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You're sitting on your favorite chair, admiring the sun streaming through the window. Suddenly you notice those shimmering particles gracefully dancing in the sunlight.
It's easy to spot the dust that seems to collect just moments after the furniture has been cleaned, but in the air it's only noticeable once in a while, when the light streaming in from outside hits the dust particles at just the right angle. Nevertheless, those dust particles are always there.
Every single detail of our lives is directed by Divine Providence. "The feet of man are directed by G-d," the Torah teaches. Chasidic philosophy explains that nothing, absolutely nothing in this world happens by chance or coincidence; every event, great or small, has G-d's fingerprint on it.
Often, like the ever-present, but infrequently sighted, dust particles, we do not notice this Divine involvement in our personal lives and the world around us.
Sometimes, once in a while, we see the Divine workings and apprehend G-d's involvement in even the most minute part of our lives. At those moments, it's as if a stream of sunlight is shining on the glimmering specks at just the right angle to reveal them to us.
It happens when we least expect it and it might seem so trivial that we don't even notice it for what it truly is -- Divine Providence: You're running an errand for a friend (and you're running late, as well) and a car pulls out of a parking space -- in the area where you can never find a space -- just as you approach.
Someone who moved and whose phone number changed calls you just as you were about to give up finding the scrap of paper on which you wrote the new phone number...
You're driving in the car, as thirsty as anything, but without anything (to drink). Suddenly you remember that a bottle of Seltzer had rolled out of the shopping bag under the seat and you hadn't bothered to retrieve it when you unloaded the rest of the groceries...
The pile of leaves your children just raked together make the perfect soft-landing for a neighbor's toddler who squiggles out of his stroller -- head first.
These "coincidences" are hardly coincidental. They are all Divine acts of G-d's intervention and involvement in our lives, even in the seemingly inconsequential.
Like the particles of dust, they are always there. Like the particles of dust, they often seem unimportant. But they are a constant reminder of G-d's presence in our lives, if we are willing to "let the sun shine" on them and if we are willing to recognize their true source.
In this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sara, we read of the first shidduch (proposal for marriage) in the Torah.
When Avraham our Patriarch informed his servant Eliezer that he was sending him to find a wife for Avraham's son, Yitzchak, Eliezer was worried. What if the bride he found didn't want to come with him? Thus Avraham reassured him, "G-d...will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there."
With these words, Avraham promised Eliezer that his mission would be successful. An angel would precede him on the path; the angel, and not Eliezer, would ensure that the entire matter was effected properly. Eliezer therefore had nothing to worry about, for all the details of his mission would be arranged from Above and were thus out of his hands.
We find, however, that when Eliezer reached Aram Naharayim and asked Betuel's permission for the match, he stated, "And [Avraham] said to me, 'G-d...will send His angel with you, and prosper your way, that you may find a wife for my son.'"
Why did Eliezer alter Avraham's words? Avraham had promised that an angel would go "before him," yet Eliezer told Betuel that Avraham had said that the angel would go "with him." What is the difference between the two phrases?
By going "before him," the angel, in effect, did all of the work. Avraham promised Eliezer that his steps would be directed from Above, and indeed, this is what happened.
Eliezer experienced a miraculous abridgment of his journey, arriving in Aram Naharayim the very day he set out. When he reached the well and began to pray, no sooner had he uttered the words than Rivkah appeared. Eliezer understood then that his mission had been accomplished, for he realized that the angel had arranged for all of the events and circumstances to fall into place by themselves.
If, however, Eliezer was merely an inactive bystander, a passive player in the entire affair, it would make no sense for him to tell this to Betuel when asking for his permission for the proposed match. If the match with Yitzchak was already arranged from Above, why would Betuel's permission be necessary?
Thus Eliezer told Betuel that Avraham had promised that the angel would go "with him" -- merely to help him succeed in his mission. In such a case, Eliezer was playing an active role, and Betuel's agreement could then be requested.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 25
When Rabbi Yisrael Goldstein entered the home of Drs. Steve Lee and Roneet Lev one evening last May, he had a dual mission: He hoped to receive a substantial pledge from them toward the new Chabad Center that was going to be built in Poway, California, as well as to encourage them to send their two young sons to the Chabad Day school.
Throughout the evening, Rabbi Goldstein discussed with the family how securing this building in the city of Poway would change the spiritual map of the city forever.
Rabbi Goldstein told Steve and Roneet, "Although I know what I'm asking is more than you ever considered giving, I am certain that G-d will repay you in kind."
Steve and Roneet eventually agreed to pledge the amount the rabbi had requested, and before the Rabbi left, Roneet also gave him a deposit for the children's Jewish education at the Chabad Day School.
