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"Let's talk," the significant other says to the other. "Sure. We'll go for a walk. But I have to take the phone with me. You know I'm expecting an important call." Rrrrrrrrring.
"Let's talk," Mom says to Jeremy. "Sure, Mom," blip, bleep, blip. "Let me just finish this game. I'm getting the highest score yet."
"Let's talk," Melissa says to Dad. "Sure, hon. As soon as I'm done balancing the checkbook and paying these bills I'll be right with you. Give me about an hour."
"Let's talk," Grandma says to Jennifer. "Sure, Gram. But I have to run out to the store before it closes. They're having a great sale and I want to see if the sweater I tried on last week...."
Just imagine. A candle-lit dinner. Fine wine. Fresh bread. Delicious food. And the family together to enjoy each other's company for a couple of hours without the distraction of the phone, the playstation, the t.v., shopping, or the bills.
That's a Shabbat meal, and it's yours for the taking.
In today's day and age, with cell phones and blackberries, lap-tops, iPods, and consumerism like never before, a Shabbat meal is truly an island in time.
And it's simpler than you might think.
Start the meal by sanctifying the Sabbath with the blessing over the wine. You'll be surprised at how many exquisite kosher wines are available these days. (You thought, maybe, that while technology has raced ahead kosher wines have stayed in the dark ages and are all syrupy sweet?)
Then, wash your hands and say the "Hamotzee" blessing over challah - home-made, store bought, whole wheat, or low cholesterol, any will do just fine.
And then, enjoy a Shabbat meal with your family. Prepare the food the night before with everyone pitching in, or buy it at your local kosher take-out place. Serve it on your finest china and silver (and help the environment) or use throw-away so clean-up is easier. Enjoy traditional Jewish foods, organic vegetarian, kosher gourmet, your family's favorites, or anything in-between.
But don't forget one of the main parts of this whole experience: take time to talk and take time to listen, without extraneous interruptions. Try going around the table, asking everyone to share something, anything, new that they learned that week. Prepare a story or something about the Torah portion. Or just let the conversation flow at its own unique pace to its own special place. Because, the most important part will be that you're all together as a family!
Try a Shabbat dinner with your family or close friends. You'll be amazed at how special it is.
This week's Torah portion, Toldot, contains the famous story of Esau's sale of his first-born rights to his brother Jacob for a pot of porridge.
Subsequently, Jacob listens to his mother's advice and dresses up as Esau in order to receive the blessing of the first-born from his father, Isaac. "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau," Isaac tells his son Jacob when Jacob comes to receive the blessings.
Our Sages comment on this verse that against the "voice of Jacob," Esau has "no hands," that is, he has no power or authority. When the "voice of Jacob" - the voice and sound of Torah learning - is heard, the "hands of Esau" - the threats of the enemies of the Jewish people - have no power over us.
The same holds true in reverse. When the voice of Torah is weakened, G-d forbid, the "hands of Esau" are able to overcome us. This latter alternative has already come to pass with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, as stated by the prophet Jeremiah: "For what reason was the land lost? Because they had forsaken My Torah."
In our times, too, nearly 2,000 years after the destruction of the Holy Temple, it must be emphasized that Jerusalem's existence still depends on the study of Torah. To be sure, we cannot change the facts of the past, but we are able to remove its cause and thus hasten the rebuilding and restoration of Jerusalem.
Our Sages state: "Any generation in whose days the Holy Temple is not rebuilt, it is reckoned against that generation as if it was destroyed in its time." The destruction is thus not simply an historical event that happened in the distant past. Its consequences extend to this very day, and the event, therefore, must be seen as something which is happening even now -- as if the Holy Temple, as it were, were being destroyed this very moment. It follows, then, that it is our duty (and we do have the ability) to rid ourselves of the cause of the destruction and prevent its present recurrence.
How can this be accomplished? Through the study of Torah.
The study of Torah is the antidote to the destruction, and will bring about the restoration of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, and the immediate revelation of our Righteous Moshiach!
Adapted from Torat Menachem, Vol. I of the Rebbe
Instant Kosher Noodles
by Michoel Ilan Ogince
Over the last four to five years I have been working on reconnecting with Judaism. During this time, there have been a number of challenges. Most recently, however, I have made a concerted effort to acquaint myself with Chabad texts and literature. In doing so, my understanding and knowledge of what Judaism represents and stands for has deepened. This, in turn, has allowed me to establish a connection with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a bond that has showered much light and love into my life.
One of the aforementioned challenges is living externally as a Jew. Being a Jew at home, in the synagogue or with other Jewish people is one thing. But being a Jew out in the world, at times appears like a hurdle that cannot be jumped over.
