Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | A Call To Action | The Rebbe Writes
What's New | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count | It Once Happened
"Don't forget to say 'thank you,'" our parents gently reminded us. "It's nice to know I'm appreciated," we say when we're complimented.
Recognizing and even rewarding the good others have done is not only a nice thing to do, it's the right thing to do.
The Torah teaches us the importance of "hakarat hatov" -- recognizing the good that others do. Saying "thank you," sending a note of appreciation, giving credit where credit is due, verbalizing to others how grateful you are for something someone did, are not just social conveniences. They can be the path through which we become better people.
But, it doesn't stop at just verbalizing our feelings of thankfulness. We are expected to follow that age-old saying, "Put your money where your mouth is." This doesn't mean that you must lavish gifts on someone to whom you are grateful. Rather, even when it comes to services rendered for monetary recompense, you should display your appreciation.
We learn this from Abraham, our ancestor. During his travels down to Egypt -- before his name was known far and wide -- he stayed in various inns along the way. When Abraham began his return trip from Egypt back to Canaan, he was already famous and successful; everyone knew that Abraham was blessed by G-d. Yet, on the way home, Abraham frequented the same modest inns as on the way to Egypt.
As every deed of our ancestors is a lesson for us, our Sages learn from this that if someone was there for you when you needed them, you must remember them and patronize them.
The knowledge that we are supposed to recognize the good that others do for us doesn't mean that appreciation comes easy. In fact, being appreciative is a kind of art. To some people this art comes naturally while to others it is a skill which must be learned like any other skill.
If hakarat hatov is required and beneficial in our relationships with our friends, co-workers and relatives, then certainly it is required and beneficial in our relationship to our Creator.
We are obligated to thank G-d for all of the good that He has bestowed upon us. And we are expected to recognize that G-d is the initiator of the good (as well as the seemingly bad). Let's face it. No one's life is perfect. But if we start appreciating what we do have, and being thankful for it, we'll be a lot better off and a lot happier.
In this week's Torah portion, Re'ei, the Children of Israel are commanded to maintain their own code of behavior and not to learn from the nations that inhabited Israel before its conquest. "Take heed to yourself that you not be snared by following them." A Jew must never ask, "How do these gentiles worship their gods, that I may do the same?" For G-d has commanded us: "You must not do this before the L-rd your G-d... But hearken to the voice of the L-rd your G-d, to keep all His commandments... to do that which is right in the eyes of the L-rd your G-d."
Moses warned the Jews against imitating the gentiles' conduct. They have their own culture and customs, he explained. Some worship idols, some spend their lives trying to satisfy earthly lusts and desires, while others are motivated by the pursuit of power. But it is forbidden for a Jew to learn from their behavior.
From a numerical standpoint, of course, the Jewish people is the most insignificant of all the nations. Nonetheless, its conduct is entirely unique. Some Jews might mistakenly think that the key to earning the respect and admiration of the gentile nations is to copy their behavior. And yet the opposite is true. It is only when Jews proudly maintain their Jewish traditions and unwavering faith in G-d that they merit not only the respect of their gentile neighbors, but their support and assistance as well.
G-d placed the Jewish people among the nations so that others may see and learn from their simple and uncompromising faith. Jews must always remember that "You have chosen us from among the nations" and conduct themselves according to His will, as revealed in the Torah.
When Jews conduct themselves in such a manner, so as to serve as living examples to the gentiles, they demonstrate that it is indeed possible to adhere to the Seven Noahide Laws that apply to all mankind.
The Jewish people has lived according to the Torah's laws for over 3,000 years. Yet despite its antiquity, the Torah is equally relevant to our present day and age, imparting all who follow in its ways with renewed strength and vitality.
When Jews keep G-d's laws and refuse to mimic the surrounding nations, they merit a multitude of G-d's blessings: long life and good years, tranquility and peace, physical health and true pleasure.