At the end of that week, Rabbi Goldstein received a phone call at 5 a.m. from Roneet asking him, "How do I thank G-d for saving our lives? What kind of prayer do I offer?"
Roneet then went on to relate the experience that had just occurred. The family had decided to take a Memorial Day trip to the Grand Canyon. Due to many storms that weekend, there had been several accidents on I-15. After traffic on the freeway had come to a complete standstill, Steve decided to pull the van over to the side of the road.
Steve and Roneet said the Shema with their children Elan, almost 4, and Oren, 2 1/2, and they all went to sleep. Three hours later Steve woke up, saw that traffic was flowing normally, and decided to continue on to the Grand Canyon. Approaching Victorville, Steve slowed down when he saw the traffic ahead of him start to slow.
Suddenly, a TransAm came speeding up behind their van, smashing into them with such force that it lifted up the rear of the van and rolled the van over at least two times.
The van finally came to rest upside down. When Roneet was able to gather her senses, she made sure that Steve was conscious and awake. She then turned around only to find that the children were not inside the totalled van.
Roneet and Steve climbed through the windows of the van onto the I-15 freeway. To their amazement, they found Elan sitting next to the van in a pile of glass, frightened and crying. Roneet looked him over and saw that he was fine -- without one injury.
Fifteen feet away, lying on the pavement with his hands and feet outstretched, was their younger son, Oren. They ran over to him to find him conscious and crying. Roneet did a quick exam and saw that he, too, was absolutely uninjured.
Roneet is an emergency physician who has flown LifeFlight for many years and many times was the first at a scene to help rescue the injured. Scenes such as this were usually fatal or had serious critical results for all those involved. And yet she, her husband and their two young sons were able to walk away from such an accident without any injuries whatsoever.
Roneet and Steve came to the realization that this was the greatest miracle they had ever seen. After again examining their boys, they asked themselves in disbelief -- how is it possible that these two little children were ejected from a rolling van at such speed and landed on the freeway unharmed, without a scratch or bruise?
Obviously, the only explanation was that it was from the hand of G-d, a miracle of miracles.
When Steve and Roneet came back the next day to S. Diego, Rabbi Goldstein met them in the morning. This time the discussion had an altogether different tone. They made a "l'chaim," not to confirm a pledge for a donation for the new center, but a l'chaim to life. This was in recognition of what the Talmud teaches, "Charity saves from death."
"There is no question in any of our minds," says Steve, "that people have become very scientific-minded and are skeptical of anything they cannot see or feel, such as G-d and spirituality. But when you cannot explain certain events in any rational way whatsoever, it makes you understand that there is a G-d in the world, and that there are angels, and that G-d does love and protect."
The following morning, on Memorial Day, the entire family came to the synagogue, and in front of the Torah recited the words of the "Gomel" blessing: "Thank you G-d for sparing our lives and sharing kindness and goodness with us."
The community shared in a meal of thanksgiving which the family hosted in early July. The community shared in the gratitude that the potential tragedy had turned into a great and revealed miracle. One of the participants in the meal offered, "May this be a lesson for all of us that faith in the Almighty should never waiver. Miracles happen every day. We just need to open up our eyes and recognize them. Indeed, G-d loves all of us and through acts of charity and kindness we create protect ion for ourselves and our families."
Added Rabbi Goldstein, "May we merit to relate only such wonderful miracles and such wonderful happenings to our nation and to this world until the ultimate miracles will happen when we will be reunited in Israel with the coming of the Moshiach speedily in our days."
Help Others Give Tzedaka
"It is appropriate that every director of an educational institution should distribute money -- even a penny is sufficient -- to each of the students and each of the employees for them to give to tzedaka. This will serve as an example to motivate the students to give tzedaka, adding to the amount they were given [by the school] with their own money.
This should be done at least once a week, preferably on Fridays before the students depart for Shabbat. This practice should also be followed in all Jewish organizations and institutions. The director of the institution should distribute money to be given to tzedaka to all of the employees -- Jewish and non-Jewish -- at least once a week."
(The Rebbe - 13 Marcheshvan, 5750)
22nd of Cheshvan, 5735 (1974)
This is to confirm receipt of your letter of October 10th with enclosures, which reached me with some delay. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in sending me the enclosure.
One of the reasons why my acknowledgment was delayed was the fact that there was reason to believe that Prof...... would be visiting the U.S., although I do not know how definite this is, when there would be an opportunity to discuss the various matters of your letter personally with him.
I was particularly gratified to read in your letter that a beginning has been made in regard to the suggestion which we discussed, namely to obtain interest-free loans from persons, in order to pay off the debts and eliminate the high interest rate.
