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"You always take him everywhere."
"She always goes first."
"She gets away with everything."
"He's your favorite."
"You like her best."
The squabbles, bickerings, complainings, needlings, teasings, provokings - the pushing and elbowing for position, metaphoric, symbolic and real - when there are children, plural, parents must confront these confrontations each day.
For children, too, the constant jockeying, the guarding of "rights" and garnering of "privileges," can be time consuming, energy consuming, fun consuming, and love consuming.
Often sibling rivalry results from jealousy. One child feels slighted, left out. The slight, perceived or real, engenders a wariness, a suspicion that feeds on itself. The child observes, records and classifies every deviation from his or her pre-defined sense of justice. The measuring is subtle, meticulous, exact - and flexible.
Of course, the jealousy of things springs from a jealousy for time - your time. And your attention. And here we may notice the flexible justice of siblings. For our children do not necessarily expect equality of quantitative time; but they do demand equality of qualitative time. The attention to and interest in one must equal that of the attention to and interest in the other.
They expect that their special needs and their special talents will also be acknowledged, attended to and nurtured. And if they conclude otherwise, even though, like even the greatest of detectives will do, they have misread the clues, they will claim their own. They will sue before the jury of their feelings and the judge in their mind. And they will win every case.
Sometimes, too, sibling rivalry arises from competition, a self-challenge and a challenge to the self. This has less to do with the parents, and with their opening or withholding of affection, and more to do with a measuring of the self and a testing, in a biological mirror, of identity.
The competition can be direct. And this direct competition can be friendly or fierce.
The competition can also be indirect. One becomes a doctor, one becomes a lawyer, and one becomes a teacher. And all three excel, competing for excellence not against another professional in their field, but against the lawyer, teacher, doctor of their youth. And in so doing, they reach for a reflexive verification. Validate me not for my success, but for the singularity of my success.
And in each case, the sibling rivalry may denigrate or elevate. Siblings dare, may provoke so as to undermine each other. Or Siblings may challenge, may test so as to encourage each other.
Obviously a parent desires the latter, anticipating and praying for siblings to transform their rivalry into mutual support.
Of the Jewish people it is said, we all have one Father - we are all siblings. To please our Father, then, let us be "rivals" in how much we love our fellow Jews. Let us "compete" in Torah and mitzvot, so that the accomplishments of one inspires the growth of another.
The Torah portion of Toldot begins by relating that "Abraham fathered Isaac." The commentator, Rashi, notes: "The cynics of that generation were saying that 'Avimelech fathered Isaac.' What did G-d do? He caused Isaac's countenance to be like Abraham's. Everybody then testified that 'Abraham fathered Isaac.'
Was it so strange that Isaac should look like Abraham? It is the most natural thing in the world for a child to look like the parent. In fact, there would have to be a special reason for them not to look alike. Why, then, do our sages indicate that making Isaac look like Abraham was special?
Abraham and Isaac, father and son, were different in many critical areas. Abraham was totally dedicated to G-d out of love for Him, while Isaac was wholly devoted to G-d out of fear and awe of Him.
Since intellect is the cause and root of emotion, it follows that the reason Abraham and Isaac differed so radically in their emotional approach was because they differed intellectually as well.
Abraham and Isaac differed, too, in their manner of spiritual service. Abraham's service of G-d involved hospitality and making G-d known to the populace - revealing G-dliness from above downwards. Isaac's spiritual service was symbolized by his digging of wells, involving as it did removing the obstruction that concealed the wellsprings and revealing the well-water that flowed from below upwards.
A son will truly resemble his father when both father and son share similar personalities, are alike intellectually, emotionally, etc. Abraham and Isaac, however, possessed completely different personalities. Therefore, Abraham and Isaac should not have looked alike, they should have had totally different appearances - Abraham a kind countenance, Isaac a stern one.
Herein lies the "difficulty:" What could be done to these opposites - Abraham and Isaac - to ward off the scoffs of the cynics who said that Avimelech fathered Isaac?
