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"Warning: The Surgeon General has found that cigarette smoking causes..."
We're all used to the warnings and small print about cigarette smoking, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, etc. Even if you don't partake of any of the above-mentioned chemicals, you still see the warnings plastered all over the product, billboards and ads in various types of media.
Rumor has it that more often than not, the very people who are doing the studies which determine the ill effects of these chemicals on our systems themselves smoke, drink (at least socially) and use artificial sweeteners.
What's going on here? How can there be cancer specialists who smoke, dieticians who are overweight, people who work in detox centers who imbibe a little too much once in a while? Don't they know the deleterious effects of their behavior from their own studies and work?
In answer to these questions, we might want to define, very briefly (don't get worried), the acronym for the branch of Chasidic philosophy established by the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. The word Chabad stands for the three aspects of the intellect: Chochma--wisdom; Bina--knowledge; Da'at--understanding. The difference between wisdom and knowledge--the first two aspects of intellect--and knowledge is that "understanding" is only acquired when one has internalized the wisdom and knowledge.
With all of the studying, thinking, philosophizing, experimenting, and memorizing in the world, one does not truly even acquire the wisdom and knowledge until it goes from the "head" to the "heart"--until one has internalized it and understands it as it applies to oneself and it becomes a part of the person. Therefore, subject matter that remains in the intellect and does not even begin to become internalized has not really completed the intellectual process.
This is the explanation of how someone who daily reads the X-rays of lung cancer patients can smoke, or how a dietician who has book knowledge of the dangers of obesity can be fat.
The need for intellect to permeate the heart is taught throughout the stories, laws and lessons of the Torah. But a most unique way of emphasizing the importance of joining the mind and the heart is by looking at the last and first letters of the Torah.
The very last letter of the Torah is the lamed in the word Yisrael. The very first letter of the Torah is the bet in Breishit. Combining the two letters gives us the numerical value of 32, and according to Kabala, 32 is the number of different aspects of the intellect. But the letters lamed and bet also spell the Hebrew word lev meaning "heart." Even when one studies something using all 32 aspects of the intellect, it is not complete until it has entered the "heart."
Based on a talk by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mangel.
In this week's Torah portion, Toldot, we read of how Isaac wanted to bless Esau but was prevented from doing so by Rivka, his wife. It was through her intervention that the blessings were bestowed upon Jacob instead.
A fundamental question is raised by this incident. How could Isaac have possibly preferred Esau over Jacob? True, our sages tell us that Esau repeatedly tried to deceive his elderly father into thinking he was G-d-fearing and observant, by pointedly asking questions about religious law, but it is still hard to imagine Isaac being fooled by Esau's ruse. In fact, when Jacob presented himself to receive his father's blessings, Isaac declared that "the voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau," recognizing how unusual it was for Esau to address him in such a civil manner or even to bring G-d's name into the conversation. Isaac surely realized that something was amiss. But if Isaac was well aware of Esau's serious shortcomings, why did he nevertheless want to give the blessings only to him?
The truth is that Esau, the firstborn twin, possessed an extremely lofty soul capable of incredible spiritual accomplishments. In certain respects, Esau was on an even higher spiritual level than his brother Jacob. Jacob was born to be a "dweller in tents (of Torah)," protected from the outside world, enclosed within the four walls of the yeshiva. Esau, however, was "a man of the field," blessed with the spiritual strength to venture forth into the coarser material world to wage war against evil and impurity, bringing G-dliness and holiness down into the physical realm. It was Esau, therefore, who possessed the greater spiritual might.
This, then, explains Isaac's desire to bless Esau, despite his knowledge that his son was abusing these spiritual gifts: Isaac hoped his blessings would cause Esau's considerable talents to be brought out and revealed. Not only would Esau repent of his evil ways, but the entire world would benefit from his actions.
