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Many would be tempted to dismiss the old adage, "Feed a cold and starve a fever" as an "old wives' tale."
Now it turns out that there may be something to it, after all. Though rest and liquid remain the best remedies, (Chicken soup - now there's another "old wives' tale" - one doctors wish they could take credit for.) scientists have discovered that production of immune response chemicals varies after eating. And that, in turn, may have at least a temporary effect on the body's response to "invasion."
In the meantime there is a lot we can learn from these illnesses. A fever usually indicates a bacterial infection. Bacteria attack fast and require a swift response. (Think of the sharp pain that accompanies a strep throat.) Bacteria don't invade our cells, but as part of their rapid reproduction, give off toxins that poison our systems. The body responds by "heating up," literally making it too hot for the bacteria to survive.
A cold, on the other hand, comes from a viral infection. Viruses invade the cells, hijacking and enslaving them. The only way to kill a virus is to kill the cells it inhabits, which the body does with white blood cells. Viruses take longer to get started, "incubating" inside us, and usually take longer to get rid of. If we have a bacterial infection, we'll often start feeling better within twenty-fours of starting an antibiotic. But a cold's going to last seven to ten days, no matter what we do. We can only relieve the symptoms, not expel it faster.
Chasidic philosophy teaches us that Judaism has its own version of "starve a fever, feed a cold," a prescription that has been spiritually tested and verified.
Once again, though, we must distinguish between a fever and a cold, this time, the spiritual versions.
The two characteristics of a fever are they body gets heated and the foreign invader (bacteria) poisons the system but doesn't enter the cells, enslave the essence.
When we get excited by things of the material world - toys such as a PSP, a Wii or a Lexus, or a meal at a fancy restaurant or any other appetite - or if we get into a "fever pitch" over our team making the playoffs, the latest antics of some supposed celebrity, or the scandal-of-the-week of a national politician, we need to recognize that we have a spiritual infection.
We have to fight it the same way we fight a bacterial infection, a fever - we need to starve it. We must reduce our involvement, our interest in the external, temporary pleasures, recognizing that the highs (and lows) are artificial.
Such "fevers" - fervor for the transient or the pleasurable - attack quickly, but externally. And so it is relatively easy to combat with an excersize of will, a shift of focus. We can build our antibodies with excitement about a new mitzvah or a new commitment to study Torah.
On the other hand, we may get a spiritual "cold" - a virus that invades and enslaves our cells, the essence of our souls. A spiritual virus works more subtly, more slowly, more insidiously. It takes over in a way that we might not even realize, at first, that we are becoming indifferent, even "cold," to Judaism. We may even keep the mitzvos, or some of them, but in so perfunctory, so rigid or a manner that we become like robots. Torah and mitzvos, which should warm and inspire us with the G-dly energy, do not move or change us. Externally mobile, internally lifeless.
In such a case, we must "feed the cold," stuff ourselves with Torah and mitzvos. It may take longer to cure ourselves of a spiritual virus, because we are doing more than switching focus and starving the physical. We are feeding, rebuilding our spiritual lives. But in so doing, in feeding ourselves Judaism, we destroy the "unhealthy cells" within us, thereby rejuvenating our souls.
So let's get ourselves "diagnosed" and start the cure - starve the spiritual fever of its energy and feed the spiritual cold with a healthy dose of spirituality. And in either case, don't forget the chicken soup.
This week's Torah portion, Mishpatim, contains the following verses: "If you buy a Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve, and in the seventh he shall go free... And if the servant should say, 'I love my master...I will not go free,'...his master shall pierce his ear with an awl."
Why the ear and not another limb? Explains Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator: "Any ear that heard 'For the Children of Israel are servants to Me' at Mount Sinai, yet went and acquired for itself a [human] master, is deserving that it be pierced."
