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The notation on the calendar that it's Veterans Day might encourage one to stop and think for a moment about the war veterans who spent long days and nights defending this country or defending the interests of this country. It might also cause one to try to recollect all of the dates and locations of wars in this century.
But, aside from these momentary contemplations, what can we learn from this annual event?
The Torah discusses two kinds of wars in which the Jewish nation -- having conquered and entered the Holy Land -- might be involved.
One kind of war is ordered by G-d, such as to eradicate the nation of Amalek or to drive the Canaanite nations from the Holy Land.
A second type of war is an optional war, one to increase the boundaries of the Land of Israel, for instance, to glorify G-d's name.
Jewish teachings relate that every concept in the Torah is eternal and applicable in the personal life of each individual.
War is a conflict between two opposing natures.
Sometimes, when one entity desires to dominate another, it can do so peacefully, gradually influencing the other entity until ultimately its power can be harnessed and used for the goals of the first.
When two powers are diametrically opposed, however, and one tries to exert its influence over the other, conflict will ensue.
In an ultimate sense, the concept of war reflects the efforts to transform this physical world into a dwelling place for G-d.
This is the purpose of creation, the goal to which our lives and similarly, every aspect of existence at large, should be directed.
Certain elements of existence can, in a gradual and peaceful way, be refined and directed to holiness.
There are elements in this world, however, such as self- centeredness and the search for personal gratification, which stand in direct opposition to G-dliness.
In their present form, they cannot be refined or elevated, but rather, as our Sages said, "only through destruction, can they be purified."
This is the Torah's conception of war, a struggle to transform even the lowest elements of existence into a dwelling for G-d.
For this reason, the Torah commanded the Jews to go to war to conquer the Land of Israel, to turn a land which was renown for its depravity into a land, "which the eyes of the L-rd, your G-d, are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year."
Furthermore, even when there is no explicit command for war, the potential is also given to extend the boundaries of holiness and encompass areas which were previously governed by that which is not holy.
In microcosm, this concept of war is relevant within our own lives as well.
A person must challenge himself. Gradual progress is not enough.
We have to break our natures and show there are no limits to our commitment to Judaism.
When a person's spiritual service is confined within the scope of his nature and habits, he is serving himself as much as he is serving G-d.
It is only when he goes beyond his self, when his self-image and even his fundamental personality are no longer of consequence to him and he rises above them entirely, that he truly serves G-d.
Going beyond oneself reveals the essential and unbounded Divine potential each Jew possesses. Transcending the limits of one's own nature, reveals the existence of a potential which is above all concept of limitations.
In this context, war is part of the process that is necessary for -- and will lead to -- the complete refinement of the world.
Thus, the process of Messianic revelation involves a stage when Moshiach "will fight the wars of G-d and be victorious ."
Nevertheless, in an ultimate sense, war is only a temporary phenomenon. After Moshiach has established his rule, "there will be no war, envy or competition... and the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d."
Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe
"And Yaakov (Jacob) left Beersheva and went toward Charan," relates this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei.
When darkness fell, Yaakov had traveled as far as Mount Moriah. Placing a stone under his head for a pillow, he lay down and fell asleep. That night G-d revealed himself to Yaakov in a dream.
"The land on which you are lying I will give to you and your seed," G-d said, promising Yaakov the land of Israel as the inheritance of the Jewish people forever.
To demonstrate just how effortlessly the land would be conquered by Yaakov's descendants, "G-d 'folded' up the entire land of Israel and placed it beneath him, alluding to the ease with which it would be acquired," comments Rashi, the great Torah commentator, citing the explanation given in the Talmud.
Generations before, a similar promise was made by G-d to Avraham (Abraham). "Arise, walk through the land in its length and breadth, for I will give it to you."
According to the Talmud, this commandment was given to Avraham to facilitate his descendants' subsequent conquest of Israel. Avraham's sojourn through the land demonstrated his Divine claim on the territory and paved the way for his descendants years later.
It is interesting to note that whereas Avraham was commanded by G-d to perform an actual physical action ("walk through the land"), Yaakov was not. Lying on the holy ground of Israel was sufficient for G-d to reveal Himself and promise it to his descendants.
