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When you were little, did you have a favorite something that would go just about everywhere with you? Did you have something that, when you were nervous or scared or lonely or just confused, gave you comfort, strength - security? Whatever we called them, we had our "security blankets" growing up.
But why do children need them? Parents naturally do everything they can to make their child feel safe and secure. Shouldn't a parent's smiles and hugs, their words and affection, be enough? And the answer is, no. For psychologists explain that the "security blanket" - whatever form or shape it takes - is more than a substitute for maternal comfort, stimulating past sensations of safety and sanctuary. It provides an anchor against the very real fear of drifting too far too soon into the world.
By making the blanket the source of their security, even if only in their imaginations, it gives children a sense of control. They have "created" their security, and they thus can decide when, and for how long, they need reassurance and when they feel safe and confident enough to venture forth.
In other words, a "security blanket" helps us make the transition from a place of sanctuary but dependence to a place of ambiguity but autonomy.
And as we get older, we don't really outgrow the need for a "security blanket." It just comes in a different size and color, and probably costs more.
In any stressful situation, we look to a "security blanket" not to give us reassurance, but so that we can reassure ourselves, give ourselves the confidence to deal with the stress.
Whenever we recognize, instinctively or intellectually, that we must separate from who we were, that we must take control and "go to ourselves,' we find a "security blanket." It releases us from the anxiety of transition.
The soul has a "security blanket" spiritually as well. The Sages tell us that the soul, before it descends into this world, is taught the entire Torah. And it's given an oath, "be righteous, and be not wicked." We can say, then, that this oath, and this Torah learning, serve as the "security blanket" for the soul, easing its separation anxiety - its desire to remain in the spiritual realms with its impulse, its Divine mission to enter and transform the physical realm.
And we, our conscious selves, have a "security blanket" as well. It's called prayer, tefila in Hebrew, meaning, connection. Prayer is also referred to as a ladder because we use it to connect, to rise from the comfort of the status quo to a new level of self and spiritual awareness.
Chasidic teachings talks at length about the effect of devotion in prayer, how deepening one's awareness of the power of the words gives one the strength to interact with and transform that which seems inimical, opposed, to the growth programmed into one's spiritual genes.
"Depend on me," says the world. "I will nourish you and make you feel secure." And the soul says, "Leave the world behind, be inde-pendent, spiritually autonomous." And we, our conscious selves, need a "security blanket" - not a cell phone or a stuffed toy, but tefila, whose words anchor us in this world as we venture forth onto the ambiguous sea of spiritual transformation.
This week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, speaks of Jacob's departure from Israel to Charan. In Charan he worked for his Uncle Laban for 20 years, married Rachel and Leah, and established the Twelve Tribes. Vayeitzei also relates his return from Charan to the Holy Land.
Jewish mysticism explains the difference between Jacob's departure to Charan and his triumphant return. After setting out on his journey, Jacob merited a personal revelation from G-d ("And behold, the L-rd stood above him"). The Torah describes the circumstances: "And he reached a certain place" - Jacob had to be in a particular place in order to receive the revelation, and then it was only in the form of a dream. But we find 20 years later, when Jacob was returning from Charan, "angels of G-d met him there" - the angels, and G-d Himself (as explained in the Zohar), actively went out and sought him. Furthermore, this time Jacob was awake and not dreaming.
We learn from Jacob's 20-year sojourn in Charan how much can be accomplished by "descent" - by putting one's physical efforts into bringing holiness into the world. Every Jew must likewise "descend" into his own "Charan" - where he must wrestle with his own version of "Laban the Aramean," and emerge victorious, having successfully elevated the sparks of holiness hidden in the physical world.
This is no easy task, and it requires much study and preparation. Before setting out into the world, a Jew must first ready himself in "the Holy Land," which symbolizes the highest level of holiness. Before a Jew can positively influence his surroundings, he must be sufficiently educated and knowledgeable in Torah. Before Jacob left Israel for Charan, he prepared himself by learning in the yeshiva of Eber for 14 years. Every Jew must likewise prepare himself by dedicating time to Torah study. This underscores the importance of a good Jewish education, and in particular, the necessity of beginning a child's Jewish education even before he is ready for formal schooling.
