Measuring Cups | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | A Call to Action | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
You don't need to be a Culinary expert or a Chef de Cuisine to know that in order to cook or bake you need the right equipment.
Measuring cups and measuring spoons are an important part of that equipment.
When cooking, baking, roasting, creating - you have to measure the ingredients. Every recipe in every cookbook gives you measurements. Half-a-cup of onions. A teaspoon of salt. A half kilo of chopped carrots. Two hundred fifty milliliters of basmati rice. Three cups of water. Four tablespoons of olive oil. And so on.
If you don't measure the ingredients, the proportions are all wrong. And then the cake won't bake. Or the roast will be too salty. Or the kugel will be too watery. Or the pasta too spicy. (Just half-a-teaspoon of cayenne pepper, please!)
In a spiritual sense, we're constantly cooking. We have different ingredients, of course, because we're not baking bread, cooking soups, broiling steaks, roasting potatoes or steaming vegetables.
What we're cooking, baking, broiling, making is a transformed world, a world of goodness and kindness, of holiness and awareness of G-d. Each of us is "cooking" a different specialty, a different item on the menu, so to speak. That is, each of us is transforming ourselves, our families and friends - those within our sphere of influence.
The ingredients are our thoughts, speech and action. These ingredients combine to make the mitzvot (commandments). So in a sense you could also say we're cooking up mitzvot. The "ingredients" for tzedeka (charity), for example, might be a willing hand, a generous heart, a coin in a pocket, and a "charity box" in the kitchen.
What then are our measuring cups? The hours, the minutes, the seconds of our day. The days and weeks of our years. Or, time itself is our measuring cup, with lines of demarcation imbedded in its clear surface.
How do we measure our time? With what do we fill it? Too many "spices"? The "peels" instead of the "potatoes"? Even the mundane moments can be meaningful. Waiting in traffic? Instead of leftover news or half-baked opinions, put in a CD and listen to an inspirational Jewish song, or an educational lecture. On hold or waiting in a line? Say a chapter of Psalms or read a daily Jewish thought. Jogging? Smile at the other park athletes.
Sometimes we have to use our time in small measures - a minute for an act of kindness, 15 minutes for the afternoon prayer. Ten minutes a day to stay on top of the weekly Torah portion, a half-an-hour to visit a sick friend.
Sometimes we measure our time in larger units - life-cycle events, parenting time, Chanuka, Passover and other holidays, Shabbat.
But whatever we're doing, whether an obvious mitzva, or the things required to build a life of goodness and holiness, we need to measure our time, properly and use it accordingly.
Now, about that soup and souffle.
In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, we read that before Jacob passed away he called all his children together. He told them, "Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which will befall you in the last days." But we find that Jacob did not reveal the future. Our Sages explain that the Divine Presence left Jacob, and with it, the knowledge of the end of days. In other words, G-d prevented Jacob from revealing the date of the Final Redemption.
We can be sure that Jacob did not intend merely to satisfy their curiosity; rather, Jacob thought that he would be doing the Jewish people a favor by revealing when the end of days would come. However, this revelation would not have brought any tangible benefit, but would have actually caused Jacob's descendants harm: Had the fledgling Jewish nation learned that the Final Redemption was not to come for thousands of years, they would have despaired. Why would Jacob want to reveal something that would have caused them to despair?
In order to explain what really took place, we must understand the two different ways in which the Redemption can come about. The Talmud teaches that although G-d has fixed a definite date in history for Moshiach to come, if the Jewish people is worthy, Moshiach will arrive before the appointed time. If the Jews, through their actions, merit the Redemption sooner, they will not have to wait until the specified date.
Jacob did not plan on revealing the final date by which time the Redemption would have to occur; he wanted to give his children a far closer one by which time Moshiach would come if they so merited. It is quite possible that Jacob was referring to a time only a few years after that very day. Why was this not allowed to happen?
The answer lies in the fact that had Jacob been successful in revealing the date, the Redemption would have had to occur then. Once the Divine Presence was withdrawn from him, the opportunity to speed the process was taken away, and we still await the Redemption today.
