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Watching a building go up generates a unique kind of excitement. For one thing, the process takes time, so almost every day there's something new to see - sometimes little changes, sometimes major changes.
Each stage generates its own observations and speculations. First comes demolition - removal of the old building and clearing of the lot.
Once the old building has been destroyed, collapsed or imploded, the next stage is clearing the debris - wood and brick and pipes and plaster and whatever gets hauled away.
But throughout all this, the building - the new building - is not yet real. The plans and architects' drawing and engineers' explanations tell us what it might be, what it should be, what G-d willing it will be - but right now, it is not.
Next the construction crew lays out the dimensions. Then they go to work inside the designated area.
And then the furrows are dug, indicating where the rooms will be, where the support walls and beams must go. (As with an empty house, the rooms look too small, like they can't possibly contain all they must - or will.)
Something's happening, but nothing permanent enough to really say, yes, there will definitely be a building here. That happens after one more stage - the pouring of the cement. The pouring and setting of the foundation.
From that point on, the observer feels, the building must go up.
We don't yet know what the final structure will look like, inside or out: brick or siding? shutters or blinds? a family room and a formal living room? There's so much more the architect, engineer and construction firm has to do. But once the concrete is poured and the foundation set, there will be a building.
As we incorporate more Jewish living and learning into our lives, we too are constructing a building. And we too go through various stages: gutting, sometimes even demolition of the old, defining the new dimensions, preparing layout and laying the foundation. We too have much construction to do after the foundation is set.
True, we have a building yet to build - but with the foundation there, we feel confident the building will go up.
In order to construct or rebuild our Judaism, we need to remove the debris in our minds - our ignorance. We need to "gut" the old building - negative feelings or associations. And we have to demolish old attitudes - marginalizing or dismissal of the spiritual dimension.
Then we have to define the new dimensions and prepare the layout: where does Judaism matter most? More Torah learning? Friday night dinners at home, preceded by candle-lighting and kiddush? Some other mitzvot?
And finally we pour the foundation: we make the commitment. We begin to solidify our observance, to set in stone - or concrete - our plans. We start doing what we've talked about, learned about, what has become foremost in our minds and vital to our sense of self: we apply ourselves to constructing our Judaism.
As architects of our new spiritual edifice, we know that once we've "poured the concrete," the new building, the new involvement, the renewal that comes from constructing something new - from our Jewish home - will arise the Holy Temple. For the Holy Temple is the home of all Jews, and it will be built on the foundation of our increased Torah study and mitzvot observance.
This week's Torah portion, Chayei Sara, contains an account of the first marriage mentioned in the Torah. This marriage, between Isaac and Rivka, affected and is a lesson for the Jewish people as a whole, and indeed the future of the entire nation which was to follow.
In a spiritual sense, this union between the two progenitors of the Jewish nation, symbolizes the relationship between the two components of each individual - the body and the soul. Rivka was from Charan, a place which was primarily materialistic. Isaac, on the other hand, symbolizes the spiritual dimension, as he had already been consecrated as a "perfect offering" by his willingness to be sacrificed upon the altar. Their marriage epitomized the unity between these two contradictory concepts.
A Jew's soul, even when enclothed in a physical body, is totally at one with G-d, for it is "an actual part of G-d." The mission for which it is sent down into this corporeal world is to bring about a change in the material realm, elevating physical objects by performing mitzvot (commandments). This unity of the spiritual and the physical is achieved when the light of the soul is reflected within the body, and the body becomes nullified to the demands of the soul.
Ultimately, the unity achieved between body and soul should extend to the point that it is obvious that all of a person's activities are performed by both in tandem. Afterwards, this unity should be extended into the world at large, so as to encompass every dimension of existence in the entire world.
In this manner, the Jew acts as G-d's emissary, transforming the world into a dwelling place for G-dliness. Thus, the Jew becomes an extension of G-dliness, in the same way that an emissary shares a single purpose and a single identity with the one who sent him on his mission.
The ultimate goal of this unity between the spiritual and the physical is the Era of Redemption, when this unity will be open and apparent. Our task as Jews is to hasten this process by doing mitzvot and studying Torah, for it was the giving of the Torah which allowed for the possibility of such unity. Prior to the Torah's revelation on Mount Sinai, spirituality and physicality, body and soul, were two distinct entities which could not merge. When Moshiach comes, speedily in our day, the unity achieved through our Torah service will be revealed in the world at large and the union between body and soul will be consummated.
