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Winter brings with it many inconveniences: colds, delayed travel, the need to bundle up, protecting plants and pets, keeping home and hearth heated, shorter days and greater stress.
A "winter problem" in the coldest climates is broken pipes. Of course, water lines can break any time of the year. But broken pipes occur most often in the winter. That's why the advice to "let the water run" - a tiny stream or steady drip, so that the water flows through the tubes and doesn't freeze - works in all kinds of climates.
There's a spiritual analogy to the "broken pipes" problem. Our Sages tell us that wisdom is compared to water. For one thing, water, like the intellect, flows from above to below. But, as just mentioned, water must flow through (and into) containers. Without the proper system, without pipes and sealed joints, water leaks out and literally floods everything. Instead of being available for cooking, cleansing, etc., as water is when properly channeled, it ruins everything.
The analogy is clear: if we do not channel our knowledge properly, if we do not use our minds for the proper things, we will "flood" ourselves out - wallow in indulgence and excuses. Because water, in a spiritual sense, is the source of growth, and therefore, if not properly channeled, the source of excess; an unrestrained "flow of water" leads to rot, mildew and decadence.
This is why we have to be careful when it comes to intellectual pursuits. When exploring "new territory" it's important to lay the groundwork, so to speak, to prepare the channels, secure the points of transitions (the joints), so that the "water" flows properly.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the study of Torah, which the Sages compare specifically to water. As we pursue our knowledge of Judaism, it's often too easy to go "outside the channels," to follow the "path of least resistance," which usually leads to a break in our system of transmission.
Unfortunately, that "break" won't become evident until there's a "freeze" - an interruption in one's involvement, a slowing down or cooling off of enthusiasm for things Jewish. And that happens, because the "cold weather," the "winter times" of life - issues of a livelihood, etc., - make movement of any kind hard. It's harder to "warm up" to things Jewish.
At all times, but especially at such times, we need to keep the "water" - the Torah study - flowing. But it has to flow through the proper channels - the teachings of Torah that has been passed down from generation to generation.
There's a reason Jewish tradition has a "flow chart" - from the Torah through the Prophets and Talmud and Commentators such as Rashi and Codifiers and Philosophers such as Maimonides through the centuries of accepted tradition, to our own day with Chasidut. Studying Torah through the system established by our Sages keeps the "water" flowing and prevents "broken pipes."
This week's Torah portion, Teruma, speaks about the traveling tabernacle (Mishkan) and its vessels which the Children of Israel constructed while in the Sinai desert. The portion contains the verse "They shall make for Me a Mikdash (Sanctuary) and I will dwell in their midst." Our Sages noted, "In their midst, not in its midst, meaning within each and every Jew."
Thus, G-d assured us that not only would His Presence rest within the material walls of the Sanctuary (and Holy Temple in the future), but within the heart of every Jew.
When does the Divine Presence rest within the Jew? When he transforms even the physical aspects of his being into a Sanctuary for G-dliness. When a Jew observes mitzvot (commandments), studies Torah, and imbues even his most mundane affairs with holiness, G-d rests within him.
The Holy Temple in Jerusalem, G-d's "dwelling place," was built of physical components and was situated in an actual physical location. When the individual Jew erects a Sanctuary to G-d and causes the Divine Presence to rest within him, even the lowest levels of existence are transformed into a "dwelling place" for G-dliness. In this manner the world becomes permeated with holiness, and G-d's true will is fulfilled.
The physical Holy Temple was built of various materials: wood, stone, silver, gold, etc. Yet these physical components were not merely the "vessels" for containing G-d's presence; the materials themselves were transformed into holiness. The actual structure of the Holy Temple was sacred.
This must also be the case when we construct a spiritual Holy Temple in our hearts. It isn't enough to bring holiness into the physical aspects of our lives; all of our affairs and concerns, even the most mundane, must be transformed into holiness!