Additionally, when Jews do what is right, the gentile nations not only hold them in high esteem, but lend their assistance as well.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Hitva'aduyot 5745, Vol. 5
Meeting the Rebbe
by Yanki Tauber
For those seeking to meet the Rebbe, one opportunity to do so was at the conclusion of the farbrengens [Chasidic gatherings] at the close of every festival, when the Rebbe would distribute the traditional kos shel bracha ["cup of blessing"] to tens of thousands of people. On one such night, the writer and publicist Natan Yellin- Mur waited for his moment with the Rebbe.
Natan was born in Vilna to Torah-observant parents and was educated in that city's well-known yeshivot. As a young man, however, Natan abandoned the practices and beliefs of Judaism in favor of secular Zionism. He became a leading Zionist activist, finally making his way to the Holy Land. There he joined "The Stern Gang," the most radical of the Zionist groups fighting for an independent Jewish state.
After the establishment of the state in 1948, as mundane politics replaced the ideological fervor of the pre-independence years, Natan became disillusioned with the cause for which he had fought with such vehemence. He turned fiercely anti-Zionist and pro-Arab. An eloquent writer, he regularly published articles defaming everything Jewish, and particularly the Jewish state and its policies.
Natan was on line for kos shel bracha that night because of his acquaintance with Gershon Ber Jacobson, editor of the New York-based Yiddish language newspaper, The Algemiener Journal.
Gershon Ber is a Lubavitcher chasid. His paper is certainly pro-Israel and supportive of Yiddishkeit; but Gershon Ber also believes in pluralistic journalism and freedom of expression. To the consternation of many of his readers, he invited the self-proclaimed atheist and anti-Zionist to write for the Algemeiner and published the venomously anti-Israel and anti-Jewish articles the writer sent in. When Gershon Ber suggested to Natan that he meet the Rebbe, the writer accepted the invitation.
As the two men approached the Rebbe, Gershon Ber introduced his guest. The Rebbe smiled broadly at Natan, and said, "I read your articles."
Natan's idea of a Chasidic Rebbe did not prepare him for a person who reads newspapers, much less articles such as his own. But what surprised him even more was what followed. "When G-d blesses someone with a talent such as yours," the Rebbe was now saying, "one must utilize it to the fullest. This is a Divine calling, and an immense responsibility. It is your G-d-given power and duty to make full use of your capacity to reach out to others and influence them with your writing."
Thinking that perhaps the Rebbe was mistaking him for someone else, Natan asked, "Does the Rebbe agree with what I write?" The Rebbe replied, "One need not agree with everything one reads. What is most important is that one uses one's G-d-given talents. When one does so, one will ultimately arrive at the truth."
Before the flattered writer could adjust to the unexpected turn the meeting was taking, the Rebbe's words struck a place in his heart he'd long thought to have been silenced forever. "Tell me," said the Rebbe in a gentle yet firm tone, "what is happening in regard to the observance of Torah and mitzvot?"
Not wanting to lie, nor wishing to offend the Rebbe with his atheism and anti-religiosity, Natan replied, "A Jew thinks."
"But in Yiddishkeit," countered the Rebbe, quoting the Talmudic maxim familiar to Natan from his yeshiva years, "it's most important to do. 'The primary thing is the deed.'"
Natan returned, "At least with me it's like in the story with the Berditchever." Natan was referring to the story of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev's encounter with a Jew who was smoking on Shabbat. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, famous for his literal inability to see anything negative in a fellow Jew and his persistent advocacy on behalf of his people, said to the transgressor: "Surely you're not aware that today is the holy Shabbat." "No," said the man, "I'm perfectly aware that it's Shabbat today."
"Then perhaps you don't know that it's forbidden to smoke on Shabbat," said Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. "No," said the man, "I know what the law says about smoking on Shabbat." Rabbi Levi Yitzchak lifted his eyes to heaven and cried, "Father in Heaven! How precious are your people, Israel. See how a Jew is incapable of telling a lie."
