"Make a teacher for yourself" | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | A Call To Action
The Rebbe Writes | What's New | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Personal trainers, personal dieticians, personal shoppers.
In this day and age of impersonal health clubs, diet groups and shopping malls, people are looking for exercise programs, diet regimes and wardrobes that are tailor made for them.
Judaism, too, teaches the importance of an individualized, personal approach to one's spiritual growth. Our Sages have advised us, "Make a teacher for yourself." In layman's terms this means, "find a spiritual guide."
One of the purposes of this private mentor is to guide us through our spiritual workouts, helping us stretch ourselves so that we can incorporate into our routine new mitzvot and Jewish knowledge.
The adviser should be someone whom we respect and whose advice we will seek and follow.
One needn't look for an adviser who is a mayven on everything going on in one's life. We wouldn't expect a personal shopper to help us set up a nutritionally balanced diet, or a personal trainer to shop with us.
So, too, one should look for different advisers for life's different facets. This includes monetary and material "departments" as well. For, as the saying goes, "Yiddishe gashmius iz ruchnius--Jewish materiality is spirituality."
One word of caution though.
We are often inclined to get advice and suggestions from different people with distinct personalities who have had diverse experiences. If this is done honestly (not because one is trying to squeeze out a specific answer from someone,) it can be helpful. However, we can end up feeling like a boomerang if we constantly consult a number of people.
Decide who will be your primary adviser for specific issues and who will be your secondary consultants.
Though the primary adviser is not a human replacement for Divine inspiration, we can be fairly certain that his/her advice will be on target.
If, as mentioned above, we have been directed by our Sages to find advisers, then it is as if our advisers will answer us with the same wisdom and insight as our Sages themselves.
As Judaism teaches, "The emissary of the person is like the person himself."
An adviser is sort of the emissary of our Sages, thus affording him/her deeper insight on some levels.
Seek out a personal spiritual trainer and start getting in shape today.
This week's Torah portion, Chayei Sara, recounts the very first marriage match in the Torah.
Avraham sent Eliezer, his faithful servant, to his relatives in Mesopotamia, where Eliezer was destined to meet Rikva, Yitzchak's intended.
Rashi, the great Torah commentator, explains that Eliezer's actual journey was miraculous.
"I have come today," Eliezer declared to Rikva's father and brother, Betuel and Lavan. "Today I set out, and today I arrived," comments Rashi, noting that Eliezer reached his destination -- a journey of 17 days in ancient times -- on the very day he embarked.
Why was it necessary for G-d to make a special miracle for Eliezer? Furthermore, why did Eliezer find it necessary to mention it to Betuel and Lavan?
Rivka, Matriarch of the Jewish people, is described in the Midrash as "a rose among the thorns." Righteous and pure, Rivka lived the first few years of her life surrounded by "thorns," the wicked Betuel and Lavan.
As anyone who has plucked a rose knows, it is not easy to free the rose from its prickly surroundings. Indeed, the thorns exist solely in the merit of the rose, for it is because of the rose that the gardener cultivates and nurtures the plant.
Similarly, the holy Zohar describes the spiritual struggle exerted by the forces of evil against the pure and G-dly soul of the Jew. For, like the thorns, these forces derive their sustenance precisely in the presence of the greatest holiness.
Betuel and Lavan rightly understood that it was in Rivka's merit that their household had been blessed, and were reluctant to allow her to leave.
For the first three years of her life, too young to be successfully transplanted to the holy environment in which she belonged, Rikva was surrounded by unholiness.
On the very day she turned three, when -- according to Jewish law she could be betrothed -- Abraham sensed that the proper time had arrived to free the rose from its prickly environment.
Eliezer was dispatched without delay, and a miracle was wrought so that Rikva would not have to spend even one extra moment in an improper atmosphere.
Eliezer's task was to convince Betuel and Lavan that G-d had destined Rivka to be Isaac's wife, and that they had no power to prevent her departure.
"I have come today!" he declared, knowing that they would try to delay her leaving. "Destiny cannot wait! Today I have come, for I must bring her back with me at once!"
