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"Let's talk," we suggest, plead, or demand, when we feel something needs to be out in the open.
We talk because speech has the ability to reveal an idea, feeling, or thought which is hidden.
But talking isn't simply a matter of verbalizing that which was not yet communicated. According to Jewish mysticism, we are actually revealing and strengthening the quality about which we speak. Thus, when one speaks about a friend's positive points, he actually reveals these qualities; speaking of these matters reveals and strengthens the good in the person.
If talking can be such a positive activity, is there validity to the adage that "silence is golden"?
In a book of Jewish wisdom, called Raishis Chochma, a suggestion is made as to how to subdue anger; when a person is angry he should not speak. In this way he will silence his anger until it disappears entirely.
"Hold on there," some people are thinking. "Are you suggesting we squelch our feelings? That could lead to even bigger problems!"
One needn't hide or suppress feelings. However, taking time-out to think about the issue at hand before expressing oneself (even something as quick as the old "count to ten"), and to think of the most positive way in which one can express that anger, can only be beneficial. As Dr. John Gray counsels (in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus): "Many people have the idea that love means 'saying it like it is.' This overly direct approach, however, does not take into account the listener's feelings."
The reasoning behind this suggestion from our Sages is as follows: As speech has the ability to strengthen or weaken an attribute, when a person speaks angry words, he strengthens and reinforces his anger. Conversely, when a person speaks words of love, he adds to and strengthens his love. Thus, refraining from speaking about one's anger or angry words weakens and nullifies the anger.
Talking can also be a barometer for us as to our current mood and outlook. Chasidic philosophy points out that a person who is happy and light-hearted speaks a lot. If this person is asked to explain something, even a number of times, he doesn't consider it a difficult matter or a great bother. On the other hand, when a person is sad or morose, communicating is like a heavy burden. He will have difficulty conveying even brief ideas or a few, concise words.
Contrary to popular belief, talk is not "cheap." It is the most valuable tool we have to reveal our innermost thoughts and feelings.
Whereas secular culture divides the world into mineral, vegetable and animal, Jewish thought divides everything in the world into four categories: silent, growing, living and speaking. Using our uniqueness, our ability to speak and communicate, exclusively for good is using this quality for that which it was created.
In this week's Torah portion, Tzav, we read the verse: "A perpetual fire shall always be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out."
The priests in the Holy Temple were required to light a fire upon the altar in preparation for the G-dly fire which descended from Above to consume the sacrifices. Without this preparation, the G-dly fire would not come down from heaven.
The fire that descended from Above came from G-d. Thus, unlike a fire that is kindled by human beings, it was unlimited in nature.
Human beings, by contrast, are finite creatures; their abilities are likewise limited. Nonetheless, the priests had to first invest their own efforts in order for the G-dly, infinite fire to descend from on high. Thus we see that the service of limited, finite creations is a necessary condition to attain a level that transcends limitation.
When a person does all he is capable of doing, G-d grants him additional powers from Above. He becomes a "perpetual fire that burns always," enabling him to transcend his natural limitations.
Every Jew possesses an inner, spiritual "Holy Temple" in which G-d's Presence dwells, as it states, "I will dwell in their midst." When a Jew invests the maximum amount of effort in kindling his spiritual flame, he merits a G-dly fire to descend from Above -- the bestowal of additional powers and an infinite abundance of blessing.
What is the spiritual fire that burns in the inner Sanctuary of every Jew? None other than the warmth and enthusiasm he feels in his service of G-d. In the spiritual sense, observing the Torah and its commandments with enthusiasm is the equivalent of lighting a fire in one's inner Sanctuary.
