Enter the Zone | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | Rambam this week
The Rebbe Writes | What's New | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Aaron Raskin
A recent best seller entitled Enter the Zone, by Dr. Barry Sears, is a dietary road map to losing weight permanently and achieving maximum physical performance. The objective of the book is to "enter the zone."
Writes Dr. Sears, "Normally we hear about the zone in the context of athletics: A baseball player swears he can count the seams of a 90 m.p.h. fastball; a basketball player sees the hoop as twice its real size; a gymnast feels as if the balance beam is as wide as a city street. In the zone, the mind is relaxed, yet alert and exquisitely focused."
Dr. Sears says that through eating properly one can actually enter the zone.
The way it works is as follows: At all meals one must eat carbohydrates, protein and fat. Yes, that's right, fat. According to a study by the University of London, one must eat fat to lose fat.
The Baal Shem Tov, whose 300th birthday will be celebrated this year in the early fall, taught that everything one sees or hears must be used in enhancing one's service and understanding of G-d. Thus, even from the newest diet, be it lasting or a passing fad, one can learn something that will help us live more Jewishly.
How is Dr. Sears' dietary road map connected to Torah living? Torah study can be compared to the three basic food categories of carbohydrates, proteins and fat.
Carbohydrates such as bread, fruits and vegetables, are similar to the study of the weekly Torah portion, the Code of Jewish Law, etc., the essentials for every Jew.
Protein - fish, eggs, poultry (dare we mention meat?), are represented by the study of Talmud and Midrash, i.e., Torah works that increase the understanding of the laws and general concepts in the Bible.
Fat - well, we all know numerous examples of fatty foods, the more "healthy" of which would be olives, peanuts and avocados. These are representative of Jewish mysticism and Chasidut. Often compared to oil, Chasidut has the ability to saturate every trait and habit with Divine illumination and ultimately refine and elevate.
A person who studies two out of the three basic Torah groups does not "enter into the zone." It's not enough to study the legalistic or homiletic parts of the Torah. Today, more than ever, we must also study the mystical dimension of Torah, especially as illuminated by Chasidut.
"Fifteen years ago Americans were told to eat less fat, more carbohydrates... The sad truth is that Americans are getting fatter," says Dr. Sears.
Fat is symbolic of arrogance and chutzpa. The way to lose fat is by eating fat - studying Chasidic teachings.
So "enter the Torah Zone" by studying all three areas of Torah, reading books, attending classes and lectures, listening to Torah tapes and pre-recorded telephone classes, or downloading material on the internet.
Rabbi Raskin is the spiritual leader of Congregation B'nai Avraham in Brooklyn Heights and the Rebbe's emissary to that neighborhood.
In the second of this week's two portions, Masei, the Torah recounts the travels of the Jewish people through the wilderness. "These are the journeys of the Children of Israel, who went forth out of the land of Egypt." Significantly, the Torah uses the plural "journeys" rather than the singular "journey."
In truth, only one journey was required to pass beyond the borders of Egypt. Already with their very first journey, from Raamses to Sukot, the Jews left Egypt behind; geographically, all of their subsequent journeys were in the desert.
Then why does the Torah employ the plural, "journeys"?
The Jewish people embarked on a total of 42 separate journeys before they arrived in the Land of Israel, "a good and spacious land."
Egypt, in Hebrew Mitzrayim, is symbolic of limitations (meitzarim). In Egypt the Jewish people had descended to such a low spiritual level that they were "sunken in the 49 gates of impurity." With their very first journey they were liberated from the Egyptians' enslavement and attained a measure of freedom.
This, however, was only an initial step; the Jews would have to undergo 41 more journeys before reaching the "good and spacious land" and true spiritual freedom. Although they had escaped the limitations of Egypt, compared to the state they would ultimately achieve, they were still constrained.
This contains a lesson to be applied in our Divine service:
A Jew must never become discouraged. If the entire Jewish people could fall into the "49th gate of impurity" and still be redeemed from Egypt to receive the Torah and enter Israel, surely every Jew has the power to surmount his individual difficulties and ascend upward.
