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Sleep! How much is enough? How much is too little? Can there be too much?
The way that too little sleep affects us has made a lot of news. A host of physical and mental ailments result from, or are related to, lack of sufficient sleep. If you've ever gone on a couple hours sleep or pulled an all-nighter, then you know that most of the day you feel zoned out. We know we can't think straight, even as we try to. Lack of sleep may result from stress, but in a vicious cycle it makes it harder to handle stress. Our immune system becomes vulnerable and our emotions may go haywire.
Lack of sleep has physical consequences - depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. Even weight gain!
But we're just now finding out how much harm too much sleep can cause. Ironically, it's linked to many of the same health issues as too little sleep: depression, diabetes, heart disease and even obesity! Anxiety, low energy, and memory problems can result from too much sleep just as from too little.
So sleep, like much of life, should follow the "golden mean" - not too much, not too little, but just enough.
How much is that? Well, the amount of sleep we need varies with age. For the average adult the recommended daily amount is eight hours, give or take.
Of course, some of us need a little more, some a little less. But still, for the body and mind to be healthy, there's a "recommended" amount of sleep.
There is, of course, a spiritual lesson in this. The exile of the Jewish people has been compared to sleep. We find the comparison in Psalms - "When the L-rd will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been as dreamers" (Psalms 126:1); the theme is developed in the Talmud and in later Jewish thought. Chasidic thought, in particular, discusses it in detail.
So we need to ask, why do we need the "sleep" of exile, and how much is enough? Can there be such a thing as "too little exile"? Too much seems obvious, but too little?
Clearly, it would have been much better had there been no exile - no destruction of the First Temple, or the Second Temple. But since that happen-ed, whatever we could have achieved, we can still achieve. And, in a sense, in a greater measure. For Chasidic thought teaches that every descent occurs in order that there should be a subsequent ascent - an elevation to a higher level than before. That doesn't mean we want the descent, only that if it happens it provides an opportunity.
The exile has enabled the Jewish people to fulfill their mission as a "Light unto the nations" in way that would not have been possible otherwise. The mitzvot (command-ments) the Jewish people perform, and the seven Noachide commandments that non-Jews are required to perform, have helped perfect the world.
We can see this in the parallel effects of too much and too little sleep. Both lead to disorientation - a misperception of reality. Both lead to physical ailments - a disconnect between the physical world and the spiritual realm that sustains it. It is into this "dream world" the Jewish have gone in order to awaken the world, so that the whole world will be filled with knowledge of G-dliness.
And we need to know that just as too little sleep, too little exile, would have prevented us from moving the world, from enabling the non-Jews to move toward a world of goodness and kindness, so also too much sleep will lead to a deterioration, a reversion, G-d forbid, to the spiritual delusions and illnesses of too little "sleep."
And clearly, one more moment in exile is one moment too many. One more moment of exile is just too much sleep. It's time to wake up, world!
In this week's Torah portion, Nasso, we read of the offering brought by the princes of each tribe of Israel upon the completion of the Tabernacle: "And it came to pass on the day that Moses had finished setting up the Tabernacle...that the nesi'im (princes) of Israel brought their offering...six covered wagons and 12 oxen, a wagon for two of the princes, and for each one an ox."
The contribution of the nesi'im, the leaders of each tribe, consisted of the wagons that were to carry the Tabernacle and the oxen that pulled them. The 12 nesi'im contributed six oxen; that is to say, each nasi contributed half an ox.
At first glance this seems like a small contribution. Why weren't the nesi'im more generous with their offerings? The Tabernacle was an extremely heavy structure consisting of numerous large and varied components. Why then were they content to offer just half an ox each?
The Tabernacle was built according to strict specifications. No element of the entire Sanctuary - not even the smallest detail - was superfluous. Every item served a distinct function, including the wagons that transported it from place to place. Thus, because the number of wagons required to carry the Tabernacle was specifically six, no more than that number could be contributed by the nesi'im. Furthermore, the wagons had to conform to an exact set of dimensions, no more and no less.
Our Sages declared: "Nothing created by the Holy One, Blessed Be He, in His world was created in vain" - a principle that applies in every time and in every place. Every detail in the vast universe has a specific function, and not one element has been created without a purpose.