Furthermore, G-d "'folded' up" the land of Israel beneath Yaakov to emphasize that not only would it be easy for the Jewish people to conquer, as already alluded to Avraham, but its acquisition would require no more exertion than merely lying on the ground.
The land of Israel would be given over into their hands without effort, without their having to perform any special feats or extraordinary actions.
In effect, G-d granted the Jewish people the ability to conquer the land of Israel without having to wage war. The Jewish claim on Israel was fixed as incontrovertible in the consciousness of all mankind forever and ever, as Divine right. This potential could have been achieved immediately with Joshua's conquest had the Jewish people possessed sufficient merit. Because of the sin of the spies, however, this merit was taken away, and the Jews were forced to fight to acquire what would have otherwise become their possession immediately.
When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Final Redemption, this potential will be fully realized. The land of Israel will, at long last, be secured by the Jewish people for eternity, without their having taken the slightest overt action whatsoever.
Even now, before the Redemption, may it occur speedily in our days, when Jews stand firm in their Divine claim to the Holy Land, unequivocally and unashamedly declaring their G-d-given right to Israel, all the arguments of the Gentiles against the Jewish people are nullified, and the arrival of Moshiach and the Redemption is thereby hastened.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 20
by Feige Miller
Esther Kasten was a good friend of mine. But then again, Esther was everyone's good friend. Esther never complained about her own problems, but rather lifted herself above them. She always listened to others people's problems, felt their need, and helped them with whatever she could.
She helped many individuals and numerous institutions. What is more, she induced others to give, which is even greater.
What were Esther's "problems" about which she never complained? She had cerebral palsy and thus walked with a thick cane, fastened at the elbow with a broad metal band.
Growing up in Australia, Esther attended public school.
After school, she attended the Release Hour for Jewish youth and learned about her Jewish heritage, absorbing all she could. When participants in the Release Hour became too few and a teacher was no longer provided, Esther took it upon herself to teach the other children, two ten-year-old boys.
Each Shabbat afternoon Esther went to study Torah with young girls her age. She also spent the Sabbath with observant families, to learn Jewish laws and customs in a hands-on setting.
On one such Shabbat away from home, Esther was overjoyed when she came to the synagogue and she recognized the bar mitzva boy.
It was one of the boys whom she had helped teach in Release Hour. She had aided in keeping the fire of love for Judaism burning in this young man. Esther used to recall this story often to illustrate G-d's Divine providence.
When she became of marriageable age, Esther's family let her go on a trip around the world to find a suitable match, even sending a chaperone with her.
During this time, Esther spent a year in Israel where she met her future husband, an American citizen, also handicapped.
They settled in New York with their life's goal being to build a Jewish home full of kindness and love of G-d and the Torah.
After ten years of marriage, Esther's husband succumbed to an illness, and she became widowed. Esther decided to spend all of her time divided between deeds of tzedaka and Torah learning.
Each morning, Esther could be found attending the adult education classes Beth Rivkah Schools in Crown Heights.
Climbing the steep, narrow staircase to the third floor, where the adult education classes were held, was a great hardship for Esther, but she did it lovingly.
Esther devoted her afternoons to sitting on Thirteenth Avenue near her home in Borough Park collecting charity. People were very generous when they saw Esther sitting there with her large shopping bag and a big open pocketbook.
She greeted everyone with a beautiful, gentle, accepting smile. The tzedaka she collected in this manner and then disbursed to worthy causes reached tens of thousands of dollars annually.
Friday and Sunday were her best days so all the money collected on these days went to Beth Rivkah Schools, to help support Torah learning for girls.
The proceeds from another day went to Tomchei Shabbos, which supplies poor families with food packages for the Sabbath.
Esther helped a blind woman with her doctor's expenses, and helped a young man becoming observant to buy a talit and other religious objects. Whenever someone told Esther about a financial problem, she would tell them, "I will give you one d ay." And the collection of that day was given to that person.
Esther bought all the newest Jewish books as soon as they came off the press and donated them all to the Beth Rivkah library.
For years, hundreds of other women attended the adult classes in Beth Rivkah together with Esther. But Esther was the only one to whom it occurred to give a gift to each teacher at the end of the term. She would find just the right book for each and put it on the desk announcing nonchalantly: "This is from the class." After class some of us would hurry over to Esther to give her money toward the book so that it would not be an untruth! But it was always her initiative. She made a point o f showing gratitude wherever and whenever, and appreciating the good in whomever.