People who are extremely preoccupied with their jobs during the six days of the work-week are termed "servants of servants," that is, they are slaves to their own desires. Accordingly, they are likened to the Hebrew servant, a Jew who willingly sells himself to another and acquires a human master. A person so engrossed in the pursuit of a livelihood is enslaved to his appetite for material things and his lust for bodily pleasures. Thus he is equated with the Hebrew servant, who indentures himself for a period of six years.
The Hebrew servant is emancipated at the beginning of the seventh year, which is analogous to the seventh day, the holy Shabbat. On Shabbat every Jew is liberated, freed from the yoke of his weekday concerns and obligated to rest.
It sometimes happens, however, that a person will be so involved in his work that when Shabbat comes he is unwilling to let go. Uninterested in liberation, he prefers to continue his existence as a slave: "I love my master...I will not go free."
The antidote to such an attitude is "The Children of Israel are servants to Me." The Jew's true reason for existence is to worship G-d, to learn Torah and perform mitzvot (commandments); indeed, it is the sole purpose for which his soul descended into the physical world and mission in life.
Jews are "servants of G-d" and not "servants of servants." A Jew must never willingly indenture himself to his job. On the contrary, his business dealings must be utilized as just another means of bringing holiness into the world and serving G-d. When Shabbat arrives, the Jew is completely elevated above and beyond the mundane. Surrounded by an atmosphere of holiness, his entire being is devoted solely to the worship of G-d.
By commanding the Jewish people, "For the Children of Israel are servants to Me," G-d endows us with the strength and capability to fulfill our Divine mission. A Jew who remembers that he is a "servant to G-d" will be freed from his personal exile and elevated above the constraints of the physical world. At the same time, in the larger sense, he will hasten the departure of the entire Jewish people from exile, may it happen immediately.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 11
Ed.'s note: These letters appeared in "Reaching Out," a publication of the Prison's Department of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. Rabbi Shmuel Spritzer, to whom most of these letters are addressed, is amongst those who are at the forefront of outreach to Jewish prisoners.
I used drugs and alcohol for 16 years, and in those years I did, saw and heard and read things that not only am I not proud of, but I know that they are permanently ingrained on my soul. It is only in these past few years in which I have been in contact with you that I have come to understand just how delicate and sensitive the soul is. I just want to erase the confusion. The struggle for me now is to put all the garbage somewhere where it won't interfere with my life, and quite a struggle it is.
Each month I read Reaching Out and I am always grateful that you not only allow us prisoners to voice our complaints and concerns but you always provide meaningful answers as well. I don't know if you know just how important it can be to have someone actually answer a question in a non-condescending manner... so thank you and your staff at Reaching Out for all the good you do.
Gedalyeh, Bellamy Creek CF, Ionia MIC
First of all, thank you for everything you have done for me and the rest of the Jews here. You are the only one that was able to help us here to get kosher meals since there was never any in the six years of jail. Also all the support you have provided for me and my family and with your help I should soon be transferred back to a regular BOP institution.
I don't know what we would have done without your support. I was lost in the system as they thought I was not American. You helped them realize their mistake and it was corrected. In prison people do not have many friends that will go and do what needs to be done. What is truly amazing is that we never ever met, and yet, the Rebbe's love for every Jew comes through you, a real emissary.
Sergio, Rivers Corr. Institution, NC
Well they moved me again. I am in a prison with a small community 130 miles south of Draper. Half the population is the prison. The cows outnumber the people here 10-1. The way people dress in town, it looks like the set on "Little House on the Prairie." It's up 7,000 feet so the air is cleaner. Other than that, I am looking toward to my religious freedoms here.
Yosef Shlomo, General Utah CF, Gunnison UT
This is my first letter to you as I have recently begun receiving Reaching Out and truly enjoy it. The Rebbe had a message and the Lubavitchers acted on the message and lost Jews like me all around the world have now come to see the hope inspired by the Rebbe from G-d. Where once I had been a Jew, I know stand tall as Jew. I didn't choose Judaism; it was Judaism that chose me. I am proud to be Jewish, embrace my heritage, history and legacy.