The theme of preparing oneself before embarking on life's journey is also expressed in a Jew's daily life. A Jew does not rely solely on his own power and talents, but rather, begins his day by praying and asking for G-d's help in carrying out his mission in this world.
By preparing ourselves properly before attending to our daily concerns, we are assured of success in both the spiritual and physical realms.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rabbi Bolton performing for a group of children at Chabad of Thailand
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
On a Friday afternoon, I was driving back home to Kfar Chabad from Tel Aviv. It was late and, with no time to waste, I took a bit of a short-cut to save ten minutes. My short-cut put no other drivers in danger; but it did involve me driving over a solid white line.
Before I knew it, a policeman jumped out into the street and motioned to me to pull over. I opened my window, admitted my guilt, and requested that he dispense with me as quickly as possible as Shabbat was approaching.
He told me to get out of the car as he wanted to check on the computer if I had other offenses. By the time I got to his car he was already writing the ticket. He stopped writing for a second and said, "You're Tuvia Bolton? That name is familiar. Where do I know that name from?"
"From jail?" I replied, as jovially as possible.
"Jail?" he asked me in shock.
"Yes," I replied, "I've been there to read the Scroll of Esther on Purim, to light the Chanuka candles, and to put tefilin on the prisoners, not as a prisoner myself, of course," I explained.
He just looked down and continued writing. When he finished writing, he got out of his car and asked, "You are from Chabad, right?"
"Yes," I admitted, wondering if this revelation would make it more or less likely that he would tear up the ticket. He handed the paper to me. Then he said, "I had a big miracle from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. A big miracle."
"Tell me the story," I said. "At least this way I'll get my money's worth!"
"It was 20 years ago, 1986," he began. "I was a motorcycle cop on my way to someone trapped in an overturned car when suddenly an Arab slammed into me and flipped me and my bike over a guard-rail into a 14 foot-deep ravine.
"My spine and neck were broken and they thought I'd be paralyzed for life. The doctors operated and succeeded in returning control to the left half of my body but my entire right side was totally paralyzed. Everyone told me I was lucky to be alive. The doctors said there was nothing more to do. So I began to visit healers and try alternative medicine. I spent a fortune, but nothing helped.
"Then, after four years our family doctor called to tell me about an operation that had been developed in Germany. It was still experimental but he felt that because my situation was deteriorating, I should take the chance.
"I contacted the doctors and the operation was scheduled in two weeks time. I was nervous but I kept telling myself that anything would be better than being half-paralyzed.
"A few days later, on Friday, a friend brought a young Chabad rabbi to my house. I had never been involved in Judaism and I had a dislike for religious people. But he had told the rabbi my story and the rabbi suggested that I write a letter to the Rebbe of Lubavitch. I told my friend to do me a favor and get the rabbi out of my sight.
"The rabbi explained that he didn't take money so I agreed. All I wrote in the letter was: 'I want health and livelihood.' I signed my name and faxed it off from my house. That Saturday night, some nine hours after Shabbat, my fax rang. It was a letter from the Rebbe's office. My wife took it and read it aloud, word for word: 'Do not make the operation, it is not necessary. With G-d's help you will return to work as before.'
"I took the letter and read it myself. 'This is from the great rabbi? I didn't say anything about any operation! That Chabadnik must have written and told him! That's how he knew. And he writes that I'll return to work!' I shouted. I crumpled the fax and threw it angrily in the trash.
"That was Saturday night. Two days later, at about 6:00 a.m., my phone rang. Still half asleep I picked it up. 'Who is this?' I mumbled.
"The voice on the other end said, 'This is Eddy from the traffic police. We're making a new group and we want you to be part of it.'
"'Just what I need,' I said to myself, 'a practical joker first thing in the morning! I just slammed the phone down and rolled back over to try to sleep. But suddenly I realized that I had picked up the phone with my right hand - the one that had been paralyzed! I thought that maybe I was dreaming, but after a few seconds I held up my right hand in front of my face and moved it! The phone rang again. I picked it up with my right hand again.
"'Did you just hang up on me?' asked the voice on the other end. I explained that I thought it was a prank phone call but before I could finish he told me that if I was interested I should come to the station on Wednesday and he hung up.
