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You're walking down the street and you see a person who looks perfectly normal walking toward you. Then you notice him talking to himself. He's gesturing, pointing and wagging his finger in the air to make a point. What's going on here?
As you get closer you avert your eyes. Perhaps he's not embarrassed but you sure are!
When you are within just a few feet of the individual, you chuckle to yourself. "How could I have forgotten? Cell phones."
Everywhere we go, at any time of day or night, people stay connected with family, friends and work via cell phones.
Mitzvot, Divine precepts that guide and govern every aspect of a Jew's life from the moment of his birth to his last breath, are a means by which we connect with G-d. In fact, the word mitzva itself has two meanings: "commandment" and "connection."
And at any time of day or night, we can stay connected with G-d via mitzvot.
By commanding us the mitzvot, G-d created the means through which we can establish a connection with Him. The hand putting a few coins in a charity box, the mind thinking Torah thoughts, the lips curved into a smile to greet another person, the voice soaring in prayer, the stomach digesting matza on Passover, the ears hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashana, all become instruments to connect us with G-d. So there are mitzvot for each limb, organ and faculty of a person, mitzvot governing every aspect of a person's life, so that no part of him remains uninvolved in his relationship with his Creator.
Each time we do a mitzva we connect with G-d. Sometimes, the connection is so natural that we don't even notice it. At other times we feel the connection of a mitzva-tears streaming forth in a moment of prayer; an intangible peace as the Shabbat candles are lit; the slow exhale as tefilin straps are unwound.
But what about when there is no connection? When we're out of our home area and our service is roaming, when we forget to recharge the battery and the phone goes dead, or when we're driving through a tunnel and we get disconnected?
Our family, friends and office can't get in touch with us then. But G-d still can. Because we can never truly disconnect from G-d. "A Jew neither wants to nor can be disconnected from G-d," taught Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. Even if we think the connection is broken or that we got disconnected, we're still connected with G-d and He's still connected with us. Furthermore, we can still communicate with Him and vice versa. Because, in truth, the service never goes down.
Maybe it's a wrong number or something has affected the microwaves. But the lack of connection is never permanent.
G-d can and does communicate with us. We need only perk up our ears and listen, recharge the battery or be patient 'til we see the light at the end of the tunnelthe hook, and reconnect.
In this week's Torah portion, Eikev, Moses looks back upon the Jewish people's 40 years in the desert and mentions twice the manna they ate. Both times, Moses seems to imply that eating the manna was somehow distressing: "And He afflicted you and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna"; "[He] fed you in the wilderness with manna...that He might afflict you."
In fact, the Children of Israel complained bitterly over having to eat it. "But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes." "Our soul loathes this light bread."
At first glance their complaint is surprising, as the Torah describes the manna as being delicious - "and its taste was like wafers made with honey." Our Sages comment further that the G-dly manna was unique in that the person eating it experienced whatever flavor he wished. Furthermore, the manna was completely digested, having no waste. How then could such a wonderful food be perceived as "torment"?
However, the Talmud explains that it was precisely these qualities that left the Jews with a sense of hunger. It was hard to get used to this "bread from the heavens" that had no waste and could taste like anything in the world. The Jews wanted regular bread, "bread from the earth." They longed for food that looked like what it was.
But the truth is that the Jews' resentment was motivated by the Evil Inclination. At first, the Evil Inclination draws a person into small sins, slowly working its way to more serious ones. So it was with the Children of Israel: They started by complaining about the manna, then progressed to "crying among their families," implying transgressions in the area of family life.
The dynamics of the Evil Inclination never change, and even today, the Evil Inclination still chafes against "bread from the heavens." Symbolically, "bread from the heavens" stands for Torah and G-dly wisdom, while "bread from the earth" is secular, worldly knowledge. The Evil Inclination tries to make the Jew dissatisfied with his "bread from the heavens," and attempts to convince him that a steady diet of Torah will leave him hungry. "The Torah is endless," it whispers in his ear. "You can never learn it all; the more you'll learn, the more you'll see how infinite it is. Why not turn your mind to worldly matters? At least you'll get a feeling of fullness and satisfaction."
