Bored | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | Rambam this week | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
"There's nothing to do."
We all know the feeling. Vacation days rained out in childhood. Trips to the zoo postponed because of an emergency. Friends who can't come over because they're sick. And suddenly, plans disappear and we're left with "nothing to do."
And so boredom strikes us throughout our lives. School is boring. Work is boring. Why is it boring? I don't know, it just is.
But where does boredom come from? Can we really say it's a lack of stimulation, not enough excitement? Yesterday we listened to the same CD we listened to the day before, which we had listened to the day before that. Why wasn't the music boring the second time? Why now? And tomorrow or the day after, we'll enjoy that CD again. It won't be boring.
The same applies to any diversion. One day it's fun, the next it's boring. And newness doesn't seem to make a difference. Some new things are boring, some old things are exciting.
At work, too, the same activity drives us to distraction or totally absorbs our attention. Sales, computer programming, teaching - it doesn't matter. Boredom doesn't come from the activity itself.
So boredom comes from the inside. It's an "attitude problem," as the saying goes. As such, we just have to adjust our perspective, see things differently, and just like that, we're not bored any more.
How do we get ourselves out? It's not like we can put on glasses and get that new insight that changes our attitude.
Well, actually, yes it is like that. Have you ever notice when you're bored, you're restless? You fidget, can't settle down. If boredom doesn't come from a lack of stimulation, maybe it comes from a lack of focus. A lack of purpose. Why should I bother reading that book? What's the point?
Isn't that the question we often ask when bored? Why bother? What's the use? It's not that nothing happens where we are; it's that nothing significant seems to be happening where we are.
That's why getting up and getting out, moving, doing relieves - banishes - boredom. Because doing something deliberate, going someplace on purpose automatically confers at least a subconscious significance. Even shopping. There's a goal, something to be done.
We can't get done what we need to do here, so we go forth, move forward and onward.
In a sense, boredom signifies we've accomplished an objective, achieved part of our life's mission. And now it's time to move on, get started on the next part, reach for the next rung in the ladder of our lives.
Isn't this true in all areas of our lives? We have to push ourselves, leave where we were.
In fact, as we move forward in every aspect of our lives, we should do the same in our Jewish expression as well. Then, we'll be following in the footsteps of Abraham. "Go forth," G-d told him. Time to move on. Don't stagnate. Your restlessness is a clue - you need to refocus. And when that new goal - that new Jewish book or Torah class or mitzva (commandment) - comes into focus, suddenly everything is clear, we're energized and we haven't got time to be bored.
Because, like Abraham, we have gotten ourselves forth.
In the opening lines of this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, G-d commands Abraham to "go forth" from his land, from his place of birth, to a land which He will show him. What can we learn from this very first commandment to Abraham, that we can apply to our own lives as well?
The first and most fundamental requirement of every Jew is to "go forth" - to be in a constant state of movement and progression, developing and elevating both our inner potential and our surroundings.
But the very next thing that happened to Abraham after heeding this command and going to Israel appears to be the exact opposite of progress and elevation: "And there arose a famine in the land, and Abram went down into Egypt." Thus, Abraham had to leave Canaan and journey to Egypt, during which time Sara was forcefully taken to Pharaoh's palace. Although G-d protected her from harm while there, she nevertheless underwent the hardship of the whole incident.
How does this obvious descent fit into the aforementioned theme of development and elevation, and our task of climbing ever higher?
On a superficial level, Abraham's and Sara's hardship was a step down, but on a deeper level it was merely a part of their eventual elevation and triumphant return. The purpose of the descent was to achieve an even higher ascent than was possible before. When they returned to Canaan they were "very heavy with cattle, with silver, and with gold."
Just as Abraham's descent was part of the greater plan of ascent, so it is with his progeny, the Jewish people. The Jewish people have found themselves thrust into exile after exile, only to return to their Land and achieve even higher spiritual heights than before. Exile, although appearing to us to be a negative phenomenon, actually carries the potential for the highest good.