Lubavitch now has shown me unconditional love and they have never closed their door to me. Rabbi Spritzer, your love, care and concern for every Jew is apparent by your Reaching Out publication. Jews form all over the world write you. I may be an incarcerated Jew but being Jewish can never be stopped. My Jewish journey continues and with your help and guidance I know I will grow each day.
Can you please send me a large picture of the Rebbe. I would truly be grateful.
Joshua, Calhoun CI, Blountsown FL.
Thank you for your recent letter. Yes, I did receive the beautiful siddur (prayer book) you sent me. I like the enhanced text and how it gives you specific instructions, i.e., when to stand, when to sit, when to bend your knees, etc.
Rabbi, I need your help. I have written the AW several memorandums asking that the chapel be opened by Correctional Services so I can observe the Shabbat and also Havdalah. The newly revised "Religious Services-Technical Reference Manual" specifically mandates that Jewish participation be allotted at least two hours on these two days. Further, policy dictates that it is mandatory that we be allowed to eat three celebratory meals on Shabbat, and this can be accomplished using Religious Diet meals. In addition, policy further states if the Jewish inmate wants to enhance his Shabbat service, he can purchase additional kosher items from the commissary.
The last few weeks, the evening Operations Lt. refused to open the chapel for Jewish services, stating they never received a memorandum from the AW and/or they are short of staff and have other things going on. When I try to get the FSL staff to advise the AW of the problem, they tell me it is the chaplain's responsibility. I have to use kool-aide from Food Service in place of grape juice, as Chaplain... continues to forget to bring the grape juice to the FSL.
Keith, Federal Satellite Low,
I would like to thank you, your Reaching Out team and Chabad Lubavitch as a whole for the unending help and love to Jewish men and women to prisoners everywhere.... Since we got to know you, much has changed in NJ for Jewish prisoners and we owe you and the Rebbe much.
Yaakov, South Woods State Prison
Rabbi Yaakov and Gila Litvin will be arriving soon in Mequon, Wisconsin, where Rabbi Litvin will serve as the new administrator for the Peltz Center for Jewish Life. Rabbi Avi and Michal Korer moved recently to Putnam County, New York, and are opening a new Chabad Center serving the Jewish communities of Putnam County. Rabbi Shloime and Rosie Wolvovsky have moved to Toronto, Canada, where they are heading the adult education activities for Chabad of Midtown. Rabbi Avraham Dovid and Sheiny Vaisfiche recently moved to Mission Viejo, California, where they will be serving as adult education directors at Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo.
From a letter of the Rebbe dated 5730-1970
... I trust it is unnecessary to emphasize to you at length that the Jewish way of life, together with its customs, etc., is not only very significant in its generalities, but is also significant in all its details and in the very order and arrangement of matters.
In light of this, it is obvious how truly important are peace and harmony between a husband and wife, since the mitzvah [commandment] of making peace between a husband and wife is counted among the mitzvos whose fruits a Jew enjoys in this world, while the "principal" remains for the World to Come.
These are mentioned right at the beginning of the Siddur [prayer book] - together with the morning blessings, which are recited even before starting the actual morning prayers.
With this in mind, it will prove somewhat easier to understand that even if one party were to be completely in the right (or almost completely in the right), while the other party were to be completely in the wrong (or almost completely in the wrong), it would still be incumbent upon both parties to do everything in their power to restore peace and harmony.
Certainly this duty becomes paramount in the case of a husband and wife who hold prominent positions in the community, as a result of which other Jews look up to them for example and guidance.
Clearly, an outsider cannot know, nor can he be told, what compelling reasons there might be for such a situation. The outsider can only observe and draw his own conclusions, since he will not inquire about, nor is it possible to inform him of, all the factors and extenuating circumstances, should there be any. Add to this the fact that it concerns a couple, both of whom are active in the sphere of Jewish education.
Moreover, and of course this is also most essential, G-d has blessed you with children, good children, who require the attention, love and upbringing of both parents. These children are surely entitled to receive what is due them from their parents.
