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Whether we're on a diet or not, we've all had the feeling of being hungry - not just when we need to eat, but all the time. We'll have something healthy, like an apple - still hungry. We'll have a meal, tasty and nutritious - still hungry. We'll have some junk food - chips, cookies - still hungry.
In other words, we have an appetite, and though the food is feeding us, we don't feel satisfied. We feel like we're not getting what we need or what we crave. That feeling of always being hungry, of having an empty spot in pit of the stomach, comes from some psychological dissatisfaction.
Nutritionists and health experts have lots of suggestions how to control that always-hungry sensation, and in some cases eliminate it all together. Here are a few:
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation raises the appetite hormone. Sometimes we think we're hungry when we're really just tired.
- Don't starve yourself. It's like putting your body on a huge, out-of-control roller-coaster, one that very well may crash.
- Eat slowly. It takes time for the body to catch up on and decipher all the signals it's getting. Give the stomach time to communicate with the brain.
- Favor foods that fill you up. Choose foods that are high in water and low in fat.
There's an analogy in our Jewish life, as well. Sometimes we start increasing our involvement in things Jewish - we start attending some classes, do some Torah learning on our own, take on observance of a mitzva (commandment) - and we still feel hungry. We're dissatisfied. We don't feel more inspired, more religious, more spiritual. Yeah, the new mitzva was a challenge at first, but now, do we really get anything out of it?
But of course we know that a Jewish soul needs Jewish things - Jewish learning, observance of mitzvot, prayer. So, if we've got a healthy diet of Judaism, if we're nourishing ourselves spiritually with Torah study and mitzvot, why should we feel dissatisfied, "spiritually hungry," so to speak?
Probably, as in the case with physical nutrition, we're not in sync. But we can use the same methods to recognize that a Jewish lifestyle does provide us with spiritual nourishment and satisfies our spiritual appetite.
- Get enough sleep. No, don't fall asleep during the rabbi's talk. This means to give yourself a break, not from Torah learning, but from all the questions and objections that might arise. Give your mind a chance to absorb the lesson, your subconscious time to assimilate it.
- Don't starve yourself. Sometimes we go on spiritual binges - reduced or no Jewish activity followed by bursts of energy, and back again. It's best to be consistent, get into a routine, and gently increase the Jewish activity, so that the increase remains.
- Eat slowly. As with #1 - enjoy the mitzva of the moment. True, there are 612 other mitzvot to worry about, but right now, slowly, focus on the one at hand.
- Favor foods that fill you up. While we should study and do everything, take particular pleasure in the ones that attract you the most. That will generate enthusiasm for the rest.
- Exercise. Put into practice what you learn. Don't let Judaism be simply theoretical.
Of course, from a different angle, we should always be hungry for Torah and mitzvot. That's one appetite we don't want to suppress!
This week's Torah portion, Re'ei, speaks about a master's obligation to bestow gifts upon his servant when the latter's years of servitude are complete. "You shall furnish him liberally from your flocks, and of your threshing-floor, and of your wine press," the Torah states.
Maimonides classifies this obligation as falling under the category of charity - the gifts are in addition to the regular wages the master is required to pay.
Every facet of the Torah contains stores of wisdom for us to apply to our lives. The above verses are symbolic of the relationship between any two parties not on equal footing: The one on the higher level is always obligated to share his wealth and blessings with those who are less fortunate.
The terms "master" and "servant" may also be applied, in the spiritual sense, to the relationship between teacher and pupil. We see that this is not merely symbolic, as a student is required to serve his teacher in the same way a servant must attend his master. And a teacher's task is to instruct the pupil until the student grasps the concept on his own.
But what about concepts which are far beyond the ability of the student to comprehend, wisdom beyond the pupil's understanding? The commandment to bestow gifts above and beyond what is required applies here as well. A good teacher must ensure that his student acquires an appreciation of the deeper and more esoteric knowledge, in addition to the basic requirements of the syllabus. The teacher is obligated to share whatever knowledge he possesses with the student, who possesses less.
This principle also applies to the relationship between Jews who are more knowledgeable about Torah and mitzvot and those who are just beginning to learn about their heritage. It is not sufficient to impart only those Jewish concepts which are viewed as fundamental - the awesome depth and scope of Judaism must be shared as well.
A basic principle in Judaism is that G-d behaves towards man according to man's actions, measure for measure. When we share our wealth and bestow extra charity - both physical and spiritual - upon our fellow man, G-d responds in kind, granting us an abundance of His blessings.
For we are all G-d's servants, and He is the ultimate Master. The six thousand years of creation parallel the six years of servitude a servant must work; the seventh year parallels the freedom and redemption which follow - the Messianic Era and the Final Redemption.
