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Two enemies face each other on the battlefield. One hums a merry tune as he takes a few practice sweeps with his sword. The other is clearly down, barely placing one foot before the other as he approaches the first combatant. Who will win? One does not need to know the record or the weight of each participant. The one whose spirit is high will carry the day.
What is true in battle is true in sport and is true in our spiritual lives as well. One of the major teachings of the Chasidic tradition is joy. Based on the biblical verse "Since you did not serve the L-rd your G-d with joy and gladness of heart... you shall serve your enemies," it is explained that depression and sadness are the root of all evil.
Often "serving G-d with joy" is merely a question of counting our blessings, of acknowledging the benevolence of our Creator in providing for all His creations. Other times, however, happiness does not come easily. The secret to joy, when things are not going so well, is faith. Faith means the conviction that "the source of all good can only do good," that everything which happens is part of a Divine plan.
The Talmud describes several personalities throughout history who saw the good in everything. Rabbi Akiva, for example, saw a fox run across the Temple Mount after the destruction and laughed while his companions cried. He was able to comfort the other sages by explaining that once the prophecy of destruction had been completely fulfilled, the prophecy of the rebuilding of the third Temple would certainly also come to pass.
A famous Chasidic adage is "Think good and it will be good." Far from a guidebook for ostriches on how to bury their heads in the sand. This phrase exemplifies the belief that a trusting and positive approach actually creates a brighter future.
A doctor tells the family of a patient, "only two months left." If the family (and the patient) believe, hope and pray that things will get better, they can actually add years to their loved one's life.
Not only in the specifics of one individual's life, but in the life span of the world itself, this forward looking and optimistic sense prevails. Judaism teaches that in the end all will be well. Death and evil will be eliminated, war, jealousy, and hatred will cease, and the knowledge of G-d will fill the entire world. Ironically enough, one of the major pointers to the closeness of redemption is the fulfillment of the depressing descriptions of the pre-Messianic times in the end of the Talmudic tractate Sota. Even more remarkably, there is a wealth of references in Midrash to a return to Israel by the Jews before the coming of Moshiach, followed by an attempt by Jews to return Israel to non-Jewish hands.
However, rather than evoking apprehension as to what the immediate future might bring, our knowledge should inspire joy. After all, our joy is an expression of our faith. Our excitement demonstrates that Moshiach is more than a vague abstract idea for some time in the distant future. Rather, we are demonstrating that we see the coming of Moshiach as an immediate and long-awaited reality.
Many sources teach us that the last requirement for the redemption is faith in the redemption itself.
Knowing that, in the Rebbe's words, we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of the redemption, should certainly lift us to great joy. But more so, the faith that this joy represents will make that reality even closer.
In this week's Torah reading, Eikev, Moses continues his summary of the Jewish people's 40-year sojourn through the wilderness. Among other events, he recounts the story of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the Tablets of the Law. Curiously, the narrative is juxtaposed with the passing of Aaron, which took place some 40 years previously. Our Sages derived an important lesson from this juxtaposition: "The death of tzadikim [the righteous] is as distressing to G-d as the breaking of the Tablets."
Torah is the "Torah of Truth," and not one letter is extraneous. When two stories or concepts are associated with each other, the connection between them is relevant. Thus, if the Torah compares the breaking of the Tablets to the passing of tzadikim, it is not simply to imply that both are "distressing to G-d." Rather, an essential connection exists between the two.
Concerning the breaking of the Tablets our Sages related: "[Moses] glanced down and saw that the writing had flown away. Said he, 'How can I give the Jews Tablets that do not have any substance? It is better that I break them." In other words, Moses only broke the Tablets after he saw that "the writing had flown away."
This cannot mean that the writing had simply disappeared; if the letters were no longer visible, Moses would have said 'Tablets that are empty" and not "Tablets that do not have any substance." Rather, the letters of the Ten Commandments were still there, but their holiness had departed. Once their sanctity was gone, Moses saw that the Tablets "did not have any substance."
Indeed, this is the common point between the two concepts. Every Jew is compared to the Tablets, for he possesses a physical body (the "writing" on the Tablets) and a spiritual soul (the "sanctity" within the letters). The Jew's G-dly soul is analogous to the "Divine writing" with which the Tablets were written.
The life of the tzadik is primarily spiritual, as his G-dly soul is the most important component. Indeed, the tzadik's entire existence is focused on faith, love and awe of G-d.
When a tzadik passes away and his G-dly soul becomes separated from his physical body, the situation is likened to what happened when the holiness departed from the letters of the Tablets. The physical body remains (as did the letters), but the essence of the tzadik has "flown upwards" and ascended to a higher level.
In the same way that the broken pieces of the Tablets were kept as a reminder that it is only their holiness that imbues them with "substance," so too should the passing of the righteous inspire us to put the spiritual over the material in our daily lives, and emulate the tzadik's example.