As the children of Isaac and Rivka, every dimension of our existence should therefore be permeated by the awareness of this Divine mission, to make this world a proper dwelling place for G-d.
From a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 5752
Dr. Harold Ginzburg and Rabbi Mendel Rivkin spent a weekend in November in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York attending Chabad's annual International Conference of Shluchim (emissaries). The following is an article that Dr. Ginzburg penned about the experience.
by Dr. Harold Ginzburg
In the winter of 2004, I found myself being called something I had never been called before, a Shliach, an emissary. I was a representative from and for the Chabad-Lubavitch community of New Orleans. More than 3,000 Shluchim from six continents came together for a five day meeting in Brooklyn.
More than 2,500 were rabbis from local congregations, from communities, from university centers, and, as some of my patients might say of their clergy, most are "working preachers," that is, they minister to their flock and also work as educators. The lay leaders and rabbis did what everyone does at conferences: talk, eat, eat, talk, and share ideas. In Brooklyn, the Chabad-Lubavitch community is a tightly knit community. People dress alike; the men dress in dark suits and have long beards, and the women wear long-sleeved dresses and keep their own hair covered.
The essence of Chabad-Lubavitch, whether it is in New Orleans, New York City, The West Bank (not the one across the Greater New Orleans bridge), London, or Moscow, is maintaining traditional values and establishing and encouraging Jewish education. Yiddishkeit (Judaism) is more than davening (praying), it is more than dressing in one manner or another, it is developing and expressing a sense of Jewish pride and a sense of belonging to our extended Jewish community.
Now that I have visited the synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway with its thousands of congregants, praying, socializing, arguing and discussing politics, with its announcements of engagements, marriages, births, and deaths, I can sit back and begin to appreciate why Orthodox Jewry, whether of the Ashkenazic, Sefardic, or Lubavitch variety, was feared and envied over the centuries. A congregation is an extended family, and families reach out to help family members and, occasionally, strangers. There is nothing sinister about that. For Chabad-Lubavitch, reaching out means helping those who have been born into a Jewish home become more aware of their heritage and their religion.
An international meeting lends itself to finding commonalties and differences while trying to find common solutions to common problems. The common problems explored include explaining what the purpose or role of Chabad is in their community, of dealing with prejudice against Jews, against Israel, and against Chabad. For those who follow the more orthodox teachings, for those who wear garments and dress in a manner different from their fellow Jews, they are perceived to be a threat to externalized or apparent assimilation. Many Jews, in Louisiana, in the United States, and throughout the world, prefer to remain outwardly invisible about their Jewish faith. Many Jews feel pressured not to be too outwardly labeled with their religion, especially since the Holocaust is not even one generation away for many of us.
Establishing and maintaining Chabad Centers in this country can, ironically, be just as difficult as establishing and maintaining such facilities in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Indifference, resentment, and concern about an orthodox Jewish hand reaching out to other Jews, seems to be a universal issue.
Was the conference a success? For me, it was. I was raised in the orthodox tradition, though the family retail business remained open on Saturday. Living in New Orleans provides me the opportunity to learn more about the Chabad-Lubavitch community. That community has brought me back closer to the traditions with which I grew up and yet had drifted away from for a number of decades. The international meeting illustrated that the Chabad-Lubavitch world-wide community, in general, and certainly the Chabad-Lubavitch community of Louisiana, see as its mission helping people become more aware and more knowledgeable about their faith.
The Rebbe wrote:
"May G-d grant that your words coming from the heart will penetrate the many hearts which are ready and eager to respond, and may G-d grant you success in this as in all your other endeavors for yourself and your family."
That is the daily challenge for members of the Chabad-Lubavitch community.
Dr. Ginzburg is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Louisiana State University's Health Sciences Center and at Tulane University Medical Center. He has his own private practice and also holds a master's degree in public health as well as a law degree. Rabbi Mendel Rivkin an emissary of the Rebbe in New Orleans.