Just as every part of the Tabernacle was necessary and played an integral role, so too must every aspect of our inner "Sanctuaries" - our own individual talents and abilities - be fully utilized and taken advantage of. All of a Jew's inner strengths and capacities must be used to fulfill his Divine mission in life. After all, G-d does not endow us with these talents for nothing.
Time, too, is something we must utilize properly.
Each and every moment we are granted is precious. Even if 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day have passed and only one minute remains, it too must not be wasted. For time itself falls into the category of things we are obligated to use the fullest.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 28
His Brother's Keeper
by Michael Wilensky
The rabbis and volunteers at the Chicago Mitzva Campaign often have the opportunity to experience and observe Divine Providence in action during the course of their daily activities. The following story illustrates how an effort made by an individual to initiate good works or a holy endeavor may be rewarded with a surprising display of such Divine Providence.
As part of his CMC duties, Rabbi Raphael Jaworowski is the Jewish chaplain on call at Kindred Lakeshore hospital, a long-term medical care facility on the north side of Chicago. One day, the administration at Kindred called Rabbi Jaworowski and informed him of a Jewish patient who had recently been admitted to the hospital, Mr. ES. In response to the rabbi's inquiry, the administrator said that ES was in fairly stable condition, but was prone to irritability due to severe discomfort.
Arriving at the hospital armed with his tefilin and prayer book, a sympathetic smile, and an inexhaustible treasure of patience, Rabbi Jaworowski found ES lying in his bed, attached to a large number of tubes and machines. Upon noticing his visitor, ES gave the rabbi a warm welcome, and immediately engaged him in conversation. He lost no time in reciting his ailments and his health condition, but through the veneer of irascibility Rabbi Jaworowski detected a warm, generous, and virtuous Jewish heart. Before long the two were convivially discussing religion, politics, and the social condition, and exchanging details of their own histories, goals, and world outlooks.
From the conversation it emerged that ES had grown up in a family with a solid sense of Jewish culture, but very little religious knowledge or practice. Still, he had been imbued from early life with a strong feeling of responsibility for his fellow man, and this had remained a powerful and influential theme throughout his adult life.
ES had chosen to make his career as a radio disk jockey, and over the years he had carved out a place as a uniquely popular radio host on the late night shift. Not content to just sit back and enjoy his success, ES used his fame to benefit society. He put his heart and soul into publicizing fundraiser's for the poor and disadvantaged, selflessly taking it upon his shoulders to raise millions of dollars for those in greatest need.
During the months that ES spent in Kindred Hospital, Rabbi Jaworowski spent a lot of time with him, wrapping tefilin, praying, talking, and schmoozing. Unfortunately, ES's body was not responding as hoped to the hospital's treatments. Moreover, the many months he had spent confined in a bed resulted in loss of muscle and other secondary difficulties. After a time he was transferred rather unexpectedly to different medical facilities, and he and the rabbi unfortunately lost track of each other.
Rabbi Jaworowski was very disappointed at this loss of contact. Although he continued his attempts to locate ES, he was prevented from doing so because of the new, rigid, patient privacy laws. It now seemed likely that ES would be left facing deteriorating health and possibly end-of-life issues as well, without the rabbi at his side to offer spiritual support, counsel, and access to Jewish tradition. Who would be there for him to ensure that he would be provided with a kosher Jewish burial, should the worst eventuate?
But Divine Providence has its own wondrous ways of operating, regardless of any apparent difficulties.
Many months later, Rabbi Wolf received a phone call out of the blue at the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign. On the phone line was someone who had heard on the news that the well-known radio personality, ES, had passed away. Figuring from his last name that ES was probably Jewish, the caller decided to contact Rabbi Wolf and raise the issue of providing ES with a traditional Jewish burial. After all, who knew whether or not ES had any family members to take care of this most important mitzva (commandment)?
Rabbi Wolf barely recognized ES' name, and it certainly did not ring a familiar bell to him as belonging to an individual who had prior connections with the CMC. Nevertheless, after hanging up the phone he immediately began making phone calls to see what he could do about the matter. One of those calls was placed to the Chicago Jewish Funeral Home, to inquire as to whether ES's name had been registered there. Several minutes later Rabbi Wolf's phone rang. Apparently, only moments after he had spoken with the funeral home, ES's brother called the home concerning his deceased brother. Upon hearing from the director that a certain Rabbi Wolf had called to inquire about ES just moments earlier, this brother immediately decided that he might as well request that the same Rabbi Wolf perform the funeral service.