With the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, the connection between the higher and lower worlds, between G-d and His creations, was established. This connection was continued and strengthened when many of the actual mitzvot were commanded, for the mitzvot are the means through which the Jew connects himself to G-d. This week's portion, Teruma, however, goes even further; it speaks of a connection between the Jew and G-d that transcends even the performance of mitzvot, a bond we can achieve in the realm of permissible action.
Everything a Jew does, even those actions which are not strictly mitzvot, are a means by which he can attach himself to G-d and erect a Sanctuary. In this way all his deeds are transformed into holiness, and the Divine Presence will rest within.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 3
by Jill Lerner
I remember it like it was yesterday: a team of strangers descending upon my kitchen, looking at every dish, pot, knife, spoon...everything my kitchen housed. The "team" leader, Rabbi Bentzion Chanowitz, efficiently delegated each item in my kitchen to the "kashering" box or the discard bag. I wasn't always sure of the reasons for the fate of particular pieces, but I was sure I was making the right decision when I decided to make my house kosher. I could also see that I was in for quite an intense, life-altering event.
"Going kosher" can be a pretty tough decision. When one is accustomed to doing anything in one particular way, change can be difficult, especially when dealing with the very food one likes to eat! I really knew little about keeping kosher when I made my decision, but I did it anyway. After all, the Jewish people had been keeping kosher since receiving the Torah, but knew little about it when they first accepted the mitzva (commandment). Initially they had to agree to perform all of the mitzvot before truly understanding all about them, and subsequently they learned.
I, too, ended up embarking on this mitzva without any background and began to learn from that time on. Indeed, this fact was to become part of my own personal connection to the Jewish people, for I was privileged to have a part of my journey parallel the history of our people! It was really an extraordinary journey, and one for which I will always be grateful.
During the kashering process, I learned how to determine what could be made kosher and what could not, how to make something kosher, how to maintain a kosher home, and how and why dishes, cooking vessels, and cutlery are immersed in a mikva for ritual purification. It was an awesome experience that provoked innumerable questions. (Sometimes, it still does!) The kosher "team" was amazingly helpful, conscientious, and understanding. While it was difficult to discover that some of my kitchen items couldn't be made kosher, the excellent explanations and consideration I received on the spot genuinely elevated the occasion from an ordinary discarding of useless merchandise to an advancement of the level of observance that demonstrated progress, learning, and adherence to the commandments for me.
I was particularly intrigued when my countertops were actually "ironed" using an ordinary clothing iron to steam the water poured on them, resulting in kosher counters! I learned about foods that weren't always obviously meat, milk, or parve, and how and when to keep them separate, both in the kitchen and in me! Most importantly, I learned of the importance of keeping kosher and its tremendous benefits to the Jewish soul. I was happy to finally be participating in this basic, long-standing, identity-defining tenet of Judaism. Thankfully, there were several people who offered me their phone numbers for any follow-up questions that were certainly going to arise. Though there were definitely a lot of changes that had to occur in my life to become and maintain kosher, any difficulties that had to be overcome were met with innumerable benefits that overshadowed the hardships.
So, when my dear friend Andrea called me last week to tell me she was finally going to kosher her kitchen in honor of her youngest daughter's Bat Mitzva, I was delighted. She had spoken to me over the years and on many occasions about undertaking this venerable mitzva, but somehow kept putting it off. Because she wished to make the Bat Mitzva a more meaningful experience for both her daughter and herself, she sought something that would have a spiritual and lasting effect. Taking on another mitzva is always a terrific idea, but which one would have significance and sustainability? She thus knew the time was right to begin keeping a kosher home.
At last, after speaking at length and through various contacts, I was fortunate to be able to assist her in getting the job done. I really knew exactly what she was going through, what her feelings were, and what steps she would have to take, as 14 years ago I, too, had been in that very same situation. Now, though we are presently living a thousand miles apart, it was as if we were sitting at her kitchen table discussing kosher and all of its ramifications.