By increasing our love for our fellow Jew and demonstrating that love with concrete actions, G-d will surely bestow an even greater measure of His infinite goodness upon us than ever before, with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
by Chana Groner
Some of us make our life decisions based on public opinion, the trends of the time, or on what we think will be attainable, easy or comfortable. Some form their life goals around that which will raise them higher on the social ladder, or that which has a high probability of financial or professional success.
Not many of us concern ourselves primarily with communal responsibility, generosity and compassion. It takes a higher level of reality to live our lives based on those.
And still, there are people who do live altruistic lives and devote their days to helping other people. They do it every day and they do it with vigor, integrity and joy.
My sister, Brynie and her husband, Levi Stiefel, are one such couple. At age 23, my sister moved with her husband and their ten-week-old baby, Yisroel, to "the end of the earth" - Voronezh, Russia. She wasn't digging for gold, nor searching for cheaper prices in real estate. What drew her there was her concern for the Jewish community's 95% intermarriage rate, and the notorious lack of living Judaism. She wanted to change this state of affairs. Thus, she left family, friends, and community behind and moved to Voronezh to be an anchor of Jewish life, an open home for any seeking Jew in that city.
Although I fully support a lifestyle of giving, I never considered moving to Russia myself. I couldn't imagine retreating to the backwardness of a post-communist society. However, I didn't fully comprehend the lifestyle changes my sister had to undergo until I visited her in Voronezh last year. I came face to face with the daily hardships such as a language barrier, no hot water for weeks; making bread from scratch, no family around; Friends a time zone away.
It's not easy to keep a kosher home in the nether reaches of the former Soviet Union. Chickens are flown in from Rostov, cheese from Moscow, mayonnaise is made from scratch and the imported tuna is used sparingly. It's not easy to move to a city which is still riddled with anti-Semitism and holdover mindsets form the years of Stalin. It's not easy to come to a city to answer the questions which communism failed to address. It's not easy to defy the culture of suspicion and caution and proudly promote the practice of Jewish tradition.
While the hard parts seemed overwhelming, I couldn't help but notice the dozens of people who walked through their doors during the two weeks I was there. I was amazed at the number of people with whom they had formed relationships in such a short time. I saw how people grasped a warm, home-baked challah they were given late Friday afternoon - the first symbol of their faith they had encountered in years. I saw a man, although so far form his faith, sit at the table on Friday night and make Kiddush over wine. I saw one man's surprise when he saw a bearded man, dressed in Chassidic garb, on a hot day in the city, and I saw the happiness on his face with is cry of "shalom."
I was moved by my brother-in-law's dreams and his courage to follow them. I am certain Voronezh will be a city teeming with Jewish life in no time. Although I won't deny that there may be tough times ahead, I am comforted by the fact that my sister and brother-in-law represent truth ad compassion, for truth always prevails.
Brynie and Levi, I am humbled by the choices you have made in your life. I am envious of your clarity of vision. I pray that you should see only success and easy times ahead and that you should visit home often.
Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.
The Stiefels are amongst the more than 1,000 emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who have opened Chabad-Lubavitch Centers in the former Soviet Union. For more information about the work of Chabad-Lubavitch in the former Soviet Union visit www.fjc.ru
Rabbi Mendel and Rachey Simons have just moved to West Hollywood, California, where they will be establishing a new Chabad House serving the needs of the Jewish community in and around the Sunset Plaza in Hollywood Hills. Rabbi Adam and Elanit Reiss are joining the Chabad LOFT - Chabad On Washington Square in New York City where they will be focusing on adult education. Rabbi Eli and Shevy Kaminetzky recently arrived in New Mexico where they have established a new Chabad House in Taos for Jews in the area.
A new 400,000 sqaure foot Jewish Community Center and Holocaust Museum, straddling two city blocks, is under construction in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. The center will encompass the existing historic Golden Rose synagogue.
The Jewish community of Dneprodzerzhinsk, Ukraine, recently celebrated the opening of their own mikva (ritual bath). The plans for the mikva were prepared by a member of the community board of directors, Mr. Timur Mindach, who funded this project together with Rohr Family Foundation.
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Mevorchim Chodesh Elul, 5740 (1980)
I was pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Annual Dinner, celebrating the first decade of Bais Chana. May G-d grant that the event should be crowned with much hatzlocho [success] in every respect.
There is a special relevance in the fact that this event is taking place in the month of Elul, the last month of the outgoing year, which serves as a preparation for the New - and better - Year.
The significance of the month of Elul is alluded to in its very name, which as our Sages point out, is an acrostic of Elul, Ani L'dodi v'dodi Li - "I turn to my Beloved, and my Beloved turns to me: (Song of Songs 6:3). It is the time of the year when Jews turn to G-d ("my Beloved") with a resurgence of love, and take the initiative to strengthen the bond with our Heavenly Father, through special efforts in Torah, prayer, and acts of loving kindness - the Three Pillars on which the world at large, and the small world of the individual, rest.