Had the Jewish people known that the Redemption was so near, they would surely have perfected their actions and been worthy. The knowledge would have encouraged and inspired them to remove all obstacles to Moshiach's arrival, and we would not still be waiting.
Obviously, this was not meant to be. G-d prevented Jacob from revealing the secret, for the Final Redemption must come about purely on the merit of our efforts, working within the limitations placed on us by the physical world. Jacob's revelation would have affected the quality of man's worship and changed the Divine plan. G-d therefore caused His Presence to depart from Jacob.
Jacob, for his part, knew all this, but tried to hasten the Redemption anyway. Although G-d has ordained otherwise, the request of a tzadik (righteous person) is never in vain and the ramifications of Jacob's actions are felt today: Every Jew must demand that G-d bring the Final Redemption in our own time, and this very insistence will infuse us with determination in our mission. When we say, "We want Moshiach now" and "Moshiach is on the way," we automatically improve our behavior in our desire for the Redemption to finally come.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Just Two Minutes
by Lazar Raksin
(Ed.'s note: Mr. Raksin, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, spends the summers in the Catskill Mountains. In keeping with the Lubavitcher Rebbe's directive to encourage other Jews to perform mitzvot [commandments], Mr. Raksin's summer "hobby" is to get Jewish boys and men to put on Tefilin.)
Once I was traveling on a plane to Israel. When it was time to pray the morning service, many of the men stood up and started putting on Tefilin. All of a sudden, I saw one guy turn around, pull out a camera and start taking pictures. I quickly walked over to him and asked, "What it so curious about what you see? Are you Jewish?"
"Yes," he answered.
"So what is the curiosity about what they are doing?"
"Oh, I never saw a shul on a plane."
"Welcome to El Al. Now, how about you? Would you like to put on Tefilin?"
"No, it's not for me."
"Think about it," I said. "If you put on Tefilin, I'll take a picture of YOU in Tefilin. Seriously, you'll have a great photo to add to your shul on airplane shots."
"Okay, great, no problem."
Well, it's not always so easy to convince someone who doesn't regularly put on Tefilin to take a few minutes out of his day to do so. But I sure try!
Halfway through the summer, one of my many Tefilin "customers" told me that a friend of his had to write an article for photography school. The subject he chose was religion. He needed to know why the Jewish population in the Catskill Mountains surges during the summer. The photographer's friend thought of me, and wanted to know if I was interested in helping his friend write the article.
"No problem," I said, "let him meet me in the Wal-Mart parking lot."
Right after we met, I asked him, "Are you ready to put on Tefilin?"
"I guess so. My mother is Jewish, but my father is Protestant."
Out came the Tefilin. "I was never Bar Mitzva'd," he told me.
"Look," I told him, "I bring the synagogue to the people, that's what I do. I've been doing it for over eight years. You know what, come with me next week on my Tefilin route. You'll see for yourself, and you'll get information for your article.
"Great, that's what I'll do." And with that, he went with me on my Tefilin route. That week I was very successful. He even gave me a few leads to some new stops with people who might put on Tefilin. One new person, who welcomed us warmly, told us he had had a Bar Mitzva, yet never put on one of these Tefilin.
By the way, they became regular customers of mine on my Tefilin route.
Just last week, my photographer friend who's working on the article brought with him a freelance journalist. She wanted to write an article about what I do. She asked all the people that I visit, "What did you before Lazar came around?"
When she asked "Jake" this question, he was embarrassed to say that he had never put on Tefilin in his life. He explained that in reality, business takes over our lives and we have no time for religion. But in truth, religion was around way before there were any businesses around. That's life, that's business, he shrugged.
"So what do you plan to do from now on, especially since Lazar will soon be going back to the city for the year?" asked the journalist. (My route is during the summer, which I spend in the Catskills)
"Well, if I have a pair of Tefilin of my own I would try to put it on at least once a week."
"Okay," I shout happily, "next week you will have your own pair."
With that, the photographer piped up. "If you get me a pair of Tefilin, I will try to put them on once a week too." So I ordered two pairs of Tefilin.
I hope the photographer and the journalist publish things that will change people's lives forever, to encourage them to do more mitzvot and be more Jewishly involved.