G-d, however, knew it was too late for Esau to repent and live up to his potential. Instead, the blessings were given to Jacob, and with them, the power to overcome evil and transform it into good, and to illuminate the world with the light of Torah.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
It happened a long time ago. I remember exactly when because it was the year of our great tragedy. We had been in this country for only five years, having arrived from Stockholm, Sweden, where my father Rabbi Yacov Yisroel Zuber (o.b.m.) had been sent as an emissary by the Previous Rebbe for nearly two decades. The adjustment had been very difficult, but at this stage everything was falling into place. My father was the dean of the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Boston. He was an important member of the Rabbinical Court of the city, and was the rabbi of the large Orthodox congregation in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
And then, the tragedy struck. One day I was an innocent, carefree student; the next, a devastated, bewildered, young adult. Early one winter evening, my father lost his life at the hands of unknown assailants, and our lives were forever changed. In 1953 the world was safer and more stable, so the news of our great loss was publicized not only locally and nationally, but all over the world.
A few months after, my mother decided we should go to New York for a private audience (yechidut) with the Rebbe. I had been in yechidut twice before--once, when I was a very young child, we visited the Previous Rebbe at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, when he was on his way to America. The second time was in "770," immediately upon our arrival in this country. But this time it would be different. The Previous Rebbe had passed away about 3 years earlier, and we were going to have yechidut with the new Rebbe of Lubavitch, the present Rebbe, shlita.
There was a hushed silence inside 770 when we arrived. When it was finally our turn, we were quickly ushered into the room. The Rebbe was sitting behind a large mahogany desk. Around the room were bookcases filled with holy books. My mother was crying softly while I glanced at the Rebbe. He looked at us with great compassion and concern: he had known my father well, and had been involved with us in the aftermath of the tragedy. He smiled gently and invited us to sit down. He seemed so human, so warm, I immediately felt at ease. He spoke to my mother about her plans for the future, her daily activities, my father, and everything concerning our life.
Then he turned to me and asked about my college courses, my plans, my interests and concerns. It was without difficulty that I responded. He seemed so genuinely interested in everything I said, and from his responses and interjections, I knew he was listening carefully to everything.
A few months later, when I was planning a visit to New York with some friends, I decided to go to see the Rebbe. The appointment was made from Boston, and on the specified date I arrived at 770. When my turn came, I was very excited to have the opportunity to meet with the Rebbe again.
The Rebbe asked at length about my courses, my professors, and my plans for the future. Then, to my great surprise, the Rebbe asked me about my very personal plans, about marraige. I told him that I had met several young men, but I had not met someone I wanted to marry. The Rebbe smiled broadly and asked my opinion about a specific young man. I swallowed hard. I could not believe it, but the question concerned a young man I had recently met. The Rebbe then asked about another young man I had gone out with, and a third, and I was totally overwhelmed. The Rebbe apparently knew everything about my life, certainly this aspect. I just shook my head and blushingly explained why each one was not the right one for me.
Then the Rebbe chuckled lightly and told me that I read too many books. How did he know? But know he did. Love, he explained to me, is not that which is portrayed in romantic novels. It isn't that overwhelming, blinding emotion that is portrayed in a romance. These books do not portray real life, he said. It is a fantasy world, a make-believe world with made-up emotions. Fiction is just that--fiction--but real life is different. And then, as a father to a daughter, he began to explain to me the meaning of real love.
Love, he told me, is an emotion that increases in strength throughout life. It is sharing and caring, and respecting one another. It is building a life together, a unit of family and home. The love that you feel as a young bride, he continued, is only the beginning of real love. It is through the small, everyday acts of living together that love flourishes and grows. And so, he continued, the love you feel after five years or ten years is a gradual strengthening of bonds. As two lives unite to form one, with time, one reaches a point where each partner feels a part of the other, where each partner no longer can visualize life without his mate by his side.
Smilingly he told me to put aside my romantic notions developed by my literary involvement, and view love and marriage in a meaningful way.
I walked out of the Rebbe's office with a huge smile on my face. The Rebbe knew how to communicate with a dreamy young girl. He knew what to say and how to say it. His words, spoken from the heart, reverberated within my heart.
From all over the world, rabbis, businessmen, community leaders and politicians seek the advice of the Rebbe, frequently on issues of far-reaching significance, affecting large numbers of people. Yet, in the case of a young girl standing at the threshold of life, preparing to make the most crucial decision of her life, he gave his undivided attention. With fatherly love and compassion, with patience and concern, he presented her with a lifelong understanding of the meaning of life and marriage. This is the greatness of the Rebbe, to give of himself, of his precious time to a small, insignificant person as well as to the most important figures of our generation.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
IS SAYING MAZAL TOV ENOUGH?
