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Almost everyone is familiar with computers, right? We know how to create files, enter data - whether it's an essay, a spreadsheet, or some other kind of file: maybe a video of the kids or a greeting to a grandparent; maybe some song that moves us, strikes an emotional chord we want to share.
So we create the file and save it. If it's small enough we send it via email, as an attachment, as is. But what if it's too large for that?
In that case, the file - or program - has to be compressed so that it can be secured, resized and sent. When it's received, the user opens the file "uncompresses" it.
But what gets compressed? What is being squeezed out? Without getting technical, the redundancies, the necessary duplications. The compression programs use an algorithm - a formula - to find patterns. Then these programs create a code, a sort of short-hand.
When we compress, store and secure the contents of an entire drive - a hard drive, a stand-alone program, a DVD, whatever - that process is called creating a disk image. What is done for an individual file is done for the whole thing. (Even if that "whole thing" is just a program, because that creates greater security.)
In short, then when we create a "disk image" we're creating a compressed, transportable copy of the original contents. And when we compress a file, we're doing the same for a smaller unit, one essay instead of all documents and music, or one program, pure and simple.
Understanding "disk image" can help us answer a question commonly asked of rabbis and teachers of Torah. Why do we have to be precise with mitzvot (commandments)? why do we need to perform or observe them as carefully as we can, in accordance with the Code of Jewish Law?
There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah. They are compared to the parts of the body - the 248 positive commandments to the limbs, the 365 prohibitions to the "sinews" (yes, the Kabbalists worked out the correspondences). So we can think of the mitzvot as composing the spiritual structure of a person. Put another way, our physical body reflects - is patterned on - the structure of our soul. The mitzvot connect the spiritual aspect to the physical. The spiritual gets to the physical through the mitzvot.
You can see the analogy: the mitzvot are a "disk image" of our soul. We "download" the spiritual energy into our physical selves through the mitzva. So if we want the "file" we receive to be a useable, uncorrupted copy of the "file" we send, we have to compress it and transmit it properly.
And if we want to fulfill our Divine Mission, to make the physical world holy, to prepare ourselves and the world around us for the era of peace, prosperity, health and knowledge that we all so sincerely desire, then we need to download, or mount, the right "program."
So why do we have to do the mitzvot according to "form and pattern"? Because in a sense the mitzvot are a "disk image" of the G-dliness in our souls.
The first two portions of the Torah, Bereishit (Genesis) and Noach (Noah), share an essential connection, as both pertain to the creation and existence of the world. Bereishit, read last week, describes the actual creation, while in Noach, this week's reading, G-d promises that He will sustain the world and never bring another flood.
Symbolically, these two portions represent two different levels of the perfection of creation.
Bereishit represents the world's perfection as it is created by G-d, without man's input or interaction. Noach represents a level of perfection that can only be attained by man's efforts, i.e., the service of teshuva, returning to G-d in repentance.
From the perspective of the first level, there is no possibility for disobeying G-d's will. Were man to disobey G-d, he would automatically lose his right to exist. This is indeed what occurred at the end of last week's portion, when "G-d saw that the evil of man was great... and G-d said, 'I will destroy the man whom I have created.' "
This week, however, we see that man has been given the power to refine himself, and to reach an even higher level of perfection than before his sin. This ability is alluded to by the rainbow, symbolic of G-d's covenant with Noach and G-d's great joy when His children bring the world to even higher levels of perfection through their own actions.
This concept is also reflected in the Names of G-d that are used to describe the act of creation and in regard to Noach.
According to the Torah, the world was created by G-d using the Name "Elokim"; likewise, "Elokim" is used an additional 32 times in reference to creation. The Name used in reference to Noach, however, is the ineffable name of G-d that cannot be pronounced.
Elokim, the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for "nature," represents a level of holiness that is limited, whereas G-d's ineffable name represents a level above all limitations.