Just do it!
Reprinted from permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.
Tackling Life's Tasks
In 1942, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, gave his son-in-law, the future Rebbe, the task of compiling an anthology of Chasidic aphorisms and customs arranged according to the days of the year. The calendar was entitled Hayom Yom. In describing this work, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak wrote: "A book that is small in format... but bursting with pearls and diamonds of choicest quality. Hayom Yom has become a beloved, classic work and a source of daily spiritual sustenance and inspiration. In the newly released bilingual edition, published by Sichos in English, one will find not only a fresh translation of each daily teaching, but also, under a separate heading, a creative comment or story that will help the reader find a point of contact between that idyllic Chasidic teaching and the realities of one's own life in the busy here and now.
Excerpt of a letter, the date of which was not available
I trust you will not take it amiss if I will quote in this connection the words of the wisest of all men, King Solomon, "G-d made man straight, but they sought many accounts." In other words, man often confuses himself with delving, unneces-sarily, into inquiries and accounts of things which should be taken for granted and which do not really present any problems. Needless to say, that the more intellectual a person is, the more he is inclined to seek "accounts" and, consequently, the more apt he is to get confused.
This reminds me of the episode which a professor of medicine once told me. On one occasion when he was learning anatomy, and particularly the anatomy of the leg, describing the various muscles, etc., amounting to hundreds, all of which are so perfectly coordinated in the motion of the leg during walking, he became so engrossed in the details (all the more so being a man of great intellect) that momentarily he found his walking difficult and quite complicated as he began to analyze the working of each muscle and joint, etc. The moral is obvious.
Now to your question:
I will first briefly state here the logical basis of the Truth that the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments] have been given to us Jews by Divine Revelation. This is not very difficult to prove, since the proof is the same as all other evidence that we have of historic events in past generations, only much more forcefully and convincingly.
By way of illustration: If you are asked, how do you know there existed such a person as Maimonides (whom you mention in your letter) author of Yad HaChazakah, Sefer HaMitzvos, etc., you will surely reply that you are certain about his existence from the books he has written, and although Rambam (Maimonides) lived some 800 years ago, his works now in print have been reprinted from earlier editions, and those from earlier ones, still uninterruptedly, going back to the very manuscript which the Rambam wrote in his own hand. This is considered sufficient proof even in the face of discrepancies or contradictions from one book of Rambam to another. Such contradictions do not demolish the above proof, but efforts are made to reconcile them, in the certainty that both have been written by the same author.
The same kind of proof substantiates any kind of historic past, which we ourselves have not witnessed, and all normal people accept them without question, except those who for some reason are interested in falsification.
In many cases the authenticity of an historic event is based on the evidence of a limited group of people. Even where there is room to suspect that the witnesses were perhaps not quite disinterested, if there is nothing to compel us to be suspicious (and especially if we can check the evidence and countercheck it) it is accepted as fact.
Now suppose that 600,000 parents would today say to their children, "This morning you and we were all gathered at a certain place, and we all heard a Heavenly voice proclaim the Decalogue." The children would not accept this for they would say: "If we were there with you, why did we not hear or see anything?" Now, making the single assumption that human reactions have not essentially changed in the course of centuries, I assume that such would have been the reaction also in the previous century, and two centuries ago and so on, until we reach the gener-ation whose parents witnessed the event of the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
And let it be emphasized again that during this long chain of tradition, there has been no break, nor has the number of transmitters at any time been reduced to less than many hundreds of thousands, for at no time was there less than one million Jews in the world, Jews from all walks of life, who had no personal ax to grind, etc., yet in each generation of the uninterrupted and unbroken history of our people, this event was accepted as authentic history and the text of the Decalogue remained exactly the same. This is certainly undeniable evidence according to all the rules of scientific proof accepted today.
The same cannot be said of any other religions in the world, which you mentioned, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam. In the case of all these religions, there is a definite break, or the tradition narrows down to a single person such as Buddha, Mohammed, or the founder of Christianity, who transmitted his teachings to a group of 12 Apostles.