May G-d grant that you should soon be able to complete the list of such persons, especially as some of the participants in this project have made it conditional upon the complete list of participants.
I trust that you have been active in the Five Mitzva Campaigns which I have stressed, and more recently also in the matter of encouraging young girls from the age of Chinuch [Jewish education], to light the candles Erev Shabbat and Erev Yom Tov. And while you are destined for, and are capable of, great things and accomplishments, and to participate in the above mentioned Mitzva Campaigns may seem to you that these things should be done by others, we have one of the basic teachings of the Torah to the effect that one should not attempt to weight the importance of big mitzvot and small mitzvot, but do them all as they come along.
It should be noted that the above statement speaks of "big" and "small" mitzvot but the conclusion is that all mitzvot should be carried out with the same eagerness and joy and vitality.
One of the explanations which explains the seeming anomaly in the above statement is that when a person does a good thing, no matter how big or small, he "pleases G-d" thereby and becomes attached to G-d through the fulfillment of His commandments. In this way G-d's unity permeates all these good actions of the person. Hence, bigness or smallness is of no consequence, since he fulfills G-d's commandments for the sole reason that G-d commanded him to do them.
At this time, before Shabbat Mevorchim Kislev, the mitzva of the Shabbat lights is particularly pertinent inasmuch as we shall soon be observing the festival of Chanuka with the lighting of the Chanuka candles.
We are told that the Shabbat candles have a priority over the Chanuka candles (in a case where one cannot afford both), which goes to show how important the Shabbat candles are.
You do not mention about your own daughters lighting the candles, but I am certain they do. I only want to express the hope that they are a shining example to their friends in this and in every other respect.
Wishing you hatzlocha [success] in all the matters about which you write, and especially that you and your wife should have true Torah Nachat from each and all of your children.
Quilting and the Creation of the World
by Rabbi Yisrael Rice - Marin County, California
My wife is an avid quilter, spending her extra time seeking out beautiful fabrics with colorful designs. This I can understand. However, she then goes and cuts the various fabrics into small pieces! A mishugas! So she wants them in small pieces. Who am I to argue? But then she painstakingly goes and sews them all together again! Is this normal? But in the end, she shows me a compelling tapestry; a provocative design that pleases the eye and warms the body.
The Almighty started with His unified essence. There was no plurality -- just the simple beauty of One. He then brought about the vast diversity of this world. His unity now seems to be broken up into the multiplicity of Creation.
The whole point of this is for man to come along and "sew everything back together." This is the process of bringing the unity of G-d into the world. One may ask, "What is the point? G-d started off with complete unity." The answer lies in the beauty that is created through the combination of diverse parts. This unity is deeper and more intrinsic than the original oneness.
In this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sara, we read of Sara's passing and Avraham's subsequent purchase of the Cave of Machpela as the place for her burial.
In addition to G-d's promise to Avraham that his descendants would eternally inherit the Land of Canaan (which included the land of the ten nations who lived there: Keini, Kenizi, Kadmoni, etc.) Avraham desired to actually purchase outright a portion of the land. The opportunity presented itself with Sara's passing when it was necessary to have a proper burial place for her.
Avraham knew that the Cave of Machpela, located in Hebron, was the place where Adam and Chava had been buried, and chose to purchase the field in which that cave was located for his family.
Avraham's purchase of the field containing the Cave of Machpelah represents the beginning of the general redemption of all Jews.
Our commentators explain that with the 400 silver shekels that Avraham paid, he purchased one square cubit of the Land of Israel for every one of the 600,000 root-souls of the Jewish people.
May we very soon merit not only the beginning of the Redemption of the Jewish people but the complete Redemption, when the entire Land of Israel will be in the possession of its rightful heirs -- according to G-d and the Torah -- in the Messianic Era.
"And Sara lived...And Sara died." (Gen. 23:1-2)
The Torah portion starts with the passing of Sara and her burial. Why then is the portion called "Chayei Sara," "the life of Sara," and not "mitat Sara," "the death of Sara?"
The name of the portion is not arbitrary, but a succinct description of the essence and primary concepts discussed in the portion. Thus, for instance, in the second portion of the Torah, though "Noah" is the third word, it became the name of the portion because it revolves primarily around the life of Noah.
"Chayei Sara," "the life of Sara," was focused on one goal and ideal: that her son, Yitzchak, should reach spiritual greatness. Our portion discusses the life of Yitzchak, who was the realization of Sara's spiritual dream. Though in this portion we read of her demise and burial, through Yitzchak her ideals were fulfilled -- through him, she continued to live on. In actuality, "Chayei Sara" was the righteous life of Yitzchak.
