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Homeowner's, Life, Auto, Health, Disability, Flood or Disaster - it seems we insure every aspect of life. And while there have been horror stories of insurance companies that take your premiums but won't pay benefits, or give you a hard time when you try to collect, we also know what it's like to get a huge hospital bill or need an expensive car repair, and find, to our relief, that it's covered by insurance.
Insurance works on two basic principles: protection against unforeseen disasters or extraordinary expenses, and sharing the risk.
Theoretically, we could insure ourselves: Put aside part of the paycheck, invest it, and have it ready in case of an emergency. Some emergencies, though, cost more than we'd be able to save over time.
We buy insurance because we don't know the future. You could say that insurance is like gambling, but in reverse. You're putting down, say, ten percent, and you could get a hundred. Of course, mostly with insurance we want to lose the gamble: we don't want to have to collect on our homeowner's, for instance, because that means our house has been damaged. We could gamble that either we can beat the odds, and nothing will happen, or at least, within the odds - most houses don't have their roofs blown off - and not the exception. But who wants to take that risk?
Which leads to the second principle of insurance: sharing the risk. Insurance lives off of statistics: given a hundred drivers, for instance, statistics pretty much guarantee five will have accidents. (We're making up the numbers, of course, just for illustration.) But statistics can't tell us which five. So if we're in the group, we share the risk. If we're lucky, we're not one of the five and we've paid a small price, also helping someone in need. And if we're one of the unlucky ones, we can rest easy knowing we've got a financial support network.
Judaism has its own insurance policies - spiritual insurance policies. They too operate on the same principles: protection against unknown problems, and sharing the risk.
We confront the possibility of spiritual emergencies, in all our interactions with the world. We need spiritual insurance policies, so to speak, to help keep us focused on the real reason why we must involve ourselves in "temporal matters" - to transform them, elevate them into the realm of holiness.
Fortunately, we have such insurance. Quoting Maimonides, at the end of the laws of mezuza: "Our Sages have said that one who has tefilin on his arm and head, tzitzit (fringes) on his garment and mezuzot on his doorways, can be assured that he will not sin, because he has many reminders."
These, then, are our spiritual insurance policies. And particularly effective is mezuza, as Maimonides explains: "... this mitzva is a constant obligation that includes everyone. Every time a person enters and leaves, he is confronted with the unity of G-d, the name of the Almighty, and he remembers his love for Him. He awakens from his slumber and his involvement in the vanity of temporal matters and realizes that nothing has eternal existence but the knowledge of G-d. He then immediately returns to the path of righteousness."
And that, dear friends, is our spiritual insurance. And that is why every door in the house (that is obligated to have a mezuza) , and even the door to our office, should have a mezuza. It's a great investment.
This week's Torah portion, Toldot, describes the life and times of our Patriarch Isaac. The Talmud tells us that in the Messianic Era, Isaac will be referred to as "our father," implying that it is Isaac from among all our forefathers who has a special connection to the Messianic Era. As we now stand at the threshold of the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption of the Jewish people, it is important to understand what exactly Isaac's path and service mean for us.
Isaac was the only one of our Patriarchs who lived his entire life within the boundaries of the land of Israel. Abraham was born outside of Israel and also left Israel to go to Egypt when a famine threatened. Jacob, too, went to Charan, where he worked for Laban for many years. However, when there was another famine in the Land during Isaac's lifetime, G-d commanded him to stay where he was and not to seek food elsewhere. "Do not go down to Egypt, but dwell in this land...and I will bless you." This is because after having shown his willingness to be sacrificed on the altar by his father Abraham, Isaac was considered a "perfect offering," too holy to dwell anywhere but in the Holy Land.
Isaac, therefore, symbolizes the Jewish people as they were meant to be, and as they will exist in the Messianic Era, their rightful place being in their land and not in exile in the four corners of the earth. During our present exile, we are like "children who have been banished from their father's table." We must therefore continue to demand that G-d send the redeemer now, so that we will be able to emulate Isaac and live a full life of Torah and mitzvot in our own land, as we were meant to.