On an even finer level, the Evil Inclination tries to dissuade a Jew from studying Chasidut, the innermost part of Torah, which is also likened to "bread from the heavens." "Bread from the earth," the revealed part of Torah, is enough, it claims.
But the truth is the opposite. Because the Jew's essence is spiritual, he can never be satiated by worldly matters. Only Torah, and the innermost part of it, can make the soul feel full, for it is through Torah that the Jew connects to the Infinite.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 4
By Yehudis Cohen
"As a child, I went to a secular school in the morning and a Jewish school in the afternoon. My parents felt that it was important to get both types of education," begins Miriam Unterberger.
As a youngster, Miriam attended a Jewish club that met at her local synagoguge on Friday night and Saturday. In her teen years she became a counselor for the club. "I didn't really know that much about Judaism but I knew enough of the basics to give them over to children younger than myself."
After graduating from high school, Miriam studied computers for two years, though early on she decided that computers weren't for her. "I had been painting since I was 12 years old. So once I made the decision not to continue in computers, I began attending art school."
While in art school, in the fall of 1999, Miriam's father Andres, had a heart attack. A few days later, one of her friends gave her a present. "My rabbi, Shlomo Levy, one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries in Buenos Aires, sent this book to you. Read it," her friend reassured her, "and your father will be better."
The book was King David's Psalms - Tehilim. "I flipped through the book and saw essays in the back. One of them said that if you read specific chapters of Psalms it helps a person in distress. I began reading those chapters every single day and my father started getting better. A few days later, Rabbi Levy visited my father in the hospital. After the rabbi's visit, my father said, 'Now I feel better.' "
Miriam started to go with her friend to the Levy home for dinner on Friday night. She enjoyed the company and the warmth of the Levy's open home.
When a group of Miriam's friends made plans to make aliya-to move to Israel, she decided to join them. "I attended an ulpan in Ashkelon to learn Hebrew and then later in Jerusalem. I wasn't at all religious yet but it struck me that in such a holy place there was so much unholiness. In the apartment building where all of the new immigrants stayed, there were people selling drugs literally in every stairwell. I asked myself, 'What is this? I am in Israel, this holy place, and yet there is so much depravity.' "
After the ulpan ended, Miriam worked in a hotel in Jerusalem as a receptionist and then started working in a cosmetics store. "I had a job, I had friends, I was in Israel, but I started feeling down and I didn't understand why. Maybe I needed my family and all of my 'stuff' that I had left in Argentina. I felt like something inside was wrong. It felt like my soul was in pain, that it was crying."
The parents of a friend from Argentina who had moved to Israel a few months before invited her for Shabbat. "They were religious and they invited me to spend the whole Shabbat with them. I figured, 'What am I going to lose?' and I went. I did not enjoy myself at all. 'This is not for me,' I told myself."
A little while later, a different friend invited Miriam to a Shabbaton. "What am I going to lose?" Miriam asked herself. "The Shabbaton finished and I was still no closer to understanding what was going on inside myself than when I had started. I decided to discuss it with my boss. His take on the situation was that I was very homesick. I packed up all of my stuff and went home."
But once home, Miriam felt the same as she had in Israel. "I went to Rabbi Levy to talk with him. He asked me to describe how I was feeling. 'I feel like my soul is crying. Is that possible?' I asked him."
Rabbi Levy took out the book Toward a Meaningful Life by Rabbi Simon Jacobson in Spanish and opened to one of the first pages. 'Read this,' he urged me. It described exactly how I felt!"
"You need to feed your soul," Rabbi Levy told Miriam. "The same way that you give food to your body you need to give food to your soul."
"I was nervous. 'I don't want to be religious,' I told him.
"That's not something to be worried about," Rabbi Levy reassured Miriam. He encouraged her to call the director of a part-time woman's yeshiva in Buenos Aires and to begin taking classes. Though hesitant, Miriam agreed. "I don't know if this will quiet the crying of your soul but you have to try." At first I didn't really like the classes. But as I continued, I realized that this was nurturing my soul."
