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Money is a funny thing. It is part and parcel of our day-to-day living. Yet, most people would sooner tell you their age or weight than how much they have in their bank account. Money is a very personal matter; the way we feel about it, the way we spend it, the way we earn it, differs from person to person.
It's not surprising that the commandment to give of one's money to tzedaka, charity, is considered a very great mitzva indeed. So great, in fact, that throughout the Jerusalem Talmud it is called simply, "the commandment."
Giving charity is the core of the mitzvot of action, even surpassing them all, because a person invests his entire self -- feelings, mind, body -- to acquire money. So when you give tzedaka, it is not only the hand that writes out the check or puts the coin in the pushka that is involved; your entire body is doing a mitzva as well.
Even if you didn't have to work hard to get the money -- let's say you just happened upon an extra thousand or two -- since it could have been used on yourself (for life's necessities or otherwise), giving part of this "found" money to charity is also of great merit.
Jewish teachings so strongly emphasize the virtues of charity that they say "It balances all the other commandments." And it also has the power to "tip the scales."
Just imagine! There's this big scale with our mitzvot on one side, perfectly balanced or not tipping in exactly the direction we would like, and we add a check, or some cash on the side of mitzvot and good deeds and, voila, the scale tips effortlessly to that side!
Whose money is it, anyway?
Jewish teachings explain that when a person gives charity, he is acting as the hand of G-d.
As everything truly belongs to G-d, we are but conduits for dispensing G-d's bounty and sustenance. So we should feel humbled that G-d has entrusted us with this job of giving away His money.
By the way, even one who is on the receiving end is supposed to give charity, even if only a few pennies.
We needn't think that only the multi-billionaires who can afford to have buildings named after them are required to give charity. Every single one of us, great or small, rich or poor, is expected to participate in this mitzva.
There's another benefit to consider concerning charity.
The Talmud states that charity brings the Redemption nearer. In addition, it states that the Jewish people will be redeemed through giving charity. So let's get giving, today. Figure out what you feel comfortable giving and then give a little more.
This week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, speaks of Joseph's two dreams, both of which share the common theme of bowing down and submission.
In the first dream, the brothers' sheaves place themselves around Joseph's sheaf and bow down; in the second, the sun, the moon and eleven stars prostrate themselves before him.
The first dream, in which Joseph and his brothers are "binding sheaves in the field," is symbolic of the physical world, and alludes to a lower level of man's service of G-d. The second dream, involving celestial bodies, symbolizes man's higher faculties and thus a higher level of his service. Both dreams, however, express the same idea: bowing down and self-nullification before Joseph.
In a larger sense, man's entire purpose in this world is to "bind sheaves in the field" -- uniting the disparate elements of existence into a unified whole.
Upon its descent into the physical world, the soul must contend with a new plane of existence, in which reality appears dissociated from G-dliness.
Its mission is to utilize its intellectual and emotional powers -- and indeed, all it comes in contact with during its sojourn on earth -- and reunite them with G-d.
From Joseph's dream, however, we learn that an additional step is necessary to complete our service -- binding our "sheaves" with that of the tzadik.
Just as the limbs of the physical body must be connected to the head and obey its instructions, so too must every Jew connect himself to the Nasi, the leader of the generation, and follow his directives.
Joseph's second dream alludes to an even higher level of spiritual service, that which is reached after having perfected all of the above. For the Jewish soul cannot complete its mission solely through its own powers; every Jew, no matter what his spiritual achievements, must "bow down" to Joseph -- to the tzadik, the leader of the generation -- in order to bring perfection to the Jewish people as a whole.
Thus we learn from Joseph's dreams two basic principles in our service of G-d: First, it is necessary for the Jew to show personal initiative, "binding" our "sheaves" by the sweat of our brow to unite the physical world with G-dliness. Second, submission to the Nasi of the generation is required by all Jews, even those who have attained the highest levels of service through their own efforts.