This past month we would have celebrated Esther's 48th birthday.
She is certainly in the Garden of Eden now, her great tzedaka and good deeds having preceded her and opened all doors. May her memory be for a blessing.
Our concern for every Jew should be expressed in efforts to provide our fellow Jews with the necessities required to celebrate the Chanuka holiday, so the month of Kislev will be permeated with happiness and joy.
Similarly, they should have the means to fulfill the custom which the Rebbes followed of giving Chanuka gelt to the members of their household. (From a talk of the Rebbe, Kislev, 5752-1991)
I DO NOT GO BACK ON MY WORD
18 of Kislev 5719 (1958)
You write the highlights of your past life and conclude that you feel depressed thinking of your past conduct which was not in compliance with the Torah and mitzvot, etc.
No doubt it is unnecessary for me to enlarge upon the matter of teshuva [repentance] which is one of the fundamental principles of our Torah, the "Torah of Life," a precept which we have to observe daily, as we say in our daily prayers, "Return us, G-d, to You," and "Forgive us, our Father."
I suggest that you study the Iggeret HaTeshuva by the Alter Rebbe, where it is explained at some length what teshuva is and how everyone can attain it, provided there is a will and determination.
Sincere teshuva is always accepted, for G-d is truly good and forgiving. It will then become clearer to you that a feeling of depression and anxiety is not helpful to true teshuva, but rather on the contrary, for sincere teshuva is followed by a feeling of happiness and closeness to G-d, and sincere determination to observe the Torah and mitzvot and serve G-d with joy and gladness of heart.
Turning to your second question as to your immediate future, you write that you are working for your stepfather, who is religious.
From this I gather that your work will not interfere with your determination to live in accordance with Torah and mitzvot,
Considering also your age, I think that you should energetically try to find a suitable shidduch [match], a person who would fully agree to build with you a truly Jewish home, based on the foundation of Torah and mitzvot, and, when you find a suitable person and reach a mutual agreement, it is not advisable to postpone the wedding date for any length of time.
Thus, in my opinion, you should continue with your present job, but at the same time have regular study periods every day and on Shabbat devoting additional time to the study of the Torah....
4 Adar I, 5719 (1959)
I have received your letter of January 19th. In it, you write that, inasmuch as approximately two years ago I expressed my opinion that your son should devote at least a period of two years exclusively to the study of the Torah, which I considered especially essential for his happiness, and inasmuch as this coming summer, this period will be fulfilled, you bring it to my attention. I assume that you are referring to my letter of the 28th of Sivan, 5717.
No doubt you will note that I wrote there that, in my opinion, this period of study is considered absolutely essential, and that I said, "At least two years." This, of course, did not mean that at the end of the two years your son must necessarily go to college. Nor did I, of course, imply that college is the only solution to your son's future.
I also need hardly say that I do not go back on my word, and although you state in your letter that you expect me to honor my promise, I do not see what promise I made in my said letter, except that after the two years of exclusive study of the Torah, your son would be much better prepared to cope with any contingencies his future life may present to him or anyone else who goes out in the world, especially a Jew.
As for the question itself regarding your son's registering in college, needless to say that the decision whether or not to enter college will have to be made by your son. I can only suggest that it may be advisable that your son, as well as you, should consult with the administration of the yeshiva in Montreal where your son is learning at present, as they know your son intimately and the progress he has made, his future prospects, etc.
I may add that from the general information that had reached me I understand that your son has become successful in his studies and, no less and even more important, that being in the yeshiva atmosphere, his general character and self-assurance have been strengthened. After consultation with the yeshiva administration, it will be easier for you to make a decision as to what your son should do in the future.
Let me conclude again in the same vein as I wrote to you in my above-mentioned letter, and with even greater conviction at that time, that your son's Torah study will certainly bring him true happiness, and that you will have much pleasure from him. May G-d grant that you enjoy this in good health and in a happy frame of mind.
A TASTE OF SHABBOS
More than just a cooking video, A Taste of Shabbos shows you how to make Shabbos part of your week and part of your life.