We spent a lot of time on the phone, sometimes until well after midnight, discussing every aspect of kashrut (keeping kosher), from practical advice to deep dissertations on kashrut's role in spiritual fitness. We spoke of the link we have with those who first learned about kashrut so long ago and our commitment to preserving the instruction handed down from G-d to Moses all the way to us. We chatted about customs and traditions related to kashrut as Andrea shared stories from her youth about her grandmother's kosher kitchen and the delicious food she prepared there.
Before long the discussions concluded with a plan of action to make the kosher concept a reality. Without wavering, Andrea and her daughter completed the steps necessary to kosher her kitchen.
Finally, Andrea has joined the ranks of Jewish households around the world who keep kosher, and she couldn't be happier! I look forward to remaining supportive of her choice and being part of the "cheering squad," encouraging her along! Surely, becoming kosher is a major decision that requires much education, patience, and practice, but the end result is greater than the effort it takes to get there. Mazel tov, Andrea, on your newly koshered kitchen. Let's exchange recipes sometime!
Russian Prayer Book
As part of the "Scribes" publishing project in the former Soviet Union, a new book was released. The Tehillat HaShem prayer book, featuring the original Hebrew text and a new Russian translation, was published. In addition to the prayers in Hebrew and Russian there is also a transliteration of the most important prayers as well as basic instructions on how to pray. A second edition is currently being prepared, that will feature an additional 200-page commentary on the prayers.
7 Adar II, 5717 (1957)
I received your letter of the 5th of Adar I.
With regard to the inclination toward a feeling of sadness, a good remedy for it is to have it firmly engraved on your mind that G-d, the Creator of the world, watches over everyone individually and, being the Essence of goodness, there is therefore no room for sadness or worry, as has been explained at length in various parts of the Tanya (see Index). It would especially be good for you to learn by heart from the beginning of Chapter 41 (on page 56) until the next page second line; when ever you feel sad or depressed you should review that section in your mind or recite it orally to dispel the unwelcome feeling.
With regard to the question of a beard, since, as you write, you spend most of the day in the yeshivah [Jewish school], it would be the right thing to let it grow. In addition to all the reasons you mention in your letter, there is one fundamental reason in accordance with the Tzemach Tzedek [Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch] - Yoreh De'ah, paragraph 93.
It should also be added that when a Jew does something beyond the call of duty, G-d sends extra special blessings, as is explained in the Zohar and also in the commentary of the Tzemach Tzedek on the verse in Psalms, "And He is merciful" (see supplement to Tehillim Yosef Yitzchok HaShalem). May G-d grant that your example will be emulated by your friends at the yeshiva, and thus you will have the additional satisfaction of having been a pioneer for a good cause.
As requested, I will remember you and all those mentioned in your letter when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law, of saintly memory, and may G-d grant that you will have good news to report in all of the above and will be successful in your studies and in your conduct, both of which are based on "serve G-d with joy."
14th of Cheshvan, 5736 
....Your question is surprising, inasmuch as you surely know that one of the basics of our Torah - called Toras Emes because it tells the truth - is that everything happens by Divine Providence. Hence you certainly have your mission in this world, that is to say, you have also been given the ability and capacity to carry it out. For it is logical that G-d would not give one a task which is impossible to carry out. Furthermore, it is possible and necessary to carry out one's mission with joy, as it is written, "Serve G-d with joy"; also for this the necessary capacity has been given.
One of the ways to stimulate such joy is to reflect, first of all, upon the fact that G-d has chosen the Jewish people, and you in particular, to carry out a mission for Him.
Imagine if a human king would come from his city and residence to visit your home and entrust you with a special task how welcome this would be; how much more so in regard to the King of Kings.
Our Sages state that "It is a pleasure, so to speak, for G-d that He has given a commandment and His Will has been done." Surely it is most gratifying to be able to please G-d, especially as G-d has also promised a generous reward both in this world and in the World to Come.
Carrying the illustration a little further, one should consider that in the case of a human king, one can never be certain that the task he assigns is all for good, or that it can be carried out fully, or that he can fully keep his promise of reward. All this, of course, does not apply in the case of a mitzvah [commandment].
