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Lullaby and good night...
For most of us, feeling sleep-deprived is a regular habit. Whether we've stayed up to balance the checkbook, or to catch up on the latest developments in our field of expertise, or even because we just couldn't put down that book, inevitably the alarm clock rings long before we've gotten enough sleep to feel properly rested.
Even if we do get to sleep at a decent hour, there often seems to be a conspiracy to make sure we don't get a good night's sleep: the telephone ("Sorry, wrong number); a crying baby; the garbage truck clanging at 3 a.m. (or is that only in Manhattan?); the teenager still out with the car.
Sleep researchers will rattle off the pros and cons of valerian, melatonin, exercise, hot baths, warm milk or a solid meal. They'll also tell you that the older you get (over 30) the more you're likely to complain about your sleeping. A good night's sleep truly seems to be elusive.
Though they don't necessarily offer advice on how to fall asleep or stay asleep, Jewish teachings do have what to say about how to help make the night's sleep as pleasant and sweet as possible.
The first step toward a good night's sleep is to do a mitzva. Actually, the last mitzva of the day is to say the "Shema Before Retiring."
Many prayer books also contain a short but amazingly powerful paragraph as part of the bedtime prayers in which we tell G-d that we forgive anyone who angered us or sinned against us, and we ask for G-d's assistance to not repeat our failings of the previous day. Said sincerely, this prayer is sure to help you get a good night's sleep.
And, perhaps, this is why King David, the composer of the Psalms wrote (4:9), "In peace, at one with all, I will lie down and sleep, for You O L-rd will make me dwell alone and in security." When we are truly at one with all, when we've not only let go of but buried the day's baggage, we can not only lie down but actually fall asleep.
Studying Torah during the day and at night will also help you sleep well. In Proverbs (3:24) we read of the benefit of Torah study: "When you lie down, you shall not be afraid; indeed, you shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet."
A few chapters later in Proverbs (6:20, 22) we are advised to "keep your father's commandment, and forsake not the Torah of your mother" for "when you sleep, it shall keep you." This alludes to the fact that doing mitzvot and studying Torah guards us in our sleep. Knowing that we're safe can surely help us get a better night's sleep.
When we take these Jewish teachings to heart, we will surely awaken refreshed and ready to tackle another day. Ultimately, the increase in Torah study and mitzvot will hasten the dawning of the great day and era of the Messianic Redemption, when all of those who are asleep, including those who "sleep in the dust" will awaken and be revived, may it happen now.
This week's Torah portion, Toldot, begins with the verse: "And these are the generations of Isaac, the son of Abraham; Abraham begot Isaac." Our Sages asked a logical question: If we already know that Isaac is the "son of Abraham," why is it necessary for the Torah to restate their relationship by telling us that "Abraham begot Isaac"? What is the meaning of this seeming redundancy?
They offered several explanations.
The Gemara relates that the Gentile nations refused to believe that Isaac was Abraham's son. What did G-d do to convince them? He formed the face of the infant to look exactly like his father's; the physical resemblance between Abraham and Isaac was startling. Isaac's paternity could not be denied, and everyone admitted that Abraham was Isaac's father.
The Midrash further relates that "Isaac was crowned by Abraham, and Abraham was crowned by Isaac." The repetition of the phrase emphasizes the reciprocal nature of the relationship between father and son: Each one took pride in the other, "adorning" himself in the other's achievements.
In principle, whenever there is more than one explanation on a verse, there is always an underlying connection between them.
Both of the above explanations, from the Gemara and the Midrash, involve matters that transcend the natural order.
The first explanation, the open demonstration of Abraham's paternity, was predicated on a miracle. When Isaac was born Abraham was already an old man; according to the laws of nature it was no longer possible for him to father a child. The nations of the world were therefore unwilling to accept Abraham as Isaac's biological offspring. In truth, the only reason that Isaac was born was because of a miracle.
The second explanation, the pride and delight father and son took in each other, is also contrary to the laws of nature. According to nature, each successive generation is on a lower level than the one which preceded it. Yet we see that Abraham took such pride in his child that Isaac was considered his "crown." This mutually adoring relationship ran counter to the dictates of the natural order.