Natan was about to tell the Rebbe to which story he was referring. But before he could, the Rebbe rejoined, "The difference is that the Berditchiver said this in defense of another person, while you are saying it in defense of yourself..."
With that, the meeting came to a close. The Rebbe poured some wine into Natan's cup, blessed him, and turned to the next in line.
Several months later, Natan was diagnosed with terminal cancer, G-d forbid. Shortly before his death, he sent a sealed envelope to Gershon Ber, with a note stating that it contained an article that he wished to be published posthumously.
Gershon Ber complied, and following Natan's death the article was printed in the Algemeiner Journal. "My dear reader," Natan had written, "as you read this article I am standing before the heavenly court being judged for all the actions I took and the choices I made in the course of my life. No doubt, I will be severely judged for living a life totally antithetical to anything Jewish. In fact, I have severe doubts that I will even be allowed to speak in my defense. This is why I asked your editor to print this now, as I stand before the heavenly court, in the hope that what is being read and discussed at this moment on earth will attract the attention of the Supernal Judge. For I have one merit which I want to present to the court in the face of my failings and transgressions."
Then, Natan related his exchange with the Rebbe. "The Rebbe said to me," he concluded, "that I have a G-d-given talent and that it is my sacred duty to utilize it to influence others. This I did to the best of my ability, however misguidedly. This is the only merit I can claim; may it lighten the destiny of my soul..."
Reprinted with permission from The Week in Review. For a one-year subscription, send $36 to: VHH, 788 Eastern Pkwy #303, Bklyn, NY 11213.
Happy New Year!
From the beginning of the month of Elul it is customary for Jews to wish each other a happy New Year (L'Shana Tova) and that they be "signed and sealed for good" (K'Siva vaChasima Tova) in the upcoming year. The sending of "Rosh Hashana cards" is part of this tradition. "Blessing each other with a 'k'siva vachasima tov' assures us that we will be victorious in judgment on Rosh Hashana.
25th of Av, 5740 
I am in receipt of your letter of July 30th, in which you write about your youngest son.
Considering the seriousness of the situation, I am confident that you will not rest content with what has been done in this matter until now, and will intensify your efforts, both by your husband and yourself, as well as through enlisitng the aid of friends, to do everything possible to prevent the tragedy. For, when it comes to a Jewish heart, one never knows what and how will come the moment of truth and proper response.
If you will let me know the Jewish names of all the members of your family for whom you request a blessing, together with their mother's Jewish name, as is customary, I will remember each and all of you in prayer.
It is my duty to call your attention to the following, which I trust you will accept in the spirit it is offered:
All the members of a Jewish family constitute one organism, and when one part of it needs special treatment, it can be done in one of two ways: either directly, if possible, or indirectly, through strengthening the other parts of the body, particularly those that govern the functions of the entire organism.
Applying this illustration to the present case, it is well to bear in mind that the head of the family is called Baal Habayis [Master of the Home], and the wife is called Akeret Habayis [Foundation of the Home], corresponding to the heart of the family. Thus, strengthening the commitment to the Torah and mitzvot on the part of the parents has a beneficial effect upon all the members of the family in the same direction.
Of course, it may sometimes entail certain difficulties by having to make some changes, perhaps even radical changes, in regard to habits and lifestyles, etc., but on the other hand, considering the far-reaching benefits, and especially the fact that parents surely would not consider anything too difficult if it can be beneficial to their children, of what significance can any difficulty be, especially as in most cases these are often exaggerated.
In any case, a Jew is always requested and expected to live up to G-d's Will; how much more so when special Divine blessing is needed.
At the same time, there is the assurance that however the everyday life and conduct was in the past, a Jew can always start a new life through teshuva (which literally means "return" to one's essence).
As we are about to enter the month of Elul, you surely know of the Jewish custom that from the beginning of the month of Elul, Jews wish one another a happy new year. I will, therefore, conclude with prayerful wishes to you and all your family for a truly Happy New Year, and may G-d grant that even before Rosh Hashana you should have good news to report to this effect.