It is also clear that when a person goes about his tasks with joy and confidence he is likely to have greater success, and also more likely to overcome any discouragement or difficulty that might arise.
If you reflect on the above in some depth you will surely find a great deal of strength and encouragement, and you will see how easy it is to carry it out without any doubts in this regard.
The name "Betzalel" is Hebrew and means, "in the shadow of G-d." The first person mentioned by that name was Betzalel, son of Hur from the tribe of Judah, the artisan of the Sanctuary in the desert (Exodus 31:2).
The name "Bracha" is from the Hebrew word meaning "blessing." The masculine of Bracha is Baruch.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Sunday, the seventh of Adar, is the birthday and yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses).
Jewish teachings (Shmot Rabba) state that "Moshe is the first redeemer and he is also the final redeemer." This does not mean that Moshe himself will be the "final redeemer." For, Moshe belongs to the tribe of Levi, while Moshiach is from the tribe of Judah.
However, many traditional sources view the redemption from Egypt as the prototype of the Final Redemption, based on the verse in our Prophets: "As in the days of your exodus from the land of Egypt, I will show you wonders."
In this way, Moshe - who was the leader of the Jewish people in his generation - is the prototype of every Jewish leader and ultimately, of Moshiach.
Thus, for example, in Egypt, first G-d appointed the redeemer - Moshe. He spoke to the Children of Israel, telling them that G-d had remembered them and that the time had come for them to leave Egypt. Only afterward did Moshe redeem the Children of Israel and take them out of Egypt. Similarly, first Moshiach informs us that the time of the Redemption has arrived, and only afterward does the actual Redemption take place. (Sfat Emet)
In one of his Kabbalistic works, Rabbi Chaim Vital describes Moshiach as a Tzadik, a human being born of human parents, and writes that he will receive the soul of Moshiach that has been stored in the Garden of Eden. Rabbi Chaim Vital then explains how this may be compared to Moshe and his progression to self-perfection.
The Chasam Sofer, as well, describes Moshe, the first redeemer, and then compares him to the final redeemer, "And when the time comes, G-d will reveal Himself to him, and the spirit of Moshiach, which has been hidden in the higher worlds until his coming, will light upon him.
May we merit Moshiach's coming NOW!
Speak to the Children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering (Ex. 25:2)
Why does the Torah use the word "take" instead of "give"? Because in reality, everything in the world already belongs to G-d without us having to "give" it to Him, as it states, "For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You." However, when a person does a good deed with his own money, he acquires it for himself in the true meaning of the word. Only then can he offer it to G-d as something that is truly his.
And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings upward...and their faces shall look one to another (Ex. 25:20)
Every talmid chacham (Torah scholar) should aspire to these very same traits: On the one hand, his "wings should stretch out upward" - he must be very careful to observe the mitzvot between man and G-d. At the same time, his face must look toward his brethren - i.e., relate to his fellow man with justice and righteousness.
You shall also make a table ("shulchan") (Ex. 25:23)
The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word "shulchan" is 388, the same as the phrase "l'Moshiach," "for [the era of] Moshiach." In the Messianic era, all of the Temple's vessels and implements that have been plundered or hidden away will be restored for use in the Divine service.
You shall set the shew bread upon the table before Me always (Ex. 25:30)
Ever since the world was created out of nothingness, G-d's blessings can only come down when there is a physical object or vessel to contain them. As the function of the table in the Holy Temple was to influence abundance among the Jewish people, physical loaves of bread were necessary as a channel for G-d's blessings.
During the time of Rebbe Shmuel of Lubavitch there lived a kind nobleman in the area of Vitebsk who owned the entire village of Chekhov. Many Jews lived on his vast estates and he was so well disposed toward them that he lifted the burden of taxes from those who were poor. In addition he permitted the religious functionaries, the rabbi, the shochet (ritual slaughterer), and the teachers to pasture their livestock free of charge.