When I am confronted with such a challenge, I delve into my connection with the Rebbe and with what Chabad Chasidism stands for; I then do my best to ensure that the hours that I have spent studying Jewish texts does not lay dormant in the realm of the theoretical but rather becomes part of my speech and actions. When I do this the vast mountains seem like flat ground.
When I arrived in Sydney, Australia, and took up a position in the orthopedic department at St. Vincent's Hospital, I did not think my colleagues knew what they were getting themselves into. The orthopedic department is very social. Corporate meetings, clinical meetings, and social work gatherings where food comprised the highlight of the evening were a common occurrence. My colleagues went out of their way to ensure that the food was kosher catered. (At times I wondered just what they were thinking.)
And yet, to be a Jew externally could still be challenge. Nevertheless, I knew that I needed to be proud of who I really am.
I got an inkling of the impact that my external practice of Judaism could have on others when the following incident occurred.
I was rushing home from morning prayers before going to the hospital and I had no time to make the lunch that I usually prepared to take to work. Instead I grabbed a container of instant noodle soup from the cupboard and raced off.
At lunchtime that day, I had a quick 20 minutes to grab a bit before my next patient. I began rummaging through my notes as I was trying to get through my noodle soup. A few minutes into my notes/noodles, Rachel walked into the office. Rachel is a physiotherapist who had been hired a few weeks earlier.
After some serious clinical chatter, Rachel noticed the word KOSHER in bright red on my polystyrene noodle bowl and asked, "What is Kosher?"
I must admit that my first reaction was that she was going to challenge me. How was I going to explain the concept of keeping kosher in 10 minutes or less?
After a brief explanation, Rachel said, "You know what? My grandmother was Jewish."
Hmmm. I asked her, "Were your parents Jewish?"
Rachel responded, "Well, my dad rebelled so, no, he isn't. And my mother is an atheist."
"But was your mother Jewish?"
"No," Rachel explained patiently, "She isn't Jewish. She doesn't believe."
"But is your mother the daughter of your grandmother who was Jewish?" I pressed.
"Yes, why?" Rachel asked, even more confused than she was originally upon seeing the word "kosher" on my soup cup.
My heart skipped a beat. "Did you know that means you are .... Jewish!"
Rachel's face went pale. Astounded she asked politely, "What does that mean?"
I explained to Rachel that it is not ones physical make-up or intellectual belief that makes a person Jewish; rather it is a person's soul that was created by G-d and, as Chabad Chasidism explains, has a G-dly spark that is constantly connected to its source."
Rachel told me that she knows more about Christianity and Buddhism than Judaism. She appeared shocked and very confused. We had a few more opportunities to speak and Rachel decided to be in contact with people who would connect her with opportunities to learn more about Judaism.
A primary teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, is that nothing happens by chance; everything is Divine providence. The truth is, I hadn't bought the kosher noodle soup. I don't usually eat this type of instant food. It had actually been sent to me in a "care package" by my sister who lives in Perth. When I received the gift (with all of the delicious kosher treats inside) I had asked my sister what prompted her to send them to me. She told me it was out of love.
Everything in this world happens for a reason. My sister, out of love, sent me a kosher care package. I was running late and grabbed the instant soup with the word "kosher" prominently printed on the container. This external expression of Judaism caused another Jew to find out that she is Jewish and to decide to study more about her heritage. What I had originally thought was a challenge became an opportunity for growth.
With permission from chabadwa.org
When Dov does a mitzva (commandment) one morning, little does he know who is watching... and what will happen next! An inspiring story about the power of even a "small" simple mitzva, and how it can grow to encompass the entire community. This book is especially designed with the very youngest children in mind. Bright colors, exciting images and rhythmic text make reading aloud a joy for reader and child alike! Written by Risa Rotman, illustrated by Ariel Bauer, published by HaChai Publishing.
15 Av, 5735 (1975)
I was pleased to be informed about your steady advancement in matters of Torah, called Toras Chaim [the Torah of Life], because it is the Jew's guide in life, and also Toras Emes [the Torah of Truth], because it is the truth. This is doubly gratifying inasmuch as persons of your standing have an impact on the community, for people look up to you and try to emulate you. Thus, your going from strength to strength in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments] is greatly multiplied through those who are inspired by your example, not to mention direct impact on children and through them on their children in an everlasting chain reaction.
In light of the above, even if there are some difficulties to overcome, it is surely worthwhile to make the effort, inasmuch as the effort involves only the individual, while the benefit is for many. Add to this also the fact that this is also the channel to receive G-d's blessings in all needs, and that G-d rewards in kind and in a most generous measure.