"The deeds of the fathers provide instruction for their sons," our Sages teach.
From Eliezer's journey we learn that when the moment for Redemption arrives, it cannot be delayed for even one second.
If need be, miracles will be wrought to ensure that the Redemption occurs at exactly the proper time.
We must therefore not be disheartened by the length of our present Exile, for just as the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt "on the selfsame day" when the exact moment for liberation arrived, the Final Redemption with Moshiach will likewise take place immediately and without delay at the proper time, speedily in our days.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. I
by Yehudis Cohen
We follow the signs reading "Library Exhibition" located in the complex of buildings on Eastern Parkway known as "770" until we arrive at the entrance to the exhibition hall.
For the first time ever, the Lubavitch Library is conducting a public exhibition of some of its treasures.
The exhibition contains only about 5% of the total presentations that have been given to the Rebbe throughout the years: books; artwork; silver pieces; children's handiwork; "keys" to cities, Chabad Houses and mitzva tanks; Chabad-Lubavitch publications on the holidays and Mitzvah Campaigns; models of new Chabad Centers.
We begin at the Scroll of Honor presented by former President Jimmy Carter to the Rebbe on the 30th anniversary of the Rebbe's leadership.
We move on to miniature models of Centers in Paris and Netanya.
Our attention is momentarily diverted by the chiming of a magnificent grandfather clock -- another gift -- which melodiously sings out each quarter hour.
I notice Rabbi Yaakov Chazan, a scholar of the library who agrees to walk us through this exhibition which has been prepared under the guidance of Rabbi Sholom Ber Levin, the library's director.
Rabbi Chazan directs our attention to the glass tables in the center of the room containing original handwritten manuscripts and personal items from each of the Rebbes, all the way back to the Baal Shem Tov.
Included is a prayer book the Baal Shem Tov used during prayers and a Tanach (Bible) that the third Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek used for the Haftorah reading.
The fur hat of the Previous Rebbe is also displayed. The manuscripts are just samples from 3,000 hand-written volumes in the Lubavitch collection.
Two couples tentatively join our group.
Clad in jeans and wearing inquisitive smiles, the two couples just happened on the exhibition. They had come to see Crown Heights, to be in the place from where the Rebbe had touched the world. They had been standing outside "770" when someone suggested they go into the exhibition and here they are.
I look around and am intrigued by the diversity of the crowd.
Amidst the peyos (sidecurls) and jeans, one can hear smatterings of English, Yiddish, French and Hebrew. Small children run from showcase to showcase. Rabbi Chazan patiently explains the articles in each of the glass tables.
In the table containing articles relating to the Rebbe there is a photograph of the Rebbe before his first haircut at the age of three. "Look at the eyes," says Rabbi Chazan. "The Rebbe had the same intense look at 3 years of age as he had at the age of 90."
We see items presented to the Rebbe from various Mitzva Campaigns.
The Shabbat Candles showcase contains just a few of thousands of candlesticks, matchbooks, candle lighting brochures, bus ads, children's drawings. The rest are catalogued and housed elsewhere in the library. We move on to Passover, Chanuka and Shavuot campaigns. Each item has its own story.
When we approach a painting of the Rebbe with four of the mitzva campaigns interposed (pictured is shown in the printed copy), we are told that when it was presented to the Rebbe, the Rebbe commented that he only accepts books and charitable donations as gifts. Nevertheless, he would accept this painting as if it were a book since it captured the essence of his instructions concerning the mitzva campaigns: with an outstretched hand, the Rebbe is motioning to "do."
We finish our tour of the mitzva campaigns and Rabbi Chazan points us toward the final section.
"All of the Rebbe's campaigns are part of one large campaign -- the campaign to bring Moshiach."
As we walk past the bumper stickers, bus signs and brochures about Moshiach, one of the men in our group -- a law school student -- patiently waits for Rabbi Chazan to finish his explanation and then asks, "Why did the Rebbe wait so long to initiate this campaign if it was so important?"