The lesson to be derived from both explanations is that a Jew must realize that his entire existence is not subject to nature. The laws of nature control neither his spiritual nor physical affairs.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 3
A BLINK AT HISTORY
Ed.'s note: The Rebbe initiated the Shabbat candle lighting campaign 25 years ago. The following are a few incidents from the campaign's earliest months from the campaign head.
by Esther Sternberg
Soon after the Rebbe initiated the Neshek (Neiros Shabbos Kodesh-Holy Shabbat Candles] Campaign, my mother was at a medical facility and told me that she had successfully influenced some of the women there to light candles. She had mentioned that candle lighting was an auspicious time for them to pray to G-d for their medical concerns. A woman who lit candles for the very first time came running to my mother on Shabbos morning. There had been an error in her diagnosis and she could go home with a clean bill of health!
I wondered out loud as to how we would be able to bring this beautiful mitzva to young girls as the Rebbe had enjoined us to do. It seemed so revolutionary! My mother replied that this was not a new custom. She had lit candles as a little girl as had her cousins and friends. And my mother was not from a Chabad-Lubavitch family.
In my next report to the Rebbe, I mentioned my mother's experience at the medical facility and also that she had lit candles as a young girl. The Rebbe answered that I should research the customs of other Chasidic communities regarding this matter and submit my findings to the individuals preparing a publication about the tradition of young girls lighting candles.
The fruits of my labor were truly fascinating. The Visznitzer and Skverer Rebbetzins, the Boyoner Rebbetzin's daughter and others confirmed that they had lit candles as young girls.
Most intriguing was an interview with a distant cousin, a granddaughter of the Rebbe of Belz zt"l. Orphaned from her father at a very tender age, she would periodically spend Shabbos at her grandfather's home. One Friday afternoon she observed all the women and girls rushing to the central dining area to light their candles. She was distressed that she was not part of it. It greatly surprised her when the next time she visited her grandfather she was called into his room and given her own set of candles. Her grandfather told her, "I want you to start lighting Shabbos candles in my house. The blessing you surely know, and the "Yehi Ratzon" [May it be Your will... that the Holy Temple be rebuilt] you should say as you do at the end of Shmone Esrei [the Silent prayer]."
Another person I spoke to was the brother of the Bobover Rebbe. In their community girls would begin to light candles even before the age of three. In the city of Kaminka where he came from, on a baby girl's first Friday, her little hand would be brought close to the Shabbos candles so that she should be blessed by their holiness. He recalled his father purchasing candlesticks for his only sister when she became twelve years of age.
In accordance with the Rebbe's advice, I presented my information to the individuals working on the aforementioned publication. My research was added to theirs which included a story from Rabbi Soloveichik about the Brisker Rav buying candlesticks for his daughter to light when she was still quite young.
That very same week a call to the Rebbe's office from an afternoon Hebrew School principal was directed to me. The Rabbi wanted his students to be part of the Rebbe's campaign. He felt it was important to give each child a candlestick of her own. "I could purchase them myself," he noted, "but I know that if they come from Lubavitch we will be more successful."
Though I had no candlesticks, I told him I would deliver 100 to his Hebrew School by Thursday. After much effort I was able to obtain candlesticks and prepared candle lighting time tables for the next few Fridays. The following Monday the same principal called again, requesting an additional 100 candlesticks! Little girls from the neighborhood who did not attend the Hebrew school had heard about lighting Shabbos candles from their friends and insisted on having their own Shabbos candlesticks just like their friends!
Deeply affected by the girls' enthusiasm, I realized that the best way to reach the children would be a direct approach to day schools, Hebrew Schools, Sunday schools and the like.
Volunteers from the Lubavitcher girls' school, Beth Rivkah, visited the schools, undeterred by bad weather and other difficulties. When we asked the Rebbe if we should ship the candlesticks by mail to the local schools, rather than have the girls hand deliver them, the Rebbe replied that not only was it more beneficial if the girls went themselves, it was also a great merit for them.
Early on in the campaign, a metal manufacturer offered to make candlesticks specially for us. He had manufactured 100,000 stems for candlesticks in the hope that we would use them.
The campaign was in full swing. Schools were being visited consistently. Every Friday I was reporting to the Rebbe. One week I received an urgent message from the Rebbe to print attractive colorful stickers for every girl to personalize and affix to her candlestick.
We gave the sticker and the candlestick to the Rebbe for his approval. The Rebbe informed us that the sticker was not pretty enough and the candlestick was not sufficiently safe. We were to stop using these candlesticks altogether.