A short while later, Miriam was struck by the fact that there were so many single Jewish young men and women but no one seemed to be doing anything to help them meet each other. "I told Rabbi Levy that he needs to make shidduchim (matches) so that Jews will marry Jews.
It just so happened that "Feast 1000," a dinner that the Chabad Center hoped would attract 1,000 young single Jews, was in the early planning stages. Miriam started working with Rabbi Levy on the project. "I now had a job working on a project that I believed was very important. Slowly, I started eating kosher and eased into keeping Shabbat."
"A few weeks before the event we still only had 700 people reserved. Rabbi Levy flew to New York and went to the Ohel (the Rebbe's resting place) to pray to G-d that the event would be a huge success. Suddenly we started selling tickets like nothing. Before we knew it there were 1,500 people reserved. We closed the reservations and another 450 came in. So we had the main dinner as planned, and a 'smaller' dinner with 450 people a few days later."
Miriam remembers asking herself one day, "When did I become frum (religious)? One day I noticed that I was eating only kosher. Another time I realized that I was fully observing Shabbat. It was a process. It didn't happen all at once."
Upon the advice of Rabbi Levy and her mashpia ("spiritual mentor"), Miriam applied to Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Once accepted, Miriam found obstacles that would have prevented her from attending falling by the wayside. She was short money for her plane ticket and found 100 pesos lying in the street. She didn't bring proper documentation for a student visa to the American Embassy in Buenos Aires but received one anyway.
Reflecting on these past few years, Miriam says over and over again, "I feel like G-d has been so generous to me."
New Mikva in Tallahassee
A groundbreaking was recently held for a new mikva (ritualarium) sponsored by the Chabad Center in Tallahassee, Florida. The new mikva will serve over 10,000 Jews from Tallahassee, Panama City Fort, Walton Beach, Pensacola Florida, Thomasville, Cairo and Valdosta. The project is being spearheaded by Rabbi Schneur and Chanie Oirechman who have been the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries in Tallahassee, the capital city of Florida, for two and one half years. Until the mikva's completion, the closest mikva is a four hour drive. In addition to the 3,000 Jews in the community, Chabad of Tallahassee serves the 3,500 Jewish students at Florida State University. Holiday awareness programs, adult education classes, Shabbat services and innovative projects are the hallmark of Chabad of Tallahassee.
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5740 
Greeting and Blessing:
I am in receipt of your letter of the 24th of Cheshvan. In reply to your questions in the order of your writing: While giving Tzedoko [charity] for Jewish causes, is it desirable or optional to give charity also to non-Jews in need of help?
In general, you are, of course, right that this is not only permissible, but also desirable. Indeed, our Sages of the Talmud have ruled that non-Jewish poor should be helped along with the Jewish poor (Gittin 61a). As to the proportion to which such charity should be distributed, especially under certain conditions, this is a Shaala [question] which you should consult with a Rov [Rabbinic authority] in your community, since each situation has to be considered on its own merits.
With regard to your second question - I trust second only in your letter, but surely first and foremost in importance - pertaining to advancement in Yiddishkeit [Judaism], etc., it should be borne in mind that the basic approach in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments] is that the usual "rational" approach to things would be "irrational" in the case of Torah and Mitzvoth, which are essentially beyond full human comprehension, being Divine in nature. In other words, prior comprehension of the Divine precepts must not be a condition of their fulfillment, or - Naaseh ("doing") must come before v'Nishma ("understanding"). Moreover, the actual fulfillment of the Mitzvoth makes it easier to understand them subsequently.
By way of illustration: one does not expect a small child to understand either the thinking or the ways of a professor, even though both are human beings and the differences between them is only relative in terms of time and education, and it is even possible that the child might one day surpass that professor in knowledge and wisdom. But the difference between a created human being and the Creator is, of course, absolute and incomparable in any manner or degree
I will mention one further point, namely, that inasmuch as a human being cannot know the future, and frequently has no complete knowledge even of prior events in a particular situation, human judgment of any happening which he sees cannot be perfect without having complete knowledge of all the causes and effects. Here, too there is a simple illustration: If a person, who has no knowledge whatever of the function of a hospital, should enter the operating room, where he sees someone bound and unconscious on the operating table, surrounded by people who are cutting him up, etc., he would think that they are a group of sadistic murderers. But he would have a different judgment when it is explained to him that these people are surgeons who are removing some foreign body or injury, with a view to curing the patient and restoring him to good health.