Beyond a shadow of doubt, each of you must do everything possible not to further strain your relationship, but on the contrary, the two of you must endeavor to strengthen your relationship, restoring it to its full unity and harmony.
As to the situation itself, namely, who is right and who is wrong, I cannot, of course, go into this, nor is it necessary in light of what has been said above. For the important thing, as already stated, is to strengthen your family ties, this being the overriding consideration.
However, it would be well if the two of you could find a mutual friend before whom both of you could unburden yourselves in a frank exchange of grievances.
It is possible that an outsider, who at the same time is a friend, might see more objectively and find the best way to straighten things out, and [moreover, do so] as soon as possible, so that once again peace and harmony may reign in your home.
Hoping to hear good news from you,
Are there any special law concerning "table-talk"?
Though we are enjoined to discuss matters relating to the Torah at every meal - since our table is considered an altar - we are instructed not to speak while actually eating, since one might choke by doing this. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This year is a leap year in the Jewish calendar and this Shabbat we bless the new month of the first Adar. Our Sages have taught that when the month of Adar begins we should increase in happiness.
Happiness is related to Moshiach in numerous ways. For starters, we are taught that "Happiness breaks through boundaries." Moshiach, too, is referred to as one who "breaks through boundaries."
Additionally, the word Moshiach, is sometimes spelled without the Hebrew letter yud. At these times it is the same letters as the Hebrew word for happiness - samayach. When we are samayach - happy, we bring Moshiach.
The story is told about one of the great sages of Poland that when he was a little boy he asked his father for an apple but was refused.
The enterprising youngster recited the blessing for fruit. His father could not possibly allow the blessing to be recited in vain and promptly handed his son an apple.
The Rebbe used this story to describe the relationship between happiness and the imminent Redemption. The Rebbe explained that, "If the Jewish people begin now to rejoice already in the Redemption, out of absolute trust that G-d will speedily send us Moshiach, this joy in itself will (as it were) compel our Father in heaven to fulfill His children's wish to redeem them from exile."
Why is happiness such an effective means of hastening the Redemption and preparing ourselves for Moshiach's imminent arrival? Again, let us look at the Rebbe's words.
"The nature of happiness is that it permeates through the entire scope of the person's existence. When a person is happy, he lives joyfully. This happiness affects the way he conducts his life and all the people with whom he comes in contact. The person shares happiness with those around him and his happiness brings him success in all matters."
Live Moshiach! Make someone happy today. It doesn't take much - a smile, a kind word, a phone call to say, "I was thinking of you."
If you lend money to My people, to the poor (Ex. 22:24)
Our Sages commented that not only is one obligated to lend money to someone who is poor, it is also a commandment to lend money to one who is wealthy. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a rich person is in need of money for a particular purpose; at that moment, it is considered as if he is poor. Furthermore, no matter how wealthy a person may be, he can always become richer. Thus, in comparison to his later financial status, he may be considered poor in his present state. The same holds true of the various periods in world history. Compared to the Messianic Era, even the golden age of the Jewish people under King Solomon, when the Holy Temple existed in all its glory, will be considered impoverished. Therefore, no matter how secure we may be in exile, we look forward to the Era of Redemption in the same way a poor man anticipates becoming rich.
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Acharei, 5746)
He that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution (Ex. 22:5)
The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said: "I, too, must make restitution for having kindled the fire in Zion, as it states, 'He has kindled a fire in Zion and it has devoured its foundations.' Indeed, Zion will be rebuilt with fire, for "I will be to her a wall of fire round about."
You shall not afflict any widow or orphan (Ex. 22:21)
Whenever Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev reached this verse he would cry out. "Master of the Universe! You instructed us in Your holy Torah to be kind to widows and orphans, and yet we are like orphans in this bitter exile! You must therefore take us out of this exile at once!"
The shammes (caretaker) of the Baal Shem Tov's shul had completed most of his work there and as usual, went to sweep up the Rebbe's private room. When he entered he was surprised to see the Baal Shem Tov stretched out in his bed taking a nap. The shammes moved around the room soundlessly, tidying up, when he came upon the shoes of the Baal Shem Tov.