Isaac's approach to the service of G-d is also especially applicable to us today. Even though Isaac continued in his father Abraham's path of spreading the belief in G-d throughout the world, he did so in a different manner from his father: Abraham wandered from place to place, including Egypt, spreading G-dliness wherever he went. Isaac, on the other hand, always remained in the same place, in Israel, yet others flocked to him because they were attracted by his holiness. In this way Isaac was able to influence others.
For the most part, the Jewish people have followed Abraham's example during their long exile, wandering from country to country and causing G-d's name to be called on wherever they went. After Moshiach comes, however, we will follow in Isaac's footsteps, as G-d's holiness and light will emanate from the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And at that time, as happened in the days of Isaac, all the nations of the world will likewise flock to Jerusalem, as it states, "And all nations shall flow unto it...for the Torah shall go forth out of Zion."
We must, in the meantime, combine aspects of both these approaches, refining our own personal spirituality, yet at the same time, not neglecting to spread holiness throughout the world at large.
Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
An elderly Jew appeared at the Chabad House of Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. He stepped up to the counter and when he was asked if he would like a cup of coffee, he answered that he would, but only if it was full to the brim.
The Chasidim standing behind the counter agreed to his request and filled the cup to the point that the slightest quiver would cause it to spill. Then, to their amazement, the elderly man lifted the cup without spilling a drop and drank it.
Upon finishing, the man smiled proudly and said: "I did that to show you how great your Rebbe is!" He explained, "Years ago I was the rabbi of a large synagogue in New York. We had a daily minyan, classes, a women's auxiliary, and a mikva for women, as well. But like many shuls, the older people either died or moved away. The board of directors began hinting that they wanted to sell out but I was against it.
"There were people who were still coming to the shul on a regular basis to pray and for classes and, in addition, women were still using the mikva. One day, the woman who was in charge of the mikva told me that almost every evening the Lubavitcher Rebbe would call her up, ask her how she was feeling and encourage her work.
"This continued for several months until one evening when I was in the middle of teaching a Talmud class in the shul. The woman in charge of the mikva burst into the room and shouted almost hysterically that someone had put a large lock on the mikva door!
"I understood that it must have been the directors trying to discourage women from coming but I didn't know what to do.
"I don't know what possessed me, but I ran to my car, found a tool, ran back to the shul and started hacking away at that lock. About a half hour later I managed to break open the lock and the women were able to enter.
"The next day the mikva lady told me that the Rebbe called her the previous night and when she told him what I had done he said, 'Blessed be the hands that broke off that lock.'
"That is what I wanted to show you," the rabbi concluded. "Today I am over 91 years old and my hands are steady because of that blessing."
An Unopened Letter
by Rabbi L. Y. Ginsberg (as heard from Rabbi Y. Reitzes)
Over 20 years ago a businessman was offered a business deal that could earn him a hefty profit but he had to invest a lot of money. He was unsure whether to go ahead with it and decided to consult with some friends.
Among his friends was a Lubavitcher chasid, who told him to write to the Rebbe and ask for his advice. The man wrote to the Rebbe, described his dilemma and asked the Rebbe what to do. He waited several weeks for an answer but received no response. Finally, after much hesitation, he decided to go ahead with the deal. It went as planned and the man prospered tremendously. One day, this man went home and found a letter from the Rebbe in his mailbox. He figured as follows: When I needed him and his advice the Rebbe wasn't there for me and now that I have become wealthy he wants to be in touch with me!
The man did not even open the letter but stuffed it into a drawer and forgot about it...
The man's wife gave birth to a daughter. Twenty years passed. When the daughter was old enough to get married, she became acquainted with a man from a Sephardic family and they decided to marry. Her father was from an illustrious Ashkenazi family and he absolutely forbade the marriage. The daughter would not break off with the young man for she saw no reason to forgo her happiness because of family background.
The father informed his daughter that if she married against his wishes he would cut his ties with her. The daughter insisted that although she loved her father and didn't want to be the cause of any unhappiness, it was her life and she refused to be dictated to, even by her father.
The father was completely consumed by this family problem. One day, he went through a drawer of his desk and was surprised to come across a sealed letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that had been written 21 years before! He remembered what it was about and decided to finally open the letter to see what the Rebbe had written to him. First the Rebbe wrote a blessing for success and that he should use the money properly and for Yiddishe nachas (Jewish pleasure) from his children. At the end of the letter, the Rebbe wrote as a postscript: "It is known that we are not so particular about pedigree when the fear of Heaven is as it should be and there have been many weddings between Ashkenazim and Sephardim and thank G-d they were successful and they built an everlasting edifice on the foundations of Torah and mitzvot.