And now that we are in the last days of our final exile, we see within our reach an era of unprecedented spirituality and goodness. For although the First and Second Temples were eventually destroyed, the Third Temple is to stand forever, and our coming Redemption will have no exile to follow.
We therefore draw encouragement from our ancestors Abraham's and Sara's descent into Egypt and eventual return to Israel: We must remember that the darkness which seems to prevail in the world is only external, and is part of G-d's greater plan for the ultimate prevailing of good over evil and the coming of Moshiach.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
In the 1970s, Mivtza Neshek, the branch of the Lubavitch Women's Organization dedicated to spreading the practice of kindling Shabbat candles, organized a series of radio ads encouraging Jewish women and girls to fulfill this mitzva (commandment). The notices mentioned that if the listeners sent one dollar to the Candlelighting Division of the Lubavitch Women's Organization at 770 Eastern Parkway, they would be sent a special set of Shabbat candle holders.
Thousands of these holders were distributed. At times, people would err, and instead of addressing their letters to the Lubavitch Women's Organization, they would send them to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
On one occasion, a woman living on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn wrote to ask for the Shabbat candle holders. She too erred, and addressed her letter to the Rebbe. The Rebbe received the letter in the Friday mail. On Friday afternoon, the Rebbe asked a member of his secretariat to call Mrs. Esther Sternberg (who ran the Shabbat candle campaign) and ask her to see to it that this woman had the opportunity to light Shabbat candles that Friday.
Mrs. Sternberg is not one to take a request from the Rebbe lightly. With 45 minutes left before Shabbat started, she tried to get the woman's phone number, but it was unlisted. Then, noting that the woman's address was not far away, she resolved to deliver the candle holders personally. If the woman was not home, she would leave it with a neighbor.
Taking two of her daughters along, Mrs. Sternberg drove to the woman's apartment. She rang the bell and knocked, but there was no answer. Finally, a woman from an apartment down the hall replied that, yes, she knew the woman who had asked for the candle holders. She was an elderly woman and hard of hearing. She probably hadn't heard the bell and knocking.
And so Mrs. Sternberg, her two daughters, and the neighbor all knocked hard on the woman's door. Eventually, an elderly Jewish woman answered. She was grateful to see visitors, and even more grateful when she found that she would be able to light Shabbat candles that week.
Mrs. Sternberg was happy to give the woman the candle holders, but couldn't help wondering: Why then hadn't she lit candles before? "Don't you have candle holders of your own?" she asked.
"Of course I have Shabbat candles," the woman told Mrs. Sternberg, taking her into her kitchen and showing her a large silver candelabra on top of one of the cabinets. "But when my children moved me here," she explained, "they put my candelabra up there. Neither I nor any of my neighbors can reach it! That's why I haven't been able to light." (Apparently, this woman, as do many others, mistakenly felt that Shabbat candles had to be lit in a ritual candelabra.)
One of Mrs. Sternberg's daughters climbed up and brought down the woman's candlesticks. And so, thanks to the Rebbe's concern and Mrs. Sternberg's commitment, the woman was able to light candles in her own candelabra that Shabbat.
On another occasion, the Rebbe received a letter from a man from Bowie, Maryland, asking that Shabbat candle holders be sent to his daughter. Again, the letter arrived on Friday, and again, the Rebbe had his secretary ask Mrs. Sternberg to see to it that the girl lit candles that Friday.
This time, it was only 20 minutes before Shabbat when Mrs. Sternberg was contacted. She immediately phoned one of the Rebbe's emissaries in Maryland and asked if he could deliver candles to the girl. But Bowie was over two hours away and the rabbi had no way of delivering the candles in time.
Mrs. Sternberg located the family's phone number. The mother answered the phone. Yes, her husband had asked for the candleholders. She didn't light candles herself, but thought that it was a good idea for her daughter to light.
Mrs. Sternberg told her that she would be mailing the candle holders, but meantime, she would instruct her on how to make candle holders from aluminum foil so that her daughter would be able to light that Shabbat. And with no more than a drop of convincing, the mother agreed to join her daughter and light candles herself.
She listened to Mrs. Sternberg's instructions, and wrote down the transliteration of the blessing.