Thus it miraculously materialized that ES received a kosher Jewish burial, as this is always the stipulation made by Rabbi Wolf before undertaking to perform the funeral service. Rabbi Jaworowski's concern for his patient's access to Jewish tradition was taken care of by an open display of Divine Providence. Although Rabbi Wolf had initially been unaware of Rabbi Jaworowski's concern with ES and his whereabouts, he performed the traditional funeral service, and is now saying the kaddish for the customary eleven months of mourning as well.
Although ES never married and did not have the responsibility of raising his own family, he lived his life carrying out the Biblical mandate to be his "brother's keeper." At the end of his life, the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign was privileged to be part of the Divine Providence with which this sense of responsibility was reciprocated to him.
New Torah Scrolls
The Chabad Center in Toms River, New Jersey, recently celebrated the completion and dedication of a new Torah Scroll. The Torah was dedicated in honor of the 90th birthday of Rabbi Shmuel Izak Popack, grandfather of the Center's directors Rabbi Moshe and Sara Chana Gourarie. At the Ramot Technion Chabad House in Haifa, Israel, a Torah Scroll was written in memory of Gavriel Noach and Rivka Holtzberg, Hy'd, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries in Mumbai, was dedicated. The Ramot Technion Chabad House is run by Rivky's brother, Rabbi Yossi Rosenberg. The first Torah Scroll ever completed in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area was completed for the Chabad Academy.
15 Iyar, 5738 
Sholom Ubrocho [Peace and Blessing]:
I am in receipt of your letter of May 13, in which you write about your present state and feelings toward Jews, Yiddishkeit [Judaism], the Torah, etc., which you blame on the attitude towards you on the part of the Yeshiva and its students.
Needless to say the connection is most surprising, for it is plain and obvious that a Jew, whoever he may be, who believes in the Torah and does his best to observe its mitzvoth [commandments], does it because of his personal commitment to G-d's Torah and mitzvoth, which were given to each and every Jew at Sinai, and as our Sages tell us that the souls of all Jews of all generations were present there and accepted the Torah and mitzvoth. Hence, if a Jew should declare, G-d forbid, that he does not accept the Ten Commandments because his friends or teacher do not conduct themselves as they should - I do not think that anyone will say that this is a proper or sensible approach.
To put it a different way: If a teacher whom you respect will say that two times two is five, it is incorrect; and if a teacher whom you do not respect will say that two times two is four, it is nevertheless correct, for Torah is independent. Judging by your writing, there is surely no need to elaborate to you on what is self-evident. As for you, your complaint about your friends' attitude toward you - it is also clear that neither I nor anyone else can make a judgment on this without first hearing what both sides have to say.
Now, let us assume - from your point of view - that you have reasons to complain - surely you know, and must have seen it yourself from other situations where people have a disagreement, that in every dispute between two people it is impossible that one should be 100% right and the other 100% wrong. It would be rare indeed, if it ever happened, although one does not have to be 100% right to win his case, and 99% against 1% is also sufficient.
But when one of the parties, who is personally involved and subsequently subjective, claims to be 100% right and all the other 100% wrong, this is most extraordinary. Don't you think that someone who examines the whole situation objectively may find you also wrong, at least to the extent to 1%? If this be very likely, how is it that you don't mention anything about it in your letter, not even by as much as a hint?
All that has been said above is by way of response to your writing, dealing with the "letter" as distinct from the "spirit."
The crucial point, however, is that suffice it to consider the fact that Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvoth, and the Jewish people have survived 3500 years of persecution, pogroms, the Holocaust, etc., and yet our people are alive and thriving to this day, while many powerful nations and "civilizations" have disappeared without a remnant - to be convinced (despite your assertions in the beginning of your letter) that the Torah is Toras Emes [the Torah of Truth], and its mitzvoth are Emes, and that "they are our life and the length of our days," both for our Jewish people as a whole and for every Jew individually.