We learn from this that the world, as it was created and without man's contribution, has the potential for only a limited revelation of G-dliness; it is solely through the service of man that the higher, infinite and unlimited revelation of G-dliness is achieved.
This idea is further expressed by the months in which these Torah portions are read.
Bereishit is read in Tishrei, the month of holidays; moreover, at least some of the days corresponding to the week in which Bereishit is read are themselves holidays.
Noach, however, is read in the month of Cheshvan, all of whose weekdays are ordinary days. For as symbolized by Noach, man's essential task in this world is to elevate even the most mundane aspects of life and reveal the unlimited potential for G-dliness contained therein.
Adapted from Sefer HaSichot of the Rebbe, 5752, Vol. I
Chabad Meets Napa Valley
by Jeff Morgan
Rabbi Elchonon Tenenbaum, a 30-something Chabad rabbi fresh off the boat from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, moved to Napa Valley four years ago. The rabbi hadn't seen many vineyards in his life, and he hadn't drunk much kosher wine outside of the strange, sweet brew made from Concord grapes that gives kosher winemakers a bad name.
But he called me at our winery, and I showed him around the valley. We became friends, and we shared bottles of kosher wine made from high-quality grapes grown in some of Napa's greatest vineyards. Not surprisingly, the rabbi got bitten by the wine bug. One fall he harvested a few clusters from a friend's vineyard and crushed the grapes at his house. The resulting wine was pretty good, too - all 12 bottles.
Later, we found a small local vineyard that needed some TLC. Rabbi Tenenbaum took over the pruning and other maintenance and harvested the grapes that year to make one barrel (23 cases) of delicious red wine, a field blend of zinfandel, syrah and petite sirah. He has duplicated this feat two years in a row, and we are now drinking the fruits of his labor, which he calls Pardes Cuvée Chabad.
Rabbi Tenenbaum sat down with me recently to talk about his wine epiphany - Napa style.
Jeff Morgan: Within the Chabad community, does wine play any particular role in addition to being the chosen beverage for making Kiddush?
Rabbi Tenenbaum: Wine, for the most part, is relegated to Shabbat and holidays in most homes. The wine culture is not quite the same in Brooklyn as it is in Yountville (Napa Valley).
JM: What role did wine play in your life in Brooklyn?
RT: Wine is a central part of many of our traditions. Shabbat is heralded in with the Kiddush, which is recited on a cup of wine. Kiddush is also made at life-cycle events, like a bris or a wedding. And let's not forget the four cups of wine on Pesach. However, growing up, I couldn't tell you the difference between a Concord grape and a zinfandel grape. We didn't have many vineyards in Crown Heights.
JM: Did you think about wine at all, when Chabad sent you to live in Napa Valley?
RT: When my wife and I began serving the Jewish community of Napa, I was only beginning to learn about the complexities of wine. I understood that there was more to wine than a sparkling moscato.
JM: What prompted your current interest in wine?
RT: You sparked much of my interest in winemaking. We also found that wine is a good way of connecting with Jews living in Napa. It's a big part of the lifestyle and culture.
JM: What was it like to work in a vineyard? Physically? Spiritually?
RT: Physically, it was draining. The first time I pruned the vines for a day, I was not able to move for three days after that. Spiritually, it was a learning experience. I am fascinated by the process of something growing from the earth. The Torah says that man is like the tree of the field. A tree goes thorough a renewal cycle every year. Accordingly, every Rosh Hashanah and High Holy Day season we are blessed with a new energy for the year ahead. That concept became very clear while working with the vines.
JM: What makes wine holy?
RT: In the Scriptures, wine is described as "bringing joy to G-d and man." Every sacrifice offered in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was accompanied by wine. Because wine is considered to be the "king of beverages," the rabbis coined Kiddush, a special blessing to be recited exclusively on wine.
JM: Would you say that wine should be used as a vehicle for spirituality among Jews?
RT: Yes, it should.
RT: By using wine in an appropriate way in Jewish ritual or by gracing a Shabbat or holiday table and other festive occasions.