This count was not in good health and the older he grew, the weaker and sicker he became, having to visit Doctor Bertenson in Vitebsk more and more frequently. The count's illness forced him to give the administration of his properties over into the hands of his manager who was a violent Jew-hater. This manager together with the local priest conspired to change the count's administrative practices and thus deprive the Jews of the favor they had enjoyed. They even went so far as to deprive many families of their livelihood and to require taxes from even the poorest families. This collusion between the two anti-Semites continued for two years.
During all that time the local Jews, who were mainly chasidim of Rebbe Shmuel of Lubavitch, visited their Rebbe on all the festivals and many Sabbaths. The Chasidic discourses he gave enlivened their existence and they went often to Lubavitch to receive the Rebbe's blessings for their health, their children or their livelihood. Not one of the Jews thought it proper to bring up the topic of the priest and the manager and how they were changing the benevolent policies of the count.
There was one local Jew who did business for many years with the count. He was called Reb Shmuel Isaacs and was respected throughout the region as a reliable, honest merchant. He spent his all his free time studying Torah, and was learned in its revealed and mystical aspects. Once he was visiting Lubavitch for the holiday of Shavuot in the year 1880. In the course of their conversation, the Rebbe asked Reb Shmuel about the state of affairs vis-a-vis the livelihoods of the Jews in the town.
Reb Shmuel answered truthfully and in great detail describing the illness of the count and the ensuing problems of his Jewish tenants caused by the troublesome manager and priest. The Rebbe replied that he was aware of the condition of the count, since Dr. Bertenson had described the nobleman's fragile health. "But why," continued the Rebbe, "didn't you tell me about the change in policy towards the Jews on the count's estates?"
The Rebbe sat quietly in meditation for a few minutes and then said: "Return home now, and when you have the opportunity, tell the count in my name, that I know that his condition is dangerous and that his doctors have all but given up. Nevertheless, I promise him that if he helps the Jews of Chekhov and the neighboring villages, the Alm-ghty will grant him one month's health for each family that he aids."
Reb Shmuel returned home at once and began frequenting the environs of the count's home in the hope of meeting him, but the nobleman stayed inside most of the time now, due to his ill health. One lovely day his physicians advised him to ride out into the countryside to get some air, and it was then that Reb Shmuel encountered him, weak and pale, being escorted into his carriage.
The count recognized the merchant and invited him along for the ride. Reb Shmuel related his conversation with the Rebbe, and the count lost no time in commissioning the merchant to assemble extensive and exact lists of all the Jews living on his properties. He was to visit each of them and assess their needs, while not allowing the purpose of his visit to be discovered.
In due time the count received a list of more than one hundred and sixty families from the township and others from the surrounding villages. The Jews were again aided in making a living, and the count was helped by the Alm-ghty to regain his health.
Reb Shmuel enjoyed a close relationship with the count from that time on, and each year the count was sure to sent a lulav from his own palm trees and some myrtle sprigs from his gardens as a gift to the Rebbe with which to honor the festival of Sukkot.
The count's good health continued for another fourteen years after which he began to feel very weak. He sent at once for Reb Shmuel and asked him to go to Lubavitch and visit the grave of the Rebbe, who had passed away some years before. He was to tell the Rebbe that the count was feeling weak. According to his calculations he was owed another year and seven months of life, and he requested that the Rebbe fulfill his promise.
Every Jew believes in the coming of Moshiach, and is in a state of "I await his coming every day." But a Jew needs to know that it is not enough to decide by himself that "I await him," meaning that he hopes and wants that he will wake up tomorrow morning and see that Moshiach is here. This is good, but it doesn't bring to action, and "the action is the main thing." A Jew needs to know that when he goes to sleep tonight, it should be in a way that when he wakes up in the morning and sees Moshiach standing next to him in his room - he himself will be found in a state which is fitting to greet Moshiach!
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 13 Nisan 5741 - 1981)