As they were talking, Mrs. Sternberg asked the woman if her daughter had any other friends who would like candle holders. The woman mentioned that there were several girls in her daughter's Hebrew School who would probably appreciate such a gift. And in her own Chavura group, she could think of a few women, and she had other friends....
On the following Friday, Mrs. Sternberg received another call from the Rebbe's office. "The Rebbe wants to know what's happening with the girl in Bowie," the secretary told her.
Mrs. Sternberg again called the woman. Yes, her daughter had lit candles the previous Shabbat, and they had received the candle holders in the mail. Everyone was overwhelmed. Women were talking about it all over town.
"Could you send more?" she wanted to know.
And so, the following week, Mrs. Sternberg sent an even larger order of candle holders to Bowie.
The following Friday, Mrs. Sternberg did not wait for a call from the Rebbe's office. Instead, she phoned her new friend in Bowie herself. Yes, the candle holders had arrived and the women were excited. What's more, the woman's friends wanted to meet some of the ladies who had reached out and brought Shabbat into their homes.
A Shabbaton was arranged. Women and girls from Crown Heights came and shared a Shabbat encounter with the community.
So it was that a few words from the Rebbe snowballed into an ongoing positive Jewish experience.
From To Know and To Care by Rabbi Eliyahu and Malka Touger, published by Sichos In English.
Adventures into the World of Jewish Mysticism
Explore the deeper secrets of the universe with two outstanding teachers of Kabala and Chasidut at the upcoming Chabad Shabbaton Weekend October 29-31. You'll gain profound insight and inspiration from guest lecturers Rabbi Dov Ber Pinson and Mrs. Sarah Esther Crispe, meet an interesting mix of people from across America, and enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Featured topics of the weekend include: Toward the Infinite - Kabalistic Meditation; Inner Rhythms - The Kabala of Music; Sealed With a Kiss - The Highest Form of Torah Communication; Turning Your Other Half Into Your Other Whole: A Kabalistic Understanding of Relationships. For more info call (718) 774-6187 or visit www.shabbaton.org.
Freely translated from letters of the Rebbe
...Following up on your previous correspondence, I am writing these lines to express the hope that the relationship between you and your husband has improved considerably, thereby making your marriage serve as a home for the Divine Presence, in keeping with the saying of our Sages, "When a husband and wife are meritorious, the Divine Presence dwells in their midst."
All the more so, since both of you have merited success in the education of Jewish children, regarding all of whom G-d says, "You are children unto G-d, your G-d."
It is therefore easy to envision the great merit that both you and your husband have, in that G-d has entrusted to you the chinuch (the training and education) of His children and has blessed with success your efforts to implant into their hearts love and fear of G-d.
In light of this, each of you should regard it as a special blessing to have found a mate worthy of G-d's blessing for hatzlacha [success].
Even if it appears that the other party falls short of perfection, and even if this view is not wholly imaginary, it should be remembered that true perfection belongs only to G-d.
Indeed, the very fact that we have all been commanded to go from strength to greater strength in all matters of goodness and holiness shows that there is no perfection in human beings, for obviously the previous level is imperfect by comparison with the next and higher level.
Moreover, insofar as humans are concerned, perfection itself is relative, in that different people excel in different areas.
Thus, our Sages speak of one category of Jews as Torah-learners, and of another category of Jews as mitzva-doers. Clearly, our Sages are speaking here with regard to excelling in a particular arena, for [regarding Torah study and mitzva observance in general,] every Jew is expected to be both a Torah-learner and a mitzvah-doer.
Hence, the difference between the two categories is a difference of excellence in each area; that is to say, in the first category excellence is to be found in their Torah scholarship, while in the other category this excellence finds expression in the fulfillment of the mitzvos.
It is surely unnecessary for me to elaborate for you on the above. I only want to emphasize that the greater the harmony, mutual respect and devotion of a husband and wife - especially where both are shomrei-Torah and mitzvos [Torah observant Jews] - the greater is the measure of G-d's blessings for both of them in all their needs.