The above refers to all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth, but has a special significance in regard to kashrus [the Jewish dietary laws]. As a doctor you know the immense knowledge that has been accumulated recently in the area of nutrition and diet, and how much the quality of food affects physical and mental health. For Jews the Dietary Laws have come down with the Torah itself, which revealed the true meaning of monotheism, of which the Jewish People have been the bearers ever since. It was relevant not only in those days of old, when paganism and idolatry were the general practice in the world, but it is just as relevant in the present day and age, since it is only the Torah and mitzvot that are the basis of pure monotheism, rooted in the absolute unity of G-d. This means that the Jew brings unity and harmony in this, the physical world, eliminating any departmentalization in the daily life, or having occasional practices; or, as some misguided and misconceived individuals might think, that they can practice Judaism at home, but must make concessions and compromises outside the home. All such differentiations are contrary to true unity, pure monotheism. For the concept of pure monotheism is not confined to One G-d, but at the same it requires unity in the personal life of each and every Jew, who is a member of the One People, of which it is said that it is "One People on earth." According to the explanation of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], founder of Chabad, "One People on earth" means that they bring oneness and unity also in earthly things, and it is only in this way that the individual can achieve complete personal harmony and unity of the body and soul, at all times, whether in the synagogue, at home, or in the office.
Thus, it is obvious how important kashrus is for a Jew, since the food and beverages that he consumes become blood and tissue and energy, and food that is not suitable (kosher) for a Jew can only alienate him from matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism], and only the right and kosher food can nourish him physically, mentally and spiritually. As already mentioned, there is no need to elaborate on this to you, a physician, although your specialty is not directly in the field of nutrition.
The most desirable blessing that can be expressed in this case is that you should indeed serve as a living and inspiring example for others to emulate, and that through your inspiration many others will go from strength to strength in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth in daily life.
May G-d grant that you should always have good news to report.
Why are three steps taken backward and forward before the silent Amida prayer?
We take three steps backward to make sure that the four cubits around us are unoccupied. We take three steps forward for numerous reasons, among them: when a servant approaches a king, he does so with short, hesitant steps to display respect; when the priest was ready to mount the altar with the sacrifice it was necessary for him to take three steps to do so.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In Chasidic circles, and particularly Chabad Chasidic circles, the upcoming month of Kislev is known as the "Month of Redemption" for it contains many events of good news and Redemptive qualities.
This weekend is the "Kinus HaShluchim," when thousands of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries from across the globe gather in Lubavitch World Headquarters.
The first day of Kislev, Rosh Chodesh (Sunday, Nov. 11 this year), marks the anniversary of the Rebbe's first public appearance after suffering a heart attack in 1977.
The second of Kislev is the anniversary of the actual return of the holy books to their rightful owner - the library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad - following their illegal removal from the library. After a prolonged civil court-case, which decided to whom the library of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe belonged, the verdict was rendered on the day when the Torah reading stated, "I shall return in peace to my father's house."
On the 10th of Kislev, the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber, was released from prison where he had been interred on false charges.
On the 19th of Kislev, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, was released from his Czarist imprisonment. During his interrogation, he impressed the investigators, including the Czar himself, with his wisdom, scholarship and piety. Thus, the entire Chasidic movement was exonerated and its teachings could be spread freely. Ever since, the 19th of Kislev has been celebrated as the "New Year of Chasidut."
Of course, last but not least, the holiday of Chanuka, begins on the 25th of Kislev, Tuesday evening, Dec. 4 this year. It, too, is a holiday of redemption. On Chanuka we thank G-d for the miracles and for redeeming them from the oppressive rule of the Greeks.
May this month truly be a month of redemption for the entire Jewish people, with the coming of Moshiach, NOW.
A ladder was standing on the ground and the top of it reached to heaven. (Gen 28:12)
The Hebrew word for ladder (sulam) has the same numerical value as money (mamon). This teachers us that money is like a ladder - it can be used to ascend and come closer to the heavens, or with it one can descend to the depths. Everything depends on how we use it and for what purpose.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
The man [Isaac] became great, and grew more and more... (Gen. 23:13)
It is common that as a person becomes richer, the person within him becomes smaller and smaller. The greatness of Isaac was that even though he became more and more wealthy, he increased and expanded in his qualities as a person.
(Rabbi Yitzchak of Torchow)
Isaac had grown old and his eyesight was failing. (Gen. 27:1)
Rashi explained that Isaac's eyesight was failing him so that Jacob could receive the blessing. In order to assure that Jacob would receive the blessing was it necessary for Isaac's eyesight to fail him? Wouldn't it have been "easier" for G-d to have revealed to Isaac that Esau was wicked and therefore undeserving of the blessing? However, G-d didn't want to speak badly about Esau. If this is true concerning the wicked Esau, all the more must we be extremely careful not to gossip about or slander any Jew.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Life in Czarist Russia wasn't easy, but in spite of everything, the couple - Chasidim of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism - would have been very happy if only G-d had granted them a child.