In order for their words to have no credibility, G-d did something out of the ordinary. He changed the order of things and saw to it that Isaac looked like Abraham, so that all would testify that Abraham fathered Isaac.
Bearing in mind that Abraham is symbolic of kindness and Isaac of severity, we learn an important lesson from the fact that G-d made Isaac look like Abraham. Whenever a Jew is faced with a decision regarding spiritual service, whether to serve with the attribute of kindness and benevolence or with the attribute of severity, he should choose to act kindly and benevolently.
Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Tefilin That Helped Cope with Illness and Beyond
by Rabbi Zushe Greenberg
In June, I received a phone call from Joe, who lived in my community. I was surprised that he had called me; I was not well acquainted with him, but at one point I had helped his daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
"Rabbi," Joe began. "I'm sick. If it's not too hard for you, could you please stop by and visit me?"
Of course I went to Joe's home to visit him. Upon my arrival, I learned that he was receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer, and that his prognosis was not favorable. He lay in bed as we talked about his illness. I told him that Judaism teaches us never to give up on life. I tried to cheer him up and when I left he was already in better spirits.
The following week, I visited Joe again. While there, Joe received a phone call from David, a life-long friend who lives in New York. Joe told David, "The Rabbi is here," and before I knew it, he was handing the phone to me. "My friend wants to talk to you," he said, simply.
David got straight to the point. "Rabbi, I believe I know something that would give Joe additional strength. Why don't you suggest that he should start putting on tefilin?"
When I told David that I didn't think Joe owned a pair of tefilin, he volunteered eagerly, "I'll buy him a pair!"
I turned to Joe, "David wants to buy you tefilin to wear every day (except Shabbat and Jewish holidays). Would you like him to do that?" To my and David's delight, Joe immediately agreed.
Tefilin signifies the directing of ones emotional and intellectual powers to the service of G-d in all that we think, feel and do. It is a mitzva (commandment) that has been observed and treasured for thousands of years. Now it would reach another Jew, a man in his 60s, who had never before donned tefilin.
After the tefilin arrived, I returned to Joe's home each morning, and taught him how to wrap the leather straps and place the tefilin boxes on his head and arm (facing his heart). Joe was excited and eager to learn how to pray and recite the complete Shema. I saw firsthand the pleasure and spiritual strength Joe derived from this mitzva. He felt that the tefilin gave him a strong connection with G-d, and the strength to face each day.
Joe's health seemed to improve during the next six months, but then he was admitted to University Hospitals. When I visited Joe in the hospital he looked pale and sounded weak. But he was grateful for my visit. He felt it was the appropriate time to talk about funeral plans and we talked of various technicalities.
Then with great effort, Joe sat up in bed, took my hand and said, "I have one last very important request to make of you." Tears flowed from his eyes. "My son Frankie has never had a Bar Mitzva." He paused, and then continued with great emotion: "When he comes for my funeral, please tell him that I want him to be 'Bar Mitzvahed.' "
Not long after my conversation with Joe, he passed away. Frank flew in from his home in Massachusetts to join his mother and siblings in this time of mourning. I took the first appropriate opportunity to inform Frank of his father's last wish. Frank was so touched that his father had thought of him before his passing, that he immediately agreed to fulfill this final request. As I officiated at Joe's funeral, I shared what had taken place with the large crowd that had gathered to pay their last respects to Joe. Before leaving the cemetery, I turned to the closed coffin and said, "Joe, your son Frank will soon celebrate his Bar Mitzva and you are hereby invited to attend."
Frank remained in Cleveland for the shiva week of mourning. On one of the shiva days, in the presence of family and friends, we conducted a Bar Mitzva ceremony for Frank as was permitted in the confines of shiva. Joe's tefilin were an appropriate "Bar Mitzva gift" for Frank as he donned tefilin for the first time in his life. The bittersweet emotion that filled the room at that moment is indescribable. We all had the strong feeling that Joe was there with us, celebrating this milestone in Frank's life.
