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Your favorite (fill in one depending on what you're into) actor, musician, entertainer, politician, author, philosopher, is coming to town, and as a devoted fan you have been given the honor of taking him/her around.
The thrill, the excitement, the unique privilege of being able to spend time in this celebrity's presence will be yours. Also yours is the knowledge that by accompanying him/her for a day you will be helping this important personage to further enhance his career or spread his message.
When the day is over and you are offered payment, you balk. "At the very least, accept reimbursement for your expenses," you are told.
In complete sincerity, you explain that the reward for your services is to have been of assistance to your favorite celebrity. Your payment is that you were able, in a small way, to become closer to your hero during this day together.
Later, you get a thank-you note in the mail and a small gift as a token of appreciation. But you will always consider the true reward to be the time that you spent together with the distinguished individual.
"The reward for a mitzva is the mitzva," Judaism teaches.
Each time we do a mitzva, another notation is made in G-d's Great Ledger. We bring more blessings and goodness into our lives and the lives of those we love through doing mitzvot.
But, according to our Sages, the true reward for the mitzva is simply that we have had the unique opportunity and privilege to become closer to G-d, to strengthen our bond with our Infinite Creator.
Mitzva is most commonly and correctly translated as "commandment." A commandment is always issued by a "commander." When we fulfill G-d's commandments we are connecting with the "Commander" in a unique and intimate way. By fulfilling His commandments we are chosing to strengthen our essential bond with G-d through binding ourselves to Him.
A rock, a tree, an ant, a horse, are all G-d's creatures. But none of them have been given the privilege of performing mitzvot, of connecting to their source through choosing to do G-d's will.
For that finite moment in G-d's infinite existence that we are performing the mitzva, we have assisted G-d, so to speak, in helping to perfect the world, in spreading His message and enhancing His career.
Never mind the notation in the Heavenly Ledger that you know is being inscribed. Never mind the thank-you that comes in the way of additional blessings and goodness for you and your loved ones. The reward of the mitzva is the mitzva itself. The reward is the opportunity of having the privilege of becoming closer to G-d through these simple mundane acts-to be a Jew, and not a rock or a tree or an ant or a horse-a Jew who can perform mitzvot and create a stronger bond with the Ultimate Celebrity.
This week's Torah portion, Shoftim, contains the commandment to appoint a king. "When you come to the land...You must set a king over you."
Why do the Jewish people need a king?
The function of a monarch is to impose law and order throughout the realm. It isn't that people don't know the difference between right and wrong without a king, but knowledge is not enough. A person can be well aware of the law but violate it anyway. By instilling fear in his subjects, the king guarantees that people will conduct themselves properly.
Yet even when people are on a higher moral level and are law-abiding, a king is still necessary. A king, who with Divine assistance becomes "head and shoulders above the populace," understands matters that are beyond the scope of his subjects. The king then issues various decrees that his loyal citizens will obey.
For Jews, the true King is G-d; the function of the fleshly king they appoint is to reveal His sovereignty in the world and help them connect themselves to Him.
When Jews are on a lowly spiritual level (lacking complete nullification before G-d), the human king, by instilling fear and awe in his subjects, eventually leads them to fear and awe of the King of kings. The homage they pay to the king helps them achieve self-nullification before G-d.
When Jews are on a more elevated spiritual level (when they already possess this self-nullification), appointing a human king serves a higher purpose, enabling them to attain a higher level of spirituality than they could accomplish on their own. The king's superior influence filters down to the rest of the populace, and through him his subjects are elevated further.
Everything in the Torah contains a practical directive to be applied in our day-to-day lives. Thus, although during this present time of exile the Jewish people lack a monarch, our Sages declared, "Who are the kings? The rabbis." In the same way our forefathers were commanded to appoint a king over themselves, so too is each of us obligated to obey our Sages' dictum, "Make for yourself a Rav" - to accept upon ourselves the authority and "kingship" of our rabbis and teachers. Every Jew must have his own Rav to whom he can turn for guidance and direction.