At the same time we must remember that the first step, in and of itself, is insufficient. Making a one-time effort is not enough. A Jew must always be moving, striving to attain higher levels of holiness. For with each journey, with every step, we draw nearer to "the good and spacious land."
A person might think that he has achieved perfection, that there is nothing left for him to do. Having reached the pinnacle of spiritual accomplishment, he need not expend additional effort. In spiritual terms, he has already gone out of Egypt.
The Torah, however, informs us differently. Even though the Jews had already left Egypt with their first journey, many more were necessary in order to reach Israel. In comparison with the inferior level of Egypt, the first journey placed them on an exalted rung. But relative to the true spiritual freedom of the Land of Israel, they still had a long way to go.
We must never content ourselves with past achievements, but must constantly readjust our goals and set our sights ever higher. For when we do, we are assured of ultimately reaching "the good and spacious land."
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 2
From a speech by Marcia Schwartz entitled
"More than the Eye Can See:
A Journey from Darkness to Light"
I like to say that I am having a "healing of sight," for though I do not see the physical world around me, I am seeing better now than I have ever seen before. I would like to share with you why.
I would say it started when I was three, and I am told I would run up to people who visited my parents, asking, "Have you seen G-d lately? Do you know Him? Where can I find Him?"
Everyone in my family always answered, "We don't believe in G-d. There is no G-d." No one in my whole family believed in G-d. But I did. They always said, "We're Jewish. We don't believe in G-d." I thought Jews did not believe in G-d, so I decided to look elsewhere.
I turned to Christianity. I studied many versions and decided to join a particular church. After the first ten years, I was teaching Sunday School. After 20 years, I began lecturing. After 30 years, they moved me to their headquarters in Boston. And after 40 years I was in the pulpit. Very happy, very content.
It is interesting. You can leave Judaism, but Judaism can never leave you. For example, when December 25th would roll around, I would feel a "tapping." (It is the only way I can describe it, like "Do not celebrate that one, it is not true.") It drove my Christian friends crazy that I would not celebrate it. For 40 years, I never celebrated it. At Easter, again, tap, tap, tap... What WAS that tapping?
I was about to find out.
One day, I got a call from my mother's cousin Faygie, a Lubavitcher Chasid, whom I had never met. Her vision was also in "exile." It had just happened to her, and she asked, "How do you pour a glass of water? How do you find your clothes? How do you find the kitchen? How do you cook?"
The more we talked, the more I wanted to meet her. But I knew nothing about her religion. So I called Talking Books and asked if they had anything under "Jewish" and "Chasidic." They found a book called Holy Days: The World of a Chasidic Family. Listening to that book I discovered a Judaism I never knew. I had so many questions.
When I finally got to meet Faygie, we talked for seven hours. I got home and thought, "Nice lady, weird religion. Archaic. Crazy." I had gone to Faygie's on a Saturday afternoon, but what did I know? Next Saturday came, I was vacuuming. I thought "I shouldn't be doing this. It's Shabbos! Wait a minute. I'm going to church tomorrow!" I tried to continue vacuuming but couldn't. Tap, tap, tap... it started again. What was that tapping?
As I put the vacuum away the doorbell rang. It was a package from my cousin Faygie. My aunt had recorded the book Toward a Meaningful Life by Rabbi Simon Jacobson. Since I had so many questions, she thought maybe I would like a copy.
I began listening to the tape and was about to discover what those 40 years of tapping were. The first chapter is all about the Jewish soul. That's what the tapping was. My soul did not want me to do anything that would separate me from it. My soul was guiding me, directing me, protecting me all those years. That was the tapping. At that point the tapping changed. Instead of telling me what not to do, it would tell me what to do - because Judaism is positive, not negative.
What do you do when you have been away from home for 40 years? I had spent 40 years in a Christian wilderness. But at the end of every wilderness experience is a promised land; and I was about to find mine in Chasidic philosophy.
Within two weeks I had resigned from lecturing. Within three weeks I was no longer teaching Sunday school. But I wanted to know more, and all I had was that book.
I called directory information and asked, "Do you have anything under Lubavitch?" The operator asked, "How do you spell it?" I had no idea. I tried Hebrew University. "Do you know how to get in touch with anyone Lubavitch?" No. I called Hebrew College, which is more local. "Hello, do you know how I can get in touch with anyone Lubavitch?" "No, ma'am. Would you like to speak to our librarian?" I was on the verge of tears when it came to me to call Israeli Bookshop in Brookline.