This vitality must extend to all three dimensions of Torah and mitzvot: the study of Torah, the service of prayer, and the performance of good deeds.
|Torah||Learning Torah at fixed times is not enough if there is no enduring connection to the Torah throughout the day. Torah study must be so intense and vital to the Jew that it permeates his being and surrounds him constantly.|
|Prayer||A person mustn't pray by rote or simply out of habit. Indeed, the service of prayer is "the supplication for mercy and entreaty before G-d."|
|Good deeds||G-d's commandments are not to be performed merely to discharge our obligation. Rather, we must always endeavor to observe them in the most beautiful manner and to the best of our ability.|
When a Jew does the above with enthusiasm, the fire he kindles upon his inner altar is whole. Such a person will merit that G-d's fire -- an unlimited fire -- will descend from Above, and he will see G-d's blessing in everything.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 1
by Tzippy Robinson
Henoch Duboff probably would never have found his way to a "regular" Chabad House. Born, raised, living and working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his job as a police dispatcher often requires that he work odd hours.
One evening in the spring of 1994, soon after he began subscribing to a service which gave him access to the Internet, he found a message posted by Rabbi Yossi Kazen of Chabad-Lubavitch of Cyberspace on Usenet (an electronic bulletin board). He browsed through Chabad of Cyberspace (including that week's issue of L'Chaim), and he was amazed.
"Everything was so easy to understand ," he says, "and it all made so much sense. I kept wondering to myself, 'How come they never taught us this in Hebrew School?' After everything I had read, I had a few questions, so I e-mailed a note to Rabbi Kazen ."
Thus began a continuous correspondence between Henoch and Rabbi Kazen. Henoch describes what impressed him most about dealing with Rabbi Kazen. "I was amazed how quickly Rabbi Kazen resonated to my questions. I would come home from work late at night and e-mail him a question. When I woke up, I would already have my answer. I don't think Rabbi Kazen ever sleeps."
Around the same time that Henoch starting corresponding with Rabbi Kazen, he had a medical emergency. He had taken penicillin for a minor illness but had a serious reaction to the drug and had to be hospitalized. After he recovered, the doctors told him that it could have been much worse, G-d forbid. Going through that terrifying experience made Henoch take stock of his life.
"It made me realize that G-d was the One in control of my life. The fact that this happened around the same time that I found Chabad was more than just mere coincidence."
As the months passed, his knowledge and observance of mitzvot increased through the Internet. He regularly e-mailed Rabbi Kazen with questions concerning the basics of Jewish law; Shabbat, kashrut, tefilin, etc. And always, Rabbi Kazen answered his questions clearly, concisely, and promptly.
By February, 1995 Henoch had begun to observe Shabbat. Unfortunately, his boss at the time was not very understanding about an employee who wanted off from Friday evening until Saturday evening every week. Rabbi Kazen told Henoch that he would ask the Rebbe for a blessing. He sent a fax to the Ohel (the Rebbe's resting place) asking for a blessing for Henoch that the situation at work should improve, and he wouldn't have any difficulty observing Shabbat. Shortly after, there was a management change. Later, Henoch was promoted to the training team, which gave him regular hours and made it easier to make adjustments for Shabbat.
Henoch's co-workers were mystified at the changes in his lifestyle. Many of them asked Henoch if he was becoming a rabbi. Henoch explained to them that a person doesn't have to be a rabbi to become religious. He told them, "You can lead an observant lifestyle and still be normal. You don't have to run off and hide in the hills to gain spirituality."
When Rabbi Kazen suggested to Henoch that he begin putting on tefilin, Henoch went to a Judaica store and purchased a pair. He was too embarrassed to ask the store owner to show him how to put them on. Henoch needed a live demonstration; illustrations, explanations via telephone or the Internet were not sufficient. Henoch contacted a local Chabad rabbi who showed him how to properly fulfill the mitzva of tefilin.
Henoch's increasing commitment to an observant lifestyle led him to become more involved with the local Chabad community. He describes his first Shabbat visit to the home of Rabbi Shraga and Michal Sherman, a Chabad emissary in Philadelphia. "I was very apprehensive, and I really didn't expect to enjoy myself. I mean, no TV, no turning on lights, nothing. But as soon as I entered the Sherman home I felt this sense of holiness, and when Shabbat came, there was just this calm and peacefulness. I was hooked!"