This is especially relevant in our generation, just before Moshiach's arrival, for Moshiach himself will embody both of these qualities, that is, rabbi and teacher. On the one hand Moshiach will teach the entire Jewish people Torah; at the same time he will also be their king, Melech Hamoshiach.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 24
by Joannie Tansky
People say that G-d works in mysterious ways. I beg to differ. G-d gets right to the point. Whether or not you listen to what He is saying and act upon it is another story. In my case there was no mystery. He gave me a jolt, a serious nudge and then (in case I did not understand or perhaps missed the point), He gave me another one soon after that.
Six years ago, my son who was sixteen at the time, looked my husband and me straight in the eyes on the first day of Rosh Hashana and told us that we were hypocrites. Going to shul three days a year was ridiculous and he would have no part in it. He was staying home. Of course, we "won" the battle, because he came with us. But ultimately he won the war because he stayed in shul for as long as it took him to literally sit down and jump back out of his seat.
It was then that I felt something rise to the surface that I had been trying to suppress for many years. It was the realization that the Jewish feeling that I had was simply not being passed on to him or our other two children. I felt that I was failing my children.
A month later, G-d again appeared in my life. Our business partner, Michael, found the Montreal Torah Center-Chabad. He began attending services there on Saturdays and holidays. Then Michael stopped working on Saturdays and holidays. Unfortunately he never told us about his visits to Chabad, or about keeping Shabbat. His relationship with my husband, who had been as close as his brother, began to seriously deteriorate.
I made my way to MTC one Tuesday afternoon and ranted and raved to the rabbi there about how this place was destroying a partnership, friendship and potentially breaking up a marriage. At the end of my tirade the rabbi spoke with me for a bit and then invited me to come for Shabbat. "See for yourself," he said.
I took up his challenge, but I sat in the last chair near the door to make a quick exit. Yet, I didn't make a hasty departure. I stayed for the entire service and I was literally moved to tears. Not from the service, because I was totally clued out, but by the Chasidic nigunim, those inspiring, profound melodies, which I had never before in my life heard.
Something at Chabad had touched me to the core of my being, filling the void in my gut.
A month later I attended a Women's Shabbaton organized by Chabad. That Shabbat afternoon, I went to someone's house to attend a class. That was another eye opener for me. What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
A little while later we got our first invitation to one of the rabbi's houses for a Friday night meal. The experience left us in a state of shock. Not only was everyone normal, but they were really friendly. It made no difference to them what we did nor did not know in terms of Judaism. The simple fact was we were there, sharing a meal on Friday night and that was all that mattered. There was a feeling at that Shabbat table that almost cannot be put into words. Warm, intimate, caring-these adjectives come close, but cannot touch the essence of the feeling of Shabbat.
G-d was now literally leading me by the hand, taking me from place to place, slowly showing me all that I had missed for 41 years. About one and a half years later, I decided to kosher my kitchen. Six months after that the rabbi was convinced that we were ready for the commitment of a kosher home and we went totally kosher inside and out.
One of the most difficult things for me to come to terms with is the fact that I never merited seeing the Rebbe. Rationally, I know that G-d planned this for me. Yet, in my heart, it is one of the biggest disappointments of my life.
Some of my most memorable and intimate Shabbats have been spent sitting around the Shabbat table, late in the afternoon after the men have gone to shul, listening to stories about the Rebbe. Especially for those of us who never saw the Rebbe, these times are priceless.
Has my family joined me in my spiritual journey? My daughter completed two years at Machon Chana Women's Institute in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a yeshiva for women who are "late" beginners. My middle son, the teenager who stared me down at age 16, is now 21. He has studied in the Lubavitcher yeshivot in Morristown and Montreal. He is the one who sings those beautiful Chasidic nigunim for me at our Shabbat table. My youngest son is 17, heavily into his teenage years. He still has a way to go on his path, but he respects my husband and me, and his religion. He now learns with the rabbi two times a week of his own volition.
My husband and soul mate, always knew instinctively that this is the right path. It was he who bore the brunt of my lunacy, while at the same time having to grapple with his own changes. He emerged stronger and totally committed.
And, I was finally able to explain to my parents and relatives that becoming more observant does not mean shunning or rejecting one's past.