It is difficult to elaborate on this subject in a letter, and if you still wish to obtain further clarification, you can surely discuss it with the persons with whom you are in contact in matters of Torah study and Yiddishkeit.
8th of Teves, 5741 
Greeting and Blessing:
I received your letter of Dec. 5th, with the enclosures. I am gratified to note that you have joined the Lubavitch Kolel [advanced Rabbinic studies for married men] in Stamford Hill and find it very inspiring. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in sending me samples of your work.
I trust there is no need to emphasize to you at length the importance of the Mitzvah [commandment] of V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho [love your neighbor as yourself], and I trust that you are using your good influence in your surroundings to induce others to follow your example and join the Kolel, or, at any rate, to have regular periods for Torah study, and generally advance in all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth which, in addition to the essential thing of being a must for their own sake, are also the channels to receive G-d's blessings. Therefore, every additional effort in this direction, where there is always room for advancement, widens the channels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs.
19 Av 5762
Positive mitzva 98: Defilement of food and drink
By this injunction (Lev. 11:34) we are commanded to deal with uncleanliness of food and drink in accordance with the Torah's prescribed rules. ("Cleanliness" and "uncleanliness" applies only in reference to the Sanctuary and its holy objects. If a person does not intend to enter the Sanctuary or touch any holy object, he may remain unclean as long as he likes and eat ordinary food that has been in contact with unclean things.)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Monday (July 29) is the 20th of the Hebrew month of Av. This date is the yartzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the saintly father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
In a letter that Reb Levi Yitzchak wrote to his son, he emphasized the concept of faith in every little "dot and crown" of our G-d-given Torah, whereby each detail complements and perfects the others:
"Do not imagine that the process of argument and debate as engaged in by the Sages of the Mishna and Talmud and those who followed... falls into the category of regular human intellectual pursuit. No, it is not that at all... Rather, each of the Sages perceived the Torah's wisdom as it exists Above, according to the source of his soul and his individual portion in Torah, whether in Jewish law or Aggadita.
"There is absolutely no doubt that everything in both the Oral and Written Torah, and in all the holy books written by the sages and tzadikim (righteous people), who studied Torah for its own sake... everything was said by G-d Himself, in that particular and exact wording."
Reb Levi Yitzchak's spoken words were not ephemeral sounds, his written words were not mere ink on paper. The understanding that every dot and crown of Torah are true and holy were his blood and bones. He lived with the realization of the importance of every aspect of Torah and had utter self-sacrifice for the compliance to Torah's every detail and nuance.
May we learn from his teachings and example and may his memory be a blessing for us.
And you shall keep and do them [plural]...and He will love you and bless you [singular] (Deut. 7:12-13)
"And you shall keep and do them" is in the plural, as it refers to keeping the Torah's commandments, which all Jews must do equally. "And He will love you and bless you" is in the singular, as it refers to the reward a Jew receives for his observance, which is entirely individual. Although all Jews keep the same mitzvot, they do so with different levels of enthusiasm, devotion and motivation; thus they are given varying degrees of reward.
Now Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d ask of you except to fear G-d (Deut. 10:12)
"People are strange," Rabbi Chanoch of Alexander used to say. "They beg and plead that G-d should give them 'fear of heaven,' when this is something that is entirely in the individual's control. Yet when it comes to livelihood, they imagine that they are in charge."
And you shall eat and be sated. (Deut. 8:10)
The Maggid of Mezritch once asked a wealthy man what he eats every day. "Bread and salt, Rebbe, like a poor man," was his reply. The Maggid rebuked him and told him to eat meat and drink wine every day as wealthy men were accustomed to do. Later, when the Maggid's disciples asked for an explanation, he said: "If a rich man eats meat and drinks wine every day, then he will realize that a poor person needs at least bread and salt. If, however, he eats bread and salt, he will think that his poor neighbor can make do with stones!"