Just as Henoch found the way to Judaism through the Internet, he hopes to help other Jews find their way too. He uses the Internet to correspond with Jewish prisoners, and he provides them with information about various topics such as Jewish laws and customs and upcoming Jewish holidays. And, of course, he still emails Rabbi Kazen regularly.
For some, the Internet is the key to distant lands and new ideas. For Henoch Duboff it was the route home.
"Purim is thirty days before Passover. As Rabbi Shneur Zalman writes in his Code of Jewish Law, thirty days before Passover, we should begin studying the laws of the holiday. Similarly, since the celebration of the Passover holiday involves many expenses, it is proper that efforts be made to provide everyone who lacks with their Passover needs. Although there are organizations involved with these activities throughout the entire year, there must be an increase in these efforts in connection with the Passover holidays, providing them with both food and clothing so that they can celebrate the holiday in an ample manner, as befits 'free people.'"
(The Rebbe, 16 Adar, 5751)
16th of Adar I, 5738 (1978)
...I trust that it is unnecessary to emphasize to you at length that the daily life and conduct in accordance with the will of G-d, namely in accordance with the Jewish way of Torah and mitzvot, in addition to being a must for its own sake, is also the channel to receive G-d's blessings in all needs. Therefore, every additional effort in this direction is bound to bring additional Divine blessings, and there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and mitzvot, which are infinite, being derived from, and connected with, the Infinite.
The above is particularly important since, as I note, you are planning to spend Pesach in Eretz Yisrael [Israel]. As I had occasion to mention this to others, visiting another country often requires a visa, and the "visa" insofar as country which is recognized even by non-Jews as the "Holy Land," is surely in terms of an extra measure of holiness.
Our Rabbis speak of Eretz Yisrael as the "Palace of the Supreme King," and it is understandable that when a person is about to visit a palace of a king or a president, one makes appropriate preparations in regard to dress and particularly conduct befitting the occasion.
Thus, however satisfactory the position may be in regard to goodness and holiness, Torah and mitzvot, in one's personal life an extra measure of it is called for when visiting the Holy Land, both before and, certainly, during the visit.
Wishing you and your son a pleasant visit to the Holy Land in the above spirit and in every respect.
Erev Shabbat Kodesh Mevorchim Hachodesh Tammuz, 5749 
It was with great pleasure that I was informed of the forthcoming dinner celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Lubavitch Foundation in England, taking place on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz.
Especially so since the current Jewish year is a leap year.
The significance of a leap year has been explained on previous occasions, as have the practical lessons we can learn from it. We shall here discuss one point that especially relates to this gathering: the subject of "giver"-- the sun -- and "receiver" -- the moon.
During a leap year the two meet together, thereby reconciling the difference between the solar year and the lunar year, and accomplishing the Divine intention that Pesach always be in the month of Aviv -- springtime.
The main point of this is that, through the mutual effect upon each other, namely, the "giver" and "receiver" -- the "giver" simultaneously also being a "receiver" and the "receiver" also a "giver" -- the two become one, thereby fulfilling the Divine design for both of them, and for the world as a whole.
This point is particularly outstanding in regard to educational activities, where the "giving" is primarily from the educator -- the teacher -- to the one who is being educated -- the student. This is why it is especially important that the "giving" be in the fullest possible measure, quantitatively and qualitatively: the Torah and mitzvot implanted in the child should not be merely by force of habit, but should permeate the child's thoughts, speech, and actual deeds so that this is reflected in his daily conduct -- in fear of G-d, respect for parents and teachers, improved character traits and so on, so that it be evident -- at yeshiva, at home, at shul, and also in the street -- that this is a product of an educational activity on high standards of holiness.
In order that the "giving" be even more complete, educators and counselors should bear in mind that they are, at the same time, also "receivers" -- and to a tremendous extent, incomparably more than the effort and work they invest in their students. Indeed, who can estimate the merit and reward associated with the sacred work of raising the Almighty's "kinder," children of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He?