As for Michael, our business partner, he and my husband are back together and have been for the past 5 years. The interruption in their friendship, thank G-d, did not last very long.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
20th ANNUAL JEWISH RENAISSANCE FAIR
This year's Jewish Renaissance Fair, sponsored by the Rabbinical College of America-Lubavitch, is on Sun., Sept. 6th, at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ (exit 14B on the NJ Turnpike) from 11:00 a.m. Live entertainment includes the Miami Boys Choir and Avraham Fried from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. and for the kids, Uncle Moishy and the Mitzva Men, and funnyman Marc Weiner from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. Throughout the day there will be magicians, jugglers, and clowns. The Arts and Crafts Village, carnival rides and games, petting zoo, Torah mini-golf course, and a Storybook Hayride add to the excitement and are included in the admission price. The Artist's Colony boasts fine art and crafts, and includes artists actively working on their art form. Kosher food will be sold. Admission is $8.50 for children ages 3-12, $15 for adults. Advance tickets are available at retail outlets throughout N.J. and N.Y. at $3 off the gate price. The "rain date" is Mon., Sept. 7. For more info and group rates call 973-267-9404. web-site www.jewishfair.com
18th of Elul, 5735 
...The following remarks are in response to your request to comment on this vital subject.
In a Jewish household, the wife and mother, the Akeres Habayis [mainstay of the home], largely determines the set-up and atmosphere of the entire home.
G-d demands that the Jewish home-every Jewish home-be quite different from a non-Jewish home, not only on Shabbos [the Sabbath] and Yom Tov [holidays], but also on the ordinary weekdays and in "weekday" matters. It must be a Jewish home in every respect.
What makes a Jewish household different from a non-Jewish household is that it is conducted in all its details according to the directives of the Torah, Toras Chaim [the living Torah]-meaning that it is the Jew's Guide in daily life-given by G-d. Hence the home becomes an abode for G-d's Presence, a home for G-dliness, one of which G-d says: "Make Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell among them." (Exod. 25:5).
It is a home where G-d's Presence is felt not only on Shabbos and Yom Tov, but on every day of the week; and not only when davenning [praying] and learning Torah, but also when engaged in very ordinary things, such as eating and drinking, etc., in accordance with the directive, "Know Him in all your ways."
It is a home where mealtime is not a time for indulging in ordinary and natural "eating habits" but a hallowed time to serve G-d, where the table is an "altar" to G-d, sanctified by the washing of the hands before the meal, reciting the blessings over the food, and Grace after the meal, with every item of food and beverage brought into the home being strictly kosher.
It is a home where the mutual relationship between husband and wife is sanctified by the meticulous observance of the laws and regulations of Taharas Hamishpocho [family purity], and permeated with awareness of the active third "Partner"-G-d-in creating new life, in fulfillment of the Divine commandment: "Be fruitful and multiply." This also ensures that Jewish children are born in purity and holiness, with pure hearts and minds that will enable them to resist temptation and avoid the pitfalls of the environment when they grow up. Moreover, the strict observance of Taharas Hamishpocho is a basic factor in the preservation of peace and harmony (Sholom Bayis) in the home, which is vitally strengthened and fortified thereby-obviously, a basic factor in the preservation of the family as a unit.
It is a home where the parents know that their first obligation is to instill into their offspring from their most tender age on, the love of G-d and also the fear of G-d, permeating them with the joy of performing Mitzvos. With all their desire to provide their children with all the good things in life, the Jewish parent must know that the greatest, indeed the only real and eternal legacy they can bequeath to their children, is to make the Torah and Mitzvos and traditions, their life source and guide in daily life.
In all that has been said above, the Jewish wife and mother-the Akeres Ha-bayis-has a primary role, second to none.
It is largely-and in many respects exclusively-her great task and privilege to give her home its truly Jewish atmosphere. She has been entrusted with, and is completely in charge of, the Kashrus of the foods and beverages that come into her kitchen and on the dining table.
She has been given the privilege of ushering in the holy Shabbos by lighting the candles on Friday, in ample time before sunset. Thus, she actually and symbolically brightens up her home with peace and harmony and with the light of Torah and Mitzvos. It is largely in her merits that G-d bestows the blessing of true happiness on her husband and children and the entire household.