In such a manner do we form the "vessel" in which the abundant influence and blessing of the tzadik, the "foundation of the world," can be received by all.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 3
Ed.'s note: The following letter was written by Leah Lipszyc to her friends in the U.S. Leah and her husband Rabbi Yitzchak Lipszyc are the Rebbe's emissaries in the Crimea.
In my past letter I made the claim that the whole Ukraine is more than 50 years behind the free world. I owe my new hometown an apology. There are areas in which they are, in fact, more advanced. One of those areas is in Murphy's Law. Whereas in America Murphy's Law says "whatever can go wrong, will," here Murphy's Law assures us that "whatever can't go wrong, also will!"
I'll begin with an update on our summer camp.
For 1-1/2 months, I begged the parties involved to empty out and clean up the courtyard (our main outdoor facility for the camp), install doors and locks, buy kitchen appliances, and relocate plumbing. (All of which would have taken two days in America.) Twice daily I was assured that everything would be ready in time for camp.
A week before camp I wound up running to get stoves and a refrigerator myself. The stoves came without oven racks, but that really didn't matter, since only the burners work anyway. The refrigerator was dropped off on the street in front of our building. I didn't really expect the old man on the motorcycle, who shlepped it behind him, to get it upstairs, did I?
It worked for one week. But not to worry, it's under warranty. They finally came to fix it on the eve of Sukkot!
The pipes were "installed" and three small sinks were suspended from the wall. Each of the three drainpipes were inserted into a rusty, old drainpipe that seemed to be there since Czar Nikolai the First.
Note I said "inserted," not connected. Every time the dishwater goes down the drain, the water floods the floor.
But back to the saga of the "laager" (camp).
The doors were never installed, so all of our camp supplies had to be kept in the office of the Jewish Culture Organization several blocks away, which was the only room with a door. We checked out the three local swimming pools and confirmed prices, but as it got closer to camp, one by one they all broke down!
We hastily substituted Judo classes for the boys and acrobatics for the girls. We never did get to use the large yard as it was never emptied of all the debris, but camp was great! You should have heard all the kids at line-up in front of the building, singing loudly, in Russian, "How nice it is to be a Jew," and saying the Shema (Sloosha Izraela).
They learned the Hebrew alphabet, the twelve Torah verses of Tzivos Hashem, and about Shabbat, holidays and kashrut. They made pushkas, went on fun trips to amusement parks and the Ice Caves, had a kosher Bar-B-Q and Shabbatons.
The girls were given Hebrew names at the Torah reading and, with the help of G-d we are now arranging for the boys to have circumcisions.
Several campers are now enrolled in yeshiva in Moldavia. (Itchie is being bombarded with requests to open a yeshiva, but we don't have the money yet.) The day the counselors left, a group of campers went to see them off at the vagzal (train station).
Can you imagine, these kids come walking through town in yarmulkas, and wearing tzitzit on top of their shirts! This is a place where this hasn't been heard of since before World War II! But they're really proud of their Judaism... And the parents thank us for teaching their children what being a Jew entails, since they were unable to.
(Special thanks to the Fellig family for supplying the tzitzit in memory of "Uncle Nussy.") Many of the kids come to shul every Shabbat now (with their parents in tow). Ah, what nachas for the Rebbe.
But I have to tell you what life is like for most of these kids.
Ctac is a very bright, happy-go-lucky 10-year-old who always has a smile on his face and sings all the songs more heartily than anyone else. His father died when he was a baby. He lives in one room with his mother and two older siblings. They have no heat, water, toilet or stove. When his father died, his mother sold her jewelry and furniture to feed them. She has severe asthma and is called an invalid, and is unable to work. Since there is no father, they get a "pension" of two and a half dollars a month to live on! The older brother had a job as a metal worker for $25 a month until he injured his hand on the job. Then he was told to go to the street (to beg) for money! The mother can't even afford to buy potatoes!