This includes reward in kind - to be blessed with healthy offspring of your own, to bring them up to a life of Torah, chuppah and good deeds, in fulfillment of your hearts' desires for good....
From a letter written in 5726-1966
Until after the arrival of Moshiach, there exists no individual who can possibly be perfect - devoid of all flaws. Thus, beyond a shadow of doubt, just as the one person is flawed, so too is the other.
Just as we have no desire to have our own flaws revealed and pointed out, so too should we not emphasize and magnify the faults of others.
If the above holds true with regard to all Jews, how much more so with regard to husband and wife.
Igros Kodesh, Vol. V, p. 61
From Eternal Joy, volume 3, translated by Rabbi S. B. Wineberg, published by Sichos in English.
11 Cheshvan, 5765 - October 26, 2004
Positive Mitzva 15: The Mezuza
This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 6:9) "You shall write them upon the door-posts of your house and upon your gates" The Torah commands us to affix a special sign - a mezuza - on the right side of every entrance into Jewish dwellings and on the doorpost of every room. The mezuza assures us of Divine protection. The mezuza itself is parchment upon which portions of the Torah are hand-written by a qualified scribe.In time, the lettering may fade and, therefore, it is very important to have the mezuza checked periodically to insure that it still contains all the letters.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Some people say that Abraham was the first Lubavitcher chasid. This might sound a little far-fetched. But if we take a few moments to consider Abraham's life, we might find that in fact, there is much truth in this statement.
In this week's Torah portion, Abraham was commanded by G-d to go away from his home, leave his parents, and travel to a distant, unknown land. Throughout his travels and when arriving at his destination, he always spoke to strangers. He would speak about the Creator and bring acquaintances closer to an awareness of G-d. Surely this sounds like most Lubavitcher Chasidim in general and the Rebbe's emissaries, the "Shluchim" in particular.
The Midrash explains that Abraham set up a huge tent in the middle of the desert. The tent had four doors, one in each direction, so that any person passing by would always be able to enter quickly. Doesn't this description remind you of Chabad-Lubavitch Centers on college campuses and in Jewish communities large and small throughout the world?
But, one needn't be a Lubavitcher chasid to bring others closer to an awareness of our Creator or to have a home with an "open-door" policy.
Abraham is a role model for every single Jewish man and woman. Let us make every effort to follow in their footsteps, setting up our own tents, and helping others set up tents in which the beauty and warmth of Judaism can be experienced and enjoyed.
Parshat Lech Lecha
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the first Chabad Rebbe, said, "One must live with the time." His brother, Rabbi Yehuda Leib, explained this to mean that one must live with the Torah portion of the week. One should not only learn the weekly portion every day, but live with it. A really joyous week is that of Lech Lecha. We live every day of the week with Abraham, the first to dedicate his very life to spreading G-dliness in the world. And bequeathed his self-sacrifice as an inheritance to all Jews.
Go forth from your land... and I will make your name great (Gen. 12:1,2)
Why did G-d find it necessary to promise Abraham that his name would be great? Did Abraham really care about personal fame? Our Sages taught that the mention of Abraham's name caused G-d's name to be sanctified. Abraham's whole life was spent spreading the knowledge of the one G-d. Wherever he went he caused people to think about their Creator. Thus, whenever Abraham's name was mentioned, G-d's name was sanctified, too.
Lech Lecha - Go forth from your land... (Gen. 12:1)
The literal translation of the words Lech Lecha is "Go to yourself." Going has the connotation in Torah of moving towards one's ultimate purpose - service towards one's Creator. And this is strongly hinted at by the phrase, "Go to yourself," meaning, towards your soul's essence and your ultimate purpose, that for which you were created.
Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch said, "Ever since G-d told our father Abraham, 'Go forth from your land' - and it is then written, 'Abram kept travelling southward' - we have the beginning of the mystery of the 'divine sparks.' By decree of Divine Providence, a person goes about his travels to the place where the 'sparks' that he must purify await their redemption. The righteous, who have vision, see where their sparks await them and go there deliberately. As for ordinary folk, G-d brings about various reasons and circumstances that bring these people to that place where their obligation lies to return the sparks to their Divine source (through Torah study and mitzva observance).