"Do you know how I can get in touch with anyone Lubavitch?" "Sure! Call the Chabad House!" What a relief! After days of effort, Joanne at the Chabad House gave me the toll-free number for the Tape of the Month Club by Rabbi Manis Friedman. I ordered every tape available.
Now I was listening to the book and the tapes and it was getting very hard for me to go to church. I realized that I was going to have to leave the church and I was terrified. I would wake up in the middle of the night shaking - shaking so badly that the bed would shake as well. What was going to happen to me? If I left the church, I would lose every friend I had, bar none, and more than half my income. But you cannot base a spiritual decision on a material fear, and I knew I was going to do it. Listening to the tapes helped calm me down.
Before I left the church, I wanted to give each of the other 30 Jews in that church a copy of Toward a Meaningful Life. After I had given every Jew the book, I walked out of that church and never went back.
To whom else could I give the book? In my apartment building was only one other Jew, a man with AIDS. His relatives had turned their backs on him and he had given up on Judaism years ago.
I grabbed my book, my cane, my keys, took the elevator downstairs and groped my way down the hall, hoping to find the right apartment. When he opened the door, he said, "What's that? One of your Christian books?" I said, "No, it is one of YOUR books." He responded, "I TOLD you, Judaism doesn't work for me."
My reply was, "I said that for 40 years, too. Look, if you went to the Rebbe, he would love you unconditionally. Would you love him enough to see what he has to say to you? It could heal you." I left the book with him.
I did not hear from him for about a week. Finally, he called me. "Schwartz, I've finished your book. I don't agree with all of it. I think I'll read it again." A few days later, he went into the AIDS ward of a local hospital. Along with his toothbrush and pajamas, he took the book. When he became too weak to hold up the book, I brought him the book on tape. One night he could not sleep and decided to listen to the tape. It was three o'clock in the morning, so he began listening to the tape on headphones because he did not want to disturb the other patients. Suddenly the man two beds down from him shouted out, "Hey, are you listening to that Schneerson thing again? Take the headphones off! We want to listen, too!"
One morning he called me. "Marciale! I think I made my peace with G-d. Thank you for giving me that book." A few hours later, he passed away.
The Rebbe is still doing his work. One of the ways is with those of us who are reading this book. We are lost, but we are not a lost cause. We all want to come home.
In the past few years I have discovered that Judaism is more than the eye can see. It is a journey from darkness to light-the light of Torah.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
Rambam for 5 Av 5758
Negative mitzva 215: Sowing kilayim
By this prohibition we are forbidden to sow kilayim [plant diverse kinds of seeds, such as wheat with oats, in the same field]. It is contained in the words (Lev. 19:19): "You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed."
5th of Tammuz, 5744
Greeting and Blessing:
I received your letter of June 28th, in which you write about your desire to convert and become a Jew.
It has often been explained that, actually, a gentile does not have to become a Jew in order to attain fulfillment through the Torah and Mitzvos, because He, Who gave the Torah with all its 613 mitzvos to the Jewish people at the Revelation at Mt. Sinai, gave, at the same time, the Seven Basic Religious and Moral Laws for all humanity.
These are the so-called Seven Noahide Laws, with all their ramifications, which were originally given to the children of Noah, i.e., all humanity, and which are quite sufficient to ensure a truly human society, and fulfillment of every human being. Thus, there is no obligation on the part of any gentile to assume the responsibility of observing the whole Torah with all its 613 Mitzvos, except those specific basic laws with their ramifications, as mentioned above.
By way of illustration from the physical human body, where each limb and organ has its own particular function within the harmonious growth and development of the entire body, and this function is its actual fulfillment. There is no point in a leg, for example, desiring to become a hand and the like. Only in extreme exceptional cases are there situations when certain gentiles have a special relevance to conversion, but this is very exceptional from the viewpoint of the Torah.