She is my age, but could easily pass for my mother, after all she's been through. After Rosh Hashana, Ctac's communist teacher told his mother that if she continues to bring him to synagogue he cannot come back to school. His 17-year-old sister only completed 8th grade. She is "handicapped" because she has an astigmatism and can't afford to buy eyeglasses! She goes to yeshiva now, and they are hoping to make aliya, "because there is no hope for a life here."
I want to thank the people who wrote to us. Please keep the letters coming. It means a lot to us. Sometimes I look up at the sky. It's the same sky as you have. Then I look at this old world around me and wonder if it really exists. I mean I never dreamt that anything like this existed in the last hundreds of years; but it does. So we go on with our work.
Hope to see you soon in Jerusalem!
Leah and company
P.S. You can write to us at: Krasna Znomonaya, 78 Simferopol, Crimea 333001 Ukraine
Participate in the Chanuka Campaign:
Send or give someone you know (a friend, a college student away from home, a co-worker) a Chanuka menora and a box of candles to light each of the eight nights of Chanuka beginning this year on Sunday evening, December 17, 1995.
Most Judaica stores sell inexpensive tin menoras, or call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
For a comprehensive Chanukah Guide via e-mail write to: firstname.lastname@example.org and in the Subject or text please write: Guide
BETTER AND BETTER
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5736 
.... I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming event taking place in the middle of this month of Kislev, which is highlighted by the Festival of Chanuka. This makes the occasion particularly timely and auspicious.
Chanuka commemorates the miraculous victory of our people over the forces of darkness and assimilation that had threatened to extinguish the light of the Torah and mitzvot. It also reminds us that this victory was achieved through the efforts of a few, but totally dedicated Jews, and that the victory was celebrated by kindling lights in the Sanctuary in Jerusalem with pure, undefiled oil, which gave us the meaningful mitzva of the Chanuka Lights.
Of the Chanuka Lights our Sages of blessed memory declared: "These lights shall endure and shine forever." Unlike the seven-branched Menora, the lighting of which had to be discontinued when the Sanctuary was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago, the lighting of the eight-branched Chanuka lamp, which was inaugurated some 200 years prior to the Destruction, continued uninterruptedly ever since, not only in the Holy Land but also in the Diaspora, and not only in the Sanctuary, but in every Jewish home.
What are some of the eternal messages of these eternal lights of Chanuka?
One basic truth is that the destiny of the Jewish people is not determined by material and physical criteria, but by its spiritual strength derived from one G-d-given Torah and mitzvot.
The victory of the greatly outnumbered and physically disadvantaged Jews over the many and mighty forces of the enemy clearly demonstrated that it is our spiritual strength that really counts -- even in areas where physical superiority is usually decisive.
A further lesson is that Jewish strength begins at home.
A Jewish home is an abode for the Divine Presence, very much as the Beit HaMikdash [Holy Temple] in Jerusalem was in a collective sense. Both are included in the Divine command, "Make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell within each one of you."
This, too, is reflected in the Chanuka Lights, for they must be lit in every Jewish home.
The time and location of the Chanuka Lights are also significant:
The lights are kindled "when the sun sets" -- when "darkness" falls outside it is high time to light up our homes with the sacred Chanuka Lights, symbolizing the eternal light of Torah and mitzvot. While the location -- to be visible also outside -- further indicates that the Torah and mitzvot not be confined within the walls of the home, but must shine forth also outside.
Yet another important lesson must be mentioned here, namely, that however satisfactory the observance of Torah and mitzvot may be on one day, a Jew is expected to do better the next day, and still better the day after. There is always room for improvement in matters of goodness and holiness, which are infinite, being derived from The Infinite.
This, too, is underscored by the Chanuka Lights. For, although all that is required to fulfill the mitzva of candle-lighting on the first night of Chanuka is to light one candle, yet the next night of Chanuka it is required to light two candles, and when another day passes even the higher standard of the previous day is no longer adequate, and an additional light is called for, and so on, to increase the light from day to day.