To say that the man was dumbfounded would be an understatement. "Twenty-one years ago the Rebbe saw what would happen now and back then he wrote to me not to make myself and my family miserable!?" he thought to himself. He knew he would be doing the right thing if he gave his consent to this marriage. Needless to say, the happy father rushed to appease his daughter and his son-in-law-to-be. The wedding was held with much joy to everyone's delight.
From Beis Moshiach Magazine
The Gutnick Haftaros
For the first time in English, commentaries from the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the full Shabbat and Yom Tov Haftorah cycle. Includes a synopsis of each Haftorah, which makes the storyline clear at first glance.
Words to Hear with Your Heart
Words to Hear with Your Heart is the record of a spiritual saga. Let beloved author and speaker Sarah Karmely lead you along her life's path. Relive a miracle in Milan, come face to face with the transcendent Lubavitcher Rebbe and experience the magic and wonder of a life reinvigorated and a life's mission taking flight. Along the way, you'll meet a cast of characters as grand as life itself. You'll find oases of raw spiritual power in the unlikeliest places, from the streets of sophisticated Manhattan to seedy Bangkok backstreets, and from the West Coast to the Western Wall. You'll cheer for women renovating their relationships in the most unusually effective manner. This is the power of Words to Hear with Your Heart.
13 Menachem Av, 5712 
Greetings and Blessings!
It pained me to be told that you are still downhearted, and I understand that this is also the spirit in your home.
I have no desire to become involved in a lengthy discussion as to whether the claims that have been made are justified or not. Obviously it takes no great effort to understand why your spirits are as they are, after the calamity that took place (May no one know of such things!).
Nevertheless, Jews in general, being believers, and chassidim in particular, should cleave to G-d, our L-rd, steadfastly and overtly - as it is written, "And you who cleave to G-d, your L-rd, are all alive today."
Now, being truly alive means not merely pushing through one day after another. Being truly alive means that one's life should lack nothing of whatever you and your wife need materially and spiritually. However, it can happen (G-d forbid) that perhaps one does not deserve to receive such blessings from the Holy One, blessed be He. Concerning such a situation it is written in the holy Zohar: "If, from down here below, a person shows a luminous countenance, in the same way does a luminous Countenance shine upon him from Above [...]. In this spirit it is written, 'Serve G-d with joy': the joy of a mortal elicits upon himself another, Supernal joy. Similarly the world below, being thus crowned, draws down [blessings upon itself] from Above."
In brief: When one fortifies his trust that G-d will provide reasons to make him happy, in good spirits, and cheerful, and when one is so strong in this trust that it influences his daily life, he thereby draws down [these reasons for being happy] from Above. Moreover, even one's fleshly eyes can then see that the trust was vindicated.
May G-d grant that you and your wife and all your family should witness this, palpably, as soon as possible.
Looking forward to good news,
3 Menachem Av, 5714 
Greetings and Blessings!
This letter is a response to the undated letter in which you write that though you are pleased that you moved to [...], at the moment your salary does not quite suffice to meet your needs, and this is affecting your mood.
This is most surprising. After having palpably witnessed G-d's kindness toward you, do you really not have enough faith in His absolutely certain ability to guide you with His acts of lovingkindness in the future, too, and to free you from your straits? And even if, for reasons not understood by us, this is delayed, it is only the Creator of the universe, Who knows the future and Who knows what is truly good, that is able to decide in what manner - the manner that is best for a man and his household - He should bring them to their true happiness both materially and spiritually.
If the above applies even with regard to people whose present situation is less positive than it was previously, and also less positive by comparison with their environment and their acquaintances, how much more obviously does it apply with regard to people whose situation has improved from what it was. And in these difficult months, your situation is certainly better than that of quite a number of people around you, who nevertheless are not despairing, G-d forbid. Most certainly, therefore, neither you nor your wife ought to be dispirited or saddened, G-d forbid. We have seen it proved in practice that the greater a man's trust, and the more he looks toward his future with joy, the faster do these things materialize on a practical level.