At the same time, it is to be remembered that conversion is an irrevocable act. For once it is carried out in accordance with the prescribed laws of the Torah and one becomes a Jew, the person cannot change his mind afterwards. Therefore, one should approach this whole subject very, very seriously and earnestly, and be quite sure that this is his real desire. But, since a person cannot be absolutely objective where one is personally involved, it would be advisable for you to talk the matter over personally and in detail with a competent Orthodox Rabbi, who could further explain to you all that is involved.
At any rate, inasmuch as everything is by Divine Providence, and you have written to me on the subject, it is my duty and privilege to call your attention to the importance of the observance at this time of the said Seven Noahide Laws, one of which is also the matter of being kind and charitable to others - not only materially but also spiritually. This means to promote the said Seven Basic Laws with all their ramifications among the gentiles, both by precept and example, for we are assured that, "Words coming from the heart enter the heart and are eventually effective," especially when accompanied by a living example.
Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] in all the above.
THREE WEEK STUDY PROGRAM
According to the suggestion and directives of the Rebbe, we study all about the Beis Hamikdash - The Holy Temple - which we pray it be rebuilt speedily - during the days 17 Tamuz -15 Menachem Av.
Accordingly, the text of the book - SEEK OUT THE WELFARE OF JERUSALEM, published by Sichos In English - is available on-line at www.chabad.org divided into a special study program.
This Friday is Rosh Chodesh Av (the first of Av), the yahrzeit of Moses' brother, Aaron the Priest.
As the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, on a yahrzeit, "all the deeds, Torah, and service for which a person toiled throughout his lifetime...is revealed...and 'brings about salvation in the depth of the world.' "
What was Aaron's special service? Aaron was the epitome of ahavat Yisrael, love for his fellow Jew. He was characterized by "loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the created beings and bringing them close to the Torah." Throughout his life Aaron made special efforts to spread love, peace and harmony among all Jews, especially husbands and wives.
For this reason Aaron was especially beloved, and when he passed away he was mourned by "the entire House of Israel" - both men and women. This was because the love he showed and encouraged among Jews relates to the essential point of the Jewish soul that transcends all division and differences between individuals.
Lashon HaKodesh - the holy tongue, is unlike other languages in that its letters express the "essence" of what they describe. Accordingly, this concept of all-encompassing love is reflected in Aaron's (Aharon's) Hebrew name - alef-hei-reish-nun:
The alef stands for "ahava," "love," the reish for "rabba," "great," alluding to Aaron's tremendous ahavat Yisrael. The hei and the reish spell "har," "mountain," which is frequently used as a metaphor for love. The letters of the alef itself can be rearranged to spell "peleh," "wonder," indicating that Aaron's love was wondrous and unbounded in nature.
Lastly, the final letter of Aaron's name, the long nun, protrudes below the line, expressing how he extended himself to all Jews without distinction, even those whose behavior was not up to par. Because Aaron's love was unbounded, it had the potential to extend to every single person, regardless of individual nature.
Emulating Aaron's example, let us all resolve to love our fellow Jews simply because they are Jewish, thereby hastening Moshiach's immediate arrival.
If a man makes a vow unto the L-rd (Num. 30:3)
"Vows are a fence for abstinence," it states in Ethics of the Fathers. There are two ways to interpret this: Some people might think that whatever the Torah allows is permissible, whereas if the Torah prohibits something, special dispensation should be sought to make it "kosher." Chasidim, however, have the opposite approach: Whatever is forbidden is forbidden; that which is permissible is not really necessary, anyway...
(Sefer HaSichot 5702)
And Moses gave to them, to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and to half the tribe of Menashe (Num. 32:33)
The fact that the tribe of Menashe was divided - half its members living on one side of the Jordan, the rest on the other - was measure for measure, as it was Menashe who caused the tribes to rend their clothes in grief when he hid the goblet in Benjamin's satchel. His grandchildren's inheritance in Israel was therefore also "rent" in two.
These are (Eileh) the journeys (masei) of the Children of Israel (Bnei Yisrael) (Num. 33:1)
The first letters of these Hebrew words allude to the four exiles of the Jewish people: alef-Edom (Rome); mem-Madai (Persia); beit-Bavel (Babylon); and yud-Yavan (Greece).