....This is the great task and mission which G-d gave to Jewish women-to observe and disseminate the observance of Taharas Hamishpocho, and of the other vital institutions of Jewish family life. For besides being the fundamental Mitzvos and the cornerstone of the sanctity of Jewish family life, as well as relating to the well-being of the children in body and soul, these pervade and extend through all Jewish generations to eternity.
Finally, it is to be remembered that the Creator has provided each and every Jewish woman with the capacity to carry them out in daily life in the fullest measure, for otherwise, it would not be logical or fair of G-d to give obligations and duties which are impossible to fulfill...
9 Elul 5758
Positive mitzva 33: The priestly garments
By this injunction the priests (kohanim) are commanded to array themselves in garments of special splendor and beauty before they minister in the Sanctuary. It is contained in the words (Ex. 28:4): "They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for splendor and for beauty"; "And you shall bring his sons, and put tunics upon them" (Ex. 29:8). There are eight priestly garments for the High Priest; four for a common priest.
Sometimes - simply because Elul and the High Holidays occur with yearly dependability - we don't pay enough attention to a very radical concept in Judaism.
During the month of Elul a Jew is supposed to stop what he's doing, honestly and objectively assess his spiritual condition, and take whatever steps are necessary to improve it. But how much can an older, set-in-his-ways person really change? Realistically speaking, each of us has his own strengths and weaknesses, things we are willing to do and things that are just not for us. Aside from minor adjustments, aren't we destined to remain basically the same till 120?
To this, Judaism responds with a resounding "NO!" You too can change and do teshuva, the Torah tells us, regardless of your experience or maturity. Whatever happened before is past history. No door is closed, no bad habits so ingrained that they cannot be overcome. A Jew always has the potential to draw nearer to G-d, and during the month of Elul, is granted special powers from Above to assist him.
This principle, that a Jew is a perpetual "work in progress" and that it's never too late to improve, is the result of the unique nature of the Jewish soul. The Jewish soul is eternal, unlimited by any boundaries. Nothing can stand in the way of a Jew's sincere desire to be close to G-d - neither logic, emotion, environment or inclination. The moment he resolves to change course ever slightly (in the right direction) he becomes invincible.
Each day of his life, a Jew has the capacity to revolutionize his existence and imbue it with ever-increasing holiness. It's just easier during Elul, when our hearts are naturally aroused to doing teshuva and spurred on by G-d's greater proximity among us.
Justice, justice you shall follow (Deut. 16:20)
Contrary to popular opinion, the end never justifies the means, no matter how noble or virtuous. Even the pursuit of justice must be carried out in a just and honest manner. (Rebbe Reb Bunim)
You shall be perfect with the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 18:13)
It is customary to make the verbal declaration before praying: "I hereby accept upon myself the positive commandment of 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Prayer is considered to be an offering before G-d - an offering of the soul. In the days of the Holy Temple, an animal offered for sacrifice had to be perfect and without defect; in the same way, when a Jew prays, he must also be whole of limb and without blemish. As all Jews are metaphorically part of the same body, if a person rejects his fellow Jew for whatever reason, it is his own self that becomes crippled. (Ohr HaTorah of the Tzemach Tzedek)
Some people behave in a G-d-fearing manner only when there are others around to observe them. When they're alone, however, it's another story. This verse teaches that we must strive to be "perfect" even when our only audience is "the L-rd our G-d." For what difference does it make if humans see us, when G-d scrutinizes all our actions at all times? (Alshich)
But if any man be an enemy to his neighbor, and lie in wait for him (Deut. 19:11)
In the literal sense, this verse concerns a person who kills another person unintentionally. But allegorically, it refers to the Evil Inclination, the Jew's true enemy that perpetually "lies in wait" for him. In the beginning the Evil Inclination may present itself as "a neighbor" and friend, but its ultimate goal is to cause the person to fail... (Ohr HaChayim)
When the rains came in the right time and the crops grew and flourished, the Jews in the Land of Israel lived and prospered. But, when the sky burned with fierce heat and no rains fell, suffering was the lot of the unfortunate people. In such years, the community was forced to turn to their fellow Jews outside the land of Israel to come to their aid.
One such year disaster struck the holy land and the elders of the community met to choose an emissary to travel to the Diaspora to collect funds. The natural choice was Rabbi Abraham Galanti, since he was respected by everyone as a wise and honest man; no one had a bad word to say about him. And so, although he was not young and traveling was difficult for him, Rabbi Galanti agreed to go.