Adapted from Volume 14 of Likutei Sichot
A Million Dollar Golf Ball
By Steve Hyatt
It was a Spring Shabbos day like any other Spring Shabbos day in Oregon. The sun was shining intensely and a chorus of birds sang a festive tune in our backyard. As is our tradition on Shabbos, my wife Linda and I took a leisurely walk through the neighborhood in the late afternoon.
Our home is nestled in the tree-lined hills of Oregon and somehow we feel a little closer to G-d when we walk through some of His greatest creations. We are surrounded by Redwoods, Oak, Douglas fir, Pine and Birch trees. You name it and it probably grows on one of our hills.
Our route on this particular Shabbos wound its way through a number of the majestic homes that line the fairways of the golf course located near our home. We were coming close to the end of our stroll when I happened to notice a shiny, white object nestled against the curb in front of us. As we approached the object I recognized it as an almost brand new golf ball.
What may be an unusual sight in some areas is common in this neighborhood. On any given day many a poor golfer has been known to slice a drive into one of the front yards of the homes on the very street on which we strolled. What was unusual about this ball, however, was that it was a VERY, VERY expense state-of-the-art golf ball. The average golf ball costs anywhere from seventy five cents to a dollar and a half. When you lose one of them it doesn't hurt much. But losing a ball that costs four dollars, now that hurts!
As I have written before, I am addicted to the game of golf. I don't play it very well but I love getting out on a course with my buddies and banging that little white ball around for a few hours. When I saw that expensive ball lying at my feet, free for the taking, my immediate instinct was to pick it up, pocket it, and take it home with me.
Just as I reached down to pick up the ball a little voice in my head reminded me that it was Shabbos and carrying it home was not exactly what G-d had in mind when He gave us the commandment to guard and remember the Sabbath. Carrying in the public domain, I had learned, was one of the categories of labor that are prohibited on Shabbos.
My mind answered the little voice, "But that's a Taylormade InerGel golf ball!"
"Yes but its Shabbos" answered the little voice.
Reluctantly and slowly I moved away from this prized find. My wife Linda turned me around, pointed me in the right direction and we continued down the street toward our home. The farther I walked, the better I felt. When we finally arrived home I felt fantastic! You see I really wanted that ball. I wanted to pick it up, stick it in my pocket and then use it the next morning in front of my buddies. In my mind I knew that I would have pounded that state-of-the-art ball, dazzling my pals, eliciting oohs and aahs as it sailed 250 yards down the fairway. Yet when push came to shove I knew that honoring the mitzva of Shabbos was more important, and in the long run more rewarding, than hitting a little white ball down a fairway ever would be.
When the sun came up the next morning I couldn't get the golf ball out of my mind. I prayed, ate breakfast and then tore out of the house to retrieve it. To my amazement, there it was, still nestled against the curb where it was the day before. It was as if it was waiting for me to return and claim it. I snatched that ball up so fast you'd think it was worth a million dollars.
Several hours later I met my buddies at the course. With a smirk on my face and a swagger in my walk, I stepped up to the first tee-box, placed the ball on the tee, took a mighty swing and... I hit that state-of-the-art-VERY, VERY expensive golf ball right into the lake!
As I stood there helplessly watching the ball sink slowly to the bottom of the lake, I couldn't help but give thanks to G-d for helping me make the right choice the day before. The Taylormade InerGel golf ball that I placed so much value on yesterday now rested forever at the bottom of a murky lake on a golf course in Oregon. But the mitzva of Shabbos was alive and well in my heart. I realized that I could always buy another golf ball, but the opportunity to perform a mitzva was, is and will continue to be, a priceless gift!
NEW IN LAS VEGAS
Chabad-Lubavitch of Las Vegas recently opened a new $1.5 million facility on the 2-acre property in the heart of Las Vegas where their previous building was located. The new center houses a day school, adult education programs, a summer day camp and the full range of outreach and social service programs for which Chabad-Lubavitch in known throughout the world.
MEANINGFUL LIFE SHOW
If you live in or are visiting the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT) tune into a radio show you won't want to miss, Toward a Meaningful Life with Rabbi Simon Jacobson. The show "for skeptics and seekers" airs on Sundays from 6-7 p.m. at WEVD AM 1050. Transcripts of the shows are available at www.meaningfullife.com
18th of Sivan, 5719 
I received your letter, in which you write about your anxiety in regard to the question of Parnosso [livelihood]. Needless to say, I am much surprised at you, that you should allow yourself to be so affected by this. For you surely know how often our Sages have impressed on us the importance of trust and confidence in G-d, in order that we realize that all difficulties encountered in life are only trials and tests of a passing nature.