JM: Do San Francisco Bay Area rabbis seem to have a different relationship to or understanding of wine than, say, rabbis that you have known in other places you've lived, such as New York and Israel?
RT: I would say that living in Napa Valley brings a greater awareness and appreciation of wine and winemaking.
JM: Are you a rabbi or a winemaker?
RT: Rashi was a great rabbi and winemaker; I am sure it only enhanced his commentary on the Torah. So I don't think winemaking and being a rabbi are mutually exclusive.
Reprinted with permission of the author from The Jewish Journal. Jeff Morgan is the winemaker and co-owner of Covenant and RED C Wines in Napa Valley; visit covenantwines.com.
Rabbi Levi and Devora Leah Fuss have arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, where they will be focusing on bolstering Jewish education in that city. Rabbi Chezky and Chana Altein are moving to Eugene, Oregon, where they will direct the Chabad House serving the Jewish residents of Eugene/Springfield, Oregon and the students at University of Oregon. Rabbi Meir and Simi Rivkin are opening a new Chabad Center serving the Granada Hills, California, Jewish community. Rabbi Daniel and Reuvaina Grodnitsky are establishing Chabad of Rittenhouse Square, to serve the cluster of arts colleges in Center City, Philadelphia, among them University of the Arts, The Art Institute of Philadelphia, Curtis Institute of Music, Academy of Fine Arts, and Moore College of Art and Design. Rabbi Berel and Chana Zaklikofsky will be spearheading Jewish activities at the new Chabad Center in Goodyear, Arizona, as well as in the nearby cities of Avondale, Litchfield Park and Buckeye.
7 Cheshvan, 5737/1976
We have concluded the month of Tishrei, which is designated in our sacred texts as a "comprehensive month" for the entire year, and which is filled with a variety of festive days and experiences embracing all areas of a Jew's spiritual life throughout the whole year.
The month begins with awe and submission to the Heavenly Reign, the main point of Rosh HaShanah: teshuvah (repentance), the essence of the Ten Days of Return, and Yom Kippur; the performance of mitzvos [commandments] with diligence and joy, culminating with the highest expression of joy with the Torah - the essential aspects of Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah.
It is time to recall the custom that was prevalent in many communities to announce at the termination of Simchas Torah: "And Jacob went on his way."
The point of this custom was to call attention to the fact that, inasmuch as the time has come to return to the routine of the daily life ("his way"), it behooves a Jew to know that he is Jacob, a Jew, and that he has his own way, a way that originates in Simchas Torah and is guided by the joy of Torah and mitzvos.
This means that whatever a Jew undertakes, even his ordinary day-to-day affairs, must always be conducted in the spirit of "All your actions should be for the sake of Heaven" and "Know Him (and serve Him) in all your ways."
The month of Tishrei is a "comprehensive month" also in the sense that in this month the Jew acquires "goods" for the whole year. Immediately afterwards one must begin to "unpack" and draw from one's stock according to the needs of each day in all details. One cannot consider himself free from further obligation on the basis of the accomplishments of the comprehensive month.
Similarly, there are also "comprehensive mitzvos," although each and all mitzvos have to be fulfilled with the fullest measure of diligence and excellence. A comprehensive mitzvah should be performed with still greater excellence and still greater diligence, for its performance is of greater concern to all Jews and the Jewish people as a whole.
One of the main comprehensive mitzvos is the mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel (love of a fellow Jew).
Of this mitzvah it has been said that it is a "great principle of the Torah," and the "basis of the entire Torah." The basis of this mitzvah is the fact that all Jews constitute one entity, like one body, so much so that every Jew sees every other Jew as "his own flesh and blood." Herein is also the explanation why the fulfillment of a mitzvah by every individual Jew affects the whole Jewish people; how much more so the fulfillment of comprehensive mitzvos....