After much debate, several new designs were created by the manufacturer and presented to the Rebbe. The Rebbe chose the cup of one design, the base of another, and the connecting link of a third. The base was wider than before and the candlestick was shorter. The safety and stability of the candlestick was paramount to the Rebbe. This is also why the Rebbe was displeased with the glass candlesticks as there was a possibility that they could burst.
May the light of the Rebbe's mitzva campaigns hastne the time when the "candles of Zion" will flicker brilliantly in a world that will be "all Shabbos and tranquility for life everlasting"-the Messianic Era!
Condensed from the Yiddishe Heim
Rivkie and her family move into a new house. As everything gets put away, the family starts to feel at home. Then, Rivkie discovers that a very important item is missing from each room. She leads the family through the house, making everything "just right." By working together, the whole family helps to put in place all the important, familiar objects that turn an ordinary house into a special Jewish home. This newest release from HaChai Publishing is written by Ellen Emerman and illustrated by Sarah Kranz.
12th of Shevat, 5721 
...As requested, I will remember you all in prayer when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory. Especially that the wedding of your daughter take place in a happy and auspicious hour, and that she and her chosen partner in life should build their home on the foundations of the Torah and Mitzvos.
...With regard to your sister, I am enclosing herewith a copy of my letter to her which I am sending to you confidentially [printed below]. From this letter you will gather my views on the subject.
Hoping to hear good news from you in all the above, and with the blessing of Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov,
It is sometimes difficult to help a person who acts in a way which is contrary to what we would call cooperation. I refer to the matter of learning Chasidus, about which you wrote to me once, saying, why should we bother about the Supernal Worlds, Atzilus etc., when there are so many things connected with this world?
Actually, the situation is the reverse, since everything in this world is derived from the Supernal Worlds, for, as is explained at length in Chasidus, all things in this world, even the most material and corporeal, are directly related to their spiritual sources in the higher order of things and derive their existence and their being through a series of channels and vessels of purity and holiness.
Thus, while the Old Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman] wrote in the Tanya (chapter 6), quoting the Etz Chaim "The affairs of this world are difficult and evil, and the wicked ones have supremacy," yet the Torah says "If you will follow in My statutes etc. I will give rain in its season," - how is this to be reconciled.
The answer is that through the Torah and Mitzvos the Jew elevates himself above this physical world and transcends its boundaries, so that instead of being subject to its laws and limitations he can become master and ruler of the world, the reason being that the Torah and Mitzvos are connected with the Supernal Worlds which are completely good, and this world is only the last in the chain of transformations from the spiritual to the material, beginning with the world of Atzilus of which it is written "lo yegurcha rah" ["Evil does not abide with You"] or, as our religious philosophers call it, "The World of Souls," descending from the World of the Angels to the World of the Spheres, which is our physical world.
On the other hand, if a Jew is reckless enough to cut himself off from the Supernal Worlds, he is left only with this physical world, which has been described by the Old Rebbe as above, where "the affairs of this world are difficult and evil, and where the wicked ones have supremacy, etc." But being he is a believing Jew, and consequently prays to G-d the Creator and Master of the world, Whose Providence extends to everyone individually, there are ways whereby G-d's blessings descend even to those who are ignorant of the ways of Providence, and who know nothing about the relationship of this world to the Supernal Worlds.
However one to whom a greater measure of knowledge has been revealed about G-d and G-d's ways, yet refuses to acknowledge the channels and vessels through which G-d's blessings necessarily come down, but insists on receiving G-d's blessings directly from G-d (Bread from Heaven); it means that he wants to receive such blessings by way of an open miracle, not through a miracle which is clothed in natural garments. And it is well known that in order to receive the benefit of an open miracle, one must have extraordinary merits, and even in such a case the miracle is debited to the account and as our Sages have taught, "One should not rely on a miracle."
I trust that for a person of your background it is not necessary to elaborate at greater length what should be quite obvious.
It should also be self-evident that my intention in writing the above lines is not in order to admonish you or to cause you any pain, G-d forbid. I only wanted to throw some light on the subject, for, apart from the knowledge itself that this subject contains, it also has a direct bearing upon the daily affairs of one's life.