For centruies it has been customary for Jewish women to adorn the birthing room and cradle with Psalm 121 (Shir Lama'alot) which states our declaration of dependence upon G-d for our well-being, and His commitment to guard us. If you are expecting a child or know someone who is, you can get a free, full-color print of the Psalm by writing to LFJME, 824 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213 or by calling (718) 756-7250.
NEW CENTER IN FAIRLAWN
Internationally renowned cantor and spiritual guide, Rabbi Berel Zaltzman, and his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya, recently accepted the post of director of the new Bris Avrohom Center in FairLawn, New Jersey. The new center serves as a synagogue and focal point for activities geared to Russian immigrants of all ages, with special attention given to the education of the youth. For more information call (201) 791-7200.
CHABAD POLICE CHAPLAIN
Rabbi Asher Herson, Regional Director of the Chabad Center of Northwest New Jersey, was recently inducted as Jewish Chaplain for the Rockaway Township Police Department. Rabbi Herson also serves as Civilian Chaplain for the Picatinny Arsenal.
From an interview with the Lubavitcher Rebbe
"At 11:00 p.m., Sunday evening, March 4, 1973, a small representative group of Young Leadership Cabinet members was privileged to be received by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader of the worldwide Lubavitch movement. The informal interview session lasted into the early hours of the morning and was, by the consensus of all who participated, one of the landmarks of our Jewish explorations" (From the U.J.A.'s official transcript of the interview).
Rebbe: There is a special goal which takes priority over all others in Judaism, and that is education. By educating people you are preparing the young leadership of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Education today is not a question of making someone who is not so learned more learned, someone who is not fluent more fluent, someone who is not charitable to become charitable or more charitable. Jewish education now is a question of saving a soul, saving a human being for the Jewish people and saving him even for humanity.
Taking into account that a child is someone whose need for education must be met at the first opportunity possible--money can be borrowed now and paid tomorrow, or a year from tomorrow, even if you have no money in cash or in pledges. It is the first priority and the first duty and the first obligation of every Jew who can do something in this realm to invest money in Jewish education.
I am not asking you for a check. What I am asking of every one of you is that before you ask someone for a check tomorrow, you become more Jewishly observant today. You can do this by adding at least one mitzva in your personal life--in your private life and in the life of your family. I know the benefit of this from my personal experience. I am now seventy years old, and nevertheless, I hope that tomorrow morning, I will be a better Jew than today. Performing a mitzva in your private life as a private person has an immediate impact on your communal activities.
Question: We are going on a pilgrimage to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; we are going to Warsaw and Auschwitz. We are pre-paring for this trip by reading much material about the Holocaust, and as we get deeper and deeper into the reading, we're all having many problems with the questions that the Holocaust and Auschwitz bring. What did the whole thing mean?
Rebbe: In general, most questions about the Holocaust mean, "I cannot understand whether there is G-d--because I cannot accept that G-d exists, and nevertheless He permitted Hitler to commit all of these atrocities. This justifies my not believing in G-d or my not performing His mitzvot or my not performing my obligations in general."
Such a question and train of thought is a justification of something because this person is looking for a justification to have an easier life, to ease his conscience by not being a Jew as he understands a Jew must be. It's a justification encompassing the behavior of G-d, the conduct of the business of the universe in general.
If history teaches us something, it is that we witnessed something so terrible it must bring every Jew to become more identified with his Jewishness, not only by giving charity, but by putting on tefilin, observing Shabbat (not Sunday) as a day of holiness. The difference between Sunday and Shabbat is not merely that Sunday is the first day of the week, but that Shabbat is in itself, a day of holiness. Because it is holy you must rest. Sunday, on the other hand, is a day of rest merely because you are resting. It's the reverse. And if every one of us has an obligation to fight Hitler, it can be done by not letting that which Hitler wanted to annihilate be annihilated. This means we must not only continue to observe Torah and mitzvot, but to do so on a bigger and a deeper scale. Hitler was not as much interested in annihilating the Jewish body as he was in annihilating the spirit.
