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L'Chaim
March 5, 2010 - 19 Adar, 5770

1111: Ki Sisa

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  1110: Tetzaveh1112: Vayakhel-Pekudei  

Sleep Tight  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's In A Name  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Sleep Tight

Lullaby and good night...

For most of us, feeling sleep-deprived is a regular habit. Whether we've stayed up to balance the checkbook, or to catch up on the latest developments in our field of expertise, or even because we just couldn't put down that book, inevitably the alarm clock rings long before we've gotten enough sleep to feel properly rested.

Even if we do get to sleep at a decent hour, there often seems to be a conspiracy to make sure we don't get a good night's sleep: the telephone ("Sorry, wrong number); a crying baby; the garbage truck clanging at 3 a.m. (or is that only in Manhattan?); the teenager still out with the car.

Sleep researchers will rattle off the pros and cons of valerian, melatonin, exercise, hot baths, warm milk or a solid meal. They'll also tell you that the older you get (over 30!) the more you're likely to complain about your sleeping. A good night's sleep truly seems to be elusive.

Though they don't necessarily offer advice on how to fall asleep or stay asleep, Jewish teachings do have what to say about how to help make the night's sleep as pleasant and sweet as possible.

The first step toward a good night's sleep is to do a mitzva commandment). Actually, the last mitzva of the day is to say the "Shema Before Retiring."

Many prayer books also contain a short but amazingly powerful paragraph as part of the bedtime prayers in which we declare that we forgive anyone who has angered us or sinned against us, and we ask for G-d's assistance to not repeat our failings of the previous day. Said sincerely, this prayer is sure to help you get a good night's sleep.

And, perhaps, this is why King David, the composer of the Psalms wrote (4:9), "In peace, at one with all, I will lie down and sleep, for You O L-rd will make me dwell alone and in security." When we are truly at one with all, when we've not only let go of but buried the day's baggage, we can not only lie down but actually fall asleep.

Studying Torah during the day and at night will also help you sleep well. In Proverbs (3:24) we read of the benefit of Torah study: "When you lie down, you shall not be afraid; indeed, you shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet."

A few chapters later in Proverbs (6:20, 22) we are advised to "keep your father's commandment, and forsake not the Torah of your mother" for "when you sleep, it shall keep you." This alludes to the fact that doing mitzvot and studying Torah guards us in our sleep. Knowing that we're safe can surely help us get a better night's sleep.

When we take these Jewish teachings to heart, we will surely awaken refreshed and ready to tackle another day. Ultimately, the increase in Torah study and mitzvot will hasten the dawning of the great day and era of the Messianic Redemption, when all of those who are asleep, including those who "sleep in the dust" will awaken and be revived, may it happen now.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, we read that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Tablets of the Law he saw the Jewish people sinning with the Golden Calf. With everyone watching, he threw the holy Tablets down and broke them. The Midrash relates that Moses later regretted what he had done. G-d said to him, "Do not be aggrieved. The first Tablets contained only the Ten Commandments, but the second Tablets I will give you will have much more! For together with the second Tablets the Jewish people will receive halachot (laws), midrashim and agadot (homiletic interpretations), and the entire Oral Torah!"

Why didn't G-d include these things when He gave the first set of Tablets?

To explain: In order to receive G-d's Torah, a person must be humble. Only through humility does he become an appropriate vessel to contain it.

This is what we say in our prayers: "And may my soul be like dust to all; open my heart to Your Torah." When we feel ourselves to be as lowly and humble as the dust, our hearts are opened to accept the Torah.

At Mount Sinai, G-d chose the Jewish people from among all the nations of the world, "lifting us up above all tongues." Thus the Jewish people felt themselves exalted; they were filled with self-importance and lacked the modesty and humility which is necessary to receive the Torah.

When Moses broke the Tablets before their eyes the spirit of the Jewish people was also broken. Profoundly humiliated, their hearts became filled with a sense of their own lowliness; they became "like the dust of the earth."

At that moment the Jews became worthy of receiving the entire Torah - not only the Ten Commandments, but all of the Torah's various aspects and levels!

In fact, as Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, notes, G-d praised Moses for what he had done. "More power to you for having broken them!" G-d declared. G-d thanked Moses for having broken the first Tablets. For Moses' action caused the Jewish people to be humbled, and as a direct result, worthy of receiving the entire Torah.