The Talmud states, "Mitzva goreret mitzva, one mitzva leads to another." Who would have imagined the positive chain reaction that one pair of tefilin could have? When Joe's first yartzeit approached, I wrote up this story and published it in the local Jewish newspaper, in the hope that even one reader would be inspired to don tefilin even one time. The performance of this mitzva will be yet another link in the unbroken chain of Jewish tradition that has stretched back for thousands of years. And, just as I am sure that the tefilin donned in Joe's merit will elevate his soul in the spiritual realms, so too am I confident that the chain of Torah and mitzvot will be eternal.
Rabbi Greenberg is the director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Solon.
Two New Emissary Couples Open New Centers
Rabbi Nochum and Hindy Light will soon be arriving in the capital city of the state of Maryland, Annapolis. Chabad-Lubavitch Centers can also be found in Baltimore, Bethesda, College Park, Columbia, Gaithersburg, Ocean City, Owings Mills, Potomac, Reistertown and Rockville, Maryland.
Rabbi Chaim Elazar and Esther Chitrik will be moving to Nuremberg, Germany, where they will serve the needs of the Jewish community there. Chabad-Lubavitch Centers can be found in other German cities, including Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Munich, Offenbach Am Main, Postdam, and Ulm.
The following is the P.S. to a letter dated 5th of Shevat, 5736 (published in issue L'Chaim #752)
P.S. After writing the above, I now just received your telephone message about the medical treatment suggested by your doctors and your request for my advice.
It is well known that in a case of ulcer a very important factor is peace of mind; and this is mainly up to the patient. I therefore suggest that you should strengthen your Bitochon (real trust) in G-d, the Healer of All Flesh Who Works Wondrously. And the way to do it is by reviewing appropriate texts on this subject, such as for example, Shaar Habitochon in Ibn Pakuda's Duties of the Heart, and the like, and reflect deeply on this subject.
In addition, it is also well known that a suitable diet is helpful in such a condition, and I believe helpful in all cases, the difference being only in degree.
Hence, inasmuch as the condition has been with you for some time, I suggest that you should first give a try to the above two remedies and see to what extent they can relieve the situation.
In any case, the auspicious month of Adar is only three weeks away, and in the meantime you can observe the results of the two measures suggested above.
To ease your anxiety sooner, this letter is being dispatched by S. D. [special delivery]
Incidentally, the content of the above letter, though dictated before your telephone message, may well be the "Pre-emptive cure." For everything is by Hashgocho Protis [Divine providence], and among human beings - even non-Jews - there is something that is called "Premonition," or, what our Sages describe as tchb vn gsh tku tchb ["He prophecized without realizing it."]
The date of this letter was not available
Greeting and Blessing:
Your write that you have read and learned that a man has to seek G-d, and you ask if it is not the case also that G-d should seek man.
You are quite right, and indeed G-d seeks out not only certain individuals, but calls unto everyone through the agency of the Divine Soul which animates every Jew. But, inasmuch as the soul is encased in a physical body, it sometimes happens that the Divine signals which are sent to the Divine soul are either not received at all or are received in distortion by the physical "static". Nevertheless, the signals are there, but often remain buried in the subconscious, and from there, impulses, thoughts and stimuli beg to be admitted into the conscious state.
Modern science is increasingly recognizing the importance of the subconscious state of mind. Yet, this has been recognized in our Torah and its commentaries for thousands of years. And, as in the case of a receiver which can receive radio signals only if it is in good order and properly attuned, and will not receive anything at all if the switch is off, so in the case of the body. However, as far as the soul is concerned, which is a part of G-d above, and always remains loyal to her Heavenly Father, it is always receptive, even though the impulses and stimuli are sometimes repressed and relegated to the subconscious.
That is why, under certain propitious circumstances, the body and soul may suddenly become illuminated with the light of the Torah and Mitzvos. That is why, also, an individual may suddenly experience an inner desire to return to G-d, and so on. All this is discussed at great length in the teachings of Chasidus, which explains in this way the statement of our Sages that "Every day a Heavenly Voice comes forth calling: 'Return to Me, My errant children.' "
Needless to say, although G-d constantly seeks man and calls to him, this does not minimize the necessity of man seeking G-d, as it is written "And you shall seek G-d," for unless man reciprocates and makes an effort on his part, the signals are likely to remain ineffective. And the way man can apprehend and respond to the Divine signals is by observing the Torah and Mitzvos in everyday life.