May G-d grant that all the good wishes that Jews wished one another for the new year should be fulfilled, that it be a good and sweet year in every respect, with the realization of the above-mentioned pattern of Jewish conduct:
"AND JACOB" - an appellation that includes all Jews, not only those who have already attained the higher status of "Israel" and "Jeshurun";
"WENT" - in accordance with the true concept of motion, namely, moving away from the previous state to a higher state (for however satisfactory a state is, one should always strive to advance to an ever higher state in all matters of holiness);
"ON HIS WAY" - that "his way," even in non-obligatory matters, becomes a G-dly way, as stated immediately after: "And G-d's angels met him" - in keeping with every Jew's purpose in life to be an "angel" messenger - of G-d, to make for Him an "abode" in this earthly world.
May all the above be done with joy, derived from Simchas Torah, and Jacob "will sing (and praise) the G-d of Jacob," and merit the speedy fulfillment of the continuation of the verse, "The glory and strength of the tzaddik will be uplifted," the coming of our righteous Moshiach.
BARUCH is from the Hebrew, meaning "blessed." In the Prophets (Jeremiah 32:12), the friend, disciple, and scribe of the prophet Jeremiah.
BAT SHEVA means "daughter of an oath." Bat Sheva was the wife of King David (II Samuel 11:27) and the mother of King Solomon.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The holidays are past; the days of introspection for the previous year have come and gone. This week, Parshat Noach, is therefore an appropriate time to make a good account of the coming year.
As we continue to improve on the past and try to plan for the future, we need to keep one thing in mind: Although an individual may realize that he has things and areas that need improvement, as a whole the Jewish people have accomplished what needs to be accomplished.
As the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught, "We must be conscious that all the service necessary has been completed and we are 'ready to receive Moshiach.' Therefore, even if there is a particular dimension of our own personal service which is lacking... this does not diminish the fact that as a whole, our service is complete and we are ready for the Redemption.
"On the contrary," the Rebbe explained, "the fact that, as a whole, we are prepared for the Redemption, makes it easier for us to complete all the individual elements of our service and to do so with happiness."
The Rebbe went on to use an analogy to further explain this concept.
When a person is healthy as a whole, if he has a small ailment in one of his limbs it can easily be cured. Similarly, since as a whole, the Jewish nation is healthy, i.e., our service has been completed, teshuva [repentance] which is described as "healing," can cure all the particular difficulties of both individuals and the Jewish people.
Whether or not on an individual basis there are small ailments that need to be cured, as a whole, the Jewish people are healthy and our service in this long and bitter exile has been completed.
Let us not, Heaven forbid, give G-d excuses as to why we are still in exile. As the Rebbe told someone at Sunday dollars who suggested that there are conditions that still need to be met before Moshiach can come, "Why are you making conditions? Moshiach is long overdue!"
Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation; Noah walked with G-d (Gen. 6:9)
The Torah goes into such detail to describe the righteousness of Noah to show that he was meticulous in observing both categories of mitzvot (commandments), those that involve serving G-d, and those that involve our responsibility to our fellow man. "Perfect in his generation" refers to the proper way that Noah treated every human being, and "with G-d Noah walked" refers to the fact that Noah served G-d diligently.
A righteous man, a tzaddik, is a person who "walks with G-d," so the above verse appears to be redundant. The Torah is showing us just how great a person Noah was. He was indeed, "perfect in his generation," acting in a righteous manner when he was out among the people of his generation. Yet even when "he walked with G-d," alone, with only G-d to witness his actions, he still behaved in a righteous manner.
All flesh has corrupted his way on the earth (Gen. 6:12)
In the days before the flood, the moral situation had deteriorated to the point that even those who by their nature recognized the difference between right and wrong lost that sensitivity and began to sin without feeling a sense of guilt and wrongdoing.
G-d said to Noah, "Enter, you and all your family, into the ark." (Gen. 7:1)
Every detail in the Torah contains eternal lessons that we can utilize even in our times. The Hebrew word for "ark," teiva, also means "word." G-d is commanding every one of us to "enter" the words of Torah, to read each word with feeling and understanding.