Rabbi Galanti gathered a few belongings and made his way to the port of Jaffa, where he would board a ship to sail to the great city of Constantinople which had a large Jewish community. The trip was not very long, and soon land was spotted in the distance. However, when the ship was close enough to see the shore, the captain and crew saw unusual activity in the city. People stood on the rooftops waving and shouting. They seemed to be warning the ship to turn back.
The captain didn't know what to do. He wanted to go ashore, but, it would be irresponsible to risk the lives of his passengers and crew. Finally, he made his decision: the ship would continue to the next port. When the news reached the passengers, Rabbi Galanti approached the captain. "Sir, it is imperative that I disembark here in Constantinople. I have been sent on a mission of mercy by the Jews of the Holy City of Jerusalem who are in danger of starvation. There is no question, but I must insist that you fulfill your contract and bring me directly to Constantinople."
The captain was impressed by the regal bearing of the old Jew and his insistence to go to shore, and despite his reluctance, he decided to do as the rabbi requested. He dispatched one of his sailors to bring Rabbi Galanti to shore in a small boat. As soon as the rabbi reached the shore, the sailor would return to the ship and they would be off.
The plan went well, and Rabbi Galanti landed on the shore of Constantinople. But as soon as he set his foot on the ground, two soldiers ran up to him and said, "Take shelter at once, old man, if you value your life!"
"Why, what is happening here?" Rabbi Galanti asked.
"Two wild lions have escaped from their cages in the Sultan's gardens, and they are roaming the streets of the city and menacing the people. They haven't eaten in days, and no one dares approach them, for fear of being ripped to shreds. The people are hiding in their houses or on the rooftops!"
No sooner had they finished speaking than one of the lions appeared. The soldiers disappeared in a wink, leaving Rabbi Galanti standing before the gigantic lion. The rabbi showed no fear at all. Then the lion walked up to the rabbi and sat down at his side like a huge, gentle, golden dog. Rabbi Galanti gently took the animal by its ear and began leading it to the palace garden. As they continued their progress, the other lion appeared and joined the strange group. The people of Constantinople couldn't believe their eyes as they watched the trio, an elderly rabbi in the middle, holding two seemingly tame lions by their ears, walking peacefully toward the Sultan's gardens.
When they neared the royal palace, the Sultan, who had been watching from his palace ramparts, showed the rabbi where to deposit the two lions.
When they were safely ensconced in their cages, the Sultan and his retainers descended from the roof and greeted the rabbi. The Sultan welcomed him with tremendous honor and invited him to enter the royal palace. He had a dozen questions for the rabbi, but of primary interest was how he had managed to subdue the fierce lions which had terrorized the entire city. Was it some magic, or witchcraft, the Sultan asked.
"Your Majesty," Rabbi Galanti replied, "I am a simple Jew, who has traveled here from the holy city of Jerusalem to collect funds for the poor and destitute. As for witchcraft, our Torah forbids such things. However, our great Sages have taught that at creation, G-d implanted in the nature of animals a natural fear of humans. It holds true, however, only when the human beings act as they were created to, in a G-dly manner. I, your Majesty, have always worked on controlling my nature. Therefore, I have no reason to fear animals. Indeed, I fear only G-d. Therefore, the lions exhibited their natural fear of humans when they saw me, and I was able to calmly return them to their cages."
The Sultan was highly impressed with the words of the venerable old Jew. He called his Chief Treasurer to bring a store of silver and gold coins. He presented them to Rabbi Galanti and sent them in gratitude to aid the poor residents of Jerusalem. In addition, he prepared a fine ship and filled it with precious cargo to transport Rabbi Galanti back to his home in great honor and comfort.
The Midrash observes that when we respond "Amen" after the benedictions in the silent Amida concerning Resurrection, concerning the Final Redemption, and concerning the rebirth of Jerusalem (the 2nd, 7th and 14th) even though we have not yet witnessed these events and have not seen them occur, this is a sign of great faithfulness, concerning which the Prophet says, "The L-rd protects those who are faithful. (From Torah Faith: the Thirteen Principles by Rabbi Zecharia Fendel)