28 Cheshvan, 5765 - November 12, 2004
Positive Mitzvah 155: Making Shabbat holy
This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 20:8) "Remember the Shabbat to keep it holy" Upon completing the creation, G-d proclaimed the seventh day to beholy, separating it from the rest of the week by not creating anything on the seventh day - the Shabbat.Just as G-d proclaimed it to be special, we are commanded to recite a special prayer when the Shabbat arrives - the Kiddush, and when it departs - the Havdala.
These prayers remind us of the holiness and uniqueness of Shabbat.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In Chasidic circles, and particularly Chabad Chasidic circles, the upcoming month of Kislev is known as the "Month of Redemption" for it contains many events of good news and Redemptive qualities.
The first day of Kislev, Rosh Chodesh (Sunday, Nov. 14 this year), marks the anniversary of the Rebbe's first public appearance after suffering a heart attach in 1977.
The second of Kislev is the anniversary of the actual return of the holy books to their rightful owner - the library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad - following their illegal removal from the library. After a prolonged civil court-case, which decided to whom the library of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe belonged, the verdict was rendered on the day when the Torah reading stated, "I shall return in peace to my father's house."
On the 10th of Kislev, the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber, was released from prison where he had been interred on false charges.
On the 19th of Kislev, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, was released from his Czarist imprisonment. During his interrogation, he impressed the investigators, including the Czar himself, with his wisdom, scholarship and piety. Thus, the entire Chasidic movement was exonerated and its teachings could be spread freely. Ever since, the 19th of Kislev has been celebrated as the "New Year of Chasidut."
Of course, last but not least, the holiday of Chanuka, begins on the 25th of Kislev, Tuesday evening, Dec. 7 this year. It, too, is a holiday of redemption. On Chanuka we thank G-d for the miracles and for redeeming them from the oppressive rule of the Greeks.
May this month truly be a month of redemption for the entire Jewish people, with the coming of Moshiach, NOW.
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him... (Gen. 18:19)
Rashi comments that the phrase "for I know him" implies love and affection for Abraham. G-d loved Abraham because He knew that Abraham would teach his children to follow in his footsteps. As great and impressive as Abraham's worship of G-d was, more worthy of merit was the fact that he could be counted on to instruct others.
...to do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19)
When G-d bestows wealth and abundance on a Jew, he must honestly judge himself and ask: "Am I really worthy of all this goodness? What have I done to deserve these blessings?" When a person is thus honest with himself, it will cause him to realize that the sharing of his wealth with those less fortunate is truly tzedaka - righteousness.
And the two angels came to Sodom (Gen. 19:1)
When Abraham was paid a visit by angels, they appeared as human beings. Why, when they presented themselves to Lot, did they appear in their form as angels? Abraham, known as he was for his hospitality, treated everyone he came into contact with in the same equal manner; simple people were honored as much as those more "important." Had Lot, however, seen mere humans at his door, he would have never allowed them to cross the threshold of his home.
(Rabbi Leib Sarah's)
In all that Sara may say to you - hearken unto her voice (Gen. 21:12)
The Talmud states: Three tzadikim were given a taste of the World to Come in this world - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the World to Come, the prophecy - "the female will surround and encompass the male," and "a woman of valor is the crown of her husband" (Proverbs) will be fulfilled. Abraham was given a glimpse of this when G-d told him to heed the words of Sara, who was an even greater prophet than he.
I will go down and see. (Gen. 18:21)
The great commentator Rashi explains that G-d descended to see the "end" of the deeds of the Sodomites. Although the people of Sodom did indeed sin, G-d looked, so to speak, to their last deeds; would they regret them and repent, or would they remain entrenched in their evil ways.
