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One of the terms in currency today is "the paradox of thrift." This means that when the economy's in a severe recession, the more an individual saves, the worse it is for the economy as a whole, and thus, ultimately, for the individual saving as well.
At first glance, that doesn't make sense; that's why it's a paradox. We're supposed to save, right? So how can saving, especially when "times are tough," be counter-productive? It works like this:
We get a paycheck and do three things with it - pay for necessities, save, and spend on non-necessities (goods and services). Money spent on goods and services creates jobs, and the people who have those jobs spend money just like we do.
Now, if a few people decide to save more, either because they want to buy an expensive item or because they want to have more money in reserve, that might be bad news for a particular business but it doesn't hurt the whole economy. Plus, the extra money they're saving becomes available to the banks to lend to other people.
But when lots of people lose their jobs, lots of people aren't spending. And when lots of people aren't spending, banks and investors aren't lending, because, nobody's buying. And we get into a vicious cycle.
We only get out of it when someone - on a scale this big, the federal government - borrows money and hires all the unemployed people. Now people have jobs... and money... and can pay their bills... and can spend on goods and services, which employs more people - cycling out of the paradox of thrift to economic health.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything we encounter is a lesson in our Divine Service. So even the "paradox of thrift" has a lesson for us:
There are two things we can spend: time and money. And we have to spend both to avoid getting into a spiritual paradox of thrift.
The paradox of thrift says that if we save when we should spend, others lose, and ultimately, we lose. When times get tough, self-preservation, pulling back, is instinctive. And yet, that's precisely when we not only must continue to give tzedeka (charity), but to actually increase our giving.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, points out that "saving one's self first" doesn't mean that our luxuries come before another's necessities.
In Jewish law, even a poor person who survives on tzedeka has to give tzedeka. Because there's always someone else who needs help more.
In short, since the way to get out of an economic recession is to spend money on goods and services, the way to get out of a spiritual recession is to give tzedeka - spend money on the needs of others.
There's another lesson in the "paradox of thrift" - how we spend our time. If we save our time for ourselves, that pulls "spiritual time" out of circulation, making "spiritual time" less accessible to others, who will hoard theirs, and so on.
What do we mean by "spiritual time"? Time spent increasing our Jewish knowledge, time spent praying, time spent doing a mitzva (command-ment). The more time we spend on these, the more "spiritual time" is available for others to do these things, and the more Torah study, prayer, and mitzvot get into circulation.
So, to avoid the paradox of thrift - spend! Spend your money on tzedaka, spend your time reading the weekly Torah portion, or taking extra care with a mitzva, or a few more seconds devoted to prayer.
That way, we stimulate the spiritual economy and get out of the spiritual recession with the coming of Moshiach!
The book of Vaikra, Leviticus, which we begin reading this week, details the laws pertaining to the offerings that were brought in the Sanctuary and Holy Temples. It begins with the words, "And He called to Moses."
Rashi, the great Torah commentator, explains that G-d called out to Moses with a special and unique love. Chasidic philosophy further elaborates on the significance of the fact that G-d's name is not directly mentioned. This great love, it explains, emanates from an attribute of G-d so lofty and elevated that it exists beyond the limitations imposed by a name. G-d's very essence, as it were, called out to Moses.
Chasidut also teaches that every Jew has a spark of the soul of Moses within his own soul. G-d's calling out to Moses with special love is therefore a call to every Jew, no matter who he/she is. The directives that followed, the details of the korbanot-sacrifices (from the Hebrew meaning "to draw near"), are the instructions by which one may draw closer to G-d, and apply to every Jew, in all times and places.
This concept is also reflected in this week's haftara (from the Book of Isaiah). "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall tell My praise." The first part of the verse seems to indicate G-d's great love of the Jewish people; the second half seems to refer to their prayers, good deeds and Torah study, through which G-d's name is made great.
Yet, studying the verse in depth, we find that the type of praise G-d refers to here is of an entirely different sort, one which is totally independent of a Jew's actions.
"This people have I formed for Myself," G-d states. The Jewish people belongs to G-d; it is only through them that His sovereignty over the world is established, for a king cannot rule without subjects. A Jew, by his very nature and not by virtue of his actions, is created special.
"They shall tell My praise," G-d continues. The existence of the Jewish people in itself reveals the glory of G-d. The fact that the Jewish nation, "one sheep among seventy wolves," is still flourishing after thousands of years testifies to the greatness of G-d. Every Jew bears witness to the existence of G-d and causes His name to be praised.
This is especially relevant for our generation, following, as it does, the terrible decimation of our brethren during the Holocaust. The fact that Jews exist today, proudly continuing our holy tradition and raising a new generation of Jews to further imbue the world with holiness is in itself miraculous, bearing witness to G-d's greatness.