"When I drove to the station it was the first time I had driven a car in four years. All the police were new there, which probably explains the confusion of how they called me. Anyway, I had to go through a whole standard physical exam including x-rays. They told me to return on Sunday for the results. When I returned on Sunday, I casually showed the doctor my old x-rays and he asked, 'Wow, who is this poor fellow?' When I pointed to my name and to myself he almost fell over. He exclaimed, 'I see it, but what I see is impossible; on this old picture there are broken bones and scars from your operations. On these new x-rays all this is gone! It seems that the Rebbe gave you a new body!'
"If anyone asks me," the policeman concluded his story, "I say the Lubavitcher Rebbe is here with us today, this very moment! If he could give me a new body for sure he's here!"
We hugged each other and then I stepped back and said, "My friend, I don't know how much this ticket is but it's worth every shekel just to have heard that story!"
He replied with a smile, "Ticket? It's a warning!"
The dynamic work of Chabad of Dix Hills, Long Island, is receiving a boost with the appointment of Rabbi Aryeh and Sasha Henya Kay as the Rebbe's emissaries in that city. The Kays will be involved primarily in the educational outreach programs of the existing Chabad-Lubavitch Center. Rabbi Mordy and Tzirel Andrusier recently moved to Florida where they have established Chabad of Pembroke Pines in Southwest Broward. The new Chabad Center will focus primarily on outreach to the rapidly growing Spanish American Jewish community. The Jewish community of Mariupol, Ukraine, the second largest community in the Donbass Region, recently welcomed Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Esther Cohen as the Rebbe's emissaries in that city.
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
With regard to the question of leaving one's eyes to an eye-bank after 120 years, or similar bequests, I am of course reluctant to discuss this subject, since this whole matter is of no immediate concern to you at all, inasmuch as you have many, many years to live and to fill them with productive and joyful activities, etc. However, since you have already raised this question, and in view of the fact that there are various misconceptions about it which have gained currency, I cannot pass over this question without telling you that there is a clear and distinct Psak-din [legal ruling], which leaves no doubt as to what the position of our holy Torah and religion is in regard to this matter. It is that not only is the neshama [soul] - "Verily, a part of G-dliness Above" in the words of the Tanya, but also the body of a Jew is sacred and is the property of G-d, while the Jew is no more than a guardian of it.
This position explains also many dinim (laws) relating to the body, having to do with hygiene and the like, which are also part of our Torah. Thus, the halacha [Jewish law] rules explicitly that one must not mutilate, G-d forbid, something which belongs to G-d, and which has been placed in the care of a person as guardian and keeper. For the same reason, our Sages of blessed memory have been so strict in the matter of mutilating dead bodies. In those exceptional cases, which are very rare, where an exception was made to the rule, it was because of special reasons, which in no way diminished the sanctity and inviolability of the body, as G-d's property, but only because under special circumstances, G-d Himself has permitted, certain isolated ex-ceptions, in which case it is the Owner's will that is being carried out, namely G-d's will.
Now to refer to your last question in the order of appearance in your letter, though in my opinion, it is first and foremost, as well the most practical one, namely the question of where you should continue your higher learning.
You have no doubt heard of my position on such a question, which I have reiterated many times, and is based on the fact that an educational institution, regardless of its character, and regardless of the student's purpose, has a twofold influence, namely in the area of knowledge "accumulation," as well as in influencing the character, views and beliefs of the students, to the extent of having an impact also on the observance of mitzvot, etc. Clearly the second aspect of an educational institution is not less important than the first, and perhaps much more important, especially in our day and age where the outside influences are unfor-tunately negative, while the home influence is no longer as exclusive as it used to be. There is no need to go into the factors which have brought about the present state of affairs, but the facts are there.
In light of the above, it is my considered opinion that insofar as the continuation of your studies is concerned, even if you remain close to your home under the good influence of your parents and home atmosphere, it is important that you should study in an institution wherein the influence in regard to Torah and mitzvos [command-ments] is a positive one. According to my knowledge, a good institution on this level is... The other institutions which you mention are, in my opinion, completely unsuitable for you, especially in the light of the situation as it has developed lately, and where no improvement seems likely in the near future, in the natural order of things, but perhaps a deterioration. The subject is too painful to discuss in detail.
