doing, he would not be angry at all.

  9. "One who is satisfied with his lot" describes a tremendous virtue in material matters, and a tremendous failing in all that pertains to one's spiritual attainment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Faith of Innkeeper of Vohlyn

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi once said to one of his grandchildren: "Let me tell you about the simple faith of the Jews of Vohlyn.

"Many years ago, I was traveling home from Mezeritch after a period of study under the guidance of my master, the great Maggid. It was a cold winter night, and my feet had become immobilized by the cold. When we stopped at a wayside inn The innkeeper, an elderly, G-d-fearing Jew, rubbed my feet until the life returned to them. He asked me about the purpose of my journey, and I told him that I was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch. In answer to my questions, he told me that he had been operating this inn for close to fifty years, and that, thank G-d, he has earned a comfortable living from it.

'Is there a Jewish community here?' I asked.

'No,' replied the innkeeper.

'So you don't have a minyan? What do you do on Shabbat and the festivals?'

'To my sorrow,' sighed the old man, 'we pray without a quorum all year round. For the High Holidays, we close the inn for two weeks and travel to the city -- a several days' journey from here.'

'But how can you live this way!' I exclaimed. 'How can a Jew go for months on end without a kaddish or borchu, without hearing the public reading of the Torah?'

'What can I do? This is my livelihood. There is nothing for me to do in the city.'

'How many Jewish households are there in the city?' I asked.

'About a hundred,' he replied.

'If G-d manages to provide a living for a hundred families,' I said, 'don't you think He could find a way to provide for one more?'

I was then given a room in which to rest, and the innkeeper went off to attend to his affairs.

"An hour later, I heard a commotion outside. I saw several carts and wagons piled high with bundles and crates, furniture and household items. The innkeeper and his sons were running about, tying down the bundles and settling the women and children into the wagons.

'What's going on?' I asked the old man.

'We're moving to the city,' he replied. 'You're right -- this is no place for a Jew. A Jew needs a minyan, a rabbi, a community...'

'But just like that, you're going? Where will you stay? And what will you do for a living?'

'We'll find something. As you said, if G-d can take care of a hundred families in the city, He can surely provide for a few more souls...'

"Such was the faith and trust in G-d of these Jews!" Rabbi Schneur Zalman concluded his story. "I was but a young man at the time, but because I had told him that I was a disciple of the great Maggid, he unquestionably acted on my advice. Without giving it another thought, he set out, that very night, to a place where he could better serve his Creator."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tanya - Torah Close To You. The Long And Short Way.

Said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah:

"I was traveling, and I met a child at a crossroads. I asked him, 'which way to the city?' and he answered: 'This way is short and long, and this way is long and short.'

"I took the 'short and long' way. I soon reached the city but found my approach obstructed by gardens and orchards. I retraced my steps and said to the child: 'My son, did you not tell me that this is the short way?' Answered the child: 'Did I not tell you that it is also long?'"

Also in life there is a "short but long" way and a "long but short" way.

In his Tanya. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, whose anniversary of his passing was yesterday, sets down the fundamentals of the Chabad-Chassidic approach to life.

He based his book on the verse: 'For the Torah is something that is very close to you, in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it'-- he explains how it is indeed close, in a long and short way."

But can the ordinary "everyman" be expected to conduct his every act, word and thought in accordance with the Torah's most demanding directives?

The Torah is a practical and attainable goal to achieve. "For the mitzvah which I command you this day, it is not beyond you nor is it remote from you. It is not in heaven... nor is it across the sea... Rather, it is something that is very close to you, in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it."

The Chabad approach to life is that the mind and intellect play the leading role. First, a person must study, comprehend and meditate upon the all-transcendent, all-embracing, reality of G-d.

Then he is to translate this knowledge and comprehension into emotional feelings. The love and awe of G-d.

Finally, when a person has so oriented his mind and so transformed his heart, his observance of the Torah's commandments becomes a compelling need since they are the only means by which he can connect to his Creator.

This is the long but short way. It is winding, steep, tedious, and long as life itself. It is full of ups and downs, setbacks and frustrations. But it is a road that leads, steadily and surely, to the aspired-to destination, his purpose in life.