I hope that you will soon gladden me with good news concerning all of the above, both in relation to yourself and in relation to your wife.
From In Good Hands, translated by Rabbi Uri Kaploun, published by Sichos In English
Why must dishes and utensils used for food be immersed in a mikva?
Before dishes and utensils can be used in the kosher kitchen they must acquire an additional measure of holiness which is conferred through the ritual immersion in a mikva. Even if a dish, pot, etc. was never used and is therefore "kosher," it must still be immersed.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Fifteen years ago, on Rosh Chodesh Kislev and the following Shabbat, the Rebbe spoke about how "All the days of your life should be directed toward bringing the era of Moshiach." Every waking moment of a person's life, the Rebbe stated - indeed, even during the time he sleeps, for he is alive then as well - must be devoted to this goal. This should include not only his conscious activities (thought, speech and deed), but also his every essence. In other words, the very core of a Jew's being must be focused on bringing about the Final Redemption.
In this context, the Rebbe explained what it means to "breathe the air of Moshiach." The essence of a person's life is reflected in his breathing processes. In fact, the Hebrew word for breath, "neshima," shares the same letters with the Hebrew word for soul, "neshama." The service that is necessary at present, the Rebbe explained, is to connect the core of our being to the core of Moshiach. This will ultimately awaken a pattern of conduct that will permeate every dimension of our being.
In practical terms, this means having a concern for the fundamental existence of every Jew, and providing our fellow Jews with the required necessities to celebrate the holidays of the month of Kislev with happiness and joy. Additionally, every Jew should also have the means to fulfill the custom of giving Chanuka gelt (money) to the members of his household.
As the Rebbe concluded, these activities will bring about the advent of the ultimate Redemption in this month, which is also called "the month of redemption." At that time, we will merit to see not only the essence of Moshiach, but also the revelation of Moshiach in the world at large, when Moshiach will "perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written, 'I will make the peoples pure of speech, so that they will all call upon the name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose.' "
May it happen immediately.
The one people shall be stronger than the other people (Gen. 25:23)
As Rashi comments, "When one rises, the other shall fall." Jacob and Esau are symbolic of the struggle between the G-dly soul and the animal soul. When a Jew's G-dly soul is strengthened and "rises up," he does not have to fight his Evil Inclination in a direct manner. Rather, the animal soul automatically "falls" in its presence, in the same way that darkness is automatically dispelled in the presence of light.
And these are the generations of Isaac...and the first came out...and they called his name Esau (Gen. 25:19;25)
Esau is symbolic of the forces of evil and impurity, which were created for the purpose of the Jew transforming them into goodness and light. (In fact, it is due to this inner, positive reason that the Torah refers to Esau as "the generations of Isaac.") The Hebrew name Isaac is related to the word for laughter. When "Esau" is successfully changed into good, G-d "laughs," as it were, and derives great pleasure from the transformation.
(Sefer HaMaamarim 5738)
And after that came forth his brother, his hand holding on to Esau's heel (Gen. 25:26)
Esau, symbolic of the animal soul and the evil inclination, was born first, as chronologically, a person possesses an evil inclination for a long time before he has a good one. (The good inclination is acquired upon Bar/Bat Mitzva.) Jacob symbolizes the Jew's G-dly soul and his good inclination. The Divine service of Jacob thus consists of keeping his hand on Esau's "heel," as the true reason the G-dly soul descends into this world is to achieve the correction of the animal soul.
All his life, the rabbi had longed for one thing only: to live in the holy land of Israel. There was no doubt in his mind that the time had now come to move to the Holy Land. Of course, just how he would manage it wasn't so clear, but G-d would surely help. The rabbi was sure that a trip to obtain the blessing of the great tzadik Reb Meir of Premishlan would facilitate his plans, and so the rabbi packed a bag and started off by foot.
When he finally arrived in Premishlan and was led into Reb Meir's study, the tzadik asked, "How will you raise the money for the journey?"
"Well," the rabbi began, "I have many relatives, and I am sure that when I explain the situation to them, they will be generous enough to help me."