Study Maimonides' Works
In 5744 (1984) the Rebbe called for the daily study of Maimonides' Mishne Torah, thereby uniting all Jews in a study encompassing the entire Torah. The Rebbe enjoined all men, women and children to participate, allowing for the study of three chapters daily, one chapter a day or Maimonides' simpler Sefer HaMitzvot. Later, the Rebbe explained that in honor of Maimonides' yartzeit we should reinforce our study of his works. To hear pre-recorded classes in the Mishne Torah or Sefer HaMitzvot call (718) 953-6100, or your Chabad-Lubavitch center for a local number.
In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Wednesday (January 6) is the 20th of Tevet, the yartzeit of Rabbi Moses Maimonides, otherwise known as the Rambam.
The Rambam lived in the 12th century and was a great philosopher, doctor, and Jewish scholar. But he is probably best remembered for his encyclopedic codification of all 613 commandments of the Torah in his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah.
In the Mishne Torah, the Rambam enumerates and details all of the 613 laws of the Torah. He places the laws relating to the Jewish king, and Moshiach, at the very end of his work. In the introduction to these laws he states that the Jews were commanded to fulfill three mitzvot upon conquering and entering the Land of Israel: To appoint a king; to kill the descendants of Amalek; to build G-d's Chosen House.
It would seen that these mitzvot should have been mentioned much earlier in his work if they were, in fact, so important! However, the Rambam chose to organize the Mishne Torah in this fashion to emphasize that the true and complete performance of all the mitzvot of the Torah will be attained only when a king rules over Israel. The Rambam then defines Moshiach as a king, who will not only redeem the Jews from exile, but also restore the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot to its complete state.
For many, this would seem a rather novel approach. Yet, the Talmud states that "the world was created solely for Moshiach." This being the case, we certainly must do everything in our power to prepare ourselves for Moshiach's imminent arrival.
What is within the power and reach of each individual, great and small? Good deeds, charity, studying concepts and laws associated with Moshiach and the Final Redemption, fostering peace between family, friends and co-workers, and actively waiting for and anticipating his arrival each and every day.
Gather together and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days (Gen. 49:1)
The Talmud relates that Jacob wished to reveal the end (of the exile) but it was concealed from him. The literal meaning, however, is that Jacob wished to "reveal, i.e., manifest and bring about, the end." In this context there is an important moral for every Jew. We are to follow in the footsteps of Jacob, and wish and pray for the manifestation of the ultimate end - the final redemption. Seeking and contemplating this will of itself assist our service of G-d, inspiring us to attain our ultimate goal of Moshiach.
(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 20)
For in their anger (lit. "with their nose") they slew a man (Gen. 49:6)
A great Rabbi was once talking to someone when the name of certain individual came up in the conversation. The man immediately wrinkled his nose in distaste but said nothing. "What, you think you're allowed to speak lashon hara (slander) with your nose, as long as you don't move your lips?" the rabbi admonished him. "The Torah states, 'For with their nose they slew a man' - with a wrinkle of the nose you can also murder someone's reputation!"
And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt (Gen. 47:28)
Our forefather Jacob is symbolic of the attribute of truth, as it states in the book of Mica (7:20), "You will give truth to Jacob." For with the quality of truth, a person can survive even the worst of times and live through the direst of circumstances. (The Hebrew name for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means narrow boundaries and limitations.)
Moshe was dreaming again. He stood next to his father and brother by the eastern wall of the synagogue. This was a place of honor, for Moshe's father was the Chief Rabbi of Cordova, just as his father and grandfather had been. But Moshe was not praying. His eyes wandered.
A sharp tap on his shoulder made him look up guiltily. His father looked at him with a stern gaze, full of disappointment and sadness. Moshe knew it was because he, the eldest son, could not learn Torah.
Every day his father would give away precious hours to learn with him. But at the end of the lesson, he would just sigh and shake his head. Yesterday it had happened again. Moshe had been sent away from his lesson. His eyes stinging with unshed tears, he made his way to the kitchen where Batsheva, their housekeeper, was frying cakes in hot oil.
"Did it not go well today?" she asked gently. "Not everyone is cut out to be a scholar. Maybe you take after your mother's side of the family."