Forty children attended "A Magical Jewish Summer Adventure" at the Lubavitch day camp held at the Hong Kong Jewish Community Center. Under Chinese mainland rule, campers enjoyed outings, swimming and arts & crafts while being introduced to their Jewish traditions. Similar summer camp programs took place in over 500 cities under the auspices of Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide.
The Chabad Lubavitch Hebrew Academy of Orange County, California, was one of a select group of public and private elementary schools in 41 states to be awarded the much-coveted Blue Ribbon Presidential Citation. The Hebrew Academy is the only Jewish school this year to receive the prestigious award. The school, founded in 1969, is situated on a 10-acre campus in Westminster California.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim, when we bless the upcoming month of Elul. The month of Elul is a month of preparation, when we take stock of ourselves in anticipation of the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashana.
In Elul, one contemplates the past year, utterly regretting whatever has been undesirable, and resolving to be vigilant in the meticulous observance of the commandments, to be conscientious in one's Torah study and in one's prayers, and to habituate oneself to positive character traits.
The name of the month, "Elul," is an acronym for the Hebrew words which mean, "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine."
"I am my Beloved's" refers to serving G-d through one's own initiative. When a Jew serves G-d through his own initiative, the bond between G-d and the Jew is internalized. "My Beloved is mine" refers to Divine revelation which inspires this bond. Elul represents a month of complete connection, through revelation from Above and service from below.
This concept is also connected to this week's Torah portion, Re'ei, which begins with the words, "See I am giving before you today." All of the aspects of our service to G-d should be seen and openly revealed. When someone sees something, it makes a greater impression than if it is just heard. Torah and mitzvot should be openly revealed, and not just something we hear about.
In a deeper sense, we should use our sight to see not just the physicality of the world, but also the essence of G-d and His handiwork in our surroundings. Additionally, when one recognizes his own G-dliness and the G-dliness.
Additionally, when one recognizes his own G-dliness and the G-dliness of other Jews, this will lead him to truly be able to fulfill the mitzva of loving one's fellow Jew.
Each and every day a heavenly voice goes out from Mount Horeb (Ethics of the Fathers 6:2)
Mount Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai, where the Jews were given the Torah and became G-d's chosen people. The Baal Shem Tov taught that when a Jew feels an inner awakening to strengthen his observance of Torah and mitzvot, it is because his soul is responding to the call which it heard emanating from G-d at Mount Sinai.
This is the way to Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink water in small measure (Ethics 6:4)
Someone once came to Rabbi Akiva Eiger to inform him that one of his students was living in abject poverty. "It's a pity, Rabbi," the man said. "Every night he eats dry bread, recites the Shema, and goes to sleep." Said the Rabbi, "It's a much greater pity when a person eats the finest roast chicken for dinner but goes to sleep without saying the Shema."
The Sages taught in the language of the Mishna, "Blessed be He who chose them and their teachings." (Ethics 6:1)
The word "Sages" refers to each and every Jew, since all Jews are members of a wise and understanding people."
The Tablets were the work of G-d and the writing was the writing of G-d, charut [engraved] on the tablets. Do not read charut, but cheirut [freedom]. There is no free person except one who occupies himself with the study of Torah. (Ethics 6:2)
Chasidut explains that engraved letters are unique in that they are an integral part of (and not a separate entity from) the object on which they are written. When a Jew studies Torah in a manner of "engraving," he becomes unified entirely with the Torah he studies. His entire existence becomes Torah. This leads to true freedom; he is lifted above all worries and distractions.
Our great teachers and Sages throughout the centuries have been living examples of how we should raise and educate our children. Following are a few anecdotes and tales from the deep well of wisdom we have inherited from them.