In this light we can better understand the Talmud's statement that the fragments of the first Tablets were kept inside the Ark in the Holy Temple together with the intact second set.

Why were the broken fragments included? To remind us that we cannot receive G-d's Torah without humility. Arrogance and pride are emotions that preclude a person from being a proper vessel. When Jews bear this in mind, our hearts are opened, and we can receive G-d's Torah.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Volume 26


A Slice of Life

A Staycation for the Spirit
by Linda Sugarman

So consider this (and I mean really take a minute and think this through): No e-mails. No telephones (yes, that includes cells). No TV. No iPods or laptops. No driving. No radio. No electronics whatsoever. Period. For 25 hours. Imagine giving up everything with an on-off switch. Could you do it? And why would you want to? Would it restrict or release you?

Well, a few months ago I opened my big mouth and admitted to the entire town of Marblehead that every once in awhile I fantasize about chucking all the devices and gadgets in my life just so I could remember what real life feels like. Not permanently, just sort of a reboot for the soul.

Ever since I put it out there it's been on my mind. I wanted to make it happen, but the timing never seemed to be right. Plus, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little intimidated by the thought of giving everything up. It sounded great in theory, but when you think about the actual ramifications it ends up looking like a pretty outrageous idea, especially considering how most of us live our lives day to day. We're constantly either refreshing, updating or checking something, and if we're not doing that we're chauffeuring someone somewhere or making a call or using a gadget that's supposed to make the quality of our life better.

But does it?

So when the e-mail came in from my daughter's Hebrew school, Chabad, a few weeks ago inviting people to take The Shabbat Challenge I knew someone was sending me a sign that this was my shot. So I took it.

For anyone who doesn't know what's involved in "keeping Shabbat," it means that every week, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday, Jews all over the world unplug. Fifty-two weeks a year. And for those 25 hours, they stay unplugged. They eat, they rest, they reflect, many pray, they spend time with family and friends, and they recover physically and spiritually from their week.

Chabad picked the weekend in late January, and they spelled out the rules: driving, not OK; board games, OK; power, not OK; walking, OK (it's a long list). So for one, full day my family would flip the master breaker and go completely dark. And we decided that if we were going to do it we were going to go all in, which for a Reformed family who practices the most liberal form of Judaism that was WAY in. The fact that it was temporary definitely took the edge off. But it was still intimidating no matter how you looked at it.

So we picked which lights would stay on for the full 25 hours; we unscrewed the light bulb in the fridge so it didn't go on when we opened the door; we cooked everything before sundown on Friday night; we unplugged every device; we picked out all our board games and books. And then it came.

And it was painless.

Without really even noticing, Shabbat settled in and the vibe of our whole house shifted. It was a quietude that was defined by the fact that we knew it would last, even for only a day. All the pressure was gone. The anticipation of rushing or fussing or preparing had disappeared. Once we committed to the challenge, everything was surprisingly easy. And it became shockingly obvious that we all carry around a very misplaced sense of urgency - when there's actually very little that we can't do without.

My brother-in-law gave me the best analogy right before sunset. He said, "There's a beauty created in the quietude of the Sabbath that's difficult to describe or capture otherwise. You need to focus on that quietude rather than on the things you might otherwise be doing."

Then he put it in terms that I could really understand. He said that my sister-in-law made some amazing salsa the other night and also some homemade tortilla chips with a hint of lime. He said he noticed the hint of lime when he ate the chips without the salsa but then forgot all about it once he started dipping into the fiery salsa. After the salsa was gone, he started eating the chips dry again and realized how much he liked that subtle hint of lime that was invisible with the salsa. He said the same thing goes for the Sabbath. Enjoy removing the noise to find the quietude that's always there waiting to be revealed.

OK, so we may have bent the rules a little and taught our girls how to play Texas Hold'em to pass the time (gambling can't exactly be promoted on Shabbat, but it's a game, and games are OK). But since flexibility is the real root of Reformed Judaism we cut ourselves some slack.