"You mean my mother's father, the butcher?" Moshe asked.
"Yes, but that's nothing to be ashamed of. Your grandfather was a kind, honest, and G-d-fearing man, as generous as the day is long. Little wonder G-d sent him such an honorable son-in-law as your father."
The congregation was already rising for the silent prayer. Quickly Moshe turned the pages, wondering if his father had caught him daydreaming again. Moshe bent his head in prayer--and came to the words "Grant us wisdom, understanding, and knowledge..."
The words seemed to spring at him from the page. Perhaps G-d would grant him wisdom and understanding so that he would remember every word, and his father would be proud of him. Moshe resolved to try. During the lesson that morning Moshe concentrated on his father's words, "And G-d said, 'Let there be light, and there was light.'" Light. Through the open window, Moshe saw his familiar world. The fountain glistened in the sun, palm and myrtle trees swayed over the patio.
"Moshe!" his father's voice cracked like a whip. "If you don't understand, at least you could look at the holy letters! Can't you follow where I'm pointing?" Moshe shook his head miserably, "I can't."
"You can't because you don't try! Enough! Get out of my sight."
For a moment Moshe could not move. His father's words pierced his heart like a spear. Then he ran. To the very outskirts of the town he ran. He threw himself into the cold, clear water of the river there, reaching with strong strokes into the soothing waves. Then, exhausted, he dropped onto the river bank and dozed off. When he awoke, it was night.
Where should he go now? His father had driven him away. Moshe found himself wandering toward the synagogue. In the shadowy depth of the ark, the Torah scrolls glistened in their silver mantels. Suddenly the cold, hard knot inside his chest loosened, and his eyes filled with tears. "Please G-d!" he whispered. "Give me wisdom! Open my brain and let me understand Your holy Torah so my father can be proud of me! Please, teach me Your Torah!"
One by one he kissed the glowing scrolls, and carefully closed the doors of the ark. Then as a feeling of peace flowed over him, he recited the Shema, curled up on a bench and slept.
Dawn poured through the synagogue window. Had he really slept the whole night in the synagogue? Moshe murmured the Modeh Ani prayer, thanking G-d for returning his soul. Then, he realized what he had to do next. He would travel to the Yeshiva in Alisena and learn Torah from his father's teacher - the great Rabbi Yosef Ibn Migash. He would study until he could return home and make his father proud.
Moshe washed his hands, said the morning prayers with feeling, and hurried to the marketplace. The large square was filled with farmers unloading their wagons. "Sir, can you tell me which way is Alisena?" Moshe asked.
The farmer smiled. "That's just where I'm headed, son. You must be going to Yeshiva, little scholar that you are! Hop into my wagon."
The sun had already set when they finally reached Alisena. Inside the Yeshiva rows of men and boys were learning. "What do you want, boy?" said a tall youth smiling down at Moshe. "I, I came to learn Torah with Rabbi Yosef Ibn Migash," he stammered at last. "Come back when you are bar mitzva. Now your mother must be looking for you." Suddenly a kind voice said, "Bring the boy to me. What is your name, son?"
"I am Moshe, son of Rabbi Maimon from Cordova."
"Ah, my student from Cordova! Your father sent you to learn here?" But the true story came out. When Moshe finished, he felt the lips of the tzadik (righteous person) on his forehead. "May G-d bless you, my son!" Moshe felt a great weight had been lifted from him, and that something deep and good inside of him was opening up. Years later he would say that at this very moment, the wells of Torah wisdom were revealed within him.
Excerpted from Rambam: The Story of Moshe ben Maimon by by Rochel Yaffe, published by HaChai Publishing
The Sages and prophets did not yearn for the Messianic Era in order that [the Jewish people] rule over the entire world, nor in order that they have dominion over the gentiles, nor that they be exalted by them, nor in order that they eat, drink and celebrate. Rather, their aspiration was that [the Jewish people] be free [to involve themselves] in the Torah and its wisdom, without anyone to oppress or disturb them, and thus be found worthy of life in the World to Come.
(Maimondes' Mishne Torah, Laws of Kings, ch. 12)