If you influence a Jew not to become assimilated and to profess his Jewishness, his pride and inspiration and joy, this is defeating Hitlerism. If someone does his best in his personal life to be Jewish--everyone sees that in the street he is a Jew; that his home is a Jewish home; that he is proud; and that it is not a burden, but his pride; it is his life that defeats the idea of Hitlerism.
When you go to Auschwitz, you must profess there that Auschwitz cannot happen again. You can assure it by becoming a living example of a living Jew. It has nothing to do with chauvinism. You are not trying to convert someone to become a Jew, but you are fighting, you are struggling for survival not only as a human being, but as a Jew. In our time it is a very acute problem because every one of us must do something not only to perform his task, but to replace all those Jews who were murdered and annihilated. Their tasks are our direct duty.
For a Jew, it is not enough to exist, he must be holy. What does holiness mean? It means the specialness of each action. When he performs any action... eating his lunch... he should have something else in mind, not only to provide for his hunger. He has a purpose that is on a higher level than his eating. Similarly, when he makes money in his factory or in his supermarket, it must be only a means to something on a higher level.
When discussing the need and appropriateness of demanding that G-d send Moshiach and redeem the Jews, some people quote the Talmudic warning (Ketubot 111a) that we should not try to push Moshiach's coming.
According to the Chatam Sofer, this Talmudic admonition does not refer to asking for or praying for Moshiach, but rather it refers to using supernatural techniques to hasten his arrival.
Together with this, people often question whether saying that Moshiach's arrival is imminent, or that Moshiach is ready to come now, or even announcing names of years (such as this year being "The Year of Distinguished Wonders"), is not going against the admonition of our sages not to calculate the date of the Redemption.
In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b) and in Maimonides' Laws of Kings (12:2) we are told that it is forbidden to calculate the "ketz" or end of exile. The reason given for this is that it would discourage people if a certain date was predicted and the date passed without Moshiach having arrived.
However, Nachmanides (the "Ramban") explains that the Talmudic prohibition was for a limited time only (Sefer HaGeula) and certainly not now when all of our great Jewish leaders of this past and present generation agree that we are in the "footsteps" of the Redemption.
In fact, the Rambam himself, in a letter to the distraught Jews of Yemen, even predicted a date for Moshiach's coming.
The Rebbe once explained that the great scholars who announced dates for the Redemption were not calculating them, but rather, these dates had been revealed to them through Divine inspiration. In addition, the announced dates were propitious times for Moshiach's coming, and in the spiritual realms, an aspect of the Redemption was actualized. It just did not fully manifest itself in this physical world, which is what will happen when the true and ultimate Redemption takes place, may it happen immediately.
And Esau said in his heart, "When the days of mourning for my father arrive, I will kill my brother Jacob" (Gen. 27:41)
Esau planned on waiting until Isaac died to seek his revenge. Because Jacob studied Torah day and night, Esau was unable to do him any harm, for Jacob's Torah learning protected him from evil. When a close relative passes away, however, the mourner is forbidden to study Torah until the burial. Esau calculated that when their father died, Jacob would momentarily pause in his learning, thus affording him the opportunity to kill him.
And he called his name Jacob (Gen. 25:26)
When Jacob was born, the singular verb "he called" is used; by Esau's birth, the Torah states, "and they called his name Esau." This alludes to the fact that the paths of evil are many, but there is only one truth in the world--the truth of Torah. Throughout his life Esau was surrounded by many sympathizers and friends. Jacob, however, was supported only by the tiny number of rare individuals who appreciated his worth.
And his hand was holding onto Esau's heel (Gen. 25:26)
The Hebrew word for "heel"--ekev--is related to the word "ikveta"--literally "footsteps," the End of Days, when the "footsteps" of Moshiach will usher in the Era of Redemption. At that time, the verse, "and his hand was holding onto Esau's heel" will find its ultimate fulfillment, and the final victory will belong to the Jewish people.