It is also the time when "my Beloved turns to me" and promptly reciprocates and requites this love, and graciously bestows His blessings on all of us, as we are about to enter the New Year on a new dimension of mutual attachment. And since G-d's love knows no bounds, His blessings are boundless in all our needs; both spiritual and material.
In light of the above, I am confident that all friends of Bais Chana will - in the spirit of Elul - make a special effort on behalf of this most worthy educational institution, where Jewish daughters are educated and inspired to be worthy of our Jewish Mothers - Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, the Founders of the House of Israel, and will proudly fulfill their preeminent role of Akeres HaBayis - the Foundation of the Jewish home: a home permeated with love of G-d and filled to overflowing with Torah, prayer, and mitzvoth [commandments], to illuminate also its environs.
May G-d grant that the spirit of Elul will truly be reflected in your own generosity as well as in active personal involvement, to enlarge the circle of friends and supporters of Bais Chana as it enters the next decade of dedicated service to the community and to our people as a whole.
With prayerful wishes for hatzlocho in all above, and wishing each and every one of you, and yours, a kesiva vacha-simo tova [may you be written and sealed for good] for a good and sweet year,
12 Elul, 5724 (1964)
To the Campers of Camp Gan Israel
G-d bless you all-
I have, of course, followed with particular interest, the reports of your camp life and camp activities. I am pleased to know that you are doing well, and are benefiting physically and spiritually.
As the time approaches when you will soon take leave of your beloved camp and return to your homes and educational institutions, I want to express my hope that the benefit and inspiration which you have received from your camp will be a source of lasting strength to you in the coming year, and that you will share these benefits with others who were not as fortunate as you to spend weeks and months in Camp Gan Israel.
We are now in the significant month of Elul, the month of preparation for the new year. This is the month of opportunity, the month of special Divine grace and mercy. Of this month the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman - founder of Chabad Chasidic philosophy] said that this is the time when, as it were, the King is in the Field. Instead of having to seek an audience with the King in His Palace, the King comes out to meet His subjects in the field. At such a time everyone can easily approach the King and present to Him a petition, and the King receives everyone with a gracious smile and fulfills the petition.
I firmly trust that every one of you will take the fullest advantage of this propitious time, to rededicate yourselves to the study of the Torah and the fulfillment of the mitzvoth with a growing measure of devotion and diligence.
May you always strive to be a living example to others of what it is to be a son of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, a son of our people Israel and a member of the tribe of Gan Israel.
May G-d bless you with hatzlocho to carry out your good resolutions, in good health and with gladness of heart, and may He bless you and all your near and dear ones with a kesiva vachasimo tova.
What is a ketuba?
The ketuba - marriage contract, contains the mutual obligations between husband and wife prerequisite to marriage. It is written in Hebrew-Aramaic. After it is read at the wedding ceremony under the chupa (wedding canopy) it is given to the bride and she must keep it amongst her possessions.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is actually the last day of the month of Menachem Av while Sunday is the first day of Elul.
In addition to being the name of a Jewish month, the word Elul is an acronym for five verses from the Bible which are connected to the five different types of service, each identified with our new month. The Rebbe enumerated these five verses:
Prayer - "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." For it is through prayer, the "duty of the heart" that our relationship with G-d is enhanced and intensified.
Torah study - "It chanced to happen and I set aside for you a place." This verse describes the Cities of Refuge to which a person who killed unintentionally can flee. But is also refers to Torah study for "the words of Torah provide refuge."
Deeds of Kindness - "A person [gives presents] to his friend and gifts to the poor." In this verse the concept of deeds of kindness is clearly expressed.
Teshuva - "And G-d your L-rd will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants." For the service of teshuva--returning to G-d wholeheartedly, is primarily the service of changing one's inner self, the feelings of one's heart.
Redemption - "And they said, 'We will sing to G-d' " This phrase is taken from the Song of Redemption sung at the Red Sea.
The first three services are identified with the three pillars of man's service. These services must be permeated by the service of teshuva and by the service of redemption and thus, they will be endowed with a boundless quality that surpasses the limits of a person and the world at large.
See! This day I place before you a blessing (Deut. 11:26)
The blessing in this verse does not refer to anything specific; rather, it is a comprehensive statement which includes all the blessings G-d confers on every Jew. First and foremost, therefore, it refers to the ultimate blessing of all - the complete Redemption through Moshiach. By using the emphatic "See!" the Torah stresses that the Messianic Redemption is not something theoretical or academic, but rather something that will be evident with our eyes of flesh - and this very day!