The Talmud relates an incident about Rav Prada, who was the leader of his own generation. Rav Prada had a certain student who was very slow to grasp a concept. But, far from giving up on him, Rav Prada sat with this boy day after day and tirelessly repeated the lesson for him until he learned it. He would repeat the lesson no less than four hundred times until his pupil knew the subject. One day he had already repeated the lesson four hundred times, and yet, the boy still hadn't grasped it. What was Rav Prada's reaction? Certainly he must have thrown up his hands and concluded that this child was simply too slow to learn. But, no, Rav Prada began again and taught the lesson another four hundred times!
That day a heavenly voice spoke to Rav Prada. Because of his tremendous patience and his devotion to his student's Torah learning he was given the option of choosing his reward. Either he could chose to have extraordinarily long life, or he could chose to benefit his entire generation by giving them all a portion in the World-to-Come.
It is obvious what a Tzadik like Rav Prada would chose. Of course, he decided to share his reward with all of his fellow Jews, and all the Jews of that generation received a portion in the World-to-Come.
This story was told by Rabbi Pesach Krohn
Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, the son of the late world-renowned rav and halachic [Jewish legal] authority, Rav Moshe Feinstein, was making a Bar Mitzvah for his son. The child's birthday was mid-week, and so, a celebration would be made to mark the day when the boy would be called up to the Torah for the first time. A large celebration was scheduled for Sunday, when family and friends would be able to gather to mark the great occasion.
Rav Moshe, however, had been scheduled to speak at a major rabbinical conference which was to take place on the same Sunday as his grandson's Bar Mitzvah. He attended the mid-week occasion of the child's birthday and aliyah to the Torah, but was unable to come to the larger Sunday celebration.
A friend asked Rabbi Reuven Feinstein how he reacted to the absence of his illustrious father at his son's Bar Mitzvah. His answer was indicative of the true greatness of his father, and shows how our every action and thought may be directed to establishing a bond of love between us and our children. He replied, "I didn't feel bad, because my father loves me."
Of course, the obvious rejoinder was, "How do you know?" and indeed, that was the next question in this dialogue. Rav Reuven replied by describing three incidents in his childhood which had stuck in his mind as a constant reminder of his father's great love for him.
Rav Moshe, of blessed memory, as the most widely respected and revered halachic authority of our time, received thousands of inquiries from every part of the Jewish world. He was occupied most of the day responding to the questions of world Jewry. Thus, he was unable to devote many daytime hours to Torah study. He compensated by studying at night. He slept just a few hours each evening and would rise in the middle of the night to commence his Torah study until it was time for the morning prayers. Rav Reuven recalled that his father would stop in the middle of his studies and put his little son's clothing on the radiator on the cold winter nights, so that when the steam heat rose in the morning, his son's clothing would be toasty warm for him to put on.
The next incident he remembered was one which repeated itself many times during the long summer days when young Reuven would study Torah with his father in a bungalow colony in upstate New York. Every afternoon, a hay wagon would make its way through the grounds to the glee of the children who would looked forward to the daily hay ride. Rav Moshe, who was naturally very deeply engaged in study with his child, would close the book every afternoon and encourage his son to have time out to enjoy the ride and have fun.
Lastly, Rav Reuven related that although his father was sought out by all manner of very important people, many of whom were guests in the Feinstein home on the Lower East Side of New York, Reuven was always accorded respect by his father. He always remained in his usual place at the table, next to his father except on the rare occasions when a visitor of the greatest stature had to be placed at his father's side. Only then did Reuven move from his customary place. A bond of love and trust, firmly planted, grows roots deep enough to last a child for his entire lifetime.
Special thanks to Rabbi Yehuda Zakutinsky, outreach coordinator of Hashiveinu, for his moving telling of these stories and anecdotes.
Jews firmly believe that Moshiach will come. We believe that man will not self-destruct, that we will not disappear in a gigantic atomic blast. Man is basically good, and G-d's Kingdom will be established.
(Rabbi Pinchas Stopler in The Real Messiah)