It is also self-understood that G-d desires Jews to observe his mitzvoth not for His benefit, but for the benefit of the one who lives in accordance with G-d's Will. In light of the above, I hope and trust that you will do all that is in your power to learn the Torah with devotion and diligence and to fulfill the mitzvoth with hiddur [in a beautiful manner] - not because I, or anyone else, tells you to do this, but because it is the Truth itself, as has been amply verified by the uninterrupted history of our people from generation to generation. And although this is an obvious "must" for its own sake, this is also the channel to receive G-d's blessing for hatzlocho [success] in all your needs, as well as for your parents and all your dear ones.
Yes, You Can Teach Torah
The celebration of Shavuot [this past week] should inspire each individual to intensify his commitment to Torah study. Each individual should also endeavor to share his Torah knowledge by establishing a new Torah study session in which he/she will teach others. This applies to every single Jew - man, woman, or child. Each one - according to his/her knowledge and ability - should organize a shiur in which he teaches others. This is a matter of immediate necessity and should be publicized throughout the entire world. (The Rebbe, Shavuot, 5750)
In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Monday, 16 Sivan, is the yahrtzeit of a remarkable woman - Rebbetzin Freida, of blessed memory, daughter of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidut. So profound was her knowledge of Chasidut that her brother Rebbe Dov Ber, later to become renown as the Mitteler Rebbe, would often ask her to ask their father for explanations of difficult concepts, whereupon he would hide himself in the room and overhear their conversation!
Rebbetzin Freida was never physically robust and was frequently ill; after Rabbi Shneur Zalman passed on she became increasingly weak. Several months later, feeling that her time was near, she requested that she be buried next to her father in Haditch.
The Chasidim were in a quandary. True, they all acknowledged Rebbetzin Freida's piety and knew how beloved she had been to her father. Still, her request was highly unconventional.
A few days later Rebbetzin Freida again sent for the Chasidim. When they arrived they found her fully dressed, lying on her bed in the middle of the room. After asking them to stand around her she began to recite: "O G-d, the soul You have given me is pure. You created it, You formed it, You invested it within me and safeguard it." When she reached the words "And will one day remove it from me," Rebbetzin Freida raised her hands heavenward and cried, "Father, wait! I am coming!" whereupon her holy soul ascended to its Maker.
It was obvious that any person who merited such a passing surely deserved that her request be fulfilled. Still, a small doubt remained...
On the way to the cemetery the funeral procession reached a crossroads. Haditch was in one direction, Kremenchug in the other. When the horses were allowed free rein they chose Haditch, and Rebbetzin Freida's final wish was carried out.
In the Messianic era, all Jews will arise with the resurrection of the dead, the holy Rebbetzin Freida among them. May it happen immediately.
When either a man or a woman pronounces - yafli - a special vow (Num. 6:2)
A person who willingly forgoes the pleasures of this world in order to sanctify himself before G-d is extraordinary, almost a wonder. (The word "yafli" is related to "peleh," a miracle or wonder.) Most people, in fact, are propelled in the opposite direction.
And the priest...shall make atonement for him, because he sinned against the soul (Num. 6:11)
The Talmud relates the question of Rabbi Elazar HaKapar: "Which soul has the Nazarite sinned against?" The answer is, his own soul. (A Nazarite is one who takes a vow to abstain from wine, during which time he is also not allowed to cut his hair or come into contact with the dead.) If the Nazarite's only "sin" is having denied himself wine, how much more so is it "sinful" to deliberately cause oneself any kind of distress or suffering? Indeed, our Sages said: One who sits and fasts is called a sinner.
And the one who made his offering on the first day was Nachshon, the son of Aminadav, of the tribe of Judah (Num. 7:12)
All of the other Nesi'im (princes) who made offerings are referred to by their proper title, Nasi, whereas Nachshon is referred to only by name. The reason? To "counteract" his having been first, lest he become boastful.
The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letters of "on the first day" ("bayom harishon") is 620 - the same as "keter" ("crown"). This is an allusion to the sovereignty granted by G-d to the tribe of Judah.
The town of Harki belonged to a branch of the Polish aristocratic Radziville family. The owner spent most of his time in France and was rarely seen on his vast estates.