I wish to add a further point, which I think is also essential. Our Sages of blessed memory have emphasized the fact that all Jews are like one big family, and consequently the private life of every member, as well as the career or profession one chooses, and how one utilizes one's capacities, etc., are not the private concern of the individual, since they affect, more or less, every member of this family, and the Jewish people as a whole. If this has always been true, it is especially true in our time, particularly in regard to the Jewish youth, and more particularly those, like yourself, whom G-d has endowed with a special gift and capacity to work in the field of chinuch [Jewish education], that is to say, to influence other youngsters by instruction and education, in addition to being a living example. Moreover, good influence on a youngster, as I have emphasized this many times before, is like doing something beneficial to a seed or seedling, where even a slight benefit at that early stage is eventually compounded into great benefits....
9 Cheshvan, 5766 - November 11, 2005
Positive Mitzva 213: Marriage
This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 24:1) "When a man takes a wife and marries her" The groom is commanded to marry and live with his wife according to the law of the Torah.
15 Cheshvan, 5766 - November 17, 2005
Positive Mitzva 212: To Be Fruitful and Multiply
This mitzva is based on the verse (Gen. 1:28) "Be fruitful and multiply" G-d created the world for people to live in. This mitzva commands us to have children.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Shabbat, the ninth of Kislev, is the birthday and anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Dovber, the second Rebbe of Chabad.
A story is told of Reb Dovber when he was a young boy of four or five. At that time, the boy's father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of the Chabad movement, was the Rebbe. After cheder one day, little Dovber ran into the room where many of his father's chasidim sat. He sat next to one elderly chasid. The chasid was asking his two fellow-chasidim who were wealthy businessmen why they were so sad. The two men answered together, "Times are bad, and business is slow."
Dovber sat up straight and, in pun, said to the first chasid, "Why do you need to ask them about their sadness (atzvut in Hebrew)? Does it not say in Psalms, 'Their idols (atzabeihem) are silver and gold...' Their sadness comes from money."
Later that day, when the three chasidim had the opportunity to speak privately with the Rebbe, they asked him how Dovber, at this tender age, had such a keen understanding of Torah and Chasidic philosophy.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman explained, "I have had to make great sacrifices in my life for Torah and Chasidism. They therefore automatically became my legacy to my children."
As illustrated by this story, when we make sacrifices for our children in matters of Judaism and Torah, we are automatically insuring that our children will inherit an extra measure of strength and commitment in those areas. G-d sees our sacrifice, He sees the extra effort we put in, and rewards us with true Yiddishe nachas, Jewish pleasure - our children and grandchildren will follow in our footsteps.
And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth (Gen. 28:14)
G-d promised Jacob that the Jewish nation will be like the humble dust: Everyone treads upon it, but in the end, the dust has the last word and covers all. The Jewish people, after suffering at the hands of the nations of the world, will eventually be victorious and prevail.
Surely G-d is present in this place and I did not know it (Gen. 28:16)
When does man feel the presence of G-d? When "I did not know it" - when the I is ignored and the person works on negating his own ego.
Then Jacob rose up and set his sons and wives upon the camels (Gen. 31:17)
When Jacob finally left Charan to return to Israel, he was a rich man with many possessions, though he had arrived there with neither silver, gold, nor cattle. Although at first glance it appears that Jacob's living amongst the idolators of Charan was a step backward, it was in this merit that he acquired his great wealth and established his family. So too, is it with this final exile. Although the trials and tribulations have been many, when Moshiach comes and brings the Final Redemption, we will first realize the great advantage and good that came from it.
And he lay down in that place (Gen. 28:11)
Our Sages teach that this was the first time Jacob lay his head down to sleep, having spent the previous 20 years working in Laban's house, saying the entire book of Psalms each night. We learn from Jacob's behavior that even as we go about our daily lives and attend to our jobs and responsibilities, our "heads" should be concerned with Torah and our thoughts directed toward holy matters.