They prayed for years and even made the long trip to the Rebbe for a blessing. Finally, their prayers bore fruit, and they became the parents of a charming little boy. Not only was he an attractive and appealing child; he was possessed of an intellect that was rare. He learned with true dedication, and his mind and soul delighted in every word of Torah he studied.
The boy soon outstripped all his teachers, and so he sat alone every day in his room at home studying and making great progress in his studies. His parents were as happy as could be.
One evening the father entered his son's room and gazed down upon the page he was studying. To his shock and dismay, the boy was reading one of the books of the "Enlightenment" movement which disparaged Torah and Jewish tradition. Although his heart was racing, the father spoke to his son calmly, in a voice filled with warmth and love, "What are you reading, my son?" he asked.
"Father, don't think that I'm reading this because I'm interested in their arguments. I just feel that I need to know how to refute them when they speak." The father patted his son's arm and said nothing.
The next time the father found his son reading similar literature, his rebuke was stronger. Little by little the parents noticed a change in their brilliant son. His behavior, his carriage and his dress all bespoke the influence of the "enlightened." The words of his broken-hearted parents seemed to make no impression on the boy.
One day the boy entered the kitchen and made an announcement: "I'm going to the university in Berlin to study mathematics and science." His parents were so shocked and broken that they could not utter a word.
When he arrived in Berlin, the boy was greeted as a wunderkind, so brightly did his intellect shine among the other students. He excelled in his studies, and after several years he had written two original treatises which were about to the published. In addition to all this distinction, he found a girl whom he wished to marry.
Suddenly, he remembered his aged-parents, and had an urge to obtain their blessing on his proposed marriage. He also wanted to show them his scholarly manuscripts and prove to them that he had indeed succeeded in his chosen endeavors, despite their disapproval.
But then he reflected: How could his parents, totally uneducated in secular ways, begin to fathom the depth of his brilliant studies? Suddenly he had an idea. He would stop in Liozhna on his way home. There he would show his manuscripts to the Rebbe, a man of great erudition who would certainly appreciate the depth and insight of his works. Then, his parents would hear about him from a source that was more familiar to their shtetl- world view.
The young man made his way to Liozhna and presented himself at the Rebbe's court - an unusual sight in his moustache and Berlin garb. Reb Moshe Meizlish, a well-known Chasid, approached him, inquiring what the young man was seeking, but he replied that he wanted only a private audience with the Alter Rebbe. When the request was presented to the Rebbe, he agreed, and the young scholar was ushered into the Rebbe's room.
He entered with his two manuscripts clutched tightly in his hands. The Rebbe and the young man were closeted in the study for several hours. The scholar finally left the room, his face flushed, his hands shaking. He still held the manuscripts, but paced nervously, looking at one and then the other. Then he took the papers and threw them into the fire in the central room.
Reb Moshe had been watching the whole scene, and now he approached the young man and asked him, "What happened in the Rebbe's chamber?"
"I showed the Rebbe my manuscripts - scholarly concepts which I was on the verge of publishing. They had been very well received in Berlin. He looked at the first page of the first manuscript, made some notations, and quickly flipped through the remaining pages. Then he did the same with the second work. When he had finished, he looked up at me with his penetrating eyes and said, 'Young man, your book is very well-written, except that it is fallacious, for your basic premises are wrong.'
"I was shocked to my core. I had spent years perfecting these works. All of my professors were highly impressed by them. I listened to the Rebbe, and then I started to argue my point of view. But I was forced to stop. For try though I may, I simply couldn't refute his conclusions. I left the room completely embarrassed, and I continued turning over in my mind the Rebbe's critique. I sorely wished to justify myself, but I realized that I simply couldn't. That is when I threw my precious manuscripts into the fire."
The young man remained in the court of the Alter Rebbe, who himself taught this extraordinary young man. Not too long after, the young man passed away. The Rebbe explained that his soul was an reincarnation of Rabbi Elazer ben Durdaya who had lived in the times of the Talmud. He had "committed every sin," but had returned to G-d with all his heart. He had had several reincarnations, and this completed his repentance. His soul was prepared to enter the highest realms.
The Torah tells of how our forefather Isaac dug three wells. Why does the Torah take the time to recount such a seemingly simple and unimportant event? Each one of the three wells symbolized one of the Holy Temples that would be built by Isaac's descendants. For, just as the water of a well gives life, so too does the Divine Presence that rests in the Holy Temple give life. The third well will be revealed when the Redemption comes, as it is written (Zechariah 14:9), "On that day, living water will come out from Jerusalem."
(Pirkei D'R. Eliezer 35)