However, in order that the educational activities be able to fulfill its responsibilities in the best possible way, it has to rely on yet another class of "givers" -- the Torah-supporters who understand the value of Torah education and the preciousness of Jewish men, women and children. And, in this connection, there is an added dimension to this year, in that it is the 40th year of the passing of my father-in-law, of saintly memory, when the Almighty opens wide the channels of " A heart that understands, and eyes that see, and ears that hear" (Deut. 29:3) -- to sense, perceive and appreciate the preciousness of Jews and Yiddishkeit [Judaism], and how good it is to be a "giver- receiver," as explained above...
The Living Letters
The Living Letters tells the story of how precious a child's prayers are to G-d. The rhyming text by Sashi Fridman and colorful illustrations by Disney artist Pesach Gerber are sure to delight children of all ages and will inspire children and grown-ups to put feeling into their prayers. Published by Kehot Publication Society.
The Very Best Book
Boxes, baskets, bottles and coins come in different shapes and sizes... but what is the very best use for each of these objects? Mitzvot, of course! The Very Best Book selects familiar items that a child sees every day and then shows how these same objects can be used Jewishly. Bright, vibrant full-color illustrations by a brilliant new artist, bring each item and every page to life. Written by the beloved children's author, Dina Rosenfeld and published by HaChai Publishing.
We have just finished celebrating the holiday of Purim, and may we all be blessed to carry with us throughout the rest of the year the sense of joy that permeates the holiday.
Along with the happiness of Purim, we should also take with us the lessons of Purim. In a letter written to all students of Hebrew schools, the Rebbe referred to the children who helped bring about the miracle of Purim. Our Sages describe how this came to be.
When Mordechai heard of Haman's evil plan to destroy all of the Jews, he gathered thousands of Jewish children around him and taught them Torah, instilling in them such love of G-d and Torah that G-d nullified the wicked decree. Those children should serve as an example to the children of this day and age. Just as the children who lived in the time of Esther and Mordechai helped bring about the salvation of the Jewish nation then, so too, do the children of today have the power to bring about our complete Redemption through Moshiach.
The Rebbe described two specific areas of increase for children to bring the Redemption. Firstly, the Rebbe writes that children should increase their Torah study time, and they, in addition, should increase the quality of their Torah study, learning with greater enthusiasm and concentration. Second, children should make a special effort in the area of tzedaka. "The idea behind this urgent suggestion is that Torah and tzedaka -- especially when studied and practiced by young children -- go a long way to help our Jewish people in difficult times -- and now is a difficult time."
May we merit to educate all Jewish children so that they bring about the long awaited Redemption at which time these "difficulties times" will be only a memory.
And the Kohen shall don his fitted linen tunic...and he shall remove the ashes (Lev. 6:3)
When a person sins, he brings a sacrifice and repents, and resolves to be better in the future. It is forbidden to remind a penitent of his past, so removing the ashes from a sacrifice teaches us that a person can start over with no remaining traces of his sin.
In the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered shall the sin offering be slaughtered (Lev. 6:18)
The Torah states that the two offerings should be slaughtered in the same place. A sin offering is brought for one who violated the Torah, while a burnt offering is brought as a contribution to the Holy Temple. If a person brings both at the same time, an observer won't realize that he sinned, but will think he is simply making a generous contribution.
And the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace-offerings; on the day of his offering it shall be eaten (Lev. 7:15)
The peace-offering is one of lesser holiness, yet it may be eaten for two days and one night, but the thanksgiving peace-offering is limited to one day and night. The thanksgiving peace-offering is brought in recognition of and thanks for a miracle that G-d has done. Miracles occur on a daily basis, and limiting the time that the offering may be eaten teaches us that each day we should see the miracles that G-d performs on our behalf.
(Reb Avraham Mordechai M'Gur)
From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
What an honor! The innkeeper felt it almost a holy trust that the Baal Shem Tov stayed at his inn whenever he visited the area. A special room was prepared and was always ready in case the tzadik chanced to drop in.
And so, when it happened that the Baal Shem Tov arrived and made his way to "his" room, the innkeeper was furious to find that the door to the room was locked from within.