We also stayed in our pajamas until 4 in the afternoon, getting dressed only to walk down to Preston Beach to see the sunset. And by that point, even the sound of the cars on the road seemed a little intrusive because we were used to such a comfortable quiet. It was a little surreal, at least for me, feeling so far away from home even though I was right there - probably because everything felt so different.

In the end, the 25 hours flew by and we all ended up with much more than we bargained for. It gave us a clarity and peace that would be tough to duplicate any other way. And it changed each one of us somehow, too. My girls said they were shocked at how fast the time went by and how "not boring" the experience was. And my husband, who would sleep with an earpiece in if he could, said he felt amazingly liberated to shut everything down and just walk away. And for him that's big.

Now this doesn't mean we're going all in and making this a weekly thing, but it definitely gave us all something to think about. It showed us that there's a place we can always go to get away - far away, like a "staycation" for the spirit. And those are in right now, aren't they?

So it's ironic: After all that, the real challenge was letting the Sabbath go. Who knew?


What's New

Treasures from the Chabad Library

The collection of the Central Chabad Lubavitch Library and Archive Center is one of the world`s leading repositories of Hebraica, containing some 250,000 volumes, and is a crown Jewel of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Treasures of the Chabad Library features 154 entries, focusing on some of the important and rare items housed in the library. Each entry is accompanied by an explanation in English and Hebrew. Kehot Publications.


The Rebbe Writes

21 Adar II, 5738 [1978]

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

I am in receipt of your letter, written on Purim, and in view of its contents I hasten to reply to it ahead of turn and via Special Delivery.

Following the order in your letter, I will refer to your problem of finding yourself and your wife in a depression "from the disappointment of not following through with our dreams of going to Israel."

It is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you again that the only reason for my opinion that you ought to continue in the USA is that American Jewry, and especially the younger generation, have a priority claim on your services to help permeate them with Yiddishkeit [Judaism], especially after you have had such immeasurable Hatzlocho [success] in this.

To be sure, the Yishuv [settlement] in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel] would also benefit from your presence there, but it would not be of the same scope and quality as here. Furthermore, making Aliyah [moving to Israel] requires a certain period of adjustment and getting the proper feel of the new situation, etc., and in the present "Jet-Age" every minute is of the essence especially insofar as youth is concerned.

All the above is coupled with the consideration that doing the proper thing is the channel for contentment and inner peace and G-d's blessings also in all personal affairs.

Pursuant to the above, my advice was further predicated on the assumption that the activities can be carried out with joy and gladness of heart, which is essential if the objectives are to be attained in fullest measure, and certainly not in a state of depression or a feeling of imposition. There is no need to belabor the point to an experienced communal worker like yourself.

In light of all that has been said above - if, for any reason, the disappointment of your unfulfilled dreams of going to Eretz Yisroel created a different situation from that I had envisaged, then, of course, my advice to stay would be pointless and out of place. To put it simply, if after several month of continuing with your work here, you still find that you cannot "snap out" of the depression, and if the reason behind it is none other than the unfulfilled dream, then, of course, you have my blessing to go to Eretz Yisroel and do what you can there.

Should you, however, decide that the cause of the present depression is after all not really the above and, hence can be eliminated, restoring you back to your former state of good cheer and confidence to be able to carry on your Hafotzo [outreach] activities with joy and gladness of heart - then the second problem mentioned in your letter - the question of a house - has to be tackled.

Inasmuch as our Sages declare that "a nice dwelling broadens a person's mind" and is conducive to great achievements both in personal and communal affairs, you should look for a suitable house in a suitable section. As for selling all your assets, this is not advisable, nor necessary. I have at my disposal a fund for such special situations and a loan would be gladly made available to you for the full amount that you may require to enable you to purchase a nice dwelling as above. You may set your own terms of repayment at your convenience. As I do not wish to be involved in a "hetter-iska," [arrangement that permits interest to be charged on a loan] the loan would have to be interest-free. It would create no hardship for anyone, and you need not hesitate about it, at all.

Since your letter was written on Purim and the reply is erev Shabbos Mevorchim Nissan [the eve of the Sabbath on which the month of Nissan is blessed], both of which are occasions for Simchah [joy], may there always be true joy in your home and, to quote the Megillah [Scroll of Esther], "Light, joy, gladness and honor" in every sense of these terms.