As for Sarai your wife - do not call her by the name Sarai, for Sara is her name (Gen. 17:15)
According to the commentator Rashi, the new name signified her new universal status. Sarai means "my princess" while Sara signifies "princess to all the nations of the world." When G-d removed the letter "yud" from Sarai's name, it flew up before G-d's Throne to complain. "It is not fair that You should remove me from the name of Sarai, the righteous woman." G-d comforted it. "In the past you were the last letter of her name. In the future, I will put you at the head of another name. This will happen when Moses will rename his student from Hoshea to Yehoshua (Joshua).
Shlomo Efrayim studied under the famed Maharal (Rabbi Yehuda Lowe) of Prague. He was one of his finest, most brilliant students.
The Maharal sent Shlomo Efrayim away to study in Pressberg and then later to Levov. Before leaving for Levov, the Maharal instructed Shlomo Efrayim to work there as a simple laborer, never revealing his true greatness. "After my departure from this world," the Maharal explained, "a delegation will come to you with a letter from me. I want you to carry out what the letter states."
Shlomo Efrayim lived quietly and humbly in a corner of the Levov synagogue and wrote his classical work, Olilos Efrayim. He married and lived very, very simply, selling eggs by day to support his family and at night sitting and learning Torah with the greatest diligence. Shlomo Efrayim, who called himself Shlomo Olilos, was known as a simple, impoverished, but honest man. The Maharal lived to an old age. Before passing away, he called to the people of his city. "After my departure, go to the city of Levov where you will find a man called Efrayim Olilos. Give him this letter and he will be the rabbi in my place."
After the Maharal's passing, a delegation carried out his request. They thought they would come to the city of Levov and find a well-known man. However, they were in for a surprise. They arrived at an inn in Levov and stated, "We came to take the great, learned sage, Efrayim Olilos, to be the rabbi of our city."
No one knew of an Efrayim Olilos who should command such respect. The delegation was puzzled. They searched for three days, but to no avail. When they were about to return to Prague, someone approached them. "If you are interested in Efrayim Olilos, I know a man by that name who sells eggs." The delegation went with the man to a broken-down shack where they found Shlomo Efrayim, his wife and children dressed in tatters. Shlomo Efrayim's clothes were torn, but his face was illuminated like that of a holy person.
They said to him, "Sholom Aleichem, our teacher and rabbi. We have a letter from the Maharal."
Shlomo Efrayim read the letter. The Maharal asked that he become the rabbi of Prague. "The command of my rabbi is one that I must accept, but I cannot come until six months have passed. I have to prepare with intensified prayer and Torah study in order to accept such a dignified and glorified position."
The members of the delegation left him 500 gulden so that the rabbi would be able to devote himself to his spiritual preparations over the next six months without worrying about eking out a living selling eggs.
Shlomo Efrayim purchased clothing and food for his family and prepared for his new life.
At that time, a large sum of money was stolen from the house of a lord. When the people saw that Shlomo Efrayim's wife and children were no longer dressed in tatters they assumed that he had stolen the money. Shlomo Efrayim was thrown in prison without the benefit of a trial, lawyers or any opportunity to defend himself.
After the six months had elapsed and Shlomo Efrayim did not arrive in Prague, a delegation came to find out the reason for the delay. When they arrived in Levov, Shlomo Efrayim's wife explained all that had happened and the Prague delegation rushed to the city leaders to tell them of their great error. Shlomo Efrayim was immediately released.
The whole city of Levov followed the carriage in which Rabbi Shlomo Efrayim left for the city of Prague. He became one of the most colorful rabbinic leaders in his time. He wrote the famous homiletic commentary on the Bible, Klei Yakar, which is printed side by side other famous commentaries on the Bible.
Thus says G-d: A voice is heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping. Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled for her children, for they are gone. Thus says G-d: Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment - the word of G-d - and they will return from the enemy's land. There is hope for your future - the word of G-d - and your children will return to their border.