The above-mentioned practical lessons which are so basic to Chanuka as to the Jewish way in general, are also the basic principles that pervade all Lubavitch activities to spread the light of Torah-Judaism, particularly through Chinuch, Torah-education. .....
BE A PART OF IT
The World's Largest Chanuka Menorah stands nearly 32 feet high and is located in the heart of New York City at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue near Central Park.
Be a part of the joyous expression of Jewish pride and unity each night of Chanuka. The Menorah will be lit Sunday through Thursday at 5:30 pm, Friday at 3:41 pm and Sat. night at 8:00. For more info call Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 778-6000.
You've dedicated a few years of your life to the study of Literature, Economics, Computer Sciences. Why not take a few days to learn about yourself? Meet other Jewish students on a ten-day journey into the depths of Torah.
As you participate in courses, discussions, and workshops, you will see that self-discovery and personal growth are integral to Judaism. Winter Yeshivacation takes place from December 21 - 31 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
For more info call Machon Chana Women's Institute at (718)735-0217 or Hadar HaTorah Men's Yeshiva at (718) 735-0200.
TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Chabad at New York University celebrated its ten year anniversary with an alumni reunion dinner early this month. Current students and graduates from the various at schools of the university attended the dinner and were excited to see how Chabad has expanded its activities on campus under the able directorship of Rabbi Eli Cohen. For more info about Chabad at NYU's activities call (212) 998-4945.
As we approach the Chanukah holiday, let us examine a lesser-known aspect of Chanukah. There are numerous reasons why the festival is referred to as Chanukah.
One of these reasons is because the Holy Temple was rededicated - after it had been cleansed and purified from the Greek idolatry - on the 25th of Kislev.
The Hebrew word for "dedication," - "chinuch," shares the same root as the word Chanukah. But chinuch does not only mean dedication. It also means "education."
Chanukah is an appropriate time to think about education: our Jewish education and the education of Jewish children, whether ours or other people's.
Jewish education must be like the cruse of oil found in the Holy Temple even after the Holy Temple had been defiled by the Greeks.
The cruse of oil used to relight the menorah was pure and unsullied. Its seal was not broken by the Greek invaders; they were not able to taint it with their cynicism and disdain for that which is holy.
Jewish education must be pursued in a similar manner. Whether it's learning to read Hebrew (at the age of five or fifty), finding out the whys and wherefores behind the many beautiful customs and rituals, learning the weekly Torah portion in-depth, or assiduously studying the more esoteric aspects of Jewish teachings, it should be pursued with an open mind, an open heart, and with purity of spirit.
What better time than the Festival of Lights to dedicate ourselves to Jewish education at all levels.
And Jacob dwelled in the land of his father's sojourn (Gen. 37:1)
Jacob was able to dwell in peace even when forced to contend with Esau's mighty armies. It was not until jealousy and hatred broke out among Joseph's brothers over a seemingly insignificant issue -- the coat of many colors -- that the period of enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt began. We learn from this that contention and strife among brothers has the potential to cause far greater damage than even the most powerful outside enemy can inflict.
There has been no harlot here (Gen. 38:21)
No element of impropriety surrounded the birth of Peretz and Zerach; the entire incident was all part of the Divine plan that would lead to the birth of Moshiach, who will be a descendant of Judah.
The reason for the circuitous and concealed manner in which this came about was solely to divert the attention of the Satan.
(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)
How then can I do this great evil and sin against G-d? (Gen. 39:9)
As Rashi explains, gentiles as well as Jews were forbidden by G-d to commit licentious acts. Being that the prohibition thus applied to Potiphar's wife as well as to Joseph, would it not have been more correct for Joseph to say "we" instead of "I"?
In truth, however, Joseph was referring to himself. His piety was such that he refused to speak directly to her; even one word alluding to something they shared in common was abhorrent.