With blessing,

P.S. I believe there has been some mention of a Shidduch [marriage match] for your daughter in Eretz Yisroel. If there are further developments, I would be glad to hear about it.


What's In A Name

GAVRIEL (Gabriel) is from the Hebrew, meaning "G-d is my strength." The angel, Gavriel, is mentioned only once, in the book of Daniel (8:16). The Midrash relates that he rescued Abraham from the fiery furnace and saved Moses from certain death, as a child, by not allowing him to take the glittering jewels in Pharaoh's test.

GILA The name Gila is from the Hebrew meaning "gladness." It is found, among other places, in the last of the seven blessings for the bride and groom.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

According to Jewish law, we begin studying the laws of an upcoming holiday 30 days before that holiday begins. We recently celebrated the holiday of Purim, which precedes Passover by 30 days. Thus, in a very practical sense, Purim and Passover, and all of the days in between, are connected.

In addition to Purim and Passover being connected, they also have something very important in common. Jewish children had a great influence on what happened to the entire Jewish people at both of those times in Jewish history.

Concerning Purim, the Midrash tells us that Haman's wicked decree was abolished in the merit of the Torah study and prayers of the Jewish children. G-d accepted their pure and heartfelt prayers and brought about the Purim redemption. Regarding Passover, the Talmud tells us that despite the bitter slavery they endured, the Jewish people raised a very special generation of children. This is best illustrated by what happened at the splitting of the Sea. Our Sages teach that the children recognized G-d first - even before the adults.

What significance does this have for us today? Since Passover is the time of freedom and redemption, Jewish children and the Jewish child within each one of us must use these days between Purim and Passover to prepare for Passover in a manner that shows true "freedom." This can be accomplished by freeing ourselves of our limitations (the Hebrew word for "limitation" - "maytzarim," is etymologically related to "Mitzrayim" - "Egypt"). We will then be able to fulfil mitzvot with joy and tranquility.

The Talmud states that in the month of Nisan we were redeemed (from Egypt) and in the month of Nisan we will be redeemed once again.

Let us not have to wait another 11 days until Nisan, but rather, may we be redeemed immediately through Moshiach, NOW!


Thoughts that Count

See, I have called by name Betzalel the son of Uri (Ex. 31:2)

When Moses ascended on high to receive the Torah, G-d showed him all the Sanctuary's vessels and explained how to make them. Moses thus assumed that he would be the one to make them, until G-d took out the Book of Adam and showed him the names of all the people who would live from Creation until the Resurrection of the Dead, "each generation and its kings, its generation and its leaders and prophets." Pointing to Betzalel's name He declared, "See, I have called by name Betzalel," i.e., ever since the creation of the world, Betzalel was intended to be the Sanctuary's artisan.

(Midrash Rabba)


And the Tablets were the work of G-d, and the writing was the writing of G-d (Ex. 32:16)

What was so remarkable about the Tablets, considering that the Jewish people had already heard the Ten Commandments? Rather, when the Ten Commandments were inscribed in stone, they were simultaneously engraved upon the heart of every Jew forever and ever, as it states, "Write them on the tablet of your heart." This, indeed, was truly "a work of G-d."

(Sefat Emet)


And you shall see My back (literally "end"); but My face shall not be seen (Ex. 33:23)

The significance of most events is not readily apparent when they first occur; it is only with the passage of time that we are able to discern the guiding hand of Divine Providence throughout history. That is what is meant by "And you shall see My end" - only in the end will you understand; "but My face shall not be seen" - whereas in the beginning, a true understanding of the overall picture is impossible.

(Torat Moshe)


It Once Happened

In the Tunisia of old, it was customary for the "Bey," the supreme ruler of the country, to personally appoint all nominees to public positions. This included all posts within the Jewish community.

One time the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia passed away, and the vacancy needed to be filled. The Chief Rabbi held an extremely crucial position, as many important powers were invested in him. As the official head of the Jewish community, he represented all of Tunisia's Jews in the secular courts, and his word carried much weight.

At the time of the Chief Rabbi's passing, Rabbi Nehorai Germon was serving as his assistant. In most cases it was only a matter of form for the assistant to be promoted. This time, however, there were forces within the Jewish community who opposed Rabbi Nehorai's promotion.