"From the first talk the Rebbe gave upon accepting the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch," explains Rabbi Chazan, "the Rebbe spoke about Moshiach and said that our job, as the seventh and last generation of exile, is to actually bring G-d's presence into this world through the coming of Moshiach. Each of the Rebbe's campaigns has been a part of the Moshiach campaign."
"How did the campaign to bring Moshiach turn into the campaign that the Rebbe is Moshiach?" asks one of the women.
"Everything that chasidim do has a basis in the Torah and the teachings of the Rebbes. The Rebbe often said that the leader of the generation is Moshiach. In the Talmud and many other Jewish sources, we find that students of great teachers pointed to their teachers as the potential Moshiach. Maimonides defines the qualifications of Moshiach and the Rebbe fits all of those qualifications."
"But now, now that the Rebbe has passed away?" the woman asks tentatively.
"Look around this room and you will see a small sampling of what the Rebbe has done, and continues to do through his followers, to change the face of Judaism in the world. A fundamental Jewish belief is the belief in techiyas hameisim -- the resurrection of the dead. The Rebbe will come back and take us to the Redemption."
"But who will lead Lubavitch in the meantime?" the woman persists.
"The Rebbe is leading Lubavitch. The Rebbe's talks and letters provide guidance. The Rebbe set up every institution and empowered each emissary with the ability to continue in his absence."
The exhibition will be open through Nov. 6 and by appointment after that. For hours and information call (718) 493-1537.
Eat A Shabbat Meal With Your Family
In 5734 (1974) the Rebbe urged families to unite through eating Shabbat meals together.
Just imagine, no t.v., no telephone -- what a great way to enhance communication skills within your family.
Try a traditional Shabbat menu, exotic recipes or even a one pot meal. The main point is to do it together as a family.
THE JEWISH WAY OF LIFE
From letters of the Rebbe
3 Menachem Av, 5720 (1960)
I received your letter of July 20, in which you write about your acquaintance with a young lady of 17 who is not completely observant, and has no one to train her in that direction in as much as she lost her mother. You ask my opinion.
Generally speaking, the question of whether it would be adequate if you would give her instructions and guidance is complicated.
First of all, the training of a Jewish woman and her personal duties should come from her mother or by another person who is suitable, of her own sex.
Secondly, when such instructions must be given repeatedly by a husband or a fiance, they would evoke a measure of resentment and a feeling of being tossed about, etc.
Furthermore, and this is of no less importance, it is difficult to acquire the Jewish way of life from instructions, without actually living in such an atmosphere and environment.
In view of the above, it is my opinion that the possibility should be considered if the young lady in question would spend one year at the Gateshead Seminary, or a similar environment.
After observing the Jewish way of life during this period, she could decide whether she wishes to live this way of life and undertake to fulfill all the aspects of requirements which she has seen, observed and learned in that environment.
Needless to say, one year is the bare minimum, and if she could spend more time, it would be all to the good.
In view of the fact that you do not believe in long engagements, as you write, and with which I fully agree, I think that you ought to take an interest in other matrimonial proposals. May G-d, whose benevolent providence extends to everyone individually, lead you in the way that is best for you, spiritually and materially.
25 Av, 5720 (1960)
I received your letters in which you write about your arrival in the Holy Land, and also your previous two letters which you wrote in Holland.
My reply to your previous letters was sent to your address in Holland, and I hope that it was forwarded to you.
To begin on a happy note, in regard to your writing that your parents -- having learned that your sister was remembered in prayer -- were inspired to give tzedaka [charity] for good causes, it surely strengthens the hope that recognizing the effectiveness of prayer to G-d will strengthen their resolutions to make additional efforts to live up to the Jewish way of life. And may they do so in good health and without further outside inducement.
You ask how long you should stay in the Holy Land. On this question you should consult your friends there, explaining to them all the particulars and details which have a bearing on the subject.
You need not apologize for sending me the poem, especially as you wrote it under the impact of the feeling of G-d's presence everywhere, or, in the well-known words of the Zohar, "There is no place empty of Him."
At the same time, being aware of this feeling, there surely is no room for any of the apprehensions of which you write. As King David, the Sweet Singer of Israel, said, "G-d is with me I shall not fear."