Rebbetzin Esther Winner, a devoted mother and renowned lecturer, teacher, hostess, and Chabad emissary in West Brighton, demonstrates how to prepare more than a dozen recipes including a six-braided challa, Cornish hen stuffed with kishke, babaganoosh, cholent, and chocolate cornucopia filled with rugelach.
The video also highlights the traditions that are such a meaningful part of the Shabbos experience.
To order your copy call 1-800-71-TASTE
CHABAD OF SINGAPORE
The newest emissaries on the Chabad-Lubavitch map are Rabbi and Mrs. Moshe Abergel, who will be arriving shortly in Singapore.
Among the first activities the Chabad Center of Singapore will offer are adult education classes, Shabbat programs, and holiday awareness projects.
GIVE YOURSELF A GIFT
"Give yourself a gift this Chanuka...Jewish Mysticism" is the how a special one-day seminar is being introduced.
A Taste of Chasidut is being offered in Brooklyn by Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva on Sunday, November 20. The program, which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., includes workshops on topics such as deeper insights into the mitzvot, reincarnation, Moshiach and Redemption and enhancing your relationship with G-d. For more info and reservations call (718) 735-0217.
The ninth of Kislev is the birthday and yartzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber Shneuri, the second Chabad Rebbe, known as "the Mittler Rebbe."
Through his elaborations and explanations of the teachings of his father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (the first Chabad Rebbe), he brought Chasidic philosophy more closely into the framework of this world.
Uniting the physical and the spiritual was actually embodied in the Mittler Rebbe's person, illustrated by the following two examples.
The Tzemach Tzedek (his son-in-law and successor) said of him, "If my father-in-law's finger was cut, Chasidut would flow out and not blood." The Mittler Rebbe's blood--his life force--was Chasidut.
When the Mittler Rebbe was arrested on slanderous charges and imprisoned, his doctor, a prominent specialist, told the Russian authorities that they must allow him to teach his Chasidim. He explained: "Just as you give food to prisoners to ensure their existence, so took you must allow him to teach Chasidut, because his life depends on it."
The authorities saw that this was the truth and agreed. They allowed fifty Chasidim to enter his prison room twice a week to listen to him deliver a Chasidic discourse.
Ultimately, the Mittler Rebbe was released on the 10th of Kislev, one day after his birthday. But, unfortunately, he and his Chasidim were unable to celebrate the first anniversary of his release. For, the Mittler Rebbe passed away on the 9th of Kislev, his birthday, at the relative young age of 54.
Judaism teaches that if one's birth and passing fall on the same day, this demonstrates a unification of one's spiritual qualities within the context of the material world. Thus, it is appropriate that this phenomenon be associated with the Mittler Rebbe.
An even deeper fusion of the spiritual with the material is seen from the fact that his day of redemption on the 10th of Kislev occurred directly after his birthday.
Concerning the Mittler Rebbe's day of Redemption, the Rebbe said, "The Mittler Rebbe's redemption will lead to the ultimate expression of G-dliness in the world which characterize the revelations of Moshiach." May this take place immediately.
And he reached a certain place (Gen. 28:11)
Our Sages relate that as soon as Yaakov decided to return, a miracle occurred and he was immediately transported on his way. We learn from this that whenever a person sincerely decides to do teshuva, to return to G-d with a humble heart, he is immediately assisted from Above. "Open up for Me a breach the size of a needle's eye, and I will open for you an opening the size of a great hall."
And he dreamed, and behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven (Gen. 28:12)
The numerical value of the Hebrew word "sulam" (ladder) is the equivalent of both "mamon" (wealth) and "oni" (poverty), to teach us that a person's financial status is likened to a ladder, enabling one to experience both ups and downs in life : G-d "humbles the proud and raises the humble."
(Baal Shem Tov)
Whatever You will give me I will give a tenth to You (Gen. 28:22)
Queen Victoria of England once asked the famous Jewish philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore the extent of his wealth. "It will take me a few days to make an accounting," he replied. Several days later he gave her his answer. "You insult me," the Queen replied. "Everyone knows you are worth much more than that." "Not really," Sir Moses explained. "I consider as my wealth only that which I have given away to charity. Everything else I have is only temporary and may be confiscated or lost."