Reb Moshe Chaim and his wife, Miriam, had been married for 33 years. They were simple but very generous people. What greatly upset them was the fact that they had no children. One night, Reb Moshe Chaim was sitting in a corner of the shul listening to a discussion about the Baal Shem Tov.
The people spoke about how a childless couple, already advanced in years, had come to the Baal Shem Tov and begged him to bless them with a child. The Baal Shem Tov gave them the blessing and, with G-d's help, a son was born to them.
A few days later, Moshe Chaim told his wife about the story. Miriam had heard similar stories from Bashe, a righteous woman who was the wife of the famous chasid Reb Gedalia Boruch the Shoemaker. Miriam and Bashe worked together in providing medical care and nourishment for mothers who had just given birth, and in dowering brides and supporting orphans. Miriam was overjoyed to hear her husband was considering a trip to the Baal Shem Tov.
Months passed, though, and still Moshe Chaim and Miriam had not made the journey. In the middle of Passover, Moshe Chaim heard that a group of people led by Reb Gedalia Boruch were planning to visit the Baal Shem Tov seven weeks later for the festival of Shavuot. After discussing it between themselves, Moshe Chaim and Miriam decided to join the group.
On the second day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, they set out on their journey. Moshe Chaim and Miriam came to the Baal Shem Tov and, weeping profusely, poured out their hearts to him. The Baal Shem Tov, however, gave them no blessing. They entered his room again a few days later and then a third time, but the Baal Shem Tov gave them no reply.
Reb Gedalia Boruch, knowing that the Baal Shem Tov always acted toward his visitors with intense ahavat Yisrael (love of one's fellow Jew), was deeply upset at the bitter lot of the couple. As he was one of the Baal Shem Tov's earliest disciples, he sought the advice of his colleagues about the case. They decided that ten men should gather to fast, pray, and plead for the couple for three consecutive days, and then they would see what the Baal Shem Tov would say.
Reb Gedalia Boruch and his colleagues carried out their plan with true ahavat Yisrael. They were careful to avoid uttering any words that were not for a holy purpose and poured out their hearts pleading for Divine mercy for Moshe Chaim and Miriam. No one else was aware of what they were doing. On the evening of the third day, when they were still in the middle of the evening prayer service, the Baal Shem Tov's attendant came and told them that the Baal Shem Tov was inviting them to a celebratory meal.
The meal took place with the participation of the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples and all the guests then visiting the holy Rebbe. The Baal Shem Tov was highly elated and expounded on new Torah insights and on the verses, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," and "How good and pleasant it is for brothers dwelling together." He also told them various stories on the subject of ahavat Yisrael and how dear Jews are to G-d. The Baal Shem Tov explained the tremendous effect that brotherly love can have and how, when friends plead for Divine mercy for a comrade in distress, they can even annul a heavenly decree of 70 years duration and transfer "the curse to blessing, and death to long life."
Reb Gedalia Boruch and his colleagues realized that the reason for the celebration was what they had done and that their plan had worked. They immediately urged Moshe Chaim and Miriam to press their plea. When the couple approached the Baal Shem Tov, he gave them his blessing to have a child who would live a long and happy life.
G-d fulfilled the Baal Shem Tov's blessing and on the second day of Iyar the following year, Miriam bore a son. They named him Shlomo. At about the same time, Bashe, Reb Gedalia Boruch's wife, bore a daughter whom they named Yocheved. When Shlomo and Yocheved were 17, the parents arranged a match between them. Shlomo became known as Shlomo Bashe's after his wife's mother, a great woman who was known for her deed of kindness and charity.
The revelations of Moshiach will encompass every aspect of worldly existence. It will not be an age of spirituality divorced from material reality, but a holiness that will permeate every element of being. To prepare for-and in anticipation of that revelation-we must bring holiness into every element of existence. The medium to gain this understanding and achieve this transformation is Chasidut. Chasidut is "the essence of the inner dimensions of the Torah," revealing the spiritual truths that lie at the Torah's core. This in turn grants us the potential to reveal the spiritual truth that is present throughout existence.
(From Highlights by Rabbi E. Touger)