This is especially in light of the Chasidic interpretation of the true aspects of Divine Providence, as taught by the Baal Shem Tov.
If at some future moment you will get a feeling which is not in harmony with the two basic teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, concerning G-d's benevolent Providence and the service of G-d with joy and gladness of heart, you should reflect on these basic principles, and you will find your faith and confidence restored and invigorated.
Every additional measure of such faith in G-d will bring you additional Divine blessings.
To heighten people's awareness of the Rebbe's message that the Redemption is imminent, a project to have one million families in the U.S. receive a sampling of postcards in English, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Russian, German and Persian with the message, "Let's Welcome Moshiach with Goodness and Kindness" is underway.
One version of the postcard also contains a short message. To participate call (718) 604-1683.
SEND OFF FOR 30 EMISSARIES
A massive "Good-bye Party" for thirty families who are taking new positions as the Rebbe's emissaries around the globe was held last month at Lubavitch World Headquarters. The emissaries left for 16 different cities in the U.S. as well as France, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay, Belarus, Argentina, England and Canada.
We have recently touched on the impact of our present Hakhel year, once in seven years when, during the Sukkot holiday, all the Jews gathered in the Holy Temple to hear verses of the Torah read by the king.
It is significant that the Torah was read by the King rather than the Sanhedrin, the supreme rabbinical court.
For the Hahkel gathering -- and in fact, the entire Hakhel experience -- was to engender awe and reverence for G-d. This response is more readily aroused by the Jewish monarch than the Sanhedrin.
The awakening of awe in the nation fosters Jewish unity.
In the area of knowledge and comprehension of the Torah -- that which would be imparted by the Sanhedrin -- there can be many levels among Jews.
But, when we speak of awe, all Jews are on the same level.
During the Hakhel in the Holy Temple, the goal was not to reach deeper understanding, rather to find awe and reverence, as was the case when the Torah was given.
Thus, in Temple times, Hakhel was an opportunity to re-experience the revelation of the Torah at Sinai. And just as at Sinai, their unity led them to bring together all levels and all types of Jews.
Though we do not yet have the actual mitzva of Hakhel, as we have not yet merited the rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple, the opportunity beckons for every one to be involved in the spiritual mitzva of Hakhel at all times, in all places.
We have the opportunity and even the obligation to spread Jewish awareness by gathering Jews in the true spirit of Jewish unity.
As the Rebbe said during the last Hakhel year, "These gatherings are most appropriate this year of Hakhel when the potential for success in this matter is very great and we are given extraordinary powers from Above. For, 'when the days of old are remembered in their season, they also come into being' and we can effect the true Hakhel which will take place with the ingathering of the exiles in the Third Holy Temple."
The Rebbe has always emphasized the teaching of our Sages that "Action is the essential thing."
This means that we must attempt, on a regular basis, to have gatherings with friends, family, colleagues, whose intent is to enhance Jewish unity and Jewish awareness.
May we merit very soon to fulfill the mitzva of Hakhel to hear the Torah taught by King Moshiach, G-d's Messenger, with joy and gladness, truly now.
You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites (Gen. 24:3)
Although Avraham's relatives were idol worshippers like the Canaanites, they were not similarly degenerate in the moral sense, a trait passed on from generation to generation.
Avraham's family may have held false religious beliefs, but mistaken ideas are not hereditary.
Then Avraham expired, and died in a good old age (Gen. 25:8)
On the day that Avraham passed away, the greatest of the Gentiles cried, "Woe to the world that has lost its leader; woe to the ship that has lost its captain."
(Talmud, Baba Batra)
Among all of his [Ishmael's] brethren he settled (lit. "fell") (Gen. 25:18)
With these words the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah concludes, to be followed immediately by, "And these are the generations of Yitzchak, the son of Avraham," the beginning of the Torah portion of Toldot.
This alludes to the ultimate fall of Ishmael in the End of Days and the subsequent triumph of Moshiach, the son of David, who is descended from Yitzchak.
During the Turkish rule, there lived in Israel a poor Jewish woodchopper.