The Three Sons
by Rifaela Freedman
Once there was a king who had three sons. Now, this king was growing old, and he knew that soon he would have to choose one of his sons to take over his kingdom after his passing. The king called together the three young men.
"My sons," he said, "I am going to hold a contest to determine who among you will be the one to take over my kingdom. In the lower level of the palace is the wine cellar. I am going to give each of you a month to fill this wine cellar with whatever it is you want to use, and whomever fills the room to its fullest capacity will be the next ruler after me."
The king and his sons then decided that the contest should begin by the order of age, and so the oldest son would have his turn to fill the cellar first. At midnight of the 30th day of the month, the king would examine the contents of the room and judge its completion.
The first day of the month was the beginning of the oldest son's turn to fill the room. After much consideration, he decided to fill the room with rocks. For hours every day the son would gather rocks from his yard, town and beyond. He gathered boulders and pebbles. He sent away for chunks of marble and alabaster, whetstone and flint. As the month went by, the room began to fill with rocks of different shapes, sizes and colors. Soon thirty days had passed and the king went down to his wine cellar. At midnight the door to the room was shut, the window opened, and the king peered in. He looked around, nodded, smiled and said:
"Son, you have done a fine job. The room is packed with rocks, but because of their shapes, there is always space in between them, and therefore, the room can always be filled more. But for now, you are in the lead."
The next morning was the middle son's first day to gather his contents. He began to use feathers to fill the room. He found bright feathers and dull feathers. He collected feathers from peacocks and ravens. He threw whole turkeys into the room just to take up space. Day in and day out, he would walk through the town, scrounging up any feathers he could get his hands on. Eventually his thirtieth day arrived, and the son was called to the cellar. The king once again walked the steps down to the room. The door was shut, the window opened, and the king peered in. He examined his son's job and smiled broadly.
"You have exceeded my expectations," the king praised his second child. "But feathers can always be pushed down further to make room for more feathers. As of now, though, you are surpassing your brothers."
At sunrise the next day, the youngest son's turn began. His brothers watched expectantly to see if he found something more expansive or more easily compressed than they had. But the son rose early for prayer and continued his regular daily study schedule. He seemed to be doing nothing different to acknowledge the fact that his entire future was dependent on his actions this month.
The next day he followed suit, and so on through the first week. By the middle of the second week the older brothers began to talk amongst themselves.
"He's not working on the project," the eldest remarked. "He doesn't seem to care about the outcome."
"Do you think he doesn't understand the importance of the situation?" the second son asked.
The two brothers decided to speak with their father. Perhaps there was something he could say to the young son to encourage him to take action. After hearing what they had to say, the king approached his youngest son.
"My child, you are much younger than your brothers," he reasoned. "If you need an extra week to prepare yourself, we would all be willing to extend your time limit." The king made his offer and was stunned by his son's reaction.
"Father, I thank you, but another week is not necessary. I will use my thirty days as planned, and I will not disappoint you."
The king and his older sons did not discuss the matter any further, but they all were nervous when the thirtieth day of the month arrived and the youngest son still seemed unprepared for the trial which awaited him. Just before midnight, they saw him enter the room with a small sack. At twelve o'clock the son left the room, slowly closed the door behind him, and stepped back so his father, the king, could look through the wine cellar window.
The king approached the room and looked inside the window. The brothers were stunned to see a broad smile light up his face. The king called over the two boys and motioned for them to look into the room.
"My son, my dearest," the king spoke, with tears in his eyes, "the light you have placed in the room could never fill it more than the joy I am feeling right now fills my heart. May you follow in my rule for many long and prosperous years."
It is human nature that when a person who is involved in a particular issue confronts any new concept, he immediately looks for the connection it shares with the idea with which he was originally involved.
A Jew must constantly be involved in the yearning and desire for the coming of Moshiach. "Each day, we must wait for him, that he come." Therefore, it is natural for a Jew to look for a connection to Moshiach's coming in every event or concept which he encounters.
(The Rebbe, 28 Kislev, 5751-1990)