And these are their journeys according to their starting places (Num. 33:2)
The Hebrew word for starting places or departures (motza'eihem) comes from the same root as descendants, alluding to the future Redemption and the ingathering of the exiles that will occur in the Messianic era. At that time, all 42 journeys made by the Children of Israel in the desert will be duplicated by the Jewish people as they make their way back to the Land of Israel.
Reb Yehoshua Milner owned a mill in Jerusalem over a hundred years ago. A devout and scholarly man, he made a good living from the mill, although he almost never went there. The old-fashioned mill was situated near a river and the huge millstone was turned by the steady and patient treading of a horse which spent its days pacing round and round in an endless circle. The working of the mill was supervised by the manager, Reb Shmuel. And so, Reb Yehoshua was free to devote all his time to Torah study.
When Reb Shmuel passed away another man was hired to be the manager of the mill. This new manager decided to improve the mill by replacing the slow, old horse with a new massive one, stronger by far than the other horses that had worked there before. The new horse accomplished work so much more quickly than the previous ones, that it became known as "the wonder horse."
Soon word of this magnificent horse spread through the countryside, and bidders came from near and far to try to buy the fabulous animal. Much more money was waiting to be made through the horse if it would be used for other more demanding tasks, such as pulling huge loads, or transporting the wealthy from place to place.
Reb Yehoshua was unwilling to sell the horse, and he refused all bids that were presented to him. However, no matter how many times he said "no," and how many people he rebuffed, offers continued to come his way from people who wished to purchase the horse. Finally, when Reb Yehoshua tired of the continual interruptions to his Torah study, he set a price for "the wonder horse" of 25 Napoleons, a sum that would support a family for two years. Surely, no one would be so foolhardy as to make an offer like that! Reb Yehoshua, however, underestimated the tenacity of his would-be buyers. One merchant actually came up with the sum and a deal was struck.
The night before the sale was to be finalized, Reb Yehoshua couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned in his bed until, finally, in the middle of the night, he gave up. He dressed and left the house, telling his family he would soon return.
His employees were shocked to see the owner, Reb Yehoshua, arrive at the mill. As he never visited the mill during the day, what was he doing there in the middle of the night? Reb Yehoshua walked straight up to the horse as all of the employees looked on. He stopped at the horse's side and whispered in the mighty animal's ear, "Shmuel, I forgive you completely." When the horse heard those words, it literally dropped dead. Reb Yehoshua said nothing and returned to his home.
The next day news quickly spread that "the wonder horse" had died the previous night, for no apparent reason. "A healthy horse!" everyone exclaimed, and a horse worth 25 Napoleons! Who had ever heard of such a thing!
Reb Yehoshua called his family and friends and related the amazing story of the previous evening. "Last night I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned and when I fell asleep at last, I had a very strange dream. In the dream my former employee, Shmuel, appeared to me and said, 'I must confess to you. I wasn't the wonderful manager you thought me to be. I stole from you throughout all the years I worked at the mill. When I died and appeared before the Heavenly Court, I was informed that the only way I could expiate my terrible sin against man and G-d was to return to earth in the form of your mill horse so that I could repay my debt to you. I was given an especially strong body so that I could work extra hard. For months I toiled tirelessly, making up for what I stole from you throughout the years. But it seems I did my job too well, for I became renowned for my strength and stamina. When I heard that you were planning to sell me, I was horrified. I would not be able to expiate my sins unless I was working for you in your mill. If you would sell me, I would have to return to earth once more, perhaps in an even lesser form, to atone for my misdeeds. I cannot bear the idea of returning again, so I beg you, please forgive me for what I did to you.'
"When I heard his plea, I jumped up out of bed and ran immediately to the mill. I went up to the horse and told him that I forgave him with all my heart. And when he heard my words, he expired, for he had fulfilled his purpose here on earth. Now, poor Shmuel will find his peace in the next world."
"Concerning your second question, 'Has the time changed and is it permissible to act forcefully to bring about the ketz [the end of exile and the beginning of the Redemption]?' Yes. Times have changed and not only is it permissible, but it is obligatory to strongly demand of G-d to usher in our Redemption."
(Rabbi Hillel of Kulmaya in his book of responsa, Avkat Rochail)