Although he worked hard day after day, his livelihood remained meager. His unfortunate wife was beside herself, watching helplessly as their small children cried from hunger. With six children and the seventh on the way, the husband became desperate.
Out of sheer hopelessness, the husband decided to take his own life. He set out for the forest with his wood-chopping knife and recited the final confession.
Suddenly a gray-bearded old man ran up to him. "What are you doing, old man? I have enough troubles without your interference!" he cried.
The old man sat patiently with the distraught husband and calmed his nerves. He revealed that he was none other than Elijah the Prophet, and he would entreat G-d to bring the poor man success in his livelihood. The poor man wept tears of relief and joy.
"How soon can I expect help?" the man inquired. "In about two months," Elijah replied.
The poor man went home and related the happening to his wife, and the two of them waited expectantly for their luck to change.
After two months Elijah appeared to him again, and told him that in Heaven it was determined that for their situation to improve, they must move to a different city.
The family moved at once from Jerusalem to Jaffa, fulfilling the prophet's instruction. Upon arriving in a beautiful park in Jaffa, they saw a crowd of people near a great palace. The man walked over to see what was happening. An Arab was accepting bids on the palace which was for sale.
"Who will bid more than ten thousand pounds?" he asked. The poor man spoke up and said, "Ten thousand one hundred"
The Arab auctioneer looked at the ragged beggar who had interrupted him, and with one kick, sent him rolling on the ground.
Later that night the Arab happened to look out of the window of the palace and he saw the man he had kicked and his pregnant wife and bedraggled children all sitting and shivering from cold.
He took pity on them and brought them into the palace. "Come inside. There is one small room you may use, but only until my master returns."
It was almost midnight when the woman roused her husband to announce that she was about to give birth. After the baby was born, the man went out to find some water to clean the child.
As he groped in the garden searching for a stream of water, he stumbled on a metal ring. He pulled on it and suddenly the ground below opened, revealing a subterranean staircase.
The man descended into a treasure house filled with gems and gold coins. The man's eyes were drawn to pearls which lay in a chest.
He filled his pocket with precious pearls and then carefully left and returned to the palace.
The following day, he approached the Arab again saying that he wanted to buy the palace. This time the Arab laughed.
"Don't laugh, my friend, for I have very valuable pearls which I intend to sell." He took out a pearl and showed it to the Arab.
"If you are so rich, why are you all wearing rags?" the Arab asked.
"If I dressed in rich clothing, I would only attract robbers. This way my family and I are safe."
"You are a wise man," said the Arab, admiringly.
The poor man then took one pearl and instructed the Arab to go around to the local pearl merchants and see what kind of price the pearl would fetch.
The Arab did as he was asked, and to his surprise, the first merchant refused to buy the pearl, saying, "It is far too expensive for me, but go to so-and-so and he will certainly purchase it from you."
The pearl fetched 1,600 pounds and the Arab ran back to the Jew to announce the sale. A deed to the palace was soon drawn up, and the Jew was the new owner. The man never disclosed the source of his wealth.
The newly rich man inquired locally what would be a good investment. He was told to buy up all the skins from the slaughterhouses for a year.
This he did, establishing great tanneries, employing many Jews in his work, and paying them a fine wage. He become one of the wealthiest men in the city, dispensing charity with an open hand.
One day as he was strolling through the streets, he saw Elijah the Prophet and ran to him. "Don't you recognize me?" the man asked, but the prophet didn't. The man reminded him of how he had wanted to take his own life and was stopped by the prophet.
He continued telling him how he had changed his place, according to the prophet's instruction.
"From your appearance I see that your fortune has changed and you are indeed a wealthy man. I want you to know that your change in fortune was certainly influenced by your move to a different city, for as it is said, 'When one changes his place, he changes his luck.'
But the main reason your luck changed was the birth of your seventh child, for every child brings with him into this world his own unique mazal [good fortune], and this is the mazal of this child."
Every generation has its goal.
Ours is to hasten and ensure the coming of Moshiach.
(The Rebbe, 5741--1981)