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Re'eh, 5751)
For the sake of this thing [charity] He will bless you. (Deut. 15:10)
"I am aware of the hardships of these times, that the means for livelihood have declined... nonetheless, it is not right to close the hand which openly gave with benevolence toward all, essential necessities for the needs of the innocent destitute whose eyes are lifted to us. When the poor need bread for the mouths of babes, and wood and clothes against the cold, and the like, then all these take precedence over any fine clothes and family-feasts, meat and fish, and all the delicacies of man and any members of his household. The rule 'your life takes precedence' does not apply in such a case, because all these are not really essential to life, as are the needs of the poor."
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman in Tanya: Iggeret HaKodesh)
Observe the month of spring, and keep the Passover to the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 16:1)
The Egyptians believed in the supremacy of natural law and worshiped man's ability to influence the world through science. G-d therefore took the Jewish people out of Egypt in the springtime, when the workings of nature are most evident, to demonstrate that nature is only a tool in His hands and has no intrinsic power of its own.
The wealthy chasid had stopped at the home of the mother of Reb Yisrael, the Ruzhiner Rebbe, before continuing his journey to visit Reb Yisrael in prison. "I would like to give his regards from his family, and especially from you, his mother," said the man.
The woman was visibly touched, and answered, "If you ask my son to give you a sign that he received my regards, I would be very happy."
The chasid arrived at the prison and was permitted a visit with Reb Yisrael, during which they discussed many hidden secrets of the Torah.
The conversation was so congenial that the chasid chanced a delicate question. "I would like to ask you something, but only if you won't be insulted or hurt by the question." Reb Yisrael agreed.
"The story is told of the Baal Shem Tov's visit to the city of Be'er where he was slighted by the rabbi who refused to greet him. The rabbi resisted all entreaties by the chasidim, saying that he did not consider the Baal Shem Tov knowledgeable in Torah despite the many miracles he performed. The chasidim laughed at this accusation. 'Why, our rebbe is a genius of the revealed Torah.' The rabbi thought for a moment, and said, 'Very well, then. I will test him on a part of the Talmud, and if I feel he knows it well, even I may ask him for advice.'
"The Baal Shem Tov agreed to be tested. The rabbi gave him a page to study in the Talmud, but then was called away on an urgent matter. When he returned, he tested the Baal Shem Tov, who replied satisfactorily, but the rabbi was suspicious. He thought that in his absence the Baal shem tov might have reviewed the text with someone more scholarly. He demanded another test.
"Again the Baal Shem Tov submitted to the test, and this time the rabbi was satisfied. The advice he sought was in regard to his salary; he needed more money. The Baal Shem Tov at once requested the raise on the rabbi's behalf and it was given."
The wealthy chasid stopped in his narrative for a minute. "From this story we see the greatness of the Baal Shem Tov. He was not insulted by the rabbi's tests, on the contrary, he was eager to do him some favor. But, in your case, it struck me as very different. I have heard that when your visited Lemberg, the rabbi's son insulted you. He died soon after, and you are in prison. Could you perhaps explain the difference to me?"
The Ruzhiner Rebbe replied: "When I travelled to Lemberg I passed through many villages and towns, and through all my travels I was accorded the greatest respect. By the time I reached Lemberg a great crowd of people awaited me.
"When the son of the rabbi of Lemberg saw that I was given such a great honor, he was angered, since he felt it belittled his father. He told the owners of the hotel where I was staying to prohibit me from forming a minyan to pray. So that even though it was Shavuot, and I had brought my own Torah scroll, I was unable to pray with a minyan. Nevertheless, I refused to take offense.
"Before my departure, my chasidim implored me to go t visit the rabbi. I lit my pipe and went to his home, but as I approached, the rabbi's son stopped me, saying, 'How dare you come to my father while smoking!' My chasidim tried to defend me, but the son was furious. He must have brought the tragedy on himself.
"As for my imprisonment, I will explain it to you, and this will be a sign to my mother.
"Before my wife became pregnant with my youngest son, I learned that a unique soul was to descend to earth. I had waited over eight hundred years to come down and would have a special mission. However, Heaven had decreed that the tzadik who would father this soul would have to spend some time in jail. I went to my mother to ask her advice. She answered me directly, 'What does a father not do for his children?' And that is why I am here."
The chasid returned to Reb Yisrael's mother and recounted the conversation.
Shortly after Reb Meir of Premishlan helped Reb Yisrael escape. He hired a smuggler to bring Reb Yisrael over the Russian-Austrian border, promising him, "When you get to the river, you must take our rabbi on your shoulders. I you succeed, I guarantee you a place in the world-to-come."
Reb Yisrael eventually settled in the town of Sadigura.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk was so strong in his faith in Moshiach that he literally awaited him every day and night. Every evening, before he went to bed, he set one of his disciples near him. In that way, if the disciple heard the sound of the shofar heralding Moshiach, Rabbi Menachem Mendel could be immediately awakened from sleep.