New Chabad Center for Utah
Chabad-Lubavitch of Utah, based in Salt Lake City, recently dedicated its new facility.
With the International Convention of Shluchim (Emissaries) taking place this weekend, expect to continue to read on these pages about more Shluchim who are leaving their homes, families, creature comforts, to help Jews wherever they are, whether university campuses, resort areas, small towns and big cities. Three of the most recent couples to "go on Shlichus" are Rabbi Eli and Blumie Gurevitz who arrived recently in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania to establish Chabad on Campus, serving Jewish students and faculty at Swarthmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr, and Villanova University. Rabbi Yisroel and Rivky Bukiet moved to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil where they have opened a Chabad House for Israeli tourists. Newlyweds Rabbi Mendel and Leah Amdurov just arrived in Krasnokamsk, a city in the Perm Region of Russia.
27 Teves, 5712 
Greetings and Blessings!
I received your letter in which you describe your situation - how you saw the doctor's report, how it affected you, how you imagine the future, and how you therefore recite Psalms and make your requests of G-d. You then ask for my view of the subject.
In reply: The fact that you say Psalms and make your requests of G-d is certainly a good thing, for He is the master over the whole world and over every single person in all his particulars. However, with regard to your description of how you became absorbed in the doctor's report and how you envisage the future, I do not share your approach, because this is not your affair at all. Not for this were you created.
...It is therefore certain that you believe that G-d is the L-rd of the universe, the master of the world. We observe that even in the administration of a mortal undertaking, a good manager has everything departmentalized so that no factor interferes with another, and every component serves its intended purpose. If this is true of management by a mortal, who is finite in every respect and accordingly can sometimes err, it is most certainly true with regard to G-d's management: everything, wherever it may be, must find its aim and its consummation in its mission. If a person grasps and tackles something else, this entails two drawbacks: (a) since he is not suited to that task he can only do damage, and (b) this involvement diverts him from fulfilling the mission for which he is in fact designated.
All of the above is applicable to your case, because of a number of circumstances that are certainly determined by Divine Providence: your profession is not that of a doctor, and you were brought up as an observer of the Torah and its mitzvos (commandments). From this we learn two things: (a) medical matters are not your Divinely-ordained mission in this world, and (b) your goal, the mission for which you were created, is the observance of the Torah and its commandments. This includes the commandment that "you shall love your fellow as yourself" and that "you shall surely rebuke [your colleague]." It also includes the interpretation appearing in Tanna dvei Eliyahu on the verse, "If you see a naked man, clothe him." On this verse the Sages teach: "If you see a fellow Jew who is naked of Torah and its mitzvos, endeavor to clothe him with Torah and its mitzvos."
From the above it is clear that when you express your evaluations and opinions in matters of medical science, first of all this deflects you from the fulfillment of the mission for which you were designated.
Secondly, as to your medical treatment, you can only (G-d forbid) cause harm, but on no account improve things. The harm here can be brought about (G-d forbid) because, as a result of aggravation, you imagine things that will not be. This weakens [the conduit of your blessings] and also your trust in G-d, when you are engrossed in the contemplation of what this doctor said, and what that other specialist thought up, and so forth.
Since you ask my view, I am telling you: You should conduct yourself as the Torah requires you to do, and in the spirit of what the Torah states - that it has given permission to heal. This means that the Torah has given people permission to consult doctors, and has granted doctors the permission and the possibility only to heal and rectify them. This is why people commonly consult doctors and then follow their instructions. There is nothing more for you to do in this matter: you should leave it all to the doctor. What you should do is to place your certain trust in G-d that you will be blessed with many long years.
It is written, "The awe of G-d [leads] to life." Accordingly, the stronger your trust in G-d, and the fewer your doubts in that trust, and the more you devote yourself to fulfilling your above-stated mission in this world of observing the Torah and its mitzvos and also of influencing others to do likewise, the more long years will you be granted. This is to be understood literally, without resorting to any ingenious interpretations.
Completely forget about the report and about what you have been reading in medical books, because that is not your mission and is altogether not your affair. Accordingly, it cannot improve things for you; generally, doing this only achieves the opposite, G-d forbid.