In a similar sense our Sages explained, "He who is engaged in the study in Torah of a Burnt Offering is considered as though he has actually offered it." Similarly, when one is engaged in the study in Torah of the process of Creation and Divine Providence it has a direct bearing on the benefits to be derived thereby, both material and spiritual.
May G-d grant that you learn with vitality and for their own sake, both Nigleh and Chasidus, and may G-d channel His blessings to you and yours in all your needs, materially and spiritually, from His full, open and ample hand.
In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman yblc't
3 Kislev 5760
Negative mitzva 265: planning to acquire another's property
By this prohibition we are forbidden to occupy our minds with schemes to acquire what belongs to another person. It is contained in the Torah's words (Ex. 20:14): "You shall not covet your neighbor's house."
One of the most basic concepts associated with Shabbat is pleasure, or "oneg Shabbat." "Oneg Shabbat" is so important that Jewish law addresses it at length. In fact, it is this element of pleasure that most succinctly expresses the essence of Shabbat.
But what is pleasure? One person will enjoy fine food, while another derives pleasure from music or the arts. Every individual is different, and the sources of personal happiness are extremely varied.
According to Chasidic philosophy, pleasure is derived from the expression of the soul. When the soul is able to express its individuality freely and without impediment, the result is pleasure. A coarser soul will be delighted by food and wine; a more rarified one will seek spiritual or intellectual gratification. Thus not only does the particular kind of pleasure an individual pursues tell us a lot about him, it defines his essence.
The perception of pleasure is also connected to the act of completion. The artist feels fulfilled only when the painting is finished, when he can step back and admire his handiwork.
These two elements - the expression of the soul and the pleasure that results from a sense of completion - come together on Shabbat.
During the Six Days of Creation, G-d "stepped out of character," as it were, and condensed His infinite light to create the world. As the aspect of creation does not express G-d's essence, the pleasure it brought Him was limited. Only on Shabbat, when "the heavens and the earth and all their hosts were completed," did G-d "sit back" and enjoy His handiwork.
Ever since, the cycle is repeated each week. On Shabbat, all of creation experiences a spiritual elevation, expressing its true essence. That is why it is so important to engage in activities on Shabbat that express our true essence: praying, studying Torah, etc. For the essence of the Jew is his G-dly soul, for which genuine pleasure can only be derived from holiness.
Esau and Jacob
The name Esau is derived from the Hebrew word meaning done or completed. Esau felt whole, satisfied and comfortable with his spiritual status, and was thus lacking any desire to elevate himself. Jacob, by contrast, is derived from the word meaning heel. No matter how high a spiritual level Jacob achieved he considered it as nothing, and was consistently motivated to elevate himself further. (Shem MiShmuel)
And these are the generations of Isaac...and the first came out...and they called his name Esau (Gen. 25:19;25)
Esau is symbolic of the forces of evil and impurity, which were created for the purpose of the Jew transforming them into goodness and light. (In fact, it is due to this inner, positive reason that the Torah refers to Esau as "the generations of Isaac.") The Hebrew name Isaac is related to the word for laughter. When "Esau" is successfully changed into good, G-d "laughs," as it were, and derives great pleasure from the transformation. (Sefer HaMaamarim 5738)
And the children struggled together within her (Gen. 26:22)
The struggle between Jacob and Esau began before birth, and ever since, there has been no peace. Indeed, it is a perpetual war that continues till this very day. (Be'er Yitzchak)
And after that came forth his brother, his hand holding on to Esau's heel (Gen. 25:26)
Esau, symbolic of the animal soul and the evil inclination, was born first, as chronologically, a person possesses an evil inclination for a long time before he has a good one. (The good inclination is acquired upon Bar/Bat Mitzva.) Jacob symbolizes the Jew's G-dly soul and his good inclination. The Divine service of Jacob thus consists of keeping his hand on Esau's "heel," as the true reason the G-dly soul descends into this world is to achieve the correction of the animal soul. (Likutei Sichot)
Reb Daniel was your stereotypical "Litvak" (Jew of Lithuanian extraction) who lived in the holy city of Jerusalem. Reb Daniel's entire life was devoted to Torah study, despite the extreme poverty that had plagued him ever since leaving his native Lomzha. He and his wife were raising their seven children in a dilapidated two-room apartment. Nonetheless, at almost any time of day or night you could find Reb Daniel poring over a thick tome. He rarely went out.