He moved on from there and dug another well, and they did not fight over it. He called it Rechovot (lit. "spacious") saying, "Now G-d has made room for us" (Gen. 26:22)
The three wells Isaac dug are symbolic of the three Holy Temples. These are the wells of "living waters" which give us our spiritual life. The first well Isaac dug proved to be a source of strife, just as the first Temple was destroyed in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. The second Holy Temple, like Isaac's second well, was also eventually destroyed, by Titus and his armies. But the third well remained, just as the Third Holy Temple which we eagerly await, will be eternal.
Once the Baal Shem Tov had a dream in which a deceased man appeared to him. The soul was deeply troubled because his son had forsaken the path of Torah. "I cannot rest because of my son. Please, rebbe, try to help him."
The Besht lost no time. He harnessed his famous horses and in hours the carriage was standing outside the mansion of the wealthy son in Paris. The Besht's attendant knocked forcefully on the door, but was repeatedly rebuffed. Finally the master and mistress were awakened. The mistress peered into the carriage, and overwhelmed by the stately appearance of the man seated within, she entreated her husband to invite him to stay.
"We have such a large, empty house. Please let him stay."
The Besht was given a comfortable room, word soon spread that a great wonder-working rabbi had arrived. People began to converge on the grand home. The mistress was very curious about the goings on, and engaged many of the petitioners in conversation. People began to speak about the wondrous cures that were effected by the potions and blessings of the rabbi, and the mistress of the house began to hope that she, too, could be helped.
That night she asked her husband to go to the Baal Shem Tov for his blessing and advice. "For so many years we have been denied the blessing of children. Perhaps this holy man can help us."
Her husband was uninterested. After all, the best doctors on the continent were unable to help them. What could an itinerant rabbi do for them? But his wife was relentless, and in the end, he acceded to her wish.
The Besht received the man and inquired about his business. "I manufacture wine," the man replied.
"Do you make kosher wine?" inquired the Besht.
"No," he answered.
"Well, then, at the next harvest, I want you to make a run of kosher wine. When you bring it to Medzibozh I can guarantee you a good profit."
The man just snorted. He did quite well, thank you, without the bother of kosher wine. Then he made his request to the Besht. The Besht produced several vials of medicine for the man's wife, and promised that in a year she would bear a son. The merchant was skeptical, but at least he had satisfied his wife. His wife was overjoyed and took the medicines at once. The Baal Shem Tov left, but true to his word, within a few months the woman conceived.
The merchant decided that since the Baal Shem Tov's blessing bore fruit, he would make the kosher wine and bring it to Medzibozh. He loaded the barrels of kosher wine onto several wagons and set out for Medzibozh.
After several days on the road, he lost his way. When the merchant alighted from his wagon to check directions, the driver unwittingly set off without him. Realizing that his master was lost the driver returned and frantically searched for him, but to no avail. He was forced to return to his mistress alone. The wife resumed the search, but was also unsuccessful. It seemed that the merchant had vanished.
The merchant wandered around for some time, but finally found shelter in a small shack. There he found a group of men playing cards and joined them. It wasn't long before he lost not only his money, but some of his expensive garments as well. Dejected, he resumed his travels, searching for someone who might take pity on him.
He wandered for hours until he came to the small cottage of a shepherd and his family. Out of the goodness of his heart, the shepherd supplied him with new clothing, food and drink.
The merchant wandered for many months from village to village in his attempt to return home. It seemed that each time he neared his home some perplexing situation intervened. From time to time he stopped at Houses of Study where the local Jews extended their warm hospitality. This experience humbled him and he began to examine his own heart as he had never done before. He felt drawn to Torah and especially to the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, of whom he became something of a chasid.
One day at a gathering of the Besht's chasidim the Rebbe himself offered the man a glass of wine. The label on the bottle was that of his own company--a non-kosher wine!
The Besht laughed. "Don't worry about the wine. Although it is your own manufacture, this is the kosher wine which I requested of you. Your own wagons loaded with the wine are standing just outside the city. Know that it is now time for you to return home. Hurry, for your wife is ready to give birth to your son."
Our Sages teach that "By virtue of faith, our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt (Mechilta on Exodus 14:31). Our future Redemption will likewise come about by virtue of the fact that our people, disregarding the thick darkness of our present exile, believe firmly in the imminent coming of Moshiach.