...It goes without saying that you should set yourself the goal - as the Baal Shem Tov expected of chassidim - of fulfilling the command of the verse, "Serve G-d with joy." The obligation to "serve G-d" applies not only to praying and studying Torah but also to eating and drinking and whatever else a person does (including even sleeping), as Rambam writes in Hilchos De'os. If you act in this way, you will begin to feel better and better and will become healthier and healthier, and will be able to give me good news about this.
It would be appropriate to donate a few pennies to charity before the morning and afternoon prayers daily (except, of course, on Shabbos and Yom-Tov).
I hope, and I am certain, that you will accept my above suggestion and directives, and that you will keep me informed as soon as possible.
With blessings for good health and a speedy recovery - and for many long and goodly years may you fulfill your mission in this world with a peaceful mind and a restful body, and may you be a real chassid.
From In Good Hands, translated by Rabbi Uri Kaploun, published by Sichos In English
Why do we light candles for Shabbat?
Shabbat is referred to as a "delight." We enhance the beauty of our Shabbat meal and make it more delightful by adorning it with candlelight. The candles are also a way of honoring the holiness of Shabbat. Another reason: When one lights one candle from another, the first candle is not diminished. So, too, a Jew draws enough spiritual strength from Shabbat to last the entire week, without detracting from the holiness of Shabbat.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is the annual Kinus HaShluchim, the International Convention of Emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Nearly 3,000 emissaries of the Rebbe from every continent in the world are arriving at Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway, for the 23rd annual conference. They will go back to their communities after Shabbat with renewed energy to continue carrying our their mission to prepare the world for Moshiach!
This Shabbat is also the Shabbat on which we bless the new month of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar.
The name Kislev represents a fusion of opposites. "Kis" refers to a state of concealment or covering over, whereas "lev" (lamed-vav) is symbolic of the ultimate in revelation. (Lamed-vav, numerically equivalent to 36, six times six, represents the highest level of revelation of our six emotional powers.)
Kislev, in Chasidic tradition, is also called "the month of redemption." The 10th of Kislev is the anniversary of release from Russian imprisonment of Rabbi Dov Ber, the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch and th 19th of Kislev is the release and anniversary of redemption of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. And, of course, we have the victory and redemption of the Jewish people at the time of Chanuka that we celebrate on the 25th of the month of Kislev.
May the coming month truly be a time of thanksgiving and redemption for the entire Jewish people, with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field (Gen. 24:63)
Rashi explains that the word "meditate" means "to pray - as if pouring forth the contents of one's heart." If such is the case, why didn't the Torah explicitly state that Isaac went out to pray in the field? We are supposed to take a lesson for our general conduct from the way Isaac prayed. A person should not call attention to himself and publicly announce his fear of Heaven. Rather, we should conduct ourselves as Isaac did - quietly, and without fanfare. A passer-by would have thought that Isaac was only strolling in the field, when in reality he was composing the afternoon prayer.
The man took a gold earring, weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets. (24:22)
The commentator Rashi explains that the half-shekel alludes to the half-shekel that the Jews donated for each person, while the two bracelets allude to the two Tablets containing the Ten Commandments. With these gifts, Eliezer implied that when establishing a Jewish home, Torah and the performance of mitzvot form its pillars. The half-shekel illustrates the mitzva of charity, while the two bracelets, symbolizing the two Tablets, allude to the Torah itself, which is included in the Ten Commandments.
And the servant took...all of his master's best possessions in his hand (Gen. 24:10)
Why was it necessary for Abraham to entrust his servant with all of his best possessions? Would not most of them have sufficed for his mission to find a proper bride for Isaac?Abraham invested all of his being to ensure that this marriage take place. He realized that this was not merely a wedding between two individuals, but that the fate of the entire Jewish people hinged on this union. We should likewise invest all of our resources into carrying out our ultimate mission in the world.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
All winter long Jews include a petition for rain in the daily prayers. When G-d responds generously and gives copious rains to His land, all is well, but when this is not the case, the Land of Israel and its inhabitants suffer.
One year there was little rainfall. The dry ground yielded little produce, and food prices were high. Even the wealthy were pressed to pay for all their needs, but for the poor, starvation looked them in the eyes. And yet, it was even worse for the Torah scholars who were always dependent on the yeshivas for their livelihood. The many yeshivas were supported by the generosity of the wealthy citizenry, who now couldn't afford to give with their usual open-handedness.