Reb Meir didn't respond, but he appeared to be lost in thought. Finally, he said, "It would take many months to accumulate so much money - months which would be better spent devoted to Torah study. There is a different way. Remain here and you will obtain all the money you need for your journey and to set up your household." Needless to say, the rabbi readily agreed.
When the meeting ended, Reb Meir didn't dismiss his visitor as was usual. Instead, he had the next petitioner admitted to his study while the rabbi was still there. This man was a very wealthy person, and when he entered, Reb Meir said, "I would like to tell you a story, but I want the rabbi to listen as well for it will contain meaning for both of you.
"There was once a man named Moshe, who was very rich, but was a cruel and selfish person. Although G-d had provided him with great riches, he was the stingiest person you would ever have the misfortune to meet. Whenever a poor man came to his door asking for food or money, he would throw a veritable tantrum, screaming and cursing the hapless beggar. 'What do think this is?' he would thunder, 'a charity institution? Get out of here before I break every bone in your body!' And that beggar would be directed to the home of Moshe's neighbor, Reb Matisyahu. Now, this neighbor was not wealthy, far from it. But he had a kind and generous nature and never refused a fellow Jew in need.
"This scene occurred many times over the years, and Reb Matisyahu never failed to rise to the occasion. You might think that Moshe's reputation had gone as low as possible, but you would be wrong. For, since he was a very rich man, there were always those who sang his praises in order to ingratiate themselves with him - maybe there would be some gain in it for them.
"Reb Matisyahu's interminable kindnesses went unnoticed; after all, he was a nice guy and people expected him to be kind. The inequality of the situation may not have drawn notice down here, but in Heaven, it provoked the angelic host to fury. It was decided that Moshe's great wealth should go instead to Reb Matisyahu. The sentence was about to be carried out, when Elijah the Prophet spoke up. 'It's not right for a person to be judged on hearsay. I propose to go down to earth and test Moshe. Perhaps he isn't as cruel as we have heard.'
"This proposition was accepted, and soon an emaciated Elijah stood at the door of Moshe, knocking and begging for help. Moshe's reaction was the same as usual. First he berated the beggar for coming, and then he threw him outside into the bitter cold night. Elijah didn't give up so easily, though. He knocked again and with tears streaming down his face, he begged for a bit of food, a drop of warmth. But all to no avail, and the prophet realized that Moshe had forfeited his chance. The tears which continued to stream down his face were being shed for Moshe's lost soul."
The rabbi and the rich guest listened with rapt attention to the story, and as Reb Meir paused for a moment, they looked at him anxiously, wanting to hear the conclusion of the story. "When I heard about the terrible verdict that had been pronounced against Moshe, I felt very sorry for him. How could a man be condemned without fair warning, I thought. And so, I took it upon myself to provide Moshe with one last chance to redeem himself. If Moshe would provide the money necessary for the rabbi's move to the Holy Land, then he would be worthy of redemption. But, if, G-d forbid, he lost this one last opportunity, his soul would be lost. He would lose his fortune and be condemned to wander for the rest of his days, at the mercy of everyone he would meet."
Then, Reb Meir turned and his eyes met the terror-stricken eyes of the very Moshe of his story, but just for a split second, for Moshe fell to the floor in a dead faint. When he came to, he tearfully said to Reb Meir, "You are so right about me, and yet you have given me another chance to live and redeem my soul. He reached into his pocket and took out a heavy purse which he offered to the rabbi.
"Here, please take this, and when you reach the holy city of Jerusalem, please pray for me," said Moshe through his flowing tears.
The rabbi and his family were soon in Israel, living the fulfillment of their dreams. And Moshe completely turned his life around. In fact, every beggar or traveler who passed through his village was directed to his home, which was a comfortable haven for them all until the end of his days.
When Moshiach comes there will be a trial to determine who is to arise at the Resurrection of the Dead. Presiding over this trial will be Moshiach. However, unlike an ordinary judge, "not according to the sight of his eyes will he judge, nor will he rebuke according to the hearing of his ears." Rather, he will see and feel the factors that caused the sinner to transgress. He will weigh and consider the bleak life that Jews have lived in exile. He will intercede on their behalf and seek out their merits, pointing out that they did not want to sin: they were unable to overcome their Evil Inclination.