This tremendous love which G-d feels for every Jew, regardless of his deeds, indicates just how important it is for us to love our fellow Jew and to always judge others favorably, for each of us is G-d's special treasure.
Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Sefer Hitvaaduyot 5750, Vol. 2
by Daniel Smajovits
After a long week of work or school, most people spend Friday afternoons lounging and preparing for the weekend.
Yet, for a select few, although the studying ends, in the hours before the Sabbath - their work begins.
Like clockwork, the Friday Boys stroll in. Never in a dull mood or with a sad story to tell, they're always ready to perform a lightning quick Tefillin session, discuss the weekly Parsha (Torah portion), or have a short, yet enlightening conversation.
For three years, Berry Nash has made the Montreal Jewish Magazine one of his various stops along his pre-Shabbat route. At only 19-years-old, the native New Yorker and recent Yeshiva graduate, explained that the Friday afternoon tradition that he and his fellow students partake in is not a requirement but something they do just to help other Jews perform mitzvoth (commandments).
"[The tradition started] before the Six Day War when the Rebbe [Menachem Mendel Schneerson] began a campaign that we should encourage people to put on Tefillin [to help the war effort]. Before that, the Lubavitch Movement was always encouraging people to become closer to the religion, but never in this fashion," he said. "If you see a person on the streets, you would ask him if he would like to put on Tefillin. [We call it] a mitzvah on the spot."
More than 40 years later, Yeshiva students around the world continue the Rebbe's directive. However, instead of fitting it into their study schedule, those who choose to walk the streets and perform mitzvoth must forgo some of their free time, which for these students, is rare.
"The Rebbe explained that he did not want them to do it during school, but during your own time," said Nash. "A typical day runs from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm and ends after Ma'ariv (evening services). It's a full day with breaks for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Once we pray Ma'ariv, we then have our time to get some rest. On Friday, we take our free time [before Shabbat] to do favors for others because the Rebbe asked us to. The whole Yeshiva goes out."
Yet, even with their wholesome intentions, Nash and his peers still run into those who think they are insincere, and are thus sometimes ignored. "Some people think we are coming for money or for other reasons. We're just here to help another Jew," he said. "We're students, we do not have a family to support, there is no other reason we're going for, besides to help."
"Our true goal is to bring Mashiach. We can do that by us doing a mitzvah and encouraging others to do mitzvoth," he added. "[Every day] tens of thousands of Tefillin are put on because of the Rebbe's directive." Even though his efforts allow him to meet new people each week, for the most part, Nash always tries to frequent a route of offices and other places known to be Jewish. As a result, he hopes that through time, his presence, or that of his peers, is not only recognized, but truly accepted.
"We're familiar with people because in the beginning, somebody went knocking on doors asking who was Jewish," he said. "People that aren't, we understand them. Why would anybody open the door to us? They see a man with a hat; they think we're here for money, but people who get to know us and know what we're here for, they thank us and encourage us, and it really boosts us up."
In fact, Nash's first real taste of the community was indeed a sour one. In the midst of a summer which he spent at Ste-Agathe, he came into Montreal to receive treatment for an infection. Before Shabbat, he decided to venture out and see what the community had to offer, and at first glance, was not welcomed with open arms.
"My friends went to Pizza Pita, and I wasn't interested, so I walked around the block and I saw a man walk into his house. This was on a religious street, but he didn't have a beard or a Kippah, so I thought I would try and approach him," said Nash.
"I asked him if he puts on Tefillin, and he started saying how I'm ridiculous for believing in G-d. After talking to him for 15 minutes, he agreed to put on Tefillin, but on the condition that I do not come back to him again for Tefillin. [Since then] I came back to him again, but without Tefillin. He was over 70 years old and had not put on Tefillin since his Bar Mitzvah."
It was this persistence coupled with understanding which guided Nash through his time in Montreal, and now, like any graduate, Nash must move on to another stage of his life and leave his fond memories behind.
However, even with his departure, for those on Parι Street who are used to his warm presence, there is no need to worry. His successors are already equipped with all the necessary tools so that come Friday afternoon, Tefillin will be put on, stories will be told and new relationships will be forged.
Because like clockwork, another school year for the Friday Boys has just begun.
Reprinted with permission of the Montreal Jewish Magazine
Rabbi Chaim and Kaila Danzinger have just moved to Rostov, Russia, where they are involved in the Chabad programs that serve the the Jewish community numbering over 10,000.
Rabbi and Mrs. Yossi Goldstein have moved to Yiwu, China, to serve as permanent directors of the Chabad House that was established there last year. Rabbi Yishayahu and Shira Rose are establishing a new Chabad House serving the students and faculty at the University of Toronto. Rabbi Akiva and Taiby Camissar have arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, to enhance the Chabad work that is already taking place in that city. Rabbi Eliyahu Yisrael and Nava Tehila Maman are the new emissaries of the Rebbe in the northeastern port city of Recife, Brazil.