The leading rabbis of Jerusalem met and decided to dispatch a delegate to raise money from their brethren abroad. But who would go? No one was anxious to accept upon himself the task. They drew lots, and the choice fell upon Rabbi Avraham Galanti. He was a man noted for his piety and vast knowledge, but he had never travelled abroad and had no experience with foreign ways. Nevertheless, he accepted his mission and travelled to the port city of Yaffa, where he boarded a ship headed for Constantinople.
The grueling voyage took many weeks, and when the sailors finally saw land, a strange sight met their eyes. Instead of the busy activity of a port, they saw distraught people running to and fro. Others stood on rooftops, while militia patrolled the empty streets.
The ship's captain and crew were frightened. They were reluctant to land. Rabbi Galanti, however, was determined to go ashore, for Constantinople, with its well-to-do and generous Jewish community was his main destination. It was specifically there that he was sent and he was determined to fulfill his instructions.
Rabbi Galanti begged the captain for a small rowboat, explaining the importance of his mission. Soon a small craft carrying the rabbi and one sailor set out for the shore.
No sooner had Rabbi Galanti stepped ashore when he was approached by two soldiers who cried out: "You must return to your ship! Two giant lions have escaped from the Sultan's private zoo and are running through the city. The Sultan wants them alive, and we are terrified to approach them."
Just then, they heard a blood-curdling roar, and the panic-stricken soldiers fled, leaving the rabbi standing alone. The famished lion sprang towards him, anticipating a meal at last, but just as suddenly, it froze in its tracks and crouched down at his feet. People standing on the surrounding roof-tops turned away to avoid the horrible sight, but when they saw that a miracle was occurring, they craned their necks to get a better look.
They saw Rabbi Galanti holding the lion by the mane and leading it quietly down the street toward the royal palace. Rabbi Galanti's path took him past the second lion. Rabbi Galanti gently called to it, and the lion turned and tamely followed him down the street. When they reached the Sultan's private gardens, Rabbi Galanti deposited the two lions in their cages and locked the bars securely.
As he turned to leave, Rabbi Galanti was approached by the Sultan and his ministers who now dared to leave the confines of the palace. The rabbi was invited to accompany them to the royal quarters. The Sultan turned to Rabbi Galanti and inquired, "Who are you, and what are your powers that you have dared and succeeded to capture my escaped lions?"
Rabbi Galanti explained that he was from Jerusalem where the people were enduring a famine. He had come to collect funds with which to help his beleaguered brethren.
The Sultan was amazed. "I thought you must be an animal-tamer or a sorcerer. If you are what you claim to be, a Torah scholar, then I still don't understand how you accomplished this feat."
"Your Majesty," replied Rabbi Galanti, "I am a weak old man, and I certainly make no use of magic, for it is forbidden to us. I will explain to Your Majesty the teachings of our Sages, and you will be able to understand how I was able to control these wild animals. We have been taught that the definition of a brave person is one who can conquer his evil impulses. All of my life I have fought against my evil inclination, and I have succeeded in purifying my heart up to the point that I fear nothing except the A-mighty.
"Also, G-d instilled in beasts an innate fear of people that is manifested only when people act as they should. But, when a person sullies his G-dly image, the roles are reversed, and the person fears the beast instead."
The Sultan was impressed by the rabbi's words. He instructed his servants to bring a large sum of money from his treasury and give it to Rabbi Avraham as a token of his gratitude and esteem. Rabbi Avraham returned to Jerusalem having accomplished his mission of mercy and having sanctified the Name of G-d before the Sultan and all his people.
The task of the shluchim (emissaries), particularly at this time, is to prepare for the acceptance of Moshiach and the Redemption. This is the task facing every Jew, for we are all shluchim of G-d. Although as a whole, our shlichus (mission) is unchanging, from time to time, a different dimension receives emphasis. At that time, that dimension permeates the entire shlichus and defines its character, serving as the gateway through which the entire shlichus ascends. Surely, this applies in the present instance, when the emphasis is on such an essential point, preparing for Moshiach's coming.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 25 Marcheshvan, 5752)