One of the young noblemen of the family, Benedict by name, had a very close friend in France named Pierre Louis, a young man from an assimilated Jewish family. He was, in fact, so alienated from his Jewish roots that he had no remaining Jewish ties at all.
When Benedict married, he settled on the estates of his wife's family in Russia. His good friend, Pierre Louis, also married into a wealthy family, and settled nearby. The two lived a life of luxury and pleasure and were constantly in each other's company.
After many years had passed, Pierre Louis was widowed. Now, with no anchor in life, he immersed himself totally in a life of debauchery in the company of the Russian and Polish aristocrats who were his companions.
Once, when the chasid Rabbi Nissan went to visit the Baal Shem Tov, the Baal Shem Tov explained to him at great length the meaning of the verse in Psalms, "Those who go down to the sea in ships and do work in raging waters": The phrase "those who go down to the sea" refers to the souls that come down and enter the bodies, comparable to the seas which cover everything, as the body covers the Divine soul within it.
"But there are two kinds of descent: in one, souls descend into the sea of life - i.e. when one finds oneself within a circle of Torah. In the other, the souls descend into the midst of a raging sea without any ship in which to take refuge.
"Those Jews who descend into the physical body, but live in an atmosphere devoid of the light of Torah, flounder as if in a raging sea.
"Therefore," concluded the Baal Shem Tov, "it is the duty of other Jewish souls who `do their work in raging waters,' to save them, as they would a drowning man."
The Baal Shem Tov made it clear to Rabbi Nissan that he was referring precisely to the friend of Benedict, Pierre Louis, who was, in actuality, a Jew named Pesach Tzvi.
"This winter, Benedict will go hunting with his friend Pierre Louis and they will both visit Harki. At that time, I want you to read this letter that I am giving you, and then carry out all the instructions in it."
Rabbi Nissan was to inform Pierre Louis that he was a Jew, named Pesach Tzvi, and that he must return to his people. Even if Pierre Louis didn't want to listen, Reb Nissan must go and repeat exactly what the Baal Shem Tov had said. The Baal Shem Tov assured him that he would be successful.
When Rabbi Nissan returned to Harki the town was buzzing with anticipation of the aristocracy's hunting season who habitually visited the area.
Benedict and Pierre Louis were staying, as they always did, at the home of the local priest. But this time, as Benedict entered the house, he tripped over the threshold and fell. The pistol he was carrying in his pocket discharged, and a bullet lodged in his stomach.
Pandemonium reigned as a doctor tried in vain to staunch the flow of blood. Riders were dispatched to neighboring towns to bring other doctors, but the patient's condition deteriorated steadily.
As news of the accident spread throughout the town, the Jews were distressed to hear that Benedict, who had always been friendly toward them, was in grave danger. Rabbi Nissan opened the letter of the Baal Shem Tov, and to his astonishment, it contained a prescription for treating Benedict's wound. In addition, the letter said that if anyone inquired how Rabbi Nissan came to know this cure, he should say that he learned it from Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov.
On the second day after the accident Rabbi Nissan arrived at the house, saying he had a cure for Benedict. The desperate doctor allowed the Jew to be admitted. The rabbi spread an ointment on the wound and also put some medicine down the wounded man's throat. To the amazement and relief of all, the cure took effect within an hour.
Only then did Rabbi Nissan approach Pierre Louis and ask to speak to him in private. He related all the words of the Baal Shem Tov, telling him that he was a Jew, and must return to his people, but Pierre Louis was too shocked to respond.
It was in the spring that Pierre Louis arrived in Harki and came to Rabbi Nissan. He could not rest since the day they had spoken, and now he finally resolved to return to his people. Over the next year he studied and made great progress.
Benedict was quite sympathetic to his friend's return to Judaism, and as a gift he gave him an estate outside Harki. As an additional display of good will, Benedict presented to the local Jews the land on which their houses were built. In this manner the existence of the Baal Shem Tov and his circle of mystics became known in Harki.
Every man, woman and child has an individual responsibility to work to bring about Moshiach's coming. No one can shoulder this burden for another; each individual's own efforts and energy are needed. "Action, not words, is what matters." We must prepare for the coming of Moshiach by increasing our study of Torah and enhancing our performance of its commandments.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 298 Nissan, 5751-1991)