Freely adapted and translated from a letter of the Rebbe
13 Tishrei, 5717 (1956)
... You write in your letter about your [depressed] state of mind.
As known, there are many matters that exist wholly outside the person; other [mental health] issues [such as neuroses and psychoses] at least exist within the individual's inner [sense of reality and] self, and finally, there are those matters whose entire existence [and reality] is a result of the person's thinking about them.
Although it would seem that when thinking about a certain thing [whose entire existence is predicated on his thoughts about the matter], there is no difference whether or not his thoughts refer to a factual reality, but in truth this is not so: there always exists within the individual the ability to examine his feelings and their degree of authenticity and certitude.
This assessment affects the person even when his capacity to make a "reality check" is concealed, or to use the common vernacular, lies within his subconscious, which can then be recovered.
Clearly, the thoughts and feelings that you are now experiencing emanate from the latter [of the three forms of reality: they only exist because you insist on thinking about them].
Such types of thoughts and feelings are much easier [to get rid of]; quite often they dissipate on their own by simply ceasing to think these thoughts - either a cessation resulting from an external factor [such as through an intervention by another person], or brought about by the person's own resolve to stop thinking about them.
... We verily observe that hundreds and thousands of people who found themselves in the same frame of mind as you do now were able to rid themselves of these feelings without it having any lasting effect on them at all (from which we understand that this can ultimately be achieved even by those who still retain some vestige of these feelings).
[These statistics may not be so well known,] merely because it is human nature to greatly publicize those matters that are entirely in the minority, or those matters that are truly uncommon, [i.e., individuals whose feelings of gloominess overwhelm them,] while the more common experience [of people gaining control of their feelings] is not publicized at all.
Thus, with even minor reflection we realize that it is incumbent on each and every one of us to fulfill our mission in this world; i.e., to increase luminosity within the world and particularly within our own environs, by strengthening and disseminating the light of life in consonance with the directives of our Torah, the Torah of Life.
Since this is the case, we do not even have the luxury of the available time that it takes to contemplate thoughts about ourselves, i.e., thoughts of the type that you have been having.
And although at the beginning it is not easy to replace thoughts concerning ourselves with thoughts concerning our purpose in G d's world, with time and practice it becomes easier to switch our thoughts - particularly so, when we do all the above with joy, the foundation of this joy being that which Maimonides writes at the conclusion of Hilchos Lulav, [concerning the vital importance of serving G d joyfully].
From Healthy in Body, Mind and Soul, vol. 3, compiled by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg, published by Sichos in English
Use hand-baked, "shmura matza" for your Passover seders. This is the traditional and most "enhanced" manner to fulfill the Biblical commandment to eat matza at the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center today to order.
In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The month of Nissan, which we have now entered, is described by our Sages as "the month of miracles." In this month, we observe the holiday of Passover and celebrate the first historical redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt.
The Final Redemption with Moshiach is connected to that first redemption. It will come about because of two distinct factors: 1) the merit of the Jewish people earned by their service of G-d over the last 2,000 years, and 2) simply because G-d has promised to bring Moshiach.
In this context we can better understand the controversy between our Rabbis over the most appropriate month for the Final Redemption. Some Sages held that "In Nissan [our ancestors] were redeemed [from Egypt]; in Nissan [the Jewish people] will be redeemed in the future." Others, however, insisted that the Final Redemption will take place in Tishrei (when Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot fall out).
Chasidut explains that Nissan is symbolic of the aspect of G-dliness that illuminates from Above, independent of man's service. We see this in the fact that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt in Nissan despite being spiritually unworthy. Tishrei, however is symbolic of man's service of the Creator and his transformation into a fitting vessel for G-dliness.
Our Sages' disagreement was based on whichever factor each considered most decisive: Those who believed that the Jews' spiritual status is more important held that the Redemption will occur in Tishrei, insisting that the Jewish people must be aroused to repentance and increased observance in order for Moshiach to come. Those who believed that G-d's promise is the determining factor held it will occur in Nissan.
How was it resolved? Actual religious law concurs with the latter group, ruling that "in Nissan they will be redeemed," for although the world will by then have already been transformed into an appropriate vessel for G-dliness, the revelation of holiness that will suffuse creation will far surpass any level man could have attained by his own effort.
The Rebbe has let it be known that the time for the Redemption is now. May we merit to see Moshiach's revelation immediately.
Every one of your offerings you shall season with salt (Lev. 2:13)
Just as food which is not salted is tasteless and unpalatable, so too must the Jew's service of G-d and performance of the Torah's commandments be "well-seasoned" and filled with enthusiasm.