(Baal Shem Tov)
And they went to Noah into the ark...of all flesh where there is the breath of life (Gen. 7:15)
The G-dly revelation that was manifested in the ark had a profound effect on all the animals, causing them to live together amicably and harmoniously for an entire year. Thus the conditions in the ark were the prototype and forerunner of the Messianic era, when according to many commentators, the Biblical prophecy of "and the wolf shall live with the lamb" will be fulfilled in the literal sense.
Shaul, the merchant, had a beautiful home expensively furnished and decorated with fine works of art. His magnificent gardens displayed the rarest flowers, whose fragrance could be appreciated from afar.
Shaul's elderly father also lived in his home. The relationship between father and son had possibly never been the best; who is to know. But as his father grew older and weaker, he became a "burden" to the family and particularly to Shaul.
During meal times, especially, Shaul was repulsed by his father. The elderly man's trembling hands spilled soup and drinks on his clothing and the fine linens; oftentimes the china would fall on the floor and shatter. The patriarch's appearance and cleanliness was not what Shaul perceived to be appropriate.
One day, as the family was sitting at dinner, an expensive crystal wine goblet fell out of the old man's hand. It shattered into thousands of splinters and red wine spilled all over the tablecloth. Shaul was livid. His patience was spent. He decided there and then to send his father away.
But, of course, Shaul couldn't just send his father packing and into the streets. That he would not do. When he overcame his anger, he came up with what he thought was a brilliant solution.
"Go out and buy wooden dishes and cups," Shaul ordered one of his servants. His father would use the wooden utensils, Shaul decided. There might still be spills, but at least none of the expensive china or crystal would be ruined. Of course, when company came his father could hardly sit at the table with them using his coarse dishes. But, that wouldn't be so terrible at all, thought Shaul.
Weeks passed. Shaul and his entire family, including the youngest children, dined together each night. Shaul and his entire family, including the youngest children, were served their delicious fare on fine china and quenched their thirst with drinks in expensive crystal goblets. The entire family that is, except for Shaul's father, who was served his meals in the wooden dishes, bowls and cups that Shaul had had his servant purchase.
One day, Shaul's youngest son, Yosef, went out to the store to buy candies. He was a sweet child with a good heart, loved by everyone who knew him. Suddenly he saw a group of beggars sitting on the street corner, eating out of wooden bowls from the soup kitchen just like his grandfather used at home. Yosef was touched but confused. Without hesitation, he took all the money out of his pocket and gave it to the beggar.
Yosef ran home. He asked his father for a piece of wood and a whittling knife. Then, he ran up to the attic, happy that his father had agreed to give him the supplies.
As he was whittling, Yosef heard his father's impatient voice. "What are you doing up there? Why are you taking so long?"
Yosef took the wood downstairs with him.
"What are you holding?" Shaul asked Yosef curiously. "Why have you asked for wood and a knife?"
"I am making a wooden bowl and plate and cup for you, Father!" replied Yosef sweetly. "That way, when you get old and start to break things and I have to give you wooden dishes like the beggars use, I'll have made them already," explained Yosef sincerely.
Shaul was shocked by his son's words. For a moment he imagined himself in his father's place: old, helpless, and being treated without the least bit of reverence or respect. Shaul saw clearly his terrible behavior. He went to his father and begged forgiveness.
From that day on, the old man lived in comfort, honored by his son and grandchildren. He spent his last years pleasantly in his children's home. In time, when Shaul became elderly, he also enjoyed the honor and comfort which was given to him by his son Yosef.
All of the animals that Noah brought into the art lived together peacefully. This is because G-d revealed a special holiness in the ark, similar to the Days of Moshiach. The prophet Isaiah describes the Days of Moshiach: "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the young goat together with the calf, the young lion and the ox; and a little child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together; the lion will eat straw like an ox. The nursing child will play on the snake's hole, the weaned child will stretch his hand over the viper's den."