Yitzchak brought her into his mother Sara's tent, and he married Rivka. (Gen. 24:67)
When Yitzchak took Rivka as his wife, the Torah writes that he took her "ha'ohela--into the tent."
"Ha'ohela" is written eight times in the Torah. These eight times allude to the eight places where the Divine Presence was destined to rest among the Jewish people. The seven places where the Divine Presence already rested were: the sanctuary in the desert; Gilgal; Shilo; Nov; Givon; the First Holy Temple; and the Second Holy Temple. The eighth place will be the Third Holy Temple which will be built in the Messianic Era.
(Baal HaTurim as quoted in Discover Moshiach)
Avraham married another woman whose name was Ketura. She bore him Zimran, Yakashan, Medan, Midian, Yishbak and Shuach. (Gen. 25:1)
Avraham married Ketura after Sara's passing and they had six sons, all of whom grew up to be idol worshippers. How could Avraham have had such wicked children? Before the Redemption it can happen that righteous people have some children who grow up to be righteous and others who grow up to be evil. But in the Days of Moshiach, all will be righteous as it says in Isaiah, "They shall inherit the land forever; they are the branch of My planting and the work of My hands in which I take pride ."
(Bereishit Rabba 61:4)
The Rebbe Maharash carefully scrutinized the chasid who had just entered his room for a private audience. "Tell me," he asked, "have you allotted time to learn Torah with others?"
The chasid shifted uneasily. A talented silversmith and skillful watchmaker, he had traveled for many days from his town, Vladimir, to be with the Rebbe, and this private audience was definitely the culmination of his visit.
No, he explained, he had not scheduled any learning sessions with others, but he was not to blame. He had just taken up residence in Vladimir and the Jewish population there was comprised of boors, through no fault of their own. They were descendants of the Cantonists -- the Jewish children who had been brutally kidnapped from their grief-stricken parents to serve forcibly in the Czar's army, eventually forgetting the sacred laws and rituals of their youth.
There were only two villagers capable of officiating as chazan; the chasid was the only one in the entire community learned enough to read from the Torah, and it was his sacred duty to prepare the weekly Torah portion. This, besides his daily private study schedule and business, argued the chasid, left him with no additional time to teach others.
"I do not understand you," said the Rebbe Maharash disapprovingly. "For what reason did you leave your previous residence in Polotsk -- which is famed for its religious adherence -- and exchange it for Vladimir, a wilderness barren of Torah and mitzva observance?"
The chasid agreed wholeheartedly. Polotsk had been an exemplary place to live, inhabited by exceptionally pious people who filled its synagogues from dawn till dusk, and whose yeshivot boasted advanced levels of religious education of no small repute. But what could he do? His business had deteriorated steadily and he barely eked out a meager existence in Polotsk. Besides, he had expressly asked for and received the Rebbe's consent and blessing to move to Vladimir. The blessing had materialized to the fullest extent with his business succeeding beyond his wildest dreams.
"You are mistaken," said the Rebbe Maharash, "thinking that you were sent to Vladimir for business purposes. Whoever believes in G-d and Divine Providence can, and must, understand that G-d does not uproot a G-d-fearing family from a place of Torah to an irreligious environment for material reasons. This notion stems from your misconception of your purpose. In truth, your purpose is not to work with silver and watches but to spread G-d's Torah and its commandments wherever possible. Your move to Vladimir was Divinely orchestrated to enable you to teach and inspire the masses, whether the knowledgeable soldier or the illiterate Cantonist children."
The Rebbe Maharash continued, "Have you forgotten the teaching of the saintly Baal Shem Tov that a soul descends to this physical world for seventy or eighty years to do another Jew a favor, a physical favor and especially a spiritual one? He who assumes that his steps are predestined according to his material needs is lacking in his faith. Cannot the same Divine blessing rest in Polotsk as in Vladimir? My blessing for your material success was intended to accompany your own efforts in disseminating Judaism; without it, my blessing will come to nothing."
"Let the reader beware," wrote the Previous Rebbe, who recorded this story in a letter to one of his followers, " do not read this story as if it were just another anecdote, entering one ear just to exit the other. Rather, let the words of the Rebbe Maharash permeate his very essence, and let every person ask himself -- what am I doing to fulfill the Divine mission that has been entrusted to my care in the place which has been Divinely ordained for me?!"
Reprinted from the weekly magazine, Beis Moshiach.
In the time to come it will be apparent in every entity that it is the handiwork of G-d's creation. People will be able to perceive how the true nucleus of each particular entity, with its distinctive features and characteristics, is the Word of G-d -- that is -- the particular Divine Utterance which suffuses it with vitality and grants it life.
(Likutei Sichot, 29)