The innkeeper pounded on the door and it opened to reveal the slight figure of the gentile servant boy, Piotr who had taken a few solitary moments of rest inside. Perceiving the innkeeper's anger, the Baal Shem Tov admonished him. "Don't punish the boy. One day he will come to your aid when you need it the most."
The Baal Shem Tov turned to the frightened child and said, "What is your heart's desire?" He replied, "I want to become educated and I want to have beautiful clothing to wear." "It will be exactly as you wish," replied the tzadik, and he mounted his carriage and left the inn.
The boy began attending school and his bright mind quickly grasped whatever was offered to him. He returned to the inn and became chief bookkeeper for all the innkeeper's properties.
One day his obvious intelligence caught the attention of a traveling aristocrat. The aristocrat offered the innkeeper a handsome sum to part with the young servant, and after consulting with Piotr, the innkeeper agreed.
To his great delight Piotr was again enrolled in school and he completed his studies with honors. The nobleman loved him and took him into his home saying, "I was not blessed with children and I want to adopt you as my own nephew."
Piotr succeeded in everything he undertook, and was popular with everyone. After a time, his master died and all his possessions passed to Piotr, who was considered to be his only relative.
It was then that it entered Piotr's mind to pay a visit to the Jewish innkeeper who had given him his start in life. But when he arrived at his former home, he found strangers in the inn.
"Where is the former innkeeper?" he inquired. The new proprietor told him the whole sad story, how after the young gentile servant boy had left, the innkeeper's fortunes had turned and he had eventually lost everything and was living as a beggar in a nearby town.
Piotr's heart was touched and he traveled to that town and sent out an announcement that he would be distributing alms to all the poor. The poor gathered outside his lodgings and he gave each person a few coins. When he came to his former master, he asked him to relate his life story. The Jew obliged and only after he had completed his tale, did Piotr reveal his identity.
The Jew was overwhelmed at the young man's appearance and his obvious success. "Please allow me to bring you to my estate. I will provide you with a good living and you will want for nothing."
The Jew was reluctant, but after some coaxing, he finally accepted. Piotr decided that he would build an inn and give it to the Jew to manage. When construction was completed, he would send for him. For now, he paid up all the man's debts and left him a sum with which to live.
It so happened that just at that time a robbery occurred in the town. With his new-found "wealth," the Jew became the prime suspect. He was arrested and thrown into jail where he languished for several weeks.
When the inn was completed, Piotr came back to get the Jew, but he was in prison! Losing no time, he went to the authorities, and attesting to the honesty of his old employer, obtained the man's release.
Settled on the estate, the Jew and his family were happy as could be, but that happiness was not to last. The jealous peasants couldn't stand seeing a Jew in the young master's favor. Together with the local priest, they cooked up a sure scheme.
One night a woman crept into the courtyard of the inn and laid a small bundle under the shrubs. Piotr, who was just leaving the inn, watched silently in the darkness.
The next day chaos broke out at the inn. The priest, the peasant and the police all converged on the inn and in no time, the Jew was led away in chains. The trial was swift and the sentence was death.
Again, Piotr arrived and was able to have the Jew released, but this time just until the day of the trial.
The Jew took advantage of this freedom to run to the Baal Shem Tov, weeping and begging his blessing.
"Didn't I tell you that the young boy would help you in your time of need? Go back and don't worry."
The day of the trial arrived and Piotr was ready. Acting as defense, he summoned the peasant woman to the stand. The ignorant woman was no match for him, and weeping copiously, she confessed her guilt. Then the judge took over, questioning the scheming priest. With no way out, he confessed to masterminding the plot and was sentenced to death by hanging. Thus, were the words of the Baal Shem Tov realized yet again.
The Talmud states, "If Israel were to keep two Sabbaths according to the laws thereof, they would be redeemed immediately" (Shabbat 118b) Why two Sabbaths? Is not one Sabbath enough to show devotion to the day? The Talmud makes reference not to two Sabbath days, but rather to one Sabbath day and the extension of its spirit to the remainder of the week, so that every day becomes enlightened with the sanctity of Shabbat.
(Rabbi Aharon Soloveitchik)