To be sure, the question of Parnosso is one of the most difficult tests - nevertheless, G-d does not subject one to a greater test than he can withstand, as our Rabbis ex pressed it, "According to the camel, so is its load." The very trust in G-d is a vessel and channel to receive G-d's blessings, apart from the fact that such confidence is good for one's health, disposition, and therefore is also a natural means to the desired end. All the more so, since, as you write, you have noticed an improvement in recent weeks.
This should serve as an encouraging sign and greatly strengthen your trust in G-d. No doubt you also remember the commentary of my father-in-law of saintly memory in regard to the saying of our Sages that "Life is like a turning wheel," at which my father-in-law remarked that "When a point on the wheel reaches the lowest degree, it is bound to turn up wards again."
As for your request for advice, in my opinion you ought to set a period of time for the study of Pnimius of the Torah, namely, Chasidus, concerning which it is written in the Zohar (part 3, page 124b): "In the area of Pnimius HaTorah there is no place for negative things and evil," and as further explained in Iggeres HaKodesh, chapter 26.
In addition, I suggest that you should set aside a couple of pennies for Tzedoko [charity] every weekday morning before prayer, and also before Mincha [the afternoon prayer service]. Also to recite at least one Kapitel Tehillim [chapter of Psalms] every day after the morning prayers, including Shabbos and Yom Tov.
All the above should be Bli Neder [without making a vow], and at least until Rosh Hashanah. It would also be very good for you to know by heart several Perokim Mishnayos [chapters of Mishna], and at least one Perek Tanya [chapter of Tanya].
I am confident that the above, together with an increased measure of bitachon, [faith] will soon bring an improvement in your Parnosso.
In accordance with the teaching of our Sages ([Talmud] Bovo Basra 15,2) that money from a good and saintly source brings G-d's blessings, you will find enclosed a check from one of the treasuries for my father-in-law of saintly memory, to deposit to your business account, and may G-d grant that the prediction of our Sages will be realized in your case also.
Hoping to hear good news from you and with blessing,
P.S. Enclosed you will find a copy of a message which I trust you will find useful.
27th of Teveth, 5721 
I received your letter and enclosures.
It is explained in many places in Chasidus, beginning with the Tanya, about the negative aspects of all forms of sadness, depression, despondency, etc. It is also clear from experience that these attitudes belong to the bag of tricks of the Yetzer Hora [evil inclination] in order to distract the Jew from serving G-d. To achieve this end the Yetzer Hora sometimes even clothes itself in the mantle of piety.
The true test, however, is what the results are, whether these attitudes actually bring about an improvement in, and a fuller measure of Torah and Mitzvos, or the reverse. This should be easy to determine.
On the other hand we have been assured that "He who is determined to purify himself receives Divine help." The road to purity and holiness, however, is one that should be trodden step by step, and by gradual and steady advancement.
Needless to say, the idea of your continuing at the Yeshivah for some time is the right one. As for the question how and what to write to your parents, I suggest that you consult with Rabbi Joseph Weinberg, who knows them personally, and who could give you some useful suggestions.
Hoping to hear good news from you in all above,
18 Av 5760
Prohibition 107: changing one holy offering for another
By this prohibition we are forbidden to exchange one kind of sacrifice for another, such as a peace-offering into a guilt-offering, or a guilt-offering into a sin-offering. It is derived from the Torah's words (Lev. 27:26): "No man shall sanctify it."
Continuing our weekly study of Ethics of the Fathers, this Shabbat we turn to Chapter four, which emphasizes the importance of having a positive influence on others. In addition to serving G-d and working on oneself as an individual, a Jew must also strive to have a good relationship with the people around him.
The Mishna poses several questions - "Who is wise? Who is strong? Who is rich?" - then concludes with a fourth question: "Who is honored?" He who honors others."
The first three qualities - wisdom, strength and wealth - pertain to the individual himself, whereas the fourth - honor - applies only when a person interacts with others.
Similarly, the Mishna lists "three crowns": the "crown of Torah," the "crown of priesthood," and the "crown of kingship." The Mishna then goes on to state that "the crown of a good name surpasses them all."
As in the first example, Torah, priesthood and kingship are characteristics that describe a person vis-...-vis himself as an individual. The fourth quality, "a good name," can only be acquired through positive social relationships. In other words, "a good name" can only be obtained by working with other people.
In fact, exerting a positive influence on others is not an end unto itself, but an integral part and consequence of a Jew's Divine service. When a Jew works hard on perfecting his individual qualities, the positive results spill over and affect his environment. The "good name" he earns which "surpasses them all" is therefore not a "crown" in the strictest sense, but the natural outcome of his efforts and a reflection of his inner spiritual perfection.