Whatever is leaven, and of any honey, you shall not sacrifice [it as] an offering made by fire (Lev. 2:11)
"Leaven" and "honey" are opposite and contradictory tastes. All extremes, the Torah teaches, are dangerous and harmful; a person should always strive to walk the middle road, the "golden mean."
(Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson)
If his offering be a burnt-sacrifice (Lev. 1:3)
Because thought always precedes deed, the burnt-sacrifice, brought to atone for evil intentions, is listed first in the order of offerings. "That which was created last arose in the mind first."
A burnt-sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor to G-d (Lev. 1:9)
Obviously, explains Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, the pleasure G-d derives from our sacrifices is not because of their smell. Rather, His pleasure ("nachat ruach," a play on the words "rei'ach nicho'ach" - "sweet savor") is simply because His will is being fulfilled - without question and without regard for personal benefit. In fact, there is no greater example of pure "acceptance of the yoke of heaven" than bringing a burnt-sacrifice that is entirely consumed by fire. For there is no rational reason to do so other than its being G-d's command.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. 32)
This Friday, Nissan 2, is the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shalom Dovber (the Rebbe Rashab) in 1920, the fifth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch.
The Rebbe Rashab was only 22 years old when his father, Rabbi Shmuel, passed away. It was not until several years later that Rabbi Shalom Dovber took his father's place and assumed the mantle of leadership.
The Rebbe Rashab once commented: "It says in the writings of the Mitteler Rebbe (the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch) that 'Conducting business with complete faith in G-d is an even higher level of service than learning Torah for its own sake.' If that is the case, then it is also that much more difficult to accomplish. One must therefore do all one can to become a proper vessel for earning one's livelihood in the proper manner. It is precisely because of the difficulty involved in this that I hesitated, but finally assumed the position of Rebbe."
In the early days of the Rebbe Rashab's leadership someone once asked the Rebbe's brother, Reb Zalman Aharon, if he thought that the present Rebbe was worthy of his position.
Reb Zalman Aharon answered: "Between every two diametrically opposed points in the world there exists a medium, or mean. For example, between the extremely wealthy man and the poverty-stricken beggar are those in the middle class, and between the person who spends his life doing good deeds for his fellow man and one who is cruel and selfish are those whose deeds place them somewhere in the middle. But between a Rebbe and an ordinary person there is no halfway point: one is either a Rebbe or an imposter.
"And my brother is certainly no imposter..."
There was once a Jew living in the city of Nevel who was known as "Reb Zalman the Herring," as he made his living selling all kinds of pickled fish.
One day Reb Zalman was faced with a terrible dilemma when his landlord suddenly decided to sell the house in which he lived. Although he searched all over he was unable to find an appropriate apartment, nor could he afford to buy the building himself, for it he did, he would not have enough money left over to buy fish. Not knowing what to do, Reb Zalman went to the Rebbe Rashab to ask his advice.
"What should I do, Rebbe?" he implored.
"Buy them both, the house and the fish," responded the Rebbe.
Reb Zalman wondered what the Rebbe meant. If I had the money to buy both, he reasoned, I would not have come all this distance to ask what to do.
Suddenly an idea occurred to him. Perhaps his landlord would agree to sell the house for half the price to be paid in cash immediately, while the rest could be paid out over time. Maybe the fish wholesaler would do the same!
Reb Zalman told both of them what the Rebbe had said, and both landlord and fish monger agreed to this method of payment.
In the end he bought them both, the house and the fish.
The Rebbe Rashab was once sitting at a gathering of Chasidim when the time to pray the afternoon service arrived. At that moment, the host had been about to serve tea to his guests. A controversy ensued over what to do first, pray or drink the tea.
"It all depends on what you want to do in a less hurried and more peaceful manner," remarked the Rebbe. "If you'd rather drink the tea in a leisurely fashion, then by all means pray first. If, however, you'd prefer to pray with a clear and calm head, it's better to get the tea-drinking over with..."
There was once a Jewish innkeeper who made his living selling spirits to the local peasants. One day, a Gentile opened up a new tavern right across the street. The Gentile's prices were lower, so all of the Jew's former patrons quickly switched their allegiance and bought their whiskey in the new establishment.
When the innkeeper told the Rebbe about his competition, the Rebbe instructed him to set up two barrels of whiskey. "Tell your customers that you are selling two types of whiskey - one cheaper, and one of a better quality."
The Chasid did this, and all his customers returned. They all insisted on buying the more expensive variety.
Those who think that when Moshiach comes we will be able to sleep are mistaken. Then, and only then, will the real work begin, of refining and purifying physicality until the objective has been achieved - of "And all flesh will see together."
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 5722/1962)