Chasidim thronged the roads to Zhlobin, Ukraine, making their way to the wedding of the daughter of Rabbi Dovber (the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch) and the grandson of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. This wedding became known as "the Great Wedding in Zhlobin." Anticipation ran high, and as the wedding day approached, the feverish preparations intensified.
The bride and her family arrived in Zhlobin a few days before the wedding, led by the founder of Chabad Chasidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, and his son, Rabbi Dovber, later to become the Mitteler Rebbe. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and the groom's family arrived in Zhlobin on the eve of the wedding.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman told his son to go and greet Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. Rabbi Dovber blanched and said, "Father, you know how the tzadik is upset with me because I teach Chasidism at length and in public! I am afraid to go to him alone."
"Please go, my son, and don't be afraid," said Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
Rabbi Dovber put on his coat, took his walking stick and went to see Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. He fearfully entered the room and his fears were immediately realized. As soon as Rabbi Levi Yitzchok saw him, his face crinkled in surprise and displeasure. He got right to the point without greeting him, and without hiding his annoyance, as though talking to a crowd rather than to a guest.
"Are you allowed to reveal this great and wondrous wisdom? It is forbidden to speak about these secrets to people who never saw the face of our teacher, the holy Baal Shem Tov!" He pointed at Rabbi Dovber and said, "And he reveals them openly, before the masses!"
Rabbi Dovber rushed out of the room and returned to his father in great dismay. "Father, the tzadik's displeasure stands, and I am afraid."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman understood that it was important to resolve this issue before the wedding festivities began, and he went along with his son to to straighten things out. The two tzadikim met and warmly greeted one another, then sat down to talk.
"Why are you so upset with my son, Berel?" asked Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok thought for a moment and then replied, "You know that this is not my prohibition, but an instruction from our Rebbe (the Maggid of Mezritch), not to teach Chasidism in public unless the speaker saw the face of the Baal Shem Tov. How could your son say such deep thoughts?!"
Rabbi Shneur Zalman replied, "My son, Berel, only says what he heard from me, and I saw our master, the Baal Shem Tov."
"In a vision or literally?" Rabbi Levi Yitzchok pressed.
"When awake, of course!"
"If so, then let us hear what he has to say."
Rabbi Dovber trembled. He was being asking to do the most difficult thing of all: to say Chasidut in front of the two tzadikim.
Having no choice, Rabbi Dovber began saying deep Chasidic discourses, and the two tzadikim sat and listened closely to everything he uttered.
Rabbi Dovber was completely immersed in what he was saying, and was removed from his surroundings as he climbed the lofty and pure spiritual heights. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok perceived the secrets of razin d'razin (the most secret of secrets of Torah) in what Rabbi Dovber was saying, words that shone forth from their very source, and saw with his divine inspiration that their source was in the first set of Tablets that Moses received on behalf of the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, on the level before they were broken!
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok's spirit exploded with holiness until he couldn't restrain himself anymore, and he got up and wrapped Rabbi Dovber's face with a talit, saying, "Oy, G-d forbid that the fiery angels should be envious of you. Beware of an evil eye."
He then turned to Rabbi Shneur Zalman and said, "Even the great Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, the Rashbi, didn't reach such a high and lofty source. How did your son?"
Rabbi Shneur Zalman thought deeply and it was apparent that his holy spirit was in another world, but after a while he responded: "When this son of mine was born, I planned on naming him Hamnuna, after Rav Hamnuna Sava, whose soul-source was in the most exalted hidden worlds. This name was appropriate for the level of my son's soul, but our Rebbe, the Maggid appeared to me in a dream and told me to name him Dovber (the Maggid's name). So you should know that my son reached such concealed and lofty secrets, because the source of his soul is with Rav Hamnuna Sava."
As they stood near the door, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok insisted that Rabbi Dovber have the honor of exiting first. "You have taught me," he said humbly. Rabbi Dovber deferred to his father and to Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. Each tzadik gave the other the honor, and there was no solution. So the Chasidim broke the walls of the doorway and the three tzadikim left together.
As told by Menachem Zeigelbaum, adapted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Rabbi Dovber, the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch (known as the Mitteler Rebbe) said that we have already endured the birth pangs of Moshiach. Moshiach can come already.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 1970)