And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuven, for she said: Surely, G-d has looked at my affliction, because now my husband will love me (Gen. 29:32)
Our sacred writings compare the relationship between G-d and Israel to that between a husband and wife.
In the time of galut (exile), the "wife" suffers from spiritual poverty and deprivation. We are exiled from our land and our Holy Temple is destroyed. The special love between the Jewish people and G-d seems to be concealed and is not fully expressed in the open.
Yet even during such difficult times, when the Jewish people remains faithful to G-d, this special love can still be evoked. When G-d sees that Jews continue to observe Torah and mitzvot in spite of affliction, His love for them is fully restored, a love that will ultimately be manifested through the full and speedy Redemption.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. XXII)
Once, in the city of Mechooza in Babylonia, a very poor man came to the yeshiva of Rava. Rava was not only one of the greatest Jewish scholars of his time and head of the great academy there, but he was also extremely wealthy. Rava was renowned far and wide for his tremendous charity. No poor person ever left his home without his needs being met by the great rabbi.
So, when the poor man arrived in town, the other paupers directed him to the home of the sage and philanthropist. Rava was a good judge of character. When he called the pauper into his study, one look was sufficient to tell him that this man had not always been in such a sorry state. The man's whole demeanor, his manner of speaking and his deportment all showed that he had once been a man of means and high social station.
Rava engaged the man in conversation and, sure enough, discovered that he came from a good family and had not so long ago been a wealthy merchant. Business reversals had taken their toll on his fortune and he was reduced to begging for his daily bread. "What is it that you wish, my good man?" asked Rava.
"I am very hungry and have come here to receive something to eat," the beggar replied.
Rava was anxious to satisfy the man's needs, and so he asked him, "What do you usually eat?"
The man's expression visibly changed. "I eat fattened fowl basted with rare sauces and I drink only the finest aged wines."
Rava was taken aback by the poor man's reply. True, he had formerly been wealthy, but wouldn't it be better if he had accustomed himself to simpler fare now that his circumstances were so reduced? Rava replied to the beggar, "I understand that you may have eaten these delicacies before, but perhaps you should lower your expectations under the circumstances. After all, you can't expect most people to be able to cater to such expensive demands."
The man listened and then shrugged his shoulders. "Why should I? I am not asking for anything that belongs to those people. All the food in the world belongs only to G-d, and He is able to fulfill the needs of every living creature. If He so wishes it, the people I meet will receive the means to feed me the food which I am used to. Besides, at this point in my life, I have become too weakened to accustom myself to a change in diet. It isn't as if I simply crave these foods; I truly need to have them for my health."
As the two men continued their conversation, one of Rava's servants appeared to announce the arrival of a guest. "My master's sister has just arrived!" he announced.
Rava rose in surprise, for he hadn't seen his sister in thirteen years. As he crossed the room to greet her, he noticed that she was carrying a beautifully decorated basket covered with an embroidered cloth. She presented the basket to him as a gift. When he lifted the cloth to see what was inside, he was shocked to see a fat roasted chicken and a bottle of aged wine!
Rava was momentarily speechless as he contemplated the gift and the words that had just been spoken by the beggar.
"How fortunate am I to see so clearly the workings of G-d. For, I have not seen you in so many years, and here you are bearing exactly the foodstuffs this man has requested of me! You are a messenger from the Holy One, Blessed be He, sent to teach me the truth of G-d's providence over all of His creatures, for He surely provides each of them with his needs at the proper time."
By this time Rava's students had gathered to hear the words of their teacher. He turned to the poor man and said, "My friend, I beg your forgiveness for my hastily spoken words, for I had not understood the truth they contained. Please, sit and partake of these delicacies which were undoubtedly sent only for you."
Thus, the master and his students learned a lesson of the greatness of G-d's mercies on His creatures and to what lengths we must go to emulate His ways.
From three exiles the Jewish people were redeemed in the merit of the Patriarchs, but redemption from the fourth will be in the merit of Moshe.
Thus, we will be redeemed in the merit of the Torah that he gave us.
At the conclusion of the final exile, the sea of Torah will split and all the wonders in Torah will be revealed. For by virtue of Torah study we will merit complete redemption speedily in our days.
(The Vilna Gaon)