He stopped for a moment, as if considering his next move, and then he said to himself, "Should I move his shoes, or should I just sweep around them?" After a brief moment of thought he decided to leave them alone and clean as best he could without touching them.
Shortly after the shammes finished his work the Baal Shem Tov asked him, "Did you move my shoes?"
"No, Rebbe, I didn't," was his reply.
The Baal Shem Tov nodded and a bright smile appeared on his face. "I promise you that you will have long and healthy years," he blessed the shammes.
Many years passed and one day a chasid happened to visit the home of the shammes. In the main room there were two elderly men. He noticed that one man was warming himself by the stove while a younger man was busy cleaning up the house. Suddenly the younger of the two began to shout at the old man, "Why do lie there all day and do nothing! Get up and make yourself useful! Do you think I should do all the work around here?"
The chasid was deeply shocked and offended to see a younger man abuse someone so much older than himself. He couldn't restrain his anger and he raised his voice saying: "How do you dare to insult the old man like that? Haven't you learned to respect your elders?"
The man broke into a hearty laugh. "Elders? Do you think he is my elder?? Why, he's my son! Many years ago when I was the shammes of the Baal Shem Tov he gave me a blessing that I would have a long, healthy life, and here I am as you see me today, as strong as a boy and younger-looking than my own son!"
Reb Zalman was perplexed. Both he and his colleague, Reb Menashe, were accomplished students of the Gaon of Vilna. Nevertheless, there was a marked difference in the way people responded to the guidance they offered.
"Why is it," he asked Reb Menashe, "that people who consult me do not seem to be satisfied with my advice, while your advice is always regarded highly?"
"I think I may be able to resolve your difficulty," replied Reb Menashe. "When a person comes to you with a problem, you delve into your wealth of knowledge of Talmud, comparing the question to an example from the text. Often, the comparison is not totally appropriate because times have changed and the circumstances in which we live differ from those of the previous years. Since the matter has not been made totally relevant to him, the person may walk away unsatisfied.
"When a person approaches me, I encourage the person to describe his own feelings in detail and voice his personal thoughts and observations on the issue. When I have become aware of his perspective on the matter, I am able to give him advice which relates to him. Since the person has taken an active role in solving the problem, he is more satisfied with the suggestions offered."
Once, Rebbe Ze'ev Wolf from Zitomer was present when the Shpoler Zeide was dancing. Noticing that the tzadik's gartel (belt worn during prayer) had fallen on the ground, he picked it up and tied it around the tzadik's waist.
"This is like tying a band around a Torah scroll," declared Rebbe Ze'ev Wolf.
Once, while Reb Michal the Elder, one of the mashpi'im (spiritual mentors) in the yeshiva in Lubavitch, was about to recite the "Shema" during his morning prayers, he noticed that one of the students had torn shoes. He interrupted his prayers and pointed out the torn shoes to the person who was charged with taking care of the students' material needs.
Later, Reb Michal was asked: "Couldn't the torn shoes have waited until after you completed your prayers?"
"The Shema proclaims the oneness of G-d," replied Reb Michal. "A student wearing torn shoes can, G-d forbid, catch cold and be held back from study and prayer. Being conscious of this is an expression of the oneness of G-d."
Reprinted from From My Father's Shabbos Table by Rabbi Y. Chitrick.
G-d commands us, "You shall not take bribery" (Ex. 23:8). Yet, G-d accepts bribery!What type of bribery? He accepts from sinners repentance, prayer and charity, to atone for their sins. G-d says, "Return while the heavenly gates are opened and I will accept your bribe. But when Moshiach comes, and I will be sitting in judgment, I won't accept it anymore. As it says: "He will not regard any ransom, neither will he rest content, although you give him a lot of bribes." Thus, we must use every opportunity that we have in exile to add in these three areas to bring Moshiach now.
(Midrash Tehillim, Torah Shleima p. 182)