Sunday, February 22, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Once a young Torah scholar visited Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk.
"Rabbi Elimelech," began the visitor, "we are both scholars, well-versed in Jewish law. Yet you have far surpassed me in your level of saintliness. What do you possess that I lack?"
Rabbi Elimelech pointed to the bowl of fruit displayed before them on the table. "When you want to eat an apple, do you make a blessing to G-d?"
"I certainly do!" the visiting rabbi answered.
"Ah – that's the difference! You see, when you want to eat an apple, you make a blessing. When I want to make a blessing, I eat an apple."
Chicken soup for the neshomo
Sunday, February 15, 2009
She was the daughter of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, and wife of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
The Rebbetzin exerted a powerful influence on Chabad-Lubavitch, but remained outside of the limelight.
An intelligent and educated wise woman, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka carried the mantle of her exalted position in a most humble and unpretentious way.
Yet despite her extraordinary role – as unknown as it was to the public – and her regal upbringing and bearing, it seems that she always found common ground with those who came to her and helped each one feel comfortable and heard.
The Rebbetzin was ever so sensitive to those around her, as evidenced by the recollection of Rabbi Shmuel Lew. Now the director of the Lubavitch House School in London, the flustered Lew visited the Rebbetzin with his fiancé and family before he got married.
"There was a beautiful white tablecloth, and she served punch in long crystal glasses with glass straws," he related. "At one point, when my hand was going over the glass, I didn't notice the straw, and my hand pushed against the straw and the whole punch spilled on the table.
Without missing a beat, "the Rebbetzin got all excited," he continued, as if this was the best thing that could have happened in her home. "She said it's a sign of blessing."
In the days and months following her passing, the Rebbe spoke frequently on the theme, "And the living shall take to heart"—how the passing of a person close to oneself should prompt one to positive action, in the form of lessons derived from that person's life and G-dly deeds undertaken to perpetuate his or her memory, then the death itself becomes a form of life.
Therefore, for her sake and in memory of her soul we should increase and make good resolutions in the areas of Prayer, Torah Study and Tzedaka/good deeds.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
In this week's Parasha, Parashat Yisro, G-d gives the Torah to the Jewish People on Mount Sinai.
Standing at the foot of Mount Sinai in readiness to receive the Torah, the Jewish people proclaimed that they would first observe all its commandments and subsequently attempt to understand them. They declared first "we will do" and then "we will understand."
Some people maintain that they will begin to observe mitzvot when they understand them.
The irrationality of this attitude may be understood from the example of the body. The body requires a daily intake of food and air. No amount of thinking, speaking or studying about food and nutrition can substitute for actual consumption. On the contrary, failure to eat or breathe will even weaken the person.
Obviously the correct and healthy approach is not to study nutrition and respiration first, and then practice them, but the reverse. And while the person is eating and drinking and breathing -- though he may not fully understand the process involved -- he is strengthened.
The same applies to the soul. The elements which it requires for sustenance are best known to its Creator - G-d. At Mount Sinai He informed us that the "air" and "food" vital to our spiritual existence are -- Torah and mitzvot.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
What we have given away to another might be something we need, but it is finite. What we receive thru giving is priceless and infinite.
In medieval Europe a rabbi was appointed senior adviser at the royal court. At one point, the rabbi was asked to show the records of his holdings. The rabbi, a wealthy man, produced a list and hand delivered it to the king.
However, upon investigation it was discovered that many of his properties were not listed. The ministers brought this discovery to the king, and accused the rabbi of deceipt.
The rabbi explained: "When the king asked me to disclose my holdings I included only those properties and funds that I have donated to charity. Those are the holdings I know will always be mine. All other properties do not truly belong to me, for today they are mine and tomorrow they may be taken from me..."
Indeed, he who gives is in truth a recipient. For only through giving can we acquire those properties for eternity.
Others would say: A dank der Rebbe'n far'n Oibersht'n; "Thank you, Rebbe, for giving us the opportunity to know G-d." The intent is not merely that the Rebbe's teachings open up new windows of spiritual awareness. Although this is true, these chassidim meant more: Their intent is that from watching the Rebbe, and seeing his uniqueness, they were able to appreciate G-dliness.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
There was one man, Nachshon Ben Aminodov, who just went ahead and did what he thought was the right thing. He jumped right into the water.
He was thinking: - "G-d said we came out of Egypt to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai - then that is exactly where we are supposed to go," thought Nachshon. "Going back to Egypt or even praying to G-d will not bring us closer to Mount Sinai. Forward towards Mount Sinai is the right direction, and that's where I'm going!
There is water in the way? No matter - it's the right direction and will bring me one step closer to Mount Sinai, where G-d wants me to be."
Nachshon didn't know that a miracle would occur and the water would split. And it actually didn't even split right away. The water was knee deep, but he went on. The water reached his thighs, but he kept moving. The water came right up to his neck, but he didn't turn back. Then, all at once, the waters split and he found himself on dry land.
Now, how was he sure that it was right to plunge into the sea? He wasn't sure. But he just knew ONE thing : He knew what G-d had told the Jewish People.
We have been given the promise: "The time of your Redemption has arrived." We know where we're going and we are pushing on in that direction. Even if it seems that some things are blocking our way, we're following Nachshon's example and heading straight towards redemption, regardless of the obstacles.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
"Rabbi, am I be obligated to give charity, when I myself am so needy? I barely have enough for myself, how am I expected to help another? Questioned, the man.
"Ah" The Rabbi responded. "Yes, this is one detail in the laws of tzedakah that is somewhat puzzling. The Talmud states that everyone is obligated to give charity, including someone who is needy themselves.
But this law reveals the power of this mitzvah.
The goal of charity is to benefit the giver as much as (or even more than) the receiver. In the development of every human being it is critical that we learn to give. Acts of kindness elevate our character, creating feelings of sensitivity, empathy and humility. When we give to others, we access the infinite power of our soul to reach beyond our limited self and enter the world of another human being. Giving is the ultimate expression of one's human-ness. (Yu'min-nis)
Generosity also brings a sense of fulfillment and inner happiness. It helps us to become a better person, and helps make the world a better place.
When we give, we actually receive more than we gave. Wise Solomon wrote, "When you give to a poor man, you are lending to G‑d." That's because G‑d repays all charitable funds – along with handsome dividends – here, in this world. According to the Prophet Malachi, G‑d even challenges us, saying "Try it and see." ''Test me", G-d says. "Perform the mitzva of Charity, and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you blessings more than enough. You will see your reward in tenfold or more"
Monday, February 2, 2009
Tzedakah is one of the greatest mitzvos.
Tzedakah, however, does not mean merely helping a person with regard to physical matters, like, providing him with food and clothing for his body. Tzedakah also means helping a person spiritually, seeing to it that his soul receives the sustenance that it needs and seeing to it that he does not go around without Torah and good deeds. This is one of the most refined and most elevated forms of tzedakah that a person can perform.
The Baal Shem Tov once said, "a soul comes into the world and lives for seventy, eighty years, for the purpose of doing a favor to a Jew in physical and particularly spiritual matters." Your aid to another may be the fulfillment of your mission in life, the reason why your soul was sent down to this earth.
Tzedakah is said to be equivalent to all the mitzvot. Our compassion for the needy and downcast evokes a reciprocal compassion from Heaven, thus hastening the days to our redemption.