And to serve Him with all your heart (Deut. 11:13)
Rashi explains that this verse refers to the service of the heart, namely prayer. Reb Yisroel of Ruzhin used to take a long time over his prayers; Reb Shalom of Belz would recite his prayers hastily. On this, one of their contemporaries commented that both of them cherished every word of the prayers: the former loved them so much that he could not bring himself to part with them, while the latter-for the same reason-could not restrain his eagerness to make them his.
(A Treasury of Chasidic Tales)
The House of Study of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidism), was located in the small, White Russian town of Lionzna. His many chasidim flocked there to be near him, to pray, to celebrate the festivals, to receive his blessings and to benefit from his Torah-wisdom.
Once, a chasid came to the Rebbe with a heavy sorrow weighing on his soul. When he entered the Rebbe's chambers, he couldn't restrain himself, and tears flowed from his eyes. "Rebbe," he sobbed, "my son has turned away from everything we have taught him. He no longer observes mitzvot (commandments), and I'm afraid that he will be completely lost from the path of truth. Please, Rebbe, give me some advice how to get him back."
The Rebbe felt his chasid's pain, and he was silent for some moments. Then he replied, "Do you think that you might be able to persuade your son to come to see me?"
"I don't know," the man sighed. "The way he's been acting recently, I'm afraid it might be very difficult. He has some wild friends, and he hardly listens to his parents."
"Nevertheless, I want you to think up some way in which you can get him to come here. Maybe there's some errand you can send him on that would bring him to Liozna. When he gets to the town, a way will be found to bring him here to me."
The prospect of the Rebbe educating his wayward son lifted the chasid's spirits. He returned home in a far brighter mood than the one in which he had come.
The man spent the whole return trip to his village deep in thought, trying to hatch some plan which would draw his son to the Rebbe. Suddenly he had an excellent idea. Much to his dismay, his son was very fond of horse-back riding, an activity considered improper for a Jewish boy. The young man, however, cared not the least for public opinion, and to his father's consternation, he took every opportunity to ride into town. This seemed a perfect ruse to get his son to the Rebbe. He would ask the boy to go and pick something up in town.
When he asked his son to go on the errand, the boy responded, "I'll go only if I can go by horseback." This time the father quickly acquiesced.
The young man happily galloped into town, unaware that his father's friends were on the lookout for him, and that the errand was merely a signal to them to bring him to the Rebbe's house.
No sooner had he arrived in Liozna, than he was spirited to the Rebbe's house, and found himself standing face to face with the Rebbe. "I'm glad to see you," said the Rebbe. "But, tell me, why did you come by horseback, instead of in a wagon?"
"To tell you the truth, it's because I love to ride. And my horse is such a fine specimen, I figure, why shouldn't I take advantage of him?"
"Really? Tell me, what exactly are the advantages of such an animal?" asked the Rebbe.
"Surely you can imagine, an animal such as mine runs very fast. You jump on his back, and speed down the road, and in no time at all you are at your destination," the young man replied with great enthusiasm.
"That is truly a great advantage, but only provided that you are on the right road. Because, if you're on the wrong road, you'll only be going in the wrong direction faster."
"Even if that's so," countered the young man, "the horse would help you get back on the right road more quickly as soon as you realize you're on the wrong road."
"If you realize yourself that you are on the wrong road," the Rebbe slowly emphasized. "It's true, my boy, if you catch yourself, before it's too late, and you realize that you have strayed from the right path; then you can quickly return."
The words of the Alter Rebbe, uttered so slowly and deliberately, hit the young man like a bombshell, and the Rebbe's penetrating eyes seemed to pierce right through him. The young man fell down in a faint.
He was quickly revived, and in a subdued tone, he asked the Rebbe's permission to remain in Liozna, so that he could renew his Torah studies and come back to his family as a good Torah-abiding Jew.
The sea and its fullness will roar in joy, the earth and its inhabitants. The rivers will clap their hands, the mountains willl sing together. [They will rejoice] before the L-rd, for He has come to judge the earth; He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with righteousness.