And fed you with manna.that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone (Deut. 8:3)
When the Jewish people ate the manna in the desert, the "bread from heaven," they understood that it was a super-natural phenomenon, i.e., that their sustenance came from the G-dly spark the manna contained. Likewise, even when eating "bread from the earth," we should be aware that it is not the physical components of the bread that sustain us but the G-dliness therein. (Keser Shem Tov)
Man does not live by ("al") bread alone (Deut. 8:3)
By using the preposition "al" (which literally means above) rather than "b'lechem," "with bread," the Torah alludes to the purpose of life: A person must eat in order to live, and not live in order to eat. (Yesod Ha'Ikrim)
And now Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d ask of you except to fear G-d (Deut. 10:12)
A Jew once came to the Chofetz Chaim and asked him for a blessing that his children grow up to be G-d-fearing Jews. Replied the Chofetz Chaim, "You think that this can be attained with a blessing? No, my dear Jew, this is something that requires a lot of effort, and a great deal of self-sacrifice on your part."
Rabba bar Rav Huna stated: To what is a person with Torah knowledge but without fear of Heaven likened? To a treasurer who has been given the inner keys to the treasury but not the keys to the outer door; how shall he enter? (The Talmud; Shabbat 31a)
For a long time the Soviet government had been carefully scrutinizing the actions of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the Chief Rabbi of the city of Yeketerinaslav (and the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe). A network of spies had infiltrated his synagogue and was observing his every step. Indeed, a thick dossier of his "crimes" had already been gathered.
The truth is that it wasn't all that difficult to substantiate evidence of the Rav's defiance. Nonetheless, by dint of his courage and ingenuity, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak had so far succeeded in avoiding their traps.
Take, for example, the time the government decided to conduct a census in which all Soviet citizens were asked if they believed in G-d. Because of the great danger involved in responding truthfully, many Jews, even observant ones, had planned on answering in the negative.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, however, would not hear of such a thing, and ran from one synagogue to the next begging people not to deny the G-d of their fathers. As a result of his campaign he was summoned to appear before the authorities.
"What is there to find fault with?" Rabbi Levi Yitzchak answered innocently. "When I learned that some Jews were intending to lie, I merely did my job as a Soviet citizen and urged them to tell the truth."
The day came when Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was invited to appear in court on charges of conducting Jewish activities in his home. As this was strictly against the law, if he were found guilty, the punishment was potentially severe.
The Rav's apprehension only grew when he saw the two main witnesses for the prosecution. The first was the director of the housing unit in which he lived, a young Jew who was a sworn Communist. Appointed by the authorities to keep track of the residents' comings and goings, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak knew that he was the housing director's primary focus. The other witness was his next-door neighbor, a woman whose husband was the regional head of the Communist Party in charge of transportation.
In truth, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak had much to fear from these two witnesses. And recent events had given him even more cause for worry.
Not long ago a young Jewish couple, both high-ranking government employees, had suddenly appeared on his doorstep in the middle of the night and asked that he marry them "according to the laws of Moses and Israel." It was a very dangerous proposition: Not only did the Rav not know them personally, but in order to conduct a Jewish ceremony under a chupa, ten Jewish men would have to be found.
Within a short time, nine Jews were hastily assembled in Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's home. But where to locate a tenth? With no other option the Rav had taken the bold step of asking the director of the housing project to participate. "Me?!" the man had jumped as if bitten by a snake. "Yes, you," Rabbi Levi Yitzchak had answered in earnest. Surprisingly, the director had agreed, and the clandestine wedding was held. But who knew if this would now be counted against him?
The second witness had also recently been involved in an activity that could possibly implicate him. One day a secret messenger had come to the Rav's house and informed him that the following day, the woman's husband, the high-ranking Communist, would be away on business from morning till night. The real reason for his absence, however, was to allow the Rav to perform a brit mila on their newborn son.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak did not know if he was walking into a trap. But the next day, the tiny infant was entered into the Covenant of Abraham.
That evening, the baby's father returned home and made a big commotion about the "terrible" deed that was done without his knowledge. Thus, it was difficult to predict how the neighbor woman would now testify in court.
The tension was great as the trial opened. The director of the housing project was the first to testify: "As you all know," he began, "I am well aware of everyone who enters and exits Rabbi Schneerson's apartment. But the only unusual visitors I've noticed are two old relatives who drop by from time to time."
Now it was the turn of the second witness to speak. "As a neighbor of Rabbi Schneerson," the woman testified, "I always expected that as a spiritual leader, he would try to establish contact with members of his faith. I therefore find it surprising that I have never noticed any illegal activities in all the time he has lived next door to me."
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson thus emerged unscathed from this particular incident. But the evidence against him continued to mount until in 1940, he was declared an "enemy of the people" and exiled to Central Asia. After much suffering he returned his holy soul to its Maker, on the 20th of Av of 5704 (1944). May his saintly memory protect us all.
With the advent of Moshiach, there will be revealed the superior quality of the traits of simplicity and wholeheartedness found in the service of simple folk who pray and recite Psalms with simple sincerity. (Hayom Yom, Iyar 24)