All of Reb Daniel's neighbors were aware of his habits, and recognized him as a great scholar. In fact, Reb Daniel's wife had once told them about the promise her father had extracted from her before he passed away: that she always be a true "helpmate" to her husband, and never disturb his learning.
Reb Daniel's wife was very scrupulous in fulfilling her father's wishes. Her husband was virtually never seen on the street. He never went to the marketplace or ran an errand. Rarely did he even step outside for a breath of fresh air.
Sightings of Reb Daniel were so unusual that when he was spotted one day hurrying through the marketplace with a large sack on his shoulder, everyone took notice. What was Reb Daniel doing outside, of all places?
It turned out that the day before, a peddler had come to the door selling secondhand clothes. Reb Daniel's wife was about to purchase a few garments when her husband reminded her about the mitzva of shatnes, the prohibition against wearing clothes woven of wool and flax. Immediately she ran to fetch her neighbor, Reb Shmuel Zanvil, who was an expert in such matters. When he examined the clothes and found that several did indeed contain shatnes, she declined the purchase and the peddler left.
The next day Reb Daniel happened to ask her about the clothes, as he had been immersed in study in the other room and hadn't overheard how the problem was resolved. "Oh, there was shatnes in them so I gave them back," she replied. "What?!" Reb Daniel cried out rather uncharacteristically. "G-d forbid, another Jew might inadvertently buy them!"
Reb Daniel raced from the house in search of the peddler, and eventually located him in the marketplace trying to sell his wares. When he learned that the peddler hadn't succeeded in selling even one garment, he was so relieved that he purchased the entire lot just to get rid of it. (This, of course, was no small sacrifice, given Reb Daniel's financial state.) That was the type of pious person Reb Daniel was.
Then one day, people began to notice a sudden change in Reb Daniel's habits. Several times he was recognized entering the home of the renowned tzadik Rabbi Elazar Mendel of Lelov. For hours on end the two of them would sit and discuss Torah...and Chasidut! And if that wasn't enough to raise eyebrows, Reb Daniel was observed studying a book written by Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl, a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. Tongues began to wag. "What is happening to Reb Daniel?" people asked. "Is our ascetic Litvak suddenly changing into a Chasid?"
Again, it was Reb Daniel's wife who explained what was happening:
A few months previously, Reb Daniel had started to notice that his eyesight was failing. All those years of studying the "tiny letters" were beginning to take their toll. At first he could almost convince himself that it was simple fatigue, but as the days passed he realized that the problem was more serious. Reb Daniel sought the help of several doctors and apothecaries, but none of their remedies helped.
Reb Daniel's wife, who came from a Chasidic background, would have immediately suggested that her husband go to the great Rabbi Elazar Mendel for a blessing, but she was well aware of his attitude toward Chasidim and tzadikim. Thus it wasn't until his eyesight had deteriorated even further that she decided to take matters into her own hands. Without her husband's knowledge she went to the tzadik's house and explained the situation to his Rebbetzin, with whom she was friendly, and asked her to intercede on her husband's behalf.
The Rebbetzin knocked lightly on her husband's door, opened it a crack, and saw that he was in the middle of praying. Apologizing for the interruption, she started to tell him about Reb Daniel's failing eyesight when he nodded his head. "I know already," he told her. "I know."
The next day an emissary from Rabbi Elazar Mendel arrived at Reb Daniel's house with a package. Inside was the sefer Me'or Einayim [literally "Light of One's Eyes"], the work of Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl. Also enclosed was a short note in Rabbi Elazar Mendel's own hand: "Study a portion of this holy book every day and I promise you that the 'light of your eyes' will return."
At first Reb Daniel was hesitant, but when his eyesight became even more impaired he decided to take the tzadik's advice. A few days later he noticed an improvement. In the course of time his vision was completely restored.
From that day on Reb Daniel's attitude toward Chasidut changed dramatically. He became an ardent follower of Rabbi Elazar Mendel, and always kept a copy of Me'or Einayim on his desk.
Our Sages state, "Any generation in whose days the Holy Temple is not rebuilt, it is reckoned against that generation as if it was destroyed in its time!" (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1:1) It follows, then, that it is our duty to rid ourselves of the cause of the destruction ("Because they had forsaken My Torah..."-Jeremiah 9:12). The study of Torah has this effect, and will bring about the restoration of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple by the speedy coming of Moshiach. (Living With Moshiach)