On the one hand, Rabbi Nehorai was easy to get along with, modest and unassuming. Yet when it came to upholding the Torah's laws and Jewish customs, he was absolutely rigid and fearlessly unbending. To some people, this was untenable. What they sought was a Chief Rabbi who wouldn't be a stickler for detail, someone who would know when to look away...

And so, a delegation of protesters went to the Bey. "He's much too fanatical," they told him. "Under no circumstances should Rabbi Nehorai become the next Chief Rabbi." The Bey was very receptive to their message. Soon rumors were flying that Rabbi Nehorai was no longer in the running.

It was precisely then that Rabbi Nehorai's inner strength and fortitude was revealed. As our Sages put it, "Wherever there is humility, there is also greatness." Overcoming his natural aversion to self-promotion, the Rabbi realized that he could not in good conscience simply withdraw from the fray. The dignity and reputation of the Chief Rabbinate demanded more of him.

Rabbi Nehorai went to the royal palace, where he was astounded by the throngs of people milling about. He asked the palace guards to be admitted but was informed that he would have to wait his turn. Stubbornly, Rabbi Nehorai refused to budge, demanding an immediate audience with the Bey. A commotion ensued, the angry sounds of which reached the ears of the Bey himself.

The Bey sent an aide outside to see what was going on. Quickly sizing up the situation, he returned to the Bey and explained that the assistant to the former Chief Rabbi was insisting on speaking to him. The Bey was surprised by the Jew's agressive behavior, but instructed that he be brought in.

"Why was it so urgent to meet with me that you defied all social conventions?" the Bey asked Rabbi Nehorai, an artificial smile on his face.

Rabbi Nehorai was not intimidated. "If all the conventions were being adhered to," he replied seriously, "I would not have had to come here."

"What do you mean?" the Bey asked, his curiosity aroused.

"When affairs of state are attended to fairly, the assistant to the Chief Rabbi is automatically promoted to the office upon his death..."

The Bey stopped smiling. "From all the information I have received about you," he said, "it appears that you are too inflexible for the job, wedded to what you perceive as inviolate principles. It is said that you are unwilling to compromise for the sake of peace. In my opinion, a successful Chief Rabbi must know when to keep his eyes open and when to shut them..."

Rabbi Nehorai did not react, seemingly ignoring the Bey's words. "What a beautiful garden you have," he said suddenly, looking out the window at the magnificently manicured grounds. "I've never seen one more beautiful."

"It is unparalleled in all of Tunisia," the Bey responded, unable to resist the compliment.

"If I may be so bold," the Rabbi said, "it seems to me that if a lush garden like this will grow only here, of all places in the entire kingdom, surely it is a sign that G-d smiles favorably on your kingship."

The Bey almost laughed. "If everyone in the kingdom employed as many skilled horticulturists as I do, their land would also yield the same results. My gardeners are extremely vigilant, busy from dawn till dusk, planting, digging, trimming and plucking out stray weeds. But tell me, what does all this have to do with the subject we were discussing?"

"Well, I was wondering," Rabbi Nehorai replied. "Why do you insist on employing such skilled horticulturists? Why don't you hire a gardener who sometimes keep his eyes open, and other times keeps them closed..."

"Are you telling me that the Jewish community is the same as a garden?" the Bey smiled.

"In certain respects, yes," the Rabbi explained. "Our holy Torah contains 248 positive commandments, lovely seedlings in G-d's garden that must be nurtured and cared for. Then there are the Torah's 365 negative commandments. Like weeds, they must be carefully plucked out and uprooted. The Chief Rabbi is entrusted with caring for this garden, and must carry out his responsibilities faithfully."

The Bey was convinced, and a few days later Rabbi Nehorai was officially appointed Chief Rabbi of Tunisia.


Moshiach Matters

In time to come the Evil Inclination will cease to exist; as it is written (Zecharia 13:2), "I shall remove the spirit of impurity from the earth." Indeed, so manifest will the glory of G-d then be throughout the entire world, that a mere fig will cry out in protest if it is about to be picked on Shabbos. It is thus clear that it will be impossible to sin in such circumstances, even unwittingly - just as a small child never puts his hand into the fire, nor does an animal jump into a fire.

(Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XXV, p. 263)


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